Tuesday, November 27, 2007

xXx: The Next Level

Or xXx: State of the Union (etc etc), what is it with these films with all the different titles??? What's the reasoning, is there some small British arthouse film called xXx: State of the Union? I doubt that somehow.

Anyway... xXx2, no Vin Diesel, welcome on board Ice Cube, still got Sam Jackson, still got the lame 'Q' character.
Lots of explosions, lots of 'Boyz in da hood' type stuff contrasting the stuffy 'white suits'... ahhh stereotypes..

There's not a lot going on really, corrupt politicians, navy seals, Ice Cube, it's almost terrible but not quite, but it probably would have been better with Vin Diesel (and a better script).

Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free or Die Hard)

Die Hard is a classic, it re-defined the action genre at the time, it also redefined the action hero with Bruce Willis' John McClane bucking the trend of the invincible muscle men and introducing a certain humanity and fallibility to the action hero. (I hope fallibility is right)

Now a few sequels and many years down the line we have Die Hard 4.0 (which I think is the better of the two titles), more terrorism and more 'wrong place wrong time' (reasonably well referenced) and a new sidekick in the shape of Justin Long.

This time Timothy Olyphant is bringing America to it's knees by hacking all the major computer systems and getting rid of any loose ends along the way... this is where Bruce and Justin come in.

To try and keep the "Everyman" aspect the makers bring in McClane's daughter Lucy (the apparently hot new young thing Mary Elizabeth Winstead), which is actually quite a nice touch, but I think they go overboard with the exposition about "John the reluctant hero", which crops up in most of the Bruce-Justin scenes.

The film's a tad too long, Len Wiseman's directing (and subsequent editing) is at times erratic and unsure (how many angles to we need for one conversation???), but the action and stunts in this are blistering! Causing both myself and my girlfriend to exclaim when various henchmen get suitably and painfully wasted, and certain sequences left me dumbfounded from a technical POV...

...such as the ones with one particular henchman, the token free-runner.

After The Matrix, it was all about Bullet Time, now after District 13 and Casino Royale it's all about Parkour (Free-Running), and DH4.0 has some of the best I've seen, showcasing it with some of the best camera choreography I've seen as well. Watch it if just for these pieces!

So! Overall, bloody entertaining, not quite on the same level as the first (or 3rd) but not bad at all. Things may be starting to look up for Len?? (*may*)

Die Hard 4.0 - 7/10

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Earlier this year (and I think at the end of last year) cam a whole load of horror films. Spurred on by Saw and Hostel, everyone started churning out gratuitously violent and gory 'horrors', Vacancy stands out as being one that came out around that time, but tries a little harder.

Luke Wilson (can't shake the comedy) and Kate Beckinsale (very annoying) area troubled couple on their way to..somewhere (can't remember) and in age old movie tradition, David (Luke) has taken a "short cut".

So now they're driving out in the middle of nowhere, they have some car trouble and the rest of the film you've seen before.

10/10 for effort, with all the 'Torture Porn' that's been released recently, at least Vacancy makes a stab at being a half decent horror, the problem is, it's Horror by numbers.

1. Cranky protagonists
2. Isolation
3. Dodgy petrol/gas station & motel
4. Quirky and suspicious gas station/motel owners
etc etc

It's just too predicatable, one bit I had to really hold myself back from shouting out what was gonna happen next (only because my girlfriend clearly didn't see it coming!), Beckinsale is pretty damn irritating, more so when she's not supposed to be and the audience is supposed to warm to her (come back Underworld all is forgiven) but Luke injects some well needed light relief with their troubled-couple banter.

Vacancy does forgo some of the horror identikit, however it probably could've benefited from one particular zombie film's key moment.

Also the direction/editing could do with a bit of work in places, think Wolf Creek/28 Days Later "Look they're alone" crimes and lingering a little too long when we really could move on cos WE'VE GOT THE POINT NOW! an abrupt ending doesn't help it either. Chances are this is better than a lot of what came out at the time though.

Vacancy - 5/10