Monday, 27 April 2009


Embodying all the idiosyncrasies that the paradoxical designation “Oriental western” could conjure up, The Good, The Bad, The Weird opens on a train as three men chase each other to obtain a treasure map. The mayhem develops when the trio disembark the train and continue their hunt on foot, competing with bandits and Japanese soldiers who have come to hear of the map. As tensions rise, the men come to realise that the map itself is of little importance, and a lot is at stake. Budding star Lee Byung-hun, soon to be seen in I Come With The Rain and G.I. Joe, portrays The Bad, a steadfast hitman, while the ursine Song Kang-Ho plays The Weird, a naïve but self-assured thief. Jung Woo-Sung completes the main cast as bounty hunter The Good.

When taken in the context of Kim Ji-Woon’s apparently flawless track record (The Quiet Family, A Tale Of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life), or even in light of other recent Korean success stories, The Good, The Bad, The Weird does look pretty disposable. Admittedly, the director’s trademark plot contrivances are scrapped in favour of straightforward entertainment, and the characters are little more than a Sergio Leone pastiche – but that’s not to say he has grown lazy. Photographically, the film is an incredible feat, the camera almost as well-choreographed as the stuntmen, and it is near impossible not to explode with laughter at some of the more slapstick moments. By no means a classic, but a thoroughly entertaining watch.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


In this infamously reviled B-movie, 7’1½” actor Richard Kiel, best known internationally for his role as Bond villain Jaws, plays Eegah, a gigantic prehistoric caveman inexplicably living in the desert in 1960s America. A tipsy young lady named Roxy (Marilyn Manning) is apparently the first human to encounter him, and is hard pressed to find anyone who will take her concerns seriously. Eventually, her father Robert concedes and sets out to look for the creature himself. Naturally, Roxy’s sudden vulnerability (her ever-present blue-eyed boyfriend Tom is too vacant to take action) leads to her being kidnapped by Eegah and taken back to his cave, where she meets her father again. The two theorise that Eegah has fallen madly in love with Roxy, and she tries to appease him as far as she can tolerate. When his back is turned, the two escape back to the city, seemingly unaffected by their strange experience. All is well until it is revealed that Eegah followed them, and won’t give up without a fight.

Kiel as Eegah is perhaps the only interesting aspect of the film, and mostly for his bizarre appearance. Insipid Roxy fails to command our attention from the beginning, while Tom, a pale imitation of the teen idols of the time, sickens more than delights with his soppy crooning. And despite his best efforts to convince otherwise, Robert’s theory on how Eegah still survives eons past his prime makes very little sense in the grand scheme of things. An unmitigated mess.


Sacha Gervasi’s bittersweet rockumentary about Anvil, the metal band that never made it, begins with a nostalgic look at the 1984 Super Rock festival in Japan, the setting of their first big performance. Feedback from prominent contributors like Slash and Lemmy aver that the band should have thrived like their contemporaries, but none of them can explain why it never happened (aside from their Canadian heritage, of course). A later scene where singer Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow struggles to manoeuvre a tray of children’s lunches up an icy path suggests that the band isn’t quite where they imagined they would be thirty years on, but assertions from his nearest and dearest show that they haven’t half tried.

As we follow the band on a mission to complete their thirteenth album, we get to know its two core members intimately. Drummer Robb Reiner plays an introspective, rational yin to Lips’ temperamental yang. Sometimes their awkward moments feel too contrived, but it never ruins the illusion.

While many are adamant that the film is a real-life version of Christopher Guest’s This Is Spinal Tap, it actually has much more in common with his A Mighty Wind: strained relationships between band members, the laughably repetitive album covers, the poignant reunion gig, people stuck resolutely in the past. Gervasi’s debut is made all the more personal for his connections with the band (he was their roadie), but he has wisely chosen to stay out of the frame and lay focus on these bizarre, indomitable creatures.


In contrast with some of Georges Méliès’ better known works, the fantasy world in The Merry Frolics Of Satan is one of two realities presented in the film, and is ultimately the more dangerous. As in his classics A Trip To The Moon and The Impossible Voyage, it concerns a phantasmagorical expedition which goes awry, but this film takes a far darker turn. A gullible English engineer called William Crackford is drawn into a Faustian scenario when his insatiable curiosity leads him to make a critical deal with a suspicious wizard. His side of the exchange gives him and his friend the opportunity to travel in an extraordinary train, the carriages of which form spontaneously from nearby furniture. But not long after the train sets out on its journey with a group of anonymous passengers in tow, disaster strikes in the form of a collapsed bridge, with Crackford and the wizard as the only survivors. Shortly after, the two embark upon another journey in a macabre coach made from comets and stars, and pulled by a skeletal horse. The revelation that the wizard is in fact the devil comes far too late for Crackford as the torrid trip deteriorates fatally, with a finale that is both comical and macabre.

Méliès abandons the frivolity of his earlier shorts, constructing more of an allegory than a fantasy, suggesting deeper implications for his religious ambiguity. He adds dimension to his set pieces too, the most impressive of which is the terrifying apocalyptic coach.