Only God Forgives Review: Refn took a big risk

From the director that brought us the brilliant film Drive back in 2011 starring Ryan Gosling, he now has released his next eagerly awaited film Only God Forgives. But with his last great film, expectations would always be high for whatever came next. But the question is, has it delivered?

Only God Forgives poster

Only God Forgives poster

Only God Forgives isn’t your everyday normal film. It’s actually quite the opposite if honest. The plot of the film centres around Julian and Chang. Julian is an American who moved has moved to Bangkok with his brother Billy. Their main source of income is by dealing drugs. The film opens with Julian’s brother walking around Bangkok at night, which he ends up raping and killing a sixteen year old girl. This is where our other main character enters, Chang.

Chang is an police man who isn’t as young as he use to be. He arrives at the scene of the crime where Billy is being held. Chang tells the daughters father to do what he wants to Billy, in which he ends up murdering him. Chang then takes the father to an isolated place with two of his other officers and punishes the father by taking out a sword and chopping half of his arm off. Telling him that this is what he gets for making his daughters prostitutes.

A bit later on Julian’s mother arrives in Bangkok because her first born son Billy has passed away.  She sets the task of getting Julian to kill the man that killed his brother. This begins a chase of revenge through the city of Bangkok.

The cast in Only God Forgives is a fantastic cast, it stars Ryan Gosling as Julian, Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang, and Kristian Scott Thomas as Crystal. Everyone performs brilliantly, and the most stunning performance comes from Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang. Who plays the role flawlessly.

Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang!

Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang

Something that many critics have noted about Only God Forgives is its lack of script throughout the entire movie. There is such a lack of talking in the movie that it feels weird when people onscreen are having a full blown conversation. But what Refn was trying to do was to tell you, a story visually. He doesn’t want the characters to tell you, he wants to show you through weird dreams that Julian has and what is happening onscreen. And I think this was a risk to take. The whole way he went about in the movie was a risk. He could of played it safe and done something like Drive again, but he took a different direction. He wants to tell you the story of Julian and Chang through cinematic shots, instead of just a script like normal movies would. And I believe he pulls this off, very well actually. It is for sure differently, but Refn manages to pull it off.

When I think back over the movie and what my thoughts of it are, I haven’t got much problems with it being honest. One of my main issues with the film is a torture scene involving Chang. The scene got its point across within the first few minutes of it, but Refn seemed to drag it way out just for ‘shock value’ I believe. Though the scene is very well done, it is dragged out and could be cut down significantly.

A still of Julian

A still of Julian

But the best part of Only God Forgives isn’t the acting, or the plot, it’s the beautiful cinematography. Some of the shots in this movie are literally outstanding. With the blend of the night sky and all the different neon colours and signs around Bangkok, it really adds a whole lot more to the film. The music in the film is great as well, especially during an important moment with Julian and Chang.

Only God Forgives has been getting a lot of bad rap since it was first shown, it was boosed at Cannes and is now seeing a very low score of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. My main thought about the film is, it is certainly not for everyone. If you enjoyed or even loved Drive, which was Refn’s previous film with Gosling, it doesn’t mean you will like this. It is a totally different film and has a totally different style.

All in all, Only God Forgives managed to tell a very interesting story with absolutely stunning cinematography, great music and brilliant performances by all the cast. It also managed to wrap up the end with not leaving a cliffhanger or anything and finished it with a real nice touch. So far it is one of my favorite moves from 2013 and that’s why I give it, a:

Overall rating: 9/10

V/H/S/2 Review: It had a lot of potential.

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When the first V/H/S released, it got a lot of praise from critics because of its low budget and original interesting stories. While it did have some minor problems, people still enjoyed. Now that V/H/S/2 has been released, does it follow its originals footsteps or has it gotten lost in the mist of everything?

Like the original, V/H/S/2 is an anthology horror movie. It has one main plot which is called Tape 49. The main plot involves two private investigators who have been given the job of investigating the disappearance of a young man who is in college. As they arrive at his house, where he lives. They enter and find numerous VHS tapes by a TV. As one of the investigators called Larry goes and searches the rest of the house, the other investigator Ayesha sits down to watch the tapes. This is our main plot, and also where the short stories begin.

The first story is called “Phase I Clinical Trails” and its plot is that a middle aged man who was in a car accident loses some of his vision. The story then starts off with our main character in hospital and regaining his vision because his old eye was replaced with a new one. The trick is that the new eye is actually recording everything from the mans point of view, and this is where the ‘found footage’ aspect of it plays in. The story then progresses on, and the man begins to see things. 

If I’m honest, the whole idea of how we are viewing what is going on (through his new which has a recording functionality) is actually really cool and innovative. But that is the extent of cool and innovation in this story. I was actually guessing what was going to happen before they did, which is never good. The story just never does anything interesting, and then half-way through a new character gets added which is totally irrelevant. She introduces herself as Clarissa and says she understands what is going with our main character. But if you took her out of the story, we would miss nothing at all. Simply because all she adds is nudity which seems to be more important in horror films these days than the actual plot. The ending of the story is average, nothing too good or too bad. Just very ‘meh’. Overall, the story just isn’t interesting and charts the same ground hundreds of horror movies have before.

The next story up is “A Ride in the Park” and it starts off with our main character going on a cycle in (surprise!) a park while filming it all with a ‘Go Pro’ camera. At first it’s kind of hard to see where the film is going, but then it quickly takes a turn where our main character is stopped by a woman who is covered in blood in the park. A few seconds pass and then, she takes a big chunk out of our main character. She’s a zombie. And now our main character is too. This is the ‘twist’, it’s a found footage movie taken from the point of view of a zombie. And while the idea hasn’t been done before, it is for a reason, because it isn’t the slight bit interesting. Most people who watch this movie know what zombies do…they eat people. They aren’t smart, which brings me to a problem with the movie. I can’t really discuss it because it is a spoiler, but throughout the movie the zombies are stupid and can barely do anything but eat people (that’s okay), but then at the end of the movie somehow the zombies can actually think and do things.

The opening scene to "A Ride in the Park".

The opening scene to “A Ride in the Park”.

This story is boring, and that is the main problem with it. Everyone knows what zombies do, they are an interesting factor when our main characters are trying to escape or defeat them. But when we are on their side, and seeing from their view, it’s nothing but boring. And that is probably why we don’t see a lot of found footage movies that are taken from a zombie perspective.

Our third story is “Safe Haven” and easily one of the most entertaining and gory stories out of the entire lot. The plot is based around this cult, and more so the leader of the cult. A documentary crew is interviewing the leader of the cult at a restaurant at the beginning of the story, and they ask could they interview him back at his house where the cult lives. Although the plot doesn’t seem too interesting at first, it actually does something smart. It doesn’t show all its cards straight away. The movie still has more story to add, which will change it drastically. The movie is just super gory by the end and keeps surprising you which more and more outrageous stuff. Overall, a very entertaining and gory story.

The leader of the cult in the story, "Safe Haven".

The leader of the cult in the story, “Safe Haven”.

The final story of the film is “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” and what is it about? Well, it is exactly what the title suggests. The parents of a girl who is in her teenage years and a boy who is around 10 or so, leave the two home alone as they go away for the weekend. What starts off as playful messing between the siblings, ends up being interrupted by aliens who try to abduct them. While we’ve all seen alien abduction movies, this one is still very fun. It’s more lighthearted and has a bit more comedy to it while most of the others are serious. So, it is nice to have that break. Also, the way the story is shot is a bit all over the place, it goes from just someone just holding the camera to putting the camera on a dogs head and we are seeing what it sees. While I don’t mind it switching too much, I think just sticking with one or the other would have been better. The story is fun, and that is the best way to describe it. It’s just fun.

A scene from "Slumber Party Alien Abduction".

A scene from “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”.

One of my main concerns going into this film at first was that I was scared that it was going to feel rushed. And I’m afraid I do think that has something to do with the overall value. And there is word on the internet that the film was “rushed late into production in 2012” which only makes me believe more, if more time was given we could of had a better movie. Because V/H/S/2 isn’t a good movie, unlike the original which is. I wanted to like it so much, being a big fan of the original. But when you have an ‘okay’ main plot, two really bad stories and another two decent stories that still aren’t anywhere as good as ones from the first movie? Overall, it just doesn’t add up to a good movie.

Rating: 4/10

The ABCs of Death Review: F is for Fun

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When was the last time you watched a movie with 26 directors doing individual segments? Because if you haven’t (and most likely haven’t), then The ABCs of Death is a horror film you do not want to miss!

The ABCs of Death is a horror anthology movie, were every director in the movie makes their own small segment. The movies main premise is it has a short horror story that begins with every letter of the alphabet. It starts at A and goes all the way to Z, with each short segment very different to each other.

Also with The ABCs of Death is that not every segment is shot the same way, some are very different and don’t even use real people and instead use clay animation (claymation). Other shorts are animation, and some just use weird effects. Overall, you get a bunch of different stuff.

The directors that took part in this film are all up and coming horror directors, and really span all across the globe. Some faces you may recognize are Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, V/H/S), Adam Wingard (Autoerotic, You’re Next, V/H/S) and Yūdai Yamaguchi (Deadball, Yakuza Weapon). You really get a bunch of different directors from all around the world and each have different (great) ways of telling a short horror story.

One of The ABCs of Death’s faults could also be considered one of its positives to some people. The thing about The ABCs of Death is you don’t get any underlying story, kind of the ‘main story’ for an anthology movie that you may get in other anthology movies. The movie starts straight off with the letter ‘A’ and that’s it. Though I think it’s good that there is no ‘main story’ per say, I think there could of been a better intro to the movie.

Of course with an anthology with as much segments as this one, you will have some bad ones. But in The ABCs of Death there is very few bad segments, the movie definitely ends on a low point with the letter ‘Z’ (by far the worst segment of them all) with Jon Schnepp’s ‘W’ and Noboru Iguchi’s ‘F’ following close behind. Apart from them three main suspects, there really isn’t any other bad segments. Some are very, very weird like ‘K’ and ‘H’ but still are very fun and enjoyable.

The movies most impressive segments would be ‘M’ which is directed by Ti West, it’s extremely short (probably the shortest of the whole movie) but it has that wow factor that West normally gives in his films. Another great segment would be ‘T’ which is directed by Lee Hardcastle, I can’t dive into much detail but it’s very weird and very funny (and shot great too). One of the other stand out segments would be ‘Q’, which again is shot in a very funny manner and isn’t something to be expected. Along with these there is ‘G’, ‘O’ and ‘X’ that all are great as well. Most segments are very funny, weird and shocking but all in the good way.

The ABCs of Death is not your everyday normal horror anthology movie, it’s really far from it. It’s a film that is just about sitting back, turning your brain off and enjoying a film that is going to gross you out multiple times, make you say ‘wow’ numerous times and most of all, make you say “What the f***?” The ABCs of Death is an overall great movie.

F is for Fun.

Rating: 9/10

American Mary review: A good idea executed poorly

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Note: No spoilers are in this review.

A recent horror film that has been given a lot praise over the past few months is American Mary, the film was directed and wrote both by Jen and Sylvia Soska (also known as the Soska Sisters) who also done the film Dead Hooker in a Trunk back in 2009 which received very mixed reviews. But does this effort succeed, or fall flat?

American Mary follows the story of surgery student Mary Mason, a student that has a lot of potential in actually becoming a surgeon. Mary switches up turkeys in her apartment in her spare time, practicing as much as she can to be even better than she is. After needing money and not having enough, she decides to go to a strip club to audition for a job. But the job she ends up with at the end of the night, isn’t the one she thought she would have. Mary ends up as a black-market surgeon, to switch up victims of the mob that run the strip club. Quickly after her first job at the club, Mary is contacted by Beatress (Tristan Risk) who wants Mary to perform body modification on her, to fulfill her dream of becoming a living doll true. Mary ends up going down a path of twisted revenge and black market jobs.

From the start it’s very clear that the Soska Sisters have thought up an original and interesting plot, with a likeable character like Mary Mason played by Katharine Isabelle who has brilliant character progression. She turns from a nice student who is trying her best to a revenge driven monster by the end. Isabelle puts in a stunning performance as Mary, I don’t think anyone else could of played the role better.

But it’s not all good for American Mary, when the movie starts to get really good and interesting, there always seems to be some scenes that stop its ‘flow’. Many of these scenes involve Billy Barker, the owner/boss of the strip club that Mary works for. In the movie it’s clear that Billy likes Mary, but the way the film depicts these emotions is extremely bad. The scenes involve Mary as a stripper and dancing around on stage half-naked, pouring blood on herself, etc. It wouldn’t bother me if these scenes didn’t drag on for what seemed forever. They go on too long, and these type of scenes reappear later on in the film too in different ways. Billy’s emotions could of been portrayed differently and more effectively than just have Mary on-stage half-naked dancing. It also seemed like a cheap move to please male viewers too, considering they drag on too long and rarely serve a purpose at all. Yes, it could be said that since it is Billy’s imagination it’s what he wants and that is Mary, but I still think it could of been done differently or just left out all together.

Another problem that surfaces in American Mary is that as the films goes on, you kind of lose target of who you are suppose to be cheering for, near the end of the film there is no one to be rooting for, to be hoping makes it out all okay. As I said previously Mary does change over time, but that also has a bad side. She changes into a person that you can’t like, her actions are brutal and you can’t find any emotions in her at all.

A reoccurring theme I see in American Mary when I look back at it now is, the film begins really well and then gets progressively worse as it goes on. One problem I found with the ending is that there is a plot-hole sort of, though I will not go into any detail because this is a non-spoiler review, I just have to note that there is an instance where you ask yourself, “Why didn’t x character just do a certain thing?” and it’s a problem, I’ve talked to others who have seen the film and they too told me that they asked themselves the same question.

American Mary is a film with a very original and creative storyline, but riddled with bad ideas and silly decisions. Is the film bad? No, not in the slightest. If you find the movie interesting then you should see it, because there is good aspects. But is the film great? No it’s not either, certain parts of the movie drag out with a plot-hole at the end too take away how great the film could of been.

Rating: 6/10

Django Unchained Movie Review

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Django Unchained Review

Quentin Tarantino hasn’t made a movie now since 2009 when Inglourious Basterds was released. The movie was a hit, though it did get some tough criticism. Since back in 2009 people have eagerly awaited another Tarantino classic, but was Django Unchained worth the long wait?

Django Unchained deals with a tough subject for many people, the film takes place in 1858 in southern America during the slavery period. Django Unchained’s plot is quite simple, it involves Django (Jamie Foxx) who is a slave. He and his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) were split up when they became slaves, after Django is freed by a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), he sets himself the mission of recusing his wife. Though like I stated, the story is pretty simple, it takes you the viewer a wild ride across many different places in America, and most of all, it doesn’t get boring.

If you have seen previous Tarantino movies you know that you are in for a big treat, from the amazing soundtrack that mixes Johnny Cash and rap together, from the magnificent main theme song for the movie, you really get a bunch of different songs and they all fit the movie perfect. Though the movie could be classed as an action movie it does simply more than just action. It blends in brilliantly written comedic parts that had me in tears from laughter. Tarantino knows how to mix both genres of film, he knows when to show over the top action scenes that have you engrossed and asking for more. Then it has the light hearted comedy moments, which all actors do well in.  The movies length could be considered one of its low points, coming in at around two hours and 30 minutes, but because of how fantastic the movie is, you never really notice the time fly by. As the film progresses on you only get more drawn into it, there’s not one part of the film that feels as if it is been streched out or even boring.

All the performances in Django Unchained are amazing, the lead role is played by Jamie Foxx, though some of Foxx’s latest films haven’t been good, he really steps up as Django and fits the role. You can see his character progressing as the movie goes on, at the start he is quiet man filled with anger, by the end he is a brave bounty hunter trying to recuse his wife. Other important roles which are played by Christoph Waltz who plays Dr. King Schultz, Django’s savior. Unlike his role in Inglourious Basterds he plays a good guy, which means you can be cheering for him. Apart from Django, he is the star of the show and really delivers with his role. Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t play the role you would normally see him in, in Django Unchained he plays as the villian. He plays Calvin Candie, a slave owner who lives in Mississippi. Though it is a different type of role for DiCaprio, he really fits the his role. Other stars like Samual Jackson, Kerry Washington and Walton Goggins all do excellent in their roles too.

All in all Django Unchained is a brilliant return for Tarantino, everything about the movie is top notch. I’d rank this movie even better than some other classics Tarantino did, such as Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. The movie is that amazing. If you are one who doesn’t go very cinema very often and waits for DVD releases, or gets the movies elsewhere, I would highly recommend seeing Django Unchained in cinema.

Rating: 9.5/10

If you haven’t seen the trailer for Django Unchained, here’s a link to the trailer for the movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUdM9vrCbow