Sunday, 27 January 2013

Review: The Last Stand (2013)

The Last Stand
The Last Stand (2013)
Dir: Kim Jee-woon
Cert 15 / Running time 107 mins

I remember when I was a lot younger - there was only one VHS player in my parent's house, it was in the living room. I'd discovered The Terminator whenever it appeared on TV late one night and as a result I made sure I kept my eyes peeled to tape it off the TV the next time it was on. When I finally possessed this Bush E-180 recording, it was never off TV. I was on summer holidays, so for two months I had my own screening room and it showed The Terminator, all day - every day (at least until my parents wanted to watch something). It was fair to say I was captivated. It had cyborgs, it had laser guns, machine guns, and boobies - everything a growing boy needs basically. But it also had a massive bloke in it who both terrified and intrigued me - Arnold Schwarzengger. So began my warm appreciation for the man and his movies.

Fast forward a lifetime and today I took my place in the cinema (a proper one) to see his latest movie, The Last Stand. Like Arnie - I've been around the block. I know that sometimes the biggest anticipation can lead to the biggest disappointment (I'm looking at you, Matrix Revolutions) so I sat down with the full knowledge that this in all likelihood wouldn't be a perfect movie by any means.

With no action set-piece to kick things off, we're left a while to see what kind of energy Kim Jee-woon will bring to the movie. When the scene is set for Arnie's small-town Sheriff, Ray Owens (its funny how often Arnie - a guy with a think Austrian accent - still plays characters with “regular Joe” names) its a familiar scene. Sleepy town, not much happens. Except newly escaped drug lord Martinez (Eduardo Noriega) will soon be rolling Arnie's way in his supercar. To pave Martinez's way to freedom in Mexico is a crew of badasses straight from The A-Team, led by Peter Stormare.

Unfortunately it doesn't feel like the movie really takes off until Stormare's gang wheel into Sommerton main street. By then Arnie has assembled a gang of deputies, including Johnny Knoxville, who plays pretty much the same character he did in Walking Tall. The rest consist of the always awesome Luis Guzman, an underused Rodrigo Santoro and Jaimie Alexander.

Come back, its only a flare gun!
By then we have a villain in Martinez that lacks the compelling "X" factor of really good movie villains, some clunky delivery from Arnie and a lead-up to a showdown that doesn't do a lot to crank up the tension. But let's be honest - you or I won't be sat watching this movie because its got the storytelling of a Tarantino, or the concept of a Nolan, or the style of a Snyder - we're watching it because its the first real Schwarzenegger film in ten years. It doesn't matter that Arnie's acting chops are a little rusty, or that we know how its going to play out, or that the villain won't be in the Hall of Fame. Its a platform to see him pick up a big gun and blow the sweets out of bad guys. And that he does. Despite it wisely being more of an ensemble piece than a one-man army, Arnie gets plenty of chances to show us he still has a fondness for Phased Plasma Rifles in the 40 Watt Range. Its towards the last third of the film we get to see what Kim Jee-woon brings - apart from exploding henchmen. There's glimpses of flair and humour amongst exploding-head violence, there's Arnie still delivering his quotable one-liners while also nodding to the fact that its been a while since he was asked for ID in the offies.

From this range, Im a surgeon with this thing
What it boils down to is a man on man, toe to toe beatdown between Arnie and Martinez. At this point I suspected that my willingness to suspend disbelief might get severely tested - but I shouldn't have worried. The showdown has heart and a certain believability (more or less). By the time the credits roll - did I feel disappointed? No. Its not Arnie's Rocky Balboa - its not a comeback that will prove everybody wrong. Its not even in his top ten BUT it is a comeback and we're now into a new era of Schwarzengger. Maybe thats the most important thing.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

What is best in life?

So, its finally here. It's been too long but we'll now be able to step into the local cinematorium and purchase a ticket for a new Arnold Schwarzenegger film! True, the big man was available to see on the big screen a few months ago in Expendables 2 - but this is his first leading man role since Terminator 3 in 2003. Its a big deal. To celebrate this in our own small way - we are taking you on a quick video journey of Arnold. Of course, this won't even begin to scratch the surface (we know because we're reading Total Recall) but for the uninitiated it may offer a little glimpse of the man behind the legend...

Young Arnold the weightlifter
OK, the video still displayed below may look a little like Arnie doing some backroom casting - but in fact he's on his way to winning Mr Universe. Did you ever do that?! 

Arnold the King Of All Weightlifters
OK. So he won Mr Universe. A few times. And a bunch of other powerlifting / weightlifting titles. So by the time Pumping Iron was made, he already had Awesome status bestowed upon him. And damn, the kid loved lifting weights...

Arnold the budding actor
What next then? Movies, naturally. If you had a body like his its either movies or...well...other types of movies. So along came Hercules (that wasn't actually the title of the movie but damn it could be one...). Even though he's destroying the English language, he's destroying it with charisma.

Arnold the movie star
Fast forward a few years (and a few epic movies) and Arnold has established himself as the Biggest Action Star in the World. With not a single fibre of his human form easily positioned in Rom-Coms or Alan Bennett-style dramas, Arnie stomped his way to the top of the action movie heap. Killing bad guys with the carefree enthusiasm of a child, in a style uniquely his own - the clip below shows you what a Schwarzenegger movie was all about.

Arnold the icon
You know you've made it when everyone starts doing an impression of you. Imitation and flattery and all that. After all, do you think that in 20 years time we'll all be doing out best Rylan impersonation? He was everywhere and that accent was so imprinted on the DNA of everyone who ever had ears that it was irresistible to try it yourself. I bet you know someone that attempts to pull off an impression of Arnie...

Arnold the leader
Right. Biggest movie star on the planet. Starred in one of the biggest movies of all time. Time to run for Governor. It was after the release of Terminator 3 that Arnie made the move into politics - it was no surprise. And it was no surprise his candidacy for Governor of California was so successful - who wouldn't want to see where he'd go with that?! Invade Texas? Fund cybernetic research? See America's enemies driven before them? Below are a couple of clips that show how crazy the mash-up of life / art was.

Arnold is back
Now that we didn't quite get the opportunity to see the "Schwarzenegger Presidential Library" realised due to that pesky legislation, we get to have him back. With The Last Stand just released and appearing to be everything Arnie fans hoped it would be the newest chapter in the big man's life has just started. Welcome back Arnie, its been a long time General...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Secret of their success

If you're a screenwriter, producer or director, you're probably wondering where your next big hit is going to come from. Forget all that film school bullshit about Eisenstein's shot and cut or mise-en-scene, what you need are as follows; simple glowing shapes. Preferably blue. The simple glowing shape is enigmatic, mystical, powerful. It looks cool. Try it, have your leading man position it in front of him and contemplate the glowing spectre in front of him.

And having one in your movie will make it a guaranteed box office monster. Joss Whedon knew it.

Avengers worldwide box-office: $1,511,757,910 
Ridley Scott knew it.

Prometheus worldwide box-office: $402,486,687
Martin Campbell didn't. Sorry Ryan.

Green Lantern worldwide box-office: yeah.....

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

You Got The Music In You

Every now and again, we like to throw the spotlight onto the awesome people that live on the internet. We found some gifted folks who, like us - love movies. Only they can play instruments like rock stars. Below are a few who are well worth checking out if you haven't already.

First, Sylvain Cloux's take on the Jurassic Park theme - can it be improved? With a hint of heavy rock, anything can be improved!

Next is an embellishment of Hans Zimmer's Dream Is Collapsing from Inception. Its an already epic tune but this young scoundrel plumps it out a little with a "band" vibe.

With Hollywood as bankrupt as it is - creatively speaking (we still love you though) naturally, they've been turning to TV shows for the next big franchise. With MacGyver in the frame for a cinematic outing, the suits could do worse than speaking to this guy about helping with the soundtrack...

To book-end things nicely, we finish how we started - with Jurassic Park. There are many people out there who say "Yeah, I play a little" when talking about an instrument, or like to imagine themselves as musicians. Thats fine. But then theres this individual. With a talent which can only be described as unbelievable and an ear for melody that is haunting, we give you our final video. A beautiful reworking of the Jurassic Park theme.