Friday, 18 December 2009



Sometimes I love a plain, bold, unadorned title that states simply and exactly, in as few words as possible, exactly what the movie is. Psycho, Earthquake, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Grannies In Bondage. You know precisely what you're going to get. Titanic - it's about the Titanic. Aliens - it's about aliens. Okay, there's usually a lot more to it than that: some emotional drama, some character comedy, but on the most basic level That's What The Movie Is and anything else is just additional frippery, to make you care when the big event finally occurs. The Towering Inferno wouldn't be any good at all if it was exclusively composed of scenes of famous people burning to death: the first act is setting up the good and bad people so there's at least some attempt at depth, so there's someone you can cheer for and someone you can boo and hiss.

The trouble with the South Korean disaster flick Tidal Wave is that the first act is nearly two thirds of the running time, and the romantic entanglements drag hideously, none of which you really care about. After an opening set against the tsunami of Christmas 2004 (the point of which is that This Could Happen Again) it morphs into a fairly dull episode of Sunset Beach: mainly concerned with a hesitant will-they-won't-they dramatic romance (he's got a guilty secret) and a nerdy-guy-meets-kooky-babe comedic romance. Which is okay, but not for a full hour. Meanwhile they're planning to redevelop all the beachfront properties, the town is full of bigwigs for a cultural expo, and no-one wants to listen to the bespectacled seismologist predicting a mega-tsunami any moment. (He, of course, has estranged ex-wife problems to deal with as well.) And eventually, the massive great wave of CGI seawater arrives.

Cue: destruction, chaos, panic and screaming as buildings collapse in the best disaster movie tradition. This is obviously the best bit of the film: a major special effects set piece which frankly we've been waiting too long for, which is a shame as some of it's pretty good. There's an enjoyable extended action/comedy/effects sequence involving a cab driver trapped on a bridge that's been hit by the tsunami AND the cargo ship lodged against one of the supports. Against that there's rather a lot of syrupy self-sacrifice and tearful farewells, backed by an overly melodramatic soundtrack with lots of unresolved Are You Crying Yet? chords from the string section.

This isn't to say it's a terrible film; but the best stuff in Tidal Wave is the tidal wave itself; the rest of the movie is perfectly passable (and would be fine as a romantic comedy by itself) but takes too long and holds up the actual disaster, which is what we really wanted to see.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009


And still they come: one tiresome, tortuous, one-star experience after another. I'm frequently minded to take all modern horror flicks off my rentals list and replace them all with the best of Kurosawa, Bergman and the French New Wave. Because if this is, honestly, genuinely, truly the best they can do then it's just not good enough. If you're expecting me to pay you money for your efforts then a modicum of professional competence is the very least I'm entitled to in return.

We don't get such consideration in Necromentia; we don't even get the strictly middling pleasures its auteur genius Pearry Tao's other movie The Gene Generation provided (namely Bai Ling wandering around in outré trousers). What we do end up with is a pair of charmless losers going back and forth into Hell to reclaim the soul of a faithless woman (who frankly isn't worth the hassle), with necrophilia, Satanic tattoos, and sadomasochistic torture for money thrown in, and a giant talking pig from a TV show cajoling the so-called hero's disabled brother to commit murder and suicide. Hell itself appears to be some kind of access tunnel on the Jubilee Line, with pipes and cables along the walls, lit by flickering fluorescent tube lights and ruled by a grey-skinned demon in a gas mask.

It's grim, dark, noisy, bleak, dull and goes on for a deceptively short 80 minutes; it's no fun, it's not interesting, it doesn't make sense and it's impossible to give a hoot what happens. Despite the nods to (or rips from) Clive Barker's Hellraiser, it's quite possibly, in all seriousness, one of the worst things I've forced myself through in years and I really wish I hadn't.


Monday, 14 December 2009



A Russell Mulcahy action movie with Michael Madsen and car chases, and carrying an 18 certificate? Sounds great. Beware: Crash And Burn is monumentally lame stuff - made for home viewing with only a couple of nasty bits of violence, some discreet nudity and no swearing.

Remember Gone In 60 Seconds? Well, it's basically that film all over again, except it isn't gone in 60 seconds but hangs around like a bad smell for nearly an hour and a half. And it's fused with The Fast And The Furious, except there's precious little fury involved and everyone drives as if there are speed cameras up ahead. Deep down I think it wants to be Grand Theft Auto: The Movie, except the game's being played by someone's gran as the sedatives kick in. Our weedily uncharismatic hero Kevin shows up in LA after two years and hooks up with his old buddies in the car theft business, jacking dozens of top-grade (and not so top-grade) cars for evil Michael Madsen to export to Asia. Several wildly predictable plot points later, it all ends with various uninteresting people shooting at one another at length in the dockside warehouses.

You should usually be able to rely on Russell Mulcahy to make it look good - he started out in pop videos and made movies like Razorback, Highlander and The Shadow, and even his direct-to-video Dolph Lundgren shoot-em-ups had some visual panache about them - but this looks as if it were shot by the camera crew on Channel 5's all-night phone-in quiz broadcasts: it's flat, dull, and cheap. Well worth not renting.