80’s B-movies, superhero self-indulgence and Sean Penn on the warpath – the latest DVDs reviewed.
Electric Boogaloo (Metrodome) is the colourful true story of two Israeli cousins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who produced more than 120 films in 10 years. With a back catalogue that encompassed everything from low-brow crowd-pleasers to high-brow arthouse fare, Golan and Globus were risk-takers on an unprecedented scale. Indeed, one of their favoured tactics was producing eye-catching posters for unmade movies, and hawking them to interested parties at the Cannes Film Festival. Whichever ‘films’ generated the most pre-sales were then turned into actual movies, and delivered on schedule to the cinema chains that provided the original financial backing!
Director Mark Hartley previously struck B-movie gold with 2008’s Not Quite Hollywood, which scrutinised the ‘Ozploitation’ movement of the 1970s and 1980s. The Cannon Films back catalogue offers up a similar treasure trove of retro delights, and Hartley has weaved together a cracking tale about two men whose ambition and ingenuity saw them rise to the dizzy heights of mainstream Hollywood before sending them crashing back down to earth. While Cannon is probably best remembered for launching the careers of action stars such as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, it is interesting to learn that Golan and Globus also produced work by luminaries such as Franco Zeffirelli (Otello), John Cassavetes (Love Streams) and Barbet Schroeder (Barfly) – when no one else was willing to back them.
Littered with great anecdotes and crammed with eye-opening clips, Electric Boogaloo is riotous fun. While you may not be keen to revisit many of the films themselves, Hartley’s documentary is a well-judged retelling of a story that seems scarcely believable in hindsight. Overall, one of the most enjoyably trashy documentaries that I have watched in recent memory. Highly recommended.
Although the original was released on DVD back in November 2014, X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut (20th Century Fox) represents a new cut of Bryan Singer’s most recent entry in the ongoing superhero saga. For anyone yet to encounter the film, the plot sees characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves – via a time-travelling Wolverine (Hugh Jackman in his seventh appearance as the much-loved mutant) – uniting to battle the murderous Sentinel robots that have been created by Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones) to identify and wipe out mutants everywhere.
First things first: X-Men: Days of Future Past is great fun – a quirky, compelling addition to the franchise. After 2013’s lacklustre The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman’s iconic character is given a meaty storyline to sink his adamantium claws into, and carries the storyline well on his bulky shoulders. The plot may sound mind-meltingly complicated, but after a chaotic opening the film quickly ignites, and Singer blazes his way through a number of memorable set-pieces. With a seriously strong cast and an epic storyline to match, Days of Future Past is vivid and energetic and offers a worthwhile bridge between 2011’s X-Men First Class and the original 2000 movie.
But what about the re-cut version, I hear you ask? That depends on how much you love the X-Men universe… The insertion of Rogue (Anna Paquin, True Blood) – which gives the new version its extended title – is the key difference here, and the ‘new’ footage is fairly easy to spot. While the link Rogue offers to the original trilogy is a nice touch, it feels surplus to narrative requirements and it is easy to see why the scenes were ditched in the first place. That said, if you are feeling jaded by the proliferation of superhero movies being churned out left, right and centre, Days of Future Past comfortably bucks the trend. In conclusion: great movie, inessential remix.
Eight years after fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo following his assassination of the country’s minister of mining, The Gunman (StudioCanal) follows former hitman Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) as he finds himself on the receiving end of a murder attempt. Terrier flies to London to find out who wants him dead, and his search leads him to an impromptu reunion with his ex-girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca, Romanzo Criminale), who is now married to his dodgy former acquaintance Felix (Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men).
Directed by Pierre Morel – the man responsible for Taken – The Gunman would have probably been better if they had stripped away the geopolitical intrigue and just let Sean Penn run amok with a gun. The narrative is flabby and drawn-out, and Penn’s star power and impressively sustained intensity struggle to keep the film afloat. Not the utter disaster it has been portrayed as elsewhere – the action scenes are generally excellent – The Gunman still feels like a wasted opportunity.
Fresh from her superb career-making performance in Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike pops up in the under-the-radar thriller Return To Sender (eOne), as a small town nurse who gets brutally attacked in her own home by a mysterious stranger (Shiloh Fernandez, Red Riding Hood). Following his arrest, she starts to write to him in prison, but the letters all get returned unopened. Determined to confront him, she starts to visit him regularly in prison, and seemingly befriends him, against the express wishes of her protective father (Nick Nolte, Warrior).
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Uneven and ultimately nonsensical, Return To Sender wastes a committed performance from Pike and a respectable supporting turn from Nolte. It’s sad that Pike blotted her copybook so quickly after Gone Girl, but hopefully the movie will turn out to be a blip, rather than a sign of things to come.
Accidental Love (Arrow Films) follows Alice Eckle (Jessica Biel, The Tall Man), a naïve roller-skating waitress in a small Indiana town, who is about to get engaged to her trooper boyfriend, Scott (James Marsden, The Box). When Alice is accidentally shot in the head with a nail gun, her lack of health insurance leaves the nail lodged in her brain, prompting bursts of erratic behaviour. After her fiancé has a change of heart, Alice travels to Washington DC to meet the charming but clueless Congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal, End of Watch) who has vowed to petition for the introduction of a new health care bill.
Original director David O. Russell left the film in 2010 due to financing issues, and the film was subsequently completed without his involvement and credited to ‘Stephen Greene’. Despite the talent involved, Accidental Love is a complete misfire on pretty much every level, and given the plaudits heaped on The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, it is easy to see why Russell wants this movie scrubbed off his CV. Regardless of who was behind the camera, Accidental Love seems like a poor idea, badly executed. One to avoid.