In the future, due to over-populated prison facilities on earth, convicts are shipped off to a giant prison station in space. For Snow (Guy Pierce), a loose cannon copper now on trial for a crime he didn’t commit, it looks as if this space station will be his final destination too. Lucky for him, a riot takes place in the prison around the same time psychologist Emily Warnock (Maggie Grace) is up there, visiting the facility for humanitarian reasons. Turns out Emily is the president’s daughter and the only one the government can count on to get her out alive is… Snow, who isn’t likely to fly up there and play by anybody’s rules.
‘Lockout’ pretty much plays out like Geoff Murphy‘s ‘Fortress 2′ (1994) meets John Carpenter‘s ‘Escape From New York’ (1981) for two simple reasons: It’s got giant prison station in space as the main setting and this time it’s the president’s daughter that needs to be saved by our rogue hero. Guy Pierce‘s sarcastic one-liners are practically too much to handle. You can expect him to deliver a punchline with every five phrases or so, but they’re bound to put a stupid grin on your face every now and then. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that ‘Lockout’ is a dumb, loudmouth action movie; it kind of is, but hey, it’s about convicts raising hell on a prison space station, so don’t expect existential topics to be raised or any other philosophical touches. It is what it is, and ‘Lockout’ entertains just because of that: boisterous special effects, a fast pace, action, thrills and a lot of blasting macho stuff. ‘Lockout’ - with a title as generic sounding as the final product turns out to be – doesn’t want to be anything else, and if this is your kind of deal, then you’re good to go.
TRUTH OR DARE
Felix, an insecure, shy and very rich student, suffers the humiliation of a lifetime when a truth or dare game gets out of hand during a graduation party. The five students involved in this despicable event find themselves re-united a few months later, due to an invitation for Felix’s birthday party. The location is a cabin on his family domain. The group is welcomed by Justin, Felix’s older brother. The charismatic, obsessive military man Justin has a fine message to kick off the party: Felix committed suicide after the humiliating event, and if someone doesn’t confess real soon, he’ll hold all five of them responsible for his death. And pay, they will.
Let’s throw a bunch of characters together in a confined space and see what happens, part 2. The confined space in this case being a cabin. Even with a familiar “haven’t we seen this all before?” script, ‘Truth Or Dare’ holds up remarkably well. Of course you can count on characters doing things they should not be doing for the sole sake of injecting suspense in the screenplay, but if they didn’t, this wouldn’t be a movie. The young cast are all game and they take things very seriously. What’s more, you might be surprised as to who from the youngsters will die first because writer Matthew McGuchan likes to play with the stereotypes. The twist leading us into the third act is plain cool and even catapults us back to eighties slasher heaven. You’ll know it when you see it. ‘Truth Or Dare’ mixes slasher elements with nowadays torture horror, so the formula is anything but original. But the whole thing is amusing from start to finish.
AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT
Things aren’t going too well for Roberto. Once a promising marketing man, now he finds himself out of a job and it’s taking its toll on his marriage. To relive better days, he decides to visit the hotel where he spent his wedding night. Upon his arrival, he finds out the place has been turned into a museum still under construction. While taking a peek around on the construction site, he has a terrible accident and finds himself pinned down in a life-threatening situation. When the media gets wind of this peculiar accident, they and Robert himself decide to exploit the situation. Whether he’ll survive his ordeal or not, Robert has only one thing on his mind: to become successful again at any cost.
Álex de la Iglesia is back in great shape with ‘La Chispa De La Vida’, taking a terrifying premise and then mixing it with delicious black comedy while commenting on the ridiculously exploitative nature of the modern day media. The central idea? Try having a guy stuck to the ground with a pin in the back of his head for the entire running time of the movie and making all this work splendidly. Your name has got to be Álex de la Iglesia to pull that one off. The exposition of the characters already works wonders. You really feel for Roberto (José Mota) & his wife Luisa (Salma Hayek) and the situation they’re in (with Robert being unemployed, trying hard to get back into the marketing business, and Luisa trying to be supportive of her husband’s decisions). And then when Roberto has his accident, it triggers a series of events involving the media, the museum’s management and Roberto’s family & agent to which de la Iglesia maintains a swift pace. Thereby never loosing the audience’s interest in the movie, thanks to Randy Feldman‘s clever & tight script. The acting from the complete cast is excellent, with Mota & Hayek really shining in every minute of screen time they have. If you’ve liked de la Iglésia‘s previous films ‘La Comunidad’ and ‘Crimen Ferpecto’, then don’t miss out on ‘La Chispa De La Vida’, as it’s up there with his best work so far.
Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) seemingly is an average Joe with a normal day job and a loving family. One day out hunting, he finds a savage woman in the forest. He traps her, takes her home, chains her up and begins to teach her the ways of civilization. Chris gets his whole family to participate in these events and rest assured that his teaching ways are very twisted. His son is all too willing to help his dad with his sick undertakings. But mum and daughter grow a little less at ease with the whole situation. Of course they do; they’re women too.
Lucky McKee let me down. At least a little bit. ‘May’ (2002) had the element of indie-surprise going for it, being the fresh breath through the horror genre that it was. ‘The Woods’ (2006) had a fine witches-angle to it and showed off much better production values. But McKee could have done much better this time with ‘The Woman’ than to go out and touch base with the torture horror genre. In a way, ‘The Woman’ had me thinking about ‘Mum & Dad’ (2008), like taking a female outsider and forcing her to be a part of the family, re-schooling her if not by torturing her. And that’s not a good thing, since I didn’t think too much of ‘Mum & Dad’ and the whole torture genre in general. I also saw McKee doing his “I’m an indie filmmaker so I can put as much indie pop songs as I want in my film” routine. Now, I’ve seen this approach work very well for indie-drama/comedy movies, but here McKee started undermining the tone of his film. I very well got how he intended to juxtapose some of the music with the more explicit content of certain scenes, but it all felt too obvious. Mckee also teams up again with his fetish actress Angela Bettis, but this time one can hardly speak of any fireworks (granted, this is probably due to her role of obedient & subordinate house wife). Add to that my personal disliking towards main actor Sean Bridgers, and you pretty much only had the ending to save the film. Which it did. Not necessarily because of some shocks & gore McKee starts throwing at us, but also because things shift into gear, finally changing that disturbed domestic situation which had been going on for far too long. On the other hand, the family values established in this film are somewhat… interesting. ‘The Woman’ is not just some modern piece of exploitation. It rises above all this due to McKee‘s subversive social commentaries sprinkled throughout the film. And it has to be said that Pollyanna McIntosh really gives an impressive performance in her physically & psychologically demanding role as the mute & savage titular female. So, I’m sure ‘The Woman’ will please a certain kind of audience. After all, a movie like ‘The Hamiltons’ (2006) has its fair share of fans too (me not being one of them). And maybe ‘The Woman’ will grow on me; time will tell.
Benno isn’t the most likeable fellow you’ll ever meet. As a composer, he’s a failure. So he works at a stamp shop, where he swindles the customers and steals from his boss. Furthermore, he hates his neighbor, the aspiring musician Sandra, who works in her coffee shop to pay the bills. Aside from being plain rude to her every time they meet, Benno also resents Sandra’s ambition to become a famous singer one day. Until one day Benno starts leaking sand. While trying to figure out what on earth is wrong with him, Benno will have to confront his own unpleasant ways. But the sand keeps on leaking…
With its highly original premise, ‘Der Sandmann’ arouses interest from the get-go and moving further into the film, writer/director Peter Luisi‘s disarming script will prove to work wonders. What we have here is a modern day fairytale with a bizarre comedic approach to it. Luisi also flirts with the well-known European/Scandinavian myth of the Sandman. In this case it’s Benno evoking sleep in every person who comes in touch with his abnormal affliction, inflicting the dreamy consequences upon them. Fabian Krüger is outstanding as the obnoxious Benno, who will have to come to terms with his own flaws in order to stop the graining madness seeping into his every day life. Irene Brügger – a musician in real life – is also remarkable in her acting debut. A wonderful little film, seemingly flawless, that works just like a charm.
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