So far, I’ve looked back at my favorite blockbuster and newer horror viewing experiences of the year, so now it’s time to talk about action flicks! In 2017, I discovered some underrated movies in this department, saw some way more well-known ones, dipped into a few new genres and even marathoned the films of a particular 80s and 90s action icon!
Several years back I realized that a lot of strange little movies that I really enjoyed were all distributed by Magnet Releasing. They’re behind Murder Party, Timecrimes, Not Quite Hollywood, Return To Sleepaway Camp, Ong-Bak 2 and 3, District B-13: Ultimatum, the amazing Universal Solider: Day Of Reckoning and many more. In a lot of ways it felt like stumbling across a really cool indie record label that just kept putting out entertainment you wanted to shove in your brain. So, I started following them on Twitter and got pretty excited when they started hyping a sci-fi film called Europa Report. I didn’t know much about it aside from the fact that it featured a small cast in a spaceship traveling somewhere where something bad happened. I also heard it was mostly found footage.
It was that latter piece of information that put me off of the film for a while even after it appeared on Netflix Instant. I’m glad I finally did watch it because this film by director Sebastián Cordero and writer Philip Gelatt really is great. The title refers to Europa One, a ship heading to Jupiter’s moon of the same name to explore its icy surface. The crew consists of William Xu (Daniel Wu), James Corrigan (Sharlto Copley), Daniel Luxembourg (Christian Camargo), Katya Petrova (Karolina Wydra), Andrei Blok (Michael Nyqvist) and Rosa Dasque (Anamaria Marinca). All of the footage is from a cameras either mounted or on board the ship (or on their persons in the event of leaving the ship) and is presented as a kind of documentary about what happened with the ship. So, with that set-up, we know something bad is going to happen and it’s just a matter of finding out exactly what it is.
But, there are several tricks played on the audience that actually worked really well. I didn’t even mind the fact that this is in the vein of my least favorite kind of film — found footage/mockumentary — because it actually makes sense why there are so many cameras around and also why someone would be watching this footage (something that I can’t say for something like The Zombie Diaries).
If you are interested in checking out this film, I recommend just jumping right in. Like I said above, I didn’t know anything about it, so I just went in with very basic information and a lot of assumptions, like that, being a space film, there would probably be some scary aliens. Without knowing if that was actually going to happen or not, I found myself fully absorbed as the crew dwindled towards the end of the film and we got a look at exactly what was going to happen. With that in mind, go out and watch Europa Report!
Spike Lee’s re-interpretation of Oldboy is set to hit theaters in a few months, so expect to see a lot of ads floating around both online and more traditional media in the near future. A website called Hotel Oldboy has all kinds of posters extolling the virtues of Josh Brolin’s abode as well as a clip featuring Samuel L. Jackson delivering a less-than-hopeful message.
Here’s the official synopsis:
Oldboy is a provocative, visceral thriller that follows the story of an advertising executive (Josh Brolin) who is abruptly kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his bizarre and torturous punishment only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.
Oldboy, which also stars Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Lance Reddick and Michael Imperioli, opens on November 27th. Are you ready for your stay?
I realized after getting District 9 from Netflix that I didn’t really know what it was about. I knew it had aliens, there was a faux documentary aspect to it and reflected Apartheid. I was blown away by how full this movie is. It’s not just a people vs. aliens movie or an enemies-turned-buddies movie or a rad action movie or a social injustice movie. It’s all of those things and more.
The following description will be SPOILERY, but not super spoilery. Moreso about the plot details I didn’t know going in. 20 years ago a spaceship appeared over South Africa, but no one came out so humans went up and cut in to find these aliens they dubbed the Prawns. Instead of integrating them into society Alien Nation-style, the Prawns are relegated to really shitty lean tos in a place called District 9. Now, the government has a “nicer” place to move them so some agents are sent in to tell the Prawns they’ve got 24 hours to move. Our main character Wikus goes in to do just then. He accidentally found a canister that Prawns had the sprayed him in the face and has started slowly turning him into one of them. He’s taken in by the agency he works for, experimented on and they discover he can use the weapons that came with the Prawns that only they can use. He breaks out, finds the Prawn who had the canister and ends up teaming up with him and his son. The Prawn and his son were trying to get fuel to get a small shuttle back to the ship, but they need the canister back, so they head back into the agency, get the stuff and head back. It gets crazy from there.
There’s still about 30 minutes left after that point, but I don’t want to completely spoil it. Now that I think of it, District 9 has a very video game sensibility to it. It starts off small, explaining the world and then keeps ramping things up and up and up until the crazy ending that can and probably will lead to a sequel. There’s even crazy alien weapons, several different enemies to shoot at (the military-esque guys, the aliens, the African dudes who sell guns and catfood to the Prawns) and one particular bad guy who seems ridiculously hard to kill for no real reason.
A movie like this hinges on two big things: the ability of the actors to make it feel like they’re really interacting with CGI beings and the ability of the special effects team to make CGI aliens that look real. I think they nailed it on both counts. Each of the Prawns have something unique about them whether it’s a different body color or a random, cast-off article of clothing they wear, they each felt like their own individual person.
Okay, even with all the stuff I liked, there were a few things I didn’t. I know the short film that writer/director Neil Blomkamp created and turned into District 9 was a mockumentary, but I don’t know if it really helped this movie. They use talking heads and experts as a way to explain the history and a few things at the end, plus that’s the way they get Wikus into the story, but he would have been there anyway. The movie starts off with the fake documentary format and then bounces back and forth between that later on, leaving it behind for a good chunk only to return at the end. For the most part, it was unnecessary though. I was also wondering why the heck there weren’t a ton of Prawn’s crawling around the final battle back at District 9. Had they already been moved? Did it get mentioned at all? It kind of bugged me that after showing hundreds of these things, that changed to just a handful, until the end of the action before the final comeback of the talking heads.
So, it’s not a perfect movie, but it’s absolutely worth checking out for anyone, who likes any kind of movies. Heck, even the missus liked it!