Month: February 2012

Rampart (2011)

A near flawless examination of hubris on the individual in a film pleasingly free of the cliches of the genre burdened and lessened by some tiresome pacing and overly forceful, slightly manipulative scenes. Essentially a character study that finds the plot only necessary for revealing another facet of our fascinating, repellent and unpleasant protagonist. Woody Harrelson is better than ever as Dave “Date Rape” Brown (He complains about both the mundanity of his name and his station moniker or nick name, earned for allegedly killing a known, violent date rapist.), an out of date policeman, still standing after the Rampart scandals of the early nineties. Determinedly old school in both outlook and policing methods, his past is catching up with him as his present closes in and collapses around him. Dave is caught on videotape (it’s 1999) savagely beating a man he was involved in a car accident with, he protests his innocence, threatens to become a news pundit for Fox or a lawyer and take down the whole department. He is well read and verbose, armour he uses to deflect accusations of brutality and racism. His home life consists of adjacent houses each stocked with a wife or ex-wife (sisters) and a daughter. Encased in liberal, feminist homes he spends his life on the beat or in bars picking up single women.

Set in Los Angeles, the spiritual home of the crooked cop movie, Rampart is shot in the rich primary colours the climate allows. The cIty has rarely looked more like a jungle, more vividly humid and threatening, more full of diversities, ideologies, factions, social substrates, rumours and political ambiguities. Humming with money and madness, corruption and power, LA is portrayed as a modern day Gomorrah, a festering sore and an uncomfortable melting pot all at the same time. All the best corrupt policemen wear their city like a suit and reflect it’s nature in their own personalities. Dave Brown is no different. LA is wrapped tight around him, squeezed into every cell, written in his DNA and echoed in his every sentence. He and the city tick along together, each others symbiote. Without LA Dave is nothing, he’s unwilling to give up his position within it for anything. Enjoying the minor powers granted him by the city herself. LA provides him delusions of grandeur, a sense of serving a higher power and a rock solid get out clause for all his transgressions.

James Ellroy’s involvement in anything to do with the LAPD lends instant credibility (Hell, even Street Kings sounded good), his extensive knowledge of the department’s history, traditions and skeletons give an authenticity useful to any crime drama. His clipped, abbreviated, racially charged dialogue is vicious (“…Rodney King wannabees…” cuts deep) his scenes and locations carefully chosen. The script certainly seems to have attracted a high calibre cast all willing to spout it’s acerbic observations with venom and snake oil. Sigourney  Weaver and Steve Buscemi play city officials despairing of Brown, Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon his wife and ex-wife respectively, Ned Beatty is a retired cop, Ice Cube an IA officer and the always dependable Robin Wright excels as a damaged lawyer who falls in with Brown for ambiguous reasons. Not a bad line up for a film opening on five screens in the US.

Directed by Oren Moverman (I’m Not There, The Messenger) with a flair suitable for a high temperature cop thriller. Moverman was also involved with the script, allegedly rejigging it to be more of a one man show, a spiral downwards for Dave Brown rather than a fallout from Rampart, procedural film. This is arguably to the film’s detriment. Shot after shot of Woody’s grimacing, smoking head in his patrol car begin to drag, repeated well after we have got to know Dave and his foot fetish well. Unfortunately it also hurts the scenes outside of  Dave’s police work, passages with his daughters are too prolonged at times when the meagre plot could be moved forward.

Bent Copper movies are guilty pleasures because at some point a bastard must be rooted for. “Date Rape” Brown compels some sympathy as he gets deeper and deeper into the mire, sympathy not for his plight which is deserved but for his status as a relic, unable to understand the forces allayed against him . His face goes bright red as alcohol takes over, his logic and reason vanish and his justifications and excuses flimsily collapse. So, a brilliantly realised character who just might be too corrupt to support and that, somehow, takes some of the pleasure away. A rough diamond then, creatively shot, realistically written in blackly comic police jargon, slight on story but anchored to solid ground by a performance from an actor moving into that wonderful phase some get to where everything seems effortless and nothing is too far.

Frantic (1988)

A suitcase full of Macguffins and Harrison Ford doesn’t even speak French! Polanski’s 1988 attempt at mimicking The Fat Man has stood the test of 23 years relatively well. When Richard Walker’s (Ford) wife goes missing whilst they are in Paris for a medical convention his ordered world descends into the seedy, corrupt and eventually political underbelly of the city. In a move Alfred would’ve approved of, Walker has no idea for his wife’s disappearance and little understanding of the wider events until the final twenty minutes or so.

Frantic was made after Pirates in Polanski’s career. Pirates was a disaster in terms of gross and there is a feeling that Polanski felt he could deliver a commercial thriller to regain some of his status and most importantly his treasured “final cut”, allowing him the freedom to make the pictures he desired personally. He’s right, Frantic is a functional, sometimes breathless homage to Hitchcock. The twists and revelations that befall Walker as he desperately tries to understand what has happened build satisfyingly, the threats feel real, the Macguffin plausible and nicely ambiguous. Made by a debutante, Frantic would be considered remarkable but in Polanski’s ouevre sits in the corner quietly. There are flashes of the Repulsion maker’s best. Seen from Richard’s perspective, his wife’s last moments before her disappearance make for a poignant reminder of her throughout the rest of the film, a feeling that we are looking for OUR wife and a textbook example of how camera placement can be crucial to the story (and of what a director actually does).

Ford is an interesting choice. A stoic actor intelligent enough to rarely play against type. He has a tendency to look uncomfortable in a suit and has trouble acting weak, like Eastwood he is a REAL AMERICAN HERO and suffers when asked to be confused and vulnerable. Required to do both here, he just about gets away with it, the language barrier proving enough of a cover for his overwhelmingly heroic persona. The sight of Ford sniffing coke off a dealer’s fingernail or getting cold cocked naked is certainly novel and definitely entertaining. Looking back, it seems incredible that the man who plays the flawed, modern man better than most wasn’t asked. Michael Douglas has made a career out of playing Richard Walkers. Affluent, successful men inches from the whole package, the  American dream. Still, Ford does his best, even managing to conjure some chemistry between himself and the young, French girl he reluctantly teams up with (Emmanuelle Seigner).

A supporting cast of Arabs, French Police, snooty hotel staff, an unusual Jamaican, a dead drug dealer and Frasier’s Dad round out the film, adding colour and texture to a wonderfully drab, rainy Paris. Walker’s wife, Sondra, played by Betty Buckley is, ahem, nicely aged, making her a realistic partner for “trying to be regular guy” Ford. Realism is, surprisingly, not something Hollywood always aims for in these situations.

Frantic could easily be described as sub-Hitchcock and even sub-Polanski but that just boils down to not being either Chinatown or North By Northwest. Frantic is a solid, uncomplicated, baggage free thriller, delivered efficiently by a director smart enough to leave anything unnecessary out. The Walker’s arrive in Paris, the wife goes missing, the situation escalates, a resolution is reached, the credits roll. Easy. Hollywood should make 20 or 30 of them a year….

Hugo (2011)

We at EBFS have spoken before about critics creating a pedestal for some films like Drive. They build them up to such a high regard that you almost find yourself hating the film because you’ve let yourself build up your expectations or simply to spit in the eye of the mainstream.

As we settled down to watch Hugo, it was apparent that this could easily have been one of those films. Lord knows, it’s been a fight between this and The Artist as who has the most column inches. However, one thing stopped it from being so. It’s charm. Hugo is a breathtaking piece of cinema that feels like it is made with genuine love. Yes, no one really goes out of their way to make a bad movie, but it’s a rare moment to watch a film like this. It has already been said that this is Scorsese’s love letter to the cinema and it shows. His passion for all things film is infectious. He has created a masterpiece.

From the cinematography to the music, nothing is wasted. Even minor characters feel fully realised. From Sacha Baron Cohen’s station inspector trying to woo the local flower girl, to Richard Griffiths fighting for the affections of Frances de la Tour to the frustration of her pet dog; there’s no one you don’t care about. Never was this truer than for Ben Kingsley as George Méliès. An absolute doppelganger of the tragic silent-era director, it is hard to find a dry eye in the house after he describes to Hugo his fall from grace. If you don’t find yourself with at least some form of lump in your throat, then you truly have no soul.

To give away too much would be wrong, Hugo needs to be experienced without knowing anything more than you have to. Not to sound pretentious, but this is a film that wants to absorb you into it’s world, and you really must let it do so.

30 Minutes or Less (2011)

Zombieland was an entertaining enough romp, which suffered from a flabby middle (Bill Murray, really?) and well, in all honesty, a general lack of zombies. EBFS is a bit old fashioned when it comes wanting zombies in zombie films and we make no apologies for it. However, it did show that Ruben Fleischer was capable of more than just directing MIA in her latest ‘keeping it down with the kids, I haven’t sold out’ music vid. There’s also no denying it was a big hit, so it should be no surprise that Fleischer and Zombieland lead, Jesse Eisenberg, have got back together for 30 Minutes or Less.

Eisenberg is a no-hoper pizza delivery boy who spends his time sponging off his teacher flatmate (Aziz Asnari), wining and dining his flatmate’s sister and generally being an arse. During one of his deliveries, he is drugged and kidnapped by spoilt rich kid, Danny McBride. McBride has a plan. He needs $100,000 so he can hire a hitman to kill his father, allowing him to inherit his pater’s $10 million fortune. To achieve this, McBride straps a bomb to Eisenburg’s chest and gives him 10 hours to rob a bank for the aforementioned murderous fee. Is this all sounding a bit heavy going? It does to me when you say it out loud. But I swear, it’s a comedy.

Blending comedy and action, despite what Tango and Cash may lead you to believe, is not always successful. Pineapple Express and Hot Fuzz are examples of mixing guffaws with car chases that have polarised opinions. So, at least 30 Minutes isn’t going to be lonely. There are certainly laughs to be found, but like a lot of Apatow-esque movies of late, there is something to be said for the Director actually guiding his cast and not letting them run riot with their own amendments and ad-libs. If you do watch 30 Minutes, why not play a fun game of guessing what the original line was before McBride replaced it with a series of interconnecting fucks, shits and pussies.

Eisenberg is another problem. There is no difference between his portrayal of slacker pizza boy, his Mark Zuckerberg impression and his attempt at a zombie killer. The same speedy delivery, the same twitches… Like McBride’s equation of swearing=funny, he’s beginning to grate a bit. However, his delivery of the line ‘Your twins! Did you feel me when I fucked her?’ did raise a few giggles.

30 Minutes feels a tad disjointed, as if we’re missing a reel. Scenes and dialogue happen for no apparent reason and do nothing to move the plot along. And in some cases, the tone is completely uneven. A father vs would-be assassin scene ends on such a bummer, an attempt to make it all okay in a post-credit sting just simply doesn’t work. An attempt to crowbar in a bit of romance leaves the film with unsightly stretchmarks.

Like the aforementioned Zombieland, 30 Minutes‘s heart is in the right place, but it just doesn’t justify the sum of its parts. A lackluster finale compounds the fact that there could have a been a really good buddy movie in here, but unfortunately it’ll just be ‘that film Eisenberg did after the Facebook, the naff one’. Let us be thankful it finishes in 90 minutes or less.

Tyrannosaur (2011)

Within minutes of Tyrannosaur beginning, Joseph (Peter Mullen) has assaulted a teenager from behind in a dingy drinking hole, whispered racist obscenities in a post office, withered pathetically under a retort from the cashier, smashed the window, drunkenly hurled insults at the sky and blindly kicked his own dog to death in an alley. Paddy Considine is asking a lot  to demand sympathy for this lost soul of a protagonist in his directorial debut. Going down the same route as his fellow thespians, Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, took when they stepped behind the camera for the first time (The War Room and Nil by Mouth, respectively) Considine’s film is a sinkhole estate nightmare of a piece, a dystopian vision of Britain that makes the future in Clockwork Orange a more appealing option. Unlike Roth and Oldman however, Considine hasn’t hired Ray Winstone to beat up the wives and rape the daughters. Winstone has always had a cartoonish, albeit terrifying, larger than life nature about him, possiby because he is loudly amicable in real life. His huge frame and broad shoulders are menacing, his accent  full of violence. Considine here opts for Peter Mullen, an average sized, balding scotsman of an actor. His relatively diminutive stature and unremarkable  appearance make Joseph more shocking during his drunken outbursts and his weakness more plausable and painful as he shrinks from confrontations weighted against him.

Olivia Coleman has been quietly impressive in television dramas and comedies for a few years now, so her quivering, repressed performance as Hannah here comes not as a revelation but certainly a progression. Hannah is a Christian, possibly out of desperation, running a charity shop on Joseph’s estate. Hannah lives up town in a more plush neighbourhood with her husband James. James (Eddie Marsan) is a problem. First seen urinating on his sleeping wife, he progresses to beating and rape, all hidden behind a facade of Christianity and good standing in the community. So we have our dynamic. Alcoholic Joseph must save abused Hannah from her husband and Hannah must save Joseph from himself. These goals are achieved with varying degrees of success.

Considine, a fine actor himself, seems to understand Mullen, Coleman and Marsan, allowing them plenty of camera time and close ups to establish themselves. He resists trying any flashy shots or techniques (top down, or whooshing the camera through things should rarely be attempted in these kind of films and anyway scream “Look at me! Look at me! I’m directing!”) that would bring the audience out of the drama. Considine, a regular collaborator with Shane Meadows, plainly tells the story and allows empathy to build rather than forcing it, making it untrue. The soundtrack is mournful and heartfelt and the title thumpingly evocative, although that’s ruined when it’s meaning is revealed. Some cliches die hard. A funeral sequence where Hannah is allowed to see these down in the dirt losers at their lovable and caring best comes close to stinking up the show and the ending is a flurry of tying up loose ends with a voiceover but by that point the story has been sold and more importantly bought so forgiveness is easy to find.

There is always a risk of a kind of  aquarium like, middle class snobbery when portraying the darkest, most poverty stricken reaches of broken Britain (thanks Mr.Cameron). A risk of patronising a situation rarely experienced. It’s hard to know what a person living on a sink estate would make of Tyrannosaur, maybe it is assumed that those kind of people (add a snort of derision if you like) don’t watch films like this (What would a terrorirst say about an episode of 24? Although that’s seriously over egging the pudding). Considine has fortunately avoided such traps with his obvious love for his characters and an open sympathy for their plight. His actor friendly directing rounds out Joseph and Hannah and even James into living, breathing examples of the rights and wrongs that exist uneasily beside each other at every level of modern, British society.

The Rum Diary (2011)

In Withnail and I, Bruce Robinson gave us one of the most iconic characters ever to spring forth from a gin bottle in the form of Richard E. Grant’s Withnail. Alchoholic, intelligent and somewhat pathetic, Withnail was the archetypes for students in the 80s. So, it seemed like a no-brainer that Robinson became involved in the film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary; Thompson’s ‘long lost’ novel. (EBFS takes some issue with the term ‘long lost’ as it was never lost. It just went from publisher to publisher for 30 years until someone chose to publish it on the back of the popularity of Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. We digress….)

Johnny Depp previously played Thompson alter-ego, Raoul Duke, in the aforementioned Fear and Loathing. Like Withnail, his performance became equally iconic and allowed everyone to forget Where the Buffalo Roam ever existed. When he took over from Josh Harnett as the lead of The Rum Diary, the world produced a ‘Hurrah’ that could be heard from space.

So, with Robinson on the script/directing duties and Depp unleashing his special brand of kooky acting chops onto Puerto Rico, The Rum Diary was destined to be a new cult favourite. Right?

Then why does it all feel so flat?

Well, the main issue is the plot. It’s very pedestrian. Journalist, Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) takes a job at The San Juan Star, hoping to write the great American novel. Along the way, he gets caught up with businessman, Hal Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), and falls in love with the enticing Chenault (Amber Heard), Sanderson’s girlfriend. You see, despite Thompson’s usual motifs of corrupt businesses and the American dream, this is really the story of a love triangle. And not a very interesting one. Depp and Heard have next to no chemistry and feel like they’re in two separate films spliced together. Which leads us onto problem number two…

Johnny Depp. EBFS doesn’t like having to criticise Depp. We love his floppy haired ‘tude and have a tiny man crush on him. However, he is just not suited for this role. Yes, yes, he’s 20 years older than the literary version of Paul Kemp, but whilst Andrew Garfield is allowed to play a 17 year old Peter Parker, we will let that one slide. The problem is that Depp plays Kemp as Hunter S. Thompson. Albeit, a mostly sober, dashingly handsome version. So, whilst you should be engaged in Robinson’s film, you find yourself wishing the film would do a flashforward to Thompson waking up in the Colorado mountains and screaming about the pig-fucker Nixon.

Eckhart is dependable as shady Sanderson, but he teeters of on the precipice of ham. His character performs such a handbrake turn into EVIL BUSINESSMAN, it’ll make your head spin. The only actor who came across as doing anything remotely interesting is, surprisingly, Giovanni Ribisi, who plays Moberg, San Juan Star’s black sheep. Stumbling around in an alcoholic daze brought on by homemade rum, and listening to records of Hitler’s greatest speeches, Ribisi is thoroughly entertaining it’s a shame that he’s not on the screen more.

With an ending that feels like everyone ran out of money/interest, The Rum Diary is an easy way to spend 2 hours, but you’ll struggle to shake the feeling that this could have been so much more.

Carnage (2011)

A vicious, little knife fight of a play by Yasmina Reza becomes a claustrophobic, biting satire of middle class values via serial agoraphobe Roman Polanski. The American version (the original is, like Reza, French) of The God Of Carnage has been adapted for the screen by Reza herself with a helping hand from Polanski. The parents of two children involved in an altercation, one hit the other with a stick, in Brooklyn Bridge Park meet to discuss apologies, punishments and a possible resolution. Their differing ideals cause immediate, verbal conflict and the meeting descends into anarchy.

Bookended by scenes in the park set to the films only music the rest of the action takes place within Penelope (Foster) and Michael’s (Reilly) New York apartment. Nancy (Winslet) and Alan (Waltz) actually manage to make it to the lift in the hall twice but are pulled back, once out of politeness and the second time in anger. Polanski uses the cramped conditions and busy furnishings, all the espresso machines, coffee table books and ethnic art anyone could need, to heighten the discomfort between the couples. The camera emerges from around corners or from low angles causing the walls to move in closer and closer. Polanski has been in this situation before and the idea of confinement is one he has returned to again and again.

The scenario is expertly balanced by Reza. Nancy and Alan are comfortably the more affluent couple, Nancy makes no mention of work, Alan is a corporate lawyer, whereas Penelope is a writer and Michael a salesman. However, it is Nancy and Alan’s child thought to be at fault and they are in Michael and Penelope’s territory. All of this is expressed between the lines. Every sentence has an undercurrent and a hidden meaning often implicitly implied through tone or an arched eyebrow. The dialogue feels real as each actor gets involved, skillfully portraying their thoroughly unhappy characters without a hint of ego. Each character has their moment in the sun, a showpiece of emotion or a particularly nasty monologue and the script must have appealed in a cathartic way much like Glengarry Glen Ross. 

Foster’s Penelope is the only truly liberal member of the foursome, the only one with a morality that suits the situation. As such, she gets annihilated in cross examination by the other three. Their more nihilistic, dog eat dog view of the world and their constant willingness to take the moral low ground leave Penelope sobbing and impotent. In the end money and self involvement triumph, no one learns and nothing has been solved. Indeed, their may not even have been a problem in the first place.

Watching the couples slyly insult each other, make fun of their tastes, pet names, jobs and opinions whilst pretending to be resolving the issue between their offspring is tremendously entertaining, their polite facades being knocked down then rebuilt before our very eyes. When (spoiler alert!!) Winslet’s Nancy vomits across the coffee table to the disgust of her husband and the horror of Penelope as her designer books are ruined, the shock translates across to the audience giving us a sort of mini Alien moment. Eventually, Michael gets so wound up by his own attempts to be an understanding, friendly host that he reaches for the scotch.

When the alcohol, a lovely 18 year old whiskey, starts to flow, the battle lines are redrawn and the film lurches uncomfortably into a war of the sexes. The whiskey takes effect far too fast and the foursome become far less interesting as a result, dissolving from acerbic, hidden barbs in the conversation to outraged rudeness and stubborn stupidity. The device of drunkenness is a forced and unlikely conceit, finding four fortyish year old parents all willing to drink strong liquor in the middle of the afternoon has the ring of untruth to it and finally Carnage comes off the rails, stumbling down a dark alley totally of it’s own making. Fortunately, the film realises this and comes to a sudden, totally appropriate end, salvaged partially by a skilled comic moment, some lovely pounding drums and a hamster. Carnage is three quarters (sixty minutes) of a good film and for some that will be enough.

The Descendants (2011)

Alexander Payne’s continuing attempts to pick apart the minutae of middle aged men coping with crisis shows no sign of abating with his (and Nat Faxon’s) adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemming’s book The Descendants. Hemming’s Hawaiian set novel concerns Matt King, a lawyer on Oahu, whose wife has a jetski accident and falls into a coma, Matt then finds out his wife was conducting an affair behind his back and was planning to leave him. Matt then tries to confront his wife’s lover’s whilst discovering he knows very little about either of his daughters.

Trouble in paradise and using death as a solid ground for comedy are nothing new but in the hands of a storyteller as skillful and careful as Payne their usefulnesss is plain to see. Gags (mainly with swear words) are underlined with sadness and each uncomfortable situation that is mined for laughs has death and loss palpably present. The balmy backgrounds, endless beaches and floral shirts offset the grim conversation matter, reminding us again and again that happiness is neither given out freely nor guaranteed forever.

George Clooney plays Matt King well and plays him straight. No O Brother mugging comedy or slapstick, just careful delivery and quiet exasperation. Clooney is the closest thing we have to a real, say it in lights, movie star these days. Ultra famous but not too well known. His villa in Italy keeps us from knowing everything and maintains a relative air of mystery about him. Compared to the things we know about a Cruise or a Gibson, Clooney is a modern enigma. He operates on a one for them, one for him deal with the studios (this may be both) that lends him a certain integrity, coffee adverts aside. His easy charm, warm smile and seemingly affable nature means he’s able to flit from Cary Grant (lite) to James Stewart (lite) whilst remaining very much his own actor, both cunningly retro and perfect for his time. Clooney deserves his Academy nomination, his two scenes alone with his unconcious wife are particularly well crafted performance wise, but he’s been this good before and will be again.

Among an adroitly assembled supporting cast, Shailene Woodley stands out. Her role as King’s troubled, older daughter is a familiar stock character  but Woodley puts all the necessary legwork in to produce a performance that’s pitched perfectly between immaturity and maturity. Street smart yet vulnerable, outspoken without the self confidence to back it up, the turmoil of both growing up and coping with her mother’s coma are plainly visible behind a tough, laddish facade.

This is business as usual for Payne, a fine director who’s completed his fourth film and given us very little to complain about in any of them. His pictures are littered with moments that are so familiar  they become funny, so real that they sit on the edges of our own lives. Hubris and man’s inability to improve himself come to the fore, well rounded characters and a wistful sense of nostalgia are a must. Payne’s lilting dramas suffuse themselves in a soft focus, almost dreamlike atmosphere that push story to the front, like a (slightly) more modern Hal Ashby. Payne will be doing this for years and that is a very, very good thing.

Perhaps because of the intensity of emotion running throughout The Descendants, the ending feels less punchy than the majority of the film. A pleasing, almost mundane conclusion to an uncomfortably funny, acutely aware family drama that maybe lacks the hug yourself warmth of say, the premier cru, vintage red in a Wendy’s cup ending of Sideways. Sorry, that was churlish.

The Expendables (2010)

Sly Stallone (Sly Stallone) leads a merry band of mercenaries taking out various rebellious forces across the globe. Amongst the ranks are Jason Statham (Jason Statham), Dolph Lundgrum (Dolph Lundgrum) and Mickey Rourke (Mickey Rourke). Stallone is asked by the mysterious Bruce WIllis (Bruce WIllis) to overthrow a brutal dictator, who is being sponsored by Eric Roberts (Eric Roberts) the ex-CIA agent. Then everything  either blows up or loses a limb for the next hour.

You know if you’re going to enjoy this film. No amount of reviews by this little blog, or any other media outlets, will persuade you otherwise. It’s full of brash camera angles, lots of posturing and homo-erotic man hugs that you remember 80’s movies having.

There’s a temptation to say that this is a nostalgia film. Not in the same way as The Artist; where Michel Hazanavicius emulated the look and feel of a bygone era and said ‘look! Remember how wonderful those days were!’. No, despite the cock rock and country soundtrack, the snappy oneliners and the distinct lack of plot, there’s no indication to suggest that Stallone and company are doing anything other than their day jobs. In fact, EBFS imagines a look of confusion would attempt to penetrate Stallone’s plastic surgery, if you commended him on his ironic nostalgia trip back to 1985. Then he’d snap your neck. Probably.

There are a couple weak spots. The first is minor and easily ignored; a horrific dialogue between Stallone and rival mercenary, Arnold Schwarzenegger (The man who abolished gay marriage in California), is merely auto-eroticism before the unsatisfactory ejaculation of a presidential joke. The second weak spot is harder to ignore as it’s streak of piss runs through the film from beginning to end. It’s name is Jason Statham. Having Statham in The Expendables makes you realise how much the 21st century needs its own action hero, and how much a man most famous for being in Kelly Brook will never be that hero.

The Expendables is less than two hours of guilty pleasures. From the first punch thrown to the last head rolling across the ground, EBFS had a massive grin on its face the size of one of Stallone’s bicep. It’s shame that for all it’s bravado, the sequel to The Expendables appears to be being neutered by the machinations of Chuck Norris and the desire to get more bums on seats. Still, we’ll always have the lacerations and dubious racial stereotypes of this, the original.

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is Rob Zombie’s love letter to the exploitation movies of the 50s and 60s, whilst embracing the video nasties of the 80s. The films of Russ Meyer mingle with She Wolf of the SS animated in the style of Fritz the Cat. Sound like an absolute mess? You’re absolutely right.

El Superbeasto is a one joke affair that probably started with Zombie thinking ‘wouldn’t it be funny if a porn star/ex-luchador took on a man pretending to be the Devil?’. He then sat down with a 13 year, gave him rough summary and let the kid get to work on a script with crayons and a copy of Zoo.

It’s like the cinematic equivalent of a Slurpee. The animation is bright and vibrant enough to entice you, but after you’ve finished you realise that there is no nutritional value to be taken from it at all. The first scene is a porn movie which ends abruptly when the female leads are turned into demons and El Superbeasto has to mince them up and you’d think it couldn’t get any more up in your face. You’d be wrong. What follows next is a sea of gore, meta-references, breasts, breasts, breasts, nazis, breasts, horny robots, talking gorillas, Manchester United references and breasts. And despite all this, it’s extremely boring. After the 14th decapitation, I found myself looking at my watch and wondering if the pubs were still open. I don’t think the film wants to deliberately shock you, but it most certainly wants to recognised as being edgy. Look at me, it cries, I have Hitler’s head in a jar! Please like me! Please!

After the shock of ennui has passed (and it’ll take a while), the second biggest shock is the cast they’ve roped in. Paul Giamatti and Rosario Dawson must have either received an unexpected gas bill or their agent lied, because without the Ralph Bakshi-esque animation this must have looked like a miserable piece of work written down. Giamatti is entertaining enough as Dr Satan; the typical school nerd turned supervillan, but Dawson as his bride, Velvet von Black, is horrific from beginning to end. Spouting numerous cliches from blaxpoltation movies, she is the worst minor-character since Fat Bastard.

The bottom line is that El Superbeasto wants to be inappropriately funny, but in reality, it’s just inappropriate.