Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)

Rating 15
Length 1h43
Release 17.9.2021
Director Sion Sono
About In the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber gets sprung from jail by a wealthy warlord whose adopted granddaughter has gone missing. He offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct in five days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman — and his own path to redemption.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Online rental
Trailer:


The Good

  • Nic Cage is at his most bat-shit in this Escape from New York/ Mad Max mashup. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I’m watching a Nic Cage film I need to see him howling to the moon in a way only he can do.
  • It is a beautiful film. The aesthetics of East and West cultures colliding is nothing new, however the way in which they are consistently and visually at odds with each other somehow works.

The Bad

  • Sofia Boutella is wasted in the role. A third of the film she’s placed in unflattering geisha make-up and another third she’d left catatonic. You have this beautiful, well trained actress. Use that. Perhaps its due to last minute casting, but she is much better than the role she was given.

The Ugly

  • Its not quite coherent enough and is certainly more style over substance. Biggest problem for me is the number of flashbacks. It adds nothing to the story to have so many. Especially those scenes that revolve around the opening scene. Because the reveals in the flashbacks are so heavily implied anyway it just bloats the film.
  • It really does seem that the director is trying too hard to hide the inspirations behind the film. To the point that the story is lost completely. The characters are not ones you sympathise with, or get to know in any way beyond the superficial.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, if you press play and make it to the end; kudos.

The Matrix (1999) Film Review

Rating 15
Length 2h16
Release 11.6.1999
Director Lana and Lilly Wachowski
About Thomas Anderson, a computer programmer, is led to fight an underground war against powerful computers who have constructed his entire reality with a system called the Matrix.
Where to Watch: Netflix/ Amazon Prime
Trailer:


First Thoughts

I bought into this franchise. I had the leather coat that hit the floor. I vaguely remember someone lending me the video and by the time the sequels came out, there was a group of us who made seeing it an event.
This was probably the first film since Jurassic Park that had GCI that truly amazed me and I certainly watched it a fair few times. Until the sequels came out that is.


I know this film is from 1999, but if you haven’t watched recently, or never seen it; beware, spoilers ahead.


The Good

  • “Mister Anderson”. Hugo Weaving really gave us a bad guy to loath, didn’t he? It was because of being in this, that I was excited to see him in Lord of the Rings. Even now, he steals every scene he’s in and scares the absolute crap out of me.
  • Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss to me come as a package. I love both of them in this and I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing their parts. Lets face it, it is as much their film as it is Reeves and his saviour Neo.
  • It is high concept. This film walked, so that movies like Inception could run. However, it is a film that can be enjoyed without exploring the deep, philosophical, meaning behind the concept.
  • The effects, while showing their age, are still incredible. The colour saturation as a marker of which world you’re watching still works and gives an added touch.

The Bad

  • Reading around the casting, I discovered the Wachowski Sisters intended for Switch to be played by two different actors; an androgynous female for the real world and a male counterpart for the Matrix. Given the Sister’s journey in their personal lives, I can’t help but think this was an important aspect and I’m saddened they didn’t get to see that play out.
  • Joe Pantoliano. I think this is a case of casting so good, it undermines the plot. There’s never any doubt that Pantoliano’s Cypher is the leak of the unit. However, it’s played like a rug pull and I wish it wasn’t because I hate being treated like I’m stupid.

The Ugly

  • Come on, you knew it was coming. Keanu Reeves should not be Neo. Sorry, but while he ‘looks’ the part, he does not win me over as a) A tech geek or b) A prophetic saviour. (Also, was hacking that new that you could get away with a handle like Neo? WTF? make it today and he’s be NEO_be@st_1985)
    I get that he’s the reluctant hero, one that we’d latter see butchered on screen in the first few Harry Potter movies, and an everyman. But this performance is not only lacklustre, its lifeless. This is an actor who has been around a fair bit and can do way better than the ‘dead behind the eyes’ look we get from him here. Hell, you could have put Kristen Stewart in the role and she would have done a better job.
    Now, I’m not certain who could have replaced him at the time. The often quoted wanted man was Will Smith, but that would not have worked, and I’m not certain Brad Pitt or Leo DiCaprio could have handled it either. The only name I’ve seen mentioned that has piqued my interest is Nic Cage. However, I’m sure two actors known for bat shit crazy roles (Fishburne being the other) working together would be some sort of Hollywood no no.
    I know it’s the unusual opinion, and I hate that I’m criticising someone as lovely as Keanu Reeves, but it feels like he’s not really there.
  • The score really hasn’t aged well and feels very “generic action score number 3”. I love the use of songs, both at the beginning and during the credits. I almost wish they’d pulled a Cursed Child and repurposed a Rage Against the Machine album, removed the lyrics and sampled it to fit the film. Would have been much more in keeping and less derivative.

Final Thoughts

It’s aged well and long enough has passed for it to feel nostalgic. Not sure I can bring myself to watch the other two movies. I remember not liking them at the time, but I have only ever seen each one once.

Film Review: Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Rating 25
Length 1h 28
Release 12.2.2021
Dir Kevin Lewis
About When his car breaks down, a quiet loner agrees to clean an abandoned family fun center in exchange for repairs. He soon finds himself waging war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy’s Wonderland.


The Good

It’s chaotic and bonkers. It is Cabin in the Woods meets Jennifer’s Body by way of The Dead Don’t Die. It’s not going to everyone’s cup of tea but it is entertaining.

  • This film is chaotic, bonkers and the perfect vehicle for Nicolas Cage. This is gory, volatile type of horror that is more likely to make to chuckle or squirm than scream.
  • It’s not for everyone, but it feels like Cabin in the Woods (2011) meets Jennifer’s Body (2009) by way of The Dead Don’t Die (2019). So while its not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, if you like those movies this will be, at the very least, entertaining for you.
  • The lighting in this film (aside from the migraine inducing strobe) is incredible. I can’t put my finger on how it was done, but it adds light to the screen so you can see the action, without dulling the atmosphere.

The Bad

  • Nicolas Cage doesn’t speak. Now, he does a perfectly excellent job at presenting the character without words. That, I have no issue with. I just really missed Cage’s manic dialogue.
  • There are few really weird plot choices that are left unexplained. They just seem like plot devices and that’s a little disappointing.

The Ugly

  • The flashing/ strobe lighting that’s used at the beginning and partway through is nauseating. I totally understanding the artistic decision for it, however it detracts more than it adds.
  • With Nicolas Cage’s character mute, he’s not well rounded. It means we’re in the same position as the rest of the cast, but it has come at the expense of not investing in any of the characters.

Final Thoughts

It’s flawed (What Nic Cage project in the last decade isn’t), but well worth your time.