Saturday, October 23, 2010

Machete: a Texan goref(i)est(a)

Take some ridiculously explicit violence (as the title suggests) and black humour à la Tarantino. Add a desert location and nude female flesh, and you end up with a movie out of the exploitation genre. Directors Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez’s previous work includes titles like Sin City, Once Upon A Time in Mexico and From Dusk Til Dawn, and if you enjoyed those, chances are you’ll love this film too. It is a bloody thrill-ride about a former Mexican policeman who finds himself embroiled in a battle between border police, crooked US senators (Is there any other kind?) and Mexican gangsters.

The unmistakable Danny Trejo, whom you may remember from the director-duo’s previous films, stars as the titular character, a former cop hellbent on revenge after his partner is killed. Michelle Rodriguez, of Fast and the Furious, Lost and Avatar fame, plays woman with sympathies for the immigrants who flock to the US every year. Jeff Fahey, who is mostly known for his TV roles, oozes his way across the screen as the despicable villain. Robert de Niro portrays the caricature of the US senator. An insipid, if sultry, Jessica Alba stars as the FBI agent investigating the presence of illegal immigrants on the border. The other actress with questionable acting skills in this movie is Lindsay Lohan, who was seemingly portraying herself. But don’t worry about it, the ample nude shots distract from the mediocre acting. (If the crass objectification of women offends you, this, like most of the directors’ films, is definitely one to avoid.)

The film does raise some interesting questions about Mexican immigrants in the United States, and what their role should be in that society, but this is an exploitation flick, and no one watches a title like that actually looking for some serious answers to, well, anything. If you’re in the mood for decapitation, served with a helping of nudity and sprinkled with a very liberal dose of black humour, this is one for you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oceans: vast water-filled wonder

Oceans is not your typical documentary, as it incorporates a loose narrative storyline. Frenchman Jacques Perrin, the creator of this globe-spanning project, takes viewers to the edges, vast surface and perilous depths of the planet’s oceans, and reveals the myriad species that call the seashore and briny waters home.

The English version of the film is narrated by Pierce Brosnan, but that was not available in the cinema when I went to see it, and, due to a screw-up by the projectionist, I watched the first forty minutes of this film in French (a language I have no grasp of) without subtitles. But it hardly mattered – very little is said but I still found myself absorbed in the wondrous scenes before me.

Indeed, the filmmakers show us a mostly unseen world that is so much bigger and more beautiful than anything man has ever created – and, for the most part, humans only feature on the very periphery of this narrative. Yet, the film does not shy away from grim reality and depicts the severe impact humans have had on the oceans. The omega character in the title serves as a not-so-subtle hint as to what the creators’ feelings are towards the oceans’ future.

Classical music, vocals and sometimes no background sound at all is used to showcase the beauty and majesty of marine life. It's counter-intuitive, but in a moment of action, the silence can actually underscore the majesty of a great aquatic hunter.

The only minor complaint I have about this film was the fact most creatures featured in the documentary were not named – and this tended to annoy me slightly as the fish and molluscs certainly looked familiar but I could not place a name to them. But this is a minor gripe when one considers that a David Attenborough-style National Geographic production was not what the film-makers had in mind.

If you have not yet seen this magical film, I highly recommend it. Due to the stunning visuals, the film’s impact will probably be greater on a big screen, so hijack a friend’s plasma high-definition flat-screen if necessary, and be prepared to be riveted in awe.