Monday, 29 June 2015


As we head towards July, here is a brief run-down of the Top 5 films Twistedwing watched in June. The five films reviewed are either available now on DVD and Blu-ray or coming your way soon. Enjoy.

1/ Mad Max: Fury Road

I'll be honest with you. Even after watching the ludicrously entertaining trailer for Fury Road I still had concerns. Something told me the finished article would be a car crash of a movie. Tom Hardy was barely in it (we do love Tom Hardy here at Twistedwing) and evidently, the entire budget had been spent on a single action sequence with no obvious signs of plot, character, depth or reason. Sure, it looked beautiful, but having loved the first two films in the series I was sure it was going to be a complete and utter disaster. How wrong was I?

Okay, so Tom Hardy is pretty much a bystander in his own movie, and the whole budget was spent on a single action sequence, but that single action sequence runs the entire length of the movie. You would think that might grow tiresome after a while, but it doesn't; Fury Road captivates from the very first frame. Charlize Theron takes centre stage and she's excellent value for money, but that's not to say Hardy doesn't make his presence felt. He might not have a lot to say but he's got the Mad Max shtick down to a tee. In fact, he keeps the movie grounded while all around him are losing their heads. The characters are unforgettably insane, as they always have been, so make no mistake about it, this is Looney Tune filmmaking at its most chaotic.

George Miller throws everything at the screen and most of it sticks, delivering a series of high-octane action beats that engage, enthral and excite like no other movie this year. The visuals are stunning, the sandy wastelands of post-apocalyptic Australia have never looked more beautiful, and Mad Max moves at breakneck speed, beating down the boundaries of action cinema with a punk-rock attitude and jaw-dropping stunt work. With bonkers humour, crazy characters and exhilarating effects work, I couldn't take my eyes off it for a second. It was just too entertaining.

Believe the hype, Mad Max is the best action movie you'll see this year. Watch it on the biggest and loudest screen you can find. It's not subtle by any means, but trust me, Fury Road will rock your world.

2/ Jurassic World

Twenty-two years after the horrific events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar is home to a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World. But after ten years of operation, visitor rates are declining. People are bored. They want bigger. They want badder. They want a lot more teeth. So why not give them what they want. No expense spared, and all that. A new attraction. A new dinosaur. There’s surprisingly little screen time for our dinosaurs in the opening twenty minutes. Fear not, you'll be swept away when director Colin Trevorrow plays his hand, revealing our new big bad, the Indominus Rex. It makes the velociraptors look like puppies, which as far as Owen (Chris Pratt) is concerned, isn’t too far from the truth.

The body count is huge, helped along by one of the most goose-bumpy screen presences in many a year. Humans are one thing, but Trevorrow takes time out to pull at the heart strings, and despite the human fatalities that came before, shit gets real when a vegi-saurus takes one for the team. Lucky we have Chris Pratt on board. Forget next big thing, Pratt reinforces his big thing tag with gusto – his presence almost as gratifying as our time spent with the park’s monstrous inhabitants. Of which there are surprisingly few. You can see why someone spliced a new one. The T-Rex is AWOL. Others perform and play with visitors. The raptors have been tamed, showing mercy, even kindness. In fact, if it wasn’t for Indominus, the raptors would have been auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent come the next instalment.

That said, there's something a little unsettling about siding with such brutal adversaries. Too much history. It gets worse, too. There’s so many thrills packed into a pleasing running time (running being the operative word), Jurassic World is as tense and frantic as you always hoped it would be. So much so, by the time you reach the welcome return of the true alpha (with a slightly silly climax to boot), you’ve long-since committed, and can easily forgive its sappy shenanigans. You may even fall for it.

Everyone remain calm. Moments will surprise, more will shock, but most will entertain. Replacing science with suspense, Jurassic World has more teeth than the last two chapters put together. Trevorrow found a way.

3/ Let Us Prey

After being told to go to Hell by a potential 'victim', Liam Cunningham's Six replies, "Why bother? All the Devils are here." He's not being flippant either. Brian O'Malley's disturbing thriller stars Liam Cunningham, on a break from Game of Thrones duty and unrecognisably creepy, alongside a strong female lead, Pollyanna McIntosh (Filth, The Woman), and some of the most despicable characters ever committed to film. Bryan Larkin (Outpost 3), Hanna Stanbridge (Outcast) and Douglas Russell (A Lonely Place To Die) more than make up the numbers in this atmospheric offering.

Rachel (McIntosh), a rookie cop, is about to begin her first night shift in a neglected police station in a Scottish, backwater town. Rachel is the only character with redeeming qualities, spending her first evening with a horde of psychos, murderers and low-life scum. But enough about her work colleagues... Things take a sinister turn when Cunningham's Six arrives, notepad in hand, and in echoing the early works of John Carpenter, O'Malley has crafted an extraordinarily efficient horror movie sure to leave a lasting impression. The setting is reminiscent of Assault on Precinct 13, and the pulse-pounding synth score is a continuous reminder of Carpenter at the top of his game. 

O'Malley is patient with his build up, introducing the characters in a curious first act that bleeds black humour, wit and impending doom from every pore. Halfway through, at about the time Six makes his presence felt, the characters show their true colours and what follows is a brutal exercise in bloody rampage and retribution. It's gloriously over the top and delivered with style to spare, in fact, the visual flourishes draw you in from the very first frame. Cunningham is cool, calm and measured as the world around him falls apart, but it's O'Malley who pulls off the greatest trick. 

Let Us Prey is an absolute blast from start to finish, O'Malley is a name to watch.   

4/ The Dead Lands

When a young warrior, 16-year-old Hongi, witnesses the slaughter of his entire village by a ruthless rival tribe, he sets out to seek vengeance for the souls of his loved ones. The only problem is, he's not a warrior, and the only way he'll get revenge is if he finds able support. As luck would have it, help is at hand, albeit reluctantly at first. Still, this particular brand of support is worth waiting for, with Hongi finding alliance in the form of a lone, bloodthirsty warrior who roams the Dead Lands. In fact, he's so scary everybody thinks he's a monster.

Coming on like a cross between Apocalypto and the Ong Bak sequels (don't let that put you off), The Dead Lands is a gritty Maori thriller from Toa Fraser. Set in a pre-colonial New Zealand, James Rollerston (Hongi) introduces himself to the world in blistering fashion, alongside Lawrence Makoare, who you may recognise from The Lord of the Rings saga. Make no mistake about it though, Makoare is the star of this movie; the films positively bleeds menace every time he steps on screen. His is an electrifying presence and The Dead Lands come alive whenever he's in action.

Besides lush cinematography, bruising action and strong lead performances, The Dead Lands has, at its heart, an unexpectedly moving storyline - a very human coming of age drama with breathless action thrown in for good measure. The pace is leisurely in the first act, deliberately so, but all hell breaks loose at the halfway mark as The Dead Lands delivers on its promise of bloodthirsty action and intensity. 

Both Fraser and Rollerston have promising careers ahead of them but its Lawrence Makoare who leaves the lasting impression - bone mere optional. 

5/ Society

With Society you get two films for the price of one, and even though Yuzna's film is approaching 27 years of age, Society feels just as fresh as it did on original release. Fashions may change but quality filmmaking doesn't and Brian Yuzna's deranged black comedy will forever stand the test of time. On the surface, teenager Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock from Baywatch) has it all. An attractive girlfriend, a beautiful suburban home, the idealistic family, a place on the basketball team and large support for class presidency. Despite all this, he always feels like the odd one out in his wealthy, upper-class Beverly Hills family. For some reason, he just doesn’t fit in. 

I haven't seen Society in years and like many people I suppose, all I really remember is the gross-out ending. Rediscovering Society now it's amazing how sharp the opening stampede is. Society may culminate in a mind-boggling finale but for the most part it is a biting horror satire with solid performances, smart dialogue and just the right amount of 80s cool. Even if it was the very late 80s, it's still so damn cool. The script does repeat itself from time to time and the plot is relatively thin, but there's enough here to keep you engaged throughout. Despite a repetitive insistence on hammering home Bill's paranoia (we get it already) the script is still smarter than your average American horror movie and the characters aren't quite as predictable as they first appear. 

Society remains a little uneven and the ending is signposted from the opening credits, but even if you have a nagging suspicion of how things are going to turn out (it's not rocket science), the ending never fails to surprise, disturb and delight. Twenty minutes of warped humour and unforgettable effects work. Trust me, it's worth the wait. The bonus content for this UK Blu-ray release includes brand new featurettes with stars Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Ben Meyerson and Tim Bartell, and interviews with FX artists Screaming Mad George, David Grasso and Nick Benson. Alongside this, the disc will also feature Brian Yuzna in conversation backstage at the Society world premiere and a Screaming Mad George music video.

Society isn't quite the perfect horror movie and feels a little stretched in places, however, what Brian Yuzna has done is crafted one of the most memorable finales in cinematic history. All in all, Society is going to make a wonderful contribution to your horror collection. 

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