The first thing which hit me when I settled to watch Helga: She-Wolf of Stilberg – apart from the Lidl-like almost-familiar name (what exploitation classic could they possibly have had in mind when they named this one?) – was a feeling of profound disorientation. Surely, with a title like this, we were in store for a piece of mildly-derivative Nazisploitation? Well – yes; and no. But mainly no. Perhaps, I dunno, there was a bit of mild concern about making a film which openly referenced the Nazis, in France, so relatively soon after World War II? I suspect this may have been part of it, but from the very offset, this film feels a bit like the Exploitation Movie which Dare Not Speak Its Name. We’re apparently in some sort of politically-unstable version of France (?) where the soldiers wear striking red armbands bearing a distinctive symbol which IS NOT a swastika, and don’t you dare confuse the two; the blonde lady present at the argumentative interim-governmental meeting at the beginning of the film (Malisa Longo, who has form) is indeed a tyrannical nympho who gets sent off to a remote outpost to govern over female prisoners, but honestly, I don’t know why this would make you think of a certain other film…
It was inevitable that giant monsters would return to the blockbuster arena, and Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures are leading the way. With Pacific Rim and Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot in the bag, a new take on King Kong was the next logical step, paving the way to the announced Godzilla Vs Kong lined up for 2020 (but this only coming after their 2019 Godzilla sequel from director Mike Dougherty). All this being the case, it’s easy to regard Kong: Skull Island with disdain, viewing it merely as a stepping stone in yet another megabudget Hollywood franchise. However, commerce and creativity are not mutually exclusive, as I think plenty of contemporary franchises, the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular, have demonstrated; and Kong: Skull Island offers further evidence to this effect. Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a director I must confess to having been completely ignorant of before now, and I gather this is his first time working at blockbuster level, but he’s put together a movie which pretty much exemplifies blockbuster filmmaking at its finest: simple storytelling, spectacular visuals, and enough thrills and spills to comfortably fill up a running time with the common decency to clock in at just under two hours (the latter being a particular rarity these days).
There was a time in the history of comics when things went truly shit-bang; a Wild West of comics, if you will, and that time was called the late 90s to early 2000s. Marvel had filed for bankruptcy and was selling off movie rights to whoever would toss them a dime, DC’s market comic value dropped to pennies after it turned out that creating new imprints to flood the market with #1s of new characters was NOT a viable investment, and everyone else either went out of business or started expanding into other endeavors. Image Comics, not one to stagnate or call it quits, did just that and started releasing waves of toys under the Todd McFarlane line and leaving the comic end to fend for itself. It also helped that they were one of the first companies to allow comic creators to own the rights to their creation, something that was very unheard of at the time.
It’s an old cliche, and sadly a truth in most instances, that a pop culture figure is never more loved than when they’re recently deceased. Few would dispute this has been the case with David Bowie since he left us just over a year ago, but at the same time many would quite reasonably argue the man and his music never stopped being vital and relevant. The comparative merits of Bowie’s numerous musical shifts can, and no doubt will be debated until the proverbial cows come home, but we can surely agree that it was the introduction of his Ziggy Stardust persona on his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars that Bowie really earned his rock legend status. As such, Bowie devotees young and old alike will surely be intrigued and excited to see that the iconic concert film of his final performance with the Spiders is returning to the big screen in cinemas across the UK – although, in the great showman tradition, it’s for one night only.
Attach the name Jess Franco to a film and unless you’re already a super fan it’s likely you’ll have your broad, generalised expectations of what that film will be like – crash zooms, extensive T&A, and, if there’s a plot, it might not make much sense. Sometimes, this expectation is not met, and in the best possible way – I’m still something of a Franco neophyte, but films like Virgin Among The Living Dead (even with that title) and Venus in Furs have proven to be enjoyable and beautifully made films. Along comes Female Vampire, then, out now on UK Blu-ray from new Euro-sleaze imprint Maison Rouge, arguably one of Franco’s most well-known, tentpole films. I think it’s fair to say that Female Vampire did indeed meet all of my expectations of a Franco film, and unfortunately for me that wasn’t a good thing.
You only really need to give it a moment’s thought to realise how absurd it is that movies starring Wolverine were ever geared toward kids. The guy is the product of heavily invasive surgical experimentation, his skeleton grafted with an indestructible metal which bursts forth from his knuckles in the form of lethally sharp claws – yet we’re expected to believe that when he goes snikt and swings his fists, the bad guys just fall over? Logan is by far the most violent, gruesome and potty-mouthed X-Men movie made to date – yes, even more so than Deadpool – and it would be easy to write this off as 20th Century Fox cashing in on a newly-rediscovered market for adults-only action which Deadpool proved still exists. However, there’s no denying how natural it all feels. In the first fifteen minutes alone our hero drops the F-bomb at least once a sentence, bloodily hacks limbs off his adversaries, and even enjoys a gratuitous tit shot, yet none of this in any way feels like a betrayal of what went before. Really, it feels like this is what Wolverine movies always should have been like. And not before time if, as has been promised, this will indeed be Hugh Jackman’s last time in his signature role.
What a difference a weekend makes. When I first got word last week of an upcoming new release called Mean Dreams, it was simply a promising-looking thriller; but when I finally sat down to watch it, I did so in the sad knowledge that I was about to see one of the very last performances from the late, great Bill Paxton, who left us far too soon this past Sunday.
In many respects, my first reaction to seeing that actor Tom Hardy had thrown body, mind and soul – and a lot of income – into a BBC period drama was one of complete surprise. I mean, coming fresh off the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, then swapping the big rigs for horse-drawn carriages is a sizable shift; why would he, alongside his father and co-creator ‘Chips’ Hardy, take such a strange turn, or risk such a big gamble? Critics have also raised the question: The Guardian was quick to sneer at Taboo, dismissing it as “silly”, but having watched – and enjoyed – the first series, I think I get it. Although (presumably) hundreds of years and miles apart from Hardy’s most recent success on-screen as ‘Max’, Taboo builds on what Hardy now clearly knows he does very well. He’s bloody good at being dark and ambiguous and he’s equally good as a vital underpin to a story, though, as it turns out, both men are dependent on a number of other miscreants in order to properly rally against powerful forces which do far worse things than they, in terms of scale and magnitude. James Kaziah Delaney and Max have been spat out by the machine and they have done dreadful things along their route back to freedom; this makes them problematic, but perhaps all the more engaging for it.
Once again, legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki has come out of retirement to direct a yet-to-be titled film. Miyazaki is an internationally renowned anime artist and director who has released such critically acclaimed works as Howls Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and My Neighbor Totoro (among others), and it looks like he’s not done yet. Originally announcing his retirement in 2013 following the release of The Wind Rises, during this year’s Oscars pre-show, it has been confirmed that he will be returning to his animation studio, Studio Ghibli, to work on a full length feature to be released in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Though there has been no confirmation about what the movie is, many speculate it is a film version of the Ghibli short Boro the Catpiller, which he spoke about in a TV documentary about his life that aired in Japan on November 2016.
There have been quite a few big announcements lately of upcoming home entertainment slates and there are some rather juicy morsels on their way from Arrow Video, Arrow Academy and Eureka in April and May!