daniel-mannouch

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Reviews

The Medic
(2013)

meandering clash of alien invasion thriller and psychological horror that is ugly to look at and pure monotony to listen to.
What the hell was this? I mean, I appreciate the hustle. Rip off a big studio blockbuster by stripping the story down to its fundamentals and then reworking it so that it could fit within a five figure budget. Good, honest, wholesome Christian capitalism. But my appreciation extends no further to Battle: Earth, a poorly shot, poorly acted, lazily directed product that may have had some interesting dream sequences, but the characters are so un-engaging that the film's high points just get washed up in the mediocre tide.

If it's not the god awful white balancing or the muted sound design that will get you, it will be the utter slog that is watching a group of bland, interchangeable grunts make the slow, slow realisation that they are in for a very close encounter. I'm done here. If you want the atypical crappy mockbuster experience, then by all means, seek this out. It is shameless, it is cheap, it is very inept. Maybe i'd enjoy it more if the characters had an inkling of personality, but that's just too much to ask for it seems. I got nothing, but you do you.

Hirokin
(2012)

Nice Looking, but Very Forgettable
Hirokin: The Last Samurai is a post apocalypse fantasy that is more a sword and sorcery film than anything else. It's also a tawdry bible story, lifted by impressive art direction, but ruined by wooden actors and bland as hell dialogue.

The word for the day children is Bland! Hirokin is bland. It's a Christ parable set in the barren desert. What more can i say? Well, maybe the cinematography was all right, and some good props went a long way too amping up the drama of certain scenes, but the averageness in this product is overwhelming as it shares its narrative with several direct to video sci-fi action films that came out during the late 80's and 90s. I've seen this film before. It was called Steel Dawn as well as taking the form of several Albert Pyun films.

I can say nothing else about Hirokin other than it's middle of the road direct to dvd sci-fi action that is the most atypical example of that kind of thing you can imagine.

Osombie
(2012)

Great, trashy zombie film with enduring characters and plenty of carnage
From the director of the equally entertaining, Rise of the Shadow Warrior, Osombie is right up there with Burial Ground and Revenge of the Living Dead Girls as one of the quintessential tasteless zombie film experiences. Remember vaguely seeing this back in 2012 and hating it, finding it's characters and dialogue obnoxious, giving it two stars here on this site. Now, concerning my opinion, it's almost a complete 180.

Osombie has echoes of Bruno Mattei's Hell of the Living Dead in both it's narrative progression as well as it's exotic location. War torn Afghanistan makes for a great location for a zombie film and I could see a more serious effort being executed elsewhere. For the Utah desert, it was quite convincing.

Osombie features a near perfect B-movie cast, full of eccentric and likeable characters. The soldiers in this film are not the hoo rah Starship Trooper sequel douchebags that are common in direct to dvd cinema. Instead, Osombie wisely tries to make these people more relatable to the audience demographic instead of just throwing at us a bunch of masochist stereotypes, and for the most part succeeds.

The cinematography is also worthy of note. It would have been very easy to screw up the white balance on a film set almost entirely underneath a burning sun, but Osombie looks fit for purpose all the way through, with dynamic framing and a pleasing colour palette.

The writing and acting, like i said, is near pitch perfect, displaying a whimsical tone fitting for the concept of a zombie Osama whilst keeping the threat level at orange so that we are still invested in the characters and the story.

Maybe it's all down to me having an affinity for slow moving zombies, but Osombie was really enjoyable trash, the kind of which I wish I saw more of in this series. The pace is fast, the actors are charming and the violence is plentiful. Osombie is truly as good as a film called Osombie could have ever been.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
(2012)

Superb drama that is simply filled with good writing, acting, and direction.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist has a riveting story and is finely acted, which has a particularly great central performance by Riz Ahmed. His character goes from being a downsizing financial analyst to a committed and influential university professor in a journey of self discovery that might have been unbearingly indie, if it was not for the unique and engaging perspective on the war on terror that it provides. Moments such as when the film compares American fundamentalism with Islamic fundamentalism are sublimely poetic and The Reluctant Fundamentalist has several great moments such as this, bolstered by it's great cast and rock solid narrative.

Never did I feel confused about events or did not understand where the characters were coming from. The two hour running time is felt the hardest in the first act, but once 9/11 occurs, the trajectory of the story is sadly predictable, but no less enthralling. This film is an atmospheric and mature drama that commands your attention with the questions it raises and the measured and subtle ways in which it delivers them. It is one of the best 9/11 dramas i've ever seen. It's one of the best films I've seen for obviously it came from the high street and it comes highly recommended from me.

Five Minarets in New York
(2010)

Overly long Turkish buddy cop thriller
Five Minarets in New York is first and foremost, a Turkish buddy cop film with a touch of the Bollywood about it. It also features commentary upon Islamic extremism which impresses in some areas and becomes ponderous in others. It's nice to see a blockbuster action film that tries to portray islamic fundamentalism in a nuanced fashion as there are not too many examples of those. However, it's too long and it's balance of action and drama never reaches a sweet spot.

The action we do get is impressive for a Turkish film, though portrayals of their police have that same squeaky clean, Starship Troopers sequel feel that action movies from China do, which unfortunately goes some way to delegitimise the film's message about peace and tolerance. Don't know if this film's idea of a peaceful world involves Kurds, but the fact I have to ask is bad enough. There are some portrayals of police brutality, but i think that's more a cop film trope than any kind of statement.

Nevertheless, whilst I remain suspicious, the commentary is engaging, and I found the ending to be surprisingly powerful. The cop film side of Minarets is more of a bad boys caricature than anything else, but it works. I could see this film being a very tedious experience with their absence and the opening sequence was well directed and shot the viewer right into the experience. Impressive for Turkey. Impressive for direct-to-dvd action in general.

Acting was ok, if broad throughout. It's one of those films where the sum of its parts make the whole and the good direction, lighting and editing come together to make fine opera. Not much else I can say about the two hour Minarets in New York, which probably speaks to some detriment of the film. Danny Glover's scenes were particularly weak and added nothing. Overall though, Minarets is a fine combination of action blockbuster and Islamic propaganda. I wouldn't use it as a reference in any War on Terror thesis, but, if there is any chance this description appeals to you, then I would recommend seeking this one out.

Unthinkable
(2010)

Outrageous tabloid thriller that is in equal parts disturbing, hilarious and weirdly hysterical
Torture Porn Turns Political in Unthinkable from 2010, a product of a rare cinematic alchemy that results in pure irresponsible exploitation. Where the talent is there and so were their commitment, but the blinders went way down concerning the absurdity of the project itself; the premise of a Steven Seagal film, the aesthetics of a Peter Greengrass film and the dialogue of corporate news media.

You want to be a half-serious film, little one, you're gonna get a half serious critique. The premise is less war on terror more Saw on terror as the majority of the scenes revolve around amputation and psychological abuse so intense, it jumps the tonal bell curve entirely and leaps into the realm of pure psychotronia, and at times, hilarity. The cast must have been cracking their asses up during takes, as I imagine the casts of the Saw films did.

Maybe during the 'theatre's' first quarter ('03/'05), this could have had the intended effect, but of course that would have taken some conviction, something the awkward dialogue doesn't evoke, and the film's distribution i imagine would have gone the way of The Hunt, only twice as bad.

If a formulaic Schwarzenegger vehicle like Collateral Damage could have been delayed by a year on 9/11 similarities alone, imagine what a banal direct commentary like this would have suffered in the early 00's. And hell yes, i do see this film being made in the early 00's. In fact, I see it being made in the mid 70's. Perhaps Marathon Man was in mind. But unfortunately, I feel that's giving Unthinkable way too much credit. The films blends action and horror well and is surprisingly committed to it's themes. It's just the film displays some really dumb takes in my opinion.

Regarding its place amongst the canon of films from this time revolving around 'enhanced interrogation tactics', this sits at a peculiar position of looking down at Taxi to the Dark Side from a Hostel window. Though I'm certain this film doesn't take a side, and I'm even more confident the screenplay had nothing radical to say. Instead, it just uses radical methods to get out what was never there. The result? Half-baked commentary that is more melodrama than morality play.

Unthinkable is a well made exploitation film, but it is still an exploitation film. Take it with a pound of salt and a healthy dose of ironic detachment and you might learn one or two things about the media narratives floating about during the late 2000s regarding the war on terror and moreso, to the film's credit, the logical outcome of those sensationalist diatribes.

Travellers
(2011)

Gypsy Fighter was actually just a re-release of Travellers. Same DVD rip and all, right down to the authoring.
Travellers is an exploitation film in its most fundamental form. It uses its subject matter of gypsies as a launchpad and jumps into several different movies such as Deliverance, Easy Rider and Rambo whilst following the great British cinematic tradition of making everything look as ugly and colourless as naturally possible.

Shot in HD and barely colour graded, if at all, Travellers looks dirt cheap, however it is never too dark and i could always see the action clearly. It's just not all that appealing to look at. Might work for a social realist picture, but let's get real ourselves and acknowledge that this film is far from concerned in portraying things as they really are.

The focus is more on who the real savages are and portrays the travellers as the ones who really have life figured out. This approach can either be laughable or enduring, depending on who you are, but this film definitely glosses over the more unsavoury and downright criminal elements of traveller life. I do understand that it's a message film, but the execution is poor and comes off as chintzy.

So Travellers, of course, is not social realism, but it is a solid genre picture. The picture quality might not be much, but the framing is inventive and the locations are suitably dense in foliage, giving it an authentically isolate atmosphere. And that's the best thing I can say about Travellers, that it has a great atmosphere to it.

So in conclusion, Travellers is a solid British genre picture that I can easily recommend to anyone interested in either UK crime, backwoods horror or biker films.

Zodiac
(2007)

Very Clear About the Pitfalls of True Crime Culture
Underwhelming at the box office, David Fincher's Zodiac is by far his most underrated film and is a fascinating take on California's more myth than man Zodiac Killer. True to form for Fincher, the confirmed killings of the Zodiac are reconstructed here with fetishistic detail. This is the first act, recalling the key events involving the Zodiac Killer between 1969 and 1974, and as absurd as things got, remember that this is all true and did happen and Fincher portrays it with utmost reverence and choice moments of black comedy.

After these events, the story then focuses on Robert Graysmith played by Jake Gyllenhall, who would go on to write one of the definitive books on the Zodiac Killer. This is where Zodiac really comes into its own and does something not many films like it have done. It focuses on what the lack of conclusion to a murder case can do to those who have become closely involved with it. Or to put it more bluntly, a solid commentary on the trauma of no closure. The results are apparently paranoia and an arc of intrigue slowly malforming into obsession and Gyllenhall pulls this one off really, really well. All the actors are good really apart from Robert Downey Jr who is just playing Robert Downey Jr and that was distracting.

What else can i say about 2007's Zodiac, apart from that it's not 1971's The Zodiac Killer, as well as that it has fantastic cinematography, insane amounts of detail in the art direction and miraculously keeps your attention focused for all of it's near three hours of running time. It's a fantastic film and i highly recommend it.

Armed Response
(2017)

A dithering slog that has poor pacing and gives us little to care for
Well here's a more ambitious than most effort, not just in terms of a Wesley Snipes vehicle, but also a WWE studios production. However, Snipes takes a back seat in this one as the confusing plot takes up all the space and there's little give. Is this a supernatural thriller? Is it just a Hal rip off thing? I don't know, but what i do know is that the film started out strongly enough with your abandoned military facility lined with dead soldiers, you know that old chestnut. Very atmospheric. Even got some Resi 2 remake vibes from it.

However, the plot goes nowhere, fast! Despite an eclectic cast featuring Gene Simmons and several WWE superstars (did i see Sami Zayn in this?), the film does not hold your interest all that well. The ghost story conventions which i'm familiar with helped me understand to an extent what was going on, but this polter-tech gumbo just didn't settle with me. I understood the story well enough, but there was a lot of chaff here. Too many good ideas wasted with half-baked characters and limp dialogue. Also, apart from the high tech interrogation room, the location looks just like what it is, an empty prison with nightclub lighting.

Director John Stockwell, who also directed the abysmal and equally over-complicated Cat Run does nothing with what little promise the screenplay had and fails to convey any tension, any emotional attachment to the characters or any kind of hook to keep us going on for these long ninety minutes. Armed Response ultimately just feels like another film pretending to be a film of which there are many examples in WWE Studios' output. Not even pretending to be another film. Just A film. How A film operates, such as character engagement and pacing. It can only dream. And we can only fall asleep.

The Recall
(2017)

An undercooked Alien invasion thriller with an annoying cast of characters to keep you company
God, what is it about Canadian genre films and my apathy for them? Here's another effort that's too smart for its own budget, a cabin in the woods setting and an alien invasion all written round it's frugal resources with long pregnant pauses in action, obnoxious characters, an uncharacteristically lively Wesley Snipes and some government cover up crap. Little of any was engaging for me and I found myself watching a slasher film with little to no money shots.

However, the shots within the alien spaceship I thought displayed quite a high level of production value. The make up was impressive and the lighting was atmospheric. The main problem is it's teen cast that just takes up space. They are written as generically as can be and for a film trying a unique angle such as Final Recall, that just doesn't mix. Wesley Snipes, I repeat, is oddly engaged, and he cobbles together something resembling a layered performance and the charm he brings alone proves that he is not just the black Steven Seagal. That would of course be Steven Seagal, brother.

Final Recall benefits from a good Wesley Snipes performance and some production value, but it flounders in its story and it's long awkward pauses in momentum. It's a floundering, mediocre film that I can't in good faith recommend.

Gallowwalkers
(2012)

Neat horror western with neat camerawork and art direction
Gallowwalkers is possibly the best Wesley Snipes film i've seen so far. It's an intriguing blend of horror and western that features authentic Leone direction and photography as well as superb prosthetics and art direction. Most of which is let down by terrible music which is barely audible. More soundscape than soundtrack, which does not work so well with these sprawling landscapes. They require an epic score and Gallowalkers does not deliver.

Apart from the music though, there is not much else bad I can say about this film. It's Leone meeting Clive Barker and that's that. The costumes are neat, the performances are fit for purpose and the violence is satisfying. This is a fantastic genre hybrid of horror and western and I have no problem recommending it at all to fans of such things.

Full English Breakfast
(2014)

In the word's of Mark Kermode, I can't believe the will and money to make this film existed
This exemplifies the black hole of the British psyche, where one collides arrogance and self-debasement and transforms into the equivalent of a tortoise whose learnt to enjoy the smell of it's own farts. Lad's and Ladettes, i present to you the average Daily Mail reader as a film.

This is as flat and insipid as geezer cinema gets. This 18 cert makes a mockery of the BBFC. Full English Breakfast will try the patience of even the most hardcore of true crime fans. It's a cheap, passionless entertainment vacuum of a film that can serve only as ammunition for Dyer sympathisers. Flat direction, cheap locations and some of the worst sound design i've ever encountered. It's a Hackney'ed humdrum descent into the lions den that makes me consider that Dave Courtney might actually have had more to offer than what's been demanded of him here. A bunch of TV stalwarts trying to be filmmakers is what makes up most of the landscape of the British Commercial film scene and Full English typifies why this is a very bad thing, but also why it doesn't have to be this way. The film's cinematography is impressive and i totally believe that the editor/D.O.P was a comic artist as was enthusiastically pointed out in the complementary making of. I also thought the flashback sequences were executed well and inserted with care into the narrative.

It's not that the people who make these film's are not good filmmakers. It's just that there is a severe lack of ambition surrounding the whole arena of Independent Commercial British cinema. There's no money you say. Well find some! Ever heard of pre-sales? Countries that are not the UK that might want part of the scene? I'm sick of the punters who complain that these film's try to appeal too much to the Americans. Do you really prefer what we had before, which was nothing? Not a shining defence, but it's the truth.

The DV filmmaking option has only been widely available for a decade and still has quite the way to go. It's early days, but these films can be done in an interesting way.

Full English ain't interesting, in the slightest, but it shows that literally anybody can now make a film and with roughly 25 million in this country, there are some out there that can do it. I just hope that they realise that and give us something more to write about than just abuse.

Rage
(2010)

Less Rage, more misplaced aggression
Rage is not as bad as this review consensus suggests, it's just too ambitious for its own budget (£27,000 aprox). What most people got turned off by i reckon was the gratuitous content matched with the grimy aesthetic. You'd be surprised how much a turn off is an ugly looking murder set piece, especially in such a sincere genre effort as this stalker thriller. This film is not an entire hack job, it just commits the most grievous sin of genre filmmaking which is to be cliched. There is come good shot composition, some nice transitions, decent acting and it got to the point quickly even if the point has been made a dozen times already. But bad lighting, Final Cut stock standard music (seriously, terrible score) and a thrown in for s**ts and giggles rape scene conspire to make Rage feel like a wasted effort when it wasn't.

Blastfighter
(1984)

Lamberto Bava's best film?
Well so far from what i've seen of him, i'd say yes. Earnest actionsploitation with a great setting, an engaging story and all those other things you want from the Italians. One of those few action films that actually lives up to it's promo art.

Glen or Glenda
(1953)

Transcendent
Shine on you crazy D.Wood. Forget plan 9, this is the benchmark for so bad its good filmmaking. A favourite of David Lynch's as well as mine, this is Wood's most sincere and personal effort as well as his most surreal. Part informative documentary, part exploitation, part WTF extravaganza. Love it!

Schiave bianche - Violenza in Amazzonia
(1985)

Low gore, LOL music, Remarkably decent storytelling
For exploitation die hards only, like myself. Though if you can look over the poorly cut gore effects, there is a good survival story to be found. Not to be seen in the light of Cannibal Holocaust, what Amazonia delivers is good honest B-movie fun. The trial account angle keeps the story flowing with the helpful writers safety net of testimony accountability allowing the atypical plot holes to have a less lingering aftertaste. The revenge payoff at the end is also rather satisfying, giving weight to the events preceding.

Vendetta dal futuro
(1986)

Plodding, but dynamic 80's Sci-Fi
Hands of Steel has its moments such as some good action, bizarre worldbuilding touches and a decent plot. However, the picture severely lacks momentum and doesn't help to break the connotations associated with Italian Mad Max style films. Though technically not post nuke, it's set mostly in the desert and has more than its fair share of pacing problems, so there.

The arm wrestling makes no sense to me, though it was a fun enough distraction and at least the third act was a perfect landing. Satisfying with an off-kilter final frame. Yes, this is a message film.

Oh and John Saxon and George Eastman. Six Stars!!!

Flesh for Frankenstein
(1973)

Heart in the right place, but the gallbladder...
Artful satire of grindhouse schlock and makes Hammer's output look more like museum pieces in comparison. A fine example of modernist filmmaking with all the madness occurring not losing its appeal due to the fact that you get the feeling that it all has a point. Gore, sex, comedy, atrocious accents, worse foley and yet its all so fun. Udo Kier's a boss in this, even if vowels are an alien concept to him. Everyone else gives complete deadpan performances throughout which i am extremely grateful for as i am a man of kitsch more than camp concerning my acting and besides there is enough visual oddity going on that anything else would be too OTT.

Suor Omicidi
(1979)

Italian exploitation gem
Funny, tragic and not without genuine shocks, Killer Nun is a surreal little curio from unfortunately only two time director Giulio Berruti. Unfortunate because Berruti shows here he can craft a dense and thrilling portrayal of a mind in decent that can rival the best of them. Anita Ekberg also gives a powerhouse performance which garnered full sympathy from myself for her character.

Might not work as a biopic, but there are plenty of wonderfully insane moments and guilty melodrama pleasures for anyone who needs a break from logical thought, as we all do now and again.

Corruption
(1968)

Crusher!
Peter Cushing, down, dirty and still respectable somehow. A manic anti-swinging 60's exploitation piece by the underrated Robert-Hartford Davis and British exploitation stalwart Derek Ford (and bro in tow). The insanity of the narrative here is awe inspiring as are the psychedelic and psychosexual visuals. I wish more British genre pieces were as balls to the wall as this.

Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes
(2012)

Mediocre Found Footage Film With Cheap Grabs At Transgression... oh but wait till you see that final shot.
I really don't know what to make of this one. On the one hand, it's a generic as all hell found footage piece with a modicum of camp value as THEY ARE HUNTING FOR BIGFOOT! BIGFOOT!! IN 2012!!! On the other hand, you got a Deliverance clone with no pay off. Slim Pickings.

Intoxication or a gaggle of like minded friends are essential to salvage any entertainment value from this C-grade entry into a genre late into its decline. That's not entirely true actually. Paranormal Activity 4 still made 5x it's budget that same year of this production. But that series, let's be honest, was the only true game in town by 2012 anyway.

The only way this film could have redeemed itself was, like all the clones, fight dirty and become an exploitation piece. It was nearly there as the third act kinda accelerated into He-Haw-snuff territory, but I mean, come on, that was your big pay-off? What's more WTF, rape by pot smoking hee-haw or by Sasquatch? It worked for Night of the Demon (1980), why not now? Show what Hollywood can and will not. Have some gull fellas, come on. Make Trash Great Again! I mean, it never was great, but eh.

Satan's Sadists
(1969)

Surely Adamson's best
Satan's Sadists is Apex drive in entertainment and one of the best biker movies ever made. A way more fun hills have eyes that is probably the best biker film ive seen. The deserts are baron, but well photographed, the characters are oddly sympathetic which i was not expecting and the soundtrack just brings everything together. A free love tragedy which surprises you with its moral integrity.

Bloody Bloody Bible Camp
(2012)

Farcical FUn
It's tromaesque punk humour and of the average-good kind this time in my opinion. Anyway, long story short; Ten Star killer guise, Nine Star gore, Three Star acting, Two Star cinematography and Three Star cameo by you'll predict it ten minutes in. May watch again.

Cheap, but cheerful. Just like me :-)

Red Scorpion
(1988)

South African right wing think tanks and Little Richard combine to make the gold standard in "so bad it's good" 80's action cinema
Standard 80's action, elevated oh so much with a wicked sense of fun and by waving the flag of freedom so hard it splinters onto the screen with comic book commies which in turn splinter into little tiny pieces by way of that god like double barrel rifle Lundgren wields in the climax.

Brilliant film, leaves you giddy for a hamburger and the right to swear or bribe senators wherever you damn well please!

Le lac des morts vivants
(1981)

Go with the Flow
Found this film to be a bore before the Bleeding Skull book completely 180'd that sentiment.

Jean Rollin made an accidental masterpiece with Zombie Lake. A fairy tale story packed with Nudie cutie goodness, dunderheaded melodrama, at times hilarious dubbing and film making craft that ranges from poverty stricken ineptness to improv magic.

It's greatest fame is that is was on the DPP's S3 list and nearly became one of the UK's Video Nasties. Zombie Lake does not deserve to be in the company of Zombi 2, Nightmares, Cannibal Ferox, etc. It has a magic all to it's own.

Wholly inappropriate sentimentalism, plentiful nudity and good cinematography combine to create an overall warm, dreamy atmosphere that comes from either the severely frugal ineptness or Rollin's auteur sensibilities creeping in, or both.

Simply put, it's the finest in trash film escapism.

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