Repo Man (1984)

I wouldn’t know how to ever describe this film, it goes slightly beyond comprehension in the most fantastic way. The film is actually theoretically quite dense but its disguised by layers and layers of fantastic 80s kitsch and comedy so much so that it’d be incredibly easy to miss any deeper point and to just enjoy it for what it is.

The film stars Emilio Estevez as Otto, an 18 year old kid from a poor family who pretends to be older than he is and has an outlandish style, complete with a Madonna-esque holy cross earring. Otto has a surprise induction into the world of repo man but finds himself embracing this lifestyle, the mentorship and the code that it comes with. As repo men they repossess cars of people who cant pay their bills and hold them till they pay up, however, its not all that simple as they have a fierce rivalry with the other repo men in town, the Rodrigues brothers. The car is central to this film, set in LA, a fragmented city where you have to drive everywhere, the car becomes an incredibly significant representation of the driver, it is it’s own self contained world. The identity affixed to cars is a key part of Otto’s own self discovery of his identity. It sounds simple enough, but theres more, a trio of punk anarchists are wreaking havoc across LA, with such fantastic lines as ‘lets go do some crime’, they are a biting satire of counter cultural youths who don’t contribute much to the narrative but are so ridiculous and funny you’ll always be glad when they pop up. As if this wasn’t all enough for a fleshed out film, I neglected to mention the opening, which sets up a huge element of the film. The opening finds a man driving a malibu in the desert with a secret in his trunk, this secret is alien life and anyone who opens the trunk gets immediately evaporated, the radiation is also destroying this driver the longer he’s around it. This malibu becomes a hot commodity that Otto and his crew compete with the Rodrigues brothers to find in order to claim the bounty, they’re not the only ones, theres a conspiracy group, the United Fruitcake Organisation (UFO) and a government branch lead by a torture happy woman with a metal hand. All these groups try to get the malibu, backstabbing each other, forming alliances, having fights and eventually converging on the malibu, now glowing from radiation, causing a literal storm and setting people on fire. Otto and one of his co-workers get in the car which proceeds to raise into the air and fly around the city, like Grease but radioactive. So yeah, its a pretty crazy film.

I’m not going to try and unpack the film properly, that’s a job for a potential essay and either way I’d need to watch it again, needless to say, theres a lot at play in this film and some interesting ideas being represented. The film has a wide range of visual and spoken comedy mixed in with some slightly more serious moments. It is a genre bending, sci-fi, drama, comedy, post-modern, action epic and I don’t think I’ll ever see anything quite like it again.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Going to see this film was procrastination from a busy work day as is writing this, so I’ll try to keep it brief so I can get cracking on better things. I’m not a huge fan of Star Wars having never seen the original trilogy and my recollection of the prequels is spotty at best but I like watching new movies and keeping up to date with things and I’d heard this was a gritty war movie take on the franchise.

This was an extremely frustrating film to watch, not only because the concept could have been awesome, but also some of the very questionable creative decisions behind it. So for example, the film opens with our protagonist Jyn watching her mother get killed and father taken away to work for the empire, we get re-shown this sequence in flashbacks about 15-20 minutes later for no added benefit. There are many instances of this kind of needless screenwriting, in the battle for Scarif, we constantly get put into the cockpits of pilots in the fight, I get that this is a call back to the old films but its totally pointless. We don’t need to see a pilot exclaim ‘We’re going down!’ right before the ship hits the ground, we already know there’s someone in there and we know exactly as much about their character as we did before, all it does is remove us from the action. There are lots of instances of implied action, we’ll see a gun get fired or we’ll see a stormtrooper get hit but totally in isolation, these shots hold no weight at all. That being said there were some action sequences with the potential for strong action, and one action sequence at the end which was pretty awesome, but the action fell flat due to the characters. I personally need to be invested in the characters I’m watching to be invested in the action and for the action to feel like it has stakes. To this film’s credit, it certainly does have stakes as (spoilers) all the main characters die in the fight on Scarif, but it doesn’t live up to it’s potential because hoow can we care about such thinly written characters. Not only do the characters have no depth beyond, nervous, mystic blind asian cliche or long hair with a gun, but none of the actors are capable of delivering good performances, largely due to their ridiculous dialogue. I generally like Felicity Jones as an actress and she does a good job with her silent reactions and the scenes relating to her father, however she isn’t believable as an action hero or a leader although she does her best and comes out the strongest of the lot acting wise. Whilst talking about the actors: DISNEY, STOP HIRING MADS MIKKELSEN ONLY TO NOT ACTUALLY UTILISE HIS TALENT!

One thing I did enjoy was seeing a nice variety of planets with interesting and distinct locales, I though Jedhur was a particularly interesting location. However the motivation for blowing it up was unclear until a couple of scenes later when it was explained to be the last bastion of the Jedi, which left that sequence feeling like a poor excuse to do an Independence Day 2-esque cgi sequence of destruction, rubble and flying. Whilst a more savvy viewer who is familiar with the lore might have figured this out more quickly, as a casual viewer I was left thinking, why don’t they test it on pretty much anywhere else on the planet which was desolate as they end up whining about backlash from it anyway? There are a few examples of this seemingly thoughtless plotting, for example Saw Guerrera for some inexplicable reason refusing to leave his crumbling base only to then leave the base and watch out the doorway and so on.

Credit has to go to Gareth Edward’s eye for scale, the Death Star and various other space ships and the AT ATs did look genuinely imposing, he really has an eye for the colossal, as evidenced in his superior debut Monsters. The score was in line with classic Star Wars, but in ways that I didn’t experience in The Force Awakens, it often times took me out of the action due to how over the top it was, although perhaps I was never really in the action in the first place. I honestly cannot say I enjoyed this film, but neither did I hate it, if I’m being perfectly honest, for blockbusters last year, I much preferred Warcraft and in the case of a night where you might consider this, I’d suggest watching District 9 instead.