Gallants


For its first 45 minutes, Gallants is a fun, breezy martial arts
comedy with hilarious characters, excellent fight choreography and
action cinematography that puts most movies of this kind to shame. It’s
in the second half that the film stops working, ditching the comedy in
favor of a sobering look at human mortality, finally concluding with a
whimper instead of a bang. That may have been the point of the movie,
seeing that the story revolves around three aging martial artists
dealing with mortality and the regrets of their past while fighting to
keep their restaurant/dojo from falling into the hands of a greedy real
estate company. However, the sudden tonal shift just doesn’t work. These
characters are fun, but they’re thinly drawn cartoon characters. Asking
to suddenly view them as human is borderline impossible. Gallants is
shooting for a pathos it just doesn’t earn.


6.5 out of 10



Norwegian Ninja


Norwegian Ninja is a vicious,
bitter and angry political statement, a movie furious at the Norwegian
government, at its persecution of an innocent man and its shady
black-ops Cold War operations. This anger is covered in an absurd
veneer: Norwegian soldier Arne Treholt, famously imprisoned for treason
after meeting with KGB agents, was no normal military man, but actually
the leader of a top-secret ninja strike team, defending Norway with
espionage, smoke bombs and throwing stars. The dryly humored result
feels very much like The Life Aquatic, if The Life Aquatic had 100% more
Norwegian political commentary. Norwegian Ninja is an odd, often
wonderful film that wears out its welcome by the halfway point, a
30-minute short stretched kicking and screaming to feature length.
However, as an oddity, and as the strangest document of semi-accurate
Norwegian history you’ll ever see, it remains something that fans of
weird cinema will have to check out.


7 out of 10



The Life and Death of a Porno Gang

Serbia is
quickly developing a reputation as chief exporter of the sickest, most
morally reprehensible films on the face of the planet. The infamous A
Serbian Film
skull-fucked decency in the face earlier this year and now
The Life and Death of a Porno Gang
has come along to pee on its corpse.
The title tells you what need to know: a disillusioned filmmaker fills a
bus with actors and goes on a lengthy tour through the countryside,
putting on live pornographic shows for the peasant populace. I’m pretty
sure there’s some social commentary between all of the slit throats and
gang-rapes, but it’s murky at best. There’s nothing wrong with making 
film that wallows in depravity, but it’s important that the depravity is
in service of a story or that it at least serves some sort of point.
The Life and Death of a Porno Gang
sets out to shock and only to shock and
on that level, it succeeds. There’s stuff in this movie that will make
your eyes bleed and make Jesus cry. As for telling a compelling story
with compelling characters? As for not being completely boring despite
the sheer volume of sex and violence? Total failure.


2 out of 10



Sound of Noise

Like Norwegian Ninja, Sound of
Noise
is a tremendous short film stretched to feature length, resulting
in a film that has more dull spots than bright spots. But oh, man…what
bright spots!  The story, despite being fairly simple, is difficult to
describe: a team of “musical terrorists” invade a city, taking over
public areas and using everyday objects to create music. Imagine Ocean’s
11
starring the cast of Stomp and you may have an idea of what this
movie feels like. Sound of Noise succeeds where it needs to, with the
“musical attacks” being fun and clever enough, but there are only four
of those scenes and the rest of the running time follows a music-hating
cop as he attempts to track the musicians down. This is a sadly tedious
movie, a shame since the scenes that do work, the scenes that everyone
came to see, are pretty fantastic. But what do I know? This one a
handful of Fantastic Fest awards and was a huge crowd pleaser. I’m the
lone dissenter. I didn’t care for it, but there is no way I’m going to
discourage you from seeing it.


6 out of 10


Drones

Drones is fine. Simple as that. A totally
unambitious but completely unpretentious comedy from directors Amber
Benson and Adam Busch, Drones is lighthearted and amusing, a nice look
at office politics, relationships and dealing with impending alien
invasions. Brian (Jonathan M. Woodward) leans that his buddy Clark (Samm
Levine) and his new girlfriend Amy (Angela Bettis) are both aliens. Not
only that, they’re from two different warring alien races, one that
wants to enslave Earth and the other wanting to destroy it. Despite
these epic consequences, Drones never leaves the office setting,
choosing to emphasize the story of these character’s relationships with
the alien nonsense hovering in the background. Although not badly, there
is little that is cinematic about the extremely talky script, which,
considering the small cast and single location, may have been better
suited suited for stage than for screen. The real fun of the film comes
from the extremely well-cast and well-directed actors, each and every
one of them obviously having a blast with the screwball comedy dialogue
(James Urbaniak steals the entire movie as the odd, understanding office
boss). You’re going to see a lot of “Office Space with aliens!” talk,
but it’s a little more than that. Not too much more, mind you, but it’s a
good time.


7.5 out of 10