Let’s Play Hardcore Henry (2016, directed by Ilya Naishuller)


Hardcore_(2015_film)If you ever wondered whether a movie would ever be able to capture the excitement of watching a total stranger silently play an uninspired video game, Hardcore Henry is here to answer your question.

Filmed with a GoPro Hero 3 camera that used a specially-built rig that could be worn as a mask, Hardcore Henry is an action film that, from beginning to end, is told from a first-person perspective.  You are Henry.  When the film starts, you are having a dream where Tim Roth calls you a “pussy.”  When you wake up, a beautiful woman named Estelle (Haley Bennett) says that you are her husband and that you have amnesia because of a horrible accident.  You also lost your left arm and left leg but Estelle replaces your missing limbs with cybernetic ones.  Just before Estelle can give you a new voice, the laboratory is attacked by a telekinetic albino named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), leaving you as mute at GTA III‘s Claude.  You spend the rest of the movie running through the streets of Moscow, trying to rescue Estelle and getting advice and side missions from Jimmy (Sharlto Copely).  Jimmy was my favorite part of the movie because every time he was killed, he would return in a different version.  Cocaine Jimmy was the best of the Jimmys.

There are a few times when the stunt work is awe-inspiring but too often watching Hardcore Henry felt like watching a Let’s Play video on YouTube, the only difference being that at least the YouTube vid would have featured a joke or two.  The problem is not that Hardcore Henry feels like a video game.  The problem is that doesn’t feel like a good video game.  It feels like a clichéd and uninspired first person shooter, right down to the scenes were Estelle and Jimmy train you on how to use your new abilities and weapons.  (When Henry visits a brothel, it’s as if he figured out how to unlock the hidden rooms in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.)  If Hardcore Henry had a plot that was as interesting as the first person gimmick, it would be a great action film.  But, as it is, Hardcore Henry is just an intriguing experiment that does not really work.

The Fabulous Forties #6: Trapped (dir by Richard Fleischer)


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After being disappointed with Guest In The House, I decided to go ahead and watch the sixth film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set and I’m glad that I did.  1949’s Trapped turned out to be an entertaining little discovery.

Much like Port of New York, Trapped opens with documentary footage of the government at work and an official sounding narrator explaining to us that we are about to see a film about the hardworking agents of the Treasury Department.  In fact, the narrator goes on for so long about the Treasury Department that he starts to sound downright worshipful.  There’s nothing that the Treasury Department cannot do!  Who protects the President?  The Treasury Department!  Who tracks down counterfeiters?  The Treasury Department!  Who protects the coast?  The Coast Guard but guess what? The Coast Guard is actually a part of The Treasury Department!  The tone of the narration is so worshipful that it could almost pass for a Scientology recruiting film.  Just as only the Sea Org can protect us from Evil Lord Xenu, only the Treasury Department can stop phony money pushers!

Eventually, the narration ends and the actual movie begins.  Fortunately, the rest of Trapped more than makes up for that awkward introduction.  The film opens with a bunch of Treasury agents looking over a phony twenty-dollar bill.  The bill is almost perfect and the agents believe that it was printed using plates designed by one of the world’s greatest counterfeiters, Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges).  The only problem is that Stewart is in prison.  Obviously, someone else has gotten their hands on Stewart’s plates.

Stewart is upset that someone is getting rich off of his work.  So, he strikes a deal with the Treasury Department.  In return for being released, he will help them track down his plates.  The Treasury Department agrees and arranges for Stewart to “escape” during a phony prison break.

However, Stewart has plans of his own.  As soon as he’s out of jail, he knocks out his handler and escapes for real.  Tris is not only planning on tracking down his plates but he’s also going to go back into business printing and passing phony money.  He also reunites with his girlfriend, nightclub hostess Meg Dixon (Barbara Payton).

When he meets Meg, he discovers that she has a new admirer.  Johnny Hackett (John Hoyt) likes to hang out whenever Meg’s working.  Even though Johnny appears to have a thing for Meg, he and Tris still become friends.  Tris is even willing to bring Johnny in on the operation but, what Tris doesn’t realize, is that Johnny Hackett is actually Treasury agent John Downey (John Hoyt)…

Needless to say, violence, betrayal, and death follows.

Shot on location in some of the seediest parts of 1940s Los Angeles, Trapped is a fast-paced and exciting film noir.  (This is one of those films, like The Black Book, where shadows are literally everywhere.)  Lloyd Bridges (who, as a young man, could have passed for Kirk Douglas’s brother) gives a great performance as the charming but ultimately cold-hearted Tris Stewart while John Hoyt does a fairly good job as the conflicted Downey.  Barbara Payton, one of the more tragic figures from Hollywood’s Golden Age, does such a good job as Meg that it’s even more tragic to consider that, just a few years after making Trapped, her career would be destroyed by alcoholism and personal scandal and she would eventually end up as a homeless prostitute on Sunset Boulevard.

Trapped was a good discovery and you can watch it below!

The Fabulous Forties #5: Guest In The House (dir by John Brahm)


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The fifth film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1944’s Guest In The House.  Before I get around to actually reviewing the film, there two important things that I need to share.

First off, according to the imdb, when Guest In The House was released into theaters, it ran a total of 121 minutes.  The version that was released on video — the version that I watched for this review — only runs 100 minutes.  Having watched the film, it’s hard for me to guess what could have been included in those 21 minutes.  There’s no major plot holes in the 100 minute version or any unanswered questions.  It’s hard for me to imagine that there could be anything in those 21 minutes that would have made Guest In The House a better film than the version that I watched last night.  If anything, even at just 100 minutes, the version that I saw still felt too long!

Secondly, Guest In The House was re-released several times.  At one point, the title was changed to Satan In Skirts!  That has got to be one of the greatest titles ever!  Seriously, Guest In The House is such a boring and mundane title.  But Satan in Skirts — I mean, that sounds like something that you just have to watch, doesn’t it?

Anyway, Guest In The House is about a guest in the house.  Shocking, right?  Evelyn (Anne Baxter, playing a character similar to her classic role in All About Eve) is a mentally unstable woman with a heart ailment and a morbid fear of birds.  She has recently become engaged to Dr. Dan Proctor (Scott Proctor) but she spends most her time writing nasty things about him in her diary.

Dan takes her to visit his wealthy Aunt Martha (Aline MacMahon).  Also staying at Martha’s is Dan’s older brother, an artist named Douglas (Ralph Bellamy).  Douglas is married to Ann (Ruth Warrick, who also played Kane’s first wife in Citizen Kane).  Also living at the house is Douglas’s model, Miriam (Marie McDonald).

(“I used to have to hire one model for above the neck and one model for below the neck,” Douglas explains as Miriam poses for him, “But you’re the whole package!”)

When Evelyn has a panic attack upon seeing a bird, Douglas calms her down by drawing a woman on a lampshade.  (Yes, that’s exactly what he does.)  This leads to Evelyn becoming obsessed with Douglas.  Soon, she is manipulating the entire household, trying to drive away Dan and Miriam while, at the same time, try to break up Douglas and Ann’s marriage….

So, does this sound like a Lifetime film to anyone?  Well, it should because Guest In The House is basically a 1940s version of almost every film that aired on Lifetime last year.  Normally that would be a good thing but, unlike the best Lifetime films, Guest In The House isn’t any fun.  It should be fun, considering how melodramatic the storyline is.  However, Guest In The House takes a prestige approach to its story, marking this as one of those films that was made to win Oscars as opposed to actually entertaining audiences.  Other than a few time when Evelyn imagines that she’s being attacked by invisible birds, the film never allows itself to truly go over-the-top.

Lovers of The Wizard of Oz might want to note that the Wicked Witch of the West herself, Margaret Hamilton, plays a maid in this film but, in the end, Guest In The House is mostly just interesting as a precursor to Anne Baxter’s performance in All About Eve.