The best (in my opinionated view) 100 films of all time - in no particular order.

Monday, 16 November 2015

KAJAKI (2014)



I like war films. Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, We Were Soldiers, Lone Survivor, The Hurt Locker and Black Hawk Down – these are all great modern war films. But I can honestly say that I have never seen a war film quite like Kajaki.

Kajaki

This is the true story of a company of young British soldiers from 3 Para who, in September 2006, set off on a routine patrol from their outpost overlooking the Kajaki Dam in Southern Afghanistan, but instead of engaging the Taliban they encounter an altogether different, unexpected and terrifying enemy. While making their way across a wadi (a dried out river bed) one them steps on an anti-personnel mine. As his brothers-in-arms rush to his aid they discover they have inadvertently stumbled into the middle of a minefield left there by the Soviets after their invasion and subsequent withdrawal from the province some twenty-five years earlier.

There are no firefights – in fact there isn’t a single shot fired in the entire film. The Taliban are only glimpsed in the far distance. It does not judge and nor does it take sides. But it is a horrific and exhausting experience. And trust me, when I say experience I don’t use that word lightly. To say that this film is tense would be doing it a disservice. This is not merely tense – this is nerve shredding and terrifying almost throughout its 108 minute running time.

One thing that stands out by virtue of its absence is music. There is no music until the final credits roll, and when you watch the film you’ll understand why. There is absolutely no need for music to heighten the tension because the dire situation these brave lads find themselves trapped in provides more than enough tension. I found myself watching the film through my fingers with my knees up against my chest. The only let up is the black humour and banter the soldiers hurl at each other as a coping mechanism to take their minds off the seemingly inescapable situation they have found themselves in.

This is a film devoid of clich├ęs and sentimentality. The screenplay by Tom Williams is a model of tight plotting and crisp, course and realistic dialogue. The director, Paul Katis, makes his film look like millions of dollars had been spent on it, instead of the low budget British film that it is. The acting is exemplary, particularly from David Elliot and Mark Stanley There are no flashbacks and no cuts to the families waiting at home. Instead, the film concentrates on the men themselves and the unbreakable bond of brotherhood they share when facing adverse and horrific circumstances. It could, in fact, almost be described as a love story.
 
This is going to be a short review as I would like everyone who reads this to rush out and buy or rent this film and watch it immediately and let me know what they think of it. For me it’s a fitting tribute to the courage of the men who had to endure that terrible day and I defy anyone not to admit they had at least one tear in their eye when the final credits roll.

In conclusion, I don’t normally agree with most things that Jeremy Clarkson has to say, and when he reviewed this film describing this as “the best British war film ever made,” I still don’t agree with him. This is not the best British war film ever made. This is the best war film ever made by anyone anywhere. Period.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

TEAM AMERICA - WORLD POLICE (2004)







A few years ago, when I was working and living in Saudi Arabia, I was in the Al-Bustan Compound DVD rental section of the library and as I was casually looking over the DVDs on display my eyes drifted over to the children’s section where I noticed that, in amongst the Disney DVDs, was a copy of Team America – World Police. The DVD section was managed by two Filipino guys called Edmund and Ariel. I extracted the DVD from its place in between Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Jungle Book and took it over to the counter where Edmund was sitting (Ariel had the night off).

“Err, hi Edmund,” I said, “I found this in the children’s section.”

“Uh-huh,” he replied, unconcerned.

“Well, it’s not a children’s film.”

“It’s puppets,” he said.

“Yeah, I know it’s puppets, but it’s not a children’s film.”

“It looks like a children’s film.”

“I know it looks like a children’s film but, trust me, think of the furthest thing you can possibly imagine from a children’s film and then times it by a hundred.”

“Oh.”

“I’ll tell you what, when you finish tonight take this DVD home with you and watch it. I’ll come in and see you tomorrow and you can tell me what you think.”

When I went see Edmund the next day, he produced the DVD of Team America from under the counter and whispered, “My God, it’s been in the children’s section for about a month.”

Luckily it hadn’t been rented out to any parents of impressionable five year olds thinking they were going to have a pleasant night in watching Thunderbirds with their cheerfully oblivious offspring, because if they had I can only imagine the years of psychotherapy their children would have required after watching it.


Original poster for Team America



Team America is consistently profane, offensive, disgusting and depraved, it includes a marionette sex scene that has to be seen to be believed, and is quite possibly the most politically incorrect film that has ever been made by anyone anywhere. It also subversive and slyly satirical, inspired and imaginative, technically brilliant and hysterically funny. And it’s also a musical. No one and nothing is left unscathed from the scatological humour of writer/directors Matt Stone and Trey Parker – American culture, world leaders, self-important Hollywood actors, the War on Terror, patriotic country music, action movies, suicide bombers, World Heritage Sites, liberals, conservatives, gays, straights, blacks, Asians, whites, Christians, Muslims, porn movies and gorillas all get a bashing from these two serial equal opportunity offenders. And, if that wasn’t enough, it seriously pissed off American critics like Roger Ebert who wrote, “At a time when the world is in crisis and the country faces an important election, the response of Parker, Stone and company is to sneer at both sides – indeed at anyone who takes the current world situation seriously.”

Oh, boo-hoo.

The things Roger Ebert complained about in Team America in his scathing review are the reasons why I love this film so much. There is so much political correctness in the western world today that it’s refreshingly joyous to find something that is so gloriously purposefully incorrect. People are so sensitive these days that they can’t take a harmless joke and we live in fear of saying the wrong thing and upsetting some moronic righteous prick with a holier-than-thou attitude who hasn’t the faintest idea how to respond, except report you to higher management. 

Again, boo-hoo! And get a fucking life while you're at it!

I used to work with a woman who was a fat and useless waste of space who was good at interviews but was hopelessly out of her depth in the job she had been selected for. And she had an arse that was, in relative terms, the size of the planet Jupiter. I was a trainer at the time and whenever she wasn’t blotting out the sun shining through our windows with her enormous arse, she was off sick. Her sick days usually coincided with a course she was ‘unfamiliar’ with, which was just about all of them.

“She’s a fat, useless tub of lard,” I said to my line manager on yet another morning she had phoned in sick and I or my colleague had to step in and teach her course at a moments notice.

“You can’t call her that,” my line manager replied.

“It’s what she is.”

“I think you should go on an Equal Opportunities course,” she told me.

“Why? What good’s that going to do me? She’ll still be a fat, useless tub of lard at the end it and I’ll still have the same opinion of her.”

Anyway, back to Team America.

Team America are a bit like International Rescue but instead of saving the world and leaving it intact like the brothers Tracy, they create more mayhem and damage than the terrorists they are fighting. In their first action in the film they destroy most of the major landmarks in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Later, in Egypt they lay waste to the Great Sphynx and the Pyramids. Rubbish Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay action movies get shredded mercilessly, as does Ben Affleck’s acting talents. 

But it’s liberal Hollywood celebrities that get the worst bashing – Michael Moore is portrayed as a hot dog devouring suicide bomber, Alec Baldwin is the leader of the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.- geddit?), whose members include Sean Penn, George Clooney, Helen Hunt, and Matt Damon, none of whom gave their permission for their images and celebrity to be shredded so mercilessly. To this day I can’t watch a Matt Damon film without first saying “Matt Damon” in the moronic way his character says his name throughout the movie. And I happen to think Matt Damon is a very fine actor. Sean Penn was reportedly so offended by his portrayal in the film that he wrote and angry letter to Stone and Parker and supposedly tried to get it banned. George Clooney and Matt Damon both stated that they would have been offended if they hadn’t been in it.

The star of the show, though is the puppet portrayal of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. His mad, raving, world domineering lunacy is utterly hilarious and his song, I’m So Ronery, sung in a mock Oriental accent is the highlight of what is in opinion the funniest film ever made by anyone anywhere.

Team America, Fuck Yeah!