Truth or Dare

Director: Robert Heath (2012)
Starring: Tom Kane, Jack Gordon, Florence Hall
Find it: IMDB

The reason I don't play Truth or Dare. Or go to parties. Or have friends. In Truth or Dare, a gang of friends play a game of terrible truth or dare. Tied to chairs and bullied to death, all in the name of vengeance, it may just be the worst game of their lives. See, you don't get this shit playing Scrabble. At least, not unless you're taking it really seriously, in which case you should probably chill out a bit.

Led into the woods to attend the birthday party of a chap nobody really liked, the protagonists of Truth or Dare bring everything they get upon themselves. The villain of the piece isn't much better - a homophobic posh army veteran (think James Blunt, except not quite as beautiful) - so we're left with very few people to sympathise with. As secrets are revealed and truths are unsheathed, that list of the not-as-loathsome becomes smaller and smaller. One person, to be exact: the lovely and fairly decent Florence Hall. Well, it's impossible to hate someone called Florence. My nan's name is Florence, so there, I have proof.

Better Florence than her horrible ex-boyfriend, Chris (Gordon), the guy responsible for setting a whole chain of events into motion. He does have an impressive David Hess style perm though, so at least he has his redeeming feature. Much like the film has a few of its own. For all the annoying characters, bad acting (none of the kids can do villainous for shit) and Saw type torture bollocks, it does offer a few surprises by the time the denouement rolls about. At least one of these I saw coming, but there are some nifty left-field shocks that might make the film worth your while.

The truth is (predictable joke) I would recommend this film in spite of its more irritating flaws; it's worth a watch, even if it is only for a dare (predictable joke).


Director: David Twohy (2013)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff
Find it: IMDB

I had no idea that the perfectly okay Pitch Black and entirely boring Chronicles of Riddick warranted another sequel, but there you go - David Twohy and Vin Diesel have gotten their way - Riddick is back. I'll never agree that Richard Riddick is a character who deserves his own franchise, or that Diesel makes for particularly good leading man material, but who am I to judge? I'd happily watch thirteen-hundred Friday the Thirteenth films, and have loved every dubious Wrong Turn so far. I went into Riddick not expecting much but hoping to have a good time.

Wisely doing away with the Necromonger nonsense of the previous film, Dick Riddick is betrayed, battered and dumped on a nameless planet somewhere in the middle of nowhere. We watch as Riddick picks himself up, dusts himself off and gets back to fighting fit. The first quarter of the film plays like a Bear Grylls documentary, with Riddick kidnapping puppies, fighting off feral animals and swimming on the mud pits of not-Mars. It's here we get the best acting from Diesel, thanks to his barely speaking. Then the mercenaries turn up, and things get more entertaining and infury(an)ating, at once. Riddick vs Arsehole Mercenaries is by far the best part of this pie, in that Riddick pretty much disappears for half an hour. It's during this time that we're able to be intimidated by him again - gone is the macho posturing and ridiculous tough guy flourishes - it's just a team of heavily armed mercs, dragged off one by one into the darkness by a formidable, fearless foe.

Then he starts talking again, and doing stuff on camera, and the film becomes much harder to like. The dialogue and action is like a fifteen-year-old boy's interpretation of "cool" - all rapey smack talk, Call of Duty one liners and 'banter' which sounds tough but makes no sense. "I don't fuck guys, but I occasionally fuck guys up," says Dahl (Sackhoff). Which is fine, but makes little sense in the context of the conversation. I much preferred the CGI monsters of the last quarter, which are all action and no shit-talking.

From there, it's a complete remake of Pitch Black. The action is slick, fun and frequently gory. Again, Riddick's posturing makes it a bit of a chore to watch (dude, was there any need to bring Sackhoff's nipples into this?) but it's solid enough. If you liked Alien: Resurrection and Pitch Black, you should be absolutely fine with this. There's a cute dog, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine and some nifty-looking aliens. That doesn't hide the fact that Dick Riddick is the weakest element of his own film, but it helps. Look, if Dahl had been the lead character here, Riddick would have been all the better for it.

Olympus Has Fallen

Director: Antoine Fuqua (2013)
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Dylan McDermott
Find it: IMDB

Politicians don't have an easy time of it, when they're played by Aaron Eckhart. As District Attorney Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, Eckhart was emotionally and physically scarred in half by his experiences at the hands of the Joker and Batman, before being lobbed off've the side of a building, wasting a good character and a great actor. In Olympus Has Fallen, Eckhart plays the President of the United States, widower, hostage to Korean terrorists and victim of a crazed stalker.

That said, a good stalker has his uses. In this case, ex-bodyguard Mike Banning proves to be quite useful, taking it upon himself to break into the White House and rescue Mr. President where everyone else has failed. It's Die Hard in the White House, although Olympus Has Fallen would have been vastly improved by a protagonist who wasn't such an Olympic level Presidential arse-kisser as Banning. His rush to get to the White House when he discovers it's under attack reeks of desperation rather than heroism. Have a little dignity, dude. Rather that, though, than the early scenes in which we see him act as best pal (and boxing coach) to the Prez, fashion advisor to the First Lady and nanny to their son. It's a little tragic, really. If it weren't for the terrorists, Olympus Has Fallen would be just a really sad version of One Hour Photo or The Cable Guy. The opening, by the way, has been nicked straight from Stallone and his Cliffhanger.

I'd heard good things about Olympus Has Fallen (admittedly, only from Butler himself on the Graham Norton show) but I can't fathom why. It's far too dark, nowhere near brutal enough (save, worryingly, for one attack on a female worker) and far too silly. We're expected to believe that no-one in the White House ever changes their passwords, and that the US army wouldn't have put a stop to the terrorists' shit before it had even started. I did laugh at the line "let's play a game of fuck off," though.

At least it's well acted, with Butler, Eckhart, McDermott and Morgan Freeman (if in doubt, put Morgan Freeman in charge) all turning in decent performances. It's just a shame that the action and story couldn't have been a little better. Derivative of Die Hard, Under Siege and Air Force One, it feels like a throwback to the good old fashioned action films of yesteryear, but without the sense of brutality or grit. Butler is a good action man, but this film is too slick, too dull to showcase his talents.

Olympus Has Fallen, alright - alseep, that is. Just like I did.

The Texas Roadside Massacre

Director: Scott Kirkpatrick (2012)
Starring: Marina Resa, Elio Mardini, Dusty Probert
Find it: IMDB

How nobody has been sued over this is beyond me. Most of the time, when you try to rip something off, you at least try to hide it. Well, if you're good at ripping things off, you do. Pro tip: call it a homage. The rest of the rime, see Lianne Spiderbaby and Texas Roadside Massacre. As you may have guessed from the title, this film doesn't even bother to hide the fact that it's a massive, staggeringly obvious rip-off. They couldn't even be bothered to change most of the title.

So in The Texas Roadside Massacre, we have a gang of teenagers, on a road trip in their van. After picking up an obviously disturbed hitch-hiker, they stop off at a roadside diner, where both the food and the owners aren't quite what they appear to be. The poor kids are then picked off one by one, before being chased by an obese cannibal who kidnaps the nicest of them (Resa) and ties the poor girl to a chair. There's no dinner scene and no chainsaw, but those are about the only elements of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that the film doesn't rip off. "Oh, but you're just butthurt," you may argue, "just like that Child's Play film you hated." Well that may be the case, but, in my defence, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is my favourite film of all time. Of course I'm butthurt.        

Remember that line in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre where Sally says she'll "do anything" if Leatherface and his family let her go? Well the film even pockets that, in a scene in which subtext is made, well, foretext, I guess. It makes The Bunnyman Massacre look like the second coming of Tobe Hooper. It makes The Next Generation bearable by comparison. It also has time to rip off The Loved Ones, in its villains' stupid plot. The big idea? To brainwash people into working at your restaurant by drilling holes into their foreheads. Because everyone knows that victims of trepanning make the best employees.

"But I have an English degree! I don't want to work at McDonalds!"

Even if you've never seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, this is an awful movie. It can try to hide behind the excuse of having no budget, but neither did Tobe Hooper. That doesn't excuse lazy unoriginality. Worst of all, there's barely even a roadside - and when there is, no-one gets massacred on it.