Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Nun’s Story (1959)

Ok, I tried again and just can't do it. I'm really not sure if I've ever got all the way though this film. It makes me so fucking angry and I cry rivers all the way through. It has to be a great film though doesn't it, if it affects you so strongly? Still crying and reaching for the remote to watch Midsommer Murders. Maybe next time?

Original letterboxd review

Tokyo Story (1953)

In Tokyo Story Ozu uses a simple story of an elderly couple visiting their middle-aged children to explore duty, selflessness, tradition versus modernity and, most importantly, familial relationships and how these change as we grow older.

This was my first Ozu film and I was hugely impressed. Using a static camera each shot is framed like a painting with the lines created by tatami, shōji, bookcases, windows and doorways emphasising composition and drawing our attention to the characters who form the most important part of this film.

Remembering that it was only less than 90 years ago that Japan had renounced its isolationist policies, Ozu finds various ways to contrast one generation's eastern traditions with the younger's western modernity: the settings of the parent's home in a fishing village with their children's cramped building in Tokyo; the women's mourning kimonos and the men's black suits; a woman's duty to continue to mourn her husband's death and her in-laws wish that she remarry and forget their son.

The character of the humble and selfless Noriko acts as a filter between modernism and tradition. She is the person we would like to identify with but, realistically, we will see our faults mirrored in the behaviour of the others. Noriko is the child that the parents wish they had, instead they are resigned to the fact that their children are selfish, ungrateful, spoiled and have no time for them.

With its slow pace this film may not be for everyone, but to not watch it at least once is to miss out on a type cinema that is very rarely created any more in this world of fast cuts and CGI.

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Headhunters (2011)

Aksel Hennie plays Roger Brown, a shallow, selfish and materialistic recruitment headhunter who uses his position to steal the artwork which finances his extravagant lifestyle. His world starts to collapse around him as his latest client, and target Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) turns out to be not all he seems and Roger must undergo several violent, bloody, baptisms to realise his insecurities and use his unique skills to stop the Greve's plans.

A well structured Norsk thriller with oodles of blood, twists, redemption and a beautiful dog. Oslo wasn't this bloody the last time I was there!

Original letterboxd review

High Lane (2009)

A group of friends decide to climb a via ferrata (a type of protected climbing) route in Croatia and end up in a dangerous situation that they could never have anticipated.

These sort of survival horror films are incredibly common nowadays but High Life is one of the better attempts being short, full of tension, nicely shot, well paced and with likeable characters including two very strong female leads.

Even the small amount of proper climbing is well technically correct with a the leader of the group using a munter hitch to belay the rest up a face to the start of the via ferrata route (his belaying leaves a lot to be desired though).

Very enjoyable!

Original letterboxd review

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I fell in love with a green skinned woman, made friends with a sociopathic raccoon, fought with a pedantic red tattooed thug, weeped over a tree, laughed continuously, and even danced a little. The colours, the sounds everything about this movie shouts "Fun" with a capitol F. No false endings a la Bay, perfect pacing, no irritating characters, terrific dialogue, just great! The most fun I've had watching a film in ages.

I cannot believe this was based on a Marvel comic as it looks and feels just like a 2000 AD strip. In fact, this is D.R. and Quinch and I love D.R. and Quinch. So to mix up my comics a bit... Eat plutonium death you disgusting alien weirdos! I AM GROOT!

Original letterboxd review

Friday, 28 November 2014

Abduction (2011)

A moron discovers he's not who he thought he was runs around a lot, hitting people until HE GETS SOME ANSWERS!

I remember when John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) was being hailed as a new talent. What the fuck happened John?

Plot-holes, dodgy sexual politics, lashings of coincidence, poor logic, and some of the worst dialogue I've heard in a very long time. Abduction is Bourne for teens. Well that's obviously what the film company probably wanted as they cherry-picked everything that they think teenagers like, stuck them all into one shitty movie and created a complete mess. Taylor Lautner has as much charisma and presence as a plank of wood, Lily Collins is treated like a piece of luggage - something the hero has to haul around for no real reason apart from putting him into occasional jeopardy, and excepting Doc Ock, the only decent actors are killed in the first 15 minutes or are removed until the cheese topped end.

Favourite scene: The "plank" and his "luggage" are on a train. The luggage goes to get some food leaving the plank in their compartment. A cookie cutter Euro assassin see the luggage taking food back to the compartment and follows. Now, what you you do? You would follow her back to the compartment and put them both out of their misery and bring this shitty film to an end. What does Mr Assassin do? He starts to follow her, then drags her into another compartment and threatens her until she coughs up where the plank is! That's how moronic this film is. The fight scene that follows is also worth checking out for hilarious badness, as the plank starts getting Obi-Wan type advice from his dead step-dad whilst kicking ass.

The end was so bad and included some of the worst dialogue in the movie, that I was actually in tears of laughter. One star for being so unintentionally funny.

Original letterboxd review

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Lilya 4-Ever (2002)

"They fuck you up, your mum and dad." - Philip Larkin

I will be covering a few plot points in the following review but nothing too specific. Also, I'm a life-long atheist and not a Christian but the review will be covering various religious and Christian themes.

A young Russian girl's life falls apart until she is left with nothing and the film could be interpreted as a modern Book of Job crossed with the temptation of Christ. This symbolism is quite gentle at the start but by the end the film could be treated as a modern gospel.

The overall theme of the film is that we should live in the now, be nice and take pleasure in the simple things; the gift of a basketball, friendship. These are what make life worth living and, if we believe in it, the promise of eternal salvation should not be rushed toward like a child running toward a sweetshop.

At one point, Lilya explains that both her and Britney Spears were born on the same date and her friend remarks that "Imagine that you were mixed up in hospital, then you'd be Britney Spears". Britney is obviously better off financially than our Lilya, but both seem suffer the same problems. Would her life be better as Britney? Probably not. Does this matter to Lilya? Probably not.

Volodya sums up the film perfectly towards the end: "You remain dead for all eternity, but you're alive only for a brief moment".

Some of the religious symbolism (there's loads more to look out for):

  • Recitation of the lord's prayer at the beginning and end of the film
  • The title Lilya 4-Ever indicating some form of eternal life.
  • Lilya's picture of the angel which she always wraps so carefully and is the only constant in her life. Breaking the picture of the angel symbolises Lilya's loss of faith.
  • The discussion of heaven between Lilya and Volodya.
  • Andrei, satan in a red car, promising her earthly delights and a better life in Sweden, and as it turns out, in exchange for her body and soul.
  • Lilya's dream of Volodya with angel wings. Volodya is Lilya's angel from her picture in the flesh. Her salvation which she gave up for Andrei. He was also forsaken by Lilya.
  • It's Christmas during the worst part of Lilya's life.

After the film had finished I went upstairs and kissed my 13 year old daughter goodnight, as I always do.

A final parting shot from your's truly. Apologies to any believers out there but if god demands trials, such as Lilya's, as proof of faith then surely god isn't worthy of our worship.

Thanks to Eli Hayes for his review which pushed me into buying and watching this film.

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Demons in My Head (2000)

I knew I was in for a treat as a grand total of three people on letterboxd have seen this and only one of them gave it a rating. The movie starts with the credits and someone called David Vallon has the role of "the wisest man in the universe". Now that's a lot for Dave to live up to, let's hope he's up to the job.

This was such an insane film that I thought I'd try and cover the entire plot in my review, so if you're thinking of watching this quite mental, c-grade, Aussie horror flick turn away now.

Meteorite falls from the sky into the back yard of a couple of "dudes" who look like they dressed in a charity shop during a powercut. Heavy repo "jocks" appear at the door and then leave for no reason. The third and female houemate appears. Dude1 loves dudette but this is not reciprocated. Dude1 gets covered in shit. The plaster of paris Meteorite is dug up and attacked with a hammer and chisel. Weird religious couple appear. Inside the meteorite is a device that looks like a headset. Exposition ensues. Dude1 flirts with religious lady. Ancient writings of the nephilm. Apparently it is thought the nephilm built the pyramids, so fuck you Egypt and your slaves. Boobage. Weird uncomfortable threesome sex scene between the dudes and a call-girl called Pamela. Dude2 tells dude 1 that he loves him. Dude1 finally put the headset on and gets fast cut visions. Sex scene of a Dudette humping a bloke's chest. So Dude1 loves Dudette, Dude2 loves Dude1, dudette loves humping men's torsos. Dude1 gets caught peeping at dudette and bloke chest humping. The headset goes on Dude1 and stay on through the night. Still no wise man. Religious couple join them for breakfast. Cheap special effects and Dude1 materialises some strawberry milk, a spiny fruit and a wooden idol. Why? Religious lady tries to convert Dude1 again. More flirting. More materialisation and a bottle of pop and a blue banana appear. And now some knackered money. Dude2 put the headset on. More visions, this time of a man with jam on his face vomiting milk. Circular saw! Yay, action. No, the vision ends with no blood shed. Extra-dimensional exposition. Lovers tiff between Dude1 and 2. Block of green metal materialises and a book vanishes. Book reappears. Dude1 makes tries to materialise a woman from a poster on his bedroom wall but instead a sexy grey lady appears - a nephilm I guess. Nephilm dribbles blood down her tits and says she wants to get it on. Dude1 refuses and sexy grey lady vanishes. Unsexy bearded old man appears and names the headset as a Nephilistic Dimensional Exelerator! Aha! Old man warns of the dangers of using the NDE and vanishes. Dude1 tries to materialise poster girl again, says "Oh no!" and fadeout. The religious nutters knock at the door and a really bad "possessed" voice tells them to "go away". They go in anyway. It's the jam faced, milk dribbling bloke! They get milk spat on them and pass out. They wake up in their underwear with Jammy man licking and nibbling them. Jammy tunes a radio into some death metal. Dude1 manages to get the NDE on his head and stops jammy man just as he was about to have fun with a powerdrill. Jammy man gets drilled and disappears. Dude1 makes dudette's boyfriend (he of the humpable chest) disappear. Dude1 now seems to have a throne of skulls and candles - what the fuck? Still no wise man. Beardy bloke is back, Wait a minute! Is he? Could he be? Is beardy man the wisest man in the universe? Oh, he's gone again. Jammy man and the torso dude are back. Jammy man tears a rubber arm off religious man and then nibbles him. Pig intestines! Dude1 looks pretty poorly by now. Religious lady tries to banish jammy man (maybe a slice of toast would work). Dude1 expels Jammy man again. Religious man tries to stuff pig intestines back into his stomach. Dude1 is now bleeding from his eyes. Dudette and torso leave the house. For no reason Dude1 now has a sexy lady dream. Dude1 is now most definitely possessed as he has purple lines drawn on his face and is looking frowny. Dude2 files his nails! Theological discussion between possessed Dude1 and religious lady. Dude1 wants her to be his whore of babylon! Dude2 snatches the NDE from Dude1's head. Screaming. Jammy man's back. Dude2 puts the NDE on his own head. Religious lady stabs jammy man with a very small nail file. A Jammy woman appears and Dude1 vanishes and reappears in a foggy field. Beardy man's back again. Yes! He actually says he's the wisest man in the universe! His advice? "Stop using the headset". Dimensional exposition. Beardy man sends Dude1 back home (he's like a beardy wizard of oz), but not before explaining that the jammy ones don't like bicarb of soda and brass. I like beardy man.Dude1 grabs a tub of bicarb and throws it on a jammy man. Oh, I think jammy woman is a long haired jammy man. Religious lady stabs jammy man/woman with the nail file... lots and lots. Bad video effect. Religious lady puts a NDE on herself! Why? Possessed religious lady. Jammy man/woman worships possessed religious lady and disappears. Dude2 comforts and strokes Dude1. Possessed religious lady talks to beardy man and makes a metal skull and lots of money appear. Poster girl appears! No, Dude2 has been turned into poster girl! Dude1 and Dude2/poster girl get it on until he/she gets all skanky and burny. The end. What the fuck?

At least it wasn't boring. I quite liked it.

Original letterboxd review

20,000 Days on Earth (2014)

No review of mine could do this film or Nick Cave justice. I thought of writing some Cave like poetry full of angels, thunder, piss, wrath and beauty but knew that would come over as pretentious sixth-form crap. Cave can do the same and it would read like the finest prose and would move you to tears. So I won't. Just watch this film, listen to his music, read his books and wonder.

Original letterboxd review

Speed Racer (2008)

I've never been much of a car or racing fan and really don't understand the anthropomorphising of cars (if I hear someone referring to a Nissan Micra as a "her" or giving a Punto a name I want to punch them in the face) but I thought I'd give the film a shot as I got it dead cheap and needed something to watch with a disengaged brain. After five minutes I felt like I'd been staring at the sun for a week. My retinas are now fused. Nine minutes into the film and my eyes don't know what to focus on and there's a chimp is in the audience and I don't know what's happening. Ten minutes and the disc's ejected. Sorry.

Original letterboxd review

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

A young girl's life on the wrong side of the levee and how even the worst of situations are a grand adventure.

Community and disconnectedness. Mythology and reality. Hope and disappointment. Life and death. Strength and fragility. Destruction and resilience. The forgotten and dispossessed. Journeys and endings.

No matter how cruel and abusive fathers can be they are still giants in the eyes of their children. Maybe we should try and live up to that.

Primal, mythic and touching. Heartbeats, hooves and thunder.

Original letterboxd review

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Just remember how bad shit gets, it could be worse.

My god this film nearly falls over a very, very fine line into sugary, sweet sickliness so many times but gets pulled back, just in time, into a grim reality to ground it. And the grim stuff is pretty grim. George drunk, George shouting at his kids, George starting fights, George not existing. Grim.

I'd love to knock half a star off for old man Potter not getting his arse kicked and for the tacky soft-focus of Mary just before George loses it, but I can't. It really is a wonderful life.

Not just the best Christmas film ever but one of the greatest films ever, and yes I cried... again... several times.

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Wake in Fright (1971)

I've been thinking of how to review this and I think Todd Gaines has the right idea - stream of consciousness. So here goes (and much thanks to Todd).

Heat, flies, resignation, dream, hope, yellow, schooners, escape, dust, decay, stains, sweat, mining, beer, intimidation, indignation, isolation, greed, gambling, threats, lust, vomit, fever, fear, fried, trapped, distress, money, gambling, beer, roo, stubbies, lamping, barbarity, orgiastic, cruelty, masculinity, suffering, regret, pressure, ugliness, rage, violence, disgust, escape, survival, devolution, anger, hope, despair, madness, escape, release, sorrow, rebirth, escape, return.

I used to take a train home at the weekend at the same time as the oil riggers after 2 weeks of hard graft. One rigger told me the story of how it once took two weeks to get home after stopping at every station, getting shit-faced, sleeping rough and then catching the train the next day. As soon as he got home it was time to catch the train back and start work again.

A fantastic film examining masculinity - for example it has a great wrestling moment with Donald Pleasence that, I'm sure, takes the piss out of the equivalent scene with Oliver Reed (the contemporary portrait of masculinity) in Women in Love.

Final though: "Withnail & I" has been usurped: the dialogue is the dog's bollocks and eminently quotable.

"All the little devils are proud of hell"

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 15 November 2014

RoboCop (2014)

I love the original and this was way, way better than I thought it would be. A very good action film that seemed to be about the illusion of free will versus free will but I'm not sure why. Thoroughly enjoyed it and had too much wine to write much more.

Original letterboxd review

Video Games: The Movie (2014)

A rather dull game documentary with an inordinate amount of montages that says very little with an overall air of smugness.

Mr. Frodo Sir, Sean Astin sucks as a narrator nearly as much as he sucks as an actor!

Original letterboxd review

Friday, 14 November 2014

M (1931)

A ball rolling from the bushes and a balloon caught in the telegraph wires signal the child murderer has struck again. The appetite for news, the paranoia, the violence; nothing has changed in the intervening years. We clamour for the news knowing that if someone else child is dead then ours is safe... at least for the time being. It really is amazing how little has changed in the intervening years. The police procedures of fingerprinting, profiling, radius sweeps, riot squads, the pressure from the top. Even reliance on pseudo-science such as graphology still occasionally raises its head.

Naturalistically filmed with ageless themes of fear and hate, M wouldn't look out of place if it was filmed, shot-for-shot, now. Everything about this film resonates with our current fears and anxieties. Hands up who doesn't feel slightly self-concious watching children play nowadays.

Oh,and for those wondering about the status of Fritz Lang, watch for the amazing cut from the board of crooks to the board of politicians and police at around 36:11. Lang was a genius.

"Thou shalt not think any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a paedophile. Some people are just nice." -- Scroobius Pip vs. Dan le Sac - Thou Shall Always Kill

Original letterboxd review

Ninja: Shadow of a Tear (2013)

An efficient martial arts thriller with some cool fight scenes but nowhere near enough ninjing about for my liking - when have grenades been ninjy. Also, I'm not sure the film makers realise quite how big Myanmar is judging by the way Scott Adkins just wanders into the jungle and finds the big bad. It does have Chang from Only God Forgives and Kosugi Jr. in it though.

Oh, and "to ninj", "being ninjy", and "ninjing about" are accepted terms in the ninja community.


Original letterboxd review

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Adam Chaplin (2011)

Blood. Lots of blood. Gallons of the stuff.

Harking back to the good old days of the splatter movie (Bad Taste, Street Trash) and crossing it with Anime (Fist of the North Star), Emanuele de Sante gives us just what we want: a bare-bones story, pummelling fists, broken limbs and blood, so much blood. There's even a little art-house thrown in for good measure.

Alex Chandon (see my review of Cradle of Fear) take note: this is proper indie horror!

Original letterboxd review

Cradle of Fear (2001)

Aha ha ha ha aha ha ha ha aha ha ha ha aha ha ha ha aha ha ha ha aha ha ha ha! Step away from the camera Chandon!

Jonathan Ross said " exceptional piece of work". This is the man who fronted the UK's premier film review programme for eleven years. What the fuck was he thinking? Worst part? The dreadful internet snuff section that goes on and on and on and on. The best? I guess you could use the dvd as a coaster.

An appalling SoV PoS that gives indie film making a bad name.

Original letterboxd review

Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

My Tarkovsky journey has started.

Stunning. The photography, the shot choice, the editing, the acting, the contrast, the dialogue, plot, location, composition, set design, everything; just stunning.

It's the little things that make this a stand out film. Ivan's jumper made from the left over bits of wool. The young age of the senior lieutenant because everyone else has been killed. The chicken on a string that can supply a vital egg for its owner. Galtsev lighting the wrong end of his cigarette. The engraving of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The reasons are not specified, just implied.

The destruction of youth, The death of hopes, dreams and the future.

Beautiful and heartbreaking.

Original letterboxd review

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

A fast paced action sci-fi, grounded in contemporary tech, with a time-loop theme.

Imagine playing a first-person shooter. Imagine continuously saving your game, dying, reloading, getting a bit further, dying, reloading, getting a bit further... This is the basic premise of Edge of Tomorrow. It's a movie for the Half-Life/Quake/CoD generation. Plot-holes abound, covered with sticky plasters that barely stop it bleeding out, but, as Blain once said "I ain't got time to bleed!".

Great fun.

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Knight’s Tale (2001)

From the opening joust fought to the tune of "We Will Rock You we know we're in for something a little different. Medieval tournaments crossed with modern day football, celebrity, and The Canterbury Tales, soundtracked with classic rock. Sounds awful? Well, it isn't and I'll take a lance to any knave that says otherwise!

A great big glorious mess of a movie and I love it!

Original letterboxd review

Friday, 7 November 2014

Interstellar (2014)

I know this film is polarising opinion but I loved it. Proper hard sci-fi backed with great performances, direction, cinematography and effects, grounded with a plot about relationships and the future of humankind.

I'm not a theoretical physicist but, as far as I could see, the science seemed spot on and it was nice to see long-distance space travel, black-holes and the effect on time handled correctly for once. Yes, it seemed a little rushed in places, but, for a three hour film, the time flew by.

I'll definitely be getting the blu-ray when it comes out, and am hoping for longer director's cut.

Original letterboxd review

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Godzilla (2014)

I missed this at the cinema and can only assume that seeing it on the big screen allows to you to, well, see it. That doesn't really makes sense does it? The problem was that I couldn't see a bloody thing during the final fight. Nothing. Black with occasional muted red tints. Really, really annoying. I missed the payoff, the money shot. Is it just me? Does anyone else find the blu-ray really dark?

As for the rest. Bryan Cranston was annoying for the short time he was on screen. Ken Watanabe was awesome, as always. The sound design in places was fantastic, especially during the final fight; great use of muted sounds and silence. The HALO was very impressive and I'm a little jealous of the people that saw this sequence at the cinema.

Overall, a monster movie, driven by coincidence, with an extremely dark finish that ruined the entire film.

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Halloween (1978)

Starting with one of the most iconic opening sequences in horror cinema, Carpenter effectively builds the tension steadily to a pulse-racing climax. After decades of horror abuse Halloween is one of the few films that can actually do this to me and the reason is that the progression is so slow and steady that you don't notice, until, at the end, you realise that your heart is beating faster than it should; and believe me, that's a huge thing for me.

I do disagree with Donald Pleasence's Loomis though. Michael Myers is not evil. He is a primal force of nature. He just is; he always has been and always will be. He is what we see in the dark shadows of night and in the flames of a fire. If Halloween was shown to our primitive ancestors they would be just as terrified as we are now.

One of the greatest horror films ever created from a master at his peak.

Original letterboxd review