Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Guest (2014)

Well, that was fun! Wingard wears his influences on his sleeve but they're subtle enough not to jar you out of your enjoyment of this 80s styled action thriller. Not much else to say really. A decent plot that carries the action, sympathetic characters, a great performance from Dan Stevens, and a tough and likeable final girl. One to watch with your mates whilst remembering the good old days of cross-genre, VHS rentals. The only thing missing? A motorbike with a rocket launcher!

Oh, Love and fucking Rockets!

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 28 December 2014

White of the Eye (1987)

A bizarre serial killer thriller set in Arizona where the groovy 70s meets the glossy 80s. White of the Eye is a film of duality: rich and poor, wilderness and industry, some great cinematography but also some truly cheesy, video style edits. On the whole I liked the film but was occasionally frustrated by its lack of discipline with jarring flashbacks, wandering second act and an under-explained ending that tries a little too hard in its weirdness.

Think Brian De Palma on Mescaline.

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Blue Ruin (2013)

Blue Ruin takes the revenge thriller and strips it down to a grim reality. The villains are people with back stories, photo albums and loved ones, while Dwight, the incompetent protagonist, cannot stop the spiral of violence and suffering started by a man already dead. There is no happy ever after and the survivors end up as worn out, battered and tired as Dwight's old Pontiac.

Tense, sad and sometimes brutal, Blue Ruin is a great slice of modern Noir with a hero nowhere in sight.

Original letterboxd review

Here Even So (2014)

Great Eli. I could have watched images of your dad's work for 30 minutes and been quite happy. The way you captured the way a home can suddenly seem empty but still be filled with objects and feelings left by someone that is missing was excellent. Loved the music - right up my street.

Original letterboxd review

Monday, 22 December 2014

Robin and Marian (1976)

Yet again I was cooking whilst watching this but I've seen it several times before.

After all the dodgy Robin Hood films of past years this is still the best. Yes, it has its faults (some of the archery is woeful) but we get:

  • A proper Sheriff of Nottingham - his most awesomeness Robert Shaw!
  • One of the finest and most realistic, armoured sword fights ever!
  • Audrey Hepburn!

Give it a watch, it's really rather good and way better than the terrible Dover to Nottingham via Hadrian's Wall, piece of crap that Costner was in.

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Step Up (2006)

Yes, I watched it and enjoyed it again.

Original letterboxd review

It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)

The Muppets do It's a Wonderful Life. Is it great? Well, I laughed out loud quite a few times. It does do that thing I hate: ncluding adult orientated jokes, but hey it's the muppets, so I'll let them off a few indiscretions. I came close to adding an entire star for Joan Cusack who I have a wee crush on. It's a short review so, to whip up some controversy, here's the cast in order of loveliness.

  • Joan Cusack
  • Sam the Eagle
  • Kermit
  • Lew Zealand
  • Rowlf the Dog
  • Beaker
  • Miss Piggy
  • The Chickens
  • Pepe the Prawn
  • Statler & Waldorf
  • Bobo the Bear
  • Animal
  • Sweetums
  • Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
  • Swedish Chef
  • The Great Gonzo
  • Fozzie Bear
  • Rizzo the Rat
  • Floyd Pepper
  • Johnny Fiama
  • Janice
  • Dr. Teeth
  • Sal Manilla
  • Bean Bunny
  • Robin
  • Scooter (everybody hates Scooter)

Friday, 19 December 2014

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Cannibal Ferox (1981)

Lenzi doing what Lenzi does best: copying a movie but adding more of what, superficially, made the original successful and in the process losing what made the original so great in the first place. In this case Cannibal Holocaust gets the Lenzi treatment. More blood, more animal cruelty, less great camerawork, less story, less ideas.

The effects are pretty damn good but the animal deaths were even more pointless than in Cannibal Holocaust - the coati being a case in point. It's ok but not something I'd be in a rush to watch again, unlike Cannibal Holocaust.

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Lord of Illusions (1995)

I've always liked the idea of a private eye that investigates the paranormal. That mix between the rational and the mystical. Cinema tried it with Constantine (based on the Hellblazer comic books), TV tried it with the Dresden Files (based on the novels by Jim Butcher). Lord of Illusions is Clive Barkers attempt at bringing one of his minor characters, Harry D'Amour, to the screen.

Lord of Illusions has some quite chilling moments, and is a nice mix of hard-boiled detective and typically Barker like horror, with some effective and quite bloody effects. Unfortunately he story drags a little in places and the primitive CGI is really showing its age.

I've yet to see the perfect adaptation of this type of idea but Lord of Illusions is pretty good attempt.

Original letterboxd review

Deck The Halls (2006)

Watched while cooking dinner so I wasn't paying a lot of attention.

I think it was about lightbulbs or something. Danny DeVito had a blonde sexy wife because that's funny because he's short and everything. An obvious happy ending and I guess that's what we want from a Christmas film. We need to know everything will be ok in the end, but... It's no Elf.

There was a Lego: Friends advert at the end which was way more offensive, so yay for Broderick and DeVito and fuck Lego!

Oh, three glasses of red and a bottle of dark beer :)

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 13 December 2014

California Axe Massacre (1974)

Axe AKA Lisa, Lisa AKA California Axe Massacre.

The story is simple. Three manicured big city criminals go on the lam to the country where they hole up in a run-down farm house where Lisa lives with her paralysed Grandfather. Lisa is lonely, frustrated and depressed and an attack by one of the thugs pushes her over the edge.

Axe is a proper 70s grindhouse mix of rape revenge, home invasion and backwoods horror that has great tension and menace. I can imagine this playing in a stained flea-pit on Times Square back in the day. The soundtrack has some wonderful percussive jazz and some less wonderful Stylophone synth. The acting is pretty poor but some of the editing and shot choice is terrific.

A short scene of an unknown man running from the house chased by two of the thugs, plus the film's short running time (68 minutes), point to a sub-plot being left on the cutting room floor. This is a good thing as it leaves the film tight and focused.

I really liked Axe; it's way better than the well known Last House on the Left and deserves more recognition.

Original letterboxd review

Contamination (1980)

Studio Exec: Luigi, we need an Alien clone, stat!
Luigi: I'll need £10,000,000, world class actors, a visionary artist and a special effects crew that are second to none.
Studio Exec: Here's $10,000, an ageing American b-movie star, an old cargo ship and a script my son wrote.

An alien cash-in (with a large nod to Invasion of the Body Snatchers) filled with exposition, laugh-out-loud dialogue and a shit load, or should I say ship load, of gore and sticky, gruey stuff. The funniest thing about Contamination is how they realised they needed a strong female lead but just couldn't risk her standing alone and being the hero - at one point McCullock actually slaps her into submission!

The dialogue, oh the dialogue. Here's some choice samples:

  • "Put emergency plan number 7 into effect!".
  • "Hello, can you give me the number of the local air force please"
  • "Help! Let me out! There's an egg!"
  • "Yes, he's still up there... on Mars, the Cyclops star"

Looking for parallels with Alien is great fun! Searching the (alien)ship, Ripley, quarantine, the eggs, chest-bursting, acid, the overall, the patch on the overall, the shady corporation, flame-throwers, the cave/ship filled with eggs, Ripley being locked in with an egg, the rainbow bedspreads in the same colours as the Nostromo crew patches, the harpoon/flare gun.

I loved every minute!

Original letterboxd review

One Afternoon (2014)

I wouldn't have liked to be the one filming behind the stumps, or in front of them actually! The change in music was great - the game got serious! Some nice editing. I loved the juice break; reminds me of a friend that used to play Sunday league football and used to sit down to a fag and beer at half time. On the whole a sweet film makes me wish I'd been there, which I guess is what it's all about.

Original letterboxd review

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Stink of Flesh (2005)

Knocking another film off my DVD List of Shame

A disparate group of people end up in a ranch with a pair of sexual deviants and a woman with a conjoined sister growing in her side during a zombie apocalypse.

In this film the humans are way more fucked up than the zombies and this is what the story focuses on. That's not to say we don't get treated to oodles of latex and corn-syrup blood though. Some great dialogue, decent but occasionally terrible acting and a corking soundtrack (think Calexico crossed with the Gun Club) make this movie a treat for lovers of exploitation, zombie and cheap-ass horror films. Excellent stuff!

Original letterboxd review

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Treevenge (2008)

Whether this is a clever treatise on mass-consumption and consumerism or a very silly, blood-soaked, horror short about homicidal Christmas trees, I'll let you decide. Great fun with some quite cool practical effects but not enough squirrels for my liking.

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

If the original Planet of the Apes was an allegory of racism then Dawn is about imperialism and the subjugation of people over resources (a little like Avatar but not so heavy-handed or blue).

If there is one general theme of the film it is that of fear, and fear along with greed, ignorance, treachery and misunderstanding have been the primary sources of war and conflict throughout history. With shades of Vietnam and the Fall and Rise (and no I didn't get that the wrong way around) of the Roman Empire, Dawn echoes human conflict through the ages.

Final thoughts:

Andy Serkis received a huge amount of attention for his portrayal of Caesar but kudos go to Toby Kebbell who played Koba, and was absolutely brilliant.

During the start of the final battle it's interesting how once the apes, once armed and led by Koba, fight as humans in a frontal assault and forget their love of the high ground.

Great to see the apes on horses!

Was that a bit of the Ali/Foreman rope-a-dope between Koba and Caesar at the end?

A terrific sequel to an outstanding remake of a classic film. You don't see that often!

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (2013)

Nymphomaniac: Volume One is a hard film to pin down. Superficially it's about a woman addicted to sex but delving beneath the surface opens a whole world of symbolism, metaphor and allusion. I don't think I can accurately review the film until I see Part Two, but here's a few of the ideas I pieced together from Part 1.

Loneliness:
  • A Fibonacci number can only be created by the sum of the previous two numbers - it cannot exist on its own.
  • Polyphonic music cannot be created by just one sound.

Control:
  • She cannot control the world around her so she controls using her body and sex.
  • By doing this she gradually loses the one thing she can control to addiction.
She is seeking completeness and this is embodied in the final act by three lovers, components or voices:
  • Selflessness
  • Submission
  • Love
By the time she works out the formula she finds herself unfeeling and incapable of love.

Original letterboxd review

The Sacrament (2013)

The first 50 minutes are spent building tension and introducing us to well rounded characters that we will care about before ratcheting up the terror and reducing us to quivering wrecks, crying over the senseless waste of humanity. Oh fuck off! Who am I kidding!

I loved House of the Devil, Ti West's excellent homage to 70's grindhouse horror. I wasn't so enamoured of The Innkeepers but it was still a good film. Then we have The Scrament. I don't know, I really don't. What the fuck happened Ti? Did Eli Roth bully you into making this staggering piece of shit? Where do I start?

<spoiler alert>

Did West really think that we wouldn't make the connection to the real, and terrible, Jonestown massacre?

You remember how Kubrick turned parts of the Thames in the UK into Vietnam? Well, West must have paid Rent-a-Palm around £20 for the set dressing. You have these sad little banana palms scattered around looking really lonely.

Tension or lack of it. There is no sense of foreboding. None.

We don't care about any of the cult members as they are not given personalities apart from being brainwashed drones, and so when the mass suicide happens, it has absolutely no impact.

The cameras. Just how many cameras are there? I lost track of who had a camera and where it was.

A truly terrible film, exploitative in exactly the wrong way, that pisses on the memory of the people that died at Jonestown and on all their families and friends. Go watch House of the Devil and forget this was ever filmed.

The one star was for a very well created gun-in-mouth scene at the end.

Original letterboxd review