Monday, April 30, 2018

The Return (2006)

I had no idea what to expect from this movie. It stars Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy fame. It turns out to be a pretty good film. Sarah plays a character called Joanna who is haunted by visions that get worse when she has to go into Texas for her work. She slowly starts to piece together a narrative from the visions, as does the viewer, and this eventually leads her to discover the truth about a murder several years before. It is all put together very competently and I'd say works very well.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

I saw this on its release day here in the UK. The first two Avengers films were very good I thought and this is also a good film. There is a lot happening in the film and it does a good job of keeping track of all the characters and events that are happening. I could mostly follow the plot all the way through - except for the last 20 minutes. The ending, which I'm not going to spoil, was a little bit confusing and an obvious setting up for the next film. All of the characters I've enjoyed so far appear in the film, Ant Man was referenced but didn't make an appearance. Dead Pool made no appearance either. But Black Panther was in it and so was Black Widow. I liked the Scarlet Witch character, who seemed more powerful than Doctor Strange. the Guardians of the Galaxy were cool also. Thanos was played well. But that ending!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

I didn't see this at the cinema, having instead watched it on Netflix yesterday. I did enjoy the story and watching Brian Cox play an older coroner with his son as an assistant. I liked the setting, the coroners examination rooms were in the cellar of an old house and were all done out in wood and older materials. The setting was awesome and really helped the ambience of a story that was about a witch without the viewer ever seeing the witch as anything other than a girl on the autopsy table. It was shot very well and acted even better. Easy to recommend this.

Virus (1999)

This was quite ridiculous but in a strangely good way. A Russian navy ship with 3 huge satellite dishes on it is communicating with a Russian space station when something from space disrupts the communication. Its bad for the people in the space station and bad for the people in the ship. Some time later, a salvage ship escapes from a hurricane by sailing into the eye of it where they encounter a stranded and apparently deserted Russian navy ship. They board, their tug is sunk and they have to stay on board, where the crew have been turned into cyborgs. Donald Sutherland is in this film as a drunk Irish captain of the salvage vessel, he bears his teeth a lot but generally looks like he doesn't want to be in the film. Jamie Lee Curtis is also in this film. Nothing about this film really stands out apart from a cyborg version of Donald Sutherland, done very badly. I read its become something of a cult classic, I can see why but won't be rushing to watch it again.

A Quiet Place (2018)

This film was directed by John Krasinski who was an actor I remember from the American version of The Office. He played the character Tim that I think Martin Freeman played in the UK version. John stars in the film along with his real life wife Emily Blunt. The family are living some time in the future when creatures stalk the Earth and who kill anything that makes a loud sound. If that sounds corny then it is a credit to the filmmakers that it works as a film. The acting is great and the plot moves on well after the initial slow start. I'm glad I saw the film at the cinema, my wife didn't think it would translate as well to the small screen.

The Relic (1997)

The Relic was a mildly entertaining monster romp set in a museum of natural history. There is a mayor who has been warned a monster is on the lose but who thinks the opening night of a new exhibit is more important than peoples safety. There is a damsel who is a master on computers. There is a tough cop. All very clich├ęd and not enough substance to really move this film into anything other than the C grade I'm afraid. Even the monster feels a bit of a derivative off of the Predator series.

Inbred (2011)

This is a strange one to classify, a British horror/comedy I would say. There are a lot of special effects in this film and they are done to a very high standard. However, they are completely over the top and exaggerated. I found the film entertaining to watch though, it reminded me a lot of Cockneys vs Zombies crossed with League of Gentlemen. A group of troubled teens are taken into the country by 2 social workers and while there have to dismantle and strip old trains for anything valuable that can be sold. However, things take a turn for the worse when they antagonise the locals and the locals start killing them off in grotesque ways.

Annihilation (2018)

An interesting film I watched on Netflix, this. It was recommended by a friend and didn't disappoint me. I thought it was different to see a cast of mostly female actors who had most of the action roles. There were a few male characters but not many. The story was very intriguing, based on a book that was by Jeff vanderMeer and adapted for the big screen by Alex Garland. There were certainly some standout moments in this tale. Can't give too much away but visually this film is a pure joy. It is the story of something extra-terrestrial that comes to Earth and hits a lighthouse by the sea. The land surrounding the lighthouse becomes enveloped in a strange phenomenon known only as the Shimmer. Those who have gone in to the shimmer don't come back out again. Well, one person does. I thought it was very intriguing the whole way through. Very worth a watch.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Abandoned (2006)

I saw this last night and it only made sense after I read what the plot was supposed to be on Wikipedia. That's not a good sign is it? The film is set in Russia and revolves around a character who is returning there after 40 years ago she was abandoned as a baby (along with another baby, who she finds out was her brother). An official tells her he tracked her down and that there is a house and some land for her in rural Russia. She is American. She goes to the house and it is creepy and dilapidated and she meets a man who claims he is her brother. They both want to know about their mother. The film uses time shifts to change the appearance of the house, I suppose its a clever device but it is a bit confusing also. Some scenes are set below the house in what looks like a military tunnel, which is odd. The actors in the film don't really engender much sympathy. Is it a scary film? To give some credit, it doesn't rely on jump scares and tries to use the situation to creep the audience out. It is partly successful but I feel the main problem is that it isn't clear what's happening.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Signal (2014)

I watched this last night, it was an interesting film. It's a low budget sci-fi film and follows three US college students as they intercept a hacker named NOMAD and track him down. At the same time a sub-plot is that two of the friends are lovers and one of them is going away to study. So there is something of a break-up subtext going on. I liked the film, Nomad turns out to be something unexpected. Laurence Fishburn plays a character, in the way he always does. I am not sure I want to watch it again anytime soon but thought it was reasonably interesting. It's been a film I have wanted to watch for a while now.

Ready Player One (2018)

I read the novel a couple of years ago and enjoyed it very much. The film is a good version of the story, there are differences but the essence is the same. I loved all of the references to the pop culture of my generation. There are lots of action sequences and I enjoyed that I didn't really know who the actors were, all apart from Simon Pegg who (I think) is over-used in films. It was refreshing and visually exciting to watch. Lots of things were happening on screen at the same time and it was easy to miss things, especially if you are stuck in the story and not watching closely.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Sentinel (1977)

I watched this film last night, it's another of those horror films from the 1970s that stars some actors who go on to become massive, thinking here of Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum - both of whom hardly have any lines. The main part is played by Cristina Raines. She is a model moving to New York and who finds a cheap apartment with a good view of the Manhattan skyline and only 20 minutes from the centre of New York. She starts to rent the apartment and hopes it will help her recovery from an attempted suicide. Unfortunately, she starts to experience physical neuropathic episodes causing her to feint. She meets the other residents of the apartments, all of whom seem very odd. There are two ladies downstairs who exhibit some strange sexual behaviour. An older man looks after a cat and a bird. Upstairs there is a priest who sits at the window. She is in contact with her ex-boyfriend who becomes worried for her as her health declines. He is a legal man and becomes interested in the history of the apartment. When he is present, he tries to make logical sense of what is happening to her. The apartment is apparently owned by the Catholic church. He decides to break into the Catholic Diocese offices and finds a file on the people who have previously lived at the property. They have all attempted suicide and then became priests or nuns. In the file he also finds a page with a photograph of the model but there is a blank next to where she would be a nun, of the pattern were to be followed.
This was an interesting film, very much in the same vein as other 70 horror movies, I found it similar in tone to a film like Phantasm but making a bit more sense. It's not in the same league as The Exorcist or The Omen, so don't go in expecting that level of scare. Infact, the effects are okay for the time but are fairly minimal. There are some prosthetics to deform a group of people at the end of the film, something which wouldn't be allowed in this day. At the time, I can imagine it being really scary though - I would have been 9 when it was released so too young to watch it.

May (2002)

Yet another film I came to cold this week. For the first half of the film I was wondering why this was called a horror film. The character called May, played brilliantly by Angela Bettis, seemed like a sweet dorky girl with a talent for making her own clothes and looking after sick animals in the animal hospital. As the story evolves you get to understand the character a little better. Her "best friend" is a doll in a glass case given to her by her mother when she was a little girl. It was made by her mother and she gave it to May saying "if you can't find a find a friend, make one". May has a lazy eye, which gets corrected during the film. She changes from wearing glasses to contact lenses and starts a relationship with a guy who she thinks has beautiful hands. Another relationship she has is with a female colleague at work who she tells has a beautiful neck. There are other smaller characters in the film who are liked by May for a specific part of their body: legs and a tattoo. Well, I won't spoil the plot but you can see where it might be going. I found it an entertaining film and one that kept me guessing right up until the end. I liked the characters and the way they were portrayed, Anna Faris plays the colleague who seems slightly unhinged in a sexual way. An intriguing film, I'm not sure who will enjoy it though as its hard to think of anything like it.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Suicide Squad (2016)

I watched this film this weekend, not expecting very much. Everyone I had spoken to had panned it very severely, so my expectations were very, very low. I thought I'd heard somewhere that the extended version was better than the theatrical release: now, I'm not sure where I'd heard that or even if I had in reality. However, I decided to watch the extended edition because I had it on the blu ray. The films starts by introducing all the characters, the characters with bigger parts were more interesting. I thought that perhaps there were too many to remember. I like the way time was handled with flashbacks, I didn't have any problems understanding what was a flashback and what was now. The best character by far was Harley Quinn, stole the movie I thought as I wanted to see more of her. A great anti-hero character with the vulnerability of loving The Joker. Which brings me on to that which cannot be ignored: The Joker. Any new interpretation of The Joker will be "difficult". Think Joker and I cannot help think of Heath Ledger's terrifyingly unhinged vision, or Jack Nicholson's darkly comic version or Cesar Romero's slapstick version from the 1960s series. It is mainly a question for the casting team and sadly, I think the casting was poor. Nothing against the actor, who does his best, but sometimes it is nothing to do with script or the actor's ability - it's just down to believing that the person in the role has a believable amount of life experience to portray the character. I am more divided about Will Smith's portrayal of Deadshot. He plays it as Will Smith, who is a very likeable actor but it doesn't stand out as being any different from other characters Will has played. Yes we see the backstory and understand he loves his daughter but the character has to show complete disregard for human life and the desire to die in some spectacular fashion: neither of which were achieved.
So my verdict for this film is: watchable, but you will probably be left feeling it was a missed opportunity.

Monday, February 19, 2018

#MeToo, #TimesUp and the film industry

The media coverage of the Harvey Weinstein accusations and the #metoo Twitter campaign have been lauded as a sea change within the film industry. This has to be set against a new post-Yewtree culture where there is more tolerance and understanding towards the victims of sexual crime who feel that they can now come forward, challenge their abusers and be believed. I wish it were so but I wonder how many other abusers are living in plain sight and allowed to continue their sex crimes?
There is also a new impetus for gender equality between men and women, the recent UK government committee hearings about pay inequality at the BBC are proof that the voices of women are being received more favourably. But again, I wonder how much the response is really going to tackle the problem?
Last night I watched most of the BAFTA awards ceremonies. I found it striking how many of the gong winners were men and not particularly young men at that. I'm not talking about the gongs for actors and actresses, in their own gender category they can hardly be equal. I'm talking about the other types of award, how few women went up on stage - asides from those who were brought out to read out the nominees.
I am sceptical of the ability of the film and fashion industries (and UK politics for that matter) to reform themselves. The views of the women choosing to support each other and the sentiment as a whole must be applauded. I just don't think this can be a quick change - the whole world has to make changes and be willing to do that. I fear there are too many old men in positions of power and influence to let that happen.

Dunkirk (2017)

The last of the films I watched and the one I didn't manage to finish due to running out of time. I was also part-relieved to turn it off, I admit. The small size of the screen was a disadvantage to my enjoyment of this film but I was also put off by not really liking any of the characters. I can appreciate the art of trying to depict the war earnestly and not over-glamorise or create superheroes out of acts of military necessity. For me though, I just felt the plot went too far the other way. Maybe a second watch would change my mind but I doubt it will get that as I can't foresee a need to see this again and complete it.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Finally got to watch this film also while on my flight (yes, it was a long one). I enjoyed the film but I'm not going to rave about it. I found it rather long and a little bit slow and plodding in the plot department. The visuals are stunning even on a small screen I could appreciate them but viewing on a bigger screen would only magnify the visual splendour. It is a sequel to the original film and manages to marry itself well to the original's aesthetic. I didn't particularly like the fact that Dekker was in it again (played of course by Harrison Ford): that's a personal opinion but I think the plot justified it well. I am not a super fan of the original, having watched it probably only twice but I think this film stands on its own merits as well.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

This was another film I watched while in flight over the Atlantic. I watched this film first and was really excited about watching it. It was a film I missed at the cinema, the big screen is probably the only place to see this film. I struggle to remember anything about the film's plot other than to say the visuals were stunning. That's pretty much what this film boils down to. I like Scarlet Johansen as an actress but the story and characterisation seemed none existent. The anime I love but this was just meh! And pretty forgettable all told.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

I didn't watch this just because Charlize Theron was in it, I didn't know she was until I saw the credits. Its not a title I was familiar with but it was available on a recent flight and I decided to give it a try - it would at least pass the time. Boy oh boy does this film pass the time: the excitement and action is intense. The fight scenes steal the day and they are all excellent. I mean really good. If you like the Bourne and Bond style fight scenes of recent movies then you will love the ones in this film.
It is a very violent film and depicts men striking a woman and even strangling one. So its not a film for the feint hearted but the story behind the action is not too bad either. I wouldn't say its a complex spy thriller but its good enough to serve as something the action hangs off of. There is some sexual content but it is a lesbian scene between Charlize and a French spy (played by the beautiful Sofia Boutella). A thumbs up for this film from me.