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.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Having purchased this on DVD for my son last Christmas (Dec 2016), this is the first time I have watched the film - my son hadn't even taken off the cellophane wrapped around it! That tells me what he thinks of it. He's more of a Marvel fan and thinks DC have gone off the track with their film adaptations. I started watching this film with a great deal of scepticism. However, the film I watched had some good qualities. I liked the Batman suit and gadgets (like his car and plane), especially the heavy lead alloy suit he wears when fighting Superman. I liked the female senator who attempts to bring everyone to Capital Hill to tell the truth.
I didn't like Batman's butler Alfred at all, I didn't enjoy Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman. I found it hard to accept the motivation for Bruce Wayne to fight Superman. The fight scene is good however and mitigates my disbelief while it lasts, although it doesn't last long enough. You could get away watching the special feature for 10 minutes rather than the whole film if that's what interests you.
I like the Wonder Woman character played by Gal Gadot.
Better than I expected but still largely silly.

Dark Feed (2013)

I watched this film this week and was less than impressed. It took a long time to get to the point and when it did reach the climax, there were no surprises. Standard fair here, setting the making of a horror film in an old mental hospital. Seen it many times before and done better, the acting was below par with absolutely no characterisation. I just didn't care for anyone who played a part in the movie - either in the crew or cast. There are no redeeming qualities that make me like this film.

Inferno (2016)

The latest in the trilogy of the Dan Brown film adaptations, I watched this the next evening after Angels and Demons. It is the least likeable of the three films and pushes even more at the limits of plausibility than the other two. As such it will seem more ridiculous to sceptical audiences. I'd only recommend to fans invested in the character of Robert Langdon, of which I consider myself. I am less harsh about the film as others might be because of this, I do recognise the silliness of it all though. This film concerns a billionaire who believes that the planet is over-populated and needs an extreme extinction event to save humanity from its own destruction. So Robert Langdon and the WHO have to prevent a weapon of extreme biological terror from being released in Istanbul.

Angels and Demons (2009)

After seeing the Da Vinci Code film, the following evening we watched the sequel called Angels and Demons. The sequel also features Robert Langdon as the main character. The first film was about the search for the Holy Grail. This film is about stopping the release of an anti-matter bomb. It has a faster pace than the first film and is also more of a typical thriller film. It is an enjoyable ride, if also implausible and silly at times. I enjoyed it and anyone who liked the first film would probably like this also.

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

I watched this film for the first time last week. I must admit it was more captivating that I thought it was going to be. Most people I know who have started to read the book have just given up. That may say more about the writer though, Ron Howard directed this film and I think he is a safe pair of hands generally in films. Tom Hanks plays the main character Robert Langdon, an academic from Harvard University who is a professor in religious symbology and iconography. It is nice to have a hero who is academic rather than one who shoots guns and kills people. I must admit though, Tom hanks with long hair is hard to get used to. The film is long but it is quite good overall, the score by Hans Zimmer is worth mentioning in the way it plays on you.

Hannah (2011)

This film was probably the last one I watched in 2017. It was better than I thought it might be, I didn't know of the film and wasn't expecting to be impressed. I was impressed however. The suspense was good and the story was better than the usual fair for a thriller. Hannah is the daughter of a CIA operative who has gone dark somewhere in the wilds of Finland. He brings her up, teaching her self defence and more. There is a secret though. He leaves her to decide whether she wants to stay in the wild and be self supporting or whether to go into society and live in the city. She decides the latter but things aren't as simple as that. He can't return in plain sight as he would be identified and the CIA would be after him. They agree to separate and meet in Berlin. Well, Cate Blanchett plays a good character and she plays a baddie well. A good film for lovers of thrillers and suspense.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Happy New Year

I hope you have a fantastic and utterly brilliant 2018! My Christmas was short and not so great - I was stricken with cold/flu and so was the rest of my family. So a lot of the week was spent feeling ill and lying down or not feeling up to going out or seeing people. Not the greatest, at least I can say I didn't do much and mean it. I did see a few old films at The Rex cinema in Berkamsted. I saw Die Hard, It's A Wonderful Life and Pretty Woman. I enjoyed them, even Pretty Woman, I think it is better on a bigger screen than on the TV at home. Not on my favourite films list though. I'm looking forward to watching lots of films again in 2018.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

I took my son to go and see this film, he said he enjoyed it a lot. I was not so sure I enjoyed it. I like the fact that there is a strong female lead character but as a film in its own right I just felt that something was missing. It felt too formulaic and unoriginal to me. A battle between Rey and Kylo Ren seems ends with a rebellion battle cruiser splitting the master Imperial star destroyer in two and in a later scene Rey appears in the Millenium Falcon with no explanation of how she got there. I was also confused by not really knowing the backstory of Supreme Leader Snoke or not having it explained - my son says he appeared as a hologram in The Phantom Menace, a fact I had fogotten. So, overall there was plenty of action in the film but not much of it was new. I also don't really enjoy the character of the pilot Poe Dameron - he had potential to be a good character with a touch of the Han Solo hustler about him but he is played too straight for my liking.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Mirrorless Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3

This week I purchased a new camera from e-Bay, well a secondhand camera but new to me and in pretty good condition. It is just missing the original box, cables and lens hood. I have got compatible cables anyway and I have downloaded the manuals for free. I just need to buy a lens hood and a strap. Shame the lens hood wasn't in the package but it wasn't advertised and I assumed it was something I'd have to buy anyway. A lens hood is not expensive, its just in short supply. Anyway, here is my new baby.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

We Are Still Here (2015)

This film is set in the 1970s but is from 2015. It does capture the 70s quite well, the acting is very good. I wasn't sure what to expect, I thought it must be better than some of the rubbish I've watched recently. It was. It's a story of some evil spirits who inhabit a house in the American countryside. The main couple have recently lost their son and have moved in to try and start a new life. but very quickly things go pear shaped when the woman feels a strange presence in the house who she believes might be the spirit of their son and they invite some friends who believe in the paranormal to stay for the weekend. Things don't go that well for them all and whatever evil inhabits the cellar comes out to wreak vengeance. It's a nice little horror film and one that is easily recommendable, there is some black humour in there as well, which just adds to the enjoyment.

5ive Girls (2006)

This film is set in a reopened Catholic school and involves a group of 5 girls who all have some unique ability but who all have been sent to the school by their dissatisfied parents. Ron Perlman plays a priest who tries to teach them, he was at the school when it was originally closed due to the disappearance of a girl. Well, I won't bore you with the plot, the film isn't very good. The story is uninteresting and there really isn't anything to recommend about the film. Ron Perlman looks very uncomfortable and is just not believable as a priest, he obviously knows the film is a dud. The women are all beautiful and that's why they were cast but the script is lacklustre and the effects aren't very good.

Muck (2015)

This film is set in America and starts with some friends escaping from what I would call a swamp but others more familiar with America might call something else. Something has been attacking them in the swamp and they are missing a couple of people, one of the survivors is injured. They find a vacant house and break in. One of the guys goes to find help and the others have to fend off the evil monster attackers. It is very silly and likes to show women in hardly any clothes for no reason at all. The plot is flimsy and uninteresting and the acting is just as bad. There really isn't anything positive I can say, muck by name and muck by nature I'm afraid.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

I saw this film this week, I'd seen part of it before but not all the way through. It is the origin story for the domination of Earth over humans by the apes. It focuses on the story of an ape called Ceaser who is given a drug that stimulates the growth of his brain - or something like that. It makes him much more intelligent than other apes. The make-up and visual effects are vastly improved over the 2001 film. The apes look like apes and not the PG Tips monkey and Michael Jackson. I like the film, it is enjoyable to watch and the pacing and action is very well paced.

The Snowman (2017)

I went to the cinema to see this film. The idea of the film is good, a serial killer called The Snowman is active again and Harry Hole, a police detective from Oslo in Norway has to piece together lots of old case information. It is based on the book by Jo Nesbo, but I've not read the book. The scenery is lovely, part of the film is set in Bergen. I've been to Bergen but it wasn't snowing like it is in this film. I watched the story unfold with some interest but the pacing wasn't good all the way through and the way the film was edited didn't tell the story very well or very engagingly. It picks up at the end but by then a lot of people would probably be turned off.

Satan's Slave (1976)

This is a 1970s independent British horror film that likes to show a breast or two in the way that British film and TV liked to do in the 1970s. There are some good female characters in the film though, Candace Glendenning has a good part. It's a tale of a family who live out in the country and invite their attractive young niece and her parents from the city. It's a bit of a mess plot-wise if I'm honest. Necromancy is practiced by the family but the characters and setting don't quite feel right. The girl's uncle shows absolutely no sense of loss when his brother and his wife are killed in a car accident, he is more interested in sedating his niece. No real sense of time is portrayed in the film and it is quite confusing. If you like independent British horror, such as Hammer and Amicus films this might be up your street, as it has a similar feel but it really isn't very coherent.

The Collection (2012)

Not a very pleasant film, this is from the twisted minds of the people who brought us the equally unpleasant later versions of the SAW franchise. I'm not a great fan of this torture style of film. The Collector who maintains the collection is never revealed and there is no backstory to speak of, even though this is apparently a sequel to The Collector. There are some set pieces that are intended to gross out the audience with their gore and they largely achieve this but there is no real story or plot besides lumbering from set piece to set piece. Not a good film and certainly one I wouldn't recommend.