Thursday 31 March 2011

Flavours of the Month: March 2011...


Born To Kill? - During my formative years, and being one of those teens who was obsessed with horror movies (not an awful lot has changed in the intervening years, then), I used to watch documentaries on Channel 5 about notorious serial killers - the real-life inspirations to some of the horror movies I would watch. This was back when Channel 5 was brand new and pretty much only showed softcore porn movies and aforementioned killer docs ... but fast forwarding to now I discovered, thanks to Sky Anytime, a series that began airing on the Crime & Investigation Channel about serial killers, ultimately concluding whether they were born to do the things they did or not. It's a fascinating series, although the constant re-use of certain footage and photos does begin to grate on the odd occasion.

Glory Daze - Apparently this comedy series about 1980s fraternity life isn't getting a second season, and you can kind of understand why, but at the same time - so far at least - it's an enjoyable enough distraction.

Shutter Island - Early in the month it was put on Sky Premiere so I figured I'd give it a third viewing, and sure enough there were still things that I was picking up that I'd missed the first two times around. I'm really quite fond of this film.

Nedroid, and Romantically Apocalyptic web comics - I'm a big fan of the Cyanide & Happiness web comic, and through them I was introduced to these two other web comics which both tickled me. Particularly the latter, which is beautifully crafted in its illustration of a whimsical, semi-deluded air to an apocalypse.


Alan Wake OST - I find this soundtrack helps me get my head into the right tone of late, as I have been mapping out my next feature length script "Allen Bridge".

Staind "Break The Cycle", and "14 Shades of Grey" - Perusing my CD collection I rediscovered these sitting way down at the bottom of the stack, having got them the best part of a decade ago. So I gave them another spin for old time's sake.

CKY Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild - I love me some CKY, I even got to see them live at my University (it was a bloody good show, too), and with their newest track "Afterworld" getting a lot of airing on my playlist, I returned to this spiffing album (the video version of the album is also bloody good).


Allen Bridge - My next feature length script, and I'm really planning-the-hell out of it. Characterisation, town history, motivations, impediments, the three-act-structure - the lot. I'm getting close to finishing the prep work - which has been handled on-and-off over the last 10 months (I found myself having fits-and-starts of productivity with interluded bouts of struggling) - and in the past month I've really broken the back of this thing and explored entirely new territory that I never considered when I first came up with the idea. It's been like taking a lump of clay and crafting it into a sculpture, as what was once a fairly unclear vision has evolved into a deeply considered project. Indeed I plan to follow the writing process on this blog as I go, so keep an eye out for that.

Project Gotham Racing 4 - Lacking any new games to play (plenty of interesting ones are out there, but certainly not at prices I'm willing to pay for them), I broke the cycle of first-and-third-person-shooters, and sandboxers, by returning to good old PGR.

The next educational DVD project - On the topic of Abortion, this will be the next series of educational films that I'll be putting together, similar to the likes of Just War (which was screened at the Borderlines Film Festival this month), so it's been all-hands-on-deck to gather enough footage and photographs to turn the words in the script into moving images. Naturally with a topic such as this, finding footage can be a bit of a struggle, and so we'll be going for a slightly more abstract and metaphorical approach this time around. For me as the editor it's shaping up to be an intriguing visual challenge.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: Cenobites and Centipedes...

Hellraiser III Hell On Earth:
I've long since lost count of how many Hellraiser flicks there have been (apparently there are now nine with a remake also planned), but until now I'd only seen the first two, and the fourth. The third, on the other hand, I have had sat on a videotape (from when it was shown years ago on TV) and have never gotten around to it. Then I spotted it on the Horror Channel and figured I'd give it a go.

However, while the first two came during the 1980s when horror movies were doing really quite well, this third entry came in the early 1990s (1992 to be specific) when the genre was, mostly, dying on its arse. There were some good (even great) entries such as Candyman (also 1992) - which was brutal and horrifyingly good - but this was very much an exception, because more often than not we were getting dross such as Halloween 6. Hellraiser 3 is more along the lines of dross ... it feels dated, and not in a charming way, it's not in the least bit chilling (let alone scary), and the plot is a big "so what?"

Pinhead is trapped in a piece of art work, bought by a scumbag club owner, and after a couple of splashings of blood (and a massacre of the club's patrons) hell is unleashed upon the earth ... which means a couple of streets and a building site. In amongst it all is a female reporter, plagued by nightmares about her father who was KIA in Vietnam, looking for her big story. The plot jumps around, and at times the characters exhibit little in the way of motivation, joined-up-thinking or common sense, and as for Pinhead ... well, he's certainly not the intimidatingly cruel force that he was in the original movie. In short, I didn't care for it.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence):
Trading entirely on the inventively grim title (indeed it constitutes the entire plot), Tom Six's stylish but surprisingly empty shocker isn't quite the ... *sigh* ... "torture porn" flick that you might be expecting. The idea of three people being connected mouth-to-butt by a mad doctor (who used to be the world's number one corrective surgeon for conjoined twins) is gruesome enough on its own, and as such it's mostly left up to your imagination. The really gruesome elements are inferred, rather than shown, or indeed they're hidden behind bandages.

Speaking of the demented surgeon, Dieter Laser's performance (as Dr. Heiter) is clearly the high point of the movie - it's a wonderfully disturbing projection - so it's a shame that the rest of the film doesn't match in quality or intrigue. Particularly in the third act, there were some really dumb scripting moments, and you can't help but feel that the high concept was the real attraction. The look of the film is impressively artistic, and the pace is generally quite good, but the mad doctor is lacking enough motivation, and the two girls (two thirds of the sequence) are nothing but vapid and annoying party girls.

So it's nowhere near as gross as the pitch suggests, visually at least, and while Laser's crazy surgeon makes for a genuinely arresting screen presence, the rest of the movie is sadly a bit lacking. See it for the intrigue, see it for Laser's performance, but don't expect any lasting investment.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Quadruple Bill Mini Musings: Killer Cars, Boats, Gators and Space Ships...

It's interesting how two very distinct styles have worked together in this instance. Namely the wistful reminiscing with a killer twist of Stephen King, and the visual and aural design of John Carpenter during his most creative period. A flick about a killer car could have been a load of old cobblers, but because the plot is grounded by the essential thread of a weak teenage boy getting his first car and growing up in the process, it manages to work. Nor is the film in a rush, so the tension and mystery of Christine builds gradually with a genuinely creepy vibe - particularly how the car communicates through golden oldies on the radio. Plus the practical special effects are just a joy.

I didn't have much interest in seeing this horror flick from Christopher (Creep, Severance) Smith, and I didn't know much about it beyond 'Australian blonde on a boat being stalked by a killer' ... which is certainly an element of the plot, but it's certainly not the most accurate descriptor. Indeed it's more like a Twilight Zone episode, but good God does it take an age to get going.

I was seriously considering shutting it off for the first 45-ish minutes - until the "oh, I see!" moment arrived (a good 15 minutes too late to boot). Sure, some set up is required before this point for future pay offs, but it didn't need to take 45 minutes to get to the intriguing point that thankfully held onto my interest for the remainder of the movie. So after a needlessly drawn-out and fairly dull first-act-and-a-bit, the flick takes a marked leap upwards in quality - and indeed writing, as it becomes one of those flicks filled with plenty of intricate details and alternate perspectives on established moments, which I can appreciate must have taken Smith a fair old while to map out.

Eaten Alive:
With a distinctly post-Chainsaw vibe, Tobe Hooper's 'nutter in a hotel with a killer gator outside' horror is pretty good fun (this former "Video Nasty" is otherwise known as Death Trap). Visually it's like a comic book version of the style established in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with vibrant hues of blue, red and green for the most part, and a handful of appropriately batshit crazy performances (Neville Brand as "Judd", Robert Englund as "Buck" - who was later directly referenced in Kill Bill) punctuating the moments of grisly grue and rubber-aligator attacks. It also features Mel Ferrer, who appeared in Nightmare City (which I recently saw for the first time) - another flick referenced by Tarantino.

Right off the bat, I'll say that I much preferred Event Horizon, which had a sense of terror and plot propulsion that Pandorum sadly lacks. Earth has become an overpopulated mess, and so - in search of an earth-like planet to colonise - a ship is filled with people and samples of every species known to man and shot off into space. However, when Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid awake from extended hyper sleep they find that something is decidedly wrong as there are mutated monsters running around the ship, and so it's up to them to re-boot the ship's power reactor lest the ship shut down entirely, killing everyone on board.

One of the main problems with Pandorum is that this is pretty much the entire movie. It's all about a handful of folks creeping around corridors on their way to a power station. There's little in the way of character development (Dennis Quaid in particular hasn't got an awful lot to do except sit in a chair and talk), and while the art department did a spiffing job designing the ship (I loved the wind/pump-up computers/weapons), it's all for nought as I didn't find myself particularly caring about what was happening. It all feels undercooked, and so again I say that I much preferred the far more focused and terrifying Event Horizon ... indeed Pandorum feels like a mash-up between Event Horizon and the videogame Dead Space (which in itself was no doubt partially inspired by producer Paul W.S. Anderson's space shocker).

Saturday 26 March 2011

Today's "Just War" screening & another rant about head lights...

The Just War screening went well, with a good turn out, good response, nice comments, and an interesting debate afterwards which further confirmed just how complex it is to consider a war just or not - particularly in the light of the on-going Iraq/Afghanistan situation and now the issue of Libya.


And now a return to my #1 motoring pet peeve - inappropriate use of headlights.

As I drove to and from the screening I noticed, once again, just how many people are driving around with their lights on in the middle of the day. If it's not their normal headlights (or even, rather illegally, fog lights when there's no fog), it's these utterly stupid, pointless and annoying things called "running lights". Now, we all managed just fine driving during daylight hours without our lights on as recently as a couple of years ago, but since sometime last year it seems like half the population have:

1) Forgotten how and when to use their lights.
2) Are just doing it because a bunch of other people are.

Even if a car has automatic lights, the option can be turned off - for instance with a five second press of one single button. So with so many prats driving during the day with their lights on - particularly when the sun is out so bright that you have to wear sunglasses - you must consider that they have little understanding of some of the basic functions of their vehicle, and if they cannot figure out how to operate the lights appropriately, then I question whether they should be in charge of a vehicle at all.

Bit of a Clarkson-esque rant there, but this issue of inappropriate and nannying use of head lights/fog lights/running lights has most definitely become my #1 pet peeve in motoring.

Friday 25 March 2011

"Just War", tomorrow at Borderlines FF 2011...

Tomorrow (Saturday 26th March) is the screening of Just War at the Borderlines Film Festival 2011 at the Hereford Courtyard theatre.

1pm, free entry, the film followed by a discussion chaired by Writer/Director Joe Jenkins.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Triple Bill Mini Musings: Killer Teens, Frozen Soldiers, and Punching...

It was before my time when this flick originally threw a knockout punch upon it's release, but even after almost 25 years it remains a gloriously-pitch-black dark comedy that skewers the social groupings and peer perceptions of high school life with a bloody knife. It would never get made today, not with the depressing number of tragic incidents that take place in schools (particularly in America), but just for what it is, it's well worth watching - even if you're from a later generation, such as myself - after all, social frustration and exclusion are timeless themes.

Universal Soldier Regeneration:
I'm a big fan of the original movie, ever since I first saw it on television (in a cut, pan & scanned form, no less), and it remains a hugely enjoyable action fest. Fast forward basically twenty years, in which there have been two in-name-only sequels and one kinda-naff-real-sequel, we get this new flick. I thought it was a bad idea to begin with, and figured it was going to be a real crap-fest, but - surprisingly - it wasn't too bad actually.

It kicks off with a suitably gruff car chase, before getting into a plot about a group of rebel fighters of one (fictional) nation seeking severance from their oppressive parent-nation - by threatening to blow up Chernobyl. UniSols have been deployed in aid of this cause, and naturally fire needs to be fought with fire - but it all goes arse up and Van Damme's Luc Devereux from the original film returns to sort out the mess.

When the action is going it's good fun, and while the plot is serviceable, the characterisation isn't up to an awful lot - so there's little in the way of investment, and as a result when bullets aren't flying you find yourself twiddling your thumbs ... but then someone starts shooting and it all picks up again. It's no secret that Dolph Lungdren makes a reappearance (via some handily advanced cloning techniques), but the promised rumble between the two original UniSols is all-too-brief, unfortunately - but the kicker of a full-stop to the sequence is rather fun. Despite some flaws, it's a surprisingly decent action flick all-said-and-done.

Road House:
Another example of a Family Guy running gag that I didn't really get until now - Road House is decidedly 1980s, but in all the right ways. Directed, appropriately enough, by a dude named "Rowdy", Patrick Swayze plays a hard-nut dude who helps keep bars safe from lots of punching and broken bottles - by dishing out roundhouse kicks and looking very brooding with his shirt off.

It's all good fun - indeed one of the vehicles driven by the henchmen of the big bad guy is a ruddy Monster Truck! - and what's more it's got Sam Elliott in it doing his fightin' Southern Gentleman thing, and what's not to like about that?

Friday 18 March 2011

"The End" update & (very) rough storyboards...

After some initial interest from potential animators in doing The End, it all came to naught rather frustratingly, so now I'm thinking of pursuing a different approach - to get 45 to 60 seconds worth of key visual moments from the script animated in order to cut together a teaser trailer. This would mean having something to show with which to possibly find actual funding in order to make the project, rather than attempt to do it for nothing (which makes getting anyone to do anything incredibly hard) ... if I was a skilled artist and animator I'd just do it myself, but alas these are talents that are not in my particular skillset.

In the meantime, whatever the future holds for this project, here are a handful of storyboard shots that I roughed-out - they're quite rough, but it's just a smidge of a taster of what I have in mind visually speaking.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Double Bill Mini-Cine Musings: Gross Gags and Military Might...

Hall Pass:
In recent years I've not been keen on the Farrelley Brothers' gross out brand of humour, not since Me, Myself & Irene anyway, so it was nice to see them get a bit of their mojo back and not just focus purely on a daft central premise (Shallow Hal, Stuck On You). Two randy married men are given a 'hall pass' by their wives (a 'week off' from marriage to get their rose-tinted pining for their so-called glory days out of their system), and it plays out pretty much as you'd expect ... so it's not the brother's best flick by far, but it's certainly not their worst. The chuckles come a little bit thin & slow at times, but then they'll suddenly they'll come thick & fast - and even, explosively, at times ... it's just a shame that Stephen Merchant is so underused, because indeed, a sequence during the closing credits in which he imagines what it'd be like if he got a 'hall pass' steals the entire movie. Worth a punt for a fun time, but it's certainly not a Dumb & Dumber, or There's Something About Mary.

Battle: Los Angeles
It's Black Hawk Down meets Independence Day in this militarised alien invasion flick where the eponymous city gets royally blown-the-hell-up by a bunch of half-robot-half-squishy-thing E.T. bastards. Who's going to save the day? Aaron Eckhart and his squad of marines, that's who.

After the first 15 minutes, which sets up - in appropriately broad strokes - the central characters, it's pretty much a relentlessly action packed extravaganza until the somewhat-forumulaic finishing line. Indeed, a collection of civilians don't do much more than keep the plot moving by providing an initial objective, and some character stuff later on, for the gun-toting guys.

However, a balls-out, shell-shocking, all-guns-blaring, action fest such as this was never going to be an appropriate realm for considered character study. That said, a moment of downtime near the end of the second act was surprisingly effective - and allowed Eckhart to really bring some much-needed emotional core to this adrenaline-fuelled festival of gunfire. Perhaps this is where some of Shane Black's influence (who did an uncredited pass of the final draft of the script) is felt.

I have to say I really rather enjoyed it, and - pleasingly - the combat sequences were expertly handled and kept the audience (myself most definitely included) on the edge of their seats. There is rarely a chance to catch your breath, so you'd better keep up once the trigger fingers get twitchy. Think of it as watching Black Hawk Down, but not feeling guilty about enjoying it afterwards - after all, in the immortal words of Duke Nukem, "damn those alien bastards!"

Triple Bill Mini Musings: Booze, Zombies, and Cannonballers...

The Untouchables: A classily made drama about prohibition and the take down of Al Capone from Brian DePalma, what's not to like? While the script can suddenly leap forward in time a bit too readily on occasion, it doesn't stop the film exuding a clear sense of quality. For example, one sequence at a train station is a masterclass in tension building, and it even references the famous sequence from Battleship Potemkin involving a baby in a pram during the slow motion climax of the scene. Plus it's got Billy Drago in it, and what's not to like about that? Nightmare City: Umberto Lenzi's action-horror features zombies, or are they infected people, or are they vampires? Whichever way, the movie cannot decide, and freely does whatever it damn well pleases. Long before horrifically convincing infection flicks like 28 Days (and Weeks) Later - both of which are NOT zombie films, FYI - the Italians were running around with gleeful abandon, just like their infected-vampire-zombie-things. A mysterious plane lands, a bunch of infected loons wreak havoc, and the infection spreads from one disjointed plot point to another ... but then many of those working in Italian exploitation didn't care much for well crafted scripts (one scene in a military bunker features the most atrociously overcooked, underwritten, ill-considered dialogue this side of Ed Wood). On the plus side, despite the complete and utter lack of cohesion, there's a good helping of action and bloodletting, doled out by these infected freaks who seem to have a distinct distaste for women's blouses. A final point of interest is that the lead protagonist is played by Hugo Stiglitz - whose name was used for an infamously deadly Nazi killer in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (which also referenced Antonio Margheriti, director of Cannibal Apocalypse - another Euro-Exploitation flick which did a more convincing job of illustrating a city-wide blood-thirsty epidemic). The Cannonball Run: Being a fan of the likes of the Gumball Rally, and the Bullrun, it was cool to finally see the movie which inspired them both. A bunch of oddballs (played by various big names and character actors of the day) all go tearing across America in a race to cover 3000 miles in 72 hours. It's silly, it's a little bit cheesy, but it's also an old school early-80s slice of good fun ... and further on the plus side, Adrienne Barbeau makes a memorable appearance as a Lamborghini Countach racing beauty.

Friday 11 March 2011

"Just War" at the Borderlines Film Festival 2011...

As mentioned in a previous post, Just War (on which I served as editor) will be screening at this year's Borderlines Film Festival - and it will be shown on Saturday 26th March at 1pm at The Courtyard in Hereford - entry is free, and after the screening there will be a discussion chaired by director Joe Jenkins.

"Made with much skill, this timely film explains clearly and succinctly the challenges faced by those who have the terrible responsibility of engaging in a war and how those who are engaged should behave." - General Lord Guthrie, Former Head of the British Army

Triple Bill Mini Musings: The Devil's Proposition for Mandy Lane...

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane:
Considering the title, I thought this was going to be a spiffing horror riff on the sexes and high school infatuation, but alas it never really picks up the suggested ball to run with it. Rather, the notion of the chick that literally all the guys dig is briefly presented, and then ditched in favour of a handful of them (with two 'valley girl' types) sauntering off to a (rather lame) party at a ranch.

It's stylishly shot, but the script just doesn't live up to the potential of the title - there is little in the way of tension, characterisation, motive, and the third act twist makes absolutely no sense at all. Worth seeing for the beautiful Amber Heard in an early starring role, and a couple of fairly original kills, but beyond that it's a real missed opportunity to do something deeper and more interesting.

Race With The Devil:
I think my first knowledge of this flick came with Kevin Smith, a couple of years ago, when asked what movie that his (at the time) proposed Red State most resembled in terms of feel and he said Race With The Devil. That was a good while ago now, but Sky Movies helpfully showed this late one night and I gave it a spin.

While I haven't seen Smith's Red State (yet, natch) I can understand (as a result of the Red State of the Union podcasts over on why he made the link. It's a movie full of paranoia and an unstoppable sense of creeping menace. Two holidaying couples (travelling in an RV with all the mod cons) find themselves in the crosshairs of a Satanic cult, and spend the rest of the movie trying to get the hell out of dodge and to some sort of safety.

For the most part the film has a gentle pace, but the slow ratcheting-up of the sense that something isn't quite right about some (or all?) of the people they meet leaves you with a palpable paranoia. Indeed, this tension builds gradually towards the big set piece sequence where the protagonists do battle with a convoy of Satanists, which is a genuinely tense experience.

Coming in the midst of the 1970s, with the disaster of the Vietnam war still raw and bloody in the collective American consciousness, and at a time when rumours of Satanic cults in the heart of middle America were rife, this is a classic of its time and a skilled illustration of tension building.

The Proposition:
Directed by John Hillcoat (The Road) and scored by the superb combo of Nick Cave & Warren Ellis (the former also wrote the script), this is the sparsely-plotted, meanderingly-paced tale of an outlaw who is given an ultimatum - kill his older brother, or his younger brother gets hanged. It's a compelling central conflict, but one that is handled from a distance, with lightly drawn characters set amidst the scorched earth, sun bleached frontier days of Australia's outback.

The direction and cinematography has a similarly distanced approach, something that was somewhat carried over onto The Road (another tale set in a desolate land, scored by Cave & Ellis), and it can at times be surprisingly brutal (the key point of which being an agonised lashing). The Proposition, like the land and time in which it is set, is a sweltering, sparse and bloodily violent tale told from a distance - and it's this distancing effect that can keep you, the viewer, from fully connecting with the story, but nevertheless the vision is uncompromising for all its flaws and successes.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Triple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Amnesia, Ghosts, and Conmen...

Unknown: Cutting to the chase, 'is it like Taken?' ... well, not so much. For one thing, Taken was an 18-rated, hard-hitting Paris-set punch-up with Liam Neeson (as a highly trained weapon) kicking a million shades of the brown stuff out of scumbags behind a sex trafficking ring in a super cool, bone-crunching Euro-thriller. Unknown, rated 12A, features Liam Neeson as a Bio-Technologist whose identity is stolen and for some reason his wife doesn't recognise who he is. It's not really about rough & tumble, it's more of a espionage-ish low-key, high concept thriller. For the first half the primary focus is on the increasingly loopy story of Neeson's protagonist (you can't help but enjoy his performances), before the second half shifts gear and goes for more in the way of car chases and punch ups ... albeit softer and less frequent affairs when compared to Taken. Unknown was always going to be compared and considered in the same breath as Taken, but it's a different film (despite certain similarities in appearance), with an entirely different pace and sensibility. Was it great? No, but it was enjoyable enough and generally intriguing, and the third act twist does indeed make up for the mysterious plot that does begin to flag at the tail end of the second act. If you simply must consider it in the same breath as Taken - consider it a Lite Beer version suitable for a wider audience (indeed when we went to see it there was a range of ages of both sexes). Poltergeist: Many years ago, reaching back to when I was 11 years old, if memory serves, BBC1 were about to show Poltergeist and I was fired up to see it. However, my Mum forbid me from watching it for it was deemed to be too scary and grown up. Fast forward a year-or-so, and when around at a friend's house (where we watched the first and third A Nightmare On Elm Street movies), I was shown one stand-out moment (a man, in a horrific vision, tearing his own face off). Now, 15 years later, I finally got around seeing it - and on BBC1 to boot (although why on earth they insisted on cropping the image from the lovely Original Aspect Ratio of 2.35:1 to 16x9 is beyond me ... so that was bloody annoying as a ratio purist). Being that Spielberg was behind the story, script and production, it feels every inch a Spielberg movie. What the true story was behind the day-to-day production of the movie (Tobe Hooper is the credited director) remains to be seen, but there's no denying that the tale of an everyday middle American suburban family is the prototypical Spielbergian family unit (aside from lacking an absent/distracted father figure, that is). Before MGM's financial woes, this flick was scheduled for a remake, and I simply don't know what the point would be. The movie is as close to perfect as it can be, the only thing they could improve upon would be the special effects - but then the FX of today will look relatively quaint by comparison to those in 30 years, so who gives a crap about that? I rather dig the visual effects in this movie. Indeed the establishment of the family unit's way of life, and the overall pacing of the flick, are pitch-perfect with spot-on timing. Key scenes are directed (by Hooper and/or Spielberg, according to rumours) with precision that render the creepy plot genuinely un-nerving at times (a simple stacking of kitchen chairs off-camera being one particular stand-out chill), and the performances are all decidedly convincing. Round it all off with one hell of a one-two finale, a subtle sense of humour, and a surprisingly spooky vision (even 30 years on) all prove this to be a true classic. I just hope they don't get around to remaking it ... you can't improve on a Spielberg (and Hooper) classic. I Love You Philip Morris: A quirky comedy drama about Jim Carrey (as a gay conman) ending up in jail where he meets the love of his life (Ewan MacGregor), before embarking on a series of fraudulent activities to support a lavish lifestyle, and clever (but brief) escapes from the law. Carrey and MacGregor are both game and are able to dig into surprisingly deep emotional places when it's called for (for instance, one moment where MacGregor receives some bad news). It's not especially memorable, but it's far from naff ... it's a strange and humorous curiosity that's worth a watch.

Friday 4 March 2011

Triple Bill Mini Musings: February/March 2011...

Repo Men:
Set in a future that is, visually, heavily indebted to Blade Runner and Minority Report, you can buy new organs and bodily enhancements - but for an extortionate price, and if you can't pay your bills on time, your fancy new organ or implant gets repossessed. So it's a high concept action thriller, but similar to Daybreakers, the potential for a real exploration of a potentially fascinating future society (be it vampires have taken over the world and are running out of blood, or people are upgrading their innards for a vast price) is presented strongly at first, only to be kind of forgotten about soon thereafter.

However, Repo Men falters further and presents us with protagonists who aren't that interesting. It's a nice concept, but instead of focussing on the interesting specifics of this future society, we're treated more to a series of not-that-exciting action sequences and some scenes that are just odd (such as one towards the end behind "the pink door"). This all said, there is a sting in the tail at the end, which elevates (and somewhat rescues) the flick from being a relative meh-fest.

A nice idea to start with, but it's a missed opportunity.

Paradise Lost:
Following in the wake of Hostel, with its 'Americans in a foreign land succumbing to the evil locals' schtick, Paradise Lost - with it's glossy visuals, and sexy young cast - paints a better paced picture of similar intent. While Hostel required further instruction (through extra features and, notably, the very informative commentary tracks) to really get to grips with the background subtleties of the plot and story, Paradise Lost requires no such instruction.

A group of back packing sexy young things from America go traipsing through Brazil in search of adventure, but end up in a bus crash which leads them to a seemingly picture perfect water-side bar where they drink copiously and become quite merry. The following morning all is not well and they find themselves to have been robbed - they are most definitely in trouble now, and something untoward is afoot.

Turns out that something untoward relates to a gang of organ harvesters (whose motives are neatly outlined in a later sequence), and so I think you can figure out the basics of the rest of the movie.

It turned out to be a nice little surprise, with an enjoyable cast of vibrant 20/30-somethings, and despite some slightly dumb moments (to make sure our cast end up in serious trouble come the final act of the movie), it's a solid horror flick - with a rather nifty, and tense, underwater chase sequence in the final act ... and, for the gore hounds, the crimson grue is quite realistic and skillfully utilised.

I have come to appreciate Hostel (and its sequel), with the help of several viewings and the extra features, for something deeper and better than it initially appears to be, but Paradise Lost is immediately much more accessible and has a better overall pace, managing to easily sidestep the "torture porn" lashing that Eli Roth's euro-horror suffered.

The Prestige:
Sometimes it's the case that you've seen basically all of a director's feature films, but there ends up being one that you missed during it's original run and never got around to seeing. With David Fincher's catalogue it was The Game (which I finally saw years later and rather enjoyed), and in this case - Christopher Nolan - it was his rival magicians movie The Prestige.

Now, I had already seen the twist of the movie a couple of years prior, which I basically recalled, so the twist ending was mostly spoiled for me, however despite that I found it to be just as well crafted and just as interesting to watch as the rest of Nolan's flicks. Strong performances, beautifully realised cinematography, assured direction, and a smartly woven script all add up to a quality viewing experience.