29 Nov 2014

I am a bit giddy with excitment


OOh the first teaser Huzzah






This is not an official trailer but I liked it.  


I have so much hope.

I have so much fear.

I simply must hope. 

15 Nov 2014

Weird...


I have a bit of a odd topic today, I want to write about the weird film. In literature there is (arguably) a sub genre of horror stories which are weird rather that scary, macabre rather than gory. I write arguably because in essence the weird story is not confined to horror, it is just more prevalent in that genre and most often contains a supernatural element to it. 

H. P. Lovecraft wrote in his essay  Supernatural Horror in Literature 
"The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain--a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space."
But while it would be easy to reference the works of writers such as: Lovecraft, M.R. James, Lord Dunsany, and Clive Barker, for example, there is more scope than horror stories. Look at the works of Ray Bradbury, Franz Kafka and the wonderful books by China Mieville, there are dozens if not hundreds of well written stories which are "weird" but not really horror.  The weird can disturb and challenge you, it leaves you with questions, maybe questions you do not want the answer to.


I think a lot of writers from the 40's through to the 70's wrote what could be described as weird stories because they wanted to challenge and raise questions about society and the direction of humanity.

But what about movies?  Has the weird tale made it's way onto the silver screen? I am not referring to films where art and expression have replaced a narrative plot, or films that are bizarre just for sake of it.  No, more films that have carried on the tradition of the weird tale into a new medium.  Here is a selection of a few films I think qualify.


1: Freaks

Tod Browning's compelling tale of love and betrayal in a travelling freak show. Disturbing but also full of empathy and compassion, Freaks does not make this list due to the nature of it's cast, but because of it's eerie finale.

2: Donnie Darko


The film that introduced the world to Jake Gyllenhaal,  Donnie Darko is a tale of a teenage angst, somnambulism, paradoxes, and Frank the strange Rabbit from the future. Wonderfully dark and haunting, Donnie Darko is, at it's heart, a strange love story, albeit a very weird one.

3: The Stepford Wives


The 1975 version with the beautiful Katherine Ross not the terrible remake. The very weird story of a couple moving into a quaint neighborhood where all the women are the "perfect" suburban housewife. Based on a novel by Ira Levin. The Stepford Wives is still a very creepy film.  

4: The City of Lost Children


One of my all time favorite films ever! A magnificent fairy tale of a sideshow strongman and a cynical sneak thief trying to rescue a little boy from a mad scientist who invades the dreams of stolen children to try and find his soul. 

5: Delicatessen


Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this and my previous choice. Jeunet and Besson are two of my favorite French directors.  Delicatessen is a strange tale of Love, murder and sausages in a dystopian future where food is scarce. 


6: Pan's Labyrinth


Guillermo del Toro's fable set in Spain in 1944. Many people I know easily write off the fantastic elements of this story to the delusions of a young and lonely girl. However if that is true how did Ofelia escape from the locked room?

7: In the Mouth of Madness


In any list of the weird you have to include John Carpenters homage to H.P. Lovecraft. 

8: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory



Gene Wilder's performance of this adaptation of Roald Dahls's book is wonderfully weird and creepy.  It is rumored that Dahl loathed this film, however there is evidence that this is just a Hollywood myth

9: The 5,000 fingers of Dr T.


Dr Suess on the big screen, a wonderful tale of a boy who hates learning the Piano. 

10: Dune 


No list would be complete without a film by David Lynch. With Sting, Giant Worms, Kyle Maclachlan and music by Toto this space Opera can still confuse and stimulate. "Now remember, walk without rhythm, and we won't attract the worm."

Obviously there are many more films which might or should be on this list. But these are the first ten I thought of. You might know of some others, let me know your favorites. 

3 Nov 2014

Afflicted


As this weekend was Halloween, my girl and I decided to watch some Horror movies. My lady had never seen  American Werewolf in London, so we started on that. Then we went in search of exciting new horror. Neither of us were optimistic to be honest. The most we hoped for was an amusing monster vs monster movie with some aging teen star trying to keep his rotting career alive. What we found were  Avalanche Sharks,  the indie film You can't kill Stephen King,  and Afflicted. 

Avalanche Sharks was awful. We had hoped for so bad it was fun, but it was nonsensical rubbish. You can't kill Stephen King, was a fun little indie horror film that is a homage to the  horror writer Stephen King.

Afflicted  was a complete surprise, and I enjoyed it so much that I had to blog about it.

Synopsis:

 Derek loves travel, and recently discovered that he has a condition which could debilitate him at any time. Against the wishes of his doctor and family Derek has decided that he doesn't want to waste another minute of his life, So along with his best friend Cliff, Derek starts a year long trip around the world. Cliff is documentary film maker and is going to chronicle their journey.

But just as their trip begins Derek contracts a strange illness which slowly affects his ability to travel Cliff is torn by his friends desire to continue their journey on what could be his last trip ever, or convince him to seek help. As time progresses Derek's condition deteriorates in a disturbing way.



Afflicted  is a indie horror production, but it's creators and stars managed to make a professional and clever little movie for only $300,000. We were completely taken by surprise not only it's quality but by it's well crafted story. The main two characters are also the writers and directors, and this is their first feature length film.  I was a little concerned by the documentary element of the film, but it is cleverly done and much superior to similar films like The Blair Witch Project. 


Afflicted  is the best new horror I have seen in ages. Yes it was made on a tiny budget by a couple of guys, but the quality of the this production and the enthusiasm behind it made it exceptionally enjoyable. Also the little epilogue at the end of the film  was fun and unexpected.

Like horror and want something new and fun, I recommend Afflicted.

7 monkeys

31 Oct 2014

It's HALLOWEEN

It's Halloween the traditional holiday where pretty girls dress like tarts and small children terrorize the neighborhood in ghoulish sugar thirsty packs.  


While many people in my home country might still be confused about Halloween, I embrace it.  I will jump at the chance to dress in costume and eat lollies.  When I was single my brother, and my friend Doug, would dress up and celebrate "International Speak like a Pirate Day!". Sadly I could not convince my colleagues at my serious government job to do the same. 

Being the sort of chap that I am I embrace the sheer fun of it, and part of the fun for me is to have a few friends over and watch some horror movies.  Here is a list  of some of my favorites in no particular order. 

 1: An American Werewolf in London 

Arguably the best Werewolf movie ever made, this film will always have a soft spot in my heart due to the fact I stayed up to watch it one night with my brother who had confused it with  Teen Wolf.  Needless to say this was not the laugh riot I thought it was. However its special effects still stand the test of time, and the story balances humor, frights and gore in an entertaining way. 

2: Alien

I seriously remember watching this from behind the couch. The original film embraced the idea that less is more. A fantastic cast and a terrifying monster that spawned one great sequel, two terrible sequels and a thousand poor copies. Alien for me is a fantastic horror film. Sadly its greatness is also its downfall as it has been copied and referenced so much that it has lost much of its impact for new generation of audiences.  But still a classic.

3: Halloween




In my opinion John Carpenters Halloween started that whole slasher trend that came about in the 80's. And while I am not a fan of those films in general, the story, and cinematography of Halloween is truly eerie. The mythology of Michael Myers embodies the urban legends such as the hook man, and the disturbing imagery of Hitchcock's Psycho. The end is still one of the best endings of a horror film ever.

4: Fright Night



I probably should have chosen a classic Hammer Horror such as The Horror of Dracula, but Fright Night embodies all the classic cinematic Vampire mythology without taking itself too seriously. Roddy McDowall is awesome as a second rate Peter Cushing. The 80's spawned a revival of horror, and this is my favorite vampire film of that generation.

5: Let the right One In



 In the recent renaissance of Swedish cinema Let the Right One in was a blessed relief to those of us that enjoy Vampire stories.  Let the Right One is is both endearing and disturbing. It is dark and compassionate and weirdly beautiful.

6: Night of the Living Dead

George A. Romero's first and classic Zombie horror. It set the bench mark for modern Zombie films from Sean of the Dead, to Zombieland. Psychologically still compelling.

7: Evil Dead II



Sam Raimi's and Bruce Campbell's comedy sequel to Evil Dead. Sure in a list like this I should be referencing The Omen or the Exorcist, but I love Evil Dead II. Crazy and creepy  it is still great 27 years later.

8: In the Mouth of Madness

John Carpenter's homage to H.P. Lovecraft. In my opinion closer to any of Lovecraft's works than any other film made, yes even Re-animator. Sam Neil, Jurgen Prochnow and the cameo with Charlton Heston is great.  Not overly popular but a firm favorite for fans of Lovecraft.

9: The Thing



This is the last of the three John Carpenter films on my list. This was not intentional but it turns out I am a massive fan. I love this film, and I love people watching it for the first time. Infinitely better than the remake, this is classic modern horror at it's best.

10: Braindead



Peter Jackson at his best. If you haven't seen it you will feel like you need an apron for the amount of gore that will virtually wash over you. But in saying that it is accompanied with a sense of humor and style which has turned this little kiwi movie into a horror classic. The fact that a character from the  Norwegian horror Dead Snow is wearing a Brain dead t-shirt is marvelous.


These are not necessarily the best horror films ever, I have not included Psycho or Invasion of the Body Snatchers or the Exorcist, but these after much pressure to decide were my top ten.

Love to hear your favorites as well. Happy Halloween everybody.

27 Oct 2014

Edge of Tomorrow



Hot on the success of 2013's Oblivion,  Tom Cruise returns with a new Sci Fi action feature  Edge of Tomorrow.  Based on the Japanese novel All you need is Kill (which I am sure sounds better in Japanese) Cruise joins Emily Blunt in saving the world.

Synopsis:

Europe is being invaded by a seemingly unstoppable swarm of alien life. The world unites as the entire continent is swiftly over run.  Finally, Earth wins a victory over the invaders, and with renewed hope Earth launches a massive invasion into France from the United Kingdom. Cage (Tom Cruise) is a recruitment marketing specialist who finds himself reassigned to the front line. Unsurprisingly he dies, but then awakes to discover he has developed the strange ability to relive the same day over and over.

Ensue repetition.

The movie looks great. The action scenes on the beach are reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan, in their scale and feel. Emily Blunt is surprisingly good as the battle hardened soldier. She is resolute, but still conveys the intelligence and empathy she is known for. Also a hot girl smashing Aliens with a giant sword is pretty freaking awesome. Still, besides showing her athletic capability, the film didn't showcase her abilities too much.


But for me this cross between  Starship Troopers  and Groundhog Day missed the mark. Yes they had those Groundhog Day humorous moments, and as I said the action was good but the story just seemed to lack something tangible. Not bad, but the story lacked that little tweak to make it special. The ending was a bit trite too.  At least the director and writers managed to restrain the requirement for a blatant Hollywood love story thankfully.

If you like action films, especially Scifi movies then you will probably like this. I don't think you will love it though. Better than Battle Los Angeles,  but apart from Emily Blunt killing Aliens with a giant sword, nothing special.

5 Monkeys

20 Oct 2014

They came together


I remember fondly the great satire movies of the 70's and 80's, films like; Airplane, Naked gun, Hot Shots, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein. With their blend of parody, cheeky innuendo and slapstick, these wonderfully funny movies that really made you laugh out loud.  

The late great Martin Alan "Marty" Feldman (8 July 1934[1] – 2 December 1982)
Then inexplicably the all the new satire movies  became seriously dumb.

I think the moment it happened was Scary movie.  I distinctly remember seeing the preview and thinking aw yeah I’ll see that. And then when I did it became a long drawn out conclusion that all of the funny bits had been in the preview.  There are of course some exceptions, but generally the new movies that parody other movies just have not been all that funny. 

Then last date night my lovely wife picked  They Came Together with Paul Rudd and Amy Poelher.  Not only did it parody romantic comedies such as Sleepless in Seattle, and You've got mail, but it did so humorously.

The story was pretty cliched, but of course that is the point. They Came Together is a pretty dumb movie, but it was so dumb you find yourself laughing out loud inexplicably.  

Rudd re-hashes a role we are familiar seeing him in the past, and Poelher channels Meg Ryan and Reese Witherspoon. But no matter how hard she tries, Poelher is still less annoying than either of them. 

They Came Together is the sort of film that you will either  love or hate. We had very low expectations, and found ourselves really enjoying it. 

I don’t think this needs a synopsis or a great deal of inspection or examination if you want a funny film for a date night then try this.

6.5

7 Oct 2014

Don Jon



Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a b@stard.

While he may have started off as the oldest alien stuck in the body of a teenage boy, he has developed into a talented writer, actor and director. I mean what can’t he do? I mean what if someone gave him a dare to write a film about a Jersey Shore porn addict with relationship and cleanliness issues, starring Tony Danza?  It’s not like he could pull that off right?

What a b@stard!

Synopsis for Don Jon:

Jon (Gordon-Levitt) loves his family, his best friends, his car, keeping his apartment clean, hot girls and porn. Jon has absolutely no issues finding attractive women to have meaningless relationships with, however there is something about porn that he loses himself in, in a way that he can’t in a really physical relationship.  But then he meets  Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who refuses to go home with him.  Jon realizes that he needs more than one night stands. Jon and Barbara embark on his first relationship, with Barbara having some pretty firm ideas about romance, and relationships and they do not involve porn.



So let the hi-jinks begin.

The first thing that makes you empathise with Jon, despite his predilection for porn, is his simple sincerity, with his friends, family, his faith, and ensuring that his apartment is clean.  His addiction to porn seems an anathema, especially given his ready access to beautiful women.  However it is through actually have a relationship with Barbara and an odd friendship with fellow student Esther that he starts developing more as a human being. Jon is static and and without realizing it is in a rut, and that is why he cannot connect with women on a physical level.

Oh don't worry about the porn element, it isn't a gratuitous element, but it is a focus of the characters dysfunction. In fact those who loathe porn might feel a little bit justified by the end of the film.

7 stars. 


7 Sep 2014

Rachel's choice

My lovely wife is currently spoiled for choice for films at the moment.  The Trip to Italy, My Old Lady, Boyhood, are all on her radar. However, by the use of science she narrowed her choice down to food porn + France.  And so today's review is .....



Synopsis:

Hassan () and his family owned a successful restaurant in Mumbai until they were forced to leave India forever. The family traveled as refugees through Europe searching for a new life.  The family break down in a French town where Papa () discovers a disused restaurant where his family can start again. However, directly across the road is a Michelin Star restaurant ruled by the formidable Madame Mallory (). Despite Madame Mallory's meddling and objections, Papa and Hassan establish an Indian restaurant in the middle of France.   

Enuse spicey Hijinx


Director Lars Hallström's  previous works include; Salmon Fishing in the YemenWhat's Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat, and The Cider House Rules. Like Chocolat, The Hundred-foot Journey is not just about food tasting good, but food stimulating all your senses. 

In the film Hassan's mother said that "to cook you must kill"; "You cook to make ghosts". Good food stimulates your body and soul and can create strong memories, or ghosts if  you will. For many of us there are certain foods that create strong memories of home. It may be a cake, home made bread, or the way you mother made a tomato sandwich?  But eating those foods can conjure up ghosts of dinners past, and memories of home. 


Hallström's use of light and back drops exposes the viewer not just to the world of Hassan and his family, but their place in the world. I found it interesting that he could position Hassan's family into a long shot of the  French countryside and have it look comfortable, but put Hassan is a similar shot in Paris and make him look terrible. But that's the point though isn't it.  



It is a great cast and they work well together. There are few surprises in this film, except that there is more to it than you expect, and also it is not a farcical comedy based entirely on ethnic differences, and comical situations.

It is easy to use words like sumptuous, extravagant, "a feast for the eyes", I think I will go with a nice sweet little film. It is like a good lemon meringue pie, both sweet and tart in places but very enjoyable.  If you like Chocolat or fun food porn movies then you will probably love this. 

6.5 Monkeys

2 Sep 2014

Shadow and Hannibal meet Game of Thrones

Sounds like an odd mix but Bryan Fuller the writer and creator of such cult TV shows such as;  Pushing Daisies, Dead like Me and Hannibal  is the executive producer on the up coming series  American Gods based on the best selling novel of the same name written by one of my favourite authors Neil Gaiman



 According to an interview on craveonline, Fuller reveals that Neil Gaiman who is an executive producer will also be writing.

Much like the Game of Thrones HBO series, American Gods will be following the book closely but Gaiman wants to expand on the story so that fans of the book can expect surprises. It is rumoured that Gaiman wanted to write so much new material the network was a little concerned that it would depart too much from the source material.

I suspect that the Stars network will try and challenge Game of Thrones  popularity with American Gods.  Both have dedicated fans and while Game of Thrones  is a longer series than Gaiman's single novel, if you include the short stories and the Anansi Boys Novel  and the fact Gaiman is expanding well beyond the source material, American Gods  could run for six to seven series.

Except for the involvement of Fuller,  Gaiman and Michael Green (Heroes, The Green Lantern) ,there is not too much to tell.  Although I admit that any writer involved in the terrible green Lantern movie doesn't impress me, I am still very excited.


There is a currently a real renaissance of quality television productions, with high profile and talented stars both in front and behind the camera involved in shows that rival and surpass many films, I am excited and optimistic.

31 Jul 2014

Hercules



When I first heard that Dwayne Johnson  was Hercules I made a “Urrrrrrrrrh”  noise, weary that Hollywood was making a terrible sequel to Clash of the Titans. But then I saw the trailer and saw him fight the Hydra, the Neamean Lion and the Erymanthian boar and I thought “Urrreaurh!” in excitement, as it looked like that the film was the actual 12 labours of Hercules.  Then my beloved WIFE ( that’s right baby, my Wife!) told me that the film was based on a graphic novel not the Greek legend and I made an “Awwwww.” noise.

However, I decided to see the movie anyway.

Hercules is a mercenary who, with a band of heroes, travels Ancient Greece fighting pirates and bandits.  Iolaus, Hercules’s nephew, is a story teller who tells stories of Hercules' great feats to spread fear amongst their enemies.  Hercules is approached by Princess Ergenia of Thrace to save her kingdom from an invading army of monsters and magic.  Hercules agrees and embarks on his final battle.

Ensue legendary hiijinx

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the story of Hercules, it was a lot better than I thought it would be. Keven Sorbo was nowhere to be seen, and the blurring of myth and legend was good. The films version of the legend of Hercules was very entertaining rather than offensive.  There were a couple of moments that were more harvati cheese than Shakespeare, but then this is Brett Ratner doing Hercules, not Orson Wells.

Mr Johnson was a very good Hercules, and while he was possibly pushed to the limits of his ability, there were a couple of very nice moments in the film where he showed that he is more than muscle.  


The rest of the cast were also good; Ian McShane  and Rufus Sewell gave solid performances as Hercules' companions, and Joseph Fiennes and John Hurt got to ham it up as King Eurystheus and King Cotys respectively.

Over all it was a fun movie and one that fans of fantasy and action will enjoy.

However, there is some controversy surrounding the film. The script is based on Steve Moore's comics series.  Now it appears that Radical Comics who published Moore’s work may have treated the artist pretty horribly. He does not appear to be part of the film nor did he endorse it. It appears that he was grateful not to have his name associated with the work.  Moore died in march this this year a respected writer

Following his death the studio appears to have associated Moore with the movie. Moore's friend and colleague Alan Moore (no relation) has called for a boycott of Hercules. As far as I can tell there is no evidence to show that the studio was aware of the issues between Moore and Radical comics. The studio optioned the story in good faith and would want to credit the original work.  But who knows? 

I liked it and it gets six and a half heroic Monkeys from me. 

13 Jul 2014

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The last few months have been all over the show.  Organising a wedding which we are paying for limits the amount of films we can go and see. This limits the type and variety of movies I review, and at time it limits posts

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