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Friday, March 26, 2010

Retrospective - 'Inside' (À l'intérieur) 2007

How do I recommend this film? It is quite possibly one of the most shocking and downright disturbing films of recent years. Its blood soaked hands possitively burst out of the screen and grab you by the throat such is its effect. It is a film that stays with you long after you see it. Many of you will be sickend by its gore and violence. Many of you will simply not be able to watch it. How then, can I rate this so high and proclaim it as one of the best horror movies of the last decade? Of course, someone telling you 'you won't be able to take it', only makes most people want to see something even more. Just don't say I didn't warn you. 'Inside' was initially released in its native France, very surprisingly, in 2007. So why am I reviewing it now? Well part of this blog is to provide information about films that you may or may not have heard of. So while a lot of you probably have not seen this, I can safely and one hundred per cent say that you have never seen anything quite like this before.

The film is set on Christmas Eve. Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is heavily pregnant. She is still recovering (physically and emotionally) from the death of her husband only 4 months before. She is to have an induced labour the next day and is understandably, quite anxious about it. However, this is all before a mysterious woman (Beatrice Dalle) comes knocking late in the night and refuses to go away. You see, this strange lady wants Sarahs child, and will stop at nothing to get it. This film is incredibly stripped down. There is something so simplistic about a heavily pregnant woman in such peril, I'm surprised that other films have not taken advantage of it before; tension is a given with it. And what tension. This begins almost instantly with such nerve shredding terror, and does not let up for its entire running time. You simply have no idea where this film will go next, such is its visceral rawness. And the places it takes you, well it will simply be far too much for some. Which brings me to my next point. The violence.

I am a fan of horror. While I have reviewed a few here before, I believe that the good ones are very far and few between. Before viewing this film, I had some preconceived notions about what the genre should feature. Less is always more, the lower the budget the better and under no circumstances, should the film ever rely on gore. This film gloriously tears up any ideas I previously had about it. It is easily one of the most vicious films I have ever seen. It begins quite violently and gets more and more over the top gory as it goes on. Previous reliance on gore used to be at the cost of tension, I believed. Here it enhances it. Before the film is over you are left watching through fingers at disbelief at the carnage. Why is this though? When watching it, I found myself torn in whether I actually liked the film or not. I had been advised on the similarly violent 2008 gallic-horror 'Martyrs' before I watched 'Inside'. These are quite similar films and yet having such conflicting opinions for the two is quite odd. That the former had received very positive praise from critics and that also in my opinion, you have to seek out the best horrors yourself, I eagerly checked out it out. 'Martyrs' was, for me a sleazy exercise in shock tactics. Centering on the dreaded 'torture-porn' sub-genre, it offered me next to nothing. Shocking, just for the sake of it. 'Inside', is quite possibly, more violent and yet affected me so much more. I can't quite pin-point where and why my opinions differ on the two films. And with this escalation of screen violence, where does this leave violence in movies to go and what can be acceptable for audiences?

So why then, is this film so good? Well it is shot beautifully. First time directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury ensure every scene carries a sense of menace, and the pacing of it is impeccable. It's eerie use of primary colours recall a sense of the 70's classic 'Susperia' along with its soundtrack, enhancing the shocks greatly. Its relentless assault on the senses is due to its pacy editing. For such a low budget film, it looks great. Make-up and many of its special effects are top class. So while it is very technically proficient, why does it carry such an emotional punch? This could be down to its two female leads. Both are played with great devotion and conviction in their parts. Dalle cuts a very imposing figure in her gothic, black dress and Paradis must be applauded for receiving quite possibly, the most punishment any character has gone through in a film in recent memory. 'Home invasion' films are unnerving simply by what they stand for. Our home is the one place we feel safe and can relax. Add in the very primal fear of pregnancy and you have ready made effective themes for the audience to relate to. The house is the one place Sarah is safe; the womb is the only place her unborn child is safe. We are already rooting for Sarah from the start just for the terrifying predicament she finds herself in. It is ambiguous in all the right places (is the 'Woman' a real, or supernatural presence?) and all characters carry just the right shades of grey to them; Sarah already blames the death of her husband on her unborn child, so consequently, does she want to fight as hard for her, and its survival?

Gore aside, this film is incredibly tense. Its mayhem and carnage is well handled, but were it not for its eerie unpredictability, it would not have near the effect it does. It is very, very scary. Minor criticisms center on some comically inept and stupid police officers added to the mix, for no other reason it seems, than to up the body count. Hopefully, you will be too wrapped up in the film to notice, but they are good examples of characters that 'live in the film world' and do certains things that will have some people screaming at the screen in disbelief. It also becomes almost too blood soaked by the climax. This for me did not take away any of the movies enjoyment. Come the end, you will have been through an experience like no other. Some may not have liked what you have seen, but one thing is for certain, you will not be able to shake this films effect on you.

Verdict: 85%

An stunning achievement in modern horror. If you find yourself jaded by the genre, then this film is for you. Most people will be put off by the endless and shocking violence, but when it is handled as well as this, you cannot fight the primal effect it has on the viewer. I urge you to seek it out, wherever you can find it.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Crazy Heart

OK, so a bit late with a review, is better than not at all. I saw Jeff Bridges walk home with that little gold man on March 7th, almost three weeks ago and was very satisfied, despite the fact that I had not seen this film yet. Bridges is the consumate skilled professional. The definition of the word 'reliable'. I always look forward to seeing him in film, no matter who or what he plays. How could anyone who has seen 'The Big Lebowski' not be a fan of his? So while I unfortunately missed the initial cinematic release of this little gem, I managed to catch it last night, and was very impressed by it. One thing was certain almost instantly, Bridges really did deserve that Oscar. How long has he been carving out decent meaty performances and going unrecognised the whole time? Here there is next to no one else imaginable in the lead role. Bridges is 'Bad' Blake. He plays a washed-up, aging, country music singer. Old, alone and with a heavy addiction to alcohol, Bridges carries these early scenes of Blake's lonely life on the road with aplomb. There is a quiet sadness in these moments. Here is a man that has lived and seen it all. Unfortunately, now it seems he is paying for a life of drinking, womanising and general mischief with a life of solitude and long gone memories. He carries a burden of what could have been, around with a constant hangover. You smell the whiskey on his breath and feel his sweat on stage. We get the sense that this is a man, once full of pride. Now he is reduced to begging those who he first gave a career to for work and playing run down bowling alleys. So the man married only to the road meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a young journalist looking for her own big break. The two strike up a bond and a connection, but can she tame 'Bads' wild ways? Is this his last shot at redemption?

Bridges is supported by Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet, the young upstart that Blake helped kickstart his career and Robert Duvall as Blakes only friend. All this is about Bridges however. It is he who carries the entire film and it is fair to say, that it is down to him that the film is as successful as it is. Farrell, sidesteps his boorish, media induced personality as of late, and gives a decent performance. With his part some might accuse him of it being too close to home for him; after all, Tommy, is a moderatley talented and flavour of the month star. He credits others greater than him with what he has been given in life, much of which could be said about Farrell in his own career. Duvall is always nice to see in anything and by his sheer appearance, adds gravitas to an otherwise one dimensional role. Unfortunately, whats left is Gyllenhaal. Not to say she isn't good in her part, quite on the contrary. The part itself, is the problem. Sure, it has depth and emotion and Gyllenhaal absolutely nails it, but it's too cliche. When in life would it work out that the young, talented and very attractive Jean, would fall for a 60 year old, overweight boozer. Even if he is that talented. Which 'Bad' quite obviously is. It just doesn't seem to fit seeing thse two together, despite how effective they both are. Would it not have been closer to the films themes and heart to get a female lead closer to Bridges' age? That leaves two things that you take away from the movie, in absolute basic terms: Jeff Bridges' performance and the music. But what a performance and what music!

T-Bone Burnett has a reputation for creating and using excellent country, folk and blues music in films. Can you imagine 'Cold Mountain', 'Walk The Line', and 'Oh Brother, Where Art Thou' without the music? Would you even want to? Music is in these films' veins. They are what defines them. 'Crazy Heart' is no exception. T-Bone Burnett composed original music for the film and both Bridges (himself, a competant musician) and Farrell sing and perform the tracks, and very well too might I add. With Burnetts background in the field this probably comes as no surprise to some, how excellent it all is.
Unfortunately, films like this do tend to come along every once in a while. We have seen this type of story done before. Duvall himself won the Academy Award in 1983, playing a role almost identical to Bridges in the film 'Tender Mercies'. 'Crazy Heart' also was unfortunately always going to be compared to last years 'The Wrestler', which is a tad unfair. Both do share similar themes of the down and out, once were greats, struggling to live in a world that no longer finds them neccessary. Men out of touch with their time. These minor criticisms aside, 'Crazy Heart' deserves to be seen in its own light, which is obviously, more than bright enough. It is very surprisingly Directed and Written by Scott Cooper, and considering this is his first feature it is obvious he has a very big future ahead of him. If you haven't yet done so (this review is a few months late after all!!) check out this film. Never has being 'Bad' been so good. Sorry.......
Verdict: 78%
Bridges delivers a steller performance and has a fantastic supporting cast by his side. Burnett gives us great music for our put upon hero to drink and mope around to. Unfortunately, the central paring of Bridges and Gyllenhaal is more distracting than touching. Minor gripes aside, and this is all top class stuff and is very much recommended.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

She's Out Of My League

Another month, another romantic comedy that strives to be relatable to both genders; crude jokes for him, moral, sweet center for her. It's only a pity that we have seen this movie a million times before, and done much better too. Kirk (Jay Baruchel) is our hapless hero. He is an underachiever with very low self esteem. It is in working at his job at airport security that he meets Molly (Alice Eve), a beautiful, sucessful, 'hottie'. She drops her phone, he finds it and the two connect, despite the fact that Kirk thinks they might only be friends. So imagine his surprise when Molly, asks him out on a date. Kirk can't believe his good fortune. However, with all his friends and family watching him and waiting for him to fail, can he manage to keep the relationship on track without screwing it up? The films main selling point, is that apparantly we all fall into a very basic and very shallow rating scheme based almost entirely on looks. In this film Kirk is a '5', while the delectable Molly is a '10'. The main question here is how can a '10' and a '5' ever be together?

As with almost all of romantic comedies, it won't take a genius to figure out how it will all turn out. So, if the film is ever expected to be sucessful and connect with audiences, it must have at least decent jokes and relatable characters. Unfortunately this film has neither of these. Jay Baruchel, making his way from supporting to leading man here, was usually quite decent and watchable in previous efforts. Here seems to think that acting flustered and mixing up his words counts for comedic gold. It doesn't help that he is supported by a very forgettable gang of friends. Each one, while slightly likeable and retaining a seperate sense of identity from each other struggles to find any laughs in the mix. T.J. Miller obviously is the friend that they put forward as the 'one to watch for the future'. Looking like Napolean Dynamite and spewing out lines with the timing of Ryan Reynolds, he provides most of the comedic moments and is supposed to be the 'show stealer' in the same way that Zach Galfianakis was in 'The Hangover'. Unfortunately, he is given some very weak lines to play off and leaves next to no mark on proceedings. Alice Eve plays the aforementioned '10' in the film. She is left with a male fantasy of a role; completely unrealistic and very one dimensional. She gamely tries to inject some personality into it, which on some accounts she suceeds in, but is hampered by the script again.

It seems the writers Sean Anders and John Morris want something we can relate to, and yet the film becomes more cartoonish as it goes on. It is, as stated earlier, a complete male fantasy of a film. It becomes so unrealistic and by the end you wonder how could Baruchel and Eve ever get together in real life? Unfortunately, this is not for the reasons the film attempts to exemplify. Yes, the two are almost polar opposites as far as looks go, but they also have near to no chemistry together. They simply do not fit. And when are the studios going to make an 'ugly duckling' girl getting the man of her dreams in a hilarious romantic comedy? Or is that just too forward thinking that audiences just aren't ready for yet?! Films like 'Knocked Up' and 'There's Something About Mary' have done themes like these before, all to far better and funnier effect. This formula is just too tired. Especially with a script like this. So while undemanding audiences might get a chuckle or two out of it, this was simply too familiar and unoriginal to register in my mind. It is an innofensive romantic comedy at heart and does strive for your affections oh so very hard, but has to try far harder when attempting to make material like this seem fresh. You know when a film has to rely on the music of James Morrison to register depth and emotion, there is something gone astray.

Verdict: 38%

A game cast try and make all too familiar territory seem fresh and original. Unfortunately there is next to no laughs to be found and the films main message is extremely shallow and silly. Jokes go no where and it grows more unrealistic and far fetched as it wears on. Poor effort from all involved. Mainly because you get the sense that they could all be capable of a lot more.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The House of the Devil

As stated elsewhere on this blog, I suggested that the best horror movies are the ones you have to find yourself. As a huge fan of the genre, I began to get extremely disillusioned with it; there were simply not enough good films being made. All these efforts were cynical, studio based gore spectaculars. Cheap enough to make, and yet easy to recuperate costs. They seemed to rely on apparant 'shocking' violence at the expense of tension and terror. Some appallingy used a misguided CGI presence to threaten the protagonist. The art of how to truly scare people was lost. At least so I originally thought. That was until films across the seas started scaring up great attention. In no particular order, foreign films like 'The Orphange', 'Let The Right One In', 'REC' and 'Inside' all bloody terrified me!! They were unpredictable, tense and best of all, genuinely scary. If these films all seemed to do their job, then it had still been a while since I had seen anything American even approaching something remotely creepy. 'Drag Me To Hell', while enormous fun, was the equivalent of a rollercoaster; simply put, it didn't freak me out. Was the American horror movie dead? 29 year old Director Ti West didn't seem to think so.

It was only recently I had seen that 'The House of the Devil' was being released in the UK this week. I myself first saw this a few months ago, and cannot recommend it enough. But before any readers rush out and see it, I feel I must warn you that it is that which is almost unthinkable in this day and age: a slow burning horror! This is almost certainly not going to be to everyones taste, but if you like what I tell you about the film, then definately check it out. This film definately needs attention. It doesn't have big name stars, or any studio marketing behind it, but for any old school horror fans, it is unmissable. The film is set in the early 80's and absolutely revels in it's attention to detail. Director West, uses this as endearing nod to the previous masters of the genre he honours and in no way does this become a cynical tool. Simply put, the film breathes 1980's culture. Whether or not this is in the shamelessly retro freeze frame opening credits, synth based score, or minor object details; (hello block Walkman!) show an unassuming person the film and they would never guess it was made last year. This provides much fun for the viewer, even as the film grows in tension. Unfortunately, a film as small as this cannot benefit from a full round up of the plot. It's a sort of 'the less you know about it, the better movie', so I will give only a small bit away. College student Samantha is low on funds. She can't make rent for the brand new house she has just rented and has barely enough money to eat. So when a babysitting job at a house on the remote outskirts of town comes along, it seems too perfect. Sam urgently accepts it.

As stated earlier the film is incredibly slow burning, in fact some might accuse this film as an hour and a half of nothingness. To do that, is an extreme disservice to the direction and script, not to mention great work of the cast. It is a tiny, and very simple project, but nontheless effective for it. Fans of old 60's, 70's and 80's horror such as 'Rosemary's Baby', 'The Shining', and 'Suspiria' will lap everything up. Those expecting cheap thrills and non stop gore, will not find it here. This film has an excellent build up of tension. A lot of this features lead actress Jocelin Donahue doing not very much at all. West however, offers up nail biting unease with every tiny creak in the floorboard, or flicker of a shadow that you think you may or may not have seen. In fact, West plays the film so that you're not entirely sure if these creepy occurances are not just in Samanthas head-is it just paranoia, or are there some other dark forces at work here? West takes his time to get there, but never once loses sight of the goal: to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible. With so much care and effort on making us scared of what might happen, when the action finally explodes, it can't possibly live up to what we have been tantalisingly teased with for the past hour, as nightmarish as it turns out to be. Those early details of a house thought to be empty are just too relateable and it is conveyed very well here. Donahue and the rest of the small cast do a great job. As mentioned none are particualarly recogniseable from anything, but this adds to the unpredictability of where it all might go. Old cult faves like Dee Wallace and the simply terrifying Tom Noonan pop up along the way to make the ride as creepy as possible.

That the very young West has created a horror film this mature and confidant in itself is very commendable. Many directors his age might have sold out with a 'Saw' movie or two, and it is remarkable that he managed to get his vision of the film made at all, with no studio interference. It marks him out as a talent to watch in the future. In a genre that by it's essance is the almost defination of crowd pleasing, this isn't it. Most of these films thrive on giving the audience what they want, this thrives on keeping it from them, for as long as possible. It's terror comes from a place of no irony as more recent efforts might have been. He simply wants to terrify you. If you have the patience and value your classic horror then you will want to join him for the ride.

Verdict: 79%

A great exercise in a low budget horror throw back to the 80's. Some may argue that not enough happens, but those are missing out on the directors intentions. If you go along with it, prepare for a shaky walk around your house as you turn all your lights on afterwards.....

Trailer: (Warning: Certain Spoilers of scenes and very poor indication of movies themes and plot)

Green Zone

When it was announced that neither Paul Greengrass nor Matt Damon would be continuing the 'Bourne' franchise, I surprisingly breathed a sigh of relief. Greengrass had, in my mind successfully completed an incredible trilogy. Adeptly begun by Doug Limon, Greengrass then took the remaining two Bourne's: 'Supremacy' and 'Ultimatum' and turned them into two of the best thrillers of the new millenium. Obviously the new and improved Bond films have a lot to owe to him, but almost every other action thriller took a page out of Greengrass' book and created intelligent, yet down and dirty spills to go with their popcorn thrills; gritty movies for gritty times. So they simply could not top them, I thought. 'Ultimatum' was resolved perfectly and to continue the character would reek of cashing in and selling out. Then 'Green Zone' was announced and with that, the reuniting of director and star. We saw the trailers and everyone assumed the same: Greengrass has gone and made his sequel anyway; 'Bourne goes to Iraq'. On seeing the film however, and it is plainly obvious that Greengrass, while retaining his style and technique that is unmistakingly his, has not sequelised his illustrious spy. Greengrass is too smart and talented for that. However, who could have predicted that a film released only a few short months before would be the one in which Green Zone shares so much in common? Can it come out of the mighty shadow of 'The Hurt Locker' and estabish itself, in its own right, as a decent piece of intelligent action cinema, while commentating on the effects of the War in Iraq?

Set in 2003, the film stars Damon as Chief Sgt Miller. He has been actively and loyally been looking for WMD's with his team. Out of three missions they are coming up with nothing to show for it. Questions are being raised and none are being answered. Miller decides to dig deep into this potential cover-up, whatever the cost may be. Along the way he is aided and hindered by both US and Iraqi Officials and one US Journalist, seeking the truth. One thing the story thrives on, is confusion. No one fully seems to know any answers no matter who Miller asks. Is the enemy closer to home than Miller may have initially expected....? Of course, this perfectly suits Greengrass' style. Initial combat scenes and tense exchanges thrive on his trademark docu-style. The camera shakes and rattles with every gun fired or Army Official bellowed and threatened. The fraught, high-end, kinetic style perfectly punctuates and moulds our surroundings-as what Greengrass wants, we are with Miller, every step of the way. We are there. Damon is nicely joined by Greg Kinnear, and our own Brendan Gleeson, as two competing American Intelligence officials adding to the twisting, turning plot. Amy Ryan plays the Wall Street Journalist trying to expose the truth, and villain for hire Jason Isaacs plays a gruff Special Forces Officer, who, from his characters introduction, you do not want to piss off. Unfortunately, despite a good cast, and the fact that they are all very capable in their roles, they all seem slightly wasted. Motives for each character are never given and we never get true insight into how things went down. Of course, the film is fictitious, but is inspired by the book 'Imperial Life in the Emerald City'. Greengrass nicely beefs up the books action and popcorn element, while still attempting to retain it's political drama inner structure. But therein lies another problem. Everybody knows how this turned out. So when the main 'plot twist' comes along, it doesn't provoke gasps or shocks; we were waiting for it to happen all along.

When 'The Hurt Locker' walked home with its many awards on that night on March 7th, a lot of people had not, very surprisingly seen it. The Iraq War does not usually good cinema make. No one wants to be lectured about things that, for the majority are all still going on in the world right now. Why go to the cinema when they could just watch the news? However 'The Hurt Locker' wisely didn't make its politics its center focus. At it's heart was an unbearably tense character study of one man, unfortunate enough to be great at his job and to become addicted to the rush it provides. Despite the fact that not many people initially saw it, it was quite an accesseble movie and a stunning piece of action cinema. Green Zone unfortunately is going to be compared, especially in light of The Hurt Locker's win only a few weeks ago. It can't possibly stand up to it. Especially when it's not the 'man' that Green Zone focuses on, but the war itself. It simply is not dated enough for this piece to seem all that relevant at heart. The best War Movies are those that show us the effects. While Green Zone does successfully and realistically ground us on the streets of an action packed Baghdad, this thrill can only last so long, and it is only a matter of time that the film gets bogged down in its own politics. We lose focus of the man, and his motives. Bourne had a relateable mission and a clear cut goal. While very commendable, what actually motivates Miller to do the things he does?

The film is however, intelligent and entertaining and there are far worse ways to spend a night at the movies. Greengrass has created a very nice companion piece to his terrifying 'United 93', from a few years ago. Greengrass's style is unique to him as befits his background in documentaries and is, in its initial stages quite well handled here. That the film shares the same cinematographer as 'The Hurt Locker', (Barry Ackroyd) shows that we are in experienced and deft hands (but further adding to comparisons). It is only in the films climax that it lets us down; things become simply too shaky and dark for us to keep up with the action. It never carries the immediacy of its early scenes.

This is all nitpicking however. Greengrass is an excellent director. He, despite initial concerns, has not remade Bourne, and Damon, has not re-engaged his amnesiac spy for another adventure. They have created a nicely entertaining Iraqi War thriller. A little more work and focus on characters and it could have stood up to Bourne. We are left then, in the towering shadow of 'The Hurt Locker'. The action crackles with energy and through Damons charisma we are kept intrigued. Pity that Greengrass lets his politics, rather than his heart overtake the proceedings.

Verdict: 66%
A very nice and tidy wartime thriller. Lack of focus on characters and waiting for plot developments that we already know are gonna happen slightly spoil things. It is a clever and fun night out that will certainly divert you for a few hours. The Greengrass/Damon engine doesn't seem to be running out of steam just yet.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Crazies

First of all let me state that I have not seen the George A. Romero '73 version of the same name. So judging this, is completely on its own merits. I can say that this is a competently made and relentlessly paced thriller. From what I can tell it is more along the lines of the Dawn of the Dead remake, rather than The Omen's recent efforts. The film stars Timothy Olyphant(-astic) and Radha Mitchell as the respective Sheriff and Doctor of the town, Ogden Marsh in Iowa. Something strange is happening around this small town, and no one seems to know what is going on. Turns out, the towns water supply has been infected with some sort of virus and its affects include sending the normal, sane and pleasant inhabitants of the town into homicidal maniacs. Can the Sheriff and his loving wife save the day, or will they join the town and succomb to the depths of insanity? What follows is a simple, 'get from here, to there' as a few of the sane minded towns folk attempt to navigate their way and escape the town once and for all. The US Army however, have other ideas....

I have enjoyed both Olyphant and Mitchell's work for some time now. They regularly appear in these genre films, but always turn up decent, watchable work, and this is no exception. Olyphant's cool gait and Mitchell's expressive features provide the main reasons why you keep with the film, despite all the stupidity going on around them. They are ably supported by the various townsfolk, but at the end of it all, it is their love and steely determination that sees you watching through to the bitter, bloody end. It was to my suprise upon seeing the end credits, that I noticed that Breck Eisner had directed the film. It seems he has put the disaster of his 2005 Matthew McConaughey starring adventure film 'Sahara' (both in the court rooms and its box office performance) behind him. The mayhem is well handled and maintained throughout the films brisk running time. Our protagonists move from small burst of action to small burst of action every few minutes and this suprisingly does not become tiresome. In fact, taken for what it is, and you can get a certain level of enjoyment out of the film.

Its main problems lie in its plot. It wisely never attempts to complicate or deepen things, but this ends up meaning that the film becomes quite slight and forgettable. Imagine 'Tremors' crossed with the little seen 2006 thriller, 'Right At Your Door'. Fun for its duration, but will not stick with you in same way that it possibly could have. Sure the film is violent and tense, but Eisner never fully explores the idea of your loved ones turning on you in such a terrifying manner. In fact, he could have made the whole affair much nastier if he wanted it to stick with audiences better. This is not to take away from the film. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for those 'small American towns that get destroyed' movies that come along every now and then. Done right, and you can get a nice, little tense thrill ride, much of what exists here. The film is being marketed as a horror. In fact it is rare to see American films nowadays that truly scare. This is no exception. It's tense, and features some nicely inventive death scenes, but never, for one second did I nervously look over my shoulder for fear of those who might be behind me on my walk home....

Verdict 61%

Short, fun and tense. Perfect date movie fodder, but don't expect to suspect your friends and neighbours as anything other then they are when it's all over.

Film Trailer:(Be warned, it actually gives away a lot of the best scenes and films plot)

Edge of Darkness

"Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the son of a bitch knows story structure!" says ‘ South Park ’. Has Mel Gibson been really gone 8 years from our screens? Since 2002’s ‘Signs’, he has taken a self imposed break from acting, deciding instead to direct a few violent, subtitled yarns and drunkenly comit the odd hate crime. Has it been that long since he has not been seen in front of a lens? Apart from his mug shot that is? Well folks, fret no more as the anti mullet, Anti-Semitist is back, with this, quite possibly the most pedestrian of thrillers seen in a while. Even South Park, it seems can get it wrong sometimes.

We open on a haggered, familiar face in a crowd. Yes, he looks slightly older, yes, his hair is slightly greying and yes, despite the various scrapes and dust ups it is soon to endure, it does retain its beautiful shape, but folks make no mistake, Mel Gibson is back. So after collecting his daughter and a not very convincing reunion it is not long before a violent attack on her own doorstep that she is left lying in a pool of her own blood as her father (Gibson) looks helplessly on. Bad move bad guys, Gibson here is a Boston Police Detective, and VERY pissed off. What follows is ‘Taken’-lite, as Gibson’s Tom Craven, attempts to take down everyone and anyone involved in the death and cover up of it, from assassins, fellow police officers, senators, and some multi millionaire businessmen. Craven ‘just doesn’t give a shit anymore’! Along the way we meet the always welcome sights of Danny Huston, who may or may not be a corrupt businessman, and Ray Winstone as…..wait, what does Winstone actually do during this movie? Some unexpected and nasty deaths included, with Gibson going from ‘sad’ to ‘mad’ and we have a movie that’s not so much ‘bad’, as just……. ‘meh’. Martin Campbell, the man who reinvented James Bond twice, with ‘Goldeneye’ and ‘Casino Royale’ directs here like he couldn’t care less. All the more surprising as it was he who directed the British Mid 80’s Programme that the movie is based on. So was this a labour of love for the people involved? Why else would Gibson come back from his hiatus, or Campbell return to his roots? Wow, something must have really gone wrong along the way. Robert DeNiro, it seems had the most sense he’s had in a few years when he walked off the project after a few days…..

The movie is not as clever as it may think. In fact, it plods along from one incidental episode to the next, without ever seeming like its going anywhere. Everything is obvious from 30 minutes or so into it, so all that’s left for the audience is patiently waiting for Gibson to get his information, or get angry or upset at someone. To be fair, when things seem to be skewering off the rails, it is Gibson that keeps you watching. No one does 'wild eyed, scarily crazy unhinged man', quite like him. It was nice to see him on the screen again, and it actually made me miss him. My God, what I would do to see him get some sense, reunite with George Miller and strap on the leather boots one last time as Max Rockatansky. Danny Huston seems to be making a name for himself playing shady businessmen, and Ray Winstone has literally the most pointless part to a movie I have seen in quite some time, so what does it all add up to? Well it’s no travesty, by any stretch. In fact it’s far too routine and safe to be completely shite, but what’s surprising about it, is that no one here really seems to care about the film. As a result, the film is completely forgettable; perhaps it seemed fun when you were hungover, but in the cold hard light of day it can’t possibly stand up to scratch.

Result: 39%

So Mels grand return to acting equals a pointless thriller. Although your enjoyment of it depends on how you find a scene that pretty much plays out as follows-Inspector Chief: ’You can’t work this case on the death of your daughter, you’re too close to it!’ Detective Gibson: ‘I have to, I’m the best Officer here.’ Inspector Chief: ‘Oh yeah, OK, you’re back on the case!’ Oh, and your Dad will love it.

Film Trailer:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Shutter Island

After 20 feature films, one of cinemas most respected and esteemed directors is back. Leonardo DiCaprio, on his 4th collaboration with the man says, ‘that in thousands of years, people studying film will look back on a name that has become synonymous with it.’ That name is Martin Scorsese. Simply put, he is possibly the greatest living director still working today. Although he has directed a variety of seminal films and documentaries, it is with perhaps the gangster genre he is most readily identified with. However, looking closer there is perhaps a more relavant theme throughout his works. And that theme is just how fragile the mind is. This is perhaps none more relevant than in his 21st offering here.

Adapted from the novel by Dennis Lehane (writer of ‘Mystic River’ and ‘Gone Baby Gone’) ‘Shutter Island’ is an intense and sometimes devastating journey inside the fractured psychosis of the human mind. Set in the mid 50’s it centres on DiCaprio’s US Marshall, Teddy Daniels’ investigation into the case of a missing patient on an island, housing dangerous psychopaths and criminals. No one here is prepared to talk and both Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) can find no allibies. To make matters worse Head Psychiatrist, Dr Cawley (Ben Kinglsey) and almost everyone else on the island seem to be covering up potential information and housing some dark secrets….. To reveal more about the plot would do a great disservice to both DiCaprio and Scorsese, not to mention screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis for expertly weaving an intense psychological thriller.

What I can say, is that with every collaboration Scorsese and DiCaprio seem to be besting their last, and this is no exception. From DiCaprios performance here, it is easy to see why he has become Scosese’s new muse. It is quite possibly his best performance to date; one that balances raw anger, heartbreaking emotion and sanity loss - sometimes all at once and you may not even know what he’s actually doing for most of the films running time. It’s very courageous on his behalf. Why Paramount moved the picture outside of the Oscar nominations is anyones guess-in a perfect world, DiCaprio would have been walking home with the little gold man on March 7th. Partly in fact why the movie succeeds as well as it does is down to its cast. As mentioned, DiCaprio yet again excels, but is joined ably by Ruffalo, who while not at first seems to be doing much, is in fact housing far more complex emotions and nuances in his performance. Kingsley as well gives another solid turn which is pretty much to be expected from the ‘Sir’ with almost anything he does these days. Michelle Williams make great use of her limited screen time with one scene in particular that leaves you reeling. Also nice to see genre favourites Ted Levine and John Carroll Lynch popping up, actors who just by their history in similarly themed movies, you can tell that something is not quite right.

This might not be the straight forward exercise in terror as some might have originally hoped from its trailers. No, while there are plenty of deranged inmates to terrorise both DiCaprio and Ruffalo (one dark and nighmarish scene in Block C springs to mind), it is actually the unstable mind and it how it can be the most fragile of all things that Scorsese is interested in. This shares themes with many of the mans movies ranging from ‘Taxi Driver’ all the way up to the recent ‘The Aviator’. So sure, from the outset, this might seem to be new ground for Scorsese, but come the climax, there is no doubt you were in anyone else’s hands but his. Unfortunately, the films climax, while earth shattering in its effectiveness is not as clever as you might have been led to believe and for some might be considered a little cheap. The film can also be quite cold and emotionless for most of its running time. Scorsese employs a radical cutting technique with his editor Thelma Schoonmaker, which harks back to her work on ‘Goodfellas’, ‘The King of Comedy’ and ‘Bringing Out The Dead’. Of course you have to know Scorsese to know that you’re in experienced hands and that all is there for a reason that will eventually pay off. This might not work as well for the less patient viewer. Other problems include the fact that various characters seem to come and go throughout the film, (hello and goodbye Patricia Clarkson and Jackie Earle Haley) although this can be down to the films climax and is therefore debatable. Scorsese has more than enough flair and confidence to keep us watching, though make no mistake, ‘Shutter Island’ deals with some intense and tough themes. Scorsese does not make it easy on the viewer from its many weird dream sequences, fractured editing and plotting that may seem ‘all over the place’ to some.

However, Scorsese delivers a far deeper film than the one I was initially expecting. Robbie Robertson (of The Band) and Scorsese hand picked various previously established score music from various different sources and the effect is stunning-the images and many of the music themes work beautifully together. Cinematographer Robert Richardson also creates a blue hued dystopia-creating some of the most beautiful, and disturbing imagery of Scorsese’s career. So what it may come down to is a basic mystery, thriller. Scorsese and DiCaprio elevate it above its genre confines to the 1st great film of 2010.

Result: 81%
You may not know where it is taking you for most of its running time but by its heart wrenching and devastating climax you will know there is only one master.
Martin Scorsese Career Overview and Film Trailer: