Posts Tagged ‘Film’

When music-hall star Elizabeth Cree is accused of poisoning her husband on the same night as the last of a series of ‘Golem murders’ Inspector Kildare discovers both cases maybe linked and sets about solving both crimes.

Based on an an adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s 1994 murder mystery novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem director Juan Carlos Medina offers an old-school Hammer-style horror anchored by performances by subtle Bill Nighy (who took up the reigns from the late Alan Rickman), Olivia Cooke (of Bates Motel), Eddie Marsan and Daniel Mays. But it’s Douglas Booth as Leno who steels the show.

All the familiar Gothic Victorian elements and crime story beats are there reminiscent of A Study in Terror and countless other yarns and clichés set in the period which are more than likely inherited from Ackroyds source material. Set on the unforgiving, squalid streets of Victorian London in 1880, Jane Goldman’s script captures the Lizzy Borden and Jack the Ripper talk of the time, but where 2015’s comparable Frankenstein Chronicles series had a filmactic feel this is sorely lacking in Limehouse Golem given it’s made for TV look despite a theatrical release. That said the costumes, makeup and music are spot on as Nighy’s Kildare goes effortlessly about piecing the case together aided by some bloody flashbacks and spectres in his mind. There’s a little nihilistic twist which peaks interest showing that the conscious of life isn’t black and white especially when it comes to work politics, promotion and fame.

Overall, it has some gruesome elements and while it may not work as a whodunit reaching heights of In the Name of the Rose, Agatha Christie or a Sherlock Holmes mystery it satisfies as an unconventional immersive period piece in the vain of countless Ripper-like outings. Worth checking out even if for Booth’s memorable performance.

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IT (2017) Review

Posted: September 9, 2017 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS
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IMG_7758.JPGSeven young outcasts face their worst nightmare when an ancient, shape-shifting evil emerges from the sewer to prey on the town’s children.

Director Andy Muschietti’s story beats are perfect the casting is top notch. Bill Skarsgård is fitting as IT/Pennywise the Dancing Clown, a trans-dimensional evil that awakens every twenty-seven years. Skarsgård’s and Tim Curry’s IT is like Jack Nicholson to Cesar Romero’s Joker, both equally great but a different take on the same character, so there’s no need for comparisons. Incidentally there’s a fitting nod to Curry’s TV Pennywise in a room of clowns. For the main cast there’s the one reminiscent of a young Kevin Bacon, the Rob Lowe looking one, the Molly Ringwald (amusingly self referenced within the film) the River Phoenix one and so on. Echoing The Breakfast Club, Goonies and Stand By Me to name a few.

Muschietti and writers Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman even cram in a creepy gnarled tree and a dilapidated haunted looking house. Starsguard moves eerily slow and contorted at times and uneasy fast at others. There’s much more gore in this adaptation. As a horror it offers enough creepy moments but where it gives today’s horrors a run for their money is the friendship, outcast and bully themes which come directly from Stephen King’s source material.

A major departure from King’s 1986 novel and 1990 miniseries is the 80s setting for the child part, even with the Airwolf T-shirt, New Kids on the Block songs, Casio watch, Gremlins posters and Nightmare of Elm Street 5, Batman and Lethal Weapon 2 showing in Derry’s cinema, some of the period feels a little off but the recreation for the most part works.

Again its strengthen comes from the casting which emotionally affects the story at its core. Frights, whether a cellar, sewer, bathroom or the alley or simple a dark office, the music, sound design thanks to Muschietti’s staging amplifies the chills while wearing its heart on its sleeve with the young performers.

It’s tight and pacey, with enough time for the characters to breath. Muschietti injects plenty of jump scares and creepy moments, and with a larger budget and omitting the adult segments (saving them for an IT sequel/chapter 2 and possibly flashbacks to 1989) it actually, surprisingly is better than its predecessor adaptation.

Packed with terrifying, hallucinatory and nightmare imagery coupled with a near on perfect cast IT is highly recommend.

Annabelle: Creation Movie PosterAfter the tragic death of their little daughter, a doll-maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a orphanage into their home, but shortly after a demon begins to terrorize the girls.

Annabelle Creation is a solid entry that offer plenty of scares and the period rural setting sets it apart. Director David F. Sandberg injects a smidgin of Texas Chainsaw atmosphere into the proceedings as a group of girls and nun are terrified by a demon. The acting from Stephanie Sigman’s Sister Charlotte and the young girls is impressive. As too are Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto in small but pivotal roles.

It’s a demonic possession tale like the chronological follow up, not a killer doll film per-say if you’ve come in cold. Even though it’s an origin story midway through you can’t help but feel that thanks to some editing another prequel to an already existing prequel could be made with some misplaced flashbacks of Otto and LaPaglia thrown into what for the most part is a constant story from Gary Dauberman.

With dark creepy visuals, notably a lift, water well and scarecrow scene, eerie music and limited special effects but plenty of jumps scares Annabelle harks back to the simpler days of horror. Daunerman and Sandberg link the ending nicely to its 2014 predecessor Annabelle and there’s mid and post credit scene which are intriguing enough to leave you possibly wanting another.

Overall, a well shot, filmatic, rounded chiller with credit to child actors for their good performances.

Wonder Woman Movie Poster Diana leaves her paradise Island magically hidden from the rest of the world to fight alongside men in a war to end all wars.

Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman is a pleasing film in a sea of other superhero flicks. What it gets right is a good mix of action and narrative helped by the back drop of The Great War/World War I. While arguably it lags in the final act, mainly due to the seeming obligatory big boss final battle showdown it for the most part swiftly moves along. Part new origin story on the island of Themyscira, home to the Amazons, you see the character honing her powers and becoming Wonder Woman. Later when she helps a spy (Chris Pine) and they journey to Europe circa 1913, she’s finds that she is a fish out of water in her new surroundings in searching for the God of War.

Allan Heinberg’s screenplay has a few twists and plays with the sexiest elements of the period. Nevertheless, it slightly sells itself out at times with all the tropes of a love story with at times Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman playing second fiddle to Pine’s American spy pilot. Thankfully these are few and far between, but it’s still an unnecessary dynamic.

There’s a top cast full of familiar faces including David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright with the sets and costumes being Oscar worthy. This incarnation supersedes Wonder Woman 1967’s pilot, Lynda Carter’s TV pop icon version complete with memorable theme and Adrianne Palicki’s failed pilot. Gadot may not be everyone’s idea of what Diana Prince/Wonder Woman should look like, however, she is great in the role carrying the naive innocence having been on a hidden island almost all of her life with the power and presence that we saw glimpses of in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). There’s also some present day scenes that fit nicely with Zack Snyder’s outing and Justice League (2017). With plenty fight scenes the new Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL Wonder Woman theme kicks in fittingly and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score captures the atmosphere of the respective settings.

Overall, Wonder Woman is probably one of the most rounded entertaining super hero movies out there with its war themes ironically just as relevant today.

Transsiberian Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

On a Trans-Siberian train journey from China to Moscow an American couple get caught up in a conspiracy of deception and murder when they encounter a mysterious pair of fellow travellers.

With a handful of main characters director Brad Anderson offers an American fish out of water thriller with a meandering off beat story by Will Conroy which helps build the tension, especially cultural throughout. There are some shootings, attempted rape and torture, in addition for a low key drug smuggling yarn there are stunts and an impressive train crash.

Woody Harrelson interestingly plays against wacky type cast as an everyday nice guy husband of Jessie (Emily Mortimer). Mortimer gives a convincing performance and has some depth which helps sell the situations she finds herself in after befriending drug traffickers Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara).

Ben Kingsley is fitting as Grinko, a snooping Russian narcotics officer. Notable is Thomas Kretschmann as Kolzak Yushenkov, Grinko’s right-hand man. And Noriega’s dodgy Carlos is particularly convincing. While Mortimer steals the show, Mara also well cast as the lead astray out of her depth partner of Carlos.

There’s plenty of double cross and simmering character dynamics, imposing quiet Grinko befriending the couple to solve his smuggling case. Abby and Jessie’s rivalry and Carlos’ sexual tension with Jessie to name a few. The atmosphere is reminiscent of Citizen X (1995) with its snowy cold on location feel.

Anderson creates some grounded fear and suspense as Jessie is put through the mill in this traditional taut thriller with a few twists. Recommend sleeper thriller.

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A survival documentary filmmaker runs into trouble when he comes up against more that just the local animal life.

With a major spoiler from the outset, imagine and episode of Bear Grylls mixed with the Predator (1987) and an alien design reminiscent of District 9 (2009) and you’ll sort of get feel of Man Vs. Half of the fun of director Adam Massey’s offering is guessing for the first half what is the main character up against.

Man Vs. echoes the likes of Exists, Blackfoot Trail, Bigfoot County (2012) Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes (2012) Willow Creek (2013), The Hunted (2013) while not a found footage film per say, thankfully it’s a mix of presenter Doug’s camera views, go-pro POVs and a traditionally shot film perspective (similar to REC 3 (2012) and The Pyramid (2014).

In terms of execution Massey’s film surpasses genre expectations due to traditional shot segments and well executed practical and ‘monster’ special effects in the last quarter. It has a very small cast ensemble. Thanks to a great performance from Chris Diamantopoulos as Doug, channelling Grylls, he single handily keeps Man Vs. interesting while he does his TV show bits for the majority of the film and believes he’s being hunted by a bear, wolf or even a crazy fan of his show.

The Canadian natural forest setting framed by Miroslaw Baszak sells Massey’s story. Writer Thomas Michael leaves enough clues – skinned bodies, chess boards, black goo, dead fish to keep you guessing what Doug is up against but if you’ve seen 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) you’ll see the twist coming. That said, Michael and Massey successfully create a small scale paranoia tale on the backdrop peripheral of something larger going on. John Rowley’s score is effective throughout, but especially in the closing where realisation hits Doug and rescue by his team and acquaintance are skewed.

While the genre is worn, if you like the aforementioned movies you’ll get a kick out of Massey’s addition to the genre. Three quarters survival show and a quarter sci-fi. Recommended.

The Nice Guys Movie PosterFate turns Holland March, a down-on-his-luck private eye and Jackson Healy, a hired enforcer into unlikely partners when a woman mysteriously disappears.

Filmmaker Shane Black – writer of Lethal Weapon, Predator and director of Iron Man 3 offers a dark comedy with a Chinatown-like detective story. The Nice Guys is set in 1977 on an LA sleazy vibe back drop which is convincingly recreated, topped off with the music of the time.

With their own reasons for getting involved the duo team up to achieve one shared goal both reliant on each other’s different skills. It’s a different era of wild celebrity disco parties, cigarette smoking and lenient police involvement, allowing unlikely partnership of drunkard PI Holland (Ryan Gosling) and Jackson (Russell Crowe) paid hard man to go about their business. What’s interesting and surprisingly works is Holland’s young teen daughter (Angourie Rice) who helps her dad and dicey new partner as they investigate the murder of a porn star, Misty Mountains and its mysterious link to environmentalist wild-child Amelia (Margaret Qualley) and politically connected mother, Judith (Kim Basinger).

It feels likes it’s all shot on location, the period setting is at times the star of show, injecting plenty of atmosphere and mood, the cars, the fashion etc. The supporting cast a great, notable are the excellent Matt Bomer (White Collar, American Horror Story Hotel) who plays a professional hit man and thug Keith David (The Thing, They Live) who want Amelia dead. Black offers corruption, some surprise deaths and twists but it’s a comedy at heart. Gosling and Crowe are kind of 70s version of Laurel and Hardy, yelping and mumbling through scenes. Their chemistry is great, it’s an interesting and brilliant casting with the leads displaying a naturally comedic zaniness along with Crowe adding a believability that he can bust heads.

Thankfully Black and writer Anthony Bagarozzi create enough back- story for Holland and Jackson to ensure your buy into the characters’ plights as they work through clues looking like Starsky and Hutch in Boogie Nights. Both Gosling and Crowe somehow feel they belong to the period. Rice equals Leon’s Natalie Portman in terms of a young girl being in an improbable adult world. Gosling is disinclined to being a good dad, in contrast to Crowe’s deadpan character wanting to be liked and you find yourself rooting for the at times unsavoury characters.

With its period setting, some hard hitting action and taboo comedy there’s plenty of entertainment to be had, recommended.

*** This review contains demonic spoilers ***

Lorraine wanting to retire from the spiritual field and Ed Warren tired of justifying what they do travel to north London to help a family plagued by a malicious spirit.

Opening with a chilling medium session at the notorious Amityville home, where Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) has an encounter with the dead Lutz family and a demon nun, director James Wan hits the horror road running. The creepy nun from Ed’s  (Patrick Wilson) painting an omen of death later turns up at Ed and Lorraine’s home and we’re introduced to their teenage daughter. Meanwhile, a single mother raising four children are harassed by the  previous deceased occupant. With a fistful of writers and the sharp editor,  Wan creates a good build up, fleeting between the US and UK and although it takes its time getting Ed and Lorraine to the English house, it works giving the film scope.

The cast particularly the child actors are great and Farmiga shines. Wilson delivers another great performance as the matter of fact Ed. Incidentally as well as being a handy man, he also does a good acoustic rendition of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. The notable German actress Franka Potente also appears as a sceptic but gets very little screen time. Simon McBurney is solid and almost equals Timothy Spall’s performance as Maurice Grosse. Like its predecessor it shares much with other haunting films but it stands on its own due to Wan’s execution, he knows horror, the eeriness, atmosphere, timing of visuals and sound to get hairs standing on end effortlessly. Something which the rushed Annabelle (2014) arguably lacked in his absence as director.

With a pause for thought, like true crime murders, it gets under your skin and you can’t help feel that someone is profiting from someone else’s misery. Conscious aside, true or not, Wan stays close to the Enfield Haunting’s beats with plenty of artistic licence to inject enough practical and CGI effects without it losing its grounded feel too much in the first three quarters.

From wall posters to wallpapers, clothes and cars the 1977 is recreated almost perfectly. There is a set up with a remote control, although I don’t recall there being remotes like that in Great Britain, or at least the family surely wouldn’t have been able to afford that TV, in any case, the set up is still effectively creepy with a great jump scare when the young girl encounters an old man in both a reflection and face to face. As well as a scary zoetrope toy and fire engine, there’s a horrific moment where the girls young brother is tricked into thinking a ghoul is a dog wanting to go out by ringing a bell next to the door.

The UK terraced neighbour setting sets it apart, but naturally its reminiscent of the three part The Enfield Haunting (2015) and When the Lights Went Out (2012) which told the  1974 Black Monk of Pontefract story. Nevertheless, Wan to his credit recreates the Brit 70s injecting some nostalgia for the viewer, with the location, The Jam, TV clips of the day and so on. Wan packs the Conjuring 2 with energy, jumps scares and handles the emotional scenes delicately. In the closing act there’s a twist as it tries to hone The Exorcist. While it may not have the grit and weight of the aforementioned, it has an entertaining mix of drama and horror to set it apart from many others. As Ed and Lorraine do battle at the end, Ed stops the young girl falling to her death as Lorraine word duels with the demon (akin to the design of 2005’s The Nun/La Monja), yes there’s an unnecessary wash of practical and computer imagery in the finale but it comes back to earth with an eerie text epilogue, then the couple add the zoetrope toy to their collection which is followed by the leads bursting with chesmisty dancing happily together.

With Ouija boards, spooky nuns, spectres, toys, moving furniture, ghosts, demonic voices and so on you can’t go wrong. Excellent mainstream horror entertainment.

The Revenant 

Posted: January 15, 2016 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS
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  *** These comments may contain spoilers ***

Thought to be a burden an injured man, Huge Glass, is left for dead. After his son is murderer he then begins a journey of recovery and revenge.

Set in 1823, like the comparable Outlaw of Josey Wales, the characters feel real and are motivated, they all have shades of grey. However, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu excels the aforementioned in scope thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, natural lighting and advancements in film making. The Revenant is beautifully shot and really captures the cold outdoors authentically. It’s realistic, harsh and uncompromising, showing the best and the worst of man. It captures the bitter coldness that survival films, the likes of Alive, The Edge and Deadly Pursuit a.k.a Shoot to Kill only touched on. The relentless breathtaking bear attack is as intense as Leonardo DiCaprio’s committed performance as he fights to survive and avenge his son’s death.

Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald cements the absorbing drama, his character like the natives and French offer cold, punishing brute force from each others perspectives in contrast to the silence and beauty of nature. Thanks to the excellent performances, props, costumes and locations it’s easy to buy into the story.

The Revenant is a tour de force ultimate endurance tale and has heart and soul. The sober moments and relationship scenes with the indigenous characters are interesting, the history feels well researched. Gleeson as with Star Wars Force Awakens is average but engaging, DiCaprio and Hardy are outstanding along with the supporting cast. Will Poulter’s involvement is particularly notable.

It’s very serious and justly void of humour, but has irony woven throughout. From a horse falling from cliff, to wolves attacking bison, eating raw meat, avalanches and waterfalls, log cabins, outposts and tepees. It’s a great frontier revenge survival thriller with multi layers. Recommend.

Cassandra's Dream (2007)Two brothers with serious financial problems get a chance to wipe the slate clean and fulfil their dreams when their wealthy uncle asks them to do him a favour.

Woody Allen’s light hearted take on the atrocious act of murder. Excellent Ewan McGregor’s Ian gets slightly out shone by Colin Farrell’s gambling alcoholic Terry here as the brothers’ relationship is tested. Their girlfriends played by Hayley Atwell and Sally Hawkins are notable and the supporting cast are strong including John Benfield, Philip Davis and Tom Wilkinson to name a few.

As the Greek-like tragedy morality play gradually builds the characters and meanders through Allen’s basic effective plot. It’s an enjoyable slow paced affair that hooks you from the first scene. Its naturalistic setting also gives it an unnerving off beat feeling echoing the likes of The Good Thief (2002) or The Linguini Incident (1991). It also has a vibe reminiscent of countless UK unconventional talky drama films of the 1980s. Yet, with no lead American actors London set Cassandra’s Dream doesn’t feel like a film synonymous with Allen.

It’s no Talented Mr Ripley (1999) but it’s strength is the simplistic plot that comes full circle on an everyday back drop, its certainly worth viewing especially for McGregor’s and Farrell’s even-tempered performances.