Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 on Film

All the 2016 releases I saw, from worst to best. Enjoy- and thanks to all for reading this year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Top 5 Time Travel Films

Characterized by puzzling plots and an often irreparable focus on science which hampers the human drama of the conflict that time travel can inflict, this is a sub-genre that very often churns out either hyper-intelligent work whose effort is lost in the mess of its own story strands or laid-back odysseys which leave the sci-fi to the side and focus on other elements which were sparked by the use of the time-travel gimmick. Which is better...?

Where to Start With: Martin Scorsese

In this series, I’ll be taking you through some of the great minds of 20th century film-making and trying to offer a ‘way-in’ for those who want to explore films of the past but don’t really know where to start. As the list goes on, the films become progressively less ‘accessible’ to first-time viewers, so work your way through them or if a story summary really grabs you then start there and work around it. Some may be for you and some won’t strike any chords regardless of how many times you see them- but you gotta start somewhere, right? This time around: Martin Scorsese, the man with the music.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

2010s Reviews: The Counselor

I’m honestly not quite sure what was going on in The Counselor. Written by Cormac McCarthy, a man famous for his vicious execution of crime stories and westerns like Blood Meridian, directed by Ridley Scott and packing names like Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Dormer and S- it’s a venture whose chances of failure were on paper about as close to zero as humanly possible.

Noughties Reviews: Synecdoche, New York

Following a death-obsessed playwright who chooses to spend his MacArthur genius grant staging a colossal moving production of New York City, Synecdoche is infamous for puzzling some and enthralling others with its continuously flowing memento mori. Sadly, all the often brilliant Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut did was infuriate me.

80s Reviews: Elm Street 2 - Freddy's Revenge

Subverting the story of Freddy directly attacking Elm Street teens by instead having him possess a new occupant of a survivor’s old house- I was absolutely stunned by the end of Nightmare 2, most notably because I wasn’t sure if I preferred it to the first. 

Saturday, 17 December 2016

When the walls come crashing down

Watching The Wolf of Wall Street again got me thinking: There’s a beauty in destruction, isn’t there? When it all comes crashing down around our protagonists and we’re left in the rubble, some laughing, others sobbing- all reveling in the spectacle of it all. The sublime ‘Mrs. Robinson’ scene struck me but Scorsese has done even better in the likes of GoodFellas: synergising an unmatched montage of the macabre with Layla’s piano theme to form the film's finest sequence; and then later on he does it again with the eight-minute coke-fueled frenzy backed by Jump Into The Fire- watching our hero’s mentality slowly crumble down into little pieces and those final fragments be curb-stomped, as was inevitably going to be the case, by the long arm of the law. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

80s Reviews: Jason Takes Manhattan

Based upon Jason suddenly deciding to ditch Camp Crystal Lake in favor of stalking a girl who once swam there all the way to the Big Apple, I whole-heartedly love everything about Jason Takes Manhattan. The name itself is enough to make anyone crack a smile but what awaits within the walls of this enigmatic slice of pure entertainment (accidentally or not) really has to be seen to be believed...

80s Reviews: The Right Stuff

Tracking the story of the first manned space-flight by the US and the seven brave test pilots who were pooled into the project, The Right Stuff may have lost the Oscar to Terms of Endearment but it certainly feels like a Best Picture movie: Its long, star-studded and unmistakably American. For better, or for worse...

Noughties Reviews: Waltz with Bashir

An autobiographical war-story which sees a man explore his part in a massacre, Waltz with Bashir is one of the most unique and bracing animations to be released outside of Ghibli and Pixar. That being said, it’s not without its problems…

Noughties Reviews: 5 Centimeters a Second

Following two lovers throughout three key stages in their long-distance lives, 5 Centimeters per Second lags in the middle- but manages to make up for it with a surprisingly lifelike drama. 

Sunday, 11 December 2016

70s Reviews: The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Following Robert Mitchum's eponymous retired bank-robber facing a two year prison sentence he can only dodge through dealing with the Police, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is the closest I've ever seen a Hollywood film come to replicating Jean-Pierre Melville's immaculately restrained style of film-making. 

70s Reviews: Barry Lyndon

A period-set parable of the eponymous Irish hero's various triumphs and tragedies at the hands of fate, its taken me a while to fully assess what I feel about Barry Lyndon. After 4 attempts at perceiving its greatness, I've finally reached a conclusion. Kubrick fans be warned: It isn't a pretty one...

Friday, 9 December 2016

My Sight & Sound Top 12

A Man Escaped
Directed by Robert Bresson
The Seventh Seal
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Andrei Rublev
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Marketa Lazarová
Directed by František Vláčil
Army of Shadows
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Directed by Roman Polanski
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
The Ascent
Directed by Larisa Shepitko
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Come & See
Directed by Elem Kilmov
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Directed by Gaspar Noé

Thursday, 8 December 2016

80s reviews: Hellraiser

Tracking a family who have recently moved into a house in which holds a deadly secret, Clive Barker's Hellraiser genuinely impressed me. Having only ever heard of the dregs of this soon-to-be 10 film spanning franchise (!), the original entry was both hilarious and genuinely frightening. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

50s Reviews: A Night to Remember

Exclusively relying on eyewitness testimony of real events, personalities and even specific lines during the disaster, A Night to Remember tracks through the sinking of the Titanic, a naval catastrophe which, in 1912, saw 1500 people lose their lives.

80s Reviews: Mona Lisa

Following ex-con George after a 7-year-stint in prison as he tries to make a living driving around a high-class escort, Mona Lisa delivers yet another incredible performance from Bob Hoskins as well as neo-noir grit and visual sensibilities I thought had been sadly lost in the early 70s.

70s Reviews: Silent Running

Bruce Dern’s lonely botanist cares for the last of Earth’s plant life on colossal carriers out in space, harried by an unsympathetic crew. When the order comes through to destroy the plants, a crisis of conscience emerges. Douglas Trumbull, who was famous for his work on the effects in 2001, mounts a worthy directorial effort- sadly dwarfed by the monumental impact of his earlier work.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Noughties Reviews: Flight 93

Made in the same year about an identical tragedy and even featuring similar names, it’s hard not to compare Flight 93 to Paul Greengrass’ better known United 93. Harder still considering the colossal gap in quality the movies endure. That in mind, for a small-scale TV production tackling a difficult issue at a time many were denouncing as “Too soon!”- it at least does the events of 9/11 dignified justice.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

90s Reviews: La Haine

Following three teenagers’ path through an outburst of community violence against the Police after they hospitalised a young man, La Haine is yet another contemporary gangland flick which belittles the impact of City of God. I’ve never thought much of Lund and Meirelles’ much-touted work and for those who love it I heartily suggest checking out La Haine.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

5 re-makes that were better than the Original

We've grown accustomed to shoddy re-makes in recent years so, as a refreshing change to an ugly monotony, let's look at five that were superior to their predecessors...

5 Great re-makes to Superior Films

We've grown accustomed to re-makes of being shoddy and poorly done but, every so often, there comes along a film which manages to improve upon its solid base. 

What fascinates me most, however, is movies which work as a solid tribute to their predecessors- but do not eclipse them. Four of the originals below rank among the finest I have ever seen and, somehow, all of these works manage to give them at the very least the respect they deserve and then strike out on their own path. Let's celebrate some worthy, if still inferior, re-makes. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Noughties Reviews: Russian Ark

“Next Tarkovsky” Alexander Sokurov’s ambitious attempt to condense centuries of Russian history into an uninterrupted 87 minute take which flows freely through time in an ornate hermitage, Russian Ark is tedious, confusing and fails to transcend what I originally defended as more than a gimmick.

2010s Reviews: Black Swan

The story of a committed, psychologically fragile dancer attempting to get to grips with her lead role in Swan Lake, Darren Aronofsky’s flick has become a staple of challenging cinema from the 2010s and has generated a huge amount of praise since its release six years ago. Finally seeing it, whilst not without merit, Black Swan was a little disappointing.

90s Reviews: Delicatessen

Generally tiresome pair Junet and Caro’s sophomore attempt, Delicatessen follows a post-apocalyptic France in which (not dissimilar to the recent High_Rise) the people which pepper an apartment building struggle against their situation. The movie which signalled their unique voice to the world, Delicatessen has not aged well if you’ve ventured into J & K’s world even once before.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Director Retrospectives: Jean-Pierre Melville

The master of silence: Jean-Pierre Melville rules the crime genre with a slew of classic capers chambered in thievery, murder and an ice-cold palette. His career begins on a bender, but gradually calms down to deliver a remarkably vivid portrait of an artists discovering their vision.

It was fascinating to watch the man's unmistakable style develop over the course of his mid-period movies, honed into perfection by the passage of time. Don't get me wrong: His body of work is marked with a few notable flaws- but the many films that work are utterly immaculate. 

Finally: I just want to profess my love for the way he ruthlessly ignores the audience's catharsis of seeing the hero emerge triumphant (and alive) at the end. Good or bad, there's a high likelihood that if you sign up for a Melville film... you aren't going to survive it. 

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Director Retrospectives: Denis Villeneuve

Once a champion of consistent quality who will hopefully forever promise intelligent and challenging pieces of cinema, Villueneve's recent work is defined by a stubborn refusal to bow to blockbuster bleaching in favor of a more restrained style that never reveals itself. Instead, we have to work it out for ourselves and are uniquley rewarded for our patience and precise attention to little details that have grown thinner and more wearisome as his admirably prolific output has continued. The recent box office loss on his sequel to 1982's Blade Runner has doubtlessley slowed that forward progress, but without giving too much away his incendiary early work in Canada still forces me to hope for redemption in Hollywood and elsewhere. 

I have yet to get his directorial debut, Maelstrom, anywhere. The DVD isn't avaliable and I refuse to use Torrents so as of right now this post is missing a key movie. I will update it once the film has finally been found. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Don't Breathe

The story of tree youths breaking into the home of a man they do not realize is a blind ex-army veteran, Dont' Breathe fought long and hard to take the title of the worst horror I've sought out this month. While It Follows still triumphs for its all-consuming tedium, I can at least see the appeal of its anti-jump scare basis. 

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: The Conjuring

Tracking through a previously hidden case of famed 'demonologists' Ed and Lorraine Warren (which in actually had been in filmic development for several decades), The Conjuring is a welcome surprise from my despised director James Wan- who brought the egregiously manipulative Saw to life. 

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: As Above So Below

The tale of a budding young historian taking a group trip down through the Parisian catacombs and beyond into something far darker, As Above So Below is about as effective and intriguing as the found-footage genre gets. 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Dead Calm

The story of a hitchhiker in the middle of the ocean, Dead Calm is a very poor-man's Knife in the Water. Roman Polanski's expert pot-boiler thriller puts this vision of the story of shame and even without that point of comparison the film is not saved.

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Friday the 13th

The slasher with the highest body-count in the business, Friday the 13th's story of a camp terrorized by a murderous villain is a cinematic enigma in that, with almost every famous horror franchise the first entry is fantastic and the quality quickly drops off thereafter.

Friday, 18 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Army of Darkness

Pulling Ash back into the fray by stranding him way back in Medieval times, Army of Darkness solidifies the eclectic and often schizophrenic style of its inexplicably adored predecessor with the kind of carelessness that makes it quite charming.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: The War Game

A 1965 faux-documentary predicting what would happen if a spark lit the Cold War and Russia launched nuclear weapons at the UK- Peter Watkins' brief work does not on paper qualify for a horror month- but watching these events unfold on-screen with such unflinching realism is absolutely terrifying.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: [Rec]

Set in a Spanish apartment building infested with supernatural forces, [Rec] is thus far the definite found-footage film. 

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Event Horizon

The story of a rescue crew sent to salvage a vessel lost in deep space, I'm ashamed to think we allowed Event Horizon to happen. As always I don't begrudge those who sit comfortably in the cult following of this film and if anything are really happy for you finding a flick that you love... but in all honesty this is fucking laughable.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: The Invisible Man

The story of a scientist experimenting with chemicals which can cause transparency of the human body, director James Whale's second big addition to classic horror canon after Frankenstein takes the form of an interesting reversal of Shelley's legendary tale: Rather than a monster becoming a man, we see man turn into a monster...

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: The Creature from the Black Lagoon

A group exploring an exotic jungle discover something ancient and mysterious hidden beneath the waters... something which refreshingly maintains its visceral power and tragic imagery to this very day.

Monday, 14 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: The Wolf Man

The folkish-tale of a man infected with lycan blood and his subsequent transformations into the eponymous creature, The Wolf Man is yet another Universal monster flick that succeeds on the sympathy it allows its beast. 

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: The Phantom of the Opera

Following the familiar story of a disfigured phantom falling in love, Universal's Phantom benefits from another terrific turn from Claude Rains, though it falters in comparison to the impact of the source's previous big adaptation.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Bride of Frankenstein

James Whale's sequel to his own stellar, seminal original piece, Bride of Frankenstein escapes its title; but does provide a deathless template onto which the "bigger = better" mentality of modern horror sequels seems to be derived from, for better or for worse.

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Frankenstein

Based on Mary Shelley's classic work of an obsessive scientist bringing to life a corpse, Frankenstein is an absolute staple of horror canon- and rightfully so.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Mummy

One of the weaker Universal works, Mummy follows the eponymous creature after a hapless archaeologist frees it from death. 

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Dracula

Based on Bram Stoker's original story of Dracula, free from the copyright which hampered Murnau's Nosferatu, Universal's take on the classical vampire tale what somewhat ruined by a certain Mr. Werner Herzog. 

Friday, 11 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Ju-On

The story of the violent spirits of those who have died violently manifesting as a deadly curse- Ju-On is straight-up dumb. Such a primitive word is perhaps best to describe this festival of morbid mediocrity.

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Evil Dead II

The same director's re-imagining of the original Evil Dead except with a lot more silliness and a distillation of what made it so effective, Evil Dead II is a much-loved schlock comedy horror which is about as blase as intensely styled movies come.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Cannibal Holocaust

Oh for fucks sake...

Jesus Christ. And I say that not as someone who was remotely offended by the material here, but appalled by the fact that this film was allowed to be made, released and worse still preserved. It's perhaps a little cold not to cite its graphic content as the reason for this but in all honestly what infuriates me about Ruggero Deodato's breakout cannibal flick is its insufferable style, direction, editing, tone- everything.

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: An American Werewolf in London

The story of a tourist's deadly run-in with Lycanthropy, An American Werewolf in London is defined by the stereotype of the teenage mind (!) who wrote it: Witty, subversive, original and bold- but ill disciplined. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: The Descent

The Descent is fantastic, plain and simple. Its the story of several women who go spelunking into an uncharted cave system and run into a deadly sub-human species of Goblin-people... and its a shimmering pinnacle of Noughties horror.

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Scream

As far as I'm concerned, Wes Craven was the horror director. From Red Eye to New Nightmare way back into the innovative (if pretty rubbish) exploitation flicks of the '70s like The Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left. I want to take this time to say may he rest in peace and thank him for the string of sublime genre flicks he left behind. Perhaps most notably of his modern offerings is the absolutely fantastic Scream.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Videodrome

The politicized tale of a banned TV station which streams torture 24/7 and in doing so suckers viewers into an increasingly immortal and fractured reality, Videodrome signifies an early cult classic and arguably the breakout work of director David Cronenburg. Whilst The Fly is far superior, this does at least feature enough vision and perceptible (if limited) skill to warrant watching at least once.

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: Aliens

The revered sci-fi classic that for many improved upon Scott's original vision, Aliens does what it says on the tin: Expanding the sole creature focus of the first film into tens of deadly xenomorphs being hunted by an elite band of rag-tag marines and sole survivor of the original incident Ellen Ripley. 

Monday, 7 November 2016

OH GOD NO...vember 2016: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The story of a doctor and his catatonic servant locked in a closet, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is regarded as perhaps the first horror film ever made. As with M's take on serial killers and Psycho planting the roots of the slasher- its an astounding achievement that not only sparks off a genre- but arguably perfects it first time around.