Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Monday, 29 November 2010
Friday, 26 November 2010
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
When their father dies in the middle of a shopping centre, Alfredo, Julian, and Sabina must decide who is to become the leader of the family while attempting to mollify their bitter mother. As the oldest, Alfredo is the natural choice, but does he have the strength to go out and get what is required for the family ritual? Meanwhile, the coroner has made an interesting discovery in the father’s stomach contents...
This definitely will not appeal to everyone. It’s very slow in places, and often very gory. None of the characters are sympathetic. Each member of the family is a distinctive monster in their own right, on top of their shared commitment to the ritual. They are cowardly, violent, and cruel. So, no one character to really get behind here. Meanwhile the police are ineffectual, uncaring, and, as it turns out, as monstrous as the family. The rest of the world is portrayed as busy, uncaring, and dirty. When the father collapses at the start of the film, he is removed by two cleaners, while a third quickly mops up the puddle of blood. Within seconds, shoppers are walking over the same spot.
Writer/director Jorge Michel Grau aims for realism with handheld shots of a busy marketplace and packed trains, and a grim and grimy colour scheme. The constant ticking of clocks reminds us that there is precious little time left for the family to find a suitable candidate for their ritual. We’re never really told what happens if they don’t complete it in time, nor why they are cannibals in the first place. Grau has also not made a horror film in terms of shocks and scares. The sequences during which the family attempt to kidnap victims are long and drawn-out, and show the difficult logistics of the situation. It also veers close to dark comedy. Fans of The League of Gentlemen will feel right at home with the strange tone and monstrous characters, superbly brought to life by the excellent cast.
The film could have been paced a little better, as Grau moves determinedly at his own speed. It also might have benefited from a little more exposition, although the lack of an explanation is better than a poor one. But while it has its faults, We Are What We Are is a strong piece of work from a filmmaker with a vision, and it builds to an excellent crescendo.
A slow, bloody film that’s definitely not for everyone. But for viewers willing to give it a chance, it’s a late-night treat.
Saturday, 20 November 2010
Attention all gleeks! The hit American TV show will be making its way to a stage near you as the creators of the show have announced a UK tour commencing next summer.
With concerts all around the country, including two dates at London's O2 Arena and one at Manchester's MEN Arena, the tour will feature popular songs from the award-winning show, including the now synonymous anthem "Don't Stop Believin'", as well as performances from cast members such as Cory Monteith and Lea Michele a.k.a. Finn and Rachel.
The cast have already been on a successful tour in the States, and so it's no surprise that show creator Ryan Murphy wants to bring the party across the pond, stating, "People around the world want to see our cast live and in person, so this European tour is our way of thanking them for the unbelievable way they've embraced our little show."
Tickets go on sale Friday 26 November and will cost between £45 and £55. Not bad for a "little show".
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Image: Columbia Pictures
Saturday, 13 November 2010
Friday, 12 November 2010
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Tremors takes all the best aspects of the best of the 50s films – likeable cast, superb monsters, lots of ammunition – and transposes them to a more modern setting, but one which crucially still echoes the period. While the fear of nuclear war between the USA and the Soviet Union fuelled the nightmares of directors from that epoch, in Tremors the Soviet Union still exists but the only person who fears it is a mad hillbilly weapons expert who is mocked for his over-preparedness. Obviously, when the monsters come, he is the one who they all run to for help.
It is difficult to isolate exactly why the film is so marvellous, but it is telling that it is nigh on impossible to find something wrong with it. The budget was a very modest 11 million dollars, which means that the effects work has a sense of DIY about it, but if anything this only makes the film better. The spirit that goes into animating the “graboids” – giant man-eating underground worms – is very much the same as that which saw greyhounds wrapped in shaggy coats to masquerade as The Killer Shrews! The sparse location, the tiny town of Perfection, Nevada, adds a chilling sense of isolation, with the underground menace rendering any conventional method of escape impossible. Scenes of characters trapped on rocks in the middle of the desert show an almost Hitchcockian ability from director Ron Underwood to make the most of a confined space. The writers, SS Wilson and Brent Maddock, were also responsible for Short Circuit, another subversively comic flick which has likewise stood the test of time rather better than some of its contemporaries.
The small cast is flawless, and so eclectic that the casting director deserves some sort of medal. Our leading men are Valentine McKee and Earl Bassett, beautifully played by Kevin Bacon (in possibly his finest role, aside from Murder in the First) and Fred Ward (never better), two small town handymen whose dreams of escape to the city are hampered by the graboids’ attack. Aforementioned well-armed hick Burt Gummer is played by Michael Gross, best known as the loveable patriarch in Family Ties, while is equally trigger-happy wife Heather is country and western singer and TV star Reba McEntire. Other familiar faces in the cast are Ariana Richards (three years before her role as Lex in Jurassic Park) and Big Trouble in Little China's Victor Wong.
Of course, no monster movie would be complete without scares, and Tremors has them in spades. While the tone never strays too far from comic, a couple of the scenes where Val and Earl discover what has become of some of their fellow residents still pack a jolt, and there is a great jump moment involving a generator.
Tremors’ success spawned a series of straight to video sequels and a television series, which unfortunately (but unavoidably) demonstrate the law of diminishing returns. However, the fact that the original is so perfect means that the second film is still very good indeed, showcasing some remarkably impressive early CGI work. Even later instalments in the series benefit from great performances (with Burt moving to the fore as the main character, always as antisocial and weapons-mad as ever) and biting humour. Tremors’ continuing legacy is a sign of just how brilliant the original film is, yet it remains shamefully unrecognised as a classic.
Still feeling as fresh today as it did when it was released twenty years ago, Tremors is one worm definitely worth turning for.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Prior to this film’s release, writer/director Matt Reeves was working hard to convince people of his good intentions. After all, the announcement that the much-loved Swedish horror Let the Right One In would be American-ized was greeted with the same reaction as if Reeves had announced he would be punching the original’s child actors in their faces for two hours. Slowly but surely, however, we were assured of his good intentions, and early reviews suggested that it was really rather good.
The story remains the same, but now set in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It’s 1983, and young Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is having a tough time. His parents are getting a divorce, leaving him with his alcoholic, barely-present mum. He’s relentlessly bullied at school. But then Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) moves in next door with her dad (Richard Jenkins). The two begin a tentative relationship, but when a series of grisly murders begin, Owen starts to realise Abby’s not like other girls.
When I saw Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In, I loved the faithfulness to John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, but I was also impressed by what had been excised. The author and the director collaborated to make a film that told the same story but was a distinctly separate entity. Reeves clearly decided that faithfulness was the best course to take, and while he avoids many of the usual pitfalls of remakes and has escaped the mauling I’m sure he was afraid of, Let Me In falls prey to redundancy.
There’s a lot here that deserves recognition. Reeves strives to establish a different place and mood to the original with several nice touches. Ronald Reagan’s speaking about evil, the TV’s asking if you know where your children are, and the police are scared to death of devil-worshipping cults. It also looks great, with the yellow lights of home sickly rather than comforting and red warning lights flashing in the darkness. The film is very well cast. Smit-McPhee (The Road) brings out the weird side of Owen nicely, but isn’t as likeably hapless as Kåre Hedebrant. Moretz (Kick-Ass) is excellent, but by making Abby slightly more childlike than Lina Leandersson she loses something of the ethereal quality. Jenkins (Six Feet Under, The Visitor) invests The Father with an impressive amount of heart and sensitivity while remaining appropriately horrifying, while Elias Koteas (Crash, Zodiac) is underused as the dogged detective.
There are two major obstacles to everyone’s good work. Firstly, Let the Right One In was released very recently. Even if it wasn’t as beloved as it is, everyone would still have a very clear idea of what the characters should look like and how the scenes should play out. Smit-McPhee and Moretz are excellent but they aren’t my Eli and Oscar, which meant I wasn’t as emotionally involved. Secondly, because Reeves insists on sticking so closely to the original, the majority of the scenes run the risk of direct comparison. The Father’s murders are different and among the film’s best sequences, and the cat-attack has thankfully disappeared, but otherwise it’s the same again. And when it’s stacked up against Let the Right One In, it fails. The swimming pool and “What happens if I don’t invite you in?” scenes are the most notably inferior.
Reeves’ film is desperate to be loved but there’s just not enough distance between the two films to justify its existence. The experience is somewhat similar to watching the film of Watchmen. It’s a faithful to the point of pointlessness, well-acted, well-shot, curio that’s worth a look if you’re interested, but otherwise; go back to the source material.
Does the job, and is the best we could have hoped for, but it’s ultimately pointless and a little hollow. If you haven’t seen the original you’ll enjoy it, but I’d strongly recommend you to watch Alfredson’s film first.
Monday, 8 November 2010
Image: Warner Bros.
Hertfordshire is to get a Hollywood makeover in the coming months as Warner Bros. announced today that it had bought Leavesden Studios - the home of many movies, including the Harry potter films - and plans to redevelop it. The new complex will be the studio’s permanent UK base, and will cost £100m to build.
Warner Bros has stated that the old studio won’t be completely destroyed: the bigwigs across the pond plan to build the new base around the existing facilities, adding new features such as a visitor centre, which will host set tours.
Already boasting a workforce of 1,500 employees, Warner plans to create an additional 300 jobs on the lot, and turn the area into a creative hub for filmmaking in the UK.
The image above illustrates the scale of the studio’s plans, with Warner chief Barry Meyer stating that the acquisition "demonstrates our long-term commitment to, and confidence in, the skills and creativity of the UK film industry".
The Hollywood studio is expected to announce the closure of the deal on Wednesday, with a plan to open the new back-lot in 2012.
Thursday, 4 November 2010
One month before she leaves home to go to college, at the urging of her younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson), Joni (Mia Wasikowska) calls the man who donated sperm to her two mums, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore). The man turns out to be handsome laid-back restaurateur Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Paul gets more and more involved in their lives, as Nic and Jules’ relationship becomes increasingly strained.
Films with unconventional families often run the risk of overstating their difference to other run-of-the-mill comedy-dramas, culminating in a scene in which the characters remind themselves that they aren’t like other people and hey, that’s OK. So it’s a relief that writer/director Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) instead opts for a more relaxed, realistic approach. Jules and Nic’s family issues aren’t presented as more or less difficult because of their sexuality. They are just presented.
Cholodenko’s script is tender but often terrifically funny and genuine. Paul’s reaction to being informed his sperm went to two women is spot-on, telling Joni “I love lesbians” while grimacing at his own stupidity, while a scene in which Jules and Nic have to explain to their son why they have a gay male porn DVD is hilariously awkward. Bening and Moore make a very convincing married couple, obviously very much in love but starting to become irritated by each other’s flaws. Nic is career-oriented, more uptight, and is starting to drink a bit too much. Jules is laidback, about to start on her third career venture, and is more obviously affectionate. The two complement each other well, until the arrival of Paul prompts examination of their differences.
Ruffalo is on a roll at the moment with excellent turns in Shutter Island and The Brothers Bloom, and he’s perfectly cast as Paul, the kind of chilled-out 21st century hippie that chilled out 21st century hippies aspire to be. Paul may cause chaos and trouble but his good intentions make him impossible to dislike. He’s not looking to be a bother; he’s just trying to be a parent. The kids are great too. Wasikowska, stunning on HBO’s In Treatment, but probably better known for being Tim Burton’s Alice, is great as the sensitive Joni, while Hutcherson (Journey to the Center of the Earth) plays the quiet Laser with just the right combination of teenage indifference and desire for affection.
The Kids Are All Right subverts the expectations of those who would assume a film about same-sex parents would be consciously edgy or used as a political soap-box. It’s a tender, funny, and charming film that loves its characters. It’s a little too long, and it could have spent a little more time developing Nic, while Waskikoswa in particular is a bit hard done by in terms of screen-time, but this is definitely worth a watch.
A funny and moving comedy-drama with superb performances that deserves a big audience.
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
|Image: Entertainment Film Distributors|
It’s Edinburgh in the 1820s and rival medical professors Monroe (Tim Curry) and Knox (Tom Wilkinson) are desperate for fresh cadavers for their demonstrations. Enter down-on-their-luck Irishmen Burke (Pegg) and Hare (Andy Serkis), who spot the demand and provide the bodies. They soon realise that it’s easier simply to kill than to dig up corpses, but how will Burke hide his profession from the lovely Ginny (Isla Fisher)?
Burke and Hare is John Landis first feature film since 1998. While his episodes of the TV series Masters of Horror were among the show’s best and showed that he still was still capable of producing gory and funny work, this film has a slapstick, Mel Brooks-esque sensibility that sits awkwardly with the corpses and murder. It’s also difficult to like the main characters, despite the casting of Pegg and Serkis. Burke does at least have some qualms about pushing men down flights of stairs, but Hare is quite happy to suffocate an old man.
This awkwardness of tone and the likeability of the leads wouldn’t matter so much if the script were funnier. It seems like everyone knew that it wasn’t up to much, and reacted accordingly. Landis filled the film with genre legends (Christopher Lee! Jenny Agutter! Ray Harryhausen!) and comedians (Reece Shearsmith! Stephen Merchant! Bill Bailey!) to keep the audience entertained, while the performances are all valiantly enthusiastic. Sadly, after a strong opening, Serkis gives into mugging while Pegg is saddled with the “sympathetic” role, and as such only really gets laughs early on. Fisher tries to make up for her Scottish accent with energy, which sadly doesn’t work, but there’s a nicely played rivalry between Wilkinson and Curry as the doctors. The real star is Pegg’s Spaced co-writer/co-star Jessica Hynes, who gives a hilarious performance as Hare’s drunk, amoral, lusty wife.
There are moments in which Burke and Hare works. The murders are nicely staged, with one in particular bringing happy memories of American Werewolf’s tube sequence, and when your cast is this strong they’re bound to wring a few laughs out of weak material. The cameos don’t really feel forced, instead they feel like a reward for sitting through the bits that don’t come together. For all its flaws, I didn’t hate Burke and Hare. It would have taken a lot for it to live up to my expectations. However, while it may work better in the comfort of your living room on DVD, this really was a missed opportunity.