Friday, 20 February 2009

MUM AND DAD

IF you thought you had seen it all before, wait until you meet Mum and Dad.

This is independent cinema at its finest - breaking every horror taboo in the book to create one unnerving 80min ride into the ultra perverse.

Lena is a young Polish immigrant who works as a night cleaner at Heathrow Airport.
When she misses the last bus home, she is offered shelter by two co-workers, Birdie and her mute brother, Elbie.

But a roof for the night comes at a cost - becoming the new member of Mum and Dad’s sadomasochistic and cannibalistic family.

Funded by Nottingham’s EM Media and Film London’s Microwave Scheme, first-time feature director Steven Sheil shot the entire film for under £100,000.

But do not be fooled by the budget, this is one unnerving and grossly perverse movie - Britain’s answer to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but with tea and toast.

And although the movie aims to shock again and again with lashings of brutal torture and decapitated bodies, it’s the relationship between Mum and Dad, which is the most intriguing part of the film.

Mum (Dido Miles) and Dad (Perry Benson - the quiet, specky one in This is England), are perhaps two of the most deranged characters to ever embrace indie cinema.

In fact, the most perverse yet comic part of the film is the constant shift from ‘happy family’ to the macabre.

In one scene the family comfortably sit around the breakfast table eating toast, laughing and talking trivia oblivious to the unsettling fact hardcore pornography is playing on the TV. In another, Mum is interrupted while torturing Lena for a quick tea and chocolate biscuit break. Hilarious!

It might not be original but Mum and Dad sets a new precedent for the perverse dysfunctional family.

And once you’ve seen this, it will be hard to look at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the same light again.

Rating: * * * *


Tuesday, 17 February 2009

NEW TARANTINO TRAILER



Ladies and gentlemen, Quentin Tarantino is back!

Inglourious Basterds is set during World War II and centres around a group of Jewish-American soldiers, led by Brad Pitt, who must spread fear throughout the Nazi party by scalping and killing the enemy.

The full plot is being kept ‘hush, hush,’ but from watching the trailer it seems as if IB has all the ingredients of a typical Tarantino film - plenty of violence, a razorsharp script and a diehard cast.

Actors onboard include, Diane Kruger (The Hunting Party), Eli Roth (writer/director of Hostel), Mike Myers (Austin Powers) and Samuel L. Jackson as narrator.

It’s out in August so watch this space!

Monday, 16 February 2009

FRIDAY THE 13TH

THERE is one thing that a remake like Friday the 13th means for producers and that’s money - lots of it.

Forget about decent characters, an intricate storyline and a new way to bring a cult classic to a new generation. These minute details seem unnecessary.

Instead, we have a lacklustre tale of a bunch of college kids who come across the abandoned Camp Crystal Lake while partying in a nearby wood cabin.

And before they can put their clothes on and sober up, you’ve guessed it, they have fallen victim to Jason Voorhees - a deranged WWE-lookalike with machete and hockey mask.

For those unfamiliar with the original - Jason Voorhees was a teenage boy who drowned in Camp Crystal Lake twenty-years previously.

This was because two sex-crazed camp workers couldn’t be bothered to look after him and, as you can imagine, his mother, unlike the workers, didn’t take the news lying down.

She decided to reek revenge on anyone who visited the site and in the process resurrected her dead son.

But don’t worry I haven’t spoiled anything because director Marcus Nispel didn’t want to tell you this anyway.

Instead, he just wants to show you Jason hacking up as many good-looking young people as possible in the most uninventive ways imaginable.

In fact, there are very few things to like about this film apart from a screaming woman burning in a sleeping bag and the end credits.

The script by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (of the excellent Freddy vs. Jason) has more holes than Jason’s inflicted knife wounds - with characters both wooden and stereotypical and a plot which is downright predictable.

I just hope that Hollywood learns its lesson and stops resurrecting these cult characters solely for profit purposes.

I somehow doubt it. With a remake of Nightmare On Elm Street in the pipeline, I somehow feel that this can only get worse. Much worse.

Unrated: Unworthy of a single star.



Saturday, 14 February 2009

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

IF this was the film version of Extreme Makeover then it would certainly score five out of five.

Unfortunately, this is meant to be a serious and compelling drama about a man, who instead of growing older, grows younger by the years.

The problem with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is not the acting, direction or even the sentimental script. In fact, all three are reasonably executed. The problem is the concept.

It is hard to buy into a story about a child born old, abandoned by his father and bought up in a old peoples' home.

It is even harder to buy into the relationship between Button (Brad Pitt) and Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who struggle to find a time where their relationship can exist without one of them being arrested.

At times, it feels like writer Eric Roth (Forest Gump), wants to squeeze as much emotion out of the audience as he can racking up around ten deaths in the first 90mins.

There is very little humour, in fact none at all, and while Roth’s Gump lived an exciting and endearing life, Button’s is simply dull as dishwater.

A brief spell in the Navy and the inheritance of a button factory, the only really unique quality about Button is, yes, you’ve got it, he keeps getting younger.

In fact, throughout the tiresomely long 166min film, no one seems to pull Button to one side and say: ‘Look mate, what’s this all about? You’re getting younger.’ Instead, it becomes fully accepted by everyone as if his condition was as common as measles.

And it seems as if director David Fincher (Se7en, Zodiac and The Game) left his dark side on the pillow when he went to work on this sentimental piece of drivel. In fact, it is hard to understand what drew him to this particular project in the first place.

But, for me, there was one defining moment when I realised Button was not going to pull at my heartstrings, or even gently flick them for that matter.

It is a moment when Button and Daisy are lying together in bed. Daisy says to Button: “Will you still love me when my skin goes saggy?” Button replies: “Will you still love me when I wet the bed?”

This is one ridiculously absurd movie, totally unworthy of the 13 Oscars it has been nominated for. And if this is the best film Hollywood’s got on offer, then maybe Extreme Makeover the movie isn’t such a bad idea.

Rating: *


Wednesday, 11 February 2009

WILL WE EVER FIND LOVE LIKE THE MOVIES?

IF YOU’RE intending to spend this Valentine’s Day snuggled up on the sofa to the latest romantic comedy you may want to think again.

Researchers say watching romantic scenes like Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts cavorting in the aisle of a London book shop may actually have a serious impact on your own love life.

Researchers at Heriot-Way University in Edinburgh watched 40 of the country’s top-grossing rom-coms.

The aim - to discover if some of our pre-conceived views on love and relationships are built around popular culture, such as romantic films like Notting Hill, You’ve Got Mail and While You Were Sleeping.

Dr Bjarne Holmes, social psychologist who led the research, told the Echo: “I think there is a connection between movies and peoples views on relationships.”

Dr Holmes found that many couples in film have “qualities and bonds” which take years to develop and that trust and committed love exist from the moment they meet.

He says this uncovers an uncomfortable truth - that people maybe taking these ideas and implying them to their own relationships.

He added: “There is some re-occurring themes especially behind peoples’ beliefs about how relationships should function.

“Some of these include, ‘if your partner truly loves you, you should understand what they need in life without having to communicate it.’

“Another is people say love is pre-destined. Couples will say ‘well, we are either meant to be together or not’ and then give up too early.”

But surely people are not building their lives around the actions of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You‘ve Got Mail?

“We don’t know how vulnerable certain personalities are to this information,” Dr Holmes added.

“But what is damaging is more people see relationships through the media than they do in everyday life. It’s how they define romance. It’s how they define cheating. It’s how they define forgiveness.”

Judith Stevenson, relationship counsellor for Relate in Leicestershire, who sees hundreds of couples stuck in difficult or loveless relationships, says there is some truth in the research.

She told me: “People expect relationships to be wonderful and fun and when they are not, they begin to think this relationship can’t be right for me.

“I think people just don’t know how to deal with things when they go wrong, because they don’t see that in films. They don’t see disagreement. Disagreement in films is always funny.”

Judith believes that the only relationship we learn from is our parents and that we may look to popular culture to get some of our answers.

She stressed: “The problem is we don’t see what goes on behind closed doors in relationships. We don’t see how people work things out and when they really go wrong.”

Whether we are heavily influenced by the romantic films we watch is debatable.

Surely the same opinion could be applied to the debate on if horror movies and real-life violence are related.

In the same way as people watching Friday 13th don’t have the urge to pick up a machete and a hockey mask, the same must be true for anyone watching You’ve Got Mail and hoping to find Meg Ryan through Facebook.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

HE WAS A QUIET MAN

HOW many people wake up in the morning and hope that half of their work force is dead?

Of course, I don’t, but this is the concept behind Frank Capello’s deranged black comedy about an office worker who is pushed too far by the corporate snobs who run his place of work.

Christian Slater plays Bob Maconel - a bored and schizophrenic office worker who takes a gun to work only to discover another fellow colleague has beaten him to it.

Instead of joining him, Bob turns his gun on the shooter and becomes the unlikely office hero, even managing to save the shot office totty Venessa (Elisa Cuthbert) in the process.

But is life at the top any better than at the bottom as Bob struggles to cope with his newfound fame, looking after the now paraplegic Cuthbert and coping with the delusional prospect that he may have to finish the job his predecessor started.

This is a truly independent picture, shot on a shoestring, but with a cast and script which is worth much more.

In fact, one of the films authentic qualities is its frequent change in mood - switching from raw comedy to heartfelt drama faster than one of Slater’s speeding bullets.

Much of this is down to Capello’s writing and direction.

Capello’s camerawork is dreamy and crisp, floating through office lifts and colourful corridors, but with a dreaded sense, that, at any time, madness could persist.

Even some of Capello’s characters feel artificial, caricature-like and detached from reality. Whether this is deliberate, it certainly works, pushing the emotionally-charged Bob closer to the edge.

And all this from the same writer of Hulk Hogan’s Suburban Commando!

But it would be unfair not to pay homage to Slater - who brings nerdy Bob, accompanied with granddaddy glasses, a fake wig and rotten teeth, to life.

Scenes between Slater and Cuthbert are both deeply tragic and comedy gold. But it is Slater's constant battle with his mind in the form of an animated talking goldfish, which is the real screen stealer of the film.

This is Fight Club with a fish. The Truman Show meets American Psycho. This is an edgy, raw and wonderfully worded piece of comedy drama, well worthy of cult status. Rent it now!

Rating: * * * * *

He Was A Quiet Man is now available on DVD.


Friday, 6 February 2009

DOUBT

There are very few films which complement the plays in which they are based on – A Few Good Men, On Golden Pond and Sleuth to name a few. It is with sad regret that the Oscar-nominated Streep and Hoffman show is not among them.

Set in 1964, in St Nicholas Church and School, the story centres around Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the iron-gloved principal Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep).

Following the acceptance of the first black boy in the school, suspicions become seasoned when naive Sister James (Amy Adams) drops a hint that Flynn maybe spending too much time with the new kid.

And so begins a personal crusade to unearth the truth – is Flynn a paedophile? Is Sister Aloysius power-hungry? Has Sister James a motive of her own?

Of course, the story has all the ingredients of an Oscar contender – two of America’s finest character actors (Streep and Hoffman), based on a Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play and layered with a filthy dose of political tension, religion, suspicion and child molestation.

So, why doesn’t it work? Simple – it’s not good film material.

Scenes can last up to fifteen minutes at a time, dialogue is overplayed and by the end, your only doubt is why you didn’t decide to watch something else.

Maybe it needed a fresh pair of eyes on John Patrick Shanley’s award-winning play rather than Shanley taking the role of both screenwriter and director on this particular project.

Acting, as you can imagine, is first rate with Amy Adams (The Wedding Date, Talladega Nights) ditching popcorn comedy for arguably one of her most serious and exciting roles.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to save the film – Doubt is undoubtedly dull.

Rating: * *


VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA

Love him or hate him, Woody Allen is back!

It has been a depressing couple of years for the odd man with black-rimmed glasses following a catalogue of disappointing movies, such as Anything Else, Melinda and Melinda and the critically acclaimed although critically tedious Match Point - where Allen took a shot at being serious. And missed. Hopelessly.

However, thanks to a bit of Spanish sunshine, it seems the neurotic New Yorker has managed to strike gold with his 45th feature, Vicky Christina Barcelona.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Christina (Scarlett Johansson) are two American women spending their summer in Barcelona - soaking up all the art, culture and wine the city has to offer.

Vicky is realistic, sensible, ready to start the rest of her life with a man she supposedly loves and wants to marry. Christina is the opposite, spontaneous, sexually adventeous, using each experience in some brazen attempt to discover her creative self.

However, a chance meeting with seductive and impulsive Spanish painter, Juan Antonio (Javier Barden) brings their holiday to an immediate halt when he offers the pair a trip on his private jet to Oviedo where he intends to bed them both.

Throw in Antonia’s jealous ex-wife, Maria (Penelope Cruz) and a cast of other Woody Allen primed characters and you have the making of a great comedy drama.

Hailed by some critics as the Spainish version of Manhantan, Vicky Christina Barcelona stands on its own as part romantic comedy, part observational drama.

Barden is perfectly cast as the suave Antonia – bridges apart from his role as psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh in the Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men, which deservedly won him an Oscar.

But it’s Cruz (nominated for Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Oscars) who steals the show as the jilted lover – frustrated by her ex-husband’s inability to make her happy but unable to cope without him.

The only criticism, similar to other Allen movies, is the film raises more questions than answers and while each character is wonderful to watch, the final result is abrupt and rather poorly planned.

Rating: * * * *


REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA

Repo! The Genetic Opera is a rock, shock, horror musical – loaded with enough blood and guts to fill a swimming pool and enough black leather to host a Dominatrix party.

Set in the not-too-distant future, America has been hit by a terrible epidemic – organ failures.

Residents turn to GeneCo, a biotech company, who provide transplants, but at a high and deadly price.

Those who fail to keep up with their payments must face The Repo Man – a masked assassin appointed by the company to repossess their insides.

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, III and IV) and based on an underground musical play of the same name, this is the kind of film that stinks of originality.

Repo! centres around Nathan Wallace (Anthony Head), a loving but overprotective father, desperately seeking a miracle cure for his 17-year-old daughter, Shilo, who suffers from a rare blood disease.

But Nathan has a dark secret.

At night he is The Repo Man – a masked avenger who stalks the darkened streets, slashing his way through dozens of GeneCo’s customers failing to keep up with their organ payments.

Throw in a few subplots, a bit of Shakespearian tragedy, some brilliant industrial rock songs and Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) as the devilish director of GeneCo and you have a winning formula.

Granted, at times, it shamelessly pinches from Blade Runner, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Opera, but Repo! is still guts ahead of other modern horror movies – creating a truly alternative slant on a lack lustre genre, which is rapidly becoming more repetitive by the year.

And mixing horror with music really works, especially on songs, such as, Thankless Job, which sees a frustrated Repo Man tearing out a client’s intestines while mournfully singing: ‘It’s a Thankless Job, but somebody has got to do it.’ Nice!

Fans of Mamma Mia, this is not for you. But for those willing to open their heart, lungs and other bodily organs to Repo! The Genetic Opera will not be disappointed. This is a horror treat, you would be gutted to miss!

Rating: * * * *

Now available on DVD and Blu-Ray



Monday, 2 February 2009

EDEN LAKE

JUST when you thought the clich├ęd tale of the couple who get lost, stranded and stalked in the woods was dead and buried along comes Eden Lake to provide a fresh and welcomed return to the aged formula.

Penned by James Watkins (The Descent, My Little Eye), Eden Lake tells the tale of Jenny and Steve, a typical, boring English couple, who are confronted by a bunch of obnoxious and knife-loving yobs on their getaway camping trip to the countryside.

When Steve, visibly lacking in strength or authority, confronts the youths over the sound of their stereo, he triggers off a series of events, which lead to a deadly cat-and-mouse chase in the woods.

Of course, this formula has been played out a hundred times before, with its origins probably lying in the sickly hands of Wes Craven (The Last House on the Left) and Sam Peckinpah (Straw Dogs) in the 1970s.

But what makes Eden Lake a gem among the stones is its truly modern and very British twist - replacing the American hillbilly with the young hoodie - where bravado is shown and respect is earned by the size of your blade.

In fact, the star of the show is Watkins - capturing a frightening, if somewhat over-exaggerated, picture of youth crime in Britain.

From the opening credits of a car radio blaring out the latest knife crime news to one gang member capturing a torture scene on her mobile phone, the sense of dread feels undoubtedly real and close to home.

Eden Lake is a disturbing and nasty tale - far more entertaining and shocking than recent stalk and slash horror movies, such as, The Strangers and Timber Falls - with an ending that will have even the most hardened of hearts reaching for a bucket.

Yes, this film is not for everyone, but for horror fans Eden Lake is a destination well worth the visit.

Rating: * * * *

Eden Lake is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.