Wednesday, 29 July 2009


Director Lars Von Trier has always had a knack for breaking cinematic conventions and this sordid little affair shows no signs of him changing.

But what the Danish director managed to sustain in movies such as the brilliant Dogville and Manderlay, he seems to revoke for a more vulgar and pretentious piece of cinema.

The story centres around a nameless couple played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. As they frivolously copulate in their bedroom, the pair fail to stop their baby son jumping accidentally to his death from an open window.

Gainsbourg doesn’t take the news well while Dafoe, a therapist by trade, almost becomes obsessed by his wife’s grief and peculiar nature.

It isn’t long before he sees his own wife like a patient, a subject worth analysing, and believes an extended trip to a remote cabin in the woods will break the cycle of pain.

Told in four chapters with a prologue and epilogue, the film details their trip into self-destruction and mutilation while confronting the strange goings-on that seem to be occurring in their natural surroundings.

This could have been an excellent film - and near the end it almost gives one hope - but there is far too much ambiguity that it’s hard to tell what Lars Von Trier is trying to communicate.

It isn’t quite horror. It isn’t quite drama. In fact, at times, it verges on pornography with a sadistic edge.

Too much time is spent visually trying to impress, such as, slow-motion shots of falling objects and microscopic close-ups of dismembered animals like an X-rated version of Planet Earth.

The violence is also both graphic and unnecessary - and although these scenes are left for the last fifteen minutes, it is bound to leave any cinema-goer slightly unhinged as they stumble away from the screen.

This really is unsettling viewing - vaguely reminiscent of Colin Eggleston's 1978 hit Long Weekend and Claire Denis's ultra violent Trouble Every Day.

Confusing, tasteless and rather boring, this is pretentious cinema-making at its most sickening.

And while it certainly deserves a one star rating, its complexities and ambiguity can’t help but persuade you there is more at work than meets the eye.

But what that might be, who knows?

Rating: * *

Thursday, 23 July 2009


Iceland has hardly been at the epicentre of movie chit-chat, but that could all change thanks to the writer and director of this atmospheric and icy little thriller.

Laced with gloomy cinematography, unscrupulous characters, and a story structure which interweaves two supposedly disparate tales at the same time - it is hard not to get sucked into the small world director Baltasar Kormakur has created.

The film opens with Orn - a man mourning the death of his only daughter to a rare genetic disease. No sooner have the titles rolled and the audience are lambasted into something completely unconnected or so we are led to believe.

A loner is dead in a pool of blood, killed by a strong blow to the head, and tough-talking, chain-smoking Detective Erlendur (Iceland’s answer to Cracker) is called in to investigate.

But this is island-life where bad news travels faster than the icy wind and community secrets, which had lay buried for years are about to rise morbidly to the surface.

Of course, like many murder mysteries of this kind, the proof is in the finale.

And Jar City certainly delivers - creating a taunting tale, which throws the audience line after line only to happily snap them before you get a chance of figuring it out.

It also has a strong message - one that will leave you stirring in your seat long after the credits have rolled.

Rating: * * * *

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


A LOUGHBOROUGH man who grew up watching movies at the town’s cinema is now about to see his own work on the big screen after securing a £3m investment to shoot his first full-length movie.

James Berry, 28, a former pupil from Loughborough Grammar School, started his career as a runner on EastEnders before taking a job for a production company in Los Angeles.

Perfecting his craft on a number of short films, James has finally been given the chance to shoot his first full-length coming-of-age drama Running on Empty in the UK in 2010.

The £3m independent picture tells the story of a talented young rugby player stuck in one of the country’s worst teams and promises to be a “Billy Elliott meets Good Will Hunting” type of movie.

James, who wrote the script and is directing the feature, told the Echo: “I am not a huge sports fan but I love capturing the drama of sport on screen and I really like the coming-of-age drama. It’s funny where watching movies at the Curzon on a Saturday afternoon will take you.

“I don’t think we have seen a good coming-of-age drama looking at the 18 to 20-year-olds for a long time. The last was probably Billy Elliott.

“The story is about a man stuck in a really bad team who finally gets the chance to play for a great team but has to live up to his family’s expectations of him. It’s about how do you stay true to yourself and at the same time your background.”

The movie is due to be released in cinemas by 2011.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


A blue glove left in the snow. A dog wearing a porcelain mask. A discarded foetus under brambles and bushes.

For the first five minutes, The Unborn is a peculiar mix of The Nightmare on Elm Street style dream sequences and something you might find in a Dali painting.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long and when we realise what all this means, the next 85 minutes are one hell of a struggle.

Odette Yustman is a young college student who still mourning the death of her mother some years previously starts to have strange dreams about a blue-eyed child.

It soon emerges the child was Odette’s twin her mother lost at birth and now for no reason really than cheap thrills and lashings of gore, it has decided to come back and haunt her.

This wouldn’t be so bad if director David S. Goyer (writer of Jumper and The Dark Knight) wasn’t so transfixed with trying to scare the audience at every given turn rather than trying to tell a relatively good horror tale.

Characters are as thin as breadsticks, the dialogue is appalling and one wonders how talent as masterful as Gary Oldman managed to find his way into this story.

Of course, the film makes a fantastic trailer - something which certainly makes this forgettable tale look rather less trashy than it is.

But nothing can disguise the fact The Unborn should never have been born.

Rating: *