Archive for October, 2008

Halloween – out now

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Costing $300,000 and grossing $60 million, Halloween was the independent slasher film that put director John Carpenter on the map, and established many of the clichés found in thirty years of low-budget horror that followed. Now considered a classic, the film’s success lies in its simplicity. A neat plot coupled with deft camera work gives Halloween a stark realism which plays on our primeval fears.

One dark halloween night, a six-year-old boy named Michael Audrey Myers (Will Sandin) stabs his teenage sister to death with a kitchen knife. Discovered soon afterwards by his parents, the boy is sent to a sanatorium under the care of child psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence). After spending eight years in treatment and a further seven locked up, Myers escapes to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, looking for prey.

A 19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis plays the bookish schoolgirl Laurie Strode. Babysitting on hallowe’en night, Laurie is unaware that the adult Myers (Tony Moran), a psychopathic killer wearing an expressionless white mask, is lurking right around the corner, waiting for his moment to pounce and change the course of her life forever. Meanwhile the horrified Dr Loomis waits, as single-mindedly obsessed as the killer he’s chasing.

The Ring – out now

Friday, October 31st, 2008

An unmarked video tape that kills you seven days after you’ve watched it is the focus for this psychological thriller, based on the Japanese horror film of the same name. More eerie than grotesque, The Ring is bound to send more than a few Hallowe’en shivers down your spine this Friday.

Naomi Watts plays Rachel Keller, a Seattle-based newspaper reporter who is asked to investigate the sudden and mysterious death of her niece. Rachel discovers that three other teenagers also died that day, and that all four had watched a mysterious, grainy video exactly a week earlier. But once she manages to track down the offending VHS the budding journo can’t help but take a peek, and begins to fear that her curiosity could get the better of her. Determined not to be fooled by an urban legend, Rachel enlists the help of her reluctant ex-boyfriend Noah (Martin Henderson) and intuitive son Aiden (David Dorfman) to get to the bottom of the mystery. But one death threat later and Rachel is fighting to save her own life and those of her family. The clock is ticking…

Hannibal – out now

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

In this handsomely executed adaptation of Thomas Harris’s sequel from director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator),  Lecter is now living in freedom as a curator in Florence. Ten years have passed since he escaped from custody; ten years since FBI agent Clarence Starling interviewed him in a maximum security prison. Despite her unspoken promise not to pursue him, Clarice, having been exiled to a desk job after a botched drug raid, finds her self lured by Lecter himself, who writes to her from Italy, confident in his pseudonym “Dr Fell”.

It turns out that Clarice and the FBI are not the only ones with an eye on the Doctor – billionaire and convicted child molester Mason Verger (played by a very heavily made-up Gary Oldman) remembers Lecter too. After using his wealth to escape a jail sentence several years ago, Verger was ordered by the court to attend therapy sessions… with none other than the celebrated Baltimore psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter…


Se7en – out on DVD

Friday, October 24th, 2008

In this now-classic 90’s horror, two mismatched policemen follow a serial killer with a biblical bent, trying to establish a pattern to his murders. The subject matter certainly won’t win brownie points for originality, but this exceptionally nasty thriller twists these familiar elements into a gripping and claustrophobic web of tension.

In a grim, anonymous city which seems to experience constant rainfall, steady-handed veteran Detective William Somerset is preparing to retire from the force, weary of the horror and apathy that surrounds him. But before he does so, he is matched with Detective David Mills, a young cop with a can-do attitude who has recently moved from a smaller town with his sweet-tempered wife (Gwyneth Paltrow). The pair form the modern detective cliché – the wise old hand and the cocky young upstart who gradually learn to rub along.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Friday, October 24th, 2008

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) is a cult classic – a transvestite-sci-fi-horror-rock-opera parody and the undisputed king of midnight movies. Other filmmakers have tried to emulate its success, such as Warner Bros. with Little Shop of Horrors, but with only partial success. A run of catchy tunes gives the film momentum, while Charles Gray’s remarkably straight-faced narration holds the freaky lingerie-and-facepaint clad shambles together.

With a screen play written by Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien (yes, he of The Crystal Maze) the film is based on the British musical stage production The Rocky Horror Show, and it is in the theatre that the whole caboodle really belongs, with the performers and audience joining in a collective send-up. The film remains very much a staged play, and loses much of its giddy appeal when translated to the confines of one’s living room, mainly because the audience – normally participants as well as spectators –  has disappeared. Bearing all that in mind, what better excuse to invite your mates round for a fishnet-clad horror fest, courtesy of the enigmatic Dr. Frank N. Furter?

Quantum of Solace – coming soon

Friday, October 24th, 2008

When it was announced that the next actor to step into the shoes of the world’s foremost international man of mystery would be blond, blue-eyed Daniel Craig, everyone and their dog was up in arms over the choice of leading man; how could he pull it off when he doesn’t look the part, and prefers automatic transition over manual?

Doubting Thomases the world over were made to eat their hats upon the arrival of Casino Royale, which confidently reinvigorated the Bond franchise, which was veering dangerously close to self-parody with the pretty god awful Die Another Day. All of the classic elements were there, an Aston Martin (DB5), Vodka Martini, soundtrack by David Arnold, nods to the political climate of the time, there was a thankfully noticeable lack of CGI, with practically all the stunts being performed the ‘old fashioned way’, there were guns, there were girls, and there were gadgets; even the film’s title was a nod to the original Ian Fleming source material.

But despite all the knowing winks, it was a thoroughly modern take on a classic style, perhaps best encapsulated by the infamous Vodka Martini scene which sent naysayers into apoplexy; asked by a waiter if he wants his drink shaken or stirred, he replies ‘Do I look like I give a damn?’ This Bond meant business, but not business as usual.


The Road Home – out now

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Lyrical and expressive, The Road Home represents a significant shift from more analytical and politically charged films concerning the period of Chinese history which preceded the Cultural Revolution. Dealing with the relationship between city and country, old and new, the film portrays love pursued in youth and fiercely remembered in old age. It is a tale of constancy and devotion against the odds in which the past represents the stability of family values and village customs; political tension is also hinted at, and occasionally bubbles to the surface. The present, on the other hand, is cold and uncertain. The young have moved away from the villages, and the old traditions are dying out. Traditional skills perfected over a lifetime are rejected for commercialism. The adage ”Know the past, know the present” resonates with inreasing sentiment as it is repeated throughout the film.

Zhang Yimou, who also directed Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, and The Story of Qiu Ju, was formerly a cinematographer, and he is adept at stirring up emotions with his mastery of colour and mood. He possesses an intense awareness of the natural world, revealing in his camerawork the glory of the changing seasons, the weather and the gorgeous landscape of towering mountains, crisp snow and lush, golden fields. San Bao’s impassioned soundtrack, reminiscent of James Horner’s theme music for Titanic, represents a full-blooded escape from the political heavy-handedness that dogged Zhang’s earlier Mao-era features, lending this elemental love story an emotional grandeur.


The Waiting Room – out now

Friday, October 17th, 2008

The Waiting Room tells the story of two groups of friends, both living and working in South London, which have no connection with one another – until a chance encounter in a railway station waiting room throws their lives into disarray.

Roger Goldby’s wistful debut drama about love and loneliness in London opens in a golden autumnal haze. The pretty single mum Anna (Anne-Marie Duff) is seen sneaking off upstairs with her lover George as they grab a brief passionate moment together while the children watch TV.

But when the whimpering househusband is later seen taking his own child back home to his career driven wife, who happens to be Anna’s best friend, we realise that the trio’s lives are far more broken than the initial rosy tableau would suggest.


Mad Men: Season One – out now

Friday, October 17th, 2008

I missed out on Mad Men when it first aired on BBC Four earlier this year, despite several friends and my better half urging me to check it out, and so I recently decided to invest in the Season One box set, which I’ve been watching in between episodes of The Wire. All this great telly to watch with long, complicated overreaching narrative themes and interlinking storylines… there’s just not enough hours in the day! A guy’s got to get some sleep sometime. Moving on…

It’s fitting that I should mention The Wire; much like that series, Mad Men is a very finely crafted and executed series which is of a commendably high calibre in terms of writing, acting and presentation. And just like The Wire, the initial pace of the series is glacially slow, but once things get moving…

Set in New York in the early 60’s New York, the show is concerned with the fictional Madison Avenue advertising agency Sterling Cooper (chiefly one Don Draper a high-powered ad exec) and the changing social backdrop of 1960’s America, (chiefly relationships and the shifting roles of men and women in western society).


Adulthood – out now

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Featuring bullying, suicide, casual sex, hard drugs, organized crime, murder, all involving fresh faced teens,  the film Kidulthood caused quite a stir when it was released in 2006. Now, six years on, Dr Who actor Noel Clarke returns as the thuggish, baseball bat wielding killer Sam Peel in follow-up Adulthood. He and his posse are still leading a life of crime, having graduated from happy slapping to drug-dealing, but this time the film comes with a conscience.

It also comes with a new director in the form of Noel Clarke, who starred in and wrote the screenplay for Kidulthood. Clarke’s character Sam is back on the streets after a six-year stint in prison for murdering his rival Trife. With friends of the dead boy angling for his blood, Clarke is determined to keep his head down – but those aware of his release have other ideas.

As with Kidulthood, the action all takes place over a single day. Having had all the violence kicked out of him – cue prison flashback – Sam is looking to make amends for his actions. Finding no-one in, he visits Trife’s grave, where he is confronted by a man who tries to stab him. Later he meets up with his former girlfriend Claire (Madeleine Fairley) who is now with a new boyfriend, Hayden (Danny Dyer). (more…)