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Jessopjessopjessop
QUOTE (Zoe @ Oct 14 2009, 09:13 AM) *
It wasn't as funny as SotD, but it did achieve the balance between horror and comedy far better by actually having some horror in it, including a pleasing amount of imaginative gore.

Solidly four star for me (I'd give Shaun the same). Funny, sweet, lots of yucks and a few surprises, my only criticisms are that they don't use their own clever devices enough (I could have done with a couple more 'zombie kills of the week' and a few more rules - what happened to 5 through 16?)

The other way it topped Shaun for me (as a comedy/horror not a comedy) is that there was genuine peril in quite a few scenes and I was worried for the characters safety and even a bit scared - something I never was in SotD.

We agree!

It sags a little in the middle (pre-cameo), but it was so enjoyable I can forgive it that. Adding more 'kills of the week' as you say would have pepped up those areas, and kept the pace whipping along. The most surprising bits were the genuinely touching moments; scenes handled very well in the midst of the comedy and the blood.

And I guess neither Michael Cera or Adam Brody were available for the lead so they cast the pair's lovechild. Curious.
Zoe
QUOTE (Jessopjessopjessop @ Oct 17 2009, 12:38 PM) *
We agree!


*faints*
maian
QUOTE (Jessopjessopjessop @ Oct 17 2009, 12:38 PM) *
And I guess neither Michael Cera or Adam Brody were available for the lead so they cast the pair's lovechild. Curious.


I really like Jesse Eisenberg. Like Michael Cera he is kind of one note but, as shown in Adventureland and The Squid And The Whale - a rarity in his filmography since it does not have the suffix ''land'' - he can handle some stronger, deeper emotions than Cera.
Zoe
Definitely.

I thought his performance in 'The Squid and the Whale' was fantastic. Subtle and nuanced, treading the line betwen sympathetic and annoying. Seeing him take on his father's terrible advice and attitudes and modifying his behaviour accordingly was occasionally gutwrenching. He's got a bit more depth as a performer than Cera I think (as adorable as he is).

"Yeah. I mean, it's gross when he turns into the bug, but I love how matter of fact everything is."

"Yeah, it's very Kafkaesque."

"... because it's written by Franz Kafka.

"Right"


He was lucky to get some really great parts, in some really great films that stretched him while he was young (love 'Roger Dodger' too).

There was of course 'Cursed' too...
maian
I think it helps that, although he got some great parts, none of them actually made him into a ''name'' in the way that some of Michael Cera's did. He's been able to operate under the radar and try new things whilst Michael Cera has kind of been stuck with George Michael roles for the past 6 years and doesn't seem to get the chance to do anything outside of that. Hopefully now that he has broken in the mainstream Jesse Eisenberg will be able to continue doing different things, rather than just being pigeonholed as someone who only does one thing.

I should really see Roger Dodger, I've heard nothing but good things about it.
logger
Crank 2

I decided to watch this because Nick Frost was live tweeting as he watched it yesterday. That a good enough reason, you bunch of Sausage Nigels?
Sir_Robin_the_brave
QUOTE (maian @ Oct 17 2009, 01:55 PM) *
I should really see Roger Dodger, I've heard nothing but good things about it.


You most certainly should, it's excellent. I was thinking the other day I should give it a rewatch (after I saw the Zombieland trailer in the cinema)
logger
Ghost Town

I made it half an hour in.


When Harry Met Sally

I made it ten minutes in.


The Devil's Rejects

I made it all the way to the mofo-ing end.

There's a lesson in there.
Kick in the Head
The Road

John Hillcoat's (The Proposition) adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's (No Country For Old Men) novel is a faithful one indeed, honouring the book's bluntness and frankness to create a very honest (one would imagine) depiction of a non-descript apocalyptic American wasteland and a father and son's journey across it.

If you've read the book, you'll know what to expect - perhaps to the film's detriment in that the impact is somewhat lessened. Either I've been too desensitised or just knew the tone of the book so well that I was not as shocked or upset as I might have been going in cold. But it's still hard not to be impressed with just how matter-of-fact yet beautifully told the story is. Viggo Mortensen is every bit as believable, intense and watchable as in his work with Cronenberg and Kodi Smit-McPhee (soon to appear in the American version of Let The Right One In) is pretty much perfect, exactly how you'd expect a child to behave in such an impossible situation while never falling into the trap of acting 'beyond their years' - so much so that a day after the screening, I saw families with little kids in big coats and woolly hats and I got a little emotional, feeling a sudden paternal urge to protect them from the apocalypse! Add to that an impeccable supporting cast populated by well-known faces in bit-part roles (a near un-recognisable Robert Duvall may have less screen time than Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got a supporting nom come Oscar time).

If you can imagine a cross somewhere between the end of The Mist and the start of Wall-E, then The Road is close to that. Though its setting and content is ostensibly bleak, there is a beauty and a purpose to it that transcends the darkness to make for a strangely uplifting and poignant piece of work.
Ade
QUOTE (logger @ Oct 18 2009, 12:54 AM) *
When Harry Met Sally

I made it ten minutes in.


The Devil's Rejects

I made it all the way to the mofo-ing end.

There's a lesson in there.


Quite probably. I don't think I've ever had any incentive to watch The Devil's Rejects. From what I've heard about it, it sounds like an ugly, ugly, gaping wound.

When Harry Met Sally would be the healing miracle salve.
logger
QUOTE (Ade @ Oct 18 2009, 06:25 PM) *
Quite probably. I don't think I've ever had any incentive to watch The Devil's Rejects. From what I've heard about it, it sounds like an ugly, ugly, gaping wound.

It's a very funny, silly film with a sly sense of perspective.

QUOTE (Ade @ Oct 18 2009, 06:25 PM) *
When Harry Met Sally would be the healing miracle salve.

As a human being I found it offensive.
sweetbutinsane
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

I really enjoyed it. It wasn't anything like I was expecting, but that's sort of what made it so good.

Edit: Why were there so many Geordies in London though?
Starscream`s Ghost
In Bruges

Awesome stuff, I really enjoyed it.
Jimmay
Coraline (on Blu-Ray and in 3D)

What a dark kids film this is. I really enjoyed it and wished that more modern kids films were made like this where they will genuinely scare the kiddies watching it. Children need a good scare every now and again if only to have that conversation later in life of "Oh God, I still can't watch that film, it shit me up as a kid."

It was also my first experience of Blu-Ray and I must say that the difference in quality between BD and DVD really is on the same level as VHS to DVD. Amazing stuff. The 3D was average to be honest and washed the colours out quite a bit but for a different experience it was worth doing.
Serafina_Pekkala
QUOTE (Jimmay @ Oct 19 2009, 09:14 AM) *
Coraline (on Blu-Ray and in 3D)

What a dark kids film this is. I really enjoyed it and wished that more modern kids films were made like this where they will genuinely scare the kiddies watching it. Children need a good scare every now and again if only to have that conversation later in life of "Oh God, I still can't watch that film, it shit me up as a kid."


I saw this on Friday. Yep - it was very dark but I loved Dakota as Coraline with her blue hair.
Jimmay
QUOTE (Serafina_Pekkala @ Oct 19 2009, 09:31 AM) *
I saw this on Friday. Yep - it was very dark but I loved Dakota as Coraline with her blue hair.


The voice acting was amazing, especially Dakota. It was quite interesting watching the short documentary with the cast as she had by far the most insightful things to say. How old is she?
Sostie
QUOTE (Ade @ Oct 18 2009, 06:25 PM) *
Quite probably. I don't think I've ever had any incentive to watch The Devil's Rejects. From what I've heard about it, it sounds like an ugly, ugly, gaping wound.


It is ugly. It's also brilliantly executed ugliness. A better grindhouse homage than Tarantino came up with.


SURROGATES
A surprisingly good Dickensian (thatís Philip K not Charles Dickens) slice of sci-fi. It could have done with being a lot longer, and maybe feature a bit more action, but itís full of interesting ideas and was a lot better than expected.

HARRY POTTER & THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE
Visually and tonally darker than previous instalments. Thoroughly enjoyable, though not enough Tonks, Luna (who I canít decide if she is awful or amazing!) and, especially, Helena Bonham Carter.
Raven
Rocketeer

It's been a age since I last saw this, and I was surprised at how clunky the effects look now, but it's still a good film. What ever happened to Bill Campbell?!
Serafina_Pekkala
QUOTE (Jimmay @ Oct 19 2009, 09:38 AM) *
The voice acting was amazing, especially Dakota. It was quite interesting watching the short documentary with the cast as she had by far the most insightful things to say. How old is she?


She is about 15 now. She seems very professional and sharp as a pin especially in the light of some very grown-up storylines and the stupidness of Hollywood. If she and her sister stay grounded, they will be around for a long time. They were very cute together in 'Totoro'.

I also thought Teri Hatcher was perfect as the mum - and Dawn and Jennifer as the Miss Spinks. The voice casting was pretty spot-on.
Shack
Fermat's Room

Four mathematicians are invited to a remote location and are forced to solve mathematical enigmas in order to survive. A decent if not compelling watch, and the twist seemed a little too telegraphed. I also wanted more engimas. I have used the light bulb one as my weekly brain teaser for my class this week. I'm not sure if they'll know where I've got it from.

Yes Man

A lot better than I thought it was going to be. Rhys Darby was hilarious, Carrey himself was reasonably likeable (except for the fist-in-mouth gagreel) and lovely lovely Zooey was gorgeous and just the right side of twee.

I suppose my main like about the film was it did something similar to the book, which is that whenever I'm asked to do anything on a specific date, I tend to think of ways to get out of it. I do need to say yes to more things and do more things as well. Not like an epiphany, but it did make me have a bit of a think. Which is more than any other average comedy film does.

Worth watching.
maian
Wise Blood (1979)

The good thing about examining the works of a specific director, particularly one as storied and prolific as John Huston (Jhon Huston, as he is credited on Wise Blood), is that you occasionally fall upon a real oddity that doesn't fit into their filmography. Wise Blood is one such example.

Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif) is a young man who returns home from war (no specific war, just "war") to discover that his family home has fallen into disrepair and his domineering preacher grandfather (Huston, shown bellowing like a good 'un in some great flashbacks) has died. Hazel sets out for the big city, where he meets a manic young man who believes that his "wise blood" makes him akin to a prophet (Dan Shor), a blind preacher (Harry Dean Stanton) and his daughter (Amy Wright), who each become attracted towards or disdainful of Hazel as he begins to preach his gospel of the Church of Truth Without Christ, a church that preaches a nihilistic belief that there can be no such thing as sin and redemption, so there is no need for anyone to be damned.

Based on Flannery O'Connor's novel, the film is incredibly odd, not merely in its collection of grotesques - par for the course in a Southern Gothic allegory - but in its style and tone; it's based on a book written in the 50's, clearly set in the 70's but with characters who act like they are from the 30's. It's a mish-mash of styles that reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish, which also combines different eras to create a singular, dreamlike world. Wise Blood also shares with Rumble Fish a philosophical tone as both films revolve, in one way or another, around young men trying to make sense of the world who are confronted with differing existential ideas. Tonally, the film feels more like a movie that would have been made 10 years later than it was. It's matter-of-fact approach to its bizarre characters reminded me of Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man and other mid-90's American Independent films. The anachronistic combination of the very 70's visual style and the not at all 70's tone was really disconcerting.

Religion and spirituality are, quite obviously, the main concerns of the film. Hazel's grandfather preached that Jesus would come and get him so violently when he was a child that Hazel equates salvation with a form of punishment - we see him as a child putting rocks in his shoes and wetting himself during a sermon because he fears Jesus so much - so, after his experiences in the war, he decides that the only way to save his soul would be if he had no soul to begin with, hence the Church of Truth Without Christ. The film is, in essence, about Hazel's crisis of faith and how he is perceived by those around him. he's a man disappointed with Christ who eventually becomes disappointed with the world as well.

Brad Dourif, who may be one of my favourite actors, is superb as Hazel. He gets just the right balance of wiry anger, confusion and rigorous self-belief that such character in the midst of a metaphysical quandry needs to be compelling and he is able to tell us so much just through his striking blue eyes. He's only outshone by Ned Beatty, who shows up as a preacher who wants to exploit Hazel for money, and repeats his trick from Network of showing up for about five minutes but completely stealing the film in that time.

For all its positives, I found the film to be somewhat indigestible. It tries to cram a lot of religious subtext and psychological trauma into a very short space of time and I don't think it quite manages it. Huston was a very literal adapter and when he was adapting fairly straight-shooting novels like The Maltese Falcon he was in his element, but he always seemed to struggle when adapting books which were deeper or more nuanced (for another example, check out Under The Volcano). What he does manage to get across to the viewer is fascinating, but you get the feeling that the book would expand these ideas more. Case in point; Hazel's car, which is very key to the novel and increasingly symbolic as time goes on, is kind of sidelined in the film and the lack of substance given to it makes its destruction towards the end of the film far less impactful than it needs to be and makes the aftermath of its destruction seem absolutely insane, rather than symbolic.
Ade
QUOTE (Shack @ Oct 19 2009, 07:56 PM) *
Yes Man

A lot better than I thought it was going to be. Rhys Darby was hilarious, Carrey himself was reasonably likeable (except for the fist-in-mouth gagreel) and lovely lovely Zooey was gorgeous and just the right side of twee.

I suppose my main like about the film was it did something similar to the book, which is that whenever I'm asked to do anything on a specific date, I tend to think of ways to get out of it. I do need to say yes to more things and do more things as well. Not like an epiphany, but it did make me have a bit of a think. Which is more than any other average comedy film does.

Worth watching.

I had similar thoughts after watching Yes Man last week, as I'd long been guilty of looking for reasons not to do things. I loved the book, and I much preferred the random happening and evolution of 'Yes', as compared to the film's own plot device, which I guess works well enough. It does stray a fair bit from the book, but the general ethos has been developed nicely, and it got me thinking too, prompting a mild sense of sense of revived purpose. I've decided to re-read the book, at least.

Vis-a-vis the film, I was initially disappointed when Carrey was first cast in the role - although I'm a big fan, I just didn't feel he was truly the best choice for the vehicle. Thankfully Carrey wasn't in out-and-out full-madding mode. An amiable enough piece of fluff, with more than a few decent laughs to be had, and a positive message at the heart of it. Rhys Darby should have featured a little more I thought, and Zooey Deschanel is indeed teh lovelyness.

Yeah. I liked it.
Serafina_Pekkala
QUOTE (maian @ Oct 20 2009, 01:17 PM) *
Wise Blood (1979)

The good thing about examining the works of a specific director, particularly one as storied and prolific as John Huston

Based on Flannery O'Connor's novel,

Brad Dourif, who may be one of my favourite actors, is superb as Hazel.


Why have i never seen or heard about this film?
Astrid
QUOTE (Ade @ Oct 20 2009, 02:11 PM) *
I had similar thoughts after watching Yes Man last week, as I'd long been guilty of looking for reasons not to do things. I loved the book, and I much preferred the random happening and evolution of 'Yes', as compared to the film's own plot device, which I guess works well enough. It does stray a fair bit from the book, but the general ethos has been developed nicely, and it got me thinking too, prompting a mild sense of sense of revived purpose. I've decided to re-read the book, at least.

Vis-a-vis the film, I was initially disappointed when Carrey was first cast in the role - although I'm a big fan, I just didn't feel he was truly the best choice for the vehicle. Thankfully Carrey wasn't in out-and-out full-madding mode. An amiable enough piece of fluff, with more than a few decent laughs to be had, and a positive message at the heart of it. Rhys Darby should have featured a little more I thought, and Zooey Deschanel is indeed teh lovelyness.

Yeah. I liked it.


I liked, hell pretty much, loved it. "Alright Car" has been said many a time. I even got the soundtrack as I wanted my mitts on the lovely band tunes. So very few people I know have seen this.

Ax
maian
QUOTE (Serafina_Pekkala @ Oct 20 2009, 02:27 PM) *
Why have i never seen or heard about this film?


I know! I only stumbled across it because I went on Lovefilm and selected every John Huston I haven't seen, but it must be quite a well-known film, or at least well-regarded, since there is a Criterion edition available in America, and those folks tend to only go after the good* or popular ones**.

*This does not include their version of Armageddon.

**This might.
Shack
QUOTE (Ade @ Oct 20 2009, 02:11 PM) *
I had similar thoughts after watching Yes Man last week, as I'd long been guilty of looking for reasons not to do things. I loved the book, and I much preferred the random happening and evolution of 'Yes', as compared to the film's own plot device, which I guess works well enough. It does stray a fair bit from the book, but the general ethos has been developed nicely, and it got me thinking too, prompting a mild sense of sense of revived purpose. I've decided to re-read the book, at least.

Vis-a-vis the film, I was initially disappointed when Carrey was first cast in the role - although I'm a big fan, I just didn't feel he was truly the best choice for the vehicle. Thankfully Carrey wasn't in out-and-out full-madding mode. An amiable enough piece of fluff, with more than a few decent laughs to be had, and a positive message at the heart of it. Rhys Darby should have featured a little more I thought, and Zooey Deschanel is indeed teh lovelyness.

Yeah. I liked it.


We should have watched it together and then signed up to do some evening classes.

I have yet to say no to anyone since watching it.
NiteFall
QUOTE (Shack @ Oct 20 2009, 08:05 PM) *
I have yet to say no to anyone since watching it.


I suspect that a statement like that is Lewis' version of one of these-

Shack
I was thinking as much.

I was just waiting for a dirty suggestion to arise.
empathy-with-beast
Coming next Fall: The "Ah God Please Stop, Take it Out It Feels So Wrong!" Man
logger
Battle Royale

Not watched this for a while and I think in that time I'd become a little unappreciative of just how good a film it is. It has plenty of faults but they are more than compensated for.

It was obviously made with some consideration of an international audience but it did make me wonder just to what extent. A big part of it almost seems to work as a parody of an external view of Japanese media but I have no idea how intentional this was. Was this as big (or bigger) film in Japan as it was in the west? What did Japanese people make of it?
melzilla
QUOTE (maian @ Oct 14 2009, 10:05 AM) *
I had pretty much the same experience after watching it, though my initial response to it was much more negative than yours. After watching it I found myself just sitting in a park and watching the world go by and thinking about life, which is not something that usually happens after I watch a film. Then I went to see Star Trek and everything brightened up.

It's a film that I found philosophically interesting and felt that it had some great visual motifs but I really did not care about any of the characters and so it completely failed as a piece of dramatic fiction. It's perfectly fine for someone, especially someone as gifted and intelligent as Kaufman, to explore those themes in a film, but I'd prefer it if he had been able to graft a decent story to it rather than delivering an essay.


I do see where you're coming from with that. I can't say I actually 'liked' (or was really bothered what happened to) any of the characters but, nevertheless, I did feel a real sense of empathy at some points and within some of the situations created. Maybe it was a more emotive reaction to those philosophies and ideas explored rather than the plot or characters themselves, which is rather unusual. Perhaps, for me, it was this oddity which made it so thought-provoking.


Zombieland

Heaps o'fun.
maian
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

The funniest and most inventive film I've seen all year. A simple premise (man invents device that produces food from water, machine gets fired into the clouds and causes foo to rain down) that is slowly built as the film progresses until you reach the point at which a man who dresses as a baby is using a giant sentient roast chicken as a kind of mech suit.

The voice cast are completely charming (I won't list them because I didn't know who they were until the credits came up. Some of them really surprised me) and the script is almost too full of great jokes. I laughed solidly throughout at the wide variety of gags - from the kinetic slapstick jokes to the way in which Flint Lockwood shouts out what he is doing as he is doing it - and the visual effects throughout were just stunning, bringing such delights as a jelly castle and a tornado made of spaghetti to life in a vibrant and delightful way. There's a freewheeling vibrancy to the way in which pretty much everything is thrown at the audience but, unlike say Family Guy, they never feel crowbarred in. Even when you have something like a cat playing 'Fight The Power' it makes sense in terms of the plot and the characters.

I was also surprisingly moved by the portrayal of Flint's relationship with his father, which made for a moment at the end of the film that genuinely had me in tears in the cinema.

Sweet and hugely entertaining, it's the comedy of the year, as far as I'm concerned.


Zombieland

Also good.
Kick in the Head
QUOTE (logger @ Oct 21 2009, 05:15 PM) *
Battle Royale

Not watched this for a while and I think in that time I'd become a little unappreciative of just how good a film it is. It has plenty of faults but they are more than compensated for.

It was obviously made with some consideration of an international audience but it did make me wonder just to what extent. A big part of it almost seems to work as a parody of an external view of Japanese media but I have no idea how intentional this was. Was this as big (or bigger) film in Japan as it was in the west? What did Japanese people make of it?


It was a sizeable hit thanks in a large part to the controversy it caused in the Japanese Diet (Parliament) when MPs debated whether it was harmful to teenagers, and the director's outrage of it getting a restrictive R15 rating and government censorship issues. The special edition was re-rated and includes the R15 rating being triumphantly slashed in half at the start. The sequel certainly looks more into Japan's place in the global community and how it's perceived internationally (at one point, Quentin Tarantino was going to cameo as the US president).

I done a double bill last night of...

Triangle
Twisty loopy Bermuda Triangle-Mary Celeste sort of thriller in which some amigos on a sailing trip get caught in a storm and are rescued by a passing liner that has been seemingly abandoned. What's going on, kids? To go into any more detail would give away the point of the piece, though it is pretty obvious where it's all going very early on. However, as any discerning cineaste will tell you, the satsifaction is not so much in sussing the narrative but enjoying watching it play out. Even if it's all pretty predictable, there are still neat touches, compelling imagery and a few unexpected tangents to keep it all ticking along. Hardly exciting or scary, but intriguing and different enough to stand out from your straightforward stalk-and-slash flicks. Even if it suffers a bad case of the "wuh?"s and "huh?"s.

Thirst
Park Chan-Wook delivers another delectable mix of baroque drama, dark humour and copious blood-letting, this time turning his attention away from Vengeance and Cyborgs for a rather tired genre, the vampire film. But even in the current glut of night-stalker flicks, few have ever been as gleefully sick and enjoyable as this.

A Catholic priest selflessly offers his body to science to be used to develop a cure for a terrible disease, only for him to contract the illness himself. And it seems only feasting on blood can stop the side-effects, leading him to give into terrible desires and pleasures of the flesh that go against every religious fibre of his being.

Even if you managed to sit through Oldboy unphased, Thirst still manages to be pretty squirm-inducing and is certainly not for the squeamish - even with all the blood-sucking they supposedly do, vampire films are rarely quite as bloody or disgusting as this. Often very funny, beautifully shot, wonderfully performed and as rich, deep and textured as any of his previous work, and a marked improvement on the entertaining but muddled I'm A Cyborg, But That's Ok, Thirst may very well be the best vampire film of the year (yes, including Let The Right One In).
melzilla
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

I was quite disappointed. Although there are some lovely touches, ideas, costumes, aesthetics and performances and overall something quite charming about it, for me, it wasn't nearly 'weird' enough. I was hoping for a lot more fantasy, adventure, and 'imagination', as I have come to expect from Gilliam's work, and although some of those bits were done very well indeed, I just felt a little let down with the balance of 'reality' and 'fantasy'. It somehow just felt rather reserved.
The plot was a bit of a mess with lack of clarity and focus on the important bits, and the pacing also disappointed me, it took ages to really get going and with the format of the film as it was (for obvious reasons) it seemed very abruptly 'sectioned' with each 'chunk' of the film feeling quite disjointed rather than flowing smoothly. The use of multiple actors for the same part really wasn't an excuse for this, it just seemed quite sloppy in both direction and editing. Some of the CG used, I felt, wasn't great either, and seemed a bit superfluous and often not in-keeping with the rest of the film's style. However, I felt the script, in general, was great and Lily Cole and Tom Waits, in particular, gave impressive performances. (Would have liked to have seen more of the latter, actually)
Overall, it wasn't completely disappointing, it just could have offered a lot more.
monkeyman
Oh man,I really want to see thirst...
Zoe
'17 Again'

WHY DID NO ONE RECOGNISE HIM??!?!
maian
Slightly too long discussion of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, for anyone who is interested.
Shack
How To Lose Friends And Alienate People

Simon Pegg plays an irritating journalist with his hands tied working for a big New York magazine and all the while falls for Kirsten Dunst. Not quite enough laughs, the plot seemed to lose its way and the romance seemed a little bit too far fetched, as Dunst and Peggles hadn't seemed to have spent that much screen time together, especially as he didn't seem too bothered to let go of his principles for a shot at the big time when she got sacked.

On the other hand, it wasn't a total flop, there were moments of charm and I got to see lovely lovely Kirsten in a nice big pair of pyjamas.
logger
Up

I cried like a fucking baby.

With moments both funnier and more emotionally charged than Wall-E yet doesn't feel as complete a film. Maybe because this is very much more a kids movie, with some clunky juxtaposition snapping you back into Disney territory just when it's won you over. Still a great film though.
maian
Trick 'r Treat (2008)

Michael Dougherty, who is perhaps most famous for being one of the co-writers of X2 and Superman Returns, wrote and directed this homage to EC comics and Halloween in general back in 2007, only for Warner Bros. to sit on it and stop it from being released for well over two years, despite the film being very well liked by pretty much everyone who was given the chance to see it. It's finally limping its way onto DVD this month but I was fortunate enough to catch it on the big screen as part of the Celluloid Screams Festival in Sheffield.

Essentially an anthology film in the vein of the George A. Romero/Stephen King collaboration Creepshow, it tells us five horror stories that all take place in one town on Halloween night; a young woman (Leslie Bibb) finds herself attacked when she takes down Halloween decorations early; a seemingly normal principal (Dylan Baker) sidelines as a serial killer; a group of kids go down to a quarry to investigate a local legend; a virginal girl (Anna Paquin) in a red riding hood outfit is chased by a vampire; and an old man (Brian Cox) is terrorised in his home by a young boy with a sack on his head, who also crops up in the other stories in one way or another.

The stories themselves are not terribly new or inventive - even the nice take on the Little Red Riding Hood story during the Anna Paquin sequence feels like something that has been done a lot of times before - but Dougherty's direction is so alive and stylish and his cast are so exciting that the lack of originality quickly falls by the wayside. The stories all fall into two categories: someone disrespects the traditions of Halloween and is duly punished, which are really creepy, and 'twist in the tale' stories that are darkly humourous. Both kinds work well but the twists are kind of obvious - though there's a certain gleeful malice to the Dylan Baker ending - so I found myself enjoying the more atmospheric, campfire story sections more.

The standout performers are Dylan Baker, whose delivery of the words "candy apples" will long haunt my dreams, and Brian Cox, whose segment is easily the creepiest, largely due to its all too literal interpretation of the "blade in the candy" myths of Halloweens gone by, but also because he really sells the fear that his character is feeling.

Though that section is creepy, the film as a whole is not terribly scary, instead settling for an atmosphere of light dread that I associate with a really well-told ghost story. The fun comes more from the exuberance of the actors, the intentionally melodramatic tone and look, and that cerebral enjoyment that comes from watching a really good, well made horror film and appreciating how good it all is. Dougherty is very energetic in his direction and playful in his writing, giving each scene a brisk feel and refusing to let the film slow down too much between outbursts of eeriness.

The order of the stories and the way in which they are edited together did bother me somewhat, though. Several segments are interwoven with each other whilst others aren't, so you get the sense that half of the film is just a series of loosely interconnected events and the other is an anthology of scary stories. This may have been done to give the Brian Cox section more time to breathe, since a lot would have been lost if the film had cut away from it to something else, but I couldn't help but think that separating them all cleanly and making it into a real anthology film would have made it a tiny bit better. Though, as it is, it's a well made and really enjoyable bit of fluff that is well worth checking out.
logger
Moon

Standard sci fi fare, a little sloppily executed and ultimately dull.
maian
Paranormal Activity - seen as part of the Celluloid Screams Festival

Night #1 - October 24th 2009

A bit of background for anyone unfamiliar with the story of Paranormal Activity and who, unlike me, doesn't spend a little too much time reading about box office performance.

In 2006, Oren Peli decided to make a film about a couple being haunted by an otherworldly force in their home. After taking a full year to prepare for the film - even redesigning his house to fit the story - Peli screened it at festivals and began giving out DVDs in the hope of finding a distributor. Eventually, one DVD wound up on Steven Spielberg's desk and he was suitably impressed enough to agree to fund a big budget remake. Then something weird happened. The film got such strong reactions from a screening with an audience that the remake was canned and the original was released. As of the time of writing, a film made for only $15,000 has grossed over $40 million and rising.

Knowing all this going in, I had very high expectations. Its surprise success suggests that Paranormal Activity has captured the imagination of America in a way that few recent films have and a lot of the buzz suggested that it would be TEH SCARRIEST MOVY EVAH! but would it meet these expectations?

Initially, I didn’t think that it had. I left the cinema thinking "that was okay, nothing special", having enjoyed the film but not been bowled over by it. Then I started walking home, and realised that I was looking over my shoulder, my heart was beating quite fast and I was purposefully taking the long way home so as to keep to well-lit main roads. Clearly, the film had gotten to me.

Why did it affect me so? It's hard to say. It certainly wasn’t the story, which isn’t especially new; a couple hear things at night and the boyfriend (Micah Sloat) decides to set up a video camera in their room to see if anything weird happens, which it promptly does. We hear banging, doors move of their own accord and Katie (Katie Featherston) suffers violent nightmares, all accompanied by an ominous and oppressive white noise. This is a story that has been done before in the likes of The Orphanage and, most obviously, Poltergeist (they even bring in a psychic at one point) so there is little surprising about the plot.

Was it the intimate style of the film that got to me? Again, I wouldn’t say so. The film is presented as in-camera footage of Micah's recordings, which consist of night-time observation and day-time aftermath, which mostly consists of Micah and Katie fighting over how best to deal with their intruder and the strain its presence has on their relationship. Off the top of my head I can think of half a dozen fairly recent films that use that same or a similar conceit and most of them did it much better, though none as economically.

What sets the film apart, though, is its atmosphere and the relationship at its centre. The film features no music, almost no blood and relies almost entirely on in-camera effects. These create a believable environment for the film, maintaining the verisimilitude of the concept, and Peli uses them to very slowly build the tension. It wasn't until about 20 minutes in that the film got a reaction from me, but it shocked me because I hadn't realised how engaged I was and how much I was dreading the next night-time sequence. Dread is really the key word here since Peli's ability to establish and maintain that sense of dread is crucial to the ambience of the piece; its strength lies in the way that it often frustrates your expectations by giving you the set-up without the punchline to keep you anxious, making the moments when the scares come all the more effective. Then again, it's not that scary, it's got more of a creepy atmosphere to it which is actually more effective.

Micah and Katie are central to the film, being pretty much the only characters on screen throughout, and the way in which they interact with each other really feeds into the growing sense of doom that suffuses the film. Early on, as is so often the case in films that use the 'real event, handheld camera' idea, they are quite annoying as we see them being overly jovial for the camera and joking about their endeavour. As the film progresses, though, it takes the audience closer and closer to them, taking away the wall that separates us and letting us see the characters as they really are; terrified and powerless in the face of forces they can’t possibly comprehend or hope to defeat.

Micah, in particular, is a great example of this aspect of the film. He presents this alpha-male ‘this is my house and I’ll fix the problem’ machismo, which manifests itself in his repeated goading of the demon, but when anything actually happens he is completely helpless to stop it. Furthermore, he’s so afraid of being emasculated, either by the demon or by any experts he might call in to help fight it, that he winds up making the situation much worse for the real victim, Katie. His powerlessness, even if he can’t perceive it himself, ultimately defines the film.

It is a film that is almost destined to divide people – at the end of the screening I attended someone proclaimed loudly that the organiser of the festival should get his money back – but if it works for you then it'll really get into your head. It clearly worked for me, which is why I am writing this in a very brightly lit room and is also why I am acutely aware of even the slightest noise being made in my house at the moment.
logger
My Little Eye

Decent digital chiller, with a nice use of camera and audio to create a creepy atmosphere. The only real problem is that there are so many red herrings it makes it more fun the first time you watch trying to guess what's really happening but on subsequent viewings it's never anywhere near as good.
Zoe
Quantum of Solace (2008)

Really surprised how much I enjoyed it, especially after such mixed reviews. Personally I preferred it to 'Casino Royale', it felt much more like a proper Bond film; balls out silly action loosely linked by entertaining parallel revenge plots.

I would have liked a couple of jokes, but all in all very enjoyable stuff.
maian
The Devil and Daniel Johnston

An interesting and deeply sad documentary about the life and career of Daniel Johnston, a hugely talented and near-legendary singer-songwriter who is a favourite of Sonic Youth, Tom Waits and The Flaming Lips, amongst others, but whose successes were always undermined and set back by his crippling manic depression and self-destructive nature.

I'd heard a bit about Daniel Johnston before seeing the film, but I never quite understood how completely bizarre his life was. This is a man who could be committed to a mental institution one day, released the next by accident and playing CBGBs that night, or who could play to 3,000 people as part of a music festival, then on the flight home throw the keys out of the plane and force it to crash land. He's a truly troubled individual whose personal problems he has always put into his work, either in his songs or his paintings, and the film really gets across how messed up he is as a person. However, the film also gets across how much he is loved by those around him, how important his music is to his fans and how important it is to him since it seems to provide the only comfort he has ever found in the world.

A terrific film that takes its audience into the bizarre world of a unique and idiosyncratic individual. The only problem is that it does not really showcase his music enough to really give a sense of why he is so beloved. Then again, I have spent the last half an hour listening to his music, so maybe showing so little is intentional as an enticement.
dandan
QUOTE (logger @ Oct 21 2009, 04:15 PM) *
Battle Royale

It was obviously made with some consideration of an international audience but it did make me wonder just to what extent. A big part of it almost seems to work as a parody of an external view of Japanese media but I have no idea how intentional this was.


i found this to be quite an odd statement. you seem to talk yourself out of the point you were making...

anyway, i'd say that there was probably little, to no, consideration of an international audience. i'd just say some japanese people enjoy poking fun at aspects of their own culture and media...



QUOTE (Zoe @ Oct 25 2009, 01:00 PM) *
Quantum of Solace (2008)

Really surprised how much I enjoyed it, especially after such mixed reviews. Personally I preferred it to 'Casino Royale', it felt much more like a proper Bond film; balls out silly action loosely linked by entertaining parallel revenge plots.


if anything, it made me more annoyed with 'casino royale', as i almost ignored ignored a fun slice of bond, due to the fact that it's predecessor was such a turd...
Serafina_Pekkala
QUOTE (Zoe @ Oct 25 2009, 01:00 PM) *
Quantum of Solace (2008)

Really surprised how much I enjoyed it, especially after such mixed reviews. Personally I preferred it to 'Casino Royale', it felt much more like a proper Bond film; balls out silly action loosely linked by entertaining parallel revenge plots.

I would have liked a couple of jokes, but all in all very enjoyable stuff.


I like Olga Kukisuvlakikini. She is very much lovely.
logger
QUOTE (dandan @ Oct 25 2009, 05:59 PM) *
i found this to be quite an odd statement. you seem to talk yourself out of the point you were making...

I just wanted to know to what extent it was made for a domestic or international audience.

Quantum of Solace is best.
maian
Funny Games (1997)

The German-language original of Michael Haneke's "shocking" discussion of violence in the media and audience complicity in that same violence. A couple (Ulrich Muhe and Susanne Lothar) and their young son are taken hostage by two disquietingly polite young men (Arno Frisch and Frank Giering) who make a bet with them; either they'll be alive in 12 hours, or they won't. They then engage in a series of sadistic mind games designed to torment the family prior to killing them as one of the young men addresses the audience directly, reminding them of their involvement in what is occurring on-screen.

A large part of whether or not you think the film is indeed shocking or terrifying is how much its message, and the means that Haneke uses to express it, effects you. Haneke clearly wants his audience to acknowledge and evaluate their own role in watching the film. Paul's looks to camera remind us that we are watching a piece of fiction and that this family would not be suffering if the film wasn't being made for our entertainment. Further to this, Haneke frustrates the blood lust that he perceives in his audience by refusing to show any of the violence that makes up the bulk of the story. Every time someone is hurt we are not shown the actual impact of the blow and every death occurs off-screen. We know, from the screaming and the aftermath, that terrible things have happened but we never get the catharsis of actually witnessing the violence, making it much worse by forcing us to imagine what happened.

However, I wasn't sold on the idea and, although I was engaged by the film and appreciated what it had to say, I didn't walk away shaken to my core and a sudden desire to stop watching violent films because watching them makes me such a horrible person. I admire it as an uncomfortable and intense piece of cinema, but as a comment on the conventions of the medium and the act of watching it left me cold.
logger
Series 7: The Contenders

First time I've seen this, which is something that can't be said for the majority of people who make reality tv, judging by how prophetic this has become. I initially thought it wasn't as clever as it could have been or thought it was, but as it went on it did win me over. I'm still not sure if it should have dropped any attempts at realism and gone for all out absurdism to get the most out of the satirical edge, but the serious moments were the contenders are trying to come to terms with the contest or especially the scenes between Dawn and Jeff really did add some depth to the film that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

Whilst it could have been better it obviously had no budget and is probably lucky to have been made in the first place so it's easy to forgive its flaws whilst it has so much going for it. It has plenty of laugh out loud moments, in Dawn it has a really interesting and likable lead character (who doesn't love a heavily pregnant killing machine) but for me the best thing about it was Will Arnett's narration.

Overall a decent satire of reality tv that zips along at just the right pace.
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