Friday, 24 April 2015
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
John Wick is proper old-school filmmaking. The kind of movie that can be described and pitched in one sentence:
"Keanu Reeves kills everyone associated to the Russian gangster who murdered his dog".
Or even more succinctly, "Don't get on John's Wick"!
This is a throwback to the action movies of the 80's and if filmed back then, would probably have starred someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Steven Seagal.
Reeves is arguably an actor who, as Ronan Keating might put it, "says it best when he says nothing at all", and it works perfectly for the character for whom actions speaks louder than words and starts off as a man consumed by the loss of his wife and sees a glimmer of hope in the form of an adorable puppy called Daisy.
I can legitimately use the word "adorable" as I experience an entire audience at my Unlimited preview collectively "Awwww" when he stared at him with those puppy dog eyes... and the puppy stares back.
When Russian gangsters attack Wick, take his car and kill his dog, slowly but surely the real John Wick begins to emerge as he returns, step-by-step, kill-by-kill, into the world he left behind.
The movie takes it time with the slow reveal of exactly who Wick is and what he did... most of it revealed in a great monologue about the Bogeyman by one of the film's trump cards Michael Nyquist, who delivers a terrific deadpan comic performance as the gangster whose son unleashes the beast in Wick.
Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch are former stuntmen who worked with Reeves on The Matrix and have crafted action scenes that utilise the skills he has learnt over the years ("I know Kung Fu") and have developed a new style of fighting involving weapons that could be deemed "Gun Fu".
The film, like its title character, is lean, mean and doesn't outstay its welcome.
At one point Wick remarks "People keep asking if I'm back and I haven't really had an answer, but yeah, I'm thinking I'm back."
Not only is Reeves back with a bang, but in a world that features so many great ideas like a hotel just for assassins with "house rules" and a cleaning company that specialises in the clean up of murders where everything is paid for in gold sovereigns, there is so much more to explore that I for one hope that John Wick is back for good.
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
One of the names mentioned has been Taron Egerton who recently starred in Kingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn which is also based on a comic book series by Mark Millar.
It's not just because he is British. Lots of America's top superheroes have been played by Brits (Batman = Christian Bale, Spider-Man = Andrew Garfield, Superman = Henry Cavill).
It is actually due to an interesting trivia fact that proves that Mark Millar comic book adaptations are the proving ground for future Marvel and D.C. Heroes.
Example 1) Wanted (2008)
Millar's first comic to be adapted for the big screen was Wanted which starred James McAvoy in the lead role of Wesley.
McAvoy would go on to play Professor Charles Xavier in X Men: First Class and X Men: Days Of Future Past.
The first Kick-Ass film was directed by Matthew Vaughn (who would also go on to direct McAvoy in X Men: First Class) and starred Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Dave Liewiski and Evan Peters as his friend Todd.
Evan Peters would play Pietr Maximoff aka Quicksilver in X Men: Days Of Future Past and Aaron Taylor-Johnson would play Quicksilver aka Pietr Maximoff in the upcoming Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
Vaughn's 2007 film Stardust starred then unknowns Charlie Cox and Henry Cavill...
It would be fair to say that based on the evidence they have that adamantium touch when it comes to spotting superhero potential.
Monday, 2 March 2015
Following the release of the 5 star It Follows, the best horror film of 2015 and destined to be a cult classic, I've decided to look back and pick the 21 best horror films of the last 15 years.
I was initially going to limit it to 15 films (i.e. the best horror film of each year) however 2012 proved a particularly strong year so upped the limit to 21 films.
The list contains 9 American, 5 British, 3 Japanese, 2 Spanish, 1 Australian and 1 Swedish film.
Interesting to see how my tastes have varied across the years going from an Asian Extreme vibe through body horror to European then a resurgence of UK/US horrors, in particular those that pay homage or deconstruct the genre.
2014 - The Babadook
Heed my advice. Just take a look. You'll be thrilled and scared by The Babadook.
2013 - Maniac
Elijah Wood butchers the memory of Frodo and stuffs the remains into a bin in this first person horror which draws the audience into the mindset of a killer and makes them complicit in his gory actions.
2012 - Sinister
Ethan Hawke delivers a great performance as a writer who may or may not be driven crazy as he investigates a series of brutal killings for a book he is writing. "Lawn Work" provides the biggest jump scare since the bus moment in The Orphanage.
2011 - Kill List
A film that descends into a darker and darker place as it goes on and prompted me to exclaim "What. The F*ck?" when it ended.
2010 - Black Swan
An Oscar-winning horror film? Indeed it is, certainly from my perspective. This is a "Were-Swan" horror with echoes of Polanski as a ballet dancer is driven to the edge of madness as she struggles to cope with the pressures of the dual roles in Swan Lake.
2009 - Let The Right One In
Devoid of sparkle, this was the perfect antidote to Twilight and one of the best vampire movies in years, along with being an incredible love story.
2008 - The Orphanage
A brilliant old-fashioned ghost story that, like The Babadook, explores the darker side of maternal loss.
2007 - [*REC]
Before Paranormal Activity caused every horror film to be filmed from a found footage perspective, this Spanish horror breathed life into a sub-genre that hadn't really been exploited since The Blair Witch Project in 1999.
2006 - Slither
This is body horror at it's most body orientated and most horrific (as well as its funniest). James Gunn created some of the most revolting scenes committed to film since David Cronenberg's Eighties heyday.
2005 - The Descent
It would have made this list for that "Night Vision" camera jump scene alone but it is a tense, gripping horror in two halves with claustrophobic cave crawling scenes at the beginning before giving way to a traditional horror once the group discover they are not alone in the caves. Also receives bonus points for having an all-female cast.
2004 - Saw
It gave a jump start to the body horror genre, and prompted several sequels which all tried to outdo the previous entry by coming up with even more inventive traps to kill people, but the first Saw remains a great horror that genuinely surprised me with the twist at the end.
2003 - Ju On: The Grudge
2002 - 28 Days Later
The film that reinvented the zombie genre... even though it is not technically a zombie movie. It have given the world fast moving zombies... even if they were just people infected with a rage virus but even more terrifying than that were the scenes of deserted London.
2001 - Audition
I first saw this film late one night on Channel 4 and thought I was watching a Japanese romance until the moment when the bag moved. Then there is the final segment which I won't spoil here but suffice to say I can never here the phrase "kitty kitty kitty" in the same way again!
2000 - Ringu
Going full circle (hah) from It Follows, Ringu is the earliest film on the list and also centres on a curse that must be passed on in fear of death. It was one pf those films that came to me through word of mouth, introduced me to Asia Extreme films and one of the first horror films since The Shining to truly frighten me and make me scared to turn on my VCR!
The Best Of The Rest
Berberian Sound Studio
The Cabin In The Woods
The Woman In Black
Sunday, 1 March 2015
The 2015 Glasgow Film Festival drew to a close this evening with their Gala film premiere of the Oscar-nominated Swedish film Force Majeure.
Described by Festival Co-Director Allan Gardner as "Bergman on skis", this is a darkly comic story that sees a family nearly torn apart due to the actions (or inactions) of the father during a crisis.
While on a skiing holiday in France, a family witness an avalanche. As it rolls towards them, the dad makes a run for it while the mother protects the children.
No one is hurt but the damage is done as the relationship between Tomas and Ebba begins to crack and fracture when Tomas is unwilling to admit that he ran away.
It becomes a battle of the sexes with a rich vein of black humour running through its heart as family arguments broaden out to bring in friends and they are forced to pick sides.
For a while, it looked like the film was snowballing towards a bleak ambiguous ending with no real resolution (because let's face it, sometimes an argument is never really finished. How many times has something you've done in the past been brought up against you?) but the optimists out there will see potential for redemption.
It is a film that is guaranteed to generate debate/discussion/arguments on leaving the screen as to what you would do or what you think others would do in that situation.
Snow joking around, Force Majeure is a darkly comic force to be reckoned with.
Saturday, 28 February 2015
Now and again, a horror film comes along with a central concept that is so simple yet so devilishly brilliant that you'll be kicking yourself for not thinking of it first.
In It Follows sexually promiscuous teenagers are stalked by a mysterious figure who slowly walks towards them. They can run, they can hide but it will always find them and like the curse in Ringu the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on to someone else through sexual intercourse.
That's right, It Follows not only refers to the 'It' that follows the victims to their deaths but also it can refer to the world's most persistent STD that not amount of pills or creams will be able to treat!
The modus operandi of the film's monster is one of the best in recent years, arguably the best since the Weeping Angels in the Blink episode of Doctor Who.
The film's tagline is "It doesn't feel. It doesn't think. It doesn't give up." and reminded me of Kyle Reese's warning in The Terminator: "Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."
The way that 'It' slowly and silently stalks its prey (along with a retro synth score that has also featured to great effect in recent horrors like Maniac, The Guest and Cold In July) brings to mind the infamous 'The Shape' aka Michael Myers in John Carpenter's seminal Halloween.
Not only that but the leafy suburban setting of the film is reminiscent of Haddonfield and Carpenter's horror was one of the first to look at the correlation between sex and death, with those who indulged in pre-marital relations being punished for it by being brutally murdered.
Indeed following on from last year's excellent The Guest, Maika Monroe is in a prime position to become this generation's "Scream Queen".
Writer-Director David Robert Mitchell has crafted a movie that not only delivers a message but also plenty of scares, and in a bold move he is not afraid to set many of its most unsettling scenes outside in broad daylight. The entire film has a calm, assured execution and direction that hints at a bright future in the horror genre
Just like the figure that stalks the protagonists, It Follows will haunt you for many days after you see it, unable to shake off this horror masterpiece.
Thursday, 19 February 2015
The 2015 Glasgow Film Festival kicked off in style last night... well, the type of style that includes pork pie hats and skinny jeans because the film chosen to open proceedings was While We're Young by Noah Baumbach.
A couple in their forties (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) are growing restless and treading water. Stiller's character is still working on a documentary project he started ten years ago. Unable (or unwilling to have children) they are losing touch with their friends who are having kids, etc.
When they meet a young hipster couple at one of Stiller's lectures, they embrace their "joie de vivre" spirit and start embracing the "hipster" lifestyle but it starts to put hitherto unknown pressures on their work and relationship.
Baumbach's last film Frances Ha was centred around a group of New York hipsters and alienated a lot of viewers who just didn't particularly like or understand this "scene" and there was some initial hesitance going into this film that it would be more of the same.
However, Baumbach's screenplay is very much written from the point of view of the older characters and therefore whilst it paints an alluring picture to convince you that a world of homemade ice cream, street cookouts, pork pie hats and hip hop dance classes would appeal to a couple going through a mid-life crisis, it is not afraid to call the hipsters on the "oh aren't we cool, we use a typewriter" bullshit.
As the gloss starts to fade on their newfound "lifestyle" and friends (Adam Driver plays his role well coming across as appealing yet also a bit of a douche), Josh rallies against it. Bemoaning the fact that there are bands ironically named after adverts he saw as a kid. Or having a massive vinyl collection because it looks good in the oversized loft apartment where for Josh it was essential as a young guy as it was the only way to listen to music.
Stiller's Josh is from a generation of documentary filmmaker, inspired by his father-in-law (a nice cameo by Charles Grodin), where truth is paramount. Adam Driver's Jamie is of the generation where truth is "nice and all" but not if it gets in the way of telling a good story.
The first two thirds of the film are very funny, with a slight Nathan Barley-feel to its critique of a culture (amplified by great performances from Stiller and Watts as the fish out of water) but once an actual "plot" comes in and Stiller tries to expose his protege Jamie (who has now exceeded Josh's success) as a fraud, it feels rather weak and underwhelming.
Indeed, Josh's final rant and speech comes across as anti-climatic yet perhaps this is the point. The world is changing and people have to accept that and embrace the change... although they themselves do not have to change and instead be comfortable in their own skin.
After all, I myself am 34 years old and own a few trilbies but found myself agreeing with the viewpoint of the 44 year olds.
Perhaps Huey Lewis and the News were right and it IS hip to be square these days.