Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Monday, 28 November 2011
Earthling is an ambitious low-budget scifi movie about a bunch of people bound together by a strange reaction to an anomalous event in Earth's orbit. The main character loses her unborn child in a car accident and struggles to put her life and mind together, it doesn't help that she's hallucinating and seems to be stalked by strangers suffering similar problems. Nicely acted and with the confidence to tease out the plot gradually there's some Cronenberg-esque body horror and some dreamy Lynchian influences throughout. It's not without it's flaws but it's a nice quiet, examination of alienation and the human experience and with a bigger budget and maybe with some extra polish this could have been brilliant. An assured debut.
Friday, 25 November 2011
Monday, 21 November 2011
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Thursday, 17 November 2011
Perfume by Peter Suskind is a dark, squalid tale set during 18th century Paris. Highly acclaimed and subsequently adapted for the screen the book follows the life of an odorless psychotic born into abject poverty whose blessed with a preternatural sense of smell. His gift lifts him from destitution and cultivating his skill in the perfume trade and he begins to plan his own nefarious apotheosis. Suskind's prose is quite light, almost flippant at times but he brings a life and a surprising richness to the olfactory world of Grenouille and his dark, cold hearted character. It's a decent read, if occasionally a little florid, but it spins along to a rather unexpected climax
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
An Italian cemetery whose inhabitants rise from their graves requires a special sort of caretaker and in this peculiar little film it's Rupert Everett that's tasked with dispatching the returners. Directed by Argento protege Michele Soavi and based on a novel from Italian comic book artist Scalvi, Cemetery Man, is a melange of comedy, horror and romance quite unlike anything I've seen before. Everett & his monosyllabic sidekick hammer away with shovels & pistols at the unliving during the night watch but both fall madly in love during the day & after Everett's love dies, returns and is dispatched again he begins to lose his mind and a series of encounters with two doppelgangers finally tip him over the edge. Despite it's disparate elements and the modest budget it's a really enjoyable little oddity with a twisted sense of humour, bags of style and a surprisingly affective plot.
Monday, 14 November 2011
Saturday, 12 November 2011
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Cherry follows a young man who joins an Ivy league University and finds himself alienated from his more worldly peers but he soon falls into a friendship/romance/love triangle with an attractive mature student and her precocious daughter. There's decent performances throughout and the faux indie sensibility keeps the plot 'real' but it's just not that funny for a film billed as a comedy and ends up little more than your average coming-of-age drama. Maybe I'm being harsh, as there are some nice touches and it's certainly possesses a sensitivity absent from the usual American Pie type crap, but there was nothing for me, that justifies the plaudits it's already garnered.
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Bill Nighy's quiet, mumbly charm underpins Page Eight, a modest little spy thriller about intelligence sharing and a deceitful Prime Minister. Approaching retirement, Nighy finds himself under suspicion after a ultra sensitive document stirs up trouble and after an unlikely May-Dec flirtation with his gorgeous neighbour, played by Rachel Weisz, he soon becomes unsure who he can trust. With some decent acting and a wry, cynical script this was far more enjoyable than I'd expected and the paucity of action is outweighed by a (sadly all too rare) realism and intelligence.
Steven Soderbergh's Contagion also relies on it's realism to create the tension with a new, enigmatic disease spreading round the globe in this multistrand narrative. Structured much like his Traffic this thriller follows victims, health professionals, investigators and journalists from the onset of the epidemic to the inevitable, disastrous consequences. With a cast including Damon, Fishbourne,Paltrow and Winslet this has plenty of talent and a strong script that keeps the medical mumbo jumbo to a minimum. After it's torpid start it really picks up the pace and becomes a fairly chilling evocation of our perilous, interconnected world.
Monday, 7 November 2011
A brain parasite found in 10-20% of the UK population has been shown to effect dopamine levels. ScienceDaily.
Saturday, 5 November 2011
Directed by Tony Richardson's madcap satire The Loved One is a 60's gem. A young British poet lands in LA and moves in with his Uncle who works as a vocal coach to the stars, after he passes away the nephew must arrange a tinseltown funeral at a guady, opulent cemetary staffed with some rather curious characters, one of whom attracts his eye. Based on a Evelyn Waugh novel and adapted by the brilliant Terry Southern this pacy nonsense has plenty of laughs as it's rolls around poking fun at everyone and everything with gusto. Sporting a fantastic ensemble of actors including Gielgud, Liberace, Coburn, McDowall and Steiger this is a sadly forgotten 60's masterpiece.
Friday, 4 November 2011
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel concerns a rotund psychic working the circuit while coping with a foul, truculent, uncouth spirit guide who is unwilling to reveal the truth about his mistress's mysterious, tragic past. After hiring an assistant business booms but the effort to cash in with a biographical book brings increasingly dark memories to the surface. There's plenty of funny swipes at the psychic biz with some great oddbod characters, hucksters and credulous, desperate punters (most familiar from my own days as a book hawker/kook enabler) and there's plenty of brilliant dialogue but the biting cynicism slowly reveals a pitch black plot riven with delusion, deception, abuse, murder and prostitution all rearing very ugly heads along the way. It's very well written, with a nicely drawn afterworld but it's maybe a little flabby in the midsection and I'd have preferred a firmer resolution after all that grim but still it's definitely worth a look.
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Jonathan Pryce and Tim Rice star in the 1983 TV movie The Ploughman's Lunch penned by Ian McEwan. A callow journalist in his selfish pursuit of the affections of a toothsome lovely neglects his own ailing mother to further his aims, spending time with the academic mother of his intended, hoping to seal the deal and gaining insights for his novel about Suez. As to be expected from McEwan this is an achingly middle class love triangle with a certain intellectualism restraining the lust and blinding the characters to their respective, mostly unpleasant, selves. Events finally spin out of the protagonist's control and come to a head during Thatcher's speechifying at a Tory Party conference. Nicely acted with a strong script this cold little film is a little uneven and though the politics have dated badly the nexus of conflict between self interest, desire and family duty hasn't.
Christopher Walken's smooth, reptilian performance dominates The Comfort of Strangers adapted from one of McEwan's novellas. A young English couple try to reignite their romance by revisiting Venice but accidentally find themselves under the sway of a peculiar older couple played by Walken and Mirren. Harold Pinter's script and Paul Shrader's close direction create a strange, unsettling atmosphere as the young pair lose themselves, literally, into the narrow streets of Venice and find themselves sexually invigorated by their experience. There's a delicate, ambiguous subtext running behind the events and script that culminates in a shattering final scene but it's maybe lost some of it's nuance in translation, however it's still a fine film with excellent performance and some stunning cinematography.
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Memoirs of a Survivor is a dystopia about a future Britain brought to it's knees by perpetual war with poverty, hunger and lawlessness rending society apart. Based on a novel by Doris Lessing this curious, melancholic film follows the experiences of a lonely women who discovers, weirdly, that she can move in time/space through her living room wall. After a petulant teenager gets billeted with her she's exposed to the more desperate elements in society, the futility of their predicament becomes apparent and she considers an escape to the other side of the wall. Julie Christie's understated performance holds the film together and underpins the strange atmosphere of hopelessness that pervades throughout. Not without it's flaws this is still an interesting, curious film but one that's probably not for everyone.
Monday, 31 October 2011
Based on a short story by Pushkin, The Queen of Spades is an exquisite fable about the consequences of avarice. An impoverished Russian officer buys a book which reveals the occult secret behind an aging Countess' wealth and embarks on a convoluted plan to gain the power for himself and unsurprisingly things don't go smoothly. Lavishly staged, beautifully shot and with a carefully paced script the film's success is sealed by an impressively intense central performance by Anton Walbrook whose portrayal of the character's descent from desperation to obsession and finally into madness give the film it's emotional punch.
Saturday, 29 October 2011
A Lizard in a Women's Skin is a psychedelic horror/thriller giallo from Lucio Fulci. The daughter of a powerful politician finds herself plagued with disturbing, sexy hallucinations about her partying neighbour but the waters and her sanity are further muddied when the neighbour turns up stabbed to death. Quite barmy throughout and filled with lovely psychedelic imagery as well as cliche this rumbles along quite enjoyably, building an atmosphere of ambiguity that only really becomes resolved in the final scene. Though the script and acting are pretty ropey it's the startling cinematography and visual, er, decadence that make this worth watching.