I don’t review films very often. I watch so many I’d do nothing else if I were to write a review for each of them. But I liked Jennifer Lynch’s latest feature so much I felt compelled to make comment. Chained is quite possibly the best film I’ve seen so far this year. I’m a big fan of Vincent D’Onofrio and this is him at his best. It’s like watching Private Pile’s resurrected brother taking his rifle (knife) out for some fun. There’s menace in those eyes and the way he holds his shoulder that permeates to the form of the words that come from his mouth. Every sinew of his on screen being sweats threat. D’Onofrio reminds me a little of the late Chris Penn. And a little like Mr Penn, if he lost a little weight the cinema going majority might realise that he is actually Robert DeNiro in his prime. Eamon Farren is emotionally engaging as the victimised Rabbit who despite all that is thrown at him desperately clings to a overwhelmed humanity. A huge chunk of the credit for the films success has to go to Ms Lynch, who true to her pedigree keeps you engaged to the end. Just when you think you have the measure of the story, the characters, where it’s all going, she takes a skull cracking left turn that’s as shocking as it is poignant.
If capitalism were a brand? What kind of brand message is THE APPRENTICE sending? I didn’t sit down and watch last nights episode. It was already on when I got in. And stayed on in the background while I busied myself with other things. In that half aware. Peripheral vision. Wallpaper kind of state. I was struck by how juvenile it all is. I realise this is a television programme. And these people are there as much for entertainment as anything else. But if these are the brightest and the best. Lord Sugar’s business is in trouble. They go about their task like a blind man in a patch of brambles. Snaggering here. Tripping there. Because as far as I can tell. They’re so busy trying to elbow their way to the front of the line. They don’t see the others in their team as anything but competition. The worst of it comes when they get to the boardroom. Where the team with slightly better result is rewarded with a trip to a peep show circus. And the others. The ones who did that bit worse. Get to play the greasy spoon blame game. The post task autopsy is like watching a child caught pinching a sibling. They shift the blame. And obfuscate. While holding their knees together. Hoping they will be believed. If they are. It’s off to slime another day. If not. They’re on their bike. Doomed to poverty. And the arbitrary nature of the labour market. If I were the brand manager of capitalism? I’d be embarrassed by The Apprentice. And what it says about my product.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK has to be one of the best films of the year. David Fincher is back on form following the ever so slightly melancholic chore that was Benjamin Button. His direction is subtle. Even masterful. Wise enough to simply get out of the way. And let Aaron Sorkin’s writing shine. From the opening scene. Sorkin draws us in. Leads us through what. In a lesser writer’s hands. Might end up looking like a childish squabble. If you don’t know. The Social Network is about the creation of Facebook. And the ensuing fallout thereof. How much of what we see is true is anyone’s guess. But Sorkin doesn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. Allowing the various parties to have their say. Even if it contradicts what is being said elsewhere. He lets you make up your own mind. Decide for yourself who is lying. And who is telling the truth. In doing so he manages to make you engage with some of the most unlikeable people you’re ever likely come across. They are elitist self-centred egomaniacs. Their narcissism verges on the psychopathic. Sorkin even manages to make you feel for them. When the depositions are over. And the lawyers have retired to thrash out the settlement. Zuckerberg retreats into his virtual world. And check out his ex’s status on Facebook. It’s hard not to feel something for him at this point. All of his “motivated” behaviour. And all he wants. Is to be liked by a girl. Either that. Or he is dangerous psychopath stalking an ex. You decide. Interesting. Engaging. And definitely worth seeing more than once.
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Production Year: 2010
Running Time: 121 minutes
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED is an interesting low budget thriller from first time writer/director J Blakeson. Two men fortify a derelict apartment. Kidnap a woman. Tie her to the bed. And demand a two million pounds ransom from her father. Eddie Marsan (Vic) is delightfully menacing as the criminal mastermind with the perfect plan. Martin Compston (Danny) turns in a similarly impressive performance as Vic’s obedient conspirator. But it is Gemma Arterton who impressed me most. She rises to the challenge and gives her most believable performance to date as the kidnapped Alice Creed. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much from this film. I knew almost nothing about it going in. So was genuinely surprised by at least one of the plot points. Although we have only three actors. And a limited number of location. It punches well above its weight. The writing is tight. The direction precise. Defiantly worth seeing at least once.
Director: J Blakeson
Writer: J Blakeson
Production Year: 2009
Running Time: 96 minutes
[REC] 2 is a worthy sequel to the one of the best horror films of recent times. Picking up exactly where [REC] left off. An official from the Ministry of Health. And three members of a GEO (SWAT) team. Are sent into the quarantined building to verify the infection has been contained. But when they encounter the infected residents. And the health official, Dr. Owen, is able to fight them off with a rosary and a religious mantra. It quickly becomes apparent that the infection is actually a manifestation of demonic evil. And Dr Owen is a priest sent by the Vatican to recover a blood sample from the source of the infection. The Medeiros girl. But as Owen and the team search for the girl. The second act takes a left turn. Three thrill seeking teenagers follow the father of a quarantined girl and a sympathetic paramedic into the building. Trapped inside they quickly become grist to the mill. Providing a level of histrionics only a teenage girl can bring. Act three brings the story full circle. As the journalist from [REC] makes a dramatic reappearance. Her story brings a satisfying, if icky, conclusion to events. From the opening sequence Balagueró and Plaza manage to maintain the frenetic pace of the original. The three acts. With three very different points of view. Open out the story enough to keep it fresh and interesting. They also manage to ramp up the first person camera thing that was so important to the original. The GEO team wear helmet cameras. The thrill seeking teenagers carry the omnipresent camcorder. We cut between the multiple points of view. Putting us right in the middle of the action. Without ever losing that dynamic first person quality. That made the first such a success. With two more films in the pipeline. [REC] Genesis and [REC] Apocalypse. The franchise looks set to stay. With luck they will be able to take the story in a new direction. Without losing the frantic, constant climax, feel of these two. A genuine scary horror film. Definitely worth your time.
Directors: Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
Writers: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza & Manu Díez
Production Year: 2009
Running Time: 85 minutes
THE HORDE is a no holds barred blood fest of a zombie film from France. The setup is simple. Four Parisian cops raid an abandoned tower block intent on taking revenge on the gangsters who killed their comrade. But when the dead inexplicably start to rise. The two factions are forced into an uneasy truce. So they can escape the hordes of undead. And the tower block. The embittered policemen and hardcore gangsters all have a sense of nihilism that only add to the “end of days” tone. Directors Dahan and Rocher make the most of the claustrophobic situation. Combining the action and horror in equal measure. Managing to put on screen some of the best close quarter zombie fighting I’ve ever seen. The zombies keep coming. They keep fighting. And just when you think it’s going to stop. It keeps going some more. I particularly liked Jo Prestia pummelling to death a pair of flesh hungry zombies. Claude Perron’s toe to toe fist fight with a zombie in an apartment kitchen. Finally offing the she-zombie with a fridge and a gob of disdainful spit. There is also a delightfully over the top Yves Pignot’s unleashing of an unrelenting burst of machine gun fire at a corridor of zombies. And my favourite. Jean-Pierre Martins stranded atop an abandoned car in an underground car park. Hordes of zombies clawing for his flesh. While he just keeps chopping away at them with a machete. This exact image haunts my nightmares. It is not a perfect film. The ending is weak. There is a disturbing undertone of misogyny running throughout. Character development plays second string to the action. But that’s nothing you wouldn’t expect from a film of this type. At the upper end of the low budget horror genre. Not for the squeamish. Definitely worth seeing.
Directors: Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocher
Writer: Arnaud Bordas, Benjamin Rocher, Yannick Dahan & Stéphane Moïssakis
Production Year: 2009
Rating: 18 Running
Time: 90 minutes
PONTYPOOL is interesting take on the zombie film. Set for the most part in the local radio station. Stephen McHattie is convincing as Grant Mazzy. A shock jock from the big city reduced to plying his ware on CLSY. A local radio station broadcasting to the small Ontario town of Pontypool. A slow day of appalling weather quickly takes a turn for the worst. As reports start to come in of people having seizures. Developing strange speech patterns. And committing appalling acts of violence. As events unfold it becomes apparent that the violence is being spread by a virus contained in the English language. But Mazzy thinks he has found the cure. Or is Mazzy actually spreading the virus with his broadcast? From the opening sequence you know this is something more than your average zombie film. There isn’t a lot of the usual blood horror you’d expect. It builds its tension by feeding you images form Mazzy’s broadcast. The horror is for the most part in your head. And is all the better for it. It is an interesting little film. That poses some very interesting questions about the nature of language. It is, dare I say it, an esoteric zombie film?
Director: Bruce McDonald
Writer: Tony Burgess
Production Year: 2008
Running Time: 96 minutes
STATE AND MAIN is David Mamet’s satirical swipe at the movie business. If you’ve read his book Bambi vs. Godzilla you’ll know he doesn’t pull his punches. Overall it plays like a speeded up Preston Sturges comedy. A troubled Hollywood production descends on the sleepy “small town American” hamlet of Waterford, Vermont. The production has everything you’d expect from a Hollywood movie. There is the egocentric actor, the infantilised actress, a duplicitous director, the soulless producer and last but not least, the neurotic writer. All of them striving to get their movie made. Now throw in a corrupt politician. Some sycophantic residents. Mix it with some underage sex. A pinch of vandalism. A swirl of Bourbon and milk. And you get the idea. It’s funny. And has the acerbic dialogue that is Mamet’s trademark. I can’t recommend this film highly enough.
Director: David Mamet
Writer: David Mamet
Rating: 15 Running
Time: 100 minutes