Monthly Archives: June 2012
I now have a profile on rotten tomatoes which you can view here:
I’ll review some films on the site, keeping reviews very short. So, you’ll only get the full works by visiting this blog….
Sceptical scientists Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Dr Buckley (Cilian Murphy) study and debunk paranormal activity. Their paths then cross with a world-renowned psychic (Robert De Niro) who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away……
More of a mystery thriller than a horror film, “Red Lights” manages to be both an entertaining and thought-provoking movie.
The film is primarily held together by the performances of the leads – Sigourney Weaver and Cilian Murphy – who are not just convincing in their roles as paranormal activity “debunkers” but, at times, frankly transcending. Weaver literally lives her role as the ever-sceptical scientist who, underneath the hardy exterior, is doing nothing more than mourning her braindead and hospital-bed-ridden son. Murphy gives a sterling portrayl of a young physicist with mysterious motivations, seemingly wasting his academic potential ‘chasing ghosts’. The dynamic and on-screen chemistry between the two is inspiring to watch and forms the centre-piece of what becomes a first-rate movie.
From the staring pistol, this film had me very interested (the opening credits are very reminiscent of the titles to Hitchcock’s “Psycho (1960)”). The first half of the movie doesn’t disappoint and is really effective, containing not only great scripted dialogue but some interesting plot developments as we follow the story of Weaver and Murphy’s investigations into fraudsters parading themselves as psychics and mediums.
The feel of the movie is quite removed from anything akin to the standard Hollywood psychological thriller, despite the presence of Robert ‘rent-a-star’ De Niro. The look of the film is dark, grimey and TV-movie like (making you feel that the whole thing would be more at home being aired on the SyFy Channel at 3am in the morning).
Nevertheless, about mid-way through, “Red Lights” goes a bit awry because it doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with De Niro’s ‘villain’ character – and for some time it’s as if his character is just hanging around waiting for something to happen. This however can be forgiven because the final act is close to stupendous with a thrilling climax and a battle of wits between Murphy’s investigator and DeNiro’s psychic . Furthermore, the twist at the end of the movie is novel but no gimmick – it’s as close to astonishing as you can get and honestly, very compelling – leaving the audience with a completely alternative and retrospective view of the preceding 113 minutes or so.
Whilst there is nothing truly ground-breaking in “Red Lights”, it’s refreshing to see a movie which treats this subject matter with the respect it deserves. An accomplished script, authoritative cast and trenchant direction sets “Red Lights” apart from similar movies in the genre. I recommend this one.
hotdog rating: 8/10
Oft-repeated…one of the first great “cheap=shock” endings
The first time I saw this, I nearly soiled myself.
But, to be fair, Carrie (1976) was the first and possibly best Stephen King novel brought to the big screen. It’s a film which is taken to great heights by the combination of De Palma’s visual style and the performances of a young Sissy Spacek and a quite-crazed Piper Laurie.
Vincent Price’s best movie….and a horror classic.
In 1940, for reasons that remain unclear, the entire inhabitants of the town of Friar took a few belongings with them and walked up a mountain trail through the backwoods of New Hampshire. Most died violent deaths in circumstances still unknown and many more simply disappeared. The tragedy was covered-up for many years, the town slowly re-populated and the co-ordinates of the trail held back from the public. In the present day, with the release of new records, a small group of investigative academics head along the trail in an effort to decipher what actually happened all those years ago…….
YellowBrickRoad looks like a slow-burning psychological horror movie with the added bite of an intriguing premise. Despite being blessed with a genuinely eerie story, the film-makers struggle to maintain audience interest throughout some parts of the film. This is basically because for too long nothing really happens; the group just traipse around the woods charting the landscape and hearing strange 1940s music. What is so surprising is that our band of explorers don’t seem to think that hearing ‘tinny’ 1940s jive music in the middle of the woods is that absurd…..
For a low-budget effort the cast is solid, and although individual character development is weak, they do well in their performances as a group of people struggling with a descent into isolation and madness. The film is creepy in parts but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it is frightening in any meaningful way. That said, only a couple of amateurish gory murder-scenes puncture the generally tranquil, ‘trippy’ and relatively ominous atmosphere of the whole movie.
Although comparisons with “The Blair Witch Project” are inevitable, this film is quite different. The directors refrain from any final revelation or explanation and leave it to the viewer to decide what actually happened on the ‘YellowBrickRoad’. Still, the ending is incredibly grandiose and frustrating to the point of being almost nonsensical and the movie could have more sensibly ended 5 minutes previously.
I suppose YellowBrickRoad is most notable for the interesting quirk that the soundtrack we hear as the audience is identical to the music heard by the on-screen cast. Strangely, there are also numerous – but I’m afraid pointless – references to “The Wizard of Oz”. You get the impression that the directors wanted to go somewhere with it all but just ran out of steam, leaving you a little irritated at these references once the film is over.
All in all, if you like watching a disparate group of people losing their minds in the woods, then this film is for you. If not – and also if you’re no fan of loose-ends – avoid.
hotdog rating: 4.5/10
My thoughts on the first four entries in the Hellraiser series can be found at the wonderful Cigarette Burns blog here:
NB: I’m sorry guys, I just don’t get Hellraiser 2 at all…..
“Prometheus” follows the story of a group of scientists investigating the origins of the human race. Based on a star map common to all cave-dwelling humans, Doctors Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have developed a theory that by following this star map, mankind will at last be able to meet its maker or as they prefer to call them, the Engineers. Along with other specialists they set off for the planet contained within the star map. When they arrive, they find evidence of both the Engineers and another life-form ………
“Prometheus” was probably the most eagerly-anticipated movie of the year. I don’t know whether this was because Ridley Scott was re-visiting the genre which made him a movie-god or simply because the words “Prequel” and “Alien” were mentioned in the same sentence. If you were anticipating this movie more because of the second reason than the first, you’ll be disappointed. This isn’t a prequel to the 1979 slasher-in-space “Alien”. “Prometheus” is however a thought-provoking science fiction movie of the old-fashioned sort which doesn’t quite pull off the tour-de-force it aims for.
Technically, the film is spectacular. The set-designs are also close to mind-blowing and hugely reminiscent of the images throughout the “Alien” saga. I liked the cast in general but there are suspect choices, chief of which is the Scottish medical officer whose accent is grinding. The best performance comes from Michael Fassbender as the android, “David”. Fassbender follows in the tradition of Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen brilliantly. Guy Pearce’s appearance as the millionaire-backer “Weyland” was a nice touch too but he receives little screen attention despite being quite intricate to plot development. Logan Marshall-Green does really well in a role similar to John Hurt’s in the original “Alien”. I would say that his demise is easily the most poignant moment in a film which tries to be far deeper than it need be. Scott’s decision to kill-off key members of the cast is a welcome addition in an age where this so rarely happens.
There are a couple of ‘nasty’ scenes although fans of the type of gore which characterised latter entries in the “Alien” series will be left somewhat disappointed. The best of these ‘nasty’ moments is certainly the scene in which the impregnated Dr Shaw uses a medical machine to abort the alien foetus inside her. But, this isn’t a film designed to shock in the same way that “Alien” was. You won’t need to look away at any point and nor will you feel the nervous tension throbbing in your limbs because Scott doesn’t build any suspense throughout the film. That, I suppose, is my major gripe with the movie. The sequence where our band of human-explorers first stumbles upon the Engineers could and should have been much more suspenseful. Why it wasn’t I cannot really tell you but it does make you wonder whether the Ridley Scott of the late 70s/early 80s would have missed such an opportunity to thrill an audience.
The first hour of the movie is significantly better than the second. Once people start dying, the film doesn’t really seem to know which way it’s heading apart from hurdling towards some deeper philosophical meaning. Quite clearly, in Scott’s eyes, the answer is summed up by the words the ailing “Weyland” utters with his last breath. The film leaves many questions unanswered, which I won’t go into here. Is this deliberate and does it matter? I don’t claim to know whether it’s the former but I do feel that too many questions are left open for this sort of criticism to be brushed aside easily. The script, primarily, is at fault for this. But I don’t see these open questions as being problems necessarily. If anything, it makes you want to watch the whole movie all over again.
Lastly, I want to add that the ending so clearly panders to fans of the “Alien” franchise that it borders close to fan-wanking. Some will see this as a positive and others as a negative. For me, it was something of a cheap trick.
So, all in all, I have to say that I found “Prometheus” to be a little too much enigma and chronically lacking the brooding atmosphere of Scott’s earlier “Alien” and indeed “Blade Runner”. For these reasons, I cannot give it a high rating. Despite that fact, it’s one of the most intriguing movies I have seen in a long time and as such, I could well change my opinion on subsequent viewings and reflection.
hotdog rating: 6.5/10
In 1945, the Nazis escaped to the Moon. In 2018, they come back.
Plot-wise, “Iron Sky” is heroically interesting; I mean, the whole concept just jumps out at you. NASA astronauts stumbling across Nazi stormtroopers on the dark-side of the moon! – that’s no dry synopsis. The film-makers clearly knew this and the opening sequence, whilst massively over-the-top, surely goes down as one of the most iconic moments in recent cinema history. Despite a reported budget of only 7.5 million euros, the film looks great and despite what you may think, the script is rather good.
I suppose that one of the main faults of the movie is that it can inevitably never live up to those opening moments. It’s quite true, that from there on, the film is always on a downward path which is only occasionally illuminated by (1) the impressive CGI space-battle sequences and (2) the comic goings-on at the UN security council meetings . Some of the best parts of the movie happen here. Watch out for North Korea’s response to the Nazi moon-threat specifically.
As far as the players are concerned, Udo Kier’s bit-part as the ageing “Moon-Fuhrer” is the best acting talent on display. The others are less charming and more annoying. The Sarah-Palin rip-off US President is particularly cringing although she does have some amusing lines of dialogue – as I said, the script is one of the better aspects of this movie. The female lead, played by Julia Dietze, is a Nazi school-teacher who has a change of heart on reaching Earth. Clearly chosen as eye-candy she does quite well and I thought her performance was surprisingly engaging. Nevertheless, it only takes a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” to changer her from a high-priestess of Nazi mythology to a bleeding-heart democrat.
There is a very curious reference about half way through the film to the famous Hitler-going-mad scene in “Downfall” which has been parodied many times elsewhere. In “Iron Sky” it’s the US President’s campaign manager throwing her toys of the cot in response to her team’s utter incompetence.
The film’s political messages are blatantly obvious and very one-dimensional – but the last sequence goes just a bit too far, leaving you thinking “Oh, for heaven’s sake”.
I think in summary that this is a movie which promised to be full of belly-laughs and with material as rich as the script initially suggests, you can’t help feeling that it could easily have been better. Hence, whilst “Iron Sky” is no “Killer Klowns From Outer Space”, it remains an enjoyable hatchet-job of movie satire.
hotdog rating: 5.5/10