Cinepub


31 Days of Horror 13: Stoker (2013) by Jamie

It can be debated about whether or not Stoker counts as a true horror. It could be said that it is really more of a thriller but I find that the borders between the two genres are often blurred somewhat and so I feel good with my choice of including it here. I’ve even heard some critics describe it as a horror so that helps aid my decision to include it plus it’s heavily influenced by that ol’ master of horror himself, Alfred Hitchcock. What this all boils down to is screw it, I watched Stoker and now I’m reviewing it. Deal with it.

The first thing I should point out is that this is not a vampire movie. There seems to have been confusion when this film came out, I guess owing mostly to the name Stoker. The film does draw some inspiration from Stoker’s novel Dracula but nope, this is not a vampire film. This is a movie more in the mold of Hitchcock’s ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, a film which I’ll say right now that you haven’t seen, you should. It’s awesome.

Anyway, Stoker is about a young girl called India and how her life gets twist-turned upside down when her father is killed in a car accident on her birthday and her Uncle Charlie comes to stay with her and her emotionally fragile mother. Uncle Charlie seems like a very nice guy but is there something sinister lying behind his polite nature and his good looks like some kind of handsome shark?

That’s where I’ll stick to on synopsis because this film has a number of twists and turns whilst still managing to keep a slow, steady pace. That’s not a criticism. This is a Park Chan-wook film and from this and Oldboy (the only films I’ve seen of his, a tragedy I seek to correct as soon as possible) I can say that he is a master of deliberate story-telling, choosing not to reveal anything until he is ready to but managing to keep you drawn in with his beautiful visual style and steady pacing.

Thankfully, this movie isn’t just well paced and well shot, it’s also terrifically acted. I can’t think of a bad performance in the whole thing… Well, maybe some of the bully characters who are kind of broadly drawn arsehole stereotypes but they’re a pretty minor part of the whole piece so I’ll let them slide. Oh and the way music is used is just another reminder that Chan-wook is a master of his craft.

Overall this is a pretty terrific film. Rent it, buy it, do whatever you have to do but see it. Can’t think of a bad thing to say about it really, or, sadly, too much good because to go into too great detail would inevitably reveal something about the plot. So yeah five pints out of five. Laterz.

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Review: Byzantium by Jamie

The vampire craze doesn’t seem quite as strong as it once did. Twilight is over, True Blood has essentially become a parody of itself and the Underworld movies… are they still making Underworld movies? I dunno. My point is that there is perhaps a waning in the interest in stories about Vampires whilst their undead brethren, the Zombies, continue to shamble on triumphant (though I honestly think that could change is World War Z is as bad as I think it is going to be). Still the effect of the popularity of these big budget Vampire efforts is that we’ve also seen some far more interesting, smaller films be released. Films like ‘Let The Right One In’ and it’s American remake ‘Let Me In’. It is with those films that Byzantium resides.

Let me start of by saying that this film is directed by Neil Jordan, director of 1994’s ‘Interview With The Vampire’ and it’s pretty clear why he was hired to direct. The main thrust of the plot of Byzantium, adapted from the play ‘A Vampire Story’ by Moira Buffini, is all about a 16-yeat old (well, technically 216 year old) girl, Eleanor Webb (Saoirse Ronan) who wants to tell the story of her creation and two hundred year existence as a vampire but being unable to because of the rules that she lives by in order to remain safe. She just wants to live and love and considers herself a monster. It’s, well, it’s a story that’s almost identical in that regard to ‘An Interview With A Vampire’. In tone, however, this film shares far more with Let The Right One In especially as the story focuses more on her developing relationship with a young boy named Frank (Caleb Landry Jones)

So yeah, it’s fair to say that in some ways this film feels like a mish-mash of two different vampire films but that’s certainly no bad thing when both of those films are great and you can’t help but give them a little leeway since the director of one of those films is also the director of this one. And despite this the film remains an original story. There are also a number of tweaks to vampire mythos which purists may find annoying. These vampires can go out in the sun and rather than fangs, they pierce their victims skin with a retractable claw-like thumbnail. However, they also seem to able to be killed in ways that would kill a normal human, though may be able to take a little more punishment before death would occur.

I don’t really have a problem with that in this film. The reason that the sun thing annoys me in Twilight is that it’s obviously done just to make the Vampires look pretty. It’s also not balanced with any weakness to anything else. It seems, pretty much, as though the only thing that can kill another Vampire in Twilight is another Vampire or a Werewolf. By all rights, we should be living in a vampire-dominated world in those films.

I think it’d be fair to say that this film will not be everybody’s cup of tea. It’s slow and ponderous as a meditation on immortality perhaps should be. There is also the problem that all Vampire films seem to have ever since Interview (though that film manages to avoid this problem itself) and that’s that there isn’t really a character who seems to enjoy immortality. It’s possible that Eleanor’s progenitor Clara (Gemma Arterton) does though it’s never really made one hundred percent clear. It seems as though all modern vampires are made in the mould of Louis. They’re all so mopey. Don’t any of you enjoy the fact that you’re going to live forever? So you lost your soul? You don’t need one if your never going to die.

Despite all this, I still really enjoyed this film and found myself hooked as more and more of Eleanor’s story was revealed. Like I said though, it’s not gonna be for everyone. It does have Gemma Arterton dressed like a hooker throughout most of it so, yeah, there is that as well. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

Byzantium.



Review: The Purge by Jamie

One of the problems with being a film fan in the 21st Century is that I often find myself unable to avoid knowing everything about a movie before it’s released. Twitter, Facebook and the internet in general have all left me with knowing perhaps a little too much about something before I see it. There are still, however, movies that slip through the cracks. The Purge was one such movie. I think I saw one trailer for it which I obviously didn’t really take much away from and then largely ignored its existence until it’s release.

On a week that I thought was pretty light on releases, I checked the Cineworld website on Friday and noticed that once again I had overlooked The Purge. I booked my ticket and decided to watch the trailer again. It was an interesting concept, I’ll admit, but nothing I was particularly excited about. Maybe something from a sub-par episode of Charlie Brooker’s brilliant ‘Black Mirror’ series. So it was with pretty much no expectations that I headed off to the cinema.

Now for those of you that don’t know, the premise of the movie is thus: It is 2022 and America has become a practically crime free utopia. The reason behind this is The Purge, one night of the year when all crime is legal. It’s a night which people look forward to with a mixture of excitement and fear, some relishing the chance to give in to their baser animal desires whilst others choose to lock themselves away behind state of the art security systems until the night has passed. The film follows the Sandin family who have made their fortune through selling said security systems. They have a normal night of waiting it out ahead but things go awry when their son lets a man who was being attacked into their home. Will they be safe with the man in the house and what will happen when those who had been hunting him show up to finish the job?

So what did I think of it? Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised. Things are perhaps a little too slow to start off with but once the plot really gets underway, the movie becomes increasingly tense to a degree that I don’t think I’ve really felt since the first ‘Rec’ movie. And while that first act of the movie is slow, it does set the characters up as a believable family which serves the movie well during those tense scenes later.

Now the film is not perfect by any means. There are aspects which have no real explanation. The son, for example has a watch with which he monitors his heartbeat but no reason is given for this and it seems as though it’s only there to serve as a prop for something which happens later during the scene. I get the feeling that the movie is trying to say something about society as well. The man who is attacked is homeless and wears dogtags around his neck, something which I thought would be addressed, like a kind of “Oh, isn’t it ironic that this veteran is being hunted after fighting to preserve the freedom these people enjoy” kind of thing, but it never is. The people hunting him are privileged kids just looking for a thrill and hoping to purge, an act which they see as their right as American citizens. So the message of the movie is something about the rich using the poor as an expendable resource and whilst the film certainly hammers at this message, pretty much saying that outright at points, it’s never one which really feels as hard-hitting as I’m sure the film makers intended.

Another problem with the film is that it’s overly predictable. Without wanting to give too much away, as soon as certain characters reappear during towards the end of the film, you know exactly what direction it’s going to go in. Still, to the film makers ‘credit, the ending plays out well and with a good deal of humour, particularly regarding just how awkward things would be once the night is over.

Still, over all this a strong thriller with a somewhat original concept and even in a crowded theatre filled with loud, noisy teens, the tension came through the screen. God, I feel old having just typed that last sentence… Anyway, I really recommend this film, though perhaps give it a little while or try and see it in a cinema which you know will be a little closer to empty. Three pints out of five. Laterz.

The Purge.



2012 Best Picture Round Up: Argo (Repost) by Jamie

It’s Oscar time again and the nominees have been announced so it’s time to review the ones I’m able to. Luckily, I already had one in the bag from last year. So here it is again, my review of Argo. Enjoy.

I’ve really been getting in to films based on historical events lately. I’ve watched a ton of them in the past couple of months alone including Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone”‘ which I enjoyed immensely. So I was pretty excited about the release of Affleck’s new film, “Argo”. Hell, throw in the fact that this also happens to be an historical event that has something to do with the film industry as well and it almost seems as though this damn film was made specifically to tickle my balls. Yes, it had everything that I could have asked for. So did I love it unapologetically like the movie/history geek that I am? Let’s find out.

The movie takes place during the Iran hostage crisis that stretched from late 1979 to early 1981 and deals with one specific event in particular, the so-called Canadian Caper because apparently missions where people risk their lives must have adorable nicknames. On the 4th of November, Iranian students took control of American embassy and took the staff hostage in order to protest the Americans given shelter to the former Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ad have him returned to Iran to stand trial for crimes committed during his rule. Six hostages managed to escape and took shelter at the Canadian embassy and a plan was drawn up by the CIA and the Canadian government to try and get them safely out of the country. Tony Méndez, a disguise an exfiltration expert, came up with a plot to extract them. He employed the aid of John Chamber, a Hollywood make-up artist, to create a fake film production office. The cover story was that the six trapped in Iran were actually Canadians working on a film and they were in the country scouting for locations for a Star Wars-esque Sci-fi fantasy film, Argo.

And that’s about all I’m going to describer of the movie plot/actual events because to say much more would give away the plot. So, back to the original question: Did I love this film? Well, I cewrtainly enjoyed it but I did find it to be a bit slow going at points, particularly the moments where the trapped Americans are literally waiting around trying to get rescued. I suppose that this reflects the monotony of actually being trapped in a building for days on end and so in that regard I suppose it’s quite effective. Overall, however, this film was fucking awesome. Every time Ben Affleck directs something I’m always surprised by just how good he is. The pacing during some of the more intense sequences is impeccable. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat during some moments, so tense were some of the events that were playing out on screen.

There’s also a nice counterbalance to that intensity with quite a nice deal of humour provided by John Goodman as John Chambers and Alan Arkin as producer Lester Siegel. Not only are they great comic relief during some of the earlier scenes where they are trying to drum up publicity for a film that they know will be never filmed but that same humour actually comes to just rack things up later during one of the most tense scenes during the entire film.

If I have any complaint it’s that one I made earlier about some of the scenes just slowing things down a bit too much but really that’s a minor issue and about the only one I can really think of. I suppose it could be argued that the portrayal of Iranians is a bit one note, though I feel it delves deep enough into the politics behind their outrage that, whilst not outright justifying their actions, it certainly helps to explain them. So with all said and done, I’ll give Argo four and a half pints out of five. Now Argo fuck yourself and see it. Laterz.



Murder Week: Salvation Boulevard (2011) by Jamie

Quite by accident, I ended up watching a number of films that all seemed to revolve around the worst crime a human being can commit that doesn’t involve touching children in inappropriate ways. So I’ve decided that, hell, I might as well review ’em and make a theme week out of it. So yeah, murder. It’s something that humans are pretty good at. There are those out there that would say that humans are especially evil being the only species that kill their own kind. To that I’d say that Black Widow Spiders and Praying Mantises would have a number of arms to raise in objection to that. Hell, we’re not even the only species to go to war.

Still, there’s something which fascinates us about this darker side of human nature. The fascination with death is probably only second in the human psyche to our fascination with sex. It probably comes with being, as far as we know, the only species that is fully aware of our mortality. It’s why we created myths to ease the fear of death. The fact that we could comprehend that we were alive made it hard to accept that one day everything we were would come to an end, hence we came up with the idea of the afterlife. This idea was then taken by the ruling classes of several different societies and cultures in order to keep the peasants in line. Just work hard and do as you’re told in this life, and you’ll get rewarded in the next. Its Marx’s opiate of the masses, if you will. And so it is that we come to today’s film, Salivation Boulevard, a comedy-thriller-religious satire from 2011. Yeah, that’s right. All that build up was for the review of a little known comedy film. I’ll admit, the opening got away from me a bit there.

The most notable thing about this film is probably the cast. Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marissa Tomei, Ed Harris, Jim Gaffigan, Ciarán Hinds. Hell, that’s a fairly impressive list of pretty solid people. So how was it that this thing slipped through the cracks and ended up with a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes?

Well, to be fair, it’s just not that great of a film. To be fair I don’t think it’s really 21% bad but it could have done so much more with the premise. The basic set-up is that Pierce Brosnan plays Pastor Dan Day, the head of a Mega Church in a small town in Western America. He’s beloved by the community, in particular former Deadhead turned Christian Carl Vandermeer (Kinnear) and his wife Gwen (Connelly). The Mega Church that every obedient follower of the Lord could want, including a daycare centre with colouring books featuring Pastor Dan’s smiling face. Yes, the people of the town pretty much worship Dan as much as they do a 2000 year old Jewish Carpenter Zombie and the film isn’t particularly subtle about it, at least at first.

After Dan engages in a spirited debate with atheist Dr Paul Blaylock (Harris), he and Carl head back to the professor’s office for a night cap. One thing leads to another and the Pastor accidentally shoots Blaylock in the head. Fearing that the shooting will put his plans for a new Christian community that he plans to build in jeopardy, he tries to pass off the shooting as an attempted suicide whilst also trying to silence Carl. “Hilarity” ensues and all manner of madcap mix-ups and misunderstandings occur.

The main problem with the film is that it never quite balances its genres. It feels like it could have been a decent enough comedy about a man wrongly accused of a crime or a decent religious satire but in trying to combine the two, the final product is a bit of an unsatisfying mess. It’s the religious satire aspect, in particular, that really seems to suffer. It just never seems to go beyond the fairly obvious. Also I was a little disappointed that Pastor Dan actually seems to believe in the product he’s selling. Yes, he’s using that belief to gain and profit for himself but it’s pretty clear that he’s a believer himself and he suffers a great deal of guilt over what he’s done. Not enough to come clean but still, it tortures his religious soul. Personally, I feel it would have been better from a satirical viewpoint to have Dan simply pay lip service to Christianity in order to get what he wants. Sure, that might have been obvious too but it could have been a little more biting.

Perhaps the oddest thing in the whole film is Pierce Brosnan’s accent. It starts of as one thing and ends up something like an Australian accent and I honestly have no idea why. Honestly, it’s just bizarre. Why not just have him using his normal, British accent if he’s not going to play an American anyway? It’s possible it’s inspired by Australian Ken Hamm, director of the Creation Museum and a man whose choice of facial hair leaves him looking far more like a product of an evolutionary process he insists didn’t happen.

This man certainly didn’t evolve from apes…

So yeah, I kinda had high hopes for this film. The subject matter put it firmly in my wheel house and I thought that maybe it might be a nice little treasure that I could appreciate even if the critics didn’t but sadly I was disappointed. There were a few moments where I did laugh out loud and Kinnear puts in a great, believable performance as poor put-upon Carl but as a whole the movie just leaves you wishing it had been so much more. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Argo by Jamie

I’ve really been getting in to films based on historical events lately. I’ve watched a ton of them in the past couple of months alone including Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone”‘ which I enjoyed immensely. So I was pretty excited about the release of Affleck’s new film, “Argo”. Hell, throw in the fact that this also happens to be an historical event that has something to do with the film industry as well and it almost seems as though this damn film was made specifically to tickle my balls. Yes, it had everything that I could have asked for. So did I love it unapologetically like the movie/history geek that I am? Let’s find out.

The movie takes place during the Iran hostage crisis that stretched from late 1979 to early 1981 and deals with one specific event in particular, the so-called Canadian Caper because apparently missions where people risk their lives must have adorable nicknames. On the 4th of November, Iranian students took control of American embassy and took the staff hostage in order to protest the Americans given shelter to the former Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ad have him returned to Iran to stand trial for crimes committed during his rule. Six hostages managed to escape and took shelter at the Canadian embassy and a plan was drawn up by the CIA and the Canadian government to try and get them safely out of the country. Tony Méndez, a disguise an exfiltration expert, came up with a plot to extract them. He employed the aid of John Chamber, a Hollywood make-up artist, to create a fake film production office. The cover story was that the six trapped in Iran were actually Canadians working on a film and they were in the country scouting for locations for a Star Wars-esque Sci-fi fantasy film, Argo.

And that’s about all I’m going to describer of the movie plot/actual events because to say much more would give away the plot. So, back to the original question: Did I love this film? Well, I cewrtainly enjoyed it but I did find it to be a bit slow going at points, particularly the moments where the trapped Americans are literally waiting around trying to get rescued. I suppose that this reflects the monotony of actually being trapped in a building for days on end and so in that regard I suppose it’s quite effective. Overall, however, this film was fucking awesome. Every time Ben Affleck directs something I’m always surprised by just how good he is. The pacing during some of the more intense sequences is impeccable. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat during some moments, so tense were some of the events that were playing out on screen.

There’s also a nice counterbalance to that intensity with quite a nice deal of humour provided by John Goodman as John Chambers and Alan Arkin as producer Lester Siegel. Not only are they great comic relief during some of the earlier scenes where they are trying to drum up publicity for a film that they know will be never filmed but that same humour actually comes to just rack things up later during one of the most tense scenes during the entire film.

If I have any complaint it’s that one I made earlier about some of the scenes just slowing things down a bit too much but really that’s a minor issue and about the only one I can really think of. I suppose it could be argued that the portrayal of Iranians is a bit one note, though I feel it delves deep enough into the politics behind their outrage that, whilst not outright justifying their actions, it certainly helps to explain them. So with all said and done, I’ll give Argo four and a half pints out of five. Now Argo fuck yourself and see it. Laterz.



Review: Black Swan by Jamie

There are some things in here which might, possibly be considered spoilers. Hard to tell with a movie like this.

Ballet. It’s a thing that people apparently watch and enjoy. I don’t really understand why. Seems to me that if you don’t know the story of the show you’re going to see then you’re watching a bunch of people dancing and prancing about on a stage. In essence you need to have the show spoiled in order to understand the show. Maybe that works for some people but as a movie fan it doesn’t really make much sense to me.

Still, I’m not gonna say ballet is the worst thing mankind has ever done. That is mime. Seriously, fuck mimes. No, I can see the artistry in it and understand the hard work that people put in in order to become really good at it. I’m sure the same could be said for mimes but I mean it, fuck mimes. I’m assuming that’s why people go to the ballet, to see the craft performed well by people who have worked hard to achieve that level of skill. Maybe the story doesn’t matter at all. Again, these are just my musings on why people watch it. I could be totally wrong and the story could be very important. In fact, it probably is. Hmmm, I just seem to be babbling.

So anyway, ‘Black Swan’, the latest film from Darren Aronofsky, features ballet fairly heavily. It’s the story of a young ballet dancer with an over-bearing mother, a demanding teacher and a talented understudy. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t sound that great but wait because there’s more. You see this girl, Nina (Natalie Portman), has a problem in that she’s incredibly reserved and always striving for perfection. She wants the lead in the ballet company’s latest production of ‘Swan Lake’ and whilst her reserved nature is perfect for the role of the White Swan she also needs to perform the role of the Black Swan which calls for a far more loose and sensual performance which the director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), doesn’t feel she can pull off. Far more convincing for the role is Lily (Mila Kunis) who is exactly the kind of free spirit that Nina isn’t.

Still Nina gets the part even though she doesn’t seem to make much progress in becoming more wild and carefree. That is until Lily shows up at her door and takes her out for a night of wild abandon, much to the chagrin of Nina’s mother Erica (Barbara Hershey). They drink, they screw around, they take drugs, they apparently go back to Nina’s for a bit of girl on girl action… Yes, there’s a scene where Mila Kunis goes down on Natalie Portman. Five pints out of five. Laterz.

Ok, fine. There’s more to the story than that. Basically throughout the entire film there’s an undercurrent of a growing madness within Nina’s mind. It appears as though she’s had mental issues in the past, apparently a self-abuser in the form of scratching herself deeply on her back. This behaviour seems to manifest itself again and with it a new kind of paranoia. Is it the stress of the role playing out in her mind? Is it the dark side of her personality finally trying to break free of years of repression, finding a crack to escape through due to her trying to access it in order to successfully perform the part of the black swan? Whatever it is, the madness begins to show itself by her beginning to believe that she is physically transforming into a black swan, beginning with a rash near her scratch marks that resembles the skin of a bird, eventually growing to a point where she feels as though she’s growing feathers or her legs have bent backwards like those of a swan.

Obviously the film builds up to a massive ending that I won’t spoil here because you should probably go and see this film. I’ll say it’s a very, very good film, hell probably even a great film but it is not a perfect film. Yes, the performances are brilliant although there were times where Natalie Portman’s character was so pathetic that I found her to be a touch annoying and stretching the limits of believability. Still, the dancing is impressive as much as I, a man who knows practically nothing about ballet, can judge such a thing. It’s clear that both Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis spent a long fucking time preparing for this role.

The camera work is also incredibly impressive and features a number of techniques that you’ll probably recognise if you saw ‘The Wrestler’ and it’s clear to see that Darren Aronofsky considered making this a companion piece for that film. There are shots that follow the character from behind and there are shots that manage to focus on the character rather than the choreographed performance that they are giving (dancing in Black Swan and wrestling in ‘The Wrestler’. Yes, wrestling is largely choreographed) which gives you a sense of what the character is feeling whilst they do their thing.

And like I said as damn fucking good as the film is, it’s not perfect. There are times when it seems a bit slow, particularly to start of with, though it’s never so bad that you lose interest in what’s going on. There are also times where it pushes the boundaries of weird and yet at the same time doesn’t seem to go far enough. That may seem like a particularly odd sentence but it’s something I can’t really explain unless you’ve seen the movie. There’s also the ending which, without being spoilery, I’ll just say that I wish certain events had played out a little differently.

Finally my biggest issue with this film is a rather personal one so I’ll understand if you don’t agree with me. I have a terrible aversion to anything bad happening to finger or toe nails and fuck if there aren’t like a thousand separate occasions when horrible shit happens to nails in this movie. Ok, I may be over exaggerating that a little bit but still, there are times when I just couldn’t look at the screen. Again, I know it’s entirely my problem but I’m just saying, if you don’t like bad shit happening to nails then there are gonna be a number of times when you look away during this movie, wincing in pain and trying not to throw up.

Despite this, it is a really, really amazing film. I’m not suddenly gonna develop a deep interest in ballet or anything but I did look up black swans on Wikipedia for a bit. And seriously, if you’re a dude don’t let the fact that there’s a lot of ballet in this film. Things get seriously fucked up including a really fucking horrific scene involving Winona Ryder in a hospital. And don’t forget, Mila Kunis goes down on Natalie Portman. Still, I don’t think it’s as good as The Wrestler and I think a lot of that has to do with the main characters. Mickey Rourke’s character in that film is a genuinely likeable character who’s going through a hard time whilst Natalie Portman’s character in this is sometimes just so pathetic that I found it hard to sympathise with her. Overall four pints out of five. Laterz.




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