Saturday, 30 November 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: CARRIE





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Everybody knows her name. She is the tragic monster, a tormented girl with telekinetic abilities who just had enough. The prom is approaching and her fairy tale seems to be coming true. But this is just a set up for another cruel prank. This time payback will be a bitch.

There were hundreds ways of adapting Stephen King’s classic novel. The book is structured as a collection of scraps and interviews that interfere with the narrative, when survivors are looking back at that bloody night, analysing what went wrong and what would they do to make it different.

But the director Kimberly Price, most noted for her another female abuse saga BOYS DON’T CRY chose to follow a straight narrative of  Brian De Palma’s film, only upgraded with state of the art visual effects. It is an emotional, compelling, and tragic movie, but when everyone knows the story as well as the one of Red Riding Hood there should have been more surprises in store.

The prom night scene is shorter and less gory than expected. When Sissy Spasek did it all with a stare, ChloĆ« Grace Moretz is a hands on conductor and very in control of creating this symphony of horror.  She makes a nice very likable Carrie, with only problem, it is hard to believe that such a pretty girl will be tormented so badly. (she is definitely quiche if you ask J’amie, the private school girl).

Julianna Moore in the role of the Carrie’s mother seems to enjoy depicting insanity. Her hands scratchy, bodycutting performance can awake unsettlement even in the hardcore horror viewer.  But in this day and age it is surprising that such woman was still allowed to keep a child in her care. It is obvious to everyone she it totally coo-coo.

Unfortunately CARRIE is a remake and not original adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel. It is a decent re-telling of the story but it will be helpful if it held at least one original idea in store.


Friday, 29 November 2013

JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL MOVIE REVIEW: THE COMPLEX



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Japanese Horror made a hallmark in shooting creepy ghost stories with inner city settings and solid human drama. But Hideo Nataka's THE COMPLEX is an unfortunate product of the cliched mystery, suspense and horror that inspires more laughter than scares.

A terribly miscast Atsuko Maeda is in the role of Asuka, a young woman who moves with her family into a creepy apartment block. At night she hears some strange scratching noises from the neighbour apartment. When she decides to investigate she gets much more trouble than she bargained for.

 The first half of the movie has a few genuinely scary moments, but when the story makes a u-turn, giving away its biggest secret half way through the film, everything collapses like a house of cards.

THE COMPLEX is definitely not for international viewer with weird scenes of exorcism and some twists that make you laugh in all the wrong places. The seemingly tragic moment of a little boy being killed when he is accidentally being thrown away with the rubbish seems so ludicrous it cannot be taken seriously. Our heroine is wooden when making unbelievably scared faces and jerky moves (for some actors even a walk across the street is a hard task). The settings are creepy but photography is lazy and cheap, with so little happening on screen one may think its a recording of a stage play.

Hideo Nakata is a legend of Japanese Horror with his two classics THE RING and DARK WATERS successfully re-made in America and known by everyone. But one has to remember that those two were based on two well written novels. In THE COMPLEX Nakata seemingly tries his best tricks to bring back the "ghosts of christmases passed" but with the joke of a script its not bound to happen.
THE COMPLEX highlights all that can go wrong with modern japanese cinema - awkward script, bad acting and cliched scares. Low budget also did not help.

THE COMPLEX was intended to be the story of reunion for two lonely souls. Instead it turned out to be a mess of a few disjointed ideas.  There's nothing COMPLEX about it, but keeping it basic shouldn't be a synonym of boring.

Monday, 25 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW: GONE GIRL BY GILLIAN FLYNN




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It's hard to write about a book that had been discussed many times over, a bestseller praised world wide.

There are some books that start off easy and lighthearted and then grow on you as you uncover unexpected depth, and this is where popular and literary fiction find common ground. Gone Girl is such a book. But is it enough to fall in love with it? 

Novel's structure proposes two different view points on the events of a mysterious disappearance.  Nick and Amy Dunn have left their busy life in New York to run a small town pub. They are as different as chalk and cheese. But their account of each other's actions makes us wonder... Who is telling the truth? Does anyone?


The unreliable narrator structure of a novel was for the first time introduced by Agatha Christie in "The Murder or Roger Ackroyd". She used this method several times after, and one of my favorites is "Endless Night." It is "Endless Night" that in my opinion was a great inspiration for GONE GIRL. 


Just like the latter, "Endless Night" has a young talented man who marries a girl of a substantial inheritance who finds herself in peril. The difference is that GONE GIRL introduces two unreliable narrators. About half way through the book tables are turned, secrets are revealed, but all the build up ends in anticlimax.


The author herself acknowledged that she drew inspiration for the ending from Rosmary's Baby. "Yes she gave a birth to a monster... And sort of likes it." In GONE GIRL the monster is marriage. And I am certain that the books popularity may be to blame for the increase in some divorce statistics.


I have to admit that I struggled a bit while reading the book. I found Amy's narrative enjoyable, but empty of substance. While Nick's narrative lacks exciting twists that is a back bone of any crime novel. There's just not enough going on for a 100,000 words yarn and there was a moment I had to yell: "Come on, is it all that you've got up your sleeve?" 


GONE GIRL dissects marriage like a dead body and the murder of a marriage is the only one worth mentioning here. But if you crave the real murder mystery... stick with "Endless Night".



Saturday, 23 November 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: MACABRE



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The Mo Brothers are directors from indonesia, who had emerged on the art house scene a few years ago with their  spectacular debut MACABRE. The movie is a cliche story about bunch of youngsters lost in the woods, who stumble on the family of crazies who's survival strength borders to supernatural. There's nothing surprising in the story itself. The interesting part is cinematography and outrageous make up that will make shudder even the strongest admirers of gore feasts. I will not give away anything by saying that in the end it will all come down to final surviving girl and a chainsaw welding maniac (this time female). The battle spectacular is almost as great as the one in the end of the latest remake of Evil Dead and the sole reason to watch this gorily daring indonesian flick.

It is obvious that MACABRE was inspired by the gems of French horror, such us HIGH TENSION and INSIDE, but it has its own voice and its own feet to stand on (its own chainsaw to weld). There are a few minuses of course, first is casting, which could have been better especially where a crazy family of freaks is concerned. The victims do OK, but all is required is running around covered and blood and screaming - not the hardest job in the world. The second flaw is the plot itself, that does not provide us with any conflict or background story. There's not much mystery involved, no revelations in store, and in my opinion the horror genre had moved on from a simple "slash and kill" types of horror. Apart from drowning us in gore THE MO BROTHERS don't give us much to think about.

MACABRE is worth seeing, just to get a slice of contemporary indonesian cinema. The next film of THE MO BROTHERS called KILLERS and is much anticipated among horror fans. Thoroughly enjoyed their effort with MACABRE, I will be looking forward to see what they do next. 


Thursday, 21 November 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE



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Once upon a time there was a girl named Katniss who had won the survival show on TV. Only it was a reality TV where everyone else had died... but her and her boyfriend had survived. Only he wasn't her boyfriend really... they just played for the cameras...

Two years later Katniss and Peeta are on the road to promote their winnings. President Snow puts pressure on Katniss to become the  symbol of the system. Instead she becomes a symbol of revolution. There's only one way to defeat her. And its a new Hunger Games...

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE was probably one of the worst books I had ever read... but one of the best stories ever told. It's a page turner and turning the pages I could not help thinking what a terrific movie it would make. Little did I know! This film is destined to become a new classic.

It is very simple really. We are living in the world very similar to the one of Hunger Games.  IN the film it is stretched to the extreme of course, but it's a satire and like every good satire it has a good heart deep underneath.

The best thing about the second instalment of THE HUNGER GAMES is that it is a mixture of genres: its a drama, its a SCI FI anti-utopia, a thriller, a horror and a teenage romance novel, all stuck into the oven, but with the right ingredients it works just well. The movie is split in two parts: first describes Katniss' life after the winning of the first HUNGER GAMES,  with its  heartbreak, tension and preparations for the worst. The second part is the Arena, with non stop action, monsters and a secret that is not revealed until a few minutes before the main titles will roll.

The moment when Katniss has to step into ARENA is one of the best action scenes I had seen this year and best seen at IMAX. The screen goes down to the floor and up into the ceiling (seven floors high) and IMAX vision of the Arena is as spectacular as it could be ever imagined.

It is amazing how the script make us fall in love with the characters from the first sight. It was different in a book, which requires a closer attention, but in a film one look is enough, a few words will define it for you.  It is all about the first impression, in a book can happen many times, but in a movie - only once. We either love them or hate them and you don't get a second chance.

The great casing is what CATCHING FIRE is all about. You had not seen Jennifer Lawrence if you had not seen her in CATCHING FIRE. She can be heartbroken and angry and then sentimental and insecure, one after another, and stay true to her character. The boys Peeta (Josh Hutchenson) and Gail (Liam Hemsworth) do their best, but are quickly upstaged by a newcomer Finnick (Sam Claflin), who is full of surprises and goes from happy-go-lucky to all time sad in a matter of seconds.  The supporting cast of rebellious Johanna (Jena Mallone) and weird Effie Trinket (Elisabeth Banks) does a fantastic job. It is incredible what the latter did with her role, awakening the sympathy for the antagonist and making us see good where it seemed to be a lost cause.

Lets forget for the moment about the incredible success of CATCHING FIRE the novel. Lets forget that its a gorless re-telling of BATTEL ROYAL by Batoru Rowaiaru or RUNNING MAN by Stephen King. It is a pop culture phenomenon that has been turned into a great film by a director Francis Lawrence (in my opinion his best film to date). Rush to see it. You'll be HUNGRY for more.






Wednesday, 20 November 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: KILLER TOON



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A series of murders that occur in Saul resemble famous web horror comics. It is quickly discovered that every victim harboured a dangerous secret from the past. A young artist is under suspicion. Two goofy cops are on the task, but they are over their heads in a case where supernatural is not out of the question. As details of each death become clearer it is obvious that they can trust no one. Even themselves. Because in the end everyone has something to hide.

KILLER TOON is a clever Korean horror, that doesn't tweak the cannons of genre too much, at the same time proposing a fresh look and some interesting ideas, that will definitely be stolen by Hollywood. With some scenes shot as web-comic it is surprising to discover that drawn violence on screen can be as disturbing as live action horror. Like most Korean films the scary and sentimental here goes hand in hand. The most important achievement of the film is how it makes us feel sorry for the villains. The writers are not afraid to fill their story with multiple twists. Some of them you will see coming, the other's... well, you may just not!



The pace of the movie is solid and the scares count more on the atmosphere then on gore. I was a little annoyed by multiple "dream within a dream" scenes, you know when the character thinks he is awake but is actually still sleeping and another jump scare is delivered. Also some moves of the characters defy logic, but it all can be forgiven for the final outcome. 

It's hard to make anything original in the world of horror these days, and its always nice to see some fresh ideas emerging on screen. Killer Toon from South Korea doesn't just tell an interesting story, it can be genuinely unsettling at times, and thats all I can expect to be satisfied by a horror film.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: 11.6



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The name of this French thriller based on the true events refers to the 11.6 million euro stolen from the French bank by Tony Musulin, a security truck driver. In France it has been labelled a heist of the century, because it was done without violence or use of firearms.

The French movie that stars a very popular at the moment (and a very good actor) Fracois Cluzet opens with an interesting promise, but never fully delivers on it. The choice of Cluzet is without a question triggered by his enormous popularity in France, for his age is wrong (real Toni was 38 when the Heist had occurred) and he only slightly resembles the real Toni Musulin, but his portrayal is a mix of toughness and vulnerability and an outstanding performance that deserves attention.



REAL TONI MUSULIN




FRANCOIS CLUZET


Some real life stories look exciting on screen. 11.6 is not such a case.
Not for the international viewer anyway. One has to live in France during the moment of the heist to understand why this movie was made in the first place. It was probably the biggest story in France of 2009 and in it were particular details of the case that the public was craving. Especially the answer to one simple question:  where is the money?

Director Phillippe Godeau, who's last feature was a musical comedy ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS,  handles material well and definitely capable of creating suspense, but its the script that is a major putdown. It is too slow for such an exciting topic, presenting us with Toni's preparations, but not fully explaining what he was doing exactly or why. You are such a bore Toni, I wanted to say. Come on, get on with it! The character's motives are never very clear and even in the end we do not know why Tony Musulin went to such an extent on a seemingly goalless mission. A thinking person's movie? Probably not. But it's atmospheric enough and highlights well the moods of suburban France of the last decade.

Friday, 15 November 2013

DOWNTON ABBEY SEASON 4 FINAL




Last week commemorated a great event in this year's pop culture, which is the final episode of DOWNTON ABBEY SEASON 4. It counts only eight episodes, but  in Australia there's a hardly a show that is being expected with such anticipation. Downton can boast as large a fan base as AVENGERS, and considering its costume drama setting it is an unprecedented achievement it itself.
So what is it all about? What is the key to it's success?

It can be summed up in one word - writing. Julian Fellows' style of drama creates dilemmas for the characters, with each episode escalating the conflict. At the same time he doesn't keep a viewer in suspense for long, resolving story arcs as quickly as possible, and this is catering for the younger audience who are used to intrigue of the likes of REVENGE and PRETTY LITTLE LIARS.

This year's season has a darker undertone, dealing with the problems of rape, abortion and inter racial marriage - tabu themes for the costume drama genre to date.

With the departure of some major characters  after the shocker of a cliffhanger of the last year's Christmas Special one could think that there is not much left to tell. But the series pace and drama did not slow down and each episode seems as fresh and innovative as three years ago. With the announcement of the fifth series getting a green light it is safe to say that we will be entertained by the Crawley family for at least one more year... and there's always Christmas special to look forward to!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW: CAPTAIN PHILLIPS by HENRY JACKMAN



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It's time for a soundtrack review, which I intend to do weekly, and tonight I have chosen a score for a very good movie CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.

There are two approaches to soundtrack critique: one is how suitable, how well it works in a movie, and the second - is it a good standalone listening? I will always choose the latter, for when you buy a soundtrack, or borrow or whatever, you commit your time to listen to it, and you expect to listen to an ALBUM, not a supplement to something, which I believe a movie soundtrack never is. When done right, it becomes a character in a film and guides us through, manipulate us in a good way and makes us deeper involved in what is happening on screen.

Henry Jackman had grown on me over  the years with his fabulous work on XMEN: FIRST CLASS, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION. He is one of the best action movie composer we know to date. But is CAPTAIN PHILLIPS an action movie? Or a better question - is an action movie score works well for a thriller drama based on real events?
In one reply yes, it does. The score to CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is one of the most innovative works Henry Jackman had done to date. Using Samali drum beats as the background he weaves in many unusual noises, such as footsteps, echoes and voices.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS track often starts quietly, building up to a climax that is ticking like a clock - a sort of a time bomb. With its many nuances CAPTAIN PHILLIPS score is best listened with headphones on, this way you will not miss anything. From the playlist I will particularly recommend "Second Attack" and "Two In The Water", both equally imaginative and intense.

It doesn't require a great experience in music to tell that this work is a great step forward for Henry Jackman and a mix of artistic vision and pure action themes blends into a score that cannot be missed. As a movie CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is equally engaiging as it is draining. We simply have no emotions left to spare on the soundtrack. And maybe that why it makes such a great stand alone listening.


Monday, 11 November 2013

AMERICAN HORROR STORY COVEN, EPISODE FIVE


The fifth episode of the new season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY is called BURN WITCH BURN, but the more appropriate name would be DIE ZOMBIE, DIE.

My favourite name for it still would be NEW ORLEAN ZOMBIE CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

It is amazing what modern TV can get away with.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2





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This is my very first entry and I am happy to review a rather decent horror film.

Being disappointed with Australian films during the International Movie festival its always nice to be reminded how well our fellow Australians do abroad. With James Wan directing, Lee Whannell writing and Rose Byrne as a main star INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 is a tight quality scare flick that will make you shrink in your seat.

The story continues where it was left off with Lambert's family dealing with the death of a medium Elise and gruesome reality of her death being a direct result of Josh bringing with him "something" from the land of dead and into the real world. More ghost appearances will occur and as Renai (Rose Byrne) is battling this new danger (what will you do if you can't even trust your husband) her mother in law Lorraine seeks a man who once helped Josh when he was a little boy. Together they unravel the mysterious identity of the ghostly Black Bride.

When watching INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 it is impossible not to think of the great SHINING, especially the ending, but at least the inspiration came from the right place. The beginning of the film is its visit card, with tension building carefully but steadily and makes us use our imagination, which is always scarier than a real thing. The script is a little messy, but characters are given sympathy that make you worry about them. During the film I could not stop thinking that it would be a great family film if it wasn't so damn scary. There's very little blood and almost no gore. Its all in the atmosphere. Somehow even the cheesiest scares are believable and you will love to hate the new baddie.

The ending is a set up for possible continuation but whether we will see CHAPTER 3 remains to be seen. I will be holding my breath. Will you? Let me know what you think!