Friday, 20 October 2017

Marshall By Reginald Hudlin

Reviewed By Linda Marric

As courtroom dramas go, you can’t do much better than Reginald Hudlin's brilliantly understated new feature film Marshall. This mid-budget surprise hit is everything you would want from the genre and much more; and the fact that it is based on a true story makes it all the more gripping. Chartering an early case in legendary civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall’s career, the film does a commendable job in reacquainting those of us who were less familiar with the man and his tireless fight against institutional racism against black people in the American justice system.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Reagan Show By Pacho Velez And Sierra Pettengill

Reviewed By Nick Tesco

The Reagan Show Directed by Pacho Velez and Sierra Pettengill this portrait cum documentary of Ronal Reagan unfurls solely through film clips from TV news programmes and White House archive material. There’s no new footage, no portentous commentary so the viewer is left to judge for themselves what substance, if any, Reagan actually possessed.

Focusing on the narrow topic of the arms reduction negotiations and treaty with the USSR, but not exclusively, the realisation slowly dawns that here was a man acting a role for some unknown body. As is always the case there is no obvious conspiracy, merely the understanding that vested interests were acting with impunity. All the familiar tropes are there for the aspiring right wing putative “leader of the free world” (© any right wing American), the use of simplistic language, evil, empire, freedom ad infinitum, the equating of freedom with the right to make money and the vacuity at the heart of the beast.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Goodbye Christopher Robin by Simon Curtis

Reviewed By Linda Marric

Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin might not be one of the most perfectly executed films, but what it lacks in the direction stakes, it definitely manages to make up for with its genuinely heartwarming and deeply affecting storyline. Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan, the film offers a beautifully nuanced account of the story behind one of the most loved children’s books in history and the boy who became symbolic of an idyllic childhood in the English countryside in A.A Milne’s Winnie The Pooh books. Recounting the story behind the creation of all the characters who became part of most people’s childhood, the film present a flawed yet charming story arc which is certain to move its audiences to tears despite its obvious shortcoming.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Exception by David Leveaux

Reviewed By Nick Tesco

History is told through the prism of the Jeffrey Archer School rather than Hilary Mantel’s in this waste of a great cast. If you had the likes of Cristopher Plummer, Eddie Marsan and Lily James available to you surely you’d ensure that the story you told maintained some vague grip on historical reality. Yeah, I know this is escapism but puh-lea-se! Add Jai Courtney and Janet McTeer and the idea that a terrible waste of effort and talent takes root.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? The Little Mermaid (1976)

What's it all about?
You probably know, or think you do. This is a relatively close adaptation of the original Hans Christian Anderson fairytale of The Little Mermaid.

Why haven't you seen it?
I'm not sure whether I should credit the Disney film with being a help or hindrance in this case. On the one hand its popularity keeps the story in the consciousness, on the other, it has a tendency to eclipse other versions. I only heard of this film having become interested in Czech surrealism after seeing Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders, and let's just say that The Little Mermaid isn't a film you're very likely to stumble upon

Why should you see it?
As I alluded to above, Disney has, thanks to its position in popular culture, a way of taking ownership of the fairytales it adapts, and that certainly seems to be the case with The Little Mermaid. On the one hand, it's fair enough to lighten up what is a dark and sad tale for a young audience, on the other it's good to have a version that gets closer to the original intent of the story.

This isn't to say that Karel Kachyna's take on the tale is relentlessly grim, indeed it can be quite enchanting and beautiful. The film's first half hour takes place almost entirely under the sea, as the King of all the seas prepares for a birthday celebration marking one year before his daughter (Miroslava Safránková) is married and her husband will inherit the throne. The film doesn't exactly look as though it was hugely expensive, but whatever the budget the design is beautiful and intelligent. The Mer people wear flowing robes, have blue make up on the top halves of their faces and wear their hair up, with ocean debris sticking out in all directions.

Sets are adorned with sunken treasures from the human world, some the Mer people seem to understand (the King knows what swords are), but others are more obscure (“It's full of yellow circles” is the Little Mermaid's reaction to a chest of gold coins). Kachyna makes great use of these design elements as well as of very slight slow motion, which gives some key moments in the underwater kingdom a quality of movement that matches the design's creation of an otherworldly space.

It is only in the film's last half hour that the Little Mermaid (who is never given a name) trades her voice for a chance to go to the human world and have a Prince she rescued from drowning fall in love with her. The scene of the spellcasting is well done, with the witch laying out in detail the pain that the Mermaid must endure for this chance. Without playing up to it, it becomes a creepy moment. On land the film is rather more ordinary than it is underwater. The design isn't as inventive and while the acting is solid enough only  Safránková stands out. The ending does deliver on its tragic intent though and the story is well told throughout, it's just that the film marks itself out much more in its first hour.

The Little Mermaid isn't the masterpiece that Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders (whose star, Jaroslava Schallerova, has a small part here) or Jan Svankmajer's Alice are, nor even as distinguished as Three Wishes For Cinderella and lacks their surreal edge. That said, it tells its story faithfully and, through its design, transports us to an underwater kingdom that feels truly like something out of a fairytale. It's well worth seeking out if you've seen the films mentioned above and are curious.

How can you see it?
This is strange. While researching this section I couldn't find a DVD release of this film, nor is it available on Amazon or Netflix, to my knowledge (if you look on a certain well known video site though, you'll find it easily enough). What I did stumble on is a RUSSIAN telling of The Little Mermaid, also from 1976, on Amazon's Prime streaming service. I've never seen it, but will be correcting that soon.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

London Film Festival 2017: Shorts

Real Gods Require Blood

This year's London Film Festival is playing well over 200 feature films, but often lost in the shuffle among the coverage of those are the short films that accompany each strand of the festival and which are often goldmines for spotting new talent. I'll be reviewing some of these over the course of the festival and here, to begin with, are four films, each from different strands.

The Artificial Humors [Short film award programme 1]
Dir: Gabriel Abrantes
The premise is kind of irresistible. Claude (Gilda Nomacce) creates a robot, which she names Andy Coughman, designed to test the limits of artificial intelligence. While learning to socialise, Coughman falls for Jo (Amanda Rodarte), a girl from a remote part of the Amazon but on the suggestion of a friend Claude decides to reprogram Coughman, making him the first AI standup comedian, but in the process he loses the memory of his love for Jo.

Almost Heaven By Carol Salter

Reviewed By Andy Zachariason

Good films drop an audience into a crevice of the world and show us how they reflect something larger that exists in our own lives. First time director Carol Salter has done just that with Almost Heaven, a documentary following Ying Ling, a seventeen-year-old who’s training to become a mortician in China.

This is a film that’s filled with dead bodies and mention of ghosts, yet it’s calm, gentle, never forced – comforting even; like a spa treatment for the soul. This observant and relaxed approach mirrors Ling’s own professionalism as she learns to prepare the deceased for their final moments in this world.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Borg Vs McEnroe By Janus Metz

Reviewed By Linda Marric

In the summer of 1980, one of the greatest tennis matches in the history of the game took place when two of the most accomplished players met in the Wimbledon final. In Borg McEnroe, Director Janus Metz brings the story of the two men to life in this beautifully crafted biopic and takes a look at the dynamic which existed between them on that fated fortnight. Staring Shia LaBeouf in the McEnroe role, and Sverrir Gudnason as the great Björn Borg, the film not only does a fantastic job in keeping the suspense going till the very end, but also manages to recreate the era almost perfectly, right down to the dodgy haircuts and questionable fashion sense. And it is even better if like yours truly, you had no idea who had won the infamous match all those years ago.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? All About Them (2015)

What's it all about?
Micha (Félix Moati) and Charlotte (Sophie Verbeeck) have been together for several years, and while they've had a strong relationship, they're going through a tense period. This isn't helped when they both separately begin affairs with Charlotte's friend Melodie (Anaïs Demoustier).

Why haven't you seen it?
IMDB lists a late 2015 release date for this film in the UK, but that release must have been tiny, because even as a big fan of Anaïs Demoustier, I only discovered this film by accident when it popped up in my Amazon suggestions. It clearly didn't gain much momentum from what cinema release it had, as the DVD release followed a full 16 months later. Unless you're an even bigger Anaïs Demoustier fan than I am, you probably never realised this came out.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

mother! By Darren Aronofsky

Reviewed By Linda Marric

The best way to describe the experience of seeing Darren Aronofsky mother! is like being forcibly thrown into a giant washing machine in which every cycle is as fast-paced and as raucous as its predecessor, and where you are tossed about, wrung out and hung to dry without ever having a say in what’s coming next. If this sounds like the kind of thing you might be into, then buckle up because you’re in for a hell of a ride.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? Blood and Bone (2009)

What's it all about?
A martial artist known only as Bone (Michael Jai White) gets out of prison and immediately gets himself into underground bare knuckle fighting. What he really wants is to take on a fighter who works for local gangster James (Eammon Walker), whose moll (Michelle Belegrin) Bone seems to have taken a dangerous interest in.

Why haven't you seen it?
Despite the fact that more and more films are bypassing cinemas there was until very recently, in many viewers minds, an implied seal of quality, that comes with a theatrical release and not with a direct to video film. Netflix and other streaming platforms with original content are addressing this perception, but even they aren't often doing it with action films. Unless you're into action cinema enough to dig into the direct to video part of the genre it's likely you never came across this film or many, many others.

Why should you see it?
I didn't mind The Bourne Supremacy at the time. I suspect I might still like it if I get round to rewatching it. It's that film's legacy that bothers me. I think we can trace the current awful state of most mainstream American action cinema back to Paul Greengrass' first take on the Matt Damon led franchise. With that film the trend for shakycam, fast cutting and close up shooting in fight sequences really began to take hold, and I still see far too much of it. For me, that style makes action meaningless. It destroys the choreography, messes up the geography of a scene and often makes it unclear exactly what is even happening from moment to moment. Happily, films like Blood and Bone and other direct to video titles have kept action movies alive.

This film suffers from none of the problems of shakycam action. The fights are, like most of the rest of the film, simply shot. The emphasis is put on showing us what Michael Jai White and the other accomplished martial artists he is paired with during the film can do. The speed comes from White's movement, the impact from the force of his punches and kicks, director Ben Ramsey and editor Dean Goodhill simply don't need to use cutting to force either rhythm or impact into those moments. The fights build well, with White easily despatching early opponents, but more challenged as the film goes on. A highlight comes in a mid film bout with Bob Sapp, who plays a huge fighter named Hammerman, but the best really is saved for last in the fight with Matt Mullins, which starts tentative but evolves into both a great fight and an interesting story moment.

The script is never the main point of these films, but Blood and Bone's simple writing is given a lift by a clutch of decent performances. Michael Jai White knows this is a great showcase for him and he grabs hold of what is a cliché part (noble martial artist fulfilling a promise) and invests it with great presence if not immense depth. Eammon Walker, who I first saw on Oz is an exceptional actor who has never really got a film role that shows what he can do. His character here isn't the most consistent – the moralising gangster of the first half who won't tolerate foul language is more interesting than the more standard writing of the second half – but Walker is great; all simmering ambition and rage. When Walker and White share scenes it makes you wish the screenplay was a bit better, because these two face off as well in dialogue as they do in their fight. Unfortunately the film's true 'Big Bad' is Julian Sands, who still can't act.

Whatever the shortcomings of the script, I don't mind them. Sure, it's thin and predictable, but I'll take that plus a series of hard hitting fights (one of them featuring a pre-Haywire Gina Carano) I can actually see rather than most of what Hollywood was churning out and calling action cinema at this time. Blood and Bone is a great jumping off point for exploring the world of DTV action movies, which can be surprisingly rewarding.

How can you see it?
There are UK, US and European DVD and Blu Ray release available. The UK edition has a few features, including a commentary.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Insyriated by Philippe Van Leeuw

Reviewed By Linda Marric

Belgian director Philippe Van Leeuw may not seem like the most obvious person to direct a film about the Syrian war, but then again the same could have been said about Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo and his seminal film about the the Algerian war of independence,  The Battle Of Algiers (1966), a film which remains to this day one of the most powerful features ever made on the subject.  Set inside a solitary apartment in a building in Damascus, Insyriated is certainly not for the fainted hearted, but remains nevertheless essential viewing for anyone wanting to make sense of the horrors taking place daily.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Vault By Dan Bush

Reviewed By Linda Marric

Directed by Dan Bush (The Signal, The Reconstruction of William Zero), The Vault is a fast-paced, violent and at times simply baffling heist movie with a twist. Mixing the supernatural with the usual heist narrative fodder, the film attempt a new approach to this tried and tested formula, but ultimately falls at the first hurdle by its inability to offer a compelling or coherent enough story.

James Franco, Taryn Manning and a whole host of brilliantly talented young Hollywood actors are  wasted on this deeply confused small budget production, which sadly for its makers can’t quite decide what it wants to be and ends up looking messy and rather confused.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? Keeping Rosy (2014)

What's it all about?
Charlotte (Maxine Peake) is laser focused on her career, but when she resigns from her job after failing to get a promotion she feels is due her she takes her frustrations out on her cleaner Maya, accidentally killing her. Disposing of the body, she discovers Maya's baby daughter in her car and decides to keep the child while covering her tracks.

Why haven't you seen it?
Like so many of these entries, this is another story of a low budget film getting a low key release and, unless you're deliberately seeking it out, being very prone to getting lost in the stacks of new discs on the shelves each week.

Moon Dogs By Philip John

Reviewed by Andy Zachariason

Every summer offers up a new crop of coming-of-age films. Audiences can sit down and travel down avenues of youth completely unrecognizable to them on the surface, but cut through emotionally because growing up is a universal story. It is perhaps the most overtly relatable genre that there is. The coming-of-age film, at its best, is less of a genre and more like a home movie showing you memories that you’d forgotten.

Friday, 1 September 2017

FrightFest Interview : FilmLand Empire Meets Todd Tucker


Interview By Linda Marric

Regarded by many as one of Hollywood’s hardest working special effects artists, and one of the most talented puppeteers in the business, Todd Tucker has worked on numerous projects throughout his career including big budget productions such as Hook, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Apocalypto and even Watchmen.

As part of this year’s Horror Channel's FrightFest, Tucker was in London recently for the world premier of his second feature as director with the screening of his new film The Terror of Hallow's Eve. Earlier this week, FilmLand Empire had the chance to meet up with Todd for a candid chat and asked him about his aspiration for the future and his role as one of the most sought after make-up artists in the industry.

First of all, welcome to London and to FrightFest, is this your first time here? How are you finding it so far?

Oh it’s awesome, really awesome. I saw a couple of films and got to meet all the owners…’s very cool.

How does the festival crowd here compare the other horror festivals you’ve been to?

You know, it’s funny because the horror audience…the fans…. are kinda the same everywhere, but they’re great….they are the most loyal, loving fans of any genre, the only different thing in the accent[laughs]. But it’s really cool, because so far everyone we’ve met has been very nice and anyone who has seen the movie has been veRy confident, it’s very cool.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? Toolbox Murders (2004)

This week, Why Haven't You Seen...? pays tribute to one of the greats, a man who changed horror cinema irrevocably with his second film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and made many other great and interesting contributions to the genre. Tobe Hooper will be missed.

What's it all about?
A couple (Angela Bettis and Brent Roam) move into an apartment in a building that is being renovated. As soon as she moves in, Nell begins to feel unsettled, all the more so when a new friend (Juliet Landau) disappears. With the help of an old man (Rance Howard) who has lived in the building for almost 60 years, Nell discovers that there's more to her new home than meets the eye and that the reason for the murders that have been happening lies inside the building.

Why haven't you seen it?
This is an early entry in what now seems an unstoppable cycle of remakes, initiated by the 2003 take on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but it never looked like a particularly inspiring one. It's fair to say that director Tobe Hooper hadn't been on a winning streak, working mostly in TV in the 90s and The Toolbox Murders, a sleazy entry in the Video Nasties list with little to recommend it, is hardly, on the face of it, the most interesting of properties.

Why should you see it?
Toolbox Murders isn't The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It breaks no new ground, it won't have multi-generational impact on what we talk about when we talk about horror cinema. That said, what it is is the work of a genre craftsman cutting loose, acknowledging his legacy and giving his creative muscles the best workout they had had in almost 2 decades.

I haven't checked this, but from watching the film I had the feeling that the screenplay may not have started as a remake of The Toolbox Murders. The first two acts have a very different flavour; a creepier more occultish horror that seems to lean on the idea of a building having insidious influence over its residents (like the teen who uses a webcam to spy on Juliet Landau, or the couple whose fights disturb Belle) and perhaps even housing a few ghostly figures (Rance Howard's character, for instance). During this first hour, Hooper generates an otherworldly atmosphere and creates the feeling of the building as something with a history and a malign influence. The murders, gruesome as they are (a clump of hair stuck to a hammer in the first killing is an especially nasty little detail), feel almost bolted on at this point, and when the film moves into its third act it's as if it has suddenly become something different, shifting from creeping fear with some short sharp shocks into a bloody and nasty slasher.

The third act could just be seen as the standard slasher moves, but what's interesting is the fact that Hooper often seems to be looking back on his own work. The killer (who is pictured on the DVD sleeve, so this doesn't feel like a spoiler) is revealed as a mutant referred to as Coffin Baby and the design seems to be part Leatherface and part Funhouse. The first time we see him properly, sitting at a table looking in a mirror, is highly reminiscent of an iconic moment with Leatherface in the original Chainsaw. There are many more nods for fans to spot, from a moment that Nell and her husband fall into a room full of bodies, which looks to Poltergeist for inspiration to when Nell is tied to a table, with a circular saw running, coming up between her legs in a clear allusion to Leatherface's attack on Stretch in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Hooper doesn't wink too hard at us with any of this, but it's all there for us to catch if we care to, and I take it as sign of a director having fun with this movie and with his own work. All this said, those standard slasher moves are present, and Hooper executes them with the eye of an old pro. He's not reinventing the wheel here, but it's an effectively grimy climax, even if it feels like it belongs to another film than the one he started out making here.

Toolbox Murders is occasionally a clunky film, but the reason it works, aside from Hooper's direction, is Angela Bettis. Bettis is a great talent who has never really got the recognition she deserves outside genre circles. Nell isn't her most complex role, but Bettis never feels less than real in the role, as her concerns go from unfounded - a funny scene where she accidentally calls the cops on an actor running lines - to something much deeper when her new friend Julia disappears. Juliet Landau and Rance Howard also stand out. Landau takes a role miles from her detached, insane, Drusilla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and makes an impression with not that much to work with, while Howard is effectively mysterious about his character's origins and motives.

As I've said, Toolbox Murders is far from a perfect film, but it's never less than entertaining to watch. I'd be intrigued to see the third act of the film it feels like Hooper is making up until the hour mark, but it's hard to mind when he has as much fun cutting loose in the last half hour and creates as many well paced slasher scares as he does here. While you're watching his Texas Chainsaw films, or Lifeforce, or The Funhouse, or Poltergeist in tribute to him it's worth making space for this flawed but interesting entry in his filmography.

How can you see it?
You can see the film on Shudder in the US, but the UK DVD is the best buy. It includes 2 commentaries, one with Hooper, and a bonus disc including the excellent feature length documentary The American Nightmare. Prices for the UK DVD start at 73p on Amazon.

Monday, 28 August 2017

God's Own Country By Francis Lee

Reviewed By Linda Marric

Fresh from wowing the crowds at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival and going on to win the award for best British Film in the process, Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country finally sees its nationwide release this week. This deeply touching and thoroughly charming first feature has garnered the greatest amount of good will from critics and film fans alike, making it one of the most awaited British films of the year. Set amongst a Yorkshire Dales farming community, and recounting a love story between a Romanian worker and the owner of a sheep farm, the film is predictably being referred to by some as the British Brokeback Mountain, but in reality God's Own Country has a lot more in common with Barry Jenkins’ surprise 2016 hit, Moonlight than with Ang Lee’s deeply flawed 2005 movie.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Detroit By Katherine Bigelow

Reviewed By Linda Marric

Chartering the events that took place during the Detroit race riots of 1967, Kathryn Bigelow’s harrowing new film Detroit maybe a hard watch for most, but is nevertheless as essential today as Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning was almost 30 years ago. Written by Mark Boal and staring some of the most impressive young actors working in Hollywood right now, the film carries with it a strong message which nobody can afford to ignore, especially in the current circumstances America finds itself under the Trump administration and the recent Charlottesville debacle which has reignited the hateful rhetoric of white supremacy and allowed the far right to flourish.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Metamorphoses by Christophe Honoré

Reviewed by Andy Zachariason

Christophe Honoré’s elliptical metamorphoses opens with a sensual gaze upon nature as classical music guides us between a deep green forest and into seaweed swaying below the water. There’s a curious rhythm to the imagery as if it’s looking for some answer. Context to this is given by an Ovid poem. You might think you’re watching a Koyaanisqatsi riff or an homage to Kurosawa’s Dreams, but the film quickly reveals itself to be a series of chapters and connected vignettes about human’s inner nature; in particular, their sexuality.

Logan Lucky By Steven Soderbergh

Reviewed By Linda Marric

It wasn't so long ago that Steven Soderbergh was talking of retirement and the need to move on to something new.  Luckily for us, the director is back with a film which is set to be one of his most well received to date. Yes Logan Lucky is yet another heist movie, and yes the jokes are a little on the predictable side, but make no mistake, this brilliantly well crafted and impeccably acted production was worth waiting four years for. Staring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and an unrecognisable Daniel Craig, the film is everything any Soderbergh fan could have wished for and more. In fact, with its quirky characters of bumbling country folk and reckless misfits, Logan Lucky would certainly feel more at home alongside any Coen Brothers production than the average Soderbergh narrative.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? The Black Panther (1977)

What's it all about?
Closely based on the facts of the case, The Black Panther is a documentary style reconstruction of Donald Neilson's (Donald Sumpter) escalating criminal career, from robbery to murder to the kidnapping of Lesley Whittle (Debbie Farrington).

Why haven't you seen it?
For many years you couldn't. It was, predictably, controversial in the press (including those parts of it that had endangered Lesley Whittle with irresponsible reporting during the real events). Sue Lawley took director Ian Merrick to task on TV, having not seen the film herself. Shortly after this the film was banned, again without being viewed, by several local councils. This meant that the film had only minimal and brief distribution. There were video releases, both pre-cert and 18 rated, but these seem to have been small scale and, never re-released on video between 1981 and 2012, The Black Panther effectively vanished for more than 30 years.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? Stop The Pounding Heart (2013)

Post by Sam Inglis

What's it all about?
The third of Italian director Roberto Minervini's America trilogy focuses on Sara, the 14 year old daughter of a large, deeply religious, goat farming family in rural Texas. We see her everyday life, helping with the family and the farm, but also a little spark between her and Colby, the bull riding son of a neighbouring family, which may be part of what is challenging her faith.

Why haven't you seen it?
Stop The Pounding Heart was never going to be a big mainstream title. It played well at festivals, but without stars or a big name director to act as a hook, wide distribution for a film this small and quiet was always going to be an uphill struggle. Unless you caught it at a festival, this was always likely to be a film that fell through the cracks.

Friday, 11 August 2017

A Ghost Story By David Lowry

Reviewed By Linda Marric

Once in a while a film comes along which affects you in more ways than you could have ever imagined. Heralded by some as one the best movies to come out of Sundance this year, David Lowry’s A Ghost Story is an incredibly well executed exercise is subtly and an engenoius masterclass in clever filmmaking. Centring around ideas of loss, legacy and the need for human connection, the film is sure to leave its audiences stunned and in awe of its simple yet highly effective premise. Written by Lowry himself and staring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, A Ghost Story never resorts to predictable tropes nor does it go out of its way to alienate its audiences with an overly complicated narrative arc. Lowry’s ability to normalise allegory and symbolism is a testament to his sublime writing credentials.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Atomic Blonde By David Leitch

Reviewed By Linda Marric

With an action filled narrative and a truly impressive cast lists to boot, Atomic Blonde had all the ingredients needed to be one of the best blockbusters of the summer, rivalling even some of the most robust franchises. However, things didn't quite go to plan for this stylish, yet completely forgettable production. Staring Charlize Theron and directed by stunt actor turned director David Leitch, the film is a ballsy female-centric action flick which takes no prisoners when it comes to violent fight scenes, shoot-outs and car pursuits. However where things don't quite add up, is in its inability to keep audiences interested long enough in its unnecessarily far-fetched storyline about Soviet spies and double agents. In short,  for a film which purports to have an action female as lead, this really should have been way more exciting than this.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? Wake Wood (2011)

What's it all about?
Patrick and Louise (Aiden Gillen and Eva Birthistle) who recently lost their daughter Alice (Ella Connolly) in a dog attack move to the village of Wakewood. There they discover that their landlord Arthur (Timothy Spall) can perform a ritual that will bring people who died less than a year ago back for three days, giving them time to say goodbye to Alice. When the ritual is performed though, something may not be quite right.

Why haven't you seen it?
Hammer Horror is a legend of British cinema, but the attempt to bring it back to life, beginning in 2008 with Beyond The Rave, produced more misses than it did hits. Outside of The Woman In Black and Let Me In, most of the new Hammer productions flew under the radar, and there hasn't been a film from the studio since 2014's The Quiet Ones. 

Why should you see it?
You might be forgiven for thinking that in relaunching a legendary studio, the goal would be to make films that would mine any nostalgia for the original Hammer films. Wake Wood probably wouldn't have felt out of place in the studio's heyday, but it's not an attempt to recapture old glories. 

The film actually hews closer to The Wicker Man than any of the best known Hammer films.  It's set in an apparently isolated and insular community, in which an ancient ritual is performed with the town's most prominent man performing the key part of that ritual. That said, this isn't some empty homage, Wake Wood creates a spooky atmosphere of its own, along with a surprising emotional weight. The way the ritual is established, with a 'visiting' girl who comes into Louise's pharmacy, balances this particularly well. Suggesting what's going on without initially coming out and dropping a load of exposition on us.

Like many of the best horror films, Wake Wood grounds its characters motivations in reality. It is easy to understand how the agony of the sudden loss of a child could drive a person to embrace any possibility, however remote, for any time, however brief, to see that child again and be able to hold them and say a proper goodbye. Aiden Gillen and Eva Birthistle give simple unshowy performances. You believe them as a couple, you believe in their trauma and the different ways they process it, and this makes the film's supernatural side easier to swallow. 

The film builds slowly, with Ella Connolly, Gillen and Birthistle gradually establishing, through some unsettling moments that there is something not quite right about Alice. The first, and one of the most effective, of these is when they note that their daughter's eyes are now brown, like those of the man whose corpse they used to resurrect her for this brief time. This sense builds through Alice's behaviour and that of the townspeople, who also sense that something is amiss, setting us progressively more on edge scene by scene. 

While it does some good solid atmosphere building, this doesn't mean that Wake Wood shies from the more visceral scares. The ritual itself is wince-inducingly nasty at times, Alice's amputated skeletal finger being placed in a corpse's mouth being one of the less nasty images. The third act also gets impressively gory, in a way the old Hammer productions didn't often get away with. It's worth noting that animal lovers may find themselves turning away from some of the scenes here, not only is Patrick a vet, which we see in pretty graphic detail, but there are some other nasty moments involving animals.

However, it's not the film's gore but its emotional corre that sets it apart. The film is defined by loss and a parent's reaction to that loss, it's about sadness giving way to desperation for the tiniest amount of hope, and that truly resonates in the film's ending. It's a great sequence; brutal in implication, devastatingly sad but also the only route to fresh hope for a better future. It's a perfect note to end the film on, closing both memorably and by encapsulating the feeling of the film as a whole.

How can you see it?
There are various DVD and Blu Ray releases available (though apparently no UK Blu) and the film has just been made available via UK Netflix.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Land Of Mine By Martin Zandvliet

Reviewed By Linda Marric

Set during the immediate aftermath of WWII, some might be tempted to describe Martin Zandvliet's Land of Mine as a war movie. In reality, this beautifully crafted and wonderfully acted Danish production is one of the most powerful indictment against warfare yet, and goes a long way into nailing its pacifist colours to the mast. Zandvliet who writes as well as direct, manages to tell in 90 minutes what most war movies seem unable to convey at best of times. It is a film about the struggle to come to terms with loss, hardship and makes a strong case against conflicts which send young innocent men to their death.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Maudie By Aisling Walsh

Reviewed By Linda Marric

Chartering the life of folk artist Maude Lewis and the romance which blossomed in later life between her and taciturn fish peddler Everett, Aisling Walsh’s Maudie is moving without ever being schmaltzy and gripping without having to resort to a superfluous narrative arc. Staring Sally Hawkins as the Nova Scotia artist known for her infantile drawings of cats, flowers and colourful landscapes, the film is not only likely to move its audiences to tears, but also manages to tell a beautifully nuanced story without ever sugar-coating some of the more unsavoury element of relationship between the two protagonists.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? The Opening Of Misty Beethoven (1976)

What's it all about?
It's Pygmalion with blowjobs. Dr Seymour Love (Jamie Gillis) is writing a book about sex and finds his subject in Misty Beethoven (Constance Money), a prostitute he initially deems “the nadir of passion” and “a sexual civil servant”. Love decides that, with the help of his friend Geraldine, (Jacqueline Beudant) he will make Misty the next Goldenrod girl.

Why haven't you seen it?
Because you don't tend to spend 85 minutes watching a feature film on Pornhub. This just isn't the way adult films are consumed (or made) anymore.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Big Sick By Michael Showalter


Reviewed By Linda Marric 

Directed by Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer) and written by real life couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, Portlandia), the highly anticipated The Big Sick  finally makes its way to a cinema near you this week. Staring Nanjiani himself, the film centres around real life events in the life the Pakistani born comedian during his courtship with his now wife Emily (played in the film by Zoe Kazan). After all the praise heaped on it at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, one would have been forgiven to approach the hype with a certain amount of trepidation. But fear not, because this gem of a romantic comedy is everything you might have heard and hoped it would be. It is edgy without being kookie and touching without ever resorting to schmaltz.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Dunkirk by Christopher Nolan

Posted by Andy Zachariason

"You can practically see it." 



This line spoken from Kenneth Branagh's Commander Bolton in Christopher Nolan's new avant-garde war epic, Dunkirk, would fit perfectly in the dream levels of Inception, or the metaphysical maze of Interstellar, or the streets of Gotham in The Dark Knight trilogy, or the magical labyrinth of The Prestige, or in the fading memories of Memento. Nolan's films, for all of their spectacle, rigorous mazes, and epic vistas, are anchored by a profound yearning to return home. In Dunkirk, it's 400,000 men stuck on a beach in France with the enemy surrounding them. German soldiers loom behind the city, their planes drop bombs on trapped soldiers, and their submarines lurk beneath waiting to sink Britain's destroyer ships. Home is just 26 miles away but paradoxically there's no way of getting there. Hope fades as they wait for a miracle.

Why Haven't You Seen...? Darling (2015)

Posted by Sam Inglis

What's it all about?
A young woman known only as Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter) is hired to housesit a large New York home for a rich woman (Sean Young). She is told that the previous caretaker jumped from the balcony, killing herself. After discovering a locked door, which she is told she must never open, Darling slowly goes insane. 

Why haven't you seen it?
Like a lot of independent films these days, Darling did pretty well at genre festivals, picking up its share of admirers. Unfortunately its release, especially in the UK, has been low key enough that unless you were specifically checking for it week after week you could miss the fact that it came out at all.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? Closet Land (1991)

Posted by Sam Inglis

What's it all about? 

In an unnamed country under a totalitarian government a children's writer (Madeline Stowe) is questioned, eventually under torture, by an interrogator (Alan Rickman) who believes her as yet unpublished book Closet Land is intended as propaganda against the government.

Why haven't you seen it? 

Because even if you've heard of it, it's not easy to find. I first saw it on TV in the late 90s. I never saw a VHS copy, which leads me to believe they were at best relatively rare and there has been no English language DVD release. The subject matter may also be a sticking point for some, this isn't an early entry in the 'torture porn' sub genre of horror, but it is a film about torture, about cruelty. That probably goes some way to explaining why this film has never gained a mass audience.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming by Jon Watts

Review by Andy Zachariason

The double entendre title of the new Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, speaks to the film taking Peter back to his teenage roots as well as Spider-Man returning to Disney/Marvel (previously owned by Sony). The newest web-slinger is Tom Holland (seen in Civil War). His interpretation of Peter has a naive, but earnest enthusiasm and youthful energy that immediately makes him among the most likable and dimensional characters in the MCU.

Scribe By Thomas Kruithof

Reviewed By Linda Marric 

Despite lacking the compelling narrative arc of Tell No One (Guillaume Canet, 2006) or the playful familiarity of Little White Lies (Guillaume Canet, 2010), the new Francois Cluzet vehicle is every bit as exhilarating as any Hollywood thriller worth its salt. Directed by Thomas Kruithof from a script by Yann Gozlan, Scribe manages to surpass all expectations by offering its audience a genuinely gripping story of political intrigue and state secrets which will keep them guessing till the very end, all the while throwing in the odd red herring along the way.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Posted by Sam Inglis

What's it all about? 

A family: Dad (Harold P. Warren), Mom (Diane Mahree) and their young daughter (Jackey-Raye Neyman) get lost while driving to their holiday destination and end up in a mysterious house maintained by weird caretaker Torgo (John Reynolds) and inhabited by a cult led by The Master (Tom Neyman).

Why haven't you seen it? 

You've probably heard it's awful, had that confirmed by seeing the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, and therefore decided to give the original version a miss.

Friday, 7 July 2017

War For Planet Of The Apes By Matt Reeves

Reviewed By Linda Marric

Returning for a third Instalment and what is largely understood to be the final film in the franchise, the new Planet Of The Apes movie or to give it its full name War For The Planet Of The Apes, is set to be the best reviewed film of the summer, surpassing even Wonder Woman in the hearts and minds of some critics. Directed and co-written by Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Let Me In, Cloverfield), the film does a great job in tying the narratives of its predecessors together all the while paying homage to a number of classic favourites. With shades of Apocalypse Now, Stagecoach, The Searchers (and I can't be the only one who saw even a bit of Schindler’s List in it), the film is a rather touching tale of triumph of good over evil, and features some of the best performances of the summer, with the return of the always brilliant Andy Serkis as the legendary Caesar.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Midwife By Martin Provost

                                         Reviewed By Linda Marric

Martin Provost’s The Midwife’s original title “Sage Femme” , while meaning midwife, also literally translates as Wise Woman. This play on words goes a long way into conveying the story at the heart of this thoroughly enjoyable and deeply moving, if not entirely convincing story. Staring Catherine Frot and the legendary Catherine Deneuve, the film manages to have an indie French cinema sensibility all the while dealing with universal themes relating to love, loss and redemption.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? Nice Girls Don't Explode (1987)

Posted by Sam Inglis 

What's it all about? 

April (Michelle Meyrink) is 18 and she wants to start dating, like a normal girl. Unfortunately she's not a normal girl; when she gets excited, especially around boys, fires break out around her. This becomes a serious issue when her childhood sweetheart Andy (William O'Leary) comes back into the picture and begins to suspect that April's condition may have more to do with her mother (Barbara Harris) than any actual problem.

Why haven't you seen it? 

You could spend years trying to see as many 80s teen movies as possible (trust me, I have) and still only scratch the surface. This seems to have attracted only minimal notice at the time, and it's just fallen through the cracks rather than building a cult following in the years since it was released.

Monday, 3 July 2017

The Death of Louis XIV By Albert Serra

Reviewed By Stuart Houghton

One the first day of September, 1715, Louis XIV died of gangrene, ending his record 72 years on the throne. This film by Albert Serra (The Story Of My Death, Birdsong) gives the audience an intimate, meticulous view of the Sun King's final days, as courtiers and physicians fuss over his frail body and the ailing monarch attempts to maintain both dignity and regality.

A Change In The Weather by Jon Sanders

                                Reviewed by Linda Marric 

Set in the heart of the French Cathar region, and directed by Jon Sanders (Back to the Garden, Painted Angels), A Change in The Weather is a rather curious little production which mixes improvised as well as rehearsed material to depict the complicated relationships between its deeply flawed protagonists. Featuring Sanders’ longtime collaborators Anna Mottram and Bob Goody as well as German actress and singer Meret Becker, the film makes a decent enough attempt at philosophising the intricacies of a failed relationship between two people who still care deeply about each other. With a realistic dialogue and fairly organic performances, A Change In The Weather manages to convey the devastation felt by the loss of love and intimacy, but is ultimately let down by a an overly wordy screenplay and theatrical style.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

FrightFest 2017 To Open With Cult Of Chucky

By Linda Marric

Now in its 18th year, Horror Channel FrightFest will be back at the end of the summer with yet another exhilarating and gore-heavy programme which is set to thrill the festival’s diehard fans who keep on coming back for more year after year. After a short stint at Shepherd’s Bush in 2016, the festival is thankfully back to its rightful place at the heart of London’s West-End and will take place at the Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema between Aug 24 and Aug 28.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Alone In Berlin By Vincent Perez

 Reviewed by Linda Marric

Adapted from Hans Fallada’s highly acclaimed 1947 novel, Alone In Berlin is a story based on real life events which took place in Berlin at the heights of Nazi rule. Staring Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson, the film delves into one of Europe’s darkest hours and addresses the everyday acts of quiet resistances by ordinary German citizens during that time. Alone In Berlin not only tells an important story about stoic resistance to a hateful destructive ideology, but it also allows these acts of rebellion to be shared with a wider audience around the world. Directed by actor turned director Vincent Perez, Alone In Berlin is expertly crafted visually and has more heart and urgency that you could ever wish for, even if it is ultimately let down by a less than perfect screenplay.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Why Haven't You Seen...? Jess + Moss (2011)

Posted by Sam Inglis

What's it all about?

Over the course of one summer, 18 year old Jess (Sarah Hagan) and 12 year old Moss (Austin Vickers) spend their time in an abandoned, derelict house. They hang out, play, talk, argue and grow up.

Why haven't you seen it? 

I may have missed this film on the festival circuit, but the first I even heard of it was when I stumbled on the DVD while looking through a sale on titles from the label it was released on in the UK. It's a fair bet that this just flew under your radar.

Why should you see it?

Mainstream coming of age cinema has been pretty uninteresting of late, dominated by YA adaptations, but in the background, in the indie scene, there has been a quiet renaissance going on in the genre. Jess + Moss ought to be seen at the very centre of that renaissance.