Monday 28 February 2011

Oscars results: Cucumber sandwiches and a nice cup of tea

So the results are in. And they are about as exciting as a full plate of cold triangle cucumber sandwiches. In fact The king's speech was about as exciting and competently made as a plate of cucumber sandwiches and a nice cup of tea. In a way, the Oscars are never going to make everybody happy, and given that they are voted by so many members, a consensus is always going to win over a more exciting and dividing film. Which is why I am so much more interested in the result of the Cannes Film Festival, which is voted by no more than 12 juries, and have produced some surprising but never boring results.

It does feel like a step backwards however, after last year's bold and excellent choice of The Hurt Locker, a dark and gritty low budget film that barely anybody had seen. It is hard to see a trend in the Oscars these days. The 80's were the decade of big historical dramas such as Out of Africa, the 90's were the years of Miramax, flirting with indie cinema.   

After my 100% accurate predictions at the BAFTAS, I am pleased however that I correctly predicted 5 out of the 6 major categories at the Oscars. Even with the recent media tidal wave of support for The king's speech, I could never have predicted that David Fincher would not go home with the Oscar for best director. My nan could have done a similar job as Tom Hooper. And as for the argument that direction is not all about flashy angles but also about actors direction, this is just rubbish. There was a trio of well accomplished actors at the top of their game, and I am pretty sure they needed no direction.

As for the acting categories, no one could have denied Colin Firth and Natalie Portman what was rightly theirs. The supporting acting categories were a bit more problematic, rewarding the school of big and shouty acting, as palatable as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

But if there is one good thing to come out of the Oscars this year, it's not the first winner to ever swear on stage (hey, Melissa?), it's that brilliant opening montage with James Franco and Anne Hathaway... Incredibly well done and hilarious...

So we are now done for the awards season, and yet a new cycle starts (and in fact has already started with Sundance in January!), after a few months breaks, it will be the Cannes Film Festival, then Venice and Toronto...

Sunday 27 February 2011

My Oscars prediction

Following my 6 out 6 correct predictions at the Baftas, I am going to try my luck at the Oscars for the same categories. I am finding it a lot harder to predict the Oscars this year, which is why I have left it at the last minute. The acting categories could well create some upset, with the ever changing odds, and while the best film award is a 2 horse race, which exact horse to pick is tricky!

Sadly I will not be watching the ceremony which is a real shame, as for once I am actually more excited about the ceremony itself because of its host, James Franco and Anne Hathaway. I think we seem to be getting further away from the mid 90's tv host/stand up style, and bringing in more glamour. And who cares if they do not write their jokes, they are actors, they can make it their own!

So let's roll the red carpet for my predictions, who will win and who deserved to win!

Best supporting actress nominees:

Amy Adams in The fighter
Helena Bonham Carter in The king's speech
Melissa Leo in The fighter
Hailee Steinfeld in True grit
Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom

Should win: Hailee Steinfeld. Will win: Melissa Leo

Hailee Steinfeld's performance in True grit is nothing short of extraordinary, and I hate to call it a performance given how natural it all felt. Despite having a difficult role, she made it entirely believable and her own against big names such as Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, mature, stubborn without ever being annoying. No matter what happened tonight, a star is born (and quite why she is in the supporting category is anyone's guess given that she is in nearly every shots.

Melissa Leo has done herself no favour with her unusual adverts for her oscar bid. She doesn't play by the Hollywod rules that states that you should be prepared to sell your parents to win an award while pretending not to care. Still, her performance, all in shouting and big acting, is the kind favoured by the academy at the moment, and it should be her night. Helena Bonham Carter might benefit from the King's speech tidal wave of awards however.

Best supporting actor nominees:

Christian Bale in The fighter
John Hawkes in Winter's bone
Jeremy Renner in The town
Mark Ruffalo in The kids are alright
Geoffrey Rush in The king's speech

Should win: Mark Ruffalo. Will win: Christian Bale

Not the most exciting category this year. Christian Bale, of the school of big, shouty acting is likely to take it home tonight. The film has had a lot more success in the US, which also explains its lack of awards in the Baftas. Geoffrey Rush is excellent, but did not show anything we have not seen before. Unfortunately, it looks like the academy is shunning more subtle, reserved type of acting and this is why Mark Ruffalo is going to be overlooked, which is a real shame as he truly deserves it, thanks to its always interesting choice of parts.

Best actor nominations:

Jeff Bridges in True grit
Javier Bardem in Biutiful
Jesse Eisenberg in The social network
Colin Firth in The king's speech
James Franco in 127 hours

Will win and should win: Colin Firth

It truly is his year. He is the only thing that elevated this film above average tv period drama. Touching, moving, funny, vulnerable... His performance was truly fantastic and no matter what I think of the film, it is the one award that it truly deserves. Jesse Eisenberg was also excellent, but his more restrained and less obvious and likeable part means he just cannot win tonight. Still, let's hope this opens up more opportunities for this excellent and versatile actor who also had had an excellent year, with the sleeper hit Zombieland and now this.

Best actress nominees:

Annette Bening in The kids are alright
Nicole Kidman in Rabbit's hole
Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's bone
Natalie Portman in Black swan
Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine

Will win: Natalie Portman Should win Natalie Portman/Michelle Williams

I am not a big fan of this kind of emotionally charged, showy performance but I cannot deny that Natalie Portman was excellent in Black swan, she is the reason why some of the most outrageous scenes worked, and gave it depths and vulnerability, in one of her most inspired part. It would be a way to acknowledge a rather prolific career despite her young age. Annette Bening could cause an upset but if she wins, it will not so much be because of her perfomance in this film, but to make up for her having missed twice on an Oscar, and there is no Hilary Swank to stop her this time! Michelle Williams would also be a worthy winner, in a less obvious and likeable part.

Best director:

Darren Aronofsky for Black swan
David O. Russell for The fighter
Tom Hooper for The king's speech
David Fincher for The social network
Joel Cohen and Ethan Cohen for True grit

Will win: David Fincher. Should win: Christopher Nolan for Inception (I know, he is not nominated)

This will remain one of the most baffling choice in the Oscars' history. How on earth got Tom Hooper nominated over Christopher Nolan? A monkey could have left the camera rolling on The king's speech and nobody would have noticed the difference, compared to the incredible direction of Christopher Nolan, who had style, substance, carrying us through a complicated story with flair. Saying that, I cannot see how David Fincher could not go home with the Oscar tonight. While I was not a big fan of The social network, there is no denying that his assured style and elegant direction elevated the story. He also showed a great flair at getting the best out of his actors which was more unexpected from him. He deserved it for Benjamin Buttons so let's just hope the Oscars make it up for it this time.

Best film nomination:

Black swan
The fighter
The kids are alright
The king's speech
127 hours
The social network
Toy story 3
True Grit
Winter's bone

Will win: The king's speech. Should win: Inception

I feel that The king's speech has won a lot of momentum over the last few weeks, with its continuing success at the American box office. Whereas The social network has gone the opposite way. It barely set the b.o. alight back in October and is a film that seems to be admired more than really liked. The king's speech is a safe choice, a competent period drama but little else... It is so frustrating to see so many directors trying to take cinema in new and exciting directions, if this wins it will really feel like a step backwards. But then the Oscars have never been about unearthing new talents, and the (mostly old) members of the academy will favour a good old fashioned story. Shame as Christopher Nolan took some big risks with a big budget, a complicated and original story and it really paid off, a critical and commercial success that kept everybody guessing, and proved that entertainment does not have to be dumb.

So I shall be setting my alarm on earlier tomorrow to mull over the results!

Drive Angry 3D Review: One hell of a ride!

Synopsis: John Miller (Nicolas Cage) escapes from hell to rescue his granddaughter from the satanic cult that killed his daughter. He takes along a waitress for the ride, while the "Accountant", an agent of Satan, is on their trail to bring him back.

Review: It would be a stretch to say director Patrick Lussier is one of the best directors working at the moment. Saying that, after a few forgettable made for dvd horrors, he really seems to be coming into his own, and developing his style. After the underrated My bloody Valentine remake, one of the first film to fully embrace proper 3D and not the 2D to 3D post conversion travesty, comes his new offering, which is one of the most trashy fun I have seen in a long time. Fast cars, loose women, Nicolas Cage with a shotgun, mindless 3D gore, and a great gothic horror meets 70's biker movie atmosphere.

Despite a gloriously preposterous story, you can feel the care and love for his craft throughout the film. My bloody valentine shone with some inventive deaths and a few original scenes, but felt a little restrained by the rules of slasher movies,  but no such constraints here and he lets his imagination run wild.

As you would expect for a former cinematographer, each shot is carefully laid out, and his direction is assured when it comes to the action, with some particularly bad ass car chase scenes. And the 3D is top notch, with debris and body parts flying at you, while giving depths to the carnage. Yes there are naked women, women on women fight scenes, body parts get hacked off, heads get blown off, but unlike the rampant misogyny and idiocy of say, Crank, he keeps the whole thing good natured and fleshes out some very interesting and likeable characters (both male and female) that you care about, including the smaller parts.

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry

Amber Heard is anything but a damsel in distress and hold her own in a great part, a Southern girl/tart with a heart who is lethal with a gun. And Nicolas Cage is Nicolas Cage (I just love him no matter what he does) in a more restrained part than usual Having just watched Bad Lieutenant, port of call New Orleans, I was waiting for his big shouty scene that never came. He still got it though, looking as badass as ever with a shotgun, and he has got one incredible scene, impeccably choreographed, where he is shagging a blonde cocktail waitress while dispatching 6 baddies with a gun, a bottle of whisky in the other hand! (I know it's been ripped off Shoot them up with Clive Owen but it so so much better in here)

William Fichtner

But is the revelation is William Fichtner as the Accountant. Recognisable thanks to his numerous supporting roles over the year, he finally gets the part he deserved. Rather than having the minion of Satan as some one dimensional cgi demon, he offers us a character that looks straight out of Resevoir dogs,  suave in a smart dark suit, witty and incredibly cool... He makes you hope for his own spin off! And the bevy of redneck satanists is just hysterical. Also watch out for a reference to My bloody valentine...

Sadly, the film has completely tanked at the box office this week end. It seems that the average American moviegoer can take violence and misogyny as long as it is kept to the level of your average gangsta rap video (like the Fast & Furious franchise) and devoid of any humour. But crank it all up to OTT levels, to the point where it ceases to be offensive to become mindless enjoyment and it flops. We've seen it happen with Grindhouse, Machette, and to a lesser extent Piranha 3D. It did not help that the marketing did not make it clear what to expect. A truly unjustified flop so catch it up in his full 3D glory on the big screen while you can.

Rating: 9/10

US 2011 Directed by Patrick Lussier. Starring Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner...

Jake Jason Gyllenhaal Bourne?

Rumour has it that Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to join the Bourne Franchise. Now this is a silly idea for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I really do not buy the idea of continuing the Bourne franchise. The first one, The Bourne identity, directed by Doug Liman, was flawed but did its job of setting up the story. But it really is Paul Greengrass who took the franchise to some new heights. With its mixture of smart script, frenetic action and fast editing, The Bourne Legacy to me was the best of the three and set a benchmark for intelligent action movies, at a time when the Bond franchise was still in limbo. 

I found the third one, the Bourne Supremacy, to be a bit of a letdown. There were some impressive action scenes, especially a memorable chase scene over the roof of Tangiers, but as a conclusion to such a thrilling serie, the story was somehow lacking the complexities of the second one.

But at least it was all neatly tied up and put to rest. Now I really cannot see where the franchise will go from there. It seems that the producers are eying the kind of longevity that James Bond has earned. The difference is the Jason Bourne and his backstory was an integral part of what drove the narrative, whereas James Bond, while being the main characters, just jumps out from storyline to storyline (although interestingly the Daniel Craig Bond films seemed to copy the revenge theme from Bourne).

So where would it go from here? It is said that whoever gets the part would not actually play Jason Bourne but a similar character, but then what's the point? It would be a spin off with precious little to link it to Bourne then. 

And then as much as I love Jake Gyllenhaal, I just cannot see how he can make us all forget Matt Damon. He's good for quirky US indie films, for comedies, for dramas, but action? He was believable enough as an lead in action hero in Prince of Persia, adding his charm and goofiness to the part, but as a flawless, stealthy killing machine? I just can't see it!

Saturday 26 February 2011

DVD catch up: Hell night. Stuck with Linda Blair all night long!

Synopsis: A bunch of horny youngsters spends the night in a abandoned house, which was the scene of brutal murders years ago, unaware that the killer is still at large! (yes, I know, this is the premise for 100 other films!)

Review: You can tell this is an 80's slasher within a few minutes. Not because Linda Blair is in it and she doesn't look like the scary botoxed cougar she has become. Not because of the bouffant hair and terrible fashion, the electro music... You can tell because, unlike modern slashers, shots last more than a few split seconds, and the  camera is not struck by the current trend of fast, bordering on the Tourette, editing Syndrome, and there is even some sort of story and characters.

This post Friday the 13th 80's slasher starts off like hundred others that followed Friday the 13th and Halloween, following the law of diminishing returns. But what sets it apart is a carefully constructed atmosphere that builds up the tension and avoid cheap scares, as well as an avoidance of gore. 

Indeed, after the obligatory first few murders of barely there supporting actors, the action then really takes the time to follow the remaining characters, managing to actually make us care for them, ramping up the tension by moving at a slower pace and barely showing the killer (and it's probably for the best, given that when it finally shows up, he looks like some kind of Frankenstein creature/monkey mash up). 

Linda Blair is the real oddity in this. She spends much of the film sleepwalking through her scenes, her acting completely at odd with the rest of the cast until she finally wakes up and kick some ass!

Rating: 6/10

Credits US 1981 Directed by Tom DeSimone. Starring Linda Blair...

Friday 25 February 2011

Sucker Punch new trailer is packing a punch

With all the flurry of news about Zak Snyder's reboot of Superman, it's almost as if we had forgotten he had a new film out before that! Sucker Punch, his latest effort, is out in a month in the US and on 1st of April in the UK.

The story is about a young girl, sent to a mental institution, who retreats in an imaginary world as a coping strategy where she and other inmates plot their escape. It sounds and looks like it's adapted from a graphic novel but it's actually an original script, in fact, this the first time Zak Snyder has worked from an original material.

But after this latest trailer, forget any hopes the first two trailers might have given you of any characterisation and plot development. In fact, it looks like the action has definitely been ramped up to make up with a current lack of buzz surrounding it. This really is just about scantily clad beauties in various schoolgirls/ninjas outfits, battling it up with samurais, mutant nazis, robots and dragons armed with huge guns and swords in slo-mo (as you do), with some teen angst soundtrack added for good measure, like  big budget Marilyn Manson video.

In a way, I find the story to be not too dissimilar to Scott Pilgrim's basic premise, depending on the way your were interpreting it. In some ways, Scott Pilgrim could be seen as being set in the schizophrenic mind of a 30 something video game addicted nerd who never left his room, escaping into an imaginary world of his creation, full of retro video games references, and where nerds win the hot girl at the end, having somehow developed some kick ass kung fu moves (hours of playing Street fighter I take it)

Zak Snyder, while not having quite developed its own imitable signature, is incapable of making a boring film. At worst, this will be just some enjoyable eye candy, similar to the hollow 300. (I take it Warner is hoping for a similar big box office result on its first week end, opening it up practically on the same week end four years later, and with a trailer that is not too dissimilar in style). At best, he will have been able to infuse some depth to the proceedings and with a bunch of reliably good actresses, including the too rare Jena Malone (Donnie Darko) and Carla Gugino. 

Thursday 24 February 2011

Kim Jong Il, Sun of the Nation, cinema Genius

I have stumbled upon a very interesting documentary about cinema in North Korea (the full video is at the end of this page). This is just so laughable how the whole thing is so obviously staged for foreign journalists. Little did we know that Dear Leader, on top of being responsible for all that is good and dear (he makes the sun shine didn't you know!), on top of his too numerous to list talents, is also a great film director. Far from the commercial depravity of the west you will understand, he makes films that inspire patriotism and values. Yet no precious examples is shown to back up such claims.

So presumably the rest of the world is deemed unworthy of such celluloid wonders, as the only mark on cinema that Kim Jong Il had made so far, was as a puppet in the hilarious Team America: world police

I have always been fascinated by North Korea, in the sense that it reminds me of these bad "alternate reality" sci fi movies, the kind with the "what if the nazis had won" premise. You would almost laugh when you see state produced footage of patriotic fervour, popular obedience and military display, as much as they come across as some cheap Orwellian spin off,  if it was not for the sad truth of a nation left to starve and complete lack of democracy. And this video is fascinating insight, more for that is implied behind these happy scenes of adoring film students.

James Franco in drag as Cher at the Oscars: Not happening anymore

Disappointing news. It has been announced that James Franco's planned tribute to Burlesque at the Oscars, singing the Cher's song, "You haven't seen the last of me" while dressed as the diva has been cancelled at the last minute. I would have actually paid good money to see that...

`Shame, it would have fitted right in the age old Oscars tradition of baffling and cringe inducing musical numbers, such as the infamous Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White of the 80's, or more recently Hugh Jackman singing alongside what can only be described as pop up/blow up dolls.

Cher, looking disappointed (allegedly)

Cher is said to be disappointed, although quite how she expresses disappointment with that wax mask of a face is anybody's guess. Maybe she was actually thrilled, who knows! At that rate, she'll be able to use her Madame Tussaud's wax figure as a body double.

For those of you who have not seen Burlesque (and given it's stellar box office results, that is quite a lot of you), that song is in a completely gratuitous scene where Cher comes out of her character (even though she is basically playing herself) to belt out, that, basically, we have not seen the last of her, in a bleedingly obvious nod to her own career.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

DVD catch up: Mega Piranha: the cheerleading, salto jumping piranhas

Synopsis: Some genetically enhanced piranhas go loose in the rivers of Venezuela, with Florida in their sights, like a bunch of voracious pensioners...

Review: The infamous Asylum studios, notorious for their cheap knock offs such as Transmorphers and Snakes on a train are back! Their previous effort, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, was high in concept but  lost some of its momentum along the way.

But this time they had kept the pace frantic and had the brilliant idea of taking their silly concept to the lowest depths of idiocy. What starts off as a cheap Piranha 3D knock off, turns into something else entirely as the piranhas keeps growing and growing, reaching the size of a house. Soon, they are salto jumping like demented cheerleaders before throwing themselves at buildings while exploding. (Why are they exploding? Don't ask silly questions please, giant piranhas explode on impact, everybody knows that)

What I love about the Asylum studios is that they never pretend to be anything else that pure trashy fun, with a certain Ed Woods naivety and enthusiasm to them. Despite being all CGI, the piranhas still look like they are being pulled by strings. The CGI effects themselves look like they have been added with crayons at post production. Scenes of mass urban panic features 3 extras running and screaming with the conviction of a child startled by a butterfly.

And the director's attention to details is one of of ADHD teenager suffering Ritalin withdrawal symptoms: a car turns from to 4 by 4 to regular car yet again and changes colour within the same scene, and a scene with a reporter, allegedly set in Florida (and shot in Belize City), features some very prominent mountains in the background!

I cannot wait for the next effort! Let me guess, Gianormous Jellyfish vs Prehistoric Praying Mantis? And now for your viewing pleasure, some serious Piranha kick boxing! They can eat a house, but they can't resist an ageing B movie actor on steroids!

Rating: 9/10

US 2010. Directed (it had a director?) by Eric Forsbeg. Starring: Tiffany, Paul Logan...

Louis Leterrier hits the G spot: new disaster flick G

Louis Leterrier, director of such gems as The Hulk reboot and Clash of the titans, has just announced his new project, which will be called G, a disaster movie in the vein of 2012. I love the way he makes it sound as if 2012 reached such dizzying heights of awesomeness that somebody can actually make it his ambition to try to reach them.

The premise is certainly intriguing. (Despite what the title G might lead you to believe, it does not concern the mass panic in the London gay scene as a result of a shortage of a notorious recreational drug). For reasons unknown, the planet stops spinning and the gravity slowly disappears. But then I am not quite sure where the story can go from there? So half of the planet gets stuck in the dark while the other half enjoys permanent daytime? And then what, with no gravity, within 30 minutes, everybody is just floating around in the air?

The cardboard column had more depth than Sam Worthington's acting

Considering that he is the man that managed to make his disastrously 2D to 3D post converted Clash of the titans appears 1D, with his characters floating around like cardboard cutouts, he is perfectly suited for a story about zero gravity!

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Rob Zombie: The hookers of Salem

Rob Zombie, the colourful (actually, that's probably the worst choice of adjective for a gothic spawn of Satan!) musician/video/film director has just announced his new project, which means sadly he will not be making the Blob remake after all (and now THAT'S something I would have loved to see!). 

After the woeful Halloween remake and its sequel, he is now working on a film called The lords of Salem, which is about three witches burned to the stake, and who return in present day to wreak havoc on Salem's descendants. I would guess this is not a remake of the Bette Middler/Sarah Jessica Parker "comedy" Hocus Pocus, despite having exact the same synopsis.

Considering that he feels to need to have his wife, the amazing Sheri Moon Zombie, in every single one of his films, playing a hooker/stripper with a trouble past or variations of it (he even managed to sneak her in as a ghostly presence/Michael Meyers mum in Halloween, as a hooker/stripper with a troubled past), I wonder how he is going to fit her in a film about witches. 

I take it she is going to play a hooker/stripper of some description, with a troubled past no doubt. Maybe one of the witches, who also moonlights as a stripper/hooker? Or maybe one of the witches' mum, a stripper/hooker who will appear in flashbacks, explaining why her daughter turned to evil?

At this stage we only know one thing. It WILL be better than Hocus Pocus.

Shot dead for eating popcorn during a Black Swan screening

Now I am not saying there are any instances where violence is necessary. If there is one thing I have learned at the movies, it is that violence does not resolve anything. (In real life however...)

Sad story reported by the Guardian today, a man was shot dead in a cinema in Latvia for daring to eat popcorn during a screening of Black swan. Like I say, I do not condone violence...

I am afflicted by the Curse of the Popcorn. No matter what I see, who I'm with, what time I go, there is ALWAYS somebody that turns up just as the film is about to start, sits very close to me, and brings along a family size popcorn. There is just something about the whole popcorn eating process that is so wrong in the first place, and so incompatible with a cinema experience. The rustling, the crunching noise, the delightful regurgitating noise...

Past nightmare experiences include an ex turning up half an hour late for a screening of Brokeback mountain and munching through a huge box of popcorn, a woman turning up with such a huge tray of nachos, drink and popcorn at a screening of the Queen I thought she was intent on opening a Taco Bell franchise on the spot... but nothing beat the man who turned up twenty minute late at a screening of a particularly experimental black & white Estonian film at the London Film Festival, climbed over seats to reach his, took ten minutes to unwrap his coat... and proceeded to eat a farm size popcorn bucket.

So next time you are about to see that latest Jean-Luc Godard, and feel hungry while in the foyer... Please think about what film purist might be sitting next to you!

Monday 21 February 2011

Park Chan Wook: I-phone 4, fish hooks and the golden Bear

I don't need to go on about how much I love South Korean cinema. So I was very excited to hear about Park Chan Wook's new venture: a short film shot on his I-phone 4! So far only two types of videos made on a phone seem to have made any sort of impact: happy slapping and home made porn. It was high time a talented director took over and show us how it's done (knowing Park Chan Wook however, I suspected his film might be a combination of both).

It's called Paranmanjang (Nightfishing), according to the fantastic teaser just released, horrible things happen involving a fish hook in it, and it bears his trademark of violence, intense insanity, plus it looks utterly bonkers! Not sure how or when it will be released but it has just won the Golden Bear for best short film at the Berlin Film Festival so there's hoping we'll get to see it!

The story is about a fisherman who catches a mysterious woman in his net, and they get more and more entangled in all the hooks. So with a story like this, no sign of Park Chan Wook calming down then!

Captain America: Those extras who look at your bum

So you're Joe Johnston, director of the forthcoming Marvel adaptation, Captain America. You spend hours setting up a scene for your upcoming summer tentpole, showcasing your leading actor's chiseled all American (well Canadian!) good looks and sculpted physique.

Then you release a carefully selected still from that same scene to the medias the world over... And then a few weeks later you realise that an extra in the background is looking right at Chris Evans's bum with much glee (look at that picture above again, the ginger man in the background...). Hilarity ensues...

Captain America: The First Avenger opens on the 22nd of July in the US and the 29th of July in the U.K.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Horrorfest coming to London: more slicing and dicing than a Masterchef finale

Not to be confused with Frightfest, the horror film festival which takes place over the August Bank Holiday, Horrorfest is coming to London, having toured the world's big cities with a collection of 8 films, to be savoured on the big screen with a screaming audience at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square.

This is an original initiative by production company After Dark Film, in collaboration with Lionsgate and Syfy channel. Prior to a dvd release, they have selected 8 of their latest entries to be screened in cinemas as a mini festival.

Given the stigma that horror fans still suffer, this is a great initiative. They have understood that horror films are best enjoyed in a packed cinema with an adoring and screaming audience, giving you a bit of a community feel, rather than home alone on a Saturday night with a takeaway pizza and a family size ice-cream tub.

Reading the synopsis of each film is not exactly filling me with much confidence, giving the impression of having passed every single idea from previous horror classics through a meat grinder before regurgitating into neat low budget entries.

One of them sounds promising through, not so much because of its original premise (zombies invade a small island!) but for its sheer fun factor: the motley crue of survivors involve a suspected Iraqian terrorist and a gay conservative businessman who came back the island to come out to his mother! The trailer is mildly amusing.

Horrorfest will take place on the first week end of March 2011 at the Empire cinema in London

DVD catch up. Bent: Queer as Volk


Max (Clive Owen), a seductive gay dilettante, spends his life in decadent parties in a Berlin torn apart by WW2, blissfully unaware of the horrors around him. They catch up with him however, and his boy friend is killed trying to escape while he gets sent to Dachau. There, he manages to makes himself pass for a jew rather than a gay man to avoid an even worse treatment. However, a growing love for an inmate (Lothaire Bluteau) gives him the courage to assume who he is, despite the consequences.


Some films are memorable but not always for the right reasons. I saw Bent at the Un certain regard section of the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, and while enjoyed the film immensely, I remember it for a particular reason. Shortly after I took my seat, a teacher and her students came in and sat just in front of me. They can't have been older than 15 and were making it quite clear that they were not looking forward to a boring history film, which made me wonder if their teacher knew what she was getting herself into.

The film then opened with Mick Jagger in drag, perched on a swing over a derelict factory, the venue of a particularly decadent party, singing cabaret songs. A few minutes later, Clive Owen was being brutally taken from behind by a handsome German soldier at an orgy in that same club. At that precise moment, the teacher stood up, and got all of her student to evacuate as quickly as she possibly could. If only she had read a bit more about the film beforehand...

Watching it again 14 years later, the film has dated a little bit, especially in its first part, set in derelict factories/decadent clubs with extravagant extras, which makes the whole thing looks like an early 90's Derek Jarman video for the Pet Shop Boys. Plus I have always found that film that tried to be decdent always try too hard, the whole atmosphere feels a bit forced, like at a Shoreditch party staging a decadent Berlin revival.

But the second part set in Dachau has lost none of its intensity and its poignancy. The action solely takes place in a quarry within the camp where the two inmates are made to pointlessly carry rocks from one point to another to crush their soul, and the bare and stylised set, far from being distractive, actually adds to the intensity.

Both Clive Owen and Lothaire Bluteau excel at showing their burgeoning love from under the eyes of the guards, taking every possible opportunity to catch a glimpse of each other, share a few words, expressing their feelings in any subtle way they can until the inevitable happens. By then, Max has gone into a metamorphosis, leaving his selfish personna behind and fully and bravely embracing his true identity.

Rating: 8/10

UK 1997 Directed by Sean Mathias Starring Clive Owen, Lothaire Bluteau, Mick Jagger...

Saturday 19 February 2011

Apollo 18 first trailer: The Blair witch project meets REC, in space!

First trailer for low budget/high concept sci-fi horror, Apollo 18, that I had never heard of until today. 

There was a scene in The player by Robert Altman where a studio executive was pitching a whole lot of new ideas simply by mixing two completely unlikely films, saying things like: It's the godfather meets Annie Hall. Little did we know at the time to this kind of "concepts fusion" would become all the rage in Hollywood in the following years. It has also become a trend in sub standard horror franchises to shift the action in space when completely running out of ideas: Leprechaun 4, in space! Hellraiser 4, in space! Friday the 13th 10, in space!

So this has now all come together to produce this strange film hybrid and I can just imagine how it got pitched: It's The Blair witch project meets REC, in space! Pseudo amateur footage, zombies (sorry, infected!), in space!

The worst thing is I bet I am going to be first in line to see this, with high expectations... And I can already tell how it is going to go: Slow start, promising build up, then disappointing and anti-climatic ending where nothing gets resolved.

Apollo 18 is out on 3 March in the U.K. and 22 April in the U.S

Thor new and extended trailer: Hammering it down?

A new and longer trailer has just been released for the Thor adaptation, directed by Kenneth Brannagh, with Chris Hemsworth as the Nordic god and Natalie Portman as the love interest. The film is now due to be released in a short couple of months at the end of April in the U.K.

This second trailer does not seem to show much more than we have already seen in the first one, which is odd considering it is at least a minute longer, but perhaps not such a bad thing, so fed up that I am with trailers that basically show the whole movie and the coolest bits. Saying that, you can pretty much tell the whole story with the trailer: Thor gets banished to earth, his brother unleashes hell on earth, sends giant robot to destroy it, Thor sides with the humans and fights back.

I have a feeling this is going to be a tough sell to the mainstream audience, which might well begin to suffer from superhero fatigue. And while the studios are enthusiastically churning out adaptation after adaptation, apart from the big three, Superman, Spiderman and Batman, which were well known from the public already, few comic book/superhero adaptation have set the box office alight (Daredevil anybody?)

The big exceptions were X-men and especially Iron Man and its sequel. But then this had Robert Downey Junior in it, a well known name, as a seductive millionaire playboy with wit and charisma, and a more mature feel with not just a hint of James Bond influence to it, that explained the wider audience (even my mum enjoyed these movies!).

Thor, on the other hand, has the tricky challenge of putting on screen a superhero that could easily turn into ridicule (Nordic god, winged helmet, huge hammer...) Plus Kenneth Brannagh is not exactly the most inspired director there is, let's just say he is at best competent, and I cannot see him infuse the film with a strong personality the way Bryan Singer or even Jon Favreau did with their own Marvel adaptations.

And then obviously I cannot mention Thor without referring to that hilarious scene in that 80's classic, Adventures in babysitting, with Elizabeth Shue, where Thor was outed as the gay icon he truly is (notice the latent homophobia in that scene but hey, it was the 80's!)