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Frances Ha (2012)

Anyone familiar with the tv series "Girls" will find a lot of similarities in the scatty lead character and the sweet yet embarrassing socially-awkward humour. (Also anyone uncomfortable with the nudity in "Girls" will probably find themselves a lot more at ease with this movie.)

"Frances Ha" is an excellent comedy about young professionals living in New York. Our protagonist is a dancer who is, unsurprisingly for someone living in New York, finding it hard to make ends meet.

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Stand by Me (1986)
This adaptation of a story by Stephen King is centred around a remarkably effective performance by Wil Wheaton. So it confuses me that I only know Wil Wheaton as that dull character in "Star Trek: TNG" who never seemed to appear in any of the movies and a few cameos in the tv series "The Big Bang Theory".

As is the case more often than not prior to the arrival of the "24" series, Kiefer Sutherland isn't that great here. Then again, he is playing a cartoonishly evil figure which was probably always going to be a hard sell in what is otherwise a pretty down to earth believable story.

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For those who missed the first two instalments...

Part one is here!

Part two here!

It's been a long time coming and oddly enough because I needed to rewatch "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" before finishing. Now that is a little strange seeing as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was the one film I was sure I loved when I started this, but after seeing John Hughes other films and hating so many of them, it felt tainted somehow. Still, I gave it another watch. I cannot say I was enormously into it this time around, but "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is still good.

John Hughes' debut movie "Sixteen Candles" on the other hand....

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Ugh, I did not want to write this review.

Basically I was given the impression that John Hughes career was better in the beginning and then became cheesier and more about people being hit in the end in slapstick towards the end. So I worked backwards through his films so I could finish on a high note.

Well that backfired spectacularly. The previous film I checked out was the legedary John Hughes film "The Breakfast Club". I was surprised to find myself hating practically everyone else, particularly the 'hero' of the film, who decides early on to propose a gang-rape.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that "Sixteen Candles" is even worse.

Anthony Michael Hall who was absolutely great in "Weird Science" and probably the most sympathetic character in "Breakfast Club", this time plays an obnoxious pick-up artist. Now that's sort of okay, because clearly we're supposed to think he's obnoxious and pathetic. Except that he is later given a passed-out girl to molest, is pressured to drive her home while drunk and takes her to his friends house so they can provide photographic proof that he had sex with her. After all that, it seems that the film expects us to find him a sympathetic character because, just like the girl, he cannot remember their evening in the morning.

BTW Caroline (above) is played by Haviland Morris who was Marla in "Gremlins 2: The New Batch". Watch that instead.

Meanwhile there's another guy who actually encourages Anthony Michael Hall to have sex with the passed-out drunk girl in the first place. He boasts that he could easily have his way with passed-out drunk girls, but the only girl who he wants is the protagonist. So he suggests that Anthony Michael Hall take his ex-girlfriend away and have his way with her. This is passed off as romantic.
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Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

When the John Hughes' retrospective was going down hill, I purposefully left Ferris Bueller's Day Off til the end. Unlike "Weird Science" I'd rewatched it relatively recently and I had still felt very positive towards it.

Sadly, the context of a John Hughes' retrospective rather dampened my excitement this time around. Hughes' filmography features a category of unpleasant protagonists:
John Hughes' horrible protagonists under the cut...Collapse )
So, this is a review of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", so we better discuss the protagonist here: Ferris Bueller. It should be noted that Ferris Bueller is not a nice guy. He starts off manipulating his parents into letting him stay home and then immediately goes on to manipulate his friend (who may possibly be a hyperchondriac) to help him. Now, I'm not saying that this isn't effective comedy. It is. Ferris Bueller, in spite of being a bit of a prick, is admittedly funny. A great deal is owed to Matthew Broderick for milking as much comedy about of the role as is humanly possible. Similar praise must go to Alan Ruck who plays Ferris's friend Cameron.

What is rather less funny is ANY of the scenes involving the 'evil teacher'. (Thankfully this time the teacher isn't threatening to punch anyone, like in "The Breakfast Club". He's more just an uber-bureaucrat.) He's just not funny. It's like the Ferris Bueller scenes weren't slapsticky enough, so Hughes felt the need to throw it all into the scenes with this guy. The final scene with the teacher getting onto a schoolbus has always fallen flat for me, but it never occurred to me before that this is a point where finally all the humour has to come from this teacher character, the plot surrounding Ferris Bueller having completely come to an end.

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Killer Joe (2011)

I actually first watched this several months ago, but I could not really work out what I thought of it first time around. The acting is great, with Matthew McConaughey dominating in the role of the eponymous Joe. This was released around a similar sort of time as "Magic Mike" forming the beginning of what the actor himself refers to as a McConnaisance (leading to his Oscar earlier this year).

Emile Hirsh, who irritated the hell out of me in his holier-than-thou role as the protagonist of "Into The Wild", is pretty great here as the desperate figure who proposes hiring Joe in the first place. Thomas Haden Church provides a comical edge to the film, making very clear how out of depth the lead characters are, even while he tries to act as the voice of reason.

The premise is that a poor family with a relative who is likely to be killed for his enormous debts decide to solve their problems through murdering a relative for the insurance money. To ensure the murder does not lead to them being sent to prison, they hire "Killer Joe", a police officer who commits murder professionally as a sideline. This persona seems fairly implausible, but that's part of the mystery that accompanies the character. How could a police officer be making money off professional hits? Our protagonists don't know, but they just have to accept it. They are out of their depth and there's a Greek tragic inevitability that comes along with that.

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Crazy Random Trailers - Part 3/3

The final four trailers. I have had two entries before this.
Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.

9. The Signal

(video link)
(imdb link)
No UK release date yet.
Germany release date: 10 July 2014
This looks very much to me like a kind of live action version of Akira, only exploring the concepts in its own unique way rather than trying to recreate Akira's rather distinctive visuals. I'd say that "Chronicle" did something like that already, but this has the aspect of the government taking in the troubled boy and trying (unsuccessfully from the looks of things) to treat him.

The director has mainly done cinematography work prior to this, but the presence of Lawrence Fishburne in a morally ambiguous mentor role does a great deal to give this trailer a strong appeal.

10. Dracula Untold

(video link)
(imdb link)
UK release date: 3 October 2014
Yeah, okay this looks utterly ridiculous, but somehow the trailer really got me intrigued. Somehow Dracula is being put forward as the good guy, which seems strange. But the idea of getting to see Dracula be this guy who gains incredible supernatural powers and then uses them in battle. I mean, wow, that's pretty cool.

It's a visually spectacular action trailer and the director isn't Michael Bay. That's certainly a good start. ;)

11. V/H/S Viral (V/H/S 3)

(video link)
(imdb link)
No UK release date yet.
US release date 21 November 2014
After VHS ended up being a moderate curiosity, the sequel turned out to be a distinct step-up from the first instalment. With the film series gaining greater levels of respect, it seems like there's every possibility that this third entry may have a better budget and even greater levels of creativity.... Or it could be a massive disappointment. Who knows? But the trailer still looks pretty cool, even though the first half is just showing scenes from the first two instalments.

12. The Green Inferno

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(imdb link)
Essentially Eli Roth's tribute to "Cannibal Holocaust". A group of naive protesters who want to save the rainforest end up crashing, only to be discovered by tribe of cannibals. I like the theme idea here. You may care about nature, but don't expect nature to care about you.

I know Eli Roth produces mixed reactions, but it's odd really seeing as he seems to have only directed four full length films - including this one. I've not seen "Cabin Fever" yet and I've only seen the first of the two Eli Roth-directed "Hostel" films. Nevertheless, I enjoyed "Hostel" a lot and was very happily surprised by it. It looks like "The Green Inferno" will have the same theme of naive flawed characters who find themselves led like lambs to the slaughter.

I'm not sure why it's a selling point that the tribe in the movie have never been filmed before, though I suppose it rather cooler than just picking a bunch of random ethnic minority actors and getting them to act like cannibals. Promoting the as-yet-unfilmed tribe in the promotional material makes very clear that the tribe are acting and that the tribal community presumably didn't feel at all demeaned by their roles. I know the themes of this film may be racially problematic, but in the end it all depends on whether there is a decent exploration of a theme by the end of the film. For what it's worth I thought the theme in "Hostel" turned out to be surprisingly clever in the final act, almost certainly inspiring Tarantino's rewrite of history in the third act of "Inglourious Basterds". But as when judging any movie's promotional material, we always have only a limited impression of the final product and we'll just have to wait and see.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

I felt a strong desire to rewatch this crazy film about alien homicidal clowns. It's a bit Looney Tunes, but in a really creepy way. There's one scene where on the one hand an alien killer clown is holding an enormous hammer behind his back and yet on the other hand he's encouraging a small child to come to him so he can kill her.

Rather than going into detail about the varied homicidal methods the clowns use, I should instead probably just mention a few of the more repeated aspects and leave the variety of clever effects a surprise. But believe me, there are some very varied ideas here.
Click here for the full review...Collapse )

Killer Klowns is a film I'd seen already, so I'm just going to tag this other film on the end. It's a bit of an awkward one to try to label as sci-fi, but I think it's justified. Let's see...

Society (1989)

Sci-fi isn't entirely about whether the events are happening in the future. It's also about using speculative ideas to say something about the world in which we live. It's all about "what if".

"Society" certainly isn't obviously a sci-fi film. A boy feels alienated from his family and has a strong sense that he doesn't fit in. His parents have lofty ideals for him to live up to, but seem disappointed with his choices. They are also disappointed with his best friend.
On the other hand, his sister seems to be far more accepted, though he feels alienated from her too. The love-hate relationship between them seems to come out as more of an repulsion-attraction relationship. He seems to be dealing with the idea that his sister is a beautiful girl, but also with odd hints that she may be some kind of monster.
Click here for the full review (nsfw image?)...Collapse )

Crazy Random Trailers - Part 2/3


I've got 12 trailers to post. (First 4 here) So here's another 4 of them.

5. Foxcatcher

(video link)
(imdb link)
UK release date: 9 January 2015
(In case that's unclear, that means it'll probably be out in December 2014 in the US to make it a prominent title in the Oscar season. *checks US release date* - November in the US. Same difference.)
Channing Tatum has come a long way. There was an earlier trailer which I found a bit bizarre, but here we really get the sense of how disturbing this will be. There's some strange power games and some questioning of the motives of the characters. Steve Carrell is playing a distinctly non-comedic role for a change as a creepy trainer and Channing Tatum is playing a self-destructive professional wrestler. (Olympic wrestling, not that WWE stuff.) Apparently this is all based on a true story. It looks like this could be really cool. This is from the director of "Capote" and, while I'm not big on sports, this looks a lot more interesting than his last film "Moneyball".

6. The Drop

(video link)
(imdb link)
UK release date:
14 November 2014
Crime thriller with Tom Hardy and seemingly one of the last movies to feature the late James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano from "The Sopranos" tv series). It's not entirely clear that this will be brilliant from the trailer. I'm mainly going by the cast. Still, this looks worth keeping an eye on.

7. The Protector 2

(video link)
(imdb link)
UK release date (straight to DVD under the title "Warrior King 2"): 1 September (2014)
The martial artist Tony Jaa (from "Ong Bak") reunites with the excellent martial arts director
Prachya Pinkaew (director of "Chocolate", "The Protector" and "Ong Bak") and it looks absolutely crazy. The great thing about Prachya Pinkaew is how he handles the spectacle. There was a lot of praise for "The Raid" the other year and I was really confused because I was bored for much of the film. There's a difference between showing exceptional martial arts work on screen and making it visually interesting to an audience who do not practice martial arts. I'm sure that for martial arts fans, the action in "The Raid" was incredible, but for me it felt repetitive and lacking in spectacle. Prachya Pinkaew's films are crammed full of exciting settings, interesting props all with exciting camera angles. The choreography must be a nightmare to put together, but the end product is so worth it.

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X

(video link)
(imdb link)
UK release date: 7 November 2012 (at a film festival - No cinema or DVD release dates as of yet...)
The first actor to appear on screen in Kevin McCarthy (from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "UHF") so that instantly made me happy, but I must admit that he's the only actor I recognise here. Still, the trailer looks utterly crazy and I cannot help but be intrigued. A black and white sci-fi musical comedy, seemingly set in the 50s. Bizarre, but it just looks like so much fun!

Crazy Random Trailers - Part 1/3

I've got 12 trailers to share with you all. So let's get started....

1. The Book Of Life

(video link)
(imdb link)
UK release date: 24 October 2014

I was convinced that this was a Pixar film, but apparently not. It's being produced by Guillermo Del Toro and it's an animated love story based on the Mexican 'Day of the Dead'. It looks like a lot of fun. :)

2. What We Do In The Shadows

(video link)
(imdb link)
No UK release date yet
Germany release date: 30 October 2014

Taika Waititi who directed the awesome "Eagle vs Shark" and several early episodes of "Flight of the Conchords", reunites with the hilarious Jermaine Clement for this comedy mockumentary about a group of vampires living together. It looks brilliant. The bits where they are trying to get 'invited in' to clubs is pretty awesome.

3. Life After Beth

(video link)
(imdb link)
UK release date:
3 October 2014

Aubrey Plaza didn't impress me much with "Safety Not Guaranteed", but heck it wasn't her performance that was wrong there. Here she plays Beth, a girl trying to keep up her relationship with a boy even though she's now a zombie. (Hopefully I'll enjoy this more than "Warm Bodies". The zombie romance idea is cool, but I think it still has untapped potential.) I'm very happy to see that unlike in "Safety Not Guaranteed" where Aubrey Plaza's character is entranced by her love interest's awful guitar music, here we clearly see her shouting "You wrote this for me? This song sucks!" :)

Oh, and Dane DeHaan is playing the boyfriend. YAY!

4. Witching And Bitching

(video link)
(imdb link)
No UK release date yet (or possibly ever)
Spain release date: 27 September 2013

Alex de la Iglesia has made two films which do not ever appear to have been released in the UK: "The Day of the Beast" (1995) and "The Last Circus" (2010). Both of these look like intriguing and utterly crazy films. Now we have this utterly off-the-hook trailer for "Witching and Bitching". It could either be brilliant or awful and I feel like I desperately need to find out witch! ;)
I decided to rewatch a number of superhero films to check whether they held up. The results were somewhat surprising.

Spawn (1997)

Spawn is always a superhero I've really wanted to like, but the story isn't the most impressive. (To be frank, I don't think it's handled all that well in the original comic either.)

The thing about "Spawn" has always been the 'look' of him. An assassin awakes to discover that he is a kind of zombie having made a deal with a demon. Part of the deal is that he has a suit with special powers. The intention being that he will come to lead hell's army in the apocalypse.

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Blade II (2002)

Guillermo Del Toro's sequel to the original Wesley Snipes half-vampire superhero movie contains some fantastic monster effects ideas. The big feature being the brand new albino vampires who feed on normal vampires. The really interesting feature is the way their lower jaw splits in half and their tongues latch on to their victims. It's a very cool visual, reminiscent of Giger's Alien.

While I'd always known this film wasn't perfect I was quite surprised this time around to discover that I was actually getting bored half way through.
Click here for the rest of the review...Collapse )



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