Category Archives: S

Review: Super 8


I was going to say that I spent the first half hour of Super 8 wondering if I had watched it before, but the reality is, I spent the whole film thinking this. I hadn’t, but a combination of wilful appropriation of about a million genre clichés and blatantly obvious plot lines made it rather seem like I had. It is not a terrible thing, because it’s a very well made film, and clichés are clichés for a reason (they work) but it rather takes you out of the movie when you can’t help but notice that Speilbergs standard mode of transport for young people is the BMX. Speilbergo is some sort of executive producer on the film, but I think what I think the credit should have said is ‘young person transport organisation’. This probably wouldn’t have had the same sort of pulling power on the cover of the DVD, but a well known name is well known name in the marketing game.

What the film is though, is a film about film making, which I think speaks to the fact that the people making it are so completely detached from the real world that they no longer have any frame of reference that is not celluloid based. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the future it becomes apparent that the dialogue for Super 8 was mashed up from a couple of hundred classic movies, just a line or two from each so it’s not incredibly noticeable, but I would not have been at all surprised if someone had come out with a ‘they drew first blood’ or ‘you lookin at me?’ at any point. Again, not a bad film, the master film makers involved can’t help but call on years of experience to get you emotionally invested, its just pretending you don’t notice the undercurrent of every other film you have watched that is the difficult part.

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Review: Some Guy Who Kills People

A return to business as usual with a review of slasher horror porn movie Some Guy Who Kills People. Hurrah! Except, even with that name, this film isn’t really your archetypal slasher movie, and it certainly isn’t slasher horror porn. I just put that in so people googling the word porn ended up here and improved my website traffic. Thats the kind of thing you have to think about when you want people to read your film reviews on the internet.

Anway, the film follows a kind of introverted, but basically nice ice cream store worker played by (almost) universally brilliant Kevin Corrigan. He has some issues which stem from some awful things that went down when he was younger, that now seem to be culminating in gruesome, and pretty amusing murders. The cops provide some of the best lines in the movie and Barry Bostwick is absolutely brilliant as the police chief. I don’t usually include actors names on FIHR, but basically everyone in this movie does such a great job it seems a shame not to mention them. Bostwicks acting though, it walks a careful and brilliant line that means you can’t quite work out if he is thick as shit or the most intelligent man in the world.

Anyway, into this slightly wonky milieu of a killer and some less than great cops walks a young girl who will change everything. More than that would be spoilers, but I would definitely recommend the movie for a downbeat but super feel good feeling, with awesome crime scenes.

Scrooged

I have done some nominal research and have discovered that since Charles Dickens’s classic novel A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 it has been adapted for TV and film over four billion times. This is particularly impressive considering that the moving image wasn’t really capable of re-creating the story until around the 1900s. Scrooged is just one of these adaptations. It’s probably the second best after A Muppet Christmas Carol because it does what I believe Dickens always intended with the story, makes it pretty funny. Clearly Scrooge is played for laughs in the original book, the phrase ‘humbug’ being so close to the more overtly hilarious ‘bumhug’ but just off enough to get past the notoriously strict mid-18th century censors. The brilliant Bill Murray makes Scrooge just as filthy and fun as he should always have been, ignore those austere and depressing iterations from the 50s and stick to this fun and stupid version. It is a story we should all pay attention to anyway, it reminds us failure to adhere to Christmas like good little Christians means we’ll get haunted and probably die. Seriously, you will die, and probably no one will go to your funeral. You’ll be dead so it won’t matter, but the moral of the story is, if you are rich old git spend all your money before you die so everyone likes you and comes to your funeral.

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The Squid and the Whale

Ah the Squid and the Whale, darling of the coming of age family comedy drama circuit. Probably. People seem to like this movie. I am not sure I liked it as much as other people did. It follows a family through a turbulent break up, the children (two boys) find their loyalties split between their very nice, caring, successful mother, and their absolute shit of a father. Really, I can’t see why this is a good storyline. I mean, how much of a shit this guy is, it’s out of this world. He does some things which are just everyday kinds of shit, like he is a crap cook, doesn’t care about the family cat and is a bit of a sleezeball. But then he does some other higher level stuff like being arrogant, pretentious, and unfeeling, the trifecta of doom when twinned with a lack of success, jealousy and cheapness. I mean, this is where the comedy comes from, but I couldn’t get my head around the fact that the film treats the mother, and the son who sides with her in the split-down-the-middle family divide, with the same sense of ambivalence as the shit father and the shit son. It is almost like we are supposed to think that the dysfunction is everyone’s fault, that it’s normal and that everyone can get through it if they just love each other. They can’t, everyone’s lives would be better if the father went and lived in a cave. The film has one stand out performance though from Owen Kline as Frank, the youngest son, whose problems manifest the most obviously, but the most charmingly. If you want to watch a family very quietly and systematically torn apart by one man, this is the movie for you. Did I mention the dad is a squid and the mother is a whale?

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The Swimmer

The premise of the swimmer sounds like the sort of ridiculous idea you come up with when you are a little drunk and anything seems possible. Basically Burt Lancaster turns up in one of his friends swimming pools. No one has seen him for ages but his unannounced arrival seems as natural as anything. Whilst he looks out over the county he formulates a plan, to swim home via a string of pools in his neighbours gardens– rather ignoring the fact that in reality he’d be walking at least as far as he swam, and in all likelihood quite a way further. Even more to the point, he assumes his neighbours will even let him. It is not just a ridiculous premise, which, for the record, does involve a drink at almost every stage; it is something of a journey of self discovery. Because the county is full of typical, affluent American homes (and pools) it’s a sort of social commentary on the state of 1960s suburban living. It is good, and far more gripping than you’d imagine a film that is essentially a man swimming in a load of pools should be. What is more interesting though is that it got made at all. It is no indie weirdo flick, it has big name stars and a producer who made Shaft (in Africa) movies. It is tempting to put it down to sixties silliness but The Swimmer is about more than taking a zany concept and running with it, it actually has a salient and to some extent still valid point about, amongst other things, the slightly vacuous nature of what it is to be ‘successful’ and how that is measured by those around us, as well as a hefty dose of class commentary. The end of the film builds steadily and skilfully to a moment of realisation, were it slightly less obvious, to rival the classic Statue of Liberty scene in Planet of the Apes, all mediated through the rubric of swimming pool silliness. The film is worth checking out just to marvel at the obscurity of tackling pressing social issues in this way, but then perhaps it is precisely because those issues are so pressing that the film exists – it’s the only way The Swimmer makes sense.

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Side Effects

So if you have not watched Side Effects yet you definitely should do that now. Then come back, because I don’t have a huge amount to say about it aside from its pretty good. Watched it? What on earth am I supposed to make of that ending. I mean I have no issue with guys dealing out justice, Batman, he is absolutely the shit, he can swing by anytime and sort out the bad guys in my town then stop by my place for a beer whilst we watch reruns of Adam West. Judge Dredd, also awesome, the whole point is that there is no jury and no executioner, just Dredd, all badass and cool. What Alfie, sorry, Dr Banks, hereafter named Agent Cody Banks, does is engineer a situation where he can indefinitely detain someone who has wronged him whilst giving her any cocktail of drugs he desires. This is a big, wonky step up from Dredds “I am the Law!” and Batman, whose whole deal is that eventually, after he has knocked them around a bit, the criminals end up in the clink. Agent Cody Banks though, ostensibly because of good old double jeopardy laws but more because he is clearly a nut case has nothing on his side that looks like legal due process. Absolutely it is murder in cold blood, almost number one on the bad crimes list, but nowhere in any legal system does the victim get to choose the length of the punishment, nor the form it should take. Its annoying too, I really enjoyed it when Agent Cody Banks worked it all out, started putting two and two together then making it all go his way again, even though they chicken right out of explaining how he explained all this to his wife – probably because that conversation would end with her realizing how cray cray he is – and when he gets one up on evil seductress Dr Sideboob I was really cheering for him. I really thought Taylor was going to throw herself out of the window at the end or something and be done with it, it might have made it a little more palatable, but what happens instead is she stays there, staring out of her window and contemplating her crime – becoming involved in an investment/murder/deception/affair – and who can blame her for seeing that as an attractive option.

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Slaughterhouse Five

I really cant decide if I think Slaughterhouse Five is a brilliant movie or a complete dud. Perhaps it is a little of both. I am inclined to believe it is brilliant with some dud moments, rather than a dud with some moments of brilliance, but its all the same really. To break it down, there is some heavy commentary on war here, its futility, its stupidness and mostly how bloody horrible it is. These scenes are really exceptional, reminding you that WWII was not just about the soldiers on the front line, but that hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives as well. The film doesn’t shy away from this, it piles it on heavy. But this is the point, the juxtaposition of this horror with all the ridiculous mundane things which surround it leads to an almost inevitable conclusion – that none of it really matters at all. When our sort of hero stands and faces death he argues that it already did happen, will happen and will always happen, and that isn’t just because the film plays around with time so much – it is because there is no point in fighting it. Where I don’t like the movie is that this sort of nihilistic attitude comes off as apathy, and sometimes even stupidity – the film doesn’t make clear if when time jumps around it is being experienced for the first time or in the context of … jumping around in time, the latter would make sense given the beginning of the film, but this just means that the main character is as a stupid when he is old as he is when he is young. I think I need to read the book so it all makes a little more sense, but really, having to read the book to make sense of the film makes it all a little pointless. Technically though it is brilliant, there are more examples here of graphic matches and sound bridges to keep the most avid student of film technique happy for a couple of weeks. So, personal issues with the main character aside, this is a good movie, even if it mostly just keeps you interested because you have absolutely no idea where it will take you next.

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Session 9

It has been a while since an EFIHR post has gone up. I was away for a while and didn’t watch a single film, then before that I got absurdly engrossed in the series Black Sails which is all about pirates and boats and boobs. It is not a film though so I wont even write about it. So I finally had a little spare time after the post holiday comedown/work catch up and settled down to Session 9. The premise is pretty excellent, some asbestos removal workers take a job in a former mental institute and spooky stuff ensues. It all starts off well, the actual setting is really brilliant. I am not sure if they actually just found an old crappy building which was like this, or if they have a top rate art director, but this place looks spooky as. Whats good about this aspect of it is that most of the film still takes place during the day with sunlight streaming in through the windows, but it still manages to maintain the spooky, mostly through liberal use of white asbestos sheets, meat hooks and abandoned wheelchairs. It all falls apart after that though, the plot is pretty awful and is sort of a lift of Shutter Island but with less thought put into it. Or perhaps it is more over thought, this could have worked so well as a straight up horror film with some good jumpy moments, the setting is perfect and the actors (the ginger guy from CSI) are more than up to it – but despite a couple of really creepy bits it never plays out like this, choosing to go dumb intellectual psychological horror instead. The director Brad Anderson has made some really great movies since (see Transiberian) along the same sort of psychological thriller vein, we can put this down as a learning curve movie. Its not the worst thing you could watch, and its almost worth it for a couple of really great basement scares, but it could have been so much more.

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Sightseers

To be blunter than this film really deserves, Sightseers is a black comedy which is crushingly low on the comedy side of things. One cannot condemn a film for not being funny, even if it was sold as a comedy – we are not slaves to genre, which is good because Sightseers does not lend itself to high concept style one sentence descriptions. None the less my attempt reads thusly: ‘A film wherein a couple explore the English countryside, their own neurosis and their burgeoning love, through the rubric of serial murder’. The film had the potential to be a number of quite exciting things – it begins as if it might actually have something to say about social mobility, and it did, even in this crippled state generate a thought provoking discussion about the motives and minds of its leading couple. However this early promise, a British Bonnie and Clyde, with all of the pent up sexual energy and psycological mystique that story evokes, is cast aside for a rather depressing and meaningless third act. Herein lies the issue. None of this would have mattered if it had ramped up the laughs, nobody would care it if was a good excuse to string together a set of serial killer jokes. The juxtaposition of the innocence and beauty of the British countryside with the violence of the muders was already surreal enough, a little more blood and it could easily have generated a nervous laugh. The other option would have been to take out the really forced laughs entirely and fully explore the issues it raises in the first half, rather than chickening out with an ending that could mean anything to anyone, and so ends up not meaning much at all. 

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Shutter (2008)

I used to own the original Thai version of ‘Shutter’ on dvd, before I purged everything except my beloved Batman blu ray collection and seemingly random old war films. It was derivative and not especially original, but it sure was creepy. I suppose it still is creepy, I do not assume films cease to exist when I no longer own them, otherwise the everyone would have to watch endless re-runs of Adam West in the movie theatre. Actually this would be cool. Anyway, it was creepy. This 2008 remake follows basically the same storyline, a couple hit a girl whilst driving somewhere unimportant to the storyline and her ghost shows up in all their photos. She is basically a supernatural photobomber. The cool thing is you can use a poloroid camera and see where your ghost friend is immediately, and given that this is a horror film, she is usually right up in your grill. However, just to be contrary, and rather mess with this quite simple yet effective concept the film makers have tried to be as clever as the people who re-made ‘The Ring’ with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There they adeptly subverted the meaning of the film by placing a foreigner in a strange situation, it was all the more scary because Buffy had no one to turn to, it was as much about isolation as anything else. Shutter though has a boyfriend who speaks fluent Japanese – so when the wafer thin veneer which covers up his asshole nature begins to flake off the only thing our leading lady is isolated from is her dick head boyfriend. I am still confused as to why they ended up in Japan, the film has a sexual undertone which didnt really fit in with most of the J-horror tropes of the early 2000s, so taking the couple to Japan and sort of re-imagining it all there seems a little bit like the films makers said “Thailand, Japan, all the same to us” without really taking into account the fact that a lot of the associations bound up in the genre they were working in are fairly country specific. Really though, this remakes biggest crime is that it is just not scary at all. The original wasn’t big on the shock factor, it more built a sense of foreboding which had you looking at all your pictures again to check for scary ghost …. things. This one though tries way too hard with far too little thought put into what its doing, half the scary bits look like cardboard cut outs gone wonky, all under a soundtrack which might just as well have been a person saying JUMP! at the appropriate moments. If you have not seen the original this might just have enough going on to keep you interested for its (thankfully) short run time, if you can find it though, and you have exhausted the numerous other films which do this whole thing slightly better, I would definitely recommend the original.

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