They’ve just been told that series 14 of Indonesian Big Brother is starting in the TV room…

A interesting collection of horror tales linked together by an unnecessary meta-tale involving a couple of investigators looking for a missing man. All the stories are in the form of found footage and predictably none (of the ones I saw at least) are actually scary. Relying instead upon the slightly cheap tools of shock and gore.

The first tale is about a man who after an accident has an eye-implant fitted. However as well as restoring his sight he gets slightly more than he bargained for – he can now see the dead. If you’re thinking the Sixth Sense – don’t. It fails to do anything interesting with this concept other than reduce it to a series of cheap scares with an unconvincing ending. The acting in this tale was also on the poor side.

I felt that the second story had artistic merit. It didn’t really hold my interest but the story of a cyclist who goes to the aid of a woman but ends up being bitten by a zombie and then turns into one himself was certainly interesting. After being bitten the his helmet-cam is still rolling and the story now continues with him as a zombie. You watch as he first tries to snack on his own arm and then on a couple of other cyclists who come to his aid, and then worse as he approaches a children’s party. Despite not being that involving at the story level it did manage provoke feelings of disgust, interest, amusement, and even boredom. So like I said, perfect as a piece of art.

The third tale was the most inventive, and the one that came closest to truly unsettling. That it offered something other than the standard ghosts and zombies was welcome too. It details what happens to a group of journalists and camera crew after they go to interview an Indonesian cult-leader. Halfway through the interview he decides that it’s time for him and his followers (and apparently the journalists too) to enter the “Gates of Paradise”. There is some impressive editing and your empathy for the camera-crew, and their helplessness against the huge numbers of the cult gives it the potential to be frightening but ultimately this story just ends in death for pretty much everyone and huge amounts of gore and violence. So it was more shocking than anything else.

I stopped watching at this point. It felt a bit sick watching as people get their heads blown off and as demons emerge in a bloody mess from pregnant women. Gore has it’s place in horror films but when it’s just person after person getting ripped apart or exploding into fleshy pieces…  if you are enjoying that then you have a problem.

Often inventive and from what I saw a mostly above-average collection of  found-footage horror films, but it is a little sick and exploitative.

6/10

 

“Here take the wheel, I’ll stand up and make myself more of a target”. Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) about to single-handedly take out six vans filled with assassins.

I’ve never eaten swordfish before but I have seen Swordfish before. How’s that for a terrible introduction? (Wait, there’s more) – unlike the start of Swordfish, which has a very good dramatic introduction. Here Travolta sits opposite 2 police detectives and complains about the bad guys in films who typically show mercy towards hostages – where in reality killing a few hostages would get them taken seriously and get them what they want. A few minutes later we realise Travolta is in the middle of a siege himself and it’s not long before one of his hostages explodes taking several policemen and cars with them…

Strangely considering I had seen it before, not much of the story came back to me while I was watching. I do remember at the time of release a big deal was made of the fact that you get to see Halle Berry’s breasts. Those were clearly lean breast times, and apparently she agonised over the decision. Ironic because since then she has been seen dipping one of them into a bowl of guacamole while being cheered on by a room of party goers (Movie 43).

Anyway I digress – Swordfish is a stylish crime thriller in which Hugh Jackman plays an unlikely super hacker : Stanley Jobson. He is hired by Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) to help him with a plan to siphon millions of dollars from a secret governement bank account. Berry is Shear’s henchwoman (or is she?), charged with getting Jobson onside. For the most part it’s exciting and tense, although it’s spoilt by some unrealistic sequences (especially disappointing since the opening sequence seems to indicate the the film will be grittily realtistic) such as where ‘master-strategist’ Shear makes himself a sitting-duck by standing up in an open top sports car spraying bullets from a gun held in each hand. Even though driving duties are swiftly passed on to Jobson – who claims he has never driven a stickshift before – Shear not only survives unhurt but takes out six vans filled with trained assassins in the process.

Aside from a few blips though it’s tense,exciting, and good fun. You do get the impression though that it had more impact in it’s time – I imagine it seemed super brutal back then, but even so it hasn’t dated too much. A solid and exciting 6/10

Hitchcock ordered his assistants to buy every copy of Psycho in town so that no one would know the ending…

Instead of taking the usual biography film approach and trying to cram a person’s personality, relationships and life into a 2 hour film – which let’s face it, isn’t possible – this film focuses instead on an important and emotionally intense slice of Alfred Hitchcock’s life. The part during which he wrote and directed Psycho. It’s a great idea, because really you get to know a person best from what they do and how they react in a situation, especially a stressful one. Aside from that, there is also the more conventional movie narrative to add interest and tension.

This was a time of Hitchcock’s career when he had been criticised for playing it safe and for not being as bold or inventive as he was in his early films. Psycho was Hitchcock’s response and was a shocking film for the time. You know this when the censor vetoes a scene of a flushing toilet, reasoning that: “No film shown in the United States has or will ever show a toilet”. You can only imagine then what the response might be to a transvestite killer with mother issues who attacks women in the shower with a machete…

The Hitchcock of this film (played ably by Anthony Hopkins) is a complicated character, one who fantasises about and becomes overly attached to his blonde heroines (he cast a string of them in his films). His relationship with his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) is close and essential, since she is also a vital part of his writing team. However this marriage is on shaky ground as Alma is becoming closer to her friend and writer – Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). To add to his woes no film studios have any faith in Psycho, and Alfred can only get it made by mortgaging his home to raise the funds.

Overall Hitchcock is a very good film, it’s engaging with emotionally complex characters. Even though most people will already know that Psycho was a success, it’s still interesting to find out about the story behind it, and how the actors were cast. For example Anthony Perkins was apparently cast as the killer Norman Bates because he was secretly gay, and therefore was always hiding (in his mind at least) what was a deep dark secret.

Interesting, engaging and well worth watching 7/10

For some reason they play Quidditch at Google. Freaks! (Um…please still link me to your search engine guys)

Using Google to Google for Google may not be same kind of genius that hit upon the idea of limiting facebook statuses to 140 characters or the same as that which put ‘i’ in front of ‘Phone’ but it still indicates a unique kind of thinking. After losing his sales job Billy (Vince Vaughn) does just that, and manages to get him and ex-sales partner Nick (Owen Wilson) onto the internship program at Google. This is just the beginning however as they will be competing for only a handful of jobs against a large number of smart sparky young graduates. Even worse Billy and Nick know next to nothing about computers, the internet or social media. Although as it turns out, this may just be their greatest advantage…

This is at least an interesting set-up. Unfortunately though the movie falls prey to that now standard comedy-movie flaw – if things for the most part don’t seem realistic then the jokes just won’t be funny. The most obvious example here is how over-the-top rude all the young graduates are to Billy and Nick when they first arrive at Google. (in reality they would be more likely to be nice  – it’s worth noting here too that Vince Vaughn is a hulking 6 foot 5). It just doesn’t strike a realistic note. If nothing else though it makes you want to keep watching to see if Billy and Nick succeed. There is a sweeter more grounded message to the story later on and there are some funny moments too. Although most tend to crack a smile than a fullblown out loud laugh.

A fairly standard comedy, a predictable story but with an interesting if unrealistic setup. 5/10

A typical scene: Gino (Ben Schwartz), Will (Glenn Howerton) and Chad (Steve Little) sit around drinking coffee when they should be working.

I enjoyed Coffee Town – quaffing down it’s witty charms with satisfaction. At first it seems like just another of those off-beat comedies set in a humdrum environment : Clerks, Mallrats, The Good Girl etc. However there’s zero monotony here and the dialogue between characters is sharp, genuinely funny and often unexpected.

It’s not just sitting around a coffee shop all day either: there’s a robbery to plan, a girl to get and The Ultimate Fighting Championship between regular and ‘special’ people to organise…

A favourite part: the main character – Will (Glenn Howerton) orders a coffee, smiling smugly as he gives the clerk a complicated and stupid made-up name to write on the cup. However instead the clerk just draws a huge penis on it.

Funny, clever, inventive and refreshing. 8/10

 

Amy (Heather Graham) cooks up a delicious meal for her ‘TV audience’. Her next dish however may be slightly less palatable…

This is based on a 1995 South Korean film 301,302. I haven’t seen the original but remembering The Ring, Dinner Le Cons and Old Boy made me immediately worried that I was watching the inferior version. Western film companies like to remake good foreign films with their own actors and at best render them less great. But at worst, they can be terrible (Dinner For Schmucks).

Anyway…Heather Graham is very impressive here as Amy, the obsessive, sociopath, needy wannabe chef in room 301. Her neighbour (in room 302), a famous actress Saffron (Carrie Anne Moss) soon becomes the focus of her attentions, and it’s not long before Saffron is receiving a daily knock at the door along with a dish of freshly cooked food. After Heather splits with her partner this obsession with her neighbour grows. Saffron’s vulnerability and need to be loved means her initial rejections of Amy soon turn to acceptance, and eventually, rather worryingly to complete trust.

I’m not sure if this is based on a play as well as a film but it has that feeling to it – it uses relatively few locations – and you can imagine Amy’s TV sections (where she pretends to have her own cooking show) working perfectly in a play. Here she is brightly spot-lit and audience sounds are played in. Possibly because of it’s original source being foreign, there is a odd feel to the story and character interactions (which probably would seem completely normal in it’s original Korean setting) which can make it feel a little strange at times. The acting is good however, and since the bare bones story requires a deep emotional study of both characters to help flesh the movie out – it needs to be. The overall story though needs to be a lot stronger – I wanted the final scenes to fit in better with what went before and to seem more dramatic – to make you feel the rest of the film was worth sitting through. It’s not… quite, which is a shame. An interesting movie however and also one that could have been a lot better. Refreshing though. 5/10

Superman (Henry Cavill) looks on as Faora (Ayelet Zurer), General Zod’s deputy, helps hostage Lois Lane (Amy Adams) with her breathing mask.

This is a difficult film to review. It begins well, with realistic characters, and an interesting storyline. Superman’s boyhood is neatly told through flashbacks – which means we don’t have to sit through that familiar set-up again. The standard superhero geek powertrip at highschool is also refreshingly avoided – Clark knows he must avoid showing his powers so that they can remain a secret. His father (Jonathan Kent here played by Kevin Costner) has drilled it into him that if people find out about his powers, then they will fear him and want to take him away. The action itself then begins slowly and builds up well. Clark is now an adult and General Zod (Michael Shannon) – a criminal from Kypton begins an invasion of the Earth. Things are still fairly realistic at this point, however by the end of the film all sense of grounded-ness is gone, and half your belief with it as Superman and General Zod look like exactly like the 2 animated CGI men they are while having a fist fight high above the Earth.

So General Zod? Cleverly Zack Snyder (the director) realises we probably wouldn’t take kindly to just an origins story especially after the long-running Smallville, Superman Returns and also that Lois and Clark series in the early 90’s. This film is an amalgamation of both Superman 1 and 2. Superman 2 being the best Superman film of course.

I liked that Synder has taken his own approach here and hasn’t stuck too closely to the comics, however some of his constructs end up being more unbelievable that the original film. (You may remember Superman flying round the Earth to turn back time at the end of the first film – and have then wondered why he doesn’t just do this every time a tragedy happens? Interesting Fact : he was originally going to do this again at the end of the original abandoned Superman 2 ). Here Superman’s powers somehow come from the reduced gravity on Earth and our young sun. O…kay… and although it takes Clark years to master them, General Zod is able to learn to fly and direct even more impressive laser beams from his eyes than Superman can, all within the space of a few minutes.The only explanation given is that Zod has trained in the military and so finds it easier to learn stuff. Hmm…

It has a good sense of realism at other times though, for example Clark (Superman) frequently doubts himself and struggles to come to terms with his ‘otherness’ (Just as you would be if you knew one day you would be the most powerful man on the planet). And then as the real action starts, the tension is built well and builds until sadly things go too far and then everything – story, realism, groundedness seem to take a back seat, and eventually even the special effects begin to break down in the pumped up final action sequence.

The best Superman film since Superman II but is spoilt by an over-the-top ending section. 7/10

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