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Review: Trance

Cinema Review

tranceAt least my second trip to the cinema didn’t involve a carefully planned trek across the city since this film is showing at the local multiplex. This violent gory crime thriller from Danny Boyle is smart and full of misdirection and it had my attention throughout. I’ve a feeling I’ll get more out of a second viewing since it is a film that has a reveal in the last act that changes what you know but this is set-up earlier in the film. I’m a sucker for crime thrillers with convoluted plots and this film certainly delivers.

This film starts out as a heist film with a light-hearted cheerful voice-over from Simon (James McAvoy) a junior auctioneer at a large auction house who gives us a bit of background on the subject of art heists from auction houses that has resulted in increased security measures by the auction houses and staff being drilled on the procedures to protect the art while keeping themselves safe. Then Simon mentions that the thieves have also upped their game in response to these measures.

This leads straight into the heist itself. Goya’s Floating Witches is up for sale when the thieves strike with smoke bombs in the auction room while other members of the gang take care of the security. Simon grabs the painting and takes it to the safe and the security procedures all go to plan but one of the thieves Franck (Vincent Cassel) is waiting by the safe. He orders Simon to hand over the painting but for some reason Simon grabs a taser from Franck and zaps him in the back of the neck. This only pisses off Franck who smacks Simon over the head with the taser then he grabs the painting and runs.

Simon ends up in hospital getting emergency surgery to treat the injury to his head. Meanwhile Franck discovers that all he has stolen is an empty picture frame and the painting is missing. As soon as he gets out of hospital Simon gets grabbed by Franck’s gang who beat and torture him to find out what he did with the painting but it’s useless because he has amnesia and genuinely can’t remember. Franck even gets confirmation from the doctor at the hospital who can’t do anything medically to help restore Simon’s memory but suggests hypnotherapy might work.

Going with the doctor’s suggestion Franck gets Simon to pick a hypnotherapist and he chooses Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson). Simon is told to get her to help without revealing what they are really after so he tells her that he is after his lost car keys. Elizabeth knows that Simon is not telling her the truth and quickly finds out his real name. She succeeds in helping him to find the car keys but not the painting so Franck wants Simon to try again.

This time Elizabeth knows what is really going on and she wants in on it. She insists that Simon is subconsciously blocking his memories because he thinks Franck and his gang will kill him once they have the painting. Elizabeth has to make Simon feel safe before she can unlock his memory of where he left the painting.

From this point the film starts twisting around quite a bit and characters and motives shift around as it turns out that the painting is the not the only thing that has been stolen but so have Simon’s memories. When the film does come to its final twist it has being set-up with enough hints so it certainly doesn’t come out of the blue and while surprising it does make sense.

This is an interesting crime thriller that reminds me of Danny Boyle’s earlier more intimate films like Shallow Grave. Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel deliver great performances and James McAvoy is certainly convincing as the lovable rogue and though the changes in his character are bit less convincing he does give it a go. This film looks great and it has a decent soundtrack but then Boyle is film-maker who knows how to make good use of music. It is pretty brutal at times there are a couple of memorable gory scenes. There’s also sex and nudity from all three leads though not all at the same time.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Entertainment

 

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Review: Maniac (2012)

Cinema Review

maniacThis is my first visit to the cinema this year after the usual New Year slump in half decent films being released. As is typical with adult rated horror it hasn’t been given a wide general release so I had to travel quite far to a cinema that was actually showing it. I know that this film is a remake but if I have seen the original it is long forgotten so I won’t have any way of judging this against the original which will be probably in this film’s favour. This is a very tense violent thriller and it is almost completely shown from the point of view of the killer. This gives Elijah Wood surprisingly little screen time but there is always a strong sense of him being there and the audience being with him.

The film starts with Frank (Elijah Wood) stalking a victim as she leaves a night club with a friend. We also hear his mumbled thoughts as he follows her and sees her leave her friend and get hassled by a lech before she spots Frank watching her and she runs away while Frank mutters that he knows where she lives and he drives off. Frank gets to her apartment building first and cuts the power to the lights on her floor which allows him the chance to sneak up on her while she opens her door. She turns to see him and is about to scream but he shoves a kitchen knife through her throat, into her mouth and up into her brain. She seems to die right away then Frank cuts off her scalp with unrealistic haste. He takes the scalp back to his home in a shop that sells and restores old shop mannequins and staples the scalp onto the head of one of the mannequins. In his madness this turns the mannequin into the woman he just killed.

His next victim is a woman called Lucie (Megan Duffy) he meets through an online dating service and rather than stalking her through the city they have date and he takes her back to her apartment and she gives him oral sex. Frank kills her right away regrets it seeming to blame his actions on some other part of his mind and giving us a glimpse of a nice guy trapped in the mind of a maniac who cannot control his impulse to kill women and cut of their scalps. Of course her scalp goes onto a mannequin too and we see him interacting with the mannequins as if the first one is jealous of the latest one. We also start to get hints of Frank having serious mummy issues.

This would purely be dreary tale of gory madness if we didn’t have someone to care about and that comes in the form of a photographer Anna (Nora Arnezeder) who is taking photographs of mannequins instead of models. Anna is fascinated by his mannequins with their different styles. This is when we learn that the shop belonged to his mother who died the year before. Anna has an idea of renting some of his mannequins to use to complement her photographs at her gallery exhibition. This means that Frank get to see Anna see quite a bit and starts to develop hopes of a relationship that does not end in a brutal murder.

This is a very tense film and I think the gimmick of showing everything through the eyes of Frank really works at sticking us in his head with a sense of being helpless to stop the atrocities that happen. This lets us empathise with the feeling of lack of control that Frank expresses after the second murder. There are hints that a lot of Frank’s problems come from his anger at his relationship with his mother and this comes through in flash backs and Frank’s attacks of blinding pain whenever she is brought up. This film is very well shot and the acting is pretty convincing.  It has an interesting electronic soundtrack that I think refers back to the time of the original film. It’s not a film to watch for good feelings or happy endings but if you want a gory tale of madness this is a  good film.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I was getting excited about going to see this film, the last part of Christopher Nolan’s batman trilogy. Then I heard the news of the shooting and that people at a midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado had died and it tempered my excitement. I cannot imagine the horror of being in that cinema and there are no words that can take away the pain of the loss of lives.

With a more subdued mood I went along to cinema to a fairly empty Saturday morning screening. I’m not totally sure how I felt about the film but it certainly gripped my attention with a story that was not what I expected but it delivered a climax to the trilogy that had really epic feel. I think this film will grow on me like Batman Begins.

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired Batman since the end of the Dark Knight and a new Gotham has been built on the foundation of the lie of District Attorney Harvey Dent’s death as a hero at the hands of Batman. This has inspired the city to take a tougher stance against the criminals and crime is at an all-time low. Bruce is no longer fit to be Batman anymore and he lives as a recluse in Wayne manor, withdrawn from any contact with the world and needing to use a cane to walk because of his injuries.

Bruce soon finds that he cannot hide away forever. When Catwoman Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) breaks into his safe he comes out of seclusion to investigate. Then a hotshot young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) appears at his door and he knows Bruce is Batman wants Bruce to bring Batman back because of a new villain in town called Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane is smart and powerful and has very big plans for Gotham

I really liked the way that film made it clear that playing Batman has had a physical and mental toll on Bruce Wayne and it takes a bit of prodding to get Bruce back into the costume again. Nolan actually sidelines Batman for a lengthy period in the middle of the film and the film gets carried by the supporting cast but in saying that it still delivers a good dose of Batman action too. The cast is fantastic especially Michael Caine as Bruce’s loyal butler Alfred and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. Another major character who needs mentioned is Bruce’s love interest Miranda Tate played by Marion Cotillard. This film seems to have divided audiences and been attacked by fools on both the left and the right so it must be doing something right. If you have seen the other Batman films then this is a must see.

Rating 8.7/10

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Raven

Popped off to the cinema to see this film based very loosely on the life and work of Edgar Allen Poe, the influential American writer credited as the father of modern detective stories as well as for his grisly tales of madness and murder.

This film is story set during the last few days in the life of Edgar Allen Poe. Poe (John Cusack) is a penniless drunk (with a pet raccoon for some reason), depending on money he gets from The Baltimore Times for writing acerbic reviews of other writers’ work to keep him in the booze. Emily (Alice Eve) the woman he loves is difficult to reach because her father Colonel Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) has a very understandable dislike of Poe so they have sneak around behind his back.

The police are investigating two brutal murders of a mother and her 12-year-old daughter in a locked room. Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) notices the parallels between these murders and the Poe story Murders in the Rue Morgue so he sends a squad of policemen out to bring Poe in for questioning. Although Fields doesn’t believe Poe is responsible for the murders he is definitely connected to them.

There’s a second murder this time based on the story The Pit and The Pendulum and this is a pretty gory killing as you can imagine if you are aware of the story (if you are not I’ll just say the pendulum has an enormous blade on the end of it). The victim this time is a writer at The Baltimore Times who wrote highly negative reviews of Poe’s stories. A crimson mask found on body is a message from the killer to Poe and the police about where he will strike next. The killer is playing a game with them and when the life of his beloved Emily is threatened Poe is forced to play the killer’s game.

This was an entertaining mystery thriller and I did like the inclusion of Poe’s stories in this film. The setting felt authentic enough and there was no anachronistic steam punk stuff going on like so many other alternative history stories. The cast are reasonable enough, especially Brendan Gleeson, but they don’t really get too much development. I don’t have any doubt that Cusack’s performance bore very little resemblance to the real Edgar Allen Poe but it was fun and over the top and similar to Robert Downey Juniors’s take on Sherlock Holmes. Anyone expecting dark melancholia and madness will probably not like this film but for people only passingly familiar with Poe it is a mystery thriller romp with a pulpy comic book feel.

Rating 7/10

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Posted by on March 9, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: From Dusk Till Dawn

I just got this on Blu-Ray giving me chance to revisit this fantastic film from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. This film blew me away when I first saw it because it really brilliantly takes a crime thriller and turns it into a vampire film. Quentin Tarantino has written some fantastic dialogue for this film.

The Gecko brothers are bad men who are on the run from the law after holding up a bank and killing cops, rangers and civilians and taking a bank teller hostage. They are in a liquor store holding two girls hostage while the clerk pretends to another ranger that they are not there. Seth (George Clooney) wants everything to go quietly and smoothly but thanks to Richie (Quentin Tarantino) the ranger and clerk and end up dead, Richie gets shot in the hand and the liquor store is blasted to bits. Seth brings up the meaning of the phrase ‘low profile’ but it’s clearly wasted on Richie.

They go to a run-down motel where they try to figure out a way to get across the border to Mexico. Seth arranges a safe place across the border with a guy called Carlos but he still hasn’t figured out a way to get there. He leaves Richie alone with the hostage while he goes to buy food which turns out to be a very big mistake because when he returns the hostage is dead and her body mutilated. Seth loses his patience with Ritchie and pins him to the wall but then realises his brother is too demented to be reached and just hugs him.

Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) is on the road in his RV accompanied by his daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) and adopted son Scott (Ernest Liu). Jacob is a former Minister who has just quit his position as after falling out of love with God. They have been on the road a while and Jacob really wants to sleep in real bed so they stop at the same sleazy motel as the Gecko brothers. Seth sees their RV and it gives him a plan. The brothers trick their way into Jacob’s room and force him at gunpoint to agree to take them across the border in their RV. The journey to the border is very tense Jacob can’t trust Seth, Seth can’t trust Jacob and he certainly can’t trust Richie. When they come the border a border guard (Cheech Marin) inspects the van but the family convince the guard they are alone in the van.

Once over the border there is massive release of tension because Seth thinks they are now all free and clear. He tells Jacob to drive to their rendezvous, a sleazy rowdy biker bar near the border called the Titty Twister. The place has a huge neon sign outside with the name and a cartoon demonstration of exactly what the name means. Outside the bar is doorman Chet Pussy (Cheech Marin) encouraging punters to enter with the range of pussy the bar features. When Seth goes to pass Chet to get to the door Chet stops him and return Seth beats him to the ground and leads the way into the bar. Richie takes a sneaky chance to kick Chet violently as he passes.

When they enter the Titty Twister what they see is like a hellraiser’s idea of paradise with booze, rock music and semi-naked dancing girls on the tables and in alcoves in the wall and random meaningless fights amongst the patrons. Seth goes to the bar and tries to intimidate the barman Razor Charlie (Danny Trejo) into serving them but it really doesn’t work. Fortunately Jacob manages to calm down the tension and they get their drinks, grab a table and settle down to drink and wait for dawn.

Everyone starts to settle down and relax, particularly Scott and Richie. Razor Charlie then introduces the main act of the night on the stage and he gets away with telling them straight she is a demonic high priestess of Satan. On comes Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) with a yellow boa constrictor draped over her body. She doesn’t so much dance as stride around like hungry cat and stare at the meat in front of her. She walks across the tables to the one where the Geckos and Fullers are sitting. She lifts Richie’s beer and pours it down her leg to her foot in Richie’s mouth. When the music ends she basks in the applause of the spellbound crowd.

Chet meanwhile has entered the bar and spoken to Razor Charlie and the bar’s bouncer and they come over to the table to call out the Geckos as the ones that beat up Chet outside. Richie and Seth are ready for trouble with their guns drawn and they shoot the three men ‘dead’. That’s when Santanico and her girls all vamp out and attack the customers and she herself goes for Richie, biting a chunk out of his neck. There is widespread slaughter, especially with three ‘dead’ men come back to life and rejoin the battle. The house band have also vamped out are playing human bodies as instruments. Very soon there is only Seth, the Fullers and two other customers left alive, a Vietnam veteran called Frost (Fred Williamson) and Sex Machine (Tom Savini) who packs a spring-loaded revolver in his codpiece.

They kill off the vampires in the bar (except the band who disappear in a flash of smoke) but get worried about the sound of flapping wings outside. First they realise that they have deal with the corpses before they come back to life. Kate and Sex machine go around staking the bodies with table legs. Sex machine gets bit by one before he kills it but he hides his bite from the others. Richie come back to life and Frost is about to take him out but Seth stops him. Then Richie vamps out and Seth stakes him while the others hold him.

They have a few moments of calm so Seth takes charge of trying to figure out what’s going and what they can do about it. Jacob points out that everything they know about vampires comes from old horror films. Seth talks about weapons and says if he still had his faith that Jacob himself would be their most valuable weapon so if Jacob can get over his anger with God they’d be a lot better off.

Frost starts telling them about his experiences in Vietnam but while he talks we see Sex Machine is struggling to hide his transformation from the others. He eventually vamps out and attacks, biting a chunk out of Jacobs’s arm. After some struggle he bites Frost who picks him up and throws him out a window. This is not a mistake as Frost has immediately vamped out and just let hundreds of vampires in bat form into the bar. Seth Kate and Scott escape to a store room while Jacob ends up trapped behind the bar counter.

Italiano: Quentin Tarantino e Robert Rodriguez...

Tarantino and Rodriguez Image via Wikipedia

Jacob finds his faith and creates a makeshift cross out of a baseball bat through the loading mechanism of a shotgun and clears a path with both the cross and the gun through the mass of vampires to the storeroom. The storeroom is full of stuff taken from the trucks of the bar’s previous victims. They go through the boxes and get themselves armed and ready for a showdown. Scott has water guns and condoms full of water blessed by Jacob. Kate has found an auto-loading crossbow. Seth has made himself a stake fixed on a jackhammer. Before they leave the storeroom Jacob makes the others promise to kill him as soon as he vamps out and while has no problem believing Seth he pushes for a sincere promise from Kate and Scott.

They attack the vampires and just about manage to stay alive, killing many of them. Then the inevitable happens and Jacob vamps out. Scott hesitates for a moment and Jacobs bites him before Scott takes out half of Jacob’s head with a condom and Kate finishes him with a crossbow bolt. Scott gets seized by a mob of vampires who begin feeding on him and he begs Kate to kill him. She shoots him and it kills both him and vampires feeding on him.

Now it’s down to just Kate and Seth who are getting low on ammo. Then the sun rises and Seth sees the vampires trying to avoid the shafts of light. Carlos (Cheech Marin) arrives outside the door and calls out for Seth who tells him to blast the door open. As the sun comes in many vampires are roasted immediately and many more get killed by reflections of the sun off a large disco ball on the ceiling.

The first thing Seth does is punch Carlos but Carlos explains that he had only ever passed the place and had never been in it. Seth gives Kate some money and apologises for what happened to her family and tells her to go home. He leaves with Carlos while Kate drives off in the RV. The camera then pulls back to a wide shot of the back the Titty Twister which is actually the top of an Aztec temple and there is a large pit full of hundreds of bikes and trucks of all the victims of the place.

Seeing this film again has actually increased my liking for it. I’ve seen other attempts to merge the crime thriller genre with the horror genre but none have done it as well as this film. The action is violent and when it really begins in the second half it is almost relentless. The performances were great all round even from Quentin Tarantino who I really believed as a violent insane sex offender with a short fuse.

Rating 9/10

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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