Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (Anchor Bay) charts the eventful career of prolific B-movie director Roger Corman, a man who has spent almost 60 years on the fringes of Hollywood, without ever truly infiltrating the mainstream.
From his early days working in the mail room at 20th Century Fox, through to his current preoccupation – making absurdly-titled creature-features for the ‘SyFy’ channel – the tireless Corman has long been a champion of low-budget filmmaking, and this enlightening documentary shines a light on some of the less well-known, but crucially important, episodes in Corman’s lengthy career. As the producer of New World Pictures, Corman famously gave a whole generation of filmmakers – not least Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme and Peter Bogdanovich – a springboard to launch themselves towards Hollywood, but less is known about his ground-breaking distribution of the films of Bergman, Kurosawa, Fellini and Truffaut, when they were mere blips on the filmic radar.
Corman’s World boasts an impressive roll-call of guests, including the aforementioned directors, alongside the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth and Paul WS Anderson, although the most illuminating interviews arguably come from some of the actors who cut their teeth working on early Corman projects, such as William Shatner, Peter Fonda and a surprisingly emotional Jack Nicholson, who struggles to quantify quite how significant Corman’s influence on his nascent career really was.
Riddled with fascinating archive footage and contemporary interviews, Corman’s World is a genuinely absorbing documentary that does an effective job of underscoring Corman’s massive influence on several generations of Hollywood movers and shakers. Although his name may be synonymous with tacky straight-to-video filmmaking, there is far more to Corman than meets the eye. Highly recommended.
Previously titled The Hungry Rabbit Jumps and then Seeking Justice, the newly stripped-down Justice (Momentum) follows mild-mannered high school teacher Will Gerard (Nicolas Cage, Con Air), whose domestic bliss is ruptured forever when his beautiful wife Laura (January Jones, Unknown) is viciously raped and left for dead.
As Laura recuperates in hospital, Will is approached by ‘Simon’, a well-dressed stranger (Guy Pearce, Memento), who offers to dispense immediate justice to Laura’s attacker and save the couple from a traumatic trial. A traumatised Will accepts the stranger’s proposal, with the understanding that he must oblige Simon a small favour further down the line. Inevitably, Simon’s deal is far more malevolent than he first suggested, and Will is promptly plunged into the middle of a murderous conspiracy that stretches far and wide.
Although many people have suggested that Cage has been scraping the cinematic barrel since being slapped with a gargantuan $6.2 million tax bill in 2009, in truth, his quality control has been skew-whiff for years, with the former Oscar-winner now determined to latch onto projects that allow him to unleash his self-professed ‘Nouveau Shamanic’ acting technique. Somewhat unusually, Justice finds Cage in restrained mode, and he remains straight-faced as the weirdly implausible plot developments stack up around him. Elsewhere, Guy Pearce offers effective support as the sinister figure who lures Cage into his violent world, although the TV-tastic supporting cast, including January Jones (Mad Men), Harold Perrineau (Lost) and Xander Berkley (24) are largely underused.
In spite of its derivative narrative and often-predictable array of plot twists, Justice is a competent – if weirdly hyperactive – thriller. It may not be as memorable as his best work, but Justice is far better than many of Cage’s latter-day low-points.
Psychological thriller Dream House (Warner Home Video) tells the story of successful publisher Will Atenton (Daniel Craig, Casino Royale) who quits his high-powered executive position in Manhattan to relocate his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener), and two young daughters to a quaint New England town. However, as they begin to settle into their new life, Will and Libby discover that their perfect home was actually a notorious local murder scene, where a happy family were slaughtered – by their father.
Plagued by ghostly visions, Will is determined to uncover the truth about the house, but can’t figure out if he is hallucinating, or simply whether the tragic true-crime story is striking a chord with his own blissful family life. In his quest for answers, Will crosses paths with enigmatic next door neighbour Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive) who was well-acquainted with the dead family. But can the pair unravel the truth before the maniac returns to the dream house to kill again?
Dream House director Jim Sheridan has made some curious choices since helming My Left Foot back in 1989 – not least 50 Cent vehicle Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005). Dream House is another curveball, and Sheridan’s knack for socially conscious melodrama is ill-suited to the film’s ambiguous, unsettling tone.
Anyone used to Craig’s suave image as James Bond will be disconcerted by the bizarre floppy haircut he sports here, before his character’s mental disintegration forces him even further down the grooming spiral. Meanwhile, Naomi Watts adds little to the proceedings, aside from her trademark bewildered-looking expression, and arguably delivers one of her most pointless performances to date. Casting issues aside, Dream House’s biggest shortcoming is the fact that it shows its hand far too early, rendering the second half of the movie increasingly uninteresting.
After an engaging start, Dream House follows in the underwhelming footsteps of recent star-studded horror failures such as Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and The Awakening. Ho hum.