The darkness is closing in… The log fire is roaring… The clock has struck midnight… For me, few forms of literature are as irresistible as the ghost story. Such clichÃ©s will be all too familiar to those fond of the archetypal ghostly tale but they’re clichÃ©s which movies are able to exploit brilliantly. And what better time of year to kick back with an old-fashioned spooky tale than Christmas?
Freed from the constraints of live action, Steven Spielberg’s first motion-capture outing The Adventures of Tintin demonstrates the kind of boyish exuberance that would have made Herge proud. Working with Peter Jackson in adapting and compressing three of the Belgian writer’s tales (The Crab with the Golden Claws; The Secret of the Unicorn; and Red Rackham’s Treasure), Spielberg is on ebullient form, although the accuracy of the incidental details is best left to Herge purists. Those unfamiliar with the source material would be wise to judge the film on its own terms as a piece of popcorn entertainment.
In Lynne Ramsay’s extraordinary adaptation of Lionel Schriver’s acclaimed novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, we see Tilda Swinton methodically scraping paint off her shabby clapboard house. The sight of Swinton speckled and daubed in splotches of symbolic red creates an eerie sense of foreboding. Who has splattered her house with paint? The neighbours seem to look at her with fear and suspicion. What’s the reasoning behind it? A woman slaps her in the face in public. What on Earth would drive someone to such action?
The Apollo Cinema, Paignton, proudly presents an evening of short films on Sunday, November 13. Starting at 7.30pm (doors open at 7pm), The English Riviera Film Night is designed as a refreshing alternative to feature-length movies, while also serving as an exciting showcase for some of the best local filmmakers around.
Actress Kirsty Symonds’ soulful performance lies at the heart of John Tomkins’ Like An Angel, a time-travelling drama which starts in the Tudor era with a man named Coldare (Adam Barfield) on the run from the agents of Squire Revin Hallows (David Gent).
Steven Spielberg had a banner year in 1993, receiving critical acclaim and Oscar glory for Holocaust drama Schindler’s List, and thrilling global audiences with the recreated dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Fundamental to both films’ success, but perhaps more overlooked in the hoopla, was composer John Williams.
Midway through Tomas Alfredson’s masterful adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, John Hurt, warning of the presence of a Soviet mole secreted at the top of British intelligence, growls, ‘There’s a rotten apple’. But there’s nothing rotten about the film itself. This is handsomely mounted, engrossing filmmaking of the highest order, made by adults, for adults.
We all relish those times when we’re reminded of what film is really capable of, but how often does that actually happen? For all the megabucks, airbrushed stars and frequently vapid, slick surfaces, it’s a thrill to observe filmmakers really testing the boundaries of narrative cinema especially when the length of the reel barely exceeds that of your average action sequence.
I’ll make no bones about it. Gary Oldman is my favourite actor alongside James Stewart. In my opinion, he is the embodiment of what an actor should be -a chameleon with the ability to transform into any role, in which we don’t notice the joins between performer and character.
The Skin I Live In is wonderfully crackers filmmaking of the sort only esteemed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar could get away with. It’s also one of the year’s most fascinating cinematic experiments: a head on collision between Frankenstein story and Almodovar’s satirical, kitschy brand of melodrama. The result is (forgive the ghoulish adjective), skin-tight: the work of a master director at the top of his game, with both style and substance to spare.
Sadly neglected on release, Stephen Hopkins’ The Ghost and the Darkness is a rip-roaring (literally!) old-fashioned actioner. Despite underwhelming lead performances from Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas and a pervasive feeling of familiarity, the fact it is based on a true story is too astonishing to ignore.
Since 2004, Chagford Filmmaking Group has been quietly carving out a fascinating niche, casting an eye over the rich history of the South West, and bringing to life sumptuous fairy tales, romances and period dramas. I recently caught up with its founder, Elizabeth-Jane Baldry, to discuss the aims of the company, its future projects and the process of filmmaking. Thanks go to Torquay filmmaker John Tomkins, who arranged and organised the interview.
Know your target audience, says Sean Wilson, as he reviews the family flicks of Mr Popper’s Penguins and Zoo Keeper
It’s a rare occasion. A new Terence Malick film has rolled around in the form of the Tree of Life. This is then 5th film by Terence Malick, whose films go back to 1973 in Badlands. Terence Malick had directed Badlands, Days of Heaven and there was a 20 gap until the Thin Red Line the war film then there was the New Road and now we arrived at the Tree of Life. Terence Malick is a very interesting and provocative director, who works entirely on his own terms it’s very philosophical and astute directing.
“It all ends,” reads the tag line for the last in the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2, and it’s quite an apposite tag line, not just terms of the story, but for the whole franchise, says Sean Wilson.
On watching the original Fright Night from 1985 recently, I suddenly became more susceptible to the notion of the remake, starring Colin Farrell in Chris Sarandon’s role as a suburban vampire exposed by a geeky teenager. Sure it’s a witty film, and in fact its postmodernism seems to pre-date Wes Craven’s Scream, featuring characters discussing the rules of horror movies (vampire movies in this case, not slasher flicks) years before Ghostface starting dicing hapless victims.
Many of us have sat in a darkened cinema, gazing at the screen, wondering what mechanics were necessary in getting the respective film distributed and projected. But what about those of us who don’t want to so much peer behind the curtain as tear it back? Well, that’s where Steven Bach’s blistering eye opener, Final Cut comes in.
There’s been a dearth of great comedies in 2011 (with the exception of Bridesmaids and Submarine) so God Save the Queen and Rule Britannia: The Inbetweeners Movie is gut-bustingly hilarious. Humble, based-on-TV origins and minuscule budget be damned. This low-rent lads flick packs in more laughs than most of the year’s other comedies combined.
Always be wary of a movie with six (credited) screenwriters. Based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s comic book, Cowboys and Aliens boasts a terrific central conceit but then proceeds to canter along aimlessly, failing to properly exploit the collision of Wild West and outer space. It’s as if several cooks were all battling over one batch of broth, with the end result proving watered down and compromised.
Someone important was clearly watching the Star Trek reboot very closely. Because now, in the form of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, there is an attempt to repeat the same magical formula that made JJ Abrams’ movie such a success. Rise performs the same feat, taking a much loved franchise back to the drawing board to suit the needs of a modern audience, all the while respecting its progenitors. If it doesn’t quite capture the joie de vivre of Kirk and Spock’s newly minted escapade, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is still a cut above most blockbusters.
Arriving late out of the traps this summer, Super 8 faces an uphill struggle. It’s not part of a franchise; it’s not a sequel or remake; nor is it a comic book adaptation with an in-built audience. All these factors, coupled with a rose-tinted film making style, a deliberate throwback to kids cinema of the 1970s and 80s, could mean Super 8 won’t reach the audience it deserves to reach.
It’s all well and good reading written reviews -and believe me, as a film critic the process of physically writing a review does teach invaluable skills and is immensely satisfying once it all comes together. Often though, it’s nice to verbalise one’s thoughts, so if anyone would like to hear my ramblings as opposed to reading them, head over to www.ipadio.com, click on the More Phonecasts tab and type in the name of our esteemed editor Lee Morgan, to bring up my audio reviews. They’re somewhat rough around the edges, but please feel free to leave a comment! In the meantime, I continue to present on the Riviera FM Movie Show with local filmmaker John Tomkins on Sundays from 1 until 3.
Happy film-viewing everyone!
Way back in 1988, another decade was ending… and Robert De Niro went out with a bang. Not with The Untouchables, no, no, no. Instead, he delivered his finest ever comic performance in Martin Brest’s wonderful, and frustratingly little-heralded, Midnight Run. It’s enough to banish the memory of his tedious self-parodying in the Meet the Parents films.
From the first tinkling celesta strains of Hedwig’s Theme, one could be forgiven for thinking composer John Williams and director Alfonso Cuaron were headed down a well-trodden path with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. But the unexpected left-field turns that follow elevate both film and score to one of the finest in the series.
The Marvel brand name equals marvellousness once again in Captain America: The First Avenger, an enjoyably old-fashioned superhero movie that forgoes Tony Stark style quirks in favour of straight laced heroism and decency.