The films are piling up again so its time to catch up! Sorry it’s a bit late but here’s January’s film roundup!
First up we have Excision, a surprisingly good horror/drama from first time director Richard Bates Jr.. The story involves a misfit teen (played by a remarkably uglyfied AnnaLynne McCord – of 90210 fame) whose growing obsession with surgical procedures manifests itself in the horrific dreams she has, that also begin to increasingly affect her troubled interactions at home and at school.
Tonally, it plays like a cross between Donnie Darko and May - with strong performances from the lead actress but also, rather surprisingly, Traci Lords as the mother. A must watch for fans of Horror and disturbing dramas. Oh, and John Waters plays a priest.
Another horror movie watched was the generic and cliché sounding entitled film House at the End of the Street, starring Jennifer Lawrence. Despite being a great actress and a competent presence in this film, the story leaves a little less to be desired. You remember these ‘young adult’ Point Horror books? It plays out pretty much like one if them. It tries to be shocking but ends up as a damp squib – neither scary nor compelling. It just makes you wonder: Why Jennifer Lawrence, why?
This one came out a couple of years ago but I only just got around to watching it – Death Sentence starring Kevin Bacon. It’s pulpy and melodramatic (why does that awful coldplay-esque sounding song always come on in a scene when someone is dying?), but this story of a father seeking vigilante justice for his son’s death at the hands of a street gang is only watchable for the strong performances from Bacon and John Goodman (good in everything!). Garrett Hedlund also puts in a strong performance as the gang leader and barely recognizable from his pretty boy image of the lead role he played in TRON Legacy.
Speaking of performances, Ryan Reynolds is a one-man show in Buried, the story of someone who is… well… buried…alive! Exactly what it says on the tin this is a tense thriller that is decently acted, but is the kind of film that lives and dies on its suspense - so you can only really watch it once. Whether or not it comes recommended will largely depend on whether you can stomach watching 90mins of a guy in a box.
Be warned, though, some of the claustrophobic impact is reduced when watching at home and not in a darkened cinema. Unless you decide to watch it in a pitch black room with surround sound that is of course…
Speaking of the dark, Tim Burton’s revival of 70’s TV series Dark Shadows is also a very hit and miss affair. Whilst being visually stunning (as most of his films are) the story lacks focus and drive - which seems to be a pattern with most of his recent films. I used to be a mega Tim Burton fan back in the day, but the majority of his latest efforts seem to lack the charm they once had. Just like Johnny Depp’s (however watchable) portrayal of vampire Barnabas Collins, this film looks great but lacks a beating heart.
A good bike ride is also said to get your heart beating. Especially if you do it for a living as a bike courier frantically racing around New York, dodging pedestrians and traffic with reckless abandon. Throw in a corrupt cop chasing you down and you get Premium Rush, a film that starts out excellently, but ironically suffers pacing issues in the latter half of the film.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is increasingly becoming Hollywood’s favorite everyman hero, here playing likeable rebel bike messenger Wilee (“Like the Coyote?” someone asks) and Michael Shannon is an effective villain despite occasionally veering into pantomime territory. Worth a look, even more so if you are a bicycle nut.
“Nuts” is also what some critics have been calling the people who decided to remake the “classic” Dudley Moore movie Arthur, this time with the (now somewhat unpopular) Russell Brand. I haven’t seen the original so I cant really compare the two but I liked this version in parts. As obnoxious as Brand can sometimes be, its hard to imagine anyone else in this particular role (again, I haven’t seen Dudley Moore’s take so I cant comment) and arguably he is perfectly suited to play the millionaire drunkard with parental issues manchild that is Arthur.
The real masterstroke of the film is having his ‘butler’ Hobson played by Helen Mirren (in the John Gielgud role) as their relationship is where the real heart of the film lies (not with his strangely forced and unconvincing love interest). Her putting up with all his bullshit and being his faithful employee/surrogate mother is were this film really shines. The rest of it really depends on whether you can stand Russell Brand as a leading man or not.
Another remake that has caused controversy is the new version of Total Recall, which suffers from the fact that it takes itself too seriously, not much of the story has changed but isn’t nearly as fun and campy as the original Schwarzenegger-starring Paul Verhoeven version. Sure it looks nice and there are some great action sequences but it all feels a bit hollow and pointless. It does away with the feeling of ambiguity that the first film thrives upon (is he still living the Rekall fantasy or is he back to reality?) and you never really have any doubt of where its all going.
The only interesting change they made was to combine the Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside parts into one villain, played by Kate Beckinsale who (no surprise for a Len Wiseman film) gets all the coolest bits. Oh, and the three breasted hooker is still in it. Why? Just because. Like I said, pointless.
Well that's all for January’s film roundup. Loads more film write-ups to come! Until then, adios!
15 Feb 2013