Eaten Alive

Tobe Hooper sure likes them weirdo, murderin’ yokels. As if he couldn’t get enough of all the dead skin wearin’, chainsaw totin’, blood suckin’ hicks in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre he takes us back into familiar territory with Eaten Alive – the loosely factual based story about an unhinged hotel (?) owner with a swamp instead of a backyard, and a croc instead of a dog. After the success of his breakthrough film it appeared that Hooper was safely giving the audience more of the same – but is it as good as its predecessor?

No is the short answer. There are many reasons why The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is held in such high esteem and many horror films are not. That doesn’t mean Eaten Alive isn’t worth watching – for horror fans it’s fairly close to essential viewing given the director’s pedigree, and it stars a varied cast making some interesting choices. The film starts with a lead character fake-out a la Psycho or Scream – a young woman called Clara is a somewhat reluctant prostitute working in a small town brothel. Her reluctance causes her boss to chuck her out, and she is advised to walk to a nearby hotel for the night. Lets back up – the film actually opens with a nice crotch shot as Robert Englund utters the Kill Bill inspiring ‘my name’s Buck and I like to…’ you get the idea. It’s not often that Englund gets to play a ladies man, but here we assume he has the stamina and libido of an adolescent rabbit, casting off Clara before having a threesome, before picking up a girl in a bar. The film takes place over the course of a single night – a few hours – so that Buck fella must hella fuck.

Clara finds her way to the hotel, run by the muttering unhinged Judd (Neville Brand), who recognises her as coming from the brothel. Ol’ Judd isn’t a fan of such things so he grabs his handy scythe and dispatches of Clara, feeding her to his pet crocodile. The remainder of the film is Judd’s night being disturbed by additional visitors – Buck and his girl, the local Sheriff, a bickering husband and wife and their daughter and dog, and Clara’s father and sister hot on her trail. There are quite a few comparisons to be made between this and TCM – there is a similar low grade, dirty look to the cinematography, although at times there are bizarre saturated reds and backlights. Both films feature women in peril, both feature an unhinged man using a farming tool to murderous ends, and both films are incredibly noisy, with screams and shrieks and a buzzing atypical score. The scares here don’t work nearly as well though and there is a more voyeuristic, lurid tone with plenty of boobs on display and a little more blood. The crocodile never feels like a threat and is mostly used as a disposal unit, and Judd pales as a villain in comparison to any of the TCM family.

Where the film at times surpasses TCM is in its performances. There are some truly WTF moments when it comes to the acting and some strange choices which hurt overall, but Hooper is in command of professional actors this time around. TCM’s heroine Marilyn Burns appears here too in a role that largely recalls Sally from that film. It’s the characterisation which lets the film and the performances down – Burns plays a wife and mother who moves between hating and loving her husband and giving him drugs? She is wearing a wig when she first arrives and it’s unclear if she is supposed to be some sort of criminal. It’s difficult to feel any sympathy for her then when Judd kills her husband and ties her to a bed for who knows what. Roy, her husband, is played by William Finley who gets the lion’s share of bad moments, wailing and stretching and overacting to the point of underacting. At first he is confident, then he has an inexplicable breakdown, before turning into some attempt at a vengeful hero. Judd all the while stumbles around the hotel, muttering and groaning to himself. Neville Brand has a great voice for Cinema, a deep, low tone which instantly grabs your attention, but it isn’t put to use here – hi mutterings mostly indecipherable. He’s never less than manic, hopping about on one good leg and displaying a range of tics but like his pet you imagine that a good stiff boot in the nuts would put him down easily enough.

The better performances come with Mel Ferrer and Crystin Sinclaire as Clara’s siblings. Ferrer aches with loss and guilt and a touch of manic desperation himself, while Sinclaire is the spitting image of Hilary Swank. Sinclaire doesn’t get a lot to do, but she has a confident presence and allure which makes you wonder why she never became a star. The Sheriff, as played by the ever familiar Stuart Whitman, adds his own brand of tainted understanding. Rounding out things are a young Kyle Richards as the annoying, screeching child who is chased under the house but won’t scream when there’s actually someone there who can help her, and Buck’s pickup Janus Blythe who brings another layer of amusing sleaze – both decent performances. The performance and appearance of the croc is underwhelming – it’s hidden for most of the film, but when it does pop out it doesn’t look the best – think Jaws but cheaper.

I never got around to seeing Eaten Alive until recently – it wasn’t the easiest movie to get a hold of and it never struck me as a must-see. For some reason I always assumed it was a cannibal movie and combined with it being hard to get a hold of I assumed that all meant that it probably wasn’t very good. There is an Italian cannibal movie with the same name, so somewhere along the way I merged the two in my own mind. It’s worth seeing, both as a follow-up to one of the greatest of all time, and as a quirky slice of Southern grime. Just why is there a hotel out there in the middle of nothing? Why does Clara have to struggle through a bushy forest to find her way to it – isn’t there a path? Should we assume Judd has been killing all of his guests? If he remorselessly wipes out several in this single night, then we have to assume he has done it before giving him a probably high kill rate and surely then the authorities would have been knocking on his door years before? In any case, it’s not a film you’re supposed to question – it’s played more to make you uncomfortable rather than outright scare you, and there has always been something about crazed loner hicks which has both entertained and put me on edge. While there isn’t anything a dedicated horror fan won’t have seen here before, it’s exactly the sort of film a dedicated horror fan should still get a kick out of.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Eaten Alive!

Come And See

Trawl any list of ‘Best WWII Movies’ and you’ll find everything from Award Winning masterpieces like Schindler’s List and The Pianist, to old school epics such as The Bridge Over The River Kwai and The Great Escape, and even notable modern movies including Dunkirk, Son Of Saul, and Black Book. Come And See is not one you often see included (if it is, it’s probably number 1), despite its near universal acclaim and almost every review calling it one of the best War movies ever. On the surface, it seems the primary reason is that it is a Russian movie which received little exposure in the West but in today’s world of instant easy access you can find the uncut film for free on YouTube. While the film shares similarities with many of the films above, it should be viewed as a standalone, because I’m not sure there is really anything like it out there.

In Come And See, we follow a young boy in Belarus during the Nazi invasion. The film opens with him and another child playing at war on a desolate endless beach. Flyora finds a rifle buried in the sand, and this discovery seems to be the final key in his decision to join the local partisan resistance group. His family do not want him to leave but when the army comes knocking at his door, he joins them on the march and soon finds himself task with menial jobs. He isn’t impressed, but he isn’t great at the work. The partisans decide to leave him behind and he heads home depressed, meeting a young nurse on the way. This kicks off a chain of events leading to increasingly grim encounters and discoveries as the we witness the true horrors of war through the eyes and mind of a child whose limited faculties are shell shocked beyond salvation.

There is an episodic quality to Come And See which made it feel to me like a series of shorts. This does little to temper the unrelenting nightmare of what is shown but to me it mimics the newsreel ending – these are snapshots of moments of war. They are simultaneously irrelevant and all important – moments that could be happening to anyone because they were happening to everyone, moments of increasing savagery with survival dependent on increasing reliance on the whims of fate. There is also an initially perplexing dreamlike quality, with long shots which seem to dwell on nothing only for some semblance of an answer to come a few scenes later. There is an ambiguous beauty with the destruction of the countryside acting as a metaphor and twin to the destruction of the self. Cliches are turned inside out and war is shown with no hint of glory – it is nothing more than pointless ugly death, hysterical, monstrous, and beyond understanding. There is a scene where Flyora forces himself through a muddy marsh, struggling to keep afloat as the stink drags him down – your typical movie would see the protagonist coming out the other side stronger and metaphorically ready to stare down any challenge with renewed hope. This is not your typical movie, and there is no hope to be found.

And yet, I had my problems with it. The film contains far too many close up facial shots and moments of uncomfortable laughter or grimacing which tread the line between unintentionally humourous and unwatchable, to plain annoying, to recalling Lynch. These tend to go hand in hand with unconvincing performances leaving the viewer unsure if the acting is too real or merely atrocious. As a seasoned viewer of foreign cinema I have encountered my fair share of films with similar moments and actors, but an audience too used to the gloss and budget of Hollywood will likely switch off. By the end, these early moments do feel more intentional and you will be more forgiving, and they contribute to the hallucinatory quality. Special mention must go to the editing and sound departments, as they too work off each other to make this clanging, scattershot din, with ringing sounds to echo the post-explosion numbness and off screen mumbles, laughs, and screams enforcing an all-encompassing maelstrom. Much of the violence happens off-screen or just in the background, with characters regrettably looking over their shoulders like Orpheus to catch a horror which will forever haunt them, or with the aftermath of events being stumbled upon by chance.

Come And See is not an easy watch. At times it made me wish I was watching Son Of Saul instead, and at others I couldn’t look away. While I’m not sure a cleaner look, a bigger budget, or more professional performers would have made the film better, I think those improvements would help the film reach a wider and more accommodating audience. Taken as it is, it remains as stark and harrowing a depiction of human evil as you’ll ever find, merging real life events with sequences and stylistic choices which disorient and serve to make you more than a mere observer, but feel and taste the disgust and revulsion we all should feel. I can’t say that it is one of my favourite war films, but it’s certainly unique, people more knowledgeable than me have proclaimed it a masterpiece, and given that it’s easily available to watch online it should be considered a must see.

What did you think of Come And See? Let us know in the comments!

Dumplin’

Watching this, it definitely felt like a Young Adult adaptation. It wasn’t until after I finished watching that I checked online and saw that yes, it was in fact based on a YA book. That’s not always a bad thing, and for the purposes of this review it’s little more than a lazy way to frame this introduction, so joke’s on you.

Dumplin’  is the coming of age story of a teenage girl who lost her father at an early age (I think… it wasn’t really mentioned much) and was mostly raised by her Dolly Parton obsessed aunt. Her mother, a former local beauty queen was too busy organizing beauty pageants to look after her, beyond so embarrassingly calling her Dumplin. She is apparently comfortable with being overweight, is in school, has a fast-food job, and has a ludicrously pretty, equally Dolly obsessed best friend. When her Aunt dies, she looks through a box of her old things and finds that in her youth had wanted to entire a local pageant but chickened out. To honour her memory, Dumplin’ decides to enter one of the shows, but unexpectedly her best friend and a couple of outcasts join her in her journey.

Knowing now that the film was directed by Anne Fletcher – a dancer and choreographer – it makes more sense that it included numerous dance scenes, a lot of music, and lacked a unique style. The film is highly comparable to both Ladybird and Little Miss Sunshine, but while those films had a vision framed by the director, Dumplin’ eschews this in favour of clever casting and a Netflix style. Jennifer Aniston is the mum, who really only shows up in the second half of the movie, while Danielle Macdonald and Odeya Rush are Willowdean ‘Dumplin’ and best friend Ellen. If you ever wanted to see Michael from Lost dancing in drag or Bex Taylor-Klaus wearing unnecessary, hilarious, and ridiculous prosthetic teeth, then this is the film for you. The film takes some slightly odd steps – while Willowdean’s falling out with Ellen is the exact conflict you get in every one of these films, it leads to Willowdean doubting herself and going in a mini cycle of destruction which the film completely fails to sell or give the character any reason to do so. One minute everything is wonderful, and the next she’s in crisis mode for zero reason. The performances are all fine – Aniston doesn’t do a great job with the accent while love interest Bo looks about twenty years older than Willowdean.

There are many reasons why I shouldn’t like this – it’s kind of a romantic comedy, it is filled with Country music (a genre I abhor), and it is set in the world of beauty pageants – something so foreign to anyone outside of the USA that every single one of us thinks it must be a joke. It is a joke though, right? You… you don’t genuinely take these things seriously, right? In Northern Ireland, a talent line up is where you stand facing a wall while a man in a balaclava decides which one of you to knee-cap (shoot in the leg) first, while a beauty pageant is watching the sixteen year olds fall out of the pubs at 1.30 am in Belfast before vomiting onto a rat. Yet somehow I did like it. Well, I watched it at least. It hits precisely every note you expect it to, it ends exactly as you know it will, and it is as by the numbers as any film you’ll ever see. I think the only cliche missed is that no-one in the group of pageant girls is ‘the bad one’ who tries to ruin Willowdean’s plans – everyone is so sweet and kind and helpful, making her aforementioned lapse into self-doubt all the more bewildering. Yet the charming cast carries it through and the occasional gentle laugh stops it from being a generic Hallmark movie. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed it more than Ladybird, but it’s essentially the same film – even multiple cast members appear in both – and I probably enjoyed it just as much.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Dumplin!

Tag

What do Battle Royale, Final Destination, Mulholland Drive, The Walking Dead, Existenz, Lost, 8&1/2, Forrest Gump, and Primer all have in common? On the surface, not a lot, but Sion Sono cares not for such concerns and instead finds his own connections in weaving this absurdist film about a person becoming unstuck in time and reality while being stalked by a powerful, murderous force. If you’re looking for a linear plot A to Plot B film, you’d be better placed heading out to the latest blockbuster but if you’re keen on something shape-shifting, ambiguous, and hypnotic you have come to the right place.

Sion Sono is no stranger to wiping out huge swathes of people. If you’ve seen Suicide Club you’ll know he’s a fan of sudden shocking moments, usually involvement mass death, and sometimes focusing on school girls. Tag starts out with a knowing homage to his previous work, as its already infamous opening scene sees two school buses filled with teenage girls sliced into pieces in an instant, leaving a single blood-soaked, bewildered survivor. That’s not a spoiler as it has made up various trailers over the past couple of years and has popped up on a variety of horror and extreme cinema sites, as well as happening in the opening minutes and being the catalyst for everything that follows. Our protagonist flees, running from what seems to be a sentient wind which cuts into any poor soul she begs for help. There’s nothing like killing around fifty people in the first six minutes of your movie to put a smile on my face.

From there it only gets more interesting, or weird, or off-putting depending on your preference. Describing in detail anything else that happens, plot-wise, would be bordering on spoiler territory and likely be futile. This is Sion Sono having fun; for his own pleasure, at our expense, at life in general, and finally because he’s good at it. It’s his art horror film – lots of stylized shots, close-ups of faces, floating feathers, leaves, panty shots, and a lot of running. Merged with these are frequent outbursts of action and violence which are often funny and can be shocking, even with the somewhat dodgy visual effects.

I don’t think there is any deeper meaning here beyond what one character says on our behalf – basically life is surreal and is often beyond our control, so just get on with it as best you can. It helps if you look good in a Wedding dress and if you imagine The Walking Dead theme tune accompanying your every move. Sono dabbles in issues like fate, AI, the passage of time, futility, mortality, so by all means you are free to read the film on any level you desire. In my mind, the broken mind of a tortured cynic, it’s all meaningless except for taking it at its most superficial level – as another entertaining film from the crazed brain of Sion Sono.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Tag!

Nightman’s Favourite Films Of The 2000s

If you’ve been reading my yearly lists, then you probably noticed that the 2000s was when I parted ways with mainstream Hollywood Cinema. This wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision – it’s just simply that better, much better, films were being made elsewhere. My favourite genres of horror, action, sci-fi, still had considerable output but the gluttony of remakes and the lack of risks being taken in the US led to the rest of the world picking up the slack. That boils down to more than half my twenty films being either completely foreign films, or joint productions between the US and (an)other nation(s). This is going to be my final yearly post for a while, maybe ever, as I’m so slow at catching up on modern releases – off the top of my head there aren’t that many films released between 2010 and today that I can say I truly love. It will be some time before I have seen enough of those, and seen them enough times to make a genuine attempt at a list beyond simply calling out random films I enjoyed.

21: Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (2002)

Chan Wook Park burst onto the scene in the early nineties, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that Sympathy For Mr Vengeance saw him making waves worldwide. Having already seen and enjoyed JSA, this revenge thriller was a step up in all departments. Bringing powerhouse actors Kang-ho Song and Shin Ha-kyun with him from JSA, the film follows the two men in an interweaving tail of tragedy and violence – hence the name. Saying much more would land us in spoiler territory – the story following a deaf mute factory worker who has just lost his job and goes to the black market to try to get a kidney for his dying sister. This is a film where people have the right intentions, kind of, but everything goes wrong. In the hands of anyone else, with a different cast, this would be lackluster B-movie fare, but with this team we have an extraordinary, bleak, piece of grim drama. The South Korean movie revolution didn’t start here, but this is where it started to wipe the floor with Hollywood.

20: Orphan (2009)

Horror hit a bit of a renaissance in the 2000s. First with Asia, kicking off a hole host of remakes and imitators in the west, followed by the new wave of extreme horror with Torture Porn sagas and French and Spanish extremism leading the way. Branching off this success we were treated to more adventurous indie or smaller scale efforts. Director Jaume Collet Cera ticks the Spanish and remake boxes and before he struck up a partnership with Liam Neeson he unleashed this neat little original on us. The director is assured, but the film succeeds because of the cast – Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, and a stunning performance in the title role by Isabelle Fuhrman. Following the death of their unborn child, a married couple decide to adopt, bringing in Fuhrman before things get weird. Then things get much weirder. There’s a certain element of sleaze as the film progresses, and some uncomfortable racial issues which almost feel self aware, but there is enough intrigue and enjoyable tension to raise this higher than most ‘bad seed’ movies. You’ve heard me drop my Oscar nods in these lists before – Fuhrman was snubbed here.

19: Batman Begins (2005)

Everyone’s going to have this on their list, right? There are a tonne of films which most people will have – There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men – neither of which are anywhere near my list, but most people will have this and/or The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan was already a successful, highly regarded director before this, but this is the film which gave him superstardom. He became a household name, a director that your average film-goer will seek out, a director who could pretty much do whatever he wanted from this point on.

Fans of the Burton movies will be at home here – visually, Nolan has is own style but as an origin story all of the boxes are checked. What truly holds it together is its scope and ambition, and its cast – Christian Bale the perfect choice and ably backed up by Oscar winners and nominees and that pedigree left right and center – Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy. There has yet to be a Marvel film which comes close to matching this in terms of quality – the film transcends the comic book genre and becomes something all of its own. It’s not even the best of the trilogy.

18: Rec (2007)

I mentioned New Wave European extreme horror earlier. While this doesn’t exactly fit in that ultraviolent category, it’s certainly one of the super successful breed or Euro Horror which got fans so excited. Capitalizing on the cheap to make found footage style, Rec instantly became the benchmark. Its sense of claustrophobia, mystery, tension, terror, and its sudden explosive violence is the closest we’ve come to a true Resident Evil movie. The shot for shot US remake was watchable, but there’s something special at devilish work here. In your perfect horror movie scenario, the almost perfect Rec follows a journalist and her team making a documentary about a fire crew – following them around on a typical day. The crew is called to an apartment building due to a report about an old woman trapped and screaming in her room. This being a horror movie, the old woman isn’t exactly screaming because she’s fallen over…

There is a lot of wild innovation on display here – those moments that make you think why no-one else had done it before. The apartment building almost becomes a character in itself, its rooms and corridors closing in on the inhabitants like a fist. 28 Days Later and its sequel raised the bar for what fast moving ‘zombies’ could do and Rec sticks you right in the middle of an unwinnable situation. Most horror movies fall because of lack of character – Rec realises this and cleverly builds a world where each person feels real and in danger, forcing you to see things from their POV even if most only get a few minutes screen time. The film builds tension in the classic sense but then decides to unleash all out war, rarely giving the viewer time to breathe before cranking up the nerves once more in the convoluted wtf finale.

17: Mulholland Drive (2001)

Here’s another which most will have on their list. David Lynch had been on a bit of a downturn in fortunes for ten years – at least that’s what They’d lead you to believe. Framing this as a pilot for a new TV show a la Twin Peaks, once Lynch heard that the show was never going to be made he spliced his footage together and released it as a standalone – a standalone which many believe to be his best work. Hypnotic, non-linear, packed with mystery and few answers, it’s a film which people are still dissecting now, connecting dots to find a bigger picture which may not even exist. Attempting to assign a synopsis may be futile, but on the surface it’s the neo-noir story of a hopeful aspiring actress who comes to Hollywood and meets an amnesiac woman who is recovering from a car crash. Interspersed are both random and connecting vignettes about other characters who would have presumably found greater meaning if the series had been realized – bumbling hitmen, ghostly totemic producers, actors, cowboys. Where most films start out fractured and end with a whole, Lynch’s film starts out broken, pieces form and seem to fit, before becoming shattered and pulped. Everything a Lynch fan loves about Lynch is here, including his underrated talent for colour and sound. Watts and Harring are superb ably backed by Melissa George, Justin Theroux, Robert Forster, and a host of cameos. The film’s greatest mystery may be why it was only nominated for a single Oscar in a year where fluff like A Beautiful Mind and Moulin Rouge were so successful.

16: Departures (2008)

While we’re talking about movie mysteries – how is it that Japan has only ever won a single Oscar for Best Foreign Picture? I think we all know that this category is complete nonsense anyway, but that’s another story. Before 2008 the number of wins for Japan was zero, Departures the shock winner this year. It’s the perfect film about life and death, a film inherently Japanese and which may give other viewers some culture shock, but underneath the customs it’s a film that we can all understand and relate to as human. As Jim Morrison once warbled – no-one here gets out alive. Joe Hisaishi crafts one of his finest scores – probably the best score of the decade – and the cast includes ex idol Masahiro Motoki, Kurosawa stalwart Tsutomu Yamazaki, and Ryoko Hirosue who I had been a fan of since her days as a Nintendo model (I’m weird like that).

The film a cellist who is forced to move back to his childhood home with his wife, after his orchestra falls apart. Out of work and with no valuable skills he takes the first job he can get – assisting departures, which he assumes is some sort of travel work. What he soon finds out is that he is assisting the departure of a soul from this world to the next – basically helping in old funeral rituals such as washing and dressing the corpse. Horrified and embarrassed initially, as this is seen as a ‘low’ or ‘defiled’ position, he quickly comes to see the the dignity and beauty in this work, and its importance to those left behind. All this plays out against his guilt over not spending more time with his now deceased mother and his anger towards the father who abandoned him as a child. I know what that sounds like, but trust me – you’ll love it. It’s one of the most moving, heartfelt, and poignant films I’ve ever seen and it had me moved to tears at several points. Those weren’t merely tears of emotion – the film had me laughing my ass off too, a strange combination of humour and drama that I haven’t really encountered to this degree of success before.

15: Oldboy (2003)

It’s that man Chan Wook Park again, back with the second part of his vengeance trilogy (the films’ characters and stories are unrelated – the only link being the theme of revenge). If you thought Sympathy For Mr Vengeance was dark, and enjoyed it, then you’ll love Oldboy. This time bringing on board the masterful Choi Min Sik, the film again merges overlapping stories of revenge where no-one is wrong and no-one is right – mistakes and terrible decisions ripple outwards, infecting everyone in the vicinity and ensuring that even greater mistakes and tragedy results. Oldboy is brutal in every sense – on screen violence reaching new heights without being sickening or voyeuristic, and with each new twist bringing a new level of depravity and head-shaking awe. The film has of course been remade… I’ve not convinced myself to watch it yet and I doubt that I ever will. Maybe it’s okay, maybe it’s even good, but I doubt it will come close to reaching the glory of the original. I’d advice everyone to do the same and only watch this.

14: Borat (2006)

I was never a fan of the Ali G movie, seeming like it was too much on the side of supporting what the TV persona was lampooning. I was a fan of Cohen in his early days on Channel 4, always tuning in for The 11 O’Clock show and later the Ali G show. The former was more of a cult show that only a select group of friends was aware of, while Da Ali G show was one that had everyone talking in school. Borat was my favourite character, seeming much more sympathetic and Mr Bean – like. I never thought a film featuring any of Cohen’s main character’s could be a success, but I am very glad I was proven wrong, because Borat is easily the funniest film of the decade, and one of the funniest of all time. Prepare to be offended. Borat exposes the racism and fear and paranoia which is all too prevalent in some parts of the world – specifically in the USA here, leading to many absolutely bewildering encounters with politicians and regular people all loosely wrapped around the story of Borat coming to the US and A to learn about its people and possibly meet Pamela Anderson. It’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes, but in the good old tradition of rubbing the human face in its own vomit and then forcing it to look in the mirror (sic) it’s a vital piece of art which should be seen by all.

13: Martyrs (2008)

The zenith and nadir of French Extremity. Martyrs is torture to watch, a grueling experience which will pummel you and leave you exhausted, this is film-making at its most visceral and powerful. Pascal Laugier’s debut was standard horror fare, a Virginie Ledoyan vehicle which suggested the director wouldn’t be anything more than someone who rode on the coattails of Christopher Gans by association. His follow-up, Martyrs, is a work of undiluted force, a shotgun blast to your sensibilities, and makes Hostel and pals look like Sesame Street. Starting out with the escape of a young girl – Lucie – who has been held captive and tortured for unknown reasons, Martyrs shows how haunted she has become, believing she is being stalked by some demonic creature. At an orphanage, she befriends another girl, Anna, who acts like a bigger sister. Once more, I don’t want to give away any further details because this is a film which takes some decidedly sudden shifts in narrative – it’s enough to say that the torture Lucie suffered has scarred her for life and into adulthood she and Anna continue to deal with its fallout – even as answers slowly drip through.

This is maybe the only film on the list that I’d only recommend to horror fans. I don’t mean people who enjoy a horror movie every so often – I mean hardcore horror fans who watch more from this genre than anything else. If you don’t do horror, stay well well away in your land of sunshine and rainbows. This is not a pleasant watch and at times it feels like an endurance test. It’s not merely violence glammed up in a neat budget or gore for the sake of gore. I wouldn’t go so far as examining it from every philosophical angle either, but it is a movie with brains for the viewer with brains, and regardless of the conclusions you choose to draw it is a movie that will stay with you for a very long time. This one has been remade too and no, I haven’t seen it.

12. A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)

Another entry and another film which would be remade later in the States. This one features an Oscar snub too. Snub isn’t the right word as they would never nominate something like this in the first place, but supporting actress Yum Jung-ah gives the performance of a lifetime, full-blooded and horrifying. Director Kim Jee Won may be the best shot framer in the business. He may be the best since Kurosawa or Kubrick. Every. Single. Shot. Is set up like a painting, the camera a paying customer to the greatest gallery in the world. In fact, his only rival currently may be Chan Wook Park. A Tale Of Two Sisters is simply gorgeous, a joy to behold, almost beautiful to the extent that you forget the horror bubbling underneath.

The film is basically a twist on the wicked stepmother story – a teenage girl has been institutionalized but at the start of the movie is released back home to her father’s mansion where her distant father and loving sister wait. Also living there is the father’s new wife who he married after the death of his first wife. There is a lot of tension in the house, with the father not engaging with his new wife while the relationship between the sisters and the stepmother starts out uneasy and grows violent before long. Secrets and twists abound.

The film isn’t happy merely to offer the tried and tested Asian long-haired ghost girl tropes although it does present several chillings scenes of this nature. There is a more dream-like quality akin to something like Audition and the undercurrents of abuse – physical and psychological – create a murky atmosphere of unknown depth. This is a film that you’ll want to watch as soon as possible again after finishing to see how the puzzle pieces revealed in the final moments all fit together with foreknowledge. It’s a film which will leave you uneasy during and after, as mentioned it looks stunning, and the performances are all top-notch.

11: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

In the pantheon of great remakes, only a handful are ever mentioned and agreed upon – Cronenberg’s The Fly, John Carpenter’s The Thing… The Departed. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead is one of my favourite films of all time so Snyder’s remake marked one of the only times I really, truly loved the remake. This also marked the start of the zombie’s return to popularity, along with Shaun Of The Dead and 28 Days Later. This film was insanely successful and was one of those films which was a hell of a lot of fun at the screening, yet translated just as well to the small screen. The consumerism of Romero’s is replaced by a general end of the world paranoia, with a collection of interesting characters led by a great cast all with their own issues and presenting a view of the new millennium that doesn’t leave a sweet taste in the mouth.

The story isn’t all too different from the original, the difference being that we are launched straight into Dawn without knowing the night. It gets off to a rip-roaring start and barely lets up, introducing us to a nurse who wakes up one morning to find a zombie child chomping on her husband. Her frantic escape through suburbia is pulsating and she eventually makes it to a shopping mall where she meets a bunch of other survivors – teens, gun fiends, old couples, security staff etc. There they spend their days waiting for rescue, waiting for the world to revert to normal, talking, shagging, killing, but it becomes increasingly clear that the world is not going to get better. The fast zombies here add so much more threat, the movie frequently ‘goes there’, and it’s simply a lot of fun with a high rewatch factor. It remains Snyder’s best film, by quite some distance.

10: Final Destination (2000)

If the Nineties saw a renaissance in teen horror towards smarter, or at least more self-aware movies, then with Final Destination it looked like the new millennium was going to take things further. What better movie villain could there possibly be than Death? In spite of the quality of the various sequels, I still contend that this is one of the best ideas in the history of movies – a bunch of people, according to fate, are supposed to die in an accident but manage to cheat death, leading death to stalk them one by one so that fate’s course is corrected. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I have a thing about inevitability – it creates an inescapable sense of dread and it reminds us of our own lives, situations, and mortality. Final Destination works on so many levels – as a thrill ride, as a perfect teen date movie, perfect popcorn fodder, as a grim comedy, as a visceral catalogue of memorable movie kills, and on all of those deeper levels. You can choose to watch it as you see fit. It features some great performances – Devon Sawa should be a much bigger star by now. James Wong directs with style, squeezing out every drop of tension from the kill scenes, adding plenty of fake-outs and establishing the tone of the series. This one equals of fun factor of Dawn of The Dead, but adds the depth missing from Snyder’s effort.

9: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)

By the time this came out I’d never read any of the Tolkein books in total. I’d tried Fellowship and given up and I think I read most of The Hobbit as a kid. This is weird because the books should have been right up my alley. As I saw the trailers and began reading the reviews of the movie I knew I had to see it and knew I had to read them. And so, I read the trilogy in a short space of time before seeing this. I’ll go there – the movies are better than the books. I mean, not really, but I do much prefer the movies. This is my generation’s Star Wars – an epic introduction to an epic saga featuring a massive ensemble cast fighting a classic battle of good and evil. I don’t think I need to say much more about it – you’ve seen it and you love it.

8: Ju On (2003)

This is the last horror film on my list, which surprised me more than you should be. I will say that this top ten, like all my lists, is pretty interchangeable. I will say that I love the entire series, and there’s a lot of entries. Takashi Shimizu is the maestro behind the series, directing the TV movie originals, then this main big screen effort and sequel, then the US remakes. They’re all good, and they’re all pretty similar, and yet they all have this weird interweaving timeline that you can lose yourself in. In the end it doesn’t matter, this is Ringu with jumpscares, played at a hundred miles per hour. This features some of the most innovative scares you’ll ever see, a non-linear plot which ends up feeling almost like an anthology movie, but isn’t merely a series of loud noises. It’s a film which instills a sense of dread with the slightest effort, giving some early scares in the first moments which set the tone and set you on the edge of your seat for the remainder of the movie. Sound design, atmosphere, directing, acting are all great here and the finale is a breathless, unsettling, hate-to-use-the-term-but-fuck-it-rollercoaster ride.

7: The Dark Knight (2008)

This is the one. The one everyone is going to have, right? Unless the film has aged to the point now that hipsters look down upon it, but who the hell listens to them. This is everything you want in a Batman movie (The Joker), everything you want in a comic book movie, everything you want in a movie full stop. The surviving cast carry over from Batman Begins, but this is Heath Ledger’s movie, a final hurrah to an actor on the cusp of greatness. Unlike The Crow, where the real life tragedy seeps through to every aspect of the film, this feels like a celebration. Nolan here does begin to direct his movies a little too close to being like a trailer – something which he has only done more with each subsequent film – where scenes don’t seem to connect, where the music continues through scenes without cutting or fading to another track… but that’s another point for another day. For my money this is still Nolan’s best film and like several others on the list I’m fairly confident you include it on your list, so I won’t say any more about it.

6: The Return Of The King (2003)

The epic to end all epics, this massive curtain call to Jackson’s saga is gigantic in every sense. Thankfully, it’s also excellent, giving closure to all of the characters and the story (perhaps too much closure) and featuring battles on a scale which haven’t been equaled yet. It feels wrong splitting the trilogy into three parts as they are not as distinct as say, the original Star Wars Trilogy, but feel more like one continuous story. Nevertheless, you can put this or any of them on, and lose yourself in one of the finest, fully realised fictional worlds ever committed to paper and screen.

5: Casino Royale (2006)

How on Earth do you follow-up the worst entry in your franchise? With one of the best, of course. Blonde and Buff, Craig takes the series into new levels of realism with his emotive portrayal further showcasing what I have always loved about the character – he is a broken man – everything he touches dies, and yet he keeps fighting for the cause. Team Craig and Campbell up with surviving cast members from previous entries, throw in a creepy villain, and add probably the best Bond girl there has been in Eva Green, and you’re onto a winner; the action, the plot, and the visuals are merely the icing on a very sweet cake.

4: X2 (2003)

Remember when there used to be good superhero movies? You know, instead of the twelve which come out each month now? Yeah. Yeah, those ones. This puts all the current MCU fluff to shame and it’s much better than any of the other X-Men movies. Alright, I haven’t seen most of the MCU, and I haven’t seen Logan yet, but give me a chance – I only have two eyes. Unlike several of the X-Men I imagine. Great action, effects, emotional resonance, interesting characters and story, rather than big ego A-Listers getting 20 million each for four minutes screen time.

3: Amelie (2001)

I don’t do romantic comedies and generally those quirky type Indie movies don’t work for me. The latter tries too hard and the former feel insincere and end up neither making me laugh or giving me whatever it is romances are supposed to give you. What a surprise then that Amelie is at once a quirky romantic comedy, but one which is entirely sincere and effortless. It’s also absolutely gorgeous, has Jeunet’s style down to a T, and features a career defining performance from Audrey Tautou who melts the hearts of every viewer. It’s one of the most beautiful films of the decade and one which never fails to put a smile on my face and think that maybe the world ain’t such a bad place. Just what we needed in 2001 and just what we need now.

2: Love Exposure (2008)

This came from nowhere and absolutely floored me. I hadn’t laughed so much at a single new movie in years and it came when the Japanese market wasn’t pushing out so many classics. I had already seen some Sion Sono films and I was concerned when I heard he had made a 4 hour religious drama, but this so far surpasses anything else in 2008 its ridiculous. In fact, it would be number 1 except for that film being a once in a lifetime masterpiece and a piece of vitally important work. Love Exposure isn’t important, it’s simply amazing, and I guarantee you won’t have seen anything like it. Religious monologues on an abandoned beach, ninja camera pantyshots, budgie worshipping cults, priests who resort to whipping their children, and love eternal. It also has the best soundtrack of the year, some of the best performances of 2008, an outrageous script, and Sion Sono directs like there’s a nuke down his pants. If there’s any film on the list most people won’t have seen it is this, and it is an absolute must-see.

1: Battle Royale (2000)

I knew the first time I saw this that it was going to be one of my all time favourites and that my mission for the next month was to make sure as many people as possible saw it. I held screenings in my house almost every day and forced everyone I knew to watch it. I argued that it should be shown in every school in the country. And then The Hunger Games came along, diluted and for the masses, and became a huge hit. I like The Hunger Games and as bloated as it became it remained sort of entertaining. Much of that was down to Jennifer Lawrence – take her out and it’s just forgettable popcorn YA fluff. Battle Royale is seminal in every way and every frame oozes a vitality which most films can’t achieve in their entire running time. It has over the top violence, it has anger, it has heart, action, comedy, scares, it’s heart-breaking, and it has a fantastic cast. I can’t gush too much about it and I find it a shame that so many people either haven’t seen it or will go into it having already seen The Hunger Games. Battle Royale is Buffy, The Hunger Games is Twilight – BR is The Godfather, THG is Mickey Blues Eyes. There isn’t a single better movie in the last twenty years than Battle Royale.

Let us know in the comments what your favourite movies of the 2000s are!

Nightman’s Favourite Films Of The 2000s – Stats Roundup

Greetings, Glancers! So, older readers of my Oscars posts may recall that I tried to give some stats at the end of the year. It became too difficult to gather metrics and I become too lazy, and lo the posts migrated to the Hades Of Blogs like so many before. The same will likely happen to these summary posts – where I give some ‘interesting’ stats on my favourite films of each decade. It doesn’t mean anything, you won’t gain any insight or pleasure from reading them, and they will be painful to write. Why do it? Well shucks, I’ve always had a thing for hurting myself. ‘Enjoy’!

Note – I wrote this before realizing I’d missed Pan’s Labyrinth, and I’m too lazy to update the figures now. Yay!

Number Of Best Picture Nominees: (Out of a possible fifty) Six

Number Of Best Picture Winners:  (Out of a possible ten) Three

Number Of Movies In The Top Ten Grossing of The Year: (Out of a possible one hundred) Eleven

Number Of Movies Which Were The Top Grosser: (Out of a possible ten) Two

The number of films nominated for Best Picture this year, and the number or Top Grossing films, are way down this year. If anything, the Noughties was the decade I just stopped caring what The Academy was picking (and my interest in the first place was fairly low anyway) and by the end of the decade I wasn’t really going to the Cinema on a regular basis anymore. The number of sequels and of comic book and animated movies earning big bucks increased, while on the flip side I started to watch and enjoy less of those movies. The Academy was playing it too safe, picking your standard dramas, one off hits, or gimmick films and avoiding actual quality, daring, film-making. Making the Academy numbers look marginally worse is the fact that in 2009 they finally increased the numbers of nominees from five to ten – that year I still only picked one of the nominees. I assume this trend will continue into the next decade, though the number of films I’ve seen from 2010 onwards is much lower. This will likely be the last Stats post I do until I get caught up with more movies from 2010 onwards.

Movies By Country In My Top 10:

USA: Fifty Eight

UK: Fifteen

Japan: Eleven

France: Thirteen

Germany: Eight

Poland: Two

Brazil: One

Italy: Three

New Zealand: Two

Hungary: One

Spain: Two

China: Three

Hong Kong: Five

Singapore: One

South Korea: Seven

Mexico: One

Czech Republic: One

Taiwan: One

Denmark: Two

Liberia: One

Sweden: Two

Canada: Three

Thailand: One

Norway: One

Australia: One

The USA dominates again although the numbers are drastically decreased from previous decades.

Movies By Director:

Quentin Tarantino: xxxxx

 

Jean Pierre Jeunet: xxx

Chan Wook Park: xxx

 

Takashi Shimizu: xx

Zhang Yimou: xx

Peter Jackson: xx

Robert Rodriguez: xx

Frank Darabont: xx

Christopher Nolan: xx

Sam Raimi: xx

Takashi Miike: xx

Christopher Guest: xx

Lars Von Trier: xx

Kim Jee Woon: xx

 

Shusuke Kaneko: x

Disney: x

David Lynch: x

Luc Besson: x

Zach Snyder: x

David Slade: x

Oren Peli: x

Juan Carlos Fresnadillo: x

Kong Su Chang: x

Martin Scorsese: x

Christopher Smith: x

Kevin Lima: x

Jaume Balaguero: x

Paco Plaza: x

Pierre Morel: x

John hoo Bong: x

Jean-Stephane Sauvaire: x

Bruce McDonald: x

Matt Reeves: x

Sylvester Stallone: x

Wilson Yip: x

Tomas Alfredson: x

Yojiro Takita: x

Pascal Laugier: x

Sion Sono: x

Tommy Wirkola: x

Satoshi Kon: x

Frank Miller: x

George Lucas: x

Judd Apatow: x

Mike Judge: x

Edgar Wright: x

Stephen Sommers: x

Bill Paxton: x

Larry Clark: x

Alfonso Cuaron: x

Alexandre Aja: x

Roman Polanski: x

James Wan: x

The Pang Brothers: x

Jaume Collet Serra: x

Andrew Lau: x

Alan Mak: x

George A Romero: x

Hideo Nakata: x

Fernando Meirelles: x

Bernardo Bertolucci: x

Len Wiseman: x

Mel Gibson: x

Kurt Wimmer: x

Yoji Yamada: x

Danny Boyle: x

Eli Roth: x

Shane Black: x

Ridley Scott: x

Tim Burton: x

Cameron Crowe: x

Karyn Kusama: x

Michael Dougherty: x

Gore Verbinski: x

Larry Charles: x

Martin Campbell: x

Craig Brewer: x

Neil Marshall: x

Takeshi Kitano: x

Brad Anderson: x

Kinji Fukasaku: x

James Wong: x

Ang Lee: x

Bryan Singer: x

David Twohy: x

M Night Shyamalan: x

One hundred films, 86 directors. Tarantino is the clear front runner, which surprises me more than you. I’m by no means a Tarantino super-fan and Reservoir Dogs is still my favourite of his, but it looks like this was a great decade for him. Disney had a bit of a shocker – the mainstay of my lists each decade only grabbing a single vote here. Elsewhere it’s foreign films which garner the most multiple votes with my only two triple votes being outside of the US and six or seven of my double votes being beyond Hollywood. Those getting single votes range from newbs and a wide array of past masters who have received multiple votes over multiple decades.

As always, check out my individual year posts and let me know what your favourites are in the comments!

Ring 2

*Originally written in 2004, so apologies for the quality

The fear and utter dread continues in Part Two of the Ringu trilogy, set one week after the events of the first film. The girlfriend of Takayama tries to solve the mystery of his death by finding his ex-wife and son, and in doing so brings herself deeper into Sadako’s life than anyone previously had.

The movie is at times frustrating and confusing, at others ingenious, yet  the scares remain intact. For the first time we get the sense of Sadako as a tragic figure, rather than a relentless spirit with the sole purpose of seeking revenge on everyone. She had been alive down that well for a long time, and seeing the world from her eyes helps us appreciate the build up of rage. While the tension is lessened, the sudden jolt scares are increased – terrifying moments including the well scene at the end, one involving a mirror, and a scene with a treacherous journalist. Again the acting is flawless, but the most interesting part for me was the fact that minor characters from the first film get the top billing here.

The film is let down by its confusing explanation of the curse and how to stop it, or harness it, but this is a minor flaw. When you feel your stomach turning inside out, your breath catching in your throat as Sadako floats past doors, you know you’re watching an excellent horror movie. And when you turn off the lights, and imagine those nail-less fingers stretching for your ankles, you know you won’t be able to sleep easily for a while.

2019 In Film – A Preview – July

Annabelle 3

The first one wasn’t great and I haven’t seen the second one. These must still be making money – not a surprise when they’re cheap to make, but this will almost certainly be more loud jump-scares and little else.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

I’ve seen the Raimi trilogy, but haven’t seen any since. Was there another trilogy before this latest series? Or just a couple of films? I’m sure I’ll get to them one day.

17 Bridges

A cop thriller with a cat and mouse chase around Manhattan. They could go classy on this and make it like Sicario or more likely it could be like a TV movie or stretched TV episode. The cast is okay – only Keith David really stands out to me as someone to get me interested, and the director is mainly known for his TV work.

Stuber

Looks like a modern buddy movie – I don’t think many of these have worked recently and this will most likely go the same way. When these work they’re always entertaining, and it will be cool seeing Bautista and Iko Uwais going toe to toe. Director Michael Dowse has so far directed the sorts of comedies I actively avoid so I can’t see this being too hot.

The Lion King

Yet another Disney remake and yet another ‘why’. I’m not as precious about The Lion King as some people are, but beyond money there is no reason for this to exist. I’m sure it can’t possibly capture the magic of the original – like any of these remakes – but it’ll be pretty to look at.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The big one. Tarantino’s movies have been more on the average side for me recently, not since Inglorious Basterds. Django was okay, and The Hateful Eight was probably his weakest. This is the film he has wanted to make for years and it’s the one fans like me have wanted to see. I’d rather he made this in his early days than now, and I’d rather it wasn’t related to the Manson stuff as that seems needlessly exploitative and I’m more interested in Tarantino’s vision of 60s/70s Hollywood.

Wish Dragon

I don’t know what this is, other than it is an animation with voice work by Jackie Chan.

Is that it? Where did all the movies go? Which ones are you looking forward to?

2019 In Film – A Preview – January

Greetings, Glancers! 2018 was a year in which some movies were released. I can’t remember which, but that’s only because most of them were crap and I’m still drunk from Christmas. 2019 will see the release of even more films to be excited and bored by, and just like every other stinking blogger out there who craves the anonymous approval of people they’ll never meet, I’m here to finger the internet (look on Wikipedia) to see which upcoming movies might interest me. A lot of films won’t have been announced yet and my list most likely won’t include minor releases, straight to DVD or streaming, or foreign films (which tend to be the ones I’m most interested in). Today, it’s the first month of 2019 – Krocus (January)!

Escape Room

We kick off the year with what will most likely be a forgotten horror movie – that’s fine with me as even the most forgettable horror is more interesting to me than most of the recent Oscar Bait. Escape Rooms are all the rage these days – cheap mobile phone games turning into fully fledged hen-do entertainment. Hell, even Belfast has a few of these. Not that I’ve been to any. it was only a matter of time before someone made a movie about this fad, even though similar ideas have been shown on screen before. Best hope for this is that it becomes a Saw/Cube knockoff. The cast doesn’t really contain anyone I’m overly interested in and the director hasn’t done anything I’ve loved – he wrote the worst Paranormal Activity entry and directed an Insidious movie which I haven’t seen yet, though I did enjoy The Taking of Deborah Logan. The trailer is fairly standard as far as modern horror trailers go – it basically shows the entire movie with no spoiler warning – and what’s with the use of all the shitty old timey songs? I assume it’s meant to be creepy, but it never is and just annoys me as the songs are invariably crap. I actually like the idea behind this – mazes and puzzles have always fascinated me, and movies concerning them I’ll always give a chance, but I can’t say I have high hopes. I’ve talked enough about this movie which I probably won’t see for a few years.

A Dog’s Way Home

I’ve always wondered how these types of films get made. I mean, does anyone go and see them? January is usually a dumping ground as no-one can be arsed freezing their arse off to go and watch something which doesn’t feature a Stan Lee cameo, but these sweet and harmless movies seem more suited to the small screen. It’s about a dog who gets separated from its owner and begins a journey home. I know you read about these things in the news from time to time, but in reality 90% of these end the same way – the dog being hit by a car, starving to death, or being picked up by a warden and then euthanized after a few days of starving. Why doesn’t anyone make a movie like that? Oh, right. Lets give it some credit – it stars the great Ashley Judd for some reason, and it’s directed by Charles Martin Smith who I’ve always enjoyed as an actor (and who of course directed the pilot episode of Buffy). I can’t imagine I’ll ever see this.

The Upside

Well, it’s a remake of the hit French film so we’re already on shaky ground, and it’s an idea we’ve already seen before in films like Scent Of A Woman. I can’t imagine anything new or interesting here – it’s like a buddy cop movie without the action. And with that cast, probably without the comedy. Plus, it has been delayed for a year already, so lets not pretend this is going to be anything but balls. I like Bryan Cranston, I like Nicole Kidman, but I can’t take Kevin Hart seriously as a lead actor, or a comedian, or a human…. I think I’ll pass.

Glass

Now we’re talking. Unbreakable is my favourite Shyamalan movie and he has been on an upswing recently. I enjoyed Split and although I’m apprehensive about how this will all work as the trailer made things look too action packed, I’m still fully on board. It’ll be good to see if Willis actually pulls his fist out of his ass and does something worthwhile too.

The Kid Who Would Be King

There has been a rejuvenation of all those 80s kids adventure movies recently, thanks to the success of Stranger Things – that’s not where it started, but that’s likely what has enabled so many to go into production. It’s exactly the sort of movie I would have loved growing up so I’m hoping for some nostalgic charm here rather than generic member-berry stuff. The story and cast seem so-so, but I have always like Cornish since the Adam and Joe days. Hopefully something good here, but again I don’t have high hopes. Andy Serkis’s son is the lead in his debut – I’m generally not a fan of such nepotism but it’s ridiculously prevalent in the business and always has been. Which reminds me, I must write a post about that.

Serenity

It’s not Joss Whedon, so I’m already depressed. This sounds like one of those cheap ‘sexy’ 90s thrillers where the only thing less shocking than another hackneyed double cross was the sight of an A-Lister in a thong. I like the cast though none of them are must sees for me, though Knight is generally a talented writer. I already know I’ll probably never see this unless it hits Showgirls levels of dirt but I’m sure someone out there will get something out of it (a quick fap).

The Aspern Papers

I’ll admit I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on my list. I like the idea, though the fact that it stars various socialites and members of the Redgrave clan has me on edge. Also, I’m not a big fan of costume stuff.

Sgt. Will Gardner

This looks interesting; again it’s an idea we’ve seen before – a military vet comes home only to find an internal war which affects his daily life and relationships. These films are always interesting to me though they rarely go beyond that to something more, and although it’s a subject often tackled in films it’s one that isn’t discussed enough in reality and leads to devastating multi-generational harm – something that is likely to get worse with the Warmonger-In-Chief. It also looks like a road movie, and I love me a good road movie. I do have a couple of concerns – first, that it will be too patriotic, something I can’t stand or understand (COuntry music shite in the trailer), and second that it looks like a passion project by Martini who writes, directs, and stars. Oh yeah – Martini almost always plays a soldier or military dude in movies – what’s that about? I do love the cast though – Robert Patrick, Gary Sinise, Lily Rabe, Dermot Mulroney, JoBeth Williams, Liz Rohm, are all performers I admire.

The Heiresses

At first glance I thought this was a costume drama, at least a foreign costume drama which usually trumps Hollywood’s stuff for me, but one second glance that’s not the case. It looks like a story about two wealthy friends suddenly rendered poor and how they cope. I’ll probably never see it.

An Acceptable Loss

See, the problem I have with films like this is that they feel that they could have been, and already have been covered in a single TV episode. Person Of Interest deals with stuff like this all the time. However, I’m all for keeping Jamie Lee Curtis busy as she is a vastly underrated and underused actress. Tika Sumpter I don’t know much about while director Joe Chappelle is known more for his TV work than his crappy horror movies. Actually, looking at his TV credits, that pretty much confirms my original point.

Adult Life Skills

See, the problem I have with quirky indie movies like this is that people like this don’t really exist in real life and when they do, they are seriously damaged individuals. Of course there are many people out there who like to claim they are quirky in this manner, but that’s emotional damage of another sort. I have no qualms admitting my own damage and the fact that I often hate myself for my quirks, but they I don’t go around making a show of them. That along with the fact that the humour in these films almost always doesn’t work for me is pretty much ensuring this will be a no no. The positive risk with this though is that when these films do work for me, I love them and they become an all time favourite. The fact that this was made in 2016 doesn’t bode well.

The Standoff At Sparrow Creek

Now, this is more like it. This has been getting rave reviews on the festival circuit, and it looks and sounds fantastic. It has a cast featuring non-A-Listers that I love including Patrick Fischler, Chris Mulkey, James Badge Dale, and it seems like a limited set seige thriller. That set-up is of course one of my favourites, with films like Assault On Precinct 13. Reservoir Dogs, and the original Dead Trilogy all winning examples. I have high hopes for this one, but I’m sure it won’t be anywhere near a Cinema near me.

King Of Thieves

Where siege movies are intriguing to me, heist movies usually don’t I admire the cinematic touches, but they too often follow tropes I don’t like and most annoyingly they glamourize the whole thing. Thieves are scumbags – I don’t care what the motivation is, I don’t care how stylish they make it look, or how nifty they (always) look in suits – they’re scumbags taking money from the rest of us and they don’t deserve our attention. You already know exactly what this will be like, ignoring the fact that it’s based on a true story and has the unique quality of featuring a bunch of old guys. It’s good the cast it still getting work, and most of them I like, but for me when I’ve seen one heist movie, I’ve seen them all.

The Wild Pear Tree

Another films receiving rave reviews since Cannes, this one I have no doubt will be good, but again it’s subject matter I can’t get overly invested in. It looks both gorgeous and dank, Ceylan certainly has a unique voice, and his stuff is different from the usual Hollywood fare. I just need to be in the right frame of mind for it.

Which January releases interest you? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2003

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

As always, the not quites: Big Fish. Freddy Vs Jason. House Of 1000 Corpses. Dogville. The Last Samurai. School Of Rock.

10: The Dreamers (UK/US/France/Italy) Bernardo Bertolucci

9: Underworld (US/UK/Hungary/Germany) Len Wiseman

8: Kill Bill Vol 1 (US) Quentin Tarantino

7: A Mighty Wind (US) Christopher Guest

6: The Curse of The Black Pearl (US) Gore Verbinski

5: Zatoichi (Japan) Takeshi Kitano

5. Oldboy (SK) Chan Wook Park

4: A Tale Of Two Sisters (SK) Kim Jee Woon

3: Ju On (Japan) Takashi Shimizu

2: The Return Of The King (NZ/US) Peter Jackson

1: X2 (US) Bryan Singer

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three (Including the top grosser)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One – the winner