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Haven't I seen this somewhere before?
The 1976 version of 'Carrie' is undoubtedly a classic the tale of a troubled teenage girl who gets bullied and exacts her revenge via her telekinetic superpowers. And here we have the remake. Or 're-envisioning' as the film-makers would prefer we referred to it as. Remakes (for that's what I call them) always have a difficult time. Either they're nothing like the original and no one can understand why they've been called a 'remake' (besides the producers trying to cash in on the title), or they're exactly the same (albeit updated) and therefore nothing new.
Carrie (2013) falls into the latter. If you've seen the 1976 version you really don't need to watch this. It's basically the same film (i.e. same story, same 'scare scenes' and same characters), but with modern hairstyles and references to Youtube etc.
As with the original, everyone in the remake plays their parts well. As with the original the scares are effective. And, as with the original, it's a pretty decent film the reason being it's exactly the same.
I loved the original, so I suppose that means I love this one, too. However, although I enjoyed watching Carrie again (I don't need to mention which one as both versions are the same!), I doubt I'll watch the remake again as I already own the original on DVD so I'll stick to that one.
Yes, the special effects have been beefed up in the 2013 remake and they work well, plus some scenes have been 'fleshed-out' to give them a more modern spin, but, apart from that, there's nothing new brought to the table.
If you haven't seen the original and don't want to watch a horror film where people sport big seventies haircuts then go straight to the new version. Plus fans of Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz should get more out of it than most.
If nothing else... this film proves that you really shouldn't mess (or throw tampons) at 'Hit Girl!'
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
A grisly classic - not to be missed
There are few people nowadays who don't know From Dusk Till Dawn's 'twist.' Originally, it was two separate screenplays - one about bank robbers fleeing the authorities and the other about a standoff against vampires. Quentin Tarrantino decided to combine the two and package it as one film. The result: awesome.
Although not directed by Tarrantino (instead, he casts himself in a leading role), it has a totally Tarrantino feel. Two bank robbers abduct a family in an attempt to escape the law and flee over the border into Mexico. Unfortunately, they run into a whole bar-load of vampires and are forced to team up in order to survive the night.
Yes, it may sound like many similar films, but for a start it has an impressive cast, featuring a (young and unusually nasty) George Clooney, Tarrantino himself as Clooney's creepy, psychotic younger brother, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and plenty of cameos from other famous faces as either vampires of those destined to drive a stake through their hearts.Expect slow-building, rambling dialogue, not to mention the inevitable foul language and violence.
If you like either Tarrantino's films or general action/horror, mixed with healthy doses of black comedy, then you really should watch this.
And, guys, if you haven't seen Salma Hayek's 'snakedance,' you really haven't lived. Kristen Stewart's vampire isn't a patch on her!
Perfect Sense (2011)
Hardly uplifting, but surprisingly effective
I've become so used to Hollywood showing us disaster movies on epic proportions and utilising millions of dollars worth of special effects, that I seriously doubted a film about the end of the world using absolutely no shots of the Golden Gate bridge collapsing on itself or the White House being blown up by mutants could actually worked.
I was wrong.
Perfect Sense gives us an apocalyptic vision through the eyes of a pretty ordinary couple (if Ewan McGregor and Eva Green are your average Glasgow residents) and through the use of montages. A virus breaks out and soon, society breaks down.
I would certainly use 'gripping' to describe Perfect Sense, although its bleakness may be its undoing for some.
I'm not sure if I enjoyed it in the traditional sense or not. I certainly felt my hour and a half was well-spent, but it's not a film I'd watch on a regular basis. You may need a serious fix of something light, daft and fluffy afterwards (Richard Curtis, I'm looking at you).
If you can stand the bleakness and scarily-realness of a film like this, you may enjoy it. You may even forget that not a single recognisable landmark gets destroyed by an alien mother ship along the way.
Pop quiz: what's the best action movie of the nineties?
Answer: Speed. I just watched it again, now twenty-one years after I first saw it in the cinema. There are few movies that can be considered 'timeless' and, although 'Speed' may be an unlikely name to be added to that list, I truly believe it deserves its place among the 'action greats.' Even though it was filmed in the nineties, it looks as good today as it ever did. Okay, so the absence of iphones and Twitter may be noticeable, but it could basically be set today and you wouldn't really notice. The special effects are perfect and blend seamlessly with the action (no dodgy computer generated armies of monsters of far away planets to distract you and pull you out of the moment).
Yes, it's definitely an 'action' movie (okay, there's a beautifully-woven romance element in there, but it's not central to the overall story). And, normally when I watch a blatant all out action film, I assume that the primary audience would be the lads. However, Speed is actually a film that's so good it's probably quite watchable even if you're not really into explosions and car chases.
Speed's primary selling point is its simplicity. The story is hardly complicated and yet so original that it's amazing that it's never been done before. A mad bomber places an explosive device on a Los Angeles passenger bus and, if it slows down to less than fifty miles an hour, the bomb detonates. That's pretty much it for the majority of the film the bus ride. And it's a hell of a ride to say the least.
And then there's the cast. Poor ol' Keanu Reeves sometimes get a little flack for his acting abilities. However, he's on top form here as the no-nonsense cop who's determined to save the passengers and bring down the bomber at the same time. I always remember one of the reasons 'Die Hard' is also regarded as a classic action film because the relationship between the hero and the villain is at the forefront of the story. Here, we have Dennis Hopper as the bomber who's always one step ahead of the police. Thanks to mobile phones he's in constant contact with Keanu, reminding him how the police are going to fail. Of course it wouldn't be complete without the obligatory 'love interest.' Granted Sandra Bullock was sort of well-known from Demolition Man the year before this, but Speed was definitely her break-through performance.
Like I said, Speed is timeless and one of the most accessible, watchable movies ever made in its genre. It really does have everything you could ever want if you're looking for an all out thrill-ride it's primarily fast, but also contains moments of genuine heart and sadness (let's just say the path of the righteous doesn't always run smoothly). It's just a shame that lightning obviously wasn't able to strike twice (and by that I'm talking about the sadly inferior 'Speed 2').
Tower Block (2012)
Cheap, but decent British flick
The first thing you should know about Tower Block is that it doesn't have much of a budget. And it shows. However, for all its financial shortcomings, it does its best to lift itself above the rest.
The residents of the top floor of a high rise tower block - soon to be demolished - are targeted by a sniper who won't let them leave (alive, anyway). What follows is an hour and a half of a siege movie where they desperately try and find ways out. When I read the blurb about the film, I wondered how they could stretch that out for the full ninety minutes. I was pleasantly surprised when they did.
It's no classic, but enough of the characters are fun, stupid, or evil enough to take pleasure in watching and the typical 'stupid decisions' they normally make in these sorts of films are kept to a minimum.
My advice: suspend your disbelief and just give it a go if you like the sound of it. You could do worse (I found the only major plot point I found hard to stomach was how one sniper could effectively shoot everyone in 0.1 seconds as soon as he saw them at any window - seriously, he must be the best marksman in the world!).
The Woman (2011)
A horrible film, but not necessarily a bad one
I have to admit to nearly turning this off more than once. I practically picked up the remote every ten minutes or so. However, after sticking with it, I was actually happy that I did. It's no classic and wasn't what I was expecting, but it was different enough to warrant ninety minutes of my life.
I became aware of this film through watching horror films and seeing that people who had watched the films I'd watched had also watched this. Therefore I thought it would be a horror about a feral woman running wild, creating havoc (and probably bodies). However, the feral woman in question gets captured about ten minutes into the film by a well-to-do middle class American family.
From then on, it becomes more of a Hostel-like 'torture porn' film. We discover that this supposedly nice family is little better than the feral woman they've captured.
I won't go into too much detail about what transpires as there are a few moments you might not see coming. However, my biggest gripe with the film was lack of any character I felt like I should be rooting for. At the end of the day, if you watch this you'll see people get killed. Will you care? Probably not.
If you're a fan of horror and aren't expecting too much, you may see enough originality in this to go along for the ride.
A classic modern fairytale
There's really little I can find that is negative about 'Stardust.' For what it is, it's possibly as perfect as a film could be. It's a fairytale pure and simple. It has everything you'd probably expect to see in a 'classic Disney' cartoon dashing princes, beautiful princesses, evil witches and more magic than you could shake a wand at. There really is nothing new regarding the plot. If you've seen one fairytale then, technically, you've seen this story and nothing will come as much of a surprise when it comes to the plot. However, 'Stardust' isn't your average fairytale.
If you check out the tagline on the marketing, you'll see it says something like, 'The fairytale that won't behave.' I can see where they're coming from. It's a cheeky little number that accomplishes what few films can it's very watchable for both adults and children. Kids will love the simple 'boy meets girl' story. Characters are very easily identifiable as either 'good' or 'evil.' But the film's really bonus is its much darker undertones. There are simply dozens of visual and scripted gags which will probably go way over children's head and be picked up by adults.
But, it's not just the script that's fun every cast member is a recognisable face in their own right. Whether it's the narrator Sir Ian McKellen, or the dodgy seller of lightning in a bottle (and other magical goods), Ricky Gervais. Naturally, the film likes to highlight its two 'trump cards' none other than Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro. Of course they turn in as excellent performances as you'd expect (I won't go into DeNiro's performance for fear of spoiling it for people who don't know what he gets up to on board his flying lightning-harvesting ship when his crew aren't watching and Pfeiffer smoulders as the evil witch, ruthlessly hunting our young couple). But it's the film's two leads that really have to carry the film. Clare Danes is more recognisable than her heroic counterpart, Charlie Cox, but their chemistry is just perfect.
All in all, you'll be guaranteed a good time with this film whether you're young or old. You'll have to have a heart of stone not to be enchanted by its simple tale of princes and princesses, told to perfection for a modern audience.
And, is it just me, or is the soundtrack one of the most uplifting ever in recent times?
Look past the lesbian angle
Bound is the story of... lesbians. Or at least that's what a lot of people seem to dwell on when talking about the film. Actually, any lesbian activity is only a small part of the film. Bound is actually a tale of deception and doublecrossing where a couple of women (yes, lesbians) hatch a plan to steal money from the mob.
Whereas with other gangster films, they rely on constantly witty dialogue to establish character, or various other gimmicks. Bound is simple cause and effect. What starts out as a relatively straightforward plan leads to something going wrong, which leads to something else going wrong and so on.
Issues of trust, loyalty, love, violence and everything else are covered, along with a couple of sex scenes and violence utilizing pruning shears. All of this is choreographed beautifully by the Wachowski brothers. However, it's Joe Pantoliano who steals the show. He plays a wiseguy that gets caught in the downward spiral which the girls have created.
If you're looking for a sexy, stylish, tense thriller, this is for you (just don't expect any 'Matrix-style' fight scenes!).
The Guest (2014)
The good outways the bad
It can't just be me, but when I watch a film, if there's enough good in there to keep me entertained, I'm much more lenient on it when it comes to its weaknesses. 'The Guest' is by no means a perfect film, but I did find it good enough to forgive when its plot went a little skittish.
I read someone else's review online when they said it was a film of two halves they likened the first half to the TV series 'Homeland' and the second act to 'Dexter.' Now, I haven't actually seen Homeland, so I can't say how true that is, but I get where they're coming from. The second half does have a distinctly different flavour to what comes before it. It opens with an ex US serviceman paying a visit to a family whose son was killed in a war. According to him, he knew their son and is there to pay his respects. Naturally, things aren't always what they seem.
The first half is pretty tense and creepy with a definite air of foreboding about it. Then, about halfway through, things change and we're left with something that flits between 'action' and 'eighties slasher.' I can see why some people found this change a little jarring. The film does try and lead you one way, only to go off on a tangent.
However, despite this, I still enjoyed it. Mainly due to Dan Stevens. Now, I must confess to never having watched Downton Abbey, so I had no idea who he was (in fact... I actually had to look him up online to realise he was British and not American, as his excellent accent would have you believe). He's a damn good hero. Or should I say antihero? You can't help but root for him, despite his obvious menacing tendencies. I defy anyone not to cheer as he takes care of some highschool bullies! Also, within the second act is an 'explanation' which brings in some extra characters/threat levels. I won't go into details as I don't want to spoil it for you if you don't know what I'm talking about, but this plot angle isn't explored as well as it could. There are still a fair few questions left up in the air because some aspects aren't explained as well as they could have been.
All in all, The Guest is a solid enough little thriller which might have benefited from being a bit more focused. However, if you're in a forgiving mood, you should be able to see through its minor flaws and enjoy it for what it is.
And, special mention to the electro soundtrack. The Guess has received a lot of praise online from being 'old school' and a throwback to the eighties. I guess that element went over my head while I was watching it, but, upon thinking about it, I sort of get it.
Sex Tape (2014)
Not (quite) as bad as it's made out to be
Okay, in case you haven't already heard, 'Sex Tape' has been pretty much slated everywhere. Currently it's up for goodness knows how many 'Razzie' awards for how bad it is. And, if you check out the online reviews, you'll see that most people pretty much agreed with its nominations.
So, I sat down to watch it, confident in the knowledge that I'd probably be turning it off at about the half hour mark. I actually sat through it all the way.
Yes, it's not that good. If you're looking for a laugh-a-minute comedy then you won't find it here. Also, if you're looking for some sort of touching, heart-felt comedy, you won't find that here, either. However, if you're generally okay with comedy which is totally based around sex and don't have your expectations too high, then it's not as bad as some people are making it out to be.
I read that much of the hate towards this film centres around the on-screen chemistry between Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. I can see where this is coming from. Most of the time the pair of them play off each other pretty well, but there were certainly a few scenes where their relationship felt very awkward, forced and even scripted. Diaz handles it better than Segel and she's definitely doing her best to keep the film going.
Before you watch this film, stop for a moment to ponder its title. Sex Tape. Does that really conjure up images of high-brow drama and sophistication? Hopefully not. It's pretty much telling you what to expect on the label. I think the trick to getting something out of this is to suitably lower your expectations and accept it for what it is a pretty run-of-the-mill comedy which has its moments, but, ultimately, you probably won't remember for too long. Don't hate it based on what you've heard, just make sure you're in the mood for what it is before you contemplate sitting down for an hour and a half to watch it.