Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
First of all - I love horror films. The recent distaste for so-called 'torture porn' (a horrific example of lazy journalism if ever there was one) is lost on me - I enjoyed Hostel as much for the social commentary as the horror scenes. If someone wants to debate the rights and wrongs of this recent sub-genre, then fair enough - I will happily sit down and argue my views that this is a legitimate form of entertainment, often revealing some form of social commentary (albeit not always, obviously). I often enjoy these arguments, and by the end both participants have (at least in my view) gained an insight into the differing views on the genre.
This might seem like a strange way to start a review, but bear with me. I like the debates. What I don't like is being lectured to. What I especially hate is being lectured to by a film that shows me elaborate scenes of torture before screaming at me that I'm wrong for enjoying it. And that is the problem with untraceable.
The premise is intriguing. A website springs up online, inviting online viewers to 'kill with me'. The more people log on, the faster the victims dies. About as subtle as a brick. But even taking the film at face value has it's problems - whilst some of the torture scenes are well-thought out, there is little to no suspense. Whilst one scene involving the lead character and her daughter does gnaw at the stomach, it's dissipated all too quickly. The victims are either unlikeable or anonymous enough to garner no sympathy, and the concept of cyber crime is never a good one. Watching a computer hacker is about as interesting as a screensaver, and is usually followed by streams of unintelligible dialogue. Note to scriptwriters - you can put in as many long words as you like to make yourself feel clever, but it doesn't always make the film better. Technology is used as an explanation for all plot holes, until it hits the ridiculous extreme as the bad guy hacks INTO A CAR. The villain himself is another ridiculous character, with a back story that was clearly an afterthought.
However, I've given this 3 out of 10. Mainly for Diane Lane, who puts in a good performance, and some inventive scenes. But even at the end, the film cannot help but batter you with its moralising, shouting at you for enjoying the torture scene it's showing you. Frankly, it would have been better if it had just been shouting "BAD! BAD! BAD! BAD! SICK! BAD!" over a picture of a gopher being hit with a hammer. Avoid.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Nice fights, shame about the plot.
I'm writing this as a long time lover of the Bond series. Despite my skepticism about the reboot concept, I thoroughly enjoyed Casino Royale. Unfortunately, QoS does not live up to it's predecessor, although it is far from being a bad film.
A smart and fast-paced opening starts the film well, setting the action shortly after the events of Casino Royale. Bond is out for revenge, and this is reflected in some very brutal action scenes, which surely push the 12A rating imposed by the BBFC. Hints are dropped about mysterious groups, which will surely become a plot point in future films.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the only point behind QoS. The plot involves a lot of political squabbling over the treatment of third world countries that frankly feels like it has been written by a Year 12 Marxist sociology student. Whilst Mathieu Amalric provides a suitably slimy villain, you feel that the role is wasted. The shadowy Quantum feels like a sub-par Spectre, and we can only hope their role will be beefed up in future films.
However, it's not all bad. Fight scenes are excellently choreographed, and there are some touching scenes between Bond and Camille. The series continues to go darker, and we can hope that this future films will be better executed than this effort.
Worth a watch, but it could have been handled so much better.
El orfanato (2007)
Beautiful & Terrifying
Part of what some are describing as a new wave of Spanish Horror (as influenced by last years superb Pans Labyrinth), The Orphanage sees director Juan Antonio Bayona take over duties from Guillermo del Toro, who is wearing the producers hat this time round. The result sees one of the most beautifully filmed and yet utterly terrifying films to grace the cinema screens in recent years.
The plot concerns a woman called Laura, who has bought the orphanage she grew up in, intending to reopen it as a special school. She has moved in with her husband and son, who soon begins to open some of the mysteries of the past...
To go in to any further detail would do this film a disservice. This film has been lovingly shot and edited in the style of old ghost stories. What scares there are - and believe me there are some - are shown with subtlety and atmosphere, which makes it all the more terrifying when they happens. The atmosphere is tense and creepy throughout - a far cry from other recent horror films, and all the better for it.
The film echoes Pans Labyrinth in terms of style and (in a loose sense) plot. Del Toro may have been producer, but you can see his handywork on screen. However, this is not a bad thing, and Bayona should have a good career ahead of him. A strong (and gut-wrenching) ending ties the film up nicely, and the film will remain with you for a good long while after you leave the cinema.
Saw IV (2007)
Has Saw run out of steam?
About this time of year in 2004, I went down to the cinema to see a low-budget horror film called Saw. Dark, disturbing, it got under your skin and had me walking about of the cinema open-mouthed with a shock ending. Three years later, I found myself walking to the cinema again, this time dizzy with expectation. I was desperate to see Saw IV. Having loved the previous films, and with an irresistible ending of the previous installment, I couldn't wait. So many questions needed answering, so many threads to be tied together...
As I said, I left the cinema in 2004 open-mouthed. I remained in this state throughout the walk home (which got me many strange looks on the way, it has to be said). I left the cinema this afternoon very disappointed. Were the questions answered? Some, more were asked. Were the threads tied up? Not a hope. But still... the irresistible ending... surely there must be something there? No. The storyline goes off on a tangent, pushing the conclusion to Saw III in the background. As for the new traps, there's a couple of good inventions, but nothing as sinister as before. Tragically for Saw IV, the film seems to have lost it's invention.
There are good moments. A glimpse into jigsaw's past is always welcome, although there's not much that we haven't seen before. References to previous films are always a nice nod to the fans, and the acting and direction are very good.
Sadly, there's just too many flaws in this film. The ending is poor, and the main story just doesn't make enough sense in places - you're left wondering exactly how senior FBI agents can be that dumb in a couple of places. An ignored storyline and a lack of invention do not bode well for Saw V. I'm hoping they learn from the failures, and get back to doing what they do best - a group of people placed in extra-ordinary and inventive situations. Get back to the dark industrial hell of the previous films, and they have a chance. The invention of the Saw films is what has lifted the series above the normal "madman with a knife" dross, and I'm hoping they can get back on form.
I'd read a series of reviews that claimed that this was the funniest film ever. I'd heard stories of people collapsing their lungs laughing in the cinema. The blurb on the front cover from magazines I respect told me to expect a laugh riot. I'm wondering how any of these stories happened - this film is a pathetic childish mess.
There were three scenes I enjoyed in this film - the rodeo scene, the camper van scene (both exposed ignorance, which is what the film should have concentrated on), and the kidnapping scene at the end (very funny). However, in between these good moments, we are subjected to sub-Farrelly humour. Naked wrestling around a hotel? Hilarious. An endless series of jokes on masturbation? My sides, they're splitting. Carrying your faeces into a dinner party? And so on. I understand that the point of the film was to highlight ignorance, racism and fear of foreigners. Why the film felt it necessary to embarrass a dinner party but carrying a bag of faeces to the table and invite a prostitute to the table, I will never know. I get a feeling I don't want to.
As with Ali G, Baran Cohen has proved that he cannot carry a character for more than 5 minutes. I'm hoping this will see the end of him and his 'wacky' characters, but experience and a sizable box office makes this unlikely. Please avoid this dismal rubbish.
Dark, sick, twisted... and hilarious
Described as Shaun of the Dead meets The Office, they're not far wrong. A team of office workers are sent to a retreat in rural Hungary in a team-building exercise. Completely unaware that there may or may not be something nasty in the woods...
Born out of one mans hatred for commuters, this is a nasty, gruesome, bloodthirsty, dark little film. It's also as funny as hell. Tim McInnery turns in a great performance as the boss who above all else, insists on team work and team spirit - think David Brent only even more unbearable. The rest of the cast aren't just fodder either - they are all characters that you'll recognise. The smug guy who think's he's bigger than the company. The cocky guy who couldn't care less about the team. The office weasel, sucking up to the boss despite the fact that he will never become management.
The film isn't so much laced with dark humour, it's more dripping in it. If you like films where you're laughing even though on every level you know you shouldn't be, this is the film for you.
Guy X (2005)
Apparently Guy X doesn't mark the spot. (very very very mild spoilers)
Open at an army base in the middle of nowhere. Jason Biggs steps off a plane, to discover he's a victim of mistaken identity, shipped to the wrong army barracks. An interesting premise? Yes. A cue for comic misadventure as he attempts to escape? You'd think so. And whilst Guy X has funny moments, unfortunately they are few and far between whilst this film tries to decide what it wants to be. Plot lines are built up and then discarded in favour of other non-sensical ideas. The promising initial premise got lost between the mess of subplots fighting for attention. By the conclusion, with nothing answered and no satisfying ending, you'll wish it had just picked one and stuck with it. Too late.
The Producers (2005)
Not as good as the original
One of the joys of going into a film with low expectations is that you can only be pleasantly surprised. And whilst this was better than I though it would be, it was still far from perfect. As a standalone film, it may have worked better, but the 1968 version is one of the funniest films I've ever seen. This is partly due to the manic energy that Gene Wilder puts into Leo Bloom, which haunts Matthew Broderick. Even in the new scenes Wilder's absence is noticeable, but the scenes from the original feel like they're missing something. However, the rest of the cast manage to avoid unfavourable comparisons. Nathan Lane carries off Zero Mostels role superbly, and Will Ferrell is everything you could want from a crazed Nazi on the run. Uma Thurman goes against type to do superbly well as Ulla, and Gary Beach carries off an extended role for Roger DeBris.
The main problem though, is that the original was a tightly plotted fast moving caper. This version on the other hand is slower paced and overlong in places. And why mess with the lyrics for Springtime for Hitler? Insanity.
However, some of the added songs work well and add humour to some of the dryer moments of the original. So worth watching, but keep a copy of the original handy to remind yourself how great it is.
Hit and miss
I really wanted to enjoy this one. I great cast made up from shows I love, an interesting premise - what could go wrong? Well for starters, a lack of a decent plot. There's a flimsy storyline about three couples getting their (insane) dream weddings, and the preparations that lead to the wedding, but this appears to be nothing more than a narrative thread so they could decide what order to have the jokes in. Secondly, all the couples only have one joke. Admittedly, for two out of the three couples it is a funny joke, but it wears thin towards the end and could easily have been trimmed to make the film lighter. However, one couple (Josef and Isabelle) are just relentlessly annoying, their story falling flat. Finally, all the actors appear to be playing their sitcom roles. Martin Freeman plays his character as at least a relative of Tim from the office. Steven Mangan is Guy from Green Wing. The guys from Peep show are their characters, Jimmy Carr is Jimmy Carr. Only Jessica Stevenson is allowed to make a new character from herself, nowhere near to Daisy from Spaced (which, would've made an interesting addition to the film). But whilst I love Green Wing, The Office and Peep Show, it doesn't mean I want to see these characters merely transferred to film. However, despite these criticisms, the film is funny, with scenes that had me laughing loudly in the cinema. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near as good as it could've been with more work, more jokes and original characters.
The Magician (2005)
Funny, character-led little gem (spoilers)
OK, so this film may be derivative. It owes a hell of a lot to Man Bites Dog, and more specifically The Last Horror Movie. But I enjoyed both of those, and this story about a hit-man who hires his film student neighbour to make a documentary about him is a) as dark as coal and b) funny as hell. There are differences between this film and the afore mentioned inspirations though. In Man Bites Dog and the Last Horror Movie, the protagonists were crazed killers, who attacked for no reason, and attacked constantly. In this, only 2 people are killed. The story is based around one of the leads 'jobs', and is indispersed with events and interviews based both before and after the job. The writing is both entertaining and moving, as the lead considers himself a man of some morals, just with a rubbish job. He goes and helps a friend take revenge on a former colleague who robbed him, because he considers it the right thing to do. He kills another friend in cold blood, because he believes it the right thing to do for his friend. Twisted logic and morality, but it's refreshing to find out why he kills. The film is worth seeing if the opportunity arises, and whilst it is a black as coal comedy, it's one that can make you think. And it's always good to see a film about killing where killing isn't the main feature.