Archive for 2006

INLAND EMPIRE

Posted in Horror, Mystery with tags on June 6, 2017 by Mark Walker


Director: David Lynch.
Screenplay: David Lynch.
Starring: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Harry Dean Stanton, Julia Ormond, Mary Steenburgen, Grace Zabriskie, Peter J. Lucas, Karolina Gruszka, Jan Hencz, Krzysztof Majchrzak, Ian Abercrombie, Jerry Stahl, Diane Ladd, William H. Macy, Jordan Ladd, Kat Turner, Kristen Kerr, Terry Crews, Nastassja Kinski, Scott Coffey, Laura Harring, Naomi Watts.

“I figured one day I’d just wake up and and find out what the hell yesterday was all about. I’m not too keen on thinkin’ about tommorow. And today’s slipping by”

A dream of dark and troubling things” is how Lynch himself described his directorial debut Eraserhead in 1977. It’s fitting then that his first and (so far) last film share similarities with this description. In fact, this is probably the most coherent thing you can take from INLAND EMPIRE (Lynch insists the title is capitalised). Even the marketing executives had no idea how to promote the film and, in the end, decided to punt it with the vaguest of taglines: A woman in trouble. The rest is basically up to the individual viewer. But make no mistake, INLAND EMPIRE lands you squarely in Lynchland.  Continue reading

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The Prestige

Posted in Drama, Mystery with tags on September 1, 2016 by Mark Walker


Director: Christopher Nolan.
Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan.
Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall, David Bowie, Andy Serkis, Piper Perabo, Ricky Jay, Roger Rees, Jamie Harris, Samantha Mahurin, W. Morgan Sheppard, Daniel Davis, Edward Hibbert.

“Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled”

Having delivered such strong films as Memento, Inception and Interstellar (outwith the hugely successful Dark Knight trilogy), it’s safe to say that director Christopher Nolan’s output is of a very high standard. Many may even claim that he’s yet to make a bad film and that his filmography is nothing but quality. For me, though, The Prestige is an exception to that and a major blip in an otherwise solid résumé.  Continue reading

A Scanner Darkly

Posted in Animation, Drama, Science Fiction with tags on May 31, 2016 by Mark Walker

 
Director: Richard Linklater.
Screenplay: Richard Linklater.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, Rory Cochrane, Melody Chase, Alex Jones, Lisa Marie Newmyer, Turk Pipkin, Steven Chester Prince.

“What does a scanner see? Into the head? Into the heart? Does it see into me? Clearly? Or darkly?”

(This review was a piece that was originally involved in The Decades Blogathon hosted by Mark of Three Rows Back and Tom of Digital Shortbread. These guys are two of the finest around and I wholeheartedly recommend their sites if you don’t know them already. You can check out their sites and all the Blogathon entries from the links above.)

In 2001, director Richard Linklater delivered a little-seen, gem of a film called Waking Life. Many didn’t pay notice to it which is one of many a film viewers biggest mistakes. Granted, the philosophical material may not have been everyone’s idea of entertainment but this film pioneered a filmmaking technique that, simply, shouldn’t have been overlooked. Linklater approached Waking Life with an animation method called “Rotoscoping”. Basically it was animation added over live actors and it’s a process that can be painstaking to deliver. The results were hugely effective for the material and, five years later, he decided to use the technique again on his adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s paranoid science fiction novel, A Scanner Darkly. Once again, the results are very impressive. Continue reading

The Departed

Posted in Crime, Drama, thriller with tags on November 18, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Martin Scorsese.
Screenplay: William Monahan.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, Mark Rolston, David Patrick O’Hara, Kevin Corrigan, James Badge Dale, J.C. MacKenzie, Robert Wahlberg.

When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

Despite Martin Scorsese directing consistently good films since the 1970’s, the well deserved Academy Award always eluded him. He was snubbed for such classics as “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas” but he finally got his hands on that long-awaited gong for this remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs“.

Continue reading

Bug * * * *

Posted in Horror, Mystery with tags on August 24, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Director: William Friedkin.
Screenplay: Tracy Letts.
Starring: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick Jr, Lynn Collins, Brian F. O’Byrne.

When Bug was released in 2006, I all but ignored it, thinking it was going to be nothing more than a cheap, straight to DVD horror flick with giant cannibalistic ants and shit. It wasn’t until I took notice of actor Michael Shannon that the film resurfaced again and found it’s way onto my ‘to see list’. I took me a while to get a hold of it though and as a result it fell off my radar again until I was reminded of it recently. Now, I’m glad to say that I have seen it and it wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be. It far exceeded my expectations.

Agnes (Ashley Judd) is lonely woman who moves into a rundown motel to escape her husband Jerry (Harry Connick, Jr) who has just been released from prison. She is introduced to eccentric drifter Peter (Michael Shannon) who seems to be hiding something and is prone to the occasional conspiracy theory. Not before long, things start to unravel as a bug infestation takes over the motel room.

Based on the play by Tracy Letts (who also writes the screenplay) and set largely within the confines of a remote motel room, it’s easy to see why this material would have played well on stage. It’s claustrophobic atmosphere is captured straight away by Friedkin and his unsteady camerawork lends a perfect sense of unease within the characters and their confined space. It begins slowly building with a gradual pace but with the arrival of an on-edge and abusive Connick, Jr and an unsettling and creepy turn from Shannon, the pace escalates to one of unbearable and visceral intensity. This is less of a gory horror and more of a psychological, character driven chamber piece that benefits from three brilliant performances. Unsurprisingly, it’s Shannon who once again stands out. He’s an actor that possesses a natural intensity and this is a role that’s fully suited to his abilities. In fact, it might even be Shannon’s finest performance and that’s saying something. However, it could also be seen as to why Shannon has now, seemingly, been type-cast as a loon-ball. Particularly impressive is Friedkin’s handling of the material though and how it grips with a plot that’s entirely unexpected while exploring the heavy issues of psychological trauma, emotional dependency and delusional paranoid schizophrenia. It’s only towards the end that the film starts to show it’s faults. It does contain a lot of ambiguity but it’s rushed and plot holes do become apparent at this time. So much so that a couple of characters appear and disappear without explanation.

This will not appeal to everyone and those expecting an out-and-out horror will probably be disappointed but if you enjoy your horrors in a more cerebral, psychological fashion, then this certainly delivers.

Mark Walker

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Lucky Number Slevin * * * 1/2

Posted in Crime, Mystery, thriller with tags on July 24, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Director: Paul McGuigan.
Screenplay: Jason Smilovic.
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci, Danny Aiello, Kevin Chamberlin Mykelti Williamson, Dorian Missick, Robert Forster.

The biggest thing I remember hearing about this film upon it’s release was the mentioning of Ben Kingsley’s Knighthood on the film poster. This seemed to create quite a stir, as professional credits don’t normally include this. It transpired that is was all just a mistake but it overshadowed the film itself. A shame really, as this is quite a tight little mystery/thriller.

Arriving in New York to stay at a friend’s apartment, Slevin Kelevra (Josh Hartnett) finds that his friend is missing and owes money to two very dangerous criminals – The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley). Added to which, Slevin finds himself mistaken for his absent friend and soon involved in a lot of trouble with them both. With the help of his friends neighbour Lindsey (Lucy Liu), Slevin tries to clear up the confusion.

I’ve always been a sucker for films that twist and tease, keeping you perplexed and forcing you to keep up to speed. I like it when the script has actually been given some attention and one that demands the attention of the viewer. This is that type of film. It keeps you guessing and is not without a dark and lightness of touch either. It helps when there’s an impressive cast assembled also and each of the performers involved here deliver fine pieces of work. Seeing old hands Freeman and Kingsley play off one another is a particular highlight. Ultimately, it’s the convoluted nature of the story that impresses most though. Screenwriter Jason Smilovic and director Paul McGuigan add substance and style to the proceedings and keep you at just the right distance from the characters’ motivations. However, intricate and clever films also face the danger of becoming too loaded. For the most part, this film is a success but the denouement is a little muddled. For a film of this type to work, it needs to have a pay-off and this does have a satisfactory one. The only problem is, it has one too many. Without revealing too much, the fate of a prominent character seems like it’s been tacked on and stinks of studio involvement, letting down an otherwise intricate and cleverly constructed film.

A satisfyingly convoluted crime yarn with an impressive and eclectic mix of actors. However, the unravelling is a major demerit. Well… that and Willis’ ridiculous hairpieces.

Mark Walker

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Cashback * * * *

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Fantasy with tags on April 22, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Director: Sean Ellis.
Screenplay: Sean Ellis.
Starring: Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia Fox, Michelle Ryan, Michael Dixon, Michael Lambourne, Stuart Goodwin, Shaun Evans, Marc Pickering, Nick Hancock, Keeley Hazell.

Director Sean Ellis made an 18 minute short film in 2004 that won a plethora of International awards and received an Oscar nomination. Because of this, he decided to expand it to feature length and delivers a delightful little independent film.

Young artist Ben Willis (Sean Biggerstaff) breaks up with girlfriend Suzy (Michelle Ryan) which leads to him developing insomnia. As sleep is hard to come by, he takes on a night-shift at the local supermarket where he develops ways to alter time and indulge in his artistic imagination.

The best way to describe this film lies in a direct quote from the protagonist himself; “Within this frozen world I’m able to walk freely and unnoticed. Nobody would even know that time has stopped. And when it started back up again, the invisible join would be seamless except for a slight shudder. Not unlike the feeling of somebody walking over your grave”. And so begins, the journey of insomniac Ben Willis who stops time and undresses women to paint and sketch their female form. This is an imaginative and thoroughly rewarding little film from a promising new director. The New York Post compared Sean Ellis to “Clerks” director Kevin Smith, if he had “… a background in poetry and painting instead of comic-books and bestiality jokes“. It’s a good comparison as this film is as fresh and engaging as Smith’s earlier work. However, it’s also a prime example of how films can be almost completely buried if they don’t receive the right marketing campaign. Such a shame, that this hasn’t gained a wider audience. It’s a cleverly constructed and stylish debut with sharp dialogue and genuinely touching and hilarious moments. Ellis is a director that has now caught my attention and he draws excellent performances from a relatively unknown cast. The only apparent problem is over-length. To go from an 18min short to a 100min feature is a bit of a stretch and as a result, the film meanders toward it’s conclusion. However, this is a small gripe in what is otherwise an inventive and sophisticated little drama.

Skilfully handled by everyone involved and the kind of film that warrants more attention. A vastly underrated little gem.

Mark Walker

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