Archive for 2006


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

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


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


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


Lucky Number Slevin * * * 1/2

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


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


Cashback * * * *

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


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


Half Nelson * * * * 1/2

Posted in Drama with tags on February 2, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Ryan Fleck.
Screenplay: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie, Deborah Rush, Jay O. Sanders, Tina Holmes, Denis O’Hare, Monique Curnen.

Ryan Gosling is one of those actors that is in danger of his talents being overshadowed because he’s seen as eye candy for the female cinema going public – much in the same way that Brad Pitt has suffered. However, if he keeps producing high calibre performances such as this, then there will be no denying why he’s on screen in the first place.

Dan Dunne (Gosling) teaches in a poor school where his unusual approach engages the pupils. But out of school, frustration fuels his drug habit. One night troubled student Drey (Shareeka Epps) chances upon him while he’s high on crack cocaine, and a bond is forged.

It’s unfair to praise a film based solely on one person’s performance, especially when the writing, directing and supporting actors all do their fair share. But this is a film that’s hard to see beyond the lead actor. Gosling is the real deal; nuanced and edgy with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it subtlety. He’s an actor that possesses the unique ability to say very little but express so much. Full of subtle ticks and mannerisms, to convey his feelings. In this case, a struggling addict trying to function in his day-to-day life. It’s another marvellous and understated performance that garnered him a well deserved Oscar nomination – unlucky to lose out to Forest Whitaker’s grandstanding in “The Last King of Scotland”. This is a film of many layers, and writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck cleverly introduce the theory of Dialectics – the process of change through opposing forces. Gosling and Epps – teacher and pupil – are exactly these opposing forces and only through each other will they ultimately find salvation. The first time I saw this, I enjoyed it for it’s indie style but missed the depth it had and didn’t really get what all the fuss was about. On second viewing though, it’s quality really stands out. This is a nourishing and deliberately paced slice of life that’s competently directed by Ryan Fleck in his first feature.

A rapturous round of applause for all involved in this beautifully crafted and wonderfully acted gem.

Mark Walker


The Celestine Prophecy (x)

Posted in Adventure, Drama with tags on February 2, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Armand Mastroianni.
Screenplay: James Redfield, Barnet Bain, Dan Gordon.
Starring: Matthew Settle, Thomas Kretschmann, Annabeth Gish, Sarah Wayne Callies, Hector Elizondo, Jurgen Prochnow, Joaquim de Almeida, John Aylward.

I don’t know why I expect a film adaptation to do a book that I love justice. It’s always the same high expectations, falling short. This however, takes bad transfers from page to screen to a whole new low.

Based on James Redfield’s 1993 bestselling novel it tells the story of high-school teacher John Woodson (Matthew Settle), who undertakes a journey to find and understand a series of nine spiritual insights on an ancient manuscript in Peru, taking him on a spiritual awakening as he goes through a transitional period of his life. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church and government try to suppress the ancient psychological and spiritual beliefs he unfolds, putting his and others’ lives in danger.

Poor production value, hammy acting and a stifling screenplay. The author James Redfield can’t really complain though as he’s one of the screenwriters. The book deserved so much more than this. Where it succeeded in capturing your attention and imagination, this succeeds only in putting you to sleep. It’s boring and tedious pap and even as a television film it looks cheap. Maybe one day someone will adapt this properly, it’s certainly deserving of a better version.

Very little, if anything, to recommend it. Fans of the book will only be seriously disappointed and those who haven’t read the book will be lost, and will ruin what is a great read.
Stay well clear of this turkey.

Mark Walker


Eragon (x)

Posted in Action, Adventure, Family, Fantasy with tags on February 2, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Stefen Fangmeier.
Screenplay: Peter Buchman.
Starring: Ed Speleers, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Guillory, Robert Carlyle, John Malkovich, Djimon Hounsou, Garrett Hedlund, Alun Armstrong, Joss Stone, Chris Egan, Gary Lewis.
Voice of: Rachel Weisz.

I enjoy a good fantastical story but I had avoided this one due to the bad things I’d heard of it. However, I eventually thought I should still give it go and see for myself. Seriously though, I wish I’d listened to the naysayers now.

Young farmer Eragon (Ed Speleers) finds a dragon’s egg, and teams up with the newborn dragon, Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz), a former Dragon Rider (Jeremy Irons) and a female Elf (Sienna Guillory) to tackle an evil king (John Malkovich) and his shady accomplice (Robert Carlyle).

Bad dialogue, bad acting, bad movie. If your going to release a fantasy film these days then make sure it has some mileage, as “The Lord of the Rings” has set a very high benchmark. This was also based on a series of books by Christopher Paolini but it’s not even in the same league as some of the quality we’ve recently been spoiled with. Admittedly, I’ve never read the books, leaving me unsure as to how the adaptation should be but I do know this… the voice of the dragon was a bad move. It made no effort to even look like the dragon was communicating and just came across as cheap and insulting. Although some were impressed with the special effects, I didn’t find them to be anything special at all. Speelers doesn’t really cut it as the hero of the tale, lacking charisma and any form of acting ability and the rest of the cast seem perplexed. You get the impression from Irons and Malkovich that they know they’ve made a mistake with this one. The same goes for Carlyle but he still manages to deliver a decidedly nasty villian that’s way above this nonsense. Normally a fantasy yarn has something to hold your interest – no matter how poor – but it just goes to show there are exceptions to that. This is one, and quite possibly the definitive to those exceptions.

The only positive that can be taken from this is that due to it’s box-office and critical failure, we will probably be spared the adaptations to the rest of the series. A very bad film indeed.

Mark Walker


Miami Vice * *

Posted in Action, Drama, thriller with tags on January 27, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Michael Mann.
Screenplay: Michael Mann.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Ciaran Hinds, Gong Li, Barry Shabaka Henley, Justin Theroux, Naomie Harris, Luis Tosar, John Ortiz, Eddie Marsan, Isaach De Bankole, John Hawkes, Oleg Taktarov, Tom Towles, Tony Curran, Kristen Stewart.

Director Michael Mann does a retread and modern film version of his highly successful 1980’s television series and despite his calibre, this turns out to be just like all the other poor makeovers of hit TV shows.

Detectives Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) work undercover investigating narcotics-smuggling in Florida. But when Crockett falls for the beautiful wife (Gong Li) of a powerful arms and drugs trafficker, and Tubbs’ loved ones come under threat, their personal and professional lives start to mesh together.

Much like “Heat” and “The Insider”, with similiar wonderful cinematography (complete with intense close-ups and methodical pace), giving the impression that we’re involved in the action. Problem is though, the action is not exciting enough. It’s too slow. Far too slow. This had real potential and from the beginning it looks like we’re going to be treated to another classic like the previous films mentioned but the normally reliable Michael Mann (especially in this genre) delivers a damp squib. Foxx and Farrell make a great Tubbs and Crocket, full of style and intensity but they’re left to basically wander around for over two hours, looking mean, tanned and brooding. The editing and camerawork are excellent in capturing the urban landscape of Miami but it’s not enough. It is without doubt, all style and no substance. All buck and no bang and definitely no bark OR bite. It took me three attempts to get through it, without falling asleep and that’s just not what you expect with the style and excitement of a usually on-form Michael Mann.

A massive let down. Mann can do much better than this, with the most impressive thing about it being how Farrell managed to get away with successfully sporting a mullet and handlebar ‘tashe. Not an easy combination and more impressive than the film itself.

Mark Walker


Casino Royale * * * *

Posted in Action, thriller with tags on January 24, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Martin Campbell.
Screenplay: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino.

Bond is back, brazen and brutal and he couldn’t give a shit if his martini’s shaken or not.
Daniel Craig now fills the shoes of the British agent and, as always, there will be comparisons to his predecessors. Just so we’re clear, he more than lives up to it and stakes his claim as an equal to Connery.

Bond has just been promoted to “00” status and has yet to prove himself in the field. He’s volatile and can’t quite keep his emotions in check, leading to rash decisions and a lack of professionalism. “M” (Judi Dench) has been keeping a close eye on him though and uses him to his strengths, entrusting him with taking down a terrorist organisation who is being financed by the mysterious, LeChiffre (Mads Mikkelson). In order to prevent the terrorists recieving their money, Bond has to bankrupt LeChiffre during a high stakes poker game.

Most franchises seem to be going back to their roots, realising, less is more. Bond no longer has his usual array of gadgets, all he has are his fists and his wits and when he’s required to dispatch of his enemies in a cold blooded fashion, these are more than enough. That’s what makes this Bond all the more real and believable and back to how writer Ian Fleming had intended him to be. If he went on going the way he was, we’d have Bond in spandex next. Thankfully, that’s not the case and Daniel Craig’s intense portrayal brings back the sociopath in our favourite spy.

A little overlong – as Bond films tend to be – but when it’s doing what it does best, it’s exciting entertainment.

Mark Walker


Children Of Men * * * * *

Posted in Action, Drama, Science Fiction with tags on January 19, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Alfonso Cauron.
Screenplay: Alfonso Cauron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby.
Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Pam Ferris, Danny Huston, Peter Mullan.

Based on the novel by P.D. James and filmed with brilliant intensity by director Alfonso Cauron.

Set in an apocalyptic London in the year 2027 where society has been plunged in chaos and the future of humankind is in danger due to not being able to procreate. Out of the blue, journalist and former political activist Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is approached by his ex-wife and entrusted with helping a woman to saftey from the turmoil of the city. Theo soon finds out that the reason why, is because she is the worlds only pregnant woman and may be the only hope humanity have left for survival.

Director Cauron paints a horrific yet entirely believable vision of a bleak, not too distant, future with brilliantly realistic action scenes and the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (“Burn After Reading”) is the most intense and gripping I’ve seen in recent years. Clive Owen is perfectly cast as the rugged, world weary Theo and Michael Caine adds a welcome touch of humour as his aging, hash smoking hippie friend Jasper.

An absolutely harrowing and hauntingly realistic vision of a dystopian world and impossible to take your eyes of the screen. Easily one of the best films of recent times. Powerful and visceral stuff.

Mark Walker


The Good Shepherd * * *

Posted in Drama with tags on January 9, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Robert DeNiro.
Screenplay: Eric Roth.
Starring: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert DeNiro, Alec Baldwin, John Turturro, Billy Crudup, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Tammy Blanchard, Michael Gambon, John Sessions, Keir Dullea, Gabriel Macht, Martina Gedeck, Joe Pesci.

Robert DeNiro’s second directorial effort, 14 years after his debut “A Bronx Tale”. He again shows that he’s as good a director as he is an actor but unfortunately, it’s the script that let’s this potential classic down.

In 1961, after the Bay Of Pigs fiasco, CIA agent Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) tries to learn who leaked word of the planned invasion of Cuba. He recalls his long service with the Agency, and ponders the failure of his marriage to Clover (Angelina Jolie).

Having been involved in some of the best films ever made and worked with some of the best directors; Scorsese, Leone, Coppola, Bertolucci to name a few. You can see where DeNiro’s ambition and scope has come from with this sprawling, convoluted espionage film. First off, he amasses a very impressive cast playing out over a number of years and in split-time frame structure. His attention to detail and eye for capturing time and place is astutely done and wonderfully captured, and it certainly doesn’t lack ambition. It’s heavily based on fact and covers a lot of ground; the origins of the CIA; Nazi sympathisers; the invasion of Cuba; the cold war conflict with the Soviet Union, as well as Wilson’s strained relationship with his wife. Despite all this though, the film is surprisingly lacking in excitement. At times it borders on boring. It’s a real shame as everyone involved puts in a good shift but the major problem is the main character. He’s so stoic and impassive that it’s hard for Damon to deliver a performance that’s anything other than awkward and expressionless. It’s a difficult character to identify with and he’s hardly ever off screen, which is a bit of a slog at a running time approaching 3 hours. There are still many powerful scenes throughout though and Robert Richardson’s cinematography is splendid but despite the ambition also shown in Eric Roth’s script, it doesn’t quite come together as an absorbing or gripping spy thriller, when really it should.

Considering the talent involved, this is listless and ultimately frustrating. I really want to rate this higher – as I found plenty to enjoy – but can’t bring myself to do so.

Mark Walker