Horror lends itself to being remade over the years with sequels, remakes and spoofs continually rehashing the same material over and over again because it is still finding a relatively popular place among audiences. The Ring and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are two of the more distinguished horror films that have been remade recently, and now Wes Craven’s 1977 ‘classic’ gets a new lease of life. Should this be an exercise actively encouraged at the cinema? Well if its aim is to supply gore fans with a regular dose of blood and axes to the head that keeps them happy, The Hills Have Eyes is fulfilling a worthy tradition.
Unapologetically confronting its history head-on, this “Australian Western” (as it has been termed) takes a classic age-old dilema (a man has to kill his older brother in order to save his younger sibling) and plants it on the backdrop of racial tension and the fragile formulation of Australian identity. Consequently, director Hillcoat and writer Nick “Bad Seeds” Cave (who previously collaborated on Ghosts of The Civil Dead (1988) have fashioned a superb rendering of the time with a totally engaging story and refreshingly subtle characters.
Political films have become all the rage in Hollywood recently with The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles, 2005) and Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney, 2005) finding popularity among audiences and winning over critics with their portrayals of politicians doing wrong. Here Clooney is again involved in a film that tackles the subject of the oil industry and the corrupt attempts by big corporations and governments to control the extraction and distribution of oil from the Middle East. Based on a non-fiction novel by Robert Baer, writer/director Stephen Gaghan has swapped the truth for fiction in what becomes a interesting but vaguely unsatisfying movie that fails to achieve what it seems to want to do.
After being roped into the hugely successful action based glamorama that is Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), soon to be the Pirates trilogy, it makes a thoroughly nice change that director Gore Verbinski should take time out of his busy schedule to make a strange, quirky and lower budget indie film that seeks to impress by content rather than charming good looks and minimal narrative.
Well, Lucky Number Slevin avoids that well-trodden road in favour of the twisty, mistaken identity story, but seems to have learnt from Ritchie’s mistakes. In effect, it bends over backwards to help the viewer understand the plot intricasies that you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe it trying too hard to win approval. It is that darn nice.
Anyone familiar with the Senator Joseph P. McCarthy era of the ‘Red Scare’ in America during the Cold War will be aware of the tension his witchhunt against Communists caused. As America battled out a war of political manoeuvring with Russia after World War II, at home the main cause for concern was the activities of possible Communists attempting to disrupt the American way of life and overthrow its Capitalist ideology. In hindsight there was no real threat from these ‘Reds’, but at the time scaremongering had made it practically illegal to be a Communist in America.
Park Chan-Wook is probably the hottest name in world cinema right now. The South Korean director made it big in his own country with the record-breaking Joint Security Area in 2000, an engaging effort about the no man’s land between the two very different Koreas. He then began his revenge trilogy in 2002 with Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, before astonishing the world (and collecting a Palme D’Or at Cannes) for his next offering, 2004’s Old Boy, a film so original that critics and fans the world over immediately split their popcorn and sat up sharply in their seats.
The film series with the inventive grisly deaths returns for a third outing, this time involving a group of high school students who cheat death by not riding a rollercoaster that subsequently crashes and kills their classmates. Soon death comes knocking at each survivor’s door — in the order they were sitting on the ride.
Munich is in bare basics, a hit-man film, and a relatively bog standard one that has somehow achieved credibility through veiling itself in some kind of historical and political significance. Spielberg is undoubtedly one of the most successful directors in Hollywood, regularly overtaking the golden $100 million in the box office, usually as a result of his predilection for High Concept storylines that can be written on the back of your hand and quickly and simply absorbed by the masses.
John R. ‘Johnny’ Cash is one of the biggest figures in the history of popular music and the biopic Walk The Line from director James Mangold (Cop Land (1997) and Girl, Interrupted (1999)) offers all the highs and lows of the most spectacular emotional rollercoaster, with both Johnny Cash’s rise from farmland to stardom, and the twisted love story of Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) put to screen to great effect.
Director Michael Winterbottom is not one to shy away from the unconventional or unexpected, in fact you could say that to expect anything apart from something different when a new Winterbottom project is announced is slightly misguided. And after David Cronenberg’s The Naked Lunch (1991) and Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) among others, Winterbottom has now turned his hand to putting a classic ‘un-filmable’ novel to celluloid, in this case Laurence Sterne’s canonical The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.
Its nature-documentary format allowed it to travel from its native France to a worldwide audience, on a journey far longer than that of its protagonists, with different narrators recording commentaries for different countries. The English-speaking world was treated to the gentle, soothing tones of Morgan Freeman — a choice which complimented the film perfectly.
It is a film in which every scene and sequence has meaning and every moment counts towards a later revelation or character motivation. Attention has been drawn to its central love affair between two men, but to allow that to preclude any judgement on the film would be to attribute controversies which needn’t exist. Rather, this is a superb rendering of a time and a place through image and thematic recollection.
What follows is a biopic of around three epochs from the seventeenth century onwards. There are portrayals of some ceremonies that occured during their respective epoch, and every prolific character that had a say in the bizarre history of Tsarist Russia and beyond is featured
This remake of a George Segal/Jane Fonda caper film of the same name sees a yuppie American couple turn to crime to fund their high-spending lifestyle when they lose their jobs. Step up Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni to fill the roles of Dick and Jane Harper in what becomes a generally enjoyable comedy, even if it is short on morals and clarity of focus.
Vampires and werewolfs: are they really an exciting subject for movies? Well, if they are Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922) or An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981) then maybe so. If a filmmaker can be bothered to inject some life into the characters and make us care about them then bring me a library full.
The pointlessness of war is a continuing debate with the war on terrorism and calls for troops to pull out of Iraq. With Jarhead, the first film to deal with the Gulf War, that debate is foregrounded with a groups of fresh-faced marines signing up and being shipped off a desert war with nothing for them to kill.
After the huge success of directing Oscar-winner Chicago (2003), former choreographer Rob Marshall returns with a period drama that demands more than just a series of scenes tied together with elaborate dance routines.
Love does not get any more sugar coated than Just Like Heaven, a sickly sweet tale of in the vein of Ghost (Jerry Zucker, 1990). David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) moves into his new flat with the hope he can wallow in his own depressive life. Sadly for him, former tenant Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon) thinks she still lives there
The first thing that needs to be made clear about Eli Roth’s Hostel is that it is not a horror film; it is a torture film, teetering on the border of being a snuff film. To quote every bad review of a scary movie ever written, “The only truly frightening thing about this movie is that it was made.”
Astonishing in its sheer jaw-dropping randomness, Wayne Kramer’s follow-up to The Cooler (2003) is one of the most violent films in recent years. Scrapping an intriguing premise in favour of pointless confrontations and wild plot divergences, it nevertheless casts an almost supernatural spell.
Match Point, in the hands of many other directors, could easily have devolved into another Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne, 1987) style knock off. Crucially, however, this is a Woody Allen film and like it or not, it has to be noticed. Already, a lot of reviews have derided the film. They have predictably stated that Allen should stick to comedies forgetting that he actually has been churning out comedies almost exclusively since the early 2000s and nobody has really noticed.
Director Prachya Pinkaew and up and coming martial arts superstar Tony Jaa, join fists once again to bring you more of the same in Tom yum goong, the unofficial sequel to Ong-Bak (2003). This time Jaa plays Kham, a young fighter from Thailand who has been lifelong friends with two elephants, a mother and its calf.
King Kong is not to be missed on the big screen and is marvelous entertainment that cements Jackson’s status as one of the top directors working in Hollywood today.
The Producers could have been an enjoyable comedy romp if Stroman had directed with a little imagination and told her leads to lay off whatever high-energy drink they had been sipping between takes.