Monday, 30 December 2013

Carrie (2013) Review

The 2013 version of Carrie comes from director Kimberly Pierce and is an interesting hybrid of a remake of the 76 film Carrie by Brian De Palma and the original source material by Stephen King. Those hoping for an entirely faithful adaptation of the Stephen King novel will no doubt be disappointed. However those willing to accept the new film utilising some elements of the 76 film and combining them in a unique manner with the source material will find what is a terrific hybrid of both an adaptation of the Stephen King novel and remake of the 76 Brian De Palma film.

Carrie is a shy young girl in her final year of high school and is continually and mercilessly bullied. Her mother Margaret is a crazed religious fanatic who is similarly abusive albeit in a different manner to how those at school treat Carrie. Carrie however still loves her 'momma' and doesn't embrace how she is treat and as the film moves forward goes from a loner to one who begins to seek social acceptance. During a particularly egregious incident where Carrie is being bullied one of Carrie's classmates Sue has a change of heart and begins to try and make amends for her actions. The result of this incident is that Chris (one of the instigators of the bullying) has her right to the upcoming prom revoked when she refuses to accept her punishment for her actions. Chris is unable to accept any responsibility for her actions and seemingly unable to understand that she had even wronged Carrie. Conversely Sue ultimately sacrifices going to the prom and convinces her boyfriend Tommy to ask Carrie.

Both Chris and Sue are given ample time to develop as characters and their motivations and reasons for their motivations are fleshed out (which where unfortunately lacking in the flawed but superb Brian De Palma film). This is of particular importance as up until the prom the title character Carrie is the subject of others actions with both Sue and Chris decisions and actions being what moves the story forward. Characterisation also differs from both the source material and original film when it comes to the character of Margaret who is shown as a highly disturbed yet still loving mother. Numerous of the secondary characters are also given more room to develop which affords actual characterisation as opposed to the caricatures they where presented as in the 76 film.

The seemingly small changes from the 76 and 2013 film along with the more obvious changes permeate the entirety of the 2013 film and not only change the tone of the film considerably but also allows for unique twists on scenes which often utilise the structure of the 76 film but combined with elements from the novel. The most obvious example of this comes towards the finale, but suffice to say whilst not all will be happy with the changes made, their is ample differentiation for the 2013 film to stand alone from both the 76 film and novel.

Much like the novel one of the greatest strength of Carrie is in its depth achieved, which thankfully in the film is presented in a non overt manner. Reasons behind characters actions are well thought out and their is simply something horrifying in how enjoyable it is to watch some of the later horrors in the film as opposed to the earlier horrors.

As a fan of the Stephen Kings novel and Brian De Palma film, Carrie was one of my most anticipated films of 2013. This was especially the case with the Boys Don't Cry director Kimberly Pierce at the helm. With that said it is impossible to not be disappointed by the lack of several elements from the novel that the initial teaser trailer strongly hinted at. This however is an unfair criticism of the film itself which has a different focus to what the initial teaser hinted at. The film itself is successfully able to differentiate itself from prior versions of the story and is a gut retching, haunting, horrific experience that comes with my highest recommendation.

Note: I would strongly urge people unfamiliar with the story to not watch the theatrical trailer for this film as it gives far to much away about the film (the trailer for the 76 film also had the same issue present) and seem to be deigned for those who are already familiar with the novel and 76 film.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

My Film Diary (Letterboxd)

Letterboxd is a website I recently stumbled upon that is essentially a movie driven social media website. I personally am not one to use social media such as Facebook frequently and have never used twitter or the various other options out there (is myspace still a thing?). None the less I quite like the idea of a movie driven social media website such as Letterboxd.

I have recently set up a letterboxd account and currently plan to use it as a film diary which will have what films I have watched and when I have watched them. If you would like to see my diary it is available on the below link (I shall also be placing a link on the side menu of this blog):

Even if you do not have any interest in film diaries or similar from my still limited experience I do fell Letterboxd is well worth looking into for any film fan. I may start using the other numerous features at a later time and hopefully it will help me discover films I otherwise may have never heard of or simply dismissed. Only time shall tell.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

American Hustle Review

Irving Rosenfeld is a matchstick man who with his partner Sydney Prosser pull of smaller cons on desperate people as they hit rock bottom. Fortunately for all there would be victims and unfortunately for Irving and Sydney they are caught by Richie DiMaso, an FBI agent and are giving the choice between jail time or helping DiMaso catch a larger number of matchstick men. The details of this agreement as the film progresses escalates with DiMaso seemingly unquenchable ambition. The result is the scope and risk of the operation to continually expand from the largely mundane until both Mafia and politicians are involved.

Performances throughout as expected are superb. Sadly despite the strength of the performances the characters themselves falter. Little reason is given to care about the who and why with the back story for most characters being mostly minimal and underdeveloped. The result is a film with little reason to care for what happens and who it happens to. Admittedly this approach can and has worked in numerous other films, however it stumbles here with American Hustles most egregious of issues in the general lack of consequences present. Whether it is a statesman caught accepting a bribe or a character at the mercy of an aggressive and threatened Mafia, the results rarely have any impact and characters continually walk away unscathed. The stakes as a result could never be lower.

Thankfully whilst the film does falter with a story that is overly predictable, it does feature meticulous dialogue which combine with the performances to create moments that in of themselves vary from griping to hilarious. This moments display the underlining potential of what American Hustle could have been. Sadly whilst individuals moments are frequently intoxicating and enjoyable they never combine into a film that builds any degree of momentum, and the final con is disappointingly hollow and uninspired. All the elements come together in a way that has American Hustle that as a whole is unable to match its individual moments and is sadly less then the sum of it parts.

American Hustle is from director David O. Russell who has recently done such outstanding films as Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter. Combine this with an amazing ensemble cast and you have the makings of what should have been (and seemingly for most is) one of the better films of the year. Sadly whilst American Hustle does feature exemplary performances that are only equalled by the films sharp dialogue, American Hustle is a film that is less then the sum of its parts and has provides little reason to car for the characters or what happens. Hence American Hustle falls short of expectations and does not come recommended.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Dredd Review

Dredd is an adaption of 2000 AD after the Sylvester Stallone film based on the same source material sullied the name. Judges are the 'protectors' of Mega City One and act as the police, judge, jury and executioner. Dredd is set in a large metropolis known as Mega City One and follows the 'character' Dredd as he trains and evaluates the new rookie Anderson who had failed the tests to become a judge. None the less Anderson is still being considered due to her aptitude as a psychic which is a direct result of her being a mutant. Dredd and Anderson respond to a triple homicide call which has them go to a neighborhood that is essentially a 200 story slum that unbeknown to the two judges is controlled by the Drug Lord Ma Ma. Soon after entering Ma Ma puts the slum into lock down which causes the entire slum to be blocked from the rest of the city by blast doors and has her entire gang is tasked with hunting down and killing the two judges.

For the most part this is where any pretense to a story ends and what follows is a barrage of action as the two Judges massacre their way to the gang leader Ma Ma. Their are of course some predictable story elements introduced as Ma Ma hires outside help, but they exist purely as a way to provide variation to the carnage on the screen. The degree to which this is successful in providing variation is also minimal as Dredd and Anderson simply continue to dispatch their foes in more or less the same way they would have had it simply been more of Ma Ma's gang members. I imagine the hiring of outside help was no doubt meant to create a sense of escalation to help make the film fell as if it was building towards the finale, but this simply was not an effective means of doing so. As a result whilst the action is reasonably well staged it never fells as it is building to a conclusion, rather the conclusion rather simply suddenly happens without any notable build to what is still an inventive and climatic finale.

Dredd is punctuated by several scenes whereby we see the world from a the perspective of a drug users on a drug called slow-mo. Slow-mo gives the user the impression that time is passing at an extremely slow rate. This is used as a means of providing some variation to the action as we see the carnage and destruction as bullets rip through the flesh of people in extremely slow motion. Whilst I usually find the use of slow motion to be unnecessary and overdone, it if nothing else certainly fells unique with how it is presented in Dredd and provides for a sadistic, disturbing and absolutely joyful way to watch said carnage. Their are also some unique sequences involving Andersons' psychic abilities which provides some much needed variation. This variation helps prevent the film from becoming an overwhelming slog as action scenes could very easily have begun to blur into one another.

As you may imagine characterisation is light. Their are several moments that hint at character growth but such notions are immediately disposed of the moment said scenes end and the carnage then promptly resumes. Likewise the story of the world is hinted at several times as mutants or the radiation fallout and similar are mentioned but no area is explored to any substantial degree which has the film relying entirely on its action to captivate the viewer. Thankfully the action and the brief glimpses of character are enough for an excellent entertaining action romp.

Dredd is beyond a substantial improvement over the 90's film based on the same source material, but that isn't saying anything beyond that it wasn't torturous to watch. None the less Dredd does have some brutally violent and entertaining action with enough variation to stop the film becoming a one note affair and comes recommended.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Fish Tank Review

Fish Tank follows Mia a pugnacious fifteen year old who having been kicked out of school spends her time aimlessly wondering around the streets. In vacant buildings she practices hip hop dance which she both takes comfort in and aspires to become a professional dancer of sorts. Her mother Joanne and sister provide for little support and one day Mia meets her mothers new boyfriend Connor, who initially seems to take on a father like role for Mia and along with Mia is the only at times likeable character.

Expectedly as the film progresses the few good relationships break down as the characters discover the truth of one another’s situation. This of course makes what is an undeniably bad situation even worse. As Mia's life falls further into disarray the film stumbles as it seemingly doesn't have anything of worth to say about the situation at hand. Instead Fish Tank presents that notion that people are simply irredeemably repulsive but doesn't go beyond this. The result is a film that presents a refreshing, unflinching, gritty and immediate portrayal of disturbed characters living in poverty, but unfortunately it is also a film that carries a message that is ultimately adolescent.

As always Michael Fassbender provides for an excellent performance as Connor and newcomer Katie Jarvis provides for an equally compelling and nuanced performance as Mia. The strength of the performances in Fish Tank are unfortunately one of the few saving graces present and are ultimately wasted on a film that simply has nothing of worth to say and is ponderously slow.

Fish Tank is a film brimming with potential. Performances are a particular strength along with its willingness to portray life with little to no hope for the future of those present. Unfortunately the film carries an adolescent message that devolves the film into an uninteresting chore to watch. Hence Fish Tank does not come recommended.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Insidious Chapter 2 Review

Horror films are quite the oddity. Most are low budget, thinly scripted and meekly acted with few to no thrills, lack of any tension and little to no actual horror. With that being said many of my favorite films are the few horror films that do not fall into this trap and are the complete reverse providing genuine horror and thrills that keep you on the edge of your seat. Insidious 2 unfortunately falls into what I find the majority of horror films to be.

Insidious 2 starts of with a tedious and yawn inducing sequence with Josh Lambert as a young boy being haunted by an entity. The purpose however of this scene is little more then for a door to open which of course leads to a lackluster and nonsensical moment later in the film in a seemingly vain attempt to justify the existence of the films opening. Insidious 2 then jumps to the present and continues where the first Insidious film ended. From this point we are 'treated' to a film which has a concept of horror that is no more then people wearing white makeup and black eye liner appearing and at times making some loud noises in several poor attempts at jump scares and nothing more. Put simply Insidious 2 is in no way scary and lacks any tension, suspense or thrilling moments. To make matters worse Insidious 2 also tries to explain the many nonsensical occurrences in the film but has no interesting exploration of what is occurring and its attempts to shock and scare the audience are frequently laughable.

It doesn't help that performances throughout are mostly woeful with the actors and actresses delivering their lines in a robotic and wooden manner. The one exception is Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert who provides for a mostly passable albeit average performance.

Insidious 2 is a mess of a film that lacks any sense of tension, suspense, thrills or anything the least bit entertaining. This combined with mostly wooden performances, a nonsensical story and frequent moments that are unintentionally laughable has Insidious 2 come not recommended.