Posted by Ali Gray
at 23:00 on 01 Mar 2015
I reckon the best way to get the measure of a new horror film is to test how easy it is to replicate the scares in your own home. For example: to 'Blair Witch' someone is to stand motionless and in silence while facing a corner; to 'Body Snatch' someone is to point at them and scream; to pull a 'Paranormal Activity' is to stand next to someone as they sleep and watch them lose their shit when they wake up. The best horror movies tap into something dark and primitive that lurks in us all. It Follows is one such horror movie and contains a core DIY scare tactic that can be replicated by anyone at any time - one that can turn even a well-lit, friendly afternoon picnic into a pant-stained arena of terror.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 07:00 on 25 Feb 2015
The romantic heist genre (or rom-con, if you will) feels like a pretty well worn sub-genre by this point: the conman, the mark, the honeytrap, the big job, the love that's worth more than diamonds, the poster tagline which insists on telling you whether the con is or isn't on - you know the score. Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo stole hearts among other things in The Thomas Crown Affair and every pale imitator since has been caught red-handed raiding the same emotional cookie jar (see also and forget immediately: Duplicity, starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts). Focus sticks to that same formula religiously, but it's a delightful surprise to report that it hoodwinks you into having a great time, distracting you with hot bodies and slick plotting until you realise you've been entertained. Also it stole £13.50 out of your wallet.
There’s no excuse for actively willing a film to fail, but sometimes it just seems written in the stars – when all the planets align for a colossal mess of galactic proportions – and, in that instance, all you can do is hope that the film is so ludicrous in its concept and execution that it becomes that rare creation: a film so unintentionally hilarious, it provides the funniest movie experience of the year. With Channing Tatum’s Spock ears and gravity roller skates, Eddie Redmayne playing a raspy villainous fopp and Sean Bean playing a half-man-half-bee (oh yes), it seemed that Jupiter Ascending couldn’t fail to fail.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 16:00 on 26 Jan 2015
Imagine an alternate universe, one in which producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson decided to reboot 007 using not the ruthless thuggery of Timothy Dalton or the brutish charm of Sean Connery as the Bond blueprint, instead opting to use the far-fetched, OTT antics of Roger Moore as the template. Ludicrous gadgets. Comic-book acting. Tongue rammed in cheek so deep all dialogue is in danger of being spoken with a lisp. Congratulations! You've just stumbled on the formula that could well have led to the creation of Kingsman: The Secret Service (it could've, if you didn't already know it was based on the book by Mark Millar).
If you want an example of how our relationship with technology has accelerated at a terrifying rate, show a young millennial the first Toy Story movie, which turns 20 years old this year. Made in 1995, the first fully CG-animated movie was a cinematic landmark yet it was still, tellingly, a tale of simple toys and derring do. That millennial you roped in (I won't asked questions how) will now look at Toy Story and turn their nose up at the relatively rudimentary visuals; they're much more likely to get their kicks from a movie like Big Hero 6, a breathlessly exciting, migraine-inducingly busy animation that must have surely pushed the Disney render farms to meltdown. Purely from a technological standpoint, it makes Toy Story look like a Punch & Judy show.
How to make it in America: fairly well-worn ground for films, and yet still they keep coming. This immigrant's tale from JC Chandor is more than that, though. A largely non-violent study of how the (mostly) law-abiding react when faced with violence, and of whether turning the other cheek is a workable - or even desirable - strategy.
Vera Brittain's Testament Of Youth is considered to be one of the most important war memoirs ever published, a tragic real-life tale of love, loss and the atrocities of war. Its depiction of the impact of World War I on the women left behind as their men joined the army, not to mention the middle classes in general, is taught in schools both as a vital historical document and as a valuable piece of feminist literature. So bear with me while I try to criticise this film without sounding like a cynical, sexist Nazi.
Oh, great. This should help smooth things out. While I wouldn't support the action, I'm surprised to have heard no calls to postpone the release of American Sniper. Here's a portrait, entirely unshaded by grey, of a US Navy SEAL who claims more confirmed kills than any other sniper in US military history, all of them in Iraq. There are interesting questions about the morality of this, given how many more lives he likely saved, about the effect it had on him, and about the implications of American occupation in the Middle East. Clint Eastwood isn't terribly interested in asking them, though. While this is an effective and very watchable war movie, it's as uncomplicated as it gets.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 23:00 on 11 Jan 2015
Sometimes a joke hits too close to the mark, and so it is I cannot ever listen to jazz music without thinking of The Fast Show sketch, Jazz Club, with its bowl-cutted host Louis Balfour introducing chin-stroker acts in straight trousers with names like Charlie ''The Bulb'' Robeson and Soylent Green. That's an entire musical genre desolated, for all time - an entire section of HMV I'll never trouble. But perhaps there is a saviour for jazz; not a musician, but a director, Damien Chazelle - a man who's probably too young to even remember The Fast Show, let alone the old duffers who made jazz insufferable in the first place. Trumpets please!
I saw Woman In Black 2 about a month ago and I didn't make a lot of notes. No, you're
unprofessional. But I didn't make a lot of notes because I felt by its third act that it was broadly doing what it had set out to, in the way that a lot of mainstream horror movies tend to quite competently, and that to review it straight would be to retread ground I've already trodden in other reviews
. But one interesting thing did occur to me. Read on if you like tedious narrative theory!