To disturb or intrigue?


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Over the years, running this blog and beforehand, I have stumbled across, sometimes sort out and watched some pretty messed up examples of modern cinema.  The world as we know it can be pretty freaky and strange, and the movie industry is a place where some directors like to explore the darker realms of story-telling.  Below are just a few of the most powerfully disturbing movies I have seen, some of which have had a lingering affect on me as a movie fan.  So take a trip with me into the heart of darkness and into some movies that are certainly not for everyone … simply put, approach these with a great amount of caution.

Audition

Takeshi Miik’s simple story (on the surface) of a world weary film maker in search of his ideal bride; jaded from the usual dating scene he chooses to hold a series of auditions for a role that does not exist.  Suffice to say the seemingly gentile woman he finds hides a much more sadistic side to her personality.

Most disturbing moment:  the man in the cloth sack.

The Untold Story

Based apparently on a true story of a restaurant owner who murders his family then serves them up as ingredients in his pork buns – is one of the most notorious Category III movies in Hong Kong.  Anthony Wong, no stranger to powerful roles plays the main character and is in some of the most graphically violent scenes I’ve ever seen.  Most shocking is the slightly comical tone, which makes events all the more difficult to tolerate.

Most disturbing moment:  a family gets massacred.

Irreversible

Clever in structure it may be, as it is told in reverse, starting with the end credits before proceeding to a nightclub murder and leading up to (or flashing back to…) a brutally drawn out rape scene.  Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci headline the cast in this stylish but utterly harrowing story of revenge.

Most disturbing moment:  death by fire extinguisher.

Scum

Alan Clark’s unflinching take on British boys borstal life made a name out of a teenage Ray Winston, but it’s no holds barred tone and graphic violence makes it notorious.  In some ways it can be seen as a cool hard-core brit flick, but has a horrible warning message for young offenders everywhere.

Most disturbing moment:  rape in a greenhouse.

Eden Lake

A British horror in an unconventional sense has a young couple visiting their favourite secret getaway by a secluded lake – until a group of delinquent youths choose to crash the party.  Harrowing because from a British point of view, these type of youths exist on housing estates, in run down districts etc … and it’s a scary thought that if coming into their territory you may just be fighting for survival.  Violent and shockingly believable.

Most disturbing moment:  setting the boy on fire.

Martyrs

I have spoken about this notorious French horror before, but it remains one of the most difficult to sit through movies of all time.  Two girls seeking revenge stumble upon a cult hell bent on discovering evidence of the after life, by pushing their victims to near death through prolonged torture and martyrdom.

Most disturbing moment:  discovering the tortured woman.

Sleeping Beauty

A woman (Emily Browning) struggling to pay her way through college takes a job as a hostess at an exclusive gentleman’s club.  However when she is there she is told she will be drugged and go to sleep in a bed, and when she wakes the morning after, she will be paid … but isn’t aloud to ask what happens in between.  Weird, freaky and utterly unpleasant.

Most disturbing moment:  the old man shouting obscenities to an unconscious, naked girl.

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance

The first part of Park Chan-wook’s acclaimed vengeance trilogy, this tells the story of a deaf and dumb guy trying to raise money for his sister’s kidney operation.  However his terrorist girlfriend talks him into kidnapping a wealthy business man’s daughter in order to get a ransom.  Things go from bad to worse and well, vengeance is seeked not just from the business man but also the deaf guy in a movie of powerful acting and even more powerful violence.

Most disturbing moment:  torture by electricity.

Funny Games

A family’s idyllic holiday is interrupted by two seemingly nice guys who stop by to borrow a cup of sugar – then  subject the family to a series of humiliating and cruel ‘games’ at gunpoint.  Director Michael Haneke’s powerful movie was remade under the same name in America and starred Naomi Watts.

Most disturbing moment:  breaking the fourth wall.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Made a name for it’s star Michael Rooker and is a powerful interpretation of the real life crimes of killer Henry Lee Lucas.  Along with his friend Otis, Henry goes on a series of murders, until after a while their fun is interrupted by the arrival of Otis’ trailer-trash sister.  Suffice to say this serial killing duo don’t take too kind to company.  Brutal, very realistic and all the more disturbing for it.

Most disturbing moment:  home invasion on VHS.

So there you have it.  Movies that span the gamut of shocking, violent and powerful.  Some are classic examples of extreme cinema at it’s best (Martyrs, Sympathy…) and some are just plain horrible (Sleeping Beauty).  I would say if you are at all squeamish or some movies can play on your mind, then avoid the list above … but if like me you like to test yourself, see what is out there, then, still with a degree of caution … the movies above leave their mark regardless of your bravery.  You have been warned.

AUDITION FOR THE TICKET 24 JULY 2009 TOP FIVE HORROR FILMS

Lucy


Viewed – 26 August 2014  Cinema

I went into this a little bit apprehensive.  For a long time now it seems I have waited for director Luc Besson to wow me again, at least on a par with his sci-fi opus The Fifth Element, even if I wasn’t quite expecting something as genre defining as Leon.  This director who in recent memory has stuck to producing and writing credits, has failed to really get his mojo back.  The trailer to this latest offering however held promise.  It had current hot property Scarlett Johansson in it, and had all the high concept cool I had grown to love about Besson’s work.

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Johansson plays Lucy, a seemingly ordinary girl with a few suspect friends, staying in Taiwan who gets unwittingly involved with a group of gangsters, headed by Old Boy star Choi Min-sik.  Before she realises what’s going on, she’s drugged and wakes up in a hotel room, quickly discovering a bandage around her mid section, and is informed she will be a human courier for an experimental drug that has been concealed inside of her(!).  However shit goes down as it normally does and soon Lucy is feeling the affects of this drug that begins to open her brain to greater than normal ability, gifting her with various super-human powers like telekinesis and the ability to transform her hair colour … to start with.

This is flashy, stylish and very much a fun ride for Johansson and it’s clear Besson loves the concept.  Johansson captures vulnerability, bad-ass toughness and out of control mania with ease, whilst delivering some very cool action ‘beats’ along the way.  Morgan Freeman is also on hand as a scientist, but doesn’t really do much out of type for him.  Stand-out moments involve a great car ride (I won’t say ‘chase’) and some trippy special effects (Lucy seeking out a telephone call by weaving her hand through the various phone signals), and that bit in the airplane toilet … wow.  However this was also a concept begging for restraint, needing the breaks applied now and then (I really wanted more of Lucy kicking ass) but Besson instead applied the accelerator and in the closing moments – it got pretty insane.  Choi Min-sik in his first American movie may lack any English dialogue but still had presence to spare … with a great entrance suitable to his legacy. 

This was very enjoyable despite shortcomings (why was Lucy chained up in that cell?), so for Scarlett Johansson fans and anyone after something a bit different – I say check this out.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Top Ten Actors


That I’d watch in pretty much anything.

Inspired from a post over at Where The Wild Things Are and then also at Cinema Parrot Disco, I have chosen to compile the idea from both male and female ‘actors’ rather than doing separate lists… mainly because I was struggling with ten for actresses without being swayed by their attractive qualities…it’s a bloke thing.

Emma Stone

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Favourite movie:  Easy A

Leonardo DiCaprio

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Favourite movie:  Catch Me If You Can

Christoph Waltz

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Favourite movie:  Inglorious Basterds

Marianne Cotillard

Marianne Cotillard

Favourite movie:  Inception

Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Favourite movie:  Almost Famous

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

Favourite movie:  Boogie Nights

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Favourite movie:  Born of the Fourth of July

Edward Norton

Edward Norton

Favourite movie:  Fight Club

Samuel L Jackson

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Favourite movie:  Pulp Fiction

Cate Blanchett

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Favourite movie:  Blue Jasmine

There are many more, but these are the ones I tend to find myself watching regardless of what role they are in, and the movies mentioned above are the roles I have most enjoyed them in, not necessarily their best.  For actors I tend to avoid…the list is shorter, but I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black and to an extent … Ben Affleck.

Is Luc Besson back?


Once he was one of my favourite directors, but after the double hits of Leon and The Fifth Element, his hyped Joan of Ark movie failed to strike gold at the box office.  Ever since he been best known as a producer and writer, being responsible for such hits as Taken and The Transporter, but apart from an underwhelming directing turn on French Indiana-Jones-like movie The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec, and the poorly received comedy gangster movie The Family … he’s not really got his mojo back in years.

I’m hoping the imminent release of his Scarlett Johansson high-concept thriller ‘Lucy’ changes this.  By the looks of the trailer, it would appear so.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Viewed – 31 July 2014  Cinema

The last reboot of the fabled POTA saga was a refreshingly different take on the mythos, letting us in on a backstory that was only ever hinted at in the classic movie franchise.  It was the Apes movie we as cinema goers deserved, further pushing from our minds Tim Burton’s earlier, ill-judged remake.  This follow-up starts ten years after the events of the first, where we meet a group of surviving humans (lead by Gary Oldman), living in a tower in a destroyed and mostly abandoned San Francisco.  The virus that spread at the end of ‘Rise has wiped out much of mankind all but for a few immune who hope to take back a world that seems to have left them for dead.  Their only chance is to travel through the red forest to the Hoover Damn, where it’s power could reignite hope.  Only problem is a tribe of scientifically-advanced apes, lead by Caesar (Andy Serkis) stand in their way and want nothing more to do with humans.

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Again this is a visual tour-de-force.  The mostly CGI apes have become even more convincing (albeit for a couple of moments) and small little details in their expressions and varied personalities all help create characters that look and feel alive.  Caesar this time has an adolescent son  and a new born baby to worry about as well as growing tension amongst his tribe as humans begin to invade their territory … who does he side with and who does he trust?  It’s a strong message and also a worryingly believable concept if our closest relatives were to suddenly ‘evolve’.  Good support on the human-front comes from the recognisable but name-escaped-me at the time Jason Clarke (Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty) and also Oldman who regrettably didn’t go psycho bad-guy on us … but was decent regardless.  But this clearly was about the apes, and for a movie to be so convincingly carried by CGI characters, despite the performances that exists underneath all the techno-wizardry, is a revelation – especially when at times it really affected me emotionally (Caesar’s relationship with his son ‘bright eyes’…).  To back up the performances, we have several action sequences even if the movie lacks a rival to Rise’s Golden Gate Bridge stand-out scene – but this time around I found this more a character-piece, and we do get a great villain, whose identity I won’t spoil for you.

It’s been said Andy Serkis, who also played Gollum in the Hobbit / Lord of the Rings, as Caesar really should nab himself an Oscar, and with such a layered and powerful turn, I can’t disagree.  This was a brilliantly-conceived and intelligently put together sequel to a genuine surprise of a reboot … and I for one can’t wait for what comes next.

Verdict: 5 /5