Not all horror remakes are bad, and some can bring a lot to an old concept, ultimately improving upon it … yet last night I sat down and watched on television the remake of Japanese cult horror The Ring. Ok, it starred Naomi Watts, had a decent director (Gore Verbinski) and was fairly well put together on a technical basis. Much like the original too, the use of a creepy videotape and hallucinations helped build an unnerving atmosphere. Yet then the movie does the unthinkable, and humanizes the character of the evil girl, this time named Samara, by showing footage of her time in a psychiatric hospital, and instead of the horrible vision of a small figure with hair over their face, we see it’s actually just a very troubled child. Naomi Watts over-acts somewhat from the very beginning and frankly her young son is creepier than Samara, which just baffles me. Now looking back at the original ‘Ring’, I recall only glimpses of the girl, Sadako, a flash of a hand with no fingernails, the same creepy atmosphere, but very little humanization – and you never saw her face. This then makes the ending something of horror legend, copied in the remake, much more terrifying as what crawls out of that TV and stands up to scare its victim to death, is not human, but pure evil – and just a close up of a blood-shot eyeball is all the viewer gets. In the remake we see the girl, albiet zombiefied, but still a girl, with a stern pissed off look, and guess what – it’s not scary. Well done remake. You just killed the money shot! Read More…
Viewed – 25 August 2010 DVD
Always wanted to see this, mostly down to it having one of my favourite actresses in it, Naomi Watts. Yet I had never got around to it until now. Following what at first appear to be 3 unrelated stories, former drug addict Watts now married with two kids, an ex-con whose found God (Benicio Del Toro) and a heart-transplant patient on the brink of death (Sean Penn). One tragic incident then has a devastating effect on all 3 characters lives and ultimately brings them together. Told with a fractured narrative where it isn’t at first clear if you are viewing events from the past, present or future, with no actual explanation of when things are set, this thought-provoking drama could alienate some, who could first have a ‘I can’t make head nor tail of this’ reaction to it. Yet I seriously urge you to stick with it, because like a puzzle, the pieces slowly begin to fall into place, and hopefully like me you’ll have a ’I get it!’ moment of realisation, coming away amazed by the movie’s intelligence and raw, emotional power.
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s movie boasts three incredible performances from its three main cast members, with a career defining Naomi Watts, even better than her amazing turn in Mulholland Drive, and with moments of intensity and totally convincing acting, this is one of those movies where all 3 should have got Oscars. Sean Penn can add another great role to his already heavy-weight CV, and the often underrated Del Toro proves himself yet again as someone with real range and talent. Not exactly cheery subject matter, I admit and has some strong scenes of violence and sex, but the authentic approach, fly on the wall style and heart-breaking twists and turns left me, in a word … astonished.
Verdict: 5 /5
- Trailer for Fair Game Starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn (shoppingblog.com)
- International Movie Trailer: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful (slashfilm.com)
Viewed – 25 August 2009 Blu-ray
Clive Owen plays a swarve Interpol agent who witnesses the death of his colleague after meeting an informant during an investigation into the corrupt dealings of a banking organisation. Teaming up with a gutsy district attorney (Naomi Watts), the two attempt to expose the bank’s role in an international arms ring, whilst at the same avoiding getting themselves killed.
This intelligent, fascinating thriller plays very relevant to our current economical climate and I found it absorbing, shot stylishly from the director of the acclaimed Run Lola Run, with an eye-catching globe-trotting canvas. Clive as usual for one of my faves is immediately watchable and carries the film effortlessly, with moments of Bond-like charisma that proves he would have been a brilliant 007. Watts lends pretty support but has been better in other films, proving she’s one of those actresses that can still get by even when the role is limited. Thankfully the film moves at a slick pace, has one stand-out action scene in a museum, but stumbles in it’s final act with not enough (or perhaps too much) information to prevent this viewer from loosing his way. Saying that this also boasts some brilliant cinematography that bring the various locations to life, has a tough, gung-ho, violent atmosphere and kept me guessing (I’m still wondering now what was really going on), but anyone with the slightest curiosity about arms-dealing, corrupt banks and shady politicians should get plenty from this – just try and not get a headache figuring it all out.
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 11 March 2008 DVD
David Cronenberg was once mostly known for disturbing horror / dramas that focused on ‘body horror’ and disease, with the likes of Shivers and The Fly. At his best he’s explored the human psyche to brilliantly creepy effect in films like Dead Ringers and Naked Lunch. Yet more recently he has also become a very interesting gangster movie maker. Following on from the unflinching A History of Violence, Cronenberg explores his new playground further and takes that film’s lead Viggo Mortensen with him.
This time we’re in London where a gutsy young midwife (Naomi Watts – as beautiful and convincing as ever) becomes embroiled in the case of a dead prostitute, a new born baby and the Russian Mafia. Mortensen, sporting a very good Russian accent plays a seedy driver / body guard to the local gang, and delivers a steadily menacing and layered performance of a man with more to him than meets the eye. Cronenberg once again, like A History Of Violence gives us frank scenes of sex, nudity and shocking violence (with probably the most savage throat slit in cinema history!) and creates a feeling of dread and brutal realism throughout.
Although for me the film seemed to end too easily, and I was hoping for a bigger climax, this still delivers a powerful and gripping take on the gangster genre in that unique Cronenberg style.
Verdict: 4 /5
Viewed - 31 August 2007 DVD
Now it’s not often I’ll put a review on here of a film I have already seen, unless it really deserves a second look. This is one such example, as from what I recall, I found this on first watch to be one of the most unusual and hard to get into films I had ever seen – and came away with a fairly luke-warm opinion. Some years later, and after recently watching director David Lynch’s latest INLAND EMPIRE, I felt this highly acclaimed film deserved a second look. I wanted to know if I was missing something.
Naomi Watts, who you may know from King Kong is the pretty, excitable wannabe-actress, stepping off the plane for a new life in Hollywood; all big dreams and starry-eyed. Yet it’s not long before she stumbles upon a mysterious brunette hiding out in her Aunt’s apartment and suffering from amnesia following a near-fatal car accident. Hence forth we are given a mystery to solve revolving around the brunette and the young starlet’s attempt to help her…always with the threat of impending danger and intrigue. Yet this is Lynch territory and what seems like a simple story soon becomes something much stranger as characters pop in and out of the plot, the narrative is twisted, and soon we’re following Naomi down the rabbit hole into a dark nightmarish world.
Now to explain what this film is all about has confounded critics for years…you’ll have your theories, as I have mine…but the fun with this as with any Lynch film is the ‘experience’, the atmosphere and especially here, the emotion, that doesn’t loosen its grip for one second (one tearful moment involves Roy Orbison’s timeless Crying as sung in a foreign language, yet loosing none of its impact). Watts is excellent as the lead character, on a rollercoaster journey of discovery, both self and otherwise, and is probably one of her boldest performances outside of the mainstream…and this is dark, creepy, erotic and thoroughly rewarding stuff if you have the concentration to bleed it of all its intricacies. Especially worthwhile with repeated viewing, and fun if you follow the included list of clues that comes with a booklet all about the making of this strange but brilliant movie. Now I see what all the fuss was about – weird huh?
The DVD is a very nice package indeed, and even has the normally frowned upon (by David Lynch) scene selection that is as off-kilter as can be expected. Add to this a wealth of interviews, a making of and lots more – and this is worthy of anyone’s collection, Lynch fan or not.
Verdict: 5 /5