Baskin


Viewed – 27 August 2016  Online rental

Every now and then I feel up for a nasty little horror movie and have a pretty strong threshold of what I can endure with movies like Hostel and Saw standing out as good examples of the more extreme side of horror.  However it’s often the case that horror from foreign countries can push that envelope further as witnessed in the disturbing classic Martyrs.  So sitting down to this Turkish entry I was both excited and a little nervous.

baskin

A group of cops, hanging out at a late night restaurant, are called to an emergency at an old, abandoned police station in the middle of nowhere.  So sets up a night of terror, hallucinations and a descent into hell as the cops try to make sense of an increasingly bizarre and freaky situation.  Director Can Evrenol has gone on record as saying he was influenced by the movies of such Italian horror auteurs as Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, and if like me you’re at all familiar with either director, it’s in full force here; Argento’s decidedly weird colour palettes of blues & reds (and great use of music) … Fulci’s dream-logic narrative and revelling in gore etc.  This is less a movie about story, traditional structure and more about atmosphere, style and freaking out (or repulsing) the viewer.  In such respect it works wonders and jumps in time, dreams and reality whilst at first jarring, soon created a personality all it’s own, and I began to just go with it, awaiting the next nutty development.

This is pretty messed up stuff; satanism, lashings of blood, graphic throat slits, and at the centre of it all the horribly disturbing looking ‘Father’.  I won’t go into any more of what happens but rest assured this one is not for the easily offended or squemish (and it gets pretty sick) but definitely a movie for gore-hounds and those that like their horror to punch them in the face until they can’t take no more.  Yet it could have been scarier, and as there is little reason or logic to anything, I was left not really caring about any of the characters.  With that said, I still applaud the director for nailing a very effective style and delivering an ‘experience’ not easily forgotten.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Sing Street


Viewed – 23 August 2016  Online rental

Occasionally a movie comes along that you don’t find out about through expensive advertising campaigns, but by sheer accident, watching something on YouTube and it gets a brief but enthusiastic mention.  That was my experience and has to be said I still wasn’t rushing out to see it, but happened upon it when browsing newly released rentals, so thought I’d give it a shot.  And am I glad that I did.

sing-street

A young kid (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) growing up in Dublin during the mid eighties, finds his family falling on hard times and has to move schools from a posh public school to a regular school and quickly becomes the target of the local bully and a tyrannical head master.  However he’s quickly distracted from such woes when he spots a girl in the neighbourhood he’s immediately drawn to.  Influenced by his slacker elder brother’s constant speeches about music he asks said girl if she wants to star in his music video for his non-existent band, and when to his surprise she agrees, he realises he actually has to put a band together.

Sing Street RaphinaWith the backdrop of the 80s, the new-romantic fashion trend, pop music like Duran Duran and The Cure, I found myself transported back to my childhood and an era that seemed both  alien and all too familiar at the same time.  This utterly charming and feel good movie is full of personality and interesting characters and packs a lot of heart into it’s story.  Think a cross between Gregory’s Girl and The Commitments and you may see what this one’s going for.  It’s nostalgic and funny but also authentic to what was going on back then.  The relationship between the kid and his elder brother is wonderfully well observed and made me think of myself growing up, looking to my own sibling in a similar way.  It’s also full of memorable songs, some of which were penned for this movie by writer / director John Carney, who apparently comes from a musical background himself.

To nit pick would be to do this a disservice as it works on pretty much every level, but I did find it a bit odd how the kid and his band mates go alarmingly fast from a bit dodgy to very professional, and the ending was a little silly.  Yet this is a movie you’ll probably not have heard of or would pass by in a heart beat …but really don’t as it’s one of the most purely entertaining and thought-provoking movies of the year.  Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


Viewed – 29 March 2016  Cinema, 19 August 2016  Blu-ray

Theatrical & Ultimate Edition

(Updated: 20/08/2016) Not for a long time has a concept made me so nervous.  Two of my favourite comic book heroes of all time, pitted against each other?  Why?  I couldn’t understand the need for it other than an excuse to bring Batman back after the Christopher Nolan trilogy wrapped.  I was a big fan of the last Superman movie, Man of Steel and I felt it was exactly the movie we deserved in the modern era, with the shuddering memory of Brian Singer’s Superman Returns pushed from my mind.  The casting of Superman with Henry Cavill was also a work of genius.  Where did they find this guy?

Batman v superman

So we come to the expected sequel and this time the stakes are increased after the fall out from the devastation and destruction at the end of the last movie.  Unbeknown to us at the time a certain playboy millionaire was in town by the name of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who witnesses the destruction.  Unaware who this new hero is and witnessing what he is capable of, he vows to step in when a media and government backlash sets out  to discredit the man of steel’s name.  On hand to further blacken Superman’s image and raise awareness of ‘what if this man was to turn against us?’ is local tycoon Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who gradually manipulates everyone including Wayne / Batman until both caped heroes are forced into a confrontation.

WonderWomanSitting down to the extended ‘ultimate edition’ a few of my issues with this movie got fixed, with more light shed on how Superman becomes so disliked and how Luthor manipulates public opinion against him.  However not much has changed as far as the script is concerned and on a second viewing some of those pivotal lines are even more cringe-worthy (‘do you bleed?’ for example…).  Also despite more evidence to support Batman wanting to actually kill Superman, it still doesn’t ring true for the character as we have come to know him.   However in the hands of director Zack Snyder the whole deal looks incredible and the action throughout is superbly executed with stand outs being a great Batmobile chase and of course the eventual smack down does not disappoint and plays out well … until that is they find a reason to stop.  Yeah once you see it it’s pretty corny (even more so on a second viewing ‘why did you say that name?’).  Also casting throughout is decent with Holly Hunter on hand as a conflicted Senator, yummy Amy Adams again perfect as Lois Lane and newcomer Gal Gadot damn sexy and bad-ass as Wonder Woman.  Jesse Eisenberg is also having a ball as Luthor … but proves rather annoying and overly pantomime.

batman-v-superman-ben-affleck

But the movie still has problems.  It’s jam-packed with characters which causes it to feel bloated.  A wealth of flashbacks and dream sequences throw in some confusion and just feel lazy.  Also the writing stumbles in key areas such as the main narrative and how Luthor seems to know everything (including certain people’s alter-egos), which is not explained (even in the longer cut).  There’s also a bit too much setting up for Justice League.  With that said … production, style, action, encounters, performances (with a surprisingly spot-on Affleck) and a few bold plot developments still impressed.

The original theatrical cut battled against plot issues for everything it did right.  The ultimate edition only slightly improves things with some welcome details helping it all work better – but that doesn’t make for a great movie … just an entertainingly flawed one instead.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

10 Cloverfield Lane


Viewed – 16 August 2016  Online rental

I really liked Cloverfield, one of those hand-held shaky cam movies that are like marmite to some people … it was a tense, thrilling take on ye-old alien invasion plot and the prospect of a sequel although not something I expected, certainly appealed.  Then I was to learn that this movie bares very little resemblance or connection to that movie other than the word Cloverfield. So I suppose I went into this not really knowing what to expect.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) plays a woman seemingly running out on her boyfriend, but on route to wherever, is involved in a car crash – and soon wakes up in an underground bunker under the watchful eye of John Goodman’s ‘Howard’.  Howard’s a bit creepy though and fears she’s been kidnapped come immediately to mind until he starts saying the world has become contaminated and some sort of incident has occurred on the surface.

I liked this set up.  Claustrophobic, with just these characters for company.  Helped then that we get some strong performances, especially Goodman who drifts unnervingly between creepy, likeable and psychotic, leaving this viewer constantly trying to figure out his agenda.  Winstead is also very good and rather resourceful as a woman who clearly knows how to make the best of a bad situation.  However the movie stumbles a little in it’s characterisation … it deliberately vague about who these characters are which proves frustrating, especially as with Goodman you never know what to believe.  Also where the movie ends up going is particularly predictable even if the final scene proves quite thrilling.

Overall I had a good time with this.  It threw in some surprises (especially a bit involving a barrel), I enjoyed watching things play out and the tension was pretty thick at times.  I still have no clue what’s the significance of the word Cloverfield is though.

Verdict:  3 /5

Only Yesterday


Viewed – 13 August 2016  Blu-ray

I love the movies of famed Japanese animation house ‘Studio Ghibli’, which I have made no secret of and collect pretty much anything they have done.  So it was sad to hear about the studio closing and greatly anticipate their final feature ‘When Marnie Was There’ which releases on Blu-ray in the UK in October.  For now I have stumbled upon this much older release which has been given a long-awaited western release outside of it’s native Japan with a brand new English dub for those who don’t favour the original language.

only-yesterday

This tells the story of Taeko, a young woman who whilst travelling to the countryside, finds herself reminiscing about her childhood and at the same time trying to figure out her place in the world.  A gentle, whimsical tale not unlike more recent Ghibli movie ‘From Upon Poppie Hill’.  So you’ll find no sorceresses or magic castles in this one folks, as it’s more of a drama about life, love, growing up etc.  It’s all done in an utterly charming way with great voice work from it’s cast most notably The Force Awakens’ Daisy Ridley.  However despite interesting flashbacks and keen observations of puberty, childhood, friendship etc. I did find my mind wondering, and once Taeko reaches the countryside the story does start to plod quite noticeably to the point that watching flower picking, cooking and family meals got a bit boring.

Thankfully the art style, all hand-drawn traditional animation is beautiful – the flashbacks are done in soft-focus almost water-colour and modern day is all vibrant and brimming with detail.  Also the character of Taeko was well realised and I did find myself relating to her, causing me to reminisce over my own schooldays.  Yet it’s a movie that takes a long time to get to it’s point, focusing on the mundane a bit too much (as some Japanese animation has a tendency of doing) and is a story that’s simply ‘nice’ rather than all that engaging.  If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli it’s still worth a look, but for me, the studio has done better.

The Blu-ray looks lush…very sharp and colourful and only slightly soft I guess when the movie requires it.  The English dub although only in Dolby 2.0 is clear and works well.  This isn’t a particularly atmospheric movie so don’t expect it to wow in that department – although that closing theme song was quite lovely.  The extras are slightly above average for a Studio Ghibli release – storyboards, behind the scenes of the voice casting, a detailed (subtitled) making of and some trailers.  So decent treatment for an enjoyable if not exactly essential movie.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5