Ring


Viewed – 22 March 2019. Blu-ray

Following the mysterious deaths of a group of students, a rookie female reporter investigates links to an urban legend revolving around a cursed video tape. The movie that started it all. An international sensation that spawned several sequels as well as an American remake. So how does this 1998 original hold up? Well, what Japanese horror does well and this does equally well is that ‘unsettling stillness’. Dark Water, by same director Hideo Nakata, avoids clichéd jump scares or gore, favouring gradual menace this movie cemented and made a genre all its own. Add influences from traditional Japanese folklore, and traditional detective stories as well as Japanese ghost stories spawned what we now know as J-horror.

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More an eerie drama than full-on scare-fest, this feels rather lightweight despite its reputation, even though that slow burning ticking clock plot device helps deliver a sense of dread that makes that famed, often satirised and copied ending all the more powerful. However, performances are largely only passable and often overly theatrical.  Thankfully, Nakata’s direction is restrained but suitably creepy, helped by a great sense of unease if avoiding full on chills mostly., and that incredibly effective, freaky soundtrack does crank up the horror.  Yet overall, this is rather dated today and the plot doesn’t make much sense, leaving many questions unanswered.  A girl trapped in a well, a curse, deaths but er… how does that connect to videotapes? It seems to me like a convenient plot device.  It’s also  to me this was a clear influence on recent cult hit ‘It Follows’ amongst other movies.

The new 4k restoration from Arrow Video boasts a decent picture with effective sound treatment in DTS HD master audio 5.1. The movie is rather stilted and bland to look at yet this only adds to it’s atmosphere. Extras consist of a fascinating commentary from film historian David Kalat. We also get a complete version of the cursed video (date you watch it?) and several worthwhile featurettes.  There are also trailers and a photo gallery. Decent treatment for a classic that whilst diluted by modern standards, still deserves its place in horror movie history.  And yes, I prefer it over its Hollywood remake.

Verdict:

(the movie). 3.5 /5

(the Blu-Ray)  4 /5

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Bohemian Rhapsody


Viewed – 12 March 2019  online-rental

I’ve come to this with quite some anticipation, not only for the fact that any movie involving the British rock band Queen was going to be an interesting story but also following the Oscar nod given to Mr Robot’s Rami Malek for his portrait of Freddie Mercury … this just became more and more an essential prospect.  Charting the band’s 1970s origins right through to their legendary appearance at Live Aid in 1985, this mostly focuses on the personal battles of Mercury, his sexuality etc., whilst also touching on the bands on off struggles for creative freedom.

Bohemian-Rhapsody

Malek, a little young looking to fully get away with the role and not the most eloquent of speakers (thankfully Mercury’s actual voice is dubbed over for the singing) still does a good job mimicking the iconic star’s flamboyant mannerisms and also handles emotional scenes convincingly.  Additional casting for the band members is also rather uncanny (especially Brian May).  Director Bryan Singer has delivered an absorbing, respectful yet not glossed-over biopic that although not fully capturing the attention Queen got especially in the early years (little word on record sales or chart success), manages to showcase who Mercury was and just how good the music was, leading to a feel-good if bitter-sweet ending that I’ll admit got me teary eyed.

It may bunny-hop over significant moments in their discography such as a collaboration with David Bowie or their involvement with the Flash Gordon soundtrack, but overall this was fascinating, entertaining and made me appreciate Queen all over again.

Verdict: 4 /5

State of Play


gamingWell it’s obvious we live in a really amazing time for video games.. i’m in the fortunate position to own three games consoles; the Xbox One X , PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch … and even though I’m not a PS4 player these days (I mostly use it for Netflix on YouTube), I find plenty to turn to via my Xbox and Switch.  The games I’ve been playing lately including still diving in and out of The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild (clocked over 200hrs on that masterpiece so far) as well as persevering with Pokémon Let’s Go and to a smaller extent Super Smash Bros Ultimate.  As far as newer games are concerned I’ve been playing Metro Exodus after recently completing Metro Last Light (highly recommended), Exodus has some of the best graphics I’ve seen for a while on Xbox One X which really shows off the system in its full 4K glory, and is a solid survival shooter that has strong echoes of the legendary Half Life 2 due to a focus on story and characterisation as well as polished gameplay.

Devil May Cry 5

I’ve also recently started playing Devil May Cry 5, the latest entry in a series I’ve always been fond of even though I’ve only really ever played the first game … but I did play the seriously misunderstood spin-off DMC Devil May Cry a while back on the Xbox 360 which I consider an underrated gem.  I’m also still occasionally dipping into Red Dead Redemption 2 which whilst a very good game and real showcase for the Xbox One X, fails to fully hold my interest as much as other games can do.  I’m not entirely sure why this is because it’s really well done and they’ve re-created the Wild West superbly, but I think it’s that open-world freedom which, with exceptions, I find turned off by. In most regards when it comes to games I much prefer a straightforward linear narrative with occasional side quests and secrets thrown in, if a game has any chance of holding my interest.

I think regardless of what system you prefer, what games you play there is something for everyone available at the moment. It’s to the point that sometimes there’s a too much choice and it’s more a case of a lack of time or lack of money preventing me from playing some of these titles … but if I choose wisely I can stumble upon some real gems and get some great experiences in this hobby I enjoy almost as much as movies.

Craig.

The House That Jack Built


Viewed – 05 March 2019. Blu-Ray

Matt Dillon, who first caught my attention following his star-making role in cult favourite Drugstore Cowboy returns after what seems to have been a long absence from the movie scene. Hats off to him for choosing such a controversial role as ‘Jack’ a man recanting five incidents during a twelve year history as a serial killer.

The House That Jack Built

One of those movies that instantly stirred up controversy following it’s Cannes debut. With a myriad of clever, baffling and disturbing references in an attempt to explore a damaged mind, both revered and reviled director Lars Von Trier’s movie is equal parts challenging, shocking and decidedly clever. Structurally with Jack’s repeated attempt to build a house whilst at the same time descending into madness is a work of ingenious symbolism. In amidst harrowing depictions of breast-slicing or strangulation there’s also a surprising and welcome amount of satire and dark comedy (returning a rigpr mortis-stricken body to the scene of the crime, OCD cleaning up), that comparisons to American Psycho or French thriller Man Bites Dog are valid. However, one scene involving a mother and her two little boys challenged even my admittedly far reaching boundaries.

Dillon is fantastic and very convincing as this unfeeling sociopathic killer and in different material (or if he was Anthony Hopkins) might have got the Oscar nod. Yes, Von Trier gets self-indulgent in his artistic flourishes, throwing in German expressionist-like imagery and footage from the holocaust as well as his own movies to hammer home various points about art and violence. Yet along with Jack’s narrated conversations with disembodied confidant ‘Verge’ … what we ultimately get is a very unique take on the serial-killer subject, meaning I came away rather impressed.

Verdict: 4 /5

Velvet Buzzsaw


Viewed – 26 February 2019  Netflix

I think it can be agreed now that Netflix has become a force to be retconned with and now attracts Hollywood A-list talent to front it’s growing catalogue of original content.  So we come to this rather strange horror thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Toni Collette.  Gyllenhaal plays an art critic who works with various art galleries to put on exhibits.  However he is craving the latest big thing and after a mysterious elderly man dies, an undiscovered collection of weird paintings falls into his lap.  However something is very wrong with these paintings, and the gallery owners, employees and critics are about to discover exactly what.

UNTITLED DAN GILROY FILM

This was a strange one.  Firstly Gyllenhaal is probably my favourite actor, and here he’s playing a rather camp, self-absorbed bi-sexual character who at times comes off like two separate people (when he’s in critic mode, he’s effeminate and flamboyant, otherwise he’s quite serious and masculine). However like many of Gyllenhaal’s characters – he makes it work.  Russo is the rather bitchy gallery owner and not exactly a stretch from the last movie I saw her in, Nightcrawler, of which this is the same director.  Collette is nothing special and an appearance from John Malcovich is forgettable also.  Zawe Ashton as an ambitious gallery employee however, is just awful with robot-like line delivery making me think she was doped up on medication.  However the core idea of cursed artwork and the mystery of the deceased painter is intriguing, just a shame it goes nowhere in favour of a series of (admittedly imaginative) deaths. 

It may feel a bit lightweight and suffers from a TV movie-vibe but with quirky performances and a strong central idea I did have fun with this … but it’s far from essential viewing.  That title has little reference to the movie either. 

Verdict:  3 /5