After-Life


Viewed – 08 November 2010  Blu-ray

Christina Ricci will always be remembered for her star-making turn as Wednesday Addams in the Addams Family movies, of which my favourtie was the sequel, Addams Family Values.  Few actresses can convey a creepy, gothic sensibility whilst still remaining likable, and with this horror thriller she comes into her own as a woman who after an argument with her boyfriend, drives away in her car during a rainstorm and is involved in a car crash.  Waking up on a mortuary slab, she meets charismatic mortuary attendant Liam Neeson, who tries to convince her she is dead and that he must now prepared her for her funeral.

This dark, somewhat tongue-in-cheek tale is full of startling imagery, impressive use of sound, lighting and set design, and a lead actress who makes for a beautiful corpse.  Ricci, mostly scantily clad throughout, and for large portions completely naked, offers up a brave and creepy performance that is only outshined by Neeson’s disturbing mortuary attendant.  The movie mixes dream sequences with real-life turmoil and exposes the very eerie reality of death, but never allows the viewer to come to any concrete conclusion, with an ending that will more than likely leave you baffled and amazed.  This is a damn clever movie and can be appreciated on several levels.  The director is clearly in love with the unique look of Ricci and almost every scene is a showcase for her beauty and obvious acting talent.  Justin Long as her boyfriend offers a similar turn to that of his helpless boyfriend character in Drag Me To Hell, but remains very watchable none the less.

An imaginative and devious little horror that for once doesn’t treat the audience as dumb.  An easy recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

Speed Racer


Viewed – 24 Jan 2009  Blu-Ray

Another film to receive a critical mauling when released in the summer, and having watched it, I come away wondering what people found to fault.  This vibrant living, breathing live action cartoon is based on a long running Japanese TV series, and is a return to the big screen for Matrix Trilogy sibling directors Andy & Larry Wackowski

Emile Hirsch plays the young racing driver prodigy of the title, who’s mentoring by his elder brother in early years makes him strive to become the best race car driver of all time, spirited on by his racing obsessed family, headed by John Goodman and Susan Surrandon.  With the temptation of joining an all powerful racing promoter or sticking to his routes, Speed Racer must face all opposition to come out the winner. 

This very simple, kid friendly story works a treat in such a cartoon-styled world, and Emile is a perfect choice with his good looks and obvious charm.  Of course someone sitting down to watch this isn’t going to be expecting anything to really test the grey matter, as the pyrotechnics and the stunning visual imagery on display is the real meal ticket – and the Wackowski’s pull every trick out the hat to dazzle the senses and fuel the adrenaline.  Add to this a story that you can’t help but get caught up in, with some nice twists and turns (no pun intended), this is expertly crafted popcorn brilliance.

speed-racer11

The Blu-Ray format was created for this kind of material, with the vibrant primary colours and retina-bleeding special effects – every shot, every crash and every pixel is displayed in pristine detail, but its also hard to figure if the stunning looks are down to the format or the incredible art design.  Either way, you will never have seen anything quite as jaw-dropping as this before, at least from a visual sense.  Yes the set up is simple, the characters stereotypes and its all a bit over the top and over long – but whatever some may say, I loved it.

Verdict:  5 /5

Black Snake Moan


Viewed – 21 September 2007  DVD 

This one will probably have slipped under the radar of most people, as its another one of those moderately acclaimed indie films that never seem to share cinema space with big hitters like Transformers or Die Hard 4.0.  Yet also these films often have loads more personality and attract name actors who want to prove to the world they’re not just about glitz & glamour and can muck it out with the best of them.

This follows the story of trashy trailer park nympho Christina Ricci, who’s on a self-destructive course after her boyfriend (Justin Timberlake) leaves town to join the army, and soon she’s off getting trashed, screwing anyone who looks at her twice and generally not giving a damn if she lives or dies.  She has a Mother who has more or less disowned her, is tormented by flashbacks to an abusive past possibly from an overly friendly step-dad, and really there seems like no way out for this girl.  Then we have Samuel L. Jackson as a world-weary former blues musician who’s wife has just walked out on him to hook up with his own brother – and before long these two people are flung together when Jackson discovers Ricci left for dead on a roadside, half-naked and unconcious.

This story of redemption in the deep south is both heart-breaking and heart-warming and has an eye-opening turn from Ricci who is near naked through most of the film and is dam-sexy…but backs up the flashes of tits and ass with a powerful performance that surprisingly equals Jackson’s own troubled blues musician.  I was also impressed by how good Sam can sing, and it would seem from this evidence, he could fill out a concert hall no problem.  The film is also attractively, iconicly shot and the director obviously knows how to make Ricci look like a cult-cinema poster girl throughout.  Add to this a great soundtrack, decent support from Justin Timberlake amongst others and my only criticism would be an ending that seems too nice and easy considering all the problems these characters clearly have.

Verdict:  4 /5