Crimson Peak


Viewed – 22 October 2015  Cinema

I had been looking forward to this gothic horror / romance for a while and it was one of my most anticipated movies of the year.  Director Guillermo Del Toro had become one of my go-to directors in recent years, especially for his two Hellboy movies and the seminal masterpiece that is Pan’s Labyrinth.  So anything with him at the helm seemed guaranteed for success.  However my expectations were set a little lower after the stunning looking but disappointing Pacific Rim.

Crimson Peak

This follows the period-set story of Edith (Mia Wasikowska) whose father is a big shot and attracts the attention of mysterious clay miner (?) Thomas (Tom Hiddelston) out to raise money for an invention but needs Edith’s father’s backing.  Yet Edith’s father doesn’t like the look of him or Thomas’s creepy sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).  Yet intent on swaying the man, Thomas sets out to win the heart of Edith after muscling his way into a ball put on for the local dignitaries.  Very Pride and Prejudice so far you may think.  However following a turn of events I won’t spoil, Edith is whisked off by Thomas & Lucille, to an ancient creepy old house with more than it’s share of ghouls and ghosts, and so Edith must unravell a mystery surrounding the house and the brother and sister who have come into her life.

crimsonFor a start, this is one of the most breath-taking visual treats I’ve had at the cinema in a long time.  Every shot and camera angle and corridor, room and costume is a work of art – it really is a gothic visual masterpiece.  How then, you might ask can the movie be so uninvolving and lacking in depth or personality?  The performances are decent (especially Hiddleston) but with a plodding script, zero chemistry between Thomas and Edith despite their insistence on being in love and scenes I’m sure were meant to be scary or disturbing, much of this just came off as ‘meh’.  It goes as far as how the characters react to stuff, like Edith witnessing some grotesque legless creature coming out of the floor and crawling after her down a corridor – only for Edith to look puzzled and run away.  Yeah, I see that sort of thing every day!  What doesn’t help either is that the ghosts seem overly CGI – Del Toro is known for pioneering some amazing creature designs over the years and has used prosthetic make up to brilliant effect (Pan’s Labyrinth’s awesome Pale Man).  These sequences just didn’t have the same impact.  Add to this the eventual reveal and point of the whole story coming off as ‘…is that it?’ – and I just came away feeling deflated.  From early word I’d read I hadn’t expected a full on horror, but did hope for characters I would care about and a story that pulled me in – but beyond the obvious artistry of the visuals, this did anything but.  I have a feeling a second viewing may fair better, but as it stands this was disappointing.

Verdict:  3 /5

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Watch List 2015


Here are a number of movies I still hope to see before the end of 2015.  I’m trying to get as many in as possible so my end of year Top Ten has more to pick from.  I think my viewing this year has had some real gems and compiling the list will prove very interesting.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Crimson Peak

Inside Out

Jurassic World

Legend

Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Martian

Spectre

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Straight Outta Compton

Tomorrow Land

Movie preview 2015


With 2014 finally in the memory banks, I am of course looking to the year ahead for my movie fix and wonder just what will excite, delight and entertain in 2015?  Listed below are just a few of the movies I am most looking forward to, with a few words on how I hope they’ll turn out…

Kingsman: The Secret Service

January

Mathew Vaughan’s attempt to inject some much needed cool into the Brit spy thriller and considering he was responsible for the excellent Kick-Ass, I’m very hopeful of this one.

Ex Machina

January

Directing debut of writer & novelist Alex Garland, with an intelligent look at artificial intelligence, a reclusive genius and a realist look at cyborg-technology.  Trust me, it looks cool.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

April

I really enjoyed the first Marvel Avengers Assemble, and any follow up seems essential viewing.  Maybe the whole Marvel comic book thing is getting tired, but hey, one last outing for Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Black Widow has gotta be worth seeing.

Mad Max: Fury Road

May

Tom Hardy seems perfect casting as Max, but the post-apocalyptic setting is very tired and director George Miller, who made the first movie way back in 1979 – has he still got it?  Could go either way this one.

Jurassic World

June

No Spielberg?  Hmm, ok.  I’m on the fence about this, but the original Jurassic Park is still a classic and if they can capture even a bit of that movie’s wonder and scale, then I’m in.  Chris Pratt, hot off Guardians Of The Galaxy seems a good fit.

Crimson Peak

October

After the luke warm offering of 2013’s Pacific Rim, it’s good to see director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) go back to his routes in this creepy looking horror.  Casting of Alice In Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska seems a great choice as is the gothic spooky mansion setting.

Mission Impossible 5

mission-impossible

December

Can this series do any wrong?  Not after Ghost Protocol it can’t I’d say and despite an ageing Tom Cruise, this is pretty much guaranteed to wow us again with some amazing stunts.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

December

Although the recent prequels were rather hit and miss (mostly miss) I’m very open minded by what wonder-kid J J Abrahms can bring to the party.  Star Wars is now also in the hands of Disney who seem to have the Midas touch of late, so this has to be good, right?

So those are for me, the big hitters of 2015 but I’m sure there will be many surprises and disappointments along the way.  I’m curious about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie and there’s still a lot I didn’t get to see in 2014 that I need to catch up on, like Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1 (and Part 2 when it arrives) as well as Exodus Gods & Kings and Birdman.  There are also probably some I haven’t even been made aware of yet that could turn out to be great.  We’ll wait and see.

Ten from another place


Thought I would express on here my love of foreign cinema, and although I don’t get to watch as much as I would like, there have been some real gems over the years.  It is sad whenever I mention foreign (or world) cinema to anyone who isn’t exactly a cinefile, they immediately say ‘Is it subtitled?’ to which my answer is normally ‘yes’ and their reaction is to be instantly put off.  It makes me sad.  However if such things don’t bother you all that much, then the list below has some good titles to check out…

Tell No One

tell no one

Based on the novel by Harlan Coben this mystery thriller follows the story of a Doctor mourning the death of his wife, who one day contacts him via email.  A great cat and mouse whodunit with ruthless villains and a storyline that keeps you guessing to the end.  A great on foot chase and superb use of U2’s ‘With Or Without You’.

Chung-king Express

chungking-express

Discovered this during my ‘have to watch everything Hong Kong related’ phase back in the 90’s.  Yet in complete contrast to the John Woo action movies I had become addicted to, this was a sweet love story about different people and how their lives have an effect on one another.  Beautifully filmed by cinematographer Christopher Doyle to clever, multi-layered direction by Wong Kar Wai.

Howl’s Moving Castle

howl-s-moving-castle

Hayao Miyazaki … surely no need for explanation here.  I think this magical, highly imaginative fantasy based on the children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones and with glorious hand-drawn animation … is a joy.  I may even go as far as saying it’s my favourite Studio Ghibli movie, with a little less Japanese oddness compared to the more famed Spirited Away.

[REC]

[rec]

Stop reading this if you have seen the lacklustre remake ‘Quarantine’ starring that woman out of Dexter … this is a majorly scary, hand-held camera / found footage horror in the style of The Blair Witch Project but so much better.  Superb, fast-paced direction from Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza – the sequel is pretty awesome too.

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance

sympathy

The second movie I had seen by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker), and making up the first part of his famed ‘vengeance trilogy’.  This harrowing tale of human organ trafficking, revenge and a deaf & dumb protagonist trying to save the life of his ill sister, is raw, very violent and powerful.  Made me think a lot afterwards about right and wrong etc.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

girlwiththedragontattoo

Kind of an obvious one and in my opinion superior to the recent remake and also its two sequels.  A mystery involving a missing woman, a cool computer hacker with a troubled past and a disgraced journalist.  Excellent, career making turn from the wonderful Noomi Rapace.

Let The Right One In

let-the-right-one-in

Based on the controversial novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and with superb, understated direction from Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), another that is superior to the remake and with a touching love story at it’s heart between two lost souls.  One of the finest horror movies of the last decade.

The Killer

the killer

The movie that put famed action director John Woo on the map.  Chow Yun Fat as a charming hitman who accidentally blinds a singer in a club during a hit.  Danny Lee is the tough cop out to catch him but discovers more than he expected.  Superb action sequences with Woo’s trademark slow-motion gunplay, and a touching story of guilt and redemption that went on to shape much of Woo’s career.

Betty Blue

bettyblue

One of my all time favourite foreign movies.  A tale of free-spirited Betty and her struggling-writer boyfriend during a wild road trip.  It’s French, its full of sex and nudity and became a cult favourite during the late eighties.  Béatrice Dalle is magnificent and extremely sexy in the lead role.

Pan’s Labyrinth

pan's labyrinth_edited

Guilermo Del Toro may be more known overseas as the man behind the Hellboy movies, but on his own turf he makes intelligent, often hauntingly beautiful movies most notably this acclaimed fantasy that crosses real world horrors of civil war with the imaginary world of a girl’s imagination.  Beautiful imagery, great special effects and strong performances makes this a true classic.

If you’re one of the crowd that just don’t do movies in a foreign language, can’t abide subtitles etc … I really urge you to give at least one of the titles above a day in court.  World Cinema can be braver, more daring and just as well made as anything from the states.

Those more than familiar with these types of movies … what are some of your favourites?  Any recommendations?  Leave your comments below…

Mama


Viewed – 25 August 2013 Blu-ray

I always have an air of caution when I see a famous director’s name above a movie title saying ‘presents’ it normally means he has had nothing to do with the actual making but has lent his name to it to aid it’s promotion.  It’s an old Hollywood ploy and usually means the movie in question will fail to live up to said director’s reputation.  Thankfully to some extent that isn’t entirely the case here with Guillermo Del Toro offering himself up to promote this creepy horror that in my opinion works with or without his help.

mama

A troubled man murders his wife then kidnaps his two young daughters, soon finding himself lost in a woodland until he stumbles upon a cabin.  Five years later, the man has vanished and his brother tracks down the two girls who have seemingly fended for themselves in the cabin and woods ever since – or have they?  This is an interesting set up, imaginatively filmed and with a very unsettling atmosphere.  The story is intriguing but gets a little obvious about half way in, and once the frights and horror kick in, it’s pretty much a CGI-fest, and not particularly convincing CGI.  Thankfully performances are decent, especially from a goth Jessica Chastaine (Zero Dark Thirty) and the two young actresses playing the troubled girls are also good.  The scares are fairly well implemented and the feral actions of the girls are freaky and disturbing – even if that aspect is only briefly explored.

For a night in with a scary movie, this works for the most part – the plot lacks a bit of exposition as I wanted to know more about the father and the troubled spirit, but was left clueless.  Also it didn’t really go for the jugular and was fairly tame overall.   Entertaining, but not one I’d rush to see again.

Verdict:  3 /5