Cronos


Viewed – 06 April 2012  Blu-ray

Special Edition

I have long been an admirer of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, whose style of fantasy horror has led to such genre classics as Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II and the Hellboy movies.  He has a great eye for action, creepy imagery and comic-book excess, and would have been an ideal choice to direct the forthcoming Hobbit movies if it weren’t for production difficulties causing him to jump ship.  Thankfully we have a rich back-catalogue of movies to enjoy, none more notable than this 1993 debut.

Jesus Gris is an elderly man who owns an antiques shop, who comes into possession of an Archangel figurine, and unknowingly discovers an ancient mechanical device hidden inside.  He learns the device can grant him youth if he allows it to latch onto him, but soon discovers one major drawback – it turns the user into a vampire.  At the same time, a wealthy tycoon on his death-bed has been searching for the device for years, and when he learns of the man’s discovery, a battle erupts for who will claim the device for their own.

Co-starring del Toro regular Ron Perlman as the tycoon’s nephew (and hired muscle) this is a gripping and unusual take on the vampire myth, boasting a quality performance from Frederico Luppi (The Devil’s Backbone) as well an enjoyable turn from Perlman.  Yet this is largely Guillermo’s show and his artistry and imagination is shown off brilliantly in some great camera work, set design and imaginative, how-did-they-do-that make-up effects.  For a horror movie it may lack shock moments or jump scares, but is still undeniably freaky, feeling very Edgar Alan Poe in its atmosphere.  I was also surprised by how effective some of the moments between the old man and his granddaughter were, proving quite moving at times.  For a debut it also proves that del Toro was a real talent from the off.

The Blu-ray boasts a very nice picture, that although lacking in fine detail, is clean and free of artificial enhancements.  Sound-wise the Spanish and English dialogue is clear and precise and the haunting soundtrack is delivered fittingly.  This isn’t a brash, noisy movie but quite subtle, yet is still very effective.  This special edition from Optimum has a wealth of extras, including interviews, a director’s commentary (always a plus from the enthusiastic del Toro), a making-of and various stills galleries.  An impressive treatment for a classic of the genre.

Verdict:

(the movie) 4 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

Drive


Viewed – 09 March 2012  Blu-ray

Post-Oscar, this remains one of the forgotten, highly acclaimed movies to come out in the last twelve months, and the simple fact it was only nominated for it’s sound-editing, says a lot for the snobbery of the judges.  Ryan Gosling (The Notebook) stars as a stunt man moonlighting as a getaway driver, due to his expertise behind the wheel, who befriends a pretty next door neighbour and her young son.  Yet when the husband arrives home from a prison stint, Ryan gets roped into a robbery and before long, he’s trying to outsmart some very brutal gangsters and save not only his own skin, but also that of his neighbour.

Gosling plays this with brooding intensity … nice and unassuming on the outside, snarling pit bull on the inside.  It’s very Travis Bickle, and works brilliantly, making Ryan Gosling suddenly one to watch.  The movie is filmed in a style that borrows from eighties-era Michael Mann (think Miami Vice, L.A. Takedown) and has moments of brutal violence that scream Quentin Tarantino.  Yet this movie has its own voice also, helped by impeccable editing and stylish cinematography, with a soundtrack straight out of late eighties synth, that makes it one of the more iconic movies in recent memory.

The often underrated Ron Perlman is great as a local mobster, as is an intense Albert Brooks as Perlman’s business partner.  For me, some of the violence bordered on B-movie however, and the ending lacked the ‘punch’ the rest of the movie has in spades, but overall this was a smouldering and effective thriller and a perfect showcases for an actor at the top of his game.

Verdict:  4 /5

Season of the Witch


Viewed – 28 August 2011  Blu-ray

Nicholas Cage may well be one of the most prolific actors around, even if these days stand-out roles seem to pass him by, and he’s not really the star he once was.  That being said he always seems to lend a likable and infinitely watchable persona to every role he takes on, so sitting down to this was an easy choice.  He plays a heroic crusader turned deserter who along with his friend, fellow crusader Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Blade 2), they stumble upon the transportation of a suspected witch in a local village where a dying cardinal (an unrecognisable Christopher Lee) wishes her to be taken to a group of Monks so she will be given a trial.  A plague has also gripped the land, and those in charge believe the witch is responsible.  Cage & Perlman on the other  hand would rather give her the benefit of the doubt.

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Hellboy II: The Golden Army


Viewed – 20 August 2008  Cinema

My god I have been so looking forward to this.  As probably the biggest fan of Guilermo Del Toro that I personally know (which is not saying much) and having adored Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade 2 and especially Hellboy – this was just begging to be seen. 

When a mythical world starts a rebellion with the human world, threatening to destroy all mankind, it’s up to Hellboy and his band of misfits to stop crazed Elf Prince Nuada from raising the infamous Golden Army.  This full-on sequel to Del Toro’s stylish and very different comic book blockbuster throws in love stories, the desire to be excepted, crazy demonic creatures, tons of highly stylised action and plenty of dry humour – everything the first film was, turned up to eleven!

Ron Perlman’s Big Red of course steals the show and is on fine wise cracking, iconic form and is probably the most likable screen hero I think I’ve ever had the joy to watch…add to this the brilliant turns by a very much expanded Liz Sherman (a magnetic and sexy Selma Blair) as well as the excellent Abe Sapian (Doug Jones) whose given his own love story this time around, and this unlikely bunch of heroes make for a more comppelling cast than anything you will find in the X-Men movies.  Also this time the team are joined by a Russian scientist who is basically a heap of gas in a special suit, voiced by Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane with superb, laugh-out-loud results.  Did I also say this film is really funny?  There’s some priceless moments of slapstick and dry humour – but thankfully the movie also knows when to get serious with some eye-melting action and stunning fight choreography, made all the better by superb production design and state of the art creature effects.

Now apart from an opening explanation of the history of the Golden Army – little light is shed on the evil Prince’s desire to cause such chaos and why he chooses this moment in time to kick off, but that’s small potato’s, especially when the villain is played so well by Luke Goss mirroring his exceptional turn in Del Toro’s Blade 2.  There is also so much going on here it would be a terrible disservice to point out plot holes – and believe me you will be having way to much fun to analyse.  So sit back and enjoy the best movie so far this year.

Verdict:  5 /5

Guillermo Del Toro is God!


There is a God…and his name is Guillermo Del Toro.  The stylish, uber-talented director of such acclaimed films as Blade 2, Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth has recently been named as the perfect choice to direct The Lord of The Rings prequel adaptation The Hobbit.  Originally rumoured to be attached to Rings genius Peter Jackson, the choice now made seems even more suitable than that talented Kiwi.  I am well-pleased.  Further more, the adaptation is to be made into two films, with the second part detailing what happened between the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the start of Fellowship Of The Ring – a controversial idea it may seem, but with Peter Jackson still attached as producer, and knowing Del Toro’s pedigree  – this can’t go wrong.  Fingers crossed.

Also in related news, Del Toro’s much anticipated Hell Boy 2: The Golden Army is looking amazing.  Check out the trailer…