Tuesday, April 03, 2012

March Film Highlights

It's possible I've mentioned my 50 Word Film Reviews blog I'd be most grateful if you could go there and visit.

The Woman in Black (2012) Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, Liz White. Dir: James Watkins.

A lawyer is dispatched to an isolated mansion feared haunted by the locals. Play worked because of carefully built and sustained dread; at one point this adaptation has Radcliffe race into a burning building. Added periodic shocks suggest little faith in the source material, or the audience. Some effective sequences.


The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) Ben Gazzara, Timothy Agoglia Carey, Seymour Cassel, Azizi Johari, Robert Phillips, Morgan Woodward. Dir: John Cassavetes.

A strip club owner becomes indebted to gangsters who will clear his debt if he murders a bookie. Backstreet cinema-verite character study, which asks how far you’d go to protect your world. Gazzara’s not desperately likeable or intimidating, but his response to losing his seedy hole is shocking and unexpected.


Natural Born Killers (1994) Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr., Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield. Dir: Oliver Stone.

A couple of violent killers on the run became media darlings. Wildly filmed, Cormenesque critique of mass media manipulation, one that pushes you to root for the killers, despite their depravity. MTV style hyper-cutting is striking, but exhausting over two hours, beating you over the head with the film’s message.


The Dark Eyes of London (1939) Béla Lugosi, Hugh Williams, Greta Gynt, Edmon Ryan, Wilfred Walter. Dir: Walter Summers.

A series of dead bodies in the Thames are linked to a crooked insurer and a home for the blind. First UK film to get an H rating for horror. This surprisingly nasty thriller has some creaky moments, but boasts strong suspense, solid direction and Lugosi really in his element.


The Raven (2012) John Cusack, Alice Eve, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson. Dir: James McTeigue.

Edgar Allen Poe joins a murder investigation after his stories inspire a killer. Poorly scripted and plotted. Directed without suspense or atmosphere and little attention to period. Cusack plays Poe as a washed-up rockstar, with few demons, but at least he has good lines; Evans is painful to watch. Rubbish.


Dracula AD 1972(1972) Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Stephanie Beacham, Christopher Neame, Michael Coles. Dir: Alan Gibson.

The Count awakens in 70s London to avenge himself on the Van Helsing family. The 70s seems like the 60s in this unintentionally funny attempt to relaunch the series. Still the same plot, yet it’s one of the pacier entries, with above par direction and a welcome return for Cushing.


Carnage (2011) Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz. John C. Reilly. Dir: Roman Polanski.

Two sets of parents sit down to discuss a fight between their children. Not quite on-par with Polanski’s other interior psychodramas; characters are a tad archetypal and it doesn’t cut as deep as it promises to. But there’s sharp dialogue and wit, and a great performance from Waltz to enjoy.


The Omen (1976) Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Harvey Stephens, Patrick Troughton. Dir: Richard Donner.

Sinister occurrences lead an ambassador to believe his son maybe evil. Is it the many parodies, or the film’s tendency to take itself very seriously, while going way OTT, that makes it a giggle? Some fabulously flamboyant executions help make it very entertaining despite weak plotting and stodgy sections.