Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Film Review: Horns (2014)


One of the most vapid (and yet theoretically interesting) parts of film culture is the obsession with film stars, or celebrities.  Although it is ridiculous to expect actors to only play a single part in a single movie, some stars become so synonymous with a role or a type of role that it shapes the entire reading of future films.  This can often lead to fascinating performances and can enrich films, but it can also create a kind of critical conventional wisdom about a film just because of it’s casting before people have even seen the film.

One of the most high profile actors working today who is trying to escape their past is definitely little Daniel Radcliffe.   Post-Potter he has purposely taken difficult and interesting roles with various levels of success to try and prove himself as an actor.  He has performed on stage as the orphan “Cripple Billy” in an intensely dry play about Ireland in the 1930s; he has simulated gay sex as Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings; and played an egomaniacal parody of himself flicking a condom onto the head of Dame Diana Rigg in Extras.  I’m sure he’s been offered a thousand rom-coms and fantasy films but it seems safe to say that he is trying to prove himself with slightly more ‘edgy’ roles.

Horns is going to divide opinion with its plot and casting before anyone has even seen it.  Radcliffe plays Ig Perrish, a pariah in a small town that has been blamed for the grisly murder of his long-term girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple).  He wakes up days after the murder with little memory of where he has been and what he has done, and has two demonic horns growing out of his head.  At first people don’t seem to notice these horns, but instead they are affected by their presence and end up treating Ig differently (to say the least). 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Film Review: '71 (2014)

'71 poster

Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is a newly recruited British soldier from Derbyshire who has to leave behind his orphaned younger brother after being deployed along with his regiment to Belfast at the height of the violence (In 1971, obviously).  The first day after he arrives the troops are briefed about the geographic danger zones in the republican West of the city, especially around the notorious “IRA stronghold” of Divis Street council flats, and of the splintering factions between old IRA and the new, younger Provisional IRA.

On his first morning in the city they have to go door-to-door in a Catholic neighbourhood in order to find some illegal weapons, where they come up against strong resistance from the locals.  This quickly gets out of hand leading to a shocking moment of violence that separates Gary from the rest of the regiment.  After running away from some young men who are trying to kill him (filmed with an amazing Point-Break style chase scene through the backstreets), he is alone and terrified and has to steal some civilian clothes to make it back to the barracks.

After bumping into a young kid who has powerful family connections, Gary is drawn into a series of escalating violent betrayals as the night progresses between the older and younger elements of the IRA, the undercover military and the rest of his regiment… 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Film Review: Candlestick (2014)

Rope, the story of an egomaniacal upper class New Yorker and his obedient ‘friend’ who host a macabre dinner party with a secret chest containing their recently murdered friend as the centerpiece of the meal, was always my favourite Hitchcock film.  It is filmed entirely from one direction in a large apartment studio set (with a theatrical ‘forth wall’ missing) and in 10 minute long takes with hidden cuts to make the action continuous like in the theatre.  It is a masterpiece of suspense and captures the inherent tensions and power plays involved in the phenomenon of ‘dinner parties’.

The debut from writer/director Christopher Presswell happily and proudly announces its Hitchcockian influences right from the beginning, as evident from the brilliant Saul Bass title sequence and Hermann-esque score (recorded no less by the Prague philharmonic…).  It also openly references TV show Midsomer Murders, ‘70s cult film Abigail’s Party and, of course, the board game Cluedo.

Jack (Andrew Fitch), a smarmy narcissist, is introduced in bed with Vera (Isla Ure), the well-to-do wife of his best friend Frank(Nigel Thomas).  In amongst the discussion of their affair Jack reminds her about a dinner party that he is throwing that evening for Frank, their old friend ‘Major Burns’ (Tom Knight) and Inspector Marcus Evans (Dan March).  Vera gets up to dress and discovers that she is missing an earing, but leaves Jack in bed.  As she leaves we see that Jack has the earing and is has plans to use it to devastating effect later on at his party… 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Raindance: Windowlicker (2014)

Should cinema be enjoyable?  Does a film need a plot?  Can a film make you have an ontological migrane and still classify as good?  The latest film from  lo-fi auteur Brian Mcguire does not care about any answers...

Window Licker (Or ‘WiNdOw LiCkEr’) tells the story of Ben Wild as he descends into a hellish madness after planning to meet up with an old school friend but another person arriving in his place.  Yet even that is too much of a simple, linear chronology to explain what happens on screen – the film is basically a manic and paranoid sketch show focusing on Ben’s increasingly crushing paranoia that could easily give viewers an aneurysm if they lean to close to the screen…