There can be few things as psychologically damaging as being trapped in solitary confinement with someone you hate. For his follow-up to The Witch, Robert Eggers delivers a grim, hallucinatory story about two men shut up in a lighthouse tower, going slowly mad in their mutual loathing. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are Tom Wake and Ephraim Winslow – arriving to work for a month-long shift at a remote, rain-lashed lighthouse, somewhere off the coast of 19th century Maine. Wake is a veteran lighthouse keeper (wickie), as salty a sea dog as one might wish to meet…
I have to admit, straight off the bat, that I’m an absolute sucker for Agatha Christie-type whodunnits, so too is self-confessed fan, writer/director Rian Johnson, as he admitted during his talk at the recent BFI London Film Festival. He certainly demonstrates his love for the genre in his spirited and inventive homage, Knives Out. Johnson knows that half the fun lies in our recognition of the rules of the game, so he immediately provides his audience with a rambling, labyrinthine, old house in the countryside, full of curiosities and knick-knacks, a wealthy patriarch, and a large family with many secrets.
“Everyone has a motive. No one has a clue.”
Rian Johnson is a director, writer and musician, but primarily one of the most unique, inventive and sometimes controversial, filmmakers currently active in both film and TV. In Brick, Johnson coaxed uniformly outstanding performances from a young cast, most obviously an assured and compelling turn from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, earmarking the young actor as one to be watched (a prediction that has since been eminently fulfilled). However, the movie’s most arresting strength is a script that reads almost like Shakespearean dialogue and sounds like music.
“A detective story.”
The word ‘Epic’ has recently been devalued and just used to mean something that is striking or enjoyable, but the correct meaning of the word indicated narratives in the ‘Epic’ mould – those which surpass the ordinary in scale and reach heroic proportions – this applies to films too. I’m taking a look at some of the truly Epic movies from the early 1980s that showed extraordinary ambition in their story and spectacle.
“Forged by a god. Foretold by a wizard. Found by a king.”
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that The Matrix is a great science-fiction movie, but there is more to it than that. For its 20th anniversary I’m going to take a look at all the elements that made The Wachowski’s movie such a cinematic milestone and how it raised the bar for all subsequent genre movies. When The Matrix was released in 1999 it opened up new vistas of imagination in screen science-fiction – a domain of cyber existence that no film had yet explored. It was a sci-fi movie that changed the genre. It was, in fact, a movie that changed film-making in general.
The fight for the future begins.”
This year sees the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s Alien, and to mark the occasion 20th Century Fox is releasing a 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray package that will be available in the UK from April 1st, 2019. Don’t miss the chance of seeing the alien, bursting out of John Hurt’s chest in glorious HD! Alien is one of the most discussed, dissected and academically analysed movies in modern cinema. Considering so much has been said about it, the film seems to be simplicity itself: a tense, linear storyline, an innovatively envisioned setting, sparse dialogue – simple, but close to perfect.
“In space no one can hear you scream.”
In March 2019 Arrow Video is re-releasing Hideo Nakata’s Ringu in celebration of its 20th anniversary; restored from the original negative in vivid high definition.
Ringu is based on a novel by Koji Suzuki, (known as the ‘Japanese Stephen King’) and for any western viewer this film is the starting point for any exploration of modern Asian horror.
“How did the rumours about the video even start in the first place? This kind of thing… It doesn’t start by one person telling a story. It’s more like everyone’s fear just takes on a life of its own.”
At the outset of American Animals the words “This is not based on a true story,” appear onscreen, then three of those words disappear leaving the statement – “This is a true story.” Although American Animals is a heist film at its core, British documentarian Bart Layton, in an impressive feature debut, relies closely on a factual account of real events which took place in 2004. Intercut with the dramatization of the robbery played by actors, are interviews with the actual men who committed the crimes. This makes for an interesting and unusual combination of documentary and dramatic fiction.
“The perfect heist is a work of fiction.”
As a British kid who had little interest in American High School movies, I was shown the original 1988 film Heathers by an American friend and was much surprised and amused by the sly subversiveness of its pitch-black satire. It offered the conventional ‘Mean Girls’ social dynamics, but offset that with extremes of murder and suicide.
Made a decade before the tragic shootings at Columbine high school, Heathers is a film that appears more controversial now than it was at the time that it was made.
“Best friends, social trends and occasional murder.”
Created by writer Joe Kelly and artist J.M. Ken Niimura, I Kill Giants was first launched as a limited comic book series from Image Comics in 2008, and compiled into a graphic novel in 2009. Now a full-length feature film from director Anders Walter, I Kill Giants tells the story of pubescent girl Barbara Thorson who spends much of her time focused on the task of luring, trapping and killing the giants that she believes threaten her small coastal town. I Kill Giants does offer a family, fantasy adventure that is brave enough to deal with some distinctly adult themes.
“I find giants, I hunt giants. I kill giants.”
In 1818 Mary Shelley produced one of the most influential texts in literature: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Her novel attracted a huge degree of critical attention and gained increasing cultural importance, so much so that the circumstances of its composition has achieved a kind of mythic status. One might expect that the film would indicate how Mary was shaped by the many losses, difficulties, and disappointments of her life, but instead filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour tends to revel in the love story, the costumes and the poetic flights.
“Her greatest love inspired her darkest creation.”
There isn’t much I haven’t already seen when it comes to horror films. I’ve been watching them ever since I was old enough to get away with it, or even before (on one occasion I got in to see The Exorcist while underage because I was accompanied by a priest!). I’ve seen all the regular horror tropes play out in scores of films, with varying degrees of success.
Although the overriding premise of Ari Aster’s first feature, Hereditary, isn’t a particularly original one, the unfolding and execution of that premise is exceptional.