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First Love (2019, Japan / UK) Review

First Love (2019, Japan) Review

About to enter his fourth decade of filmmaking and with over 100 movies to his name, Takashi Miike is one of the most prolific filmmakers working today. With such a huge output (averaging four films per year) his work can vary in genre and in quality. Some of Miike’s crime features can be humorless and gory, but his latest feature First Love, sees him at his most anarchically playful, his trademark ultra-violence is present, but here it is tempered by black comedy and a touch of romance. First Love is the kind of film that is a treat for genre fans who are familiar with Asian gangster tropes.

“Why boxing? It’s all I can do.”

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The Films That Made Me: Donnie Darko (2001, USA)

The Films That Made Me: Donnie Darko (2001, USA)

Donnie Darko has been firmly entrenched in my favourite top ten films since it first hit cinema screens in 2001. I re-watch it every year or two, and it never fails to engage. If you’re expecting me to explain the movie, I’m afraid that I’m just as unlikely to do so as writer/director Richard Kelly. Besides, you know you don’t really want me to, because if I did explain what every twist in the film means and how it all fits together, the movie wouldn’t intrigue you half as much. No-one really wants to see inside the workings of a cuckoo clock, they just want to see the strange little bird pop out.

“Dark. Darker. Darko.”

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The Films That Made Me: Alien (1979, UK / USA)

The Films That Made Me: Alien (1979, UK / USA)

In 2020 it’s impossible to approach Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien as a first-time viewer and feel anything resembling its original impact. Everyone has seen Scott’s vision of space taken up by countless sci-fi films and most people know each of Alien’s iconic scenes, whether they’ve seen the entire film or not. After several Alien sequels and spinoffs, countless imitators, and the wholesale cinematic plundering of Giger and Scott’s visual sci-fi language, it is hard for latter generations to imagine a time in science-fiction before Alien – a time before face-huggers, chest-bursters, and strong heroines.

“Sometimes the scariest things come from within.”

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Daniel Isn’t Real (2019, USA) Review

Daniel Isn't Real (2019, USA) Review

Daniel Isn’t Real is a vivid psychological horror from director Adam Egypt Mortimer, which centres around troubled college freshman Luke Nightingale. We learn that when Luke was around five years old he ran into the street to get away from an argument which was raging between his mum Claire, who was struggling with mental issues, and his unsympathetic dad. A few blocks away he stumbled across the aftermath of a bloody shooting at a neighbourhood café. As little Luke stood staring at a blood-spattered corpse, he was suddenly joined by another little boy called Daniel.

“I had an imaginary friend when I was a kid. His name was Daniel.”

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PRINCE: SIGN ‘☮’ THE TIMES (1987) Available 20th January on Blu-ray from 101 Films

PRINCE: SIGN '☮' THE TIMES (1987) Available 20th January on Blu-ray from 101 Films

Prince and his band bring the Grammy Nominated Album Sign ‘☮’ the Times (1987) to life in what is one of the greatest concert films ever made. Although the album of the same name is now broadly recognised as the pinnacle of Prince’s musical achievements, initial sales failed to reach the heights of Purple Rain. The idea of a concert film was soon formed, in order to promote the album to American audiences in theatres.

“If you go to only one concert this year… the Prince movie is the one!”

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Anna and the Apocalypse (2017, UK) Review

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017, UK) Review

A Zombie Christmas Musical… Anna and the Apocalypse has it all, and no doubt that’s why it took 6 years to make after the release of the short film Zombie Musical. Sadly one of the writers (Ryan McHenry) died before this 2017 Scottish film was released and it never received a UK cinema run. So unless you are a fan of the genre who travels to independent festivals you may never have heard of it. But, you should do. The zombies and special effects are great with plenty of gore and some really interesting fight scenes; particularly in the bowling alley which is where my favourite kill takes place.

“She’ll Slash. She’ll Stab. She’ll Sing.”

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The Monster Squad (1987, USA) Review

The Monster Squad (1987, USA) Review

I’m well into my 30’s now. That means I was lucky enough to be in my pre-teens when Fred Dekker was still directing films and TV. He may be known by most people as either the director of the entertaining Night of the Creeps or calamitous Robocop 3, but sandwiched in between these two totally dissimilar yarns was 1987’s The Monster Squad.

The titular “Monster Squad” is a small group of horror-loving kids, led by Sean, who run their affairs from a poster-adorned treehouse.

“You know who to call when you have ghosts. But who do you call when you have monsters?”

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CHRISTMAS EVIL (Slasher Classics Collection) Available Now on Blu-ray from 88 Films

CHRISTMAS EVIL (Slasher Classics Collection) Available Now on Blu-ray from 88 Films

As a boy, Harry Stadling worshipped Santa Claus – until he caught his mommy rockin’ around the Christmas tree with him. Now all grown-up and his memories of the holiday’s forever twisted, Harry decides to hit the streets, spreading some blood-soaked Christmas cheer of his own…

“Forget White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life and all the other hackneyed trash,” declared auteur of outrage, John Waters, “Go for the best seasonal film of all-time: Christmas Evil!”

“Better watch out… Better not cry… Or you may DIE!”

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Lionsgate UK Presents Supernatural Horror THE GALLOWS ACT II on DVD 6 January

Lionsgate UK Presents Supernatural Horror THE GALLOWS ACT II on DVD 6 January

The terrifying spectre of ‘The Hangman’ returns in this nightmarish sequel to smash-hit supernatural thriller The Gallows.

When Auna Rue, a teenage vlogger and aspiring actress, logs onto a sinister website, she’s soon trapped in the malevolent world of cursed stage play, The Gallows. After performing a passage from the play for her tiny online fan base, Auna instantly achieves the stardom she seeks – as well as a twisted challenge from the deadly spirit of The Hangman himself…

“Evil chooses you.”

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The Lighthouse (2019, Canada / USA) London Film Festival 2019 Review

The Lighthouse (2019, Canada / USA) London Film Festival 2019 Review

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…

“There is enchantment in the light.”

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Joker (2019, USA / Canada) Review

Joker (2019, USA / Canada) Review

There’s a very poignant line given by a therapist to character Arthur Fleck in the movie Joker that basically sums up its overall message: “Nobody gives a fuck about people like you.” The character of the Joker has been featured on screen four times previously, but this is the biggest change in dynamics than ever seen before. So too is the environments those previous incarnations have played in. This time around there’s no mention of superheroes or capes. This is the most grounded, gritty and most realistic take on the character and the city of Gotham ever.

“Put on a happy face.”

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Brick (2005, USA) Review

Brick (2005)

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.”

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