DramaFantasyFilmReviews

The Films That Made Me: Wings of Desire (1987, West Germany / France)

The Films That Made Me: Wings of Desire (1987, West Germany / France)

In our rush to analyse, dissect and debate, we often forget that one of the functions of art, in this case cinematic art, is simply to give pleasure. Pleasure is subjective – what might give you pleasure might not appeal to someone else. It’s futile to disagree on this point unless of course, we can all exchange opinions in ways that might be mutually enlightening. Some of the most fascinating conversations I’ve had with cinephiles is when they enthuse about the films that made them fall in love with the medium. It is that which has prompted me to discuss some of the ‘films that made me’

“There are angels on the streets of Berlin.”

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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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Knives Out (2019) London Film Festival 2019 Review

Knives Out (2019) London Film Festival 2019 Review

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.”

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The Church (2018, USA) Review

The Church (2018, USA) Review

The Corinth Baptist Church has hit some troubling times, its congregation is diminishing and funds in the collection box are low. However, this is the least of its problems. For Pastor James, the future of his family legacy is looking grim. This is The Church, directed by Dom Frank whose principal setting also happens to be the place of worship that his own family have attended for decades. Although pressured to sell the church for reasons ranging from reaching the community to big screens that will deliver the message of God to 2,000 people, Pastor James appears to have reservations.

“Vengeance is His.”

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The Meg (2018, USA / China) Review

The Meg (2018)

Sometimes you go to the cinema with a certain expectation. After seeing trailers for a film promising non-stop excitement or tear-jerking performances, you buy your ticket and prepare to either be blown away or disappointed. After watching trailers for The Meg I can assure you, that you will get exactly what you expect from this movie featuring Jason Statham and a 75-foot prehistoric shark.

If you want a tense thriller like The Shallows or a hydrophobia-inducing classic like Jaws, then you might want to skip this one.

“Pleased to eat you.”

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Mary Shelley (2017, UK / Luxembourg / USA)

Mary Shelley (2017)

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.”

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A Quiet Place (2018, USA)

A Quiet Place (2018)

John Krasinski, better known for his portrayal on The Office, has not previously tackled the horror genre; either as a director or as an actor. His directorial debut, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009), and his second feature The Hollars (2016) were both comedic dramas that displayed Krasinski’s talent both in front of the camera and behind it. But Krasinski’s transition into horror is something special. Co-written by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods and John Krasinski, A Quiet Place is as much about parenthood, as it is about the otherworldly creatures that hunt exclusively by sound.

“If they hear you, they hunt you.”

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Split (2016, USA)

Split (2016)

Split is a grindhouse film in disguise, particularly repulsive for the cavalier way it blames women for the degeneracy of McAvoy’s character.

What makes Split so frustrating is that it could have been Shyalaman’s best film. Visually the film is perfect and the sound strikes the right balance between serene and scary, much like a Hitchcock film. The tension is palpable in the psychiatrist’s scenes, and the gripping terror of the girls is captured perfectly as their predicament grows worse.

“An individual with multiple personalities can change their body chemistry with their thoughts.”

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America 3000 (1986, USA)

America 3000 (1986)

Let me just preface this article with the acknowledgement that I loved this movie way out of proportion to what it probably deserves. If you’ve seen it or do so in the near future, it’s a tossup as to whether or not you’ll feel the same way about it that I do. You might gag and roll around on the floor foaming at the mouth miming, “My eyes, my eyes!” But seriously, have you seen it yet?

Another movie that’s so good at being bad that it surpasses all expectations, America 3000 is the work of writer-director David Engelbach. You’ll join me if that name doesn’t ring a bell, as this movie was his single directorial credit.

“An outrageous post-nuke adventure!”

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Tremors (1990, USA)

In the isolated town of Perfection, not all is perfect. As strange occurrences and corpses mount up, the inhabitants led by Val & Earl, two hapless handy-men, doing what they can to fund their next beer, find themselves at the mercy of marauding underground giant worms.

This great film, which can be found somewhere within the television schedules nearly ever week, is an excellent example of a modern day ‘creature feature’, though now 20 years old, has not lost any of its charms, with a good selection of colourful characters and well paced storytelling.

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