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.
Five years after the nostalgia trip that was Escape Plan – a dream team of 80s action muscle; specifically Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger – its sequel, imaginatively titled Escape Plan 2, replaces Schwarzenegger with former professional wrestler, Dave Bautista and Xiaoming Huang. Escape Plan 2 is a sequel that Stallone himself has called “beyond awful”, and yet I have to admit that I actually quite enjoyed watching it for the same reasons I enjoyed its predecessor: its excessive, over-the-top action; although this time there is a lot more martial artistry, courtesy of Xiaoming Huang.
“This isn’t a prison. It’s a machine.”
Directed by Mikael Håfström, and written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller, Escape Plan is a prison break thriller starring Sylvester Stallone as Ray Breslin; a former criminal prosecutor turned prison security expert. As co-owner of Breslin-Clark, Breslin specialises in testing the reliability of maximum security prisons. The weaknesses that are uncovered by Breslin-Clark can then be eliminated. Straight away Escape Plan presents Ray Breslin as a sort of quagmire; a former prosecutor turned security expert AND businessman, with expert knowledge of structural engineering.
“No one breaks out alone.”
It’s been thirty-one years since the release of Tom Holland and Don Mancini’s original Child’s Play, the notorious slasher-horror-comedy hybrid with an avid cult following. After six sequels under the Child’s Play and Chucky titles, director Lars Klevberg and screenwriter Tyler Burton-Smith have delivered a complete re-imagining of the original, set in the modern day. The question that comes up is “is this necessary?”, a fair inquiry, as some may consider the franchise to be over-saturated. However, it’s important to say that I’ve never seen any of the previous films, including the 1988 original…
“More than a toy… he’s your best friend.”
I adored Species as a teenager, having persuaded my parents to rent it on VHS back in 1998/99. They trusted me with the horror genre, and I doubt they realised how sexually charged this genre flick actually was. Yeah, the VHS cover featured Natasha Henstridge in a state of seductive transformation – a extraterrestrial-human hybrid – but it also featured headshots of Forest Whitaker, Alfred Molina, Michael Madsen, and the Academy award-winning Ben Kingsley! How were they supposed to know that they had just rented their thirteen-year-old son smut!
“Be Intrigued. Be Seduced. Be Warned.”
The Nightingale follows Clare, an Irish convict who is regularly abused by vile British officer Hawkins, eventually resulting in her husband and new-born infant being murdered in front of her while she is being gang raped in an excruciatingly long and graphic scene. When Hawkins abandons his post due to the drunkenness of his men and journeys up north to apply for another post, Clare sets out to exact her own revenge. She brings along a native guide named Billy, who she treats unfairly. Billy is the only character who prevents this film from being a period based I Spit on Your Grave…
“Her song will not be silenced.”
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.”
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. However, I decided I’d take the opportunity to look back at some movies that didn’t particularly float my boat and see if I can find some good points in them. With the best intentions in mind, I picked the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street as the first movie to give a second watch. I was aghast when I heard this movie was being made. But, I like to have an opinion about things so, I gave it a watch. On that first go I was just as disappointed as I expected to be. Let’s face it, the original film is a genre defining classic…
“Welcome to your new nightmare.”
When I interviewed the esteemed Producer/Director Roger Corman for Claudia Jennings’ biography, he said Unholy Rollers was his favorite of the four films Claudia appeared in for him. As Claudia’s breakthrough film, Unholy Rollers established the character she would be identified with until her death. Beautiful, fearless and ruthless, Karen Walker epitomized the Hollywood Bitch Goddess that many thought represented Claudia’s true nature. The film is noteworthy because it marked Claudia’s debut as a major B movie actress.
“A locker room look at the toughest broads in the world!”
Masks, dressing up and spooky Halloween tunes. When you think of Halloween your mind turns to, what will I wear? I need to look good for trick or treat. This was before you watched Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Tommy Lee Wallace creates a nail biting movie which plays on all the main things that make Halloween and trick and treating fun. He turns it on its head, pardon the pun and terrifies the life out of anyone choosing to wear a mask and watch TV during the Halloween season. This classic horror uses three different types of mask; a pumpkin, a ghost and a witch.
“The night no one comes home.”
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.”
Arrow Video are quickly becoming heroes to horror fans that cut their teeth on the genre in the 80s. Regularly releasing the type of titles that you would be fascinated with in your local independent video shop, it gives those of us who excitedly gorged on the type of low budget horror these shops stocked a chance to re-watch them with modern eyes, and those too young to rent them a chance to finally get their hands on them.