Saturday, 24 September 2016

Dark Skies

“Just because I can’t explain something doesn’t mean aliens are responsible.” Scott Stewart’s DARK SKIES (2013) charts life in the troubled household of Daniel and Lacey, and their sons - just as one of their boys is having puberty issues. The director of quite entertaining Paul Bettany vehicles, Legion (of angels and apocalypse), and Priest (an alternative-world dystopia based on a Korean comic-book), remixes bits from Poltergeist and Shyamalan’s Signs, but without much quirky inventiveness. Dark Skies prefers to keep its cake whole while also scoffing it down, well before teatime.

There’s a Sandman visitor in the dead of night (“Maybe if I just gave him my eyes, he would leave us alone,” says little Sammy). Walkie-talkies and webcam security offer no protection against swarming bird strikes in suburbia. Creepy intruder alerts prompt domestic meltdown into UFOlogy beliefs about missing-time episodes, sleepwalking disturbances, and implants for seemingly arbitrary mind-control. 

Are you ready for some claustrophobically close encounters? Yes, here is another 'X-File' about irresponsibly meddlesome aliens, similar to ‘stranger’ entities in Philippe Mora’s floppy/ pseudo-comical movie Communion, based upon Whitley Strieber’s book.  

J.K. Simmons (TV crime series The Closer) is the consultant ‘expert’ on Greys and whatnot. Predictable scares punctuate routine development of a hackneyed plot. Dark Skies, like its 1990s TV series namesake, is all played commendably straight but, sadly, despite a few effective chills, it’s never interesting enough to maintain adequate levels of suspense and/ or dramatic tension for longer than a few minutes at a time, before it lapses into longer stretches of acute boredom, enlivened only by clichéd twists.

Keri Russell in DARK SKIES

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Beautiful Creatures

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (2013) is a fantasy romance with a modern styling of southern gothic. Lonely among the god-fearing folks of Gatlin, South Carolina, small town mortal Ethan falls for his ‘dream girl’ Lena, a novice witch whose magic is maturing too rapidly for easy control. Her wealthy family’s waning patriarch, Uncle Macon (camp Jeremy Irons), struggles to maintain a positive influence over present day events, never mind local expectations of a gloomy future, if his worried niece is claimed by the dark side. 

Of course, Lena and Ethan’s fate is linked to a curse that has lingered/ festered since the Civil War. Predictably, the solution to this moral predicament requires a sacrifice (read that as a kind of exorcism) to finally bury its corruptive power. 

Directed with patchy competence by Richard LaGravenese (writer of Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King), the movie’s humour is just as awkwardly false and strained as the comedy sideshow routines in Tim Burton’s quirky Dark Shadows remake. The principal cast are merely adequate, but Emmy Rossum (Day After Tomorrow), shines, and is good fun, as vampish cousin Ridley. The ghost of TV series Charmed, and not True Blood, haunts every twist/ downturn of this Twilight inspired scenario’s drooling sentimentality. This is fantasy with the crusts cut off, so all that’s left is the cotton-woolly insides.  

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Jaws goes shopping

Despite overwhelming evidence that humans kill many more sharks than sharks kill people, big fish continue to be presented as villains in aquatic thrillers, whether such dramas have an eco-horror dimension, or not. It’s particularly amusing to note that more than a third of these movies have fantastic creatures (see Dinoshark and Sharktopus), not realistic animals, so it is clear how exhausted this notion has become in a nature’s revenge plot.
BAIT (2012) is an Australian disaster movie about a great white shark that invades a coastal Queensland shopping centre after the building is flooded by a tidal wave. A makeshift shark cage is deployed but prompt fatality crushes any hopes for quick or easy escape from either the supermarket floor, or an underground car park, until...  

Co-written by Russell Mulcahy (a talented director who seems to be practically retired nowadays), this is the directing debut of Kimble Rendall. Shop-lifter girl and stock-room boy are stereotyped kids (still the population of ‘least concern’ in genre scenarios), mistaking stupidity for rebellion, but becoming heroes in spite of themselves.
The real bad guys include armed robbers (one is played by Dr Doom himself, Julian McMahon). Spectacular effects, some terrible overacting, and black comedy death scenes combine to make this almost as much brainless fun as the Piranha remake. The hi-def edition boasts crisp sound and sharp visuals, and the disc includes the 3D version.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Movie clichés

Top 20 Over-Used Lines

No catch-phrases like “Bond, James Bond” or Arnie’s “I’ll be back”.
These clichés should no longer be in movies unless they are used with ironic intent...

Wanna talk about it?

We need to talk

Did you hear something?

I got a bad feeling about this

I got this

Is that all you got?

Why are you doing this?

Look what you made me do!

You look like shit

It’s just a flesh wound

Get some rest

Don’t you die on me!

What’s the plan?

Cover me

Stay in the car

I should go

Wait, I can explain!

How hard can it be?

That’s impossible

Stand down!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Sunday surrealism

“We have to laugh before midnight.” Parisian weirdness is supercharged in Leos Carax’s wholly astonishing HOLY MOTORS (2012). After the self–reflexive prologue of a man (the director himself) waking up in a dream room above a cinema, we are introduced to protagonist Oscar, apparently an executive being chauffeured to work by Celine (Edith Scob, Eyes Without A Face), but nothing is what it appears to be in this realm of cinephilia. Oscar applies his first disguise to emerge from his white stretch limousine as a hunchbacked, crippled beggar. He becomes the CG–movie stuntman for mo–cap combat action and contortionist sex. In a grotesque form, he’s a rampaging sewer weirdo; eating flowers in a cemetery before intruding on a street–theatre fashion shoot to, in gothic Quasimodo mode, kidnap a supermodel (Eva Mendes).

From his re–usable chrysalis car, Oscar transforms into the father of a painfully shy teenage girl, leads a parade of accordion players, imitates a murdered hoodlum and, in a burst of spontaneity, changes from a knife maniac into a hooded crazy gunman who cannot be killed. One seemingly bizarre ‘appointment’ follows another until, as elderly Mr Vogan, he sleeps in a hotel deathbed while his doting niece watches over him. Denis Lavant is quite adept at these portrayals, as if he’s a freaky eccentric in vignettes of enigmatic tragedy, or an agent provocateur for livewire role–play about urban paranoia and secret identities. Is there time for one more character stunt? Kylie Minogue plays another of this chameleonic kind, for a musical interlude and suicide, in this mystifying yet fascinating melodrama.

Holy Motors lacks the romantic energy of the director’s previous film works, like Lovers On The Bridge and Pola X, but this retains their emotive power of lives in disarray. What is normality? It’s show–time! In terms of cinematic references, and an auteurist consideration of digital filmmaking, this offers video vertigo. The final bit of garaged whimsy makes little or no sense of what has happened before. Perhaps that is, honestly, the point of it all.