Crazy Evil

Panos Cosmatos

Nicolas Cage
Andrea Riseborough
Linus Roache

Red [Cage] and Mandy [Riseborough] are a couple living in the Californian Shadow Mountains. An artist and a lumberjack, they lead a quiet and simple life with little to no contact with others. While out walking Mandy is seen by cult leader Jeremiah Sand [Roache] as his van drives by her and he becomes fascinated by her. Inconsolable, he orders his followers to contact a sadomasochistic biker gang named the Black Skulls and retrieve her for him. The cult and the gang enter Red and Mandy’s home and this results in a long, painful and violent quest of revenge for Red.

At its core, Mandy is an extravagant and extremely well-constructed but wholly unironic, earnest grindhouse release. Unlike the standard fare, this is a schlocky film that is assembled and shot with keen precision and vision, following a Mad Max formula and pacing, starting with a long, drawn-out establishment before ramping up to a manic bloody tale of vengeance. But for all its late seventies wild-eyed mania, Mad Max is very much an approachable narrative that a mainstream audience could get behind. Mandy goes out of its way to be the opposite, it knows what it wants to be and the kind of audience it will attract and directs itself, full throttle, to that niche group. As an effect of this, Mandy is a very unique release, unabashed with only limited sources for comparison. Case in point, the animated almost chaptered segments, reminded me of Southland Tales whereas the LSD revenge trip felt eerily reminiscent of Only God Forgives and the rich, vibrancy of the visuals and intentional disorientation of the narrative gives a Suspiria vibe. Yet it doesn’t really feel like any of the films I’ve just listed.

From a technical standpoint, there is a lot that is masterfully done but, again, with that very exclusionary attitude. The cinematography is a thing of hideous beauty, with its mix of deep, rich saturation and excessively grainy shots as well as clearly lit moments that feel separate from the bulk of the dreamlike state. This is mirrored by the aural pairing of Johann Johannsson’s guttural score and the animalistic sound design (especially with the “black skulls”) giving a subhuman demonesque tone to the whole nightmarish ordeal. Finally, the production design takes the setting of the early 80s and runs with it to a degree of fantasy and otherworldliness that explains to the audience that certain very realistic elements are taking place outside of the realms of normality as we understand them. As mentioned earlier, this is a very competent and well-made grindhouse release and usually with this type of release one of the three key points is extremely budget or ineffective but all three are working in such unified harmony that it makes the film a technical marvel; but these are the aspects to a film that most people initially absorb or appreciate, they are things that ferment and linger with time.

Which brings us to the immediate, kneejerk observations – specifically the acting. Linus Roache is a great embodiment of the Charles Manson-esque cult leader, an unhinged but enigmatic individual with delusions of grandeur. It would be all too easy to veer into the absurd but Jeremiah is a terrifyingly grounded and insecure individual who wields an uncomfortable amount of power and influence. On top of that, as eccentric as he is, it is a very difficult challenge to go up against the eccentricities of someone like Nicolas Cage and not appear like you’re competing too much or underperforming but Roache strikes a happy medium. Then there’s Riseborough whose portrayal as Mandy is deep and nuanced, giving her a haunting, almost ethereal quality. Throughout the whole film there is a feeling that there’s something unusual about her, something different, which is purposefully designed to allow the audience to see a glimpse of what Jeremiah sees in her.

But the real point of discussion will be Nicolas Cage himself. In truth, without him, I don’t feel Mandy would have gained half of the momentum and praise it has garnered. Many will talk about the performance being quintessential Cage, the wide-eyed, untamed, screaming energy that people have come to either love or hate. In truth, I think it’s actually a much more restrained and layered performance than some may be expecting; if we take something like his role in Face/Off, the levels of manic zeal are far more wild and reeling but the difference here is that every aspect of this movie is operating on the same level, allowing Cage to merely inhabit the world without his style feeling out of place. As an interesting comparison, Nicolas Cage recently appeared in the generic Season Of The Witch, a fairly big-budget medieval story with high-fantasy elements but while that movie couldn’t utilise Cage’s talents to the degree it wanted, here we have a similar medieval fable that exists in such a heightened reality that it can be told effectively. So we have all the fairytale story beats without the familiar surroundings: the wronged knight who ventures out, killing orcs then reaching a tower, consulting a wizard with a magical animal, descending into a dungeon or cave and killing the dragon inside. Even the cross above the altar in the cultist’s church is presented with a sword in the stone aesthetic.

Ultimately I had a very difficult time deciding on how to rate this movie. It has to be acknowledged that without Cage, this film wouldn’t have the platform or prominence that it received but are we then in danger of simply assigning merit based on name, a case of hype breeding acceptance. I personally really enjoyed this film but is it necessarily good? On more than one occasion it roams wildly into the ridiculous without care or apology, often delving into (possibly) accidental comedy while brazenly committed to the central vision. I feel this sheer force of will and personality will enthral critics but ostracise audiences. I can tell the sum of this movie’s parts are magnificent but being more indulgent than Beyond The Black Rainbow, is it a good narrative? Is this just an example of style over substance or is the execution such that we accept this as a positive for the very fact that it’s done so well? Hard to say but I would argue that a little less strobing and probably trimming and refining a good twenty minutes of content would have made this an incredibly lean and spectacular release rather than a mix-toned one. Reviewing anything dispassionately and without bias is as good as impossible but I am fairly confident that this is a case of analytical thinking and emotive impressions aligning and assuring me that this film is good, it just happens to be incredibly weird and rejects the concept of being liked or approachable because it’s on a mission and I can’t help but respect that.

Release Date:
2nd November 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed the animated sequences and segmented titling of the story. In one such hallucinatory experience, Red sees the vision of a radio tower, wherein, he meets with the chemist producing the extremely potent drugs used by both the cult and the gang. This whole scene is peak Mandy. The location is bizarre, there’s a caged tiger, Red says nothing and maintains the same pained expression, the music is pulsing, the dialogue is incoherent and the camera is carving an intense yet mucky image. Yet it works to not only sell us on this underworld but furthers Red’s journey and moves the story along; a key example of the surreal being used in a way that most blockbusters tend to miss.

Notable Characters:
One of the supporting roles is played by Bill Duke; a man named Caruthers who is an old friend of Red’s who has been housing a crossbow named “the reaper.” So little is touched on as to the past these two share but it is clearly an interesting one and Caruthers acts like the last sane face that Red sees before his world descends into genuine madness.

Highlighted Quote:
“She’s still burning. She burns. She burns”

In A Few Words:
“A unique and powerful vision that will immediately divide audiences straight down the middle but a clear work of a powerfully driven director nonetheless”

Total Score:



Fearless Lives Forever

Bryan Singer

Rami Malek
Gwilym Lee
Ben Hardy
Joseph Mazzello
Lucy Boynton

Opening with a hint of the worldwide broadcast of the Live Aid concert in 1985, we quickly flashback to 1970 and are introduced to Farrokh Bulsara [Malek], and follow him as he attends a university gig, meeting fellow student Mary Austin [Boynton] and jumping in as replacement singer for Brian May [Lee] and Roger Taylor’s [Hardy] band. With the addition of bass guitarist John Deacon [Mazzello], Queen is formed. The group gain fame and success but are unruly, continually wanting to change their style and Freddie himself struggles with his excessive lifestyle of alcohol and drugs while coming to terms with his own sexuality.

Despite depicting people’s lives, there is a distinct formula to success and excess. We see the unassuming but talented youth struggling before getting a big break or two, their conflict with those from their life before fame and those during it, the hedonistic lifestyles, the bickering between authoritative figures and the artist and finally a redemption arc before one final performance and a series of photos and title cards detailing the individual’s fate. Like suits of a different cut and colour, they are unique creations but they but still share the same structural components and often present difficulties for creatives to pen something fresh that will appeal to those outside the established fan-base. A bi-product of this is having the accuracy and timeline of events re-worked and manipulated to fit the film’s pacing and structure rather than reflecting reality. There is also the occupational hazard of squeezing in the inception of all the hits, which leads us to arguments or conversations broken up by a musical beat or melody rising over the top before everyone unites to create the song (which is almost never how songs are written). But this is a point of parody that was perfectly lampooned in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story when he is arguing with his wife before the title character stares off and she threatens him by saying “you better not be having an inspirational moment for a new song” to which he replies that he is and the song is then performed.

No matter how well any other aspect of this film works, none of it would succeed without a believable lead and in Malek, we have been given a truly terrific Freddie Mercury. Admittedly, you will never believe this actor is the man, obviously, but as an exercise in mimicry, it’s marvellous. And that goes for the other members in the group as well who are spectacularly spot-on. Although, having seen interviews with the cast outside of the film, it is so very apparent that the costuming, hair and make-up and production design all play a crucial part in the illusion. Iconic looks, performances and moves are recreated magnificently throughout. With the spotlight shining so intensely on centre stage (i.e. Mercury), the supporting roles leave much to be desired but this is another of those aforementioned unavoidable clichés. A great example of this is that of Freddie’s former girlfriend Mary Austin, portrayed by Lucy Boynton. She is an incredibly complex individual with a fantastic interaction where she wants to lash out at Freddie but can’t because she understands his sexuality isn’t his fault and their love is something very different. But in spite of this, she isn’t given much else, merely shuffled in and out of obscurity as-and-when the story requires her. One could argue this is merely telling the story from Mercury’s perspective but it feels more like an undeveloped character.

Another central aspect is the music itself which is presented with enough bombast to create a wholly thrilling experience but as with all musical biopics, this will largely depend on your personal love of the music itself. If you are a fan of the songs, you will love the CGI-charged lip-synching performances and happily welcome the film’s final scene; on the other hand, if you’re not a fan of the band, this could play out like an incredibly painful, never-ending exercise in peacocking. In my opinion, the entire Live Aid section is an exceptionally indulgent but arguably necessary sequence. I feel that it played out the hits people wanted to hear and celebratorily revelled in one of the major peaks of the band’s career. But it also serves to highlight one of the major flaws with this movie which is the overall lack of complexity to the issues that initially drove the band apart, everything is watered down and implied rather than explicitly explored. Admittedly, this will be seen as both a positive and a negative. Some may feel we are only gleaning partial truths, settling for a simplified version but others will see it as a jubilant honouring of the group’s heyday. What has been left out (things that would probably have been included in Sacha Baron Cohen’s version before he departed the project) will frustrate and irritate those already familiar with the story but for those who have a surface level understanding of the history of the band, these elements won’t be nearly as important and won’t be overly missed. But more than that, the legacy is never challenged, giving us a rather sterile analysis of Queen and what made them a success in the first place.

But in truth, all of this is probably quite irrelevant. The movie explores the release of Bohemian Rhapsody with on-screen quotes denouncing the song as a mediocre mess. The irony being it is one of the most well-known and anthemic songs of the last century and the band left EMI because of it and were vilified by the court of public opinion. Much like its namesake, this iteration of Bohemian Rhapsody will no doubt rise above the critical analyses solely because it gave the people what most of them wanted: an unchallenging, nostalgic romp chock full of great songs.

Release Date:
26th October 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
As a supporting role, Tom Hollander’s appearance as the band’s lawyer-cum-manager, Jim Beach, is a surprisingly sweet one. His involvement and impact on the story is limited but he acts as a supportive voice of reason who genuinely seems to have the band’s best interests at heart.

Notable Characters:
Before Freddie announces his solo contract, the band are discussing the reaction to the music video for “I Want To Break Free” in the US, specifically that the press’ assumption that it was all Mercury’s idea, despite the fact that John Deacon wrote the song and the cross-dressing concept was instigated by Roger Taylor. This fight is reasonably filmed but escalates a little quickly and cleanly (another example of conflating several conversations and encounters into one bust-up) but highlights that Freddie’s grandiose personality not only took the spotlight but also acted as the band’s bulletproof vest.

Highlighted Quote:
“Statistically speaking most bands don’t fail, they break up”

In A Few Words:
“In trying to be a celebration of the band and its greatest hits, it succeeds, despite the glaring flaws”

Total Score:



Can You Spy Him Deep Within? Little Possum. Black As Sin

Matthew Holness

Sean Harris
Alun Armstrong

Puppeteer Philip [Harris] has returned to his home town under an air of scandal. He moves back into his derelict childhood home with only his step-father Maurice [Armstrong] for company. Through nightmarish visions and cutaways we learn that Philip carries with him a hideous puppet, a contraption with a blank human face and long, spider’s legs. Despite his best efforts to destroy it, it seemingly returns to him. As the story unfolds, we learn more about Philip’s troubled past and that an investigation is underway to find a local boy who has gone missing.

Matthew Holness’ feature debut is very much a bold statement that he is done with comedy. Audiences familiar with his previous works may expect a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek nods or winks to the audience but said individuals will be sorely disappointed as there is intentionally absolutely zero levity throughout, creating a very tense, atmospheric and uncomfortable narrative. Set in the flatlands of Norfolk, the austere landscape reflects the bleak internal workings of Philip’s psyche giving the entire film a very British feel, indicative of the grim works of Ken Loach or Paddy Considine. This Britishness is amplified with the use of a score by the Radiophonic Workshop, utilising a soundscape of eerie themes that would have been used throughout the 70s and 80s on British television – formative years for Philip, still in a state of arrested development.

With such an absence of dialogue and event, the film relies heavily on its symbolic and slow-burn visuals. This serves to highlight the grimy, grungy detail of the areas Philip inhabits, from his barren, rundown castle-like home to the deserted barracks that torment him. Everything is steeped in a depressing sense of decay and neglect which is an amazing testament to Holness’ crew. Then we have the puppet itself, which is only fleetingly seen in the first hour and even when it is completely revealed, its simplicity is part of its power. Much like the various masked killers of slasher films, the blank, emotionless face that the audience can project onto is more terrifying on a psychological level than any grimacing, toothed visage.

Holness has stated that he was inspired by German expressionism and the classic silent horror movies of early cinema and nowhere is this more apparent than the two lead performances. Both Harris and Armstrong deliver two very different but equally troubled portrayals, heavily reliant on a physicality. Maurice is a wheezily cackling villain who has so many spider-like qualities, barely moving or reacting with anything or anyone until he eventual has a sudden and violent burst of energy. Philip, on the other hand, is such a refrained character, inwardly focusing so much that his shoulders pull forward and his hands often sit neatly in front of his thighs. Almost everything about Harris’ character is seemingly driven by fear, manifested by the puppet himself.

There aren’t a great deal of negative things to say about this film, merely a few caveats catering to people’s respective tastes. As stated, the film has a very British post-war decline feel, with plenty of evidence of degradation of once happy things and places; there is a reoccurring visual of colourful balloons being engulfed in smoke and replaced by solid black balloons, which is clearly representative of the corruption of youth through traumatic events. But this will very much not be to everyone’s liking. A lot of people will watch the film and scratch their heads at the jarring editing or be put off by the long hanging shots or slow-burn pacing. Personally I feel these things all work in the film’s favour, creating something as surprisingly elegant and monstrous as the puppet itself. The only downside I could find is that the bread-crumbing for final confrontation was a touch obvious and yet could have done with a bit more of a build rather than having so much delivered in one quick scene. I appreciate this is a lot of how horror delivers its exposition but the on-going mystery of the missing teenager and Maurice’s history with Philip could have been ramped up a little neater. Furthermore, we understand that Philip has had a scandalous experience prior to the start of the film but it is never really addressed. While it was not completely necessary, some sort of explanation may have helped.

Either way, Holness’ first step into the foray of horror direction is an incredibly strong one and I have no doubt that whatever he does next will be equally unnerving and devilishly delightful.

Release Date:
26th October 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
The majority of this movie is told in silent stillness, the contemplative self-reflection of an unreliable narrator. But when dialogue is used, it is brilliantly written in how haunting it is and how menacing in its delivery. Maurice questions Philip and asks him to recall a childhood story about a fox. The whole experience makes Philip incredibly uncomfortable, regaling how he and fellow students had kicked and killed a dying fox, only for him to be bullied by his friends and watch the fox supposedly get up and run away when his friends were gone. It’s not clear if this was a hallucination or if the fox itself was playing possum but the simple exchange between the two actors is genuinely enthralling and utterly appalling.

Notable Characters:
**spoilers within**
With the way the film is presented, seeing events through Philip’s eyes, it is very difficult to tell whether the character of Maurice is an actual human being or merely another manifestation. In truth I imagine he is a person but the way the film is shot and presented, it would be impossible to argue either way with absolute certainty.

Highlighted Quote:
“He were messing with you. Sly bugger”

In A Few Words:
“A wholly unsettling and incredibly impressive debut”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #224


[21 October 2018]

Winning Team:
Freddy Krueger

Runners Up:
Frankenstein’s Monster
Michael Myers

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an adaptation of which novel? [bonus point for naming the actor who played the role of the monster]
2. What type of weapon does Miller use in Driller Killer?
3. What is the name of the killer in the Saw franchise? [bonus point for naming the killer’s actual name]
JIGSAW [John Kramer]
4. What is the title of the 1987 vampire film starring Kiefer Sutherland?
5. Which insect features prominently in Candyman?
6. The following quote is from which film, “If you hang up on me, you’ll die just like your mother. Do you wanna die Sidney? Your mother sure didn’t”?
7. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville Maryland, while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found”?
8. Sleepy Hollow was released in which year?
9. Which horror film did Peter Jackson direct in 1996, starring Michael J Fox?
10. Let Me In is the US remake of which Swedish film?

ROUND II: Filming [Halloween Special]
1. Norman Bates is the name of the killer in which film? The Fly? The Reanimator? Psycho?
2. Who played Carrie in the 1976 film of the same name? Patricia Clarkson? Melanie Griffith? Sissy Spacek? [bonus point for naming who played the role in the 2013 remake]
SISSY SPACEK [Chloe Grace Moretz]
3. What is the name of the lead character in A Nightmare On Elm Street, played by Heather Langenkamp? Nancy? Lily? Sandy?
4. Which room is Danny told not to go in, in The Shining? 237? 350? 419?
5. Which of the following films has not won an Oscar for best makeup? The Exorcist 1973? The Fly 1986? Beetlejuice 1988?
THE EXORCIST (the category was only introduced in 1981)
6. How many films make up the Child’s Play/Chuckie series? 5? 7? 9?
7. In Interview With The Vampire Louis first meets Lestat in which year? 1634? 1791? 1856?
8. The following quote is from which film, “Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted in life a juke box that played nothing but Connie Francis records”? Carrie? The Craft? Paranormal Activity 3?
9. What was the subtitle of Urban Legends 2? No Tomorrow? Final Cut? Suburban Nights?
10. John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the few Universal films that doesn’t open with the Universal logo. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What are the respective names of the Sanderson sisters in Hocus Pocus? (one point per correct answer)
2. What is the name of the actor who portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 film Frankenstein?
3. What is the name of Shaun’s local pub in Shuan Of The Dead?
4. What is the name of the paper boat in It?
5. What name does Regan give Pazuzu, the demon possessing her, in The Exorcist?
6. The following quote is from which film, “First of all, my dad would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have. Like, the love is so real”?
7. Of the ten Hellraiser films, how many did not feature Doug Bradley as Pinhead?
TWO (Revelations and Judgment)
8. The following ensemble of characters appeared in which film, Ben, Barbara and Harry, Helen & Karen Cooper?
9. House On Haunted Hill was released in which year?
10. What is the name of the killer from Friday The 13th?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What is the name of Meat Loaf’s character in The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Frankie? Freddie? Eddie?
2. Who directed It Follows? Ana Lily Amirpour? David Robert Mitchell? Trey Edward Shults?
3. In The Witch, Caleb’s family is made up of how many members? 5? 7? 9?
4. In which room does Lorraine see the woman who was possessed and killed her child in The Conjuring? Attic? Cellar? Bathroom?
5. Where is Damian born in The Omen? London? Paris? Rome?
6. The following is the poster tagline for which film, Who will survive and what will be left of them?” The Blob? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Invasion Of The Body Snatchers?
7. Who is the first person to die in Halloween? Annie? Bob? Judith?
8. The remake of Poltergeist was released in which year? 2002? 2009? 2015?
9. Ginger Snaps is about which type of monster? Werewolves? Demons? Zombies?
10. Ringu is an adaptation of a book that is based on a classic Japanese ghost story which translates to The Dish Mansion At Bancho. True or False?

1. Halloween – 1978 [John Carpenter]
2. Psycho – 1960 [Bernard Herrmann]
3. The Omen – 1976 [Jerry Goldsmith]
4. A Nightmare On Elm Street – 1984 [Charles Bernstein]
5. 28 Days Later – 2002 [John Murphy]
6. Get Out – 2017 [Michael Abels]
7. The Wolfman – 2010 [Danny Elfman]
8. The Thing – 1982 [Ennio Morricone]
9. Beyond The Black Rainbow – 2010 [Sinoia Caves/Jeremy Schmidt]
10. Candyman – 1992 [Philip Glass]

Screenshots: The Thing / Halloween (2007) / 28 Days Later / Silent Hill
Poster: The Addams Family Values
Actor: Robert Englund


Face Your Fate

David Gordon Green

Jamie Lee Curtis
Andi Matichak
Judy Greer

Forty years after the events of Halloween, two podcasting journalists pay a visit to the asylum where Michael Myers is being held. He is set to be transferred but they want answers. Getting nothing from the silent, stoic figure, they visit Laurie Strode [Curtis], the sole survivor of the incident. From here we learn that her relationship with her family is fractured and she has become a recluse hiding in a fortified property behind fences and walls, armed to the teeth for the day her attacker may return. Sure enough, the transfer does not go according to plan and Michael escapes to return to Haddonfield and finish what he started.

One key take-away from this release is how well it has been assembled. The direction and cinematography pick a lane and stick to it, giving us a very moody release with some extremely pleasing shots and uses of lighting. The editing on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired; disorientating, restrictive and unnecessarily erratic, it occasionally gets a little confused and really fails to capture the distinctive style that made Carpenter’s original so iconic. Speaking of Carpenter, the score has received a nice, subtle revamping, tastefully recycling the classic themes with a contemporary presentation. A good example of this would be the solitary guitar riffs that punctuate Allyson’s fear when first face-to-face with Michael.

Watching this movie, it becomes very apparent that it is a product of its time; seemingly deliberately so. Acting as a time capsule, Halloween deals with several subtle incidents of progressive younger characters dealing with older generations. This can take the form of two cops discussing a Vietnamese packed lunch over standard PB&J, a young boy forced onto a hunting trip by his father when all he wants to do is to focus on dancing, the difference between how Tommy Doyle interacts with Laurie in the original compared to the incredibly sassy but lovable Julian (played by Jibrail Nantambu) and Allyson [Matichak] and her boyfriend dressing up as Bonnie and Clyde but with a gender-swap twist, keeping that element a secret from Allyson’s parents. But the movie really shines with its portrayal of Laurie Strode. Curtis has always been a formidable acting force but here she goes full Sarah Connor as we explore the mind of a victim who has led a torturous existence waiting for something that may never come. Equally, the portrayal of her daughter finally gives an opportunity for someone to take Judy Greer and do something more with her than Jurassic World or Ant-Man, offering us an equally tormented individual who was drilled constantly by an over-protective, paranoid mother, while simultaneously living with her own trauma from her unorthodox raising. Also, the combined performance for Michael Myers is fantastic; the shape moves as he should and is just as terrifying and unstoppable a force as he has always been.

**Spoilers at the end of this paragraph**
But we also have to address the weaker elements to the cast. Starting with those stupid stupid podcasters. I genuinely hated these characters. I wasn’t entirely sure what they brought to the plot other than buckets of exposition and to effectively bring Michael his mask. There is possibly the slightly interesting question of whether their need need to understand him brought him back, or whether he was genuinely waiting for this moment to strike but ultimately, they are unlikeable, annoying and painfully twee. I’m sure there’s some sort of statement there about society’s desire to humanise villains (*cough* “balance” in political coverage *cough*) to the degree that they become sympathetic, taking the viewpoint that certain evils are just evil but it’s never really addressed or followed up to have a lasting impact. It is also worth mentioning that all the men are utterly useless. This is far from a complaint, just an observation; I have absolutely no need to raise a fist to the sky and decry this movie for making men look bad, it simply presents men as men and they happen to be bad. From Allyson’s wise-cracking but ineffective father to her straight-up abusive boyfriend to Allyson’s rather pathetic friend and back to that podcasting journalist who somehow acquired evidence in a murder case, held it up to the killer and screamed “Say something!” repeatedly. Which brings me to Doctor Sartain, played by Haluk Bilginer. He is taken out fairly early in the story and put into a coma, giving way for the rather decently acted role of Officer Hawkins [Will Patton] but then he comes back and is the most suspicious motherfucker. It was odd that he survived the bus crash but then every line he is given is delivered like a cackling, moustache-twirling classic Universal horror mad scientist. He even goes so far as to say “remember, he’s property of the state, he mustn’t be harmed.” At that point, the man has killed several people, it’s blatantly obvious he has his own twisted agenda and the fact I was unsurprised by this was criminally disappointing.

It is my opinion that Halloween II, Halloween H20 and Rob Zombie’s remake Halloween all have very interesting ideas and concepts but are, overall, flawed films. It is also my opinion that this latest Halloween sequel is on a par with these releases, stuffed with some really great notions, characters and setups but failing to really satisfy in a way that has the same impact as the original. But in truth, the encompassing issue any Halloween sequel faces is that they end up trying to explain Michael. A familial element was introduced but that robbed the terror of the lack of a reason the Annie, Laurie and Lynda were targeted, the next generation was also explored, one impatient with his mother’s paranoia but that also fell a little flat for the same reason, ensuring the Myers attacks were simply driven by some bloodline vengeance. Finally, the 2007 remake tried to get into the headspace of Michael, exploring his slide from innocent child to cold killer due to his abusive home life. I personally really enjoyed this portrayal but the problem is, it maintained the family connection to Laurie and essentially had to tack on the entirety of Halloween to the final act. The best comparison I can give is that of Scream 4 which united a lot of the original cast and crew and delivered something that was both pleasing yet largely mediocre, giving us an entertaining new experience with a new satirical, conversational drive but it didn’t have the same lasting impact. Unfortunately, for all the good it does and as pleasing as it is, it still hits the same old familiar notes and pumps the nostalgia gas enough for people to not realise they’re watching the same film again.

A lot of hardcore fans will hate this release while many more will enjoy it and laud praise upon it. While not wholly unjustified, I would be curious to see how long that lasts as I can almost guarantee that another sequel will be punched out off the back of this movie’s success and it can only serve to be just as disappointing as the lower tier sequels in this franchise. But hopefully I’m wrong.

Release Date:
19th October 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
On Halloween night, Michael begins his killing spree by stalking the neighbourhood, moving from house to house, remorselessly executing people in his path. It’s presented in an incredibly orchestrated continuous one-shot and offers an insight into Michael’s movements and efficiency. And that’s part of the problem. Myers sees a woman returning to her house so picks up a hammer, enters the home and kills her, then he takes a knife, ignores a crying baby and moves to the next home. There he peers through the window then goes inside and stabs a woman then leaves. At the end of the day, it’s honestly difficult to enjoy because we don’t know why and that should be part of the thrill but all we end up with is a healthy dose of confusion. Either that or at the very start of the film, I was trying to ascertain when the movie was set. The asylum Michael is housed in has an eclectic mix of things from really old record players to CRT screens but the visitors have a fairly new looking zoom audio device. Not to mention the fashion is all over the place – but that’s pretty reflective of contemporary trends and styles. But all of that fell away as a printed sign was taped to a window that said “Please ensure all..” except it actually read “Please insure” and from that point, I had real issue focusing on the film and before the simple but impressive title sequence brought me back round, I got the feeling this entire release might irk me.

Notable Characters:
One of Allyson’s close friends is babysitter Vicky. In the scene above, I mentioned Michael going from house to house, randomly killing people with speed and efficiency. The next house he calls on is the one Vicky happens to be in. Suddenly his relentless attacks are substituted with a cat-and-mouse game and while this could easily offer us insight into Michael’s predilection for stalking young women, it became obvious that her character was a little more charming and interesting to watch than Allyson’s. Sure, Laurie is very much cast as the goody-two-shoes virgin labelled as boring by her friends but Vicky’s just a nice kid who feels more like a Strode than Allyson. But I feel this is to do with the script’s pressure to include the PTSD-affecting family element that denied Allyson of any innocence. As stated earlier, this isn’t exactly a complaint, just an interesting side-effect of the nature of the script and direction of the story.

Highlighted Quote:
“There’s nothing new to learn. No new insights or discoveries”

In A Few Words:
“A completely solid sequel-reboot but the same problems that afflicted the others are just as present and for some will be unavoidable”

Total Score:



History Is About To Change

Wash Westmoreland

Keira Knightley
Dominic West
Denise Gough
Eleanor Tomlinson

Set during the late years of the 19th century, we are introduced to Gabrielle Colette [Knightley], a country girl who weds notorious Parisian libertine and critic Henry Gauthier-Villars [West] who writes under the pseudonym Willy. Admittedly, Henry does not actually do a great deal of writing himself and merely employs a staff of ghost writers, allowing him to generate simple concepts for development and then sell the Willy brand. During a dry spell, Henry charges his young wife to write about her childhood experiences. In doing so, the ‘Claudine’ series is born and a best-selling movement sweeps France as women everywhere see something of themselves in Claudine. As success grows, Henry’s methods of extracting pages from Colette turn more abusive and Colette finds herself both exploring different types of relationships and discovers a burning desire to define herself outside of her husband’s shadow.

I will admit, I was only loosely familiar with Colette’s work, outside of the fact that her novel Gigi was adapted into the 1958 film of the same name. And yet, when you hear about her experiences and learn about this bombastic, headstrong, larger than life individual who was way ahead of her time, its evident she warrants more international prestige. As such, this is a daunting role for any actor but Keira Knightley constructs a changing, multifaceted performance, not only as a fantastic portrayal of someone aging from girl to woman but a wonderful and very real-feeling representation of an individual discovering who they truly are and the confidence they attain from it. A lot of this has been done through subtle gestures and physicality as Colette starts the film with a shrinking almost apologetic nervousness before adopting more self-assurance and typically masculine postures. But while Colette shifts and grows, Willy is unchanging, he starts out a brute and ends a brute, the only difference is that we, as the audience, learn with Colette over time that this is neither acceptable nor necessary. And this could have very easily been played up to extreme, quite literal, moustache-twirling villainy (as it was in Big Eyes) but there is a vitally important level of charm and charisma in West’s performance that explains how he was able to manipulate Colette for so long and so flagrantly abusively without either Colette or the audience completely turning on him until the story requires it.

It goes without saying that any period drama has a level of production above most others. Of course costume, hair, make-up, sets and locations are all vital components on any film but for a period film they bring their own set of unique challenges. More than that, Colette spans through a handful of formative decades which require the architectural and fashion styles to evolve with the passing time. While this could have the potential to feel jarring or clumsy, Westmoreland’s decisions to subtly morph the contents of Willy and Colette’s flat, merely introducing new elements rather than completely overhauling the whole space, to introduce new characters organically and having Thomas Adès’ beautiful score gently traverse through the musical trends of the time, adopting rising styles and themes of the day, allow the film to flow pleasingly from start to finish.

One of the only real negatives I could observe is that this is very much a film of lead and co-lead. No matter the gravity or import on the story, the supporting roles are confined to simply that. This is a combination of the usual factors of timing and pacing but also, as Colette herself becomes more willful and independent, to shine too brightly a light on those around her would rob the character of her own agency. Furthermore, the film also falls into the semi-risky trappings of telling a significant story about one of France’s most celebrated authors in English with English actors. And yet, reflective of our times and audience inclinations, without these, it may not get the spotlight it rightly deserves – after all, this film was initially scripted back in 2001 and has been in production hell for the better part of a decade and a half.

One of the many frustrations of glacial progress is seeing that we have already had prominent examples throughout our history yet the same battles are still being fought. Thankfully it feels like mainstream western society has had a bit of a renaissance with both the LGBTQ+ community and gender equality; subsequently, this won’t be the last film to address the unseen heroes and trail blazers of the past and as long as these stories continue to be told with skill and passion, hopefully lasting societal change can be made.

Release Date:
11th January 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
About a third of the way into the movie, Colette and her fellow factory writer (as Willy’s ghost writers were known) are visiting a rather curious type of mime called a cantomime, wherein a male mime artist very skillfully lip-syncs a sung performance with elaborate gestures. It felt like a key turning point for the story as we see not only a form of theatricality that thrilled our heroine but also a nice little parallel of the film itself. Here we are shown a very impressive front-facing act from a man but in fairness, the genuine talent is from the woman singing the aria next to him, while everyone present applauds just the surface output despite knowing the truth of the matter.

Notable Characters:
There is no doubt that this is a film with an exceptional lead performance from Knightley. It will very likely earn her several nominations and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few lofty awards are sent her way (and deservedly so). But I was genuinely taken by the attention to diversity of the cast. This is Paris in the turn of the 20th century, a hub of life and activity and colonial influence. Over the decades, we have white-washed the past, presenting an inaccurate mono-ethnic presence, so to see so many people of colour in positions of success and sufficiency in a European period film was very rewarding.

Highlighted Quote:
“I will continue to pursue this because I want to”

In A Few Words:
“A stunningly crafted and superbly acted tale of a pioneer who should imbue others with assuredness and pride”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #223

[07 October 2018]

Winning Team:
The Shawshank Confusion
Genre – Andy Dufresne, Deckard, Harry Potter and Hellboy escape prison through a hole behind a Star Wars poster

Runners Up:
Genre – A Mayan poster artist must draw art in order to save his failing civilisation
Desperately Seeking Struzan
Genre – Documentary covering Hollywood’s rush to make all movie posters look like the successful ones for Star Wars and Indiana Jones
Desperately Seeking Film Knowledge
Genre – a noir classic about two time travellers who end up in 2018 at a film quiz in Norwich totally clueless as to what’s going on
A Star Is Drawn
Genre – Animated family film
A Star Wars Is Born
Genre – A space opera with signing! Hard drinking country singer Han Solo’s life is changed forever when he meets Like Skywalker, a beautiful young Jedi singer in the Mos Eisley cantina
Loft In Transition
Genre – Bill Murray has a midlife crisis and travels the world with his photo albums and Christmas decorations
The (Not So) Incredibles
Genre – Superhero
Fellowship Of The Onion Ring
Genre – Comedy

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Inglourious Basterds took its title from which 1978 film?
2. What colour are the Na’vi in Avatar?
3. What is the name of Sherlock Holmes’ partner, played by Jude Law, in the 2009 Guy Ritchie film Sherlock Holmes?
4. Who voiced the role of Baloo in 2016’s The Jungle Book?
5. Jyn Erso is the lead character in which Star Wars film?
6. The Theory Of Everything is a biopic about which individual?
7. Who played the lead role in Roland Emmerich’s 2012?
8. Maleficent was released in which year?
9. Up There, I’m Super and Blame Canada are songs from which film?
10. Who directed The Breakfast Club?

ROUND II: Filming [Drew Struzan Special]
1. What is the title of the sequel to Blade Runner? Blade Runner 2? Blade Runner 2019? Blade Runner 2049?
2. The following quote is from which film, “All they found of him was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap and an old rock hammer damn near worn down to the nub”? Out Of Sight? The Shawshank Redemption? Escape From Alcatraz?
3. Which Indiana Jones film is set in 1935? Raiders Of The Lost Ark? Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom? Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade?
4. What is the name of Smollett’s ship in Muppet Treasure Island? Hispaniola? Henrietta? Pequod?
5. What was the nickname given to the electric chair in The Green Mile? The Hot Seat? Big Smoky? Old Sparky?
6. What is the name of the leader of the lost boys in Hook? Rufio? Ace? Pockets? [bonus point for naming who Peter puts in charge at the end of Hook]
RUFIO [Thud Butt]
7. Which 90s pulp comic hero adaptation features a hero nicknamed “the man who never dies”? The Rocketeer? The Shadow? The Phantom?
8. Where do the goonies get their name from in The Goonies? From the school mascot named Goon? Local Oregon slang for children? Their houses are located in an area called the Goon Docks?
9. The following quote is from which film, “There is no good and evil. There is only power and those too weak to seek it”? Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone? Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets? Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban?
10. At the start of The Crocodile Hunter, the MGM lion is replaced with a crocodile. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Les Miserables takes place over how many years?
SEVENTEEN (1815-1832)
2. What two films did Steven Spielberg direct in 2005? (one point per correct answer)
3. Which actor played the lead antagonist in Fast & Furious 6?
LUKE EVANS (Owen Shaw)
4. The following is a quote from which film, ” What’s your boggle, friend?”?
5. What is the name of the film in which Will Smith plays a professional dating consultant, trying to help Kevin James?
6. Tai Lung, Mr Ping and Grand Master Oogway are characters in which film?
7. What is the subtitle of the fourth Police Academy film?
8. Which film starred Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart and Imogen Poots?
9. In Coming To America, Prince Akeem Joffer decides to leave Africa and travel to the US on which birthday?
10. How many dream levels are featured in the main heist at the end of Inception?
FOUR (rainy van chase / hotel / snow fortress / limbo)

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following did not appear in The Cannonball Run? Jackie Chan? Jane Fonda? Dean Martin?
2. What was the title of the 1987 live-action He-Man film? He-Man? Heroes Of Grayskull? Masters Of The Universe?
3. *Batteries Not Included was released in which year? 1981? 1987? 1994?
4. The club, Ray’s Boom Boom Room, is featured in which Eddie Murphy film? Life? Dreamgirls? Harlem Nights?
5. Harry And The Hendersons was released as what in the UK? The Missing Link? Bigfoot And The Hendersons? Meet Harry?
6. What is the name of Kurt Russell’s character in Big Trouble In Little China? Jack Burton? John Ruth? Stephen McCaffrey?
7. What instrument is Daryl playing while performing his duet with Jane in The Witches Of Eastwick? Saxophone? Violin? Piano?
8. What action is used in The Sting to show that people are in on the con? Tipping your hat? Stroking your chin? Tapping your nose?
9. The following quote is from which film, “My partner is a belligerent asshole with his back up against a wall.. and now, so am I”? Drive? LA Confidential? Wall Street?
10. A theatrical sequel to 1996’s Casper was cancelled at the last minute due to new 20th Century Fox executives feeling family films about the supernatural were corrupting children. True or False?
FALSE (two direct to video sequels were released)

Screenshots: A Few Good Men / Margin Call / Beavis And Butt-Head Do America / Ghost
Poster: St Elmo’s Fire
Actor: Demi Moore


The World Has Enough Superheroes

Reuben Fleischer

Tom Hardy
Riz Ahmed
Michelle Williams

Returning from a deep space reconnaissance mission, the Life Foundation shuttle is returning to earth with four alien specimens on board. On re-entry the ship crashes with only one astronaut surviving. The head of the Life Foundation, Carlton Drake [Ahmed], employs his considerable resources to procure the samples and begin live-subject trials as soon as possible. At the same time we are introduced to Eddie Brock [Hardy], an investigative reporter who loses his job and fiancée (lawyer Anne Weying [Williams]) after he turns a fluff-piece interview with Drake into an attack on his illegal human experiments. After one of the Life Foundation’s key scientists tips Eddie off, he infiltrates the facility and comes into contact with one of the alien samples which begins talking to him and dictating his drives and actions.

Stumbling out of the cinema, as the film burps up its mismatched post-credit sequences, it is immediately apparent that Venom is such a bizarre entity. On one hand it is a typical 2010s example of a weak franchise launcher that bloviates about its importance and grand plans before passing out wheezing, “I can’t go on.” And on the other it is such a throwback to the pre-cinematic universe craze of the late 90s/early 2000s, where any comic property would be adapted with one big (white male) star, an underdeveloped disposable villain, poorly defined love interest, fleeting underwhelming CGI and a score packed with riffing guitars. It is simultaneously both 2007’s Ghost Rider and 2015’s Fantastic Four without being as arguably competent as the former or as laughably imbalanced as the latter.

One thing, however, is abundantly clear and that is the lack of room or time for anyone other than Tom Hardy. Now, I’m not saying that as a dig at the lead, simply highlighting that the script gives us little to no insight into any of the supports; their lives, motivations, backgrounds, none of it is considered to matter. From the get-go Eddie Brock is sold to us as this frankly inhuman cliché. He’s charming, altruistic, tenacious, generous, kind, roguish and an all-round catch. I know this because the opening prologue stuffs it down my throat like a 1950s Disney princess entrance wherein every character (human or otherwise) chirps how pretty the main character is. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if, as he strolled down the street petting dogs and chatting to security guards about the wellbeing of their kids, everyone around him uproariously burst into a chorus of “that handsome man, that talented man, that marvellous Eddie Brock” before whip-panning to Tom Hardy clicking his heels and shouting “Whoo! That’s me.” And yet, when we actually get down to him proving himself, he’s a fucking terrible reporter who blunders his way through both interviews and investigations and a completely untrustworthy partner who opens his fiancée’s confidential emails. Then, to top it all off, he gets infected by an alien symbiotic parasite that is constantly talking about eating people. And yet Hardy’s dual-performance is probably the only good thing about this movie. Despite being absurd and an excuse for another set of voices to the acting scrapbook, the interactions between Eddie and Venom are surprisingly entertaining and visually amusing, which seems counterintuitive but once you settle in to the odd ambience of the film, it almost becomes fitting.

Unfortunately, the supports don’t get nearly as much attention. We have a range of insubstantial individuals but let’s start with the non-villain, Carlton Drake. Riz Ahmed has already proved himself a fantastic actor but he is given nothing to work with. Drake is an admittedly driven and passionate scientific mind who seemingly has mankind’s interests at heart but his methods are callous, unorthodox and without heart. And that’s all I can tell you. He is obsessed with furthering the species but there is absolutely no inkling of why or what drew him down this path. He is merely evil for the fact the film requires it of him. The other lead support is Michelle Williams but I’ll mention her more later but outside of that we have brief appearances from Jenny Slate and Reid Scott who feel as wasted as Judy Greer in things like Jurassic World and Ant-Man, which is genuinely criminal.

A cast heavy with comedic actors is far from unusual for Reuben Fleischer – the man cut his teeth on Zombieland and made a glorious success of it – but much like Gangster Squad, so much of the creative qualities that made Fleischer’s debut so enjoyable and entertaining are all but absent. The pacing and editing are appalling, the script is shockingly flat, the narrative flow feels hole-punched and erratic, leaping from one plot point to another and there is an uncomfortable unintentional comedy running throughout that creates such a tonal unease. Not to mention the fact that it’s a solid hour before Venom properly turns up. With such jumbled asymmetry, it’s hardly surprising that the film’s own internal logic is one of the first victims. From the start we are told so much about the alien entities in heavy expository info dumps from their strengths, weaknesses, bonding habits and abilities; none of which is retained as the continuity shifts to meet the action’s quota. It also robs the film of any actual urgency as Eddie is practically invincible and even if he were to perish, it wouldn’t really change our feelings about him or the fate of this earth – which, apparently, is in significant jeopardy.

This whole endeavour could be labelled as a waste of potential but the truth of Venom is that any adaptation is doomed to fail because while most people feel they love the character, there isn’t a great deal to actually enjoy. A large, snarling, boisterous creation that exists as a parallel to Spider-Man but doesn’t really work as effectively without that adversarial clash. And while I will acknowledge that the Flash Thompson/Venom covert-ops storylines from the comics are pretty decent, this is not what we have been offered and while the franchise may eventually make its way there, I feel it will fall by the side of the road alongside the corpse of Tom Cruise after he rode off into the sunset at the end of The Mummy.

Release Date:
5th October 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
This is a film littered with really stupid moments and two in particular stood out for me. During Eddie and Dr Skirth’s clandestine break-in at the Life Foundation, Skirth reveals to Brock that the symbotic being is of extra-terrestrial origin. Naturally, Brock laughs this off by dismissively saying, “What are we talking about, aliens!? ET phone home?” To which Skirth deadpans a confirmation. While the transitional scene furthers next to nothing, the real insight is the possibility that Tom Hardy has never watched ET because his impression of ET (a very distinct voice and quote) is delivered in the most peculiar way, as if Hardy said on the day, “That’s a dumb voice, I can do better.. also it’ll be another unique voice for my scrapbook.” The other moment is when Anne’s boyfriend Dan (a surgeon with the power to give MRIs to people who don’t appear to have any medical insurance) is explaining the negative effects of the symbiote to Brock, stating “Your heart has atrophied” which is a maddening phrase because the second the organism keeping Eddie alive departs his body, he would be dead. But as stated earlier, that man is invincible.

Notable Characters:
Michelle Williams is an exceptionally talented actor and the only real saving grace of this film is that she’s only in it for a limited period of time. The script gives her so little to do and introduces her as both naïve and fickle as well as ruthless and headstrong in a mishmash of persona types that should give audiences whiplash but she has so little agency that the shifts are inconsequential and presented as irrelevant. The only thing I kept thinking is how many terrible agents must be working out there because Williams coming off the back of All The Money In The World and landing in this shit is just as poor a decision as Naomie Harris going from Moonlight to Rampage.

Highlighted Quote:
“Such poor design.. human beings”

In A Few Words:
“Somehow both extremely dull and erratically busy, Venom is a mess of a concoction that struggles constantly to define what it is and what it could be”

Total Score: