Tagged in: 2 years too late

The Ritual (2017)

Culty goings-on in Sweden in a not too bad Brit horror

Rating: ★★★☆☆

This review was written 2 years too late

CUDDLY Sweden. Home to Ikea, Volvo and giant goaty-type creatures fond of disembowelment.

Four chaps, mourning the death of an old friend, remember his last wishes by hiking through a remote Swedish landscape. One of them gets knee-knack so they opt for a short cut to civilisation through a scary forest – this film’s equivalent to going down into the basement.

There you go. There’s your set-up. Cue mostly at-night nastiness as the lads get spooked and attacked – mentally and physically – as they try to make it to the other side of the forest.

It’s not a slash-fest though but has a fair amount of antler-styled gore and eviseration. Enjoy the head-fuckery as the gang endure a rough night in a dodgy-looking shack with weirdo effigies. Laugh at the pallid cult-types who seem a salvation but of course are not.

No one of note fills the cast, bar Timothy Spall’s son Rafe and Patrick Troughton’s grandson Sam (they’ll both thank me for referencing them thus) but all involved handle the fun well enough.

All familiar stuff – these films are a bit of a ritual these days (sorry) – I’m sure you’d agree, but pretty well done all the same and worth a look if you like a bit of nastiness.


Homefront (2013)

Stath-attack in the deep South as Jason defends his little daughter from rednecks and meth-fiends.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

This review was written 2 years too latehomefront-2013-03

Like Schwarzenegger and Van Damme before him, every action film in the US with Jason Statham has to give a nod to why this foreigner is kicking-ass(arse?) for Uncle Sam. “Homefront” starts with Statham’s DEA agent Phil Broker sporting very long hair posing as biker in drug gang. He duly stops badness but, exposed as a rat, he disappears. Cue a credit sequence that shows various ID cards and documents to show that he was once with Interpol (hence the English accent in Louisiana) together with photos showing him now shaven-headed and in the guise of the Statham we love.

Hiding out in the town where his dead wife grew up, his ten-year-old daughter gets into a schoolyard scrap and, trained by daddy, puts the bully down with a few swift blows. This triggers a series of petty redneck revenge incidents that quickly escalates when James Franco‘s meth-cooking Gator discovers the truth about Stath’s past and grasses him to the biker drug gang. And there we go. No need to say more on the plot. You’ve got it, right?

Stath does Harrelson

Stath does Harrelson

It’s a weird film, “Homefront”, co-produced and screenplayed by Sylvester Stallone, no less, and it has more than a hint of being one of his cast-off projects. His old “Expendables” mucker Statham fills in neatly, while the rest of an impressive cast – the aforementioned Franco, and Kate Bosworth, and despite a miscast Winona Ryder, give the film some acting chops. Gary Fleder directs the action well enough but there are too many daddy-daughter sentimental scenes with horses, trees and sunshine to an acoustic soundtrack that make for a clumsy contrast to the violence.

In its favour, when it looks like it’s about to become a tedious, poor man’s “Straw Dogs” house siege as Statham gears up against an all out assault, it manages to shift direction that concludes with some fun Franco nuttiness. Plus it has a modest scale and bucolic setting. Against it is the fate of Statham’s black pal, Teedo. Hmm, it’s Hollywood and he’s the black sidekick. What could possibly happen? Poor.

Worth a look for Statham fans only.



Escape from Tomorrow (2013)

The trippiest place on earth.

Rating: ★★★★★


This review was written 2 years too late

THIS is a terrific film.

Family man Jim is on the last day of his holiday in Disney World/Land (take your pick) when his brain starts to go a little haywire.

And why wouldn’t it?

Never mind the demands of a young family and an uninterested wife, he’s surrounded by Disney madness and all-round fakery. What else could push a ready-made mid-life crisis candidate over the edge?


Who is Number one?

As Jim tries to make the best of a day with his kids, he gets distracted by a fantasy over a pair of young, carefree French teenagers, maybe has a midday rendezvous with middle-aged pseudo-dominatrix who might once have been a Disney princess, not to mention finding out just what is going-on inside the Epcot Centre.

Let’s not forget the children’s nurse who breaks down in tears after fixing up the knee of Sarah, Jim’s daughter who has been pushed over by the bullying son of an obese man on a mobility scooter.


Nothing to see here. Just my zombie eyes. Carry on.

You get the idea yet?

Director Randy Moore has delivered delicious, surreal, fantastical stuff, made all the better by being rooted in the home of such scary, mind-roam madness as a theme park, especially one with mouse ears. Disney upper level staff are all there, smiling and welcoming the kids. Disney low level staff are all there, in mouse-badged overalls taking out the bodies.

Its black and white photography is a crisp and perfect razor-sharp delight, occasionally set-off with a bit of back projection but that goes beautifully in hand with the Bernard Herrmann-esque score, which is an enveloping delight.

Mostly shot, guerrilla-style on-location by a crew pretending to be holidaymakers, “Escape from Tomorrow” really is incredibly well done. It invokes Lynch’s “Eraserhead“, McGoohan’s “The Prisoner“, not to mention a fair bit of Disney itself.


Time to take out the trash…

A tale of madness, beautiful, Mickey Mouse madness. Watch.




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Passion (2012)

Familiar De Palma fare in a tale of escalating professional jealousy. Apparently an erotic thriller.Passion-589

Rating: ★★★☆☆

This review was written 2 years too late

Passion” sees Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace as boss and junior respectively of a Berlin-based ad agency. McAdams is your typical tough, career climber while Rapace is her meek yet talented underling who may just usurp her.

Based on the 2010 French thriller “Crime d’amour“, “Passion” is a pretty basic thriller about competitive people taking one-up(wo)manship to its extremes. As each tries to steal the advantage, the other resorts to increasingly severe tactics culminating in, dare I say it, murder!

Filmy-noiry-thrillery stuff

Filmy-noiry-thrillery stuff

If you know De Palma’s work, you’ll recognise the format – the blurring of sexuality, surveillance and voyeurism, distrust and uncertainty, and visual set-pieces.

What works is the updating of surveillance and communication to have some relevance to today – in-phone video capture and Skype replace the hand-glued film/sound editing of “Blow Out” (1981) or the time-lapse photography in “Dressed to Kill) (1980).  In addition, De Palma delivers a number of stylish eye-candy moments, one featuring a strangely compelling split-screen sequence of a straight-to-camera ballet performed on the left while the film continues on the right. Sounds weird, but it works.

Split-screen madness ahoy!

Split-screen madness ahoy!

On the down side is the acting, with both McAdams and Rapace never convincing in their roles, McAdams especially trying to be an über-bitch but just not making the grade. Nor do they generate any erotic sparks, seeing as “Passion” seems to want to be an erotic thriller. It’s just too flat.

Overall, it’s a lot better than De Palma’s last mainstream works – the forgettable “Femme Fatale” (2002) and disappointing “The Black Dahlia” (2006) – but you can’t help wondering who keeps putting up the cash for his welcome visual indulgences but less welcome unlikely plots and cardboard acting?


The Grey (2012)

The_Grey_PosterLiam Neeson continues his recent vein of action movies, this time leading a group of plane-crash survivors through a cold Alaskan wilderness where wolves lie in wait…

Rating: ★★★★☆

This review was written 2 years too late

Liam Neeson is box office, it seems. After a long and varied career in dull, apparently worthy roles, the past six or seven years has seen him gravitate towards simple action fare that seems to appeal to cinema-goers everywhere. “Taken“, “Unknown“, and “Clash of the Titans” are all far more fun than “Phantom Menace“, “Kingdom of Heaven” or all that Narnia nonsense. And he shows no signs of letting up. His recent “Non-Stop” and upcoming “Run All Night” together with a second sequel to “Taken” show a man in demand.

The Grey” is more serious than some of these recent efforts, but no less entertaining for it. Neeson is Ottway, a solemn man tasked with protecting oil workers in Alaska from marauding wolves. When their plane goes down miles from anywhere, Ottway takes charge and tries to get them to safety.

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 10.13.23As survival films go, it’s pretty familiar stuff – scant resources, survivor in-fighting, and a threat closing in – but director Joe Carnahan stops it from drifting into cheesiness. He balances macho posturing with some just about acceptable philosophical meanderings, splendidly orchestrated action scenes (the plane crash is particularly well handled), and some decent character depth for Neeson if not the others.

An enjoyable couple of hours, “The Grey” shows its metal by not compromising on its reality and selling out to audience-pleasing conclusions – though a misjudged post-credit sequence that stinks of studio interference disappoints. No reason not to see the film though – just turn it off when the credits roll.



Super (2010)

Splendid black comedy on the perils of living out a fantasy as two would-be superheroes get in too deep. Funny, touching, violent.

The Crimson Bolt

The Crimson Bolt (Photo credit: dsimmelink04)

Rating: ★★★★☆

This review was written 2 years too late

Meet The Crimson Bolt, a superman on a mission but with no super powers. Instead, he bashes people with a wrench. Bashes them good. And why shouldn’t he?

Rainn Wilson is the Bolt aka Frank, a cook whose wife leaves him for Kevin Bacon‘s Jacques, a gangster, prompting a wild fantasy borne out of despair. First he imagines God snaking his way into his home leading to his watching the Holy Avenger, a low-rate Christian superhero on a naff TV show warning kids about sex and drugs. Inspired by the Avenger, Frank makes a suit and becomes The Crimson Bolt.

Drug dealers, queue-jumpers and paedophiles all incur his wrench wrath as he becomes a vigilante hero. Suspected by Ellen Page‘s Libby of being the Bolt, Frank gets a sidekick in the form of her Boltie. Libby wears her costume better than Frank, as you’d expect, and exceeds him in her violent retribution of anyone deemed unacceptable. Inevitably, they mount a mission to rescue Frank’s wife from Jacques and his mobsters.

Writer-director James Gunn, he of the criminally over-looked Slither and writer of the excellent Dawn of the Dead remake a few years back, gives his film an enjoyably painful realism, in terms of its gleeful violence, the heartbreak that can lead to fantasy and retribution, and the dangers of not letting go when you should.

Wilson is a perfect loser, overweight, not particularly handsome, going nowhere, and actually reminiscent of Woody Allen in that he is eclipsed by most of the men around him and attractive to most of the women. Thankfully, he is not inclined to the tedious, cerebral introspection of Allen. Happily, he whacks people with a wrench really hard instead! Page is a delight as the geeky, sexy Boltie.

Ignore the comparisons to the equally enjoyable Kick-Ass – what’s the point in getting bogged down in who-did-what-first? scenarios when the creators themselves don’t have a problem and instead pop a few beers and enjoy a surprising comedy.

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