After all, it's just a ride….


Interstellar Prelude….

As we’re at T minus two hours until blast off mission control have just circulated this, a hearty little montage of all our puny species attempts to broach the great void. I hope to have my mission dossier crafted by sunfall, so (drum roll) watch this space;

Nightcrawler (2014)

nc1Well now let’s make the obvious gag disappear first shall we, so this new film isn’t Jake Glenethall…, I mean that guy Jake Glythenal…no, damn it, that’s not it…’s not…oh you know who I mean, it’s not Maggie Gyllenhaal’s brother’s demonic materialization into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (bamf), no this new film is a much more satirical affair, a seething, glowing media mauling where the Big Brother of the movies delivers a good kicking to its upstart sniveling little brother, television. With a Peter Lorre squrim and hyena like tenacity Gyllenhaal is Louis Bloom, an ambitious young droog whom we first meet panhandling for scraps of metal in the decaying industrial ghettos of Los Angeles. Bloom is not a man one would be comfortable spending any extended time with, he’s a sociopath and a thief who spouts platitudes culled from a confused mélange of self-help books and corporate management speak, obsessed with bettering himself and ascending the career ladder despite an empathic void of social behavior and a dangerously inflated sense of self. When Bloom witnesses a frantic ambulance chasing TV camera crew descend like vultures upon on a recent car-wreck his entrepreneurial spirit is ignited,  and he invests his mediocre resources into a police scanner and lightweight camcorder, like a modern-day Weegee prowling the city of angels for the latest atrocity to sell to the ravenous 24 hour news cycle, the more gruesome and sensational the better. As his increasingly sordid footage buttresses the failing rating of fading and aging News Anchor Nina Romina (Rene Russo) Bloom finds his influence rising, prompting him to seek even more sensational material to sate the ravenous appetites of his new corporate colleagues……

nc3For the first half hour or so I was cautiously enjoying this film as it carefully arranged its satirical scaffolding, painting a sordid sortie of night dwelling vampires who trade in human misery,  before one terrific scene elevated Nightcrawler to the tabloid front pages, a simple selection of two characters in a restaurant incrementally exposing their true poisonous cores. Shot efficiently and directly it gives the two leads a chance to fully expose their characters nauseating flaws in one of the best scenes of the year, a sequence which prompted audience gasps and giggling in equally uncomfortable measures. In that sense Nightcrawler is a film of transactions and trade not just in simple commerce but also in an audiences complicit yearning, of rubber-necking at accidents and reveling in the doomed fate of strangers, a muted sensational sense that for the grace of god go I. It’s great to see Rene Russo back on-screen in a role which she fully sinks her fangs into with a desperate veneer of exhausted compromise, willing to sell her very soul to maintain her precarious pedestal in the unyielding forum of ratings and the all important market share. The central centrifuge though is Gyllenhaal’s ghoulish, grave robbing performance, faintly registering on the Aspergers scale as he gleefully mutters and grins through his hollow mantras, a plasticine performance which steps eerily in line with the films malleable ambitions, and maybe the Academy will  proclaim a hot off the press scoop come next February.

nc4Like any other unoriginal hack I realize I tend to hark on and on about cinematography but when the work is of such quality it would be a critical crime not to celebrate such achievements, and is there a DP with a better eye than Robert Elswit (a regular collaborator with P.T. Anderson) in photographing contemporary, sensuous California? Elswitt bathes the screen in shimmering reds and cobalt blues which illuminate the frigid hell of these characters mortal vulgarity, not since Michael Mann’s Collateral has nocturnal LA looked so dangerously seductive. It’s also actually rather refreshing to wallow in an American movie where almost everyone is a reprehensible, self-serving wretch of humanity who’d throw an orphanage under a bus if it could potentially enhance their hideous career, with the possible exception of the faintly pathetic Rick (Riz Ahmed of Four Lions fame) retaining some small shred of moral imperative, yet even he, like everyone else on these mean streets of the Angels has a commercial threshold when the prospect of the almighty dollar hemorrhages into the viewfinder.

nc2Beyond the singular media satire the film muses some broader concerns of a desperate generations fingertip reach for the first rung of the corporate ladder (on an associated note isn’t this fucking nauseating), of socially programmed ambition in the face of cold commercial logic – no experience, no hope, no job, unless you race to the bottom faster than your morally disabled contemporaries. In some strange moment of scary serendipity I was passing through chaotic London Bridge station very early this morning where I observed a very odd phenomenon – a young chap, angled toward the hordes of commuters flooding in from the home counties, garbed in his best suit holding aloft a sign proclaiming ‘I’m a 2:1 Legal Graduate, Looking for Work’ like some bizarre inversion of a Dickensian beggar, hoping his demonstration of proactivity might get him a job. Unfortunately Nightcrawler slithers away from its carefully hewn path in the final stretch as the various plot strands don’t quite meld together into a scrupulously savage whole, but it retains a modest sting with a credit baiting coda that is cruelly effective and affecting – crime always pays on both sides of the law. The touchstones beyond the 1970’s prescient classic Network are corporately clear with Gyllenhaal’s uncomfortable performance manipulated through the prism of Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin of King Of Comedy fame, where Scorsese’s capitalist creed of Wolf Of Wall Street opened the year Nightcrawler seals the deal of 2014 with a gutter saturated vision of the American Dream, roll tape, cue anchors and watch the world burn;

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (2014)

One trailer to rule them all, here we go again for one final trek around Middle Earth;

I haven’t braved the Special Extended Edition of The Desolation Of Smaug yet although it is sitting there tempting me with its golden hues, the more I reflected on that film the less I liked it but still it must be mine – mostly for the tsunami of production extras. Maybe this will absolve past sins, and (NERD ALERT) I can’t pretend that the possibility of seeing Elrond and Galadriel in full Eldar action isn’t the granting of this Tolkienophile’s most fervent screen wishes….

I Don’t Know Jack (2002)

Well here now is a hair-raising treasure which is the very definition of niche, a Lynch produced 90 minute documentary on his friend and early collaborator Jack Nance;

He was quite a character, a shame he isn’t around to grace next years Twin Peaks resurrection, but great stuff anyway. In other news inbetween finalizing my Nightcrawler review I found the time to finally hunt down Jarmusch’s vampire exercise Only Lovers Left Alive. Probably his most placidly entertaining film for a good few years, and just about everything you’d expect from a Jim Jarmusch vampire movie – no more, no less.

Hardcore (2015?) Trailer

No it’s not a remake of Paul Schrader’s 1979 sordid classic, in fact I’m not sure exactly what this ‘film‘ is, and those with something of a nervous disposition toward screen violence should consider themselves warned, but This. Is Insane;

Yes that is the bigot accented dude from District Nine and Elysium. Cheeky swine even chucked a Wilhelm in there….

The Babadook (2014)

bab1 There is a gulf between genuinely chilling and mildly disconcerting horror cinema isn’t there? The current penchant for the jumpy, harshly cut and deafening fears of Insidious, The Conjuring or its bastardised sister Annabelle leave me parched in a sea of tedious techniques, yearning for a full draught of the genuinely spooky fare which the Spanish and to a lesser extent the Japanese used to excel in. Now me and a certain Mr. Kermode frequently fall out over some of his more ridiculous opinions (his championing of the exerable Twilight films is simply unforgiveable, they are terrible films both technically and thematically) but I still tend to trust his judgment on some fronts, as he quite astutely made the case when podcast reviewing the anticipated new antipodean horror The Babadook that real, effective horror trades in the uncanny and the supernatural with a grounding in reality, with characters we empathize and identify with, and don’t just resort to the lowest common denominator jump scares that any 5 year old with a video camera could execute. I first became aware of this film around a year ago when it started terrifying festival audiences and I’ve been steadily charting its frightening tendrils reaching across the globe, until it finally made ground in the UK just time for All Hallows Eve, riding on a crest of critical celebration. Some have compared it with the little known 1980’s frightmare Paperhouse given the picture book symmetry and story of a young child lost in an increasingly dangerous world of fantasy and adult superstitions, so I was very much looking forward to this film as another potential gift of the Autumn season, as I ambled through the November chill for a Sunday Cineworld matinee alongside the media mauling Nightcrawler.

bab2Strained and stretched single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) is almost at the end of her increasingly fraught mental tether. Raising her poorly behaved young son Samuel (Noah Weiseman) alone after his father was killed in a car accident she is struggling to maintain her modest nursing job and keep food on the table, her only source of assistance being her sister Claire (Hayley McElhinney) whom harbors a barely concealed enmity toward her nephews increasingly erratic conduct. To compound the stress Amelia’s  grasp of motherhood may have been tainted by the fact that their absent father was killed on the very day that Samuel was delivered, prompting her to not entertain such childrearing concerns as birthday parties, anniversaries or associated celebrations, a dictate which further isolates her increasingly fraught child from her and his peers. Attempting to forge some lasting relationship with the child she alights upon a mysterious story book found hidden in the house called The Babadook, a leering charcoal tainted tale of a terrifying figure which frightens young families, igniting in Samuel the urge to see and hear the spectral figure lurking in every shadowy corner of the house. As the story develops and Samuel’s demeanor further deteriorates one has to wonder that maybe, just perhaps his menacing hallucinations  aren’t completely unfounded….

BAB3Debut writer & director Jennifer Kent has selected her ingredients wisely in order to percolate this supernatural stew, with flavours of Lynch at his skin-crawlingly creepiest, of Polanski’s Repulsion and more than a sprigot of Kubrick’s The Shining mulched into the mix, but the final dish is a rather thin and unnourishing gruel, and I’m sorry to say I was more than a little underwhelmed. It’s another fall at the hurdle of expectations, it is certainly not a bad film with a fair share of genuinely chilling moments, but they never coalesce into anything coherent or controlled, as the plot strands and intensity unravelling in the films final conflict. Kent erects a very unsettling Fredudian undercurrent which lurks beneath the gray and pallid color palette, it’s drained emulsion the shade of blood curdling in frosty cheeks, but as the plot well, loses the plot The Babadook defiantly fails to navigate such fertile territory, lurching from one scene to the next without fully twitching on the chillblades. If you are so inclined here is the 10 minute short that Jennifer Kent made before securing financing, may will give you a flavor of proceedings.

bAB4I’ll concede that child actor Weismen somehow manages to transform his original irritating behavior as posterboy for enforced sterilization into a google eyed empathy as we realize that it’s the more corporeal elements in the house which offers the real threat to his body and soul, while Davis thrashes around in a misguidedly directed shift from exhaustion to sanity shattering anger, a fractured performance hastily glued together from an incomplete selection of fragments. The film does boast a masterful deployment of sound – always a central emphasis in any horror movie worth its reputation – shifting from chittering spectral  gibberish to abrupt guillotine of total silence to enhance attention on the imagery, building crescendos in certain sections which are dissipated by some rather clichéd and badly worn genre contortions. In the final ledger I think The Babadook is filed under the ‘ambitious and promising failure’ section, perhaps bruised by the unreasonable lofty expectations on my part. On the other hand Kim Newman, one of the worlds foremost scholars on horror and genre cinema has proclaimed The Babadook as a masterpiece of its type, and although I’m inclined to disagree you may find more permanent chills in leafing through it’s faintly petrifying pages;

Can’t See The Woods For The Trees?

If you’ve recently enjoyed watching The Cabin In The Woods then delive further with this fun little deconstruction, and the numerous sly references littered throughout the movie;

The Other Side Of The Year….

This has been rumoured and muttered about or many years now but finally it seems we cinephiles can rejoice, for Orson Welles final, unfinished film will miraculously be seen in theatres next year. Lest we forget, even Welles butchered and mangled films can have their astounding moments;

What We Do In The Shadows (2014) Extended Trailer

Well, when I say trailer I should say first six minutes of this well received horror-comedy, a notoriously difficult hybrid genre to successfully stake. I’m mostly posting this to distract myself from the Interstellar reviews which are littering spiral galaxies of spoliers across the social media multiverse, I’m heroically resisting the urge and not reading a damn thing but the general consensus seems to be very positive. Anyway, here’s this which might make you giggle;

A Keanu Odyssey….

Always gets a little slow around here, when we’re in the initial furious pangs of a technically detailed new assignment. Nevertheless the movie world cares not a jot for Minty’s inhibited abilities, as a small clutch of recent trailers have materialised this week which deserve our undivided attention. Firstly, the bleeding obvious;

This film is going to make an outrageous, civilisation shattering epoch of money. Looks like fun and curiously a natural clean visual connection to the original film (Same DP as Guardians Of The Galaxy eh? Hmmm), Ultron was one of favourite villains when I was a mere transistor so I’m looking forward to seeing the indestructible one finally rendered on-screen. It also kinda amuses me that there was lots of eye rolling and mutterings of ‘who cares?’ when DC unveiled their cinematic universe recently, then this drops and everyone loses their marvellous fucking marbles. Now then, I always love a ‘sleeper’, a film which wasn’t necessarily on many people’s radar which somehow obliterates its modest expectations, and can even catapult a waning star back into the firmament;

The reports I’ve been hearing on this are extraordinary, absolutely outrageous schlock which would make Shane Black blush, and other ‘this is like action film x on methamphetamines’ asides. Normally I would be off to see this highly regarded little monster this weekend but I’m entertaining guests, I’ll give it a lurk next weekend which is actually Halloween isn’t it? Seems apt. Finally something a little more classy, as I know the publicist whom is leading the campaign for this re-release I thought it best to honor her wishes and let you gaze beyond the infinite in 21st century digital delight;


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