An Explanation

I haven’t been as active as I’ve usually been on here and I believe you all deserve an explanation. I’ve had a stressful time lately with my depression and anxiety hitting me hard. I’m currently getting the help and support I need, but haven’t been that inspired to write because of this. I will be back blogging very soon, I just need to sort my head out first. I’ll be back better than ever before you know it, I just need to take my time.

Dracula: Prince of Darkness

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

I was invited to right about the fantastic Christopher Lee by Barry and Gill and I was very happy to do so. 

A Hammer Horror with the iconic Christopher Lee back as the eponymous being, Dracula: Prince of Darkness is atmospheric and has a lot going for it.

A group of proper English tourists; brothers Charles(Francis Matthews) and Alan(Charles Tingwell), plus their wives Helen( Barbara Shelley) and Diana( Suzan Farmer) are visiting near the Carpathian Mountains. They are warned about not going to a certain region by Father Sandor( Andrew Keir) . Sandor isn’t your average man of the cloth as he speaks his mind and seems always on the lookout for danger in a similar way to a hunter. The group don’t pay much attention and attempt to reach a castle that doesn’t show up on a map. The worried Helen doesn’t think this is a good idea, but she is overruled by her husband and the brash Charles . After a carriage appears from nowhere following , they decide to get into it. It suddenly springs to life and transports them to the infamous castle. Not wanting to be outside as darkness approaches, much to the annoyance of Helen, the group enters the castle . There they find the castle in reasonably good condition, considering that it’s been abandoned for years . We learn that the reason for this is that it’s been taken care of by the creepy servant Klove( Philip Latham) . His dead employer told him to always make the castle welcome to those travelling through. But Klove has a more menacing plan for the guests. That night he murders Alan and strings him up over a tomb. This fresh blood resurrects the evil and powerful vampire Dracula(Christopher Lee) who then goes on to turn the strait laced Helen into a sensual creature of the night like himself. Realising the danger they are in, Charles and Diana  run from the castle before finding Father Sandor in his church. The couple now team up Sandor with in a battle against the nocturnal bloodsucker.

Terence Fisher, who was always one of the most reliable directors for Hammer Horror, is in his element here. His confident and nicely unobtrusive direction helps flow smoothly and with a genuine feeling of dark tension. The less is more approach works well in many areas here, leaving much to the imagination while not shoving it in your face.The eeriness builds before being fully unleashed in the last half when the stakes are raised and a desperate plan to slay Dracula comes into play. From the get go, you just know it’s going to be very creepy. It doesn’t just start with everything being rosy and ideal for everyone; we hear of darkness from right at the start of the film as well as a prologue of Dracula’s history(which is a flashback from the very first outing for Lee as the bloodsucking count.)That is the through line of and moves the plot along nicely with an exquisite slow burn before unleashing. Also of note is how some of the characters don’t fall victim to some of the dumb horror cliches out there. For example, Charles and Diana once sensing that something is wrong flee the castle instead of sitting and waiting to be picked off, along with other smart traits. Yes they do eventually have to go back to the castle for the climactic battle(which makes sense in the big scheme of things), it’s just nice to see characters who aren’t complete morons and at least boast some substance . Its a little thing but one I do appreciate it .Prince of Darkness has enough of a difference in terms of folklore to single it out among vampire movies, particularly the eventual way that the remaining characters try to use in order to kill Dracula. Dracula: Prince of Darkness also feels even by today’s standards rather erotic in a Gothic way. Dracula’s ability to hold people in thrall is a great example of this as is Helen’s flip from staid worrier to untamed vixen. Granted age has diminished some effects and it can come off dated in stages, the creeping aura is still there in a way only Hammer can provide . On the visual front, Prince of Darkness is gloriously done with a lot of the colour red mixing with a dark and unusual feeling of impending dread. Hammer Horror always has that special something in terms of how they look and is no exception. A swelling and rather grand score suits the movie as the action and atmosphere is cranked up to high levels as darkness falls.

Christopher Lee is what really makes this movie, returning after a number years following his first outing, to play the role of the indelible villain that is Dracula. Despite not speaking a single word, his imposing presence and intense, bulging eyes are all that’s needed to give us the audience and the potential victims the creeps. Lee plays the wicked but seductive Dracula with a sense of movement and hypnotising skill; brilliantly luring in the unsuspecting prey he has his designs on. He’s obviously enjoying himself and the menace he provides as the bloodsucker is second to none. Simply stated, the film wouldn’t be the same without the iconic Lee playing it. Francis Matthews is appropriately down to Earth and charming as the free living young Charles, who has to rise up and face Dracula. Barbara Shelley is wonderful playing essentially two different parts: sheltered, fearful killjoy Helen and her enticing, seductive vampiric form that is chilling and daring . Both sides are finely judged by her and stand out for how different they are and it’s down to the excellent of Shelley . Bombastic energy and portents of doom come courtesy of Andrew Keir as the unorthodox but forceful Father who isn’t going down without a fight.  A convincingly  insidious sliminess provided by Philip Latham as the ever loyal servant intent on raising his evil master from the great beyond is another effective tool used to elicit genuine uneasiness and terror to sublime effect. Suzan Farmer and Charles Tingwell have smaller roles but are nonetheless very good as the rest of the quartet happening upon terror. The cast is pretty stellar, but it’s the presence of Christopher Lee that truly lingers in the mind thanks to the talents of the legendary star.

A stylish and atmospheric horror from the iconic Hammer Homer, Dracula: Prince of Darkness is an impressively movie with an eerie and memorable Christopher Lee at the centre of it all.

Clash of the Titans

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Taking basis from Greek mythology and past fantasy/swords and sandals, Clash of the Titans is one entertaining film. Not without flaws, but glowing with a sense of adventure that can’t be denied or not enjoyed.

In Ancient Greece, King Acrisius is angered when he discovers that his daughter Danaë  had a child that was fathered by the all powerful God Zeus(Laurence Olivier). he imprisons his daughter and her son Perseus in a box and has them thrown into the sea to die . The powerful God Zeus is infuriated by this and orders the destruction of the King’s realm. Danaë and Perseus are spared and wash up on another island. Years later, Perseus( now played by Harry Hamlin) is an athletic young man who is good at horse riding and adventure. And it’s adventure that awaits him as the unpredictability of those on Mount Olympus transports him to the city of Joppa . This is done by Thetis(Maggie Smith) who is angered by the fact that Zeus has persecuted her rebellious som Calibos. Her offspring destroyed the group of legendary flying horses (leaving only the iconic Pegasus) and for his wickedness was transformed into a hideous beast. Calibos was betrothed to the beautiful Princess Andromeda(Judi Bowker) but now has fled to the swamp. Andromeda is under a curse that makes her unable to marry unless her suitor solves a magical riddle. Into this melee comes Perseus, who immediately falls in love with Andromeda. After figuring the riddle out and subduing, Perseus asks for Andromeda’s hand in marriage. In retaliation for the treatment of her now deformed son and also stinging with anger when Andromeda’s mother dares speak ill of her , Thetis decrees that Andromeda shall die at the hands of the beastly Kraken in thirty days. Realising the severity of what is happening, Perseus sets out to discover a way to save his beloved from an untimely death. Aided by some of the Gods, an elderly but comic sidekick Ammon(Burgess Meredith) , winged horse Pegasus and a golden replica of the Owl Bubo , it’s a whole new adventure for Perseus. This entails encounters with wicked, vicious two-headed dogs, the Gorgon Medusa and the legendary Kraken. It’s one hell of an adventure for Perseus as he does battle with this assortment of creatures to fulfil his destiny and save Andromeda.

Desmond Davis is on directors duties and does a commendable job of laying on the challenges for Perseus and letting it flow. Some missteps are there it has be said , but it’s definitely very watchable as a fantasy film . Events looks amazing as do the sets that transport you to Ancient Greece in all its glory. A shot of pace might have benefited the middle section that does honestly drag things out a bit. But Clash of the Titans recovers in the finale as a glorious throwback to the old school adventure movies that where popular in decades gone by. And I frankly love it for that. Clash of the Titans is an imperfect film, but the nostalgia and feeling of adventure truly sweeps me as well as the audience along. Clash of the Titans is all about the work from special effects and stop motion wizard Ray Harryhausen. This was to be his last hurrah before retirement and he doesn’t disappoint with the array of creatures he crafts for the big screen for Perseus to face . The best among these are Medusa and the Kraken . The scaly and slithering Medusa is a terrifying creation that is part of one of the finest sequences here. Suspense abounds as Perseus attempts to slay Medusa while avoiding being turned to stone by the beast. And the last part with the Kraken is high on adventure and tension as Perseus swoops into the rescue. Both creatures on display make the movie that something special. It’s Harryhausen who is running the show here and whenever his touch is felt, it’s something to behold .The pace may get leaden in areas and the story is not exactly what you’d call the most cohesive, but as sheer entertainment it scores very high points. And the rousing score is another excellent addition to this action packed movie. 

Clash of the Titans isn’t exactly what you’d call an actors movie, but the cast is pretty good. Harry Hamlin is hardly the most expressive star out there, but he is nonetheless suitable and physically impressive in the part of the heroic Perseus. Judi Bowker is also hardly winning any awards but her stunning beauty makes it convincing that a man would risk life and limb for her. Burgess Meredith clearly has fun as the loyal best friend of our main hero, with a mischievous glint in his eyes. Laurence Olivier, with his Shakespearean training and sense of indomitable majesty is ideally cast as Zeus. Intimidating yet charismatic, it’s a blast seeing Olivier bring his theatrical talents to the screen in this fantasy yarn. The always excellent Maggie Smith has a ball as the vengeance seeking and silver tongued Thetis, whose meddling sets in motion a lot of events. Smith brings with her a sense of commanding power and playfulness, which she lends well to the film at hand. Sadly, Claire Bloom and Ursula Andress as goddesses are relegated to the sidelines as and don’t particularly register as a result. 

So while not quite up there in the echelon of fantasy films of yesteryear, Clash of the Titans is very close and boasts an immense amount of charm and nostalgia. Plus it’s a fine showcase for the Ray Harryhausen and a great final flourish for him. 

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

A sensational adventure drama with a great attention to detail, fine direction and two sterling central performances, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is hugely entertaining while still holding inside a depth that you wouldn’t expect.

It’s 1805 and the Napoleonic Wars are in full swing. The experienced and charming Jack Aubrey( Russell Crowe)is captain of the HMS Surprise. At the orders of the British Admiralty he is taking his ship off the North coast of Brazil to intercept a French ship by the name of the Acheron. It’s feared that if the Acheron continues its journey , the wars will spread further and last longer . Aubrey and his crew are surprised when fog rolls in and the Acheron ambushes them, severely damaging the Surprise. It’s a much bigger ship that is more heavily armed and stronger than the Surprise. The crew have to fix the ship while at sea, which poses a challenge for them. For Aubrey, the mission becomes personal as he begins to push the crew harder and starts to display questionable tactics and a foolhardy attitude while in pursuit of the Acheron . He has the crew attempt to track the much bigger and elusive ship against the seemingly insurmountable odds. This puts him at sixes and sevens with everyone, most prominently the ship’s surgeon/ naturalist and confidante Stephen Maturin( Paul Bettany) who argues that his good friend is risking the lives of the crew and not following the code of conduct by which he usually governs by. The journey around South America and the Pacific Ocean to find the continues as much in the way of bad luck befalls those present aboard the and Aubrey’s single mindedness elevates. Once the Acheron comes into view again, but with the crew paranoid and the Captain’s ways beginning to challenge those in his care, it’s not going to be plain sailing for anyone involved

The talented Peter Weir is on fine fettle directing this adventure on the high seas thats both thrilling and engaging. He combines the epic scope of an adventure film with the sense of intimacy you think of with drama. While the whole exercise is beautifully mounted, it’s the little moments that really matter here. And we do bear witness to a compelling literal and figurative journey of morality and leadership, beautifully brought to life by Peter Weir. Master and Commander was filmed on two replica shops, one that was actually used on the sea while filming. Both add a further authenticity to events and truly place us at the heart of this journey. Plus, they truly convince as a living vessel of cramped conditions, doubts and thundering action. Once again, Weir and his exceptional crew of production designers really went for painstakingly true to the time period details that are sublimely realised . There’s a revealing side that displays the frictions, rivalries and bloodshed( though most of it is discreetly shot). As most of the film takes place in the ship, it becomes alive with all the emotions running through it from the characters. When one thinks of Master and Commander, there are two main action sequences in it, which might surprise many. But the sequences are stunningly orchestrated and full of danger, while not sugarcoating the often brutal reality of war and how damn unpredictable it can be. The opening out of the blue attack hits hard and unexpectedly while the ingenious final battle is a full on thrusting sequence of action and tactical one upmanship.A few parts in the middle sag but is largely a very involving movie, particularly pertaining to the characters and visuals . The sound editing which is thunderous and immersive and the cinematography that gets across the conditions aboard a ship and the natural beauty of the sea both received deserved Oscar wins. The sound design in particular is truly marvellous; every crack and shot of a canon rings with energy and fire The scenes in the are breathtakingly beautiful and a feast for the eyes so all lovers of stunning imagery should take note during these sequences, and the cinematography from Russell Boyd is gorgeous. The score from Iva Davies, Christopher Gordon and Richard Tognetti is an adventurous one that really suits the story and has the same amount of energy and drama that is depicted on screen.

Russel Crowe heads the cast of the seafaring adventure with an absolutely entertaining performance. The dashing leadership, cheeky grin and then the realisation and sense of shock that comes with making big, life threatening decisions are all there and embodied by Crowe. It’s a full blooded portrayal of a rash but dedicated man serving his country and running into a questionable quagmire of which some is his own making. A delightfully subdued, dependable and cynical performance from Paul Bettany as the surgeon/naturalist Stephen is also of note for how effectively he slips into the part. Maturin is the more practical, rational one of the two but also boasts a deep sense of questioning curiosity that can’t be harnessed. Bettany brilliantly conveys all of these parts and really makes the character his own. It helps that Crowe and Bettany work so well together and boast a great chalk and cheese chemistry that lends an extra string to its bow. The friendship between the characters is one of the best parts of Master and Commander it has to be said. James D’Arcy makes for a stalwart supporting character playing the loyal first lieutenant, while Lee Ingleby is sensational as the tragic Midshipman who is unliked by the rest for his lack of nerve and suffers deeply because of his treatment. Young and spirited Max Pirkis stands out as the pint sized midshipman who loses an arm early on, but has enough tenacity to overcome this obstacle. Pirkis has a maturity that belies his young years and he more than holds his own against most experienced costars. The overall cast of the film is of a good standard, but it’s Crowe and Bettany that you’ll remember the most.

A surprisingly human adventure with questions of morality and order in at as well as spectacle, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a fine achievement in filmmaking.

9 Year Blog Anniversary

Tags

,

Today marks the 9th anniversary of my blog. I seriously can’t believe I’ve been doing it for this long. Along the way I’ve made such great friends from all over the globe. I love you all so much. I know over the last year things have been tough, but I have a feeling light is at end of the tunnel. So in the meantime, I wish to extend my deepest gratitude to everyone who has supported me along the way and during this journey of blogging. I couldn’t have done any of this without the continued love, appreciation and acceptance of this thriving community.

The Devil Rides Out

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

A thrilling and very creepy film from Hammer Horror, The Devil Rides Out stands as one of their finest films. It’s the whole atmosphere and compelling story, aided by a pacy running time, The Devil Rides Out is a must see. 

It’s the 1920’s in the English countryside and the cultured, well-respected Duc De Richleau(Christopher Lee) has become concerned about a friend. This friend is the young and often irresponsible Simon Aron(Patrick Mower) ; De Richleau knew his father and since that friend’s death he has looked out for Simon along with fellow chum Red Van Ryn(Leon Greene). The concern regarding comes from Simon seemingly cutting contact off with those closest and disappearing for long periods of time. Aided by loyal best friend Rex, the two men soon unearth that the reckless has fallen in with a secretive society of devil worshippers who wish to baptise him once more as a follower of darkness. The sect is headed by the powerful and dangerously charismatic Mocata (Charles Gray), who is known to be ruthless and extremely gifted in getting people . After knocking Simon out and whisking him away, De Richleau and Rex must contend with the knowledge that they are marked for something dark by the evil Mocata  . They also help rescue a female follower Tanith( Niké Arrighi )who hasn’t been initiated into the bit is struggling with the pull of it. He shelters both Simon and Tanith with his niece Marie( Sarah Lawson) and her husband Richard(Paul Eddington) , who live in a large house in the country. Protecting the potential victims isn’t going to be a cakewalk for as the wicked Mocata can use mind control and hypnosis to make unsuspecting victims do his bidding.  Now De Richleau must fight to save Simon and from the clutches of Mocata , who has set his sights on the rest of De Richleau’s family in a cruel blow that will require a lot of faith to overcome. Let battle between good and evil commence in entertainingly spooky fashion. 

Terence Fisher adopts a restrained, low key approach here that allows for the story to become front and centre, while moving it along at an acceptable pace of mounting chills and unnerving mystery. That doesn’t mean that is without set pieces, it simply means that they are done in a way that isn’t too razzmatazz and more slithering menace. The scene of Mocata intensely putting Marie under hypnosis is gloriously creepy and stands out as a piece of dark filmmaking as the psychology of the situation and overall ambience is cranked up higher in a battle of wills. The other big standout is the protection circle scene where the group have to face off against the dark forces that don’t let up. It knows how to up the ante excellently in the best possible way. Hammer was known for its villains in the guise of Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster, but the fact that the main enemy in The Devil Rides Out is actually people who believe in a dark purpose makes a very unnerving prospect. Supernatural events occur throughout in the form of dark sorcery and satanism but the battle between good and evil feels more rooted in some semblance of reality while still retaining the magic of Hammer that you’d expect. The lack of bloodshed is also a stroke of genius; it allows us to focus more on the story than just parts that are possibly grisly. As mentioned earlier, the approach of a bit more subtlety adds immensely to the atmosphere of the piece as it unfolds deliberately but in a manner that is very fascinating. The film also has a dazzling colour scheme within in that highlights the richness of red and purple, plus there’s some great camerawork that employs intense close ups of eyes to startling by effect. A few special effects don’t measure up to modern eyes, but the main focus of the spooky story is the true crux of things that outweighs niggle. The score by James Bernard( himself a Hammer Horror regular) is one of great tension and action, which is exactly what you’d want in a film like this. 

Christopher Lee heads a very good cast in a role that is a change of pace for him; the hero. But Lee quickly displays how adept he is at surprising us with a passionate turn as a knowledgable man fighting to save a friend with a sense of great dignity to his core. Lee acquits himself well with force and gravity it must be said and provides the centre of this film. Charles Gray is his counterpart and he relishes being very evil throughout. For Gray, it’s all in the eyes as he uses them to such creepy effect as the character he plays manipulates those around him unsettling skill. Even before we’ve seen Mocata, we get an impression of the man and Charles Gray plays to that spectacularly. loyal friend who is supremely tested by the ordeal and along the way develops romantic feelings for the beautiful Tanith. And speaking of Tanith, she is played with the right amount of sex appeal by the enticing Niké Arrighi. There’s something a little otherworldly quality to her and it’s utilised nicely in The Devil Rides Out. Patrick Mower has the role of the reckless and foolhardy man caught in something he is starting to regret. The part isn’t the biggest stretch for the actor, but he puts in a very good performance nonetheless. Really standing out from the moment she’s introduced is the role of Marie, played by Sarah Lawson. She starts out as seemingly immensely vulnerable, but Lawson shows that the character is actually more switched on and important than people think. In fact, later becomes quite integral to the plot and a lot of this is down to Sarah Lawson. Paul Eddington rounds out the cast as the sceptic among everyone who soon comes to believe in the darkness about to surface.

A creepy and very enthralling Hammer Horror, The Devil Rides Out stands at least in my book as one of their finest. This owes much to a great cast, somewhat low key approach and feeling of elevating tension.

Crawl

Tags

, , , , ,

A simple premise of two people against a vicious pack of creatures, locked in a fight for survival, Crawl does what it says on the tin and is all the better for that. Well acted and suspenseful, it’s a decent little horror flick.

In Florida, Haley(Kaya Scodelario) is an aspiring young swimmer, who nevertheless feels like a letdown as she hasn’t had much success. A lot of this stems from her father Dave(Barry Pepper), who coached her and pushed her very hard as a child. Haley has never felt good enough and is not dealing with her parents divorce very well. While she is estranged from him, she still gets a call from her out of town sister who is worried. Dave hasn’t responded to any of her calls, even though Florida has been warned of an approaching Category 5 Hurricane. Haley decides to check in on her father, despite the warnings of others and the harrowing weather conditions. When she arrives at his place, she can’t find him at first. With the guidance of his dog Sugar, Haley discovers her father in the crawl space, where he lies injured from a vicious bite that has broken his leg. While attempting to move her incapacitated father, Haley is menaced by an alligator that forces her to find what she can of safety in the crawl space. When her father comes around, Haley must work with him in an attempt to escape. It becomes apparent that there is more than just one alligator with them, as they got through via the storm drain . Trapped in the house that is beginning to flood and being terrorised by the vicious predators that are patient but can spring out at any minute , it’ll take all of Haley and Dave’s strength to make it out of this. But with flooding becoming more rapid, hopes of help dashed when looters meet a violent end and the alligators gaining momentum, surviving this hellish ordeal is not going to be so easy for Haley and David.

Alexandre Aja is well known for his films in the horror genre and Crawl fits in nicely with his capabilities. It’s not going for revolutionary horror, but Aja constructs immense suspense throughout, with the dual threats of catastrophic weather and killer alligators proving both a terrifying prospect for the main characters . Setting the film in predominately one location, mainly the crawl space and flooded interior of a house, was a very deft move that lends something claustrophobic to Crawl. Sometimes a simple premise can be successful through entertaining execution. Crawl certainly does that with some added bite, from the direction of Aja and an unexpectedly effective script. It has moments that do make you scratch your head and suspend your sense of logic,  but is largely a tense exercise in thrilling horror that is purely there to give you a thrill. The bleak visual style conveys the terror of a hurricane and the damage, added to with a slimy green and moody blue in the crawl space moments that are mightily impressive. Point of view shots crank up the feeling of dread as Haley has to make her way through the crawl space in hope of escaping and saving her father. The effects for the alligators are rather good too, never becoming overly reliant on obvious CGI to create these brutal creatures that feast with ferocious glee, particularly on a group of unsuspecting looters nearby. The running time of just under an hour and a half benefits Crawl as it leaves no space for any excesses or superfluous ideas. It’s a lean, mean horror that boasts good suspense and scenes of bloody terror. Added in is the underlying drama of family that thankfully doesn’t overstay its welcome; rather it allows for something grounded to emerge between who are more alike than they’d care to admit. The fact that Crawl isn’t traversing anything newfangled doesn’t matter because it proves intense and is done with a level of style. A score laden with pervading doom and bubbling atmosphere lends itself well to Crawl; soaking events in a dark and menacing sphere of growing panic, while also putting forth music that has an unusual emotional depth to it for a horror flick.

In what is essentially a two hander , save for other fleeting characters who are mainly there to be food for the alligators, Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper give it their best as the fractured daughter and father. Kaya Scodelario is especially good at navigating a character who isn’t the easiest to warm to at first but who earns our sympathy as she refuses to give up in the horrific situation she finds herself stuck in. Scodelario exhibits a troubled and spiky demeanour that’s tempered by ingenuity and depth that you don’t expect. is required to be both emotional and immensely physical, which she roses to with great energy . Barry Pepper is also a reliable presence as an injured, cranky man who is nevertheless someone who when out to the test, can rise above it. Pepper plays the part greatly, showing a man desperate to survive and eventually reconcile with the daughter from whom he is estranged. The characters aren’t given the biggest arcs ever, but what we have proves good enough as we watch their relationship starting to heal amid the carnage before them.

Entertaining, thrilling and filled with tension, Crawl is a suspenseful horror movie that takes advantage of a limited setting and good cast to craft an exhilarating film with snap.

Happy Birthday Keira Knightley

Tags

,

Today the delightful Keira Knightley turns 36. It feels like she has been on our screens forever, having broke onto the scene at a young age. Since then, she has become a popular star in blockbusters, period pieces and independent movies. I’ve always enjoyed watching Knightley on screen and I just know she has many more decades of cinema work to give us. So Happy Birthday to this beautiful and gifted actress. Plus she was my first cinematic crush.

Kidnap

Tags

, , , , , , ,

An intense but often ridiculous thriller about a mother attempting to get her son back after he is taken, Kidnap at least has Halle Berry doing her best with what she’s given and some good action

Karla Dyson(Halle Berry) is a hard-working single mother who makes ends meet by working as a waitress in a New Orleans diner. She deeply cares for her young son Frankie( Sage Correa) , but is currently going through a custody battle with her soon to be ex husband. One day after finishing a shift, she takes Frankie to the park. After taking a call from solicitors speaking about her estranged husband wanting custody, she can’t find Frankie anywhere. Scared out of her mind, she begins frantically searching for him. Then she sees a man and woman( Lew Temple and Chris McGinn)bundling her son into their car. She attempts to stop the car but falls and loses her phone. With adrenaline kicking in as well as panic, Karla jumps in her Minivan and tails the kidnappers across the highway. Without access to a phone, Karla attempts to get the attention of people passing by, but this doesn’t register much so she’s seemingly in a desperate chase on her own. After an altercation with the kidnappers who try to mislead her and them switching cars, Karla attempts to get some help from authorities that she finally passes. But when this takes too long and seems fruitless, she gets back in her minivan and vows to get her son back, no matter how long or how desperate her search could be. Because Karla’s not giving up on her mission and nothing is going to stand in her way as the determination and fire within her starts to rise.

Director Luis Prieto starts well enough with brief exposition before going headlong into the action, which is done rather effectively. It all just falls apart afterwards as it tries to be and surely knows that it can’t be that, stranding Kidnap as not exactly stellar work from Luis Prieto. There are some intense sequences to be found in Kidnap amid the often boneheaded events happening(such as Karla causing just as much destruction as she can in her chase to find her son and the fact that we have no real mystery of who the kidnappers are). The short running time at least makes things move along quickly and a little tension can be gleaned in fast moving sequences of pursuit that have something to praise. It’s the execution that renders quite a lot of Kidnap to be incomprehensible and laughable. The camerawork and visuals try to be arty but it comes off as headache inducing and jarring. I’m all for quick cuts and some polish, but not when it happens all the time and at the expense of my eyes. Kidnap is definitely a B-movie/exploitation movie on the road with the attempted gloss of a higher effort. It could have been a trashy little schlock fest of the guilty pleasure kind, but it can’t even sustain or manage that as it aims for status of an unreachable kind. The music score is all over the place which seems in keeping with the diminishing results of the movie.

The main thing that Kidnap has going for it is Halle Berry. She turns in a committed turn with force and verve . The character she plays makes some bad decisions, but Berry makes the part still have its moments of greatness as she plays both the terror and the sheer will to continue of the part. Berry previously starred in another film about a kidnapping , The Call, which while nothing brand spanking new, was miles better than this. Still Halle Berry throws herself into the part and at least remains watchable as a crusading mother discovering her inner fury and maternal strength. It’s not her finest work, but her star quality and acting chops sure elevate a pretty lacklustre movie. It’s just sad to see someone of her talent in such a bad movie but at least she represent some of the glue that holds it precariously together. Lew Temple and Chris McGinn don’t fare especially well as the kidnappers, primarily because they don’t have anything to work with. There’s no sense of depth, or suspense with either because the characterisation is so lazy. Sage Correa plays the kidnapped son and is mainly required to be scared, which he does as effectively as he can. 

Preposterous and as it may be as a thriller, Kidnap has Halle Berry at the centre that counts for something and makes Kidnap watchable.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The concluding part to the original trilogy of fantasy/adventure films( though two other sequels would inevitably follow), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is rousing but at times a very mixed bag. It’s very fun and has sublime action, it just gets a tad sidetracked with wrapping up many plot points. Still, it boasts quite an entertaining spectacle from Disney and I love it for that and how epic it feels.

The very existence of pirates is under attack from the evil and power mad Lord Cutler Beckett( Tom Hollander) . He has begun executing anyone associated with piracy, in the hope it’ll bring out the prominent members of pirate world out into full view for him. As his power grows, mainly due to him having control over the fearsome Davy Jones( Bill Nighy) after coming into possession of his cut out heart, pirates must form unlikely alliances to survive. In Singapore, Elizabeth Swann(Keira Knightley), the resurrected Barbossa(Geoffrey Rush) , Will Turner(Orlando Bloom), Tia Dalma(Naomie Harris) and others loyal to Jack Sparrow(Johnny Depp), arrive to meet with the famed yet shifty pirate lord named Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat). He possesses a navigational chart to the Locker, but being a crafty pirate he isn’t just going to give it over that easily. After their meeting is ambushed by The East India Trading Company and Navy, Sao Feng sends his crew along with the rescue group for Jack as he is prone to going with whoever benefits him and going whichever way the wind blows. The group need Jack in order to have someone who is part of the Pirate Brethren and can make a decision regarding the next course of action against Beckett and the fleet he owns. Each has a motive for wanting Jack’s return, particularly Elizabeth who feels guilty for her part in his imprisonment and Will who has plans that are personal to him . Will saw Elizabeth kissing Jack before his demise and didn’t understand that is was her distracting him. This is put a wedge between the lovebirds that both hope to overcome. Along the way, backstabbing occurs as loyalties shift and people attempt to survive the oncoming fight for their very lives. Journeying from Singapore to literally off the edge of the world, the real tag crew finally find Jack in Davy Jones Locker.  After much tribulation in an attempt to return to the normal world , now with a reluctant Jack, things seem to be on an even keel . But it’s not going to be plain sailing for them all, far from it. Elizabeth discovers her father Governor Swann( Jonathan Pryce) was murdered by and this ignites more action inside of her, we witness how she’s more than happy to go against the grain now and take charge in fierce fashion when it gets personal. Will wants to rescue his cursed father Bootstrap Bill(Stellan Skarsgård) from damned life on the Flying Dutchman . The only catch is that he must stab the heart but then become the captain of the vessel. This would mean he would be parted from his beloved Elizabeth and only every ten years for one day would he be allowed to see her is still mourning the goddess Calypso, who he loved and when she didn’t return to him, he became the monster he is at present . We learn that Calypso was bound to human form and that form is the ever enigmatic Tia Dalma , who has an axe to grind with the Brethren . Will has to align himself with the slimy Beckett to enable some of his plan to work while Elizabeth ends up with more responsibility than ever. Upon reaching where they need to be , opinions are raised about the future. It’s up to the to fight back against its enemies and though many present have differing motives and ideals, uneasy but needed unions are made as the time for fighting grows closer. Soon battle lines are drawn and it’s a battle that no one is going to forget.

Gore Verbinski still knows how to create a swashbuckler and succeeds in the stakes of action, adventure and fantasy. He has the right gusto to keep things spinning, even if the multitude of plot points is a chore. From doing my research, I saw that At World’s End was filmed back to back with its predecessor and you get the feeling more effort was lavished on Dead Man’s Chest than here . Which isn’t to say that the film is bad, it just can lack focus with all the varying strands it has to contend with and exposition runs heavily throughout. In the last two movies, I have mentioned the run times being a bit long. But here it really does feel overlong and sometimes needs an injection of something to get it going. It’s not hard to feel a bit confused with all the subterfuge at play and the plot points that need tying up getting drawn out. These areas tie the movie up in knots that derail some of the good that it has to offer. Mercifully, when the action and spectacle hit in At World’s Enf, they knock it out of the park in powerful fashion. The last hour or so is an onslaught of breathless action between ships in a stormy sea as the final battle takes place in grandiose style, following a rallying speech from the now fully fledged pirate Elizabeth . Water soaks, sails break and swords clash as the fight for freedom. And it’s pretty spectacularly mounted and executing from near every angle. It’s what the audience has been waiting for and it doesn’t disappoint. Earlier standout moments include the rousing rendition of a call to arms from those about to be put to death, the trippy purgatory of Davy Jones Locker , the rag tag crew slipping a boat over to escape the land of the dead and an extended battle in Singapore on wooden bridges over waterways. And that’s not forgetting the visual front of sweeping camerawork that captures many a cinematic moment, like the as two faction walk towards the other with equal intensity in their eyes that feels like a tribute to an old Western in the best possible way. The sets are gorgeously rendered and we have Hans Zimmer on music duties once more; crafting a suitably epic score that continues to build as the action explodes.

Johnny Depp headlines this end to the original trilogy with usual blend of outrageous comedy styling and moments of occasional seriousness. Jack is wily and up to his usual tricks but we see that he can loyal in his own roundabout way. Knockabout humour and action go hand in hand for Depp in his finely energetic performance that once more makes it mark as memorable. Orlando Bloom has come a longboard way  from the start and it’s great to see him play the ruthless and cunning yet still charming Will. Gone are the overly saintly antics of the first chapters of the character, and we have Bloom playing Will as someone who engages in piracy with efficiency and verve but still has shreds of integrity and selflessness to him. Keira Knightley impresses once more as Elizabeth becomes a fully fledged pirate once she realises that she has nothing left to lose following the murder of her father . She’s vengeful, spirited and knows how to cut anyone down with either words or sword. Knightley is a winner once more in how she’s portrayed Elizabeth throughout the trilogy; her emergence from well brought up lady to skilled, respected pirate is one hell of a journey thanks to the delightful young actress. And who else could look so fetching in pirate garb and command such deep respect from those around her like Knightley? Say what you will about some of the plotting in the trilogy, but the development of Will and Elizabeth has been a shining factor and hugely positive in the course of the three movies. Geoffrey Rush is back and as wickedly entertaining as ever, playing Barbossa with a glint in his eyes and spitting out amusing one liners whenever the occasion calls for it. Stellan Skarsgård, who I’ve aways found to be a really underrated actor, wrings out the sadness from his part of doomed father and damned man. There’s something in his eyes that just really evokes a feeling of pity. Nighy makes for both a terrifying prospect and a tormented man, ably supporting Naomie Harris as the enigmatic long lost love. Once we become privy to the knowledge of the history between these two, their story takes on more pathos that is thankfully a good plot thread that interests. Tom Hollander continues to grease it up as the skippering Beckett, a little man with big ideas who is quite the loathsome cockroach that many characters wish to kill. A wasted opportunity comes in the form of Chow Yun-Fat. He’s a commanding actor and has an elegance to him, but its not put to good enough use here which is most unfortunate. More successful is the stalwart Kevin McNally as the noble friend to all and the one who is the most approachable amid all the larger than life characters. They aren’t the favourite characters of everyone, Pintel and Ragetti(Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook) that is, and but their buffoonery and blunders of quite entertaining when I see them. Some of it wears thin but they are clearly having a blast. Jack Davenport appears again as the Commodore who switches loyalties, and he successfully plays someone who grows a spine a little too late. Jonathan Pryce is sadly sidelined for his part, though the unexpected death of his character certainly sets in motion something within Elizabeth. Watch out for the much publicised cameo by Keith Richards as Jack’s pirate father( with added tongue in cheek humour as Depp based the part he plays on Richards himself)

So if it goes on too long and feels just a bit too convoluted, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End can at least be praised for its acting, action and pure sense of escapism. After all, it’s a fun filled time for most of it that can prove worthy of your patience and viewership. And it caps off the trilogy in style so I can’t begrudge it that.