Friday, May 29, 2009

Drag Me To Hell

Drag Me to Hell is a return to the classic horror genre for fanboy favourite Sam Raimi who made his name with The Evil Dead trilogy, before slipping off the radar and then making a triumphant return with the Spiderman trilogy.

I had high hopes for this film having been seduced by the array of glowing reviews from respected film journalists. We were promised a return to the classic horror genre; a break from tiresome gore porn and suggestive psychological horror.  Here’s a good old fashioned horror romp all about building tension, visceral thrills and genuine scares. Unfortunately the hype turned out to be just that.

The plot is quite simple.  In an effort to secure a promotion, kind-hearted bank employee Christine (Alison Lohman) rejects a loan extension application from an old woman who is about to be evicted from her home. In an act of revenge the old woman puts a heinous gypsy curse on Christine, damning her to three days of taunting and torture by the vengeful demon Lamia before… that’s right you guessed it, being dragged to hell. 

From here things seem promising.  The action gets underway with an excellent original set piece as Christine struggles to fend off a brutal attack from the old woman in the back of her car.  The scene is classic Raimi, unleashing the usual over the top action, featuring some inventive moves (think Bourne with his magazine), cranking up the thrills (and the yuck factor), with lashings of black comedy.  The image of the old woman ‘gumming’ Christine’s face and neck after she looses her finely carved dentures is hilarious.

Unfortunately during the rest of the film Raimi often resorts to tired old horror movie clichés and ultimately fails to generate any tension or deliver genuine scares.  

Every scene feels like its building up to a typically overused loud bang scare or shocking image that flashes on screen for a split second while the high pitched violin strings go into overdrive.  There is enough action to hold your attention and Lohman makes an amiable protagonist, displaying enough character and feistiness to enlist the audiences’ support.  In addition the climax, while not wholly unpredictable is quite satisfying and rounds off the film in a high note. Ultimately though Raimi fails to deliver the classic horror that was promised and the film works more like a black comedy /action thriller with supernatural themes.

I give Drag Me to Hell six vengeful gypsies out of 10. 

Guest Review by L. McG


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek

It's been a long time since I've seen Star Trek. I was never a fan of the original series or films although I must admit to a passing interest in The Next Generation with Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard although that was now 15 years ago.

As far as JJ Abrams, I was an initial convert to Lost before a few episodes in season 3 where it looked obvious to anyone that they were making it up as they went along and all my interest in the show vaporised into thin air.

Several years later he produced the interesting but ultimately unsatisfying Cloverfield and therefore it was with passing interest that he was directing a new Star Wars movie, essentially his 2nd feature film after Mission Impossible 3.

As with any Abrams film there comes a reasonable amount of hype and none more so when you are rebooting an all but dead sci-fi franchise that still holds its weight in gold with a plethora of, lets face it, geeks.

Early signs were that the director was taking a much needed step back, re-examining the behemoth and putting together a film that would breathe new life into old characters by taking us back to their formative lives and producing a coming-of-age action adventure set in the realms of federation space.

The result is a film that will satisfy most of those not familiar or indeed not interested in the Star Trek universe and should satisfy a fair few of the hardcore fans I would imagine and importantly for the studio, make more than enough money and interest for at least another sequel.

The characters of the Enterprise are well-rounded and enough background story is given to each where it matters with the main focus centering on Kirk and Spock without cluttering up a fairly straightforward storyline and keeping the action flowing.

As usual in these kinds of films, there is a bad guy up to no good and someone must step up and fight back. Cue Nero, played adequately by Eric Bana, a Romulan (that's Humans with facial tattoos to you and me) who has time-travelled back in time to reek his revenge on a young Spock for what old Spock does to him in the future.

It is a film to sit back and enjoy the action of rather than consider time-travelling hypotheses that makes it a good sci-fi film and not something to over-analyse in terms of plot depth or asking too many questions regarding logistics.

I would give this movie 7.1 tractor beams out of 10.


Monday, May 04, 2009


Redbelt is directed by David Mamet [Glengary Glen Ross] who also wrote one of my favourite comedies State & Main along with many other modern screenplays you should be familiar with [Hoffa, Ronin and Spartan to name a few].

The film centres around Jiu-Jitsu instructor Mike Terry, played excellently by Chiwetel Ejiofor [Dirty Pretty Things, Four Brothers] whose main devotion is to uphold the name and principles of Jiu-Jitsu and pass on his teachings even at the expense of making money from his lessons.

Although the theme of the film has its background in Jiu-Jitsu, the story is essentially a human drama with key plot points and twists set outside the world of martial arts that returns us to the ring for a gripping finalé although not what you might be expecting.

Terry is the victim of circumstance through his own high standards and the low doings of others and it is this dichotomy that is creates his rise and fall.

Mamet himself is a black belt in Jui-Jitsu which could explain his passion or interest in making this film but his main strength is penning the story and in his work behind the lens.

Mamet has woven a series of stories stemming from a single event that unfold before Terry who is beyond controlling them but whose hand is forced into confronting his steadfast principles - will he hold onto his ideals or sacrifice them for the greater good of others?


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