At last, summer is here. I’ve spent most of this month relishing in the freedom I now have following my exams, which means a lot of films were burnt through. This is in part to make up for next month, which will be lacking in the film front due to my long holiday coming up. With that said, how did I mark the halfway point of the year? Let’s find out.
- From Dusk Till Dawn
Prior to watching this film, my only experience of Robert Rodriguez was Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Yes, I love that film. Shut up. From Dusk Till Dawn is a fascinating film in the way it completly changes genre halfway through. The first half is a psychological thriller/crime film about two brothers who kidnap a family to get across to Mexico. The second half is a vampire film with some of the coolest vampire related set pieces I’ve ever seen. Very few films have George Clooney weld a stake gun but this film has that and more. The script by Quentin Tarantino is very witty and clever and he does a decent job acting as well as the younger brother Richie Gecko. I love characters with moral ambiguity and the Gecko brothers are fascinating anti-heroes, especially Clooney’s Seth Gecko, whose unique moral code and personality makes him a brilliant central character. I am definitely checking out more of Robert Rodriguez’s films if they as entertaining and weird as this one.
- The Sixth Sense
In January I became obsessed with M Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable so naturally I was going to check out what many consider to be his best film. Whilst I did enjoy The Sixth Sense a lot and think it’s a quality film, particularly with regards to the performances, watching it knowing the twist kinda ruined it for me. Hear me out. When you know that Bruce Willis is dead, it makes you wonder how anyone couldn’t have guessed it. Think about it- he’s shot in the opening scene and then, without explanation, he’s “alive” and NO ONE INTERACTS WITH HIM APART FROM COLE. How could no one have seen the twist coming? He’s detached from everything else that goes on. Unlike Unbreakable I feel like knowing the twist did affect my enjoyment of it slightly. As a result it’s unfair of me to really judge the film to Unbreakable as it couldn’t nearly have the same effect on me. Do I still recommend it? Maybe watch it with someone who doesn’t know the twist.
- War of the Worlds
I am slowly but surely making my way through Steven Spielberg’s filmography and going into War of the Worlds I had heard very mixed things about it. However, I personally found it to be a fascinating take on the story. Exploring an alien invasion through the eyes of an ordinary family, the film is quite obviously Spielberg’s take on 9/11 and the imagery is striking throughout. Some of his best set pieces are present in this film, such as the initial tripod attack and the ferry attack. Tom Cruise (no I will not call any character he plays by their name, they are all Tom Cruise) is the focus of the film and he does a great job playing the everyday family man trying to get his children to safety all the while trying to control his own fears about the situation. Whilst Close Encounters and ET depict friendly aliens, War of the Worlds sees Spielberg explore some of his common tropes in a darker, more reflective tone and whilst it is dark I really really loved it. People complain about the ending but it’s true to the book so I don’t mind. If you’re at Universal Studios in LA, be sure to go on the studio tour that shows a set from this film.
I have recently became engrossed with the twisted but brilliant works of Clive Barker, aka the British Stephen King. Candyman is a slasher film with a twist- rather than simply be about a killer, the film explores the idea of urban legends through the perspective of a decaying Chicago housing estate, with all the racial and social connotations to boot. Tony Todd as the titular character is spine tingling and iconic- his introduction is a perfect horror scene and he chews the scenery in the most subtle way possible. I adore the atmosphere of this film and how it slowly but surely unravels into a supernatural conspiracy. This film, whilst not incredibly scary, is creepy and surreal- you feel the presence of the Candyman in every frame and the slow descent into madness by lead character Helen is expertly done. Candyman is now one of my all time favourite horror films- a film that not only serves great thrills and horror conventions but also challenges the audience. A must watch for any horror fan.
- John Wick
Right now the Internet’s favourite person is Keanu Reeves, thanks to the third John Wick film. I’ve been wanting to catch up with the films for a while and having seen the first-yup, I get it. Keanu is awesome. John Wick is an action movie masterpiece, with a fully fleshed out and fascinating mythology that creates a brilliant world that demands further films. The hotel where assassins such as Wick go to stay to such an extent the porters know who they are is both darkly humorous and genius. The action is superb, showing off Keanu Reeve’s stunts and the outstanding set pieces warrant multiple re-watches as you pay attention to every second of the carnage. I love how the film uses visual storytelling such as the loss of Wick’s dog symbolising the loss of his reformed life and how the various sides all have their own agendas and motivations. I can’t wait to watch the other two, as John Wick is a certified success.
- Shaun of the Dead
I’ve talked at length in the past about my love of Edgar Wright and the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. Shaun of the Dead is a perfect directorial debut film. It’s witty, iconic and wonderfully written with one of the best screenplays ever written. I’ve seen this about four times now and it’s still so clever and original every time. So with this, I have to ask- why hasn’t From Dusk Till Shaun been made yet? No, I didn’t time my viewing of From Dusk Till Dawn with this film just to make this point, but I wish I did. Wright’s only gotten better since Shaun of the Dead and I would love to see these characters again battle vampires. Perhaps Shaun and Liz must cope with the difficulties of parenthood? It’ll certainly be interesting to see Simon Pegg stretch his acting muscles again- his performance in Shaun is perfect and he’s one of my favourite actors for a reason. If you haven’t seen this film yet WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
- Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Yes, I went crazy and watched two Edgar Wright films in a row. I love summer. Wright’s first American film shows that he is just as hilarious, clever and original even without Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (although yes, they should definitely have played the vegan police). Scott Pilgrim starts off as a quirky romantic comedy but then segways into a crazy video game brawl where Scott has to battle seven evil exes in order to date Ramona Flowers. If that sounds insane, that’s because it is. This is a film where being vegan gives you superpowers, getting killed means you burst into coins and spontaneous dance and fight scenes happen with no one batting an eye. It’s crazy how weird this film is but Wright always reigns it back in when necessary to give some decent character drama and development. Whilst it isn’t as complex as the Cornetto trilogy nor is it an evolution of Wright’s filmmaking in the way Baby Driver and his upcoming horror film will be, Scott Pilgrim is a nice bridge between the quirky British director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and the international genius of The World’s End. Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet- it’s a great introduction to Wright’s work.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
With Far From Home coming out I naturally decided to watch the MCU’s first Spidey offering. The MVP of this film, and no surprises here if you know me, is Michael Keaton as the Vulture. What an amazing performance and character. Adrian Toomes knows what he is doing is wrong but doesn’t feel remorse for it because he does it to keep his family safe and happy, and the twist that he is Liz’s father is one of the best reveals in comic book film history. As for the rest of the film- I like it. It’s lightweight for sure but given how it’s a ground level film that’s all right. I adore the relationship between Peter and Tony Stark, and it’ll be interesting to see how this dynamic changed Peter now that Stark’s gone. For me the most refreshing aspect of Homecoming is how naturally charming and funny it all is- it perfectly captures the teenage perspective and the links to the wider MCU are clever and well integrated. The interrogation scene is probably my favourite MCU comedy scene and Tom Holland is endearing as Spider-Man and I hope Far From Home gives him enough good material to ensure his place as my favourite Spider-Man.
- Lord of Illusions
We’re not done with Clive Barker yet. As a sign of how much his work has impacted me, I spent about half of today desperately running around Winchester looking in every bookshop for any book of his. With this, Candyman (which he didn’t direct but is still clearly his product) and Hellraiser, I think I can safely say Clive Barker is one of my favourite filmmakers and creatives. Lord of Illusions is a genre melding film that sees a private detective investigate occult magicians. Sounds simple right? But this is Clive Barker, nothing is that simple. As the film progresses, we get outstanding special effects and a haunting subtext of identity and paranoia combined with a truly insane climax. It’s one part horror, one part detective, one part adventure and a really quite unique and interesting film. Whilst I think Hellraiser and Candyman are superior both are quite violent and extreme, whereas Lord of Illusions is simpler and more accessible, making this a great introduction to Barker’s work.