So the Oscar season may have drawn to a close but that’s not to say there’s not a load more quality films to get excited about in the coming weeks. This week saw the release of Jim Jarmusch’s vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive. Starring Tom Hiddlestone and Tilda Swinton the indie auteur takes us on a dark yet warm trip with this rather unconventional couple. In his distinctive unusual style the film is not especially plot-driven but is an artistic depiction of these two incredibly interesting characters and array of their acquaintances.
The casting here is superb and can’t be faulted. Hiddlestone’s Adam is a reclusive, suicidal music lover, with a particular taste for funeral music. He is taken care of by Ian, (Anton Yelchin) a human, or zombie as the vampires name them, who delivers Adam anything he needs mainly guitars and in exchange Ian spreads his music into the club scene, albeit without naming Adam at any point with unmarked plain records. Swinton’s Eve is a very different personality to Adam, she is excited and amazed by any knowledge she can gain and has some friends in the outside world, including a fellow vampire Marlowe (John Hurt). Swinton looks absolutely incredible throughout, he back-combed silver-white hair coupled with her otherworldly features, especially her big, dark eyes, have never looked better. Jarmusch manages to create an authentic look for all the characters as a matter of fact and that authenticity is really at heart of why I liked this film so much. Another great character Ava (Mia Wasikowska) is also brilliantly written, turning up un-announced she really provides with an idea of just how different these vampire can be. Music is pumping through this films veins, at times there are long sections of just music without dialogue and these work particularly well to create the Jarmusch’s desired mood throughout.
If there was a problem it would be a lack of tension or excitement, perhaps, it could have done with a more plot-driven script. However, overall this perfectly crafted mood piece is enough to carry you through to the end and leave the cinema having witnessed two characters who define cool and redefine why vampires are such an interesting idea. very much the anti-Twilight the vampire genre deserved.
After the major disappointment of Moonstruck hopes were high for this next Cage entry, the movie that contains some of the best clips included in the YouTube video that inspired this very project. Vampire’s Kiss tells the story of a lonely man with some mental health problems who starts to imagine he’s been bitten by a vampire and that he’s therefore turning into one himself.
The film is as bizarre as its plot sounds, perhaps even more so. It’s never clear what director Robert Bierman is ever trying to do. The tone changes drastically almost every scene. One second it’s comedy the next horror the next it’s trying to be an intelligent psychological drama. Needless to say it fails to be any of those but is instead just a mismatched mess of nonsensical stuff. That said Vampire’s Kiss is Cage’s purest platform yet to do exactly what he does best and really lose his shit. His performance is one of the most demented things I’ve ever seen. He’s so ridiculously over-the-top you’ll have fun trying figure out what the hell he was thinking, or anyone involved in this movie for that matter. The pacing’s completely off we’re never given any background to Cage’s character, he starts as a bit of nut-job ends as a complete and utter fruit cake and is seemingly driven to it because his work assistant lost an important document.
Vampire’s Kiss may well be one of the worst films ever made but Cage’s performance is complete genius and for that reason this is one of the funniest films I’ve ever watched. This is the reason why Cage Rage exists and it reminds you why this project was a great idea. BEHOLD….
CAGE RAGE RATING – 5/5!!!!
I was a bit late getting on board with American Horror Story, not because I didn’t want to watch it but because I just have so much stuff to watch, but a few weeks ago I got to the end of its second season. From the creators of Glee (I know, right, wtf?) AHS has taken the form of an anthology series meaning that each season it’s own premise, storyline and characters, although some of the actors remain in the cast. Season one which has since been named ‘Murder House’ told the story of a family as they move into a new house with a strange recurring history of murders. And season two which is named ‘Asylum’ takes us on a journey through a mental asylum mainly set in 1964. It’s been a hit show for FX and its ratings have been solid throughout with a third season titled ‘Coven’ due to air from October.
From the off AHS throws everything its got it. In both seasons you are bombarded with different horror conventions with the show having used about every well-known element of the genre within it’s first episode. What I found with both seasons is that while their first halves were incredibly intriguing hurling a huge amount of action at you and setting up some complex mysteries that need to be solved as they go on the scare factor drops drastically as the writers are rushing for an explanation for everything that’s happened and neither season has a very satisfactory summary. Particularly in Asylum which I found left a large amount of questions unanswered. In Murder House everything is explained, from what I can remember, but it’s explanation is really just a bit of a cop out making the whole mystery of the season seem like not much of a mystery in the first place. Despite this there’s still something keeping me involved with the show, I’ll definitely be watching season three as it comes out and I think the reason is that this whole premise is brimming with potential. While its story arcs are somewhat lacking in intelligence there is a lot AHS does right. One of the best factors of the show is its casting with the recurring cast members, particularly Zachary Quinto, Jessica Lange and Evan Peters who play lead characters in both seasons, delivering fantastic performances and showing their diversity by playing very different parts. Also exemplary is the artistic direction of the episodes it’s clear a lot of though has gone into making this show just look really cool, with effective artistic shots and top quality editing making the show fun to watch even if its plots aren’t up to scratch.
While its first two seasons don’t fully deliver on the promise of their first episodes AHS is a show that has the potential to be the definitive tv horror programme, all it needs to do is come up with an idea that stays scary for thirteen episodes and doesn’t get so complicated that it can’t be fully explained. Easier said than done I guess but hopefully the shows writers will get there with Coven.
A week and a half ago Ben Wheatley’s fourth feature was released across a range of platforms in a unique, holistic new approach. A Field in England was made available in cinemas, on DVD and Blu-Ray, on Video on Demand and broadcast on TV. Since I’m back in a hovel of Devon for the summer there was no nearby cinema where I could indulge in watching Wheatley’s latest so I settled for watching it on Film4. The film is very different from his past efforts being a period piece set in the English Civil War and fitting in to the experimental horror genre its a bit of a departure from his previous gritty, realistic movies but there is still his signature to be seen.
Following a small group of blokes who have broken off from their army we are taken on a horrifying journey as they find themselves lost amongst the fields with a foreboding presence lurking over them. Shot completely in black and white Wheatley makes full use of his surroundings with the crisp HD making the colours feel vivid without even being there. Throughout the films hazy plot he uses a variety of editing techniques which makes the whole movie a trippy and strange experience. And he does deliver a unique feeling of threat in an unorthodox way. A Field in England has the it’s odd flourishes of graphic violence but for the most part plays on feelings of tension and fear and works very effectively. It’s a film that demands repeat viewings to fully get your head round its aims and concepts but one that I would be very happy to watch multiple times.
While perhaps being a slightly more difficult watch than Wheatley’s first three films A Field in England adds another feather to the ever growing bow of one of the most exciting talents in film at the moment. As interesting as it is haunting this movie is fantastic.
June 2013 sees another high profile release in the form of Brad Pitt vehicle, World War Z. The film, based on the book of the same name, aimed to put a new spin on the zombie sub-genre by making a more action orientated film rather than horror. It went through a number of years stuck in development hell before it finally came together with director Marc Forster and Brad Pitt in the leading role. I was surprised though that it ended up being released with a 15 certificate in the UK when it aimed to be a 12A and the gore is left off screen, mostly.
The only other film I can think of that had a similar premise was the abysmal Battle: Los Angeles which put the US Army up against an alien military force, going in to World War Z I had my fingers crossed I would not be in for the same kind of thing. Luckily my prayers were answered and the film actually had a number of things that I did not expect. There is very little set up at the movies beginning and before you even got comfortable you’re ripped into zombie apocalypse mode. The turning of the city does not take long and the first twenty minutes or so mainly consists of action sequences as Pitt escorts his family away from the danger as quickly as he can. It’s not an unfamiliar kind of situation but it’s well carried out and tension is built masterfully by director Forster. The abrupt start gives you a taster of what you can expect from the rest of the film, while it has a emotional drive very little time is spent building story and you is much more concerned in showing you slick action scenes with the emotional core bubbling underneath and keeping you attached to the events. For once I actually noticed some good use of 3D, a form that I am strictly against in general, but there were moments of World War Z, in particular a scene that involves a grenade and a plane, were I was actually pleased the showing times only allowed me to see it with bulky glasses attached. When we reach the last act of the movie it doesn’t really feel as though you’ve been through enough story to warrant the ending but it doesn’t make the final scenes any less tense. The end comes abruptly but the fact that I wanted the movie to go on can’t be a bad problem for it to have.
While World War Z may be one of the least anticipated blockbusters of the summer its a welcome surprise that its not as bad as you may have expected. Despite being more horror than it perhaps it set out to be and not really delivering on its promise of military style battle this could turn out to be a surprisingly good franchise if the second instalment delivers on its promises. A better film than Man of Steel this film is a fun watch ad welcome addition to the summer of 2013.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world Metro: Last Light follows up 2010’s Metro 2033. Being a PS3 owner I’ve never played the original as for some reason it was never released for Playstation so I can not compare the two. What I do know though is that Last Light was a bigger budget affair with a completely original story line. You play as Artyom and your mission is to find The Dark One who is believed to be the key to the survival of the human race. To do so you must navigate your way through the metro tunnels and stations, as well as explore the deserted Earth above you. It’s a diverse game pitting you against monsters and enemy humans alternately as you work your way through a gripping story of the supernatural.
I’m not the biggest fan of FPS games, mainly because I’m not the into the whole online stuff, so I more often opt for a third person adventure game as they tend to have a better story line. Last Light however, is an FPS that is only concerned with story, there is no online mode or any other mode than the story for that matter. And you can see why as this is one of the richest campaigns I have ever played. The story keeps you gripped from beginning to end (though I must admit I was slightly lost at first having not played 2033) and makes the game a tense affair as you work your through the levels and the plot unravels.
The graphics are absolutely stunning, some of the best I’ve ever seen on PS3. There’s a permanent darkness over every shot but it still manages to look beautiful even when you’re creeping through some filthy tunnels. The monsters are well crafted if slightly generic beasts and the humans look great too making for a realistic gaming experience. The levels take a while to get into the swing, the first few are too heavily cut up with cut scenes and lessons, you’re told how to play the game for too long basically, but once you get past it you’re greeted with a wide variety of stages with varying levels of difficulty all of which require different techniques to get through. Some missions reminded of the Arkham games as you have to sneak around in the shadows picking off Rangers one by one, if you get caught you’re in trouble. Others are more about survival, particularly in the cave areas where you have to fight packs of beasts who come charging at you and you have to be fast with your guns to keep them from tearing you apart. Then there are the stages that are out in the open where the main challenge is keeping your gas mask filters fresh so as not to inhale the radiation and choke to death.
Overall the game is one of the best FPS’s I’ve ever played finding a great balance between action and horror, and managing to have a great storyline without smothering you with cut-scenes or QTE’s. My only qualm would be that it has no replay value and it would perhaps benefit from having something else perhaps a co-op campaign or a challenge mode like the Arkham games. Despite this in terms of story and gameplay this is definitely one worth playing and let’s hope it’s not the last we see from the Metro series.