Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for April, 2011

Black Swan & Videodrome Posters

Two more incredible posters.

The first on the left is for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010).

On the right an amazing revised poster for David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983).

Click on image for full sized posters. Hope you enjoy them.

Friday the 13th NIKE

For the fashion conscious serial killer, check out the new Friday the 13th Nike SB High Dunk Jason Voorhees Horror shoes here 

Alfred Hitchcock

31 years ago today, Alfred Hitchcock died aged 80. It seems somewhat more appropriate to celebrate his death more than his birthday when you consider how many people he ‘killed’ on screen over the duration of his career. His early British work includes ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ (1934), ‘The 39 Steps’ (1935) and ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (1938) before he accepted an offer from David O. Selznick to go to Hollywood, he never looked back.

Kicking off his Hollywood career with ‘Rebecca’ (1940), Hitchcock released in quick succession ‘Suspicion’ (1941), Saboteur’ (1942), ‘Shadow of A Doubt’ (1943) and ‘Lifeboat’ (1944) before hitting the big time with ‘Spellbound’ (1945). His CV is almost unmatchable in terms of consistency, like everyone there are films of lesser quality but in general Hitchcock’s output was incredible for the 40 years between the mid thirties to early seventies. It’s easier to just list most of them to give you an idea of just how great he was:  ‘Notorious’ (1946), ‘Rope’ (1948), ‘Strangers On A Train’ (1951), ‘Dial M For Murder’ (1954), ‘Rear Window’ (1954), ‘To Catch A Thief’ (1955), ‘The Trouble With Harry’ (1955), the American remake of his own ‘The ManWho Knew Too Much’ (1956), ‘Vertigo’ (1958), ‘North By Northwest’ (1959), ‘Psycho’ (1960), ‘The Birds’ (1963), ‘Marnie’ (1964), ‘Torn Curtain’ (1966), ‘Topaz’ (1969), ‘Frenzy’ (1972) and his final film ‘Family Plot’ (1976). In addition to his movie output Hitchcock also hosted the popular television series ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ between 1955 to 1961.

Alfred Hitchcocok never won an Academy Award despite being nominated 5 times, he was eventually presented with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for services to film in 1968. He was also nominated 6 times for the Directors Guild Award, again no wins but he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1968. He was also presented with a BAFTA Academy Fellowship in 1971 and the American Film Institute Lifetime Acheivement Award in 1979. The same year as he was Knighted for Contribution to British Culture.

If you haven’t seen most of the films on the above list, well you’re really just not trying hard enough..! Hitchcock was a director, writer and producer who invented many of the set-ups that we take for granted in movies today, he was a true innovator. One of the first directors whose name appeared above the title, usually bigger than the title in the late 60’s, he was the first director to have a public persona. Vertigo was generally regarded as his greatest achievement, however Psycho is one of my all-time favourite movies and I should write a huge review about that movie alone, it’s dark, powerful, gripping, sexy and incredibly scary. Alfred Hitchcock: Legend.


Apparently 4 out of 5 people lie when asked if they’ve seen certain films to impress others. UK film and gaming rental site ‘’ polled 1,500 people and asked if they’d ever lied about not having seen certain classic films. At the top of the list, 30% of respondants lied about having seen ‘The Godfather’ (1972), followed by ‘Casablanca’ (1942), Taxi Driver (1976), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992). Site editor Helen Cowley said: “Whether it is a small white lie about having seen a cult classic or nodding along to friends as they recount the infamous horse head scene in The Godfather, there are some films that we just do not want to admit we have not watched.”

Scream 4 ***

Scream 4 opens with a parody of a parody of a parody… of itself. It sets its store out early to leave us in no doubt as to its intentions; this movie is all about the sequels. From the opening movie within a movie shots, lampooning the ‘Stab’ movies, the movies of the events from Scream 1, 2 and 3 (try to keep up…) while constantly firing barbs at countless horror franchises, Scream 4 doesn’t let up. 

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is back in Woodsboro for the first time in ten years. She’s back to promote her self-help book, a riposte to all the hype that has surrounded her since the killings years before. In Woodsboro, Dewey (David Arquette) is now the town Sheriff and Gale (Courtney Cox) is now retired from journalism as a result of her hugely successful books about the Woodsboro murders. However Sidney’s appearance in town seems to have brought about a copycat ‘Ghostface’ killer.

Sidney stays with her sister Kate (Mary McDonnell) and niece Jill (Emma Roberts) who is receiving calls from the killer, the calls say that Jill and her friends (Hayden Panettiere etc) will be killed next. Within minutes her next door neighbour Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) is killed before their eyes. They all receive Police protection but as expected that only leads to the Policemen’s deaths, preceded by a humorous interchange about cops on protection duty dying in movies. Cue a steady stream of killings by Ghostface.

Just in case we’re not getting it, there’s the obligatory horror geeks explaining how the rules have changed, in sequels there have to be more killings, in more inventive ways, there has to be a party for the finale, but in the sequel this is a premise to the real finale… this aspect of the movie although fun in a nerdy way becomes a little tedious and I must admit I was willing these guys to be killed next.     

After the dreadful Scream 3 this particular franchise seemed to be dead. The horror genre had moved on, ‘girls locked in basements and torture porn’ were in vogue, slasher film fare was old hat and unfortunately the awful ‘Scary movie’ series seemed to be where the kids were getting their horror laughs… although for the life of me I can’t fathom why.

The original cast members all slip back into their roles easily and the new kids are all fairly good, particularly Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts who is good in her best role yet.

Kevin Williamson is back as scriptwriter and does a good job throwing all the clichés in there and making them work; he and director Wes Craven are obviously having fun deconstructing the genre again.

Not great but better than Scream 3 and the slew of awful horror remakes and other franchise sequels we’ve had thrown at us by the studios over the last decade. A good laugh, this is more of a black comedy than horror movie but still contains enough decent slasher moments to keep horror fans happy.

Quality: 3 out of 5 stars

Any good: 3 out of 5 stars

Tormented **

Head girl Justine (Tuppence Middleton) delivers a eulogy at the funeral of Darren Mullet (Calvin Dean), a schoolmate who has just committed suicide, she was unaware of who he was. After the service Justine is invited to a party by Alexis (Dimitri Leonidas), one of the ‘cool crowd’ from the school. The crowd are led by sociopath Bradley (Alex Pettyfer) and his bitchy girlfriend Natasha (April Pearson). At the party each member of the group start to get text messages from Mullets mobile phone, they assume that one of the other school nerds is sending them…

Mullets only real friend, Jason (Olly Alexander) is picked on mercilessly by the group as they assume he’s behind the text messages, he’s not.

One at a time the group are killed by an unknown assailant; the first one to die is Jez (Ben Hughes) the party DJ, a try-hard faux gantsa, I was pleased to see him go. I was pleased to see most of them get killed actually as they are a horrible group of kids.

Each of the students who are killed believe that they can see Mullet in windows and mirrors prior to eventually dying. Who kills them? Is it Mullet returned from the grave, his nerdy friends or someone in the guise of Mullet..? Justine she tries to decipher who’s behind the murders; and why Mullet killed himself, is her new boyfriend Alexis partly responsible?

Some of the deaths include a stake through the heart, head impaled on an iron railing, drowning, decapitation by shovel, hands cut off by a paper guillotine and screwdriver to the hand and neck. They’re done fairly well apart from the impaling scene… bad CGI, my pet hate in horror movies.

The story starts out well enough but descends into predictability fairly quickly. There’s a ‘twist’ that’s telegraphed miles in advance which is a shame as it could have been a pretty good little horror thriller, it’s not. The acting varies with only Alex Pettyfer standing out as a potential star.

The opening titles are well designed and add a nice touch to an otherwise average movie.

SPOILER ALERT. Its obvious early on that Mullet has returned from the dead and that Justine is going to end up taking the blame. The movie tries to give a clue at the end that it may be Justine but it’s not smart enough to pull it off. After the credits start to roll there’s a nice little gag where they show the schools thuggish physical education teacher about to get his comeuppance at the hands of Mullet. 

Quality: 2 out of 5 stars (well made on a low budget)

Any good: 2 out of 5 stars (could have been better)  

Al Pacino

Al Pacino is 71 years old today. A superstar of 70’s cinema, he has been nominated for 8 Academy Awards, finally winning in 1993 for ‘Scent of a Woman’. Star of some of my favourite movies of all time: ‘Serpico’, ‘The Godfather Trilogy’, ‘Dog Day Afternoon’, ‘Scarface’, ‘Heat’ and ‘Carlitos Way’ to name a few. Happy Birthday Al.

Nosferatu & Caligari Poster Art

Here are two wonderful posters that were commissioned for screenings of both classics at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

Click on the images for full size versions.

If only more poster art was as good as this. Enjoy.

Chinatown Poster


I’ve been getting a lot of requests for more poster art images. I’ve sourced some great stuff for you that I’ll post over the next few weeks.

As it’s Jack Nicholson’s birthday I thought I’d start with this work of art for ‘Chinatown’ (1974).

Click on the image for a full size version. Enjoy..!

Jack Nicholson

Happy Birthday Jack. I watched ‘The Last Detail’ (1973) again about a week ago, it’s still good and Jack is still amazing in it. He has this incredible ability to play horrible characters that we still like. Legend.

Badlands *****

“He was 25 years old. He combed his hair like James Dean. She was 15. She took music lessons and could twirl a baton. For a while they lived together in a tree house. In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people”. This was the tagline for ‘Badlands’ (1973) and it pretty much sums up the film. What it doesn’t do however is explain just how beautiful, romantic, violent and engrossing the film is.

We follow Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen), a young garbage collector and his girlfriend Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek) as they go on the run after killing Holly’s father (Warren Oates). Kit is a morally ambiguous young man, self-centred and listless; he falls for Holly after seeing her twirl a baton in her front yard. Holly is shy and introverted; she falls for Kit almost immediately as we hear through her narration that he “looked just like James Dean”. As their relationship develops, her father disapproves and it is at this point that Kit casually shoots him. They burn down the house and go on the run…

The film plays out like a fairytale through the inner monologue from Holly that is a constant throughout. She describes in a childish manner what she is feeling and what she believes to be Kits reasons for his actions. This narration and the incredibly haunting score lift the film to another level. Without it we would become detached from Kit and Holly’s world as they are not the most interesting characters. Kit postures more as the film progresses, believing his motives for killing are justified and revelling in his new found fame. Holly remains detached throughout and although initially infatuated with Kit she soon becomes bored with him and the constant running. She is simply along for the ride.

Sheen and Spacek are perfect in their roles, entirely believable and have great screen chemistry. But this is director Terrence Malik’s film, andwhat a beautiful film he has made. The cinematography is gorgeous, with wide vistas of the mid-west and sunsets against distant stormy clouds a constant feature. The backdrops appear almost surreal with only Kit, Holly and whoever they come across in the shots, we rarely see anyone else and this helps establish how isolated they are both physically and as characters.

The killings are not overly bloody and in many cases happen off screen; thaey are played out as almost banal and sterile. They are not really important to Kit other than heightening his noteriety, they just happen and this reinforces that the violence isn’t the central theme of the movie, it’s not about the killings, it’s about the people doing the killings. There isn’t any justifiable reason for any of them except in Kit’s head. When Holly decides to leave Kit he realises that he is doomed and eventually gives up. Believing in his own fame, Kit even goes so far as to mark the exact spot he was captured. If the film had been made in the last decade the critics would call it a ‘critique of modern society’s obsession with fame’. This was made in 1973 and stands the test of time.

It was Terence Malik’s debut; it took him five years to make his follow up ‘Days of Heaven’ (1978) and he would not make another film until ‘The Thin Red Line’ (1998). His last film was ‘The New World’ (2005). Not exactly prolific each of his films are worth waiting for, although The New World was somewhat of a disappointment after the high standard he set early on. Badlands was an incredible debut and I don’t think he’s done anything as good since, although not many directors started with the bar set so high.

Quality: 5 out of 5 stars

Any good: 5 out of 5 stars    

Jessica Lange

It’s also Jessica Lange’s birthday today, she’ll be 62. She was incredibly hot in ‘King Kong’ (1976) and ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’ (1981)… So they’re the images I’ve chosen to go with. A fantastic actress, nominated five times for Academy Awards for her amazing performances in ‘Frances’ (1982), ‘Sweet Dreams’ (1985) and ‘Music box’ (1989) she won twice, Best Supporting Actress for ‘Tootsie’ (1982) and Best Actress for ‘Blue Sky’ (1994).

Harold Lloyd

Born today in 1893, Harold Lloyd was as much of a superstar throughout the 20’s as his contemporaries Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. He featured in many Hal Roach comedy shorts from 1913, then in 1917 he donned a pair of glasses and the classic Harold Lloyd look was born. He soon graduated to full features and superstardom; he is most famous for the movie ‘Safety Last’ (1923) in which he was seen dangling from a clock face high over the New York skyline. His most popular movie ‘The Freshman’ (1225) cemented his image as the can-do all-american good guy and was his last with Hal Roach. His career didn’t really carry over into ‘talkies’ although some of them, such as ‘Feet First’ (1930) and ‘Movie Crazy’ (1932) are fantastic films. In 1953 he received an honorary Oscar for being a ‘master comedian’. In the 60’s he compiled some of his best shorts into a mini-television series called ‘The Harold Lloyd Show’, I used to watch it every afternoon after school. Legend.

Captivity **

After the success of the Saw franchise and Hostel movies it seems that the studios won’t let ‘torture porn’ themed movies die. Shame that as we could do without Captivity. The implausible tale of alleged top cover girl and fashion model Jennifer Tree (Elisha Cuthbert) who is kidnapped while alone at a charity fashion event, why she is alone is anyone’s guess, alleged top model that she is. She wakes up in a dungeon that is rigged up like some of those ridiculous scenarios from the aforementioned Saw movies, the sequels not the good first one.

Anyway, she’s tortured psychologically and physically by the unseen kidnapper who for the first hour is only seen fleetingly with shots of his black gloved hand or hooded shape moving around the dungeon or manipulating the cameras and traps.

Being a top model, Jennifer always looks good, no degeneration into filth encrusted heroine here; her kidnapper supplies her with clean clothes and make-up… although I wondered why all the tears she’d surely be shedding didn’t smudge her make-up.

She’s having a difficult time, what with being force fed blended up human body parts and having to kill her own dog to survive when lo and behold she discovers there’s another prisoner next door. He reveals himself as Gary (Daniel Gillies) and the pair strike up a quick relationship, fight back a bit and keep trying to escape together; however all their attempts end in failure apart from being allowed to share a cell and have sex…

Captivity allegedly caused a bit of a stir in America when it was released due to the poster which depicts a close-up of Cuthbert’s smeared face behind a cage. Surely that’s the only reason anyone went to see the movie, it cannot have had much in the way of good press.

The actors are all passable for this type of movie, we never expect top drawer character actors anyway, and do a decent job. The script is all fairly predictable and the twist is telegraphed way before the reveal. The one aspect of the movie that is done well is in the look; it’s well lit and shot and this is down to the quality of the director.

What I cannot understand is what persuaded Roland Joffe to direct this. The director of ‘The Killing Fields’ and ‘The Mission’ has definitely slipped down the pecking order if this is what he’s reduced to making. Someone please give him a good dramatic script before he’s wasted forever.

Quality: 2 out of 5 stars

Any good: 2 out of 5 stars

James Woods

James Woods is 64 today. He’s had more misses than hits of late but he was fantastic in ‘Videodrome’, ‘Once Upon A Time In America’ and ‘Salvador’ as well as putting in consistently good performances in movies and television shows that don’t deserve his talents. Can someone please give him another gritty role.

Paul ****

Best friends Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) from the UK are on the holiday of a lifetime to the San Diego Comic Con, fan boy heaven, followed by a road trip through most of the USA’s famous science-fiction locations. The trip takes them through Area 51, alien central for sightings and alleged government experimentation; it’s here that they witness a car crash and as they venture to check on any survivors, they meet Paul (Voiced by Seth Rogen) the titular alien. Paul explains that he’s on the run from the government who want to experiment on him and he hitches a ride with the duo. They pick-up/kidnap creationist Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig) and head off across country to help Paul get home.

The four of them are pursued by single-minded federal agent Lorenzo Zoil (Jason Bateman) and a couple of rookie agents Haggard (Bill Hader) and O’Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio). The agents are acting on behalf of The Big Guy (Sigourney Weaver) and are to get Paul at any cost. Also on their trail is Ruth’s Christian redneck father Moses (John Carroll Lynch) who wants his daughter back.

This is the third movie to star Pegg and Frost (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), but their first without Edgar Wright directing; he was busy making Scott Pilgrim vs. The World instead. Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland) directs and the movie is much looser and probably more broadly accessible than the duos previous outings.

The script is funny and full of sci-fi movie references and on DVD it’s destined to be a drinking game staple for years to come. The reference/homage check list is impressive: E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek and Aliens among them and they are done with obvious affection and great humour. The first two films mentioned are especially prominent as this is a loving tribute to those films of Spielberg who makes a hilarious voice cameo. There are some prominent digs at religion and a lot of creative swearing which may offend some but I found hilarious.

Pegg and Frost are both good, as expected, but unlike their earlier work they have spread the laughs around much more this time and given the support cast some of the movies funnier moments. Kristen Wiig makes the most of her characters personality switch and is obviously having fun with the various mistimed profanities. For me, Jason Bateman steals the show whenever he’s on screen; he’s so good at the straight faced mean guy we’ve seen him do before but I never get sick of it. Seth Rogen also delivers his funniest performance for some time and maybe he’s more suited to not having to carry a movie. I know it’s just a voice performance but he makes Paul believable and instils him with humour, pathos and personality.

The CGI animation of Paul is really good; the animators have managed to make him seem natural and subtle; they’ve made him appear as a real character rather than showing off, too often the case in other movies.

Good nerdy fun, not as good as ‘Shaun of the Dead’ but then nothing has been since its release, but this is well worth a viewing. They’ve done the ‘geek chic’ thing better on their ‘Spaced’ television show but this is a good way to sign off on that obsession…  

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars (I think Edgar Wright would have made it better…)

Any good: 4 out of 5 stars (It’s great fun)

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin was born 122 years ago today in London. Chaplin was one of the most creative and influential personalities of the silent-film era. Working in the entertainment industry for over 75 years; from music hall as a child performer until just before his death at 88. Most famous for his creation ‘The Tramp’ he worked in America between 1913 – 1952 when after being labelled a communist during the McCarthy era he left and was unable to return until 1972 when he was presented with a special academy award. A true innovator, he broke new ground with film making techniques and with contemporaries D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr set up their own studio United Artists. Legend.

Human Centipede: The Musical

A stranger musical crossover would be hard to find… Human Centipede: The Musical can now be seen on You Tube Recorded over two separate performances on March 21, 2011 in the Cabaret Theatre at Emerson College.

Prom Night (2008) *

Reviews have been getting a bit too positive of late so I thought I’d have a look at Prom Night (2008) to redress the balance a bit. This movie probably isn’t even worth the time and (half-hearted) effort to write up this review, but here goes…

It’s senior prom night for Donna (Brittany Snow) and her best friends. With her boyfriend Bobby (Scott Porter) and two other couples, she’s booked into a suite at the hotel where the prom is being held. It should be a wonderful night. Anyway Donna has ‘issues’, she suffers from nightmares in which she replays the terrible night when her family were killed by her ex-teacher Richard Fenton (Jonathan Schaech) who was obsessed with her. He was caught and sent to a mental institution somewhere miles away. Would you believe it, he’s only gone and escaped and has turned up at the very same hotel. He checks in and kills a few people; the chambermaid, a porter and three of Donnas friends before closing in on Donna. The cop (Idris Elba, what were you thinking?) who helped put Richard away is alerted that he’s escaped, three days after the breakout! He heads to the hotel to protect Donna.

So what’s wrong with it? Well, the script is so clichéd that I thought it must have been written by a 12 year old who’d just seen ‘Halloween’ and a few episodes of whatever the kids are watching these days (insert generic teen crap TV show here) and thought that by mixing them together he’d struck gold. Struck a sewer pipe maybe… It’s shit. It lacked any originality in its ridiculously predictable plot and stereotypical characters. The acting (Ha!) was terrible by almost everyone, and again, Idris Elba, what were you thinking..?

The direction took the clichés from the script and obviously surmising that there weren’t enough of them on screen decided to throw in more for good measure. I have no idea how many times we see a character open/close a mirrored door to have someone appear in it but it has to be a world record. Suspense..? What’s that? There’s none on display and for a horror movie it’s usually kind of a pre-requisite. Atmosphere… ditto. Violence… No. Nudity… get real it’s for kids. On that, what’s the point of a slasher flick for kids..? The killings are quite bloodless and no fun at all. Part of the slasher flick appeal is seeing new and unusual ways that generally good looking scantily clad teenagers get killed.  Not here. I would have liked this more if everyone had been killed in the first 5 minutes therefore saving me from wasting my time.

It’s not even a bad remake of the original Prom Night (1981) which was a fun slasher flick. Apart from the prom setting this shares nothing in common with the original.

Quality: 1 out of 5 stars

Any good: No, no stars

The Walking Dead – Misplaced Advertisement

Hilariously misplaced billboard advertisement in County Durham, North East England. See the following link for full report here

Hostel part 2 *½

The Hostel sequel was always going to happen after the first one inexplicably made $80m..!

So the second hostel features 3 girls instead of 3 lads; see what he did there, totally different approach. They are the apparently as-rich-as-Bill Gates Beth (Lauren German), her feisty friend Whitney (Bijou Phillips) and tag along nerd Lorna (Heather Matarazzo – who deserves better material than this and is given nothing to do).

The movie opens with Paxton from the first movie waking from a ‘oh no it was a dream’ shot, it wasn’t he’s decapitated. The girls head to the hostel in Slovakia and are drugged, kidnapped and we’ve been here before.

The major difference this time around is we get to spend some time with a couple of rich American business men who bid to kill the girls.

The killings this time around include an Elizabeth Bathory style bathing in a bath of blood, a guy torn apart by the facility guard dogs and a circular saw to the face, well, hair but the face comes off with it…

SPOILER ALERT. Beth turns the tables on her torturer and makes a deal with the mafia types to escape. To do so though, she must kill as apparently that’s house rules. So she cuts off her would-be-torturers genitals and throws them to a guard dog!

Worse than the first one; it repeats the same structure without improving on it which shouldn’t have been too difficult. There are a few scenes that you know are added to set-up another possible sequel… please God NO.

A disappointing effort from Eli Roth who’s really enjoyed the limelight he’s been thrust into over the last few years since. ‘Cabin Fever’ was a great debut; it promised so much and won him so many fans as he spoke like a fan of the genre. He seems to be coasting along when he really should be pushing to make something great, he probably has the ability we’re just waiting to see it.

Quality: Averagely well made 2 out of 5 stars  

Any good: Not really 1 out of 5 stars

Trainspotting *****

“Choose your future, choose life… now why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life; I chose something else, and the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?” These words spoken by Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) over the opening shots played out to the strains of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ set the tone for the rest of the movie. Trainspotting is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It was incredible when I first saw it and remains so today.

I read the book a year or so before I saw the play which I saw before the film. Each one was a major event. I was introduced to the book by my friend Andrew, he always was (and still is) the most widely read guy I know… in fact I’m overdue some recommended reading from him. Brilliant he said. It was as I’ve already said, like nothing I’d read before, incredible.

I saw the play in Shepherds Bush with Ewan Bremner as Renton, it was raw and brilliant. We saw the play again in the West End, bigger budget, and brilliant again.

I thought I knew what to expect when I went to see the film in Hammersmith. I underestimated how good it would be, and this was a film I’d already expected to be amazing.

The story revolves around Mark Renton, a junkie and his social misfit friends Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) a cocky confident ladies man; Spud (Ewan Bremner), Marks best friend and a hopeless case; psychopathic Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and nice guy Tommy (Kevin McKidd). The film follows their meaningless lives as Renton tries, fails, tries and eventually succeeds in kicking his habit. Kelly MacDonald also plays a pivotal role as Diane, Rentons school age girlfriend. She is the catalyst for Renton to make a positive change in his life… but for how long?

The film shows their junkie lives as fun and enjoyable, as Renton says in his voice over: “Why else would we do it?” But it also shows how sordid, dirty and depressing the scene undoubtedly is.

 A simple premise but it is so well written by John Hodge from that incredible book by Irvine Welsh. The script captures all the dark, sad, scary, violent and incredibly funny moments from the book. It also has a thick vein of black humour running through it; and it’s this humour that offsets the dark moments and allows us to enjoy the ride.  

The cast are all fantastic in career making and career defining roles, delivering the dialogue seamlessly and with real purpose. It is impossible to single anyone out as they are perfect in their roles; however Ewan McGregor pulls off the impossible by making us like and care about Renton; and Robert Carlyle is terrifyingly real as Begbie.

The film though belongs to Danny Boyle. He was helped by the great script and once-in-a-lifetime cast but he brings it all together with style. The camera angles and set-ups take you inside this world and the fluidity of movement keeps the film constantly flowing, there is never a moment where we are waiting for something to happen. It’s always happening, all the time. Boyle has been compared to Tarantino whenever this film is mentioned; it came out just after Pulp Fiction. That comparison is unwarranted and unfair for as good a director that Tarantino is, or was as he’s faded of late, Boyle is far better. Boyle has never made the same film twice, let alone remade it again and again as Tarantino appears to be doing. Boyle is a master; he proved it with his debut ‘Shallow Grave’ and again since Trainspotting with ’28 Days Later’, ‘Sunshine’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘128 Hours’ .

The advertising campaign in the UK was exceptional; Trainspotting posters appeared everywhere and on every teenage bedroom wall up and down the country.

Trainspotting is the zeitgeist film of the 90’s; it captures the sounds and feel of the era like no other movie of the decade. Incredible, essential, timeless, genius… if you haven’t seen it, see it now.

“…index pension, tax exemption, clearing gutters, getting by, looking ahead the day you die…”

Quality: 5 out of 5 stars

Any good: 5 out of 5 stars

Straw Dogs **** ½

Timid American mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his new wife Amy (Susan George) have moved into an old farm house on the outskirts of her hometown. David is treated as an ‘outsider’ by the locals in town and particularly by the ones working on his farm buildings. Although he is aware of their hostility towards him, David chooses to ignore it. Adding to the tension is an implied relationship history between Amy and one of the locals. The people of the town have their own unresolved issues surrounding Henry Nyles (David Warner), an accused rapist of a local child. He was acquitted by the local magistrate, a man who befriends David. As David tries to concentrate on his work, neglected Amy grows bored and starts to play games with him, his work and eventually the local builders…

Sam Peckinpah builds the tension and sense of dread by increments throughout the first hour of the movie. We know something has to give and eventually something bad is going to happen, it’s inevitable. The transformation of David from the timid mild-mannered man we are introduced to is subtle but Peckinpah gives us wonderful hints that there is more beneath the surface. There is an excellent scene mid-way through the movie where a drunk David engages the local reverend in what appears at first to be friendly banter but quickly escalates into barely restrained hostility. David clearly enjoys the interaction, Amy does not.

Dustin Hoffman excels as David. Made during a period where he was consistently great; after ‘The Graduate’ and ‘Midnight Cowboy’ and just before ‘Lenny’, ‘Papillion’ and ‘All The Presidents Men’ he plays David pitch perfect. Susan George is entirely believable as Amy, she plays her as strong, vulnerable, erotic and selfish; she is a complex character and George is brave in her best role.

SPOILER ALERT: The most infamous scene in the movie involves the rape of Amy by two of the locals. Her ex-boyfriend rapes her but Amy starts to enjoy it, or does she? It is played out as both shocking and erotic until she is then immediately savagely raped by a second man. This is the scene that has baited censors and various groups for almost 40 years. I’ve seen the full uncensored scene as well as the edited cut version (on Fox, Sunday the 10th April) and what the censors have done is make the scene worse by cutting it. The edited version actually implies more complicity on behalf of Amy, surely the opposite of the original scenes intention. It is not a particularly graphic scene in comparison to similar fare in more modern movies and is played out for the most part in close-up on Amy’s face.

David is unaware that his wife has been raped when he defends his home against the intruders. Because of that, Straw Dogs can’t be labelled as a straight forward revenge film. David isn’t fighting for Amy or even to protect Henry Nyles from the baying mob, he is fighting to protect his manhood, his home being a physical symbol of it. When David does fight back he is initially smart, working out how to deceive the intruders and defend his home; his emotional state and actions then descend into the purely primal. He reacts on instinct; his actions are as horrific as his attackers as the movie ends in a chaotic violent fight to the death. David wins but loses his wife and home.

Love it or hate it, and most people apparently hate it, Straw Dogs (1971) is an important and essential film. It is constantly compared to ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) but shares little in common with it apart from scenes of rape and violence; and of course censor baiting. Two other films from that era that it has more in common with are ‘Deliverance’ (1972) and ‘The Last House on the Left’ (1974); both with scenes of rape and violence however as with Straw Dogs the leads undergo a transformation and end up fighting for their lives.

Strange that the film which depicts rape and violence as a ‘hobby’ (Clockwork Orange) is critically acclaimed while the movies that depict those acts as horrific are labelled as offensive and misogynistic.

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Is it Good: 5 out of 5 stars   

Hostel **½

Three backpackers in Amsterdam are locked out of their hostel. They trawl through the red light district, get drunk and are given information about a hostel in Slovakia where the girls are beautiful and love American men. The hostel is ‘To die for’

These opening scenes are supposed to give us some time to get to know our lead characters and therefore have some empathy for them when they’re inevitably tortured and killed.

Anyway the guys, Americans Paxton (Jay Hernandez), Josh (Derek Richardson) and Icelander Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) head off to Slovakia and check-in to the hostel. On first impression it seems like the hostel is as they were led to believe. Not at all a front for a rich man’s club where they pay small fortunes to torture and kill backpackers with impunity… Or is it..?

Soon enough, they’re drugged, kidnapped and strapped into chairs in murky rooms… Torture ensues: tendons cut, fingers and toes severed etc, the usual stuff… then it’s a blow torch to an eye.

This is Eli Roth’s second feature after his fun debut ‘Cabin Fever’. Despite the bigger budget, higher production values and Quentin Tarantino as executive producer it’s not as good as his debut. Sure it’s a good idea for a horror film; it’s just not that good an idea. We’ve seen similar themes before and I’m sure Roth and Tarantino have seen the same movies being fans of horror and Grind house.

It’s well shot and the leads are okay. The gore when it arrives is suitably gruesome and it would seem that Roth has spent some time thinking how to hurt people.

I just don’t buy it. The whole premise of a hostel where these kids disappear from was like an ‘anti-The Beach’ and pointless.

SPOILER ALERT. Paxton’s escape and revenge is a little too contrived and totally unbelievable. The car chase killing of the bastards who led him to the hostel is a bad joke and the train station revenge feels like an add-on idea.

Not as bad as I’ve described it. But if you like this sort of thing, seeing people tortured then you’re sick and fortunately for you there are better movies out there. The horrific ‘The Girl Next Door’ was made on a fraction of the budget and has realistic, empathetic characters. Also ‘Martyrs’ leaves this in its wake for creepy chills and disturbing scenes of torture. If you can handle it ‘Salo: 120 Days of Sodom’ will disturb, horrify and scare the shit out of you in equal measures.

Quality: Well made 3 out of 5 stars

Any good: Not really, 2 out of 5 stars