Friday, 19 April 2013


1985, Tom Holland, 102 mins.

A teenager has to contend with a vampire moving in next door.

Although slightly burdened by period trappings such as the most tasteless nightclub in cinema history and a dire soft-rock soundtrack, Tom Holland’s vampire film is a lot of old-fashioned creepy fun which depends heavily on a superb performance from Chris Sarandon as the vampire who moves in next door to William Ragsdale’s annoying teenage hero. As the bloodsucker begins to cut a swathe through suburbia, the only solution turns out to be calling in movie vampire killer Peter Vincent, played with immense charm by Roddy McDowell. The film works so well because while it’s often very funny, it takes the monster seriously and creates a credible modern vampire myth. Tom Holland, who wrote the brilliantly ingenious Psycho 2, provides witty dialogue and plenty of nods to classic Gothic movies. Richard Edlund's special effects are skilfully achieved and incredibly imaginative throughout.

EVIL DEAD (2013)

2013, Refe Alvarez, 92 mins.

A group of teens have problems with the occult in a remote cabin. 

Now this is just rather sad. Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert return to the scene of their first triumph and comprehensively screw it up. We’re used to appalling remakes of classic horror films of course but Evil Dead gets everything so comprehensively wrong that it should act as some kind of negative example. It contains endless bloodletting and lots of lengthy set-ups but no scares, no imagination and, most disastrously of all, no sense of humour. There’s an air of almost pious solemnity here which reminds one of the lesser religious epics of the 1950s. Add to this the most annoyingly dim set of characters this side of an Eighties slasher movie and an over-enthusiastic score reminiscent of The Omen and you have a disaster. Only a climactic dismemberment captures the EC comic book style of the original.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


1962, Terence Young, 109 mins. 

James Bond investigates nefarious deeds in the Caribbean.

The first Bond movie is a brisk and enjoyable spy thriller with a star-making performance from Sean Connery as our favourite spy and iconic turns from Ursula Andress and Joseph Wiseman as the archetypal Bond Girl and Bond Villain. It’s noticeably more grounded in some kind of reality than later films in the series and it’s lacking several elements which would later become indispensable – notably the theme song and the pre-credits teaser. But it’s already looking like the beginning of a franchise thanks to Ken Adam’s extravagant designs, Ted Moore’s colour cinematography and the insolent wit of the dialogue. It’s really Connery’s show though and he’s irresistibly watchable, whether trading bon mots with Miss Moneypenny, growling seductively at Sylvia Trench or performing unusually believable tradecraft in his Jamaican apartment. Not forgetting the wonderful James Bond theme played by John Barry.  

Saturday, 13 April 2013


2009, Peter Jackson, 135 mins.

A young girl is murdered and tells her story from the afterlife.

Peter Jackson’s best film since Heavenly Creatures, this is an adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel which is distinctive for quite sensational visuals from cinematographer Andrew Lesnie and an astonishing performance from Stanley Tucci as the banal but deviant neighbour who murders the fourteen year old narrator of the film, played with immense confidence by young Saoirse Ronan. Tucci captures a sense of evil which is genuinely disturbing and allows Jackson to be relatively discreet in the portrayal of the murder. In fact, the film underplays both the potential for both horror and sentimentality, and the result is something very unusual and distinctive. A slight misstep is Susan Sarandon’s quirky performance as the lush of a grandmother but this is compensated for by the fine, understated work by  Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as Ronan’s parents trying to cope with grief. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013


1977, James Goldstone, 117 mins.

American amusement parks are stalked by a maniac.

Connoisseurs of the art of screen acting sometime have to look in the most unusual places – Rollercoaster for example. It’s a ho-hum suspense movie which is never anything other than predictable and is shot in a flat TV movie style which makes it visually indistinguishable from the average cop show of the 1970s. The supporting performances by the likes of Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda are strictly for the money and Timothy Bottoms is peculiarly mannered as the bad guy who likes to blow up fairground rides. But it’s worth it all for George Segal’s quite sensational performance in the lead. It’s not a great part and the dialogue is generally mediocre but he adds grace notes and gives the character so much wit and style that he stands out as a credible, complicated person in the midst of banality. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


2013, Danny Boyle, 101 mins.

An auctioneer becomes involved with an art robbery. 

The problem with Trance is that it twists about so much that it eventually coils its way up its own rectum. It’s a clever enough film which uses hypnosis with a lot more intelligence than you might expect, although it does depend on the idea that the central character, played by James McAvoy whose performance which is unfortunately reminiscent of Ewan McGregor at his most unappealing, is the most suggestible hypnotic subject in the history of the discipline. The plot, in which he gets involved with sexy therapist Rosario Dawson at the behest of gangster Vincent Cassel, hangs together  well until the last half hour when a string of daft revelations pile up and characters behave in ways which are wildly contrary to the way they have been developed. Danny Boyle’s stylish direction just about keeps it watchable. 

Friday, 22 March 2013


1971, Michael Tuchner, 94 mins. 

A mother-fixated gangster is involved in a disastrous robbery. 

Although ostensibly a gangster movie, Villain is actually most interesting as a state of the nation film which portrays Britain in the early seventies as a country going rapidly down the drain. Nothing works properly, the system is corrupt, sex is degrading and you can’t even pull off a decent payroll robbery because the unions are going out on strike. Richard Burton is pretty good as Vic Dakin, the villain of the title - clearly based on a combination of Reggie Kray and Cagney in White Heat – and Nigel Davenport is splendid as his nemesis, the only honest copper in the Met. The location filming is fantastic, especially a botched heist on a Bracknell factory, and the cast is packed with familiar faces, ranging from  Donald Sinden to James Cossins. Not quite on a par with Get Carter but close.