Category Archives: Thriller

Christmas Double Bill: It’s a Wonderful Life & Die Hard…


its a wonderful life 2

On the face of it, the festive classic It’s A Wonderful Life couldn’t be more different to action masterpiece Die Hard. The former has become an enduring part of the holiday season in the US and UK, while internet debate still rages about whether Die Hard is actually a Christmas movie at all.

These days we regard the Christmas Movie as a genre all of its own, but it is a relatively new invention. Check out any list of top Christmas films, and almost every popular choice – i.e. movies modern audiences still watch today – was made after World War II.

It’s a Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a nice guy who finds himself standing on a bridge on Christmas Eve, contemplating suicide. He has sacrificed his dreams for the good of his family, friends and community, but circumstances have led him to the brink of ruin. Thankfully, the heavens are listening to the prayers of his loved ones and dispatch an angel, Clarence (Henry Travers) to show George that he really has a wonderful life. Clarence shows George what life would be like if he was never born, and what a positive impact he has had on everyone around him.

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Missing Child (2015) – What if you were the face on the missing poster?


Missing Child

In April 2012, UK police released an age progressed photo of Madeleine McCann, the little girl who disappeared from her holiday bedroom almost six years earlier, while her parents dined nearby. The high profile case captured the imagination of the public, and the new image prompted the question – if you were abducted at a young age, and saw an image in the media that you recognised as yourself, how would you react?

Brooklyn born director Luke Sabis at least partially attempts to answer that question in his debut feature, Missing Child. There are many movies following the tribulations of parents trying to track down missing children, so approaching the sad topic from the absent person’s perspective is an interesting spin on the subject.

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American Ultra (2015) – Half baked…


American Ultra 1
“If ever there’s a movie that sinks its own ship while still tied to the dock, it’s American Ultra. For the promotion of Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock stipulated that no-one should be admitted to the theatre after the movie had started, to prevent ruining the surprise.

If Hitchcock was alive today, and he’d seen American Ultra, he would no doubt recommend exactly the opposite – to preserve any sense of suspense, one should aim to join the movie about five minutes in.

One of the most baffling decisions director Nima Nourizadeh makes in his sophomore effort is to start at the end, then employ a flashback moment which literally flashes every key plot point on the screen before the story starts proper.

In doing so, every drop of suspense is eradicated before the movie even starts, and we’re left with an action comedy thriller without any thrills. To make matters worse, screenwriter Max Landis, following up from the interesting found footage superhero movie Chronicle, also forgets to write any jokes…” Read the rest of the review here (opens in new tab.)

Pontypool (2008) – Shut up or die…


Pontypool

I’ve never found zombies scary, especially in the traditional slow-and-stupid incarnations. Sure, there’s a sense of repulsion, largely generated by our anxiety about what happens to our bodies after we’re dead – many people agonise between burial and cremation, so the idea of rising from the grave as brain-eating cannibals is pretty repugnant.

Then there is the sense of creeping nihilistic dread, particularly in the Romero movies. While zombies are usually pretty easy to avoid or kill individually, you know they will always reach critical mass, ready to tear apart the survivors just as internal conflicts tear the group apart figuratively. But still, as terrifying as zombies are on paper or the imagination, to me there’s always the nagging doubt that they’re pretty naff on film – one bullshit metaphor away from a last-minute, unimaginative Halloween costume.

Pontypool, a low-budget Canadian curio, largely avoids the traditional pitfalls of the zombie pic by barely showing any zombies at all. By withholding the usual limb ripping and gut munching, it engages something usually reserved for the supernatural horror genre – our imaginations.

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Jurassic World (2015) – Another trip to the world’s deadliest tourist attraction…


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“Like its genetically modified star attraction, the Indominus Rex, Jurassic World is a strange hybrid of the franchise’s greatest hits, part sequel, part reboot and part homage to Steven Spielberg’s much-loved original. It capitalises on nostalgia and Chris Pratt’s likable presence, providing two hours of solid monster mayhem without ever getting beyond the pace of a spooked herd of Stegosaurus…” Click here to read the full article (Opens in separate tab)

Fight Club (1999) – Pop Anarchy & Designer Nihilism…


Fight Club pic 1

“Mildred: Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?

Johnny: Whaddya got?

– The Wild One (1953)

Urinating on its own birthday candles this year, David Fincher’s argumentative, narcissistic, hypocritical Fight Club will be sixteen years old. It already feels like a period piece, a slice of premillennial angst full of smug slogans and speeches that can’t decide what it is fighting against.

It is the last “poor me” grumble of the 20th century from Generation X, almost exactly two years before Osama bin Laden weaponised some passenger jets and gave the Western world something to really worry about…” Click here to read the rest of this article (opens in a new tab.)

Furious 7 (2015) – A Balls-out Requiem for the Petrolheads…


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“When it comes to modes of transport, I’m a pedestrian. Pushing forty now, I’ve never taken a driving lesson, let alone driven a car. Some of my friends back in England used to get their kicks from revving their cars around town, occasionally parking up behind Burger King to pump music from dishwasher-sized subwoofers stashed in their boot. The whole scene left me cold – why not just walk, get pissed in the pub and put some tunes on the jukebox instead?

This is probably the reason why I – with my (abridged) encyclopaedic knowledge of film – have made it to the seventh installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise with complete ignorance of the previous six movies, and went into Furious 7 with no idea of what to expect…” click here to read the full article (opens in a seperate tab)

 

Nightcrawler (2014) – Gyllenhaal’s go-getting ghoul has plenty of gumption…


Nightcrawler

“Nightcrawler‘s Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a guy who never misses an opportunity. When he is caught stealing chain link fencing for scrap metal, he beats up the security guard and steals his watch.

Cruising the streets of Los Angeles one night, he comes across a car crash and sees an independent news crew filming the scene. These people are “Nightcrawlers”, chancers who scour the airwaves for 911 calls and race the emergency services to the scene of the crisis. Any gruesome footage they capture is sold to the TV news networks. Bloom decides that this is the career for him, and pursues it with single-minded zeal…” Click here for the full review (opens in a seperate tab)

 

Lucy (2014) Review…


I’ve recently started writing for a lively, brand new pop culture website called pop.junk. Here’s my first offering for my new comrades –

Lucy (2014) – If it had brains, it would be dangerous…

scarlett lucy

“Alfred Hitchcock had a thing for icy blondes, and shared his kinks and fetishes with the viewer in films like Vertigo, The Birds, and Marnie. Luc Besson also likes to air his sexual preferences in his films, and the French director likes ‘em hot, young and deadly.” Click here to read the full review…

 

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) – “By Jove…it’s a good job we’re both honest men.”


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I could’ve robbed my company blind in my last job.  With intimate knowledge of their processes and systems, I could’ve created so much confusion that I would be safely esconsced in a bar somewhere in Buenos Aires, spunking my way through half the loot before they even realised something was wrong.  The reason I didn’t?  Because I’m an honest person.  I believe in the basic goodness of humanity, and believe that most people on this planet are generally honest and decent, which is why I think the Heist Movie performs such a valuable function to society.

The great thing about a good heist film is that you get to feel part of a caper for a couple of hours.  The best examples have a clearly defined prize, and make it clear who or what is being robbed.  You get to be involved in the planning, make your own judgements on the cleverness of the plan, and enjoy the thrill of the robbery without any personal risk.  Many heist films simultaneously withold vital information from the viewer – The Sting and Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven are good examples – so that while the viewer feels part of the scheme, they are also deceived by a final rug-pull at the film’s conclusion.

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