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Friday, 29 August 2014

An Embarrassment of Riches...

Here I am back after my respite and I don't know where to start, with a number of films fighting to be selected for my beady-eyed scrutiny. As I wrote three weeks back, the next film on the agenda was "Guardians of the Galaxy" which was a jolly enough romp, but not really my sort of thing. It's a refreshing left-field offering among the plethora of super-hero flicks, but it will probably seem less fresh when we are offered the inevitable sequel in a year's time or so. I must say, however, that Vin Diesel makes a great tree!

Then there were the eleven -- yes eleven -- FrightFest films that we selected last weekend. This does indeed represent a conscious weaning on our part, since we would have felt obliged to watch most of the twenty-six films featured in the main programme (or alternates on the Discovery Screen) had we bought the weekend pass -- and frankly eleven were nearly too many. By and large I liked most of them, although there were a couple of iffy ones, but what struck me most of all was how unfrightening the majority were -- there was more in the way of fantasy than frights. There was very little in the way of gore (and we all know how much pppatty likes her gore). 

For tradition's sake I will write a bit about each of them over the coming weeks -- but not today. Instead, I want to touch briefly on a terrestrial TV premiere which I watched the day after FrightFest and which I thought was not only better made but also more scary and gripping in part than any of the Fest's offerings. The film is "Red Lights" (2012) and while comments on IMDb verge on the 'big swizz' end of the spectrum, I thought it was pretty super. Sigourney Weaver plays a respected ghost debunker, showing up false mediums and psychics over a 30-year career; her protégé is Cillian Murphy who in turn is mentoring Elizabeth Olsen. They have a fine old time exposing the frauds who are making money off the gullible, but Weaver is wary of having another go at Robert DeNiro's Simon Silver, who is making a comeback from retirement after another sceptic unexpectedly died while investigating him. Weaver doesn't want to know as Silver was able to rattle her in the past, but Murphy is crazy keen to have a go. Then Weaver drops dead! She was so good in the role that the heart could have fallen out of the film, but the intense Murphy manages to keep us watching. And I for one was totally unprepared for the big reveal....

The last of the day's reviews will be "Sin City 2 - A Dame to Kill For" which was actually included in the FrightFest programme, but which we didn't watch there since we knew it was about to be released broadly. So back to the cinema we went! Somewhere in my old reviews I wrote about the first film back in 2005 (and I am too lazy to search out the url) but my recollection is that I really, really liked it. And guess what, I liked the sequel as well. Now to be honest it has been receiving some pretty dismissive reviews and far be it from me to claim that it is a great movie; but it is an absolutely superb visual experience -- and for once even the 3D effects were more than gratuitous. OK maybe the dialogue is pretty poor (what do you expect from a graphic novel adaptation?) and the characters may be pulp stereotypes, but that is all part of its modus vivendi and all part of what makes the film fun viewing.

Eva Green gives a fearless and largely nude performance as the femme fatale of the title and newcomers Josh Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt give substance to two of the three intertwining stories. Powers Booth makes a dastardly villain and it's a welcome return for the unrecognizable Mickey Rourke, a ghostly Bruce Willis, and bump 'n grinder Jessica Alba. Jamie Chung substitutes wonderfully for Devon Aoki with some great and let it be said brilliantly gory martial arts. The blood here seems almost aesthetic when it splashes bright white rather than crimson.  There is even a blink and you might miss it cameo from Lady Gaga. I'm puzzled why the movie has so many detractors. Maybe what was considered ground-breaking once has lost its charm in the intervening years, but I think co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez have given us another movie to savour.

I promise to return to the other FrightFest reviews next week.  
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