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Archive for March, 2020

I have been writing this blog for over eleven years; during this time I have intentionally avoided anything political or even particularly serious, in short, I write about movies, and occasionally TV.  However, on occasion, to be blunt, shit gets real!

One of my local independent cinema’s is The Electric Cinema.  Established over 110 years ago, it holds the honour of being the oldest working cinema in the UK.  On Monday, they tweeted about how they remained open through two world wars, and the Spanish Flue pandemic (the one that infected about a quarter of the population a century ago). Today, The Electric took the drastic step of closing amid the unprecedented issues associated with the coronavirus pandemic.  This followed most of the UK’s cinema chains deciding to close until further notice.

Cinema’s are far from the only places to close.  The UK government are promising help for businesses.  While it is essential to maintain the national economy, and the businesses that keep the proverbial wheels turning, we have to also think of the things that make life fun and enjoyable.  We have to protect, and maintain the theatres, restaurants, pubs, clubs, and sports clubs that we all attend, the things that make life worth living.  Winston Churchill possibly said it best:

The story as I understand it dates back to the Second World War; as the cost of war was escalating and the government struggled to balance the nations books a minister suggested cutting funding for the arts to prop-up the war effort. Winston Churchill response was to ask the simple question:  “Then what are we fighting for?”

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The HuntThe marketing for the movie The Hunt tells us: “The most talked about movie of the year is one that no one’s actually seen”.  The studio, Universal Pictures pulled its release last summer.  It had already drastically scaled back the marketing following a mass shooting in America.  The Donald Trump (who I understand had, not, and has still not, seen the film) got involved accusing the producers of inciting violence.  Having now seen the film, it is neither inciting or provocative, it is actually a run of the mill action thriller within a sub-genre that crops up from time to time.  The modern twist is the hunters are “Woke” liberal elites who are truly horrible, and the prey are call “deplorables”, basically people who have expressed less than woke views.  the film is fun and has some interesting ideas, but isn’t cutting enough to be a true satire on modern society. The Hunt

The first film of the genre was probably The Most Dangerous Game (1932) based on Richard Connell’s short story of the same name.  Anyone who has seen Zodiac (2007) will remember the reference to this movie, if the events of that movie are to be believed it even provide inspiration for the real life Zodiac killer. It has also inspired filmmakers for nearly 90 years with numerous, copies imitators and remakes. The idea was even used for an episode of The Avengers (The Superlative Seven) and is spoofed in The Simpsons (Treehouse of Horror XVI).The Most Dangerous Game

Made in 1932 parts of the movie look dated, the most notable of these are the use of close-ups of exaggerated facial expressions, a clear hangover from the silent era. The movie starts onboard a ship, all exterior shots are clearly a model and not up to the standard of King Kong (1933) that it actually shares a lot with (including one of its directors, sets and cast). Other than this the movie stands up really well and is wonderfully atmospheric. Due to the relatively low production cost it actually made more money than the better known King Kong. Coming in at only a fraction over an hour the movie is incredibly short, but its stripped down simplicity is to its credit.

A Game of Death (1945) directed by Robert Wise is a direct remake of The Most Dangerous Game, shot towards the end of WWII, the madman is a Nazi, not Russian.A Game of Death

The Tenth Victim (1965) is an Italian Sci-Fi entry to the genre featuring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress.  “The Big Hunt,” is a televised competition with contestants who must survive five rounds as a hunter, and five as the prey. For years a hard to find obscurity, it is now available on Amazon Prime in the UK (complete with a terrible dub).  The Tenth Victim

One of the most interesting and controversial examples is the excellent Punishment Park (1971) shot as a bleak mockumentary. Punishment Park

Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle based on a Stephen King story (as Richard Bachman), The Running Man (1987) looks far more satirical and incisive in today’s world of reality TV than it did back in the day. The Running Man

One of my favourites of the genre: Hard Target (1993) is possibly the only Hollywood film by John Woo to live up to the bonkers fun of his Hong Kong movies.  Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a man down on his luck hired to find a missing man, he soon finds himself in the same “Most Dangerous Game” headed up by Lance Henriksen.Hard Target

This was closely followed by Surviving the Game (1994) with Ice-T as a A homeless man hunted by Rutger Hauer and Gary Busey. Surviving the Game

Battle Royale (2000), and its sequel (2003), Series 7: The Contenders (2001), The Hunger Games (2012-15), The Belko Experiment (2016) all take a slightly different angle, as the prey are also the hunters, forced to kill each other. 

While Predators (2010), features and extraterrestrial hunter, it fulfills most of the tropes of the genre, even more so than other films in the series.  Predators

Revenge (2017), is also worth a look.  The setup is very different, put it soon finds itself in familiar  territory with a few interesting twists along the way. Revenge

Finally, if you fancy a different medium, take a look at the Jack Reacher novel Past Tense (2018) by Lee Child.Jack Reacher Past Tense

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We are in an interesting period in the movie calendar:  The awards bait movies have been and gone, the blockbusters are waiting in the wings, amongst the dregs there are often a few gems, there certainly has been this month:

The Rhythm Section: As a big fan of Mark Burnell source novel this movie had a lot to live up to, it sadly fails. The story has been simplified from the novel loosing the nuance and a lot of the meaning.  On a positive note, Blake Lively is very good.The Rhythm Section

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn): Suicide Squad (2016) was a horrible mess of a movie, but it had one thing going for it, Margot Robbie was excellent as Harley Quinn.  Birds of Prey understands this and has Harley front and centre, not to take away from the supporting cast are also excellent.  It is fun and funny, simply everything a film like this needs to be, and everything that Suicide Squad wasn’t.  Also surprisingly violent, properly violent, not just comic book violent.   Its a shame it isn’t finding more of an audience.Birds of Prey

Underwater: Disater/Sci-fi movie set seven miles under the sea at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.  Aside from being unoriginal, and very predictable, there is nothing actually wrong with the movie, it just never really gets going, and is all just very average.  Kristen Stewart is very good though.Underwater

The Lighthouse: Robert Eggers follow-up to The Witch is just as intense, but even more bold and visceral.  It isn’t always clear what is going on leaving a lot of the film open to interpretation, the film is all the better for this.  Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are both excellent.The Lighthouse

The Lost Boys: Re-mastered version of the classic 80’s teen horror.  As fun and funny as ever. Great to see it on the big screen.The Lost Boys

Dark Waters:  A legal drama based on a true story is a departure from the expected for Todd Haynes. There is a constant sense of dread, this combined with a lack time is spent in courtrooms makes it feel more like a conspiracy thriller.  Mark Ruffalo is utterly brilliant in the lead; Anne Hathaway isn’t given much to do in a much smaller supporting role, but has a few great moments.Dark Waters

Little Joe: Director Jessica Hausner’s first English language movie; Sci-Fi thriller with about a plant that is engineered to have antidepressant qualities.  The film has the dread and anxiety of a horror movie but without gore or violence.  The pastel colour design is disturbing in itself, as is the unusual score.  Emily Beecham and Ben Whishaw subtly brilliant in an un-showy way.  There is an interesting subtext that could be about medication, mental heal, or GM crops, maybe it’s about all three?Little Joe

Greed: Writers/Director Michael Winterbottom reteams with long-time collaborator Steve Coogan in a film about an unscrupulous fashion tycoon.  Often funny but with a very serious message, far from the directors best work but still very good.Greed

Color out Space: Things start to get a little strange for family living in an isolated woodland home.  Directed by Richard Stanley, his first feature since 1992, and based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft.  Nicolas Cage, does exactly what you expect him, Madeleine Arthur probably has the most screen-time, and is also very good.   I expect it to divide opinion, I loved it!Color out Space

Not the best film, of the month, but the most surprisingly good: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn):Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

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