Night Terror?: A It Comes At Night review.

Directed by: Trey Edward Shults.

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbot, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Riley Keough.

Plot: Situated in a remote house away from civilisation, a man, his wife and son live an ordered and cautious life as an infectious disease has taken hold of the world. When a desperate family arrive seeking refuge, paranoia & mistrust threaten to change everything.

There has been a polarising change in horror in recent years, becoming less dumb and more thoughtful. Recent releases such as The Babadook, The Witch, I’m The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House and the forthcoming A Ghost Story have all staked a claim in providing its audience with a much more artfully & lovingly crafted film experience than the braindead, multiplex horror fare that has been vogue for so long. It Comes At Night is another worthy of being mentioned alongside those films.

It Comes At Night is a classy lo-fi psychological drama relying heavily on interaction between its characters and knowledge of what has befallen the world to create an unsettling and claustrophobic tale. Rather than relying on outright horror, gore and jump scares, It Comes At Night creates an aura of permeating dread, paranoia, mistrust and a question raised that with the prospect of harm coming to our loved ones, what are we prepared to do to protect them with the risk of losing our own humanity. I suppose in many respects it may be inaccurate to describe It Comes At Night as a horror In the traditional sense considering its main conceit, this isn’t some fanciful malignant virus that turns its host into a snarling monster hungry for human flesh, it is a much scarier concept of an unnamed lethal infection and the fear that comes with the possibility of becoming infected. The principal character all wear gas masks and gloves when disposing of those who have succumbed to it, the very real fear of being the next to become infected hanging over their heads. With the modern day threat of very real super viruses such as Ebola existing, it makes the film’s narrative all the more believable and scary.

With a minimal cast, the film relays heavily in their believable performances. Joel Edgerton as the family patriarch is excellent, gruff and distrusting, preoccupied with the safety of his own family, great support turns from Carmen Ejogo and Kelvin Harrison Jr and set more on edge with the arrival of a family in need played by Christopher Abbot, Riley Keough and Griffen Robert Faulkner respectively, Abbot & Keough giving great, desperate performances as a family just trying to survive the same as any other would in their situation.

I would highly recommend this film to those with a love of psychological thrillers. The claustrophobic, slow burning tension coupled with a tightly written story of protecting those you love no matter the cost is a winning formula when delivered this deftly. It may not be a scare a minute thrill ride but it is a classy and measured drama none the less. Highly recommended.

Oh Baby!: A Baby Driver review.

Directed by: Edgar Wright.

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx

Plot: “Baby” is a young, talented driver who’s skills are utilised by a crime boss who employs him as getaway driver for his various heist crews. Propelled by the momentum of his own personal soundtrack, how long before it all goes wrong?

Edgar Wright is a director for me that can seemingly do no wrong, I have followed his career from my teen years watching Spaced after nights out on the beer, sat round with mates viewing “The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” of Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz & The World’s End and being a comic book reader, freaking out that he got the directing gig for the adaptation of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. To say that I am a fan of Edgar Wright’s would be an understatement so I may be accused of going into this review for his latest film Baby Driver a little biased, however, when a film is this well conceived, choreographed and directed, the praise is gonna flow!

Penned & directed by Wright, Baby Driver tells the story of a young man with a freakish aptitude for driving who is in the employ of a crime boss due to running up a debt with him, to pay off his debt he drives getaway in heist crews at his boss’s behest. “Baby” was involved in a car accident as a child that left him with a permanent case of tinnitus, to combat this he constantly has music playing to drown out the ringing in his ears via a selection of iPods to match his mood. 

Like Wright’s work prior, Baby Driver is delivered with the visual flair, confidence and conviction of a seasoned, professional action movie director, this is however Wright’s first foray proper into the action genre which makes it all the more impressive. The stunt driving in this film is simply off the chain, at times damn near balletic, its incredible and captured beautifully, all the while set to one of the strongest movie soundtracks I have heard in years. Edgar Wright fully understands the importance of music in film, the music in Baby Driver feels important, it drives the story, no pun intended, being just as integral as any other facet of the production. Be it our introduction to Baby’s considerable talents set to Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, a heist getaway to Hocus Pocus by Focus or a one on one car duel/ballet to Brighton Rock by Queen, Baby has good taste in tunage. Meticulously selected and presented with what’s occurring on screen in perfectly curated unison, it’s an absolute joy and certainly a soundtrack I’ll be adding to my record collection.

As with most Wright projects the cast is excellent. Ansel Elgort as the titular Baby slays the part, effortlessly cool and idiosyncratic and too good for the world in which he has been dragged into, you root for him throughout the duration, hoping he makes it out the other side. Lily James’s Debora makes for a likeable paramour to Baby, a character with an aesthetic that almost feels as though she has popped out of a David Lynch movie, my one qualm being that she is not given much of an opportunity of being fleshed out other than being a love interest which is a shame. The criminal element of the film is made up of a damn impressive roll call, Kevin Spacey, John Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Eliza González and Jamie Foxx, all decidedly dastardly and unlikable, the perfect foils to want to see Baby escape from.

I can safely say that Baby Driver is one of the most effortlessly cool, intelligently written, insanely choreographed and fiercely original action films I have seen in years, it really is an incredible piece of work that shows Edgar Wright is more than capable of handling a big budget, bums on seats popcorn movie and does so in his own indomitable way. This is the kind of movie The Fast & The Furious wishes it could be, a wealth of brains to back up the brawn and more genuine, uncontrived heart than I have seen in the genre in a very long time. Baby Driver is hugely deserving of any praise coming it’s way and I am confident will be a top end fixture of many a best of 2017 list, it will almost certainly be on mine.

The Hollywood Dream: Interpretations of Mulholland Drive.

In 2001, David Lynch released Mulholland Drive, a lavish, perplexing dreamscape of a film and a film that laid itself wide open to countless levels of interpretation as to exactly what is going on. It all starts fairly conventionally, suckering is into thinking it has some kind of wholly conventional mystery formula in its narrative as the amnesiac “Rita” is aided by the well meaning aspiring actress “Betty” to piece together who she is. This facade of linear narrative is flipped completely on its head a little over halfway through to find the characters now with completely different names and relationships to one another, “Betty” now revealed to be Diane, a jaded, washed up actress on the brink of collapse following an affair with established actress Camilla who in the first half of the film was “Rita”. Why are these people different characters at different points in the film? What is the purpose of the sinister Club Silencio? What was inside the blue box? These are amongst the many questions drummed up by Mulholland Drive.

The most logical, but by no means correct analogy is that “Betty” is Diane’s dream self, a bright and optimistic aspiring actress who’s life is created from aspects of Diane’s own waking life and driven from her perspective, Her real life that is not worth living anymore and she is instead haunted by a life that isn’t her own. There are of course other numerous layers that could be piled over and over analysed to the point of madness for example, many of the things experienced in the first half of the film could be explained away as non-sequiturs or even as the skewed logic of dreams. The real point of Mulholland Drive, as with a lot of David Lynch’s work is that it is open to your own interpretation, there is no right or wrong answer to what you perceive is going on. The best advice that can be given is submit, go with the flow, be swept along by it, by the end your head will be swimming with questions but I’m also going to wager that it will also be brimming with theories and interpretations of events and may Illicit many a return viewing but I feel it would be folly to over analyse something that doesn’t exist to be viewed to such a degree.

Mulholland Drive was released to rave reviews in 2001, hailed as one of Lynch’s strongest works to date that also won the director the prestigious Prix de la mise en scène at that years Canne film festival. Time has not dulled the allure of the film and it is still viewed to this day in many circles not only as one of Lynch’s strongest offerings but also as one of the greatest films of the 00’s, a plaudit that I wholeheartedly agree with.

Top 5: Directors Series: David Lynch.

David Lynch is a director that the term divisive could have been invented for, you either “get” him or you don’t. Playing heavily on surrealism and visual metaphor, Lynch is a director who has carved out a diverse career in film and indeed in television with the massively popular Twin Peaks which saw its return to our screens this year. This is probably without doubt the most difficult Top 5 I have tried to compile. I feel guilty for not mentioning the likes of Lost Highway, The Straight Story, Inland Empire and I even have a soft spot for Dune but this is my personal Top 5 and one I have possibly taken the most time to compile because the choices are so difficult to make, anyone of the aforementioned films could have made the list but the 5 I have picked, some may argue that they are quite populist choices, they are also the films I keep returning to. So here we go.

Honourable Mention: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

After its polarising second season, it didn’t take Lynch long to return to the world of Twin Peaks with this beguiling prequel documenting the last week of Laura Palmers life. A much more Lynchian affair than the prior series which for the most part had descended into almost soap opera territory without his influence, this was the captain steering the ship once more. Here Lynch was planting seeds that would start to sprout in the third series and FWWM’s more elusive plot elements would start to make more sense to the perplexed.

5: Wild At Heart.

David Lynch reunited with one of his many muses, Laura Dern for this slice of road movie insanity from 1990. Adapted from the Barry Gifford novel of the same name and winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes film festival, coupling Dern with the ever gonzo Nic Cage and support turns from Dern’s mother Diane Ladd, Willem Deffo, Harry Dean Stanton and Isabella Rossilini. The film received praise & condemnation in equal measure on it’s release and I do believe it is a film you either love or hate, I’m in the former camp.

4: Eraserhead.

No Lynch Top 5 would be complete without the inclusion of this 1977 surrealist masterpiece. Set in an industrial dystopian world and starring perennial Lynch collaborator Jack Nance, Eraserhead was the movie that introduced the world at large to the mind of David Lynch. Strange mutant babies, inexplicable hairdo’s and puffy-cheeked singing ladies who live behind radiators, standard.

3: The Elephant Man.

This biopic from 1980 telling the sad tale of Joseph Merrick, referred to in the film as John and known historically as The Elephant Man. The Elephant Man was quite a departure for Lynch, told relatively straight and without much of his trademark surrealism, the cast including the likes of John Hurt , Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft & John Gielgood provided a robust, powerful & moving account of the man’s tragic life.

2: Blue Velvet.

In Blue Velvet we get Lynch’s take on a conventional mystery, well, conventional for David Lynch anyway. A work that combines a dark noiresque styling juxtaposed with the white picket fences of idealic suburbia, the threat of something sinister just lying beneath the surface of the societal norms of a sleepy town. Lynch’s surrealism peaks its head out from time to time, most iconically in this film with Dean Stockwell, covered in make up miming Roy Orbson’s In Dreams into a work lamp. Kudos to Dennis Hopper in this film for giving us the absolutely terrifying Frank Booth.

1: Mulholland Drive.

The top spot is of course a no-brainer, arguably Lynch’s finest cinematic offering. This wonderfully dreamlike film noir tribute has you questioning so many aspects of its narrative that your head is swimming by its conclusion leaving so many facets to the viewers own interpretation of events, trying to piece its strands together long after it has ended. It is gorgeously, lavishly shot with an excellent cast and I defy anyone not to return to this film multiple times to secure their own interpretation of its narrative.

His Last Stand? :My thoughts on the series finale of Doctor Who.

*ATTENTION* If you have not seen the series finale of Doctor Who it is advised you don’t read on as there will be plot spoilers, you have been warned.

After 4 years we are reaching the end of Peter Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor and he was fantastic, he brought an old school feel to the character that has not been present for any incarnation of The Doctor since the series returned in 2005. He has been up there as my favourite Doctor bar Matt Smith since the shows resurrection, or should that be regeneration? This past Saturday night saw the final episode of the current series, teasingly titled The Doctor Falls, so did it really mark the departure of Mr Capaldi?

Unsurprisingly no, of course it didn’t, there is still a Christmas special to go this year and no official announcement of Peter’s replacement has been made as in previous years so it was always a safe bet that this wasn’t going to be the last we’d see of this incarnation of The Doctor. That’s not to say that The Doctor Fall’s didn’t yield some unexpected surprises for us to savour until our Yuletide farewell.

Firstly, there was no easy reset of Bill’s predicament from the prior episode, she remains a converted Cyberman and in a way, Im glad. Too many times the show has copped out on cliffhangers in prior episodes making everything ok again within minute of the next episode starting, not this time. The use of Bill still perceiving herself as human was a nice touch to still give the excellent Pearl Mackie some screen-time. The door has been left open thankfully by Steven Moffat for a possible return for Bill if new showrunner Chris Chibnal would like to utilise her which was a classy move of respect for a character the audience have grown to love over the course of this season.

John Simm’s return as The Master was excellent also, as machiavellian and literally moustache twitching as i could have hoped him to have been. The show has also found a way to keep this story arch for the character interesting in that he is ultimately dispatched by……himself, or should that be herself in the guise of Michelle Gomez’s Missy, his future self, changed and burdened it seems finally with a conscience to stand with The Doctor and face certain death, literally stabbing herself in the back to achieve this. It is then that the truly great decision to have Simm’s Master kill Missy and indeed by extension himself rather than allowing himself in the indignity of helping his nemesis, it was the most Master-like action to be carried out by any incarnation of the character since his return in Series 3 and was a perfect way to write out both Simm & Gomez even though I doubt very much that this is the last we’ll see of the character.

Finally the handling of Capaldi’s impending regeneration, the beginning of the process is teased early in the episode and carried along for its duration right up to the final minutes where the Doctor stubbornly refuses to allow himself to regenerate alone on the surface of Mondas, no crying, no whimpering like Tennant’s Doctor, he is willing himself to hold on to this life for a little longer, brief moments of delirium in the Tardis with The Doctor quoting past last words was a beautifully inspired touch before his encounter with a familiar face on the planets surface, it certainly promises an exciting prospect for Peter’s last story proper this Christmas.

The Downward Spiral: A Jacob’s Ladder review.

Year: 1990.

Directed by: Adrian Lyne.

Starring: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Danny Aiello, Jason Alexander

Plot: Jacob Singer is a Vietnam war veteran, injured in the line of duty, he now lives his life as a postal worker but is troubled by disturbing visions. It is post-traumatic stress or something more sinister? 

Up to the time of this film’s release, director Adrian Lyne could seemingly do no wrong commercially speaking. His 3 films prior, Flashdance, 9 1/2 weeks and Fatal Attraction were all massive box office successes, playing on simple and easy to grasp formulas that equated to huge profits. With Jacob’s Ladder, Lyne wished to present a much more thoughtful and philosophical prospect to his audience.

Touching heavily upon biblical, literary and artistic references, Jacob’s Ladder was a brave film to present to the world after his much more safe and commercially viable offerings from the 1980’s. Touching upon such subjects as The Vietnam War, post-traumatic stress, surreal horror, even taking influence from the work of painter Francis Bacon in the aesthetics of Jacob’s increasingly horrific visions, Jacob’s Ladder presents itself as a powerful, thoughtful and intense exploration of mortality and what lies beyond.

Bringing together a cast that includes Tim Robbins, who up until that time was more know for his comedic roles, here gives the role of Jacob Singer a real humanity and sensitivity, terrified, confused and angry at a system that seems to have left him and others like him behind, a real world plight faced by many in the aftermath of that horrific war. Some great support is given by the late Elizabeth Peña as his stressed and beleaguered girlfriend, straggling to cope with Jacob’s outbursts when plagued by his visions. The eagle-eyed viewer may also spot early screen roles by the likes of Macaulay Culkin as Jacob’s deceased son and Tenacious D member Kyle Gass in a bit part.

The visual effects are very much a showcase in the film, many of which practically shot and effectively creepy and disturbing, particularly the deformed creatures that plague Jacob’s visions. Amongst its more traditional horror was the prospect of real world atrocity, some controversial claims were also made by the film levelled at the US army and the possibility of narcotic experimentation on troops during the Vietnam conflict which opens up new levels of very real moral quandary within the film’s many more fantastical subtexts. Jacob’s Ladder is a film that leaves itself open to many forms of interpretation as to its meaning. There is the obvious biblical reference in the film’s title, the “dream of a meeting place between heaven & earth” to paraphrase the book of Genesis. The film does maintain an almost dreamlike quality throughout its duration with Jacob’s visions, his memories of Vietnam, his anger at the army and himself for his sons death almost like the film is Jacob’s own version of purgatory where he is punishing himself for his own perceived misdoings. Suffice to say, it is a film you could sit down and dissect afterward and the conversations would be lengthy.

Jacob’s Ladder isn’t going to be for everyone. It is a bleak, oppressive, haunting, depressingly sad and yet powerfully delivered film which acts as a thoughtful meditation on humanity. It is the kind of film that stays with you long after the final reveal and makes you heart hang a little heavier though that is not to say that it isn’t a good film, it is a very good film, it is one however that may not be so palatable to those of a more sensitive disposition.

Pinfall: A GLOW Season 1 review.

I was completely unaware of the existence of GLOW up until a trailer for the series appeared whilst I was finishing up the latest season of Orange Is The New Black. GLOW is a fictional comedy/drama based on the real life women’s wrestling promotion that rose to prominence in the early 80’s. A failed b-movie director is called in to man the production of an all women’s wrestling promotion by a wealthy investor, he holds a casting call for local actresses who don’t quite know what they are letting themselves in for.

GLOW, like the aforementioned Orange Is The New Black perfectly marries comedy & drama with an exceptional ensemble cast and also some recognisable faces from the world of professional wrestling for the eagle-eyed fan. Alison Brie of Community fame & Betty Gilpin make for strong leads, likeable but flawed, funny but not irritating, fans of mid-00’s British indie pop may recognise Kate Nash offering a strong support turn and the excellent stand-up comedian Marc Maron is consistently a high point of the whole season as the ladies embittered, sardonic ‘director’. GLOW will no doubt attract fans of professional wrestling and they will be well catered for with industry in-jokes, guest appearances from the likes of John Morrison, Brodus Clay, Joey Ryan and Alex Riley to lend some credible realism to proceedings. The cast perform really well in ring to be fair, they aren’t WWE standard performers but they carry themselves well in the ring and add some much appreciated authenticity.

With a lot to prove in its inaugural season, GLOW hits the ground running and powerbombs its way in to your heart. It is funny, surprisingly affecting at times and wonderfully written and performed to be appealing to both wrestling fans and to fans of deftly delivered dramatic comedy. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

GLOW can currently be streamed on Netflix.