Sunday, October 15, 2017

Photography course

I've started a free online photography course that lasts a whole year. The course is run by a photographer called Emma Davies who I understand has a reputation as a flower and garden photographer. Her work has won several large awards. The first six weeks of the course are geared towards taking complete novices away from exclusively using Auto mode on to the more creative modes and eventually to fully Manual mode. The remainder of the year is a mystery to me at the moment. While the course is free, it also has a community on Facebook and Instagram where photographs and coursework can be posted and commented on. I started in September and have certainly learned a lot already, filling in some gaps that I had. It's nice to get feedback on my work too. Overall, I'm pleased with how it is going. The course is supported by a couple of workbooks and a companion diary. I'm using the Nikon D5000 camera that I bought last year and the 3 additional lenses I have purchased since. The course is called A Year With My Camera and it is not restricted to the UK, there are people all over the world doing the course which is nice to see in the photographs.

Cassadaga (2011)

Actress Kelen Coleman stars in this strange but entertaining little film as a young, deaf, art teacher called Lily. At the start of the film we see a boy in a dress playing with a puppet doll. He is interrupted when his mother bursts in raging and shouting, she stamps on the doll and makes him take off the dress, which she then cuts up. After she leaves the boy picks up one half of the broken scissors and he enters the kitchen while his mother's back is turned. I think he probably kills her judging by the scream.
The other backstory is that Lily and her sister were brought up by a single parent mother who unfortunately died whilst they were young. She is looking after her sister who we understand is not having such a great time at High School and has been saving up to move them both to Paris. Unfortunately before this happens, her sister is tragically killed when she is hit by a car as she runs across a road not looking and thinking only of the Paris trip.
Lily leaves her job and moves to a place where her mother went to college called Cassadaga. Now, I'm a little murky on whether Cassadaga is a hotel, a university or a village. Lily stays with someone who I think used to be her mother's college tutor. The tutor has a grandson who seems to be a violent young man who keeps himself locked in an upstairs room where he watches violent pornography. It's not clear whether this man and the boy in the first sequence are the same but that was my interpretation.
In rebuilding her life, Lily meets a paramedic via his daughter who is being taught by Lily. The relationship blossoms and they start dating. On one of their first dates they are in a bar discussing the paranormal and the other couple they are with are having an argument about the scientific truth of the paranormal. To try and settle the argument, they decide to visit a spiritualist. Initially turned away until Lily offers to pay $500 for the session on everyone's behalf. They get in. What unfolds is that during the séance Lily is speaking to her sister but another spirit invades and attacks Lily. Lily is attacked several more times by this spirit and each time is shown images that don't make sense. During the course of these attacks, the paramedic boyfriend tries to help. However, he is in a custody battle for his daughter and, when during one of these spirit attacks, his daughter is present - he is forced by his ex-wife to close the relationship. Torn between his daughter and his love interest, he chooses his daughter - unfortunately for Lily! Interspersed with the spirit attacks we see sequences where a man dressed in an apron and wearing a welding mask amputates a woman and strings her up like a marionette with her severed arms and legs re-attached with articulated metal joints.
I won't give any more of the plot away but there is enough in here to know that the film weaves all these different story elements together quite well.
This was quite a decent film in my opinion. Some scary elements, some thrills and some good special effects. The final sequences reveal all and the suspense is kept up quite well. I liked the character Lily, the decision for her to be deaf was a strange one, I wasn't entirely convinced it was portrayed as realistically as it could have been - this was the element I didn't enjoy as much as the suspense. Overall though, I can fairly easily recommend this film to horror and suspense fans.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (2014)

Being a fan of Zombie movies I'm surprised to find that I haven't seen the first film in this series. So I'm joining this franchise for the sequel to the first film, fortunately there is a bit of a recap at the start of the film. It seems to be a group of friends on holiday in a remote cabin in Norway who find some Nazi gold are murdered by Nazi Zombies who are awoken from the dead to get back their gold. So the sequel follows the journey of the only survivor from the group, who has amputated his own arm to save himself from becoming a zombie after he was bitten by one. He wakes up in hospital to find that he two arms. He is also under arrest for the murders of his friends. He is very surprised to find he has two arms, however horrified to see that one arm belongs to General Herzog, leader of the Nazi Zombies.
This is a good romp of a film, however ridiculous, and is great fun to watch. I particularly enjoyed the viciousness of some of the kills. The whole film is done with a tongue in cheek joke style that I liked. The incompetent police department was hilarious. I was not at all sure that the film needed to include three American characters who called themselves the Zombie Squad. It felt like every idea was thrown at the film and entertained when some should have been quality controlled out. Even despite this, the film was more entertaining than it has any right to be. It's similar in tone to Sean of the Dead, so fans of that would probably enjoy it. Fans of zombie films would also enjoy it.

Final Girl (2015)

We are introduced to the tragic circumstances of the main female lead character called Veronica, as she loses her parents early on. A man, I can't remember who, makes the little orphan girl what would seem like a happy life and she accepts. It's not very clear in my memory because it is skipped over very quickly to an older version of the girl, played by Abigail Breslin. She is being trained to defend herself by a shaved headed guy called William. No idea where he comes from or what his relationship to the man who met the young Veronica after the loss of her parents. I don't believe the two men are the same.
A group of young college men have murdered several young blonde women in the woods by hunting them like dogs. They have somehow managed to allude the police after several murders and Veronica is in training to be their next victim - or so they think. It's all quite ridiculous, frankly. The filming is done well, the lighting in the woods is all backlit, so the on screen image is attractive. Especially Abigail in her striking red dress. However, the story as a whole just doesn't make any sense. The boys try to attack Veronica but she has tricks up her sleeve and as she picks them off one by one there is a relief. But a lot of the tension that would have been present is lost because the viewer knows that she's going to defeat them due to her harsh training. Just on the strength of the visuals, I couldn't really recommend this film, it's one for fans of Abigail Breslin but probably nobody else.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Flatliners (2017)

I went to the cinema to watch this re-make of a film from 1990. It's the story of what happens to a group of student doctors who want to experiment with stopping their hearts and resuscitation. It was originally quite a dark film as far as my memory serves me. This new version has some good moments but is ultimately quite a flat affair, sorry for the pun!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

It (2017)

Watched this film this week, the cost was just £4.99 so I bought a massive bucket of Coke Zero to drink while watching the film. I've never read the book so wasn't aware of the story beforehand but that didn't hamper me. I liked the cast of characters although they were all children for the most part. Each character had something likeable about them. I'm not referring to the bullies, they were awful. While not being very scary, it was still a good film. I'm not particularly entertained by clowns and I do find them to be a little bit sinister but I can see why some people may be terrified by the idea behind this tale. The effects were good.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Antiviral (2012)

It's been a few weeks since I've posted an update here. I was away on holiday for most of August and since coming back I've not been focused on watching many films. Hoping to resolve this though and get back into a routine.
I have watched the film Antiviral though. It's a body horror film from the son of David Cronenberg, Brandon Cronenberg. He seems to be a chip off the old block. This was an engaging film, if not one I could say I enjoyed very much. I didn't empathise with the main character enough. The idea is an interesting one, stars are so elevated that even their viral conditions are harvested and rich clients pay to get their infections injected into them. You could buy the same cold as Jennifer Aniston for a price! No appeal in that for me but maybe there are some sickos out there who would go for that? I can recommend to fans of the father, not sure anyone else would enjoy this all that much.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

I watched this film whilst on a summer cruise holiday to Norway. I usually like King Kong films for a reason I am not familiar with, just something about them. I say usually because this was one I didn't enjoy all that much. Samuel L. Jackson plays a military chief who sees Kong destroying his helicopters and men and then goes all out for revenge on Kong at the expense of everyone else. An interesting premise in some ways but there is a butch hero played by Tom Hiddleston who saves everyone. I liked the fact that there was a female war photographer involved. But I didn't really understand why the Hiddleston character was involved. John Goodman also played a big role at the start of the film. I think the film had too many characters. The deaths and special effects were pretty good and better than I was expecting. But there lots of visual cliches and shots that could have been in Apocalypse Now, so a lot of the cinematography was unoriginal. It wasn't a complete turkey of a film and I did enjoy the action but it suffers from having actors who have appeared in lots of other films. With a fresh cast it might have been more interesting.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hatchet II (2010)

My expectations were low for this American slasher, I've got to be honest. The low expectations were justified. I don't find slasher films very scary in general and when you put together the elements of a crazed psychotic, deformed killer with the rest of the characters who behave like idiots the there is just very little sympathy to be had for any of the victims. The setting is as clichéd as they come, a swamp with mist floating by and an old wooden house at night in the swamp. Oh my, this sounds like a recipe for disaster and it is largely a disaster. Nothing much to redeem this film, not even Danielle Harris does but she plays her part well and I liked the way she acted the ending. She reappears in hatchet III, if you're interested.

V/H/S (2012)

This film was shot as a series of short films using camcorder found footage style episodes.I like the style if it is done correctly. A criminal gang are in their gang house after filming an assault of a woman in a car park. One of the gang members explains there is a better way to make more money, they just need to break into a house and retrieve a videotape for an old man. They decide to take this offer up, not really believing it. They break into the house and split up to look for the tape. They find a dead body in an armchair infront of multiple TVs and videos. One guy stays in the room and the others search the rest of the house. While in the room, the guy presses play on a tape. The audience then see the first film in the sequence. The other films work like this as well, with different guys coming in to watch, lastly there are two guys left in the basement. The short films are clever and have good twists as their endings. I liked them all. Not a bad film overall, if you like this style of portmanteau film. I'd not seen a film like this since the 1970s and this gives it a modern twist.

Under the bed (2012)

This was an interesting little film. It's the story of a family who have lost their mother and the two boys have been split up for a year, one living with an aunt while the father put his life back together and has remarried. The mother died but it was not revealed how as far as I remember and it is implied by the boys friends that the boy who went to live with his aunt was responsible, due to a mental health issue. The father seems very angry and may even believe this himself. The boys know the truth, that there is a monster under the bed. They keep this to themselves and the father thinks it is nonsense. It is a frustrating film in the sense that the adults don't want to encourage the boys, even though very strange things are happening. At one point I thought the new step mom may take their side after she has an experience in the garage but no, that doesn't happen either. It's quite clever in some respects because even though we see the monster under the bed come out and attack them, you are left thinking is it all in the older boy's mind or not? Not a bad film really, worthy of a watch I think.

Phantasm (1979)

I was very much looking forward to watching this film. It was a film that has intrigued me for most of my life, mainly because the opportunity to see it has never cropped up until recently. Well now that I've seen it I can put my intrigue to rest. In my mind I had elevated it to the status of a film like The Exorcist or The Omen. It isn't as dark or as scary as either of those films and is more like a traditional US Friday night scare film. It is not so psychological in its horror. There are a lot of unanswered questions that the film presents but these are in no way an indicator that the film's a really high quality one. Infact, the unanswered questions just reveal the shallowness of the films attempt to shock the audience. The iconic silver ball is the best example of this but there are also the little hooded dwarves as well and the horny graveyard temptress and murderer. All in all, after waiting so long to see the film it was a big disappointment. But still not a big turkey by any means, just that my imagination had built it up into something it is not. Some may call it a classic but for me, this isn't a film I'd have in my top horror collection.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Oldboy (2003)

This is the South Korean original version of this film.  I admit that I was expecting a horror film and this it isn't. The main character has been imprisoned for 15 years in a room that looks to all intents and purposes like a hotel room. He is served food through a hatch but is never told who his captor is or why he has been imprisoned. His wife and daughter believe he is dead. the film tells the story of his release and his search to find his captor. It is brilliantly done but I found it took a long time in getting there. It has some memorable scenes (like the scene in a hallway with the hammer) but I found the film a bit overlong.

Excision (2012)

Another film I hadn't heard of and one I wasn't sure what to expect. The star of the film is a geek/freak teenage girl character played magnificently by AnnaLynne McCord. The main character is Pauline who is obsessed with blood and is delusional about a career in surgery. Her strange behaviour gets increasingly odd during the film but the astonishing thing is that none of the adults around her seem to care very much about her mental decline. There is plenty of blood splatter. There is a strange little sex scene where Pauline and the boyfriend of another girl goes down on her in a hotel room, which ends with his disgust because she arranged it all to coincide with her period. The end of the film is shocking, which is a good thing in this case. I thought this film was interesting, arresting and cleverly made. The acting was excellent, Pauline was played very well and the mother was also played brilliantly by Traci Lords, who I since found out has had a very colourful career. I must mention the make-up crew who did a wonderful job turning a beautiful girl into a spotty, greasy teenager. Easily able to recommend this to horror fans who appreciate a bit of black humour.

Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

This is one of those films that is based on a videogame character, I enjoyed the videogames by the way. The "Agent 47" of the title is an assassin (played adequately by Rupert Friend), the audience knows very little about him at the start. I enjoyed the film just on a level of it being visually attractive with lots of action sequences. I didn't enjoy the story very much. I thought the father/human geneticist:daughter- relationship played by Ciarán Hinds and Hannah Ware (father character had a terrible fake accent) was, frankly, a ridiculous thing to base the film around. Again, this film is ultimately just another example of a videogame franchise not converting well in to the film medium.One of the co-writers, Skip Woods, was involved in the 2007 film Hitman starring Timothy Olyvant and should have known better. I can only recommend this if you like mindless action films or a massive fan of the game character. Nobody else would be bothered.

The Mist (2007)

This film was based on Stephen King's novella of the same name. I hadn't heard of the film and so wasn't expecting much quality from it. It starts in a pretty mundane way with two neighbours assessing damage after a storm. But then the action moves to the town where they are buying some supplies from a supermarket when the mist reaches them and presses against the glass. The tension is built up well, without seeing any monsters in the mist. However that changes and we start to see different sorts of monsters in the mist. The way that the monsters are introduced is very clever. I really enjoyed watching this film and found it compulsive right to the end, which surprised me. A cleverly made film with a great cast and a great script. Easily able to recommend this to any horror or Stephen King fans out there. There is a mini series of the same name coming out this year, wonder whether that will be liked?

Skinwalkers (2006)

I was grateful that this film wasn't too long and had good pacing. It is a film about two groups of werewolves, one group live in restraints during the full moons and the other hunt and feed on humans, as traditional for werewolves. Apparently there is a prophecy that the werewolf curse can be ended by the time a special child becomes 13. We learn during the film that he is the child of the leader of the werewolf pack and a human mother, both were unaware of the curse having been shielded from it by their family.
It's all a bit silly as a plot. There are some interesting moments though, good gun fights and it doesn't try to be something it isn't. All of the action scenes seem appropriate to the story. I like the fact that the seemingly middle class grandmother took up a gun without hesitation and started firing like a criminal.
Nothing much of interest here really, no new ideas but it's competently put together and the acting is decent with some beautiful actresses. The title doesn't really relate to the film in my opinion, isn't it a word for a native American belief that there are people who kill wearing the dead skins of animals? Maybe I haven't got that right??

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

I watched this film via the Virgin Beam app on my phone. I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely, it was a big surprise to me. I passed over it several times wondering what to watch with a bunch of other films and eventually picked it out as the best of a bad bunch, not really expecting to like it much. Ralph Fiennes plays a hotel concierge who is framed for murder by the family of the hotel's dead owner but was set to inherit a very valuable painting called Boy With Apple. The Grand Hotel Budapest appears to be one of several similar hotels in cities all over the world who have a code of behaviour that seems too polite and gentle for the way hotels are today. The plot has many twists and they are all very funny. It's a great film to watch with your feet up and gives you a warm feeling.