1984

1984A week or so ago I attended a school production of 1984. With a small cast, limited props and basic lighting and sound, they did an excellent job of bringing George Orwell’s classic novel to life. As I was watching, it struck me how relevant and frightening the story remains today (in fact, just about the only thing that’s dated about it is the title) and I immediately dug out and re-watched the most recent film version starring John Hurt and the late Richard Burton. This bleak and powerful film is my movie recommendation for this week.

1984 is a remarkable novel which has, of course, had an enormous cultural impact since its publication in 1949. I could write reams about the continued (increasing?) relevance of Orwell’s nightmare vision, but this is neither the place nor the time. Instead, the purpose of this post is simply to draw your attention to a beautifully made adaptation of an extraordinarily important book. Here’s a trailer. Click the link below for my thoughts.

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Grave of the Fireflies

Grave-of-the-Fireflies-1988Are you happy? In a good mood? Having a good day? If you are, you might want to give this week’s film recommendation a miss. That said, you’ll be missing out on an astonishing movie if you do. Today I’m recommending Studio Ghibli’s 1988 film, GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES. It’s bleak, grim, heartbreakingly sad, and completely superb. As always, a brief synopsis is below, followed by a trailer. Hit the jump for my thoughts.

A devastating meditation on the human cost of war, this animated tale follows Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi), a teenager charged with the care of his younger sister, Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi), after an American firebombing during World War II separates the two children from their parents. Their tale of survival is as heartbreaking as it is true to life. The siblings rely completely on each other and struggle against all odds to stay together and stay alive.

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28 Days Later

twenty_eight_days_laterAs a responsible father, I think it’s important to ensure my kids have a solid all round education. As such, I see it as my duty to introduce them to cultural milestones. Last night I did just that (I am being sarcastic here, by the way), sitting down with the girls for a family viewing of Danny Boyle‘s seminal 28 DAYS LATER. It had been many years since I’d seen the film, and I was interested to see how it stood up today: what was considered ground-breaking in 2002 might have appeared cliched today. To my surprise, I think I enjoyed the movie more than I ever have done.

A quick glance at my Recommendations page revealed that I’ve never written about this hugely influential movie for this site, so I thought I’d remedy that right now. As usual, a brief synopsis and trailer follows. Click on the link for my thoughts.

An infirmary patient awakens from a coma to an empty room…in a vacant hospital…in a deserted city. A powerful virus, which locks victims into a permanent state of murderous rage, has transformed the world around him into a seemingly desolate wasteland. Now a handful of survivors must fight to stay alive, unaware that the worst is yet to come…

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The Wave

A lesser-known movie recommendation for a lazy Sunday afternoon…

thewaveMy family has a thing about Psychology. My wife has three degrees in the subject (yes, three!), one of my daughters is following in her footsteps having recently graduated with first class honours, and another of the girls has just embarked on her first Psychology qualification. Me? I’m interested too, but in a far less academic way. I’ve said it countless times, but I’ll say it again anyway – I’m a people watcher. I’m not much interested in who did what study or experiment or anything like that, I just like to sit back and watch what happens when people are forced to endure extreme circumstances (ie, in most of my books, the end of the world).

This week I want to recommend a film that should appeal to the psychology academics in your life (like my missus) as well as the dystopian thrill-seekers (like me). THE WAVE (DIE WELLE) is a 2008 German production directed by Dennis Gansel and based on a 1981 novel by Todd StrasserA high school teacher’s unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins horribly out of control when he forms a social unit with a life of its own.

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12 MONKEYS

12monkeysIt broke my heart this week to see the trailer for the SyFy channel’s unnecessary remake of the Terry Gilliam classic, 12 MONKEYS, which looked about as good as I expected (i.e. not good at all). 12 MONKEYS is a favourite film of mine, and I realised I hadn’t written about it for this site. So I’m putting that right today, and adding the movie to the Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club.

You know, of the slew of (almost exclusively inferior) remakes announced and produced over the last few years, 12 MONKEYS is one that hurts the most. And that’s ironic, because the film is a remake of sorts itself, being based on LA JETEE – a 1962 post-apocalyptic French short directed by Chris Marker, told entirely through still images and narration.

The premise of 12 MONKEYS is beautifully simple: “In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.” I’m sure you’ve probably seen it already but, if not, watch the trailer and click the link below and I’ll tell you why you should stop what you’re doing and watch the movie now.

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Miracle Mile

MiracleMileQuite a weird movie for this week’s recommendation. MIRACLE MILE (1988) is one of the strangest films I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s an almost surreal mix of genres: love story, thriller and comedy for starters, with a healthy dose of added paranoia. Here’s the synopsis and trailer. Click the link below for my thoughts.

A young man meets and falls in love with a young woman at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. This area is known as Miracle Mile, and the whole movie takes place there. They make a date, which he misses, and while he is searching for her, he accidentally finds out that we (the United States) are about to start a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He frantically searches for her so that they can escape Los Angeles.

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By Dawn’s Early Light

220px-Dawn_s_early_lightI owe Ryan Fleming a thank you and an apology. Not only is he a film director, roving reporter and star of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH (page 351), he’s also a top bloke. Many moons ago he was kind enough to send me a copy of today’s film recommendation – BY DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT. I watched it almost straight away, but it’s taken me until now to write up this post.

BDEL is a TV movie from 1990, based on the novel TRINITY’S CHILD by William Prochnau. It boasts an excellent cast including Martin Landau, James Earl Jones, Rebecca De Mornay and Darren McGavin. It was directed by Jack Shoulder, probably best known to genre fans as the director of the divisive NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE. As usual, a brief synopsis follows. Unfortunately I can’t track down a trailer, so you’ll have to make do with a short clip from the movie. Click the link below for my thoughts.

When a fanatical group opposed to friendly US/Soviet relations explodes a nuclear missile over a Russian city, it begins a chain reaction of accusations and actions. As the clock ticks toward total nuclear annihilation, the American and Soviet leaders race toward a solution, fighting with their own camps as well as with each other. Two air force pilots are ordered to take their B-52 bomber into the air and await further instruction, but when it’s reported that a bomb has killed the President, pilots Cassidy and Moreau are ordered to perform the grand tour: the systematic bombing of all Russian leaders. Can these two follow through on a command that will mark the beginning of the end?

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Juan of the Dead

It’s been a busy week, but I managed to sneak in a quick movie (in gradual bite-sized chunks at the end of each day) which I wanted to tell you about.

juan1JUAN OF THE DEAD (original title Juan de los Muertos) is a 2011 Cuban-Spanish co-production which was billed as Cuba’s first horror movie. It’s a fairly by-the-numbers zombie comedy about a couple of slackers… so far, so Shaun, but the unique setting and the sentiment will make JUAN of interest to zombie completists.

The blurb: Juan is a slacker trying to reconnect with his daughter, who plans to rejoin her mother in Miami. Lazaro, Juan’s friend, is trying to connect with his own son, a persistent womanizer. They begin to notice that locals are “going crazy”, killing people and eating their flesh, and the recently deceased are returning to life. The Cuban government and the media claim that the zombies are dissidents revolting against the government. Juan starts a business to profit off of killing the zombies, but the group may soon find their own lives at risk.

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Primer

primerFor reasons I don’t want to go into yet (but which will, hopefully, become obvious over the course of the next couple of years) I’m increasingly fascinated by micro-budget film-making. A few weeks back I wrote about James Plumb’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RESURRECTION – a strong, good-looking feature produced with a). very little money but, more importantly, b). a huge amount of talent and commitment.

Shane Carruth’s PRIMER (2004) is another such film. Clocking in at a lean 77 minutes, it crams more inventiveness and originality into its short running time than many big budget blockbusters manage in a few hours. As always, here’s a synopsis and a trailer. Click the link below for my brief thoughts.

Four friends/fledgling entrepreneurs, knowing that there’s something bigger and more innovative than the different error-checking devices they’ve built, wrestle over their new invention.

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Idiocracy

Something completely different for this week’s post-apocalyptic movie club selection, and I have a feeling this film will have passed most folks by…

Idiocracy_movie_posterIDIOCRACY is directed by Mike Judge, who first came to prominence in the mid-nineties as the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head. This, his second live action feature which was released (barely… I’ll explain in a second) in 2006, is a science-fiction satire which, I don’t mind admitting, left me feeling genuinely uneasy. As usual, here’s the plot, followed by the trailer, followed by my thoughts:

“Private Joe Bauers, the definition of “average American”, is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes 500 years in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he’s easily the most intelligent person alive.”

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