The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: There is no doubt that Lisbeth Salander is a character who sits in my top 5 favourite female characters of all time (for transparencies sake, the others are Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider video games, Iden Versio from the Star Wars based video game Battlefront 2, Black Canary from DC Comics and She-Hulk from Marvel comics… Jean Grey from the X-men and Power Girl from DC comics follow close behind), and I have thoroughly enjoyed her character in pretty much well every incarnation I have seen of her, from comics to film to TV… but even though I like this film, I’m not quite sure that Claire Foy, a wonderful actor, was perfect for this role.

After seeing Roony Mara and Naomi Rapace in this role, I found Foy, who is wonderful in The Crown TV series as Queen Elizabeth II, to not be a physical match for the other actors, and I found her to be slightly unbelievable in the role. Another case of this from a film a few years earlier was Terminator Genesys, where Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones was thrown in as the ‘new’ Sarah Conner, but again couldn’t match her physicality.

Before anyone calls me out of this as being sexist I would like to point out it has nothing to do with sex. Sometimes a role requires a particular physical attribute to perform a role. Even though I like Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher films, I am not quite sure that he accurately portrays the character as defined by the book. I also wouldn’t like to see characters like Conan or John Rambo played by Tom Hanks at any time in his career.

Sometimes a look defines a character, and film being a visual art form, that requires a degree of accurate portrayal. Foy’ s physicality is perfect in the Crown, but for the role of Lisbeth Salander, I’m not so sure. That’s not to say she didn’t play the part well because she did, but I had trouble visually believing her.

Anyway, this film, the second in the English versions of the Millennium tales, is based on the novel by David Lagercrantz, who wrote this book after the character’s creator, Stieg Larsson passed away, and the script is by Jay Basu, who also wrote the Monsters sequel, Monsters: Dark Continent. The film was directed by Fede Alvarez, who previously gave us the Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe, two films for which I have a great respect.

Our story tells the continuing adventures of hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy), who this time has been employed by Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve a program he created called Firefall, which is able to activate the world’s nuclear weapons, believing is too dangerous to be ‘owned’ by the NSA.

Lisbeth (Clare Foy) in vengeance mode

Whilst making the attempt, Salander gets the attention of NSA agent Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stansfield), which become her first problem. Her next one is the mercy who try to get the program from her, which makes her miss her meeting with Balder, causing him to think she is keeping it for herself. He contacts Crane (Synnøve Macody Lund) who puts him and his son August (Christopher Convery).

Very quickly, in twist after twist, the programme is being transferred from one set of hands to another, Salander finds there is a mastermind pulling the strings, her very own sister, Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks), who has a very personal agenda against Salander.

For the most part I like this film. The story is engaging and it’s full of Bond-like action and twists and turns in the tale, but unfortunately, Foy, a wonderful actor, is disastrously miscast. Both Rooney Mara and Naomi Rapace looked like hardasses who had seen, and experienced, far more than their years would suggest, but Foy looks more like a cosplayer doing a cutesy version of the same character for Dragon Tattoo-con. It’s such a shame that the focus of the entire story, and this is more a story about Salander than about something she’s involved in as an interloper, has an actor who’s not quite right in the lead role.

Balder (Stephen Merchant) cops one in the eye

In Foy’s defence though, the choice of Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist is just as flaccid, so they make a great pair. I am comparing him to Daniel Craig’s performance in the American-made Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so maybe that’s not fair.

This even reflects in the design of the film. The characters all have some amazing outfits, especially the red suits that Hoeks gets to wear, but Foy’s outfits just look off the rack, instead of the almost gothic battle outfits the previous actors wore. The rest of the film design is wonderful as well. Alvarez has managed to make a film that’s so cold and wet looking you’ll need a blanket and a towel to watch it.

Speaking of Hoeks, her portray of Camilla Salander is as villainous as they come, and she feels more in control and a better all-round villain that every one of Daniel Craig’s Bind villains except for Mads Mikkelson’s La Chiffre. Whilst on cast, I was surprised to see Stephen Merchant in a serious role, something I’m not sure I’d seen him in before.

A few years ago, I was on a podcast where myself and the others there discussed our favourite characters of all time, be it comic, movie, book or whatever, and Lisbeth Salander was my number one as I have a real love of the character. This film is a good one, with one key piece of miscasting that causes it to fail somewhat.

A missed opportunity is the worst kind of fail.

Score: **1/2

Australian Bluray menu

Extras: Disc opens with trailers for Searching…, Venom and weirdly, the special features of the disc itself… ok, then…

Commentary with Director Fede Alvarez and Screenwriter Jay Basu which is a fascinating look at the story origins and what they took from David Lagercrantz’s novel.

Deleted Scenes, as I always say: the film was better off without them.

Claire Foy: Becoming Lisbeth is a discussion about Claire Foy’s portrayal of the character, and how it contrasts with her portrayal of the ‘other’ Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth II in the TV series ‘The Crown’.

All About the Stunts talks about the stunts, focusing the the big car crash, the motorbike on the ice scene and a car chase. Each section seemed to focus more on the effects used so I’m not sure what this extra was about at all.

Creating the World: The Making-Of talks about how the decision to break out of Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and into the new stories felt like a better idea than to remake the Swedish films that were already very popular.

Secrets of the Salander Sisters looks at the characters and portrayals of Lisbeth and Camilla and the difference between our antagonist and

Previews, which takes you back to the previews at the beginning of the disc.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I will because it is a part of the Lisbeth Salander stories, but under protest!

Salander escapes across a frozen lake on her motorcycle

This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release.

High Rise (2015)

High Rise (2015)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of High Rise

Film: I used to read a real lot, but just because time sometimes gets away from you, I don’t read anywhere near as much now. I used to read a big variety of stuff, from classics to modern horror, but somehow, the works of J. G. Ballard somehow missed my grasp.

After watching this film I have decided that that is something I need to rectify!

Ballard wrote challenging and disturbing work apparently, dealing with psychology, mankind’s relationship with technology, the media and sex… it’s always about sex! This film, High Rise, was based on his 1975 novel based of the same name.

Tom Hiddleston up to mischief in High Rise

This film was directed by A Field In England’s Ben Wheatley who just brings the most stunning eye to the story, making it a film that seems to be about the future, but setting it in what looks to be 1975, when you consider the fashion, the liberal smoking practices and the fact that SOS by Abba is referenced twice through the film. The adaption of the story was done by regular Wheatley collaborator Amy Jump, who also worked on A Field in England, and Kill List.

High Rise tells of Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), a teacher of physiology who has moved into the 25th floor of a 40 story high rise after the death of his sister. He quickly befriends Charlotte (Sienna Miller) who lives on the floor above and Wilder (Luke Evans) who lives on one of the lower levels with his wife, Helen (Elizabeth Moss) and their children.

The building, situated on the outskirts of London, is one of five building which have a massive car park separating them. The architect of the project, Royal (Jeremy Irons) lives on the top floor of Laing’s building in a lavish apartment with an almost countryside-looking terrace, with his spoiled wife Ann (Keeley Hawes). Royal’s building has all the amenities a building would need to be self contained: a school, sports facilities, a shopping centre but with everything within reach, why would one after bother to leave?

Sienna Miller as Charlotte, who is NOT enjoying Wilder’s affections

After accidentally causing a tenant to commit suicide, by pretending a brain scan came back with cancer, Laing starts to believe that Royal has paid off the police so they won’t investigate goings on in the building, and as a cycle of power outages, garbage piling up and food becoming difficult to source, the people of the lower levels start rising up against those of the upper levels, and violence, rape, assault become the norm.

Very soon, a full scale class war begins, but who will survive…

I bought this film several years ago and it has sat unwatched in my, you guessed it, To Watch Pile and I’m sad I didn’t get to it sooner. Wheatley’s direction is dreamy and intense at the same time, Jump’s script is solid and profound and the performances are just fantastic. I would almost go so far as to say it’s one of the best cast films I’ve seen in a long time. If you like the ideas proposed in the movie/ TV series Snowpiercer, or even Doctor Who’s Paradise Gardens, you should enjoy this.

Super solid film that’s made me excited about watching it again, and even has opened me up to a new author to obsess over: what else would one want?

Score: ****1/2

The menu screen for the Bluray release of High Rise

Extras: There is only one extra but it is a fantastic little 15 minute look at the making of the film. It left me wanting much more.

Score: ***

WISIA: Oh yes, there will be more views!

Yikes! One can almost see Hiddle’s Diddle!

The Sniper (1952)

The Sniper (1952)

The cover to The Sniper Bluray from Umbrella Entertainment

Film: I really love crime stories. As a kid, in between horror and sci-fi novels, I’d occasionally find an old crime novel and get stuck into that as well. I still like to read those sorts of novels and thankfully, the people at the Hard Case Crime book company issue some great stories both from classic authors like Ray Chandler, from better known authors like Steven King, and by other authors with… well, different backgrounds like Christa Faust.

I get my in-screen thills mainly from TV shows like CSI, NCIS, and Criminal Minds (a show watched so often at my house that the title score has both lyrics and a dance written and performed by my daughter and I) but I still don’t mind getting my movie crime drama on by watching an occasional noir flick, and thankfully, Umbrella Entertainment have this one available to buy now.

Eddie (Arthur Franz) lines up for a shot

The Sniper was written by Harry Brown, the screenplay writer of the original Oceans’ 11 from a story by Edna Anhalt, and directed by Edward Dmytryk, who gave us other noir films like Crossfire, Obsession and Cornered.

The Sniper tells of Edward Miller (Arthur Franz), an ex-convict who is having trouble adapting to life on the outside, and whose resentment towards happy couples, has escalated into full blown hatred of women, and his need to execute them with hid rifle.

When he kills musician Jean Darr (Marie Windsor), it starts a city wide investigation, spearheaded by Lt. Frank Kafka (Adolphe Menjou), and as the bodies of brunettes starts to pile up, the police work on a psychological profile of the killer, and start to close in.

Eddie in hot pursuit of singer Jean (Marie Windsor)

I really love this sort of movie, and several months ago I reviewed the Sharpshooter Trilogy from Something Weird Video, and after seeing this for the first time, I’ve come to realise that maybe those films were desperately trying to emulate this one, with less success.

The film is very progressive for its time, sure there are some unfortunate references to American indigenous people and a few sexist terms, but the discussions with what should be done with people suffering from violent psychological problems is so advanced.

There is solid acting throughout the piece, and truly the direction is above what you would be used to in this world of blockbusters, Marvels and Star Warses. There are two scenes in particular that stick out, such as the baseball scene, the ‘hand burn’ scene and the actually final moments.

Fantastically, the film has pre-credit title cards that have mentions of the lack of laws for those with psychological issues, so it does feel like it’s somewhat of a message movie, and I guess it is.

This is not a high powered full of gunfire and death, but it is a well crafted piece of cinema that will sit with you for a bit. Anyone who has seen Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or Todd Phillips’ Joker will probably enjoy this need though it is not related to a comic character, so don’t make that mistake. This really is a very early example of what some may describe today as an ‘incel’ film

Highly recommended.

Score: ****1/2

The menu to the Bluray release

Extras: Only a small amount of extras but some good ones though.

Introduction by Martin Scorsese sees Mr. Scorsese talk about noir movies and their influences on modern cinema. Really, who else is there to talk about this type of film.

There’s a commentary on the film by author Eddie Muller is fascinating and well worth the listen too. Muller is the president of the Film Noir Foundation, which is all about restoring some of the amazing noir films of the 40s and 50s, and his expertise is a joy to listen to.

Noir trailers, including this film, Crossfire, The Big Sleep, Lady in the Lake, The Brasher Doubloon, The Maltese Falcon, and many more, literally over a 100 minutes of noir trailers. The quality is various but it’s a fascinating watch.

Score: ****

WISIA: Yes. 100%.

A young man accused of being the killer reveals there’s many young men like the killer

This Bluray was supplied by Umbrella Entertainment for review

John Wick (2014)

John Wick (2014)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: I’m not sure when it was that Keanu Reeves became some kind of Hollywood darling, but I do know that there is very few of his films that I haven’t enjoyed.

John Wick blasted out of nowhere in 2014 and even though it took me maybe a year to see it, I really enjoyed it from that first watch. This film really lies in my wheelhouse of the main character being an almost superhuman machine, a love which started with James Bond films, and trickled through many other films starring similar characters like Jack Reacher, Alex Cross, Jack Ryan, Lisbeth Salander, Lorraine Broughton and their ilk. I think the reason I like Call of Duty and the Tom Clancy video games is because it’s a chance to play as one of these types of heroes, with cutting edge gadgets and weapons, and violent adventure.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick

One of the things that makes this film such an interesting watch is the absolute amazing stunts, which is to be expected when one considers the director is Chad Stahelski, a former stunt co-ordinator on action films like The Hunger Games, The Wolverine and Deadpool 2. Apparently he directed this film with David Leitch who has a similar pedigree but was uncredited. It was written by Derek Kolstad, who wrote the other two Wick films, the Bob Odenkirk vehicle Nobody and a few episodes of a marvel’s entry into the espionage world, The Falcon and Winter Soldier.

The film tells of John Wick (Keanu Reeves), an ex-assassin and ‘problem solver’ for the Russian mafia who has retired his guns, and enjoy a quiet, married life. This life is destroyed when his wife tragically passes away, but as a last gift, he receives a puppy from her because he needs someone to soften him.

Unfortunately, by chance on the day of his wife’s funeral, Wick meets up with Iosef (Alfie Allen), the son of Wick’s ex-employer, Russian mafia boss Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), and he and his crew after spotting Wicks lovely ‘69 Mustang, decide to steal it. They break into his home, assault him, kill the puppy and steal his car.

Michael Nyqvist as Viggo

This opens a can of worms that cannot be unopened. Viggo is so afraid of Wick he puts a two million dollar contract out on him, a contract picked up by Marcus (Willem DaFoe) and Miss Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), but as we, the viewers, start to explore the underground world of assassin’s, we discover that not everything is as it seems…

Being directed by a stunt expert means that the highlights of this film are certainly the gunplay, the fighting and the car stunts. For want of a better term, the fight/ gunfight scenes are almost sophisticated and beautifully ballet-like in its execution, if you’ll excuse the pun. This doesn’t stop with the human contact stuff either, every car scene is like some kind of death-dealing gymkhana that is stunning to watch.

The actors that turn up are an interesting mix too. In addition to those mentioned previously, Ian McShane, Dean Winters, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, David Patrick Kelly and Kevin Nash turn up. Every time a face I knew turned up, especially Kelly, I was pretty pumped.

If I am to criticise this movie for anything, it is that it’s story is a generic revenge tale. The choreography is really spectacular, but when you sit down and think about the story, there’s really nothing to it. The world that has been created is quite fascinating, but the main characters motivations are action film generic-ishness of the highest order.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Good People and A Most Violent Year before we get to the main menu screen.

There are several extras, most of them under ten minutes, but there is a feature length audio commentary with directors Leitch and Stahelski which is actually quite a thorough look into the making of the film.

Don’t F*ck with John Wick looks at all the driving, shooting and fighting training Keanu Reeves went through to perform the role of John Wick. Honestly I went into a massive deep dive with Reeves’ training and found a bunch of stuff on YouTube about it all.

Calling in the Cavalry talks about the creation of the script and the characters.

Destiny of a Collective looks at Stahelski and Leitch’s history in stunts and stunt performance.

The Assassin’s Code takes us into the world of the assassins in the film. It shows how their world looks completely different to our ‘normal’ world.

The Red Circle discusses the design of the club and the characters that hang out there.

N.Y.C. Noir looks at the design and look of the New York in the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: This DOES get regular watches. It may be generic revenge, but it’s GOOD generic revenge.

Wick’s man cave is probably a little different to yours or mine!

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release of the film.

Cold Eyes of Fear (1971)

Cold Eyes of Fear aka Gli Occhi Freddi Della Paura (1971)

The cover to the Black House release of Cold Eyes of Fear

Film: Sometimes, if you have an extensive movie collection, a movie may just seem to appear like some kind of Pokémon. Recently, I’ve been cleaning up my various collections of movies, records, comics, magazines etc and in the course of that have discovered a whole pile of movies that I had either forgotten I owned, or couldn’t remember how they became a part of my collection.

This film, Cold Eyes of Fear, is directed by Enzo G. Castellari, the man who gave us films like the original version of The Inglorious Bastards, and one of my favourite VHS to hire as a kid, 1990: The Bronx Warriors. This film was written by Castellari, along with Leo Anchóriz, and Tito Carpi.

Peter (Gianni Garko) makes a move on Anna (Giovanna Ralli)

Cold Eyes of Fear tells of solicitor Peter Bedell (Gianni Garko) who leans quite heavily into the sleazier parts of town, much to his uncle’s (Fernando Rey), who is a judge, despair. On the night we start our tale, Peter meets a young woman, Anna (Giovanna Ralli) at a Grand Guignol club and takes her home.

Unfortunately for the couple, when they get back to Peter’s house, they find themselves held prisoner by Quill (Julián Mateos), a crook who has invaded their house in a hope to score some money from a safe he has been assured is in the house by an accomplice.

There is some back and forth going on until the accomplice, Arthur Welt (Frank Wolff) turns up and all of the sudden the game gets more involved as we find that perhaps Welt’s motivation is greater than money…

Welt (Frank Wolff) considers making a move on Peter… a violent move!

I was quite surprised by this film. The opening scene is a classic bait-and-switch me is the sauciest the film gets. The main part of the film, the home invasion, is overlong, but is just intriguing enough that it kept me watching.

Interestingly it is an extraordinarily small script with minimal that without some of the fluff (like the aforementioned opening scene) I could almost believe that this is a stage play adapted to the screen, like something like The Bad Seed was. Thankfully, Castellari keeps the whole thing interesting with some claustrophobic filming and some over the top performances that somehow make the spaces even smaller.

One this that stood out for me, and this is going to seem strange, but Garko’s hair was almost a character unto itself. The more he was roughed up, the more bizarre the mop on top of his became. It’s quite a special thing.

The main criticism of the film is it just goes on for FAR to long. It honestly could have been a really tight story told in 45 minutes, but cinema cannot be that short. It does entertain for the most part though.

Score: ***

The menu screen of the Black House release

Extras: There is trailers for five Jean Rollin films on this disc, for Fascination, Lips of Blood, The Iron Rose, The Nude Vampire and The Shiver of the Vampire.

Score: **

WISIA: I can see myself watching this again, but not for a while.

Peter’s very serious uncle (Fernando Rey)

Preview: Midnight in the Switchgrass (2021)

Preview: Midnight in the Switchgrass (2021)

The cover to Eagle Entertainment’s release of the film

Film: I am very easily convinced into watching a film based on the stars involved in it, and even though the name ‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’ sounds like some nonsense from a Dr. Seuss book, I was able to overlook that when I saw that it starred Die Hard’s Bruce Willis, who I could watch in anything, and Megan Fox, an actor who I loved in Jennifer’s Body, Transformers (of which she was possibly the best thing) and her coquettish turn in the Simon Pegg flop How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a film that I think is actually quite hilarious.

Megan Fox as Lombardo

This is the first film directed by Randall Emmett, a producer who has been involved in action movies like Boss Level and The Irishman, and was written (and produced) by newcomer Alan Horsnail, and is based on the murders of Robert Ben Rhodes, aka The Truck Stop Killer, a serial killer convicted of three murders, but is suspect of about 50 others, and who is still to this day in prison.

Bruce Willis as Karl Helter

Midnight in the Switchgrass tells of FBI agents Karl Helter (Bruce Willis) and Rebecca Lombardo (Megan Fox) who are hot on the tail of a sex trafficking ring when their investigation crosses paths with that of Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent, Byron Crawford (Emile Hirsch) who is investigating a series of missing/ murdered women.

Emilie Hirsch as Crawford

It’s around this time in the film that we are introduced to truck-driving family man, Peter (Lucas Haas) who has a horrible secret: he’s the murderer that Crawford is looking for!

Machine Gun Kelly as Calvin

The two agencies combine forces and information, some collected from sex trafficker Calvin (Machine Gun Kelly), and they start to close in, but will Lombardo’s undercover skills put her at risk?

This isn’t a bad film, but I do think it may be about 20 years too late. I’m sure this film would have been a pretty popular film then, but now, with TV shows that tell similar stories becoming so popular, it’s just out of time.

The heroes of the piece are definitely Hirsch with his wide-eyed cop who just wants to finish ‘the job’ of saving these young women, and surprisingly Machine Gun Kelly was pretty good as the scumbag pimp… though the person who watched this with me who knows his non-acting work better than suggested that his personality may not have been too different from his own. Lukas Haas wasn’t bad either but his creepy performance came more from his looks that anything else.

Megan Fox was ok in the film, but was more convincing in the victim role than the cop, unfortunately Bruce Willis felt like he just turned up to collect a pay cheque, and disappears half way through.

I have to point out one thing: there is a particularly unintentionally funny bit in the first few minutes where Fox has to subdue Machine Gun Kelly’s character, and I don’t know if it was that the actors afraid of hurting each other or the direction was lacking but I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a more awkward fight scene in a movie

This is the thing though; I really loved those thrillers from the late 90s and early 2000s like Taking Lives, Copycat and The Bone Collector, and even the ones a bit later like Alex Cross and Jack Reacher, so I actually quite enjoyed it. It is certainly not as good as some of those films, but if they made a sequel to this with Fox and Hirsch in it, I’d probably give it a go.

Score: ***

Lukas Haas as Peter

Preview copy was provided by Eagle Entertainment and watched via the Vimeo app.

Whiteout (2009)

Whiteout (2009)

The cover of the UK release of Whiteout

Film: One of the big problems with comic to film projects is compression.

If one is making a film of say, Spiderman, a cinematic script writer needs to look at 50 odd years of history and compress that into 2 odd hours of movie. Some writers attempt this by directly adapting a story, others just try to get a ‘feel’ for the character and others try for an amalgam of tales. Some would say that this is why many comic to film movies didn’t work, and why the modern comic movie DOES work as it simply gets its inspiration from the original work.

Ideally what one would do is to get a story that is a one off, like a novel! Whiteout is a comic written by Greg Rucka, who has written for DC’s Wonder Woman and Action Comics, and illustrated by Steve Leiber, who has illustrated Detective Comics and Conan and is published by independent publisher Oni Press.  Whiteout was popular upon its release in 1999 and to date has produced a sequel, Whiteout: Melt which earned an Eisner Award in 2000 for Best Limited Series. A third series Whiteout: Thaw, renamed Whiteout: Night, is yet to be published.

The film adaptation of Whiteout was directed by Dominic Sena who also directed the Nic Cage vehicle Gone in 60 Seconds and the Travolta/ Jackman thief gumbo Swordfish.

Kate Beckinsale as Stetson

Whiteout starts in 1957, with a Russian transport plane crashlanding into the snow after a gunfight between the co-pilot and a security team who are responsible for guarding ‘something’ results in the pilot getting his brains blown out.

Flash forward to now, and we are introduced to US Federal Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who, after a disastrous experience with a traitorous partner, has worked in a research station in remote Antarctica for 2 years. The station is in a part of Antarctica that becomes so cold in the winter that planes aren’t allowed in or out for three months, and so the majority of the workers leave for that period. Stetko has decided to leave her position as ‘town sheriff’ permanently, and make preparations to leave for the last time. Unfortunately, her last days are marred by what appears to be a body seen by a pilot in a fairly remote part of the area which she has to investigate.

She grabs the Station’s doctor ‘Doc’ (Tom Skerrit) and they, along with a pilot Delfy (Columbus Short) fly out to the remote area where the body was seen, and what they find is not an accident victim, but the corpse of one who has been… murdered.

The body mysteriously abandoned in the snow.

So the story begins, and we have Stetko having to solve a murder in only a few days, and when it becomes compounded with the mystery involving the aforementioned crashed plane, and a case of gangrene to contend with, she has her work cut out for her.

The film on the surface appears to be quality, but somewhere along the line, just doesn’t click. There is nothing wrong with the acting, the story is a fine murder mystery, the direction is good, but for some reason it just doesn’t all gel.  I think it might be just that it has all been seen before, and the film doesn’t really offer anything new to the table. Essentially we have a Wild West sheriff attempting to solve a Holmsian mystery on the set of John Carpenter’s The Thing. I suspect this problem with it stems from the producers being dazzled by the visuals of the comic, but didn’t really see that it was a fairly average mystery story, and when those clever drawn visuals are removed, the story can’t quite hold its own.

Think of it this way; would the film Sin City have been so clever if they had made a straight up colour film adaptation, or would it have been a collection of fairly generic noir (without the noir) stories. I love that film, but am well aware that a good percentage of my affection for it comes from the visuals.

It has all the elements of a great thriller, with a pretty good cast to boot, but somehow, tragically, falls flat.

Score: ***

The Whiteout Bluray menu screen

Extras: After the disc starting with trailers for The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, The Hurt Locker, The Keeper, and a Snickers advert starring Mr. T (remember them? ‘GET SOME NUTS!’) there’s a couple of decent extras on this disc:

Whiteout: The Coldest Thriller Ever is a traditional ‘making of’ documentary. It shows behind the scenes footage and has interviews with various cast and crew. Work-a-day DVD and BD extra stuff.

Whiteout: From Page To Film is a look at this process of writing and drawing the comic, and how it was adapted to the screen. There are some good insights into how an adaptation can work, or not work.

Deleted Scenes: At about 4 minutes you can see that these deleted scenes don’t really show too much extra, though they one shows both an appearance by writer Greg Rucka, and a look at just how mundane Carrie’s regular policing of the station are.

Score: ***

WISIA: Watch it once and give it away.

This film was reviewed with the UK Bluray release.

The killer kills again!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010)

Film: There is only one difference between a so-called ‘A’ movie and a B movie: The Budget.

Budget can make a story that is cheap, tawdry or nasty something that people take notice of because budget pays for bigger stars, better effects or a more ‘international story. There was an amusing meme that went around when 50 Shades of Grey was released that if Mr Grey was poor and lived in a trailer park, it would be an episode of CSI.

So too, this film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the first book of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, could have been a sleazy little film that slipped by and only had a fan base of those who liked the books, but instead, it attracted names like director David Fischer, screenwriter Steven Zaillian, actors Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård and Christopher Plummer, and a score by Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor.

Interestingly, this is an English remake of the film which was originally made in Sweden two years earlier with Naomi Rapace (also from Alien prequel Prometheus), along with two sequels made immediately based on the other two books of Larsson’s trio. I say ’remake’ but that is unfair; it is another movie version of the book. Unfortunately o date they haven’t made the other two books, and judging by the next Lisbeth Salander film made, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, they won’t be made anytime soon, nor with the same cast.

This film tells of shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who takes on an assignment searching for a missing member of Henrik Vanger’s (Christopher Plummer) family, who went missing forty years ago.

Vanger’s family, one of great wealth, has been at war within its ranks for years, which hinders Blomkvist’s investigation. Most of the family members are compliant as his research is under the guise of a biography, but still he finds insults and resistance.

Soon, he gets help from Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a sociopathic hacker with a fast motorcycle and a vicious sense of vengeance and the two of them discover a horrible secret the family has kept hidden for years…

I’m going to gush a little here as I absolutely love this film. I think it’s directed brilliantly, the ‘administration’ and research the characters do is fascinating and the cinematography is exquisite. Of course the ‘hacking’ is almost of a science fiction level and one has to assume it’s not like that at all, but who wants to watch three days of coding instead of something a little more video game-ish.

In a podcast I am the host of (not the To Watch Pile one, another one called The Nerds of Oz) in an episode where me and my co-hosts talked about our favourite characters of all time, I actually named a Lisbeth Salander as mine. Of all the actresses to have played her, including Clare Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Mara is certainly the most convincing, and terrifying!

The ultimate results of the story vary from the book, but in this case I am ok with that as it did make the ending surprising, which was nice.

If I am to criticise this film, and it really hurts me to say this as he is my favourite Bond, is Daniel’s Craig’s performance. It is a performances of subtleties and the character probably requires that, but occasionally I find him a little wooden.

That said, this is easily one of my favourite films, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian multiregion Bluray and is presented in an absolutely pristine 2.40:1 image with a flawless Dolby Digital DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.

Score: *****

Extras: This film comes with two discs. The first disc features the film (of course) and a commentary by David Fincher. Like most of his commentaries, it’s fairly complete and he clearly enjoys the act of filmmaking. There is also a whole second disc worth of extras on this one:

Men Who Hate Women sees the director, screenwriter and stars of the film discuss the popularity of the Millennium Trilogy books.

The Character and location tabs open a separate, quite inventive yet very Fincher series of menus (that’s evocative of a research part of the film) that feature the entire making of the film, from casting to location b-roll and the visual effects design of the very James Bond-like opening sequence. Fascinating yet exhaustive stuff. There is also a fairly complete look at the promotion stuff for the film as well.

Score: *****

WISIA: Love this film, love the characters, love the story, love rewatching it.

A Bay of Blood (1971)

A Bay of Blood (1971)

Film: Truly, in English speaking countries and outside of the fans of horror or cult cinema, the name of director Mario Bava, unjustly seems to be ignored.

Bava was the son of a filmmaker and started as a cinematographer, and was also adept at screenwriting and special effects, but really, as a director is where his talent lies. In his career he directed over almost 40, with genres including horror, fantasy, science fiction and comedy… even a movie based on a comics character (yes, Marvel didn’t do that first OR best), and many directors including Dario Argento, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Joe Dante, Lucia Fulci and others claim to have been influenced by his work.

This film, A Bay of Blood, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, Carnage, Ecologia Del Delitto (and many others) tells the tale of a series of murders that take place by the titular Bay.

The worst haircut ever gets it’s due punishment

First, the disabled owner of the bay is found hanging in her house in what was a murder made to look like suicide, but almost immediately, her murderer is also dispatched by a mysterious assailant. These events lead to a series of murders that all appear to be a cover-up for a real estate scam and an inheritance issue that just seem to escalate.

This film is clearly one of the templates for the slasher movies that came ten years later in the eighties: really just a series of gory murders, intercut with some images of boobs/ butts and a barely incoherent story to link it all together.

Not sure about the rest of you, but I don’t really have a problem with that!

Clearly, Sean Cunningham was inspired by this scene

Honestly, the story is REALLY stupid and doesn’t feel at all like any attempt has been made for any type of legitimacy for the story, and it assumes the viewer has NO understanding of how police investigations go. One could never remake this film now as the perpetrators of the film left fingerprints everywhere and even a rock with a slight understanding of forensics would have the ‘mystery’ solved within minutes. Also, so many unnecessary scenes drag on for far too long, and characters whose back stories we really don’t need to know are over-explained to the point of slowing down the story.

I say all that but it the end it is still charming, and the scenes of violence, considering this came out in 1971, are quite shocking and occasionally sophisticated in their execution. Sometimes the victim’s death scenes are just dumb though… for example, Brunhilda is clearly still breathing after her demise… for them not to ring too true, but they are excusable as not much of it feels realistic at all.

Island of Death director Nick Mastorakis said (and I paraphrase) that in making his film that he asked members of his team to come up with a bunch of horrible ways to die, and a bunch of perversions and he wrote a script around those parameters: this feels like it was made similarly.

This film also boasts the worst haircut ever seen in the history of cinema. It’s a pseudo-Afro-mullet that looks like a fake artist tried to flock a motorcycle helmet. It’s both the most horrifying and funniest thing in this film.

Having said all that, this film has a weird endearing honesty about it that makes it a joy to watch, even if the final scene is one of the most ridiculous things you’ll ever see.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow films multiregion Bluray release from 2010. It is presented in a clear, but artefact-filled 1.85:1 image with a fairly decent mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: Oh boy, it’s a smorgasbord of extras on this disc… are smorgasbords Italian? Do I mean tapas? No that’s Spanish… Buffet? Whatever: the point is there’s heaps of extras!

The Italian Version of the Film, with or without subtitles is included in the extras.n

The Giallo Gems of Dardano Sacchetti is an interview with the story writer of A Bay of Blood, Sacchetti, and his experiences in the Italian/ giallo film scene, including working with a Bava on this film.

Joe Dante Remembers Twitch of the Death Nerve sees director/ film enthusiast Joe Dante talk about Bava and his reception in America.

Shooting a Spaghetti Classic looks at how A Bay of Blood was shot through the eyes of assistant cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia.

There are also two Trailers from Hell narrated by Shaun of the Dead director, Edgar Wright, which are both for A Bay of Blood, but under two of its other names, Carnage and Twitch of the Death Nerve.

Finally there are two radio spots for the film.

Also, the review edition is the Arrow Films release from about 2010 and it has a choice of 4 different covers, a poster and a booklet about the film by Jay Slater.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s kitschy and cute, and gory as hell! It’ll get watched again, for sure!

The Curse of the Weeping Woman (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Curse of the Weeping Woman aka The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Film: Sometimes, when choosing a movies, alarm bells should ring.

First, I don’t like supernatural films, but like some kind of self-flagellating moron, I still like to give them a chance, hoping that I might find another Sinister, instead of another dumb piece of tripe like Insidious. My mistake here was that the cover quite clearly states ‘From The Producers of The Conjuring Universe’ which for someone like me who isn’t a fan, that basically is like a restaurant having a sign out the front that says “our chef has a cold and never washes his hands after taking a dump’ and me going in and eating there anyway.

I deserve whatever I get.

Secondly, I occasionally make the mistake of watching a film because of the lead actor, and I have sat through some buckets of poop because of this. In this case, the tempting lure was two-fold: Linda Cardellini, Velma from the 2002 and 2004 Scooby Doo movies, stars and one of the supporting actors is Patricia Velasquez, from 1999’s The Mummy, and I bit like a hungry trout at a fish farm.

This film is directed by Michael Chavez, from a story by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, who co-wrote Five Feet Apart, the teen tear-jerker… was that another alarm bell?

Set in 1973, The Curse of the Weeping Woman tells of social worker, Anna (Cardellini) who has been called to investigate Patricia Alvarez (Velasquez) who has apparently been abusing her sons, but when she gets to Patricia’s house, she finds the boys locked in a closet, and Patricia willing to defend their imprisonment… violently if need be.

The police step in and Patricia tells Anna she needs to protect the boys from La Llorona, before she is taken away, and her sons are placed in temporary housing. On the first night there, though, they are taken by ‘something’ and drowned.

Anna, a single mum herself, is called to the scene of the crime late at night and has to take her son and daughter with her. Her son sneaks out of the car to see what’s going on and is attacked by a spirit of a woman, who attaches herself to the family, and the terror of the Weeping Woman, a scorned women who killed her sons and then herself, continues…

Will Anna and her children be able to survive her grasp, even after they enlist the help of father religious man, Rafael (Raymond Cruz), a shaman with seeming insane practises for exorcising ghosts?

Now the first thing I must point out that this isn’t just from ‘the producers of the Conjuring universe’ but IS a part of the Conjuring universe, and the character of Father Perez, played by Tony Amendola, was also in 2014’s Annabelle, so maybe that blurb on the cover should say ‘ steeped well within The Conjuring universe’.

Now, this is one of those post-millennial ghost stories that all seem the same: set in the seventies (to avoid technological trappings like mobile phones), deep bassy sounds to add to the terror, a ghost style-guide that fits an aesthetic that has worked so far in far too many films, a cold filter on the image to make everything look dark and wet (or should I say ‘the Wan Ghost Aesthetic) and a bizarre re-installation of Christianity/ Catholicism wielded loosely by a bizarre shaman as the heroic tool.

It’s boring, made seemingly exciting by SUDDEN INCREASES IN VOLUME, but essential is just another forgettable ghost story that’s directed well and has a half-decent cast

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B release which runs for 83 minutes and is presented in a high definition 2.4:1 image with a matching Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track, which it relies on heavily for its scares. Honestly you couldn’t watch this late at night while everyone else was in bed because you would be adjusting the volume up and down for the quiet ghostly bits and the LOUD SCARES!

Score: ****

Extras: There are 5 extras on this disc.

The Myth of La Llorona is a brief look at the history of the myth of the Mexican ghost ‘the Crying Woman’ and how it apparently dates back to the days of Cortez. This isn’t the first time this myth has been filmed: the TV show ‘Supernatural’ used her legend in the pilot episode, and in 1963, Mexican Director Rafael Baladón’s Le Maledición de la Llorona entertained the legend as well. This featurette is two minutes of cast members talking about the legend.

Behind the Curse looks at the making of the film and the incorporation of the legend into the film. Hilariously, one of the cast members mentions how it’s ‘not cliched’ which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

The Making of a Monster looks at the design of this ‘new, original’ monster. Make up effects are always interesting so at least it did offer that, and the performer Marisol Ramirez is a trooper.

Deleted scenes are just that! About ten minutes worth of stuff that really didn’t add to the film at all, if anything, it detracted from it somewhat, and would had slowed the film down, and even made Cardellini’s character seem maybe less of a good mother than she was.

Storyboards shows some PIP storyboards in comparison to the film, but don’t expect beautiful lavish illustrations here! No these are fairly crudely drawn thumbnails but they show they sat pretty close to the final film and it’s always interesting to see a director or cinematographer’s processes.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I can 100% guarantee the next time I need to see something with Cardellini in it, I’ll watch Scooby Doo again and that’s a much better rewatcher.