Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) Review – #Grimster

We are long past the era of Video Nasties, but there are a handful of films that continue to risk tweaking those same censorship nerves. A Serbian Film, comes to mind. As does The Human Centipede (First Sequence), and its 2011 follow-up The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence).

This self-reflexive sequel sees Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), a deeply troubled car park attendant, aping the events of the first film and attempting to craft his own horrific creation.


First off, Laurence R. Harvey (who’s deceptively adorable, if this FrightFest interview is anything to go by) makes for a fascinating screen presence, with his almost silent performance drawing the eye wonderfully.

And, there's an interesting character in there. Martin doesn't understand why people don't listen to him. He’s a lost soul, a man unable to find his place in the world around him . . . who takes it upon himself to set his own rules for once.

Harvey performance is even more notable when viewed opposite the rest of the cast. While many of the performances largely consist of groans and gaffer tape-muffled screams, there’s some pretty bargain basement acting here. Vivien Bridson, as Martin’s mother, is especially grating. She isn’t helped by Six’s uninspired dialogue, but I don’t think we needed anymore convincing that Six is a filmmaker driven by visual and ideas, rather than ‘unnecessary’ distractions such as dialogue.

And, don’t get me wrong, this is tough stuff, people. You get the feeling that Martin is really getting down and dirty. This is an oppressively muddy picture and the nefarious toolbox used here is light-years away from the precision-engineered surgical instruments of the first film. I must admit I was greatly reassured by the occasional glimpses of undeniably prosthetic bums.

The Human Centipede 2 is dirty, depraved and obviously very cheap, but there's an undeniable artistic streak that continues to shine through. Primarily in the attractive, and often very striking, black and white (and brown) cinematography.

But, and this is a big but(t), there’s a huge cascade of viscera and feculence that you’ve got to wade through to get to it. And, while I just about resurfaced on the other side, I can’t say it was a particularly pleasant trip . . .

★★★

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

20,000 Pageviews – It’s Competition Time!

Update #2:

And we have a winner!

My congratulations, and thanks, to one of my best friends (fix!), Mr Ernie Jackevic!


Update #1:

I've had a lot less time to think about this that I'd anticipated, but I think I've come up with a prize . . .

The winner will receive the greatest movie of all time!

And, what movie would that be, I hear you ask. Well, James Cameron's 1986 sci-fi action classic, Aliens, of course! I've reviewed it on the site before, but I've found that the movie's brilliance defies explanation.

So, the first person to send me a screenshot of the site's pageviews counter reading over 20,000 will be the recipient of a Blu-ray/DVD copy of Aliens (another prize can be arranged if you're clued-up enough to already own a copy).


You can find the full competitions details below . . .

To help with the Twitter entries, I'll be using the hashtag #TheMurmur20k for any competition related posts.


Original Article:

The fabled 20k is edging ever closer (19,768 at the time of writing) and I’ve decided to introduce a competition element to make the countdown even juicier!

The first person to send me a screenshot of the site’s pageviews counter reading over 20,000 will win a prize. I’m not entirely sure what that’ll be yet, but I’ll certainly announce something as we approach the 19,900/19,950 mark.


So, that’s a screenshot of the pageview counter reading over 20k, and then sending the image to me either via email, Twitter or Facebook and, if yours is the first to reach me, you’ll be the recipient of a mystery prize. It doesn’t matter whether it reads ’20,000’ on the dot or hits closer to ’20,050’, it’s all about being the first to get that screenshot to me.

I will then contact the winner to finalise a delivery method etc. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, I’ll make sure it gets to you in one piece (whatever it may be).

Let the games commence!

When ‘bad’ just isn’t good enough . . . – A study into The Mist's most despicable character

You’re talking about a movie you’ve seen. There’s a character that just doesn’t sit right with you. Whether you’re writing a review or chatting with friends, you try to be critical. But it’s hard. There’s just something about this one character . . . something bad. You can’t put your finger on exactly why that is. It just is . . .

I’ve just had this experience with The Mist, Frank Darabont’s 2007 Stephen King adaptation. There’s a pretty central character that I just couldn’t shake.


The Bible-spouting antagonist; almost every apocalyptic survival story has one, it’s just this one (played by Marcia Gay Harden) really ground my gears. Now, admittedly, it’s an archetype that never plays all that well with me – the vast majority of the time, I just want them to shut the hell up so we can get on with the story* but that got me thinking. How far can the ‘they’re an antagonistic character, you’re not supposed to like them’ defence really get you?

On the one hand, we have the enigmatic ‘villain’ and the complex anti-hero, who can both be fascinating and mesmerising characters, if handled correctly. Think The Joker, Walter White or Hannibal Lector.

Then you just have the straight up bad guy. Take Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross/Yellowjacket in Ant-Man; we meet him, his plan is revealed, we identify said plan as incompatible with the protagonists needs/wants, and thus he becomes the ‘bad guy’. It’s all very brief and we’re given everything we need to know without having to spend all that much time with the character. He’s then just someone to defeat. It’s far from revolutionary, but it’s works.

There she is, pointing fingers . . .

Then we have the nagging ‘why won’t they just go away’ antagonists . . . These aren’t always the primary villains (although, in The Mist, Mrs. Carmody kind of is) and they don’t always last that long (if only . . .), but they definitely make their presence known. As soon as the first ‘doom and gloom, hellfire and brimstone’ line came out of her mouth, I knew the character would be a tough sell. But the point of no return came when the most weak-willed of the supermarkets survivors started to congregate at her feet.

That was it. I was done with the character. I felt every single painful minute of running time she spent on screen, desperate for her impending demise. *SPOILER* It came, thank God, but not soon enough *SPOILER*.

And there she goes again . . .

But why did I take against the character so fiercely? Is it just because I often struggle with that type of role? Maybe . . . but there has to be more. It’s not enough to say I didn’t like ‘A’ because it’s a rubbish letter.

Now, some of it could be down to the performance. Harden never really seemed to provide a way in to the character. There’s no shared ground. The only thing worth ‘supporting’ is her undying faith in/dedication to her cause. But when that cause is BS, what’s left? The character goes all psycho on us before we’re given the chance to get to know her. It’s like walking into a house party and seeing a guy tricylcing through the living room at 9pm; you know you won’t be talking to him for the rest of the night.

But performance doesn’t just stem from the actor. There must have been some irritating character foundations written into the screenplay, something for Harden to play off. And, even if that’s not the case, there’s still the director giving her the A-okay to play the role with such irksome didacticism.

Oh, and this time it's a knife. How novel!

But that just brings me full-circle; I don’t care who’s at fault here, I don’t like that character and she casts a long and soul-destroying shadow over the whole movie.

I went in search of an explanation, and just found myself reinvigorated with yet more unsubstantiated, but overwhelming, infuriation at that character.

How do other critics do it, how do they explain and elaborate upon their every opinion? Sometimes, I just want to say something is bad. For no other reason that I didn’t respond to it at all. So now you know, if I call something’s bad and don’t/won’t/can’t explain myself, then you know something’s off . . .


*on a side note, why is The Mist 127 minutes long? I mean, really . . .

Monday, 27 July 2015

Just what it says on the tin!

I've just finished another site renovation session, and thought I'd breakdown the updates.



I've finally worked out how to properly use the labels that appear at the bottom of each article. Clicking on '', for example, will take you to every other article I've tagged with '' (a.k.a. every film/episode/TV show I've ever awarded four stars). 

Some of these labels are featured in the right sidebar*, under subheadings such as 'Star Ratings' and 'Categories'. Which should make it easier for you to pinpoint the articles you want to check out.

I've also done some resizing, both to the page width and some of the fonts, all in an effort to make the text easier to read. I also feel it's made the page look more pleasing to the eye, as a whole.

But better than any long-winded explanation, give the site an explore. I'm really pleased with how it's shaping up and any feedback is always appreciated!


*This doesn't apply to mobile users, I'm afraid, as all you get it the nuts and bolts main page.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Holliston – The Murmur Crypt

It's been a busy few days here at The Murmur Towers, so I'm sorry for the dead air. And it's set to continue, as I'm currently spending a few much needed days with my beautiful girlfriend, Natalia. 

But, just to let you all know, I'm still more than open to any 20,000 views celebration ideas. The Youtube plan is still on top, and I have a feeling it may stay that way . . . but maybe incorporating the top 20 of all time idea? We'll see, but do let me know if you've got a particular preference. I can be reached via the comments below or on Twitter @benedictseal and Facebook.

Much of my time these last few days has been spent doing family stuff, as well as some odd jobs around the house. The latter being a particular drag. But it has has gifted me with a lot of podcast-time. It's a medium I've been invested in for a good few years now, but I've found myself increasingly enamoured. One of my new fixes being 'The Movie Crypt', an audio film school of sorts with Adam Green (the Hatchet series, Spiral, Frozen and, most recently, the terrific Digging Up The Marrow) and Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2 and Everly). 



As I've done with many of my favourite podcasts, I went out and started from episode 1 and proceeded to catch up with the weekly (in this case) updates. I'm still a good 80 episodes out, but I'm well on my way. One thing that's been particularly interesting about The Movie Crypt catch-up is the unfolding narrative of Holliston, their horror-inflected sitcom. 

With a basis in Green's $400 biographical debut feature, Coffee & Donuts, Holliston tells the story of Adam and Joe (played by Green and Lynch), two failing horror directors trying to break into the industry. In fact, they started the podcast to coincide with the show's second season airing on FEARnet, anticipating tying everything up after the ten episode run was up. But the podcast was such a hit with audiences that it continued. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the show . . .

Dave Brockie (a.k.a. Gwar front man, Oderus Urungus), who played Green's imaginary friend on the show, passed away tragically in the months after season two concluded. Green was then hit by the news of FEARnet's termination by parent company Comcast. Season 3 was dead . . . until now.

An otherwise mundane Monday was crowned by the news that Green, Lynch and their co-stars, Corri English, Laura Ortiz and Dee Snider, are coming back next summer with another run of Holliston episodes. This time working with GeekNation, the network behind The Movie Crypt podcast.



I never got to watch the first two seasons of Holliston and I haven't even been able to catch-up, as I have with Green and Lynch's features, due to the show still not having been launched in the UK. But that will all change with season 3. One of the key factors for Green and his team was that, if the show was to return, it must be available to as many of the people who want to watch it as possible. So, while the specifics are yet to have been revealed - or finalised, we can speculate - Green has promised that Holliston will be available via GeekNation wherever you are in the world (barring any government censorship or what have you).

Holliston is coming, baby! And you better be ready for it because I can imagine this won't be the last time it comes up on here!

Meanwhile, go listen to some podcasts. The filmmaking/filmmaker ones, in particular, blossom the kind of community I've yet to really experience from any other medium. Go out there and start a conversation, folks, you never know where it might lead . . .

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

John Wick – John Who?

The UK does increasingly well with regards to movie release dates. We get most Marvel movies a week before release, even It Follows landed here before the US. But, sometimes, thing’s don’t pan out so well. Keanu Reeves actioneer John Wick dropped in October over the pond, and my anticipation has been sky-high since then . . . but, boy, did it deliver!

John Wick is quite simply one of the great American action movies of the 21st century.

The set-up is refreshingly simple; our kick-ass hero is brought out of retirement to deliver ass-kicking fight scene after ass-kicking fight scene all over the Big Apple.

Major plus points, as well, for ‘originality’. Wick isn’t an adaptation, a sequel, a prequel, a spin-off or a reboot; it’s a barebones throwback to the great revenge thrillers of old. But how were we to know that? All we were given was a name . . .


The movie’s near silent opening quarter of an hour answers few questions. So, how enticing it is to discover that Wick is known to everyone but us (and Alfie Allen’s cocksure Iosef Tarasov). This central hook is brilliantly reeled in and, while Wick’s past may not hide too many surprises for genre aficionados, it’s still a real thrill to see our hero resorting back to a previous life.

And talking of resorting back, it’s a long time since I’ve seen a full-blooded American action movie given this kind of budget (a healthy $20m), and Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (directors) deliver on every penny. The movie looks incredible!

It glistens with a spunky sheen and the cars, guns and locations all look top-notch. The supremely confident direction also belies Stahelski and Leitch inexperience. They sling the camera around with gleeful abandon, especially during the intense fight scenes.

While it may not have the lightning fast choreography of The Raid (and it’s sequel), the hand-to-hand combat is absolutely bone-crunching. Add guns into the mix, however, and you have something else entirely. Keanu whips his pistol around majestically, and it’s during these scenes that Wick’s specific set of skills really shine through. The long takes are positively balletic in their steady rhythm and, dare I say it, grace.

Keanu Reeves’ hero will go down in cinematic history as a modern action icon. John Wick is an absolute blast from beginning to end!

★★★★★

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Elephant Song – Stuck on the Stage

Elephant Song, the stage adaptation from director Charles Binamé, tells the story of veteran psychiatrist Dr. Toby Green (Bruce Greenwood) who’s tasked with getting to the bottom of the disappearance of one of his colleagues, Dr. Lawrence. The only trouble is, the key to finding out exactly what happened to Dr. Lawrence seems to be Michael (Xavier Dolan), a young patient in the psychiatric ward, and so the stage is set for a lengthy meeting between Dr. Green and the increasingly tricksy Michael.

It’s in Dr. Lawrence’s office that most of the drama takes place, with Michael gradually feeding Dr. Green a trail of crumbs. There are a few deviations into Dr. Green’s home life, mostly focused on his sister (Carrie-Anne Moss) and his young disabled daughter, but there are also moments dedicated to exploring his past marriage with one of Michael’s nurses, Mrs. Peterson (Catherine Keener). Then there’s a framing interview narrative retracing the key moments of Dr. Green’s interview with Michael.


You get the feeling that Nicolas Billon (writer – adapting his own play for the screen) made these additions to the central encounter to help justify Elephant Song’s place on the big screen. But, it’s the stage-friendly Green/Michael two-fer that really stands at the heart of the film.

Greenwood is very strong as the experienced practitioner trying to take on Michael, his most difficult case yet, and he really delivers when Michael starts to tweak a raw nerve. Dolan, however, is given a decidedly less subtle role to work with. Dolan’s performance, and much of the writing for his character, plays off of the age-old Hannibal Lecter, genius psychopath archetype and most of the character writing fails to bring anything all that new to the table.

There’s a lot riding on these performances and Dolan, while admirable, is where the film slacks. He’s not helped by the framing narrative, which paints Michael as an enigmatic figure. Lots of ‘if you’d met him, you’d understand’ lines set the bar unattainably high and the character just feels somewhat lacking in reality.

Things do change however and, as the mystery shifts from Dr. Lawrence to Michael himself, the character starts to come into his own, as does Dolan’s performance. That being said, Billon seems to be taking the opportunity to draw attention away from the central disappearance mystery and its lacklustre reveal.

There’s a solid mystery at the heart of Elephant Song but it’s never delivered upon satisfactorily as the attention is shifted onto Dolan’s character. The film also suffers from being a seemingly unnecessary adaptation. I haven’t seen the play, but there’s very little here that couldn’t have been achieved equally well on stage. That results in Elephant Song being an interesting watch, but far from a necessary one.

★★★


This review was originally written for Close-Up Film and the film is out now on DVD and VOD, in the UK.

Monday, 13 July 2015

20,000 Pageviews – How to Celebrate?

Thanks to your continued support, the site is slowly creeping towards the 20,000 lifetime-pageviews mark. Now that probably isn’t a particularly ‘impressive’ figure, but it seems pretty cool to me.

At the time of writing, it’s currently sitting at 19,266. Now, best case scenario, that 750 or so views takes three weeks and, worst case scenario, we’re looking at six, I would say. Which, coincidently, would line up pretty close to The Murmur’s fourth anniversary on August 31st.

But, whenever that counter eventually ticks over to 20k, I was wondering how exactly I should thank you all.

So this is where you come in . . . what should I do to celebrate hitting 20,000 views?

  • Is there a particular film series/franchise/filmmaker I should review?
  • Would you like to see me do another Youtube video? And, if so, what? A review? My top ten of the year so far?
  • Should I do a series of in-depth articles based around a particular film or filmmaker?
  • Should I team up with another critic/blogger for an article? And, if so, who?

I’m open to absolutely anything, so do chime in if you’ve got something that you think might work!

You can contact me using the comments section below, or on Facebook or Twitter. Alternatively, if you’d rather it be something more private (who knows why, but let’s roll with it), you can email me at themurmurblog@gmail.com. And, if I don’t hear from any of you, I guess I’ll just have to come up with something myself and nobody wants that!

I’ve added a live pageviews counter on the right hand side so you can keep up with my progress and do share this, if you like what you see!

See you at 20k!


Update:
Thank you for the response so far! We currently have two votes for a new Youtube video. Plus, some love for a rundown of my top 20 (thousand) films of all time, and a set of reviews all focused around the '20,000' theme (so, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 20,000 Days on Earth and 10,000 BC . . . twice). If you agree with any of the above, please do make yourself known!