This Week’s Films (20/01/14)

Dear Diary

Trapped Ashes (2006)Trapped Ashes

Seven strangers are trapped inside an infamous House of Horror during a Hollywood movie studio tour and are forced to tell their most terrifying personal stories to get out alive. In the twisted tradition of classic anthology horror films such as TALES FROM THE CRYPT and DEAD OF NIGHT, TRAPPED ASHES features five stories of the surreal, erotic and terrifying, directed by five of Hollywood s most unique filmmakers: Sean Cunningham (FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH), Joe Dante (GREMLINS, THE HOWLING), Ken Russell (ALTERED STATES, THE DEVILS), Monte Hellman (TWO LANE BLACKTOP, COCKFIGHTER), and John Gaeta (Oscar winner for Visual FX on THE MATRIX). In addition, multi Academy Award winner Robert Skotak (TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, ALIENS) is Visual FX Supervisor and acclaimed Japanese composer Kenji Kawai (THE RING, DARK WATERS, GHOST IN THE SHELL I and II) produced the soundtrack. 

Verdict: A disappointing collection of horror tales, certainly no Creepshow. 3/10

Grindstone RoadGrindstone Road (2008)

Young Daniel Sloan has been in an extended coma following a terrible car accident. His mother Hannah (Fairuza Balk) was driving at the time and is now suffering from massive guilt and extreme depression. In trying to put their recent tragedy behind them, Hannah and her husband Graham (Greg Bryk) buy a old farmhouse intend on renovating it but immediately Hannah begins to witness strange and mysterious phenomenon. Concerned with his wife’s supernatural visions and her increasing dependence on anti depressant drugs, Graham turns to Ted and Linda, the older couple next door for support. Their new neighbours appear friendly and eager to help but sinister motives lie behind their outwardly pleasant demeanour as the past comes back to haunt everyone.

Verdict: Uneven psychological horror with many predictable elements. 5/10

Hurlyburly (1998)Hurlyburly

Eddie (Sean Penn) and Mickey (Kevin Spacey) are Hollywood casting directors whose circle also includes Darlene (Robin Wright Penn), Eddie’s girlfriend, belligerent actor Phil (Chazz Palmenteri) and writer Artie (Garry Shandling). Eddie’s relationships with Mickey and Darlene are suffering through his cocaine habit, while Phil is having marital problems. The group’s lifestyles are further disturbed when Artie procures teenage runaway Donna (Anna Paquin) for Eddie, and every attempt the men make to improve their circumstances only leads to further personal disasters.

Verdict: A play translated to the big screen has a great cast but just not for me, despite another great performance from Kevin Spacey. 5/10

The Towering InfernoThe Towering Inferno (1974)

A huge glass tower block, touted as the tallest building in the world, bursts into flame on its opening night. An all-star cast includes Steve McQueen as Michael O’Hallorhan, the fire chief determined to get the blaze under control, while Paul Newman stars as embarrassed architect Doug Roberts, trapped inside with fellow guests Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain and Robert Wagner. ‘The Towering Inferno’ became the biggest of the Seventies cycle of disaster movies, which began four years earlier with ‘Airport’.

Verdict: Decent disaster movie but far too long. 6/10

Chico and Rita (2010)Chico & Rita

Oscar®-winning director Fernando Trueba (BELLE EPOQUE, CALLE 54) and Spain’s legendary artist Javier Mariscal celebrate the music and culture of Cuba with an epic story of love, passion and heartbreak.

Cuba, 1948. Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice. Music and desire unite them as they chase their dreams and each other from Havana to New York, Paris, Hollywood and Las Vegas. With an original soundtrack by legendary Cuban pianist and five-time Grammy®-winning composer Bebo Valdes, CHICO & RITA captures a defining moment in the evolution of history and jazz, and features the music of (and animated cameos by) Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Tito Puente, Chano Pozo and others.

Verdict: Delightful animation and a moving love story between two gifted musicians. 9/10

The Astronaut FarmerThe Astronaut Farmer (2006)

Comedy adventure starring Billy Bob Thornton. Charles Farmer (Thornton) is a former NASA astronaut who was forced to retire years earlier so he could save his family’s farm. But Charles has never given up his dream of space travel and after facing bank foreclosure, neighbourhood naysayers and a government alarmed by his huge purchase of high-grade fuel, he is now ready to blast into space inside the homemade rocket he built in his barn.

Verdict: The film’s mild charm is superseded by the incredulity of the whole thing. 4/10


Dear Diary (1993)Dear Diary

Moretti’s film diary which follows the idiosyncratic Italian director’s personal experience over 18 months involving spoilt children, American soaps, ‘Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer’ and a friend’s TV addiction. It won him the Best Director Award at Cannes in 1994.

Verdict: Divided into three chapters this is funny, brilliantly scripted and beautifully filmed. 10/10

EichmannEichmann (2007)

Based upon the final confession of Adolf Eichmann, made before he was tried and hanged in Israel in 1962, this powerful film stars Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong, Resident Evil: The Apocalypse) as the SS Officer who orchestrated the mass murder and destruction of millions of innocent people.

Captured by intelligence operatives in Argentina, 15 years after World War II, Eichmann must be broken down by Captain Avner Less, (Troy Garity) a young Israeli Police Officer. Gradually Avner uncovers the harrowing truth about Eichmann’s role as the architect of Hitler’s plan for the final solution, which killed 6 million Jews including Avner’s own father. 

As the world watches, the two men confront each other in a battle of wills – the result of which will change a nation forever. 

Verdict: Needed to reveal more about Eichmann the man and Eichmann the Nazi. 5/10

Let Him Have It (1991)Let Him Have It

Two teenagers are surprised by police during a break-in. One epileptic with the mental age of 11 and IQ of 66 is arrested, the other, a gun-toting hood refuses to give up his weapon. Shouting Let Him Have It! to his friend, he fires, wounding one officer and killing another. Both boys face the death penalty. Did the boy mean shoot him or give him the gun?

On 28 January, 1953, Derek Bentley was hanged for murder at Wandsworth Prison.The verdict and the sentence passed upon the young Derek Bentley ( Christopher Eccleston) proved to be as controversial as the crime. Both the verdict and the sentence were subsequently quashed, triggering much debate about Capital Punishment. The words on Bentley’s gravestone say:Derek William Bentley A victim of British justice?

This is the story of the case that shocked the nation!

Verdict: Moving account of one of the great injustices in English law. 8/10

Felicia's JourneyFelicia’s Journey (1999)

Director Atom Egoyan shifts his focus from rural Canada and instead explores suburban Birmingham. Young Felicia (Elaine Cassidy) arrives in England from her homeland of Ireland. She is searching for Johnny Lysaght (Peter McDonald), the man who got her pregnant. She travels to Birmingham, believing Johnny to be working there, and encounters factory manager Mr Hilditch (Bob Hoskins), who befriends her and offers her lodgings. However, as Felicia gets to know Hilditch, she discovers a few sinister secrets about her new housemate…

Verdict: Well-acted thriller that unfortunately runs out of steam a little with the conclusion. 7/10

Sweet Land (2005)Sweet Land

Inge (Elizabeth Reaser) is a feisty German mail-order bride who has come to Minnesota to marry Olaf (Tim Guinee), a young Norwegian immigrant farmer of few words. But in a post-WWI, anti-German climate, the local minister (John Heard) openly forbids the marriage. Inge and Olaf fall in love despite the town’s disapproval. But when the town banker (Ned Beatty) attempts to foreclose on the farm of his friend Frandsen (Alan Cumming), Olaf takes a stand…and the community unites around the young couple, finally accepting Inge as one of their own.

Verdict: Beautifully filmed but ultimately an average love story in the end. 6/10

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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