Having visited the Welsh town of Bridgend recently for a Death Angel gig, it seemed as good a time as any to check out the 2015 drama film, titled “Bridgend”, from director and co-writer Jeppe Rønde, whose credits are almost exclusively for documentary work.
This is a movie that has caused some degree of controversy and consternation, particularly for the real-life residents of the town. That’s because between the end of 2007 and start of 2012 there were apparently 79 suicides in the Bridgend area – largely teenagers and the vast majority by hanging. (In fact, a 2014 documentary film on the subject That there were by then 99 victims). Whatever the true statistics it seems that there is no clear reason for this unusually large spate of suicides taking place. A fictional drama film inspired by these events, then , was always likely to upset someone.
The movie sees teenage girl Sara (Hannah Murray – “Game Of Thrones”, “Detroit”) and her policeman father Dave (Steven Waddington – “When The Lights Went Out”, “The Imitation Game”) relocating from Bristol to Bridgend, where Dave is tasked with trying to get to the bottom of a series of teen suicides. They arrive, along with Sara’s horse Snowy, just after the death of the latest victim.
With Dave busy at work Sara is left to her own devices a lot of the time and soon gets drawn into a group of local teens who spend their time drinking, smoking, swimming naked in a lake in the woods, dicing death in front of trains and partying.
Sara grows steadily more distant from her father, whilst getting closer to vicar’s son Jamie (Josh O’Connor – “The Durrells”, “The Riot Club”). All the while the group thins as the woodland hangings continue and Dave worries that Sara will get in too deep with the locals and become yet another victim…
I thought this was a really well made film. Filmed entirely on location in Bridgend, the cinematography is suitably bleak and claustrophobic when it needs to be and the whole thing gives a feeling of real-life horror as the teens self-destructive behaviour almost seems to be the only signs of actual life in the isolated community.
As this is not a documentary there are no real attempts to explain the causes for the tragic events which inspired it in the first place. Instead there are suggestions of the circumstances and influences that could perhaps bring such events to bear. Murray is excellent throughout, and is supported by strong performances all round.
The final portion of the film drifted somewhat into supernatural horror in a way, and could be interpreted in more than one way, I felt, but that only helps to make the movie the difficult but potent experience that it is…
Rubbish weather yesterday so watched a couple of movies – one new and one old. The old one was a drama from way back in 1957, directed by Howard W. Koch (“Bop Girl Goes Calypso”, “The Girl In Black Stockings”), and was titled “Untamed Youth”.
The film opens with a young man being chased across fields by police cars before being taken into custody. Presumably one of the untamed youths of the title. Then we meet sisters Penny and Jane Lowe (Mamie Van Doren – “Girls Town”, “Guns, Girls & Gangsters” and Lori Nelson – “Pardners”, “Revenge Of The Creature”) who are en-route to appear in a show as they are both entertainers. Unfortunately for them, the girls are promptly arrested for skinny dipping and hitchhiking by a leering police Sheriff Mitch Bowers (Robert Foulk – “The Love Bug”, “Hell On Wheels”).
Appearing in court before the small town’s female Judge (Lurene Tuttle – “Psycho”, “Niagara”) the pair are quickly sentenced to 30 days and get to choose to spend the time either in prison or doing some healthy, paid work picking cotton. Unsurprisingly they choose the latter, seemingly easier, option.
When they arrive, along with a number of other convicts, at the cotton farm they discover that their wages will mostly be taken to pay for their board and food, leaving them with just a few cents each day. The owner of the farm is Russ Tropp (John Russell – “Rio Bravo”, “Pale Rider” – a man at ease with mistreating and sacking his workers for the slightest misdemeanor. He is also, secretly, married to the somewhat older Judge, who clearly adores him though we can see that it is purely business for the ambitious farmer.
Penny and Jane are put to work cotton picking, but not before they have entertained their fellow convicts / workers by belting out a tune – Jane sitting on a bunk and unconvincingly strumming at a guitar whilst her partly dressed and very voluptuous sister sings and dances.
Among the other young people being forced to work on Tropp’s farm are young blonde girl Baby (Yvonne Lime – “I Was A Teenage Werewolf”, “Speed Crazy”) and the oddly named Bong (Eddie Cochran – “The Girl Can’t Help It”, “Fury Unleashed”) – the latter of whom also gets to sing a number, “Cotton Picker”, which doesn’t give any clue as to just what a rock ‘n’ roll legend he would become.
Before long the Judge’s son Bob Steele (Don Burnett – “The Triumph Of Robin Hood”, “Tea And Sympathy”), returning from serving in the armed forces, goes to work for Tropp driving a combine harvester and finds himself becoming attracted to Jane.
Despite the long hours picking cotton those working on the farm don’t seem to suffer from too much fatigue as they spend their evenings singing and dancing with great enthusiasm and energy. This is presumably just a release from the hellish conditions under which they survive, as not only does Penny have to contend with the unwanted attentions of Tropp but also Baby collapses after working too long in the sun. Bob rushes her to a hospital but she dies and it’s revealed that she was several months pregnant. The injustice of it all becomes too much for Bob to bear and he goes off to tell all to his mother, but will she be able to see past her adoration of Tropp to believe what she hears?…
This is a strange movie to be honest. It’s kind of like musical-cum-social-drama wherein someone decided to string a bunch of inoffensive rock ‘n’ roll-lite singing and dancing numbers together with a plot involving a despicable man taking advantage of all-and-sundry in order to make his fortune?!
There is undoubtedly some cultural appropriation going on. I don’t know much about the history of cotton picking in the USA but most of what I’ve been able to find online suggests that the vast majority, if not all, of those doing the picking were African-Americans, whereas all of those in the film are White. Perhaps unsurprising given that there were still major racial divisions in American at the time. Adding to this, the closing musical number is a calypso – sung again by Van Doren’s character, supported by an entirely white group of men, all adopting some kind of Caribbean accent.
Incidentally, I gather that when rock ‘n’ roll started to take off the established record companies etc., whose business model saw them producing morally clean music for white audiences, tried to kill it off and one of the ways that they attempted this was by using calypso music (whilst replacing any social comment or sexuality in the lyrics with generalities about the Caribbean islands!)
Personally I find the current hysteria in certain quarters over cultural appropriation / misappropriation rather daft and overly politically correct to be honest. I have no doubt that there are cases where there can be genuine hurt caused but to say that one can’t take something from another’s culture would mean no white person could ever play jazz or the blues, for example, as the genres originated within African-American communities (just like the aforementioned calypso). Just my opinion, of course. Anyway, I digress…
At just 80 minutes this film entertains without outstaying its welcome, despite the feeling of being rather thrown together! Being a man of a certain vintage I’d have to confess that the talents of the (then) 26-year-old Van Doren – which may or may not include her singing(!) – certainly helped pass the time. Worth a look as a curio from another time…
I watched a rather odd movie the other night. It was an Australian production from 1980, directed by Simon Wincer (“D.A.R.Y.L.”, “Free Willy”), titled “Harlequin”.
The film opens with a politician disappearing under the surface whilst swimming in the sea. The action switches to a child’s birthday party where we find the leukaemia suffering birthday boy, Alex Rast (Mark Spain – “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”, “The Schlocky Horror Picture Show”). Alex is clearly not having any fun at all, until a clown gives him some one on one attention and manages to make a breakthrough.
With the viewer having been introduced to Alex’s parents, senator Nick Rast (David Hemmings – “Blow-Up”, “Eye Of The Devil”) and his wife Sandra (Carmen Duncan – “Turkey Shoot”, “Now And Forever”), we see the now-unmasked clown, Gregory Wolfe (Robert Powell – “The Thirty-Nine Steps”, “Tommy”) turn up in their home again and declare that he has cured Alex of his illness.
Nick is very sceptical over Gregory’s claims but Sandra very quickly comes under his spell and before you know it the pair have become very close indeed.
What follows is a strange mix of political thriller, drama and fantasy film as Gregory’s influence and magical powers are demonstrated (or is it just an elaborate con?) whilst Doc Wheelan (Broderick Crawford – “A Little Romance”, “Born Yesterday”) leads a shadowy group intending to manouvere Nick’s political career to their own ends.
Having done a little reading since watching the film it seems that the story is loosely based on that of the famous Russian mystic monk Grigori Rasputin and his involvement with Tsar Nicholas II. Certainly the parallels are there, and in retrospect there is a clue in the main characters names – Gregory (Grigori), Nick (Nicholas), Sandra (Alexandra) and Alex (Alexei) and even the family’s surname Rast being Tsar reversed.
I’m not sure if that helps make any more sense of a film that seems to be a bit confused about what it wants to be or not, to be honest. An odd cinematic offering to be sure, and not hugely well-known even under the alternate title of “Dark Forces”, but Robert Powell’s performance is very good and overall I’d say the movie is definitely worth seeking out and viewing…
Today I watched a movie described as a horror drama film. Written and directed by Phillip Escott and Craig Newman “Cruel Summer” is their feature-length debut.From the opening frames you know that things aren’t going to end well as a bloodied young man runs through the woods. Having a good idea that events are going to get bloody doesn’t however detract from the bulk of the remaining film will lead to that point.
We meet Danny (Richard Pawulski – “All In The Valley”), a young man suffering with autism who is preparing to head off to a local lake for a night camping solo for his Duke of Edinburgh Award.
The scene then switches to an exterior shot of a typical house from which we can hear a muffled but clearly angry argument taking place, resulting in Nicholas (Danny Miller – “Scott & Bailey”, “Emmerdale”) being thrown out.
Nicholas, who appears to be a very angry young man, then shows up in the home of his female friend Julia (Natalie Martins – “Kill Or Be Killed”, “The Better Man”), where we discover that he’s just been dumped by his girlfriend. Julia wastes no time in sticking the knife in regarding Nicholas’s now-ex. She obviously has designs on Nicholas though he appears oblivious to the fact, and so she claims that his ex had slept with others before him, unconvincingly naming Danny as one.
Knowing of Danny’s affliction, Nicholas is outraged to think of his ex sleeping with him and vows to make him pay. Dragging a reluctant but submissive Julia along with him, the pair head for Danny’s house – picking up new boy Calvin (Reece Douglas – “The Knife That Killed Me”, “Waterloo Road”) en route. By now the lie has become embellished and Nicholas insists that Danny is a paedophile who needs sorting out before he attacks more young girls.
Calvin isn’t keen on the idea but as he has a younger sister he succumbs to pressure from his peers to join them on their quest.
Initially the day consists of arcade games, smoking weed and drinking copious amounts of alcohol, but eventually and inevitably the trio find their quarry and the peer pressure exercised by Nicholas becomes ever greater. What follows is horrific in its utter believability. Without resorting to too much graphic violence or gore the filmmakers succeed in making the viewer feel very unsettled and disturbed.
I felt that this was made even more uncomfortable by the way that the three treat Danny and his autism, which is echoed with other minor characters’ dealings with him too. Because he has a disability Danny appears to be regarded as unfavourably in comparison to “normal” people. Living with people who have disabilities I know very well that it’s all to easy for people to either “not see” the disability or to treat the disabled person as somehow weird, and so the way that characters interact with Danny rings very true indeed.
The film is said to be based on true events, although no specific story is mentioned that I can find reference too. That said, all too often we hear stories of seemingly motiveless attacks, people being attacked as a result of mistaken identity or misinformation, so I imagine that a number of such stories planted the seed for “Cruel Summer”.
This is not your standard horror film with some almost superhuman baddie that never dies etc. This is very real horror showing that the real evil in our world lives in the other folk living around us. The darkness that can be found in the most unassuming and “normal” people is a truly scary thing.
Filmed in South Wales the cinematography is great and the acting from the four main characters is really top-notch. I would hope that few will be able to watch such a film without feeling emotionally affected by it, so strong is the tale. Disturbing and very thought-provoking stuff…
Been a bit busy of late with one thing or another lately here in the shadows, but did manage to sit down and catch a movie with my good lady wife a few days ago. It was the 2016 release, described as a drama / horror / thriller film, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Non-Stop”, “Unknown”) and titled “The Shallows”.
As the film starts we watch as a young boy kicks a football along a beach and find a helmet-mounted GoPro camera. He picks it up and plays the video on the camera which shows a man struggling to get out of the water before being attacked by a shark.
Then we meet medical student Nancy Adams (Blake Lively – “Café Society”, “Savages”) who is travelling to an unnamed secret beach in Mexico where her recently deceased mother surfed when she was pregnant with Nancy.
A friend that Nancy was due to meet up with doesn’t show, suffering from a hangover, so Nancy finds herself surfing solo and talking to two local men who are also enjoying some surf time in the water.
However, after the locals have departed for the day she has a close encounter with a shark and ends up stranded on a piece of rock and counting down the hours until high tide when she will no longer be out of the reach of the shark…
Essentially a one-woman survival movie the vast majority of the film focuses solely on Lively with the other characters really being nothing more than bit parts. Luckily, our heroine is up to the task and Lively does an excellent job with what she has to work with.
The locations look wonderful and there are some excellent action shots of the surfers and the way the shark is introduced into proceedings during the surfing was nicely done, I thought. The effect of having text messages and the display of Nancy’s watch shown in graphics on-screen along with the action was a nice touch too.
Some of the plot aspects are fairly predictable – safe to say Nancy’s medical student training comes in handy – but for the most part it is pretty entertaining stuff. The wheels do come off quite spectacularly towards the film’s climax with some barely credible and very predictable moments, which sadly undoes some of the good work done up to that point.
That said, overall the movie works very well at keeping the tension ratcheted up for main part of its duration, and if the idea of numerous close-ups of various parts of Lively’s anatomy appeal to you then you could do much worse than spending 86 minutes watching “The Shallows”…
The other night my wife and I watched “Eye In The Sky”, a drama thriller directed by Gavin Hood (“Enders Game”, “Rendition”) that hit UK cinemas earlier this year.
The film opens with Alia Mo’Allim (Aisha Takow), a young girl playing in the dusty back yard of her family home in Nairobi, Kenya. As the camera pulls away further we see more of her surroundings from above through the crosshairs of a drone camera, before the scene switches to very early morning in the UK. Here we meet Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren – “The Debt”, “Excalibur”) waking to news that an undercover British / Kenyan agent has been murdered by the Al-Shabaab terrorist group.
Powell is commanding a mission to capture some important Al-Shabaab members in Nairobi, including British and US nationals. This is a mission that involves Powell’s own unit at Northwood, US personnel in Nevada and Hawaii and Kenyan troops and agents on the ground in Nairobi.
The operation is overseen by a COBRA meeting where Powell’s boss Lieutenant General Frank Benson (the late Alan Rickman – “Die Hard”, “Robin Hood – Prince Of Thieves”) has to try to obtain clearance from the various politicians in attendance.
What begins as a fairly routine watch and extract-when-possible mission becomes problematic when one of the agents on the ground, Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi – “Grimsby”, “Captain Phillips”) identifies that the suspects are arming themselves with suicide vests. Powell is determined that they should not be allowed to leave the house and decides that the mission objective must change from “capture” to “kill” and orders a Hellfire mission strike from the drone.
However, the Nevada-based Reaper drone operators Steve Watts (Aaron Paul – “Retribution”, “The Last House On The Left”) and Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox – “The Woman In Black 2 – Angel Of Death”, “War Book”) see that the little girl, Alia, is selling bread right outside the targeted property and request that the strike be delayed until she moves away.
Throughout there are assessments and decisions that must be made, from the various military and political characters and even though there is very little in the way of actual action the tension is certainly kept up as we witness that back-and-fro that takes place before a final decision can be reached. All of the main players give very convincing performances.
This is a very current and topical film and gives a really interesting insight into just how complicated even a single mission can become when political and PR concerns, not to mention emotional and moral responses, are added to the already difficult mix of military aims and the legality of them. Thought-provoking stuff. Definitely recommended viewing…
The other night my wife and I watched the 2015 crime action / drama / thriller film “Sicario”. The movie was directed by Denis Villeneuve (“Enemy”, “Prisoners”).
A by-the-book FBI agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt – “Wild Target”, “The Adjustment Bureau”), leads a raid on a home in Arizona that is suspected of being used by kidnappers involved with Mexican drug cartels.
Although Kate and her partner Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya – “Welcome To The Punch”, “Johnny English Reborn”) do not find the kidnap victims the team do discover dozens of bodies holed up within the walls of the house. An explosive device in an outbuilding kills two local police officers during the search.
Called in by their boss Dave Jennings (Victor Garber – “Self/Less”, “Alias”), Kate and Reggie are concerned that they may be in trouble. However, Kate has been recommended to join a Department Of Defense taskforce tracking down members of the Sonara cartel from Mexico.
The taskforce is headed by CIA man Matt Graver (Josh Brolin – “Jonah Hex”, “No Country For Old Men”) who tells Kate that they are flying to El Paso in Texas but is rather vague and evasive about the actual mission that they are undertaking.
On the plane Kate meets mysterious Colombian Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro – “Inherent Vice”, “Snatch”) and discovers that they are in fact going to Ciudad Juárez on the Mexican side of the border, though it is some time before she finally realises the real mission and the aims behind it, with hidden agenda seemingly everywhere you look!
I have no actual knowledge of the real Mexico, but I think it’s fair to say that this film won’t have tourists queueing up to visit some parts of the country once they’ve seen the headless corpses and corrupt police officers on show here.
There are some nicely ominous sounds on the soundtrack and fabulous cinematography of the Mexican landscapes, with the miles and miles of border fence being one of the sights that are particularly effective within the context of the movie. With a look at covert operations, we found this to be a thought-provoking and gripping action film with some solid performances from Blunt, Brolin and Del Toro. Well worth watching…
My wife and I watched an independent movie last night, a psychological drama mystery from director / co-writer Jon Knautz (“Jack Brooks : Monster Slayer”, “The Shrine”) titled “Goddess Of Love”.
Venus (Alexis Kendra – “Wedding Day”, “Girl House”) is a dancer (sadly with some of the worst costumes I’ve ever seen!) at a strip club where a fellow dancer, Chanel (Monda Scott – “Almost Kings”, “Original Stereotype”) tells her that to boost her earning power she needs to make the male customers feel that she is a living fantasy rather than talking about her real life.
When Venus dances for a customer called Brian (Woody Naismith – “Swelter”, “Concealed”), however, she learns that he is a widower following the suicide of his wife and before you know it the pair have embarked on a passionate relationship.
Brian is friendly with his late wife’s good friend Christine (Elisabeth Sandy – “Apocalypse, CA”, “Neighbours”), but when Venus finds out her jealous side begins to show itself, leading to all manner of problems – but are they real , or imagined?…
Kendra co-wrote the film with Knautz and whilst it’s not the greatest movie I’ve ever seen I have to say that, for me, she absolutely made the movie. She portrayed the role of the insecure and damaged Venus superbly, and showed such incredible expression just through the use of her face, and especially her eyes, that I was very impressed indeed.
A neat twist towards the end tied things together and clarified some of the earlier scenes, and overall I’d say that watching the film was 93 minutes well spent. Great stuff…
I’ve just watched a new movie from director Atom Egoyan (“Devil’s Knot”, “Where The Truth Lies”). Titled “Remember” the film is a drama / thriller, set in North American in the present day.
Zev Gutman (Christopher Plummer – “Dreamscape”, “The Silent Partner”) is an elderly man who lives in an old folks’ home. We understand from the outset that he is suffering from dementia as he forgets that his wife has just died.
Another resident of the home, Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau – “Space : 1999”, “North By Northwest”), who himself is confined to a wheelchair and has respiratory problems, explains to Zev that they are both survivors of the horrors of Auschwitz where both of their families were killed. Max reminds Zev that he had promised that once his wife had passed away he would track down the man responsible for those deaths, a Nazi named Otto Wallisch, and gives him a letter with all the information that he needs to do so – and to remember what he has set out to do.
Max had established that Wallisch apparently took on a Jewish name – Rudy Kurlander – to escape from the Allies at the end of the war, and moved to the U.S. He has tracked down the addresses of four men named Rudy Kurlander that could be Wallisch and so Zev slips away from the home and starts his trek around the States, causing much worry and frustration for his son Charles (Henry Czerny – “Mission : Impossible”, “Revenge”).
Gradually, with the letter to help combat his memory problems, Zev tracks the four men down. The first Kurlander (Bruno Ganz – “Downfall”, “Unknown”) was a soldier during the war, but served in Africa, and the second (Heinz Lieven – “Not My Day”, “Within The Whirlwind”) had been an inmate at Auschwitz because he was homosexual.
The third Kurlander proves to have died, but his son John (Dean Norris – “The Frozen Ground”, “Breaking Bad”), a state trooper, believing Zev to be an old comrade of his father’s insists that he should stay to see his dad’s collection of Nazi memorabilia. Despite an extensive collection, including an S.S. uniform, John lets on that his dad was just a cook in the war.
Despite being hospitalised after a fall, Zev eventually finds the fourth Kurlander (Jürgen Prochnow – “The DaVinci Code”, “Das Boot”) and confronts him, just as Charles finally tracks his missing father down. The climactic confrontation has a huge twist for all concerned, however…
I thought that this was an excellent drama. Plummer portrayed with great effect the pain of a man de-discovering every day that his beloved wife is dead, and the constant confusion that dementia sufferers have to deal with. The fact that his own memory was fleeting at best meant that he was completely reliant on what he had been told by Max, which gives rise to the troubling thought of just how vulnerable sufferers are to being misled.
A good story, well told, and thought-provoking entertainment. Definitely recommended viewing…
In the mood for a Sixties movie today, so I dug out the iconic 1966 mystery drama “Blow-Up” from writer / director Michelangelo Antonioni (“Zabriskie Point”, “Beyond The Clouds”).
At the start of the film we see a group of young people, who are wearing white face paint, running around London, interspersed with scenes of men leaving a doss house in the city. One of these men is photographer Thomas (David Hemmings – “Gladiator”, “Eye Of The Devil”) who has been taking photos of some of the residents for a book that he is preparing.
Returning late to his studio, he begins a shoot with model Veruschka (Veruschka Von Lehndorff – “Milo Milo”, “The Bride”). After this he begins a session with a group of models but grows bored and leaves part way through and heads for an antiques shop where he buys a propeller before wandering into a nearby park.
In the park he spies a man and a woman, seemingly two lovers, and covertly takes photos of them from a distance. When the woman, Jane (Vanessa Redgrave – “The Devils”, “Mission : Impossible”), spots Thomas she is furious and chases after him, demanding the photos. He later gives her a different roll of film, keeping the one that he used in the park and developing it with a view to adding pictures of the lovers in his book.
When he develops the pictures he notices something in the trees and blows them up larger and larger until he can discern a figure holding a gun, and then what appears to be a body lying in the grass. Convinced that a murder has taken place, he revisits the park and finds the dead body but is spooked by a noise before he can take any further photographs.
Following an eventful day that also involves sex with two models, seeing The Yardbirds performing in a club, and then going to a party where everyone, including his agent Ron (Peter Bowles – “Only When I Laugh”, “The Bank Job”) seems to be under the influence of drugs he awakes the next morning and returns to the park once more but the body has disappeared…
There are some rather random scenes in the film that add little, if anything, to the underlying story, such as when Thomas watches through blinds as his neighbours Bill (John Castle – “Antony & Cleopatra”, “The Lion In Winter”) and Patricia (Sarah Miles – “Ryan’s Daughter”, “White Mischief”) are making love.
The sequence that involves Thomas with the two models – a blonde (Jane Birkin – “Evil Under The Sun”, “La Belle Noiseuse”) and a brunette (Gillian Hills – “A Clockwork Orange”, “The Killer Wore Gloves”) and, especially, the scene involving The Yardbirds (including both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck) performing to the least enthusiastic audience I’ve ever seen equally both seem like filler rather than being essential.
Having said all that, and despite the central mystery never being resolved for the viewer, I really enjoyed the movie. It was made before I was born so I have no idea how accurate a portrayal of London in the swinging Sixties it is, but nevertheless the film is evocative of a time – the era of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Twiggy and the Krays – that I never knew but still holds a certain magic today. The movie may not give any answers but it supplies plenty of entertainment…