Films seen today: 3
Total films seen so far: 7
Total films seen so far this year: 198
Ants in the Mouth (Hormigas en la Boca)
Spanish thriller set in pre-revolutionary Cuba.
Kind of a Spanish Chinatown, this a pleasingly old-fashioned mystery story set in 1950s Havana, with a lead actor (Eduard Fernandez) who looks like a cross between Robert Downey Jnr, Clive Owen and Dexter Fletcher. Oh, and the lovely Ariadna Gil, who, I'm pleased to say, hasn't aged badly at all since I last saw her in 1997 or so. Fernandez plays Martin, an ex-con who’s just gotten out of jail after a ten year stretch for anti-government activities. He heads to Havana in order to track down his ex-girlfriend (Gil) who had absconded with a bag of cash belonging to Martin and his partners in crime. However, when he arrives in Havana he isn’t quite prepared for what he finds. There are shades of both Chinatown and Laura (which probably gives away a fairly major plot point, so sorry about that) in this stylish, sharply written thriller, as well as a hint of Altman’s The Long Goodbye, not least in a couple of violent scenes that come out of nowhere. The climax is, unfortunately, a little disappointing and the film could have done with being a shade or two darker but it’s still a solidly made, enjoyable thriller. Three stars.
Korean monster movie from the director of ‘Memories of Murder’
This is the second feature from pleasingly-named director Bong Joon-ho, after 2003’s Memories of Murder (which I still haven’t gotten around to watching, despite having had it on tape for almost two years). It was a huge hit at Cannes and apparently inspired a minor bidding war, with the result that Optimum are releasing it later this year. It’s in the same sort of league as Tremors and other schlocky American monster pictures like The Relic. After a knowing prologue in which an American scientist forces a hapless Korean lab assistant to pour tonnes of dangerous chemicals directly into the Han river, the film skips forward a few years (via an amusing interlude in which a fisherman is bitten by a tiny, unseen creature) when a giant, mutated (and entirely CGI) creature crawls out of the river and starts eating people, as monsters are wont to do. It’s up to a noodle-stall owner and the rest of his dysfunctional family (fuck-up son, resourceful granddaughter, resentful oldest son and, brilliantly, his bronze medal-winning daughter who would have taken the gold at archery but for her tendency to hesitate before she shoots. (You just *know* that’s going to come back to haunt her at some point). This is a lot of fun and it builds to a great finale, even if it does have a couple of dull stretches in the middle. It's probably funnier in Korean, too. Four stars.
Art School Confidential
Terry Zwigoff and Dan Clowes re-team for this follow-up to Ghost World, starring Max Minghella as an art student trying to find his voice.
I'm aware of the poor reviews this has had elsewhere but I'm pleased to say I really enjoyed it. It's basically an update of 50s teen flick High School Confidential mixed with the art school scenes from Ghost World and fans of the latter won’t be disappointed. Max Minghella plays Jerome, an art student trying to find his voice amidst his pretentious fellow students and falling for life model Sophia Myles. There’s also the small matter of a serial killer stalking the campus. John Malkovich puts in a rather wonderful turn as Jerome’s frustrated teacher (“How long have you been painting the triangles?” “I was one of the first”) and there are some great cameos from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Jim Broadbent and Angelica Huston. It’s not very tightly plotted and Sophia Myles is badly miscast but the dialogue is extremely funny and there are some wonderful scenes. Good ending too. (Plus, Ghost World fans will no doubt argue for ages as to whether the unnamed student in the bob, glasses and purple t-shirt is meant to be Enid or not. Personally, I vote yes). Four stars.
Both The Host and Sherrybaby had scenes where a young child pissed their pants out of fear.
Opening Night Party
Not much to report this year, really and I didn’t take any pictures either, despite having my camera with me all night. It was in a new venue (Cargo, on Fountainbridge), which was nice because there was room to stand around outside (with Edinburgh now being non-smoking in all bars, this is something of an issue). They’d laid on burgers, although I’d stupidly eaten immediately beforehand so I didn’t try one. They’d also done up the outside like the French Village Fete scene from The Flying Scotsman, which was quite impressive. The only stars I spotted were Brian Cox (who I wanted to talk to, but decided not to after hearing him tell people he was just about to leave) and Lovely Laura Fraser, who I had a 15 minute chat with, during which she forgave me for my imminent bad review of Nina’s Heavenly Delights. Well, she kind of did. She knew I wrote for Hotdog and she’d thanked me for my “honest opinion” on the film after I’d slagged it off. Which is kind of the same thing.