Unknown

There’s a whole genre (getting increasingly tired) of ‘people waking up in locked basements’ movies, and Unknown is one of the better examples. An added twist here is that all the characters have been gassed so they don’t even  know who they are, except that some of them are kidnappers and some are victims. A fine cast gets to play out the puzzle, led by Jim Caviezel and Barry Pepper, and it’s less than 90  minutes long.

There’s something vaguely unsatisfactory about the resolution, and it’s hard to develop any sympathy for the characters when they could all turn out to be bad guys. Still, it marks out  director Simon Brand as someone with a neat eye, even if his pacing is a bit off.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★½☆☆

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Captivity

Captivity caused a big fuss, due mainly to its tasteless (and inaccurate) billboard advertising campaign. Now it’s finally here, it turns out to be nothing more than a remake of Misery with occasional bits of violence.

Elisha Cuthbert, who spent most of 24 being menaced by cougars or locked in basements with nutters, manages to avoid any typecasting by dropping the cougars for this one. She plays a model who awakes trapped in a Saw-style basement, with only a Jimmy Carr look-alike for company, and with occasional visits from another bloke dressed in black overalls. The most obvious plot twist ever occurs (surprisingly as this is written by genre favourite Larry Cohen), a fair bit of tension is unavoidably generated and Cuthbert eventually manages to put her CTU combat training to use. The great Pruitt Taylor Vince is wasted, Cuthbert looks pretty of course and it’s shot in a stylishly grungy way by Texas Chainsaw veteran Daniel Pearl. The  biggest surprise is that it’s directed by Roland Joffe, a world away from The Mission.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Disturbia

Disturbia was a huge hit in US cinemas long before its UK cinema release. Shia LaBeouf (star of Transformers) plays a teenager placed under house arrest, tied to his luxury pad by electronic ankle bracelet. Before you can say ‘this is just like Rear Window’, he notices that creepy neighbour David Morse bears a resemblance to a serial killer in the news bulletins. And that he has another new neighbour in the attractive shape of Sarah Roemer (who looks at least 25 but is mystifyingly in the same school year as our hero).

Anyway, it’s pretty tense, Morse is great as always, and it only goes off the rails in the last 20 minutes when it becomes predictable. A special mention should go to Aaron Yoo, who plays the most annoying comedy sidekick I’ve seen for a long time.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★½☆☆

The Jacket

As a bit of light relief, I watched The Jacket, which is a sort of SF movie directed by obscure English film-maker John Maybury. The good news is that it’s a thought-provoking and surprisingly moving story which is well worth putting the effort in for. Adrien Brody stars as a veteran of the first Gulf… Read more »

The Blind Dead Collection

For less than fifteen quid, I picked up Anchor Bay’s R2 box set, The Blind Dead Collection, which covers Amando de Ossorio’s 4-film series made in Spain in the early 70s. These must have been inspired initially by the success of Night of the Living Dead, and are not without their attractions: the blurb claims… Read more »

The Lookout

Initially, lots of things about The Lookout appear unpromising: not one but two actors playing ‘handicapped’, including a lead who used to star in a silly TV comedy, a hackneyed plot and a writer graduating to directing. Anyone who avoided the movie for those reasons would not only be stupid, but would deservedly have missed… Read more »

Bruiser

I expected a lot from Bruiser, a new movie from my old pal George A. Romero, which arrived on Belgian (?) DVD with very little fanfare.  It’s a nice concept, about a man who is ignored to the point where he wakes up with a blank white mask for a face. The cast includes several… Read more »

Big Trouble in Little China

As late as the ‘eighties, before the studios knocked any genuine individuality out of their ‘product’,  and before Tarantino made it hip to drop lots of cultural references for no good reason,  it wan’t unusual to sit there surrounded by a largely baffled audience, most of them wondering if confusion was a good enough reason… Read more »

The Next Three Days

I enjoyed Anything For Her (aka Pour Elle), upon which The Next Three Days is based, so I was initially unsure abut this. Added to that, the director is Paul Haggis, who used to have a solid career writing TV shows before creating preachy atrocities like Crash and Million Dollar Baby. Anyway, I decided that I’d give him the benefit of the doubt…

Pour Elle