Expectations are a problem with this year's Secret Cinema event. After the jaw-dropping, goosebump-inducing surprises of both 2014's Back to the Future and 2015's Star Wars, this immersive take on Danny Boyle's classic zombie movie feels rather undercooked. But there's a lot of fun to be had (if not many scares) spending several hours trying to survive in a world overrun by the undead.
The set-up is very clever: you are given an appointment at an NSH hospital in a secret London location, and told to wear scrubs or protective clothing. On arrival you're handed a surgical mask and ordered here and there for interviews, physical examinations and eventually an oral vaccination that seems to make everything go blurry and then pitch black. When you "wake up" all hell has broken loose, and you are sent running through a series of blood-drenched corridors and stairwells, encountering characters and settings from the film as zombies lunge from every corner. In the safe zone, food and drink is for sale, and you get a chance to relax a bit, play a game, have a dance. Finally, you're led into an inventively themed cinema to watch the 2002 film as on-screen elements are performed around you.
Through all of this, medical and military officials harshly shout instructions at you, while TV screens show news reports of chaos on the streets. Combined with the dimly lit post-apocalyptic setting, the atmosphere is enjoyably claustrophobic, only broken by the nagging sense that money is draining out of your wallet at an alarming rate. Not only is the ticket £67 (or £134 for a "premium experience"), but there are things to buy at every point, from the scrubs or coveralls to pricey cocktails served in small bottles or coffee mugs and a relatively slim selection of restaurant-priced food options.
Continue reading: Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later Review
This new take on the Thomas Hardy classic vividly captures the story's modern themes through complex performances from a sharp cast. Hardy's story is twisty and surprising, a romance that certainly doesn't take the usual route to a happy ending. But even as it travels to some very dark places, we never give up hope that things will turn out right in the end. And the nuanced acting and filmmaking make it a fascinating, involving journey.
The story opens in the 1870s Dorset countryside, where Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) has gone to stay with her aunt. She can't help but notice the hunky farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Shoenaerts) next door, and he notices her too, proposing marriage. But she wants to live an independent life, so she turns him down. Some time later in another place they meet by chance, after she has inherited a farm that he helps save from a fire. She hires him to manage the farm, but he now has a love rival in the form of wealthy older neighbour William Boldwood (Michael Sheen). Then swashbuckling young soldier Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) turns up, catching Bathsheba's eye. With three suitors to choose from, she still refuses to let a man define her. But she also knows that she can't hold out forever.
Yes, these are essentially the three types of man: good, safe and sexy. So Bathsheba's decision won't be easy. Or at least it shouldn't be. The problem here is that Schoenaerts has such a stunning, beefy on screen presence that the choice is a no-brainer (frankly, he's even more beautiful than the women in the film). This actually makes us yell at the screen as we watch Bathsheba give in to the swaggering Sturridge's far more outrageous flirtation. And the soulful Sheen's presence inspires a wave of sympathy. In other words, we get sucked straight into the melodrama, which plays out with Hardy's usual collections of coincidences, as fate seems to conspire to push people one way or another.
Continue reading: Far From The Madding Crowd Review
Slick and seductive, this exploration of artificial intelligence may essentially only have three characters, but it's complex, provocative and thoroughly engaging. After writing screenplays for films like 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go, Alex Garland moves easily into the director's role, telling a superbly atmospheric story that twists and turns in subtle ways to both draw us in and freak us out. And the cast adds even more depth to the interaction.
Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is one of the smartest geeks at a technology mega-corporation, and he's thrilled when he wins a competition to spend two weeks with company founder Nathan (Oscar Isaac) at his vast isolated estate somewhere in the far reaches of what looks like Scandinavia. Once there, Nathan assigns Caleb to evaluate his latest invention, a robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), and see if she passes the Turing Test: does Caleb remember that he's interacting with a computer? As Ava and Caleb check each other out, the heavy-drinking Nathan watches perhaps a bit too closely. Caleb begins to realise that he's never out of view, and Ava warns him not to trust Nathan. Then strange power cuts begin to hint that something else is going on here.
Where this goes is surprising because most of Garland's scripts and novels escalate to scenes of outrageous horror. But this story remains controlled and internalised; even when it gets violent, it remains emotionally resonant. And these three characters are fascinating (the fourth person in the house is Nathan's mute sushi chef, played by Sonoya Mizuno). Their conversations are packed with subtext, continually shifting the power while making us wonder who's really in control here. And the actors play them with earthy authenticity. Vikander has an uncanny humanity even though 80 percent of her body is a special effect. Gleeson is thoroughly likeable, easy to identify with as he falls into the rabbit hole. And Isaac is simply magnetic in the way he combines Nathan's groovy laid-back attitude with something vaguely sinister.
Continue reading: Ex Machina Review
It's the not-so-distant future, and 800 million people are crammed into the only remaining inhabitable area in North America, a mega-city that covers the East Coast. With so many people, crime is out of control, so cops and lawyers have been replaced with judges who arrest, try and execute criminals on the spot. Dredd (Urban) is a particularly efficient judge, assigned one day to take trainee Anderson (Thirlby) with him for evaluation. But they walk into a nasty gang war in a 200-storey tower block, where snarling gang boss Ma-Ma (Headey) locks them in and starts hunting them down. And while Dredd and Anderson have to be careful not to kill the block's innocent residents, Ma-ma doesn't care how many people die.
Continue reading: Dredd Review
After a medical breakthrough in the 1950s, children are genetically created to grow up to be organ donors, hugely extending the human lifespan. Although the children rarely make it to their mid-20s. One of these is Kathy (Meikle Small, then Mulligan), who grew up in a special school with her best friend Ruth (Purnell, then Knightley). Kathy has a crush on the school oddball Tommy (Rowe, then Garfield), but it's Ruth who makes her move. And this action could have repercussions if organ-harvesting deferrals for couples are granted, as rumour has it.
Continue reading: Never Let Me Go Review
Andrew Macdonald and Flea - David Andrew MacDonald New York City, USA - The 24th Annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Flea Market and Grand Auction held in Shubert Alley Sunday 26th September 2010
Working sci-fi here with the same ease with which he handled horror in 28 Days Later, Boyle recasts the genre far from the sheen of Lucas' most recent space visions. It is gritty, dark, and thrilling. You can see the grease on the ship's walls. Much as with his zombie film, the outlandish story here greatly benefits from Boyle's grounding treatment. Set in 2057, Sunshine follows the flight of Icarus II, a massive, shielded space ship sent to revive our dying sun and prevent the extinction of earth and humanity. No light task. Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada) leads a dedicated crew, among them physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy), pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne), biologist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh), and engineer Mace (Chris Evans). Their mission is to deliver the "payload," a mammoth nuke, into the sun, set it off, and jet. Icarus I, missing for seven years, never managed.
Continue reading: Sunshine (2007) Review
Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo structures his picture less like a conventional sequel and more like a "next chapter" in the horror saga, which might explain why this fresh, energized, and clever installment works better than it should.
Continue reading: 28 Weeks Later... Review
Narrated by Barbara from her own diary entries, what we have here is a classic case of a very unreliable narrator, but one with a quick wit. As the new term begins at a bustling lower-class middle school, history teacher Barbara, who is utterly burned out and simply going through the motions (she calls education "crowd control"), is beguiled by the new art teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), a 37-year-old upper-class beauty who really believes in teaching.
Continue reading: Notes On A Scandal Review
Many a confused moviegoer has already asked me what the heck this film is about, since the trailer makes it out to be something akin to, er, Lord of the Flies. The movie, based on the novel by Alex Garland, traces the Thailand trip of young Richard (DiCaprio), who in Bangkok encounters a crazy guy named Daffy (Carlyle, who has nary an understandable line of dialogue in the whole movie).
Continue reading: The Beach Review
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