The latest bit of historical bio-pic entertainment from Kapur (dir. of Bandit Queen, ugh). And it’s not great. One huge weakness is the writing. The writer of the original was here joined (very unsurprisingly) by the writer of Gladiator, so we’ve got very fakey-Hollywood-period-pic dialogue. Katy says this movie defeats the ending of part one, which showed Elizabeth’s transformation into the powerful virgin queen, by having her act all girlish and weak and man-crazy over the (admittedly dreamy) Clive Owen. Owen plays Sir Walter Raleigh, and Abbie Cornish (Stop-Loss) is a lady of the court who ends up with Owen after being practically thrown towards him by the Queen who wants to vicariously experience love, but the queen flies into a rage when Raleigh and the court girl marry. Most of the movie is concerned with this love triangle, but Spain also forms their Armada and attempts to conquer England before being singlehandedly defeated by Clive Owen. We also get a miniature version of the Mary Queen of Scots story (first filmed in 1895, updated in ’71 with Vanessa Redgrave, soon to be updated again by Phillip Noyce & Scarlett Johansson), played here by the great Samantha Morton.

So yeah, we’ve got Clive Owen, but all he does is look dreamy and act cool, even during battle scenes. We’ve got generic loud symphonic music, some bad CG effects and some confusing storytelling. But there are also very good performances (Blanchett, Morton) and some plain-good ones (Geoffrey Rush, Spanish ambassador William Houston), awesome (oscar-winning) costumes, great set design, but nothing tying it all together. Katy didn’t like it either, so I’m free to complain all I like.

Apparently the same love-triangle story was previously filmed as 1955’s The Virgin Queen with Bette Davis and Joan Collins.

Co-directed with Gunther von Fritsch, but I’ve never heard of that guy.

Watched the first Cat People again, and I still like it. Cool movie. Male lead Kent Smith (later of The Fountainhead and Party Girl) is like a ten-year-old in love, simple and naive, which only makes Simone Simon (who has the most excellent mouth of any actress) more interesting and mysterious. Smith’s character name is Oliver Reed. Oliver Reed the actor was only five when this came out.

Curse, the sequel, has Kent and his friend (now wife) Alice returning from the first movie, now with their young daughter Amy, who is seeing the ghost (?) of Simone Simon in the back yard. Not super interesting movie, and even if it was, I wasn’t paying much attention, but it did have a rollicking Christmas carol singalong. Has a nice spooky part at the end, when the reclusive Old Lady Farren (who the young girl befriends) dies on the stairwell and the woman’s grown daughter threatens to kill Amy since Farren preferred Amy to her own daughter (whom she accused of being an impostor, “my daughter is dead!”). So two “ghosts” in one movie, although clearly daughter Farren is not really dead, and the returned Simone Simon might be in the little girl’s imagination. So, it’s like Cat People, another spook movie that might not contain any actual spooks.

From the esteemed director of The Tichborne Claimant and Sex Traffic comes yet another Harry Potter adventure that I’ll forget three weeks from now. I don’t mind forgetting them though, because I’m looking forward to the mindless six-movie DVD marathon the week before the final movie premieres. So no plot summary.

What We’ve Gained:
Oscar-nominated abortionist Imelda Staunton as a transparently evil teacher.
More Gary Oldman screen time than part 4.

What We’ve Lost:
All the life and energy from Gary Oldman’s performance.
Those broomstick hockey games.
Any sense of art or interest to the proceedings…

Who Were Those People:
The Hero: Lauren German from Texas Chainsaw Remake and Crispin Glover’s next one
The Hot One: Bijou Phillips from Bully and some other horrors
The Dorky One: Heather Matarazzo from Saved and Scream 3
Evil Girl: Vera Jordanova from Finland
The Guy From Part 1: Jay Hernandez from World Trade Center
His Girlfriend: Jordan Ladd from Death Proof and Darkened Room!
Tough-guy torturer: Richard Burgi from Cellular and lots of decent TV
Repressed evil torturer: Roger Bart from Harold & Kumar 2
Writer/Director: Eli Roth, the guy who made Thanksgiving

No doubt this movie’s being accused of aestheticizing torture and murder. The posters do all that and more. The movie itself… well, definitely in the scene where the dorky one gets hung above a hot naked cult girl who slices her up and bathes in her blood… but not anywhere else.

Somehow after seeing Hostel 1, I decided Eli Roth was a terrible man. Don’t know why I rented Cabin Fever, but it got me liking the guy. The problem with Hostel is that I went to see it (and Wolf Creek the same night) for sheer entertainment. I watch Spiderman 3 and Stranger Than Fiction and Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors for entertainment, but not The War Tapes or Road To Guantanamo. Those two are practically horror/torture movies themselves, and are a reaction to the same current events as Hostel 1 & 2, so even if I don’t scrutinize the Hostels quite as much as, say, Inland Empire or Children of Men, they should be taken a lot more seriously than Elm Street 3. Watching Hostel 1 for thrills was like watching The War Tapes hoping to see some action… a psychotically stupid idea.

So, having reconsidered Eli Roth, I gave Hostel 2 a chance… and it paid off, mostly. This ain’t a superintelligent comment on post-9/11 society, but it’s closer to that than to the brutal kill fantasy it’s accused of being. More than anything, it seems to be a comment on Hostel 1, exposing the machinery behind the torture chamber itself, not how the whole organization works but at least the torturers themselves, sick rich Westerners who kill as a vacation, because they can afford it and get away with it. A very appropriate sequel, then, and probably better than the first one. The hardass torture-guy wussing out (and getting eaten by dogs!) and the wussy one turning out to be a repressed psycho was a trick I should’ve seen coming, and the post-escape revenge setup is just as formulaically sweet as in part one. Although I don’t remember Jay Hernandez being implicated by his own wealth and actions as much as Lauren German ends up in this one, paying off the torture camp then befriending the wild child gang to trap and behead the bitch behind her friends’ deaths.

Have to say I liked it, and felt pretty happy for having seen it… not gonna run out and recommend it or buy the DVD or anything, though. Katy stayed away, obviously.

The NJ Star Ledger, of all things, says: “When you watch the early scenes of American soldiers standing night watch, using their telescopic rifle lenses to peep on their charges — Americans as leering voyeurs in the aftermath of destruction — the movie’s pulp sensibility seems to be an almost exact mirror of what many other countries think of America right now.”

It’s a good article, and yeah there’s lots of political interest in 28 Weeks Later. The idea that we can set up a safe/green zone surrounded by hostile territory and maintain those boundaries is called into question… but especially the idea that we’d be prepared if something went wrong with the plan, that our “disaster readiness” is sufficient.

The leering-voyeur soldiers go from mocking their mission (because there’s nothing to do)… to enacting their horribly ineffective containment plan (locking everyone in a room together, cutting the electricity and doing nothing about the panic that ensues, and of course not being able to ensure that rage-infected beasties can’t get inside for a feeding frenzy)… to valiantly protecting the British civilians, picking off beasties… immediately to panic when they can’t tell beastie from Brit… to all-out apocalyptic asshats, attempting to save their own butts with a kill-everyone order. After all that, it’s a pleasure to watch a few infected beasties rip apart an American sniper.

Movie doesn’t make it too easy. One super soldier won’t take the kill-all order and joins our medic friend in trying to protect the kids, even taking out his own comrades to do so. His chopper-driving buddy ain’t all bad either, at first very suspicious (even killing a survivor) but finally airlifting the kids to (ha-ha) safety.

Unfortunately it’s not all political intent, it’s also an action/horror movie, and that’s the part the filmmakers can’t get right. Sure there are moments of tension, but the close-up action is wrecked with you-are-there, extreme-close-up camerawork and, as the Star-Ledger calls it, “razor-sharp editing”. I know the editing is supposed to draw you into the crazed confusion that the victims/survivors must feel, particularly effective in the Carlyle-escape opening sequence, but if “I” was really “there”, I doubt my perspective would involve so many edits. The rest of the world hasn’t caught up with the new you-are-there long-cut technique brought to the action films by Alfonso Cuaron in Children of Men. Here in 28 Days Later I could never tell what was going on when the action supposedly revved up.

Who Were Those People:
Director of Intacto and DP of Down in the Valley and The Faculty
Robert Carlyle, who hasn’t been in shit I’ve heard of since The Beach, will be in another Irvine Welsh movie this year or next.
Alice, his wife, is Catherine McCormack of Shadow of the Vampire.
The medical rescuer is Rose Byrne of Marie Antoinette and Sunshine.
The army rescuer is Jeremy Renner of The Heart Is Deceitful.
And the two kids have the greatest names in the world: Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton.

So Amanda, the worst actor in the movie, is Jigsaw’s apprentice here, but she’s a cutter and a killer and an ex druggie and can’t be trusted despite her having once survived a beartrap and pledged her life to his games. And Jigsaw’s deathly sick with brain cancer.


Now Jeff is Angus Macfayden, better known as Orson Welles in Cradle Will Rock. Retaining his hammy pained expressions from that movie, here he’s the dad of a living daughter and dead son on a revenge quest to kill the killer, judge and witness from the son’s car accident. His estranged wife (twist ending spoiler alert) is doctor lady Lynn, kidnapped and forced to take care of Jigsaw and operate on his brain or else he’ll blow her head up.


Saw’s rounded up the witness, judge and killer and strapped ’em into terrible devices, and Orson/Angus saves some of ’em sort of but pretty much ends up getting them all killed, then stumbles into a mess of a time in the operating dungeon and everyone dies but him. No more sequels then, hooray (just kidding, part 4’s out this halloween).


Not too good a movie, obviously, with too many flash cuts and flashbacks. Lots of nudity and gore (obviously), neither of them worth a damn, and nothing to make it all worthwhile unless you care about Amanda’s character development or whether Jigsaw lives or dies. Looking forward to part 4, obviously.


One of the very best movies of the eighties (forget that it missed the 80’s by six months). A slightly-too-slow buildup places the action in a state-of-the-art technological office building, brings back Billy and Kate, brings back the Futtermans, closes down the shop where the Gremlins came from and puts Gizmo in the hands of corporate scientist Christopher Lee. Then all fucking hell breaks loose and it’s a hilarious, gonzo 45 minutes of action and comedy and movie references. I love it.

Don & Dan Stanton from Terminator 2 with Christopher Lee:

Zack and Phoebe Cates, who has gotten cuter since part 1:

My favorite gag, again:

Hulk out:

The electric-gremlin death of Christopher Lee:

“I guess they pushed him too far”: