A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Brighton Rock (dir. by Rowan Joffe)


Brighton Rock is a British film noir that’s currently both playing in limited release and which is also available via video-on-demand.  Based on a novel by Graham Greene, Brighton Rock is the story of Pinkie (Sam Riley), a sociopathic gangster who murders a gambler.  The chase leading up to the murder is witnessed by a mousey waitress named Rose (Andrea Riseborough) who doesn’t realize what she’s actually seen.  In order to keep her quiet, Pinkie marries Rose.  Rose, however, works for Ida (Helen Mirren) and Ida just happens to have been friends with the murdered gangster.  Realizing that Rose is in danger, Ida takes it upon herself to expose Pinkie for the murderer he is.

Brighton Rock is a visually striking film and it has a handful of good performances but it never quite comes together.  Before making his feature film directing debut here, Rowan Joffe wrote the script for last year’s The American and, much like The American, Brighton Rock has an abundance of style and is full of references to the classic crime films of the 60s and 70s.  Also, much like The American, the style — too often — seems to exist separately from any larger vision.  As a result, the film ultimately feels like several disconnected — if pretty scenes — strung together by convenience.  The film has an intriguing-enough plot but the narrative lacks any sort of forward momentum.  Interestingly enough, Greene used the story of Pinkie, Rose, and Ida to examine larger theological issues within the Catholic church.  With the exception of a scene where Pinkie prays, an over-the-top sequence featuring a judgmental nun, and a few inserts of crucifixes artfully hanging on grimy walls, Joffe pretty much jettisons the story’s religious angle but without it, Pinkie and Rose’s actions make a lot less sense. 

Joffe’s decision to cast Sam Riley, whom I’ve had a crush on ever since I first saw Control, in the lead role of Pinkie is problematic.  It’s not that Riley gives a bad performance because he doesn’t.  He makes a convincing psychopath and if he’s never quite charming enough to be a true anti-hero, he’s still makes Pinkie into a compelling figure.  Unfortunately, Riley is still totally miscast in the film.  In Graham Greene’s original novel, Pinkie was only 17 years old.  Sam Riley is 31 and looks even older.  Unfortunately, all of the other characters in the film continually refer to him as “the kid.”  John Hurt, at one point, gives a monologue in which he wonders how someone so young could be so evil.  But Riley isn’t young and as a result, I found myself wondering just how old someone had to be before they were considered to be an adult in 1960s England.

Still, if nothing else, Joffe gets some good performances from his supporting cast.  Andrea Riseborough manages to be both poignant and annoying as Rose while Andy Serkis appears to be having a lot of fun playing a slightly ludicrous gangster.  Not surprisingly, Helen Mirren commands every scene she appears in and she and John Hurt have got a great chemistry.  Regardless of how you might feel about the film as whole, it’s impossible not to enjoy their scenes together.  They’re final scene together made me squeal with delight and, in the end, that has to count for something.

Quickie Horror Review: Species (dir. by Roger Donaldson)


1995’s Species was a studio’s attempt to replicate the start of a new sci-fi/horror franchise like the one begun by Ridley Scott’s Alien. Roger Donaldson was tapped to direct this attempt with a cast that included Sir Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Marge Helgenberger, Forrest Whitaker and Alfred Molina. The lucky gal who gets to play the role of Sil — the half-alien, half-human hybrid — fell on the stunning and gorgeous shoulders of Natasha Henstridge.

Species pulls from so many different sci-fi/horror films and shows from the past that it’s hard to find anything original in the story. There’s stuff from Alien, The Hidden, and even some episodes of The X-Files. The one original twist in this derivate film was the plot of an alien race sending over the genetic markers of its race and instructions on how to recombine it with human DNA to create a form of hybrid. Why the scientists decided to go through with such a seemingly dangerous task is known only to the writer who put pen to paper to create the screenplay. The bulk of the film’s story comes from one the creation of one such human-alien hybrid named Sil (the young version played by Michelle Williams in one of her very first roles) and how her creators and handlers begin to realize that she has an almost desperate need to procreate.

The acting by the select group of experts (Madsen, Helgenberger, Molina, Kingsley and Whitaker) were good enough and no one embarrassed themselves in the end. Henstridge does a fine job of being sexy and hot. It helped that she pretty much was naked through most of the film, or at least put herself in situations to be naked. In fact, Henstridge goes beyond just being the naked eye candy in the film, but does a great job playing the naive adult Sil who escapes her lab-prison as her instincts propel her to find the perfect mate. It’s during this search that much of the film’s gore make their appearance and there’s a bit of it.

The art design of Sil as the evolved alien hybrid came courtesy of the great Swiss surrealist, H.R. Giger who also did the design for the alien creature in Alien. Giger’s biomechanical designs have always been disturbing and beautiful at the same time and he didn’t disappoint with his design of Sil. If there was a quibble on Sil’s final design it was that it still resembled a bit too much of the alien design in Ridley Scott’s Alien. But it was still great to see H.R. Giger still creating such wonderful artwork and designs for people to see. His popularity has always been mostly composed of the elite circles of the artworld and those small, loyal art groups with a penchant for the surreal, weird and disturbing.

In the end, Species was a good sci-fi/horror that didn’t bore too much and for those who enjoy their gore this film had its equal share of the red stuff. Gratuitious nudity and sex from Natasha Henstridge as Sil the alien hybrid and the excellent designs from H.R. Giger gives this film enough good things to look at. It doesn’t bring anything new and pretty much reuses alot of other things from other movies, but Species was good enough albeit derivative of better past films and shows.

Review: Arckanum – Helvítismyrkr


I am not overly familiar with Arckanum. I associate the one-man act more with Johan “Shamaatae” Lahger’s peculiarity than with his music. From releasing a music video frequently featured among metal’s cheesiest to releasing an album absurdly titled ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ, his minor exploits will perhaps always incline me to regard Arckanum with an eye towards the ridiculous. ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ did, however, receive some pretty gushing reviews (I never got around to listening to it enough to judge one way or the other), and when I saw that he’d released a new one I thought it due time to give him a shot.


Helvitt

Arckanum has a somewhat odd history musically as well. After releasing three full-length albums between 1995 and 1998, he took a decade long hiatus, not reappearing until 2008 and releasing a full length album every year since. (Sviga Læ, which was never brought to my attention, came out between ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ and Helvítismyrkr.)

In the meantime, Shamaatae has been an active writer on the subjects of “Chaos-Gnosticism” and “Anti-Cosmic Satanism”. A scholar in his field I’m sure. Whatever all that means, it apparently falls into a similar boat as the rituals practiced by fellow Swedes Dissection and Watain. Jon Nödtveidt took his own life in proclaimed accord with such teachings, and though I can never resist a tasteless joke that he had listened to the final studio cut of Reinkaos for the first time moments before his death, suffice to say these guys take themselves seriously.

One might expect that sort of intensity and personal conviction to be reflected in the music.


Nifldreki

Throughout Helvítismyrkr though, I’m not really hearing it. The album is in no sense bad, but it rarely surpasses the generic. Neither the song writing nor the atmosphere in which it is presented conjure for me much beyond a decent musician’s create outlet. He fails to take me beyond himself.

The album does have some catchy feature riffs however, Nifldreki being a prime example, and, the slow grind In Svarta aside, Shamaatae maintains a breakneck pace throughout the majority of each track, giving Helvítismyrkr a particular coherence and consequent appeal. Again, there is absolutely nothing bad about this work, I just had higher hopes.


Svartr ok Þursligr

Helvítismyrkr’s high point almost beyond debate is Svartr ok Þursligr. The breaks in the opening riff come in hard rock fasion that really drive the song, if in a peculiarly fun sort of way. Given the background, I was expecting the best tracks to be more on the esoteric side, but Shamaatae seems to be in his prime on Helvítismyrkr when he’s rocking out.

What propels the song from being merely more fun than the rest to being something really outstanding follows the transition about 3 minutes in. He incorporates a woeful, weeping violin that, aside from completely catching me off my guard, pairs up with the tremolo guitar with astounding success. It’s something I’ve never heard before in black metal, and the effect is a sort of tragedy in the positive sense–maybe not the vibe he intended to deliver, but one that certainly appeals. I can’t imagine it being sustained throughout an album without sounding over the top, so I wouldn’t encourage him to push for more of it in the future, but as a single instance it works exceptionally well.

I am not sufficiently well-versed in Arckanum’s catalog to personally recommend better efforts, but if the sparks of talent you’ve heard in these sample tracks entice you, ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ seems to be popularly regarded as his best work. As for Helvítismyrkr, it is a decent effort but nothing to brag about.