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Anton van Beek  |  May 16, 2011  |  0 comments

Spartacus: Blood and Sand is the ultimate in ‘guilty pleasure’ TV. Never afraid to push at the boundaries of taste and decency, this 13-episode debut season of the rollicking ‘adults only’ take on the historical story of gladiator-turned-slave-rebellion-leader Spartacus is awash with gore, sex and the most ribald and inventive swearing since Deadwood left our screens. That’s not to say that this Starz production is even half as smart as your average HBO series, but it makes up for its rampant dumbness with 300-style action scenes and plenty of naked romping (featuring everyone from Lucy ‘Xena’ Lawless to, gulp, John Hannah). Tremendous fun for lovers of trash TV.

Anton van Beek  |  May 16, 2011  |  0 comments

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season is a must-see for any fan of the undead. Coming from the same channel that gave us Mad Men and overseen by Frank ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ Darabont, this adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s award-winning comic book is probably the best thing to feature the living dead since Romero’s original zombie trilogy. This is truly adult horror; an intelligent and intense show that focuses as much on the everyday horrors the survivors must endure as it does on flesh-eating corpses. Of course, if you are just here for the zombies, then rest that it also packs more gore and thrills into its six episodes than all of the Resident Evil films put together.

Anton van Beek  |  May 02, 2011  |  0 comments

The Twilight Zone: Season 1 does a spectacular job of demonstrating why this 50-year old TV series had such a lasting impression on all who watched it. Hosted by creator Rod Serling, this half-hour sci-fi anthology series lived up to its promise of transporting its adult viewers to ‘a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man… This is the dimension of imagination’, one where anything could happen and usually did. What stands out today (about from how well made the show was) is how marvellously subversive it all was, mixing its thrills and chills with liberal doses of social criticism that somehow bypassed the TV censors of the time.

Anton van Beek  |  Apr 18, 2011  |  0 comments

The Scream Trilogy finds director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson (replaced by Ehren Kruger for the third outing) in full-on self-reflexive, post-modern mode, deconstructing the slasher genre for a new generation of horror fans. Unsurprisingly, it’s the original Scream that still stands up best, being an effective piece of horror cinema as well as a fun commentary on the sub-genre. Scream 2 follows the sequel path of upping the body count, but fails to really offer anything really fresh, while Scream 3 misses the point completely and is a total dud.

Anton van Beek  |  Apr 18, 2011  |  0 comments

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader finds the fantasy franchise setting up a new home at 20th Century Fox after Disney dumped it following the disappointing box office performance of Prince Caspian. Sadly, this third film in the saga doesn’t offer a bright new beginning for the series. What should be a rip-snorting adventure concerning Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Shandar Keynes) and annoying cousin Eustace (Will Poulter) helping Caspian (Ben Barnes) rescue the seven Lords of Narnia, proves to be a fairly dull and episodic slice of fantasy hokum dripping with heavy-handed Christian overtones. Yawn.

Anton van Beek  |  Apr 18, 2011  |  0 comments

From The Penetrator to A Clockwork Orgy, Batman XXX to Spankenstein, the adult film industry has a long tradition of parodying mainstream movies. In recent years, adult studios have become more and more ambitious with their porn parodies, thanks in large part to the increased availability and enhanced features offered by today's 'prosumer' visuals effects and editing software packages - the same kind of tools that allowed Gareth Edwards to create his recent critically-acclaimed micro-budget sci-fi drama Monsters.

Anton van Beek  |  Apr 11, 2011  |  0 comments

Monsters is in many ways a remarkable film. Shot entirely on location for less than £500,000 with a tiny crew, two unknown actors and visual effects knocked up by writer/director/cinematographer/etc. Gareth Edwards on his home computer, Monsters is a testament to just what it’s possible for a filmmaker to do with such limited resources these days. However, Monsters is also notable for the way it was knowingly mis-sold to audiences, with promises of epic sci-fi spectacle rather than the road-movie-cum-immigration-allegory it actually delivered. On its own terms Monsters is a success, but it’s one that audiences expecting more traditional sci-fi thrills may find difficult to engage with.

Anton van Beek  |  Mar 21, 2011  |  0 comments

Skyline represents an obvious step-up in quality for visual effects artists-turned-filmmakers Greg and Colin Strause. But this has more to do with the fact that this surprisingly dull alien invasion drama simply isn’t as offensive as their previous directorial outing Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem (although, their commentary makes it clear that this film’s finale was originally heading in a similarly distasteful direction), rather than being a reflection on their growing talents.

Anton van Beek  |  Mar 06, 2011  |  0 comments

Unstoppable finds director Tony Scott teaming up with his regular leading man Denzel Washington for yet another bout of chaos involving public transportation. Thankfully, while no cinematic classic, it’s a vast improvement on their meandering remake of The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 – delivering a straight-forward rush of undemanding action movie fun that partners Washington with Chris Pine in a tale of a runaway freight train packed with deadly chemicals, inspired by a true event that occurred back in 2001. As always, while the actors do their best with fairly limited parts, it’s Scott’s wild direction that amps up the action to breaking point and delivers the film’s real excitement.

Anton van Beek  |  Mar 06, 2011  |  0 comments

Saw: The Final Chapter brings the curtain down on the popular horror franchise, desperately trying to tie-up all of the loose ends left over from the previous six films while also providing yet more outlandish traps that end up spraying the screen with blood and gore. This time out the focus is on a Jigsaw survivor, who finds himself playing the game all over again, while a witness comes forward with information that could finally bring the killer to justice.

Anton van Beek  |  Feb 14, 2011  |  0 comments

The Social Network might seem to be a film about the creation of Facebook, but once past the surface it’s so much more than that. Director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin have used Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires as the springboard for a rich and rewarding intellectual property battle-cum-morality play, albeit one that is almost indecently smart and quite probably plays a little fast and loose with the facts. While Fincher’s direction is as assured and fastidious as ever, it’s Sorkin’s script that is the real star this time around. Loaded with genuine wit and wisdom, it transforms what could be a dry and technical history lesson into one of the most engrossing and invigorating Hollywood films in ages.

Anton van Beek  |  Feb 13, 2011  |  0 comments

RED stars Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich as a quartet of retired CIA agents who are forced to go on the run and fight for their lives when they’re targeted for termination by the organisation they used to work for. Based on a little-known comic book miniseries, this light-hearted action comedy coasts by on the chummy chemistry of its aging stars and the sheer pleasure you’ll find in watching a ‘classic’ actress like Helen Mirren whip out a machine gun and start blasting away at the baddies. So, while it’s far from perfect, RED knows exactly what it’s doing and in its curious, ambling way, delivers plenty of chuckles and some cracking action along the way.

Anton van Beek  |  Feb 06, 2011  |  0 comments

Bambi is possibly Walt Disney’s crowning achievement in feature animation. Based on the popular book by Austrian author Felix Salten, this story of a young fawn and his woodland friends might boast a fairly sleight 70min running time, but into that it packs some of the most beautiful hand-drawn animation ever committed to celluloid, a simple yet effective narrative that set the template for countless animated films to follow and some heart-wrenching scenes that can still turn adults into a blubbering mess. Truly magical.

Anton van Beek  |  Jan 31, 2011  |  0 comments

Winter’s Bone has been garnered with praise and awards since its release, and with damn good reason. This remarkable family-drama-cum-thriller stars Jennifer Lawrence as 17 year-old Ozark Mountains native Ree Dolly. The sole carer for her younger siblings and her almost catatonic mother, Ree finds herself in a race against time when her father skips bail having put their home up as the bond.

Anton van Beek  |  Dec 27, 2010  |  0 comments

Jonah Hex might not be the most high profile comic book character to make the leap to the big screen. But that’s no excuse for the paucity of effort and imagination that was put into cooking up this cinematic turkey.