Following hot on the heels of well-known Asian chillers such as “Ring”, “Dark Water” and “Ju-on” comes a ghost story to top them all. “Phone” tells the story of an investigative reporter, Ji-won, who has recently published a controversial article about sex-scandals and has since begun receiving a series of menacing phone calls. In an effort to escape the phone calls she changes her number and moves house, but the calls keep coming. When a friend’s young daughter innocently answers the ringing telephone she begins to exhibit increasingly crazed behaviour. As she tries to unravel the mystery behind the phone calls Ji-won uncovers a secret that will change them all. Stylish and terrifying, “Phone” follows the growing pedigree of Asian horror, that shock, scare and astonish in equal measure.
2002 – Certificate: 15 – South Korean Film
Rating Details: Strong psychological horror
7.0 out of 10
It’s confession time here in Cactus World. I’ve never owned a mobile phone. I’m one of the 10% or so of people living in the UK that doesn’t have one, a country in which there’re more mobile phones than people. It’s not that I’m a Luddite or anything. I got Windows 7 when it first came out, I’ve a 120Mb Internet connection, a TV service with hundreds of channels I never watch and even a landline. I actually have a mobile for work too, (an elderly Nokia smartphone, although no data contract to go with it). The amount of increasingly desperate marketing materials I get from Virgin Media offering me billions of texts, terabytes of data and endless free mobile calls, suggests its marketing department’s best algorithms have identified me as a dangerous, social anomaly that needs to be dealt with, by selling me a phone and mobile service contract as soon as possible. I imagine GCHQ has probably got me on its ‘high risk’ list of people who’re attempting to live off the grid, in preparation for launching a huge, worldwide terrorist attack on the good and the great. Unfortunately, the two things I’d actually need to make getting a phone worthwhile, namely some friends to contact and some time in which to do so, don’t seem to be included in any of Virgin Media’s offers, at least not yet… This film hasn’t made getting a mobile any more attractive to me either.
This is a chilling movie. At least the first half of it is. Then the story gets a bit muddled up and it turns into more of a straightforward, supernatural thriller, before everything gets explained at the end. The latter was pretty helpful, as by then I’d sort of lost the plot and it wasn’t as if I’d had much to drink either. It’s worth a watch just to see the terrifying little kid in it. I really did believe she’d been possessed by the spirit of her father’s dead, underage lover. I was going to ring the police to report it, but by then I was too scared to use the phone. This film makes great use sound, from the audio design itself through to the annoying ringing of the phones. The latter all seem to share the same cheap and nasty ringtone, although the modern option of the latest nondescript Top Ten hit by someone with little talent, played via a speaker with all the sonic range of kettle, is arguably no better. There was some decent DIY on show too.
One of the things that makes this film work is its music. In particular, it uses Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor Op. 27 No. 2 (aka the Moonlight Sonata) to great effect. This is one of the best bits of classical music ever written.
The trailer is almost entirely useless, as it does nothing to make the movie interesting. In fact if you wanted to see how not to make a trailer, this one would be a pretty good example. It’s over melodramatic, incoherent, says nothing about the film and is too dark as well.
Recommended for journalists, wives that don’t appear to do much and schoolgirls that want to get off with older men; and pissed off spirits.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Chang-hoon is some guy. He’s the CEO of a big company, has a beautiful wife and a schoolgirl lover, yet he’s got all the personally of a plank of wood. I guess his money and his (I assume) ability in bed must make up for it. (His wife was pretty boring as well if I’m honest.) Still, he’s clearly some sort of Korean alpha male, badass dude.
A charming and affecting tale charting the fortunes of three small town heroes pursuing their dreams, Carlos Sorin’s “Historias Mínimas” offers further evidence of the current riches to be found in Argentine cinema. Awarded a special jury prize at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, it’s a deceptively simple, yet delightful road movie concerned with three disparate characters heading for the Argentine city of San Julian amid the beautiful landscapes of Patagonia. Roberto (Javier Lombardo) is a travelling salesman hoping to impress a young widow by surprising her child with a birthday cake. Don Justo (Antonio Benedictis) is an old man with poor vision who sits in front of his son’s grocery store and entertains passing children by wiggling his ears. Maria (Javiera Bravo) is a shy young mother who has won an appearance on TV game show “Multicoloured Casino”. Gently probing the hopes and aspirations of his characters, Sorin uses the interconnected, tripartite structure to offer astute observations both on a culture relatively unscathed by modernity and on contemporary Argentina itself.
2002 – Certificate: 15 – Argentina
7 out of 10
I work for a charity. Ironically, considering we’re basically penniless (because we use all our dosh on doing ‘good stuff’) we spend a lot of time counting our money. We count it up, we count it down, we count it sideways, we even lend it to one another (a loving and intimate experience we call an “internal transfer”) so we can count it some more. Every year, to punish ourselves for not having enough money with which to save the planet, we like to spend ‘quality time’ counting what little we have. It’s a quasi-religious experience for us all, where staff from far and wide go back to their offices and sit in front of a computer, before subjecting themselves to a living Hell. In the ‘old days’ we called these bi-annual events “budgeting” or “forecasting”. Then, discovering we actually had less money than we thought, we decided to count it four times a year instead and call it “financial planning”. These are watched over by a group of pan-dimensional super-intelligent beings we call the Leadership Team, (although throughout the annuals of human history they’ve sometimes been given many other, less flattering titles). Their names are known to everyone, but few claim to have met any, (which certainly helps to keep the God theme going). Like visiting a priest, this is a time for people to confess their sins and fess up to all the non-existent income they’ve been claiming they’re going to raise. The naughtier you’ve been, the longer you’re required to do this for. This year I’ve been really bad, so I’ve just spent 6 days in Purgatory, filling in around 16,000 rectangles that needed a number put into them, mostly, as you might imagine, zeros. There were also about 100 pages of notes, to explain what all the noughts mean. I guess I could have spent six days filling in forms to gain some money to put into all the boxes that have nothing in them, but what do I know? I suppose if you add enough noughts together, they’ll end up equalling more than nothing; there must be some ‘weird’ maths somewhere that results in that happening, or maybe there’re just typos. That reminds me, I must go and spend my HMV Vouchers on Saturday. This is a film about some people without a great deal of money, who seem to get by okay.
This is a cute drama/comedy about three people undertaking different journeys in Argentina, from the same, small village to a (not so) nearby town. Unlike the last film I watched, “Say Yes”, which was a road trip movie about a psycho hitchhiker in Korea, this one is slow, nothing much happens and it’s really quite boring. Yet despite this it’s actually quite engrossing. There’s something very ‘reality TV’ about watching ordinary people going about their business and seeing how important seemingly small things are to them. Those little events that mean you have a good day or a crap day; in the big scheme of things they don’t make the slightest difference, but to us individually they’re immensely significant. This movie also highlights the fact that most people are inherently quite decent, which isn’t something you see in a film very often. If there isn’t at least one person trying to fuck up someone else’s life, then it’s just weird. If you remember “The Fast Show’s” Chanel 9, you’ll be able to relate to the Multicoloured Casino part. There’s something quite funny about watching a film in Spanish featuring a really crappy game show, which uses the word “multiprocessor” too many times. Some of scenery is pretty inspiring too, so it’s a shame the quality of the picture isn’t that great. Nice film, go watch.
Recommended for people who can manage 88 minutes without any aliens, explosions or superheroes. It’s tough I know, but someone has to do it.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? I’m going for the workman who helps Don Justo get his dog back. True, it’s probably not actually his dog and the workman does have to buy it from some guy, but considering he didn’t really know Don Justo, that was a pretty badass thing to do. And there I was, thinking that all that Argentinians are heartless bastards who just want to reinvade the Falklands. I guess that’s what happens when you confuse politicians with human beings.
When you drive from Reading towards Oxford, as you leave the town you pass a number of road signs proudly proclaiming you’re entering Oxfordshire, the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, most importantly of all, that the speed limit is now 50mph. After the slow 30mph climb out of Reading, with its 100s of speed cameras ready to catch the weary, the inattentive and the downright stupid, the sudden vista of trees and open fields, a straight road and all that ‘roadside furniture’ is enough to turn even the most mind-mannered driver into a Mad Max style petrol-head. So imagine my pleasure recently, as when leaving the town along this very road, at the very moment of transition from high-tech military oppression to the anarchy of the countryside beyond, onto my car stereo came Andrew W.K.’s “Party Hard”. This is a great bit of ‘speeding up’ music. However, the intro goes on for 27 seconds. Even in a Ford Focus that’s a lot of acceleration time. I was quite surprised when I looked down to see I was doing over 200mph. That’s pretty impressive for a diesel. This film also has a main character that talks a lot of bollocks but thinks he’s making sense.
2002 – Certificate 15: – USA
Rating Details: Language: Frequent, Strong. Sex/Nudity: Infrequent Moderate References. Violence: None. Other: Substance Abuse.
I feel a bit guilty for not liking this drama / black comedy more. I did try, but I just couldn’t get behind the ‘hero’ Wilson. I know he was having a bad time, what with his wife’s suicide and all that, but he had plenty of friends, family and work colleagues who wanted to help him. But what does he do? Not open the letter his wife left for him and develop a somewhat unhealthy interest in sniffing petrol and (in his own words) “radio-control”. For a successful winner like me, who’s never failed at anything in his entire life, it’s hard to see someone behaving quite so pathetically over such a small thing. What a wimp. Loser. Anyway, don’t let me put you off watching this film, because it is pretty entertaining and the acting’s great too. It’s just that I got a little too much pleasure out of seeing Wilson make a bit of a tool of himself once too often and then that made me feel guilty. I didn’t really get to feel his pain, you know what I mean?
Recommended for radio-controlled boat and plane enthusiasts.
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.
Top badass moment? In a film filled with flawed, somewhat sad individuals, where no one really ‘rises to the challenge’, this is not an easy thing to do. So rather than bother I’ve decided that anyone who flies radio-controlled aeroplanes is badass. For a hobby that’s easy for everyone else to ridicule, (it’s only one step above train-spotting in my mind), who hasn’t secretly wanted to have a go at it anyway? Pursuing your interests when the rest of the world thinks you’re just a stupid kid who won’t grow up, is badass. It’s just jealousy you know.
On the way back from a meeting today I had to drive across the Vale of Oxford, a rolling landscape of large fields and not a lot of trees or hedges. It does however, provide some quite panoramic views of the sky. Today I was accompanied on my journey by one of the scariest clouds I’ve ever seen. An enormous line of meteorological anger, brightly illuminated by the sun, pushing huge, white fists of fury high up into sky above. It was like the very Gates of Hell had opened across the Berkshire Downs and pure evil was boiling up from the ground below and into the heavens. No really, it was that awe-inspiring! A true litany of terror* stretched out before my eyes; Mother Nature telling us not to fuck with her any more. I was put in mind of the clouds in “Independence Day” that the spaceships then appear out of, before the alien scum inside them start to trash the Earth. (I’ve always liked the expression “alien scum”; I got it from Activision’s BattleZone 2 Combat Commander that was released in 1999, which is still my favourite all-time computer game.) I was expecting Reading to be wiped off the map this afternoon by a deluge so awesome that Noah would have wimped out. However, in the end it rained for about five minutes. I wish I’d taken a photo, but my camera is totally broken now so I need to buy a new one. This film is about aliens that seem to want to destroy the Earth and is also awesome, but not in quite the same way. *A quote from this film.
2003 – Certificate: PG-13 – USA
Rating Details: Crude and sexual humor including dialogue
This movie is dumb. This movie is stupid. This movie isn’t really very funny. Having said all that, it is actually quite entertaining. It also contains plenty of quotable lines too, which you’ll be able to have hours of fun using should you be lucky enough to find another human being somewhere who’s seen it too. “Not a problem” I felt was particularly helpful and would have a number of ‘real-world’ applications. “Enthuse for Rabirr” probably has a more limited range of specialist uses. Anyway, it’s got a 100’ tall giant called Croker (who’s probably the funniest thing in it), one of the most ineffective ray guns in any sci-fi film ever and some less than subtle product placement. Another plus is the version of the theme tune played at the end. This is by Nerf Herder, which was also responsible for the theme to TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and is the 2nd best band on the planet. A high-quality B-movie; if there is such a thing.
Recommend for anyone who secretly likes to watch a totally dumb film once in a while.
No cats and 2 decapitations. (There’re also two heads that sort of get vaporised). I have to say that the decapitation count is a little disappointing, considering that at one stage during the film we’re promised around 5.8 billion of them; which is probably the most in any film ever.
Top badass moment? However stupid those threatening to use them were, the cow’s determination not to give in to chainsaw and machete wielding aliens, was badass; its badass enough to make Ronald McDonald join the Vegetarian Society. (I probably should have rewritten that sentence, it’s a bit of a mess syntaxically. Oh, and now it contains a made-up word too. I’m just digging the hole deeper and deeper…)
Far be it for me to ever admit I have any sort of imperfections, but up until a few years ago I used to bite my nails. Then one day I realised I’d more or less stopped doing it. Weird isn’t it? I’ve no idea what made me stop, but there you go. One of life’s little mysteries. This isn’t really a film about biting fingernails, which is probably a positive thing as I can’t imagine it would be very entertaining if it was. It’s more about someone who’s ambitious at work, who over-stretches herself and as a result of an accident at a partly, starts to self-harm in increasingly extreme ways. I really wanted to feel sorry for Esther, the main character in this movie. After all, she clearly has some big issues she needs to deal with and I’m a nice, caring person; no, really I am. Trouble is, she was basically a selfish bitch and I got the feeling she always had been. Decent job, caring boyfriend, intelligent, but still managing to be a bitch to everyone, but in that sneaky way only the clever ones can be. She also uses these same ‘skills’ to hide her new ‘hobby’ from those around her, or at least hide enough of what she does to give them an excuse not to do anything to help her, because that’s easier isn’t it? I bet they felt pretty bad about it all after the film ended (if that makes any sense)? Not that I liked any of them really, not my type at all. Pretty boring, dull, unpleasant people the lot of them.
2002 – Certificate: 18
Rating Details: Frequent bloody images of self-mutilation
This is an interesting, intense, French horror. It’s weird how a country that managed to invent a type of bread that’s so impractical it doesn’t actually fit into anyone’s shopping bag (stupid or what), also manages to produce some really great horrors. Its self-harming scenes are genuinely unsettling; it’s the sound and the look on Esther’s face more than just simply the gory bits. It has very good effects and it has to be said the acting is excellent too. I was glad I hadn’t eaten before watching it. The scene with the arm during the meal in the restaurant is a bit surreal though and sort of doesn’t quite fit in with the tone of the rest of the film.
No cats and no decapitations.
Recommended for people into slow, intense, quiet horror, with a high “eew factor”. Not recommended for people who get grossed out during first aid training courses.
Top badass moment? In the words of the Smiths, “I tried but I failed”. There’re no characters in this movie with enough redeeming qualities to qualify them as badass. They weren’t exactly bad, but none had that self-sacrificing ‘hero quality’ that I was looking for. Move along now, nothing to see here; just a lot of flawed humans.
I remember when all phone boxes were red with lots of their original rectangular glass panels replaced by plastic ones, always smelt of piss and you had to use either 2p or 10p coins in them; not that they worked most of the time anyway. Now you only seem to see them in quaint villages; or in people’s gardens being used as a weird sort of greenhouse and to give their owners the opportunity to say to anyone who needs to find where they live, “look out for the phone box in the front garden”; ha-ha very funny. Nowadays, you need a credit-card to use most of them, which is a bit ironic because nothing shouts out “failure” with a big arrow pointing at you more, than using a public phone box. With mobiles being so omnipresent, only the poorest or most stupid of people use phone boxes these days. So basically what I’m saying is that using a phone box is the same as making a public statement to the effect that, “I’m a failure in life, put me up against a wall and shoot me”. I never use them myself of course, as I’m a winner!
2002 – Certificate: 15
Language: Frequent, Strong. Sex/Nudity: Some Strong References. Violence: Some, Strong. Other: Persistent Threat.
It’s a few years since I last watched this semi-classic thriller and it felt dated this time around. I’m not sure why, it just does. Maybe it’s the clichéd presentation of New York that does it, I’m not too sure. This is a shame, as it’s otherwise a really good film, tense, original and entertaining. There aren’t a lot of films where one of the main characters is only on-screen for a minute or so. Colin Farrell (Stuart Shephard) does a really good job as ‘the victim’ too. Even cooler, he was in an episode of “Blakes 7” once.
No cats and no decapitations.
Recommended for the entire mobile telecommunications industry. This film has single-handedly done more for the likes of Vodafone, Orange and O2 etc than anything else. Walking and talking at the same time makes you a harder target to shoot at, a genuine worry than most mobile users have, I know; never mind that it makes you 100 times more likely to be hit by a car, or one of those lampposts that like to jump out in front of mobile users.
Top badass moment? Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker) for playing the ‘good cop with problems’. Give the guy a holiday someone, he looks like he needs one. Good cops are badass.