Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What I Watched - January 24-30 2016


 The House at the End of Time (2013) Netflix
 - This horror/thriller is from Venezuela of all places and apparently set all sorts of box office records in that country. It's easy to see why, as this continues the great run of success for Spanish-language supernatural movies (Devil's Backbone, The Orphanage, Julia's Eyes, Timecrimes etc). I know it's unfair to lump a Venezuelan movie in with films from Spain, but if I can generalise for a minute... the Latino directors/writers/actors are masters at creating haunted house movies thick with atmosphere and with an underlying feeling of loss.
The House at the End of Time is one of those movies that keeps you guessing right until the end, and wraps things up nicely with an explanation that makes you smile. But as well as being a good mystery, it uses some great suspense and is genuinely creepy throughout. Definitely recommended.

The Martian (2015) AVI
- I'm sure every man and his dog has seen this movie by now. This Matt Damon-starrer got a lot of buzz when it came out last year. And it deserves a lot of the praise, because it's a genuinely-intriguing tale of one man trapped alone on Mars and his battle for survival. While some of the supporting roles are miscast, Damon is really quite good in the lead role and director Ridley Scott once again shows that he is a master of scifi.

Craigslist Joe (2012) Netflix
- Nifty little doco about one man's quest to survive solely on the generosity of others on Craigslist. There's nothing profound about any of it, but it's interesting to see the film maker's journey across the US while meeting some of the more bizarre characters from the website.

The Internet's Own Boy (2014) Netflix
- Before sitting down to watch this I had never heard of Aaron Swartz, the subject of this documentary. He was a gun young computer programmer who developed the RSS protocol and co-founded reddit, so quite a big deal in terms of the internet world. He also seemed to be something of a tortured genius and killed himself while waiting to be tried by the authorities for hacking. This doco has interviews with all of his family, friends and important people in the tech-world that he lived in. An interesting watch.

Case 39 (2009) Netflix
- Another late-night blind-watch on Netflix, this one turned out to be pretty good. One-time A-lister Renee Zellweger plays a social worker who saves an abused young girl from her crazy parents. But were her parents really crazy or was there more to it? Ian McShane shows up in a fairly-bland supporting role, but Zellweger carries the load (all wide-eyed and shocked throughout) along with young Jodelle Ferland (Cabin in the Woods, The Tall Man), who is outstanding as the foster girl who isn't all that she seems. Shades of The Good Son and Orphan, this thriller is by-the-numbers but has a few twists to keep things interesting.

Contracted: Phase II (2015) Netflix
- I quite liked the first movie, but sadly this sequel doesn't really add anything, just going over the same ground again. It picks up right where the first movie ends, with a supporting character from that taking over the lead role. There's some gore and some gross-out moments, but for the most part I was generally bored here.

A Lonely Place to Die (2011) Netflix
- A survival thriller where the good guys are mountain climbers and the bad guys are either people smugglers or kidnappers (I won't give it away), this plays as a cross between Cliffhanger and any number of modern thriller/horror movies.
What saves it is that the climbing scenes are handled very well, keeping the pulse racing throughout (particularly if you're terrified of heights like I am), and the performance of Melissa George. I've been watching her since she was a kid on Australian soap Home and Away, and she's turned into a solid Holywood actor. She plays a good survivor/victim, as shown in 30 Days of Night, and she's in good form here. The script is also clever in a few places, twisting our expectations and going against the predictable, which I appreciated. All in all a pretty good little thriller, but be warned - if you're scared of heights you're in for a rough ride.

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