After the darkness and savagery of Fight Club and Se7en, director David Fincher’s third collaboration with Brad Pitt represents a major shift in style and tone. Adapted from F Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, the action begins in the 21st century and then flashes back to 1918 when baby Benjamin (Pitt) is born with the physiology of a geriatric. As the years pass he proceeds to “grow” younger, but the teenage Benjamin still resembles an elderly man when he first meets Daisy, the girl who will become the love of his life (in the form of Cate Blanchett). It’s their attempts to consummate those romantic feelings that form the backbone of the film, although time, inevitably, works against them. Make-up and state-of-the-art CGI special effects show Pitt’s journey from old age to youth, but what’s remarkable here is that the computer wizardry doesn’t overshadow the heartfelt story. Scripted by Forrest Gump writer Eric Roth, the film shares some similar themes – loss, love and the unstoppable march of time – but feels unique. Best of all, the central relationship between Benjamin and Daisy offers a touching, yet never cloying, emotional warmth to this truly curious case.
It took two major studios – Fox and Warner Bros, pooling resources – and two similar novels – The Tower and The Glass Inferno – to make this triple-Oscar-winning disaster movie. The fun comes from guessing which superstars will get fried to a crisp in the burning San Francisco skyscraper, ignited during the opening ceremony, and who will be saved by daring fire chief Steve McQueen. The big-name cast plays second fiddle to the blazing special effects, but the mounting suspense and outlandish rescue attempts fan the consistently entertaining flames.
Director Rob Schmidt pays tribute to 1970s exploitation cinema with this simplistic but extremely satisfying horror feature. Offering everything a high-quality shocker should, it’s gruesome, gratuitous, totally terrifying and, above all, rollicking good fun. A blend of Deliverance, The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it has mutant American hillbillies turning the woods of West Virginia into their personal (human) hunting ground. But the grisly extent of their “sport” only becomes clear when five campers and a stranded doctor (Ghost Ship’s Desmond Harrington) fall prey to their cannibalistic urges. While Harrington and Eliza Dushku (Faith in TV’s Buffy) deliver ballsy and believable heroics, it’s producer Stan Winston’s special effects that steal the show – horribly realistic, they send serious shivers down the spine. Add Schmidt’s skilful use of shadow and sound to the equation and you’ve got a pretension-free chiller that – while derivative – really packs a punch.
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