5 Creepy Movie Characters

The Sloth didn’t sleep well last night.  Something went bump at 1.30am, waking us in panic. We grabbed the nearest improvised weapon to hand (a wooden puppet with a wobbly head – admittedly of limited use, but we’d left our Kalashnikov in the garage) and crept downstairs, ruing the fact our phone was out of charge.

The reason for our terror? We’d been watching The Fall pre-bedtime so were convinced a balaclavaed Jamie Dornan was sniffing our pants in the kitchen.  An interesting image for two reasons i) such an image could as easily apply to Mr Dornan’s upcoming turn as Christian Grey in 50 Shades – clearly not a man afraid of typecasting and ii) it highlighted a proliferation of unsavoury types currently parading across our screens. From Dornan’s own personal Gallery of Miscreants to Jake Gyllenhaal’s skin-crawling Nightcrawler, Louis Bloom; to Rosamund Pike’s Amazing Amy, whose morals and sanity have long Gone Girl, we’re loving Hollywood’s current turn to The Dark Side. Here are 5 more memorable movie creepsters from the past.

one hour1) Seymour Parrish, One Hour Photo. The much missed Robin Williams is primarily remembered for his services to comedy, but The Sloth most admired his turn as an obsessive stalker preying on a suburban family. It’s always the quiet ones…

 

 

javier

2) Anton Chigurh, No Country For Old Men. King of the bad haircut, Javier Bardem’s uber-villain simply has to stand and stare with his bolt gun and a thousand shivers run down a thousand spines. A technique partially reprised later for his white fright-wigged Silva in Skyfall.

 

dennis3) Frank Booth, Blue Velvet. Were we a lazy Sloth (oh, IRONY!) we could simply list 5 David Lynch films and leave this post there. But we’re not, so we’ll nominate Dennis Hopper’s gas mask wearing psychopath as a sadistically disturbed highlight.

 

 

tom_cruise_hair_smile_respect_magnolia_film4) Frank T McCay, Magnolia. Creepsters don’t always hide their light under a bushel. In arguably his best ever performance, Tom Cruise’s megalomaniac, misogynistic self-help guru dispensing seminars of ladykilling ‘advice’ to wannabe pick-up artists becomes even more disturbing after recent news stories surrounding Julien Blanc.

 

Frank5) Frank, Donnie Darko. (NB Are you sensing some kind of pattern emerging? No? Just us?)  Frankly (there it is again…), the entire film is essentially one long, surreal nightmare, but the intermittent, hallucinogenic images of Frank (gaahhh!!!!) the pyscho-bunny should come with a government mental health warning. Watch at your sanity’s peril.

Who are your favourite creepsters? Let us know.

Nightcrawler. How Low Can You Go?

nightcrawler-posterThose of a nervous disposition, The Sloth strongly recommends you look away now. Nightcrawler sees Jake Gyllenhaal play Louis Bloom, one of the most memorably creepy characters to hit the screen for quite some time.

An unemployed loner with intense ambition, Louis’ manic stare and spouting of management-speak clichés learnt online lead most who meet him to give him a wide berth. Unable to find normal employment, Louis chances upon lone shark cameramen filming a car crash on an LA freeway, to sell the images to TV networks. Seeing the same footage on the following morning’s news, Louis decides this could be the vocation for him.

Acquiring a basic video camera, police radio interceptor and hapless assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed), Louis is soon hot footing it to accident scenes and jamming his lens into the faces of the dying and injured. Peddling his ill-gotten wares to a local TV station, he encounters hard-bitten director of news Nina Romina (Rene Russo) who, valuing ratings over morals, urges Louis to bring her footage of “victims that are white, well off, injured at the hands of the poor or minorities.” Her wish is Louis’ command and, being a resourceful type, he doesn’t stop there. Being first on the scene means he can ‘dress’ his ‘set’ as he wishes – dead body not quite in the best light? No matter, Louis will move it. And soon he graduates to not just videoing the news but orchestrating its creation – no matter the cost.

Jake Gyllenhaal is extraordinarily good as Louis. Gaunt, haunted and obsessive, we’ve no idea what gutter he crawled out of, but he’s so disconcertingly real it simply doesn’t matter. A timely and deeply, darkly troubling satire, Nightcrawler looks at our increasing appetite for ghoulish news stories and asks just how low can we go in the quest for TV ratings? Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is just how plausible some of it seems.

UK release 31 October 2014

My Old Lady

my_old_lady_posterThe Sloth finds it very hard to think ‘Kevin Kline’ without picturing him squishing ketchupy chips up a stuttering Michael Palin’s nose. But perhaps that’s just us. My Old Lady contains neither chips, nor ketchup nor a stuttering Michael Palin. Boo…

Kevin plays Mathias Gold, an American who has inherited a Parisian apartment from his recently deceased father. Broke and seeing it as the answer to his money troubles, a bouyant Mathias arrives in Paris to find the apartment comes complete with elderly resident Mathilde Girard (Maggie Smith). For the apartment is subject to the French real estate practice of viager, entitling Mme Girard to live there and receive monthly ‘pension’payments from Mathias until her death. Mathias is no longer bouyant, particularly after reassurances from Mme’s doctor that, whilst in her 90’s, she is in excellent health and certain to live for quite some time.

But Mme Girard is not his only bugbear.  Her daughter, Chloé Girard (Kristin Scott Thomas – duh, who did you expect? It’s set in France, she’s legally obliged to it), quickly arrives on the scene and seizes up Mathias’ less than charitable feelings towards her mother. Upon Mathias’ proposal to sell the apartment, all out war ensues between the two sides.

My Old Lady is based on a play and it shows.  All focus is on the dialogue and the characters, often set in the oppressive dark of the gloomy Parisian apartment. Starting out as a dry comedy, the sarcastic, desparing Mathias trading insults with the school-marmy Mme Girard, it soon develops into a more serious drama as revelations about the characters pasts come to the surface. It’s not perfect, it drags a little in places, but when you have three actors of this calibre, what more do you need to do but put them in a room together? Maggie Smith could read the phone book and The Sloth would be interested. One for a pensive, rainy afternoon.

UK release 21 November

Get On Up

get_on_upChadwick Boseman is a name we’re not too familiar with on this side of the pond, the topics of his previous cinematic outings Draft Day (football in the American, rugby-with-shoulder-pads sense) and 42 (baseball) being somewhat US-centric. Hopefully that’s all about to change for in Get On Up he proves, yet again, that he’s a cracking actor.

A portrait of legendary soul singer James Brown, Get On Up doesn’t stick to the usual chronological biopic rules, instead it skips about through place and time.  One minute we’re watching him flying into the middle of a warzone to play to troops in Vietnam, dodging bullets and exclaiming “they tried to kill James Brown!” (gotta love a starry ego), the next we’re experiencing his shockingly unhappy childhood  - living literally in a shack in the woods with an abusive father and abused mother – the next we’re with a drunk James, falling apart towards the end of his career, holding a room full of terrified accountants to ransom with a shotgun.

Dipping about here and there might be disorienting but it does highlight how, regardless of place or time, that starry ego was always fully functioning. There clearly was one thing at the center of James’ world and that was James. Oh, and music, but primarily James. One thing Get On Up doesn’t do is shy away from his rampant, strutting, preening, selfish narcissism. Whether regally referring to himself in the third person or viciously verbally abusing his long suffering band, it made us wonder what comes first, the star or the ego?

Anchored by an extraordinary performance by Mr Boseman in the title role, Get On Up makes for striking viewing. When biopics often present their subjects in a hallowed light, it’s good to see one that doesn’t pull any punches. Mr Brown may have indeed contributed some astounding music to the world, but that genius came at a bit of a cost.

UK release 21 November

The Imitation Game. Stranger Than Fiction.

imitationThe Sloth wonders at what point the law was passed decreeing that B. Cumberbatch Esq and Ms. K Knightley should have first dibs on all eccentric loner and pouting vintage damsel roles respectively. For in The Imitation Game both are safely in their respective elements.

What do you think of when you hear ‘breaking the Enigma code’? We’re betting ‘Bletchley Park’ and ‘winning WW2’ spring immediately to mind, not ‘Alan Turing’ the mathematical genius who masterminded it. With the allied forces losing WW2 their only hope of victory was to break the supposedly unbreakable Enigma code that the German army used to send operational orders to its troops. Alan (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a Cambridge don recruited by MI6 as part of a team tasked with cracking the code.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Alan there is no ‘i’ in ‘team’. His prickly, borderline autistic personality, fearsome intelligence and devastation at his only school friend dying at a young age isolated him from forming relationships. Fortunately fellow code cracker Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) had the patience to see through his arrogant façade and help him relate to the others. Which was just as well as Alan’s code cracking vision was of essentially the first ever computer, a mechanical monster that systematically chewed through work at a rate no human could.

Part history lesson, part biographical study, this is a fascinating insight into a remarkable event that had unimaginably far reaching consequences – in both human lives and technological progression.  We’d have liked a little more bare facts as to how Turing’s machine actually worked, but that’s a quibble and doubtless we wouldn’t have understood it anyway. Turing’s story, a man victim of gross prejudice despite his achievements, is often heart-breaking and Cumberbatch, as we have come to expect, does him full justice. Oh, and look out for the dashingly suave Mark Strong in a scene stealing role as a super-spook MI6 commander par excellence. Marvellous stuff.

UK release 14 November

The Drop

the_drop_posterThe Drop features Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini and an UNFEASIBLY cute puppy. Do you need to know any more? Really? Are you sure? We were about to nip off for a coffee… Oh all right then.

Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) is a barman in Brooklyn in the slightly seedy kind of bar where slightly seedy kind of men toss down bourbons at 3.00pm and food is definitely not served. The bar is owned by dodgy Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) who has been forced into running it as a ‘drop’ by Chechen gangsters – a kind of illicit gangster banking service where money is collected and deposited by assorted ne’er do wells.

Marv is rather fed up of this so, unknown to Bob, is planning to try and beat the gangsters at their own game by staging a fake robbery of the drop money. Unfortunately, cirumstances don’t pan out quite as intended, leaving our Chechen gangsters more than a touch peeved and baying for Marv and Bob’s blood.

In the meantime Bob, walking home one night, discovers a whimpering, shivering, injured pitt bull puppy inexplicably dumped in the trashcan of a house belonging to Nadia (Noomi Rapace). Evidently a softhearted soul, Bob ends up taking the puppy, an adorable bundle of velvety fur and ears, home with him, a welcome distraction from the troubles at the bar.

The skill of The Drop is in making seemingly disparate events slowly reveal themselves to have significance. Plot lines converge and interlink, slowly building towards a genuinely shocking conclusion. Events reveal personality traits that add depth and complexity to the characters, in a world where nothing is black and white. Instead most things, like the puppy, are a hazy shade of grey. Anchored by yet another extraordinary performance from Tom Hardy (is this man capable of anything less?) The Drop is far more than just a gritty gangster movie.

UK release 14 November

The Skeleton Twins. Family To The Bone.

skeletonHow many serious act-oors do you see transitioning successfully to the comedy circuit? Thought of any? Come on, The Sloth’s waiting…  So why are so many comic actors able to transition seamlessly into being good serious actors? Is it purely to rub their rounded and wide-ranging talents in everyone’s noses?  The latest to emote their way into the thespian fold are Saturday Night Live veterans Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader.

Kristen and Bill play estranged twins Maggie and Milo. Milo, in his own words a ‘classic gay cliché’, is depressed after the break up of a relationship and slits his wrists in the bathtub. Maggie is depressed with her marriage, seemingly fine on the outside but unhappy within. Maggie is also contemplating suicide when she receives a call informing her that Milo, discovered in the nick of time, is in hospital.

So begins the piecing back together of their relationship and themselves. We learn hints of why things have gone wrong  through visits from their hippy dippy mother Judy (Joanna Gleason), too busy cleansing auras and realigning chakras to do anything actually useful and family man Rich (Ty Burrell), supposedly heterosexual and married with kids, but evidently a prior beau of Milo’s.

Skeleton Twins is one of these small, dramedy, festival type films that wear their Indie creds tattooed proudly down both arms and which Kristen in particular has been flirting with recently (see the self-conciously drab Hateship Loveship). But that’s not to dismiss it. It stays the right side of selfindulgent, mainly by dint of fine performances from both Ms Wiig and Mr Hader (smartasses….).  And if it all sounds too unremittingly serious, it isn’t. Look out for the rather fabulous lipsynching scene to Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. You can take the comedians out of comedy, but you can’t take comedy out of the comedians. Or something. You know what we mean.

UK release 7 November

Interstellar. 2000-Something Space Odyssey.

interstellar-posterWowsers, Christopher Nolan gets a lot of money to play with. Following blockbusters Dark Knight and Inception, his latest cinematic megalopolis, Interstellar, bulldozes its way through the gross domestic product of half of Western Europe. But is it any good?

It’s certainly ambitious. Middle America, sometime in the nearish future. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), an astronaut in the Apollo missions, is now a farmer struggling to maintain his crops in farmland blighted by dust storms and disease. Worldwide food production is declining, putting mankind’s future at risk. Things are Not Good.

Investigating strange happenings around his house, Cooper chances upon a secret NASA base hidden deep in the countryside, headed up by his old boss Dr Brand (Michael Caine). Officially disbanded years ago, NASA are working on a solution to humanity’s imminent demise. The plan? Bundle everyone into spaceships and scarper to another planet. But where? Cunningly, NASA has already sent several missions to research intergalactic property options. Next step? Send a follow up party to review the shortlist piloted by, you guessed it, Cooper.

After a painful goodbye to son Tom and daughter Merv, who is devastated by his departure, Cooper blasts into the unknown accompanied by scientists Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi). Plus vaguely sarky robot TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin). Plan is to spend several years in asleep in stasis, waking up in time to check out the first, hopefully habitable, planet. Inevitably, things do not go to plan.

This sounds simplistic. Interstellar is anything but. It cuts back and forth through huge chunks of time, expounds Einstein’s theory of relativity, mixes in repeated quotes from Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, explores concepts of three, four and five dimensions and adds emotional family drama for good measure.  All to an alternatively crashing, clunking, electronic score, then periods of total silence. It’s often too much to take in, as if several different films have been poured into a blender and blitzed at warp speed, arguably best when it calms down to scenes played mano-a-mano (you’ve got The McConaughey on board – you can’t go wrong). And we’re no physicist, but we’re not certain The Science Bits would stand up to full Einsteinian scrutiny. But full marks, Mr Nolan, for going for it. One thing it certainly isn’t, is dull.

UK release 7 November.

London Film Festival 2014 – Our Top 5

The BFI London Film Festival is finally over for another year. After 2 weeks permanently parked on a movie theatre pew, The Sloth’s eyes are bloodshot and we have callouses around our nether regions. Never mind that, we hear you cry, what was good?  Drum roll please. In reverse order, here’s our top 5 to look forward to in months to come:

kelly-cal-poster5 Kelly & Cal.  WHY DOES JULIETTE LEWIS NOT GET MORE WORK? IT’S A DISGRACE! The Sloth LOVES Juliette, so we were delighted to see her in this bittersweet dramedy of an unlikely friendship between two outsiders. A small film with a very big heart. Seek it out.

 

Foxcatcher poster

4 Foxcatcher. Arriving with more critical fanfare than a trumpeter’s convention, frankly this was never going to live up to the hype. But it’s a cool, mesmeric, understated psychological drama with terrific turns from Channing Tatum (potential contender for The Sloths’ New Favourite Actor – how did Mr Step Up suddenly get so good?) and Steve Carrell.

 

MrTurner_Final3 Mr Turner. A biopic of the acclaimed painter sounds, let’s be honest, somewhat dull. But in the hands of Mike Leigh this is unexpectedly witty, warm and wonderfully entertaining. Add in Timothy Spall’s marvellously bestial, grunting, porcine performance and you’ve got a winner.

 

white god2 White God.  Dog pound strays turn nasty on their human captors. Mad as a bucket of frogs metaphorical critique of state oppression that starts out as Lassie and ends up 28 Days Later meets Planet Of The Apes. Nutty and sublime in equal measures. Deservedly won canine star Hagen the Palme Dog. We’re wondering how the director explained his motivation.

 

whiplash1 Whiplash.  Does what it says on the tin. A thrilling, demonic, whirlwind tale of musical obsession with terrifyingly good (and downright terrifying) performances from stars JK Simmons and Miles Teller. It drew not only applause but cheers at the press screening.  Stonking.

White God. You Ain’t Nothing But A Pound Dog.

white godDoubtless you are familiar with the music concept of ‘a mash up’ – taking two well known, disparate tracks and mixing together to create an all new (and hopefully fabulous) musical lovechild.  Now meet its cinematic cousin, White God, the rebellious, illegitimate son of Lassie and 28 Days Later.  Not only did it win Un Certain Regard at Cannes but its remarkable canine stars won the coveted Palm Dog, a title previously awarded to such four legged luminaries as Uggie from The Artist and Dug from Up.

Hagen the dog is a handsome crossbreed devoted to his young owner Lilli (Zsófia Psotta).  A product of a broken marriage, Lilli has been sent to stay with her father taking Hagen in tow. Unfortunately, neither Lilli’s father nor the owners of his state controlled apartment are keen on crossbreeds, the ownership of which necessitate paying a government tax. Unwilling to fork out cash to keep a mutt, after much wailing and protesting from Lilli, her father cruelly dumps Hagen by a busy roadside to fend for himself.

Initially finding company among other street strays, Hagen’s naivety soon gets the better of him as he is captured by a tramp who sells him to a dog fighting ring. Half starved, deprived of affection and forcibly exercised, Lilli’s loving pet is soon unrecognisable, methodically transformed into a snarling mass of teeth, claws and agression. But eventually the tables begin to turn as Hagen, plus an army of crossbred pooches imprisoned in the hellish city dog pound, start to rebel against their human oppressors.

An analogy for class oppression, as well as a chilling reminder of the cruelty man can inflect on beast, White God is wildly original, often deeply disturbing and tinged with pitch black humour. We defy you not to suppress (or let out – what the hell) a cheer in the final scenes as Hagen and his hundred strong canine army run amok through city streets in some of the most astounding and arresting visual imagines we’ve seen in cinema.  The proverbial dogs danglies.