So, the whole shocking story of Alcatraz’s 29-year life as a Federal Penitentiary comes down to just two incidents, does it – the May 1946 failed escape attempt known as the ‘Battle of Alcatraz’, and the June 1962 escape bid that may or may not have been successful? Oh, and a bit of filler in-between about Clarence Carnes and Robert Stroud. Nothing else, it seems, was shocking, or part of the whole Alcatraz story. (more…)
Posted on March 7th, 2020 at 8:14 pm. Updated on March 7th, 2020 at 8:14 pm.
Set against the backdrop of the growing Solidarity movement in the early 1980s, this film tells a simple story: an autsajder (outsider) inside. (more…)
Posted on October 1st, 2019 at 9:59 pm. Updated on October 1st, 2019 at 9:59 pm.
The Variety interviewer tosses director Álvaro Brechner a helpful prompt: “It’s not a prison movie…” “No, it’s not,” he agrees. “Two things are always present in a prison movie: the intent of escape; the recreation of a micro-society within the penitentiary. None of this happens here. It’s a film about descent into the depths of inner hell.” Señor Brechner and I might differ on what constitutes a prison movie, but I can see why he would see it as a film about descent into the depths of inner hell. Indeed, it would be a show of rudeness (and folly, really) to contradict him on what his film is about, but I reckon it’s even more about survival and resilience. And triumph.
Posted on January 23rd, 2019 at 3:26 pm. Updated on June 13th, 2019 at 3:27 pm.
Before Fortress (1992) and its famous intestinator was this low budget flick, set in 2045 and boasting a very similar device: a ID transmitter/receiver inserted into the pulmonary plexus that not only tracks prisoners’ whereabouts, but allows guards to remotely cause pain to any part of a prisoner’s body (teeth, stomach etc), simply by choosing the relevant button on the remote control. Other than that – and the satellite prison’s sex droids (robots known as ‘pen pals’ which provide sexual favours to the well-behaved prisoners) – it is a pretty standard escape movie. (more…)
Posted on December 23rd, 2018 at 11:35 am. Updated on December 23rd, 2018 at 11:41 am.
Chess. It features in so many prison films, and I’m never sure if it hearkens back to a time before TVs were allowed in prisons and prisoners were assiduous chess players, or whether it is just filmmakers’ code – a lazy shorthand way of telling the audience that this person is a master strategist. That said, only a week or so ago I visited a juvenile prison where several young Aboriginal boys were huddled around a chess board, and another giant chess set adorned the yard; maybe it’s making a comeback. In any event, there’s no chess played here, in this film. (more…)
Posted on May 14th, 2018 at 8:58 pm. Updated on May 14th, 2018 at 9:08 pm.
I can be a wee bit mistrustful, I know. As soon as I finished watching this movie, based on the life of Yevgenia (or Eugenia) Ginzburg, I sought out her true life story to see if it matched the film version. There are some differences between the two, it seems, and some of which I get; after all, you want people to watch the movie. (more…)
Posted on October 9th, 2017 at 9:12 pm. Updated on October 9th, 2017 at 9:12 pm.
Ozzy isn’t quite the new Toy Story 3 (2010); it lacks much of the cleverness and multi-dimensional appeal of the earlier animated feature. But as another heart-warming movie about discarded anthropomorphic beings longing to be reunited with their families, it happily shares something of the same vibe. (more…)
Posted on September 21st, 2017 at 9:56 pm. Updated on September 21st, 2017 at 9:56 pm.
Who could forget the original Fortress (1992) and its magnificent intestinator? There’s nothing in this sequel to match it, sadly, although each prisoner does receive a new behaviour-modifying neural implant that also expropriates the optic nerve and allows ZED, the prison’s all-knowing computer, to relay each prisoner’s vision onto staff-monitored screens. Which is sort of handy. (more…)
Posted on December 27th, 2016 at 7:31 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:01 am.
The Last Castle has many of the hallmarks of a Shawshank; a classic battle of strategy between principled prisoner and corrupt warden, an imposing prison setting (the magnificent, fortress-like Tennessee State Penitentiary), and similar production values. But it doesn’t quite have the same impact… maybe because its message is a little muddier. (more…)
Posted on July 21st, 2016 at 9:14 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:02 am.
It might have been because I kept switching between election updates and the football scores while watching this, but it didn’t have the impact on me that I presume its makers wanted. Or maybe – despite me knowing virtually nothing about the pre-war Russian penal system – it was because it seemed more like a cheap re-creation of a village pokey than the Siberian gulag I had somehow preconceived.
Posted on July 9th, 2016 at 5:52 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:02 am.