Tag Archives: Film

How To Survive a Plague.

5 Oct

plague

I have just finished watching one of the most important films I have ever seen. ‘How To Survive a Plague‘ focuses on the organisation Act Up, who during the 80’s and 90’s were directly responsible for the growth of political and public awareness in relation to the Aids virus. During the height of the groups activism, its leaders, affiliates and supporters, many of whom faced almost certain death from being HIV positive, focused on standing up to a government who seemed to have no intention of helping a community plagued by a killer disease. Through their triumphant and courageous efforts the medical and political community of the time were unable to simply stand by and watch people die of a disease that could indeed be prevented. The documentary shows the lives, and deaths, of those directly involved in Act Up and the incredible results that came about thanks to a movement who never gave up.

This film is unbelievably powerful. Shot using a blend of video footage from the time and interviews, it puts you directly in the middle of the activism and emotional hiatus, and allows the story to be told from the people who were there, a film that feels utterly unique in its approach.

It moved me to see people who in their dying days still took a stand and fought for what they believed in. They fought for their lives, for the lives of their friends and the lives of people yet to be born. They fought against a government and certain institutions who seemed to ignore the rising death toll and instead place blame on a community for the situation they found themselves in. They fought for humanity and life itself.

Watch the trailer and then watch the film. This is a story that is long overdue, a part of our history and our present. Don’t ignore it.

act up

Nooooooo-ah.

21 May

‘Just because someone releases a few hit singles, it doesn’t mean that the whole album is going to be any good.’

noah-movie-posterIf at some point in your life you were a child, as I am sure you were, then there would have been a time when you came across the story of Noah. Whether it was at school, at your local library, or read to you as a bedtime story in a beautifully illustrated and colourful childrens edition of the Bible, you never forget. It is an epic story filled with animals, good and evil, hope, belief and a tonne of water. Religion didn’t even have to come in to it, the story was what you cared about. Andsometimes the song.

This is why, after falling in love with the story of Noah as a young boy, director Darren Aronofsky had made it a lifetime ambition to tell the tale using the big screen. Sadly, in doing so, he has tarnished all of those childhood memories with a tragically poor film.

Now I would like to take you back to my opening statement – ‘Just because someone releases a few hit singles, it doesn’t mean that the whole album is going to be any good.’ Said to me once by someone I know, it was all I could think about after viewing Noah at my local cinema. Aronofsky’s back catalogue is so strong (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan), as is Russel Crowe’s (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Les Miserables) and Anthony Hopkins (do I even need to list them?), that I believed whole-heartedly that I would not be disappointed. But after two, five or even ten hits, all that was proven was that it is still possible to flop in the charts.

Russell Crowe as Noah in Darren Aranofsky's biblical epicThe film begins with a series of titles explaining the creation of the world, the first man created in Gods image, Adam, and the first lady Eve and the story of Cain and Able, accompanied by visual imagery and a calming voiceover. They all serve to not only patronise the audience through immense simplification, but to bombard us with every sensory telling of the stories. Why titles and images and voiceover? Pick one and lets move on. Unfortunately moving on is exactly what happens.

The story progresses in a sloppy and haphazard way, the editing being the largest failure of the film. Scenes and shots are drawn out for no discernible reason, some repeated presumably for dramatic effect (the coming of the animals to the ark happens I’d say around thirty times) but end up as no more than an annoyance rather than events that should take your breath away, and focus is given where focus isn’t needed. The acting is also an incredible let down. Crowe, Connelly, Hopkins, Watson and even shouty, raspy Ray Winstone are all capable of sincere, poetic and powerful performances, but here they are as wooden as the ark they are building. Connelly destroys one of the most pivotal and potentially heartbreaking scenes through forced tears and breathy screams, Emma Watson sounds as bored and as British as ever, Crowe’s bland and lifeless tone has stood him in good stead before, but here his apathetic nature breeds only hatred not sympathy for a man in torment, and Hopkins…I think he has simply just given up. Don’t worry Anthony, so have we.

Help can not be found anywhere. The score is at times beautiful and at others clumsy, particularly in a scene where Noah finally loses it and the music is almost humourous in its delivery, with large pounding drums and leisurly-paced chase music, creating an abysmal collaboration. The script feels uncared for, conviction and annunciation is lost, with conversations unable to flow and the characters passions and fears unable to thrive.

The film is laughable at times, which when you are watching a biblical epic is probably not the direction the makers would have intended it to go, but it happens. A lot. Aronofsky’s giant-fallen-stone-monster-angels, The Watchers, are utterly ridiculous. Their voices and dialogue come from a world where The Ent (The Lord of the Rings talking trees) and Optimus Prime have had a baby, and their sole purpose is to move the building of the ark quickly along, as you know, they are oh so big and strong. Noah’s solitary, drunken, naked, ‘the-world-is-saved’ cave party is badly placed and too short to create any positive impact on our emotions. There is also a scene in which trees and rivers burst forth from the earth so that Noah and his family may use the materials to build their ark, which is beautifully shot and has some astounding special effects, but is ruined by two doves drinking from the river hundreds of miles away and connecting to some sort of God-line whereby they understand something important is happening and fly to see what all the commotion is about. See, laughable.

noah birdsIn the Bible, the story of Noah is relatively short. According to an abundance of fan reviews, Aronofsky manages to maintain an element of realism by sticking to the written word and his portrayal of various events surrounding Noah, such as his personal struggle with the immense responsibility bestowed upon him by God and his whole getting drunk in a cave malarky. However,managing to include such events in order to please the masses, doesn’t mean that the finished product will actually be a good film. The lack of lengthy original material allows for a huge amount of interpretation and cinematic indulgence, and as you have read above, there are indulgences aplenty.

noahOf the films staggering 138 minutes, I’d say I enjoyed about 20 of them. The ark itself is an incredible creation, going against the preconceived boat idea that we may have had as a child, and under Aronofsky’s vision becomes more of a stronghold against the ensuing tides. Noah’s visions of the earth flooding are beautifully done, being almost unexplainable in their power and presence within the film. The Watchers falling to earth is a stunning scene in which the bright and shapeful figures are coated in the earths dust and dirt, surrendering them to a life of serving the humans they despise. And Ray Winstone kicks Noah’s ass.

But at the end of the day, when you are treated to a point-of-view shot, flying into the spectacular ark, accompanied by soulful music, amongst all of the worlds beautiful birds, and you find yourself staring at the backside of a pigeon, you just have to take a moment and think to yourself, ‘Really, what is this?’. Hopefully for everyone involved, it is simply one bad song on a great album.

Semiology and Structuralism – Delicatessen (1991)

7 May

delicatessen 4   Semiology and Structuralism, the two interrelated theories of words and images as different kinds of signs or ways of making meaning, was properly established and determined in the 1970’s predominantly by Ferdinand de Saussure. The theory focuses on how a film doesn’t necessarily have grammar or a vocabulary, but it has a system of signs, the ‘signifiers’ and the ‘signified’. In its simplicity, film images are loaded with signs and symbols for us, the audience, to decipher and interpret our own meanings. For example, a white dress worn by a female character would be the signifier, and our interpretation that the character is a virgin, would be the signified.
When applying this theory to the French film, ‘Delicatessen’ (Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, France, 1991), it helps us as an audience to understand the films representation of the post-holocaust period in France in which the film is set. By retracting meaning from various images in the film, the audience can derive a personal depth and understanding, from an already deep and complicated plot. The film is, in retrospect, trying to explain to the audience the enormity of the devastation caused by the holocaust, not only in France but around the world. The Second World War, from its beginning, had involved every country, and therefore effected every country. ‘Delicatessen’ focuses on a number of issues, predominantly rationing, underground movements and methods of killing, all of which are signifiers of the war, and portrays these issues through the different characters.

The films setting;

“a starving, post-holocaust France”
(Delicatessen, Dir. Jeunet and Caro, 1991)

is established extremely well in the opening scene. The mis-en-scene is very dark and dismal, with abandoned, derelict streets, broken fences and buildings in ruins, suggesting that France has been completely devastated, in all respects. There is a thick, cloudy, yellow atmosphere, which remains throughout most of the film, which signifies to the audience that the air is poisonous and toxic.

delicatessen 3    In the same scene, we are introduced to a building, the delicatessen or butchers, which we realise will be the films central focus as it shares its name with the title of the film, and a man who we presume is the butcher. He is shown sharpening a meat cleaver, which instantaneously signifies that the man is dangerous and sinister, and thus creates a feeling of fear amongst the audience. The camera follows the sound of the cleaver through various echoing vents, to a man on the receiving end, who appears to become agitated and scared by the noise, thus signifying that the butcher is a threat to him. As the man tries to escape in a rubbish bin, he is found by the butcher and killed, which we later realise, is for meat. In terms of signifying an element of the Second World War, like Hitler, the butcher is the fascist dictator in their small society. He is a very powerful man, not simply in his size but his mind as well. He is presented using various low angle shots in the film, signifying his superiority over the other characters. Throughout the film, his presence is felt in every scene, by the characters themselves as well as the audience, as everyone is petrified of him. Although he is saving them by providing them with food, a place to stay, and in some cases, a job, they all know that he could take that away from them at any moment, as well as their lives.
It is worth mentioning at this juncture, the music in the title sequence that follows the opening scene that I have mentioned. It is very happy, and somewhat, comical music, which is quite ironic considering the subjects addressed in the scene beforehand, and signifies to the audience that the film may be quite eccentric, and an exaggerated take on the reality of the holocaust period that it is attempting to portray.

    One of the central issues raised in ‘Delicatessen’, which is a clear signifier of the Second World War, is rationing. Due to the value of most currencies going down during the war, and not revitalising themselves properly until the early 1950’s, the economies of every country suffered greatly, therefore food, drink, clothes and other basic amenities, were scarce. This issue is well represented in the film, and somewhat exaggerated, through cannibalism.
The scene following the titles is where a new level of desperation and eccentricity amongst the characters, is introduced. As the holocaust period continues, the rationing remains, and so the butcher;

“keeps his customers supplied by his
cannibalistic tendencies”
(Delicatessen, Dir. Jeunet and Caro, 1991)

    In other words, he sells his customers human meat, which they in fact know about. This signifies to the audience how incredibly desperate and starving the people of the world were before, during and after the holocaust, not simply in the lives of the characters, but of those who actually lived through those conditions in real life.
Another scene that shows evidence of the cannibalism that is going on is where the other central male character, Louison, who used to be a member of the circus, and Julie, the butchers daughter, share a lunch that consists of cookies and tea. When Louison comes to the delicatessen looking for a room to stay in and a job, he is actually replacing the man who was killed at the beginning. This signifies to the audience that his stay at the delicatessen will probably lead down the same tragic path, which in turn creates a feeling of hope for Louison, that he will get away from the situation alive. After rescuing Julies package of ‘tidbits’ from the starving hands of the other residents at the delicatessen, Louison is invited around to her room to enjoy them with her. It is here that the audience are assured that there is evidence of cannibalism, due to the rationing. They embark on a conversation, in which Louison talks about his old partner;

“The doctor and I had an act once…Dr. Livingstone…He
was my partner…But now he is gone…He disappeared
after a show. We only found his remains. They’d eaten
him. Can you imagine that? They ate him.”
(Delicatessen, Dir. Jeunet and Caro, 1991)

    When he talks about his partner at the circus being eaten, the audience realises that Julie does not seem fazed by the notion of cannibalism at all.
Although the film as a whole suggests that the residents are eating the ‘new guys’, there are a further two scenes that suggest cannibalistic happenings better than others. One is near the beginning of the film, where two of the residents are in their workshop discussing Louison;

“What do you think of the new guy?”
“Too skinny.”
(Delicatessen, Dir. Jeunet and Caro, 1991)

    The other signifier of cannibalism is near the end of the film, when Louison and Julie are attempting to escape together. The residential community of the delicatessen are outside the room that the pair is trapped in, signifying their desperation to the audience. The butcher tries to reason with them, but when he is unsuccessful he turns to a female resident and says;

“Get my cleaver’s. Every single one of them.”
(Delicatessen, Dir. Jeunet and Caro, 1991)

    Each one of the scenes mentioned, signifies what lengths people were willing to got to, so as not to starve to death. Although there is little evidentiary support that cannibalism itself ever happened during the Second World War, there is the suggestion of it.

delicatessen 2    Another issue addressed in ‘Delicatessen’, is underground movements. This is signified clearly, and fitting with the historical period that the film is set in, as there were many underground movements, or non-conformists as some may call them, during World War Two.
As Hitler’s army grew and the threat of a fascist dictatorship began to truly terrify some people, underground movements, or simply those who did not believe in fascism, began to break out across many different countries. They developed in towns, cities, and prisons, as well as amongst members of the army. Although Hitler and his Gestapo led many to their deaths, some remained hidden and survived the war. The underground movement within the film, ‘the troglodytes’, are a band of vegetarian freedom fighters. The fact that they are vegetarians, and the residents of the delicatessen are carnivores, signifies that Jeunet and Caro are trying to represent the opposing sides of the war, the fascists and the capitalists, through another, somewhat eccentric, group of oppositions. The troglodytes are essentially outlaws, who have chosen to live in the sewers and underground tunnels of France, escaping some of the toxic atmosphere above them.
After Julie pretends to agree with her father that Louison should be used for meat, she goes underground in an attempt to ask the troglodytes to pretend to kidnap Louison so that he is out of harms way, in exchange for corn. The mis-en-scene of the underground is much like a horror film, with dripping ceilings, dark corridors, scummy water and shadows all around. This signifies to the audience that the underground movement may not be safe, and so creates a feeling of anxiety and fear for Julie’s life. When she meets them, there are an array of lines that confirm the audiences interpretations of the films underlying historical representations;

“We’re at war girlie…We watch out for moles. You
could be one.”
(Delicatessen, Dir. Jeunet and Caro, 1991)

as well as more signifiers of the cannibalistic happenings, and how the opposing sides represent the realistic ones of the war;

“Your brother Matt’s shirt. Shot down like a rabbit…
Common game. That’s all we are. And your predators.”
(Delicatessen, Dir. Jeunet and Caro, 1991)

    The sewers, drains and pipes in the film, are signifiers in themselves of the underground movements and spying. Due to how much sound can travel through them, they allow a person to hear things that they should not, which is technically spying. This signifies many areas of the Second World War, in which spying was crucial in obtaining information about the opposing sides whereabouts and plans of action, which tended to happen a lot amongst a sides own government.

The last essential issue addressed in ‘Delicatessen’, is methods of killing. A character in the film, Mrs. Interligator, tries to kill herself in an incredibly large amount of ways. Each method that she uses in an attempt to take her own life is a signifier of each killing method used by Hitler, in his own attempt to eradicate an entire human race; the Jews. At first she tries electrocution, by incorrectly balancing a lamp by the side of the bath, whilst she is in it. She then places her head underneath a sewing machine, which is hanging from the ceiling by some thin rope, which is being burnt by a candle. Her third and final attempt, which when it fails is extremely comical for the audience, is the best signifier of the methods used by Hitler during the holocaust. She tries to gas, hang, shoot and drug herself to death. All of those methods are known to have been used at many, if not all, of the German concentration camps, including Belsen and Auschwitz, during World War Two;

“Some concentration camps were specifically equipped
for mass killing by means of gas chamber…”
“after people were gassed, their bodies were burnt in
open pits…”
“the camps purpose turned more toward execution…
shooting and hanging were used to kill hundreds or
thousands of people at a time.”
(Crime Through Time – The World’s only Black Museum,
Stephen Richards, 2003)

    Despite the complexity of the scene, with so many suicide methods being used, it signifies just how many inhumane ways there are of dying, and how many were actually used by Hitler.

The end of the film is in fact a signifier of the end of the Second World War. When Louison and Julie try to escape, they flood the room that they are trapped in, making the door burst open, and sending the residents tumbling down the stairs. The water, and the washing away of the ‘carnivores’, signifies the end of Hitler and the Nazi’s, as the bad element in their society is being washed away. Louison and Julie are then shown on the roof of the delicatessen, playing their instruments, whilst the blue sky can be seen in the background. This atmospheric change is also a signifier that the bad element in their lives has gone.

There are everlasting arguments about the legitimacy of the ‘Semiotics and Structuralism’ theory, one of the arguments being that although semiotics allows the audience the freedom to derive what meanings they wish from a film, that freedom is limited, as it can only be reduced;

“to basic discrete units that can be quantified.”
(How to read a film, James Monaco, 2000)

    However, even if the ‘theory’ had not been developed, people’s freedom to interpret a film would still remain, and therefore, technically speaking, the theory would remain as its basis does.

In conclusion, when the theory of ‘Semiotics and Structuralism’ is applied to Jeunet and Caro’s ‘Delicatessen’, it successfully signifies the intended historical context of the period that the film is set in. The directors include a large amount of signifiers of the Second World War and the holocaust, which creates a terrifying, yet eccentric, representation of the Fascist dictatorship. The theory of the semiotic image, allows human intervention to determine the films overall purpose and meaning, rather than simply accepting its pre-given qualities.

delicatessen

By Amy Evans

I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying. Part One.

17 Mar

silence of the lambsUnfortunately this title doesnt denote the beginning to an article about the musical Grease. Quite the opposite actually, as below I have constructed my Top 30 horror films, in order no less. I want to clarify quite quickly that I use the word horror loosely as the definition can vary from person to person. One persons definition of horror might be a group of defenseless teenagers having their limbs hacked off with a chainsaw by a mad man, another’s might be a ghost haunting the home of a young family and another’s could be minimalistic film about a stalker. Therefore my list is based on what I have found to be horror-ible (I am so clever) over the years, from instant classics to slow burners, from A-List to B-List and from ghosts to ghouls. The films that have kept me awake at night, made me turn the light on to check what the suspicious noise was in the bedroom and ensured that I never wipe the condensation off of the bathroom mirror for fear of a figure standing behind me. Some may seem like a traditional horror film and some may make you wince with confusion, but please remember as far as film genre’s go, this is the most subjective.

30. Adrift (2006)

open-water-2The sequel to Open Water has met a large amount of criticism over the years, being called ‘obvious’ and ‘tedious’ by many. For some reason the first film had a huge reaction, possibly as it was based on a true story which audiences seem to crawl hands and knees on the floor to the cinema for these days, but the sequel is by far superior.

A couple Amy and James and their baby head out into the open water with some friends to celebrate the 30th birthday of Zach. When the friends decide to take a dip Amy, who has a fear of being in the water, stays on the boat with friend Dan. After Dan recklessly jumps in the water with Amy in his arms, the friends soon realise that they are unable to get back on the boat and panic quickly sets in.

Adrift has some great performances from the six main protagonists, in particular Richard Speight Jr of hit television series Supernatural and Cameron Richardson (as seen above) whose sanity is truly tested. There are a couple of plot holes where you will find yourself shouting at the screen but I see this as an investment in the characters and their impossible situation, and if you want suspense, drama and an evening of hyperventilating in your living room, then this is definitely your bag baby.

29. The Devils Rejects (2005)

devil-s-rejectsThis film is disgusting. You have been warned.

The incestuous, twisted and murderous Firefly family take to the road to escape the local police force led by Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe). From start to finish the director Rob Zombie is set on making the audience squirm and boy does he succeed. From the literal gore, to the sadistic and awkward torture of two families, right up to the climatic ending, the film is one hell of a ride. Zombie also ensures his fans are kept happy by reviving the appearance of the crazed and iconic character Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) from ‘House of 1000 Corpses’, who assists the family on their road of destruction.

The Devils Rejects is not one for the faint hearted, not just in its content but in its scrappy and raw filming style, but for those of you who have a strong stomach it truly is worth swallowing.

28. Salem’s Lot (1979)

salems.lot_.barlowAs vampires invade a small New England town, it becomes the responsibility of a young horror fan and a novelist to save it. Adapted for television from the incredible Stephen King novel, Salem’s Lot is one of the first films that truly terrified me. I mean, look at that face. Look at it! From director Tobe Hooper who had already brought us ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) and was soon to undergo the paranormal epic that is Poltergeist (1982), Salem’s Lot is from an experienced hand. Completely eerie, at times petrifying, beautifully atmospheric and with a score that seeps into the soul, it really is a piece of art. One of the all time classics.

27. Splinter (2008)

SplinterNetflix can often randomly select quite atrocious films for me to watch. With some selections I am simply put off by the artwork of the dvd cover and with others I will read reviews before deciding that it’s not for me. But on occasion it can drum up an absolute corker.

Splinter is a classic B-movie. A young couple and an escaped convict must find a way to work together after they find themselves trapped in an isolated gas station by a voracious Splinter parasite that transforms its still living victims into deadly hosts. With a fairly unknown cast (unless, like me, you recognise Paulo Costanzo from comedy Road Trip), handmade special effects and lets face it a slightly ridiculous plot catalyst, help to hugely cement it in the B category. But in this case the B ends up standing for Brilliant.

It is an absolute gem of a film that keeps you gripped throughout and the performances are anything but low quality, in particular Shea Whigham’s escaped convict Dennis Farell. And for those of us who prefer prosthetics and blood-bags to CGI it does not disappoint.

26. The Amityville Horror (2005)

amityville horrorA plot synopsis seems unnecessary here as the story of the house in Amityville is so famous, but its one of the few times that the sickening words ‘based on a true story’ really gets me going. Now some of you may want to stop reading as I have opted for the new version of the film rather than the original but I beg of you to stay with me on this terrifying journey as I feel strongly about it.

Written by Scott Kosar (The Machinist and The Crazies) this adaption is slightly more glossy and Hollywood than the 1979 version but it manages to give the audience all the atmosphere and scares you could ask for. The reason for me sticking to my guns however is mainly due to Ryan Reynolds performance. He plays George Lutz to perfection, a man filled with inner torment and pure darkness, whose demise into insanity is complex and compelling. Much like McConaughey in A Time To Kill, he proves his worth as an actor so early on and then opted for an array of rom-coms, but the performance struck such a chord with me that I had to include this version over the original.

25. The Hamilton’s (2006)

the hamiltonsThey look like such a wonderful family don’t they, with their boy-and-girl-next-door smiles and their pastel coloured shirts? That’s exactly what they want you to think! The Hamilton’s are four young siblings dealing with the untimely and mysterious death of their parents but not all is at it seems as they harbour some dark and murderous secrets.

This independent low-budget film is disturbing, surprising and intelligent. It keeps you guessing right until the end about who this family really are and its grainy film quality adds an element of realism to the whole affair. Really worth the watch.

24. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

nightmare on elm streetSo you know how you like to go to bed to relax after a tiring day, wrap yourself up in your big thick warm duvet, and then fall into a deep sleep? Well if only it was that easy on Elm Street. For the local children are literally having their worst nightmares come true as they are being stalked in their dreams by Freddy Kruger, a child murderer who was killed by the children’s parents.

Freddy Kruger has become such an iconic character over the years, with his razor-sharp hands, burnt face and Dennis the Menace jumper, and almost ten adoptions of the story have been made since the original, but it is in the first installment that Kruger (played by Robert Englund) really takes a hold of you and your senses. He is a true predator, one with reason for revenge and Englund plays him to perfection. Not only that but Wes Craven’s world is filled with iconic scenes. Who can forget the spine-tingling bathtub scene, as shown above, Tina’s screaming-floating-ceiling death and who doesn’t find delight in Johnny Depp’s bloody demise?!

The Elm Street franchise really has run its course but what started it all was an incredible piece of cinema that can scare even the bravest of audiences. Sleep tight.

23. Hard Candy (2005)

hard-candy-movie_102285-1920x1080Hard Candy was not what I expected at all. I’m not sure what I expected but there was a lot of hype and controversy surrounding the film on release that I tried to steer clear of it, hoping that time and space would bring clarity to my judgment. I watched it a number of years later after hearing so many more good comments than bad and luckily no-one had spoilt the plot for me during that time because the twists and turns are really what make it so magical. That and Ellen Page.

Teenager Hayley Stark invades the private home of a man (played by Patrick Wilson) she believes to be a paedophile in hope of exposing him. What ensues is a dark, perverted and controversial plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Or running for the sick bucket if you are a man…trust me. Ellen Page is tremendous as Stark, her performance so seamless and twisted that you can not take your eyes off of her, and director David Slade uses the power of suggestion to absolutely blow your god damn mind.

22. Scream (1996)

scream-416829What can be said about this film that hasn’t already been said? The film launched the careers of many of its young actors including Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Matthew Lillard and held its own amongst the years fellow releases such as Jerry Maguire and Independence Day. It was the film that revitalised the horror genre in the 1990’s, receiving world-wide critical acclaim and staying in cinemas for nearly eight months after its release. It made terror and horror out of such simplicity, creating a world that didn’t rely on morbidity but on a chilling and often humourous realism.

What I love about Scream is its awareness of itself. It mocks its own clichés and asks audiences to pull apart the conventions of the horror genre, to take humour from a place filled with contrived and dated concepts. Through an intelligent script, beautifully crafted scenes and many twists, the film brought to life a dying genre and kept audiences on their toes and in their seats. Well, until the killer jumps out with a knife that is.

21. Ginger Snaps (2000)

ginger-snaps-1My friend used to talk about this film all the time. Every time I went round there to stay she would suggest watching it, and of course I said no seeing as I was scared of everything when I was younger! So after about ten years I bought a copy and sat down to watch it. Now I know what she was talking about.

Ginger Snaps is about two sisters, Ginger and Brigitte. Outcasts in their own neighbourhood and obsessed with death, the sisters are forced into a realm of impossibility when one of them is bitten by a werewolf.

This film is simply brilliant. Low budget, smart and gory, the film portrays a very realistic image (minus the werewolf part…) of what it is to be a teenager who feels different amongst an over-abundance of ‘normal’ people. The two leading ladies are superbly awkward and the raw emotion of what they go through as people and as sisters penetrates deeply. Its scares come from stereotypical jump-from-your-seat moments, but overall it is an enthralling piece of film.

COMING SOON: Part Two – films 20 to 11 – which includes The Shining, Cube and Misery.

Rush.

1 Oct

Five months ago I posted a mini-review on the trailers I had seen for Ron Howard’s latest film Rush. I expressed my excitement for the forthcoming biopic, the casting of Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl and the posters…oh the posters. The only question I had was, is it going to live up the hype?

130910155412-rush-movie-poster-horizontal-galleryRush is based on the lives of Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 season in which the latter suffered extensive burns to his face after crashing at the Nurburgring in Germany, and explores their extensive history both as racers and as rivals. Beginning with a Formula Three race in 1970 at England’s Crystal Palace circuit where both drivers met and ending on Hunts victory over Lauda in the ’76 championship, the film is a high-octane ride that explores the risks you must take and the passion you must have to become champion.

British screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland) tells the story magnificently. In preparation for the film, and presuming that it would be a low-budget project, he wrote the story as a metaphorical race between Hunt and Lauda as people, but after seeing the film, even with the big-budget races thrown in, his unintentional method has worked perfectly. It is through the characterisation of Hunt and Lauda that we become enthralled by their heated relationship and the consequences that come out of their actions, particularly involving Hunt’s playboy lifestyle. Coupled with the directorial skills of Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) the film really is something special to watch. Camera angles from inside the drivers helmets give a real edge to what could have been generic F1 races, the use of narration adds a humanistic touch to Gladiator-style competition and the overall pacing of the film is anything but Rush-ed.

Rush-Trailer-movie-2013In addition to the sight and story of the film comes the sound. Composed by Hollywood’s go-to man Hans Zimmer, the music for Rush is beyond electrifying. After working on films such as Inception, Nolan’s Dark Knight series, Gladiator and The Lion King, Zimmer is no stranger to what makes an audience tremble with excitement and Rush reaps all the benefits from a man with over 20 years experience. The soundtrack is stunning and timed to perfection, creating highs and lows in all the right places. And when you put that alongside the sound of really, really, really loud car exhausts you have got yourself a recipe for ‘music to the ears’.

Most notably however are the performances. To paraphrase myself in my mini-review, I believed Hemsworth, who seems to be going from strength to strength (we can all forgive his acceptance of a role in Snow White and the Huntsman), was ‘undoubtedly going to prove to any cynics that he has what it takes to act’. And prove it he has. His performance as British playboy Hunt, a man troubled by his own self-expectancy and inability to commit to anything other than driving is powerful, at times humourous and deeply moving. Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara are stunning additions to the cast as love interests Suzy Miller and Marlene Lauda respectively. Lara plays her character with exceptional beauty and grace, while Wilde is a strong and confident presence in Hunts crumbling world of self-loathing. Bruhl however, steals the show. He plays Lauda as an uncompromising, competitive and deeply passionate young man who is determined to risk it all in order to pursue his dream. It is breathtaking to watch such a performance, particularly in scenes after the horrific crash where Lauda is attempting to put his helmet on over his burnt skin, and with the addition of Bruhl’s voice narrating the film, it is his shining moment from start to finish.

Rush-2013-MovieSo the question was, did Rush live up to the hype? I believe that it did. Howard’s film promises so much, delivers it and then gives you more. It is a wonderful portrayal of two men whose lives were at times tragic and at others inspirational and is a prime example that when all the elements come together – cast, screenplay, director – real magic can be made. Rush’s tagline reads ‘Everyone’s driven by something’ so if nothing else, I hope this review drives you to see the film.

Selling Point – Daniel Bruhl.

Quote-o-rama – Hunt to Lauda – ‘That wind you can feel is me breathing down your neck. Next time, I’ll have you’.

Elysium

30 Sep

What is it that motivates us to spend time sitting in broken darkness, surrounded by strangers rustling packets of sweets, walking through day old popcorn as we shuffle by already-seated viewers, hoping that we aren’t wasting the next 2 hours of our lives? Is it the trailers we watch, the reviews we read, the recommendations we receive or just the fact we have nothing better to do on a Wednesday night?

Aside from the last one as the cinema is always the better option (for me), what motivates me is a combination of all these things. The cinema experience, from the first time you hear about a film until the credits roll is just incredible. So when ‘Rush’ was sold out I didn’t mind seeing something else…! And that something else was Neill Blomkamps latest sci-fi epic Elysium.

elysium-exteriorIt is the year 2154 and Earth has become a poverty-ridden and dangerous place where all hope is lost and Earths wealthy inhabitants have fled for a life of luxury on the man-made space station Elysium, where the air is cleaner and the grass is greener than ever before. Fed up of the degradation and mistreatment of the Earth-dwellers, rebel man Spider (Wagner Moura) sends factory worker Max (Matt Damon) to Elysium in hope of bringing the two worlds closer together and restoring Earths human rights.

Visually, Blomkamps second film is much like his first – District 9. We are presented with the same gritty handy-cam, blown away by beautifully polished special effects and taken on an adventure through action-packed sequences. We even have 9’s leading man Sharlto Copley along for the ride, whose portrayal of sociopathic off-the-record bounty-hunter Kruger is both dark and mesmerizing. But Elysium is far from being the same film. Where District 9 amazed, Elysium falls slightly short. D9 was like nothing we had seen before on our movie screens, using techniques that had been around for years in a way so unique it created minimalism out of chaos and destruction and beauty out of dirt and dust. Its characterisation and plot were superb, ensuring that you really rooted for Wikus (Copley) in the unbelievable situation he found himself in. Elysium uses similar techniques but it is in the plot and characterisation that the films creativeness is lost.

new-elysium-featurette-centers-on-sharlto-copleys-villain-videoThe characters are simple. Max, whose life hangs in the balance, finds more motivation to go to Elysium from his childhood love interest than from his chance to live by using one of the perfected worlds ‘healing tables’, and Kruger is driven only by his own greed and thirst for power, much like Delacourt, the bizarrely spoken and acted protector of the picturesque satellite, played by Jodie Foster. Moura’s Spider comes across as having real depth, as he puts in a powerful performance that real steals the show for me, but again his motivation is simple; he wants Earth back to how it was before. It is difficult to speak at any length about people you never really come to know.

And then we come to plot. The film is clearly a representation of Earths current issues and Blomkamps viewpoints regarding poverty, class and global warming – a world of poverty and decay looking up at a world full of promise and wealth – but it fails to truly explore these issues through anything but visual representation. Instead it becomes more of a quest, where Max and Spider hope to save planet earth using guns, exoskeletons and computer chips. There are some amusing holes that can also be explored such as Damon’s exoskeleton being drilled into his skull using screws that are easily three inches long and therefore surely fatal, and the Hollywood-esque love interest is not needed at all (surely saving the entire planet is motivation enough Max). But despite ALL of this, I still left the cinema reasonably satisfied.

Elysium-screenshot-20I guess the question is, did I end up being disappointed that ‘Rush’ was sold out? The answer is no. Not really. Although it is far from perfect Elysium is an enjoyable watch where Damon holds his own despite not having a lot to work with, Moura and Copley make for a strong supporting cast and the worlds we see before us are breathtaking. Visually it has something of a 1960’s and 70’s sci-fi era feel to it, particularly with its likeness to both 2001 and Star Wars (the smooth white sets juxtaposed with rust bucket spacecrafts) but it lacks anything resembling their timeless power. Elysium is a thrilling ride that manages to capture the simplistic and effortless nature of its director, and although it is by no means time wasted, it does leave a slightly bitter taste in your mouth. Blomkamp, we expected more.

Selling Point – Whilst Damon makes me slightly weak at the knees, Moura and Copley steal the show.

Quote-a-rama – Kruger – ‘It’s just a flesh wound’. If in doubt, go funny.

Pacific Rim

30 Jul

Somewhere between the worlds of Armageddon, Godzilla and Transformers lies Guillermo del Toro’s latest adventure Pacific Rim. As the creator of the beautifully haunting ‘El Orfanato‘ (The Orphanage) and the visually stunning ‘Pans Labyrinth’, there were high expectations for the director who has left audiences astounded on many occasions. Well one thing is for certain, expectations have been met.

Pacific-Rim-Movie-HD-WallpaperFrom a history told to us over the explosive opening credits, we learn that Earth has been threatened for years by mysterious and enormous monsters called Kaiju that have arisen from the deepest of oceans through an otherworldly porthole, and in an attempt to eliminate the scaly creatures, a number of specialised weapons (or gigantic robots) were created called Jaegers. Controlled by two pilots whose minds are locked together in a neural bridge, one pilot operating the right side and one the left, the Jaegers became a succesful and efficient solution to Earths problems. That was until the Kaiju learnt from each relentless attack and adapted themselves, becoming almost unstoppable.

Pacific Rim triumphs in two areas. The first triumph comes from the visual effects. Boasting a team of well over 200 people, literally no expense has been spared in order to make del Toro’s film a spectacular visual display for the eyes to enjoy. The Jaegers are designed as majestic, haggard heaps of metal whose movements are clunky but effective. The most enjoyable ‘Jaeger scene’ comes from the image posted above in which the Jaeger ‘Gypsy Danger’ arrives exhausted and mechanically disemboweled on a beach, to the awe and wonderment of a Grandfather and his Grandson. The visuals are simply astounding, with every wave of water and every collapse of metal accounted for, leaving the audience with the same feelings as the beach-dwellers. The Kaiju are depicted as memorizing and terrifying serpent and dragon-like monsters who move effortlessly through water and destructively through the streets of the worlds cities. They really are something special to look at, particularly in the ocean-based fight sequences as they are engulfed in salt water and ripped apart by the Jaegers. Even without seeing Pacific Rim in 3D (a trend I find more annoying than groundbreaking), the SFX are breathtaking and by far some of the best I have seen in a long while.

pacific-rim-review-4__spanThe second and final area that Guillermo and his team have triumphed in is their ability to make a ridiculous, cheesy and darn right laughable homage to old-school B-movies, literally one of the most enjoyable films released in a while. At no point does the fact that the script is poorly written annoy you – ‘There are things you can’t fight – acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you get out-of-the-way. But when you’re in a Jaeger, you can finally fight the hurricane. You can win’…Yep. At no point does the fact that the film is packed with clichés annoy you – the woman proving she is as strong as a man by fighting him (using Bamboo). And at no point does the madness of everything annoy you – a Jaeger rises from the sea wielding a ship and proceeds to smash a Kaiju’s head in with it. The visuals, the sound and the huge element of fun simply come together to make the experience undeniably enjoyable.

3166992-pacific-rim-charlie-hunnam-rinko-kikuchi2The actors do a good job. There aren’t any Oscar-winning performances here but when they have to speak, they do it well. Rinko Kikuchi is stunning as Mako – the girl with something to prove – and her relationship with Green Street’s Charlie Hunnam who plays leading man Raleigh is both sweet and kick-ass. When they are linked together through the neural-bridge in the rust-bucket that is Gypsy Danger, trust me, your heart will melt. It is also pleasing to see ex-Eastender and talented actor Robert Kasinsky, who sadly didn’t make it onto our screens in The Hobbit, making the big time, even if it is with a very questionable accent. Overall, the cast add a welcoming humanistic touch to a world ruled by giant robots and big fish with arms and legs.

Pacific Rim, like Prometheus, is a film that relies much more on its spectacular visuals than its carefully devised plot, but unlike Prometheus Guillermo has not dressed his film up to be something it’s not. From the moment the trailer starts you know what to expect when you decide to venture to the cinema to buy your ticket – an action-packed, cheese fest that reminds you of all the movies you saw when you were a child that filled the imagination and developed the joy in the heart. This is a film that cynics, film lovers and even journalists can and will enjoy as it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Selling Point – The visuals.

Quote-a-rama – ‘Yeah, Gipsy! Kick his ass!’ – Told you the script was a bit poor.

The Return Of The Ginger.

3 Jul

Apologies fine audience for my lack of absence from this magical and fulfilling land named WordPress, for I have been busy finding a suitable place for myself and my partner to reside for the coming winter months. Whilst scrolling through countless letting agency sites on this extraordinary creation that is the World Wide Web, I have managed to find some advertisements for some excellent new ‘talkies’, which I will share with you all now.

Paul Rudd can turn round even the gloomiest of days. He has such charm and an obvious passion that comes forth with every performance and up until now he seems to have stuck solely to the comedic roles, with a few glimmers of seriousness in the hit U.S sitcom Friends, of all places. But here it is: his Indie film. Starring alongside Emile Hirsch, Price Avalanche focuses on two road-workers who find themselves at odds with one another during a 1988 summer job in the vast countryside. The trailer looks unbelievably promising, and we all know they can act so lets hope the material gives them the chance to do so.

Creepy. Uncomfortable. Without boundaries. Do I want to watch it? Damn right I do. Two lifelong friends (Robin Wright and Naomi Watts) and neighbours fall in love with each others son’s, who despite being completely gorgeous and therefore completely believable (!) still doesn’t make the premise any less awkward. There is however something about these two leading ladies who are undeniably great actors, that really draws me to this film, and I will wait with bated, and slightly nervous, breath.

What The Great Gatsby could have been? Ok, so they aren’t the same thing but of the two films released this year where Leonardo Di Caprio plays a rich bitch, even the trailer shows that this one will be far superior to its glitter-tastic rival. Scorsese from start to finish with fast-edits, intelligent humour and an air of the bizarre, The Wolf of Wall Street appears to not have a dull moment in sight. I simply can not wait.

The modern phenomenon of ‘celebrity’ has exploded and now you are able to inject yourself with your favourite celebrities DNA so that you may experience everything that they experience. As Bill and Ted would say, it sounds ‘most excellent’. Directed by Brandon Cronenberg, the son of David Cronenberg, the trailer shows an incredibly disturbing plotline and its pace is brilliantly thought out with use of the film’s dialogue being edited into the soundtrack which brings the whole experience together. I am truly excited and am willing to bet that Antiviral is sure to be infectious.

Thank you to everyone who has been returning to my Blog over the last few weeks and I will be sure to not leave for this long again. I bid you good morrow.

The not-so-great Great Gatsby.

2 Jun

the_great_gatsby_movie-wideWhen my latest addition of Empire magazine came through the post I was really excited to see what thoughts they had on Baz’s latest creation The Great Gatsby. I had previously watched the film and wanted to see if our opinions matched (which often they don’t where the dreaded star rating is concerned) and so I sat down with my very British cup of tea and pulled open the crisp shiny pages. OUCH that has to hurt. Two stars! Two! Just a mere 10 pages before the Gatsby review is the Fast and Furious 6 one where it received three stars! I am literally speechless.

‘The Great Gatsby’ based on the 1925 novel of the same name by F. Scott-Fitzgerald, centres around the life of Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), a young and mysterious millionaire living in the fictional town of West Egg, Long Island, and his love for the blonde (in all senses of the word) and beautiful Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). The book, a cautionary tale of the pressures that come with ‘the American dream’, is not only considered one of the all time American classics but was a book written way before it’s time and remains an inspiration for aspiring novelists worldwide. That being said, choosing to adapt the beautifully written pages into a successful onscreen experience, especially when others have tried and failed, is the boldest of moves.

But fear not Baz Luhrmann is here. His visuals have astounded viewers many times before, particularly in the extravagant and fantastical world of ‘Moulin Rouge’, and his screenplays for both ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Australia’ have brought grown men to tears. Surely of all the directors he would be able to bring the upper class world of West Egg to life and do it justice. Right?

the-great-gatsby-wbp10Well, brought it to life he has. Gatsby is a lavish affair; parties with more glitter and tinsel than a Christmas tree, cars with more shine and sparkle than a ballroom dancers changing room and settings more exquisite than the Queens caviar. However by seeming to focus solely on extravagant visuals and topping it all off by shooting in 3D (a component that seems to be obligatory in Hollywood at the moment) the film loses any hope of portraying the excessive and idealistic world that Fitzgerald wrote about with any depth or character at all. The script falls flat lacking any real substance and the words of the book become lost in translation, particularly when being delivered by the airy-fairy tones of Mulligan and the mono-tone drone of Toby Maguire’ s Nick Carraway (Jay Gatsby’s ever-curious neighbour and friend), and the over-use of the phrase ‘Old Sport’ borders on comedic by the end of the film, emphasising the point that the visuals took precedent over the screenplay. Also the Jay-Z curated soundtrack, although pumping throughout, is disjointed and often accompanies a time-wasting and time-filling montage, leaving you with a bitter taste of poor execution.

the_great_gatsby_37472The Great Gatsby’s saving grace is its leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio. In his candy-coloured suit and sporting a baby-face freshness he plays his character with more understanding and finesse than the film deserves. Further cementing himself in the Hollywood A-List he plays Gatsby as a man crumbling under his own extravagant facade searching for himself in the arms of a woman. Delivering lines with exuberant precision he shines brighter than the strands of tinsel falling beneath his feet. The other star (in my eyes anyway as Empire definitely didn’t agree saying he ‘offers a one-note charisma’) is Joel Edgerton. Since small but well-executed roles in King Arthur and Ned Kelly I have had my eye on Edgerton, and a focus-stealing role opposite the hard ass British export Tom Hardy in ‘Warrior’ shot him to the big time. He is a worthy challenger for Daisy’s affection, an emotionally complex man who pays the game and all of the girls that come with it. It’s a promising role, that although won’t win him any Oscars, proves that little roles can lead to big things.

great-gatsby-joel-edgertonElsewhere, Carey Mulligan butchers the role of Daisy. With the intention of playing her as a frail flower she comes across as bored and apathetic (much like the live-in narrator of this romance saga Toby Maguire), and even DiCaprio starring alongside her doesn’t ignite the fire. It is hard to root for the leading lady when she can’t root for herself. On the complete polar opposite Elizabeth Debicki, Daisy’s best friend Jordan Baker, walks smoothly and majestically through the 1920’s world, not only looking the part but acting it with a strong performance that leaves you wanting more.

The Great Gatsby has suffered harsh criticism world over due to its inability to live up to the prestige of the beloved book. But you have to treat them as two separate entities. Whilst the film is far from perfect, with some questionable performances, a lack of plot and rhythm, and a director who hopes to please audiences’ eyes before their hearts, it is a good film. DiCaprio and Edgerton hold the weight of the glitter and diamond encrusted world on their broad shoulders and without them the film would be worthy of the aforementioned 2 star rating, but with them it is worth watching. Baz hasn’t exactly added to his list of success’ but he has managed to create a stunning and luxurious world, that although remains on the screen for an hour too long, is a pleasure to be in. Until next time Old Sport.

Selling Point – The challengers, DiCaprio and Edgerton.

Quote-a-rama – ‘I knew it was a great mistake for a man like me to fall in love…’ – Jay Gatsby.

Magic Mike.

29 May

MM-FP-00134

When I first heard about Magic Mike my reaction was ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ One yes for every day of the week and two for Sunday’s!

However, on viewing the trailer and keeping my eye on the films advertisements, I was really quite afraid for the films release and not in the sense that I was excited about it. The trailers seemed to show less and less of what the audiences, predominantly female I’m sure, wanted to see which is dancing naked men and more of a storyline which could be loosely described as another Step Up movie….and we were already getting one of those that year! However what we get is very much the opposite as there is an ample amount of nakedness.

Steven Soderberghs’ film is based upon Channing Tatum’s own experiences of working in a Tampa nightclub as a stripper before he became an ‘actor’, and shows him as Magic Mike himself who takes Adam (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing and shows him the poles (the word poles being strategically used as a replacement for ropes here – get it?!). Upon entering Mike’s world, Alex soon realises that it’s not all glitz, glam and thongs as club owner and hard-ass Southern stripper Dallas, played by the ever chiselled McConaughey, pushes his limits and shows him the dark side. Pun intended.

MM-CB-01319r

I watched Magic Mike twice before writing this review and the results were really interesting. Not because I was almost taken to Pleasure-town but because the first time I watched it I watched it all the way through, butt-cracks and all, and the second time I was on a train and so skipped through all of the ‘professional dancing’ for fear of embarrassment. And what a difference that dancing makes. Without it the film is a sweet melodrama that reflects its pre-released trailers, a film filled with cheese, a mediocre leading man and a stellar yet poorly used (except for the fact we get to watch them all strip) supporting cast. With it, it’s good. Not great but good.

Empire gave it 4 stars which I find incredibly hard to agree with, and when comparing it to other 4 star rated films from the same magazine such as ‘Shame’, ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ and ‘Senna‘, it further justifies my reasoning for not having a star rating on my blog. The field of film is too wide to quantify into 5 tiny little stars. Undoubtedly what makes Soderberghs’ Magic Mike is not the lack of acting and more the toned, tanned skin of McConaughey, Manganiello, Pettyfer and Tatum being thrust upon us. It is so far away from being a Magical piece of cinema but it is one hell of an entertaining film. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Selling Point – I did mention there were naked men right?

Quote-a-rama – ‘You are the husband they never had! You are that dreamboat guy that never came along!’ Oh and, ‘How pregnant did you get that girl’s mouth last night?’ Class all the way.

mm0