Monday, 5 March 2012

Blind Reviews

The irony of working in the film industry is that you get very little time or money to actually watch movies at the cinema. This means there are huge gaps in my viewing of recent films.

Luckily, I make strong judgements of films way before I even see them. Here are just a few films I haven't seen, but I have taken an educated guess at their general messages/morals...

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Da Artist

You might think that all that can be said about The Artist has already been said. And you'd probably be right. But being the stubborn fool that I am, I wish to throw in my 2 cents into the overcrowded pit of change regardless.

The Artist is not a movie. Not in the conventional sense of the word anyway. It would be better described as an 'Art Form Time Machine' - although, I'm not sure if this description would sell many tickets. Transporting viewers back to a simpler time, when cinema was more about the visual delights of swashbuckling heroes and backflipping dogs, rather than the sensory assaults of a Michael Bay film. This makes it quite unlike anything I've seen in recent years, and therefore worthy of it's unprecedented critical attention.

 The dog from Beginners and the dog from The Artist: I'm not sure which one I want to kidnap more.

Being 100 minutes in length, The Artist requires its viewers to suspend their normal requirements for a cinematic experience. Even the most snobbish of cinefiles might feel a little nervous about the idea of a contemporary (virtually) silent movie. But this film beautifully reminds us that most modern movies are so consumed by their own idea of 'spectacle', that often the heart of the film is neglected. This is where The Artist shines. A poetically uncynical romance story is laid out in front of the audience, with barely any diversions on the main plot line.

It's theme of embracing both the old and the new is magnificently portrayed in both the mise-en-scene and narrative, culminating into a faultless piece of cinema. Go see it and try not smiling like a goon.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Men Who Hate Women

Considering The Social Network was my favourite film of last year, and that this film had possibly one of the best trailers ever made, my anticipation for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was somewhat... high.

Before you can comprehend the film has even started, Fincher rams into 5th gear with an intro that would put some of the best James Bond opening credits to shame. What follows is a highly stylised, highly cool (if slightly unnecessary) remake of Niels Arden Oplev's 2009 Swedish original.

Visually, the film has more in common with Fincher's latest efforts than the days of Seven and Fight Club. Dialogue is snappy, editing is lightning fast, and every shot could be considered as a piece of art (this film is just screaming for Blu-Ray). The film doesn't hold any punches with the original source material either; as Fincher delicately put it when commenting on the possibility of an Oscar: "there's too much anal rape in this movie”. All these factors mean there is plenty that are improved upon the 'made-for-TV' original.

There has been some critical concern about whether Rooney Mara can live up to Noomi Rapace's fantastic interpretation of the 'fiery' Lisbeth Salander. I can safely assure you that she is every bit as fearsome, vulnerable, and downright badass as her predecessor. Younger in age and lighter in frame, Mara carries a certain fragility that was missing in the Swedish version - making the 2nd act of the US version a lot more shocking.

However, as much fun as the film is, it does feel like a step backwards for Fincher. Not quite a shot-for-shot remake (à la Gus Van Sant's misconceived Psycho update), but there is simply not enough to make it stand out in it's own right. Even some of the composition of locations/characters looks exactly the same - which begs the question: did this really need a remake? And don't even get me started on Daniel Craig's accent (or lack of one).

Sick of Christmas films? This is the perfect antidote. Just don't expect another The Social Network.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Films that are ruined by their own genre

Whilst recently watching the first half of Mark and Jay Duplass’ 2008 film Baghead, I became completely enamoured with its cast of characters and the intricate love-quadrilateral between them. However, I knew this wouldn’t last forever. In a lazy attempt to branch out into a different genre, the Duplass brothers decided that this would be a horror movie. Consequently the second half of the movie is ruined by a murderous figure running around with a bag over his head. Whilst I love the horror genre, if it is not handled with great care (see The Shining), it can descend into meaningless wobbly camera shots and high pitched screaming (see Blair Witch 2).

This got me thinking about other films that could do without their own genre...


Let’s face it. Monsters wasn’t a critical success because of it’s (admittedly impressive homemade) alien SFX. What made Monsters so great was the undeniable chemistry between its 2 leads – Scoot McNairy & Whitney Able - who are, unsurprisingly, a couple in real life. So when the aliens do start blowing shit up, it’s actually a distraction from the story’s main hook – the will they, won’t they dynamic. Don’t believe me? Just watch the last 30 seconds of the film.

Attack the Block

What starts off as a rather unique urban dramedy, quickly descends into a messy exercise of cheap CGI tomfoolery. The only reason Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block comes away with any redeeming features is its cast of unlikely heroes. But given there’s an imminent alien invasion, we get very little time to actually learn about the characters – making them the two dimensional cut outs they always had the potential of being. Hopefully Cornish will stick to one subgenre in his next feature.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Edgar Wright’s unashamed love letter to the slacker generation. But I can’t deny that there’s a part of me that wishes the film didn’t include the 'evil exes'. “Say what!?” I hear you say. But seriously, the story doesn’t need it. Scott Pilgrim already has a pretty interesting life: 2 hot girls on the go, a band on the verge of stardom, and an army of hipster friends. Does he really need to fight 7 evil exes as well, just to make the story interesting enough!? I think not.

For the sequel, how about: Scott Prilgrim Vs. Normal Existence? Catchy, I think you'll agree.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Gimme Shelter

Cutis has a good life. According to his best friend Dewart anyway. What he doesn't know, however, is that Curtis has been having recurring nightmares about a coming Apocalypse. For the sake of his wife and deaf daughter, Curtis tries to keep the dreams under wraps. But when he starts building an underground storm bunker in the backyard, people begin to ask questions about his sanity.

Regardless of what the ending may or may not be, Take Shelter is a film about mental health. 90% of Curtis' conflict comes from within, bubbling away under the surface (with much credit due to Michael Shannon's performance). His character doesn't revel in being a visionary vessel, and is in fact ashamed of his gift - torn between being a good father/husband and preparing for apocalyptic doom.

With Curtis' mother having given in to mental health problems at a similar age, he seems convinced that his problems are mental, but still cannot deny what he sees. This deals with a really interesting question: Is self-awareness really enough to snap out of psychosis? Throughout the film, Curtis walks a lonely tight rope of sheer belief and self doubt.

It's a shame then that Shannon's performance isn't given a script with more conviction. The film does a great job of holding our sympathy with Curtis, even when he is seemingly throwing his life away. But the last 20 minutes makes a huge compromise on its premise - delivering mixed messages about what we've just seen over the last two hours.

Despite this, Take Shelter still provides a powerful lead performance and some fantastic visual elements, making it a no brainer for rental.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


To celebrate here is the best Matt Berry GIF ever made:

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Just a suggestion

With its one year anniversary rapidly approaching, I have a great idea for Fox Searchlight to help promote the re-release of Danny Boyle's magnificent film, 127 Hours.

I call it The 127 Hours Experience...

Cinemagoers will have their right arm strategically placed between the cup holder and seat, thus becoming trapped for the entire duration of the film (94 minutes). They will have access to approximately 350 ml of water (the same amount Aaron Ralston had), and a variety of other gadgets and gizmos to help free themselves from their seat.

An artist's impression.

After the showing the participants are given a fake, bloody hand for their troubles.

Classy, I think you'll agree.