Friday, 30 October 2009
"This week we discuss, more formally, Wes Anderson's 'Fantastic Mr Fox' with Richard Bourne and Jo and Simon discuss the latest installment of Saw - 'Saw VI'. Finally we discuss the crazy prices of cinemas across the country - from Telford to Birmingham, From Shrewsbury to London!"
We're also now, officially, on itunes and the link is on the side of the blog if you want to use it to subscribe.
I must admit, I feel these podcasts are going incredibly well! But any feedback from yourselves - thinks we could improve upon would be greatly appreciated!
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
I was initially very excited to see this - I like the indie-Wes-Anderson style and I was keen to see a new adaptation of a Roald Dahl book. The adverts looked impressive - stop-go-motion effects with meerkat-posture foxes and then, suddenly it was given this credible publicity campaign as it was billed for the opening night gala for The London Film Festival. The voices were big guns - George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman - the list goes on. I am keen, I am excited and - following Jo's recommendation, at the Barbican, I managed to watch it ...
What I reckon ...
From the first moment you see the foxes you are chuckling to yourself - they walk with a prim-delicate touch. Pointy feet and, as stated, posture like you see of meerkats. Seeing Mrs. Fox and Mr. Fox run around - their slender bodies zipping up and down, suddenly up-close, suddenly far away and talking with the speed of their movement. Its such a funny sight - and so unique. I have no idea what other director could create such characters - the stop-go-motion adds to the rural unique atmosphere and, therefore adds to the comedy.
Mark Kermode mentioned a 'smug' and 'talkative' attitude and it is very chatty - but that is more a trait of the foxes themselves and the animals. They are plenty of examples of visual comedy - one sequence as the foxes rob a house you see their actions through video-camera feeds only. Reminded me of the start of Snatch actually. Another sequence as Fox and Rat fight and electricity lights up sporadically while they do so. Even some stunning silhouettes of characters - such as a wolf on a hill and as Beansy lighting a cigarette in a doorway - visually engaging. Yes they are chatty but its hardly a bad call on Wes Andersons part - it just happens to go against the target audience that is children.
Children shouldn't really have to work out what the word 'Cuss' replaces (four letters, begins with F...) because that is adult in its content. Comedy about existentialism isnt easy for kids to understand funnily enough. Those jokes when a character talks for long periods and then all the other characters look at the character in awe/shock and its funny - for kids, they would probably assume that they just don't get the joke. Referring to animals by the latin-name ... is this really comedy for kids? I don't think the bugs in A Bugs Life would do such a thing. Having listen to Adam and Matty's Filmspotting podcast on Where the Wild Things Are they discuss how the darkness of Jonzes' movie is missed often with kids movies -and he's right - but one thing most childrens-filmmakers don't forget is the language kids understand - the actual words they hear and whether they understand it. I'm a teacher and I wouldn't use a word like Existentialism without explaining what it means to 16 year olds!
This is a kids film that seems to target educated young adults. We see the 2D rolling pans that I recall in NES and Sega Master System computer games - even Abe's Odyssey and Abe's Exodus had 2D rolling movement as the game progressed - but suddenly showed the 3D layers of the environment much like Fantastic Mr. Fox did. Retro-computer games methinks ... then we have the point-of-view of the dogs running around - as if we control him in some sort of shoot-em-up game. These link not to current children - but the children ten, fifteen years prior. Morricone-style music as a Western as the film finishes ... really what kids like to see? Ultimately the theme of capitalism is something that, as adults we see more of in our life than kids. The idea "I dont want to be poor" " but we are poor" - greed and materialism of the eighties and nineties. Though simple concepts - they are not concepts or issues children have to face. Children get their money from their parents. Maybe the one aspect kids would relate to is Ash and Kristofferson - the idea that, akin to Buzz and Woody, a new kid comes into town who is, ultimately, better than you. Then again, the role of the father is an important aspect - and more importantly how the child looks up to his flawed father so much is also worth mentioning.
It does look fantastic - and that rural tone, as first mentioned, is the biggest plus point and is something that is unique to this. The corduroy jackets and patchwork and textured land reminds me of the textures on Woody's clothing in Toy Story. I always remember stop-go-motion as the effects-that-never-were on Jurassic Park before Stan Winston and ILM stampeded over Phil Tippetts stop-go-motion possibilities. Clearly stop-go-motion and Phil Tippett are still in the job and can make stunning films (not Starship Troopers 3) without having to concede defeat to CGI.
Monday, 26 October 2009
The focus this time is the backstory behind Det. Hoffman -his backstory is explored and the question 'how did he and jigsaw join up?' is answered. Then more exposure as to how they worked as a team. While these plots are explored, we also see a different game involving five people who all have 'some' link. The overarching theme is teamwork - and how, through working as a team, you can succeed. Amanda failed in Saw III because she didn't - she began rebelling and going off her own way to kill people her own way ... Hoffman and Jigsaw's success in the capturing and killing of the third victim (the dude in the barbed wire in Saw) succeeded because they worked as a team. Funnily enough, the five people involved in Saw V's big trap don't succeed as well as they had hoped ... because they don't work together. They work selfishly and for themselves ... funnily enough this is their 'crime'. Something about a house that burned down with 8 people inside and, indirectly, the five people were aware and responsible for those deaths but didn't care because they wanted money. Interesting small role for Carlo Rota (aka, Morris from TV series 24) as a journalist.
We don't see Jigsaw (Bell) or Amanda (Smith) for twenty minutes into the film - in fact, the lead character we follow, Lynn (Soomekh) is not seen for 17 mins in - after we see the opening of Matthews foot-smashing sequence, Troy's chains-in-the-body trap and then, we follow Kerry (Meyer) mourning the loss of Matthews and seeing him in mirrors in her house. I assume technically speaking, we initially think we are following Kerry's character and then find out - when she is literally ripped apart - that we are not following her at all. Enter Lynn.
So Jigsaw - other than in flashbacks - is only in a bed. Yet, his prescence is powerful. He completely controls everyone around him when - at any point - they could easily think, fu** it. "I've had enough... if I walk away now, only you take the fall". No one does of course because Jigsaw is scary. Even bed-ridden and incapable of moving, he remains as someone you don't want to annoy or anger.
As always, we are filled in on back story and how much Amanda has been a part of Jigsaw's plan. She assisted him when setting up the room in Saw which, as a fan, is incredible to watch. Jigsaw putting himself into the position that we only knew was important at the end of the film. Jigsaw, effectively, setting up the 'twist' at the end of the incredible first part of the series. Problem is, all the new traps have a problem which is explored in this film and, ultimately, is problematic. Amanda starts killing people - and not giving them a chance to escape. We know Troy could never have survived, we know Kerry had no chance of survival - and so the moral question as to 'live or die' is not raised. We merely see impressive, artistic traps - that have no feasible escape route. This may be a neccessary aspect to the story ... but the whole moral conundrum that Jigsaw sets up is not adhered to. We have to wait until part IV until the traps become more ... [im]morally accurate to Jigsaw's vision. But then this is a part of the themes of this film - the training of an apprentice and, what if, they were trained wrong or the potential 'legacy' of Jigsaw was going to be ruined. Amanda is a weak character by nature - she has problems with drugs and self-harm - and even after being accepted by Jigsaw, we see her retreat back to these problems. So, we see how this is dealt with and - more importantly - how Jigsaw was aware of these problems. And acted.
The filmmakers go further into doing something which, personally, I didn't think was entirely grim but - apparently - most people find incredibly difficult to watch. At one point, Jigsaw (Bell) on a bed, is put into surgery and we see some brain surgery as Doc' Lynn (Soomekh) takes out a brain tumour. On the one side, seeing the cutting-away of the skull and the gooey mess taken out and what-not is quite disgusting. On the other side of things, I can imagine a doctor probably sees it as work. Might just bore you if you were a doctor. A similar thing happens in Saw IV whereby you see, on one hand, a disgusting gory sequence but also a normal procedure on the other hand.
One thing to praise the filmmakers for is the multicultural nature of the cast. We have this new docotr Lynn played by an Indian actress, while Rigg - star of Saw IV is African-American. There are many more examples of multi-cultural roles and, upon reflection, it works incredibly well to make it more realistic. In this film, the revenge-obsessed Neil (Macfadyen) is blaming everyone else for the death of his child in a road accident and when he comes face to face with the driver of the car, this driver is African-American. We see in flashback how upset and destroyed this man was following the accident. It is Neil who is in the wrong - purposefully going out of his way to stay angry and mentally acting out fanstasies of murder, while the 'actual' murderer is no murderer at all - he is a man who made a mistake. The first film had Danny Glover and Ken Leung amongst it's cast - African-American and Asian actors respectively (though both born in the US), so clearly this is an important part of the casting process of these movies.
Influences, according to Whannel, are - amongst others - Dario Argento. A little typing of the words 'maggot soup' and 'argento' on Google bring up a blog (not too dissimilar from this one) that notes Argento's Phenomena as a Freudian soup. The picture also shows Jennifer Connolly in a disgusting swamp. Anyway, getting off the point a little. Leigh Whannell explained how a sequence in Saw III whereby a Judge is drowned in pig-guts was taken from an Argento film whereby a character swam in maggot soup (possibly Phenomena... should watch it). So it is interesting to think that Whannell has aspirations of credibililty on a par with Dario Argento ... co-writer of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. It's one thing to want your movies to be up there with Jonathan Demme and David Fincher. Another when we are looking at Sergio Leone and David Lynch.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
"This week we wrap up our musings on the LFF with a look at Kinatay and Osadne. Then a Halloween special focus on the first five Saw films in preparation for the sixth installment which will be seen on Wednesday!"
Enjoy if you dare! Mwah-ha-ha!
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Sunday, 18 October 2009
"Live from the Southbank for The Times London Film Festival. We discuss the top 6 films in the UK including Halloween 2. Also in-depth chat on Film festival releases Double Take, I Fought the Law (Shorts), Fantastic Mr Fox and Kinatay."
I put this online just before watching Kinatay. I am scared. Wish me luck.
In the last few years I have made a concentrated effort to watch a lot of Hitchcock movies and managed to see the vast majority of American films (Vertigo, Rear Window, North by Northwest, Topaz, Torn Curtain, and the many, many more) he made and the 'big ones' he made in Britain (The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes) and then I have [still not watched] all the early silent films that are available (The Farmers Wife, The Ring and the others...). So, when I was reading the options for The 53rd London Film Festival this looked interesting... now there is only so much to say so i shall move on swiftly...
What I reckon ...
First off, it is an art piece first and foremost. Would I call it 'entertainment' or, better still, a 'yarn' as Hitchcock himself would say? No. The majority of footage seems to have been prised from the archive of material from the Alfred Hitchcock Presents ... series. A fair bit also from the fantastic trailer for Psycho as Hitchcock walks around the set, teasing us about what the film includes without showing us the footage itself.
For me, I haven't seen much of Alfred Hitchcock Presents ... but it does interest me as you do see a fair few of Hitchcock's regular actors turns up - such as Joseph Cotton amongst others. In terms of Hitchcock, this film merely seemed to use his thriller style to set the scene for the real focus of the Cold War. By using a vast majority of footage from The Birds there is an indication of impending doom that shadows the film - and makes an interesting contrast to the possible doom that Nixon was entertaining with Khrushchev. Throughout the film, it often stopped and white text on black would pop up to inform us on the history of the cold war: "1969, Nixon signs ... " etc. The film shows all this historical footage alongside a carefully shot film explaining a situation whereby Hitchcock met himself on the set of The Birds. The parrallel again between these doubles - and Nixon and Khrushchev as doubles themselves - was made that much more sinister as we were constantly told that "If you meet your double, you should kill him" - a plan that Nixon and Khrushchev were attempting to do. Destroying the world in the process.
The film then moves on and, as Kennedy becomes president in the historical story, the film focuses on Topaz - a film set within the Cold War. The producer spoke in a Q&A after the screening and explained that the majority of footage used was taken from free-footage that is in the public domain - so the trailers for Hitchcock's movies are in the public domain and we are then subjected to alot of trailer footage: "Shock, horror, beware of The Birds".
It is simply a non-stop barrage of information. News footage, advertising footage, trailers - bam bam bam - and to top it off, there is a strong use of Herrman's strings from Psycho which constantly forces you to be on edge. It happens so much, you eventually climbatize and the tension wears off. We also have these interspersed advertisements for coffee which adds a little relief before going straight back into footage of Nuclear bombs going off and Nixon and Khrushchev mocking each other and then Hitchcock: "Good Evening ..." and then theres more - we meet Ron Burrage a Hitchcock lookalike whose birthday is the same as Hitchcock's! Not to mention the story about Hitchcock meeting his double. The film is juggling all these different threads and, in the end, its just too much.
As discussed with Jo on the podcast, this would not be out of place in an Art Gallery whereby you can appreciate the mixture of media used - and people who love Cold War stuff and Hitchcock movies can stay for the duration. Hitchcock was an entertainer first I felt - and thats not to say there was no depth (as Vertigo shows) but he ultimately wanted people to enjoy and be entertained. Thing is, as much as Double Take might capture Hitchcock's 'tone' of conversation and ethos towards life and how humour and horror go hand-in-hand, it is hardly a good contrast to his films themselves. I would rather watch a Hitchcock movie any day to this strange analysis on Hitchcock.
This is the beginning of a filmmaker - Weintrob might be the mext Spielberg, Ammo might be the next McG. The tagline above suits these filmmakers appropriately as this is where they start off - they have made it into the film world, but can they continue? I have had a few ideas for shorts myself lately and I thought that The Times Film Festival would give me an opportunity to watch some shorts that have 'made it'. A book I am reading has given me the impression that film-shorts merely showcase your talent for a feature film and, in the case of Fetch you can see that these filmmakers are aware of this facet. The cinema we watched it in introduced the directors to a few and they were obviously very pleased with themselves with the odd friend-of-the-film acting a little too arrogant for my liking. Then again, if I was there, I may just act the same. There are a few to get through, so I shall keep this short. There is an epilogue to this post to summarise the films watched
What I reckon ...
All the films were to some extent to do with law-breakers and criminals in a different context: hence the title given, but they all 'went about it' in a different way. from the Blue Gordini's surrealism through to Fetch's hyper-realism. So, in [pretty much] the order we watched the films in:
X Returns (Ammo, 2009)
Set in Sydney, this is some Matrix-inspired action piece that, is ultimately awful. The only film that didn’t warrant clapping post-credits. Then again, it was the first film shown so maybe noone knew whether to clap or not. Strangely enough, Holly Valance (Kiss Kiss single, Flick-from-Neighbours … vivid teenage memories of her…) was in the film as some double-crossing … person. It was all unclear. It was non-linear – showing ‘X’ with a gun to Valance’s head before falling off the building at the start and then showing a conversation between Valance and some good guy? Bad guy? It’s never explored. ‘X’ has been imprisoned for 40 years because he contracted some Alien DNA … is he bad? Is he good? How did he survive the fall? Nothing is answered. Even the conversations seemed to be shot badly - from Over-the-shoulder shots to direct face shots ... no purpose, just uncomfortable. Awkward silence when the credits came up and the text was blurry.
The Man in the Blue Gordini (Jean-Christophe Le, 2009)
Stunning animation from Jean-Christophe Lie. Surrealist story as a world soaked in different shades of orange, cream and brown are attempting to deal with a criminal who sports a blue top. Has a real European flavour and, I think the animation reeks of Quentin Blake’s drawings – thin Giacometti-like legs, heavy-topped characters. None of the characters wear clothes on their bottom half so we are lucky enough to see penis’ waggling throughout. Until the blue people rebel and wear trousers. Its funny and a lot of fun with an interesting subtext about what people see on the outside opposed to what is inside – people being arrested and caught, etc for ‘looking different’. Racial issues? Police discrimination? These issues are raised in a fun trouser-less world.
Harvest (Alex Winckler, 2009)
Two thieves are trying to rob an old pig-farmers house. The one thief is a late thirties, early-forties man and has a family – but is ultimately trying to support his family through theft, while the other lad is a younger chap who is FUBAR. He craps in the old peoples house, he tries to nick everything that could get him money (something he could get a couple of quid for he, off-the-cuff, states ‘a beer’ … complete tramp) and ultimately tries to rape the old woman who lives there. Without going further then that in the plot, this film seems to look incredible – great tones and clearly sets the tone in such a rural landscape, but falls flat on the more technical aspects of film-making. Lots of obvious fade-to-blacks and sudden sounds to jolt us back into the film. The whole rape section is a bit unnecessary – especially because there was no need to show a specific ‘revealing’ shot. Its not explicit but the idea that ‘some things are better left in the imagination than shown’ is something director Alex Winckler didn’t feel appropriate. If the film was about rape then fine, but it wasn’t about rape – it was about petty thieves and the tables being turned on them.
The Odds (Paloma Baeza, 2009)
An incredible short that utilises every aspect of a ‘short film’. Set in one room. Two actors (Mark Strong and Ian McDiarmid) and a very simple start: Strong is a casino manager while McDiarmid is a gambler who has won a freakish amount of games. It was rooted in drama and the tension flips from one character – we start unsure about who is ‘playing’ who and then it switches and switches again always putting you on edge – while an incredible finale finishes the short. I hope to see this film again and even Sarah is keen to hunt down a script to use with her pupils in Drama lesson. The picture I found above reminds me of McQueen's Hunger and the inrecible discussion between the priest and Bobby Sands. Truly flawless.
Le Petit Dragon (Bruno Collet, 2009)
It looks like stop-go-motion or incredibly sharp computer animation. The smoke of a dragon ‘awakes’ a Bruce Lee toy figure. To some extent it reeks of a Toy Story off-shoot, while Lee tackles different figures and bit-by-bit destroys himself. His ‘features’ remind me of Buzz's’ push-button selections. Though it explores a little bit more nostalgia than Toy Story as Lee comes face-to-face with not only the plastic toys (which he is not – he appears to be made out of those stress-relief materials) but, eventually a computer game which has, to some extent, taken over the role toys play in our family homes. Incredibly shot and clearly a work of art – I hope it is stop-go-motion because if it is incredible SFX then … actors are redundant.
Fetch (Jyri Koski, 2009)
A short that appears to be taken from feature length movie. Small-role actors from Martin Scorsese and Guy Ritchie's movies indicate that this hardly short of budget or contacts. Like a combination between Snatch and The Sopranos, we see an Afro-American gangster named Caesar (the actor Ade who plays Tryone in Snatch) come across OG’s – Original Gangster – Italians Vinni (Looks a lot like Uncle Jun’ from Sopranos) and henchman Tony to complete a job for them. A post-credits voice-message reveals what Vinni and Tony should have known … they don’t know much it turns out and we see quite the finale to a mistake at the end. Incredible acting and incredible roles that showcase the talent Jyri Koski has … I only hope that Koski creates a feature-film with the punch of this short. It would be difficult to pull-off though.
Trunk (Chrostopher D'Elia, 2008)
Very simple story as two Uni Students set off on a road journey that escalates into chaos. It stars Zachary Ty Bryan from – recently watched Held for Ransom - taking a potential frat-pack on a journey. It has you initially eager to see where it will go ... but then descends into a comedy. It is very funny but, at some points, the second actor Kyle Gallner, seems a bit too passionate for such a funny situation. I wouldn't be averse to watching it again, but there was something that lacked ... maybe credibility. No second layer - just fun and games.
The One Last Time (Scott Weintrob, 2009)
An incredible short that, even though the last one shown, I would be prepared to say is the 'best'. IMDB seems to state that director Weintrob is now on a feature called Bleed opposed to Ammo whose X Returns put him in a position to do ... well ... nothing currently in production. This film seems inspired by Nolan's beginning to The Dark Knight whereby the Joker and co - masked as clowns - raid a bank. The characters in this short raid a bank, masked in a similar way, but as the Wizard of Oz characters ... only to find halfway through that another group are raiding the bank themselves. It looks so sharp and incredible showing this classical building raided by gun-toting bank robbers ... it could be the start of an incredible comedy-action movie but, as it progresses it utilises the nature of a short to finish exquisitely.
When I watched Dead Mans Shoes and Saw I realised that you can see how some directors, writers, actors, etc have planned creatively to make a film that gives them an opportunity to showcase their talent within a realistic set/schedule, etc. The best shorts used a small cast and/or one set which would require very little shooting. Yes, some films clearly had money behind them but not all of them. Fetch had money - yet we only saw one room, 5 actors during the same 10 mins. The animation ones are more difficult to navigate as they ahve alot more work involved but can be worked on consistently by the filmmakers. The Odds - one set, one very simple set (a basement!) for that matter and two actors. Nothing more. X-Returns and Harvest were trying to be feature-length films condensed into 10 and 22 mins respectively. A great experience and i fully recommend hunting down my top 3 from the selection: The Odds, The One Last Time and Fetch.
Monday, 12 October 2009
I watched The Godfather trilogy at 15. I watched Apocalypse Now at Uni when it was very late and it was the redux' and I fell asleep and had to watch it again the following day. I had not seen this, but remember a conversation (ooo, a pun considering...) with friends Chris and Wes whereby the two followed a discussion about The Godfather by saying that Rumble Fish was brilliant. Embarressed, I never even knew such a film I kept my eyes peeled for it - always finding it in obscure shops like Music and Movies costing £10 plus ... a ridiculous ... until, as I was making my way for a till in HMV I found it for £3. I could now watch this 'brilliant' film and, in the future, take part in such conversations about Francis Ford Coppola. Then again, I haven't seen Jack so maybe I have a long way to go yet ...
What I reckon ...
It does look stunning - thats for sure. Its shot in inspired-by-Fellini-and-Bergman black and white. Then again, looks like and arty-version of West Side Story with a man-on-man fight to begin also. The obvious link is also Bogdanovichs' The Last Picture Show - a teenage story, shot in black and white. Made in 1971. This whole style reeks of influences moreso - a film-noir look enhanced with Lawrence Fishburne as this friend who dresses like a detective, thin-tie included, furthering this film-noir style as he walks along with his friends in alleys and leaving smokey silhouettes in the backdrop.
The story follows Rusty James (Matt Dillon) a not-so-clever, but popular character. In the same way I watched Toy Story and profiled Sid, Rusty James is influenced easily and is not the quickest of cats - maybe indicating SEN (Special Educational Needs). He looks up to his brother - the Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke who looks alot like a young Bruce Willis) - a menace to society, we are led to believe. Thing is, we only see the policeman who despises him and the difficult upbringing the boys have had under their father, played by Dennis Hopper, a single parent who is an alcoholic. Wea re told of the 'stories' The Motocycle Boy knows of, but are now entirely shown his menace. Until we see him at the end as a character who is not just a menace - but mentally unstable.
The Motorcycle Boy is quite a tragic character. He is colourblind and is, bit-by-bit, destroying himself and ultimately does - but luckily does not destroy his brother.
I'm glad I have seen this and this is surely one of those films which too often gets unnoticed - Coppola makes some great films and this is ambitious enough to give a watch but, then again, it does at points drag. Looks too good to be seen as realism when the story itself has a connection to the audience that realism could have captured so well. Its based on the book by S.E. Hinton - an author I have read nothing of, but Coppola is a big fan of. To close, I think if films like Rumble Fish were more prevalent in cinema than the likes of the latest teen-rom-com than maybe cinema would be a better place.
Some great factors include a character Smokey, played by Nicholas Cage. This character is smart and provides a clear contrast to Dillons Rusty-James - you see how careless, clumsy and immature Rusty really is, while Smokey has more intelligence and is clearly mores street-smart than Rusty too.
Last point - Stuart Copeland provides the music and, funnily enough, I have got into The Police. Stuart Copeland is the drummer and, when you listen to a fair bit of The Police you realise how impressive that is. Copeland has also created the music for the stage adaptation of Ben-Hur (A show recently on in London's O2) and, I assume this was in the early days of soundtracks he created. So much percussion and business adds to the atmosphere and provides an incredible backdrop for The Motorcycle Boy and his brother Rusty.
Sunday, 11 October 2009
"This week Jo and Simon talk about 3D films and the latest releases - with a specific focus on Pixar and Disney. Films discussed are Toy Story and Up in 3D and Zombieland amongst brief discourse on the back-catalogue of Pixar studios."
That's the description ... enjoy!
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Sunday, 4 October 2009
"The latest films discussed by your London-based film reviewers. Specifically focussing on Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson's 'The Invention of Lying' and Lars von Trier's 'Antichrist'."
That's the description ... enjoy!