Thursday, 20 November 2014

New Releases of the Week: Mockingjay, Homesman, What We Do in the Shadows

There is a bit of something for everyone in cinemas this week. Big blockbuster fans have smart and bleak YA adaptation The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, those looking for somehting far more serious but equally interesting should try The Homesman and anyone after silliness in spades should give What We Do in the Shadows a chance.

Vampires, westerns, science fiction and mockumentary all in one week! 

If none of those tickle your fancy, then there is always the James Brown biopic Get On Up.

Here are links to my reviews of this week's releases in cinemas:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 at Starburst Magazine

The Homesman at Tastic Film which I got to see at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

What We Do in the Shadows 

I'd love to recommend one of the smaller two films here that don't have the marketing budget of  the Hunger Games franchise but if I could only see one of these in the cinema, I'm afraid it would definitely be Mockingjay Part 1. The Homesman is a depressing watch and What We Do in the Shadows is bit hit and miss but all three of these films this week are really worth watching.

You can also catch me talking more about these films on Amazing Radio on Friday afternoon with Dani Charlton soon after midday.

Will you be seeing any of these in the cinema?

What We Do in the Shadows Review

Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav are three vampires living together in a flat share with their 8000 year old housemate Petyr. Attempting to cope with modern life in New Zealand is a bit of a struggle for these out of touch and lost in time bloodsuckers. When a documentary crew decides to take the unenviable task of capturing the vampires’ preparations for the annual undead get together known as The Unholy Masquerade, things start to unravel.

These vampires are hilariously having to deal with the ordinary trials of sharing a flat; paying the rent, doing the bloody dishes and trying to socialise in the local nightclubs. However, they also have to catch their prey, drink their blood and avoid too many run-ins with the gang of werewolves that also roam around their town.

Don’t worry though; even with vampires facing off against werewolves, this is a million miles away from Twilight. When the 8000 year old mute Petyr who lives in the basement turns ordinary 20-something year old guy Nick into a vampire, the more experienced vamps must help Nick to adjust to his new life as an immortal fanged creature of the night. In turn, Nick invites his very much not-dead-mate Stu to hang out with the vampires so that he can help them to learn more about the ways of the modern world.

What We Do in the Shadows is a little hit and miss. The mock-documentary format has been done to death from This is Spinal Tap to The Office but it still manages to throw up plenty of laughs here. The extraordinary elements of the vampires is constantly undercut by their talking to camera and worrying about trivial things. There are plenty of awkward moments as the vampires are revealed to be little more than bickering manchildren, completely trapped in their old ways but always facing a world moving on without them. Though the central trio range from 183 to 862 years old, they are still just silly, selfish and narcissistic little boys.  

When the young Nick and his mate Stu come into their life, it shakes things up, particularly as Nick runs around telling people he is a vampire (attracting the attentions of a vampire hunter) and Stu remains very much undead. That’s it as far as plot goes. What We Do in the Shadows is much more about characters and giving the conventions associated with vampires as much of a ripping as possible. 

These vampires hilariously fight with werewolves, have troubles getting ready for nights out without being able to see their reflections and even fight amongst themselves by turning into bats and batting heads. Their frequent references to vampire films of the past such as The Lost Boys, Blade and Twilight will undoubtedly delight fans of the genre. 

When it’s funny, it is really funny. However, not all the jokes puncture the jugular, meaning What We Do in the Shadows is likely to remain in the shadows and unseen by a wide audience. Still, with this, Only Lovers Left Alive and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night all being released this year, anyone worried that Twilight and Dracula Untold had driven stakes through the heart of decent vampires film should breathe a little sigh of relief.

More from I Love That Film:

What We Do in the Shadows Trailer

More reviews from I Love That Film

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Why I Love Cloverfield

There is a lot of nonsense in Cloverfield. Beyond the fact that a giant alien monster creature lands in Manhattan and trashes the entire city, there are also a great deal of puzzling narrative missteps. The story might have its flaws and the characters are not much to write home about but this is a film where style is king and wow is it a breathless ride.

Director Matt Reeves created something truly visceral, immediate and immersive. If a monster did land in Manhattan and someone was there to film it, this is what it would be like. It clearly borrows (some would argue highly insensitively) from the horrific amateur videos of 9/11 that were broadcast on the news, in documentaries and have now found their homes on YouTube. The destruction of buildings and iconic landmarks, dust covered streets and people, and the emergency services seeming completely out of their depth are all recognisable elements from the handheld home videos of people who grabbed their cameras on September 11th 2001.

Found footage films often have a problem with believability despite their aesthetics being designed to convince you of their veracity. The main problem is that no one believes that a character would keep filming when faced with imminent danger and especially the very real prospect of their own demise. However, this is another area where Cloverfield excels. In giving the duty of camera operating to funny guy Hud, the audience can totally buy in to the idea that this guy just wants to keep filming. First he is reluctant when offered the job of documenting the leaving party of Rob. Then he quickly finds it fun and assumes the responsibility that has been handed to him. Even after the party is rudely interrupted by a giant monster tearing off the head of the Statue of Liberty and throwing it down a street, Hud decides it is still his duty to document the events in which he finds himself a participant.

His continued filming is completely believable. In light of all the videos from 9/11, we know that people desire to film and share this kind of extraordinary footage. Like Hud says, people WILL want to see how it all went down. His reactions from behind the camera feel real. He screams, repeats his cries to God over and over again, and his confusion and fear are constantly palpable. His filming is not the work of a calm professional but instead the haphazard flailing of a terrified individual.

Like Heather from The Blair Witch Project who was determined to keep making that goddam documentary even when she was losing her mind, (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER!!!) Hud keeps filming right until his death. His last surviving friends realise the importance of the camera in capturing their legacy and record their last messages to the world before being blown to smithereens. It's a wonderfully bleak ending that leaves the audience to decide if the bombing actually managed to kill the monster. In a final bit of bitter irony, the previously recorded Coney Island day trip of lovers Rob and Beth flashes up on the screen as Beth says to camera 'I had a good day'. If you look carefully, you will see something crash into the ocean in the distance. It's a perfect bit of non-linear storytelling that ends the film on a deeply sad note (even if you don't care much for the hipster characters) by taking us back to the beginning of the story just as all is lost.

For all its flaws, I love Cloverfield nearly as much as I love The Blair Witch Project. Forget any versions of Godzilla, Cloverfield is the definitive monster movie of our generation.

More from I Love That Film:

Buy my book on The Blair Witch Project

Deconstructing Cinema: Cloverfield

Characters With Cameras 

Results for the Best Found Footage Film 

New York at The Movies

Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3 Poster

Just in case you aren't suffering from superhero fatigue syndrome, here is a lovely little poster from the folks at Marvel to show just exactly what your diary will be looking like from May 6, 2016 to May 3, 2019. This is phase 3 which will kick off after we've had Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man in 2015. The poster features a whole bunch of new characters, some of which I've never even heard of but hey, if you can make a success out of the barmy Guardians of the Galaxy, I guess you can afford to take a few risks.

Captain America will be facing off against Iron Man in Civil War, the Guardians will be back as well as the Avengers in a pair of films titled Infinity War and also Thor returns for round 3. I can't imagine the pay cheques these guys are getting. Fair play to you Chris' Evans and Hemsworth. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Added to the Marvel roster are Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange and the Inhumans who sound like fun. So we have a black guy but still no women. Do Marvel even have any women superheroes?

As a very moderate fan of superhero films, this poster kind of makes me want to hide under a blanket until the superhero storm is over. I suspect that until 2019, cinemas are just going to be filled with a revolving door full of Marvel, DC and Disney's Star Wars films; all of which will be disposable fun but are hardly likely to change your life.

And just imagine how big the Marvel Cinematic Universe boxset is going to be one day when this is all over (if it ever is and if we even have boxsets anymore).

So who doesn't give a shit and who is on the edge of their seat?

Something else you might like to read while you're here:

The Summer of 2050 at the Cinema

My first academic paper: Cine-Excess Conference 2014

On Friday I gave my first academic paper at the Cine-Excess conference at the University of Brighton. My paper was titled Shooting Backwoods: Footage Found in Rural Locations and was a part of the first panel of the weekend, titled Borders, Backwoods and Spatial States of Terror. I was joined by David Lerner, Sara Reininghaus and Stephen Curtis on this panel.

The theme of the whole conference this year was Are You Ready for the Country: Cult Cinema and Rural Excess. Seeing as I'm nearly four years through my part time PhD, I thought it about time I bit the bullet and tried to get myself talking at one of these conferences and as I'd been to Cine-Excess back in 2011 to meet Ruggero Deodato, I thought I'd give in an abstract and see if I got a response.

And I did! So here is the abstract. I'm doubt I'm supposed to publish the whole paper here but if Cine-Excess decide not to use it in their journal, then I will at a later date.

Shooting Backwoods: Footage Found in Rural Locations

What happens when Western filmmakers head off with their modern technology, into the woods and jungles of the world to record something more primitive and vicious than they could ever imagine? Films from Cannibal Holocaust (Deodato, 1980) to Willow Creek (Goldthwait, 2013) explore how supposedly civilised characters set out to film the unknown in rural spaces. Too late do the characters discover that they have become the subjects of their own audio visual documents as they are terrorised and finally disappear. The primal forces that attack them range from supernatural beings such as witches to savage tribal cannibals but all share an archaic relationship with the rural settings that they inhabit.

Found footage films have flooded the horror genre in recent years and despite the popularity of the suburban home settings of the Paranormal Activity (2007- date) franchise, many investigate ideas of culture clashes between the urban filmmakers and their rural subjects. Leading on from theoretical work surrounding Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project (Myrick and Sanchez, 1999), I will analyse how the diegetic-camera-wielding characters and the foes they face in Welcome to the Jungle (Hensleigh, 2007), Trollhunter (Ovredal, 2010), Evidence (Howie Askins, 2011), and Willow Creek are dramatising contemporary anxieties over the failure of modern technologies (and Western youth) in tackling ‘primitive’ enemies. 

My findings will demonstrate that found footage films often take place in rural settings due to their central themes of control, dominance and superiority. The characters’ mastery of their technology is of little help to them when they are faced with the rural threats of the woods and jungles that they venture into. Exploring the aesthetic properties as well as the representation of youth, gender and race in these films will make this paper critical in furthering discourse on both the horror genre and more specifically the contemporary contextual relevance of found footage films.
More academic stuff from I Love That Film:

Referenced in a book on Found Footage Horror

Buy my book on The Blair Witch Project

My Blair Witch book just got a cover

Becoming a Found Footage Horror Expert: Media Interview

Alone With Her and Behind the Mask: Interesting Found Footage

The Lost Coast Tapes: Bigfoot Found Footage

The Making of The Blair Witch Project

Evidence of Good Found Footage

The Femme Castratrice in Horror

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

What if David Brent Became a Vampire: What We Do in the Shadows Trailer

Decent vampire movies are making a serious comeback after nearly being staked right through the heart by the bloody Twilight franchise. First up this year there was Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, then I got to see a little gem at the London Film Festival called A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and then tonight I get to see mock-documentary What We Do in the Shadows.

It just goes to show that even after the moping, preening, sparkling vampires of that unholy tween franchise, films featuring bloodsuckers will really never die. This horror sub-genre is as immortal as ever and enjoying a witty and original renaissance.

What We Do in the Shadows is from the guys who brought us Flight of the Conchords and Eagle Vs Shark so expect much hilarity to ensue. The trailer looks brilliant, with its last line being a particularly funny look at what I imagine David Brent from The Office would be like if he joined the legions of the undead.

Check out the trailer below:

More Trailers at I Love That Film

Reviews at I Love That Film

London Film Festival 2014

Buy my book on The Blair Witch Project

Videos from I Love That Film

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 Marketing and Review

Before I get stuck into the marketing, please check out my review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 at Starburst Magazine now.

The marketing campaign for the penultimate entry in the Hunger Games franchise has seen a wonderful mix of traditional and more modern methods of spreading the word about the film. While waiting for Mockingjay Part 1 to be released, Hunger Games fans have been torn between propaganda messages from the Capitol and interrupting broadcasts beamed directly from District 13. 

Lionsgate opted for an immersive series of poster and viral videos that will inspire audiences to start picking sides and ensuring followers will feel like joining the revolution (and by that I just mean go and see the film). First came a series of disturbing and chilling posters from the Capitol, displaying and 'celebrating' the hard work, perseverance and crucially the sacrifice of ordinary people from the districts.

Next came a formal address from President Snow in which a brainwashed, docile Peeta stared blankly by his side. The Capitol’s television is going into propaganda overdrive in order to win back the servitude of the districts. Panem forever baby!

Then came Snow’s second address to the people of Panem. As Snow delivered his message to the divided nation, the screen distorted and the Capitol’s pristine vision was interrupted as Jeffrey Wright’s Beetee hacked his way onto the Capitol TV feed. His stark warning to the Capitol of Panem and fans of the Hunger Games franchise? The Mockingjay lives. 

Sooner or later the marketing had to get sensible and traditional again. So then we got the trailers actaully delivering some snippets from the movie. Of course we got the obligatory teaser:

And then finally the real deal:

Now the movie is almost here and I was lucky enough to attend a screening for Starburst Magazine so here is my review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

If you subscribe to or pick up a copy of the latest issue of Starburst Magazine, you can read my full preview of the film

More from I Love That Film:

What is The Hunger Games trilogy really all about?

Why I Love The Hunger Games

Trailers at I Love That Film

Reviews at I Love That Film

Buy my book on The Blair Witch Project

The Many Methods of Movie Marketing: Part 1 Posters and Trailers

The Many Methods of Movie Marketing: Part 2 TV, Radio, Internet 

The Many Methods of Movie Marketing: Part 3 Merchandise
The Many Methods of Movie Marketing: Part 4 Premieres
The Many Methods of Movie Marketing: Part 5 Press Junkets and Preview Screenings
The Many Methods of Movie Marketing: Part 6 Film Festivals

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Rejected Star Wars Episode VII Titles

OK here goes. I just got access to the massive brainstorming session that J.J. Abrams and his team had for titling Star Wars Episode VII. I took a secret photo of the giant poster they all scribbled their ideas down on*. So here it is: I present to you the full list of titles they rejected before settling on The Force Awakens.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Sith Snoozes
Star Wars Episode VII: Shit, The Force's Alarm Didn't Go Off
Star Wars Episode VII: The Jedi Rouses
Star Wars Episode VII: The Empire Strikes Back... Again
Star Wars Episode VII: A Increasingly Modern Hope
Star Wars Episode VII: Some Kind of Menace
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Stiffens
Star Wars Episode VII: Morning Glory
Star Wars Episode VII: Dawn of the Force
Star Wars Episode VII: Another Return of the Jedi
Star Wars Episode VII: An Even Newer Hope
Star Wars Episode VII: Age of the Force
Star Wars Episode VII: Light-speed and Furious
Star Wars Episode VII: A Song of Jedis and Siths
Star Wars Episode VII: The Empire Attacks the Block
Star Wars Episode VII: 12 Years A Sith
Star Wars Episode VII: Valar Morgulis
Star Wars Episode VII: Game of Planets
Star Wars Episode VII: Into Darkness
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Breaks Bad
Star Wars Episode VII: Return of the Geriatrics
Star Wars Episode VII: Rise of the Trade Embargoes
Star Wars Episode VII: The Dark Side Rises

Personally I really hope they actually do go with that last one for Episode IX. What it lacks in originality, it makes up with by sounding badass!

Any other suggestions? I'll pass them on to my contact at Disney!
And for that matter, whose got any ideas for the sequels?

*This is not true

Star Wars Episode VII Title Confirmed: The Force Awakens

As principal photography wraps on Star Wars Episode VII, it has just been confirmed that the new film in the franchise will be known as The Force Awakens. No matter what kind of shit-fit the internet throws, I think it's a decent title.

Yes people will wonder if the next ones will be Star Wars Episode VIII: The Force Scratches it's Balls and Hits the Snooze Button and Episode IX: The Force Realises That Today Will Be the Same as Every Other Miserable Day, Pulls Up the Duvet and Sheds a Little Tear Before Rocking Itself Back to Sleep (or something along those lines) but The Force Awakens is still an exciting title full of promise!

What I would have love to have seen is the mind map/brain storm session that led to this title being chosen. Wouldn't it be great to know all the other possible titles they considered before this one. If The Force Awakens has got people giggling on Twitter, imagine how many snickers there would have been over The Force Arises or The Force Stiffens (ok maybe that last one was never on the cards).

Anyway seeing as I've never been even close to one of the biggest Star Wars fans in the world, just like I'd never seen a single Star Trek film before J.J. Abrams came along, I'm now pretty excited to see what he does with the franchise, especially with the principals from the original trilogy returning as well as new faves like John Boyega and Andy Serkis in the cast.

What do you think of the title? Has it awoken your senses?

Trailers at I Love That Film

Reviews at I Love That Film

The Summer of 2050 at the Cinema

London Film Festival 2014

Buy my book on The Blair Witch Project

Videos from I Love That Film

El Nino Review from London Film Festival

In the Gibraltar Straits, three young men who are determined to make some quick cash build a drug dealing business by shuttling their cargo over the 10 mile gap between Morocco and Europe. Obsessive cop Jesus is on their tail and while constantly closing in on El Nino, El Compi and Halil, he is also out to catch some bigger fish in the sea of narcotic supply. A well dressed man known only as the Englishman has been evading Jesus’ capture for years, but the detective suspects there is a police informer who needs to be rooted out before they can get their man.

Daniel Monzon’s follow up to Cell 211 is another big concept, this time pulled off with a much bigger budget but many of the same creative team. A hit on his home turf, El Nino should cement Monzon’s reputation as the primary purveyor of Spanish blockbusters. The film looks a million dollars from its incredible vistas of the bustling ports and container yards of the straits to the thrilling boat and car chases. 

Despite all the big, noisy fun of the high octane action sequences though, El Nino is still a pretty complex tale of greed, corruption and the dangers of having dealings with dealers. There are a few too many clichés with one soft focus love scene being a particularly low point of the film but the strong performances help carry it through to a thrilling action packed climax.

It's got a very attractive young cast who are all sadly overshadowed by Luis Tosar's incredible eyebrows but El Nino supplies a decent dose of action, love, drama and suspense while meandering unnecessarily on its way to eventually ending on a high.

Here is the trailer:

More Trailers at I Love That Film

More Reviews at I Love That Film

More from the London Film Festival 2014

Buy my book on The Blair Witch Project

Videos from I Love That Film