Monday, 30 June 2014

Fargo TV Episode Reviews and Articles

I've been writing about the first season of Fargo over at Yahoo and What Culture. Here are all my articles for the moment, but if and when there is any news on season 2, I'll most definitely be covering it!

Will Fargo return without Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton? 

Billy Bob Thornton’s 9 Most Badass Fargo Moments

Fargo episode 1 review: Billy Bob Thornton perfect as malevolent mystery man
Fargo episode 2 review: Martin Freeman comes under suspicion
Fargo episode 3 review: Billy Bob, blackmail and a bloody shower
Fargo episode 4 review: Billy Bob Thornton brings the plague
Fargo episode 5 review: Molly closes in on murder suspects Lester and Malvo
Fargo episode 6 review: The bodies pile up as fish fall from the sky
Fargo episode 7 review: The funny side of gun crime?
Fargo episode 8 review: Did Lester and Malvo get away with murder?
Fargo episode 9 review: Malvo goes after the new and improved Lester
Fargo episode 10 review: Malvo and Lester finally face off

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Game of Thrones 80s VHS Intro

This video is too good not too share. Imagine if Game of Thrones had been made in the 80s. After a trip to the rental store, you open the box, pull out your clunky VHS tape and slot it into the machine. It's not been rewound of course from when the last person rented it, so after rewinding it yourself, you hit play.

Quite simply, I'd still watch the shit out of this!

Hunger Games Teaser: President Snow's Panem Address

Poor Peeta. Check out Josh Hutcherson in this teaser video for the third Hunger Games movie Mockingjay Part 1. He is brainwashed like so many of the citizens of Panem and is now President Snow's mascot.

Poor old Peeta is about to become a propaganda tool in the fight against the rebellion that will rise with Katniss Everdeen at the centre. This also means that we'll actually get more of a chance to see Katniss getting cosy with Gale as Peeta is going to be far too busy standing still and staring into space at Snow's side.

The third book is probably the weakest of the book series and the decision to split it into two films is perhaps unwise but with marketing like this, we'll just have to wait and see. No matter what, it will be good to see Katniss out of the arena and into a real war, and this will also be the final chance to witness Philip Seymour Hoffman's majesty on screen.

Does anyone else get a creepy Michael Jackson/Jimmy Saville-like vibe from the President in this video?

Panem forever baby...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

FURY Trailer brings out the big guns

The new film from director David Ayer gets a fantastic looking new trailer featuring its impressive cast battling through World War 2 in a tank. Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal will be packing that war machine with so much testosterone, you'll be able to smell the sweaty balls dripping off the screen.

This is the director of End of Watch, one of my top 3 films of 2012 as well as the guy who wrote Training Day. His last film, Sabotage, may have been a bit of a misstep but at least it gave Arnie a bit of a darker character for his post-Governor career.

World War 2 are often action packed and though The Monuments Men was a recent star packed disappointment, Fury looks like a gritter, dirtier and far more exciting ride that George Clooney's film. Logan Lerman is the only one of the major players who I'm not thrilled to see in this. No offence to Lerman who I'm sure is great but when he comes toe to toe with Pitt, Pena, Bernthal and LaBeouf, he's bound to struggle. What a cast and what a trailer! Can't wait for Fury to be unleashed in November.

More trailers from I Love That Film

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES Trailer: More Shredder, Splinter and Skrillex?

Well at least they are still mutants and not some alien race because as Megan Fox's character says... that would be stupid. The latest trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offers much more footage from the film ranging from the Turtles in action to a Splinter/Shredder showdown and even Will Arnett (yay!) getting a couple of lines.

It's got the usual vibe of a big bloated Michael Bay film even if he is only the producer. Shredder seems to have been turned into a Transformer and to add to the 'hey kids we're still cool and relevant' factor, a Skrillex tune has been drafted in to make the trailer more fun and energetic.

I'm still upset with many things about this but they are petty grievances that should not ruin the movie if it is fast paced, funny and action packed (which this trailer is). Splinter is my biggest worry as though we have no good glimpse of him yet, I don't like what I am able to see. I'm also gutted that April isn't a redhead but then again, how important is hair colour really? The Turtles look quite cool on occasion, but I have the nagging suspicion that the film is just going to be crammed far too full of CGI enhanced action sequences that will ruin some of them.

Anyway, I have written a full preview of the film for Starburst Magazine which should be in the August issue 403 along with a new short story I have written called The Nurse and the Butcher.

Here's the trailer:

More trailers from I Love That Film

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Walking On Sunshine - Worst film ever?

This looks absolutely bloody awful and oh joy of joys, I'm going to have sit through it tonight! Yaaaaay! Then I'll probably get a good old double whammy of awfulness by catching England get their asses handed to them in another World Cup game. Sounds like a fun evening!

Does anyone want to see these songs murdered?

Who thought this movie was a good idea in the first place?

I want names... and addresses...

More trailers from I Love That Film

The Inbetweeners 2 Official Trailer - Not as good as the teaser

G'day mate. Put a couple of shrimps on the barbie and all that. The Inbetweeners are back and looking as dumb and dumber as ever. In this sequel, Will Neil and the boring one are heading to Australia for a gap year to catch up with Jay and see what kind of porkers he's been telling about his time spent there.

It's got all the usual gags about gaps, boobs and bush but I don't think I saw any dancing from the four main characters unfortunately. Still, there promises to be plenty of sun and silliness in this sequel. Here is the trailer:

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Belle Review

The words 'inspired by an 18th century painting' never fill me with a huge amount of excitement. However, when the painting in question is of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed race girl alongside her white cousin, curiosity over the story of is at least partially piqued. In 1779, with the slave trade in full swing, a ‘woman of colour’ who is not represented as a slave is a highly unlikely subject for a work of art and Belle details the story behind how this young woman came to pose for the painting.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Dido, the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral (Matthew Goode) whose indiscretion with an African woman has produced an offspring that would cause a scandal in so-called civilised society. Despite this, he insists that Dido is not abandoned and instead takes the young Dido to be raised by his rich family. Lord and Lady Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson) accept Dido but she is denied basic privileges due to her skin colour, such as simply joining them at the dinner table. As she and her cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) search for suitable male suitors, Lord Mansfield who is Lord Chief Justice must also face his biggest challenge in the courts when 132 diseased slaves are thrown overboard in order to collect an insurance payout.

Belle is an interesting attempt to balance the melodramatic period romance with a more politically minded drama. The Jane Austen crowd will lap up the love triangle and women torn between dashing suitors and villainous wretches who try their best to hide their true colours. Those feeling withdrawals from the triple whammy of Django Unchained, Lincoln and 12 Years a Slave can get stuck into the moral quandaries of the British slave trade and its barbaric actions. Though a greater focus on the drowning of the slaves, the subsequent court proceedings and the move towards the abolition of slavery might make for a more worthy drama, Belle still packs a great deal of anger with its focus on Dido and her forbidden loves.

Belle stumbles in its opening scenes despite what amounts to an excellent cameo appearance from Matthew Goode as the father loathe to leave his illegitimate child. Exposition and pointed dialogue feels forced and didactic but the film quickly comes to life once it skips forwards to Dido as a teen and Mbatha-Raw takes over in the role. Compared to countless black characters in this time period, Dido appears to have it easy. She has an inheritance to support her and she is cultured, beautiful and blessed to be brought up with a family that love her, even if they do treat her differently for her skin colour. Despite her blessings though, it is impossible not to feel for Dido as she attempts to rub and scratch at her skin in front of the mirror or when she eventually learns how to comb her hair properly from a black maid.

However, Belle is not all about race and it has just as much time to explore the position of women in the 18th century and the impossible predicaments they find themselves in. Marriage, inheritance, dowries and scheming behind the scenes all prevent these girls from living their own lives. It’s clear that it was not only slaves who were treated as property back in the old days and Dido and Elizabeth are flaunted about by their mothers and aunts like prizes for the taking.

Miranda Richardson is particularly merciless as the woman keen to get her sons into wealthy families. Her reactions to Dido's skin colour are almost humorous if they were not so vile. Tom (Draco Malfoy) Felton gets to be devilish and menacing in a small but memorable role and Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson make the most of characters that have interesting moralities to explore.

While the murder of the slaves is somewhat sidelined in favour of the life and love of Belle, the film ably balances both the personal and political. While it has nothing new to say about race and gender, it excels more at regarding the unfairness of life as a woman than as life as a black woman in the 18th century. While main character Belle is a beautiful mix of black and white, the film focuses far too much on the white faces that surround her and not nearly enough on the black people whose lives were destroyed by slavery.

Belle is released in UK cinemas on Friday 13th June.

Oculus Review

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the scariest slasher of them all? Is it Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers or is it just a simple mirror that can create more shivers down your spine than any of these pretenders? Oculus introduces a killer so sinister and unpredictable, it might even rival death’s own devilish trickery in the Final Destination films.

Oculus is the story of brother and sister Tim and Kaylie Russell, each played by two different actors in separate time periods 11 years apart. Older Tim (Brenton Thwaites) has just been released from a mental institution after his psychiatrist is finally convinced that he has accepted responsibility for murdering his parents 11 years previously. His sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) immediately meets him on release and reveals that she has managed to get hold of the mirror which they both blamed for actually murdering their parents all those years ago. While Tim has moved on, Kaylie is determined that they keep their childhood promise to each other to destroy the mirror and whatever malevolent entity resides in it.

Now they have only a few days to kill the mirror and the stage is set not only for scares but also an interesting family dynamic as Tim and Kaylie argue over what exactly happened on the night their parents died. All the while, there are flashbacks that piece together the details of just what did happen, revealing that Tim was not crazy and Kaylie’s determination to rid the world of this mirror is essential. 

After a few false starts and unnecessary ‘boo... behind you’ scares, Oculus really gets spooky when Tim and Kaylie lock themselves up alone in a room with the mirror. Karen Gillan has an irresistible glint in her eye as she delivers what could have been boring exposition about the history of the mirror and relays her precautions to Tim about how to keep them both alive in the presence of the mirror. It is an ingenious set up and with 45 deaths over four centuries attributed to the Lasser Glass mirror, even the cameras, thermostats, regular phone calls from fiancées and supplies such as water and an inventive way to destroy the mirror may not be enough.

The fun brother and sister dynamic is enlivened by the sceptic vs. believer positions of the pair and the flashbacks get creepier and creepier as the film continues. The parents of Tim and Kaylie in the flashbacks get to be most distressing with Rory Cochrane on particularly sinister form as the father of the house. There is some very nasty business with a fingernail and then a light bulb but mostly Oculus goes for slowburn over gore and nasty shocks. 

As hallucinations start to heat up, there are some genuinely chilling moments and the flashing back and forth in time keeps the pace up as things move towards a somewhat inevitable climax. While there is a suitably bleak ending, it is not a wholly satisfying ending but as with all horrors, there is scope for a sequel, even if much of the invention of this first effort will be lost. 

Oculus has a smart narrative and excellent performance from a strong female in the lead. While its mirror based story may not be the fairest of them all, it is still far from the exact mirror image of a million other horror movies. Give it a look. 

Oculus is released in UK cinemas on Friday 13th June.

Monday, 9 June 2014

12 Years a Slave - Roll Jordan Roll

Currently writing an article for Splice Cinema Journal on 12 Years a Slave and listening to this on repeat.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Cannes Film Festival 2014 Round Up

Well my time at Cannes is finally over (and this post is a little late) but it has been an incredible experience. I’ve watched 23 films over 8 days from Wednesday 14th May to Wednesday 21st May and many of them I have already reviewed (with plenty more reviews to come). I’m absolutely knackered and have been for almost the entire festival. It’s been hard to stay awake in some of the films which I’m afraid to say has factored into how I have ranked them but I’ve also seen some absolute corkers.

Out of the 18 in competition, I watched 10:

Mr Turner

Maps to the Stars
Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night)
The Search
Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language)

All of which means I missed out on Winter Sleep, Saint Laurent, Le Meraviglie (The Wonders) and Futatsume No Mado (Still the Water) while I was there and Mommy, Jimmy’s Hall, Sils Maria and Leviathan after I left.

In the Un Certain Regard category, I only managed to catch 6 out of the 20 titles:
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Feher Isten (White God)
Lost River

Of those that were playing out of competition, I saw :

The Rover
Gui Lai (Coming Home)
The Owners
Caricaturistes - Fantassins de la Democratie (Cartoonists - Foot Soldiers of Democracy)

I only actually went into a single press conference and that was for Mr Turner. I was often in screenings while the press conferences were on but managed to take some quick snaps of a few stars as they left the building. I was also there for a How to Train Your Dragon 2 photo call thing when some of the stars took to the street but unfortunately missed the stars of The Expendables doing what they do best and riding into town on the back of a tank like they freaking own the place.
I regret not seeing a film on the beach (The Warriors was on at the same time as Lost River and Pulp Fiction was screened after I left) and wish I’d got the chance to do some interviewing but all in all I have had a brilliant time. Thanks to Tastic Film for paying the air fare and accommodation and for giving me this opportunity. I hope I might be invited back next year.

Here’s my rough ranking of the films at the festival followed by my personal top 10:

My least favourite: Goodbye to Language (somebody who liked this will have to explain it to me sometime). I also wasn’t particularly a fan of The Blue Room, Xenia and The Owners. All a bit too slow paced and lacking in tension for my liking. Slightly better were Beautiful Youth and Cartoonists but both of these failed to completely hold my attention.

Both Mr Turner and Coming Home were admirable period pieces but neither kept me from wanting to drop off... bear in mind I was bloody tired due to surviving on roughly 5 hours of sleep a night.

Two Days, One Night was good but repetitive while The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby had great performances and very well written characters but neither were anything wildly original.

Lost River dared to be different and is a fascinating debut from Ryan Gosling even if it is highly derivative of the likes of Refn, Malick and Lynch. Got to admire Gosling for aiming high!

Captive and The Salvation both narrowly miss out on the top 10 for being gripping but fairly conventional in many ways.

My top 10 are:

'Life Itself is a wonderfully complete story of the life and death of Roger Ebert, a film the man himself would hopefully have given a big two thumbs up to.'

9. The Search (not reviewed yet)

8. Maps to the Stars (not reviewed yet)

 'Abderrahmane Sissako has created a thought provoking piece of cinema that may not make audiences into emotional wrecks but will certainly remain in the memory for some time.'

6. Foxcatcher

 'For those who do not know the real story behind the film, try to avoid spoilers as the ending will likely be a huge shock. For everyone else, the real surprise here is Carrell whose performance as a man a million miles from normal will likely be a strong contender come award season. Catch it.'

'With an excellent score and some gorgeous cinematography, The Homesman is a beautifully told feminist tragedy with a welcoming touch of humour.'

4. The Rover

'There are plenty of quick and shocking bursts of violence in The Rover and though the pace slows almost to a halt on occasion, it builds to an unexpectedly emotional resolution. The distorted, dirty score from Anthony Partos perfectly complements the gritty visuals and moral mystery of Pearce's anti-hero. Even with some lulls in the mid-section, The Rover opens and closes so strongly that it is a ride well worth taking.'

'Genuinely affecting, completely absorbing and surprisingly funny, Polsky deserves to conquer the Cannes Film Festival, and the rest of the world with the help of the Red Army.'

2. White God

'Furiously entertaining with a perfect ending, White God is like 280 Dogs Later; an underdog story with some serious bite.'

'Wild Tales may not be the kind of film that will win too many awards but it certainly deserves to pick up a wide audience. If there were awards for Best Fight or for Best Wedding, then this film would cream the competition. Szifrón has made the most surprising film of the festival so far, dazzling with his direction and audacious storytelling. Wild Tales is one hell of a ride and a hilarious must-see.'

It’s made me realise how important story, style and pace are to me personally. Some of these films had beautifully written characters and were utterly convincing but if they didn’t move along and have a really strong story or some interesting stylistic techniques, then I can’t help but feel I’ve seen it all before. I also clearly love violence, threat, tension and danger in the movies. It seems I can’t get enough of conflict!