Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Green Room: Callum Turner and Jeremy Saulnier Interviews

Just a quick note to say I was lucky enough to get to recently interview Jeremy Saulnier, the director of Green Room and Blue Ruin and also actor Callum Turner who plays Tiger, the lead singer of punk band the Ain't Rights in Green Room.

Here's a snippet of my review of the film:

"Punk band Ain't Rights are going nowhere fast, playing crappy gigs and siphoning petrol just to keep their clapped-out tour van running. After an interview with a local journalist and a disappointing take from their latest gig, they hear of a backwoods gig where they can make some quick and easy cash. The only rub is the clientele at the venue are far right (or are they extreme left?) nutters and Ain't Right don't help matters by opening with a cover of The Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks.

However, the poop really hits the fan when they witness a murder backstage in the green room and find themselves trapped in the venue by those who don't want them to get out alive. Led by Patrick Stewart's gang leader and venue owner, an army of skinhead 'red laces' are soon lining up to pick off the band members of Ain't Rights one by one."

The interviews with both Callum Turner and Jeremy Saulnier are both up at Starburst Magazine now and Green Room recently came out on Blu-ray and DVD so if you didn't catch it at the cinema (and not enough people did), then you should most certainly think about getting yourself a copy now. Or I'll send round Patrick Stewart to knock some sense into you.

More interviews from I Love That Film

Friday, 16 September 2016

Blue Ruin Review

Blue Ruin came out in 2013 was easily one of my favourite films of the year. This review was originally posted at Filmoria.

Jeremy Saulnier is a name you better get used to. Writer, director and photographer of the brilliant indie revenge thriller Blue Ruin, he will need to watch his back if he carries on like this. Everyone will be after him and his considerable talent and there are bound to be a few directors jealous enough of his skills to try and take him out themselves. For that matter, the magnificently bearded lead Macon Blair is also a serious talent to watch.

Blue Ruin is the story of Dwight (Macon Blair), a homeless drifter who takes baths in empty houses, sleeps in his car and gets food from anywhere he can. Dwight is the silent type; his mouth seemingly lost beneath his impressively overgrown beard. When he finds out that Wade Cleland, the man responsible for the murder of his parents has been released from prison, Dwight immediately swings into action, carrying out his burning desire for revenge. However, killing Wade may only be the beginning of Dwight's one man rampage of revenge.

Because unfortunately for him, Dwight is no Rambo. He hasn't got the skills, the savagery or the insanity to just pick off bad guys left, right and centre. He is clumsy and clearly crap at all this killing stuff. Though he is committed to his cause and clever enough to carry it out with the possibility of getting away with it, he is also just an ordinary guy. His early mishaps with a knife show his worrying lack of prowess in the weapon-wielding department and it makes him believable, sympathetic and impossible not to root for.

Blue Ruin starts off like a deceptively typical indie movie; all intriguing close ups with shallow depth of field and bereft of dialogue for most of the first half hour. The composition of early shots are gorgeous with the camera later prowling around the dark locations building an unbearable silent tension. The subtle score exacerbates this, brooding in the background and anticipating the violence. Suddenly and viciously, Blue Ruin becomes a black comedy  and edge-of-your-seat thriller.

And when it comes, the first murder is brutal, bloody and swift. The first act of the film ends where most revenge thrillers would finish but Blue Ruin has plenty more in store. The exact details of the murder that has spurred this mission are deliciously drip fed through sparse bursts of dialogue, punctuating the scenes of silent Dwight stalking. After he seems to have succeeded in his goal, it suddenly and frantically becomes clear that what started out simple has just become far more complex as Dwight has ignited a terrifyingly dangerous family feud.

From revenge thriller to home invasion movie and back again, Blue Ruin is never less than absolutely thrilling. As Dwight rolls around in his old battered car, he beautifully blurs the lines between victim and predator. Though he is a man of very few words, he is impossible to take your eyes off. Macon Blair is revelatory in the role, transforming his features so he is almost two different characters during the story. His amateur assassin becomes reluctant protector to his estranged family and his bravery, resourcefulness and  determination are hilariously balanced by his total authenticity, lack of faith in himself and deep sadness he lugs around with him. It is a wonderful performance; at times bringing real warmth and empathy to the character while being darkly funny as he is forced to tend his wounds and deal in death. There clearly can't be a happy ending for poor Dwight who never smiles and takes no pleasure in his actions. He is a man driven to do what he simply has to do and he has no illusions that he deserves to get out alive. However you are guaranteed to wince with him when he is hurt and cheer him on when he takes revenge.

Helped along the way by an old friend who warns him not to make speeches before killing people, Blue Ruin is gripping from start to finish even when it pauses for pitch black humour. The villains may not have much shading, but their love of guns is enough to make them (for the most part) a mysterious and chilling foe. Bleakly funny, tense beyond words, breathtaking and heartbreaking, Blue Ruin is everything you could possibly want in a thriller. Dwight is undoubtedly one of the best characters of the year and his story will keep you riveted. As Dwight travels to another showdown, he hears a song about having no regrets on the radio. Like Dwight after his spree, you certainly won't have any regrets after seeing the brilliant Blue Ruin.

Watch the trailer:

Check out my review of writer/director Jeremy Saulnier's latest Green Room and watch out for my interviews with Saulnier and Green Room actor Callum Turner coming soon at Starburst Magazine.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Blair Witch Review: Does Adam Wingard's Sequel Match the Original?

You've got to wonder where the parents of Heather and James Donahue are, and what exactly they think they're doing. We didn't see them before their daughter got lost in The Blair Witch Project and now they've only gone and let their son James wander off in search of his sister 20 years later. Surely one of the parents might have advised against this madness.

And so Blair Witch begins with director Adam Wingard (The Guest, You’re Next) taking us back into the haunted woods of Burkitsville as another group of camera-carrying crazies go in search of the elusive Elly Kedward. This time there’s six doomed younglings; James Donahue was four when Heather disappeared, Lisa wants to make a documentary on James’ ill-advised search for his missing sister, and their friends Peter and Ashley are just along for moral support (and to handily up the body count and prove that in horror, black guys are still first on the kill list). The four friends are then joined by oddballs Lane (darknet666) and Talia who uploaded footage to YouTube that they claim to have found on a tape in the woods. The shaky camera video appears to show a female figure in a house just like the one at the end of Heather’s original project. Is Heather still alive after all these years, or is the Blair Witch up to her old tricks again?

No points if you guess the answer, but prepare for another bumpy ride on you’re way to the climax. Blair Witch ditches much of the ambiguity of the original film. There’s no room for any real debate over what exactly happens to this bunch of terrified youths. Anyone still fuming that they sat through The Blair Witch Project and never got a single shot of the Blair Witch can rest assured that there is definitely something to see here. Thankfully, not too much though. Wingard is smart enough to know a little goes a long way and milks the most suspense possible from his characters’ shaky cameras and inability to confront the Blair Witch face to face. The sound design is also racked up a notch, sometimes a little too much as it sounds like the black smoke monster from Lost might have found its way into the woods of Maryland.

Though the Donahue kids’ parents could have done much more to stop at least their second child from heading into the woods, at least James and his buddies are much more prepared for their camping trip than Heather, Mike and Josh were back in 1994. This new crop of tech-savvy millenials have Walkie-talkies, GPS, wearable cameras, a drone camera, lots of lights, food and just more cameras than you can shake a spooky stick-man at. Unfortunately, they obviously didn't watch that footage filmed by Heather and Josh carefully enough as they don't seem to realise that it's all bloody useless when faced with the power of the Blair Witch.

And if you thought she was too passive in the original, or  maybe you don't believe that there was a curse and that everything can be explained rationally in the footage from Heather’s project, prepare to think again. In Blair Witch, the late Elly Kedward really unleashes her powers. She messes with their technology, messes with time and space, magics that old house from out of nowhere again and even throws in a few new tricks that are best left unspoiled. Wingard leaves you in no doubt that the Blair Witch exists and she's pretty much as terrifying as she ever was.

Fans of the original have to endure a little catch-up exposition to fill newcomers in on the legend of the Blair Witch, but at least a little more is added to the mythology. Rustin Parr’s house is also expanded with previously unseen elements providing one particularly claustrophobic moment. However, it's what goes down in the house that really gives the sweat glands a workout as familiar beats (people standing in corners, apologies, unseen attackers) get new and thrilling updates.

For those sick to death of found footage films, this offers little to win you over. There’s more cameras and camera technology so a slightly more varied visual experience than many other similar films. And the old charge of ‘why would they still be filming in this situation?’ is at least partially answered by having the characters wear their cameras on their head requiring them to not have to think about filming when the shit really hits the fan in the final act. These cameras also provide Peep Show style interactions as the characters talk to each other but gaze directly into the cameras. This pays dividends when two characters can only see each other's torch-lit faces while the space behind them remains in total, terrifying darkness.

So Blair Witch is scary, but it's not as ingenious and won't be as influential as the original. It's mostly a shame that Wingard didn't use the ‘method directing’ tactics of original directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick. Clearly some of the scenes were unpleasant to film, but the actors in this film got off lucky. Though there is less ambiguity in Blair Witch, there’s a higher body count and more hysteria to make up for it. It's just a shame that there isn't anything as iconic, moving and ‘real’ as Heather’s final apology in the project that started it all. Still, Blair Witch fans won't be disappointed and newbies will learn that the woods of Burkitsville can be scarier than Crystal Lake, Elm Street and Haddonfield put together. Go back to bed Paranormal Activity, the Blair Witch is back with a vengeance and as terrifying as ever.

Here's the trailer:

More on Blair Witch and the original:


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Blue Room Review (starring Mathieu Amalric)

Wow... some films take a while to make it from the festival circuit to cinemas. Some films take a while... Some films take over two years. I give you The Blue Room. I saw this at Cannes in 2014 and it seems to be getting a limited release in the UK in September 2016. Probably not a great sign, but hey at least it's getting a release!

Here's a snippet of my review:

Triple threat actor, writer, director Mathieu Amalric explores infidelity, obsession and a tragic desire that turns from lust into violence in his latest film, The Blue Room. While the star gives a worthy performance, the story is slight and adds little to what could possiblly be called a sub-genre of ' secret-affair-turns-nasty' films.

Starting in a hotel room where lovers Julien and Esther are having a lusty, erotic and passionate affair behind the backs of their respective partners, The Blue Room then skips in its chronology between the romance and its later repercussions. These repercussions include Amalric’s Julien questioned in custody and standing trial for a crime that remains a mystery for much of the running time. Julien has a wife and daughter at home while Esther has a sick husband in her own life but both are more interested in their frequent forays into the blue room for lovemaking so intense, it even involves biting that draws blood... kinky!

Like the sound of this? Want to read the rest of my review? Head over to Tastic Film where you can read the full story on what I thought of The Blue Room.

Check out the trailer:

More reviews from I Love That Film:

The Measure of a Man

Mon Roi
Green Room
Son of Saul
Louder Than Bombs