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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trailer - "Livid"

Appropriately enough for Halloween, the new trailer for Inside directors (review here) Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury's new shocker has gone online. While Inside is certainly one of the most brutal and violent films I have ever seen, it also is one of the most effective and was frequently pant wettingly intense. While reviews so far have been quite mixed for their new effort, general consensus is that at the very least, do not go in expecting another Inside. It would have been easy for Bustillo and Maury to recreate their debut effort, so kudos to them for trying something more, in their own words as being like in a waking nightmare. Atmospheric imagery abounds here in the Livid trailer, and while the film is reported to be more fantasy like at moments, it still looks like uncomfortably haunting stuff. The trailer is in French sans subtitles and hopefully it doesn't spoil some of the surprises in store. While Livid is released in it's native France this week, it so far has no been set any release date for the UK or Ireland.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Trailer - "Shame"

The last time Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen teamed up, the result was the utterly stunning and absorbing Hunger. Now comes the trailer for their new release and much like their previous venture Shame is garnering plenty of critical buzz on the festival circuit. It is also garnering notoriety for other reasons too, not least about the graphic sex reportedly displayed throughout the film. After this and Hunger, it seems the two are not afraid to shy away from the more controversial stylings and their work is the stronger for it. This  looks set to continue their beautiful and artistic aesthetic. The film has been rated NC-17 in America no less - a usual death knell for films in the States, however it is clear the two have higher aspirations than box office. Release is set for January 13 2012.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Trailer - "The Avengers"

After that brief teaser at the end of Captain America and those blurry on set pics that were leaked, now comes the best look at the Ultimate Superhero team up. And it looks great! I don't know what it is about this one but I really can't wait. I mean, none of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies has been truly awesome stuff  but something about the thought of all these larger than life characters sharing the same space makes the fan boy inside me pass out in deliriousness. The trailer certainly delivers on the spectacle promised by these heroes, but it also gives a glimpse into how their dynamic might work. Not very smoothly from the looks of things and from Tony Starks snide comments towards his new found team mates to internal punch ups (is that Thor and Captain America locking fists?) shows that before any threat to Earth is truly dealt with, these guys are gonna need plenty of group therapy. Joss Whedon looks set to have nailed this and hopefully have brought some of his sparkling wordplay to proceedings. Expectations are sky high, but it looks like the team up might just deliver....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


It is infuriating how much Lars von Trier let's his ego and big mouth ruin many of his films. Sure the whole Cannes debacle surrounding this film might have been surprising, but it wasn't shocking. From von Trier, it is almost to be expected. As a result of episodes like this, I find it even harder to like his already difficult films; almost as if I don't want to like them. The man shows nothing but contempt for his audience, so why should I show nothing but contempt for him? Von Trier's last film Antichrist, was horrific for all the wrong reasons. Very unpleasant and shocking only for the sense that he put those unspeakable things on screen merely to provoke than for any true artistic statement. However he has proven himself to be capable of memorable works before, as I'm sure he will be again. It's just that I wish his gobby mouth wouldn't make me question the validity of his work; is he a clueless sap, who occasionally lucks out by working with talented people, or is he a true revolutionary genius in cinema? I've not made up my mind and in truth I probably never will. His films will continue to provoke outrage and debate. One thing is for sure; they will always be memorable. Here he finds himself working within the loose realm of science fiction. Not that true science bears any effect on the storyline, von Trier decides rather to have it metaphorically inform the picture and instead focus on the social embarrassment and human melodrama that he specialises so well in. Here that metaphor as macguffin is the rather enormous rogue planet of Melancholia, that threatens to engulf planet Earth any day now. Of course, it is almost half way in until anyone even mentions this; von Trier instead opens on a (disastrous) wedding in part 1 and introduces our two sister characters, along with a range of entertaining supporting characters. The melancholia here is Dunst's Justine; struggling with depression and destined to forever push away those she loves. Symbolism is rife and when the destructive planet rears it's head in part 2, it is merely an extension of Justine's psyche made physical. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, melancholia will eventually engulf all. Von Trier is about as suble as a hammer to the head, but to his credit, he explores Justine's mental state very well. Dunst is stunning and in the more showy of the two roles (Charlotte Gainsbourg thankfully is stretched no where near her Antichrist limits) she handles it beautifully, eliciting both emotion and understanding from the audience, even when she does some pretty unforgivable things. As Gainsbourg takes center stage in part 2, we instead focus on the isolated estate as the impending doom draws ever closer and the stakes are ratcheted up. We are in fairly straightforward von Trier territory here and there is nothing as polarising as some of his previous features have been. While events are still pretentious (it's a Lars von Trier film!) it is somehow relevant to the gloomy goings on in both the film and planet. Apart from a quite beautifully shot and surreal opening, the man shies away from anything too ostentatious and instead let's the films themes do the talking. It is certainly dour throughout; (in a film called Melancholia how could it not be?!) but thankfully there are a few moments of understated humour highlighting the innate ridiculousness of it all. At the end of the day the film is absolutely stunning to look at and features fantastic acting from all involved. It's just that the inherent kitschiness of it all engulfs proceedings at times. What is certain is that after watching the beauty of Melancholia, it won't be forgotten in a hurry.

Verdict: 7/10
Handsomely shot with a stunning performance from Dunst. Von Trier courts controversy wherever he goes but where he not so prone to incomprehensible ego-laden outbursts, his films would have a better chance of standing up for themselves. Anyone who hated the man before should stay well away, but for others this is an original and very memorable dissection of depression. God certainly loves a Trier.

"Melancholia" Trailer

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Red State

Kevin Smith is no stranger to controversy. In fact, most of his career has been bathed in hordes of media attention over some of his more notorious features - from Clerks' potty mouth to Zack and Miri Make  A Porno's banned original posters. Say what you will about the man's talent but make no mistake, Kevin Smith is not marketing movies, he is marketing himself. Right now, I'm struggling to think of another director that receives the same obsessive fanbase as Mr. Smith. Through various means on online outlets, he regularly updates them with everything going on in his private life. Through regular live tour dates across America and Europe fans can even literally reach out and touch him with their fingertips. Why he has inspired such an intense and loyal following is beyond me; he has, like most directors a fairly mixed filmography. A few hits, a few duds and outside Clerks absolutely no great movies. I feel that the reason he commands such a fanbase is down to relatability. Kevin Smith wants you to think he is one of you. Some regular small town dude done good. He talks movies, makes dick jokes and openly expresses his views just like anyone of your mates. This comraderie however can only extend so far. When he first came on the scene all those years ago, I found he had a fresh compelling and unique voice in cinema. Recent years have seen him grow stale, almost as if he is running out of ideas. Even his direction shows no signs of improving. He openly admits to being a writers director, not a directors writer. As a result he has never been able to mature as a film maker or even explore different avenues in the art. Or rather unwilling to do so. This inability to ever grow has flummoxed me over the years. There will always be those who love the man, but the 90's was a long time ago now, and his oeuvre shows signs of waning. Anyways, in what seems to me like a desperate ploy to garner media attention at this years Sundance, he held an auction for this film in question. Somewhat surprisingly however it was he himself who purchased the rights to sell and distribute Red State for a mere $20 and offered to take it on a screening road trip of sorts. Talk about enterprising. Many observed that the man was finally imploding, that his rallying of fans to come out and support the film smelled of desperation. Especially after many of the reviews were less than glowing. Well, in a rather surprising turn around of my initial preconceptions, I actually rather liked Red State.

The film is a heavy handed and not too subtle attack on the fundamentalist Phelps family, ie, America's most hated family and just how religion can drive people to do some of the most heinous things in life. When talking the film up at the script stage, Smith spoke of how it was a horror movie. This is not really true of the final product; it may start as darkly tense genre picture that flirts with torture porn, but then it swiftly morphs 180 degrees into a full on 'Waco' style siege film. We begin with three horn dog teens looking to pop their cherry. Looking online they see an older lady willing to oblige them not very far from where they live. Somewhat excitedly they arrive at her door only to be drugged and kidnapped. Their captors are religious zealots, hell bent on violently ridding the world of homosexuals and other such 'blasphemers' that don't fit in with their view on what the Bible says about the world. So far, we are in standard horror movie territory, except we don't actually care about the three guys. In fact, the film doesn't really have any character you can cheer for; something I'm sure Smith fully intended. So as word swiftly gets out at what  these evangelical terrorists are up to, the FBI intervene in a hail of gunfire and brimstone as the film suddenly switches gears. It's clear we're in a Kevin Smith film (the dialogue is frequently Smith-esque) but one very different to any we have seen before. The man must be applauded for trying something completely different to anything he has ever done before and for the first time fighting the urge for non stop fart gags and to allow himself to develop as a filmmaker. The film is very nicely shot throughout and has a pleasing gritty and grimy handheld aesthetic which chimes nicely with the various themes the film discusses. It must be said that Smith doesn't aspire to subtlety and lays out his views for all to see like a hammer to the head. All those years ago he explored religion in Dogma; here he full on attacks it. It is just a shame that the film doesn't more acutely handle this, as a better grasping could have yielded very impressive results. This seems like Smith chickened out ever so slightly and doesn't ever fully commit to the themes he puts forward by the climax. Sure, the typically charismatic Michael Parks delivers a lengthy sermon (thankfully cut down from the reported 20 minutes from the original Sundance cut) but a little more care and precision would have hammered home just what Smith - the writer wants to say. There are many that won't appreciate it. As stated earlier, it isn't the most tenuous experience you may have all year, but it is memorable. It has an almost Grindhousey feel to proceedings and have plenty of gore soaked action in between all the firefights. With this Smith surprised me. After Cop-Out I suspected the man had lost the passion. His View Askew-niverse had lost charm long ago and he seemed a man desperately searching for a voice he had lost. With this, it seems he has found it again. Hopefully by his next project (his mooted swansong Hit Somebody) he can continue to grow and confidently expand upon what he has done here. Basically, he needs to get out from the cushion of all his fans and show everyone he still knows how to make a film without relying on himself to sell it. As a proud independant filmmaker he will discover their are plenty more ways do so, than exhausting his celebrity.

Verdict: 6/10
A sometimes too bluntly delivered tone threatens to overtake proceedings and if Smith had shown just a bit more faith in his script then this could have been a glorious comeback. As it stands it is a successful change of direction and one in which for the most part is an interesting oddity. Not as bad as initial reviews might have pegged it, but not anything truly remarkable either.

"Red State" Trailer

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Romantic comedies are an incredibly difficult genre to wring any originality from. It has a tried and tested formula and one in which almost every single film of this nature follows to a tee. Which means that, to a certain degree, a romantic comedy is completely hamstrung by it's genre before it has even begun; there will never be any surprises in store for the audience. Well very refreshingly, Crazy, Stupid, Love approaches the genre from a very real and surprising place. For once, a romantic comedy has it's fair share of originality and twists that does wonders for the story. Led by the directors of last years uber-unconventional and very rude I Love You, Philip Morris, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, seem to have carved out a nice original niche in genre films. This films surprise factor plays a huge part in why the film works as well as it does. However, when a film is this tightly written and performed with spark by a great cast then any stale notions of what the genre might entail are swiftly forgotten. Love, it seems can drive people to do the most irrational of things. The most confusing and yet common emotion, the film rather smartly explores variations on the theme. Unrequited teenage lust, stale marriage woes and those first exciting springs of discovery in someone new are all smartly woven throughout the story. As a result, the film is most certainly romantic, but not in erring to the overly sentimental side of things. Unsurprisingly, sex has a huge part to play in connections with others. Steve Carell stars as Cal, a 40-something going through a very painful divorce with his wife, Julianne Moore. Frustrated by love and hamstrung by a very nerdish demeanor, professional womaniser Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes him under his wing to help teach him the ways of the mysterious woman. So what follows is a Hitch of sorts, with plenty of comedic material being derived from Cal's unfortunate adventures in this strange new world. Of course, things are not as simple as that, and the film has plenty of more tricks up it's sleeve throughout. Led by a smart, sassy and sexy script, characters are subtly developed so that while certain motivations for things might not be initially obvious, the more time we spend with these people, the more we understand about them. Wisely the film does not spoon feed the audience, but rather let's it's characters naturally progress onto events and earn the confusion, emotion and comedy that the film does so well. The only thing that the film let's itself down in, in fact, is a trite denonoument that trips over all the cliches and conventions it had smartly avoided for most of it's running time. It's not enough to derail the film, but it does leave a bad after taste when everything before was so much stronger. Overall, the film is a refreshing success. There was plenty of potential pitfalls throughout but for the most part, the film is an entertaining, witty and smart take on an otherwise stale genre. It also has the best scene set on a lawn you will see this year.

Verdict: 7/10
Apart from a disappointingly mundane and cheesy ending, the film offers plenty to say on the reality of love and sex and everything in between. A tight script effortlessly interweaves through a fantastic cast and the film has a fresh take on romance than is usual for a film of this type. Who says romance is dead?

"Crazy, Stupid, Love." Trailer

Monday, September 26, 2011


How does Ryan Gosling do it? The man is in front row to be my hero of 2011. His acting talent grows ever more intriguing and varied with each role he undertakes and he has a great eye for picking fantastic parts in great films. Blue Valentine  is quite possibly one of my favourite films this year, this week he is in two notable release (the other being Crazy Stupid Love) and with George Clooney's The Ides of March garnering serious oscar buzz for later on in the year the mans star wattage shows signs of growing ever brighter. Hands in the air, I have a serious man-crush on the guy. However here he achieves greater acclaim for making a quilted sports jacket with a gold scorpion on the back while mysteriously chewing a tooth pick look like just about the most stylish thing you may see all year. Drive is for all it's hints of loneliness and existentialism is far more concerned with smooth and pretty surfaces. Like Gosling's unnamed character, the film might have torrents of emotion running underneath, but it rarely lets them out. Unless to cave someone's head in that is. Drive might be ultimately shallow and even perhaps contrived at times in it's storytelling but when everything is handled as well as it is, it's hard not to fall in love with it's arthouse/action stylings. Dutch director Nicholas Winding Refn (him off ultra violent and questionably pretentious fare like Bronson or Valhalla Rising) deserves applause for delivering stale plot threads and characters through anything but standard means. Through every frame, the film brims with gorgeous images and subdued, yet vibrant colours. The story goes that upon Gosling and Winding Refn's first meeting, the heavily medicated director, recovering from a cold, burst into tears in a flood of inspiration at hearing REO Speedwagon on the radio. This was their 'Driver'. A lonely guy who drives around on his own all night listening to 80's pop music. True to his word, Drive is the perfect marriage of 70's/80's car chase 'heist gone wrong' thrillers, updated with a cool indie sheen. And it's all breathless, adrenaline inducing stuff.

From it's credits of retro indie beats mixed with pink font you know there is something striking in store. Gosling plays the Driver with no Name who works as a Hollywood stuntman while moonlighting as a getaway driver at night. His life is one of solitude and never getting too close to anybody. That is until new neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) moves in with her son and the two strike up a relationship. As the Driver begins to melt his hard exterior and get close to this new family, his violent past comes crashing back into everyones lives. Along the way, supporting characters are filled out by fantastic character actors from Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston (his usual reliable self), Ron Perlman (having great fun), Oscar Isaac (about the only one who escaped from Sucker Punch untainted) Christina Hendricks (fans of Mad Men will not be happy with her limited screen time) and the usually typecast Albert Brooks. Brooks in particular is mesmerizing. Usually seen in childrens fare and nice guy roles, here he plays the psychotic main antagonist to fantastic effect. Interestingly, he is infused with layers making his violent actions all the more shocking and unpredictable. Surely an oscar nod can't be far off? And then there is Gosling. Given little to no lines throughout, Gosling gives a hypnotic and quietly powerful performance and one that is sure to be remembered in cult circles for years. Winding cast his film perfectly and everyone delivers in their respective parts. That is, apart from Mulligan. A usually fantastic talent, she is never less than entrancing in anything I have seen her in prior. Unfortunately here she seems distractingly miscast and is given little or nothing to do. One minor flaw in a fantastic film. Spontaneously prone to breaking out in hyper violence as it is in 80's synths, the film is certainly one of the more memorable you will see. Gorgeously shot and impeccably acted, Winding Refn has crafted one of the best of the year with scenes that will stick with you for a long time after. An art house version of an action film and one that is filled with as much quiet moments of introspection as it is in gun fights and car chases. Channeling the vibe of Bullitt and early Michael Mann, Drive is every bit as exciting and interesting as that might expect. While it's title might suggest revving auto parts; what it in fact refers to, is the driving force behind decisions and what consequences they may take.

Stylish, exciting and frequently adrenaline pulsing stuff, this takes the stale notions of what a crime movie might usually entail and turns them into a far more interesting and memorable experience. It may not be deep, but Winding Refn handles the atmosphere perfectly and delivers one of the sure to be favourites of the year.

"Drive" Trailer