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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