Founder’s Day trailer

As with Crying Wolfhere at Frame Rates we love being able to provide a platform to any independent filmmakers. That’s why we are proud to present the trailer for the forthcoming horror flick, Founder’s Day!

MainFrame Pictures is proud to announce the release of the official concept trailer for their forthcoming feature film Founders Day.

The quaint, suburban town of Fairfield is shaken by the shocking murder of high school student, Melissa Thompson. The prime suspect is jailed, and the residents look to the town’s bicentennial celebration to provide a sense of strength and normalcy. When more bodies turn up, however, the citizens of Fairfield grow increasingly suspicious of one another. With no clear motive, everyone is a suspect.

Founders Day is written, directed and produced by Erik C. Bloomquist, a Connecticut-based actor and filmmaker. His recent film, Midnight Brew, starring Kyle Edward Cranston and Greta Quezada, played the Trinity Film Festival and took home the Screener’s Choice Award. Another project, Laundry Night, will soon enter its third year on international television on ShortsHD TV.

Bloomquist and his team expect to shoot Founders Day in Connecticut in Autumn 2014 and release the film in Autumn 2015.

External Links

Official Website: www.FoundersDayMovie.com
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/FoundersDayMovie
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/FoundersDayFilm
Instagram: www.Instagram.com/FoundersDayMovie
YouTube: www.YouTube.com/FoundersDay

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The Frighteners, Pet Sematary, Scream 3 (Ernie’s Horror Compendium #1)

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The Frighteners

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…is the film that put Peter Jackson on the map, but not my favourite Peter Jackson horror (stand up and be counted, Brain Dead). Before Parkinson’s Disease really fucked over MJFox, he starred as Frank Bannister, a psychic con artist that finds himself in the centre of a serial killer’s posthumous killing spree. It’s rare for a horror comedy to be both horrific and comedic, and while some of the humour comes from mild stereotyping, the mid-nineties CGI had my nostalgia boner popping, and watching this was a fantastic way to spend an hour and a half. Great stuff!

Pet Sematary

Despite having one of the best New York-based punk rock theme tunes, Pet Sematary also possesses an uncanny narrative and one of the most gut-wrenching scenes of loss in horror history. There are numerous scenes in this adapted Stephen King novel that are very creepy, and while I wouldn’t call it ‘scary’, it goes beyond your average treatment of horror movie families; I would hate to be the dad in this, put it that way. Some of the practical effects hold up to this day, and Pet Sematary is definitely one to add to your list if you are a fan of classic horror.

Scream 3

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What’s your favourite scary movie? Because I would say Scream is up there in at least my top 10. Unfortunately, Scream 3 doesn’t come close to the brilliance of the original. That’s not a detraction from the film, as it is still a lot of fun, but there comes a point when your self-referentiality has gone full circle at least twice and it gets very contrived. I felt this was a lot more action-based, and the kills were somewhat half-arsed, especially compared to the first in the franchise, but I still enjoyed the 3rd installment as a genre movie. I will get to Scream 4 sometime in the near future!

12 Years A Slave

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One of the front-runners of this year’s Oscars is 12 Years A Slave, Steven McQueen’s latest attempt at the marriage of art and narrative film. The movie is based on the true story of Solomon Northup: an artisanal son of a freed slave, who finds himself kidnapped, taken to Georgia against his will and sold into slavery to a number of slave owners.

The fact that this story is true (and apparently not the only occasion someone was illegally sold into slavery at the time) is shocking enough, but McQueen does not shy away from showing the true brutality and undignifying existence for black slaves in the 19th Century. There are a number of scenes that are so harrowingly realistic, and acted upon a knife’s edge, that they will have you turning away out of respect for the victims of the torture. There is more genuine, effective horror in this movie than in any lowbrow torture porn flick and it is very difficult to watch.

A huge factor in how difficult the film is to watch can be attributed to a fantastically nuanced performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor as the protagonist, Northup. Ejiofor changes how Northup holds himself throughout the film; he is a proud violinist with a loving family at the beginning, and by the end he’s a complete shell of his former self, hunched and invisible when white people are around. There were some great turns from Nyong’o, Cumberbatch and Dano, but I am not sure Brad Pitt worked in his role. I also felt that sometimes, the main antagonist, Epps (Michael Fassbender), was played too much like a Disney villain, which may have been a decision on McQueen’s part to create a foil to the nuanced Northup. Whenever he explode in a fit of entitled white Christian rage it felt like the movie was trying to fit into generic narrative conventions of good vs bad, which cheapened the movie for me somewhat.

As with any McQueen movie it is shot beautifully; we get the lingering mid shots and close-ups of peoples’ faces for which the director is known. Whereas other another director would chose to end a scene when an audience would expect, McQueen managed to draw out the rawest emotion by having the nerve to leave the camera rolling just that little bit longer. In a movie such as 12 Years A Slave – a movie that is so deeply-seated in visceral emotion – this technique worked extremely well. If Shame was McQueen’s breakthrough movie, then 12 Years A Slave is his masterpiece, and I very much doubt his marriage of art and narrative cinema will ever be as popular.

12 Years A Slave is not a film into which you should go lightly. The subject matter lends itself to some graphic brutality and devastating realism that is not for the feint of heart, however the central performance from Ejiofor is definitely a reason this should, and needs, to be seen by everyone.

Resolution

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When Michael (Peter Cilella) decides to intervene to save his friend, Chris (Vinny Curran), from the throes of methamphetamine addiction, he chains him to a pipe in a cabin to induce withdrawal. However, as the days pass, the pair begin to question their collective sanity after some uncanny events.

Resolution might be the most thought-provoking horror movie I have seen in a very long time. Many commenters point towards films such as The Shining or OldBoy when discussing ‘thinkies’, but I feel that Resolution more than deserves its place among these classics. Nevertheless, my eulogising of this independent horror film should come with a warning; Resolution is not for everyone. In fact, I’d argue the paths which the film take might put this in a micro-category of its own.

Artfully shot, fantastically acted, and completely void of music, this creepy meta-tale of friendship, loyalty and absolution will be hard to digest for some. Unconventional is a word I will use to describe the final act of the movie, and when the credits appeared, my initial thoughts were ‘is that it?’. However, I have been thinking about this movie since Wednesday, and I would group this with Primer, insofar as I am still trying to piece together the mystery and story.

Throughout the movie there is a thick, heavy sense of dread, which intensifies as we hit the third act, yet the ‘monster’ is not ever truly established or revealed. Glitches on screen are used to alienate the audience, which is postmodern in style; the director has knowingly employed clichéd genre tropes to a stunningly original effect.

[Spoilers paragraph]

Over the course of the movie, the pair begin to see into the future via a series of video clips and audio recordings, at each time managing to avoid their impending murder. Throughout this story, Chris is adamant he will not go into rehab when they get out of the situation; the character arc is satisfyingly rich and brilliantly acted by Curran.  When the final conflict occurs, he decides that he needs to turn his life around and check into rehab. As this happens, the glitches we have been seeing over the whole movie flash and a shadow appears over the characters. They look directly into the camera and state something along the lines of ‘…have we done it wrong? Should we do it differently?’. I believe that this line turns the audience into the monster, and that the director is making a statement about horror movies and our relationship with the archetypal characters with whom we are all so familiar. At each step, Chris and Michael make decisions based on logic, while at the same time learning about themselves and each other. It’s possible to forget you are watching a ‘horror’ movie at points, yet the feeling of dread undercuts moments of humour and drama, which keeps reminding us of the horror genre and it plays on our expectations; by addressing us directly I believe it’s an admission that we were expecting them to die due to the nature of the genre. It’s a play on the ‘give the audience what they want’ type of thinking in movies.

[Spoilers over]

Resolution was a difficult beast to dissect and I feel I have only scratched the surface of this postmodern, meta-horror. It was funny, tense, wonderfully shot and excellently scripted (despite an overkill amount of the work ‘fucking’). I don’t want to come across as a hipster for liking this movie, because it honestly is not for everyone, but if you watch it, you’ll definitely have something to think about for a long while.

Pandora’s Promise

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Pandora’s Promise by Robert Stone is a concise and frank look at the world’s energy crisis seen through the eye’s of converted traditionalist environmentalists and centred on the debate around nuclear power. The history and the future of nuclear power is considered through the stories of those who had, in the past, been most vocal against it. The result is a sobering, powerful 90 minutes about the effect of globalisation and the increasing demand for energy, the unfortunate misconceptions of the implications and effect of nuclear power, and how the future of clean energy is obviously nuclear. Opponents may suggest that this film is one sided in its argument, going as so far to down play Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima, however, the anti-nuclear movement has had 50 years to broadcast their voice. Stone’s rebuttal cleverly argues that solar and wind technology is woefully insufficient compared to the potential of nuclear power.

Pandora’s promise is simplistic, persuasive and almost stoic in style. However idealistic, it’s undeniable that Stone’s argument and evidence is convincing. This will educate and enlighten without pomp and circumstance, which is a testament to the importance of the subject matter and the skill of the director who beautifully complements such a message instead of shrouding it.

Frame Rates Movies of Our Year 2013

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Belatedly, it’s that time of year where we should have a retrospective on the past year’s releases. However, as we don’t explicitly keep up-to-date with every current release on Frame Rates, we are going to offer up our individual winners from a selection of categories pertaining to our own 2013 movie viewing; think of it as a Frame Rates Year-End Review. So without further ado… (click on the films in blue to read our original reviews)

Ian’s Picks

A 2013 Top 3 [That I’ve Seen]

1. Gravity

2. You’re Next

3. Mud

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It’s official: Matthew Maconaughey is a great actor. Gone are his leaning days, and in has been ushered an era of convincing, humble, compelling characters and a likability that makes him even more believable. Even though he was the whipping boy of Hollywood for many years, it was all for the best, as now his resurgence is epitomised by his role in Mud. A fairy tale of love, redemption and friendship, I was completely on board throughout, I was touched by his relationship with the young protagonist, and thrilled until the very end by the perfectly-toned action and adventure. An entry into MM’s best roles, and certainly one of my films of the year.

I’ve Already Watched it Twice

Blackfish

My iTunes Rental of the Year

The Loved Ones (2009)

Surprise of the Year

The Conjuring

I Wish I Hadn’t Bought It

Only God Forgives

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2013 was the first year in which I let a man jerk off in my face for 90 mins. Obviously I am talking figuratively, and about the boring, ultra-violent, collage of red and pink in Only God Forgives. Winding Refn’s oeuvre is beautifully shot, brutal and very easy on the ear. Drive rightfully deserves its place among the best films of 2011 and is certainly his best work. Unfortunately, Only God Forgives is littered with awful dialogue, horrible pacing, and if it weren’t for the saving graces of the woefully under-used Kristen Scott-Thomas and the aforementioned cinematography, I would have turned this off after 20 minutes. I couldn’t even get behind the violence and gore, and that’s the main reason I stuck with Homeland beyond episode 6 this season. Very disappointing indeed.

I wish I’d Seen it at the Cinema

V/H/S/ 2

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There are very few sequels that stand up to the original, but boy does this go against that particular grain. V/H/S/2 was something I didn’t get to see at the cinema, so when I watched this exciting, bat-shit insane, gorefest in HD, I couldn’t help but think I should have cancelled all those plans I had during its cinema release to see it on the big screen. ‘Safe Haven’, one of the shorts, might be one of the best pieces of horror cinema I have seen. Honestly, if you are into copious gore, robot eyes, cute dogs, weird cults, and exceptionally good found footage horror, check this out. You won’t be disappointed.

Worst Film

Now You See Me
Fuck this movie. Seriously.

Lauren’s Picks

A 2013 Top 3 [That I’ve Seen]

1. Gravity

2. Behind the Candelabra

3. Despicable Me 2

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I think its always a risk, however inevitable it seems these days, to make a sequel when a film is as good as Despicable Me, so I was understandably wary going into Despicable Me 2. Ten minutes into the film I let out a sigh of relief. The characters were funnier, more charming and all the elements of the first film that we liked and wanted to see more of had been piled on and ramped up; basically more minions and more fart jokes. The introduction of a love interest for Gru added a new layer to the story and allowed the development of the family unit to play out, keeping the story fresh and interesting. Gags, stunts, gadgets, villains and the cutest animated infant since Boo from Monsters Inc. meant this really was a joy to watch.

I’ve Already Watched it Twice

Blackfish

Sorry same choice as Ian!  I have watched this twice now and have high hopes for this as we go into the 2014 awards season. This film is changing public opinion in a big way, a testament to how fantastic this film really is.

My iTunes Rental of the Year

Gone Baby Gone

Surprise of the Year

The Impossible

I wasn’t the one to originally review this film back May and I won’t attempt to better Ian’s wonderful write- up but I think its worth mentioning my reasons for selecting it as Surprise of the Year. When the marketing campaign for The Impossible was rolled out around Xmas of 2012 I couldn’t have been more disgusted with the lack of taste and sensitivity of the films subject matter. In my eyes it was too soon and any attempt at dramatising the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami was mercenary and exploitative. Boy I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is a beautiful film that emotionally grabbed me and did so in a way that memorialised the victims and put into perspective the realities of the disaster.

I Wish I Hadn’t Bought It

21 & Over

I wish I’d Seen it at the Cinema

Star Trek Into Darkness

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Yeah Star Trek! Yeah J. J. Abrams! Yeah Benedict Cumberbatch! Love love love love. Building on the strength of the first movie (first reboot – yes I know Star Trek has been around for as long as Christianity) Star Trek Into Darkness capitalises on the friendship of Spock and Kirk and tests the crew of the Enterprise with a deliciously evil foil in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch. Star Trek for me is going from strength to strength as Abrams develops and moulds his imagined universe. The action sequences are exciting – hence the regret I watched this on a 5 inch phone- and the dialogue pitched just right to be both funny and dramatic. Great film.

Worst Film

Pacific Rim

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I love Sci-Fi and the thought of giant robots/nuclear powered war machines fighting giant sea monsters fills me with all sort of glee, which makes this disappointing as well as dire. The dialogue in Pacific Rim is some of the worst I have ever heard, the acting is over the top and hammy, and the CGI monsters have no depth or substance to them at all. I hated this the entire 2 hours it was on and I’m still angry now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tank of manatees credited as Scriptwriters. Guillermo del Toro I expected better. Although nice to see a former EastEnders actor getting a big break. Shame he was butchering an Australian accent and ruining every scene in which he appeared….

Classics reviewed by a 13 year old: Citizen Kane

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Ugh. So my stupid dad thought we should spend some time together this weekend, so he dragged me to the BFI in London to watch a really this crap black and white film called Citizen Kane. I don’t know why he was so excited because all I saw was like 3 hours of talking and nothing else. On the poster is said it won some Oscars, but that was like back in the Victorian times, so it doesn’t surprise me. Literally all they had back then was coal and bad teeth. That’s what I learnt in history anyway.

Anyway, so the film was about a rich man in America who dies and then it’s like a flashback to when he was poor. THEN NOTHING HAPPENS for the whole time. There is this crazy search for some roses for the whole film (why didn’t they just buy some), and then more talking. Then he becomes rich and there are newspapers flying around everywhere (I think that was then), and then he dies again. All of his stuff gets burnt and then for some reason the film ends looking at a stupid snow sled. Sorry, but that’s just a terrible ending in my opinion. Can you believe that people were clapping the film when it ended? #Idiots.

To conclude, if you want to watch a film that has no point at all, watch Citizen Kane. The black and white colour was a poor choice from the director because it was too dark sometimes, there was too much talking, and they didn’t even find the roses that they were looking for for the whole stupid film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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It was this time last year that Peter Jackson’s took his first foray back into Tolkein’s world with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the prequel to the hugely loved The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Unlike the LOTR trilogy, The Hobbit got off to a rocky start with many fans of Jackson’s original three films complaining that it took too long to get going and was lacking the pace they desired from it. This seemed a tad unfair; Jackson nurtured and breathed life into his prequel with the same care and affection he had previously placed upon LOTR. This is a marathon and not a sprint and An Unexpected Journey was indicative of that. For many familiar with the world this frustrated, as they wanted new action – and lots of it -, new heroes, and a story that rattled the two together with visually titillating results. Cue The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

We rejoin the story as Bilbo and the Dwarves are in touching distance of The Lonely Mountain, Dwarf Kingdom and current home to the charmingly wicked dragon, Smaug, voiced by the wickedly charming Benedict Cumberbatch. What follows next is three hours of pure joy, with Jackson expertly navigating flawlessly-executed set pieces, sweeping vistas of Middle Earth and genuine moments of emotional weight; most of which involve the beautifully understated Martin Freeman as the titular The Hobbit. Freeman’s Bilbo carries the film through, from start to finish, with a self-deprecating Britishness, wit, strength and humour that makes it easy to see why Jackson waited for Freeman to be available for the role. In a world so far removed from reality, and steeped in a mysticism and lore that could quite easily become alienating, Freeman grounds the story, drawing the audience in to the plight of this little hobbit amongst much grander and figuratively larger characters.

The Desolation of Smaug also gives the audience enough time to become familiar with, and care about, the wealth of smaller characters that pepper the franchise, as the story pushes further. Aiden Turner as the youngest Dwarf, Kili, especially comes into his own as his story branches off from the main arc. There is also a welcome return for Orlando Bloom as Legolas in what could have felt like an arbitrary and unnecessary revival of the character. Instead Bloom’s Legolas is colder, steelier and harder than in the Lord of the Rings which is offset by the wonderful Evangeline Lilly who slays as the lethal-yet-kind Elf warrior, Tauriel.

The real joy of watching The Hobbit is bearing witness to Jackson bringing all these elements together in beautiful harmony. He conducts the moving parts seamlessly with multiple threads, characters, themes and tones all woven together to produce an awe-inspiring final set piece that feels surprisingly fresh and unique. Drawing out one book into three films may be economically cynical and slightly indulgent but I say indulge away. This film doesn’t feel protracted or slow, but is a chapter in a masterpiece of which Jackson should be proud. With all my gushing aside, this film isn’t for those who aren’t fans of the genre and of Tolkein’s literature.  You have to invest and care about the characters. I do though. I’m on board 100% and can’t wait to see the final chapter in another accomplished and, dare I say, epic story.

Classics reviewed by a 13 year old: Rear Window

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So, the other day in my English Language class we watched this really old movie called Rear Windows. Basically a guy with a broken leg looks out of a window for ages and sees this woman get killed, which was totally boring and like the Simpsons episode I saw ages ago. It was made like before the world war 2 happened because they spoke with stupid accents, and the camera hardly moves (I guess they didn’t have the correct equipment to make the editing quick), and I felt like I was watching a play.

Teacher told us that the director Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense, but if I saw him on the street I’d tell him to add some better music in his films because I don’t like classical music with violins or bass lines. Honestly, if I have to see another one of his films I might literally die of boredom. That’s not to mention the acting was lame and he clearly didn’t have a broken leg because if he did why is he in a wheelchair? He’s not paralysed.

All in all I would say don’t bother with this film. It’s slow, it doesn’t make any sense (why doesn’t he watch TV instead of looking outside???) and the ending sucks because it’s really unrealistic.

Gravity

All aboard the hype train! And for good reason; Lauren and I both saw Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron’s latest entry into the ‘Greatest Sci-fi Films of All Time’ list (alongside his Children of Men). We have decided to do a joint review in the format of our 10 Things posts. So without further, here are –

10 reasons why you need to see Gravity (at the cinema in 3D)

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1. The Computer Graphics are mind-blowing

Irrespective of how good the 3D in Gravity is (hint we thinks its awesome – see point 4) this movie wouldn’t have worked if they hadn’t absolutely nailed the the fundamentals of the visual effects. Not only is Space the best Space we have ever seen (again skip to point 6), everything else in this film is tangible, vivid and completely believable.

2. If it doesn’t win an Oscar for Sound Design then the Oscars are more corrupt than we initially thought

The sound design is so well thought out, it made me giddy. When the astronauts are on their space walk, working on the space station, instead of hearing the sounds as external SFX, we hear them as vibrations through their suits and hands. It’s actually a case of ‘in space, no one can hear you scream’! And once the silent chaos ends, and we are in the ship, the clicks, whirrs and cracks of the space station become the percussive sounds of the rest of the movie. It really is something to behold.

3. You care about the Characters

It was always going to be difficult for the actors in Gravity. When the star of the show is the infinite wonder and beauty of Space, the actors were always going to be fighting an uphill battle to make their performance memorable, especially when everything else is being done so well. However, despite a rather lukewarm response to the performances in Gravity, both Bullock and Clooney are fantastic in their roles. Bullock manages to keep her performance reined in and, despite the temptation to push the performance into the hysterical, what she delivers is solid and mature.

4. The 3D is perfect

Hollywood, take note, you hacks. Stop retrofitting Marvel comic movies and provide a 3D camera to a creative team that cares about their project. Every shot is meticulously planned in Gravity, to the point of the movie being so full of depth it feels like it’s actually happening in front of you. A reason for the 3D working so well is because Cuaron has nailed representing zero gravity; the camera moves like it is in treacle, which means your eyes aren’t straining to stitch the stereoscopy together. No headaches, no light loss issues and I actually got 3D glasses that clipped onto my prescription lenses! It’s a win win win win win situation.

5. The POV shots work to perfection

The reason that Gravity immerses the audience so completely is Cuaron’s use of point of view shots throughout the film. When the characters are spinning so is the audience. We are expected to be active participants in the experience instead of passive bystanders. Its remarkable that not only has Cuaron achieved this but he has achieved this with 3D without it feeling like a gimmick or unnecessary.

6. Space feels like how we imagine space to be

I never have and will never go to space, so I can only imagine it looking almost exactly like what is shown in Gravity, just with marginally shittier lighting. Space is obviously not Star Wars or Star Trek, but Gravity feels a lot more realistic than anything I have ever seen in fiction film, despite it being a completely fabricated story. As mentioned, the zero gravity looks brilliant, the sound is excellent and Earth looks…magisterial. The first shot is absolutely stunning and almost worth the admission price alone.

7. Short, Sweet and to the Point

In an age when a cinema trip can easily eat up half your day Gravity came in at a delightful 90 mins. It really is direct, punchy and focused film making at its best.

8. As a spectacle, it’s the best film we’ve ever seen at the cinema

Gravity may not have a groundbreaking plot, and it’s certainly not the ‘best film’ we’ve ever seen at the cinema, but as a spectacle, this is how action movie cinema-going should make you feel; it’s a rollercoaster ride of epic visuals, fantastic sound and spectacular pacing. The Science Museum in London used to (it may still do) have a 3D simulator; about 16 people could fit in a weird, train cab-looking metal box, which wobbled you around while you watched a spaceship rocket around the galaxy. Our auditorium didn’t have any movement (aside from nerve-wracked bowels), but Gravity was even more thrilling than some rollercoasters on which we have been.

9. It’s not perfect – But I don’t care

Despite our obvious gushing there were elements of the film that didn’t always hit the mark. Some of the dialogue bordered on the saccharin and when you step back and look at some of the action sequences common sense dictates that how they played out on screen is quite far-fetched. However, it was only a week later when I was talking to someone who didn’t like the movie that I gave these thoughts any real credence. Yes, maybe it wasn’t a blow-by-blow accurate account of what might have happened in an actual space disaster, but was I in it from the moment the film started till the end? Yes. Yes I was. I didn’t breath for 90 minutes and that’s never happened to me before in the cinema.

10. I will survive

Survival narratives tap into the most raw aspects of our psyche, and Gravity uses that to tell a story of redemption and the will to survive. There were points during the film where I felt like it was slightly too nerve-wracking; there’s peril and there’s floating into space with an emptying tank of oxygen, which has to be one of the most horrific, lonely ways of potentially dying. We won’t give any spoilers, but despite the sometimes overwrought dialogue, Gravity will have you white knuckling for the protagonists throughout the film.

All that said, and it’s not a criticism, however the movie is clearly designed to be as immersive as possible, so seeing it in 2D in theatres or when it is released on VOD/DVD might provide a different experience to the one we shared. So put down whatever you are doing, reorganise your plans for tonight and go see Gravity; unless you are a completely cynical bastard you will not regret it.

Devil’s Pass [The Dyatlov Pass Incident]

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When a group of documentary filmmakers set off to the Ural Mountains in Russia to investigate a 50 year-old mystery, surviving in the freezing landscape becomes less and less likely, as they discover something sinister lurking beneath the snow.

Renny Harlin, director of Die Hard 2, returns with Devil’s Pass, a found footage horror that feels slightly out of place, and late to the party, among recent releases; The Tunnel and Lake Mungo spring to mindBoth of these horror films were different, exciting and contained great elements of horror, resulting in a rewarding cinematic experience. Right from the outset of the film you can see what Devil’s Pass was going for in its tone. Unfortunately, this promise falls apart quite quickly.

Harlin has constructed a visually compelling piece, capturing the beautiful snowy vistas as well as tying in some good post-production effects, however it was confused storytelling that caused this movie to fall flat. There are a number of changes in tone, at the beginning of each act, which are quite jarring. The beginning of the movie was presented in a similar way to the aforementioned The Tunnel, which was a clever hook. Nevertheless, this ended, and the found footage in the second act came across as too polished and glossy, unlike the news reports prior. We also visit some themes in the third act that question the very use of found footage as a storytelling device, and made me wonder why this wasn’t a conventional fiction film, rather than ‘found footage non-fiction’.

The acting is decent, and there are some tense moments of natural peril, but again, once the third act hits and the antagonists are revealed, I couldn’t help but laugh at its impotence as a horror. And then there is the final, almost confusing aspect of the movie: it has almost nothing to do with the Dyatlov Pass incident upon which the film is ‘based’. The beginning of the movie has the standard ‘based on a true story’ spiel, and then throughout we are drip-fed information about the real story, but the Wikipedia page is actually more interesting than anything seen in Devil’s Pass; the final mystery twist feels about as tepid as monsoon rainwater and it’s all just very silly, for want of a better word.

Unfortunately, while being competently made, Devil’s Pass has too many huge storytelling flaws that result in the movie being only slightly better than your average 5/10 found footage horror.

Now You See Me

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The FBI and Interpol assign detectives to investigate a team of magicians – the self-proclaimed ‘Four Horsemen’ (Eisenberg, Fisher, Harrelson, Franco) – who perform elaborate bank thefts in their shows and repatriate the money that they steal to their audiences.

Now You See Me, a movie that tries so desperately to be this generation’s Ocean’s Eleven, is one of the most boring, inconsequential and utterly preposterous movies I have seen this year [no hyperbole]. This confused, half-arsed mess of a film is over-stylised and heavily post-produced, presents completely dislikable characters that do sod all, and has zero story arc. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

The film has a singular, long, flat, dull act that trudges along in first gear and barely makes it to the finish line in one piece. No amount of lens flare (of which there is an obscene amount), or Isla Fisher flying around in CG bubbles, or Jesse Eisenberg being the jive turkey cunt he plays so much of late, or Dave Franco shooting CG flames out of his sleeves, can save this movie. It’s absolutely awful.

One of the huge problems I had with this movie was its tone. It’s nestled somewhere between magic shows in which they try to present the magic as ‘real’, yet has scenes filled with CG effects that aren’t magic at all, where it’s basically a fantasy narrative. The Prestige, a movie also about magic, barely relied on CG effects to deliver its scenes of wonderment. Now You See Me used a computer to execute card tricks, which was a complete insult to the entire concept of magic.

Another issue was the writing and the story itself. The screenwriter felt compelled used Basil Exposition in the character played by Morgan Freeman. The only scenes in which we see the Four Horsemen (which should be Four Horsepeople on account of Isla Fisher) together are when they are on stage or about to go on stage. There are no character dynamics explored, nor is there an explanation of motivation for the great mystery revealed at the end of the first act, which as discussed, is at the end of the film.

The final nail on the coffin for this movie was how the crowds were reacting to each trick. In the final scene, whole swathes of people, chant and whoop for these characters in a similar display to the people of New York City in Ghostbusters 2. It was such a strange departure from the tone of the rest of the movie.

I could go on and on about it’s utter failure as a movie, but it’s not even worth my time. Now You See Me, the movie which if you do what the title says, you’ll be bloody annoyed you did.

First Look: British horror comedy “Crying Wolf”!

2014 is going to be a year with more bite than bark.

Crying Wolf, a British horror comedy from the mind of Tony Jopia (Deadtime, Cute Little Buggers), tells the story of macabre and gruesome events in the quaint English village of Deddington. When a local girl, Charlotte, gets ravaged by a mysterious beast, teams of desperate reporters, crazy detectives and revenge-seeking hunters try to uncover the truth before it is too late.

Crying Wolf stars Caroline Munro, Gary Martin, Joe Egan, Kristofer Dayne and Ian Donnelly, it is released in March 2014 and you can check out the trailer and first pictures here!

We are both very excited by this low budget movie. From the trailer it seems to be perfectly toned as a British horror comedy, clearly has a sense of knowing, and some great makeup, CG and gore effects. Watch this space…we certainly are.

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140 Words: Drinking Buddies

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Focused around the uncomfortably close relationship of co-workers and friends Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde, Drinking Buddies, written and directed by Joe Swanberg, left me sitting on the fence. The narrative feels basic and uncluttered, with not a lot happening in the short running time of 98 minutes, however, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The real draw of the film are the performances from the Wilde and Johnson, and the beautifully-crafted naturalism that only an independent film has the patience to nurture. Yet I can’t help feeling that something was missing.

It’s undeniable that Johnson and Wilde are fantastic here; the writing is good and the film is shot beautifully. I can only put my ambiguity down to the ambiguous conclusion of the film itself. Drinking Buddies is worth a watch but its not going to blow you away.

10 film characters who terrified us when we were kids

It’s All Hallows Eve today, and if you’re into that kind of thing, like that noisy lot on the other side of the Atlantic, you’ll more than likely be donning some questionable attire and, depending on your age, either annoying your neighbours or getting mortal at a drinking establishment. To celebrate Halloween, me and Lauren are diving into our childhood to pick out the 10 scariest kids film characters from our childhoods. So without further…

1. Scoleri Brothers – Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

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The scene in Ghostbusters 2, which culminates in the release of the Scoleri Brothers, was the scariest thing about this movie. Even as a child I found the rest of the film a little bit camp (without knowing the concept of campness), yet the Scoleri Brothers scared the shit out of me. The tension built up in the scene, with the malevolent pink goop bubbling and popping with increasing viciousness, was immense. It was probably my first introduction to the concept of murder (as the brothers were executed for murder) and it still gives me shivers to this day.

2. Grand High Witch – The Witches (1990)

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Anjelica Huston before the big reveal was scary enough to make a little whipper snapper like me shit themselves. Then she peeled her face off and…. WTF! Terrifying and gross in equal measures the Grand High Witch was a seriously bad ass villain with a seriously bad ass, facial, fungal infection. Tough to beat on the WTF scale of children’s characters.

3. Judge Doom – Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

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Doc hit the sauce when Marty left.

[SPOILER ALERT…even though you all should have seen WFRR?] 

[voice getting higher, until it reaches a high-pitched squeak] ‘REMEMBER ME, EDDIE? When I killed your brother…I spoke…like….THIS!’

Oh gahd, it’s still horrific thinking about that line. And then he melts in the toon-dissolving acid and my dreams get haunted for about 2 years. Scary stuff for a child’s mind.

4. Dr. Janosz Poha – Ghostbusters II (1989)

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Arguably not intended to be as scary as the creepy painting guy Vigo, however the weird transvestite/Victorian child/demon/ghost apparition of Dr. Janosz Poha was horrifyingly chill-inducing. He had a molestery vibe before he became possessed and afterwards it was off the scale. “He’s a molester…. HE’S A CHILD MOLESTER!” Points for the reference here.

5. The Goblin King – Labyrinth (1986)

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Not sure if sexy or a paedophile…

A weird choice, I know. I think the scariest thing about David Bowie in this movie is his bulge bouncing around in the tight leggings he wears throughout. It also confused me as a child because he had long hair like a girl yet had quite the package in his pants. Oh yeah, and he could be summoned into your life with a simple incantation, and what 3 year old wants to get kidnapped by a singing dude that can sprout a chubby while playing baby catch with a load of goblins?

6. Willy Wonka – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

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Let me just start by saying Willy Wonka is a bloody legend, If he was real and alive today I’m sure he’d have a banging Twitter personality, would appear on Question Time to debate the the importance of import regulations and would go out to dinner with Stephen Fry, however there are moments in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ where I seriously questioned his legitimacy as a sane human being. Wonka had a temper and an unhinged nature that, as a child, was oh so slightly scary. Boats in tunnels will never be the same again.

7. Ursula – The Little Mermaid (1989)

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If Ariel was the jewel of the ocean, then Ursula was the toxic waste dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by BP. She’s one of those Disney antagonists that starts off fairly chill and ends up multiplying into something horrific, all while singing a song in a minor key. Disney, there was something deeply wrong with you, you brilliant bastard.

8. Mola Ram- Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984)

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Rips. A. Guys. Heart. From. His. Chest.

9.Darkness – Legend (1985)

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Tally-ho, chaps.

Why is the devil always an Englishman? Regardless, I loved this movie as a kid, yet every time Darkness appeared on screen I white-knuckled instantly, even my toes (do toes have knuckles? They look like they do.) When re-watching this movie it was significantly less scary, but I honestly thought the devil in this was going to get me somehow and poke me in the eye with his horns. Irrational kids be irrational.

10.  Debbie Jellinsky – Addams Family Values (1993)

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There is no such thing as being too young to understand the complexities of a straight up, psychopathic, socio-path according to the world of The Addams Family. As a child Fester’s wife Debbie seemed so nice, that was until she started killing people. Tapping into a fear we didn’t even know we had as child, Debbie made us realise that appearances can be deceiving. In a refreshingly moralistic tale the Addams family taught us that not all monsters are monsters and that some people most definitely are. Existentialism as a child. Terrifying.

How much would you pay for an Internet cinema ticket?

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This isn’t an Internet cinema ticket, but we all have imaginations.

Regardless of what you thought of the film A Field in England, it did something extraordinary on its release; it was put out at cinemas, on DVD, on various VOD services, and played on terrestrial TV on the same day, all of which cost different amounts to watch, some of them being for free (SHOCK!).

Being not a tech dinosaur, I absolutely loved this because, as we all become more savvy to technology, we are becoming curators of how we consume our content; I rented the movie from iTunes and watched it on my flight to San Francisco…yes, I paid when I could have watched it for free on the TV a week earlier. No longer are we passive in media consumption; we have DVRs; we create playlists of tracks from different albums on services that offer pay monthly models; we save articles from different news sources to read later; we are members of streaming services that offer myriad films of all genres for less than a ticket to the cinema per month. And the amount of screens we have in our lives are increasing; here in the UK, 12m adults over the age of 18 own a tablet, which is almost 30% of the adult population. While all this innovation is happening in technology and media distribution, most movie studios, their distributors and subsequent big cinema chains, bar the absolute minority, are woefully behind the times. I say most because there are a few cinemas that have seen the shift in mass market media consumption and are now offering Home Cinema passes for individual films; http://www.curzoncinemas.com/film_on_demand/.

At Curzon, they aren’t offering Category A releases (your blockbusters, ‘director’ releases, etc), but some of them aren’t available on VOD yet, which is great…until you see the price. £10.00 ($16.00), I think, is a high price to pay to watch a new movie from the comfort of your own home. Let’s list a few of the reasons for this being too high;

  • Joe Public doesn’t have a digital projector and a 50 foot screen, onto which they can project a 4k version of the film, in their living rooms
  • No one has a cinema standard sound system in the same living rooms
  • I am sure a large number of people would be renting on a laptop, an iPhone or iPad, any other tablet, etc, which is not the most engaging way to watch a movie, but we all still do it
  • The whole point of charging a premium at the cinema is because there are other amenities, such as food halls, shops, pubs, etc, in the area, out of which you can make a Friday night

Truth be told, if the movie was a new release, such as the up-and-coming JGL movie, Don Jon, I would probably pay £10 and watch it at home because most cinema audiences are quite annoying, but that’s besides the point. If studios want to move with the times and be seen as innovators of their product, asking people to pay exorbitant rates does more harm than good from the outset. Personally, and we are talking ballpark here, £5 is a massively reasonable number to pay for home cinema release of a new movie. Obviously, this would be alongside a wide cinema release, where you pay normal rates; people will still go to the cinema for exactly the reasons discussed above. I don’t think the skeletons that run Hollywood have the guts to change their legacy economic models, which means they will undoubtedly make up their margins by charging a small fortune, but this is not how it should be done. If they are going to develop home cinema releasing, they should take a risk and treat a new movie release like a premium rental on VOD! Let’s face it, if someone falls in love with a movie, they will always pay for it in the end (I have three copies of Shaun of the Dead!).

So, how much do you think a home cinema ticket should be? Do you think it would harm multiplex cinema chains? Do you care if it does harm multiplex cinemas as long as movies are still economically viable and keep being made? Do you think the film industry needs to move with the times and start catering for their audiences’ needs rather than those of the banks?

Happy Monday, everyone! And if you’re in the UK stay safe and out of the storm!

Blue Jasmine

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Frequent readers of the blog will know how I felt about the last Woody Allen film I had the misfortune of seeing. To Rome with Love  was a pretentious, nonsensical, indulgent film about characters who, even with all will in the world, the audience laboured to endure at best. Thankfully Blue Jasmine, the story of a women who has to come to terms with having nothing when she once had it all, is everything that this film was not. Back to his best, in a territory Allen easily traverses, Jasmine is a living incarnation of the pithy, witty, neurotic New-Yorker that he is so at home with. Going back to basics, with a relatively simply narrative and a smaller cast, has allowed Allen to create characters we want to watch- may not always like- but who we can sympathise with and are compelled by the minute they appear on screen.

As much as this is a vehicle for the layered writing of Allen, this is undoubtedly THE vehicle for Cate Blanchett. She is Jasmine and boy what a Jasmine she is. Vodka swilling and pill popping her way through this goliath performance, Blanchett is simply phenomenal. Her neuroses and anxieties permeate the screen, demanding empathy and understanding from the audience just as she does from the other characters. Blanchett successfully embodies childlike naivety, brow beaten desperation and flat-out hysteria in a way that many lesser actresses would have struggled with.

If you’re looking for a love story with a happy ending then you’ll be disappointed as Allen pulls no punches here with his bleak, brash examination of a woman struggling with identity, loss and failure. Blue Jasmine is simply a short, punchy piece of film making with a terrific cast and a stand out performance from a sublime actress.

140 Words: Stuck In Love

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Stuck in Love, is a sweet, if not slightly overly sentimental, drama revolving around the ill-fated love lives of one family dealing with divorce. Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connoly are reliable here as the struggling parents however their performances lacked heft and at times bordered on shallow. There is more to be appreciated from the lesser known, younger, cast members whose stories are weightier and wholly more believable than those of the ‘adults’, especially from Logan Lerman and new comer Nat Wolfe, who are both charming yet enigmatic.

Stuck in Love succeeds in tugging on the heart strings on a few occasions, unfortunately a few implausible plot points drag the story down and gives it a gloss that is all too familiar. Director and writer Josh Boone succumbed to fail-safe tropes and the result is a pleasant but forgettable drama.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

Where do I start…?

I am sure everyone has heard of Birdemic: Shock and Terror. It’s occupies many of the ‘worst film ever’ lists online, and it lingers awfully close to the absolute bottom of IMDB’s Bottom 100, which is partly why we are reviewing it here.

I’m going to steal IMDB’s synopsis because it begins to perfectly highlight how amateur this movie is:

When a platoon of eagles and vultures attacks the residents of a small town. Many people die. It’s not known what caused the flying menace to attack. Two people manage to fight back, but will they survive Birdemic?

DISCLAIMER: the most important thing to note before I get into the meat of this review is Birdemic wasn’t written by a 15 year old. In fact, the writer/director was born in 1966 and has had over 40 years human interaction upon which to base his characters’ conversations.

The biggest thing that struck me while watching Birdemic was how watchable it was. In reality, it was so bad. I don’t think there are enough negative adjectives to adequately describe how shitty this movie was, but in a weird way, I enjoyed it. I think it has an unknowing irony that makes it hilarious to watch. Everyone is trying so hard, yet failing in every way, which works for me. It wasn’t cringe-worthy to the point of being unwatchable, it was just crap and hilarious and I laughed a lot.

All of the technical aspects of the film were laughable. It’s nearly an hour and a half long, yet with a half-decent editor it could be trimmed to under an hour. It’s like Kim Chow left all of the pre and post roll footage on each clip, so we had scenes ending with characters starring into the void. The sound recording, mixing and music constantly shifted in quality, and scenes set in the same room had different room tone and gain issues, so everything sounded inconsistent. The lighting between shots was patchy and the visual effects on the birds might be the most unintentionally funny CGI in any film ever.

Holy shit, London is under attack!
I see no tea so this must not be London.

The women in Birdemic were the most weak, pathetic, misrepresented and one-dimensional women in the history of cinema, who all needed a man to help them financially, orgasmically, and to escape from kamikaze exploding pigeons. Apparently, the most fulfilling things a woman could experience in the world of Birdemic were shopping, modelling for Victoria’s Secret and having awkward footsie while kissing really noisily. The characters in general were flat, the acting was beyond wooden (the most believable performance was from a young girl stuck under a truck) and the dialogue was written by a man who has been alive for longer than some of my uncles. Here are my favourite lines from the film;

‘Doesn’t help to have a secure financial husband to support you’

What is a secure financial husband and is it good for my sciatica?

‘When are you gonna grow up, man? Chicks love cars! If you wanna get into her pants, you’ve gotta have a hot Ferrari.’

It’s true, chicks love wankers with expensive cars.

‘Maya and I have to get back to work…you know, sensual work…’

That gets my girlfriend DTF, especially when I say it in the presence of acquaintances.

‘Guys, this is revolutionary green tech. Contingent upon agreement on our term sheets, we’re gonna fund you.’

How the actor managed to say that second sentence is beyond me.

‘I like to travel, I like to cruise. And I enjoy watching television!’

OK, mom.

To round up, I think James Nguyen was channeling the spirit of Alfred Hitchcock when he made Birdemic. His shot choice, use of pans and dissolves, and direct pilfering of the plot from The Birds, were definitely Hitchcockian, but unfortunately he fell just short of the mark for Birdemic to be considered a modern day classic. There is a message of green energy, global warming and true patriarchal values woven into the thick tapestry of Birdemic, and even though it absolutely fails at being a well made film, it was watchable, and at least they made a movie. And that’s more than most ‘filmmakers’ will ever achieve.

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He made them stand like this through the credits. And the birds never get further away.

Bachelorette

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Last year’s female ensemble comedy, Bachelorette, is basically The Hangover, but instead of the groomsmen losing the groom, the bridal party have a misdemeanor with the bride’s dress and things get craaazy.

You may think my tone here is one of formal comedy snobbery. However, even though the plot of this movie breaks no new ground, and it is as predictable as Swiss cheese, there aren’t too many holes in what actually turned out as quite an enjoyable comedy. The comediennes Rebel Wilson and Lizzy Caplan, joined up with Isla Fisher and the lead, Kirsten Dunst, all play best friends and somewhat cookie-cutter characters (like the rest of the cast), but on evidence here they all have multiple funny bones in their bodies. The standout performance was from Lizzy Caplan, who delivers her coke-addled, wise-cracking yet insecure New York thirty-something with consummate ease.

Sometimes it felt like the humour was verging on tired, especially when one of the running jokes dealt with the mass use of a white class A drug, nevertheless, it was edgy enough at points. And there weren’t myriad dick and ball jokes, and the ones they did include weren’t the punchline of a major scene. There were also moments of genuine darkness that went beyond dark humour, which grounded the lives of these women in some reality, as it dealt with drug abuse, eating disorders and the results of one of life’s most difficult choices. The only real ‘problem’, if one can call it that, I had with this movie was a casting choice that verged heavily into racial stereotype territory, which was pretty awkward to watch.

Obviously, comparisons can be drawn between Bachelorette and Bridesmaids, and as a person with male genitalia that has seen both movies, I think I enjoyed this one more. One could argue that Bridesmaids broke the comedy mold by ushering in an age of strong female ensembles, and while Bachelorette is piggybacking on its success, the question is this; what white, male, conservative, American comedy movies have you seen in the last 5 years that have done anything original?