Monday, July 17, 2017

#Top10....with Tracey Birdsall

#Top10 is a brand new feature to Movie Critical. Each week we will be chatting to a film lover or a member of the film community about their #Top10 favourite films and discussing what makes these films so special to them. We all have different tastes in film and watch movies differently depending on who we are. The object of #Top10 is to share the love of film and hopefully you the reader can find some new favourites.

This week we spoke to action sweetheart, Tracey Birdsall!

A native of Southern California, Tracey is an actress who had her beginnings in singing and modelling, but the past few year's has seen her find her niche in the action/sci-fi film genre. In 2014, she won the Maverick Award at the Action on Film Festival and recently won the Female Action Performer of the Year award at the same festival for her role in Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter

In Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, she plays Sienna, a rebellious robot-fighting arms dealer who lives on a post-apocalyptic Earth. When the cities start to fall under the control of the A.I. Scourge, a hyper-weaponized robot army, Sienna decides to leave the Earth and journey to the centre of the galaxy, seeking a mythical weapon that can neutralize any form of A.I. Pursued by giant machines, Sienna loses everything she cares about in an effort to save the last vestiges of humanity in an A.I. controlled galaxy.

We thank Tracey for the time she took to chat to us about her #Top10 favourite films!

#1 The Revenant (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2015)

Leo took us on his journey and we felt his every feeling. Acting genius. I’ve watched it over and over!

#2 Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977)

The beginning of the best movie series ever....

#3 One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest (Milos Forman, 1975)

I love the directing, the chaos, the characters, the masking in this film. The whole film is simply amazing and challenging to the mind.

#4 Logan's Run (Michael Anderson, 1976)

Simple sci-fi done right. I love the journey, the characters, the conflict due to their lack of knowledge of what surrounds them and the storyline. Not everyone loves this film, but I usually love the people who do!

#5 Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)

A true milestone… As a lover of the TV series of the same name, this film was the epitome for a ape-loving gal like me. Once Planet of the Apes went CGI, I still loved it, but not like the real-ness of the original. Brilliant.

#6 Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)

Simply a piece of art.

#7 Terminator 2: Judgement Day (James Cameron, 1991)

Liked a wee bit better than the first… the ultimate sequel. Linda Hamilton… need I say more?! 

#8 Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2010)

Visually monumental masterpiece....

#9 Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)

 I love the sci-fi study in terror that this is. Simply a magnificent movie.

#10 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Stanley Kubrick… need I say more?  Profound.

Tracey Birdsall can currently be seen in Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, which is now available on Blu-ray in the United States. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Baby Driver (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 112 minutes
Director/ Writer: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Bernthal, Flea, Lanny Joon, CJ Jones

Baby Driver is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Sony Pictures.

Edgar Wright's magnum opus, Baby Driver is the action packed cinematic dance that has shattered it's genre confines with it's creativity, originality and it's creator's obvious passion.

From the very beginning, Baby Driver is demanding of your full attention and there is nothing dissatisfying about this. The film opens with Ansel Elgort's Baby pulling his car up outside of an Atlanta bank, ready for his passengers to begin their heist. The heist soon turns into an high speed car chase as they speed away from the bank with "Bellbottoms" by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion playing loudly. Not only is this the best opening scene you will see this year, but it sets the tone for the film perfectly and gives you a taste of what to expect.

Wright's film is the result of a long time passion project that has finally seen the light of day and is anything but self-indulgent in the way that filmmakers passion projects can often be. This action film with his unmistakable brand on comedy is by no means a traditional film. While most films have a soundtrack to accompany it, Baby Driver is a story told by means of it's soundtrack. Each scene is carefully choreographed to the song that it is accompanying and it is a joy to watch how Wright has directed these scenes, especially the "Hocus Pocus" chase scene, "Tequila" shoot-out and explosive "Brighton Rock" scene.

The visuals and cinematography are also particularly Wright-esque with close-ups on objects as they are utilised, which fits perfectly with the rhythmic feel of the film.  Baby Driver also uses these objects and the soundtrack as symbols to mix the modern with the nostalgic at various points throughout the film. As Baby listens to "Harlem Shuffle" by Bob & Earl as he gets coffee for his accomplices, the film has a particularly 1970's feel about it. Throughout the film, we see items such as a Polaroid camera and an iPod in the same scene which is a contradiction of time periods. We also see Baby listen to vinyls and tapes, but also listen to his iPod continuously. All of these images make Baby Driver into a film that will remain timeless, as it combines the old and the new rather than working with one specific time period.

While music is a major driving force (excuse the pun) behind the film, Baby Driver focuses a great deal more on character than any other of Wright's films before it. There is not one character in the film that the viewer feels they do not know at least a little about (the only exception here being Jon Bernthal's Griff). The lead character of Baby is exceptionally fleshed out, with not a doubt being left as to who he is, what his motives are and what lies behind the quiet exterior. We come to know him and experience his ordeal with him.

One of the most interesting things about the film is how unexpected character reversals take place. Baby Driver isn't completely unpredictable, but what is unpredictable is the direction certain characters take. The people you believe are going to be the villains turn out to be the good guys and the good guys turn into the bad guys. Jon Hamm's Buddy and Kevin Spacey's Doc are perfect examples of this.

Yet, perhaps the most interesting character is that of Darling, as portrayed by Eiza Gonzalez in her breakout performance. Although her exterior may be perceived by some people to be the opposite of feministic, she could well be the strongest person in the film. As well as being his wife, Darling is Buddy's femme fatale and the Bonnie to his Clyde. Not only that, but she is his strength and she keeps him grounded. There is no doubt that Buddy is a dangerous human being, but he is far less dangerous with Darling around. And if she asks him to do something, he will do it. Darling also refuses to be intimidated by anybody else, which at the end of the day has nothing to do with her husband. She's an incredibly strong character and more emotionally in control than any other character in the film. 

Baby Driver is highly entertaining and often confronting with it's insane car chase and action sequences, but it is definitely not a straight forward genre film by any means. It is an incredibly unique production that breaks down barriers and is a stunning cinematic work of art.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Why we need to stop asking filmmakers "How do you respond to critics?"

Journalists are always looking for a story when they interview a filmmaker or film star. That's understandable...we all have to make a living somehow. Regardless, there is one question they all really HAVE to stop asking.

And that is "How do you respond to your film's negative reviews by critics?"

Absolutely nothing good can come from this question. Sure, this may provoke a story that demands to be shared on every film website around the world so it's a win for the reporter. Yet for the interviewee, any answer is the wrong answer.

Last month, director Alex Kurtzman was interviewed by Business Insider regarding the release of his latest film, The Mummy and commented on the savage reviews the film had received. The following quote by Kurtzman has stirred up conversation among film circles:

"The only gauge that I really use to judge it is having just travelled around the world and hearing the audiences in the theaters. This is a movie that I think is made for audiences and in my experience, critics and audiences don't always sing the same song."

He then went on to say:

"It is the thing that kills your soul when you have just gone through an experience like this one we just went through. I'm not making movies for them," he said of critics. "Would I love them to love it? Of course, everybody would, but that's not really the endgame. We made a film for audiences and not critics so my great hope is they will find it and they will appreciate it."

Alright, so many people have had their say about Kurtzman's comments and opinions are absolutely divided. Honestly though, the problem lies in the fact that he was even asked to comment on the reviews his film has received. Regardless of whether The Mummy was critically well received or not (we all know it wasn't), the question being asked has done nothing to help Kurtzman's case for he or his film.

Filmmakers and actors have been asked countless times in the past about their reactions to negative reviews and this is always met with the standard "It's a film for the fans, not the critics" response. It's an awful response to have to give, but it is the only response you could give without saying "No comment".....which says a lot without saying anything really.

By saying that your film is for the fans and not the critics, it is a way of protecting your film and your ego. This is a completely understandable response to give. Nobody wants to receive bad criticism when you have poured your heart and soul into a project, it is hard not to take it personally. However, for publicity sake and to keep audiences going to the film regardless of reviews, a filmmaker such as Kurtzman needs to say something to protect it.

So here's why the response doesn't work.

It damages your credibility as a filmmaker. You are technically saying "I am making this film for money, not to make a good film", which is especially true here. In other words, you have sold out. This means you have resorted to making a film based on what the studio knows will bring in cash. In this case, as many explosions as possible. People still go to the movies for that, right? Giving the mass public what they want should also mean a good film. Nobody wants to go to the cinema just to see explosions.

It is important to remember that this is not always the case. You can have a film made for fans of the franchise as well as have it critically well received. We have seen this so much lately with Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming. These films are being praised by critics and fans alike. Fans of these franchises still expect a good film. Saying a film is for audiences and not critics does not give fans much hope that they are going to be left in awe by the film.

Not only this, filmmakers who say this tend to forget that film critics are also audience members. Filmmakers will always have a love/hate relationship with film critics, as there are some reviewers out there who are just brutal. This quote by Kurtzman and others alike add fuel to the fire. The beginning and the end is that film critics are still a segment of the audience. Their opinions just reach further than your average audience member. Of course, there are some film critics who give so many savage reviews that you wonder whether they do actually like film at all. Yet the large majority of reviewers try to see a film through the eyes of the everyday cinema goer.

Not only this, reviewers want your film to do well. They want to encourage people to go to the cinemas to see a film, not to make people stay away. They are in your corner, but it is their job to tell it how it is.

Kurtzman should be commended for being honest and stating that he is hurt by the reviews, but his response doesn't help his film's cause. It doesn't make people change their minds and want to run out and see the film.

However, what response could have been better? He cannot admit the faults of the film while it is in distribution for publicity reasons. He also can't make it too personal as it reflects badly on him. And as said before, "No comment" is never well received.

So the bottom line is, for the sake of the filmmakers, the media needs to stop asking them to comment on reviews. In any profession, you have to develop a thick skin to cope with negative criticism and negative people. Nobody needs to talk about it. Journalists are obviously asking the question to build a story for themselves, but let's be fair. Don't ask your interviewee a question with an answer that no good can come out of. Also, we don't need more fuel added to the "filmmaker vs. film critic" debate. It's already an icy enough relationship.

This just needs to stop.