Friday, May 30, 2014

Maleficent (2014)

Year: 2014
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director: Robert Stromberg
Writers: Linda Woolverton (screenplay), Charles Perrault (based on the story "La Belle au bois dormant" by), Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (based on the story "Little Briar Rose" by), Joe Rinaldi, Winston Hibler, Erdman Penner, Bill Peet, Ted Sears , Ralph Wright and Milt Banta (based on the motion picture and screenplay "Sleeping Beauty" by)
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Juno Temple, Brenton Thwaites

Maleficent is the unexpected tale of the infamous Disney villain. While it is not the dark or suspenseful film it could have been, it does tailor more towards the family audience that Disney traditionally caters for. The film is absolutely glorious in terms of it's production design, but it's true force lies with Angelina Jolie. Jolie is absolutely perfect in the title role and gives the film unsuspected depth. While the film is not particularly powerful, it is Angelina Jolie who provides all the power it needs.

When we first meet Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), she is s beautiful and adventurous fairy who lives in the moors outside the kingdom's castle. King Henry (Kenneth Cranham) wants to take the moors by force with his army, but Maleficent forms her own army from the creatures of the moors. It is her first love that betrays her in order to win the king's approval and the crown on his death, and Maleficent becomes cold and vengeful. When King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) becomes a father, Maleficent curses the child that she should fall into a sleep like death on her 16th birthday and the only way to wake her is with true love's kiss. As the years go by, Maleficent keeps close watch on Aurora (Elle Fanning) as she grows into a beautiful girl full of life and finds that there in an unexpected bond growing between the two of them.

Maleficent could have been a much darker and more powerful film if director Robert Stromberg had wanted it to be. Disney's Sleeping Beauty is a timeless classic and is loved by all, adults and children alike. While Maleficent may not be the classic which Sleeping Beauty is, it does attempt to appeal to the wider audience in the same way that the Disney animation does. It is true that Maleficent does have the potential to be a much darker film than what it is, especially considering it is dealing with one of the most evil and terrifying Disney villains to ever grace the screen. However, if it was to be a scarier experience, then it would be neglecting it's younger audience. Many may argue that as it is a film about a villain, it has the right to be terrifying and that the filmmakers shouldn't hold back on this for the sake of upsetting the unsuspecting children who go to see it. However, one must remember that Maleficent is a Disney film and Disney has always been about the family film. There are some scenes in the film, particularly those featuring the fairies, which come across as very light and silly, but these are the parts which children will find entertaining. Yet then there are scenes in which Maleficent unleashes her fury which children may find frightening, so the film does balance itself out in order to reach as large an audience as it possibly can.

Although Maleficent is assumed to be a retelling of the 1959 Sleeping Beauty as told from the viewpoint of the villain, there are several differences between this film and the original. The first half of the film is true to the original story, yet the second half is where the change-up takes place. The changes work well to achieve the type of film which Maleficent strives to be and at the end of the day it is a different version of the original story of Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is more of a fairy tale and has more fantasy elements than the original film, as it comes with a great deal more mythical creatures which all live in the moors with Maleficent.

Robert Stromberg makes his directorial debut with Maleficent. His career up until now has primarily been in production design and visual effects, which shows in a huge way in this film. The production design for Maleficent is breathtaking. In particular, the construction of the moors are superb and the visual effects for the night shots are beautiful. The CGI to create the creatures of the moors and for Maleficent's shape-shifting servant, Diaval (Sam Riley) is incredibly lifelike and extremely impressive. The film is atmospheric, though not in an overpowering way. There is a great deal of beauty in the film, even when the moors are being shown as reflective of Maleficent's dark moods.

While the film itself may not be overly powerful, it is Angelina Jolie's performance which makes up for this. Jolie is absolutely brilliant as the misunderstood villain, as she completely embodies the character and makes her her own. Jolie is perfectly cast in this film, as a lesser actor would not have been to create such an enigmatic character who can be terrifying, but also endearing. In the pivotal scene in the castle when the curse is placed on baby Aurora, Maleficent is truly very scary. Her voice and villainous laugh are nightmare inducing. Yet, there is a surprising amount of depth to her character and she surprises everyone with the amount of emotion she evokes, particularly when she is faced with the sleeping Aurora. It is Jolie's performance which truly makes the film. She is absolutely superb.

The role of Aurora doesn't call for much, but Elle Fanning still does well as the princess. There is not a lot of substance to the role and not much of a character for Fanning to really sink her teeth into, but there is no denying she physically fits the role. The princess is supposed to be beautiful and always happy, and this comes across so naturally in Fanning. Her smile is completely genuine and lights up the screen. The scene where she meets Prince Phillip (played by Brenton Thwaites) for the first time is incredibly sweet and does not feel corny, the way it easily could have. Sharlto Copley does far better as the obsessed, angry king than he does as the quivering servant to his processor. He is far more convincing when there is a much more interesting character to play. 

Maleficent may be a little too easy a watch for many people, but achieves what Disney more than often sets out to do and that is to create a film for the whole family. Angelina Jolie gives a performance unlike any other she has previously taken one, and makes Maleficent a greater film for it.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Sydney Film Festival Director, Nashen Moodley

 With the 2014 Sydney Film Festival only a week away, excitement is building among the film community in Sydney. This year's program is extremely diverse and the Official Competition exceptionally strong. The festival, which runs from the 4th through to the 15th of June, will showcase films from all around the world in the forms of features, short films and documentaries and many of the filmmakers and actors will be on hand to present these films at the festival's home, the State Theatre.

We were extremely lucky and very privileged to be able to speak the Director of the Sydney Film Festival, Nashen Moodley in this busy time. Moodley has been the Director of the festival since 2012, and before this was Manager/ Head Programmer of the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa. Here he discusses some of the key features of the program and the festival itself, as well as giving his recommendations for which films to check out.
Firstly, congratulations on such a fantastic festival program! Can you give us a bit of an insight into the process of selecting the films for the program?
Thankyou! Well, it is quite a long process and we use different methods I guess. Firstly we travel to international film festivals and we look at quite a few different films there. We receive thousands of submissions for the competition, and we work with Australian distributors a lot. They acquire many films and we get to see them and we are able to select from those as well. And of course over the years we have made many friends and collaborators in the world of filmmaking who have had their films shown at the festival over the years. They often inform us and let us see their new work. So through those methods we are able to eventually select the final program for the festival.
How about the process of selecting the films for the Official Competition? What are you looking for in the films which you put up for the Official Competition?
For the Official Competition there is a list of criteria and all the films have the fit that criteria to be in the competition. It has to somehow be daring or cutting edge or innovative in some way. Films that move the art form forward. So I think of those criteria when I look for the films. Really the films that are in the competition are films that I really love and I think each one of those films has to be there. People who see the films will completely understand that. So I think the competition is really fun for me to come up with, but at the same time it is nerve-wrecking. They are really tough choices, and of course so many filmmakers and distributors what their films to be in the competition so there really is a lot of pressure to put the right films there. So at the same time it is both fun and pressure filled, but I am really happy with what we have. People who see the films, and there are many of them who see all the competition films are in for a real treat this year.
So how is this year's program and competition different from other years do you think?
Well I think every year is different in that the films cover different themes. I think this year in the competition there is a lot of form innovation, so people really playing with the form. Whether it be in their hybrid nature of fiction and documentary, or in Boyhood where it is shot over 12 years or in a film like Locke, which is just a man in the car the entire film. Then there is Fish and Cat which is a single shot film. I think there is quite a lot of structural innovation in the competition that really stands out and overall when you are looking through the films you are seeing that people are getting quite daring and playing with the form, especially with mixing documentary with something that is ultimately a fictional work. So I think that is what we have noted about this years program. It happened last year as well with The Act of Killing and Stories We Tell, but it is even more pronounced this year.
At the festival, obviously different people are going to be wanting to different films so I just wanted to ask you what your recommendations would be for these people. If someone wanted to see something that would make them laugh, what should they see?
Well, it depends very much on their sense of humour I think. For instance, The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq which is showing in the competition is a film I find absolutely hilarious. It is one of the funniest films I have seen this year, but some of my colleagues have seen it and have said "That film is not funny". I think the film is hilarious and I look forward to hanging out at the back of the theatre in some of the films and seeing if people laugh or not. One that I think most people will accept as wildly funny is the closing night film, What We Do In The Shadows. It's a film that is universally funny and it is just marvellous.

How about if someone doesn't mind a tearjerker, what should they see?
Well, I think Two Days, One Night is really an emotional film. Gabrielle also, Rock The Casbah as well. It is funny, but also a very emotional film.

And what should the romantics see?
The Lunchbox, that's a lovely film. Also Love is Strange, that's a wonderful film about two men who get married when the rules change after being in a relationship for four decades. I think that it is a beautiful depiction of a long standing relationship. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her, the dual films. It's about a breakdown of a relationship, but I think there are really beautiful and romantic moments in it.

If someone likes to be shocked, what should they see?
I think virtually anything in the competition. They are all shocking in some way, but I think one that people will find shocking is Snowpiercer, the Korean film which in in the English language but with a Korean filmmaker. It is shocking in a great way because you see an epic sci-fi film made on much less of a budget than a Hollywood film of this type. It has a really strong political undercurrent. I think that's a fantastic film, and what's quite different about that film is that the characters are really developed, but no character is safe in that anyone can die at any moment. Like in "Game of Thrones"!

And what films should a music enthusiast see?
Oh, we have so many starting with 20,000 Days on Earth, the opening film. I think the Pulp documentary, we have the Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All is by My Side in which Andre 3000 from Outkast gives a wonderful performance. Finding Fela! which is about an African musician is a wonderful film by Alex Gibney. We have God Help The Girl, which is directed by Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian. Then, Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty which is a great film about the guitarist, and Keep on Keepin' On from Alan Hicks which is about the wonderful relationship between a master and his student.

You've just touched on the Jimi Hendrix biopic which I'm sure would be one of your biopic choices for the festival. Are there any other biopics you think people would really like to see?
Well, in some ways 20,000 Days on Earth is a biopic, and The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq is a strange biopic, but one which you could loosely call a biopic. So I think there is a lot of films which structure events or are loosely based on events, like Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter for instance or Gabrielle which is based on true events. So there are a number of films like that at the festival and I think that goes back to what I was saying earlier about the combination of reality and fiction.

And what should animation fans see?
Oh they should see The Tale of Princess Kaguya of course to begin with. I think is in an absolute masterpiece. A truly great film out of the great Studio Ghibli. We are also doing a bit of a tribute this year to Studio Ghibli this year with the film My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies, and we just added to the program the other day The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which is a documentary on Studio Ghibli. It focuses on Hayao Miyazaki in particular, and it is marvellous.

Can you tell us a bit about the tribute to Robert Altman this year? Why did you choose to honour him?
Well he is such a great filmmaker, and I think Altman has had such a great impact on filmmakers including one of my favourites, Paul Thomas Anderson. So I think it was a great time to honour him and we had been discussing the idea with Richard Moore who was very interested in curating such a program and he is good friends with Michael Altman, Robert Altman's son. We just thought it would be a great thing to pay tribute to Robert Altman and it would be really special to have Michael with us, as he worked on several of his films with him and to have him present some of the films. He is also going to be showing some rare footage of his short films that people have not seen. So I think it is going to be quite a special retrospective.

So what other activities would you recommend film fanatics take part in while they are at the festival when they are not attending screenings?
Well I think between screenings you should go to the Hub as often as you can. The Hub has a wonderful program this year. It is going to be fitted out quite differently, and I think it is going to be quite a wonderful space to hang out in. It is going to be really quite exciting. They have a great series of events and it is going to be a really fun place to go to in between screenings and I encourage people to go there as often as they can. I usually end up in the Hub every night and all the filmmakers at the festival do too. It really has developed incredibly well over the past few years and I think this year is going to be the best yet.

For you, what is the part of the festival you are most looking forward to?
The thing I really like the most is introducing filmmakers particularly at the State Theatre. I think whenever I take a filmmaker there who may have come from Iran or Japan into their film and I take them into the State Theatre, they just look around at the stalls and they think it is amazing. Then I take them right to the bottom before we introduce the film and we go on stage. When they look up and see the vast extent of the State Theatre with it's a thousand plus seats and for many of them it will be the biggest hall they screen their film in. That is quite a special moment so I love introducing filmmakers at the State Theatre and introducing them to the State Theatre. It really is one of the great places to watch films in the world.

Do you have a film in particular that you could call your favourite out of the whole program?
The twelve films of the competition are my favourite in a way. I can't really pick a favourite when people ask me what my favourite is. I think all the films that have got into competition are the films I have thought very deeply about and are the films I care very deeply about. So throughout the whole festival there are some really wonderful films, but if you want me to pick I can't pick further than the twelve competition films.

We would like to thank Nashen Moodley for taking the time to speak to us and we wish him all the best for this year's festival! For more information on the Sydney Film Festival, please see their official website.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sydney Film Festival: Boyhood (2014)

Year: 2014
Running Time: 163 minutes
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater

BOYHOOD is part of the Official Competition at the 2014 Sydney Film Festival on the 6th and 7th of June. Please see the official website for information on locations, times and ticket information.

Richard Linklater's Boyhood is a beautiful and ground-breaking piece of cinema that's power lies in the subtlety of life's most meaningful moments. Twelve years in the making, Linklater's masterpiece is the true definition of a coming of age film and is revolutionary in it's production. Boyhood is made with a huge amount of love for life and for the process of growing up without any use of exaggeration. Mason is more than a character in a film, he is a boy you form an attachment to and cherish the opportunity to watch grow up.

Boyhood give us the opportunity to play witness to twelve years of Mason's (Ellar Coltrane) life from when he was five years old, to when he is eighteen. Mason starts off as a na├»ve young boy who still holds hope that his mother (Patricia Arquette) and his father (Ethan Hawke) will get back together, a situation which seems hopeless to everyone but this little boy. Over the years he and his older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) are moved around Texas and thrust into different family situations when their mother remarries and again divorces, while their father remarries and becomes a father once again. There are great times and low points in every stage of his childhood, which all contribute to the man he is to become.

Boyhood is an incredible cinematic experience. Filming begun back in 2002 and Linklater shot the film every year for the next 12 years. As a result, Mason's boyhood is completely captured on film and is an incredibly emotional experience for anyone watching it. There is a huge sense of attachment to Mason and his family which forms over the 2 hours and 45 minutes, because it is not only 2 hours and 45 minutes you get to know him over. It is twelve years you spend with this boy and have the privilege to watch him grow, which is more than what you have with many people in the real world. The moments which Linklater chooses to share with the audience may not be the most dramatic and exciting (although some most definitely are), but they are the moments which are the most memorable and shape the person Mason is turning into. Many of these moments are also incredibly relatable, such as the awkward conversations between parent and child and when a child is struggling to understand the actions of an adult. The relationships between mother and son, father and son and brother and sister are captured with complete accuracy and a dash of hilarity, particularly in the very first scene with Mason and his Brittney Spears singing and dancing sister.
One of the wonderful things about Boyhood is that Linklater's screenplay and direction evolve as the film and years progress. His creative choices and choices of dialogue are representative to the year and Mason's age without having to say it straight up. The choice of soundtrack lets us know what year we are watching Mason in, and is carefully tailored to what is appropriate for Mason at that point in his life. As the film opens and the image of Mason's lying on the grass staring at the sky appears accompanied by Coldplay's "Yellow", it is the perfect song for this little boy who looks as though he is staring into his future. It is intriguing to watch the evolution of technology as the film progresses to indicate the time period, such as the size and shape of the computers in Mason's classes over time. One of the best moments which gives relevance to the year in the script is when Mason Snr. is having the sex talk with his daughter and using Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter as an example.

All of the characters in the film are extremely well-rounded and the actors all wonderful. There is tremendous commitment displayed by all in this film as all the actors were able to give performances as their characters as if they had been doing so in consecutive days rather than over a period of twelve years. Ellar Coltrane is the absolute star of the film. It is a beautiful thing watching him grow from a young boy into a man and a profoundly moving experience. Mason is a character who could really be anyone. He is an extraordinary boy in some ways, but in many ways he is just an ordinary boy who has the potential to do great things in his manhood. Linklater doesn't sugar coat the character at all and doesn't try to make him the perfect boy. He just wants us to be able to witness the highs and lows of boyhood through a boy who could be anyone's son, brother or friend. Coltrane does this perfectly. It truly is a thrill to watch him grow and you feel something not so different from love for him by the end of the film.

Lorelei Linklater, who plays Samantha is a character not unlike that of Mason. She is the representative of anyone's sister, daughter and friend. The way her character progresses during the film is just as rewarding to watch as Mason's. Her hyperactive little girl, moody teenager and college girl are so relatable and she does wonderfully to create such a believable and very real character.

Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are both perfect as Mason's parents and their characters are extremely profound. Arquette's Olivia is a very interesting character. She is a very loving mother who always puts her children first, but she tends to make the same bad choices over and over again. Hawke's Mason Snr. on the other hand, has made bad decisions in the past but he is set on righting his wrongs and making changes in his life, which he does do. The relationship between Mason and his father changes over the years and it is great to watch the evolution of this relationship. The adult characters in Boyhood are all extremely interesting. His parents actions effect the person he becomes and is still turning into when the film finishes.

Boyhood is an amazing achievement in film. It is an unprecedented production which gives the viewer a type of attachment to a film and a character which is completely new and absolutely unforgettable.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Year: 2014
Running Time: 131 minutes
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn (story), Simon Kinberg (screenplay)
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, Nicholas Hoult, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Halle Berry, Evan Peters

X-Men: Days of Future Past is the film all X-Men fans have been waiting for with bated breath. The idea of the old joining the new in one film is extremely exciting for any fan of the franchise, but also a very worrying one as it is an extremely ambitious and potentially complicated task for any filmmaker to successfully undertake. Luckily, director Bryan Singer and the writers have overcome the potential continuity problems that were foreseeable in such an endeavour and have created an entertaining and enjoyable superhero film. More for X-Men fans than not, X-Men: Days of Future Past has a clever script and suspenseful action sequences which are only intensified by the performances of the outstanding cast.

Due to the actions of the mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in the 1970's, the future of both human and mutant are in doubt as Earth has been taken over by Sentinel's, which were initially made to rid the world of mutants. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) decide that the only way to save the world from these machines is to send someone back in time to stop Mystique from killing the Sentinel's creator, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and setting the wheels of destruction in motion. They choose to send Logan/ Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to find the younger versions of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lenhsherr (Michael Fassbender) and alert them to what is to come if they do not stop Mystique.

It is an absolute dream come true for X-Men fans to be treated with a film like X-Men: Days of Future Past. To be able to have the original Professor X and Magneto in the same film as the younger versions of themselves and be joined by other X-Men favourites such as Wolverine, Mystique and Beast just seems too good to be true. The concept itself was actually quite worrisome, as there were foreseeable problems in regards to continuity and the overcrowding of characters in the film. These problems are successfully overcome as a result of a strong and smart screenplay. The joining of all these characters in the same film is very well done and continuity problems solved in slick and smart fashion. The first scenes which are shot in the present do feel quite rushed and are in a hurry to explain things so they can return to the past where the film solidifies. After this time travel takes place, at no point does it become predictable or dull as it is constantly moving towards a tense and explosive finale. This film is probably one of the better superhero films in recent times as it encompasses all the elements which make a great film, not just a great superhero film. The outcome of the film is something which has not been seen before and changes the rules of it's franchise and for it's future films.

Being that X-Men films have been gracing our cinemas for 14 years now, there is a great deal of reference to past X-Men films which people who have seen the past films will understand and obviously those who haven't won't. It is fair to say that it is the already existing X-Men fans who will enjoy this film a great deal more than those who are not. It is impossible to get this far into a franchise and audiences not be expected to take just a little bit of back information in with them. So for those who haven't seen the past films, there is a tiny bit of information given about the past films, but not a great deal so much of it will not make any sense. Yet, if you just watch X-Men (2000) and X-Men: First Class (2011) than you have most of the information you need.

X-Men: Days of Future Past may not have as many explosions and extreme action scenes as many other films in it's same genre, but the scenes which are the most intense are very impressive. The special effects in the opening scenes and when Erik/ Magneto unleashes his fury are fantastic. The cinematography in the Pentagon when Peter/ Quicksilver does his work makes the scene incredibly fun. The make-up used for Mystique and Beast are very well done and the costumes depict the time period perfectly.

The great thing about all of the X-Men films which sets them apart from so many other genre films is that they rely so greatly on character. There is always a great amount of character to all of the X-Men characters. Their mutation is just the beginning of what sets them apart from each other, they are all different in behaviour and emotion. These distinctive characters have wonderful and acclaimed actors portraying them which makes them all even more exciting. Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page and Nicholas Hoult all return to the roles they have played in previous X-Men movies.

Hugh Jackman is as ever charismatic as Logan/ Wolverine. He is a complex character, but one which the viewer loves. Jackman gives a hard exterior as Logan, but softens and shows his emotional side when heading towards the end. James McAvoy is wonderful as Charles Xavier. He plays a broken man in body and soul, who struggles with finding his way. His performance is heartfelt, but rough around the edges giving even more depth and personality to his character. Michael Fassbender is once again superb as Erik/ Magneto. Erik is a man with a tremendous amount of hurt and pain which he carries around, and that has been turned into vengeance. Fassbender does bad so very well. He is so subtle in his delivery and terrifyingly so.

Jennifer Lawrence has a very physical role as Mystique in this film, and even though her face is behind blue paint the large majority of the film and very rarely is shown without make-up, she still conjures a great amount of emotion in her key scenes. Peter Dinklage also does very well, as do Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, particularly in their final scenes together. It is a shame that Anna Paquin's Rogue received an incredibly small amount of screen time, as she would have been as great addition to the journey.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is quite possibly the best X-Men film thus far. It gives endless possibilities of what is to come in future films of the franchise by doing something truly different and changing the rules completely.


Godzilla (2014)

Year: 2014
Running Time: 123 minutes
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Dave Callahan (story), Max Borenstein (screenplay)
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn

GODZILLA is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Roadshow Films.

There is just something about the giant, prehistoric lizard by the name of Godzilla that film makers see as an attractive challenge for themselves, and at the same time there is no denying it is a concept the public will always find enticing. This monster which terrorizes the major cities has inspired the imaginations of filmmakers and audiences alike since it's first appearance in the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla (Gojira). With each new film and television version, the makers have been faced with the constant dilemma of how to create the perfect monster film by achieving the right combination of amazing visuals, script and human character. The 2014 Godzilla has come with high expectations, especially in regards to it's visual impact considering it has been made in a time when computer generated images are more impressive and realistic than they ever have been before. Visually it is incredible and Godzilla himself is the perfect prehistoric terror. It is the beast that is magnificent, and the humans that are the pitfall of the film. If this was a film purely about the beast, it would be a great deal more successful than it is while it is trying to be a combination of that and human emotion and survival.

In Japan in 1999, a series of small aftershocks as a result of an earthquake in the Philippines are taking place and American Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is concerned that this activity could have a dangerous effect on the nuclear plant which him and his wife, Sandy (Juliette Binoche) work at. His suspicions are tragically confirmed when a disaster takes place at the plant and Sandy is among the fatalities. Fifteen years later, Joe and Sandy's son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a US naval lieutenant and has just returned home to his wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son, Sam (Carson Bolde) when he receives a call from Japan informing him that his father has been arrested for trespassing. Ford returns to Japan to bail out his father and return home as quickly as he possibly can, but Joe talks him into staying longer when he explains he was trying to get back to their old house as he believes the government are hiding something big. Joe and Ford find that they are in fact hiding something which they would do anything to not let the world know about, but it is only with Joe and Ford's help that they realise that there is an even bigger threat out there in the Pacific Ocean waiting for it's chance to surface.

The first 20 minutes of Godzilla gives the impression that this time they may have got it wonderfully right this time. The beginning sequence in which there is a montage of news stories and footage which end with a black and white shot of Godzilla stirring in the ocean is the perfect way to start the film as it pulls in the audience and creates intrigue and suspense as well as a slight nostalgic atmosphere. It is in this 20 minute time period of the film where the spectacle, screenplay and acting really create something special. The scene when Joe loses his wife is absolutely heartbreaking. There is a great deal of human emotion and Bryan Cranston is absolutely superb and Juliette Binoche brings the very best to her brief time on screen.

When the film reaches into the future, it still maintains it's high standard for a period of time. It is when the beasts appear that the interest in human emotion and relationships tend to lessen. Admittedly, the film is first and foremost about Godzilla and past Godzilla films and television shows have been more about the spectacle and action rather than the human side of things. However, this wouldn't have been as much of a disappoint if the first 20 minutes hadn't set the film up for a perfect combination of everything a film needs to be a success overall. The film after this period of bliss starts to consist of weak human relationships, emotions and restrictive acting, and not nearly enough Godzilla.

In order to make this Godzilla different story wise to past Godzilla's, writer Max Borenstein has obviously tried do something that hasn't been done before. In this case, it is not only Godzilla who is the only prehistoric creature in the film, but there are two other spider like reptile creatures which are called MUTO's which are fed by radiation. These MUTO's appear in the film a great deal more than what Godzilla does and even though these two creatures are interesting to look at, they do not compare to Godzilla. Godzilla truly is a sight to behold. The CGI which has gone into making this creature is truly amazing. Every little detail of him down to every scale on his body has been immaculately created. The size of the beast is magnificent and when situated next to landmarks such as San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge makes him even more terrifying. Alas, there is really not enough of him as opposed to the MUTO's, who are nowhere near as impressive. The set design, especially that of the deserted Japanese town and the railroads, is also rather exquisite and impressive.

Bryan Cranston and Juliette Bincohe are indeed the stand-outs performance wise in the film. The other two actors who also should have given beautiful and emotional performances are Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. However, their performances are lack lustre and this is no fault of their own. Both actors have given incredible performances in the past and there is no doubt they are fine actors. Yet their roles in Godzilla are ones that call for emotion and depth, but both fall short. It really is uncharacteristic of the two actors and fault falls more on the way in which Gareth Edwards directs them as it really feels like the two have been restricted. Ken Watanabe's role as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa by all means the corniest. Every line he says is just so typical of his type of character in such a movie. It is as thought everything he says is a revelation or sorts and you cannot help but snicker when he announces "And we called it....Godzilla"

Godzilla is, just like the beast itself, a spectacle. The film gets your hopes up in a huge way at the start, but lets you down little by little with the weakening of the humans emotionally and nowhere near enough of Godzilla itself.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Trip to Italy (2014)

Year: 2014
Running Time: 108 minutes
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Writer: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon

There are some films that just don't need a follow up and these ones are usually the films that get a less than adequate sequel. The Trip was not one of these films. It was the type of film that begged for another as you just couldn't get enough of it's two leading men, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. The Trip To Italy is a wonderfully pleasing sequel that gives fans more of what they loved about the first film. The two friends may have changed in the past few years which in turn means the tone of the film differs slightly from the first, but there is plenty to love about The Trip to Italy including some fine cuisine and beautiful Italian landscape.

After 2010's trip of northern England, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are reunited to once again experience six culinary delights, but this time they are on a trip of Italy. The two travel through the country  and while dining at some of the best restaurants Italy has to offer, they discuss their lives and how things have changed since the first trip they took. However, their conversations are not all entirely deep and meaningful with there being plenty of comedic moments and no lack of impersonations.

What made The Trip successful is what makes The Trip to Italy successful, yet there are some elements which make it even more so. While the two actors play themselves, the screenplay is ultimately fictional and the dialogue brilliantly improvised. As one could expect from two comic actors such as Coogan and Brydon, the dialogue is extremely amusing and funny. Whilst on their Italian culinary road trip, the two have several memorable conversations including, but are not limited to Alanis Morrisette's album, "Jagged Little Pill" which is their soundtrack of choice and  poet's Byron and Shelley. The impersonations both Coogan and Brydon do throughout the film are just superb. Once again Michael Caine makes an appearance and other notable impersonations are of The Dark Knight Rises and The Godfather casts.

The Trip to Italy isn't your typical sequel and doesn't entirely feel as though it should be given the tag of being a sequel, yet it is a very welcome one. The large majority of sequels these days come from blockbusters which bring in the big dollars at the box office. Both The Trip and the Trip to Italy are films which are largely based on conversation and comedy and are unconventional in their storytelling. The chemistry between Coogan and Brydon and the brand of comedy they brought to the screen in The Trip was so brilliant that it is a real treat to see all this again in The Trip to Italy. There are some features of the first film which have been resurrected and expanded upon for the second film (eg. the Michael Caine impersonations) and ultimately the two are very similar films. However, The Trip to Italy is perhaps a little more of an emotional journey for the two leading men and takes on a greater back story than the first. While this is a good thing as it adds more to the storytelling aspect of the film and makes the characters more relatable, it doesn't give an ongoing commitment to this new depth and the ending leaves the audience feeling as if they should know more.

The aesthetics of this film are enviable in the best possible way. Coogan and Brydon's trip takes them to six restaurants in some amazing locations throughout Italy. These restaurants produce some amazing cuisine which are visually incredible and it doesn't take much of an imagination to admit that the food must taste as amazing as what it looks. Next to Coogan and Brydon the third star of the film is indeed Italy. The panoramic shots of the Italian countryside and seaside are exquisite. The shots taken in Pompeii during the daytrip there show the historical abandoned city in such an interesting and loving light.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have terrific chemistry on screen. The two work together so well and their amusing conversations flow wonderfully. The Trip to Italy is perhaps a tad more Brydon's film than Coogan's, as Brydon holds the majority of the comedic spotlight. Coogan's performance is more of an emotional one and in the brief emotional scenes, he does do well in them. There is no denying that both Coogan and Brydon are wonderful comedy actors and both The Trip and The Trip to Italy showcase their extraordinary ability to successfully improvise some extremely funny material and make it relevant to the scenario at hand.

The Trip to Italy is tremendously funny and a film so aesthetically pleasing that it is completely enviable. It is a very good follow up to the first film, but also a wonderful stand alone film.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

2014 St Kilda Film Festival

The St Kilda Film Festival is Australia's premier short film festival and is the oldest and largest of it's kind. The festival will this year run for the ten day period between Thursday 22nd and Saturday 31st May at both St Kilda's Palais and Astor Theatre, and will showcase the best in Australian short film. The 2014 program will also feature music videos, archival screenings, youth programs, filmmaker development forums and an international showcase presented by the Palm Springs Film Festival.

The St Kilda Film Festival is an extremely prestigious event and one which is of great importance to the short film calendar, as the award winners become eligible to qualify for the Academy Award short film categories. The festival program includes the Top 100 Australian short films as entrants in the competition which prizes include more than $40 000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

As well as showcasing the Top 100, the 31st festival will also host SoundKILDA on the 29th of May, which celebrates and awards the best in Australian music videos. The three days between the 24th and 26th May will also see the hosting of the special archival programs Zombiethon, Ernest Singer Presents: A Tribute to the Home Movie Pioneer and Back to the Sixties.

This year's competition is an extremely competitive one as the Top 100 contain a huge variety of amazing films and have something for every taste. Movie Critical has compiled a list of their top twelve picks for the festival and where and when you can catch each of these incredible pieces of work.

A Writer and Three Script Editors Walk Into A Bar
Director: Matthew Saville
As the name suggests, a writer and three script editors walk into a bar and take a seat. The writer starts to tell a joke and hilarity ensues, but not the type such a joke would normally evoke. This little piece of comedy makes it's world premiere at the film festival and after watching this short, you will never be able to hear this same joke again without questioning it like a script editor!
Screening Session 8 on Tuesday 27th May at the Astor Theatre.

All God's Creatures
Director: Brendon McDonall
All God's Creatures won the Silver Award Student Cinematography at the ACS Awards 2013 and Best Film at the 2013 Sydney Mardi Gras Film Festival. Two young brothers who have just lost their father could not be more different and their intense relationship comes to a head one day when out fishing. This film is unforgettable. The cinematography is beautiful and the acting perfection. We are reminded here that it is not only adults who deal with grief differently, but also children deal with deep emotions in different ways depending on the type of child they are. The ending is incredibly heart-warming and sweet.
Screening Session 10 on Thursday 29th May at the Astor Theatre.

Director: Frances Anderson
Almost completely encompasses instant, pure romantic chemistry. Emily (played by Maeve Dermody of Beautiful Kate and Griff The Invisible) and Tom meet and are instantly drawn to each other, but are destined for long distance. However, unknown to Emily, Tom is always with her. Very sweet, but also heartbreaking. The cinematography is exquisite with beautiful lighting and camera angles which enhance the intimacy of the lead characters feelings.
Screening Session 11 on Friday 30th May at the Astor Theatre.

I Want You
Director: Viva Bianca
I Want You will be relatable for many in today's society. Maya is in love with a boy who lives in Israel and there relationship exists on screen as they both yearn for each other, but the distance becomes increasingly harder. This film see's two people who are in a non-physical relationship trying to somehow remember what it was like in times when they were physically with each other. A great look at a long distance relationship in the 21st century and the pitfalls of such a relationship.
Screening Session 11 on Friday 30th May at the Astor Theatre.

Into The Streets
Director: Logan Mucha
Documentary, Into The Streets takes a look at the unruly and violent beginning of the Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978. This is a great look at a piece of Australia's Mardi Gras history and a must see to realise how far we have come in terms of our nation's acceptance. It can be quite confronting and horrifying when you realise that this was only 36 years ago, but makes wonderful use of slow motion in order to run home the emotion of the times.
Screening Session 9 on Wednesday 28th May at the Astor Theatre.

Looking For Rubbish
Director: Tim Stone
Japanese war veteran, Toyoji Hatano may be 93, but this doesn't stop him cleaning the streets around his house everyday. Hatano's story is all at once heartbreaking, challenging and motivational. At his age he is frail, but his mind still tells himself that he can do whatever he wants and his body follows. This documentary is incredibly interesting to watch and beautifully shot.
Screening Session 13 on Saturday 31st May at the Astor Theatre.

Director: Don Percy
Tropfest second place winner Makeover, is a completely original piece of work. It is quirky and slightly odd, but very entertaining and very funny. Widower Horrie decides to go on a blind date and gives himself a makeover. The results are hilarious. The film has a wonderful use of colour and is quite fantasy like. It really is a lot of fun and completely entertaining with lots of laughs to be had.
Screening Session 3 on Friday 23rd May at the Astor Theatre.

Director: Josef Ber
Directed, produced, written and starring Josef Ber, Notes is an Australian premiere at the festival. Gary is a homeless man who is given an amazing opportunity for someone in his position, but he must decide what to do with this opportunity. A sweet and endearing film lead by a sweet and endearing character has a Groundhog Day feel to it, but with a pinch of sadness. It reminds you to separate what you desire and what you ultimately need.
Screening Session 1 on Friday 23rd May at the Astor Theatre.

Director: Mia'Kate Russell
Swallow is the pick for horror film fan at this year's festival. Proclaimed as the world's first gay priest werewolf film, Jim returns to the town which he left as a result of constant bullying by Macka, with his boyfriend Tom. What ensues as a result of it being that time of the month is a whole lot of craziness. This film is very quirky, but lots of fun and definitely original and a creative spin on the werewolf genre.
Screening Session 12 on Friday 30th May at the Astor Theatre.

Tango Underpants
Director: Miranda Edmonds and Khrob Edmonds
After experiencing a break up, Carolyn decides to do what many do after such an event and pack her bags and leave the country. She finds herself in Buenos Aires where she falls in love with the dance of love, the tango. Tango Underpants is another film many will relate to as many girls will see themselves in Carolyn. This film is beautifully shot and as Carolyn falls in love with Buenos Aires, we also see the city and fall in love with it at the same time due to the romantic cinematography.
Screening Session 4 on Saturday 24th May at the Astor Theatre.

Test Drive
Director: Lynne Vincent McCarthy
Test Drive packs a punch and delivers an incredible amount of suspense in it's eleven minutes. Sadie allows two men to test drive her car which she is trying to sell, and after a few minutes of her sitting in the back to these two, she realises that something is really wrong and the drivers are very dangerous people. This film reminds you not to get in the car with strangers. It does not take long to kick into gear and is an absolute roller coaster for the viewer. Lead actors, Eryn-Jean Norvill, Eamon Farren and Grant Cartwright all do tremendously well here.
Screening Session 11 on Friday 30th May at the Astor Theatre.

The Landing
Director: Josh Tanner
The Landing follows a man who returns to his childhood home to find out exactly what happened a mysterious object fell from the sky in 1960. Unlike many science fiction films, The Landing has an extremely realistic feel to it, which makes this extremely atmospheric film even more creepy. Very intense and mysterious, it is also very nostalgic and perfectly captures the Midwest in 1960. A perfect pick for anyone who enjoys a bit more to their science fiction.
Screening Session 12 on Friday 30th May at the Astor Theatre.

Two Player Game
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Steve Baker
This is sure to be one of the biggest hits of the festival due to the big names associated with it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt both directed and wrote this short film and Scarlett Johansson lends her voice to the female character in the short animation, Two Player Game. This hilarious piece of work leads us inside the mind of a boy and girl meeting for the first time. They are both interested, but it is all a game. A lot of fun and all very true.
Screening Session 2 on Friday 23rd May at the Astor Theatre.

The 2014 St Kilda Film Festival will run from the 22nd-31st May. Please see the official website for more information.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bad Neighbours (AKA Neighbors) (2014)

Year: 2014
Running Time: 96 minutes
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writers: Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien
Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Carla Gallo, Ike Barinholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Halston Sage

There is no denying that Bad Neighbours is funny. However in order for it to be a laugh a minute, it does require that certain sense of humour often associated with the majority of Seth Rogen comedies.The film does attempt to have some depth to it by drawing on experiences which many can relate to, but it loses much of it's depth in it's comedic style. Yet for those who don't mind the occasional (or twenty) penis jokes, they will be willing to overlook the lack of intended depth and enjoy a whole lot of laughs.

New parents, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Radner are still trying to adjust to their new lives with a little person in the house when to their horror, the home next door becomes a fraternity house. They start off on good terms with the frat president and vice president, Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), but after one loud party too many, things take a turn for the worse. The Radners and the frat boys declare war on each other and it is a fight to see who will leave the neighbourhood first.

Bad Neighbours can be hilariously funny at times and it is at these times that the humour is for everyone. Yet then there are the moments which are definitely not for everyone as the jokes cross the line to become crude, as there are a tremendous amount of drug and sexual references. Anyone who considers themselves a prude will not be impressed by much of the humour in this film A lot of the humour and dialogue is what we have come to expect from a typical Seth Rogen comedy. None of the comedic dialogue from Rogen or Rose Byrne sounds particularly original and it is in the live action of the film where the majority of the humour comes from.

Yet, there is some depth in there. While Bad Neighbours is first and foremost about a street war, it also has a very real backbone to it. Mac and Kelly are in a stage which most new parents go through where they are trying to adjust to the lack of sleep, lack of quality time together and a complete lifestyle change. In many ways they envy the younger people next door and crave their lifestyle, but would give up their (very cute) little girl for anything. On the other hand you have Teddy who is enjoying a life of partying and not ready to give that up to become "old and boring". Again, these are feelings many people experience when leaving one stage of life and moving to the next. They are not ready to let go, but know that they will have to one day. The outcomes for these two dilemmas faced by the lead characters are fairly predictable, as would be expected. It is a shame that much of the depth is lost by trying to make it appear as funny as possible.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne's Mac and Kelly are not the most likable of lead characters. While the boys next door are probably doing worse things in general, the Radner's ways of getting even with them seem even more juvenile and brutal than their payback methods. Of course these two are supposed to be overtired and frustrated parents which doesn't add to the mix, but they just miss the likability boat. Rogen and Byrne's chemistry is perhaps not mind blowing, but does have it's positive points. Director, Nicholas Stoller seems to be going for the idea of the two being married people who are still best friends with each other and love each other's company. The script does absolutely grasp this concept, but on screen the dialogue between the two can often be irritating at times and then seem very rehearsed at others.

The frat boys on the other hand may be gross and immature at times, but they are perfectly believable frat boys as a result. Zac Efron's Teddy and Dave Franco's Pete actually come across as a lot nicer people than the Radners. Much of their behaviour will be relatable to those who have been involved with a fraternity or been in a sorority observing their behaviour. Zac Efron plays a fairly generic part, but he does have moments during the film when you glimpse how much acting ability he really has and that there is still some extremely exciting things for him in the future. The same goes for Dave Franco. While the role doesn't call for much versatility. he doesn't disappoint with what he has been given. One of the stand out moments of the film is the De Niro party and Franco's imitation of Robert De Niro is spot on.

While Bad Neighbours as a whole may not be the film for everyone, it does have it's memorable moments. It is absolutely not easily forgotten, whether you are a fan of the whole film or not.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Double (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 93 minutes
Director: Richard Ayoade
Writers: Fyodor Dostoevsky (book), Richard Ayoade and Avi Korine (screenplay)
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Yasmin Page, Sally Hawkins

The Double is a visually exquisite piece of work which is consistently intriguing, suspenseful and captivating. It has the makings a wonderfully unique and quirky comedic thriller. The end of the film is waited for with baited breath so to find out what will become of this double and for an explanation, an explanation which is never really given. While the majority of the film is a masterpiece, the ending is one assault on the mind that leaves you in a state of bafflement.

Introvert Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg)  lives a life which is not extraordinary by any means. He is ridiculed at work, a disappointment to his mother and doesn't feel like he is anywhere good enough for the girl of his dreams, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). His ordinary life is turned upside down the day that a new worker turns up at his office named James Simon, who looks exactly like Simon, but is his polar opposite in personality. With his charismatic extroversion, he is instantly a favourite of everyone, including Hannah. However, nobody except Simon and James seem to recognise that the look exactly the same and this works much in the favour of James and not for Simon.

The story of Simon James and his double is an extremely promising one and for the greater part of the film it lives up to it's promise. There is complete intrigue and suspense every step of the way. The Double is a very surrealistic film with it's strange and quirky story elements which somehow go unnoticed by all characters in the film besides Simon and James, although the two characters continually pass as each other. Surrealism is film has always had it's admirers and critics, but it is the admirers who will still feel that the ending of the film will be right up their alley. For others, it will be completely baffling and somewhat of a disappointment. One thing is for certain, the ending is memorable. Whether it be because you loved the finale or hated it, there is no denying that you rethink it over and over trying to make sense of it and draw your own conclusion. Whether you loved or hated it, you cannot deny that there is beauty in the challenge.

What is the true beauty of the film is it incredible cinematography. From the very first scene when Simon is in the train, The Double is extremely atmospheric due to it's clever and unique visual techniques. The use of shadowing throughout the film creates a great, dark sense of mystery throughout the film and help continue the mysterious atmosphere. There are some very interesting close ups and camera angles employed, particularly when Simon and James are together, which enhance the oddness of the situation. The continuous long shot which is used in one of the beginning office scenes is smooth and perfect. The musical score is completely haunting and dread provoking. The whole film feels particularly nostalgic and although there is that strange 80's show appearing on the television, there is more of a 60's feel to it as a result of the production design and the music feeling era specific.

Jesse Eisenberg does tremendously well here. He plays two such opposite characters in every way. Simon and James have opposite sets of vocabulary, speech, mannerisms and posture. They are both so different and yet Eisenberg is able to play both with complete commitment and perfection. He shows here his versatility as an actor and it is a rare thing to show how you can play two such different characters in one film. Wallace Shawn and Yasmin Page both do very well and a great characters on screen. Mia Waskowska does fine, but her role (unlike Eisenberg's) doesn't allow for a great deal of stretch of her acting.

The Double is not for the people who like obvious comedy and an open and shut finish. It is instead witty and captivating on a visual and psychological level.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Amazing Catfish (Los insolitos peces gato)(2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 89 minutes
Director: Claudia Sainte-Luce
Writer: Claudia Sainte-Luce
Cast: Ximena Ayala, Lisa Owen, Sonia Franco, Wendy Guillen, Andrea Baeza, Alejandro Ramirez-Munoz

The Amazing Catfish is now screening at the 2014 Australian Spanish Film Festival nationwide. For more information and for venues and ticketing, please see the official website.

The Amazing Catfish is a sweet, but heartbreaking film about family and friendship. With some gorgeous techniques which makes you see the everyday in a completely different light,  Claudia Saint-Luce gives us an emotionally in depth look at a family who see grief in their future and the mechanisms each of them use to cope. As heart warming as it is heartbreaking, it makes you want to go home and hug your loved ones a little tighter.

Claudia (Ximena Ayala) is a very lonely girl. When she is admitted to hospital with appendicitis, she is placed in a bed next to a terminally ill woman named Martha (Lisa Owen). Martha's life is the complete opposite to Claudia's, she has four children who are all committed to making sure they are with their mother till the end. When Claudia is released from hospital, Martha and her family find her walking home and insist that she eat with them and then they will drive her home. Claudia find herself being drawn closer to the family as her life gets a little less lonely day by day.

The Amazing Catfish will feel very real to many people. There are so many facets of this film which are exceptionally realistic from the underlying themes to it's visual production. The film shows Claudia who is an introvert from her period of loneliness and does not know how to associate with others, but she becomes close to a family who need her in their lives as much as she needs them. However much she tries, she knows she can never be part of their family (as is seen throughout the film when she is quite often unintentionally forgotten about), but she is the person who has come along at the time when the family most needed her and being part of the family comes naturally to Claudia even after such a long period of being by herself. In Martha's family, there is a great display of family dynamics as well as each family member's way of copying with the inevitability of their mother's death. Alejandra (Sonia Franco) tries hard to be the mother of the family, but also wants to keep her independence and maintain a life outside her family, while Wendy (Wendy Guillen) jokes around and laughs, but she has a hidden grief which she feels no one cares about or understands. For those who haven't gone through a situation such as this, it is very interesting to see how people act when they know what is ahead, but for those who can relate to Martha's family it will be an emotional viewing to undertake.

The visual side of The Amazing Catfish is exquisite, particularly in it's opening moments. The cinematography allows as to play witness to Claudia's loneliness even before she leaves her front door. A close up of her unthreading cloth and then removing the purple ones from her breakfast cereal show the tiny ways she is amusing herself, and these things which are often seen as monotonous tasks in everyday life are suddenly seen in a new way.

Ximena Ayala plays Claudia with warmth and depth. She has the audience's sympathy straight away when you play witness to her solitude. She has wonderful character development throughout the film, as she doesn't take a swift move from being quiet to happy and loud, but she maintains part of her introversion throughout the whole film and only gives a little piece of herself at once. Lisa Owen is the perfect mother in Martha. Although she is dying, she still puts her children before her. Her progression of weakness throughout the film is very good. Wendy Guillen is completely lovable and your heart breaks for her when you find out what she is really going through.

The Amazing Catfish is a beautifully emotional experience. It gives you a deeper appreciation for the finer things in life through it's depth and perfect use of cinematography.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Junction (2012)

Year: 2012
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Tony Glazer
Writer: Tony Glazer
Cast: David Zayas, Michael O'Keefe, Anthony Rapp, Anthony Ruivivar, Neal Bedlsoe, Summer Crockett Moore, Tom Pelphrey, Harris Doran

Junction is one incredibly tense ride that makes you question where to draw the line with personal responsibility. It is the type of psychological thriller that plays high intensity mind games with you, but separates itself from other streamlined thriller films by venturing into the often taboo area of meth addiction. Tony Glazer has done a superb job at constructing an incredibly tense film which addresses more than one problem in todays society and making us question what we would do in such a situation.

Four strung-out meth addicts, David (Tom Pelphrey), Kari (Summer Crockett Moore), Donald (Neal Bedlsoe) and Spot (Harris Doran) are under the instruction of Tai (Anthony Ruivivar) to obtain a television in exchange for what they want. The four break into a house who's residents have just moved into in order to steal their flat screen television, but make a horrifying discovery in the process. While their minds are clouded by addiction, they all must make the decision to either walk away or take matters into their own hands.

Junction is an extremely unique psychological thriller. While the idea of ordinary citizens facing ethical dilemmas involving crime may not be a new one, the idea of an existing addiction illness playing part in this dilemma is unique. Everything is heightened within the film because of the main characters inability to stay calm in the situation as a result of their illness and this proves to be a dangerous combination in the situation. Their perception of reality is clouded over and their ability to remain calm in such a situation and not over react is almost non-existent. It is a scary look at meth addiction, but also works as a way to make the film even more intense than it would have been without it.

The film challenges you to put yourself in the shoes of the characters as they sit upstairs in the attic when they make their discovery. The obvious answer would be if you saw someone doing something like in the film you would absolutely go to the authorities, but what if you were already doing the wrong thing and to report it meant you were putting yourself up for arrest? It's an interesting thing to ponder, but then you always have to remember that most of the characters are not thinking in rational terms to begin with. The ending may be slightly predictable, but it is forgiven as, as any motivational quote will tell you, it is the journey that matters. Junction is also visually intense. It may not show the act which is so often discussed, but it is quite graphic and violent during the hostage scenes.

There is some wonderful acting here in Junction. All for of the main stars do a great job portraying people with a terrible addiction who are placed in a situation none of them is equipped to handle. Having to deal with confronting subjects like the ones here is a gruelling and emotional task and all do very well here in portraying people directly affected. Neal Bedsloe and Harris Doran are particularly good as Donald and Spot. These are the two who lose control the most in the film and they are so believable and the two of them are really quite terrifying in their characters. Little Danielle Kotch who plays Mia, the young girl at the centre of it all is one to keep an eye on as she has a big future ahead of her.

Junction makes you question where your responsibility as a citizen begins and ends and how far you will go for that responsibility. Highly addictive viewing.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 123 minutes
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt

Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive is a beautifully entrancing film like no other. It attempts the complex task of marrying the traditional with the modern in it's creative take on a popular cultural phenomenon and due to Jarmusch's incredible direction and vision results in something truly elegant. While there have been no lack of creature of the night films in recent times, Only Lovers Left Alive is not only an unique interpretation of how they live in today's society, but also a love story which is wonderfully portrayed by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston.

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) have been married for centuries and even though it is clear that one cannot live without the other, Adam lives in Detroit, Michigan while Eve lives in Tangiers, Morocco. As Adam, who is a reclusive musician with fans who are desperate to find out more about him, becomes increasingly depressed with the direction the world is heading in due to the human race, Eve agrees to join him in Detroit to calm his emotions. The two live a seemingly idyllic life together until  Eve's disruptive and meddling younger sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska) arrives from Los Angeles to spell trouble.

Only Lovers Left Alive gives a completely different take on these immortal beings without neglecting the traditional features one has come to associate with them. Adam and Eve are indeed creatures of the night as the whole film takes place in their waking hours after dark, they of course drink blood and they possess all the physical features that vampires are known for. Yet these traditional aspects are adjusted for the present times. For most of the characters, their way of attaining blood is a lot less barbaric than it was in the past and they carry their feed in a flask, and they all wear sunglasses when venturing into lighted spaces. The characters also talk about times past mentioning such historical figures as Shakespeare and Einstein, but they are not removed from the present. In particular, Adam longs for the past, but he is very much caught up in the present with his music. There is an incredibly beautiful scene in which Adam is in his house filled with guitars and modern day instruments when he picks up a violin and starts to play. This vision of Adam playing the violin is perhaps the most classic and traditional image of a vampire in recent times and is as refreshing as it is nostalgic. Jarmusch has successfully made the link between the vampire tales of old and the present resulting in the film being classic but modern.

The production side of the film is near perfect. Visually, it is incredibly intriguing. The opening sequence of a 360 rotation of the night sky which becomes a vinyl being played and then turns into our first glimpses of Adam and Eve from above is the perfect beginning to an extremely atmospheric film. The location shots of both suburban after dark Detroit and Tangiers completely capture the essence of both cities and the cities themselves are seen from the most interesting angles, which are perfect for the characters. Every visual of the film carries a dark and mysterious feeling and it doesn't break this atmosphere for it's entirety. The soundtrack is also extremely fitting to the film. It adds to the overall atmosphere by being haunting, but also very laid back and cool.

However one must not forget that Only Lovers Left Alive is first and foremost a love story. It is the story of two people who have been in love and married for centuries and have seen the world change together. They know what it takes to make a marriage that has endured for so long last and as a result are still very much in love. There is an overwhelming amount of chemistry between Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. Their timeless love radiates off the screen and the two work as one whenever they are onscreen together. Swinton is wonderful as Eve and Hiddleston is so charismatic as Adam. He absolutely embodies the depressed character who is torn between his love for specific things in the present and his longing for the past. Hiddleston is the ultimate rock star.

Only Lovers Left Alive is the type of film you really can't get enough of, and will still remain as intriguingly exquisite with multiple viewings.