Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Spotlight on screenwriter, Christopher Lovick


Screenwriting can be a hard gig, but Hollywood up-and-comer, Christopher Lovick has done the hard yards and now, his hard work is paying off.

With his infectious passion for screenwriting and all things cinema, he has recently had his screenplay, Monty Clift optioned by HBO and is working on several other screenplays that are gaining a great deal of interest.

We were extremely lucky to have the opportunity to talk to Christopher Lovick about his upcoming projects and the importance of and his love for film and writing.

When did you first develop your love for film?

I always loved movies as a kid, but it wasn’t until the summer after the 10th grade that I really became obsessed.  There was a store a block away from my house. BJs it was called.  It was one of those convenience stores that also rented videos.  This one summer I was in-between” social groups, essentially a loner.  BJs had a decent selection of films.  I’d rent anything Siskel&Ebert gave two thumbs up.  Stallone in Oscar and Mike Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days were highlights from this melancholic yet informative summer.  I realized the power of film.  A cure for loneliness.  I remember walking home from the video store and seeing the cool kids driving by in a jeep.  Top down.  There I was clutching a Snickers bar and hot new Stallone joint. 

So would you say that film is a medium which gives you an escape, but also adds to your reality and sense of self?

That’s a perfect way to phrase it.  I actually don’t think you can be more concise than that.  When films work, that’s what they do.  They transport you to a far-off land yet illuminate your own existence in the process.  It’s still the most powerful medium. 

Would you recommend teenagers who are trying to find their place in the world to immerse themselves in film the way you did?

Absolutely.  Watch as much good film as you can.  Find those directors and writers that speak to you.  I read a study recently, that we retain more when we trust and feel connected to the source of the information.  The filmmakers we love—we soak them up.  We remember their work because we trust them and so appreciate their specific vision of the world.

You have done a fair bit of work on screen as an actor.  Did a love of acting or writing come first?

I’ve always loved acting. Writing came later. When I was sixteen my acting teacher asked me what I was reading and I didn’t have an answer.  She demanded I read Catcher in the Rye.”  I was so fired up after finishing that book that I sat down to adapt it into a film.  Imagine, this sixteen-year-old kid thinking he can adapt the great J.D. Salinger.  The hubris of that mini-me.  But the fire had been lit. 

Do you still do a great deal of reading?

I do.  I’m reading The Master Algorithm” by Pedro Domingos.  It’s a great book if you’re into machine learning, and not too difficult.  Before that I read Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari.  Another incredible one.  I also read a lot of longform journalism.  I’ll send articles I find online to my kindle.  I read them later in batches offline.

Are books something you still draw inspiration from in your own writing?

Definitely.  I realize I haven’t mentioned any fiction writers.  I’ve read a lot of fiction.  I like the action writing in my scripts to be concise.  Reading the masters of fiction helps with this.  Lorrie Moore.  Richard Ford.  Joyce Carol Oates.  The Sympathizer,” by Viet Than Nguyen. These writers give me ideas as I read them.

Where did you learn the most of what you know about screenwriting and filmmaking?

Growth is three-dimensional.  We develop on multiple, intersecting planes.  I’ve learned from the act of doing (writing, photography, acting), the act of studying (school, reading), and the act of selling the product.  The last one is the hardest because there’s such a stigma to it.  Artists like to feel that if they build it, they will come.”  But we must learn to present our work and inspire others to get on-board. 


Have you found that the activity of screenwriting is a never-ending process?

That’s been my experience.  You think you’re done and put it down, then read it in a few weeks and there’s more to do.  A screenplay especially.  At the end of the day, it’s simply a blueprint to build on.  A screenwriter sets the stage for the artists to follow.  It can’t be about result. 

Your screenplay of the life of classic film star, Montgomery Clift, was recently optioned by HBO.  I imagine there was a lot of research required.  Can you tell us a bit about that process?

Lots of reading.  Not just biographies about him.  But books from the fifties.  Getting a feel for the language and the way people spoke.  Monty Clift is tricky person to capture.  He was a privileged child actor who did Broadway throughout his teens.  Then, in his adulthood, he became a huge movie star.  But he had secrets, and a piercing self-hatred.   I had to take chances.

What are you working on now?

I’m excited about my new script, Sidecar.  It’s about a man who takes on the life and identity of his recently-deceased twin brother.  It’s a personal story, as my father lost his twin as well.  But I’m also drawn to the metaphor of twinship.  As even us non-twins, are in a sense two people, constantly trying to embody our better half.  Another project I’m excited about is The Paris Quintet.  It’s about five men who live as one.  They wear suits and live together in a one-room apartment in Montmartre.  One is the cook, one is the tailor, one is the counterfeiter, etc.  They’re all in love with the same barista, who’s both charmed and put-off by the prospect of five suitors.  The fractured quality of self-hood, and the difficulty of bringing all your different sides together, is a theme I often find myself working with.

What advice would you give young writers starting out?

If you love it, hang in there.  Keep writing and giving it to people to read.  Once you get to a place, in terms of craftsmanship, where you feel confident, start making films and putting your writing online.  This is how you grow.  As a writer, it’s easy to keep things to yourself.  But you have to finish the circle.  You have to put it out there.  Not every one will like it.  Maybe no one will.  But if you keep writing through the humiliation, sharing your work in spite of it all, then something magical can happen.  You learn humor.  You learn when to pull back.  You find a voice and a process that works for you.  Then, who knows, maybe even some money starts trickling in. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Clarity (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director/Writer: Peyv Raz
Cast: Dina Meyer, Nadine Velazquez, Tony Denison, Maurice Compte, Dana Melanie, Lourdes Narro, Geovanni Gopradi

Clarity will be available on DVD and VOD on August 22 2017. 

Peyv Raz's Clarity is an extremely impressive feature film directorial debut which is intense, thought provoking, meaningful and incredibly important in so many ways with a truly explosive finale. 

With it's tale of two world's colliding to save one girl's life, Clarity deals with many issues and themes on social, political and emotional levels. What begins as a film that looks like it could be light and fluffy with a feel good ending, deceives everyone with it's dramatic tension and ability to make you question the things you believed you always had an answer for.

Clarity is extremely well crafted from the very beginning with it's visual comparisons of a privileged life in Las Vegas as opposed to the simple, but harsh and hazardous conditions of rural Mexico. This comparison is one that is vitally important to the story, as the film is undeniably a tug-of-war of love and power between 20 year old Maggie's (as portrayed by Dana Melanie) adoptive American mother, Sharon (Dina Meyer) and her Mexican birth mother whom she was stolen away from, Carmen (Nadine Velazquez). In other words, it is the age old battle of higher and lower socio-economic classes taking place, but in the name of love for a girl both women love and care for with all their hearts. The terrifying social issue of human trafficking is here seen in the most personal of ways and shows the awful effect it has on the parents left behind.


This struggle is one that is evidently one-sided at the beginning of the film, as Sharon holds the upper hand by tracking down Maggie's birth mother and reuniting the two. It almost seems deceitful, as we know her intentions are not quite as simple as they seem, but makes you question what you would do in her place. It is a mother's love that makes her behave the way she does, and the intensity of a mothers love can often neglect rhyme and reason.

This power tends to shift throughout the film, and this is when Clarity takes an intriguing turn. The second half of the film is superior to the first half thanks to it's unexpected twist, unpredictability and outstanding performance by Nadine Velazquez. Velazquez commands every scene she is in and her strength of character is magnificent, especially in the way she changes so greatly in a way that still remains believable and truthful.

However, it is the finale of Clarity that lingers long in your mind. It is completely surprising, but also shrouded in the most gratifying sense of mystery that brings out the cleverness of Raz's screenplay.

Clarity has the ability to make you challenge your beliefs and see a horrendous, layered situation from two equally important sides. A film which is as important as it is captivating and entertaining.

8.5/10

Clarity - Trailer from Peyv Raz on Vimeo.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Trip to Spain (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 115 minutes
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Marta Barrio

The Trip to Spain will be released in Australia on August 3 (Madman Films) and the United States on August 11. 

As the third film in Michael Winterbottom's television-turned-film series, The Trip to Spain delivers exactly what it promises- more glorious food, stunning locations and hilarious celebrity impersonations.

The great thing about walking into The Trip to Spain is that you know exactly what you are expecting, as long as you have seen 2010's The Trip and 2014's The Trip to Italy. Britain's favourite comedy duo, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon once again set off on another culinary tour, which this time takes them to Spain. Their latest venture is an absolute delight in the same nature as it's predecessors, with the exception of it's extremely odd and disappointing finale.

The Coogan and Brydon films are all edited from their original form of a six episode series made for British television. The films have never really been about the plot and while this may be a monstrosity in most feature films, it is an accepted and celebrated part of Winterbottom's films. There are themes and sub-plots moulded into the film which are welcomed and push the film along, but they are not the focal point of the film.

That being said, it does not excuse the extremely bizarre ending to this film. The unexplained last scene is so left-field and far removed from the tone of the rest of the film that it gives a sour last impression. This is such a shame as for the other 110 minutes, The Trip to Spain is as much fun as Coogan and Brydon have over their enviable lunches.


The partnership of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is, once again, comedic brilliance. The chemistry between the two is so natural and their conversational humour (which is largely improvised) is witty, smart, hilarious and completely unforced. As both The Trip and The Trip to Italy became infamous for the celebrity impressions Coogan and Brydon so frequently and accurately do, The Trip to Spain is stacked with these impressions. While many celebrities make appearances in the men's conversations that have previously been there (including Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Roger Moore), there are some new additions that are just as funny such as  Mick Jagger and Ian McKellen among others.

The culinary delights and stunning Spanish landscapes are also highlights of the film. The six restaurants the two men visit all have incredible cuisine which photograph so well that they easily induce hunger in the viewer. The beautiful urban and rural Spanish towns which they visit are also shot beautifully and capture the charm and intrigue of the country.

The Trip to Spain is incredible fun and a delight to the senses. The hilarious conversations are memorable and do not lose their amusement long after the film has been seen, but in the same way the confusion and distaste for the finale also lingers.

7.5/10

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

EXCLUSIVE interview with "Maid To Order's" Katie Carpenter!


Ahead of the second season premiere on July 27, we speak to the star of quirky new web series "Maid to Order". The series, which is based on actress Katie Carpenter’s life as a burgeoning actress, tells of two clueless roommates that start a fantasy maids service, battling urban Atlanta and their own denial of reality. Carpenter and Kendra Carelli star.

Season Two continues the story of two clueless roommates who start a fantasy maid service only to discover fantasy is just as hard to manage as reality. This time around, Margot (Carpenter) must maneuver urban Atlanta on her own as June (Carelli) faces her own obstacles in Los Angeles.

The creative team includes Kevin Welch (director, EP), Katie Carpenter (writer), Karen Felix (writer), and Eryk Pruitt (writer). For more, www.fantasymaids4u.com

We sat down to chat to creator and star, Katie Carpenter!

How long of a journey has this been for you? The idea started with you, I believe?
The idea started about two years ago. I just moved from North Carolina to Atlanta. I was a small town girl in a big city… with access to the Internet. I cruised for gigs on Craigslist and met some strangers. I saw ads for Fantasy Maids, and the pay seemed awesome- but I couldn’t do it. The idea for a character who was so desperate to succeed came to the surface, and the name of “Maid to Order” came not long after. I had no idea it was an 80’s movie until we’d already decided on it!

It’s all based on true experiences?
I would say it’s a fantastic experience inspired by truth. You know, like a Fargo-esque version of life in Atlanta when you’re trying to make it. 

Were you the outsider that came to Hollywood chasing stardom?
I’d actually never been to LA until this year (at least as an adult). Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, I was very intimidated by LA and I never thought it would be possible for me to live there. Then when the film tax incentives got cut in NC, I had a choice. I decided to make the leap to a smaller and closer pond- but I had no idea how much Atlanta was going to grow when I decided to make it my home. We were the number one place in the WORLD to make movies in last year! 
But definitely- still chasing those dreams. The industry is changing though and the Southeast is creating a name for itself as a place with plenty of resources. If the opportunity arose to work on a show in LA, I would be grateful for it but I hope to continue to work and thrive in Atlanta.


Where did you shoot?
The first season was shot in Atlanta, the second season was shot in Atlanta as well as Los Angeles. Part of the reason for the split shooting is that our other lead actress , Kendra Carelli, now lives in LA. So we made the decision in the story to actually have her character live out there while Margot stays in Atlanta. 

How has the reaction been to the first season?
People have been very supportive. I’ve had strangers come up to me in Atlanta and tell me they’ve watched the show, which is pretty incredible. We’re not super well-known outside of Atlanta (and a little bit in LA), but it is refreshing to hear that we have viewers of all ages. 
A lot of people of mentioned particularly how much they love the characters, and the world we put together. I think people respond to the show because they recognize very human qualities, wants, and needs but in larger-than-life, outrageous situations. 

Has it opened doors for you?
Yeah! One of my favourite stories to tell is that two casting assistants watched our series and loved it, so they showed it to a casting director. She watched it- then brought me in for an audition. This was the first time I was asked to audition for her. It was for a very fun and quirky character, and I ended up booking the role. I’m not sure that would have happened if I wasn’t on their minds. I encourage other actors- make your own work! Not only could it lead to potential work but it also makes you so much stronger as a performer and gives you an understanding of all the other elements that make a project great; the casting process, camera, lighting, wardrobe, etc. 

Can you tell us what we can expect in season two?
Margot and June are living different lives across the country from each other but somehow they still manage to get into trouble. Margot joins a regimented cleaning service but it’s clear she’s not a fan of being bossed around. Two audience favorites reappear from last season and Margot ends up in the middle of a turf war; does she choose to stay in Atlanta and fight or flee to June in LA?!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dunkirk (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 106 minutes
Writer/Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Fionn Whitehead, Cillian Murphy, James D'Arcy, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Jack Lowden, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan

Dunkirk will be released in Australia by Roadshow Films on July 20 and in the United States by Warner Bros Pictures on July 21. 

When it comes to his films, Christopher Nolan is no stranger to winning the approval of audience's and critics alike. Yet with Dunkirk, he takes this admiration to a whole new level.

Dunkirk is a major cinematic force with Nolan's masterful storytelling and phenomenal direction. The film is a stunning piece of art that retells a well known piece of history in an unique, intense and enthralling way. While Dunkirk is being hailed as Nolan's finest film to date, it does not need to be grouped together with his past films in order to be considered a stroke of genius.

The events which took place on the beach at Dunkirk are considered to be a miracle. The prospect of a mass evacuation of over 300000 British troops on the French beach during World War II initially seemed impossible due to the lack of resources needed for a rescue. This story has been taught in classrooms all over the world as part of WWII studies and there have been several retellings in popular culture. However, none quite like Dunkirk. 

The film is a tense and intriguing time lapse of three equally important facets of the most important day at Dunkirk- land, sea and air. Dunkirk is not a typical war narrative, as it represents just a snapshot in time and is driven entirely by the theme of survival. For the soldiers waiting on the beach, they were defenceless against the enemy. There was no way of fighting back against the bombers from the ground. The film shows the desperation of the soldiers as they fight for their life and how far people will go to stay alive. It also looks at how survival itself is heroic and is something that is to be celebrated, not scorned.


The inherent nature of films that deal with survival is that they must be suspenseful. Whether the viewer knows who will survive or not is irrelevant. Dunkirk is so intense that it often makes one forget to breathe. The film is just the perfect example of everything coming together to get the most out of it's screenplay. Nolan brings a trio of moments of warfare terror together all at once at regular intervals throughout the film to build tension to the highest level, with the help of Hans Zimmer's brilliant score and phenomenal sound editing. These scenes come with incredible sweeping shots of Dunkirk and astonishing cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema of land, sea and sky.

It is easy to look at the characterization in Dunkirk the way you would at other feature films, in which case it would be exceptionally weak. We come away knowing very little about each of the main characters.This would usually mean we feel no emotional connection towards anybody in the film and do not care whether they survive or not. However, the lack of identity of each of the characters serves a purpose here.

There were 400000 soldiers stranded on the beach at Dunkirk hoping for a miracle that would allow them survive and find their own way home. It didn't matter who these soldiers were at home, while they were at war they were all stripped of their identity and nameless and faceless in the eyes of the enemy. During those final days at Dunkirk, it was all about survival no matter who you were and where you were from. Most of the soldiers cast are physically alike to emphasise this point. Despite the lack of character in the film, there are some wonderful performances with Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy being stand-outs.

Dunkirk is stunning filmmaking. While it is confronting and incredibly intense, it is gratifyingly so thanks to Christopher Nolan's outstanding direction and creative vision.

9/10

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.

8.5/10

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.

EXCLUSIVE interview with "Watch the Sunset" director and actor Tristan Barr



Premiering at this year's Revelation Perth International Film Festival, the thrilling Watch the Sunset is the first Australian feature film to have been shot entirely in one take.

 Directed by Tristan Barr and Michael Gosden, Watch the Sunset is a film that follows a young man, Danny (also played by Barr), who is trying to make a fresh start for he and his family away from the life of crime he was once part of. The film is a brutal study of the underlying effects of Crystal Meth or Ice, but at the same time is a love story about how far you will go for family.

 Watch the Sunset is superbly shot in one take and is done so with incredible directorial skill and stunning cinematography. The haunting musical score accompanying the film is completely unnerving, but it is the convincing performances by each member of the cast that make Watch the Sunset a confronting, but incredibly rewarding cinematic experience.

 On the eve of Watch the Sunset's World Premiere at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival, we spoke to Tristan Barr about his experience making the one-shot film and how it compares to traditional filmmaking.

 Firstly, congratulations on being part of the Revelation Perth International Film Festival! You must be very proud and excited!

Thank you! We are happy to start getting it out there.

 Watch the Sunset is primarily about the violent effect of Ice/Crystal Meth and how it is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in today's society. What made you decide that you wanted to make a film about this terrifying social problem?

The story was based on true events and the characters on real people whom I have personal experience with which stirred me to write the concept. So the biggest appeal or motivation was bringing light to their story that is a very raw reality in regional Australia. It's actually a love story at heart.

 What type of research did you do on users and their families before the film? I could imagine it would have been rather confronting....

Heaps of research, interviews, reviewing of court cases.... Sometimes tedious work, but once we uncovered some stuff, we just knew it had to feature. Some stories are unbelievable! If you made films about some of the stories we came across an audience just wouldn't believe them. I couldn't sleep for a period in pre-production.

 If you don't mind me saying, Watch The Sunset is truly incredible. It's unlike any other one-shot film as it takes place across a whole town without editing. What was the pre-production like? How much rehearsal was needed in preparation for the day of filming?

2-3 months of rehearsal. The town was incredible! Kerang (regional Victoria) was incredibly supportive and some of the best darn country folk in Australia. We were actually overwhelmed with the assistance we received and it was up to our production manager, Ally Bjørnstad to set over 80 locals in position every day who volunteered their time for the shoot. I’m so grateful to the community and patience they had with us. The film moves from one side of the town to the other and stops at about nine locations, so we are just glad we were able to utilise the whole of the town with their support. I was just hoping it would all come together, and thank God it did. I didn't want to let down all who had helped us.
 As it is filmed across a whole town, there must have been so much so much planning to keep everything running to plan. Was there anything that went wrong while filming that you had no control over?

There was plenty that went wrong that you'll never know of (laughs). Maybe we'll release some Behind The Scenes. One time a police car pulled us over in rehearsals. That would of made for an interesting addition in the actual film.

 What was the hardest part of making a one-shot film? 

Logistics. Timing. And having to compromise. Sometimes there was better cinematography in some takes and sometimes there was better performance. Choosing the take was very difficult.

 Tristan, you also star in the film as Danny, who is the lead. Was it difficult directing and acting in the film?

I didn’t see myself in the role originally when I first wrote the concept. But with the constraints we had and the way in which we were collaborating and improvising for the scripting, we (with co-director Michael Gosden) quickly made the decision we would act in it too. That decision led to us taking more responsibility over the characters and their story arcs. So it was hard to take on both of those roles. However it was sort of built into the process. Once the camera was rolling there was no real room for a director anyway, so the cast and crew were just trusting the preparation.

 What did you find were the major differences between directing a one-shot film and one in which you allow scene cuts?

The need for accuracy and planning of course, but adrenaline was the major difference. It was like we were playing a grand final everyday (laughs) Luckily we had seven attempts at the grand final.

 What plans are there for Watch The Sunset beyond the film festival?

We are playing at the Brisbane International Film Festival and have some interest in Sydney & Melbourne as well as a big international launch.

 To keep up to date with were the film is being shown follow:
https://www.facebook.com/watchthesunsetfilm/
Twitter: @watchthesunfilm
Instagram: @watchthesunsetfilm

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

#Top10.......with Simon Waite

#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 Victorian based film reviewer, Simon Waite. Here's what Simon had to say......

Looking back, I don't really remember any kind of moment where I said "From this day forward I want to love movies". It's something that has really kind of been there even as far back as when I was a little kid, though I rarely went to the cinema as I mostly saw new films on video. Although as I got older, I started going more and more often. Certainly I never ever thought I'd end up on ABC Radio talking about them, but it's certainly been an opportunity that has opened a lot of doors for me in my life.

When devising this list there were four key qualities that I thought of. Three of those are imaginative storytelling, great filmmaking and replay value, while the 4th is wanting this list to reflect something of me personally to those reading it. By that I mean you could look at this list and see a mirror image of myself somewhat. So with that out of the way let's get started. 

#1 Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)

This is, has been and probably always will be my favourite film of all. This along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi have been 3 films that have always inspired me, had me marvelling at their filmmaking precision and been watched by me so many times that I place them so far above all my other favourite films ithat t's beyond a joke. The philosophies, characters, music, sound, FX......all these elements harmoniously come together and not one of them feels out of place. So successful was it very very few have done it as well since.

#2 The Hunger Games (Gary Ross. 2012)

Sometimes a film or a series of films can come along and surprise you in a way that you don't see coming and this film along with its 2 sequels did just that. What they did was bring back the feeling of seeing Star Wars for the first time, but as the person I am now. It was also a series that got better and better as it went along with great storytelling and characters that have stuck with me ever since.

#3 X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000)


It's hard to imagine the modern comic book genre without this movie doing so much ground work to make it viable. Sure you had the early Batman and Superman films, but what Singer accomplished here virtually kick-started the modern craze and he did it with great filmmaking that showcases how important the opening of a film can truly be. Great and imaginative storytelling that also showcases this genre at its best, as well as great science fiction where story and ideas come first and this movie does all of this in spades for me.

#4 Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)


I virtually credit this movie for rejuvenating my love of movies at a time when it had begun to seriously wane. It is this high on my list for Edgar Wright's superb filmmaking, which shows in every scene of the film. The other reason is the replayability, as I have watched this movie so many times over the last 10 years that I've pretty much lost count. It hasn't gotten old or dated for me at all and there always feels like there's something to find each time I watch it.

#5 The Accountant (Gavin O'Connor, 2016)


Some will be surprised by this choice and especially for it to be so high on my list, but this movie (like the others in my top 5) have a common link and that is they are films that came along and struck a deep, personal chord in me. This film with its great central character and action/thriller story with a genuine heart and message at its core did just that.

#6 Mad Max (George Miller, 1979)


In terms of high energy action filmmaking, few have done it for me as well as Mad Max. Now some will pick the second film or Fury Road as their series favourite, but this first film is my favourite as it has not only great car chase action....but also a great story and characters that have served to inspire me greatly over the years.

#7 Aladdin (Jon Musker and Ron Clements, 1992)


This has been what I consider a formative film, as it was one of the first I saw as a child that really excited my imagination and want to love movies as much as I do from then on. Though it had been there for as long as I can remember and this is also an example to me of every aspect of Disney's filmmaking coming together effortlessly great storytelling, memorable characters and catchy music all critical elements of their success and their all here in his film.

#8 The Hunt for Red October (John McTiernan, 1990


This movie, for me, embodies the kind of imaginative storytelling that I want to see whenever I see a film, especially in a thriller like this one. The tale of a Soviet sub with a potentially dangerous weapon never fails to excite my imagination or marvel at McTiernans exemplary filmmaking. When it comes to wanting to do a tale of my own like this one, this is a key inspiration for that kind of story for me.

#9 Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)


This movie is one I have watched many, many times and even raved about on radio, Save for Terminator and Terminator 2, it is James Cameron at the top of his game and yet. he didn't do a rip off of Ridley's film. He made it his own and played to his own filmmaking strengths starting with a great script that has story, characters, heart, fear, action and humour.

#10 Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)


This is a movie that I have watched many, many times. Blade Runner has filmmaker Ridley Scott at the very top of his game, plus has some of the most imaginative storytelling I've ever seen in a movie. It's vision of a dark world with constant rain and neon signs with those in it trying to survive with their humanity intact is incredibly appealing to me plus Rutger Hauer's Roy Batty is one of my top film villains, which for me is incredibly important in a genre type film.

Cars 3 (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 109 minutes
Director: Brian Fee
Writers: Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell and Jonathan E. Stewart (story by), Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich (screenplay)
Cast: (voices) Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonso, Armie Hammer, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillon, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Kerry Washington

Cars 3 is now in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios.

Disney Pixar has completely redeemed it's popular Cars franchise, by allowing Cars 3 to be exactly what Cars 2 should have been and goes even further than this.

The third film in the popular Disney Pixar Cars series captures the essence of the original film, but brings to life new, intriguing characters who bring with them important and relatable themes. Cars 3 also surprisingly takes a stand by breaking down gender stereotypes in a quiet, but highly effective way. For this reason, Cars 3 may actually even be superior to the original.

Brian Fee has proved to be the perfect person to take over the Cars franchise from John Lasseter, who co-directed the first two films with Joe Ranft (Cars) and Brad Lewis (Cars 2). Fee and his team of writers have successfully identified what made the first film a success and what gave the second film the unenviable reputation of being known as the worst Pixar film so far. Cars 3 embraces the themes of remembering where you come from and kindness to others that resonated during the first. It also brings back the excitement of the world of high speed car racing that runs parallel to quiet moments of reflection in quiet, rural towns.

However, the Lightning McQueen (once again voiced by Owen Wilson) we meet here is a much different race car compared to the character he once was in the previous films, as he exhibits in the very first scene when he questions himself saying his usual "I am speed" mantra. While he is still regarded by many as a champion, he is falling behind as new and improved race cars are making their way into the competitive arena. He is labelled and ridiculed by many as the old guy, especially by the new and cocky Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer).


It is a situation that will ring true for many. As our world progresses, it is not only sportsmen that are finding themselves in the shadows of younger competitors, but people in any industry. There are new products being developed and people are being made redundant as their positions are being dissolved. What Lightning McQueen reminds us is not to give up without a fight. However, at the end of the day, there is always a Plan B as he finds thanks to Cruz Ramirez (as voiced by Cristela Alonzo).

Disney has always been a champion for strong women in their animated films. What makes Cruz Ramirez different to the strong female characters that have come before her is that she is a girl in the racing world which is primarily a male domain. However, this is not the only that that is ground-breaking about the character of Cruz. She is a trainer who has always had dreams of becoming a racing car, but those around her made her doubt herself by encouraging her not to reach too high.

The beautiful thing here is that her gender is never once addressed. It is never said that she is discouraged based on her gender. This is the right way to break down gender stereotypes in cinema. We have also seen this recently in Wonder Woman , where Gal Gadot's Diana takes it on herself to save the world and is the only female fighting in the trenches. Yet, no one in the film speaks of how she shouldn't be doing these things based on her gender. As both Cars 3 and Wonder Woman prove, gender stereotypes are broken down when they are not directly addressed in the film. Gender equality is achieved when gender is no longer questioned.

Cars 3 is deceptively simple. There is plenty for young families to enjoy with it's stunning, colourful visuals and basic themes, but there are also themes of greater depth built into the story which makes it as important for adults as it is for children.

7/10

Friday, June 23, 2017

#Top10....with Rebecca Ryan

#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 Sydney based film-lover, Rebecca Ryan! Here's what Rebecca had to say....

My parents weren’t movie people, but I grew up watching a small handful of VHS tapes (The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, The Little Rascals, Milo and Otis, The Neverending Story, Drop Dead Fred, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden). Then I discovered a small video store on the corner of my street, so I started walking there and renting all the Olsen twins’ movies. But I certainly did not get much of a film education until I started working at a different video store around 2002 at age 14. As such, most of my favourites are recent films, and I have very significant gaps in my viewing – especially films released before the 1970s. 

I tend to fall for films which are quiet and intimate. I am drawn towards the representation of parenthood and childhood on screen, particularly things that allude to the impact of upbringing and household dynamics. I will quite easily overlook minor issues with screenplays or performances, so long as a film nails it's cinematography. Yet I want to be challenged by film. I want it to make me question life. I want to see the world through the eyes of another, and change my own worldview in the process. 

The Virgin Suicides (1999, Sofia Coppola)


On high rotation in my house as a teen, The Virgin Suicides is perfect for a melancholic Sunday viewing. Then, as an angsty young teenager stuck in a small regional town, I saw it as an on-screen representation of the suffocation I was feeling. Yet there is something beautiful and idyllic about teenage imprisonment here – frilly dresses, living room-sized bedrooms, and Josh Hartnett-faced love interests. It is perhaps not as objectively good as it is dear to me, but it’s an impressive feature debut from Sofia Coppola and it will always be my absolute favourite.

The Tree of Life (2011, Terence Malick)


A delicate portrayal of an at-times brutal childhood, The Tree of Life is Malick’s finest. As far as I’m concerned, the present day scenes have very little value. However the film’s exploration of childhood and memory in dream-like flashes lets you sway through the life of another with an intimacy unlike any other film. Jessica Chastain is grace personified, as an angelic mother figure whose purity radiates and washes over me like warm light. It represents the solace a child finds within the arms of his mother, especially in a home filled with so much tension and fear. It’s not a film to be intellectualised, but experienced and felt. 

Notting Hill (1999, Roger Michell)


I don’t remember seeing this for the first time, because Notting Hill feels like a movie that I have always known. It’s probably my most watched film of all time, and I am sure I had already clocked at least 100 watches by the time I graduated high school. There’s nothing great about the plot, or the filmmaking, or even the performances (though Julia Roberts is great), and yet it is still somehow perfect to me. And there is a scene which I swear is inspired by Katharine Hepburn’s 1942 film Woman of the Year, though I’ve never seen anyone else mention it.

Carol (2015, Todd Haynes)


Obsessive love for Carol has almost become an internet meme at this point and it’s difficult to separate the film from the chaos surrounding it, which is a bit of a shame because it can certainly stand on its own. Todd Haynes has never been better (although Safe is a deserving second), and nor has Cate Blanchett, which is high praise for such an amazing career (my meagre words can do her no justice, so I will not attempt it). I love just about everything about this film – the performances, the styling, the music, the cinematography. But it is more than the sum of its parts, and those final moments leave me with a heaving chest every time.

Etre et avoir (To Be and to Have) (2002, Nicolas Philibert)


Certainly the most under-seen film on this list, Etre et avoir (To Be and to Have) is a quiet observational documentary taking place in a one-classroom school in rural France. It is genuine and patient, allowing an insight into childhood and the work of teachers, but it is not looking to make any grand statements about life – rather focusing on these students and this teacher. The best word to describe this film is ‘special.’

Arrival (2016, Denis Villeneuve)


Arrival is such a small story inside such a big story, then somehow it’s an even bigger small story. It’s about the very essence of life and is questioning some of the greatest aspects of being, memory, and time. Although better on rewatch, it’s a film that I cannot bring myself to waste. It’s not a throw-on-in-the-background kind of film; it’s best when you’re able to give over a part of yourself, allow it to run away with you, spin you about, and gently cradle you by its end. If you allow it to, Arrival can change the way you think about life.

A Ghost Story (2017, David Lowery)


An exploration of time, place, loss, longing, and being, A Ghost Story is doing a lot with very little. It’s best to go into this one blind, so I won’t go into much detail and I’ve only seen it once....there’s too much to unpack in one viewing. It’s doing something quite unique, and I’m desperate to see it again. I suspect it will get reduced to comments about Casey Affleck under a bed sheet or “the film with the pie”, but there is so much love and patience in this film, giving its audience time and space to ponder. A great companion piece to Arrival

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008, David Fincher)


With a rare delicate touch from David Fincher, follow the life of Benjamin Button from birth until death. It’s an unusual life, but the most interesting thing about it is not his aging backwards, but rather the people he meets throughout. There’s an overarching theme of time slipping through Benjamin’s fingers, just as it is through all of ours. The way time passes is both beautiful and quietly devastating. The romance between Benjamin and Daisy is probably my favourite one on screen, as it explores the curse of circumstance, cherishing moments, and allowing love to take hold. 

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012, Lee Toland Krieger)


A realistic portrayal of the dynamic nature of love, where romantic love and friendship are intertwined and how relationships often dance between the two. It’s incredibly bittersweet. Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg are two of my favourites and they’ve never been better than here, managing performances with just the right amount of humour, vulnerability, and heartbreak. It’s a breakup movie, but you don’t need to be in the middle of a breakup to watch it and cry, and laugh, and laugh-cry. 

Adam's Rib (1949, George Cukor)


I had to include a Kate Hepburn in here, and this is probably my favourite. She’s doing what she does best – verbal jousting and chemistry with Spencer Tracy. It’s a sort of almost-feminist story of a husband and wife competing in the court room, representing opposing parties in an attempted murder case. Don’t overthink its message – it doesn’t hold up – but just enjoy it for its screwball comedy nature. And then watch The Philadelphia Story, Desk Set, Woman of the Year and Bringing Up Baby. These are the movies I wish I grew up with....sorry, Olsen twins.

The almost-made-its: The Philadelphia Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Blue Jay, Like Crazy, Paper Moon, 10 Things I Hate About You, Blue Valentine, Doubt, Brief Encounter, Life is Beautiful