Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bright Young Things (2003)

I'm not entirely sure if a piece of media that has anything at all to do with the popular and funny genius Stephen Fry can be considered even remotely obscure enough to feature on blahblahblahgay but this film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's delightful book of early 20th century excess, Vile Bodies, was his debut as director and because he is not seen at any point during the movie it may have passed quite a lot of people by.

But not I, seen when it first appeared on DVD, purchased for the miserly sum of £3 as an ex rental and promptly added to a stack of movies I may have never watched again. Until, that is, I met Leah who I knew would also love this film. And love it she did. I am not sure how many times she has put the DVD on but when we left the UK it was one of very few movies she couldn't part with. Yes, in a world where we can replace things in digital form so easily we kept some actual discs.

Fry managed to put together an absolutely incredible cast of household names and up and comers, Jim Broadbent, Dan Aykroyd, Stockard Channing, and Peter O'Toole in the former and Emily Mortimer (who, by the way, I have a little crush on) James McAvoy (a few years before Inside I'm Dancing, Last King of Scotland and Atonement,) Michael Sheen (three years before The Queen made him a household name and more before he was every modern English historical figure in film) and Dr Who himself David Tennant in the latter. A man with an eye for talent that Mr Fry.

Not a huge amount to discuss with the posters for this film. I don't think there was a huge budget involved but at least the image on the right doesn't look overly trashy despite the attempt to modernise the content with gossip magazine fonts and that awful burning typewriter image they must've picked up free online from the websites that previously offered free clipart.

Voice over guy! His voice belongs on a Bruce Willis movie, not a whimsical piece of satire made by an intellectual but despite him saying everything the title cards said the trailer covers quite a lot of the subject matter giving you a good feel about what is to come. These people are either so terribly bored, terribly clueless or trying terribly hard.

To synopsise for you; it's 1929, Adam is an aspiring writer who wants to marry Nina, Nina is part of a group of rich and largely vapid friends, concerned with material objects and their partying lifestyle unaware of the changes to be brought about by an impending war. Throughout there are countless moments of shenaniganising, drink and drug fuelled parties, lies, blackmail, poverty, slapstick, gossip, scandal and lime green bowler hats. It's a comedic drama with a splash of romance.

Filled with wonderful moments of humour and a particular attention to detail with regards to the wardrobe of the period, this is an enjoyable movie that could quite easily be told about modern society. They're all so fabulous, these bright young things, it brings to mind the current hipster trend and the one before it, I have spent many nights in bars and clubs with people far too bored for their own good, whose image is based on being seen to not enjoy the things they're doing and of finding everyone beneath them. I enjoyed seeing the absurdities of it all played out in front of me, at once both highlighting the glamour and satirising the attitudes.

This choice not to demonise or judge the characters is what makes the movie work for me, I think we all see aspects of our own personality in Adam, Nina, Miles and Agatha and our enjoyment would be severely dented if Fry then judged negatively. William Goldman said of that other film about the vile bodies and bright young things, The Great Gatsby, in his 1983 book Adventures in the Screen Trade that the director was both totally obsessed and incensed by the excesses of high society that he made an empty movie about unlikeable people but happily that was not the case with Bright Young Things.

With a cast as mentioned above you are guaranteed to enjoy this film for their performances alone, Peter O'Toole especially, but the adventures are told in a whirlwind manner that takes you from party to party, dilemma to denouement to crisis without pausing for a long slow shot of somebody crying with a long orchestral piece of music in the background.

Fry has no real discernible style based on one film but he dives headfirst in to this one. Allowing the film to move along at a frenetic pace that differentiates itself from other films set in that period, with their tendency to stop the action to allow a knowledgeable modern audience time to reflect on the forthcoming change that WWII brings, underpinning all of the fun with a sense of maudlin. Here you have no time for those thoughts, right up until they all go off to war.

The epilogue of the film is a creation of the director, an attempt to provide a satisfying ending to the paying public, one which Waugh chose not to dwell on in the original source material and as such for me it is the weakest part of the film. It is not just the dramatic change in tone it is an unbelievable change of personality in the characters and this always leaves me feeling a bit blah about the whole thing. It's not for a few days that the memories of those wonderful characters and their crazy antics start popping back in to my mind.

Bright Young Things (2003) DivX - icefilms.info

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

I was totally emo back in 2008 when i saw this film in the new release section of my DVD store. It was the awesome art work combined with the titles obvious use of conflicting images that drew me to it but what I found when I sat down to watch it was something quite fabulous. I've told countless people to watch it and forcibly left copies in peoples homes so I think it is right that it gets the blahblahblah treatment.

Goran Dukic's debut feature is based on the short story "Kneller's Happy Campers" by Israeli writer Etgar Keret and stars Patrick Fugit who made his debut in Almost Famous and has since become a greasy slacker in almost all of his movies (Spun, White Oleander, Cirque Du Freak,) Shea Whigham, a name that i seem to see all of the time recently but would be hard pushed to recognise him or any of his roles and Shannyn Sossamon, great in Rules of Attraction and her tiny little role in the spectacularly fun Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Backing them up amongst others are Tom Waits and Will Arnett.

I really love sharing the artwork on this blog. It's not something I have any education in or anything I just find the comparisons extremely appealing and interesting. The comparisons here are especially fun I think. Clockwise from top left we have the original cinematic poster which was also the main sleeve on the DVD i first saw, there's a soft spot for this art in my memory. It fits lots of key information in to that one small relatively simple print. Road signs are obviously simple devices to tell you whats coming (that's why the people of Perth choose to drive so badly, they can't understand an obvious road sign, but I digress) black on yellow forearm, red cut on the wrist and blood drops in the shape of hearts. Come on! It doesn't get much more emo than that. Second one is more of an arthouse design, very trendy don't you think, I would definitely have thought about watching the film based on that. Third one is merely so-so and is in fact the sleeve of my dvd but my absolute favourite is item number 4. How incredibly tasteless is that? It's like a third rate American teen comedy. Sure the producers needed to raise some funds by selling the dvd or something but WOW! it's appalling.

3 minutes for a trailer seems a little much but other than the beginning I don't feel like it's gratuitous with it's use of time and it's one of those seemingly rare trailers that doesn't tell you every last detail of plot before it's done. Thumbs up trailer editor.

So still here after my opening and the trailer? How about some synopsisisation? Patrick Fugit kills himself after a bad breakup and wakes up in an afterlife reserved for suicides (purgatory basically?) Everyone has jobs and nobody can smile (sounds like the town I grew up in, well the smiling part anyway) he finds out that his ex girlfriend is also a suicide and a road trip ensues as he attempts to find her. Hijinks follow, including a stop at a travelers camp where miracles happen, meeting Shannyn Sossamon who is a wild thing hunting for a way out of purgatory and a black hole under the seat of a car. Oh yeah and Will Arnett.

So it's a rom-com with a difference, a road trip movie of sorts, a black comedy about purgatory, I've never seen anything like it before or since. The closest I can remember is Defending Your Life with Albert Brooks but that doesn't really compare either. This afterlife is an odd odd place, and the adventures of the three main characters are much more interesting for it.

The character played by Shea Whigham, Eugene, is so similar to Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello and Everything is Illuminated fame it's scary, I think I spent half of the movie wondering if it was actually him. I later found out that the part was written for Hutz which would account for the likeness. Patrick Fugit is pretty much stuck in the same way Michael Cera is stuck, playing that one character again and again to the point where you question whether he is just playing himself. As the main character, Zia, he is melancholy and has given up on (after)life in a way that almost makes you forget about William in Almost Famous. I personally love watching Shannyn Sossamon and find that she has been criminally underused in movies. Whether it's her band taking up all of her time or casting directors just don't like her I don't know but in this she is wonderful, the breath of fresh air that Patrick Fugit needs to pick himself up and the spark around which the whole movie evolves.

Beautifully shot from the moment we arrive in purgatory the film is filled with muted colours and a washed out look to the landscapes, a great choice from the director and is enhanced by all the characters looking slightly grey. The film is filled with magical moments but these are not just the miracles, finding beauty and magic in the more mundane aspects of their journey also. The tone is pretty much perfect, very funny yet not taking its humour from the dark subject matter, there are not really any suicide jokes like some less intelligent movies might use, whimsical yet melancholy with moments of great laughter mixed with truly affecting scenes and several wtf moments.

As a road trip movie it works, the characters grow with each other and because of each other, they experience wondrous and unexplainable events, there's a montage sequence which is obviously essential. As a black comedy, it's funny, so it works here also. As a rom-com, as discussed there is humour and there is different relationships between male and female characters which involves romance, this works also. Basic requirements for the genre aside this is a beautiful and funny film with interesting characters and pretty much faultless direction. If i gave scores it'd get 5/5 or 10/10 or 2 thumbs up. It's really quite a special piece of indie film making.

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006) DivX - icefilms.info

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Life In Movies

Fandango Groover posted his life in movies recently and thus laid down a challenge seemingly to all movie bloggers everywhere. So here's my offering to this viral sensation. May 22nd 2011.

My favourite movies, 1 per year, 1982 to 2010

1982 - Blade Runner

An obvious choice, as it's one of my favourite movies of all time. Ridley Scott created something incredible and then revisited time and again to make it perfect. Others may always think of Harrison Ford as Han Solo but for me first and foremost he will always be Deckard, chasing and being chased through a derelict building in the rain by Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner. Sean Young is mesmerising in her beauty and even now, nearly 30 years later the effects have barely dated.

1983 - Star Wars Episode VI Return of the Jedi

Turns out that I haven't watched too many films from 1983. But even if I had, I don't think there would be much to compare to this film. One of the finest opening sequences in cinematic history, well at least for those involved with the characters. A prison break to beat all others; you can find more in those 45 minutes or so to love than most movies give you in at least twice that long. And then there's the Ewoks dancing. The recent update that forced Haydn Christensen on us has to be added to Guido shooting first in the list of latter Lucas atrocities in my mind at least.

1984 - Ghost Busters

1984 gave me a lot to choose from, Alex Cox made Repo Man, The Terminator was released, John Hughes had Sixteen Candles, the original Karate Kid was fighting for honour, Gizmo made his debut in Gremlins, Axel Foley did the same in Beverly Hills Cop not to mention Indy in Temple of Doom, Spinal Tap, the first Cohen Bros movie Blood Simple and the Wim Wenders classic Paris, Texas but how can anybody not choose Ghost Busters?

Bill Murray may have achieved great things after this but for pretty much everyone else this was a career high point and for me a movie that I have loved as a kid, a teen, a film student and a blogger.

1985 - The Breakfast Club

Nothing compares to this movie, the ultimate teen flick. When I saw this for the first time I was hooked. I started to feel better about myself, I started to watch films for different reasons, started to ask more questions and demand more from what I saw. Even now I love watching this movie. It's impact on the genre is immeasurable, everything since has copied an stolen from it in one way or another.

1986 - Aliens

It doesn't exactly have to beat off stiff competition but Ferris Bueller pulled out every last piece of ingenuity he had to win this vote and still the second Alien movie won. Platoon was a fine movie but it doesn't get better the more you watch it like Aliens does. And well Blue Velvet is just too damned weird to be classed as a favourite.

Aliens is the best of the franchise, for me it adds something to the mix that the original just couldn't find.

1987 - Angel Heart

Whilst I was very tempted to choose The Brave Little Toaster based on how much I enjoyed it as a kid it can't be my favourite because I simply have no desire to watch it again (at least not until I have my own kids.) And I desperately want to see Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire which I think will surpass the quality of Angel Heart but until then Alan Parker's ultra dark noir wins, not least for starring Mickey Rourke before he got a little bit crazy.

1988 - Die Hard

Not a tough call this one, Die Hard is amazing and much like 1983 there was a distinct paucity in quality this year. Akira, A Fish Called Wanda, High Hopes, Roger Rabbit and Beetlejuice were all released in 1988 but a comparison to Bruce Willis makes for an obvious winner. Yippee Ki-yay!

1989 - Do The Right Thing

Initially this was a tough year to call, once more due to a lack of obvious choices but then I remembered just how incredible this little film by Spike Lee was the first time I saw it and every time since.

You may ask how I can overlook Batman or Sean Connery in Indiana Jones but I was closer to choosing Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train or When Harry Met Sally (yeah I still love this movie, it's very funny and incredibly sweet) over those two.

1990 - Goodfellas

Again, there's no real competition, this movie is solid gold, even on repeat viewings there's so much to enjoy, but remember the first time you saw it, wow!

I honestly thought there would be no competition but other bloggers haven't picked it so my searching around to see if any other movie could compare was a bit pointless. The Grifters was hugely enjoyable, Life Is Sweet was lovely, Arnie was badass in Total Recall and Miller's Crossing is a fine film but none of them had the same effect on me as Goodfellas.

1991 - The Silence of The Lambs

Tough. Very tough. Slacker was hugely influential to me as a wannabe film maker, T2 was explosive and all round awesome when i saw it on VHS and Delicatessen is perhaps Jeunet's finest film but the very first time I saw Silence of the Lambs I was hooked. Three amazing characters that you just can't turn away, Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter is obviously much discusses and Jodie Foster was the perfect mix of strength and vulnerability up against Ted Levine as the excellently creepy and fucked up Jame Gumb. Superb thriller, almost unmatched in it's genre.

1992 - Reservoir Dogs

1992! A watershed year, the year a new generation of film maker came to prominence, the Sundance kids? Plus RDJ as Chaplin, Stephen Rea wanting to sleep with a transvestite in The Crying Game, the most absurd Oscar winner of all time starring in My Cousin Vinny and Robert Altman's The Player. But I don't think you can beat Reservoir Dogs for influence on me as a viewer or as a film maker. The dialogue and the non linear narrative were a revelation to my teenage mind.

1993 - Jurassic Park

OMGosh 1993 featured Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, Tony Scott directing the best Tarantino script True Romance and David Thewlis in Naked. But the feeling I got watching Jurassic Park as a 10 year old can't be matched. Even now 18 years later the first time you see the dinosaurs at the lake is still completely magical.

1994 - Pulp Fiction

I seriously found this one difficult. I knew Pulp Fiction was gonna be 1994 before I even got to checking what other movies might've come close. Then I discovered quite a few of my all time favourite movies were also released that year. Chungking Express is wonderfully sweet and melancholy and a really exciting piece of cinema for a film student, i'm pretty certain you won't be able to find a person alive who saw Shawshank Redemption and didn't find it utterly compelling viewing, Jean Reno as Leon is fabulous, I still quote The Lion King on a regular basis, Nigel Hawthorne was outstanding in The Madness of King George and Danny Boyle made his debut with Shallow Grave. I don't think it's very fair that they had to come up against Pulp Fiction really.

1995 - Toy Story

What the hell happened in the mid 90's? Another seriously strong year for films. Twelve Monkeys was so close to getting the nod before Leah reminded me that Toy Story was released. I don't think i've seen any movie as much as i've seen Toy Story. A movie that has everything and is infinitely quotable. But it wasn't just Twelve Monkeys, you can't look at 1995 without considering just how good movies like Seven, Casino, Heat, Usual Suspects, Braveheart, Before Sunrise, City of Lost Children, Leaving Las Vegas, Welcome to the Dollhouse and Die Hard 3 were.

1996 - Scream

Scream wins by simple fact that it's both awesome and amazing at the same time. A real defining moment in my film viewing life. Sure I saw Independence Day 4 times at the cinema and Fargo might be the Coen Brothers best film of the 90's, Billy Bob Thornton was superb in Sling Blade, Secrets & Lies just might well be up there with Brief Encounter as one of my favourite movies ever, the phrase money baby was invented in Swingers along with Vince Vaughn and Jerry Maguire was showing me the money. All of these movies might have been my choice in most other years but the sheer pleasure I got from watching Scream throughout 1997 and how fondly I remember it means nothing else really had a chance.

1997 - L.A. Confidential

The year my two passions clashed harder than an iceberg and a ship. 4 very good science fiction movies - Gattaca, Fifth Element, Contact and Cube came up against the finest noir film in many many years and lost to the better film. Also in the running, taking shots from a sniper rifle was Grosse Point Blank, the cool Fincher thriller The Game and Tkeshi Kitano's wonderfully beautiful Hana-Bi. There are not many noir films better than L.A. Confidential however, an extremely well made movie of the excellent James Ellroy novel.

1998 - The Big Lebowski

It was a straight run between Dark City and The Dude but there is a line and across that line you do not as Walter might say, sorry scream. Dark City is a superb piece of science fiction however. So in a distant 3rd place race you'll find such fabulous work as Happiness and Elizabeth.

1999 - Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai

Tres tres difficult. Fight Club was amazing, The Limey is amazing, American Beauty was amazing, The Boondock Saints is so totally badass, Being John Malkovich boggles the mind, The Matrix was truly groundbreaking to me then but has since been shown up to be a bunch of cool stuff stolen from other people so it is Jim Jarmusch that steals the crown with the superb Forrest Whittaker starring Ghost Dog. Cool, violent, meditative and recalling the superb Melville noir Le Samourai.

2000 - Amores Perros

New millenium, drop in quantity of quality of films. Or at least from American film makers maybe. Lukas Moodysson released Together, Fukasaku made Battle Royale and Wong Kar-Wai had In The Mood For Love but the debut from Innaritu was incredible.

It's use of multiple storylines colliding with a devastating car crash was later echoed by the Hollywood film Crash. Gael Garcia Bernal jumped out of the screen burning himself in to the minds of viewers around the world as the lovestruck Octavio. An often bleak and disturbing look at love and loss that stays with you for a long long time after the credits roll.

2001 - Monsters Inc.

Donnie Darko, Spirited Away, Amelie, Mulholland Drive and The Royal Tenenbaums, what do these movies have in common? They are all superb pieces of film making, rightly hailed by film critics and fans around the world. AND none of them can compete with Monsters Inc. for my affection.

The vocal pairing of Billy Crystal and John Goodman is excellent, packed with charisma and displaying an obvious chemistry, combining to make their double act extremely funny in what was yet another superb Pixar film. Dreamworks really look so trashy in comparison don't they.

2002 - Infernal Affairs

Dirty Pretty Things, Adaptation, City of God. Fabulously dark, willfully bizarre and truly moving & exhausting film making in that order. BUT the first part of the Infernal Affairs trilogy was without doubt a movie event for me and my buddies at uni. Taking it's cue from Hard Boiled this was an exceptional piece of crime genre film making with an all star Chinese cast and a sense of class missing from the Scorsese remake.

2003 - Finding Nemo

Kill Bill, Oldboy, Spring Summer Autumn Winter and Spring, Lost In Translation, 21 Grams, Last Life In The Universe, I am not exaggerating by saying that these films are some of my absolute favourite and most enjoyable pieces of cinema by some supremely talented film makers and I would be hard pressed to choose my favourite from any of them.

However Ellen De Generes as Dory and Albert Brooks as Marlin is the best comedy/movie double act since Crystal and Goodman. Another infinitely quotable movie and another beautiful film from the talent at Pixar.

2004 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Narrowly beating out the finest piece of film making on WWII that i've ever seen, Downfall, and the hauntingly beautiful Kim Ki-Duk film 3-Iron, not to ignore Garden State or Shaun of the Dead, is the fabulous Jim Carrey starring, Michel Gondry directed, Charlie Kaufman written love story with a difference, Eternal Sunshine. Blown away the very first time I saw it, I was completely outraged that Jim Carrey didn't win an Oscar for his performance.

2005 - Sin City

Not a huge amount that really jumped out and screamed pick me this year. having said that Sin City is a fabulous piece of noir film making. So much fun and so so stylish.

If I was gonna pick something else it would be the comic noir Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as my friend Kat said to me today, the last remaining reason not to hate Val Kilmer. And wasn't this the film that gave us back RDJ?

2006 - Clerks II

The original film was robbed as my choice for 1994 because it had the misfortune of going up against Pulp Fiction, no such fate can befall the sequel in 2006. A particularly weak year of films fer sure but Clerks II for me was a truly enjoyable film. It feels like a movie made by a group of friends just having fun with things, like Kevin Smith just relaxed and let his much loved characters run wild. And the gratuitous choreographed dance scene a la Austin Powers is wonderful.

Two films that came close were the exceptional Pan's Labyrinth and the much fun Stranger Than Fiction and recently I saw the beautifully shot fable The Fall.

2007 - There Will Be Blood

2007 was a big year for great films, at the time I felt that No Country For Old Men was unsurpassable for example but I must've watched and watched and watched Superbad. Juno was utterly charming, Eastern Promises the best film about London I remember seeing and The Darjeeling Limited is Wes Andersons finest work.

But still the more time that passes, the better There Will be Blood becomes in my mind. The opening 40 or so minutes are totally mesmerising, the absence of dialogue only serves to heighten the enjoyment, to the point where you only realise that nobody has spoken until somebody actually speaks. From what i've read of the source material this is largely Paul Thomas Andersons work too. Triple thumbs up for the work of Daniel Day Lewis also.

2008 - The Dark Knight

The year of Dark Knight really. I was completely amazed by the movie, Heath Ledger as the joker was like nothing i'd seen before. Especially after the Jack Nicholson joker! A dark multi layered comic book film from Chris Nolan, regardless of whether Batman can turn his head or not.

Mentions to Wall-E and In Bruges both of which in another year might've been selected for being yet another fabulous Pixar film and a delightfully dark and fun hitman movie respectively. I am also counting Hurt Locker and Gran Torino as 2009 because they were not released in the UK until 2009.

2009 - Gamer

OMGosh, I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Neveldine and Taylor created the best near future science fiction film imaginable. Every single aspect of the science fiction was spot on accurate in a myspace/facebook version of Running Man with Gerard Butler perfect in his role of grunting muscle bound killing machine Cable. In a world where people are making films like Surrogates and Source Code movies that actually get it right should be celebrated.

Hurt Locker, Hangover, Gran Torino, District 9, Star Trek, Fantastic Mr Fox, Moon, Jennifer's Body, An Education. Holy cow 2009 made up for the lack of films in 2008 didn't it.

2010 - Inception

Literally I have no idea how Inception isn't everybody's choice for 2010, it was a phenomenal experience and an exceptionally unique piece of film making.

Toy Story 3 was great for all the reasons the first one was and then some, the Coens remake of True Grit had me enthralled for the entirety and Scott Pilgrim whilst not being everybodys cup of tea was top quality film making that entertains throughout, in the cinema I was struggling for breath I was laughing so much with no sign of a letup.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Limey (1999)

Let's take this blog back to the 90's. The decade of mushroom cuts, Who Let The Dogs Out and Jar Jar Binks.

And 1999 to be particular. That year of Millenium Bug madness. I'm pretty certain there was a lot of money being made by some people back then and what for? The general fear on the streets back then was quite ridiculous, especially in retrospect. The thought of the world ending because really fat ibm laptops couldn't understand what moving from 99 to 00 meant was laughable to me even then. Seeing those old laptops in movies like Hackers is strangely fascinating, in a way even more enjoyable than when you see those early suitcase sized mobile phones from the late 80's and early 90's. I can't put my finger on it but it's something similar to voyeurism, or driving extra slow past a car crash torn between hoping you'll see a body and that everyone is ok.

1999 was an incredible year for movies as it turns out, here are just a few: Fight Club, The Matrix, American Beauty, Boondock Saints, Sixth Sense, Magnolia, Being John Malkovich, Blair Witch Project and Baby Geniuses.

The same year Steven Soderbergh released The Limey, starring Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda and Leslie Ann Warren and featuring a kickass supporting cast of Luis Guzman, Nicky Katt, Melissa George, Joe Dallesandro and Amelia Heinle who sadly has gone on to star in such fabulous TV fare as The Young and the Restless.

Soderbergh is a hugely talented film maker and has been responsible for some of the biggest movies in recent years, most obviously the Oceans movies but at the point he shot The Limey he had been on a bit of a dry spell. His breakout film Sex, Lies & Videotape was a full 10 years before and it was only the George Clooney starring Out of Sight that had dragged his career out of the gutter in 1998. He has since gone on to make a blockbuster followed by a low budget personal movie almost like clockwork and The Limey is one of those. I LOVE IT.

A triptych of interesting artwork, British, German and American movie posters I think. The British image is the one I'm used to and one I'm most partial to. For some reason it took me months of taking the DVD out of it's case to realise that the black section in the middle was the silhouette of a gun. On top of this it has the tagline "Tell Them I'm Coming" thrown in which is from a piece of Terrence Stamp's dialogue. The American poster has a real sense of late 90's to it. Many movie posters of the period used the multiple panel style to the same effect but it also reflects the disjointed narrative structure of the film. The German one? Well it all screams a bit of National Socialism with that flag behind him doesn't it?

Once more I shall Synopsisise for you. Wilson (Terrence Stamp) is in L.A. investigating the death of his daughter (Melissa George) and enlists the help of Ed (Luis Guzman) and Elaine (Leslie Ann Warren.) His investigations lead him to her ex boyfriend, Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda) and Wilson wants revenge.

I guess you could easily label this a revenge thriller but it's so much more than that. The script from Lem Dobbs is incredible, the imaginative use of structure and repetition to tell the story and the near perfect dialogue elevate this above a mere revenge thriller. There are moments of sheer joy when you can't believe what Wilson has just done or what he has just said and the excellent dialogue isn't reserved just for Terrence Stamp, everyone has amazing moments in a non stop stream of quality writing. There are some great moments of culture clash humour revolving around Wilson having never been to America and the Americans not having a clue what Wilson is saying, coupled with characters holding prejudices towards the others country, this serves as an entertaining piece of background to the main noir plot.

Soderbergh's direction is almost an extra character at times, adding multiple layers of meaning to scenes with his use of filters, music, silence, repetitions with different delivery of the lines and the jumpcuts along the timeline allowing for interesting juxtapositions. This is a fabulous piece of film making in a genre that usually matches the brutal subject matter with a less than subtle touch from the director. The film equivalent of a literary crime novel. Instead of James Patterson or Kathy Reichs you get Georges Simenon or Cormac McCarthy and The Limey is most definitely not a Michael Bay film.

Script and direction aside the best part of this movie is Terrence Stamp. His performance is something else completely. By accentuating his London accent and slightly overacting at times he has deliberately created one of the most memorable gangsters in film history. He is extremely likable and at times even sympathetic. Whilst you may not have a clue what he's saying half of the time if you're not used to the dialect and slang you will understand his emotions.

Enjoyable on multiple levels, filled with back humour, touched by some violence, thrills, spills, a car chase, gun fights, a final showdown on a beach at night which bears remarkable similarities to a Mickey Spillane, excellent direction, a little arty, cool dialogue, a near perfect film really.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kaboom (2010)

I think you should know before you read any further that I am a fan of the film maker. Gregg Araki has been a major influence on the kind of films I want to make so I cannot be completely unbiased with this review. In much the same way as Repo Chick in fact.

Kaboom is, according to imdb, the eleventh Gregg Araki movie. He is perhaps most famous for Mysterious Skin, a beautiful, interesting film that helped launch Joseph Gordon-Levitt out of TV and onwards towards his inevitable mega stardom but fans will point to The Doom Trilogy of Totally Fucked Up, Doom Generation and my personal favourite Nowhere.

Cool posters and a great demonstration of the power of artwork on selling movies. How many orgasms can you see in the black poster? The multi coloured lettering and the reviews chosen all there to appeal to the new generation of ADD Araki fans out there on their macbooks spamming each others twitters. The second poster looks very arty doesn't it, a serious awards poster if you ever saw one, it still says "sex" but in a slightly more subtle way, ideal for sensible people who take things like Cannes and Sundance seriously.

What you are about to read is as much of a synopsis as you can write for a film like this: A super hot bi guy (Thomas Dekker from Heroes) and his arty hipster friend (Haley Bennett who doesn't really seem to have been in anything worthwhile) are college freshman (I'm English, I have no idea what these terms actually mean) having a lot of fun sleeping around, weird stuff starts to happen and there's a plot to destroy the world.

Or you can trust the official writeup from the Toronto International Film Festival: Smith's everyday life in the dorm - hanging out with his arty, sarcastic best friend Stella, hooking up with a beautiful free spirit named London, lusting for his gorgeous but dim surfer roommate Thor - all gets turned upside-down after one fateful, terrifying night.

Araki is a director who is used to working with a low budget, another in the school of using creativity to solve a problem instead of throwing money at it. His previous films have looked deliberately cheap and largely visually arresting. Kaboom is no different, a similar story is told about similar characters using modern techniques of low budget film making.

At times it is obvious that these are the same characters as the previous films but for the new generation, he has a unique ear for knowing how youth interact, instead of the stoned mallrats making home videos in the 90's we are treated to the evolution of these sluts and slackers in to the youtube and facebook generation with HD video blogs and instant access to gossip and knowledge via smartphones.

The continuing themes of the director's works are abundantly evident from the start, alienation, homosexuality, the apocalypse, paranoia, drug use, apparent nihilism. These young people are trying to find themselves in the modern world and even more so than 15 years it is proving difficult with the large amount of technology available and the lack of cohesion in their family lives.

Shot in vivid colour and making use of noir stylistics in the thriller scenes this is at times a visual feast, especially impressive considering the budget and at other times deliberately cheap looking, some of the effects for example could have been taken from his 90's trilogy.

The constant waking from dreams sequences are very nicely done and add another layer to the story which is engaging, mostly because you are constantly asking "what the fuck is going on?" And there are subplots that weave their way through the story and later work their way to the surface and become the major plot devices.

Other visually appealing items for your consideration: Juno Temple is naked half of the time, there's a lot of sex to keep your attention focused on the screen, Araki stalwart James Duval plays a permanent student who's permanently stoned and a white Rastafarian to boot and there's a whole cast of beautiful people who may or may not be superfluous to the story.

For a dramatic comedy with slight science fictiony undertones this movie has great moments of humour and mixes them with disturbing scenes and an occasional eeriness (thanks to the use of light and shadow and occasionally well placed cameras.)

There's a lot of talk out on the net of Donnie Darko and Southland Tales being ripped off by Araki for this movie but I would state without any hesitation that Richard Kelly was a fanboy of Gregg Araki a long time before he even considered making those two films and I would even add Alex Cox to the list of directors he was influenced by before he got his big break. The fact that Kelly had a breakout mainstream success means nothing, Alex Cox was clearly an influence on Araki and as witnessed by Repo Chick recently he himself has made a film that was influenced by Araki.

The major difference between these three directors is that Richard Kelly had a lot of money thrown at him, Alex Cox made different decisions in his career and is working in other fields aside from film and Araki is hindered by his use of homosexuality. They are all film students and Araki's use of Chien Andalou in Kaboom should point your expectations towards a film that has no plot in the conventional sense, a disjointed chronology, uses dream logic and presents a series of tenuously connected, disjointed scenes. But that's not all there is, it's a thoroughly enjoyable piece of film making too.

Kaboom (2010) DivX - icefilms.info