Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Cut - Who's That Knocking At My Door

In the second of my First Cut columns for Front Row Reviews, I take a look at Martin Scorsese's debut film, Who's That Knocking At My Door, and try to illustrate that, despite all appearances to the contrary, it shares some common ground with his latest, Hugo. Unfortunately, I was unable to draw a direct parallel between any scene in Who's That Knocking At My Door and the one in Hugo in which Sacha Baron Cohen almost falls face first into a cake. Maybe the scene in which Harvey Keitel kisses the feet of Jesus on the crucifix and comes away with blood dripping from his mouth. Or the one where he falls off a stool.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

First Cut - Shotgun Stories

I've recently started contributing to Front Row Reviews - because I just don't write enough and really want to use up those extra hours I have between work and sleep that are going to waste at the minute - and whilst I will be writing reviews for them, I'm mainly going to be contributing a new series that I've been planning for a while but never really found an outlet for.

So, this is the inaugural column in a series I have named First Cut. Every week I will examine the debut of a director and try to show how it shaped the rest of their career, or at the very least try to draw parallels between their earliest and latest work. The current plan is for these to be weekly thing, though since each instalment is intended to relate to a film that is about to be released I might take the odd week off, or spend the weeks when there are no suitable films writing about great film-makers who are no longer with us, so in that spirit you can read about the ways in which Jeff Nichols' Shotgun Stories relates to his latest, Take Shelter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Film Review: Moneyball (2011)

I feel I need to begin this review by admitting two things: that I don't understand baseball and I hate maths. So Moneyball, a film about highly complicated mathematical formulae and the impact they had on professional baseball that runs over two hours, should be my idea of Hell. If you break down the basic conmponents of the film, it should be the driest, dullest story in existence, and one that should have no audience, because there's nothing that hardcore math fans hate more than sports stepping all over their spreadsheets. Oh, and I guess the reverse is probably true for baseball fans.

Film Review: Take Shelter (2011)

Though he has only directed two films (Shotgun Stories in 2007 and his latest, Take Shelter), Jeff Nichols has already established himself as one of the most exciting directors in modern American cinema. His subtle yet explosive examinations of conflicted men trying to escape the pressures of their past are quietly yet deniably powerful ones that are imbued with an almost mythic sense of importance. He creates modern fables that feel as old as the world itself, and in his latest he creates a work of staggering vision, dread and fear that ranks amongst the best films of the year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why 'Community' Isn't Doomed...Yet

How could you let a cast this sexy be taken off television? Just look at that smouldering look Chevy's giving all of us!
Or, Why Community Doesn't Have To Be Cancelled, and How You Can Help!

Even though I tend to write about film on this site, it's not my sole interest. In fact, it may not even be my main interest anymore, since over the last couple of years I have found myself coming to the conclusion that television is the most fertile and interesting medium going (an idea I've explored in my articles for Hope Lies) and there are few shows that have delighted and surprised me as much as NBC's Community, a funny, heartfelt and insanely ambitious sitcom which has routinely and hilariously shifted the boundaries of what a comedy can do, with its mix of genre-bending episodes and a phenomenally talented and varied cast.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Film Review: The Rum Diary (2011)

"Wow, I just realised how incredibly pretty we both are. I have nothing but pity for the normal looking."
The Rum Diary finds Johnny Depp returning to the work of his friend Hunter S. Thompson a mere thirteen years after he starred in Terry Gilliam's hallucinatory adaptation of Thompson's Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas (though he did revisit the character of Raoul Duke earlier this year for a blink-or-you'll-miss-it cameo in the surprisingly fun Rango, so there's that). As in the early film, Depp plays a Thompson surrogate, this time failed novelist-turned-journalist Paul Kemp, who winds up in Puerto Rico after he applies for a job writing for a rundown paper overseen by Richard Jenkins. Having got the job, though admittedly he was the only applicant, Kemp quickly falls deeper into the bad habits that were full blown before he arrived; he spends his days drinking with a photographer (Michael Rispoli) and a Nazi-obsessed fellow journalist (Giovanni Ribisi), accidentally angering the local population and falling in love with a glamorous blond (Amber Heard) whose boyfriend (Aaron Eckhart) wants to recruit Kemp to help push through a shady land development deal.

Things I Learned From Movie X: Just Go With It

I hope they're all looking at a truck that is moments away from killing them all.
For this edition of Things I Learned From Movie X I delved into the deep end of a very shitty pool by watching Adam Sandler's most recent film, Just Go With It, which is one of the laziest and most insultingly stupid comedies he has made in a career full of lazy and insultingly stupid comedies. I hated this film so very, very much because there is almost nothing worse than a comedy film that isn't remotely funny. It's not like you can praise the cinematography or the music (certainly not in this case since the music consists almost solely of horrible, horrible mash-ups) because all a comedy film should aim to be, at its most basic possible level, is funny, and Just Go With It is resolutely not funny at all.

As is often the case, rage was transformed into humour through the alchemy of writing, and I think the resulting column is pretty good. I'm particularly pleased with the final line since I put a lot of stock in coming up with good final lines for everything I write. It doesn't have to be the best part of a review or article, but if the final line can round a piece off nicely then the whole thing feels more complete to me, and this is one of the better ones I've come up with.

Film Review: Immortals

"Be honest with me, guys - do you think that we over did the gold a tad?"
Tarsem Singh's 2006 film The Fall was a completely brilliant and completely bonkers work that was an act of pure artistic expression on the part of its creator. Filmed in pieces over the better part of a decade in between other commercial projects, it was a real labour of love for Tarsem and that love shone through in its unique and visionary nature, which combined stunning vistas from across the globe with a heartrending story of two broken souls finding solace in a shared fiction. To expect his follow-up, the Greek myth-flavoured Immortals, to have the same kind of personal resonance would be foolhardy since there's no way that a film with so much money behind it could retain even half of the idiosyncratic charm of The Fall. Even so, considering how striking Tarsem's work has been in the past, it's surprising how thoroughly bland the resulting product is.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Martini Shot: Debuts

Over the last couple of months, Adam Batty (of Hope Lies), Joe Gastineau (of The Wooden Kimono and No Ripcord) and myself (of this parish) have been talking about starting one of those podmacular casts that we heard so many people talk about whilst sipping mint juleps at our club, in which we would discuss pressing matters of the day in a most erudite and cromulent manner. After many weeks of false starts, dead-ends and daring escapes, we finally sat down in a room together and recorded something about films in a slightly mumbly and sweary manner.

That's a roundabout way of saying that the first episode of our new podcast, tentatively* called The Martini Shot, can now be listened to on, or downloaded from Podbean here. The premise, vague as it is, is that every week we will come up with a theme which we will then discuss with reference to films relating to that topic. Since this is the first episode and our minds work in super obvious ways, we settled on "Debuts", which worked out pretty well, I think. Apart from Adam's endorsement of The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which I cannot in good conscience support.

We're hoping to get it on iTunes in the next day or so, at which point I'll update this post with the relevant information.

We're still finding our way with this and, although we were all pretty happy with Debuts as a first try, we're determined to improve it and make it the best podcast that we can, so any and all feedback is appreciated and welcome.

*Tentative because there is already another podcast with that title so we may be forced to change ours. Now, we could blame Joe for this because it was his idea and he didn't do a cursory Google search, so we will. It's your fault, Joe!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Film Review: Wuthering Heights (2011)

It’s hard to watch Andrea Arnold’s version of Emily Brontë’s novel about the destructive, all-consuming power of love without comparing it to Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, which was released mere months earlier. This is, to an extent, superficial, since the two might not have been compared if they weren’t released within the same twelve month period. There have been plenty of adaptations of both works, why compare these two merely because they are the most recent?