Wednesday, 23 February 2011

[443] Confessions (2010) Review

Back in January, I wrote 5600 words about two UK-based distribution companies, Third Window and Terracotta, who specialise in East Asian cinema. This was for my MA, and the beast of an essay - which touched on how they challenge traditional practice by using social media, special screenings and cult festivals as promotional channels - actually went down quite well. I'm currently thinking about how to present it. Would anyone be interested in it? I'd love to see it published somewhere. Maybe I'll cave in and lob it up here eventually.

Meanwhile, Third Window have released a new film, Confessions. Not only was it Japan's submission to the Academy Awards, but it also took home the big prizes at the Japanese equivalent. There's a lot of love for this, but it's not at all the kind of safe, predictable work that is usually pimped out to the international audience. Have a read and see.

Directed by cult favourite, Tetsuya Nakashima (Kamikaze Girls, Memories Of Matsuko), revenge drama Confessions was recently given the seal of approval from its home film industry when it was submitted as Japan's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards. Although, don't let that fool you. This is not a consensus-forming safe bet. No, this is rather an ugly proposition, indeed.

Initially concerned with mystery,
Confessions soon finds itself lost in relentless revelation, a feature-length third act, where characters narrate motivation either before or alongside the action itself.

In a compelling, nightmarish opening sequence, a bereaved teacher (Takako Matsu) lectures her unruly class of teenage yahoos about life. Her daughter was found dead on school grounds and, worse, she believes that it was no accident, but a harsh act on the part of two of her students. So, calm, collected, and with a gentle sincerity that cuts through the rabble, she explains her plan for revenge.

Read the full article here.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

[442] Movie Magic

This weekend, I shot a short film with a couple of accomplices (including Super Szekely). Movie magic ensued.

More on the film in due course, but, unless something catastrophic happens, we should be screening it at Kino London's Open Mic Film Night, which is this coming Thursday (24th), on Brick Lane, East London.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

[441] Inside Job (2010) Review

There are few tougher propositions in the film world than the feature-length documentary. To stand out, and, seemingly, to impress the Academy, documentaries need to be helped by the cult of personality (Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth), high production values (March Of The Penguins) or a crowd-pleasing tone (Man On Wire, The Cove). Charles Ferguson's Inside Job, a compelling account of the recent global financial crisis, is obviously aiming high, ticking off each quality to almost fatal effect.

A thrilling opening, using the economic bubble of Iceland as a starting point, asserts itself through fast-paced editing, a score that takes cues from Hans Zimmer, and cinematography that, to be honest, has no place in this tale of boardrooms, bankers and bailouts.

As the opening credits roll, we're hit by the one-two punch of comfort food licensed music choices (Peter Gabriel's Big Time) and sumptuous aerial shots of New York City, London, Shanghai, and other international business centres. Such slickness, plus the film's backing by Sony Pictures Classics, gives
Inside Job an immediate air of professionalism, one that is, thankfully, mirrored in Ferguson's approach as a documentarian.

While not mincing words or failing to lay blame where it is due, the film safely sidesteps the cheap demagoguery of Moore, with the filmmaker's voice taking a backseat to compelling infographics, eloquent talking heads, and the soothing, familiar voice of Matt Damon.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

[440] Warren Ellis Interview

A fun interview, this one, despite it being a phoner. Warren Ellis!

Less than five minutes before my interview slot with writer Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Crooked Little Vein, Freakangels, among many others), the following Twitter update appeared, from the man himself: "slowly losing my mind doing phone interviews for the UK release of the RED DVD. poor journos."

I reassured myself with the fact that, as it was a phoner, there was little chance of Ellis, whose public persona is best described as 'cantankerous old sod', causing me any physical harm.

And, thankfully, even the emotional trauma was minimal.

Read on for the interview, which starts with
RED, the 'old folks with guns' action film starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren, adapted from Ellis and Cully Hamner's comic book, and subsequently touches on Ellis' online doings, the communities he has cultivated, and his far-reaching influence...

Read the full article here.

[439] Greg Mottola Interview

Sure, I didn't like Paul much - and thankfully didn't have to review it - but I loved Adventureland, the previous film directed by Greg Mottola. So when I was asked to interview him, it was another case of dodging around the broader qualities of the film itself. So I asked him about music! And Easy Rider! And, you know what? It came out very well. It was rather a shame that we only had 6 minutes, as I could have chatted with this lovely gentleman for much longer. We were only getting started. Maybe next time.

This week, the sci-fi/comedy geek tease, Paul, beams onto our Earth-based cinema screens. In anticipation, Michael had the chance to chat with director Greg Mottola, whose previous work includes Superbad and DoG favourite, Adventureland.

Unfortunately, time was short, but Mottola gave us invaluable insight into the film's soundtrack, revealed his favourite pop culture references, and expounded on the enduring power of movie magic.

Read the full article here.

Friday, 11 February 2011

[438] Gnomeo & Juliet (2011) Review

For the first time in a while... a review at! And I keep up my reputation of only giving negative (or, at best, lukewarm) reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

Gnomeo And Juliet is one persistent little blighter. You would think ten years of production limbo would kill such a wafer-thin idea - Shakespeare's most popular play, cheekily sent up with a cast of garden ornaments - but after a decade of bouncing around the Disney lot, it has found fertile ground at distribution label Touchstone Pictures.

And while it survives to pummel us with bright colours, eye-poking 3D and gurning humour, the scars of its trials are evident. Take the writing credits: apart from Stratford-upon-Avon's most famous export,
Gnomeo bears the fingerprints of nine further scribblers. What with all this tinkering, it's probably better to see it as less of a unified piece of work, and more of a Frankenstein's monster - reanimated in defiance of the film industry itself.

Somewhere within you can still spy the original concept: young lovers Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) reside in two adjacent gardens, between which there is a bitter feud. There's potential for a
Shrek-like parody of Bardic cliche, but the endless barrage of cheap puns and sight gags sees to it that Gnomeo And Juliet elicits more groans than laughs.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

[437] DC Universe Online Interview

I've still not had the chance to play DC Universe Online - and I doubt I ever will get around to it. I think that's something to do with me not being willing to pay monthly fees for a game up-front. However, it was great to chat with two of the chaps from SOE, and I made sure to throw in some interesting questions, asking about their team structure as a company (answer: no one takes days off), and what they think of hastily-written MMO reviews (answer: it pisses them off, but it's to be expected).

Sony Online Entertainment isn’t new to MMO games, having developed the massively-multiplayer behemoth EverQuest, and chipped in with licensed online titles like Star Wars Galaxies and The Matrix Online, but its new game, the recently released DC Universe Online, is a tantalizingly fresh prospect.

As well as bringing the incredibly rich, varied and voluminous DC canon to our computer screens, SOE has positioned
DC Universe Online as its entry into the console arena, with the game also appearing on the PS3. Fittingly, it’s a more action-oriented affair, evoking the likes of Crackdown or Prototype in its fast-paced combat and huge open-world spaces - where wannabe superheroes are given the chance to scale the dizzy heights of Gotham or Metropolis skyscrapers.

We were recently given the chance to chat with SOE’s Ryan Peters (Public Relations Specialist) and Tony Jones (Community Relations Manager), while they were on a whistle-stop European press tour. In this suitably massive interview, we talked about the process of developing
DC Universe Online, their approach to canon, and the input from comics industry veterans like Jim Lee, Marv Wolfman and Geoff Johns - as well as addressing two elephants in the room: Blizzard’s all-conquering World Of Warcraft, and the ongoing debates around whether MMOs, which require weeks of gameplay time to be truly experienced, can be fairly reviewed by video game critics.

Read the full article here.

Friday, 4 February 2011

[436] Rabbit Hole (2010) Review

Only a little bit of grumbling this time, but not about the film for a change. Rabbit Hole, like Blue Valentine - and, for that matter, Never Let Me Go - definitely deserves more attention. Instead, it's been landed with a token gesture of a Best Actress nomination for Nicole Kidman at the Oscars, effectively burying all its other qualities.

Sadly, this has resulted in the film being rather undersold by the international distributors, with it going up this week against Best Picture contender The Fighter. Interestingly, Blue Valentine was released the week after big-hitters (and consistent earners) The King's Speech and 127 Hours, and Never Let Me Go finally comes out next week, alongside True Grit. Sure, this is great for discerning cinemagoers, with such high quality product wedged together in such a short amount of time, but in the battle for the attentions of general film fans, a rack of Oscar nominations goes a long way. Rabbit Hole doesn't stand a chance.

Unfortunately, Rabbit Hole is the kind of film that seems to get overlooked in the awards race. It is in the line of sharp, intelligent, and sincere character dramas that, in recent times, has been pigeon-holed, or simply ignored.

Think of
Rachel Getting Married, or this year's Blue Valentine, both of which are films that, when it came to the Academy Awards, were defined by a single performance (Anne Hathaway for the former, Michelle Williams for the latter), while the rest of the production, cast and crew were snubbed.

Rabbit Hole has been granted a similar fate, with Nicole Kidman receiving the brunt of the awards attention. It is highly unlikely that she'll win, due in part to the quality of the competition, but also due to the lack of the awards-bait triumvirate of prosthetics, reality and tragedy that helped her to walk away with an Oscar for
The Hours.

However, that this is the only recognition granted to
Rabbit Hole is puzzling, as it is a superbly nuanced, finely crafted drama.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

[435] Brighton Rock (2011) Review

Grumble, grumble. You know, I like Andrea Riseborough, and I have fond memories of Sam Riley in Control, so let's hope Brighton Rock doesn't derail their careers. I tried to highlight some of the exhilaratingly bonkers parts of the film in the review, but the first comment accuses me of 'sticking the blade in'. Oops.

Here's a pull quote for you: Brighton Rock left me stunned. More so than any other film at the back end of 2010, it caused my jaw to drop. And I don't mean that in the positive sense.

Adapted from Graham Greene's source novel, and lagging 60-odd years behind the first film version, co-written by the author himself and starring Richard Attenborough, William Hartnell and Hermione Baddeley, this new take is the directorial debut of writer, Rowan Joffé. The result is one of those mind-bending, flabbergasting disasters that come along far too rarely.

Brighton Rock couldn't be based on a more melodramatic plot, as Pinkie (Sam Riley), a young, ambitious gangster, decides to marry Rose (Andrea Riseborough), a local waitress who happens to be a material witness to one of his murders. In order to keep her silent, he cons the girl with false romance, and in the process unearths all sorts of Catholic forms of guilt and sin.

However, while its predecessor had a starched, yet dignified quality, mixing stiff upper lip Britishness with its own spin on the then-contemporary style of urban film noir, Joffé's take doesn't dare toy with restraint, inflating the melodramatic elements to gigantic proportions.

Read the full article here.