Thursday 23 July 2015

EPISODE 33 - Ant-Man, The Gallows, Self/Less - 25.7.15

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Emma Platt hosts and is joined this week by Chris Byrne to discuss the UK Box Office Top Ten, along with... ...digesting this weeks NEWS, dissecting new trailers for SUICIDE SQUAD, BATMAN vs SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE & FANTASTIC FOUR... Chris leads discussion on found footage horror THE GALLOWS, plus Tarsem Singh's new sci-fi piece SELF/LESS, both slipping through under the wings of... ANT-MAN, which Emma leads analysis on - find out why she and Chris were satisfied but not overwhelmed by Marvel's latest origin story... ...before finally Emma brings us DEAD MEAT: THE FINAL GIRL, an enlightening discussion on the 'Final Girl' theory in horror - is it time for a new kind of Final Girl? Join us for our final podcast until September...

from Black Hole Cinema

Saturday 18 July 2015

Review: Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau

Year: 2014
Director: David Gregory
Starring: Richard Stanley, Fairuza Balk, Hugh Dickson, Oli Dickson, Robert Shaye, Marco Hofschneider

Comparisons to Lost Soul, which details the making of The Island of Dr. Moreau, could easily be made to like football club Fulham FC’s recent history. What looks to be a decent project on paper slides descends too rapidly into relative obscurity after being abused with a multitude of poor decisions. At one point, both film and football team as a maniacal but proven manager take over, yet his old school ways do little to stop what is now a situation in free fall. Suddenly oblivion.

From a technical standpoint, Lost Soul says very little. It’s a standard T.V budget documentary with the usual set up of talking heads and archival footage. Nothing is too out of the ordinary. But the story. Oh, how the narrative unravels. The most fascinating things about documentaries about films that fall apart, is how they fall apart. Despite being made, The Island of Dr Moreau is almost like a group of people looking to purposely build a dilapidated household to live in. The worse thing is, we see the cracks appearing from the off.

The film sells Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil) as a once up and coming genre director, whose brush with Hollywood left him burnt. The film sets up a lot of time in displaying Stanley’s intelligence and eccentricities. It’s quick to make Stanley out as an unfortunate, yet likable soul who is nastily shoved out of his own mind bending creation. Despite this, the films set up belies not only the frustrations and anxieties of a studio, but also the difficult balance between art and commerce.

For sure New Line President Robert Shaye is a tad wrong to lump assumptions of Stanley’s love for sugary coffee as a warning sign for trouble ahead (has he not considered Hollywood’s illegal drug problems?). But it’s clear for all to see that Stanley’s outrageously creative ambitions would pose a difficult issue, once New Line actually saw an avenue for decent business. Seriously,  the concept art features a human-dog hybrid licking afterbirth from a genetically mutated human/animal baby. We’ve only now just got around to the idea of a Human Centipede and that’s clearly pretty niche.

Such documentaries become illuminating in the same way as soaps and reality TV. It’s easy to become engrossed in the gossip. And why not. Val Kilmar (at the peak of his stardom) is likened to a preppy high school bully. Fairuza Balk sets upon cross country trip away from production once she finds out about how Stanley is being treated. The reasoning for the trip being cross country? Her lack of geographical knowledge of Australia. We have Brando taking the art of trolling a production to Jupitar sized proportions. The piece de resistance? Well, just because Stanley was fired from production, doesn’t mean he left.

In watching Lost Soul, you realise just how plain some of our filmmakers come across now. The PR stranglehold over productions makes films like this a certain succulence. It’s clear to see that mavericks like Stanley (interest in witchcraft aside) are often considered best avoided by Hollywood. A quick look at the Marvel production line right now, highlights just how much a studio wants their creatives to toe the line (I write this on Ant-man’s opening weekend).

But when an eccentric slips through the ropes, and an inmate gets a chance to take over the asylum, it’s easy to see how they can become lost in a world where power plays and bottom lines become everything and your enemies may be the guys smiling for the camera. Stanley shows throughout that his creativity is in abundance, but his personality is one that simply doesn’t meld with the playboys of LA. Unlike Terry Gilliam, Stanley doesn’t show himself to be a director who wishes to defeat extreme weather.   

What Stanley does give us, though, is an unbelievably rich texture to a deeply unfortunate hot mess.  Unlike Troy Duffy’s aggressive bluster in Overnight (2003), Richard Stanley’s offbeat wit and creative prowess only makes one wish that he was able to stay in the game longer to see what he could have come up with. Sweet tooth or no.  

Friday 17 July 2015

Review: Creep

Year: 2014 (UK Release: 2015)
Director: Patrick Brice
Screenplay: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Starring: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass

Synopsis is here:

The most terrifying thing about Creep is not only how it melds horror tropes into elements that feel way too plausible for their own good. It's the revealing way that it uses masculinity and empathy to its own twisted ends. The film doesn't just find a simple way around its found footage aesthetic, but also crafts a chilling narrative around some of the worse male traits. It's difficult to say more without effectively dismantling the film. It is safe to say that Creep manages to bottle some of those queasy, deceptively aggressive traits that often infiltrate young men.

The first young man; cash strapped, videographer, Arron (Brice), decides to take a Craiglist ad and work for Joesef (Duplass), who wishes to be filmed in a series of videos for his unborn son as his dying wish a la My Life (1993). Simple enough. But Joesef comes off as a little off key and not just in the unconventional spelling of his name. Odd events start off slowly, but as the day goes on, the unease builds. What’s strange is that as odd as Josepf gets, Arron keeps filming. Yes, he’s getting paid handsomely, but there seems to be more to it than that. Is there a connection? If so, do either wish to delve further into the dark?

The impulsive and imbalanced feelings of companionship is something that Mark Duplass has been familiar with since his early mumblecore days (The Puffy Chair, Baghead). Yet here he mixes in that same sense of unease that came with Black Rock (which he co-wrote). A tension which hides behind the somewhat familiar.

Strangely, here with Creep, Duplass feels similar to the likes of Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love. Whereas Sandler subverts his man child aspects, Duplass toys with his outward charming persona to somewhat sinister effect. From the particular wording that his character uses, to the dead eyed gaze that he pulls off a tad too easily. This is all wrapped in his hey buddy charm. Much like someone chipped away at the last bits of decent at his Everyman role from his character in sitcom The League. Despite that character being a douchebag to his friends, at least you'd feel comfortable with him taking a whiskey. Brice gives us the weaker performance, but his simple direction of the narrative combined with Duplass’ oddness helps distract from the film's largest flaw.

The final moments are as compelling as they are terrifying. As the film comments on something that feels closer to home as the earth grows smaller and angrier. It questions our empathy. It's an ending that feels OTT and unbelievable at first, but grows the more it is considered. A character asks a question that an audience member is likely to ask. But the answer to the question and the power of Creep lies much in same reason why all the coverage needs to be shot. We believe we're going to get something good out of this. 

Thursday 16 July 2015

Review: Ted 2

Year: 2015
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Screenplay: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, John Slattery, Jessica Barth, Morgan Freeman

Synopsis is here

This potent independent article helped gather some thoughts on Ted 2, the intermittently funny, yet still unnecessary sequel to Seth MacFarlane 2012 hit. Seth wants to have his cake and eat it. Ted plays fast and loose with jokes about black cocks and white niggas and yet the film gives pays little lip service to black people. Yet ted 2 is a film which is about civil rightsto a point. Really Seth wants to be able to make crummy race jokes while still giving the wink that he's a card carrying liberal. Ted the CGI bear wishes to be considered a human and have his surname called Clubberlang. Here, however, you could say he comes off more as an Archie Bungle.

These days any flaw or dislike in a un-P.C piece of media, instantly considers the viewer as over sensitive. You can't have class if you don't like crass. But despite a favourable view of the previous entry and an admirer of MacFarlane’s animated work, my disinterest in Ted 2 is more down to the fact that that Ted 2’s humour feels thinly spread this time round. Gags feel well-worn and lacking in any type of growth. Much like The Hangover franchise. Ted 2 never feels like the shot in the arm that the first entry gave. It feels like a stale re-tread.

It's no surprise that American Dad has grown from strength to strength out of all Seth’s creations. As it favours less of the oblique randomness that litters Family Guy and Ted. In both Ted 2 and his previous film A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014), Seth has pushed even further towards random non sequiturs with none of the Monty Python flair.

But even Family Guy gains more favour due to its ability to lean on its animation. It shouldn’t be said, but the series can have more fun because it’s a cartoon. It’s become more apparent that MacFarlane has a style that he wishes to stick with. This was fine when Ted was viewed as a one shot. A random series of connected vignettes tied by character and crassness. However, this second time round delivers Ted has less of a rouge and more of an asshole. The jokes that miss are, once again, even more targeted to those with a working knowledge of current American pop culture that’s off the beaten track. This mostly leaves Ted making dick jokes, but lacking with the fairy tale element which caused much of the amusement from before. In addition to this, Wahlberg has less to do. Seyfried is coasting in a drab role and while MacFarlane still doesn’t get enough praise for his vocal ability, Ted is far less lovable this time round. Once the first film became a hit, you can see what little earnestness there was, leave Ted and anything connected to it due to money.

It’s a damn shame that Ted opens with hilariously silly MGM musical-lite titles. It reminds you of how much of a song and dance man MacFarlane can be alone with his love for older Hollywood. There’s clearly some comedic gems to mine there. Yet once the film gets to comic con and makes Star Wars gags (another MacFarlane trait), it’s clear that geeky callback culture currently rules all, and MacFarlane only goes balls out with the easy dick, race and gender jokes, but isn’t interested in skewing things any further. Ted 2 finishes up like the results of what you’d get from an easy bake oven. You’re able to digest it, but you’ll probably need something to wash it down with before forgetting you even had it. A sticky mess. 

Tuesday 14 July 2015

EPISODE 32 - Ted 2, Love and Mercy - 14.7.15

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Dan Taylor hosts and is joined this week by Leslie Byron Pitt & Chris Wilson to discuss the UK Box Office Top Ten, plus... ...chow down on this weeks news, including an RIP to Omar Sharif, how James Bond is about to become a musical, and the end of The Dissolve leads Les on a tirade against modern film criticism... Dan then leads analysis of TED 2, Seth MacFarlane's comedy sequel, which gets a lukewarm reception... Chris dissects LOVE & MERCY, the unorthodox Beach Boys biopic starring both Paul Dano & John Cusack as Brian Wilson... ...before Dan leads induction into the HALL OF FAME once more, this week the Best Actresses never to have won an Oscar. Who will the guys pick?

from Black Hole Cinema

Wednesday 8 July 2015

T-SPECIAL - The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation, Terminator Genisys - 8.7.15

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Tony Black hosts a special episode, alongside guest Lee Chrimes, to discuss the TERMINATOR franchise, with a sneaky look at the UK Box Office along the way... They begin with an examination of THE TERMINATOR, James Cameron's original 1984 classic... TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is up next, Cameron's 1991 sequel, which Lee judges as 'better than The Godfather Pt 2'... Onto TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, from Jonathan Mostow in 2003, which Tony argues is much better than people give it credit for... Then TERMINATOR SALVATION, the McG 2009 franchise continuation, which Lee passionately defends from its critics... Taking a momentary T-break, Tony pops into his DIRECTOR'S CORNER to discuss the filmography of James Cameron - which one of his movies will turn out to be Lee's favourite ever movie? Before finally the boys get into TERMINATOR GENISYS, the brand new franchise kickstarter from Alan Taylor - but is it any good? Come with us if you want to listen...

from Black Hole Cinema

Monday 6 July 2015

Article: Paying Attention

Perhaps to quell the angry noise of Kanye West haters still bitching about his Glastonbury set nearly a week later. Joe Queenan wrote a piece for The Guardian film blog in which he skipped out to answer his phone during a one point of Jurassic World.  He found that he missed a pivotal plot point which makes the film’s half assed climax feel even more like a full on Deus Ex Machina. The piece has annoyed the twitter filminista with its snarky, trollish tone.

One paragraph states:

"This was amazing. I have been ducking out of movies to get more candy or answer phone calls or reply to texts or go to the loo for years, yet this was the first time I had ever missed something important. With good reason: Movies are filled with dead spots, padding, meaningless interludes, pointless detours, grace notes and extraneous subplots that you don’t have to see to follow the movie. There is nothing in any Adam Sandler or Fast and the Furious movie that will ruin the film-going experience for you if you miss it. You don’t need to see every frame of The Godfather or Gladiator or Avatar or even Sleepless in Seattle to see where things are headed."

Even despite the film examples used, this paragraph seems tailor made to annoy the BFI brats and Sight and Sound sons.  Of course I disagree with it. Your first year of film studies will have you detailing shot by shot analysis, while further study will delightfully inform you that every shot, nee second of a film is infused with reason and meaning. Possibly not a necessary thing for an causal viewer, but for someone whose writing about movies, I'd rather if they followed a similar trait.

Meanwhile, a quick google will also detail that Queenan is a self-professed “clown”. It’s actually a bit odd to see good film friends, seemingly had not sensed the tone that’s gleamed from the piece. At first read, while I didn’t like what the post was saying, I could easily pick up the tone.

However, the issue that comes with such a piece, joke or not, is the privilege of the film/media writer. Film criticism is already fraught with its own anxieties. It’s bad enough that the causal film viewer views, critics and writers as the devil. They are viewed as a humourless blob of portentous think pieces and mise-en-scene, who only exist to hate the films they love. With failed pieces of humour debating that film and culture writers don’t have to watch what they write about, it’s easy to see why people have got their back up. Annoyingly, I wonder why there isn’t more ire about such pieces, because they’re becoming the norm.

Last month Joni Edelman decided that Pixar aren’t thinking of the children with a piece about Inside Out body shaming kids before they even know what body shaming is. She had not seen the film. Doesn’t mean she can’t be condescending:

“I can't write with any real authority about Inside Out, because I haven't seen the movie, but I'm pretty much 100% positive that seeing the movie isn't required to make this judgment. Because here's the thing about movies: They are made of pictures. And visual memory is more reliable than auditory or tactile. That's right, folks, we remember what we see.”

Yes. We do remember what we see. But it would be nice if you watch the film that you’ve decided to attack the film company about.

Speaking of body shaming. Established critic Rex Reed; who gleefully insulted Melissa McCathy’s weight in his review for Identity Thief, decided he didn’t need to watch VHS2 in order to review it. Stating that the film was unwatchable from start to finish, yet walking out 20 minutes into the film.

Dennis Jett felt there’s no need to watch American Sniper in order to deem its morals as heinous. His think-piece stating that he’s watched the trailer and that’s all he needs to watch to fully understand the morals of the film. Let’s forget that most trailers are not made the filmmakers and that they are used to make the film as marketable as it can be. All you need is trailer footage.

Readers want to feel what they are reading is somewhat informed. Bloggers like myself, may write hackneyed critiques at the likes of Armond White, but no matter how I sometimes feel about his criticism, I always feel that I’ve been informed by his work. It’s amusing that that left leaning media like The Guardian is quoting how it wishes to keep journalism free and fearless, yet we receive film blog posts making light of not actually paying attention to what they’re watching. To have a blogger for the Huffpost boldly state her feminist leanings, yet decides that the film she wishes read the riot act to, isn’t worth watching because a “friend confirmed” her suspicions, undermines critical thinking at the most basic level. It’s important that the likes of Edelman speaks out about body image and feminist issues, but what’s the point if she’s unwilling to look into the main body of text she's annoyed at? The same goes for a journalist being quick to attack American Sniper’s Red State, right wing, flag waving, but isn’t watching the film needed to be watch yet to bolster their point? In researching for this post, I found myself on some American Republican sites that I’d rather not have on my history. Yet at least they watched the film that the argument is about.

These writers don’t need clicks from me to gain their paycheque, or more exposure. However, what’s bothersome is the idea that writers are not watching the film that they want to stop you from watching. Yet they still believe that they’re fully justified.  In this day and age, I see so many talented and hungry writers struggling to find a readership, let alone payment. Meanwhile, those who already hold the exposure believe that not actually watching the thing that they bemoaning is the right way to go.

I could be wrong. But I doubt I’m the only person bothered by the fact that we’re seeing more media and pop culture writers writing in a similar way to the anonymous commenters that often get mocked. We laugh at their whining and trolling at reviews of movies they’ve not yet seen. Yet now we’re seeing writers with proper viewership’s endorsing similar traits, but with larger word counts. That said, in this pay per click world, I’m not sure many care. With attention spans going the way of the dodo. It’s doubtful the readers finish the offending pieces. Minds already made up before finishing the first paragraph. When in Rome.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Review: Terminator Genisys

Year: 2015
Director: Alan Taylor
Screenplay: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Starring: Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J. K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, and Lee Byung-hun.

Synopsis iswell.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s amusing dig at Family Guy (Cartoon Wars) and how they create their non sequitur jokes and narratives, is still one of the crowning achievements of the 20 season strong show. Stone and Parker took on their “rivals” with the idea that the weak writing in Family Guy stems from the idea that the staff are actually manatees who lob random “idea balls” of pop culture references, verbs, and nouns into a giant machine. The way Cartman vents his displeasure at Family Guy’s still feels on point nine years on:

“I am NOTHING like Family Guy! When I make jokes, they are inherent to a story! Deep, situational and emotional jokes based on what is relevant and has a POINT! Not just one interchangeable joke after another!”

Idea Balls have now gone from a satirical jibe to rite of passage when it comes to the summer blockbuster. Upon watching Terminator Genisys, with its incoherent muddle of alternative timelines, killer apps and half considered concepts, it’s hard not to be reminded of the idea balls. Director Alan Taylor doesn’t seem to help matters. Worryingly quoted in an interview with The Daily Beast:  

“My favourite part is using humor to sort of skate over it,” Taylor said, optimistically. “It’s a way of saying, ‘You may not get this, but who cares? Keep going!’ There’s a scene where J.K. Simmons [who plays a detective] comes in and says, ‘What you’re doing seems really complicated.’ And [Sarah Connor] says, ‘We’re here to save the world!’ And he says, ‘I can work with that.’ Basically, that’s what we’re telling the audience: Go with it, we’re saving the world.”

Welcome to the culture of the callback. You know the brand? Good. It’s the only thing that’s cared about. Like Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys urges you to dismiss logical coherence because you know the name of the franchise. Genisys does well to replicate sequences that were found in James Cameron’s seminal piece of low-fi sci-fi. It enjoys nodding and winking to the mythology, but does so at the expense of decent logic.

It’s easy to dismiss such a criticism. Fans of Jurassic World have exclaimed that you shouldn’t look for sense in a film about modern day dinosaurs. I’m sure many will see me judging a film about time traveling metal assassins a little too harshly. However, it’s now starting to bother me about the amount of films that people are telling me to ignore the storyline and just consume. Isn’t that why we go to the movies, to see good looking escapism well told? Instead of asking why I’m looking for more, may I question why we are settling for less? I find this especially frustrating when considering original sources for these blockbuster franchises. Which were enjoyable for how well they constructed their escapism.

Genisys trudges from timeline to timeline with little to no rhyme or reason, bringing with it another charmless performance from Jai Courtney and a dubiously perky display from Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke. Together they hold a certain chemistry, but it’s one that would play better in a Nicholas Sparks film. Jason Clarke, Matt Smith and J.K Simmons do what they can with piecemeal roles, while Lee Byung-hun gets royally shafted by being the right person in the wrong film. His role as a villainous T-1000 is better than the film deserves. Genisys decides the best thing to do with him making sure that his role doesn’t make sense, before burying him as quickly as possible. It’s frustrating to see an actor shoved into a role with no other reason other than to pad out the films running time.

What about Arnie? As opposed to my issues with The Last Stand (2013) in which Schwarzengger came off as stiff and awkward, he once again shows that he was born to play the T-800. Although this time it seems clear that Arnie is having a hard time trying his hardest not corpse in his scenes. Annoyingly, Genisys’ lousy screenplay ups the ante by making the character more “human”. So now we have Arnie crack more jokes and parody the role as if the film was directed by a Zucker brother.

Genisys is actually directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World). An experienced T.V and film director, Taylor delivers competent action sequences and frames the throwback 1984 sequence meticulously.  But to what avail? Genisys’ horrid screenplay would be a quagmire for any filmmaker to work with. It’s confusing, confounding, and full of risible dialogue. It’s also constantly hedging its bets on explaining itself in future instalments. A trend that I’m finding more and more loathsome as I grow older and realise more and more that my time on this earth is finite.

However, people’s hunger for franchise lip service seems to be limitless. Terminator Genisys has an extremely healthy IMDB rating, which happily laughs in my cynical face. That’s fine. I wish those fans no ill will. I however will sleep easier tonight once the lingering images of Genisys leave me like a ghost completing its unfinished business.  

BLACK HOLE CLASSICS #3 - Blade Runner - 5.7.15

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Tony Black hosts another Black Hole Classic, this time joined by Matt Latham to discuss his designated classic movie... BLADE RUNNER, the cult 1982 Ridley Scott sci-fi adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novella 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?', which divided critics on release - why over three decades later is it considered such a great movie?

from Black Hole Cinema