"Yeah some of our clothes are from victims. You might bite someone and… More"Yeah some of our clothes are from victims. You might bite someone and then, you think, 'Oooh, those are some nice pants'".
Anyone familiar with the little independent Antipodean comedy Eagle vs Shark or the cult TV series Flight of the Conchords will happen to find themselves on comfortable ground with What We Do In the Shadows as the co-creators of these works, Taiki Waititi and Jermaine Clement collaborate again to deliver one the most genuinely funny comedies for some time.
There's a big event for the undead in Wellington, New Zealand called 'The Unholy Masquerade' and upon the day, a documentary film crew are allowed access to film a bunch of vampires as they share their experiences and what everyday life is like for these creatures of the night.
Fly on the wall mockumentaries is a format that been done many times before. The TV series The Office has had great success in recent times and the likes of Rob Reiner's This is Spinal Tap has made a lasting impression on people since it's release in 1984. However, Waititi and Clement have came up with a new (and strangely obvious) idea on how to gain more mileage from this particular style of filmmaking. Why has no one tapped into the lore and dark myths of vampires and used it for laughs? Granted, some films like Vampire's Kiss in 1989 had an outrageous Nicolas Cage using his couch as a coffin and (famously) eating live cockroaches and Roman Polanski's 1967 The Fearless Vampire Killers had found a cult status but vampire's, probably now more than ever, are in very hot demand what with the Twilight movies and HBO's True Blood. We can't seem to get enough of them but we are still taking them all very seriously. As a result, this film comes at a perfect time.
For a project of this nature to work, though, you have to be up on your vampire knowledge and the pop-culture surrounding them. By this, I mean from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice; Blade to The Lost Boys and not forgetting Nosferatu along the way. You also have to open to the ways and needs of a vampire's existence. If you are all of the above, then sit back and allow this film to sink it's teeth in and deliver it hilariously satirical comedy.
First and foremost, the characters are brilliantly written and every one of the actors deliver brilliant performances. Each of our vampires have their own style (or lack of, as the case may be); we have the 379 year old Viago (Taika Waititi), the dandy gent of Anne Rice.
183 year old Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), the cool rock star type al la The Lost Boys.
862 year old Vladislav (Jermaine Clement) who riffs on Bram Stoker's work and 8,000 year old Petyr (Ben Fransham), hiding in his darkened room and resembling the Max Schreck of Nosferatu!
As they co-habit and flat share, they argue about domestic duties and who's turn it is to do the dishes. Deacon hasn't done them in five years and anal-retentive Viago would like his flatmates to give some consideration for the decor and furnishings by putting newspapers down before feasting on their victims as the arterial spray can cause quite a mess. They even knit a scarf for their human friend who they all agree not to feed on.
It's these exchanges with each other that provide genuine laughs and as they scour the New Zealand night scene for "food" they must rely on doormen to invite them into nightclubs as they can't enter on their own accord and have run-in's with the local Werewolves who are so gentlemanly and well mannered that they don't want to be known as Swearwolves.
Admittedly, there are periodic lulls but, thankfully, they're brief and when the laughs are delivered they can be genuinely side splitting. I can often be very critical of both horror and comedy as I often find that they either try too hard or simply don't have the material but What We Do In the Shadows really hits the spot with sharp and observant humour,
A hugely successful medley of of a filmmaking style and pop-culture sub-genre that is, without a doubt, one of the silliest and funniest films of 2014.
Those familiar with Wes Anderson will now know that his style needs no… MoreThose familiar with Wes Anderson will now know that his style needs no introduction. So much has been written or said about his idiosyncrasy that there are few adjectives left in which to describe his very unique approach to filmmaking and storytelling. Those that find him ostentatious or grandiose will likely want to avoid this (his eight film) while those that rejoice in his work will no doubt find this a boisterous festivity and celebration of his artistry.
During the 1960's, a young author (Jude Law) visits The Grand Budapest Hotel - one of Europe's most respected establishments. He meets it's owner M. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who tells him of when he was a young lobby boy (Tony Revolori) and how he came to know the colourful and flamboyant M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and the adventures they shared in the hotel.
As much as Anderson's style is so well known now, so too is the consistent ensemble of actors that he's able to amass. All-be-it in cameo roles, his most reliable trio from the early days of his career in Wilson, Schwartzman and Murray are here, once again. His mid-career actors like Goldblum, Dafoe and Brody make further appearances while Swinton, Norton and Keitel add themselves to the mix again following "Moonrise Kingdom". Their roles may be small but no matter how small, it's still great to see such a wonderful ensemble of actors all get the chance to interact. However, it's the newcomer in Fiennes that's the main focus and the true star of the show. His performance is endearing and his comic-timing absolutely note perfect. His ability to accentuate a simple word of profanity can, at times, produce some genuinely hilarious moments. After witnessing his work here and his darker comedic turn in "In Bruges" it would seem that Fiennes is just as comfortable with comedy as he is with drama. I'd definitely welcome him flexing more of his comedic chops in the future.
Another one who plays a major role in the proceedings is Robert Yoeman. No Wes Anderson review would be complete without mentioning the sublimely colourful work of this fantastic cinematographer. The film is a real feast for the eyes and as Anderson maintains a brisk pace while juggling numerous characters, Yoeman allows him to create his illusion on a wondrous palette of delicacies.
It's fast. It's intricately layered. It has a slight edge of darkness. Ultimately, though, it's entertaining - as Anderson so often is. Many have declared it his best film and although I don't agree, I wouldn't argue with it being his most ambitious. 9 Academy Awards (although a glaring omission for Fiennes) is further proof that he hasn't ran out of ideas or that his approach has become tiresome. There seems to be life in Anderson yet and I still find myself wondering and intrigued by what his next adventure will be.
When George Clooney made his directorial debut in 2002 with the… MoreWhen George Clooney made his directorial debut in 2002 with the off-beat Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and followed it up with the superb McCarthyism drama Good Night and Good Luck it seemed that he had just as much talent behind the camera as he did in front of it. However, the dull Leatherheads and largely disappointing The Ides of March came next which threw some doubt over his ability to call the shots. With The Monuments Men I'd, unfortunately, have to say that this has more in common with with his latter efforts.
During World War II, Frank Stokes (George Clooney) learns of Hitler's intention to steal the world's greatest works of art for his own personal museum. Under the permission of President Roosevelt, Stokes assembles an unlikely platoon of art experts to enter into war-torn Europe and rescue thousands of years of cultural heritage before the Nazis and the Soviets get their hands on them.
Credit to Clooney for trying to evoke old-fashioned Hollywood movies as, for the most part, he succeeds. There's a pleasant feel to the proceedings that brings reminders of John Sturges' The Great Escape or Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen. Like those films, it has an abundance of quality actors onscreen and despite their roles seriously lacking in characterisation they bring a certain playfulness and much needed charisma. In fact, if the stars weren't as easily watchable as they are then the film itself would completely fall flat. Despite it's easy going nature, though, there are glaring shifts in tone. Just as your relaxing into the whole caper vibe, it throws in some serious dramatic moments and events that are jarring. I suppose I may be being overly critical when the film is all about a race against fascism but it just struck me that Clooney couldn't fully realise his intentions here.
An admirable attempt to replicate an old-fashioned movie but it only really works on the surface. Once you dig a little deeper, it's all very two dimensional and superficial. That being said, if all you're looking for is some unabashed entertainment without having to think too much then this should go down without much fuss.
"Who's gonna read me my bedtime stories?"
The 1970's has always been… More"Who's gonna read me my bedtime stories?"
The 1970's has always been a decade of film that I've never withheld my appreciation for. I'd go as far to say that's it's been the best in terms of American cinema. It was the decade where we were introduced to some of the finest screen actors in DeNiro, Nicholson & Pacino. We had films of such high calibre as The Godfather's, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, The Deer Hunter, Dog Day Afternoon. I could go on and on here but I mention this because Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep where another two of these marvellous performers and Kramer vs Kramer one of the films that's so often forgotten about.
Career man Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is so caught up with work that his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) feels exhausted and unappreciated. She makes the decision to leave him but also decided to leave him with their six-year old son Billy (Justin Henry). Ted has to learn quickly how to be a hands-on father and by the time he gets used to it Joanna reappears claiming custody of Billy.
As well as the 70's being a strong decade, much admiration has also went to films in terms of Oscar sweeps. Only three films in the history of the Academy Awards have won all top five awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress & Screenplay). If you consider Kramer Vs Kramer for a moment, most wouldn't normally think that this film came close to that achievement. But it did. The only award that it didn't win was Best Actress but had Meryl Streep been considered in the leading actress category it might well have done. She won Best Supporting Actress instead which makes this film very close to achieving the full sweep.
Resisting the temptation to be melodramatic, it's a fairly straightforward family drama. Films of these types tend to fall into courtroom drama's (of which this touches upon) but never falls prey to that sub-genre. The beauty in Kramer vs Kramer is not to rely on high tension or confrontation but on the human aspect of relationships and family life. It emotionally resonates by showing us the everyday; heated discussions, playtimes, bedtime stories and frustrating meal times. It might not sound like much but there's a real heartfelt authenticity in capturing these moments. Director Robert Benton, wisely, knows when to focus on his actors and has a marvellous ability to capture realism. As a result, he's aided with some stunningly delivered performances; both Hoffman and Streep are at the very top of their game and young Justin Henry is no less their equal as their young afflicted son caught in the middle.
A beautifully realised dramatic piece that benefits from the whole cast and crew delivering honest work. It fully manages to capture and depict both the beauty and the difficulty of parenting and with a thoughtful intelligence, portrays the motivations and decisions from it's characters without ever passing judgment. Another one of the decade's true highlights.
"You should never stop thinking about a life you've taken. That's the… More"You should never stop thinking about a life you've taken. That's the price you pay for taking it"
After the surprise success of his Australian family crime drama Animal Kingdom, David Michôd became a highly anticipated new director overnight. It opened to rave reviews with Quentin Tarantino himself reportedly ranking it his third favourite movie of 2010. The most familiar face onboard was Guy Pearce but it also introduced many cinema goers to the fresh and vibrant talents of Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver. Now four years later, Michôd's back with a post-apocalyptic road movie working from a story he collaborated on with Edgerton and allows Pearce to add another solid role to his resumé.
Ten years after an economic collapse, modern society has been brought to it's knees. Travelling through Australia is Eric (Guy Pearce) a former farmer with a violent past.
When his car is stolen by a gang of thieves Eric goes in pursuit and will, seemingly, stop at nothing to get it back.
When exploring the Australian outback in a dystopian setting one would be forgiven for thinking of George Miller's Mad Max but as that film had fantastical elements and caricature villains, Michôd's The Rover is an altogether different beast. It's no fantasy and any form of humour only comes in the blackest of dialogue. This is a near-future economic collapse that's so bleak that images of people crucified to telegraph poles is just accepted and dogs are kept in cages just to keep them alive.
It's grim stuff and Michôd seems to wallow in it. He's also in no rush to reach his destination; the story is ambiguous, the pacing deliberate and some would even complain that it lacks any form of narrative drive. However, it's nihilism can be strangely captivating and it's so well shot by cinematographer Natasha Braier that's its hard not to find some beauty in it's stark landscapes.
Throughout it's periodic lulls, it's held together by it's two excellent central performances. The always reliable Pearce is a snarling menace of a man who has adapted to survive in this environment at the cost of his own soul. And Pattinson. Yes! Twilight pin-up, Robert Pattinson, surprisingly, holds his own. I expected to be critical of him but he delivers revelatory work as a dim-witted tag-along complete with facial tics and nervous energy and I'm sure his work here will silence many of his critics. Where both their performances excel is actually in their eyes. They deliver the requisite empty and dead-eyed stare of men who have been reduced to nothing more than barbarism. That barbarism comes in sudden bursts of mindless violence that jolt you out of your seat and the gun shots, bullet wounds and deaths all have a palpable sense of realism.
Despite the marvellous performances, striking appearance and visceral approach, though, the story lacks depth and if it did have a consistency beyond veiled existentialism then I must have missed it. Ultimately, there isn't really a story but it's the ending that will no doubt make or break a viewers experience. Either you'll feel convinced and that it has meaning in exploring the last vestige of hope from a desperate and broken man or you'll feel robbed and that the steak you thought you were savouring for an hour and 45 mins turns out to be just an old piece of leather. It's entirely up to you.
Much like the the hair style of Pearce's character, it's patchy. But it's hard to take your eyes away. I can't honestly say why I liked it, I just know I did.
Having been a fan of both Sexy Beast and the underrated Birth, I was… MoreHaving been a fan of both Sexy Beast and the underrated Birth, I was happy to hear that Jonathan Glazer's third directorial outing would be an adaptation of a Michael Faber popular science fiction novel of the same name. Also (as a Glaswegian myself) I was even more intrigued to hear that this forthcoming story would be set primarily in Glasgow. I was interested in how the city and it's inhabitants would be depicted and I have to admit that Glazer's decision to do so, has paid dividends.
A mysterious, and otherworldly, woman (Scarlett Johansson) arrives in Scotland where she wanders and drives around with the intention of seducing lonely men. The encounters she has, lead her to question her own existence as she strives for some meaning to her life and those around her.
Did I hear anyone say Species? Of course, those who are familiar with Roger Donaldson's 1995, B-movie Sci-Fi will undoubtedly make comparisons with the premise of Glazer's third outing but the film itself actually shares more in common with the originality of Nicolas Roeg's 1976 film, The Man Who Fell To Earth. However, these films are mentioned in the same breath for very good reason as Under The Skin feels, somewhat, like the love child of Natasha Henstridge and David Bowie. Scarlett Johansson's unnamed extra-terrestrial has the same man-devouring intentions as Henstridge while director Jonathan Blazer has an uncanny knack for Roeg's ethereal qualities. It could also be pointed out that Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch in 1980 could have had an influence in utilising the grim and gloomy Glasgow locations for a sombre, science fiction mood piece.
It's has a hugely experimental approach to filmmaking but one that's entirely fitting to the films themes of isolation and understanding. Many Glasgow residents were filmed in secret (signing a disclaimer afterwords to be included in the final cut) and it's this secret filming that adds an authenticity to their behaviour and allows us to see ourselves through the eyes of another entity. In this case, it's almost a stroke of genius to have the often indecipherable Glaswegians as the focus of this alien being's intentions. Many don't understand the Glaswegian dialect or idiom and even though I completely understood what they were saying, I can only assume that many viewers wouldn't quite grasp it the same way. Maybe I'm wrong but I often get the impression that the colloquialisms of the city do seem alien to people. I could even sense that Johansson herself didn't know what they were saying at times but this only added the distance between her and the supporting characters. No one does anything of particular note but it's their mundane existence that Johansson's character finds interesting and it adds a rather captivating edge when seen through her eyes. Few, if any, science fiction films have managed to capture this concept or observation so well and it's this that lends the film a true originality that bypasses the B-movie shlock of Species and comfortably finds it's path on Roeg-ish territory.
That being said, Under the Skin can, at times, be a tough watch and will certainly not appeal to those that who prefer to be spoonfed their science fiction. There's a leisurely pace and the foreboding music score by Mica Levi and brilliantly bleak cinematography by Daniel Landin only add to the overall sense of dread and depression. The entire point of it all in creating and conveying a distance is also the very approach that could leave many a viewer struggling to find any enjoyment. It's also a role for Johansson that will 'alienate' many of her fans but those who are patient and appreciate art-house cinema will be richly rewarded.
Much like the lure Johansson has over her male counterparts, the film itself lures you into a meditative frame of mind and refuses to let go. Some may see it as pretentious but whether or not you grasp itâ??s existential ponderingâ??s, thereâ??s still no denying itâ??s mesmerising mood. Bold filmmaking and quite unlike anything else from 2014.
"Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have… More"Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character"
By the time that Quentin Tarantino's sophomore effort reached us in 1994, he had already been heralded as the new wunderkind of American cinema. His debut Reservoir Dogs recaptured the magic of the heist thriller and his screenplay to the bold and brilliant True Romance opened up a real desire to see more of his fast-talking low life's. Pulp Fiction is no different and is now widely considered a cinematic classic. It received 7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Director and one for each of it's leading trio of actors in Travolta, Thurman and Jackson. It walked away with the Best Screenplay award and it won the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. On this evidence alone, it's hard to argue that Tarantino not only delivered on, but surpassed, his early promise.
In L.A.'s criminal underworld, the lives and stories of the inhabitants intertwine. There are two hitmen with very different outlooks, a boxer forced to take a dive for the money, a gangster's moll who likes to dance and do drugs and many others who play a part in shaping their redemptive paths.
"...a shapeless mass of matter" or "a magazine or book containing lurid subject matter...". These are the definitions of the word "Pulp" which we are provided with before the film even begins. As a result, Tarantino's masterpiece is self-referential from the opening title card. What follows is only proof of his intentions to recreate the trashy and hardboiled pulp novels of the early 20th century. Even the film's poster reflects the sensational cover art of these novels and it's this attention to detail that's often overlooked in Tarantino's homage to a bygone age. I suppose it's understandable that these details are overlooked considering Tarantino's highly stylish approach. He employs his (now common) nonlinear storylines and chapters, his abundantly original cast of characters and his dialogue has rarely been sharper. Quite honestly, he takes great pride in making pop-cultural references but the film itself has nowhere red the very pop-culture it revels in. To this day, it's endlessly quoted and few, if any, will ever frown at you inquisitively if you were to make a Pulp Fiction reference.
It's not just the one-liners, the observant monologues or the endless back and forth, intelligent and philosophical discussions between the characters, it's the fact that snippets of dialogue actually matter in terms of the overall structure. Something can be flippantly mentioned one minute only for it to resurface with relevance at a later part in the film. Ultimately, it's the dialogue that brings every strand together and it's, quite simply, masterfully assembled.
To embody his colourful characters, Tarantino assembles his most impressive cast yet. Considering his relative obscurity at the time, it was a bit of a gamble to have John Travolta headline the whole affair as hitman Vincent Vega (the brother of Michael Madsen's Vic Vega from Reservoir Dogs) but I don't think I'd be alone in saying that it was a welcome return to scintillating form. Uma Thurman also impresses as Mia, the coke snorting gangster's moll who seems ill at ease with all the violence and whispers that surround her no-nonsense kingpin husband Marsellus Wallace (a brilliant Ving Rhames). Even the limited acting skills of Bruce Willis are all but forgotten as the self-important, ageing pugilist, Butch Coolidge (a role originally offered to Mickey Rourke and Matt Dillon) but the real prize possession would have to be Samuel L. Jackson's Jules Winnfield, Vincent's unhinged partner who likes to quote passages from the bible and believes in divine intervention.
There are so many great performances that it's hard to mention them all. From top to bottom, the whole cast bring Tarantino's dialogue to life; from the aforementioned main performers to the supporting likes of Christopher Walken's Captain Koons who hid an uncomfortable watch "up his ass" for 2 years to Zed and Maynard - Peter Greene and Duane Whitaker's white trash who like to "bring out the gimp" and sodomise their captives. There's even a character who only gets mentioned by name but still makes an impression: Antwone Rockamora, brilliantly nicknamed "Tony Rocky Horror" who's mentioned in an unforgettable, lengthy discussion on the sexual implications of massaging a woman's feet and whether it's in the same ballpark as "sticking your tongue in the holiest of the holies". So iconic are these characters and blackly comic dialogue that most will know exactly what I'm talking about without me having to elaborate and therein lies the sheer joy and richness of the film.
From illuminated McGuffins to Big Kahuna Burgers, Pulp Fiction is one of a kind. It redefined the crime film with it's emphasis on cool and endlessly quotable dialogue and there's so much attention to characterisation that Tarantino could have made several films from his material. Watching "a bunch of gangsters doin' a bunch of gangster shit" has never been more enjoyable.