Trailer: Inherent Vice

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This is way more comically broad that I expected it to be, but the trailer for P.T. Anderson’s 1960s set ‘beach-noir’ is zany and across the board hilarious. I’m going to call it here, this is Anderson’s The Big Lebowski, if this is any indication.

Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon and Eric Roberts are delivering the goods with no apparent safety net.

Have at it.

Review: We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Director: Simon Hawkins, Zeke Hawkins
Writer: Dutch Southern
Starring: Jeremy Allen White, Logan Huffman, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Pellegrino
Producer: Justin X. Duprie, Brian Udovich
Country: USA
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 2013
BBFC Certificate: 15


I love a good ‘noirish’ crime thriller, both in novel and film form. From the full on film noir of the 40’s and 50’s to neo-noir such as L.A. Confidential and No Country For Old Men, I’ve always been drawn to the dark, elaborate plots and hard boiled dialogue and content. So, when the press release for We Gotta Get Out of This Place popped up in my inbox, I jumped at the chance of reviewing the film.

The chief influence of this debut feature from brothers Simon and Zeke Hawkins isn’t really The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon or anything like that though (books or films). Barely 5 minutes into the film, when one of the characters is discussing the latest crime novel she’s reading, she pulls out and recommends South of Heaven by Jim Thompson. With this love of the author’s work coming back into the film a couple of times later too, it’s clear that We Gotta Get Out of This Place is an ode to the hardboiled American author. I must admit I haven’t read any of his books (even though I should have given my penchant for the crime genre) so I’ll probably have missed further references to them, but it didn’t stop me from appreciating the style the filmmakers were trying to recreate.

The plot of the film concerns the trouble three friends get into just as they approach a turning point in their lives. Living in a small town in Texas, cut off from the more forward thinking world of the city, two of the teenagers are keen to “get out of this place” as the title puts it. Having just finished school and being pretty bright, Bobby (Jeremy Allen White) and Sue (Mackenzie Davis) are all set to achieve this by going to college, with Sue’s boyfriend B.J. (Logan Huffman) due to be left behind to tread water in the backwards town. This doesn’t seem to phase him (at first) and he wants his friends to leave in style, so he takes the two of them out for the night of their lives. Not having enough cash to do so, B.J. foolishly steals a whole lot of money from his boss Giff (Mark Pellegrino) to fund the evening. Giff isn’t the most forgiving of people though and, when Bobby takes the blame and the others are implicated too, he threatens them into stealing back a larger amount of money from his own boss, Big Red (William Devane), or face the brutal consequences.

This setup got me totally hooked. You could see things were going to spiral out of control and the mismatched characters alongside some other complications (blossoming from the fact that Bobby and Sue clearly have the hots for each other) all pointed towards a film that would tick all of my boxes.

For the most part this was true and the film delivered the crime/noir tropes that I know and love as well as offering its own twist on them. However, I couldn’t help feeling that it never lived up to the strength of the opening third. Once the idea of the forced heist was set up and the love triangle started to take centre stage I felt the film dwindled a bit, leading to a less engaging mid-section. The performances are decent, feeling fairly natural (Huffman was a little over the top, although this was more due to the writing than the actor’s delivery) but the relationship problems weren’t really interesting enough to excite me like some of the initial ideas did.

B.J’s ways of dealing with the revelations get quite nasty, but ultimately the end result of this as well as the film’s finale in general felt a bit predictable. I was expecting a number of mind-boggling twists and turns, but instead there’s just (SPOILER) a predictable double-cross and a bog-standard ‘villain showdown’. (END OF SPOILER).

That said, the film is undeniably well made. In terms of mood and style, everything is handled brilliantly. There’s a first person perspective sequence in the middle which, although stylish and clever, sticks out like a sore thumb, but for the most part this is a dark and moody thriller/drama with some beautifully gloomy cinematography and a cool soundtrack.

There’s a nice hardboiled edge to things too, largely whenever Giff is involved. His scenes always demand your attention, partly due to a great performance, but also down to how downright evil his character is.

As good as a number of elements were, I couldn’t help feeling that We Gotta Get Out of This Place could have been that bit stronger though. It just lost a bit of momentum for me and then ended in a fairly uninspired manner. I’d still recommend the film to fans of Thompson and crime/noir in general, but don’t expect a Coen Brothers level reimagining.

We Gotta Get Out of This Place is out in UK cinemas on 15th August and on DVD on 8th September, released by Metrodome. I saw an online screener so can’t comment on the quality or features of the DVD release.

Trailer: The Theory of Everything

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If there is a modern man’s story worth knowing, surely the argument could be made for that story to be Stephen Hawking’s. He’s no stranger to the limelight and there have been numerous documentaries, books, and profiles of the man over the years, but now we are getting a full-fledged biopic of Hawking’s life both before his motor neuron disease took control of his life and after he had his success in physics.

The film, which is directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire) is titled The Theory of Everything. Starring Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables, My Week with Marilyn) as Hawking and Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) as his first wife Jane, it looks to be a well-made, if not by-the-books examination of the man’s early years in college along with his personal struggle coping with the disease while trying to balance his personal and professional life.

If the trailer is any indicator, there will be a heavy emphasis on the relationship between he and his first wife. I’m definitely interested in seeing this, as it’s hard not to be interested in Hawking’s rather incredible life story.

The Theory of Everything opens up on November 7, 2014.

Fantasia Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy


Confirming two axioms of popular cinema simultaneously, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (hereafter Guardians) demonstrates that there is nothing new under the sun, but also that execution can easily trump story to make a pretty swanky piece of pop bubblegum. Director James Gunn and his capable writers are only a few fourth wall breaks away from Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs in that Guardians is a loving parody of the space adventure genre while also delivering memorable characters and banter and sight gags. Every place name is ludicrously silly, all the stakes are kept thankfully low due to the attitude of the characters and the movie. It puts the fun back into the multiplex popcorn film that this summer has been lacking outside of Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Guardians feels like the entire film is set in the key of that dense, fun, and most importantly, cocky scene.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gunn’s voice is not silenced by the Marvel machine, I am curious to see if this movie changes the way people look at Jackson Pollack, or for that matter, parents have to explain that one-off joke to their kids (it will likely sail right over their tiny little heads like the blow job gag in Ghostbusters). Much like Sam Raimi’s initial foray into studio filmmaking, Army of Darkness, Gunn gets to bring in all of his favourite peeps to the party: Nathan Fillion, Gregg Henry (the filthy mayor from Slither), Lloyd Kaufman (Troma), even his brother Sean get cameos to pop in on the periphery to the main action. Even Kevin Bacon, who worked with Gunn as fried-eggs-loviing villain in Super, is here in spirit, mildly begging the question of whether or not he gets paid for his presence. Michael Rooker, in blue face paint right over top of his beard, enjoys a pretty significant opportunity to that thing he does. That is to look distinctly uncomfortable for our amusement, like he is having an unexpected orgasm in his pants while trying to make polite conversation at a party. This is the spirit of Guardians, in a way. Rooker is indeed excellent and off kilter as Starlord’s passive-agressive father-figure, and lover of troll dolls and kitchy knick-knacks.

Christ Pratt, as Peter Quill, aka Starlord, sports the tone, all-america surfer body of Caspar Van Dien in Starship Troopers, but is anything but vacant. He is self-away, sharp, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker all-in-one. Pratt nails timing of the screenplay and the sight gags. The tone of his salvage-man loner, happily adrift in the junkyard of space oddities feels not one bit realistic in someone surviving as the last man in space, but nevertheless very right. When he gathers all of these oddballs in the opening act of the film, 100% at odds with one another (one character even phones the villains their location to come and fight) he charmingly negotiates their foibles with wit and grace, but mainly invites everyone (audience included) to dance this little dance with him and enjoy the beauty and the fury of this wide universe.

The movie effortlessly cribs from Star Wars, The Heavy Metal Movie (particularly the John Candy driven Loknar segment), Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond The Stars and even the pilot for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Forgive my need to catalogue this kind of minutiae. All of this Mega-franchise connectedness of the Marvel-verse seems to invite this sort of thing, even when it isn’t important or necessary.

More than all of this, Guardians feels like an Edgar Wright movie (note the Peter Ser. All the best jokes in Guardians involve either character driven humour or visual gags involving framing and film grammar; the way stuff happens in the background, or looking away from a dense action set-piece to a nonchalant bit of calm negotiation happening just off to the side of all furious noise. The wicked soundtrack of precisely calibrated and implanted pop songs is perfection, even if many of the cassette tape moments were omnipresent in the marketing. Seeing how well Guardians works outside of the usual tone of the studio makes Wrights firing from Marvel’s Ant Man utterly baffling.

Like many a Marvel movie, the villains, look great in leather costumes and fantastic body tattoos. Apparently, everyone in this film goes to the same tattoo and accessory shop. Ronan, Korath and Nebula (more consonant-vowel-consonant, generic-ridiculous naming, in a movie with oh so plenty to spare) are completely uninteresting and self-serious-silly. Shades of Colm Feore, Karl Urban and Thandie Newton in similar, if not as good The Chronicles of Riddick, which, now that I think about it, also echoes a Heavy Metal Comic-vibe. The reavers, er whatever they are, baddies exist to merely to endanger the universe for no real compelling reasons other than to give the heroes fodder to mock in the middle of familiar CGI space battles and fist fights.

I was very happy to see, in the current ADHD blockbuster landscape, for Guardians to often slow down and spend time hanging out with Quill, Rocket, Gamora, Drax and Chewbacca…er…Groot for long stretches such that one could easily be convinced that this is a re-imaginging of Firefly/Serenity under the watch of Joss Whedon. I was surprised by how effective they get the CGI right. Rocket’s racoon bed heat, Groot’s charming presence and facial tics, the beautifully bright planet (where we encounter Glenn Close as the cheery governor and John C. Reilly as the guard-slash family man) has open vistas and bright clouds highly reminiscent of Farpoint (The Star Trek Next Generation pilot, as does a certain safety-barrier). The planet offers something to save, but also suitably serves up a complex introduce the characters chase with winning choreography, worthy of Buster Keaton. Furthermore, there are moments when the film stops to smell the CGI-roses in slow motion, engaging camera work that does what Brad Bird suggest these types of movies should always do: offer audience a little joy and wonder.

If I never bothered with story details in this review, please forgive me, but you’ve seen Star Wars and its plethora of derivates over the past 35 years, so don’t sweat the generic ‘subway-stop’ plotting (a Marvel-Disney speciality, but in all fairness, Spielberg and all those beloved ’80s fantasy films do it as well) and logistics and enjoy how much Guardians get to take the piss out of it all, with just more than a pinch of sweetness, and an Awesome Mix Tape #1 to make care just enough to not nitpick.

Trailer: Laggies

Laggies

While the trailer for Laggies may incite a reaction from your gag reflex, I’ve learned to never judge a movie by it’s studio-cut trailer, particularly when that movie has Sam Rockwell.

Filmed over the course of a little over in month in Seattle, Laggies follows the tale of young woman (Keira Knightley) going through a quarter-life crisis after the not-so-wanted proposal by her longtime high school sweetheart. After a near meltdown, she meets a teenage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who after buying her booze, she ends up befriending and, as events would have it, she ends up temporarily staying at the teenager’s home, much to the curiosity of the father (Sam Rockwell).

While Laggies premiered at Sundance earlier in the year, it’s didn’t win any awards and currently, the eleven reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are lukewarm at best. Still, with a pretty solid cast that also includes comedian Jeff Garland, Ellie Kemper, and Gretchen Mol and a director (Lynn Shelton) who has worked on the likes of the film Diggers as well as directing episodes of Mad Men and New Girl, I’m sure the trailer is a bit misleading with its annoyingly upbeat and conventional narrative. Plus, it’s rated R, which means they weren’t necessarily looking for something studio friendly.

The film hits theaters stateside on September 26, 2014.

Trailer: Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth

NickCave

Nick Cave is a badass among badasses.

You likely know him from his lucrative music career with his Bad Seeds or perhaps the experimental garage rock band Grinderman, the tunes of which have been featured on the likes of equally badass shows True Detective and Luther.

It’s also possible, being a film site and all, that you know him from his masterful film scores with Bad Seeds buddy Warren Ellis: the Australian western The Proposition (which he also wrote the screenplay for), Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. If you’ve somehow missed his music, you’ve probably also missed his ventures into the literary realm: his 1989 And the Ass Saw the Angel and 2009’s The Death of Bunny Munro, both great, dark, lyrical novels in their own right.

Needless the say, the term renaissance man was coined for people like Nick Cave.

With his latest project, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance and won the directing award, he has teamed up with British directors and frequent collaborators Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard to craft a surreal, pseudo-documentary that follows a fictitious 24-hour period in his life. In 20,000 Days on Earth, reality blurs as we witness Cave going about his daily routine, engaging in Q&As, driving with Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue, and performing with the Bad Seeds on stage.

As Rob Nelson of Variety described it: “This innovative study of Nick Cave playfully disguises itself as fiction while more than fulfilling the requirements of a biographical documentary.”

The film will be touring the United States this summer before being released in theaters across the UK on September 19, 2014.

Trailer: The Judge

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[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #a9a883;"] R [/dropcap]obert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. – that’s really all that I need to see in order to be sold on The Judge. Duvall, of course, is always worth watching and Downey Jr., despite his massive blockbuster success being interspersed with some rather run-of-the-mill projects like Due Date and The Soloist, is always a good reason to see a film as well.

Their coupling follows a hot-shot lawyer son (Downey Jr.) who returns to his small, rural hometown after his mother’s death. While there, he learns that his estranged father (Duvall, in a part originally offered to and turned down by Jack Nicholson), a hard-nosed local judge, is suspected of murder and he decides to stick around and defend his father and probably learn some life lessons along the way.

The story doesn’t appear to be anything particularly innovative, but it packs a supporting cast that also includes Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Vera Farmiga. It’s directed by David Dobkins, best known for his directorial duties on Wedding Crashers and Shanghai Knights, which doesn’t inspire much confidence), but overall, despite the cheesy overly-inspirational music and a bit of eye-roll inducing dialogue (“sometimes you have to forgive in order to be forgiven”), this looks like a solid, if not a little too Oscar-baity, early fall movie.

The film opens up stateside on October 10, 2014.

Review: RoboCop (2014)

RoboCop poster

Director: Jose Padilha (Elite Squad, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, Bus 174)
Screenplay: Joshua Zetumer,
Producers: Marc Abraham, Brad Fischer, Eric Newman
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 108 min.


As with any original property that is beloved by fans the world over, the idea of remaking RoboCop was not one that was going to be met with rapturous applause. But unlike a lot of remakes, especially from the ’80s – that most fondly remembered of entertainment eras – there’s actually nuggets of ideas in there that could very well work as a modern update.

And that’s where the RoboCop remake at least partially succeeds at what it sets out to do; update this technology-driven high concept to the modern day, or rather almost a decade and a half into the future, when the idea of robotic limbs and Artificial Intelligence is no longer just science fiction.

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Review: Blancanieves

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On paper, the Spanish film Blancanieves seems to piggyback on two recent trends – homage to silent cinema (if this plus The Artist can be considered a trend), and films about Snow White, following two Hollywood takes on the tale. Lest that suggest, however, that Blancanieves is a derivative tail-follower, nothing could be farther from the truth. This is a grand film, with director Pablo Berger showing both a solid knowledge of and a deep love for European cinema of the 1920s.

Pulling not only from the tale of Snow White, but also from sister fairy tale Cinderella (and even a little from Beauty and the Beast), the film follows young Carmen through her horrid childhood after her matador father is paralyzed in a bullfighting accident and her sinister stepmother (played by Maribel Verdu, of Pan’s Labyrinth) takes over, forcing Carmen to work like a slave and psychologically torturing her at every turn. As the film switches from Cinderella to Snow White for inspiration, the jealous stepmother wants a now-grown Carmen dead, but the young woman escapes, albeit with an amnesia-causing head injury, and falls in with a group of traveling circus dwarves. This eventually leads to Carmen becoming a matador herself.

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