Being a fan of Flight of the Conchords and hearing a lot of early buzz about What We Do in the Shadows, the latest film project by one half of the Conchords team, Jemaine Clement, I was desperate to catch it when it was released late last year. Unfortunately it only screened in a handful of theatres so I missed it, but luckily Metrodome have just brought the film out in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray so I snapped up the chance to review it to see if it lived up to the hype.
Written and directed by Clement alongside Eagle vs Shark director Taika Waititi, What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary looking at the day to day lives of four vampires, Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) and Petyr (Ben Fransham). They share a flat together in Wellington, New Zealand and leading up to the Unholy Masquerade, a huge annual event for the local undead, the group live out their fairly dull extended lives, sleeping during the daytime and feeding from victims in the evening. During such a night, the guys add another member to the household, when Petyr turns young Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) into a vampire too. This allows the audience to witness the teething troubles (bad pun intended) of making the transformation as well as adding his human friend Stu (Stuart Rutherford) into the equation.
The premise looks to be pretty much the same as all of these things: “ooh and aah, that’s how it all starts,” once said Dr. Malcom, “but later there’s running and screaming.” That’s pretty much the staple of a Jurassic Park movie. But this one has a couple of things going for it that I find intriguing at the moment.
First, the idea of a fully functional theme park, complete with thousands of guests, thrill rides and park personnel that include dinosaur trainers. I’ve always liked that idea and have wanted to see it realized ever since John Hammond thought it up. And here it is. Secondly, all out warfare is gonna be awesome. If it goes as over-the-top as it could, this is humans with rocket launchers vs. every manner of genetically engineered dinosaurs.
If the spectacle of these things interest you, I suspect Jurassic World might be the summer blockbuster you’re looking for. I wouldn’t say I’m over the moon about this, but it certainly can’t be any worse that was the snoozefest of Jurassic Park III can it?
Sadly, American audiences refuse to embrace the western genre as they once did. But don’t tell that to the people of Minneapolis flocking to a packed full screening of John Maclean’s directorial debut, starring the great Michael Fassbender as well as Noah Taylor, Kodi Smit-McPhee and… The Hound; who is likely the harriest man I’ve ever seen. But I digress.
Slow West will offer very little to change the minds of modern day audiences; even if it does attempt, on some levels, to gain their trust and admiration. Clocking in at a cool 85 minutes certainly doesn’t hurt and hiring fairly big names or up-and-comers for the main characters further bodes well. Moments of levity and a simple tale all equal perfect escapist fodder for the modern movie goer. And yet they will resist.
But for fans of the contemporary western, there is a lot to love. The film’s title is apropos of the languid pacing the film has to offer. Despite coming in under an hour and a half, it certainly is in no hurry to get anywhere – and I suppose even if they were in a hurry, horseback through rough terrain and scoundrels would be a tricky thing to maneuver quickly. The plot is ever so simple, yet ever so clever that it’s difficult not to be sucked into the slow build of mayhem sure to come as layers of plot reveal.
Director: Yasuharu Hasebe Screenplay: Yasuharu Hasebe, Ryûzô Nakanishi Starring: Jô Shishido, Jirô Okazaki, Tatsuya Fuji, Hideaki Nitani, Takashi Kanda Country: Japan Running Time: 89 min Year: 1967 BBFC Certificate: 15
Similarly to my last review, of Wooden Crosses, you’ll have to excuse me comparing the film I’m reviewing to a similar one seen recently. Back in October I watched and reviewed Youth of the Beast and was blown away by how stylish and mind-bogglingly cinematic it was. Massacre Gun isn’t by the same director (the great Seijun Suzuki), but it’s got the same star and is from the same studio sub-genre, Nikkatsu Noir. These are crime or gangster thrillers in a film noir vein, produced by the famous Japanese studio Nikkatsu, who made a number of these in the late 50’s and 60’s.
Massacre Gun starts with a bang. Mob hitman Kuroda (Jô Shishido) is sent to kill the woman he loves. He dutifully carries out the task before the credits have finished rolling. However, after his youngest brother, aspiring boxer Saburô (Jirô Okazaki), has his hands smashed in after standing up to mob boss Akazawa (Takashi Kanda), Kuroda tells his employer that he wants to quit. Akazawa won’t accept this and makes Kuroda’s life as difficult as possible, prompting him to join his two brothers and take on the mob boss at his own game. This of course has violent consequences.
As that brief synopsis demonstrates, Massacre Gun is a more conventional film than Youth of the Beast and especially Suzuki’s other famous gangster films Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter. The revenge and gang warfare angle has been well mined over the years. However, director Yasuharu Hasebe does a decent job and it’s still a great example of the genre. There are a couple of unusual over the top moments too, such as a body rigged with explosives and some unusual scenery such as having one scene set against a beach covered in burning boats.
Food-stuffed and lusty, Mamo reports on their second day at the Roger Ebert Film Festival 2015, with discussion of representation and mythology in cinema by way of Thursday’s “Challenging Stigma Through the Arts” panel, and Godfrey Cheshire’s excellent documentary, Moving Midway. Plus, our recommendation for local Mexican!
A simple, if text-heavy poster for Sundance dramedy, Results emphasizes the fitness aspect of the film (two of the characters are personal trainers, the other one, a bit of a schlub) through the only photographic elements. The rest is text. Is that to imply the film is perhaps smarter? Or lower key than your usual Rom-Com? Maybe. This seems to fit similarly with the trailer, which doesn’t over promise, but doesn’t exactly scream ‘tasteless and crass’ which, alas, the romantic comedy genre seems to have devolved (at least the studio entries) in the past few years.
The advertising may not immediately sell the movie, or even tell you exactly what it is, but it’s inviting enough to look a little closer. The tagline, “They’re going to feel it in the morning” implies both the work out, as well as love triangle.
Orson Welles’ career is the stuff of legend – wunderkind Hollywood golden boy with Citizen Kane, then losing most of his subsequent films to studio interference, and eventually finding it impossible to raise enough money to even complete the films he wanted to make. By 1965 when he made Chimes at Midnight, the funding came from Spain and Switzerland, and the film barely got a release in the US. Even before becoming a big shot Hollywood actor/writer/director, Welles was already a noted Shakespearean scholar and actor, and in the late 1940s, his film output shifted to Shakespeare as well, with versions of Macbeth and Othello. He’d long intended to do a Falstaff story, combining the five plays featuring the characters – a stage version called Five Kings hadn’t quite gotten off the ground as early as 1939, then he staged it in 1960, when it was also unsuccessful. Undaunted, he focused on a film version, which became Chimes at Midnight (sometimes known as just Falstaff). Unlike many of his projects during his later career, Chimes at Midnight was finished, and finished pretty much according to Welles’ wishes.
Upon initial release, the film was dismissed by critics, but it has since gained a reputation as one of Welles’ greatest films – Welles himself felt it was his best work. Rights issues have plagued the film, however, and it’s been very difficult to see in any kind of decent quality (it is watchable on YouTube). Rumor has it that the print screened at TCM Fest (courtesy of Filmoteca España) will soon make its way to DVD/Blu-ray, which would be great. As of now, though, the people who saw it at TCM Fest have probably seen the best version of it since its original release.