Teaser: Thelma

Norway’s answer to Olivier Assayas, already a master at his craft with only four features under his belt, Joachim Trier follows up the magnificent Louder Than Bombs, his English language debut, by returning to his native tongue and a supernatural sexual awakening story. Exhibiting a clean eye for visual film-making with an emphasis on people and character-study, I am curious to see what Trier can do with a more commercial project, than his past three films (which were firmly fixed on festival audiences).

Blu-Ray Review: The Lady From Shanghai

Director: Orson Welles
Screenplay: Orson Welles
Based on a Novel by: Sherwood King
Starring: Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, Glenn Anders, Ted de Corsia
Country: USA
Running Time: 88 min
Year: 1947
BBFC Certificate: PG


Orson Welles blew everyone away with his ‘official’ directorial debut Citizen Kane (he made Too Much Johnson before that, but it was only originally produced to be integrated into a stage show and was never screened in cinemas until its rediscovery decades later). OK, it didn’t particularly make waves at the box office, but it was critically acclaimed and made people sit up and take notice of the precocious young director. However, Welles didn’t have much luck following that. From his follow up The Magnificent Ambersons onwards, his productions were plagued by interference from studios and he never managed to strike gold in the same way due to this. In an early review – http://blueprintreview.co.uk/2011/11/touch-of-evil/, I argued that Touch of Evil might be a better film than Citizen Kane, but I saw the ‘director’s cut’ which had been re-edited in the 90’s from the original studio released version.

The Lady From Shanghai is one of these studio tampered films, with the original cut presented to the producers coming in an hour longer than the version we have today. Welles was also particularly vocal about his dislike for the score by Heinz Roemheld (a 9-page memo he wrote detailing changes which were never made can be found in this handsome dual-format set). Nevertheless, the film is regarded as one of the better studio films he made, so a Blu-Ray re-release like this is more than welcome. I’ve seen the film once before, but couldn’t remember a lot about it so was keen to revisit it.

The Lady From Shanghai opens with Irish rogue Michael O’Hara (Welles) happening across the beautiful Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) and soon after saving her from the hands of some muggers. They share a sexually charged horse carriage ride, following which Elsa offers O’Hara a job on her yacht. He initially refuses this as he discovers she’s married, and to a criminal lawyer to boot. However, her husband Arthur (Everett Sloane) comes to see O’Hara and persuades him to take the job. O’Hara and the audience can smell something fishy, but the hard-headed Irishman decides to risk it and heads along on the couple’s cruise. Of course, he gets into a mess of trouble as Arthur and his associate George Grisby (Glenn Anders) drag him into a faked murder plot.

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Blu-Ray Review: Brotherhood of Blades

Director: Yang Lu
Screenplay: Yang Lu, Chen Shu
Starring: Chen Chang, Shih-Chieh Chin, Dong-xue Li, Shi Shi Liu, Yuan Nie, Qianyuan Wang
Country: China
Running Time: 112 min
Year: 2014
BBFC Certificate: 15


Decent new martial arts films from China or Hong Kong have been getting thin on the ground of late after the boom they enjoyed in the early 2000’s. That’s why I got very excited when the recent Call of Heroes ended up meeting my high expectations. Hot on its heels (in terms of a UK release date at least) is Brotherhood of Blades. Directed by Yang Lu, a newcomer to action movies, and featuring none of the big martial arts stars, I was nonetheless excited to check it out, as word of mouth was good and the marketing made it look impressive.

Brotherhood of Blades is set in late Ming Dynasty China and follows three friends, Shen Lian (Chen Chang), Lu Jianxing (Qianyuan Wang) and Jin Yichuan (Dong-xue Li), who are skilled members of the Imperial Assassins. All three of them are struggling with personal problems which could be solved with a large amount of money. Well, luckily for Shen Lian, when the three assassins are assigned with the mission of killing Wei Zhongxian (Shih-Chieh Chin), Shen is offered the chance of taking bags full of gold away with him in return for faking Wei’s death. When he takes up the offer however, he makes life incredibly difficult and dangerous for himself and his two friends as their honesty is put into question and they realise they’re being used as pawns in a much larger game.

This film didn’t impress me quite as much as Call of Heroes did unfortunately, but it’s still a solid entry to the wuxia genre. It’s handsomely presented – lit and shot beautifully with some lavish period production design.

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Leon Kowalski @ 0

“Describe in single words. Only the good things that come to your mind. About your mother.”

“My mother… I’ll tell you about my mother.”

The Nexus-6 replicant (Combat/Loader model) who had an itch he couldn’t scratch, and is sensitive in regards to questions about his parentage, would have been born today, April 10, 2017. Happy Incept-Day, Leon!

Blu-Ray Review: Swiss Army Man

Director: ‘The Daniels’ – Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Screenplay: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Starring: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Country: USA, Sweden
Running Time: 97 min
Year: 2016
BBFC Certificate: 15


Swiss Army Man is a film that rode in on a wave of hype after several festival screenings, but I feel it’s hype that both helped and hindered it. Becoming known as ‘the farting corpse movie’, or variations of that, helped give the film a great amount of publicity, but I think many might have dismissed it due to this over-simplified description. Sounding like an even lower brow version of Weekend at Bernies, the film can’t have appealed to the more ‘sophisticated’ cinephiles out there. But, having now watched the film, I’d say they’re missing out on something truly special.

Swiss Army Man opens showing Hank (Paul Dano) stranded on a desert island, preparing to kill himself as he’s given up hope of rescue. However, just as he’s about to do it, he spots a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe), washed up on the shore. This is no ordinary body either. It’s rather flatulent, which initially merely distracts Hank from his suicide attempt. When the farts get more powerful though, Hank realises this ‘wind’ can be harnessed more effectively and uses the corpse as a jet-ski to reach a neighbouring lush island which is littered with rubbish, suggesting it may be inhabited.

Once on the island, Hank struggles to find any more signs of civilization, but develops a great bond with the corpse (named Manny), who miraculously comes alive (if not mobile) after a while. Manny has no memories of his life before though and has many questions about the world around him. This prompts Hank to teach him, using the limited resources around them, whilst simultaneously altering his view of his own miserable existence. In particular, the two of them discuss the subject of love, as they tackle how to approach the elusive girl on the bus, Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who seems to be a part of one or both of their memories.

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Giveaway: The Void on VOD

TheVoid

Astron-6 alumni, Jeremy Gillespi and Steve Kostanski, have made an ode to John Carpenter movies like Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing and Prince of Darkness. Their occult hospital-set creature feature, The Void, which is no self-parody or horror-comedy (a la Astron 6) but rather a grim, icky scare fest that plays for keeps. It has been playing in very limited release in Toronto at the Royal Cinema for a week, but it makes its VOD debut Today on iTunes. And their publicity company has happily ponied up several codes for a free VOD viewing.

If you want a viewing code, just kick us a message on Twitter (@rowthree) telling us what letter of the second ABCs of Death anthology was directed by Kostanski (which also happened to feature Kurt’s son, Willem in a prominent part.)

Review: Song To Song

SongToSong

And so the prostitute says, “Create the Illusion, but don’t believe it.”

I am not sure if that is Terrence Malick’s thesis with Song To Song, an elliptical fairy tale of despondency, but the film does feature Val Kilmer wielding a chainsaw on stage at the SXSW music festival, so there is that.

It also embeds clips from Eric Von Stroheim’s Greed, offers heartbreaking relationship advice from punk rock goddess Patti Smith, cheerfully cuts off Iggy Pop in mid-sentence and makes a little time for Natalie Portman to wait tables and attend church services kitted out in Erin Brockovich inspired push-up bras.

Song to Song is Malick’s fifth film in six years, not including his forthcoming Europe-set WWII epic, to be released later in 2017. Apparently, The film has been in production in one way or another for seven years; long enough to recast Christian Bale (or re-purpose his footage into Knight of Cups) and lose Arcade Fire completely in the editing room. This means that the overall process overlaps all the way back with Tree of Life, the touchstone for his current mode of cinema.

The ongoing price to pay for scrapping conventional storytelling (and, you know, actual scripts) has yielded his work some superb benefits … for those keen to tune into his wavelength. Of course, this is not for everyone, and do not be surprised when many film-goers drawn in by the marquee actors and musician cameos flee the experience in frustration. Like it or not, Malick has, for some time now, been in the business of capturing elusive, immersive, Steadicam dreams of time and place that he subtly bends into narrative in the editing room.

Here he films in the in-between spaces of Texas, be it backstage casual at South By Southwest, the concrete and glass boxes of the wealthy, or windswept desert pools in the wilderness. You would not recognize this as the same Austin in the front half of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof or the sprawling walkabouts of so many a Richard Linkater joint. And though the film features an impressively programmed and multifarious playlist, the soundtrack is less the music, and more the palpable ennui of gorgeous white young things trying to find themselves in a confusing world of indulgence.

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Friday One Sheet: Ghost In The Shell

One final look at the international marketing for Ghost in the Shell, as the film is set to roll out one of its biggest markets, and the home of the source material and endless film, manga, OVA, and TV spin-offs.

This Japanese poster for Ghost in the Shell is big on the New Port City backdrop, and is also bullish on the ‘franchise character collection’ aesthetic popular with Disney properties like Marvel and Star Wars (and Indiana Jones). What makes it the most telling that this is the Japanese poster is the prominent head-space for ‘Beat’ Takeshi. I think it pretty bold to double down on Pink and Baby Blue, and it does make this poster stand out for all its busy design. It also gives a lot of emphasis on the Section 9 team, which I hope one day there is a directors cut of the film that features more time with the rest of the team – they are certainly present in the film, but not given a lot of screen-time outside of one conference room chat, and the sequence involving the two garbage men attacking Dr. Ouelet.

Death Proof @ 10

Long divorced from its Grindhouse double-feature billing which dropped into the Miramax by the Weinstein Brothers’ Dimension films in April 2007, Quentin Tarantino’s gloriously (and often misunderstood) Death Proof turns 10 today. Not only is it an exceptionally feminist revenge flick (Laura Zarum over at Flavor Wire has plenty to say on the subject), but like all of Tarantino’s work, it is eminently re-watchable. Back in April 2007 the Cinecast came into its modern 3 hour incarnation (previously episodes were well under an hour) due to a lengthy, lengthy conversation on the Grindhouse double feature, and if you go all the way back to that episode (fittingly it is episode #42!), you can hear what the hot take version was, or if you are a regular listener, you will be well aware that Death Proof comes up a lot on the show, to this day.

The Film Stage has more.
So does ComingSoon.

Girls on Pop – Episode 11: Hollywood Hates Netflix

He’s baaaaack!

It’s here! The long awaited return of Sarah (@iBrockely)!

Sarah finally decided to take a break from school and we met up on a semi-clear, not so warm evening to record a show on the patio of a local dive bar.

We were mostly undisturbed except for the occasional interruption to order more food and beer. Sarah and I (@themarina) managed to have a pretty long winded conversation covering everything from a bunch of new trailers to recent hints from the Hollywood establishment that they’re not too thrilled with the way Netflix is throwing their billions around.

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After the Credits Episode 206: April Preview

Anne Hathawy losing her shit is definitely one of the highlights of the month

We’re getting the band back together! Or more accurately, we got the band back together!

After a couple of episodes with one member short, this month we managed to find a time that worked for everyone involved and what a reunion it was. If only the month looked better…

Join us as Dale (Letterboxd), Colleen and I (Letterboxd) walk through the April releases and marvel at how it doesn’t look like much of a summer release month. I guess the world has stopped fighting the force that is the Fast and the Furious franchise. If only the new entry looked better…

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