Blu-Ray Review: Berberian Sound Studio

Director: Peter Strickland
Screenplay: Peter Strickland
Starring: Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Susanna Cappellaro
Producers: Mary Burke, Keith Griffiths
Country: UK
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 2012
BBFC Certificate: 15


Strangely, even though I’m not sure I ever watched the trailer for Berberian Sound Studio or read a description of its plot, I found myself massively excited about watching this ever since I heard it announced about a year ago. I think it was just the way it was described as a stylish homage to Italian giallo, a genre I’m really getting into these days which often suffers from dated production techniques and lazy writing. With a talented young director and modern know-how in its favour, this modern re-working sounded like my sort of thing. Plus the early buzz was very positive and Toby Jones is generally worth watching.

What is especially impressive then is that the film not only exceeded my expectations, but turned out to be more than just a flashy rip-off of Italian thrillers from the 60’s and 70’s.

Berberian Sound Studio opens in 1976 with Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a British sound engineer, arriving in Italy to work on “The Equestrian Vortex”, the latest ultra-violent horror movie from the maestro Giancarlo Santini (Antonio Mancino). The director is rarely on set though, with Gilderoy largely working with Francesco (Cosimo Fusco), the film’s producer. Although he and the rest of the crew seem full of admiration for Gilderoy and his unmistakable talents, relationships begin to fray and the Brit struggles to stay sane as the horrors on screen get too much for him and the cultural differences and insensitive behaviour of Santini turns Gilderoy’s time in Italy into a living nightmare. Wrapped up in his work at all times, the line between fiction and reality begin to blur for him and the film grows more surreal as it moves towards its twisted climax.

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Trailer: Red Lights

I‘m always a bit skeptical when I see the Millenium Logo pop up before a film. They have a taste for aging stars and tried formulas (88 Minutes, Killer Elite, Trespass) but then they pop out something like Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant. Now I’m not saying that this new film with Sigourney Weaver, Robert DeNiro (and Cillian Murphy, Toby Jones and Elizabeth Olson) is going to be that exactly, but it’s directed by Rodrigo Cortés who turned out the pretty darn solid Buried, so I’d be willing to give this a shot even if the trailer gives it something of a conventional, I have a thing for The Amazing Randi, Michael Shermer and other debunkers doing their thing. I’m kind of confident there is something going on, because the filmmakers motive (note video below the trailer) appears appears to be able to look at the film itself for fakery while debunking fakery in the film. Nothing wrong with that, Orson Welles was doing it back in the 1970s to great effect and it’s noble to aspire to that, even in a genre film!

Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away.

Oh, and if you are curious about the title, there is this:

Cinecast Episode 252 – Objectively Speaking

Super, extra special thanks to Patrick Ripoll of The Director’s Club Podcast for helping out with our spoiler(!) review of The Hunger Games in this episode. We get into a little bit of Ewan McGregor channeling Indiana Jones as he goes fly fishing and Kurt just reads books. We kick it old school this week though with a massive tangent right off the bat on the nature of the “it’s so bad it’s good” theory of many a cult film. Also the term, “objectively bad or good” has been kicked around lately on the site so we dive into that as well. In-house business doesn’t kick in until about the thirty minute mark, so you kind of know what you’re getting into here. Also special thanks to Jim Laczkowski (also of The Director’s Club Podcast) for providing us with this week’s opening theme music; Wayne Newton, eat your heart out! At any rate, enjoy the tangential David Lynch retrospective, the marvel of 80s robotics and of course quicksand in space.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_12/episode_252.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Teaser Trailer for “Hunger Games”

 
So I just finished reading Suzanne Collins tween novel, “Hunger Games”, not but four days ago. I knew there was a movie coming but I had no idea it was this close to release (March 2012). Well, close enough for there to already be a teaser trailer anyway.

If you’re not in the know, “Hunger Games” is essentially a mish-mash of Battle Royale, Stephen King’s “The Long Walk” and Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game.” But of course not quite written at the same intelligence level. Katniss Everdeen is thrust into a deadly government sponsored game to the death in a large arena with 23 other contestants. The rules are simple: be the last alive. There’s obviously a lot more to it than that in this fascist, dystopian future, but you get the gist.

We don’t get much from this trailer, just a good glimpse of Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) as the 16 year-old star and her character’s bow-wielding experience. But there’s enough in here to get a general feel of the picture. Personally, I was generally disappointed in the final few chapters of the novel, but with Pleasantville director, Gary Ross, at the helm and helped out by none other than the great Steven Soderbergh as second unit director, I can’t help but sort of be excited for his release of the theatrical version of “Hunger Games.” Not to mention a great supporting cast including Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz and Wes Bentley. But time will tell if Lawrence can live up to the starring role.

Take a look at the trailer under the seats. How does it compare to your expectations?

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DVD Review: St. Trinian’s

St. Trinian's DVD Cover

Directors: Oliver Parker, Barnaby Thompson (An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest)
Screenplay: Piers Ashworth, Jamie Minoprio, Nick Moorcroft, Jonathan M. Stern
Producers: Oliver Parker, Barnaby Thompson
Starring: Mischa Barton, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Lena Headey, Caterina Murino, Stephen Fry, Jodie Whittaker, Celia Imrie, Anna Chancellor, Gemma Arterton, Russell Brand, Toby Jones
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 97 min.

A film like St. Trinian’s goes to show one thing: even good directors make catastrophic mistakes. Sadly, this isn’t one that can be completely attributed to the director but it certainly makes me wonder what Oliver Parker was thinking when he agreed to direct this script; a script of such epically misguided proportions that it apparently required a team of writers.

St. Trinian's Movie StillIt’s a straightforward story and one that, on the surface, appears to be the perfect vehicle for its young starlets and a good, positive watch for the pre-teen/teen girls who it directly markets.

When their headmistress proves to be at a loss on how to prevent her school from financial ruin and closure, a group of girls at the boarding school hatch a plan to save their beloved learning institution. It sounds harmless enough but early on it’s clear that this film will not go over well. True, it’s reminiscent of the cartoons it’s based on but the previous films appear to have done a much better job of capturing the adventure of St. Trinian’s while this new incarnation feels more like tortured and ill conceived update of the source material.

The rundown institution is led by Camilla Fritton (Rupert Everett in very bad drag), a drunk, careless headmistress who worries more about her dog than her girls. One can overlook this as a poor attempt at comedy and a story function that allows the girls to rise up and take control of the situation but it’s clunky and unfunny. This is, however, the least of the film’s problems which reach epic proportions when we meet the girls who we’re supposed to be cheering for.

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