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Archive for April, 2018

Avengers: Infinity is going to be the biggest movie of the year so there is no competition for the movie of the month.  Things aren’t that simple.  Here are the movies seen this month:

A Quiet Place – A family try to survive in dystopian near future by avoiding monsters who hunt by sound. Instead of the usual walls we see people hiding behind in other movies, the family live in a fortress of silence. What’s the point of walls and locked doors when the monsters can rip through them! Comprising of essentially just two acts, built on tension rather than horror. The slow build-up is perfectly paced to setup the excellent finalé. The ideas aren’t necessarily new or original, but they are used well; the simplest of building materials as Chekhov’s gun! The cast are all excellent from John Krasinski (who also directs and co writes – very much against type) and Emily Blunt to the kids who include Millicent Simmonds who we will be seeing later this month in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck. Keeping explanation and exposition to a minimum works in the movies favour to create a very satisfying horror thriller.A Quiet Place

Thoroughbreds – I went into this movie knowing virtually nothing about it. I hadn’t read a review or synopsis and hadn’t seen a trailer. I am really glad I saw it this way and for that reason I advise the same of anyone wishing to see it and will not give a synopsis myself. Billed as a drama/thriller, it is also darkly funny. Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke have proven to be two of the most exciting young actresses in their short careers to date. Here they are perfectly cast and give stunning performances. Utilising a small cast, mainly focussing on its two leads it’s no surprise that writer-director Cory Finley conceived it as a play. Shot with confidence and visual flair, it is amazingly Finley’s first movie in any capacity. Surly a film to divide opinion, I loved it.Thoroughbreds

Ghost Stories – Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) works as a debunker of the supernatural. Things start to get a bit weird when he is asked by a fellow sceptic to investigate three cases he believes to be real. The structure makes it feel like the portmanteau horror’s that Hammer used to make, and like those movies it isn’t as satisfying as regular narrative. The overall tone is of quirky weirdness rather than horror. One of the three stories creates a real sense of dread, but the film is never scary, in fact a lot of the tension is undercut by comedy. Written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman who originally produced it as a stage play, I understand this is more successful than the film version.Ghost Stories

Death Wish – The 1974 Michael Winner/Charles Bronson movie has a poor reputation; although I haven’t seen the film for over 20 years, I remember it being good and think its reputation is based more on the increasingly poor sequels. Horror director Eli Roth’s remake moves the action from New York to Chicago; Bronson’s architect becomes Bruce Willis, trauma surgeon. The characters new profession is well used within the plot. The script by Joe Carnahan really isn’t bad, its derivative and predictable but it holds up as a narrative. Willis does a good job playing Bruce Willis and the action is understated and gritty. The film fails to say anything important or original about crime, justice or, vigilantism but as a disposable genre movie it works well.Death Wish

Beast – A troubled (they always are in a film like this) young woman lives with her overpowering mother, and farther who appears to be suffering from dementia. In the shadow of the perfect life of her sister and out of step with the world, until she meets an equally troubled young man. As the “us against the world” romance blossoms the subplot of a murder mystery comes to the fore making the viewer wonder who the beast of the title actually is. First time director Michael Pearce fills the movie with metaphor, and keeps just enough mystery and ambiguity to keep the story compelling. The cast are all excellent from the young leads to the more recognisable supporting players. The setting, the Channel Island of Jersey is used to full effect creating an environment that is sometimes inviting, at others hostile, the skill that the changes are traversed belies the directors lack of experience.Beast - Still 1

Funny Cow – Told with a very effective nonlinear narrative, Maxine Peake plays a female stand up comedian in 70/80’s Northern England. Unnamed throughout the film, Peake’s character is credited as Funny Cow, a honour placed upon her by a fellow comedian. Don’t be fooled by the synopsis or title, this is far from a comedy. Dealing with abusive fathers and husbands, depression and alcoholism it is a far darker film than you would ever expect. It is however, filed with fantastic performances, particularly from Maxine Peake. There are also enough moments of brevity and levity to keep the viewer engaged. A hard film to love but a compelling one you can’t turn away from.Funny Cow

Every Day – Don’t be put off by the lukewarm reviews, there is more going on here than many are giving it credit for. A teenager wakes up in a different body every morning. He/she spends a day borrowing someone else’s form, and tries not to impact too much on the hosts life; until he starts to form a relationship with a girl. Comparisons have been made to the TV show Quantum Leap, but this character has no mission, and no self to return to giving freedom to explore many things including identity and morality. The film also has great fun playing with the tropes of teen and high-school movies. The high high-concept is let down by inconsistent pacing and a lack of focus, it is still an enjoyable watch.Every Day

Wildling – A young girl is raised by her father in isolation before being exposed to the outside world. Billed as a horror, this movie is more of an adult fairytale, but these genres are so closely linked, it really doesn’t matter. The concept is good, and the conclusion is satisfying if a little predicable. Bel Powley is excellent and perfectly cast in the lead, but Liv Tyler is given nothing to do and is totally wasted.Wildling

Avengers: Infinity – Ten years of Marvel movies have been leading up to this point, the arrival of Thanos, the franchises chosen big, bad. The series so far has introduced so many characters, it would be impossible to service them all. Amazingly the film manages to give everyone (except a few characters left on the sidelines for future use) reasonable screen time without slowing the narrative. The action scenes are fantastic and the character interactions are often devastatingly funny. The problems are with the narrative; I can’t expand on this and keep this spoiler free, beyond saying that it is most likely part of the setup for the next film, a setup that could be satisfying or infuriating.Avengers Infinity

Battle Royale & Audition – I also went to a double bill screening of these two Japanese modern classics; both are just as brilliant and messed up as I remember.Battle Royale and Audition

The obvious choice is the brilliant horror, A Quiet Place.  Beast came totally out of leftfield and has really stayed with me, on reflection, my letterboxed score was a little low.  But none of these is movie of the month, that honour goes to: Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds poster

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Amazon Prime seems to be falling behind Netflix when it comes to original and exclusive TV show, not because their show are inferior, simply because of the onslaught from Netflix.  While there is a constant stream of new things on Netflix, Amazon seems to be more sporadic in its releases and less consistent in its quality.  But Amazon has got at least one gem of a show that can stand toe to toe with the best Netflix, Sky Atlantic and all the rest of the traditional television Networks have to offer.  I am not referring to the high concept, The Man in the High Castle, although that is excellent, I am talking about Bosh.bosch-poster-amazon-studios

I’m not a massive fan of police procedural’s both in print of on screen so probably wouldn’t have rushed to see the first season that appeared on Amazon Video (as it was then) in 2014.  However, some of the marketing caught my attention.  Based on a series of novels by Michael Connelly, Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch is the half brother of Michael “Mickey” Haller, Junior aka The Lincoln Lawyer played by Matthew McConaughey in the excellent and somewhat underrated 2011 movie.  I had just re-watched The Lincoln Lawyer on TV and really enjoyed it so thought I could give the Bosch a try. the lincoln lawyer

I was vaguely aware of Titus Welliver who seems to specialises in police and military types with the odd villain thrown in for good measure.  His most notable role that I have seen was in the TV show Deadwood.  Without having read the books, I don’t know how close Welliver is to the character, but he is perfect for the show.  The casting as a whole is excellent and aided by well drawn characters is supporting roles.  Although the show is very much about Bosch, It is this fantastic cast of characters that gives the show the colour and depth that set it apart from lesser shows. Bosch

Reading up on the character biography, it appears they have done a good job of updating the character for the screen.  The first book was published in 1992, over 20 years before he made it to screen.  The character in the books had been in the 1st Infantry in Vietnam, the updated screen version, he is a veteran of the first Gulf War in 1991 who became a police officer after military service.  He re-upped with the Army after 9/11 serving in Afghanistan, something I am led to believe many real life LAPD officers did.  None of this is told through excessive exposition, it simply comes up naturally as the story progresses.  After forty episodes we are still learning things about the characters. Bosch Cast

The LA setting is important to the story.  The wealth gap and social diversity are always on the radar.  The Rampart scandal and LA Riots are directly referenced.  It is no accident that the Bosch lives above all this looking down from his hillside home.  It is explained early on in the first series that Bosch once worked as a consultant on a Hollywood film based on him.  The royalties paid for his hillside home with stunning views of LA.  Presumably it also paid for his Rolex and his HiFi system that cost about as much as a small car! (McIntosh preamp and valve power amp, Ohm Walsh speakers and an old Marantz record player).  The house (I understand described in the book as being on Woodrow Wilson, off Mulholland Drive) features heavily in the show, with the HiFi and a poster for the “The Black Echo” (the film Bosch worked on) both prominently displayed. Bosch_104_03254.CR2

Each season is a mere ten episodes, and takes its is inspiration from multiple books.  Each season has a main overriding story arc and at least one other sub plot.  The killing of Bosch’s mother when he was a child has featured in all four seasons.  Bosch’s ex wife and teenage daughter become increasingly involved.  There are also a couple of other stories that stench across seasons. As good as the stories are, the greatest strength of the show is the characters, Bosch in particular.

If you haven’t already, time to start binging.   

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The beginning of the end is near.  The next movie in the MCU, Avengers: Infinity War is less than a month away.  That will just leave Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel (a prequel to existing films rather than a continuation), and then an as yet untitled Avengers film, with it Phase Three will be over.  And with the end of Phase Three we will potentially see the end of some of the characters.  It has been reported that the following actors intend to hang-up their super hero costumes next year: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers aka Captain America), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark aka Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor). Chris Evans Robert Downey Jr Chris Hemsworth

This will leave just Tom Holland (Peter Parker aka Spider-Man), and Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa aka Black Panther) as the only remaining Avengers deemed significant enough to have their own films.  They will be joined by any surviving cast.  They can’t simply recast, this will be conspicuous at best, disastrous at worst.  There is another answer within the existing cast: Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier aka White Wolf), Don Cheadle (Lieutenant James Rhodes aka War Machine).Natalie Portman Sebastian Stan Don Cheadle

In the comic books on which the MCU is based, these characters have all taken on the part of other heroes: Bucky Barnes – Captain America, James Rhodes – Iron Man, Jane Foster – Thor. Bucky Barnes Captain America Don Cheadle Iron Man Jane Foster Thor

There have been many other incarnations of the comic books where existing characters have taken on the mantle of other heroes, they include Sam Wilson aka Falcon as Captain America and Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow as Thor. Sam Wilson Captain America and Natasha Romanoff Thor

You may remember the scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron when the Avengers take it in turns to try and lift Mjolnir, all except  Black Widow, should this tell us something?

Having said all this, they could just introduce some new characters! 

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Exciting Times?

We keep being told that there are no mid budget films being made at the moment, we only get big blockbusters (usually franchises) and very low budget films.  While this is true, I am expecting something exciting to happen soon. 

When I was a student, around two decades ago, I made some short films.  The best format available to me was SVHS, one step up from home video cameras.  I could only dream of being able to make something of cinema quality.  Around this time, I read Rebel Without a Crew, Robert Rodriguez’s account of how he made El Mariachi for $7,000 (about $11,500 in today’s money).   Rodriguez’s managed to get his hands on an old Arriflex 16S 16mm camera, I seem to remember him mentioning that he purchased film a roll at a time as he didn’t want to waste money on it if the camera stopped working. rebel without a crew

But things have changed with two high profile films: Tangerine (2015) and Unsane (2018) made by Sean Baker and Steven Soderbergh respectively, both using just iPhones.  Baker used an Apple iPhone 5S, Moondog Labs anamorphic adapter allowing him to present the movie in 2.35:1 widescreen.  Soderbergh went for the later model iPhone 7 Plus but without the additional lens. unsane

Whether you love, hate, or haven’t even seen these movies is irrelevant, the important thing is that they exist, or more to the point that they can exist.  At no time in the history of filmmaking, have the tools of the trade been so readily available to so many people and at such a respectively low price.  The next Spielberg or Scorsese may not come from film school, or learning their trade at the side of an existing filmmaker, they could be shooting in their neighborhood and editing in their bedroom. sean_baker_tangerine_with_steadicam_smoothee_iphone_5s

Taking it to the next level, Gareth Edwards made Monsters (2010), a full special effects Sci-Fi movie for around half a million dollars rendering all the visual effects at home on his own computer.  Six years later his third feature set in a galaxy far, far away had a budget four-hundred times that of monsters. Gareth Edwards

The most exciting thing, the film I describe could already be in production.  

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