Friday, 11 July 2014

Begin Again Review

Writer/director John Carney's major film calling card is the 2006 low budget big hit Once about a broken hearted Dublin musician who forms a musical partnership with a Czech woman and songs and potential romance filled the auditoriums. Carney's Begin Again could well be considered a first cousin to Once as we follow the story of Dan (Mark Ruffalo) New York based A&R man once the toast of the industry, now falling on tougher times and trawling through the mountain of new releases earnestly looking for talent.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

That Scene, That One Scene... Mud

Sometimes there is a scene in a film that stands out, one that stays with you forever. And it is often the more understated and subtle ones which achieve this as far as I'm concerned. I'm thinking the short moment before Jodhi May is jumping off a cliff in The Last Of The Mohicans to join her loved one in death. I'm thinking Gerard Depardieu in Tous Les Matins Du Monde, in that scene near the end in which the spirit of music has finally inhabited him yet again and it is as if he is discovering it for the first time. And then there is THAT scene in Mud.

River Of Fundament By Matthew Barney

It is difficult to know where to start in trying to describe the tapestry of references that constitute River of Fundament, Matthew Barney's strange threnody for, and celebration of, the novelist and essayist Norman Mailer, who died in 2007. Perhaps the best place might be Idaho's Sawtooth Mountain Range, where this grand work begins and ends, and where Mailer's muse Ernest Hemingway once had a cabin.

Here, in the final sequence, we witness salmon swimming upriver from the Ocean to respawn over the corpses of their own dead, and a shift from the polluted industrial and urban settings that dominate much of the tripartite film's five and a half hours to idyllic (if not altogether pure) nature, even as Barney also returns us to Mailer's (literary) source. After all, this epic is obsessed with recycling, rebirth and resurrection - with the movement from life to death and back again running very much counter to the flow of the mainstream.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Cold In July Review

The opening image of Cold In July is of a barren wilderness, until the camera pulls back revealing a picture frame, and the domestic mantelpiece above which this landscape painting hangs. It is late at night in East Texas, 1989 - and jittery Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall), still barefoot and in his pyjamas, accidentally shoots dead a young burglar, splattering his brains all over the painting.

"I hear you got you one last night," says the local mailman to Richard the following morning. "I couldn't believe it was you, at first - I didn't think you had it in you." Richard cannot quite believe it himself. A family man devoted to his wife Ann (Vinessa Shaw) and young son Jordan (Brogan Hall), this 'upright citizen' serves the community with his picture framing business - which makes him quick to spot another kind of frame being mounted by the police investigating the burglar's death.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow: Subtext, Metaphors And Blowing Up Aliens

My blog might be getting a bit blockbuster heavy, but what can I say, this is the summer after all! Besides, I have zero snobbery when it comes to cinema, I can see merits in any genre without preconception. Hell I even got excited at the Transformers: Age Of Extinction trailer recently (before getting back to my senses when I read the first reviews). Besides, sometimes a fascinating, conceptual blockbuster comes out. So obviously, it flops.

First of all, I must add that, to me, a blockbuster does not need to have a strong subtext to be worthy of interest. In fact, I am wary of an annoying recent trend of over-analysing pop culture.

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Or The Veneer Of Sophistication

After the staggering success of The Avengers, it seems that every studio wants a piece of the action. And Fox in particular. What they do not seem to realise is the Marvel megahit made gazillions at the box office not merely because it put together a bunch of superheroes, but because it found the golden formula for some great group chemistry and banter among all the CGI action, which made it enjoyable not just for fans or even casual cinema-goers, but even for those who rarely even go to the cinema. After the pathetic attempt of making the Spiderman rebooted franchise an ensemble film, there comes the X-Men, which, at least, was always meant as a group. X-Men: Days Of Future Past is a strange beast, which proved entertaining enough when I finally caught up with it, yet whose facade has sophistication has crumbled in my mind.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Film Catch-Up: Machete Kills

Usually I try to cover either new/upcoming films, films seen at film festivals or older and more obscure ones. But sometimes I also like to cover some which do not fit into any of these categories, films that I have missed at the cinema and caught up on Blu-Ray, if I feel strongly about (or against!) them. Such is the case with Machete Kills (the latter in this particular case).

For a film that started as a joke and was made from a fake trailer, Machete was a pleasant surprise, which a second viewing more than confirmed. It had fun with its Grindhouse tribute concept, but was also surprisingly sweet and engaging with its welcome social undertone and some great and strong female characters.

Unfortunately Machete Kills ruins everything by dispensing of all that made the first film so great. To avoid repeating itself, Robert Rodriguez had the intriguing idea of mixing the original's grindhouse elements with a tribute to low budget 60's/70's B movies and even the James Bond films of the late 70's/early 80's (in fact a lot of the plot is directly borrowed from Moonraker).