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).

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Canyons: Love In The Time Of Collagen

The Canyons currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 24% and an IMDB rating of 4.0. Even one of my favourite film critics, Mark Kermode, hated it and called Schrader ‘a spent force’. (He didn’t care for the director’s Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, either, and that’s another movie I find fascinating.)

The critics sank their fangs in good and proper. It was the movie that American festivals didn’t want to screen. Schrader explored the death of traditional cinema platforms and the role of technology in our daily (and sex) lives, so they accused it of being unsophisticated. He hired an actress more famous today for being a troubled young soul and TMZ fodder, and laughed at her performance. To them, the film was soap opera trash. They found the dialogue bland and the acting even blander.

You might well scoff at the suggestion that I find Schrader’s Kickstarter funded drama, written by controversial author Bret Easton Ellis, featuring adult movie star James Deen and actress/trainwreck Lindsay Lohan, a movie well worth your attention, but I really think it so. And no, I’m not insane or being a contrarian. I do not enjoy it ‘ironically’. There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure.

Monday, 9 June 2014

if.... (1968)

        "College is a symbol of many things," declares the Headmaster (Peter Jeffrey) in Lindsay Anderson's second feature if...., which transplants motifs and ideas from Jean Vigo's Zéro de Conduite (1933) to an England swinging between legacy and change in the late Sixties. The boarding school College House is a bastion of tradition, inculcating class values, hierarchical attitudes and the ideology of privilege to its young men, all in the paradoxical service of preparing Britain's new generation for what the liberal(ish) Headmaster describes as the nation's current "powerhouse of ideas, experiment, imagination, on everything from pop music to pig breeding, from atom power stations to miniskirts" - or at least of producing an army of obedient cannon fodder for any future war.