Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Batman: Dead End (2003)

A talent showcase for Sandy Collora. Fun but the edits could have been a little snappier.

Watch it here

Original letterboxd review

Star Wars: TIE Fighter (2015)

A Star Wars short animation similar in style to Battle of the Planets and Ulysses 31. Come off as bit of a music video rather than a short film with a plot but I really enjoyed it.

Watch it here

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Cemetery (2013)

The plot is simple. A group of "Ghost Hunters" head into the woods to commune with the lost spirits of priests who tortured Native Americans thinking them possessed. Bloody shenanigans ensue.
  • Boobies - check
  • Humour - check
  • Bong - check
  • Gratuitous sex scenes - check
  • Dislikeable characters that need to die ASAP - check
  • Dark scary woods - check
  • Annoying Wiccan - check
  • Insane priests - check
  • Ghost stories around a camp fire - check
  • Blood from an innocent accident awaking the spirits of the dead - check
  • Ripping bones out of someone's leg to use as dining utensils - check
The Cemetery was a little slow to get started but was nicely shot and edited, with more than adequate performances and some really tasty practical effects.

"Why don't you go fuck a Storm Trooper!"

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark (1980)

If this was filmed in the 1960's with John Wayne and Kate Hepburn I probably would have liked it a lot more.

Original letterboxd review

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - USA. A replacement for Synecdoche, New York which I didn't have access to today.

From the first time I saw the three-bladed sword I knew I'd seen this before. So what does The Sword and the Sorcerer have going for it?
  • Conan-like voiceover
  • An evil kingdom ruled over by a wicked king... called Cromwell! Damned royalists everywhere!
  • A good kingdom ruled over by a hippy called Dick
  • A pretty good demon with glowing fingers that should have been in it way more than it was
  • A witch
  • Pustules
  • A hero called Talon. Why are they never called Dave or Susan?
  • Badly glued-on beards and moustaches
  • Skulking
  • A fair amount of blood and gore
  • A princess
  • Treachery
  • Humour
  • Bad hair. Really, really bad hair
  • Fucking Manimal himself!
  • Rats
  • The cheesiest most triumphal music ever!
  • Boobies, both male and female
  • Pretty purple sparks in the final fight scene
  • Molestation by snake
And its cons? It gets a little dull in places and the fights are pretty poor, although Simon MacCorkindale seems pretty handy with a blade. What I didn't realise however is how wooden sticks could be so effective against bloody great swords :)

It doesn't have the camel punching of Conan or the sheer awesomeness of Crow from Hawk the Slayer but The Sword and the Sorcerer is a decent low budget bundle of cheese that's worth checking out.

A parting thought: Why the fuck didn't evil king Cromwell kill his architect rather than imprisoning him so he could divulge the castles secrets? He killed, or at least tried to kill, every other fucker!

Talon! Talon! Talon!

Original letterboxd review

La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus (2012)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Guatemala

The big yellow and entirely functional American school bus is an iconic image that is recognised throughout the world and one that I'll always associate with Dirty Harry - "Sing or I'll go home and kill all your mommies, sing, sing!", but give me a camioneta any day :)

Every year hundreds of old American school buses are driven down to Guatemala and other central American countries to be resurrected as public transport camionetas. This documentary follows one bus on it's trip down through America to its new home. From the purchase of the bus at auction, it's journey through the US, the fear felt by its driver in Mexico, to the bus's new home in Guatemala, and finally its transformation into a camioneta. It's almost like that this is what the bus wanted to be, what it needed to be. Its time as a school bus was just temporary until it reached home, entered its chrysalis of newspaper and masking tape, and finally emerged as a thing of beauty.

The film also focuses on the plight of the drivers and their fear of gangs, extortion, violence and death and the police's attempts to clampdown on the gangs. This is illustrated with footage of one such bus having been blown up by a "remote controlled grenade", apparently because the bus company didn't pay an extortioner their Christmas bonus. A poster in a police station shows that the ex-chief of police is a wanted man. Another poster warns of corruption in the force. Guatemala is a dangerous place and the life of a bus and its crew will be hard and dangerous.

It's Au Hasard Balthazar with a bus!

The year before this film was made, 130 bus drivers and 53 fare collectors were killed in Guatemala.

Original letterboxd review

Anton Corbijn Inside Out (2012)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Netherlands

I've seen Control, which I love, The American, which i almost loved and have grown up seeing his stunning music videos (sometimes a lot better than the actual music) and his photographs of bands and musicians on the front page of the NME. It'll be nice to find out a little more about the Dutch photographer turned film-maker.

The one thing I can see in Corbijn's photographs is how the famous figures are isolated. Even singers reaching down and touching fingers with the audience are still separated by the barrier of the stage and by fences. This feel for isolation is carried through into his films about Ian Curtis, the singer of Joy Division, and Jack the friendless assassin, hiding out in a lonely Italian village. So is Corbijn isolated? Lonely? Well, he's certainly quiet, a man apart even. As for lonely; through necessity he seems to have learned to be content in with own company.

A seemingly workman like documentary with some beautifully subtle touches that enhances Corbijn's isolation perfectly. It does indeed tell us about Corbijn's background, his methodology, motivation and inspiration but it also has a very contemplative, almost sad undercurrent running through it. Excellent, and I'd like to be his friend :)

Standout scene: towards the end there is a heartbreaking conversation between Anton and his mother.

WARNING: Bono appears! I even hate looking at his smug, chewing a wasp face. Please don't talk, please! Bollocks, he spoke. Five minutes of suffering later he finally shuts up and fucks off and we can get back to Corbijn. Can we ban this self-important twat from being a talking head? Please? While we're talking about his holiness, I'd like to straighten something out. In another review or list I'd made a comment that I like Bonios; I was referring to the dog biscuits and not the son of god! I like Bonios and I have my very own Bonio dog :)

Original letterboxd review

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Kokoda (2006)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Australia

"Wallamaloo, you stupid bastard!"

In 1942 a battalion of poorly trained and ill equipped, conscripted Australian soldiers (named Chocos, as they were expected to melt under the heat of battle) were left to hold against the advancing Japanese army on the Kokoda trail in New Guinea. This is the story of one platoon's desperate fight to survive.

Rather ridiculously, Australia seems to be a forgotten force in WWII as far as the rest of the world is concerned and it's good to see a film about the large contribution that they made in the Pacific. What is a shame however is that the film sank without a trace and there are only three reviews on letterboxd - so let's sort that out, eh?.

A decent war film full of small acts of heroism, cowardice, terror, brutality, sweat, overheating Bren guns, moments of peace, comradeship, ultra-cool uniforms, stubbornness, sudden death, dirt, rain, hats, and above all the will to survive. The pacing is a little slow at times but it's well shot with tight, claustrophobic camera-work, good performances and a very nice sound design. Kokoda is a film that deserves way more exposure than it got.

"Courage Endurance Mateship Sacrifice"

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Pride (2014)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - United Kingdom. A replacement for Colin.

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"

-- James Oppenheim

A film about two, superficially at least, disparate and oppressed communities working together in the face of adversity.

If there's one thing I hate it's looking back at the 80's with rose-tinted glasses. The 80's were, to me at least, a time of inequity, unemployment, hate, section 28, the privatisation of national resources, fascism and Margaret fucking Thatcher, but from the opening scene I'm swept away in a stream of nostalgia, authenticity and solidarity. Pride is funny, moving, accurate and fearless. The next time the firefighters, nurses and teachers are portrayed as greedy and selfish, every time the working class are demonised by the government, media and your mates down the pub, and if your son or daughter comes out to you, think of Pride and do the right thing.

Remember, every person has the right to withhold their labour in protest to injustice. Had Pride been released in the late eighties it would have been banned from cinemas across the country due to Section 28.

Pride contains outstanding performances by a great ensemble cast (Joe Gilgun is awesome yet again)! Even Bill Nighy pulls his usual act back several notches.

Further reading:
Another reason to hate The Sun
The 1985 Gay Pride march

Pride is the dog's bollocks and many tears were shed!

This government had an idea
The Parliament made it law
Seems like it's illegal
To fight for the Union any more

And which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?

We set out to join the picket lines
For together we cannot fail
We got stopped by police at the county line
They said, "Go home, boys or you're going to jail"

And which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?

Well, it's hard to explain to a crying child
Why her Daddy won't go back
So the family suffer but it hurts me more
To hear a scab say, Sod you, Jack

Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boys
Which side are you on?

Well, I'm bound to follow my conscience
And I'll do whatever I can
But it'll take much more than the Union law
To knock the fight out of a working man

And which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?

-- Florence Reece

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Friday, 13 March 2015

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - France

This is one of the films on my list that has been worrying me; a clinically shot film about faith. Faith is guess work, assumption, and I prefer conclusions based on fact, knowledge. On the other hand I love donkeys, or dunkeys as it's pronounced down here. Okay Bresson, give me your best shot...

An innocent donkey is baptised and loved by innocents. Persecuted, beaten and chased by those he loves. Even when the plot does not directly concern Balthazar he is still witness to humankind's greatest gifts and it's deepest transgressions. Okay, so because we see how Balthazar suffers, and through him we can see our faults and learn to be nice to one another. That's not so bad. On the other hand we shouldn't need a parable about an abused donkey, or the promise of a carrot to learn morality.

The cinematography and editing is beautiful at times but the stilted (or tired) performances may not be to everyone's taste.

One thing I noted: how similar the young thugs on bikes at the beginning of the film are to the roller-blading demons from Dogma.

Original letterboxd review

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Lady Chatterley (2006)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Belgium

I've not read the novel or seen a film adaptation but I do know the gist of the story and its themes of the class, liberation, healing and in the case of this film, gender roles. So here goes...

From the opening shot, Marina Hands as Constance is the embodiment of loneliness and repression. Hippolyte Girardot as her handicapped husband, Sir Clifford, is as alone as his wife; a sad and wounded man, full of guilt. While Jean-Louis Coulloc'h is quietly brilliant as a slightly balding, middle-aged, taciturn Parkin/Mellors.

Each of the main characters bears their own scars but only Constance and Parkin can only be healed by each other. Clifford, not willing to break the constraints of his class, will never be free and always handicapped.

The isolation of the estate enhances the main character's loneliness while the wild and flowering woods, that Constance travels through for her meetings with Parkin, mirrors what he represents to her. It would have been easy for the characters to slip into caricatures of previous versions but this never happens. They are rounded, restrained and totally believable.

A wonderful film shot through with little touches of humour and full of symbolism (I found the floppy pink tulip at 1;23 hilarious). This Belgian/French adaptation is, at a shade under three hours, a little long but full of passion, tenderness and intelligence.

Note: apparently this film is an adaptation of an alternate and earlier version of the famous novel, named "John Thomas and Lady Jane".

Original letterboxd review

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Michael H – Profession: Director (2013)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Austria

Good news, I've woken up a bit after my disastrous viewing of The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue last night, but I have an admission... I have only seen two Haneke films; Funny Games and Caché. This is something I know I need to remedy. Why then did I decide to watch a documentary of a director I know nothing about? Who knows. As Michael Haneke himself might say - make your own minds up.

The documentary opens with Michael Haneke seemingly staring in a Michael Haneke film which looks like it's filmed on the set of his film, Amour. Very meta. Through interviews, illustrated with excerpts from his films, we learn that Haneke is the very antitheses of Spielberg in that he doesn't manipulate, he just documents, displays situations. There is no director's chair; he directs from the front and is a hard taskmaster. Haneke doesn't like to give his films meaning, that is up to the audience. Haneke documents and all else depends on the observer. We learn why he makes films. We learn how he makes films. We do not learn about him. That would be boring and not relevant.

A documentary is, I guess, the perfect form to portray a director who sees his job as a documenter, although any conclusions drawn are for us to decide upon. Haneke would never try to make us understand him as a director.

At times it seems like a high quality DVD extra but an extremely interesting extra none the less.

A highlight: a little girl playing air guitar to Haneke, whilst da-da-da'ing Smoke on the Water :)

Original letterboxd review

Dr. Grapefruit (2015)

A man builds a Heath Robinson looking time-travel device out of wire, a George Foreman grill and a grapefruit. The camera dropping out of focus mirrors the man's loss of sanity, but towards the end the focus tightens and, as the man disappears, we question was he crazy or were we for doubting the possibility?

I loved the vaguely Middle-Eastern music seguing into choral into synth pop-folk. Also loved the mighty sideburns - I have a pair that are about 30 years old! There was one problem though: near the start of the film the man looks up directly into the camera, which I found jarring.

A very enjoyable film and Eli's first with a narrative. Whatever next!

Watch it here

Original letterboxd review

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Spain

This is going to have to be short and sweet because I'm exhausted and I did nod off in places but this was not necessarily due to the reasonably slow pace of the first half of the film. There's some decent, nasty grue and "life-like" zombies complete with autopsy scars. Way more interesting than most of the zombie movies released nowadays.

One day I'll re-watch it and write a decent review but for now you're just going to have to watch it yourselves as I'm off to bed...

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 8 March 2015

5 Broken Cameras (2011)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Palestine

"...my camera doesn't work well. What I have to film demands a strong camera, not a fragile one"

I thought this would make a fine, and opposing, companion piece to last night's Ida which I took to be a film about Polish guilt over the treatment of Jews during the Second World War.

A film by Emad Burnat documenting Israel's policy of Lebensraum and their illegal occupation of Palestine territory and it's effect on his family's village, seen through the lenses of five cameras that are ultimately broken by the conflict surrounding him.

Six minutes in and we are treated to one of the most chilling scenes I've seen in a documentary. Emad's wife, Soraya, is hanging out the washing on the flat roof of their home while nearby gun fire is heard. What happens next? The washing is still being hung, she doesn't flinch, she doesn't even blink. Then the following, spoken in a calm, matter-of-fact tone: "Emad, don't let the kids out. Soldiers are in the village".

A surprisingly non-partisan piece of film making and a perfect definition of documentary, by a man that has every right to be much angrier than he is. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.

I do realise that my use if the term "Lebensraum" may be considered inflammatory but I cannot see what else this type of expansion could be called.

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Ida (2013)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Poland

I tend to review films from an emotional point of view and thought it'd be fun to try a more technical perspective for Ida.

Rarely will you watch a film as consistently beautifully shot as Ida. Every shot is balanced and framed with the majority using the golden ratio, or divine proportion (note the use of a spiral staircase in one scene), with lots of negative space and the action offset, focusing attention on the subject whilst also giving it room to breathe. The academy ratio of 1.37:1 is perfect for this style of composition, being almost square. Everything about Ida is studied, harmoniously and perfectly positioned.

So, what's it about?

The dichotomy between the persecution of Jews during the Second World War (and before) and the resulting uptake of post-war Roman Catholicism and the consequent personal, religious and national guilt in a western influenced, post-Stalinist Poland.

Every shot brought a smile to my face and from a technical point of view I cannot give anything other than five stars.


Original letterboxd review

Friday, 6 March 2015

Foxfire (2012)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Canada

"So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race."

Raise the black, red or rainbow flag high comrades, 'cause here's Foxfire!

What could have been - the Riot grrrl movement shifted through time to the 1950's, fighting back against male entitlement. It would be nice to think things have changed but take a look at the posts, youtube and Facebook posts about, not just anti-feminism, but sexual abuse, harassment, everyday sexism and pretty much anywhere a woman has an opinion and you'll see that we're still stuck in the land of T-Birds and Pink Ladies.

It ain't particularly well made, the acting is a little all over the place and it's too long by a good 30 minutes, but it's energising and it's message is powerful. Take your life into your own hands. Fight back and make change happen. This is what I want, kids pissed off, fucking with the status quo and just, well, doing shit! Right on sisters and brothers and good on you Canada!

As well as the very obvious parallels with Riot Grrrl (try and catch the reference to the Kathleen Hanna / Courtney Love altercation) there are also allusions to the persecution of women during the witch trials, with a court room scene in particular, standing out.

A favourite moment: the tattoo session. where I could imagine piss taking, name calling and machismo from a bunch of boys the young women hug and help each other through the pain with no embarrassment or loss of status.

Girls to the front!

Original letterboxd review

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Promedio rojo (2004)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Chile

What could be better than watching a film whilst Zoe watches Eastenders and Holby.

Okay, here we go with my Chilean selection... oh shit, I think this is supposed to be funny. I don't get along with funny films. I hate funny films.

Ten minutes in and I still haven't laughed. Prommedio rojo seems really well made and modelled after Scott Pilgrim with it's superhero daydreams crossed with crassness of The Inbetweeners but... Ten minutes in and we have a misogynistic comedy filled to overflowing with stereotypes, "fag" jokes, cruelty, and with all the finesse of the Three Stooges on poppers, let loose in a Peppermint Rhino bar. 25 minutes in (the scene with the sexy school nurse) and I've pretty much finished my review and want to die.

The following sums up the film perfectly. Two boys daydream about asking a couple of girls for a dance, the girls say "no" and then start kissing each other. Aren't we past "they don't fancy us, they must be lesbians" mentality? Don't get me started on how abortion is treated, considering that this film seems to aimed at teenagers.

I know I'm not the best to judge a comedy but this film makes Porky's look like a sensitive portrayal of young romance but without the funny bits.

Fucking awful. I should have watched Holby.

Original letterboxd review

Addition to original review: I forgot to mention our hero's subconsciousness advising him to rape a sleeping girl.

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Turin Horse (2011)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Hungary

Everything we do has a purpose and that purpose must be accomplished with an economy of movement, using as little energy as possible. Why speak when there is nothing to say. A window. An empty birdcage. Work, eat, sleep. Eat, sleep. Sleep. The wind, always the wind.

Entropy caused by the inevitability of stasis. Until the end.

Sleep, I have work in the morning...

Original letterboxd review

What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)

Just the most perfect animated film. The rather plump horse, the bastardised Wagner, the lyrics (smog!), the animation. When I was starting out in programming I wrote an Elmer Fudd filter that turned my emails into Fudd speak :) I don't think my boss approved. Beautiful and really fucking funny.

"Kill the wabbit!"

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Village at the End of the World (2012)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Greenland

The slow death of a village in Greenland due to the closure of the fish factory, subsidy cuts, the emigration of the young and the dilution of tradition.

The sequence of the tourists visiting this "quaint" village towards the end of the film made me feel incredibly angry and, at the same time, so sad because I know that I am one of them. I am looking at these people through the rose-tinted specs of a man sat on his fat arse on a comfortable sofa. I am a tourist, I don't want them to change and I know that this attitude is so wrong. This is not a theme park and these people are not attractions.

From summer when the colours are vibrant and almost Mediterranean, to the endless night of winter when the sea, the sky and the people are grey, this is a beautifully shot film and its short 78 minute length is perfect.

Life goes on. The shit still needs emptying.

Hey Terése, there's sled dogs!

Original letterboxd review

Brave (2007)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Thailand

Stuntman Mike B plays B, an incredibly inept, camp thief who rips off a credit card list from Wealthy Bank (yes, Wealthy Bank). All sorts of illogical shit follows.

There is some nice stunt work but this doesn't make up for the mess of "one-at-a-time" fight choreography, terrible acting, WTF dialogue, diabolical (Thai) ADR, dizzying camera work, and a nonsensical plot with more holes than something with lots of holes.

None of this film makes any sense and the Ennio Morricone-score-a-like final fight was just unforgivable. Just remember, I sat through this so you don't have to.

Go watch a Tony Jaa film instead, although Todd will probably love it :)

Original letterboxd review

Miss Violence (2013)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Greece

My first film in the March Around the World 2015 Challenge and what a stunning film it was!

It's Angeliki's birthday and, unusually, she looks unhappy, depressed even. After a dance with her Grandfather, and with a sad half-smile, eleven year old Angeliki throws herself from the apartment balcony and dies on the pavement below.

It's pretty much impossible to review this Miss Violence without giving away the entire film, so I won't. What I will say is that you need replace a film from your lists with this, right now!

Miss Violence has exemplary performances, an effective sparse sound design, superb editing and excellent, generally static, cinematography that reminded me of Michael Haneke.

A deeply unsettling film that, at first, seems quite slow but is filled with tension. It terrified me.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go watch it!

Original letterboxd review