Wednesday, April 21, 2010

BIFFF 2010

I was lucky enough to attend this year's Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, and I thought I'd post a bunch of one-line reviews for all the films I saw. Some of these will be getting the full review treatment soon too!

A Serbian Film (Serbia, 2009, dir. Srdjan Spasojevic): FANTASTIC! Music, direction, acting, structure, metaphor, extremity – superb. Won’t ever see the light of day in the UK in its current form!

The Human Centipede: First Sequence
(USA, 2009 dir. Tom Six): great fun, something a little bit different, not that sick!

The Killer Inside Me
(USA, 2010, dir. Michael Winterbottom): great! Twisted, enjoyable, brutal, wonderful central performance

Valhalla Rising
(Denmark/UK, 2009, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn): awesome, but needs a second viewing; very metaphorical and arty

(UK, 2009, dir. Phillip Ridley): really enjoyable and well-made, although again incoherent in parts

(Ireland/USA, 2010, dir. Neil Jordan): lovely fairytale, cheesy, yes, but very pretty and sweet

(Belgium, 2009, dir. Vincent Lannoo): Hysterically funny and witty, a very likeable film

(Norway, 2009, dir. Severin Eskeland): utterly clich├ęd but massively entertaining slasher throwback

Zombies of Mass Destruction
(USA, 2009, dir. Kevin Hamedani): surprisingly good fun, despite crap acting and hit-and-miss jokes, great make up effects

(Thailand, 2010, dir. Kongkiat Khomsiri): an interesting, twisty thriller, but the humour/drama does not meld as well as it could

(South Korea, 2009, dir. Lee Yong Joo-I): decent creeper, but too long and too similar to Dark Water

5150 Rue des Ormes
(Canada, 2009, dir. Eric Tessier): solid thriller/horror, a little incoherent but enjoyable and a bit different

The Life and Death of a Porno Gang
(Serbia, 2009, dir. Mladen Djordjevic): explicit comedy/drama, which completely loses its way after the first 40 minutes or so, with the political rhetoric being less effective when all the humour is lost

Glenn 3948
(Belgium, 2010, dir. Marc Goldstein): cute but bizarre concept terribly executed; awful music, direction, acting, script

(USA, 2009, dir. Jordan Barker): a solid thriller let down by an uncharismatic lead and a twist that’s too twisty

Evil in the Time of Heroes
(Greece, 2009, dir. Yorgos Noussias): utter shit!

(Norway, 2009, dir. Pal Oie): boring, looked nice though

(Spain, 2009, dir. Eduard Cortes): enjoyable, if pretentious, film about arty young people

Reykjavik Whale-Watching Massacre
(Iceland, 2009, dir. Julius Kemp): boring, nothing special

(Italy, 2009, dir. Dario Argento): a cheap Argento knock off…directed by Argento sign of a career resurgance here!

Survival of the Dead
(USA, 2009, dir. George A. Romero): just…what?!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Oscar Nominations 2010

So, the Oscars. A few adequate surprises in what is mostly a rehash of nominations we’ve seen over and over again this awards season.

I’m going to come right out and tell you which nomination excites me the most: Hans Zimmer’s Sherlock Holmes for Best Original Score. Say what you will about the film (I personally love it a little more than might be considered healthy), but there’s no denying that the music is superb. I’m so pleased to see it get recognised!

The Best Picture list is a nice, if predictable, list. Very pleased to see District 9 and Up recognised in there, but The Blind Side? Really? It must be a two-horse race between Avatar and The Hurt Locker, but I’d love to see an outsider like An Education steal it! For Best Director, I’m rooting for Kathryn Bigelow. I’ve seen embarrassingly few of this years’ main nominees, but I’m rooting for the lady, hands down.

So pleased to see Colin Firth nominated, but I’m betting Jeff Bridges is almost a certainty in the Best Actor category. I’d say betting against Sandra Bullock would be fairly foolish, too, but damn, if I’m not rooting for Carey Mulligan. Christoph Waltz must surely be another safe bet, and deservedly so, and Mo’Nique must be fairly certain for Best Supporting Actress, in what seems like a decidedly week category (as much as the inclusion of Anna Kendrick makes me happy!).

For Best Original Screenplay I am hoping against hope that Up steals it, even if simply for the line “I was hiding under your porch because I love you.” Similarly, I would love to see District 9 steal away the Best Adapted Screenplay award, and I’m also pleasantly surprised to see In the Loop recognised there.

Best Animated Feature shouldn’t even be up for discussion. Up.

I would get into the technical categories, but to be honest I mostly don’t understand them and would just be picking out my favourite films from the lists. Having said that, I’m still rooting Sherlock Holmes for Best Art Direction ;)

What're your thoughts on the nominations?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Love-fest '10

Wow, I've been named as a Kreativ Creative Kreativ Blogger! As a result, it's my responsibility to pass on the honour!

1: Thank the person who nominated me

A very big thank you David McGuigan, for saying lovely things about me. Anyone who calls me a 'smart lady' and says my opinions are 'well-observed' is cool in my book! But seriously - thank you. We've been chatting on Twitter and it's always great to have such in-depth conversations about film, and to end up being appreciated in return!

2: Copy the logo and place it on your blog

Ooh, swish!

3: Link to the person who nominated you for this award

Done. :)

4: Name 7 things about yourself that people may find interesting:

Oh my god, seven? Are you serious?! I'm not that interesting! Here goes anyway...

1) I've been a vegetarian since I was 9 (I'm now 23). Hard work it was too: it's because I love the lovely animals, not because I don't like the taste of meat. Of course, by now, I feel sick even at the smell of meat, so now, it's pretty damn easy :)

2) I did two years of a Celtic Studies degree before switching to Film and Television Studies. I don't regret it: had I decided to study film from the very beginning, I probably would never have ended up at Aberystwyth University. This town may be small, and in the middle of nowhere, but it's got a bloody great bunch of people teaching film, and a damn fine little horror festival, too ;)

3) I have three phobias, which I'm expanding to three points on this list because like I! Anyway, the first: needles. I cannot even watch injections etc. on screen. I can watch all sorts of gory junk and barely bat an eyelid, but even hint that an injection is about to be shown and I'll have to cover my eyes. If I have to have an injection/have blood taken, I will do it, but I will feel like utter crawling hell for every single second of the wait and the act itself.

4) Second phobia: spiders. I can literally waste HOURS of my day if there's a spider around. I once wasted a whole morning because there was a tiny, barely-visible spider in the way of my wardrobe, meaning I couldn't get dressed. I even have one of those 'friendly spider catchers', but it doesn't matter, I can stand at arms length from the creature, spider catcher in hand, and just stay like that, for minutes and minutes on end. My problem? See that thing about being a vegetarian? I can't bring myself to kill the little bastards either - it's hardly their fault I'm scared of them!

5) Third phobia: the dark. What?! I hear you cry...well, yes. This phobia is not nearly so bad as the other two, however, I am pretty scared of the dark. Switch a light off on me and I will probably freak out. While it doesn't bother me to the extent that I can't walk outside at night or whatever, it does bother me to the extent that when I get ready for bed at night, I have to make sure everything's done so that as soon as I switch the light off, I can jump into bed. If I need to do anything else - that light goes right back on again. Ditto, I won't walk into dark rooms or leave a dark room behind me if I know I'll be going to be walking back through it shortly after.

6) Bizarrely, despite all my love of promoting women in film and so forth, I cannot name you my favourite actresses (aside from Gillian Anderson), never mind my favourite female filmmakers. However, my favourite directors are Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, Lindsay Anderson and Gaspar Noe; while my favourite actors are Anthony Hopkins, Malcolm McDowell, Conrad Veidt and Dirk Bogarde. Those lists come easily. Go figure.

7) I can play the piano, although not nearly as well as I used to (which wasn't that great). I love classical music, and if I had to pick one one CD to take on a desert island or whatever, it'd be Beethoven's Ninth.

Phew. Thank god that's done.

5: Nominate 5 Kreativ bloggers (I'm going to try to be a bit different...)

1) Bloofer Lady: Lady knows her stuff, and has impecable taste in actors ;)

2) Hannah Neurotica: The personal blog of a very inspirational lady, whose dedication to horror is nothing short of magnificent.

3) Jen and Sylvia Soska: These two ladies are just plain awesome: great films, great attitude, great future.

4) Lloyd Kaufman: Yes, this counts as a blog (sort of...). Lloyd's a wonderfully intelligent man, which, wrapped in such a great wit, is put to great use here.

5) Keri O'Shea: She's very new to blogging, but she's not new to damn fine film reviewing. Check her out.

6: Post links to the 5 blogs

7: Leave a comment on the blogs you have nominated.

Good god this is hard work! But fine. I have. I did. It's done.

Thus ends your unscheduled backslapping :D

Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Top 10

I've been seeing top ten lists popping up everywhere, so I finally thought why the hell not: here's my own. There are a lot of good films I've managed to miss though - A Serious Man, The Hurt Locker, Moon to name but three (I know, it's a travesty) - but I'm fairly sure much of this list would remain the same. The list has a vague order to it, but some films could probably easily switch positions!

Without further ado, here are my top ten films of 2009. Feel free to agree/disagree/laugh at my taste ;)

1. La Horde (Yannick Dahan)

This French action-horror is fist-in-the-air, cheer-for-the-heroes, balls-to-the-wall brilliance. Not remotely original or clever, the film is full of interesting characters (although many are introduced with an utterly pointless prelude) and directed with such gusto that it's impossible not to love it.

2. Up (Pete Docter and Bob Peterson)

Up. What on earth can I say about Up that hasn't been said already? While Wall-E remains my favourite Pixar movie (and is, pretty much, my favourite film ever), Up is an exquisitely made film which treats children as future grown-ups and grown-ups as eternal children. Just...gorgeous.

3. Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie)

Rip-roaring good fun, Sherlock Holmes is a perfect event movie: great fun, great excitement, great set-pieces, great dialogue, great music...the smile that was plastered on my face for most of the movie was still there hours later. And I've not even mentioned the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law...

4. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)

A film I reviewed earlier in the year, District 9 proves that sci-fi can still be interesting, while providing silly guns and tentacled aliens. As exciting on a third viewing as it was on the first, District 9 is a true triumph.

5. Mesrine, parts 1 and 2 (Jean-Francois Richet)

This two-parter is an exercise in thrills, with an absolutely electric lead performance by Cassel. While the supporting cast - including Cecile de France, Samuel le Bihan and the wonderful Mathieu Amalric - all put in great performances and the direction keeps the action alive, Cassel really steals the show.

6. Enter the Void (Gaspar Noe)

I'm still not even sure if Enter the Void can be called a 'good' film, but my god, it's an experience. That it's still not been picked up for distribution is baffling, as it's a visual and aural feast. Noe does not disappoint in continuing to challenge his audience.

7. Antichrist (Lars Von Trier)

The utterly graphic Antichrist might not be as shocking as some people have made out (though shocking it is), it's a truly dark film that explores grief and insanity like no other. And thank goodness for the courage of an actress like Charlotte Gainsbourg.

8. Avatar (James Cameron)

The story might be something we've heard before, and its morals might be didactic, but there is no fault to Avatar's visuals. There's not an instant in the film where the Na'vi and their world don't convince as being completely and utterly real.

9. Thirst (Park Chan-wook)

A darkly funny twist on the vampire tale, Chan-wook breathes life into the poor, abused blood-suckers. I'm looking forward to the DVD release, because a double-bill with Let the Right One In would be divine!

10. Orphan (Jaume Collet-Serra)

Orphan may not have gained massive critical acclaim, but it's one the films that I most enjoyed this year. It's accessible, but brave, mainstream horror with an absolutely stellar performance from young Isabelle Fuhrman as the titular orphan, Esther, who deserves to go down in the annals of great creepy kids.

Honourable mentions go to: Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi), Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn), St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold (Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson) and Dorian Gray (Oliver Parker). Stop sniggering at the back, I really mean those last two!

Happy new year everyone - here's hoping 2010's a good year for film!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Women and the Box Office

In response to:

Oh, Hollywood. Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood. And oh, popular reporting on Hollywood. Do you really think that by providing an infinite loop of this kind of reporting that the big bad male studio execs you refer to will ever change? No, they won’t.

New Moon, The Blind Side, The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City, Mamma Mia, Julie and Julia, 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth. I’m female, and I’ve seen three of these films – Mamma Mia on DVD (because I was literally forced to, by my parents), New Moon because it’s stupidly entertaining and The Ugly Truth because I mistakenly thought that Gerard Butler would make up for the shitty script.

"There's no difference in movie-going by gender; women are just as likely to go to the movies as men," the director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, Martha Lauzen, is quoted as saying. Well, good for her. The next paragraph along, however, and we get this gem: “If you give women movies reflecting their experience and interests, Lauzen says, they will go -- even on opening weekend.” Oh my gosh, go to the cinema on an opening weekend?! But I always wait a few weeks so the horrible boy smell has gone?! Puh-lease – a film doesn’t have to reflect my experience nor my interests for me to go see it, opening weekend or not. The article goes on to comment that “the movie industry always seems surprised to find out that women go to the movies” – this is true, but I think there’s a confusion here too, between films with lots of women in them, and cinemas with lots of women in them.

Another quote by Lauzen: "Women are a dramatically underserved segment of the moviegoing population, and if the industry would produce films that are not, by the way, just about shoes and clothes, but really had multidimensional female characters doing interesting things, women will go to see these movies in droves." True, and that’s all well and good, but this same article has just listed New Moon, Sex and the City and The Ugly Truth amongst recent successes – multidimensional and interesting they are not. A quote from a different commentator: "studios are run by stubborn men, so it'll take more than this to make substantial changes." While I’ve no doubt that this is true, maybe if women (and men!) stopped showing up in droves to watch drivel like The Ugly Truth (guilty, as charged, although that was a rare slip-up), then said stubborn men would stop hiring hacks (male and female) to make backward rom-coms and might instead hire more Kathryn Bigelows and Lexi Alexanders. Of course, if the same stubborn men stopped peppering their ‘man films’ (god, what a horrible turn of phrase) with semi-naked ‘actresses’, they might find more female bums on seats for those films too.

But, most of all, guess what, CNN? A hell of a lot of women go watch horror movies, too, and I’ll bet the same's true for other sorts of films. Recently an internet radio show host expressed her absolute surprise (nay, disbelief) that at least half of horror audiences are women. I’m going to go take a guess as to why that’s a surprise – because outlets like CNN don’t talk about it. They definitely do talk about The Blind Side and The Ugly Truth, though. Maybe if we celebrated and talked about women going to watch all sorts of films, then those big bad Hollywood men would think about changing their ways too.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Short Film: The Return, Elli Raynai

The Return is a short film with a lot of ambition. It tells the tale of a teenager who runs away from home only to return – transformed. As a meditation on revenge and guilt, the film makes a lovely twist on the zombie genre. Personally, however, the one thing it truly strives for – exciting VFX – is the one thing that lets it down most.

This short has a great concept and a strong script to go with it and Raynai directs the action wonderfully. These strengths are only somewhat undermined by the shaky acting, but in a film of this budget such a weakness is only to be expected and does not distract too much from the concept.

So, the visual effects. I should qualify my thoughts on this aspect of the film by pointing out that I have issues with the over use of digital effects in horror (or any genre). The visual effects used in The Return are far from terrible, however, I dislike the extent to which they’re used. The practical make-up effects used in The Return are wonderful, and it seems a shame that more make-up effects weren’t used in place of the digital effects. Personally, I’d rather see slightly cheap-looking make-up effects on a zombie, than nice-looking digital ones. Instead of thinking ‘oh my god, he’s a zombie!’ in this film, I found myself thinking ‘huh, check out those digital effects’. This may be due to my own aversion to the pervasive use of computer-generated effects, but my point is thus: make up is actually there, a digital effect isn’t. I’m far more likely to believe in a less-than-perfect make-up effect than a less-than-perfect digital effect.

The Return shows a lot of potential, but a reliance on digital effects won’t, in my opinion, allow that potential to shine.

For more information on the film, check out the website:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Enter the Void (Noe, 2009)

On Friday I took a 5:30am train to travel to London in order to see Gaspar Noe’s latest film, Enter the Void, screening as part of this year’s London Film Festival. As I stood outside the Vue cinema in Leicester Square a young man approached the box office and asked, quite confidently, for a ticket to see ‘Entering the Void’. I wondered if he couldn’t get the title right, if he knew quite what he was letting himself in for. Having now seen the film, it’s safe to say that it doesn’t matter how familiar you are with the film before going to see it for yourself – it’s impossible to know what you’re letting yourself in for.

Read the rest of the review HERE @!