Category Archives: Film

Review: Sightseers

Sightseers_TitlecardRating: 8/10     Director: Ben Wheatley     Starring: Alice Lowe (Tina), Steve Oram (Chris)     Screenwriters: Amy Jump, Alice Lowe, Steve Oram Director of Photography: Laurie Rose

Warning! Spoilers Throughout

Sightseers” has permanently altered my view on the Caravan holiday. In Britain the Caravan trip is widely viewed as a piss poor excuse for an adventure often reserved for families of the suburbs and the elderly; over here no Caravaner is safe from public ridicule. Thanks to “Sightseers” I will now forever associate Caravaning with ginger bearded serial killers, Daily Mail readers and a dog named Banjo … or is it Poppy? Ben Wheatley has demonstrated a knack for blurring the lines between genres in his previous titles, but intertwining comedy and horror will have undoubtedly presented a fresh yet daunting challenge to the director and his screenwriters.

Although “Sightseers” is undeniably a black comedy (and a very dark one at that), the brutal violence and humor refuse to intertwine for so much as an instant. Obviously this has been done to dodge the issue of taking dramatic effect away from the severity of the murders, but I feel the juxtaposing scenes of horror and comedy infer that “Sightseers” is wrestling with an identity crisis of sorts. When compared to “Four Lions”a superb example of British black comedy that also grapples the theme of mass murder – the absence of a connection between comedy and violence in “Sightseers” feels a little disappointing, perhaps more could have been done by Wheatley and the writing trio to mend the gap between comedy and horror as Chris Morris managed to with “Four Lions”.

In spite of its slightly confusing demeanor “Sightseers” remains comical in a charmingly witty and quirky British sense. Tina (Lowe) and Chris’s (Oram) meal at the roadside restaurant yielded the funniest moment in the film; Tina’s justification of Chris’s murders as being ‘green’ in the long run was a witty, satirical nudge at European obsessions with environmental security and the very British way of trying to justify absolutely everything.

The majority of “Sightseers” slander targets the inconsiderate and the self entitled that Chris possesses a strong taste for murdering. These detestable characters were very notably targeted in the incident with the Daily Mail reader and the dog poo where-in Chris openly expressed annoyance with the mans smug sense of self entitlement, before providing him with a long overdue bludgeoning. On discovering a copy of the Daily Mail in his bag Chris denounces the notion of him being a human, expressing Wheatley, Lowe, Oram and a majority of Britain’s current disdain for conservatives and the right wing without reserve.

The motives behind Chris and Tina’s murders are still debatable, despite the aforementioned focus of “Sightseers” jibes. Chris always seemed driven by his disgust for inconsiderate behavior and pompousness, the running down of the tram litterer in the first half of the movie cleverly signposted these motivations for slaughter to come in the latter half of the film.

On the other hand the reasons behind Tina’s murders are a little less straight forward. It could be argued that Tina – much alike Chris – murdered the bride on the basis of her inconsiderate behavior, but I’m convinced it was an act largely motivated by revenge. Moreover Tina managed to park the Caravan on top of a road side runner, and shove Chris’s new friend/business partner off of a steep cliff face whilst he lay encased in his hopeless Carapod contraption. The latter killing was seemingly brought about by Tina’s paranoia and distrust of Chris’s friend, but the murder of the runner was fueled simply by Tina’s demand for Chris’s approval.  In light of Chris not satisfying her desperation for approval in the face of her whacking his new mate, Tina tricked him into launching himself off the Ribblehead to his death. I personally think she decided to dupe him because of his hypocritically self absorbed and inconsiderate behavior that you’ll have likely twigged in the latter half of the film.

I never found myself rooting for Tina or Chris, but their depth of character was the foundation for an engrossing and wholly original story that owes a lot of its worth to Lowe and Oram, who both formulated this brutally grim idea behind this dark as can be comedy, and acted out the key roles masterfully. The Director of Photography Laurie Rose delivered justice to the serenity of northern British countryside and the ancient architecture that lies within it through the regular use of picturesque establishing shots that were crucially important to maintaining the immersion in a story so heavily influenced by the locale of scenes.

Overall “Sightseers” is an ultimately enjoyable, must watch black comedy with an air of charming, off beat originality and a resonant moral message to British society: try not to be inconsiderate, and stop reading the Daily Mail – ginger serial killers hate it.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments!


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A Study of the New French Extremity


The New French Extremity – like any industry jargon – sounds like an intimidating film concept, but thankfully the idea of the New French Extremity is very simple to understand. James Quandt, a critic at Artforum who conjured up the term, described the unique genre as:

“Cinema suddenly determined to break every taboo, to wade in rivers of viscera and spumes of sperm, to fill each frame with flesh, nubile or gnarled, and subject it to all manner of penetration, mutilation, and defilement.” – James Quandt, Artforum

In essence, the New French Extremity is a horror sub genre where-in extreme, often sexually oriented acts of mutilation and violence are the focal point of the movies within. Think “The Human Centipede” with subtitles, and you basically have the gist of what movies within the New French Extremity category are all about …

(Check out my FULL ARTICLE over at The Artifice!)

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Review: Fat Kid Rules the World


Fat Kid Rules the World certainly isn’t a movie that is sold by its title. Matthew Lillard- who starred in Scream and The Descendents – debuted in the director’s chair for this coming-of-age comedy that follows the fat kid Troy Billings’s (Jacob Wysocki) transformation from a nobody to a somebody when his life is saved by local punk guitarist, Marcus Macrae (Matt O’Leary).

Regardless of Fat Kid being his first film out of the gates as a director, Lillard had a lot of competition to stand up to, with the likes of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Richard Ayoade’s superb premier title Submarine in the same playing field, Fat Kid Rules The World couldn’t afford to be much less than spectacular in order to compete with its peers.

Warning Spoilers Throughout!

Unfortunately Fat Kid Rules the World had a handful of pretty serious problems that stopped it from being anything more than a just above average watch. My biggest gripe with the movie was its terribly slow rate of plot progression; the film’s open ending was nothing short of infuriating, and I am still bewildered as to why such little focus was placed on not only the punk music genre, but more importantly Troy’s progression as a musician. In spite of the fact that not a lot physically happened, Troy’s coming-of-age and progression as a character was handled well and prevented Fat Kid from feeling like a total waste of time.

Another bone I have to pick with Fat Kid Rules the World concerns just how hard it tries to be funny on occasions. In the scene where a parallel tracking shot follows Troy as he takes his dinner tray through an assortment of random areas, that  culminates with him pencil diving into the deep end of a swimming pool, I felt the references to the influential coming-of-age films Rushmore and Submarine were just a poorly handled, witless nod at the writer’s influences. The sequence simply added nothing to the narrative or my enjoyment of the movie.

Troy’s trailer line – ‘Don’t fuck with the fat kid!’ – is another particularly distinct example of humor gone awry in Fat Kid Rules the World; honestly I wouldn’t call Fat Kid a comedy, watching it with the mindset of it being a drama will leave you far less disappointed with the final product. That said Fat Kid Rules the World isn’t totally void of hilarity. Troy’s first near-performance that ends up making him so anxious he projectile vomits over his drum kit (and some of the audience) was a brilliant little moment, it’s just a shame there wasn’t more of the same.

Negatives aside, Fat Kid Rules the World was still an entertaining, and at times a briefly thought provoking venture too. Billy Campbell’s performance as Mr Billings was phenomenal, it is a crime that neither the BAFTA association or the Academy gave his legendary acting efforts at least some recognition through a nomination for the Best Actor award. Mr Billings gifting of a drum kit to Troy, that most importantly came with placing his trust in Troy to fulfill his responsibility regarding its maintenance, made for a genuinely endearing moment that owes a lot of its emotional impact to the stellar and charming performance dished out by Wysocki.

Troy’s love interest with Isabel (Lili Simmons) pulled off an unexpected, controversial yet effective twist when Troy quickly came to realize and accept that she and his old best friend Manoj (a largely unmemorable character) were already pretty intimate. Had Troy simply gone through the standard ‘comes from nothing, then finds love (and music)’ story archetype, Fat Kid only would have really suffered for it on the whole. Thankfully the writers showed some good sense and decided to opt out of the cliché route, delivering a very welcome, and refreshing surprise.

Fat Kid Rules the World also used Marcus’s character effectively as an embodiment of the problems surrounding narcotics abuse; tactfully showing the gritty nature of drug addiction and the helplessness of those deep into addiction without making the fatal mistake of dehumanizing them. In spite of this, I never really appreciated Matt O’ Leary’s performance as Marcus, at times it felt far too forced and over zealous which definitely broke the immersion at a couple of key points.

The largely functional but disappointingly unimpressive and uninspired technical aspects of Fat Kid Rules the World sadly sealed its fate as little more than your average coming-of-age movie. I just wish movies like this weren’t afraid to show off a little bit of individual and innovative technical/visual style; it’s the only sure fire way to set their selves a way from the pack and avoid being stale and easily forgettable pictures.

Final Grade: C-

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Quick Look: The Kings of Summer Preview


What is The King’s of Summer all about?

The King’s of Summer is a quirky, seemingly low budget, coming-of-age title that deals with the story of three teenage guys Patrick (Gabriel Basso), Joe (Nick Robinson) and Biaggio (Moises Arias) who take it upon their selves to build a fully fledged house in the woods during their summer, to avoid the ever annoying presence of their parents authority. Living off the land and fending for their selves out in the wild of course proves be a far trickier task than the boys had ever come to expect, this leads to some tough tests on their friendships and harsh realizations on the importance of family. The Kings of Summer’s unique and charming flair – that I suppose you could compare to a Wes Anderson movie if you really wanted too – coupled with its coming-of-age style story that I have a particular soft spot for, leaves my interests in this movie at a peak.

Who’s in it, and what have they done before?

Nick Offerman, who you may have noticed in the trailer still below, plays the role of lead character Joe Toy’s suburban father, Frank Toy. Offerman’s has notably starred in the popular TV comedy Parks & Recreation and last year’s brilliant big screen cop comedy 21 Jump Street. Nick Robinson (Joe Toy) has very little in the way of major screen time to his name, if you ever saw the movie adaptation of the Goodnight, Mister Tom (which was the subject of my primary school English classes) he was the WWII evacuee Willie Beech.

Gabriel Basso, who plays Patrick (Joe’s ginger friend), will be recognized by some of you following his performance in the well received Sci-Fi Super 8 in 2011. Moises Arias (Biaggio) voice acted the character Spiller in the anime The Secret World of Arrietty, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes mention little else aside from a couple of Hannah Montana films so it could be interesting to see how the young actor fares in The Kings of Summer.

How has the critical perception been so far?

The King’s of Summer’s premiere at the illustrious Sundance Film Festival churned out what looks to be wholly positive reviews from the press. The Rotten Tomatoes page references 8 ‘fresh’ reviews giving the movie a fantastic 100% positive reception from the small crowd. One review overview on the page that particularly grabbed my attention came from Erik Childress from Film Threat, who made this remark on the movie: ‘Toy’s House is what Moonrise Kingdom might have been like if the director’s played-out style and monotone quirkiness had not interfered with its similar tale.’ Moonrise Kingdom left me disappointed for the same reason and it is a shame considering all of the potential the film had. Thankfully, if Childress is to be trusted, that sorely missed potential is set to be pounced upon by The Kings of Summer.

When will The Kings of Summer be released?

The current North American debut is rumored to be May 31st, this rumor sounds about right to me, considering the movies title I wouldn’t expect it to come any later than August in cinema’s worldwide.

Official Site    IMDB

If you wish to leave any thoughts on The Kings of Summer, by all means feel free to leave them in the comment section below!

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New Trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby; More Slo-Mo Shouting!

Baz Luhrmann’s big screen adaptation of the cult classic novel The Great Gatsby has an almost unrivaled potential to be the greatest film to hit cinemas in 2013 simply because of the sheer weight of the totally enthralling and captivating story that it already has behind it; with the release of the third and final trailer I can safely say I have never anticipated a movie so eagerly in my lifetime.

The third trailer unveiled some fantastically dramatic new musical numbers from the likes of Jay Z, Beyoncé and Florence + The Machine that will no doubt serve to enhance the flamboyant style I suspect Luhrmann intends for the flick if his previous titles Moulin Rogue and Romeo + Juliet are anything to go by. A wealth of shots showed off the utterly stunning sets of both Jay Gatsby and the Buchanan’s glorious mansions, there were also glimpses of some very impressive special effects, the most notable of which being the visual effects used to create the brilliant sight of The Manhattan Bridge.

It wouldn’t have been a true The Great Gatsby trailer if it wasn’t crammed with those goose-bump inducing clips of Gatsby’s famous parties and Slo-Mo close ups of various members of the cast letting out their anger; finally we got to see Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) have a good old scream at the perpetually infuriating racist Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), and more surprisingly we were treated to a couple shots of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) getting carried away (apologies) for one reason or another.


Leonardo DiCaprio playing the role of Jay Gatsby

It’s reassuring to see that Baz Luhrmann has clearly utilized his talent for extravagance to perfectly portray that magnificent 1920’s style that’s so crucial to making a successful on screen adaptation of the novel. Whether or not the movies plot will do justice and stay faithful to the iconic book remains to be seen, but with the absolutely stellar casting choices that have been made I’m placing all my faith in this summer blockbuster. The Great Gatsby will be released in cinemas on May 10th, and the aforementioned visuals will make it almost essential to check this movie out at an IMAX 2D screening if your local cinema gives you the option.

Have any thoughts on The Great Gatsby? Leave them in the comment section below!

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Actor Spotlight: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL) is undeniably up there with some of today’s most impressive young acting talents proceeding his sterling break out performance in the revered Dramedy (500) Days of Summer in 2009. Levitt has a somewhat spectacular run of performances recently, having starred in four of last years biggest films including the Sci-Fi Looper and the political drama Lincoln. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s greatest quality is a level of versatility and adaptability that is only usually found in the more notable and seasoned actors; one minute Levitt can be a young man struggling with cancer and the next a love struck would-be architect, no matter how sizable the difference in the characters he always manages to transition between them flawlessly. Below are a few select examples of movies in recent years where-in Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proved his astounding acting capabilities in lead roles.

1.(500) Days of Summer (IMDB|Rotten Tomatoes|Netflix)

Joseph’s performance in the cult classic indie RomCom (500) Days of Summer granted him the essential notoriety needed to ‘make it’ in the film industry. This new found recognition was more than deserved; JGL had a vice-like grasp of his character the love struck, would-be architect Tom who’s tragic break up was the focus of the plot. Albeit JGL perhaps didn’t capture the behavior of a bereaving young man as he gradually comes to realize who he truly is with spotless technical skill. However Levitt did show these developments with slight flaws amidst acting brilliance that strangely reflected his character Tom, somehow making his performance all the more convincing and immersing; JGL has a strange way of finding perfection in imperfection. (500) Days of Summer is a totally refreshing movie experience that is never anything short of entertaining, a must watch in my book!


2. 50/50 (IMDB|Rotten Tomatoes|Netflix)

Cancer is an understandably perilous topic to represent in film if you can’t do so with a degree of tactfulness and accuracy. 50/50 meets both of these requirements, largely thanks to a fantastic screenplay and an outstanding performance from JGL who plays the lead role of the back cancer patient Adam in his fight against the disease. One thing I honestly never thought I would do during this movie is laugh, much to my surprise this certainly wasn’t the case; 50/50 brings both cancer & non-cancer related humor to the table with the substantial wit necessary to avoid just being flat-out offensive and crude. Comedy was no substitute for tragedy and drama which is by no means left out of the fray in 50/50. The larger part of the heartache is dished out by Levitt who evidently perceived the crucial importance of the subtleties in his performance, subtleties which went a long way to tugging on the heartstrings and drawing out a snivel or two.  50/50 is an essential viewing for any dramedy fan worth their salt.


3. Premium Rush (IMDB|Rotten Tomatoes|Netflix)

The Action/Adventure flick Premium Rush see’s JGL take the saddle (yes that pun was intended) as cycling enthusiast come bike messenger Wilee, as his last letter delivery of the day (a premium rush) goes mysteriously awry resulting in a chase that threatens to permanently change his fate for the worse. Premium Rush is nothing particularly innovative but nonetheless it is entertaining and even exhilarating to a point, these positive attributes of the film can always be traced to Levitt’s almost unparalleled ability to convey panic, fear and at times coolness under pressure that he likewise demonstrated in 50/50. In spite of JGL’s solid performance I can’t wholly recommend setting the time aside to watch Premium Rush  unless of course you’re a huge Levitt fan or simply want to watch something a little less taxing on the brain. Expect their to be modicum of cringe worthy dialogue and corny American action film formula if you delve into this movie and you shall not be too disappointed.


4. Looper (IMDB|Rotten Tomatoes|Netflix)

Looper sees Levitt tackle a role intermittently different from the variety of characters he is likely more accustomed too, filling the the shoes of Joe – an executioner of the near future with a particular fondness of drugs – with an unsurprising finesse that I’ve now grown to expect of him. Joe finds himself having to adapt to responsibility for both himself and the lives of innocents after his unmitigated failure to ‘close his loop’ that leaves him in confrontation with his ever belligerent future self. JGL handles this transformation from cool criminal to unexpected savior seamlessly in what I feel is undoubtedly his best performance to date. I highly recommend checking Looper out if you haven’t already got around to it even if you aren’t usually inclined to watch Sci-Fi movies; Looper dispenses with a lot of the standard Sci-Fi tropes that tend to alienate your average audience providing a far more action/thriller esque experience instead.


If there are any Joseph Gordon-Levitt movies you feel have been unjustly left out of this list or if you wish to share any other thoughts on the actor, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below!


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Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

“Oz The Great and Powerful” is a Disney imagining of the conman come magician Oscar Digg’s arrival in the mystical Land of Oz after his hot air balloon slips into a tornado in Kansas. Sam Raimi takes the reigns of this ambitious project as director whilst Mila Kunis performs as Theodora the Witch and James Franco takes the role of the lead protagonist Oz, having snubbed Robert Downey Jr. who was the original choice for the role. In the trailer a lot of emphasis appeared to be placed on the refined details found in the special effects with a very brief showcasing of plot. This left me wondering whether stunning visuals were all Oz the Great and Powerful had to offer in place of any real sustenance and entertainment value which is where many recent children’s movies have faltered before it.

Oz the Great and the Powerful

Thankfully Disney clearly considered the importance of an entertaining story and characters running alongside the stunning visual effects. Unfortunately Oz was never anything more than just entertaining, and around the mid point of the film I’m not sure I would even go as far to call it that. The largest gripe I had with Oz was with its lack of clarity towards the end; whether it was due to my interest completely fading away or just poor connection in the screenplay between the two key moments where the witches are flying away I can’t say, nevertheless I was left in a total jumble which hampered on a few of the positives I had taken from the film early on. Mila Kunis really underperformed as Theodora after her transformation, delivering lines in a very overcooked and corny fashion which was a disappointment considering her previously higher standards of acting. Likewise I made very little of Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams efforts to play the other two witches, however 14 year old Joey King played the part of China Girl superbly nailing the characters voice whilst also delivering some of her lines with a hilarious, satisfying finesse.

James Franco and Zach Braff handled their roles with a similarly masterful touch; the part of Oz was the perfect fit for Franco who demonstrated a suspiciously good understanding of the characteristics needed to be a deceitful trickster. Almost every time Finlay the flying butler monkey opened his mouth I found myself laughing even during some of his more predictable moments (i.e. his ‘moo’-ing in the graveyard) which is a testament to both Zach Braff’s brilliance and Disney’s ability to make wonderful characters. Dialogue on the whole made significant improvement on the other poor story elements but the inclusion of a few incredibly cringe worthy jokes and the aforementioned predictability meant dialogue was still far from perfected.

Visual effects through the larger percentage of the film were quite breathtaking, every piece of scenery – particularly the greenery- formed an exact illustration of what I imagined the Land of Oz to look like with a level of detail that nearly rivaled Avatar. In the latter parts of the film however the consistency of previous standards went a little awry, the showdown scene between Evanora and Glinda had some particularly shocking effects tossed at it that completely broke immersion at a crucial moment. Cinematography & editing were used appropriately for the films duration but nothing was particularly striking which is a monumental shame considering the great opportunity presented to them on a platter by the fantastic world the film created; the soundtrack was pitifully unmemorable, when much like with the camera work and editing a grand canvas was placed in front of it just waiting for a glimmer of imagination. On the other hand the sound mixing team did a decent job of slipping in some impressive effects such as the clacking of the straw men as they were moved through the foggy fields outside emerald city which was a personal favourite of mine.

Final Thoughts: Oz the Great and Powerful is an entertaining flick that masters the art of effects but misses out on barrel loads of other opportunities, inspiring nothing more than laughter as far as the story is concerned. In spite of this I would still recommend the film to any Wizard of Oz fans and parents taking children (who could take a lot more from Oz) to the cinema. As always share any thoughts you have on Oz the Great and Powerful in the comment section below!

Grade: C-/D+

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