Tag Archives: 2012

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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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

An Unexpected Journey needs no introduction for many but for those few somehow unaware it is the first in a trilogy of Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of the outstanding Tolkien Novel ‘The Hobbit’ ,arguably the most hyped movie of 2012 based on the roaring success of PJ’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy – did An Unexpected Journey meet its franchise expectations or should Bilbo have stayed in his hole in the ground?

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In my mind ‘An Unexpected Journey’ did more than meet franchise expectations set by LOTR; instead the film masterfully set itself apart in its method of story telling from LOTR, despite sharing the same fantasy world, embracing its own persona – a cinematic experience for one of the greatest children’s stories of all time. I feel that is what made this film so purely and wholly charming, fun and exciting for the most part. In my screening of the film the audience and myself got plenty of laughs out of An Unexpected Journey which is honestly not something I expected to take out from the film going into it. A few of the highlights include spoilers: the Gollum vs Bilbo riddle battle – one of my favourite scenes of the year in film thanks to a once again, godlike performance from Andy Serkis. Bombur being hit by a sausage and falling through the table also had me cracking up and lastly the introduction of the legless goblin messenger flipping his shit whilst traveling along  his little zip wire provided a huge unexpected slap to the face of sheer hilarity. end of spoilers  The simplicity of the gags perhaps sounds poor on paper but I’m 100% certain that anyone who has seen the film would tell you, that simplicity is what makes the comedy fit flawlessly with An Unexpected Journey’s children’s fantasy tale.

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Although I made the profoundly regrettable decision to see An Unexpected Journey in the standard 2D, it was strikingly obvious that Andrew Lesnie (Head of Photography) really pulled the cat out the bag and produced a collective of absolutely stunning shots for An Unexpected Journey – two of my favourites can be seen above. Everything from shot lighting to shot framing and even shot motion was seamless artistry, I don’t doubt for one second that if I had made the wiser choice to watch it in the i max screening I would have been completely blown away by his work. Though having not seen the film for sometime, the soundtrack from what I remember was a wonderful, tense and dramatic ensemble featuring the unforgettable dwarf anthem, the Misty Mountain song (21:55 in the video below.)

An Unexpected Journeys plot and characterizations also played out marvelously. Seeing Bilbo’s sincere mercy in sparing the creature Gollum added that needed depth to Bilbo’s character, hats off to Martin Freeman for doing such a great job managing to provide some of the years best acting in that scene. Seeing the dwarfs for the first time, becoming aware of their boisterous antics, rowdy nature and perhaps even a certain simple mindedness and how later in the heat of the action these traits make them into some of the fiercest fighters known added an interesting touch as well; even more intriguing was the somewhat tragic back story of Thorin Oakenshield, his tense and unresolved rivalry with the foul White Orc and his souls desire to return to his peoples home in the Mountain and slay the dragon Smaug who was the cause of most all the devastation. Best of all was the mystery surrounding the devious necromancer discovered by the ever so strange, mushroom fanatic Radagast the brown, it will be interesting to see how that all unfolds in The Desolation of Smaug later this year.

Final thoughts: Going into An Unexpected Journey my expectations couldn’t have been higher and honestly I can’t say it disappointed in the slightest, aside from its length I’m not sure there is much wrong with An Unexpected Journey, a film choc-a-block with touching characters, captivating story telling and great technical ability to bring it onto the screen – it definitely has a place on my list of best films of all time. Heres to the agonizing wait for The Desolation of Smaug coming later this year!

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