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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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Quick Look: The Kings of Summer Preview

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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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Review: Academy Nominated Animated Short “Paperman”

Wreck-it Ralph saw its belated release over here in the United Kingdom just a few weeks back, yesterday I found the time to go check it out and in my opinion calling it over hyped would be a severe understatement. In spite of this I almost felt the eight pounds spent to see Wreck-it was nearly worth it when the Disney animated short “Paperman” was showcased in the prescreening. Although many of the more confused members of the audience around me greeted the short with a ‘what the fuck, did I just spend eight quid to go see that?’ Paperman was honestly the highlight of my evening.

Paperman

Paperman followed a day in the life of your average young officer worker (seen above) where-in before boarding a train he knocks into a young a lady with of a seemingly similar age to him. This introductory scene of the shorts two protagonists had quite an uncanny sort of charm to it, and the very satisfying Disney esque variety of humor that brings a smile to your face rather than having you roaring with laughter. The male protagonists major scene in the filing office was another quite hilarious scene that added a bit of mild drama into the mix; the boss and employees unsympathetic and disdainful hostilities toward the protagonist who was merely trying to catch the women’s attention ended up pushing him to just bolt out of the door after her, an action which I thought carried with it a hidden moral to the story.

The crisp black and white effect and meticulously refined details in the character animation made for some utterly fantastic visuals, I’m anticipating and hopeful Disney will try their hand at more black and white animations in the future due to Paperman’s current acclaim. The intricacies that went into all the characters facial detailing and expressions granted the characters a way of speaking that wasn’t verbal yet still had the same level of impact that verbal communication does, an essential element of any silent film that Disney nailed flawlessly. The backing track, Christophe Beck – “Paperman” fitted the mood of the short film wonderfully and contributed the most emotion to the action on screen without a shadow of a doubt.

Final Thoughts: Paperman was a incandescent showcase of Disney animators at the absolute top of their game with a charming story woven into those stunning visuals, unfortunately the short film is hard to access for free but a digital download copy can be purchased for two pounds from the Disney site. I recommend giving it a go even if you’re skeptical of animated shorts. Seen Paperman? leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Grade: C+

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Silver Linings Playbook: 30 Minute Featurette

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The ‘Making of’ featurette for David O. Russell’s Box office hit “Silver Linings Playbook”, based on the novel by Matthew Quick, has been released with just under thirty minutes of insightful and absorbing footage that is without a question a must watch for any of you aspiring film makers or Silver Linings Fans out there. Personally I am a massive fan of Silver Linings Playbook and I’m holding out for the flick to win at least four of the 8 Academy Awards it has been nominated for including the prestigious Best Picture award. Lead actor Bradley Cooper and actress Jennifer Lawrence are also up for nominations in their respective categories whilst  Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver are up for Supporting actor/actress awards. Having literally just seen the film I have to say that if you haven’t already watched it you need to drop whatever shit you’re doing to do so because, without going into too much detail, Silver Linings is easily the greatest RomCom drama released in the last 5 years. The featurette is embedded below and for anyone interested here is the imdb plot summary , as always leave any thoughts in the comments below!

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Pirate Bay Documentary “TPB AFK” Available For Free, Watch It Here!

TPB-AFK

Simon Kloses’ low-budget  Kickstarter funded documentary about the lives and legal battles of the founders of today’s most popular pirating website, “The Pirate Bay”, saw its release at the Berlin International Film Festival and on YouTube simultaneously all in their good spirit of keeping content free. Klose is encouraging all fans to “share it, you can remix it – it’s all up to you,”, additionally if you have a few pounds or dollars to spare you can make a purchase of the DVD or digital copy on the documentaries website joining a reported 2369 people who have already made the dip. It’s undeniably worth giving “TPB AFK” a chance and not only because it’s free, “TPB AFK” is supporting great ideas and well meaning individuals who are persistently under scrutiny from governments and the entertainment industry.

Check out the documentary and leave any thoughts on it in the comment section below!

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DGA Awards 2013: Ben Affleck, “Girls” and “Breaking Bad” Winners!

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The 65th Directors Guild of America awards ceremony celebrated the years best American directing achievements last night. Ben Affleck won the ‘Outstanding Directorial Achievement Award’ for his acclaimed “Argo” despite his missed opportunity at the Oscars, with Affleck and “Argo” picking up a number of awards as of late I can’t say I would be surprised to see it pick up the “Best Picture” academy award. Rian Johnson picked up an award for his work on what is arguably one of TV’s best drama series “Breaking Bad” whilst Lena Denham picked up the comedy directing award for efforts on the series “Girls”, the full list of winners can be see below:

WINNERS

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film
BEN AFFLECK
Argo

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
MALIK BENDJELLOUL
Searching For Sugar Man

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama Series
RIAN JOHNSON
Breaking Bad

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series
LENA DUNHAM
Girls

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in TV Movie/Miniseries
JAY ROACH
Game Change

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Musical Variety
GLENN WEISS
66th Annual Tony Awards

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Television
BRIAN SMITH
Master Chef

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Daytime Serials
JILL MITWELL
One Life To Live, “Between Heaven and Hell”

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs
PAUL HOEN
Let it Shine

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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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