A Ghost Story, review

Having a mainstream actor on screen whose face you only see for around 20 minutes during a 90 minute film sounds pretty jarring. Then when you mix that with the fact that his face is obscured by a white sheet as he plays a ghost of his former self, it’s borderline ludicrous. It’s a film that shouldn’t work, that shouldn’t make you feel, that you should be laughing at. However, thanks to the embracing performances, lingering camera shots and sparing use of dialogue, this is a film that makes you think about love, loss, acceptance and grief in a profoundly deep and moving way.

It’s no spoiler to say that around 10 minutes into the film, Casey Affleck’s character dies, leaving Rooney Mara to grieve. It cuts to Mara looking at Affleck’s body covered in a white sheet in a hospital. A long and looming shot of the room after Mara leaves shows Affleck’s ghost get up and walk around, eye holes have already been provided. From here he walks around the hospital and eventually makes his way back to their home where he is unable to leave. His interactions are only with that of another entity next door. The way the camera looks at a room, or a person, it’s examining all after affects of death and how it much it hits you.

He looks over the bereft Mara as she slowly begins to move on and live her life, up until the moment she leaves. It’s soon after we realise that he’s stuck in this house for some reason. The film only briefly slips into poltergeist territory when a Mexican family moves into the house and he disrupts their home. During a significant course of time, different people are shown to be living here, inhabiting what Affleck clearly still feels is his space.

There are consistent leering shots, all of which appear to be looking to a person in greater detail than we see. One in particular sticks with you in which Rooney Mara sits Whilst at the same time asking yourself, what kind of pie is that? Is it chocolate? Is it pumpkin? Maybe it’s savoury? How many takes did Rooney have to do? How many pie did she eat? WHAT FLAVOUR IS THE PIE?

The pair are never named in the film, they are never given a chance to address each other in such a way but their relationship transcends words and becomes more complex through gestures, looks and movements. It becomes a comment on how love and loss can both be expressed in similar ways; with looks and not words, with gestures, with unshared thoughts.

With it’s subtle and haunting score, nuanced performances and steering mostly clear of the paranormal route, this is a haunting experience that will stay with you for a long time.

4 out of 5.

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Black Panther trailer: Best Bits

Ordinarily there would be a warning of a trailer, a teaser for a teaser if you will. However lately Marvel have been subverting this stupidity, first with Thor: Ragnarok where the first look dropped without any prior knowledge and now, just this weekend, we got to see a glimpse of what Black Panther will look like. My god! What a trailer! It’s a very un-Marvel looking trailer with Ryan Coogler taking the directors seat.

We are taken on quite a journey, essentially on a tour of Wakanda. We had a very brief glimpse of it in Civl War where Bucky went back on ice and the Black Panther statue was revealed. The trailer has confirmed that this is a nation with vast wealth after seeing the city landscapes, it’s weapons and technology.

In the trailer we see a huge range of the cast which starts with Andy Serkis talking to Martin Freeman in an unknown location about the African nation. Then we see Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in a gun battle, showing his superb agility. These fight scenes are going to be something very different.

We then delve deep into Wakanda and see Michael B. Jordan training and battling against a tribe, with him is Daniel Kaluuya. It looks as of Jordan has been taken prisoner and Kaluuya is a guard however I’m just guessing!

The trailer shows what appears to be an internal uprising as well as forces coming into Wakanda to take over from T’Challa who has become King after his father’s death. Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker and Danai Gurira all make fleeting appearances however they will have much bigger roles than the trailer suggests.

Out in February 2018, Black Panther is the 18th MCU movie and it’s directed by Ryan Coogler.

Step into the spotlight.

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Bushwick, review

Dave Bautista gives a brutal and emotional performance, packing several punches throughout this sub-par thought provoking film about a modern day civil war taking place in the New York suburb of Bushwick.

We are introduced to the town via an overhead shot through helicopters patrolling the air above, it’s an almost calming influence before being thrown head first into the chaos below. Lucy (Brittany Snow) arrives at the ordinarily quiet town and becomes caught up in the gunfire, explosions and fires. Running away from the violence, still confused she encounters two men who briefly trap her before Stoop (Bautista) rescues her with a brutal attack. Still in shock, Lucy is full of questions, however neither knows what is really going on.

The pair team up, desperately trying to get somewhere safe, encountering people in similar situations as well as having to fight against the militia several times over. During these scenes, the camera rarely stops moving, whether it’s following characters up some stairs, through a doorway, on a bike. It’s an almost seemingly continuous shot, with two cuts, separating the film into a three act structure. It’s a technique which works out well as it is consistently introducing new characters and problems to solve.

There are continuity errors, as well as low levels of attention to detail and it’s lack of knowing where it wants to go at times. This can be said of the characters too who, at one point, make their way up to the roof of a school just to head back down almost immediately. A couple of times, when a character is supposed to have died, you could very clearly see them breathing and, at one point, blink. It’s errors like these, as well a miscast Angelic Zambrana as Lucy’s sister, which is where the film doesn’t quite live up to its brilliant start.

The film certainly knows what it is, a messy no holds barred brutal action film, with its heart firmly at the centre. It’s superb central performances, incredible camera work and the use of sound (gunfights and explosions often happen to the side but are equally violent as those you see in front of you) can all be credited to the directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott who have done an amazing job one the action with a small budget. However, whilst it’s certainly an enjoyable watch, it isn’t a memorable one.

3 out of 5.

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Jimmy Kimmel To Host The Oscars Again

He was a farely leftfield choice to begin with but once he got onto that stage he knocked the Oscars out of the park. After doing such an amazing job this year (minus that very odd tour bus prank), Jimmy Kimmel is set to host the biggest movie awards show once again in 2018. His return is one few saw coming but it seems most are happy with.

For the 90th Academy Awards, who knows what he’ll have in-store but with this year’s smart and sharp opening monologue, poking fun at Hollywood’s elite, as well as adding in his own brand of comedy with Mean Tweets and his consistent piss taking of Matt Damon off stage, it’s sure to be equally entertaining. 

Jimmy will be the 23rd presenter who has hosted the Oscars more than once, joining a list which includes Bob Hope, Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Sinatra, Jon Stewart and many more.

The 90th Academy Awards takes place on Sunday 4th March and I will be live tweeting them as always. But maybe not live Instagramming…

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Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes Of Apollo, review

When you think of NASA, the images that come to mind include hurtling into outer space, the moon landing and countless launches from Houston. Images of several men in a large room full of computers and a lot of data isn’t quite what you’d think of as an American hero. It’s this perception that director David Fairhead is looking to change, he knows that it’s those you don’t see behind the scenes who deserve to reap the benefits of these extraordinary achievements. Fairhead is telling the story of the men who stay on the ground, all having a huge part to play before, during and after each Apollo mission.

The film goes through, in chronological order, the events of several Apollo missions, culminating with Apollo 13, the infamous mission which was later made into a film by Ron Howard. What is shown are clips from what can be called “behind the scenes” which is within the control room. The men who were in constant contact with the astronauts to ensure their safety was never compromised and that they could solve all problems by keeping in touch. During a certain section, we see how the errors during a mission helped those on the ground to create even safer protocols and procedures for the future. It shows the pressure that they were under to ensure these astronauts made it home safe.

The movie also explores the space race between America and the Russian’s Sputnik. The two countries were trying to be the first to get into space, which ultimately ends with the Russians winning. It’s a factor which plays into the film’s narrative in a way that almost makes you sympathise for the Americans who clearly made a valiant attempt at being first. It’s this which spurs them on to land on the moon, an achievement which has defined the Apollo missions.

Fairhead has created a documentary which shows the way things were and how those are still relevant today. The level of detail he has gone into from the old footage, to the interviews and the actually Apollo missions is astounding and fascinating. The handling of it’s complicated details isn’t dumbed down, however it’s presented in a way that makes you understand the enormity of each mission and all that needs to be achieved before they’ve even launched. He has shown that you can be a hero whether you’re up in the air or down on the ground.

You can see what David Fairhead had to say in my interview with him here.

4 out of 5.

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Industry Interview: David Fairhead

David Fairhead has created an incredible film about the unsung heroes of the Apollo missions. Those behind the scenes whose stories have never been told before are featured in Fairhead’s documentary, Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo. Here’s what he had to say about directing his first ever feature length documentary.

Where did you come up with the idea to cover such a fascinating subject?

It came originally from Rick Houston, the author of ‘Go Flight – The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control’. He was in contact with Keith Haviland and Gareth Dodds (who I had worked with on Last Man on the Moon) and that’s how the project came about.

Were you interested in NASA and space flight from an early age?

Yes I was! I was aged 6 when Neil and Buzz walked on the Moon, and I remember vividly watching it on TV in Hong Kong, where we lived at the time.

Was it a difficult process to obtain the old NASA recordings including both video and audio?

Yes and no! As Film Editor I have worked on a lot of films and TV programmes about the Apollo missions, and have access to a lot of this material through those productions. I also have good contacts with the people who run the Apollo Flight Journal, and was able to get hold of a lot of the audio through them (although it’s also on Archive.org). However, budget cuts at NASA have meant that the film material not as easy to get hold of as it once was.

Did you ever want to expand on just one of the missions instead of using several missions for the film?

No, because to get a real sense of the way the team operated we needed to show how they dealt with a number of different scenarios. However, when we were editing the film, the first cut of just the Apollo 13 sequence was well over an hour, so it was tempting to think the film could just have been about that!

Whilst this is a story of unsung heroes, did you ever want to include an interview with Buzz Aldrin? I noticed he was mentioned at one point

In the nicest possible way, I think it’s impossible to describe Buzz as an unsung hero! No, he was never on our list of people we wanted to talk to, and in fact we hadn’t originally intended to speak to any astronauts, as we wanted the flight controllers to take centre stage. However, we had the opportunity to talk to Gene Cernan, and his comments about mission control were so good we decided that perhaps we should include a couple more (Jim Lovell and Charlie Duke) whose recollections would help flesh out the story.

This is a story of American bravery however footage from the Russian Sputnik was used, do you feel this added weight to the story you were telling?

The rivalry with the Soviet Union is what ultimately led to the Moon landings, and their part in the story can’t be ignored. When Sputnik was launched it really shocked the Western world – the US in particular – and acted as the catalyst for the space programme. So we included it in the film not to add weight, but instead to show what prompted JFK to issue the challenge to America ‘to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth’.

Did you ever feel you needed to interview those from Russia in addition to those at NASA?

It would have been fascinating to go to Russia and talk to their controllers, and at one stage we did consider having a much bigger role for the Apollo-Soyuz mission. However, there’s only so much that can be included in a film, and the costs of taking a film crew out to Russia would have been too great! Next time perhaps!

Were there any other stories you found whilst working on this documentary?

There were many, many stories that the controllers shared with us – about what inspired them, about the early days at NASA, about the training etc etc. It was all fascinating, but once again the constraints on length and time meant that not all of it could end up in the film – it would have been about 12 hours long!

This being your first feature length documentary, did you learn anything about the process?

It’s my first ‘feature doc’ as Director, but not the first I’ve worked on. I’ve been a Film Editor for over 30 years, and I’ve cut numerous films – many of them about the Space Programme. It’s always a challenge to tell a story without using commentary, and so when we were filming the interviews, I knew I had to get enough material to help construct the narrative. So what was really great about being director was that I actually got to meet all the contributors and ask them the questions we needed. So that was something I’d never previously been able to do – and I really enjoyed the process.

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo is available on demand from the 14th April from iTunes.

Check out my review of Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo here.

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Get Out, review

Creating a horror these days is tough thing to do due to audiences becoming desensitised by violence after seeing it several times over. Being a master of this genre is equally tricky as it takes risks, originality and wit, all the key tools which Jordan Peele possesses. Better known as one half of comedy duo Key & Peele, he seems an unlikely candidate to create what is one of the most original horror movies of all time. Peele has been praised several times for his intensely terrifying film, Get Out, his directorial debut which he also wrote.

Image result for get out

Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris Washington, a successful photographer who is African-American and has been seeing a Caucasian girl for five months called Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). The pair are visiting her parents, played superbly by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, for the weekend which happens to coincide with a big annual party they throw for their esteemed guests. During his time at the Armitage’s home, Chris’s encounters with the entirely black staff are strange. They have an almost robotic look within their smiling faces and cold gaze, almost as if they are looking right through you. Throughout the film, there is a certain unnerving sense.

During the party sequence, each guest approaches Chris to poke and prod his existence in a slightly odd however seemingly friendly way. It’s an uncomfortable and interestingly humorous sequence which pushes the plot forward. It moves along at a perfect pace especially with its interjected moments of comedy gold from Milton Howery’s airport police officer Rod Williams who brings some big moments.

The film’s comment on liberal racism is prominent throughout, hinting at it now and then and occasionally throwing it in your face along with some gruesome horror and dark comedy. It’s consistently surprising but not in a typical horror movie way, there are rarely any moments of peace and quiet that are interrupted by a bang. The fear, intensity and thrills come more from the mood throughout the film, which you feel from the moment you enter the country house. Peele has crafted a movie which shows how smart a horror movie can be, whilst creating scenes that are intense, thrilling and funny all at once. It’s one hell of a talent to have.

4 out of 5.

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The Eyes Of My Mother, review

Nicolas Pesce has written and directed his debut feature film, in which he draws on his love of real life crime as well as Gothic horror movies from the 50s and 60s to tell this tale. Most horror movies love to show you how bloody they can be and how creative they are when they want to off someone. It’s a chance for horror creators and fan to revel in the mess that can be made when a serial killer is let loose. This isn’t the case for The Eyes of My Mother.

The story follows a slightly odd family who have a young daughter being raised in isolation at a farm in USA. The daughter grows up in a house where there is a a shocking a gruesome incident which causes her to become lonely. This manifests itself in her personality at a later age when she’s totally alone after losing both parents and becomes this psychopathic killer. The crimes she commits don’t stop her from trying to live a somewhat normal life, meeting people and bringing them back to her farmhouse. She’s evil and romantic rolled into one.  She is deeply portrayed by Olivia Bond (young Francisca) and Kika Magalhaes (older Francisca) who both give sterling, powerful and quietly understated performances. The cast are all friends of the director’s including Will Brill whose character Charlie has a darkly comic tone and Diana Agostini, the mother who has a very passionately disturbed way about her.

The Eyes of My Mother takes an entirely different direction with it’s approach to it’s own horror. The scenes of the most shocking violence are off screen, something for you to create in your own imagination. The black and white adds to that, giving it not only a dated feel but also a non-stylish version. It keeps it’s characters, story and location very grounded by implying certain acts and certain things which happen. It’s a smart and clever way of telling a story from Pesce, he’s crafted a frighteningly original horror with a female lead, something which is still surprisingly rare. There’s an eerie frustration in not knowing what’s going on, but this is also part of its brilliance. He’s a director who not only knows how to scare you but also when.

4 out of 5.

I spoke to the director, Nicolas Pesce about his directorial debut  The Eyes of My Mother. Check it out here.

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Industry Interview: Nicolas Pesce

I spoke to Nicolas Pesce about his debut film The Eyes of my Mother, a horror set in a family’s country home which he wrote and directed. Here’s what he had to say about his movie, his love for the genre and what he learned about himself.

When you finished this project, how did you feel? Relieved? Excited to get on with the next one?

I was both, relieved and excited. The movie went so quick I didn’t have much time to think about it. We shot it in 3 weeks and I had to cut it in 21 days before submitting it to Sundance, so the making of this movie was the 6 quickest weeks of my life. It was nice because I didn’t have time to be anxious or second guess myself, it was a really pure film making experience. I can trust my instincts, I didn’t have the time not to trust myself, that said I’m the kind of guy who is like as soon as it’s done and screened I’m like “Yes! On to the next one!” I’m ready for a new world to dive into.

That’s great! I found it quite creepy and eerie.

Well, good!

Yeah! What I found interesting was that it was more the horror that was implied the horror. It was cut from one scene to another, certain things seemed to happen off screen. Was that an early decision to not be too graphic?

Yeah I think the only moderately gorey thing you see is someone having their wounds stitched up. That’s because a lot of people have stitches. I think that the audience is better at scaring themselves than I am and if I put something on screen you can look away or divert your attention. All I have to do make you ask  yourself “What’s happening off screen?” and then your brain paints an image and now it’s just ingrained in you. It also forces you to engage more with it and it makes you more interactive which makes it scarier

What added to that was the fact that it’s shot in black and white. Is that your preferred way of doing things?

I wouldn’t say it’s my preferred way but for this movie it felt very appropriate from my inspiration off of the William Castle movies, the 50s and 60s American Gothic horror and none f these are in colour! When Hitchcock made Psycho, it wasn’t the norm to make a black and white movie, as  everyone was making colour movies. He made the choice to make it feel dated. I want the look of the film to be a more expressionistic view of an extension of what’s going on in this character’s mind who lives in this cold harsh reality which are void of any colour or warmth. It’s also a tonal thing, similar to noir films, playing with the shadows, what you can see and what you can’t see. If the film were to be in colour it would be distractingly stylised.

As director and writer of this film, where did the idea come from?

Well, I really wanted to explore a character who would normally be construed as the villain but also show you the banal ordinary side of their life to give you a different perspective of what you might think of a killer. I think no matter how violent a killer is, there’s probably a not very good reason of why they are like that. There’s an instinct in everyone and it comes out in certain people because of certain things and what’s so interesting about it is finding a character you felt sympathy for, have empathy for, but also were disgusted by and, as with real people, have the complexity of having all of those emotions in one. The fact that people are judged on this small, minuscule fraction of their life committing this crime and not to justify it but there’s a lot more life to be explored which would be the telling of why they did that.

The parents have very different ways of parenting their daughter. The mother seems to be over protective, however the father isn’t quite as shy about showing her certain things in life.

Yeah they are, there’s something odd about this family. Between the parental relationships and experience of something like this so young, it’s a bunch of environmental factors which made her who she is. There are certain things which happen in the movie that make me wonder what she’d be like if these things didn’t happen.

Where did you find the actors?

They are friends of mine who I have directed in music videos and Will Brill, who I’ve known for a really long time, he’s used to playing more comedic goofy roles and I thought that bringing this dark clown element to the film has a real juxtaposition about it. There’s something really clowny about him in a jovial and disturbing way and even at his worst, there’s something really darkly humourous about his tone. Kika, I had worked with on a music video, there’s an other worldly quality to her mannerisms, the way she held herself, the way she spoke that I thought that she’s happy and funny in real life. If you took these almost other worldly and alien qualities of her personality and have it a different context, there would be a realism to someone who still feels so odd.

For someone who has been promoting his film, and someone who is new to this, any tips for someone else who is doing something similar?

Well, I think you just have to throw yourself off the diving board and waiting for people to catch you! It’s fun and overwhelming, the most exciting thing is hearing what the audiences have to say. The thing that I love most, is over hearing what people have to say about your movie. It’s rare that you get to experience that, it’s unique and odd, you have people who want to ask you questions and have people come up to me. Just hearing the reaction. I have a better reaction to my film in Europe than I do back home in the Stares. Here there are more venues for art films and interesting genres, people want to see culty stuff. 10 years ago we didn’t know what was going to be cult but now we know from the get go.

Did you learn anything about yourself as a film maker?

Oh yeah! Film making in general you realise a lot about yourself. I wrote this script from a place of being a film fan and a fan of these sorts of stories, and you stand up on a stage where people are asking you why did you make this? It’s made me realise what I’m drawn are certain parts of humanity, that’s what I’m interested in. It makes you realise things about yourself such as I make movies about killers, I listen to podcasts about crimes and I love true crime documentaries and if I was not a film maker I would be an FBI profiler. I’d be trying to find serial killers because what this movie made me realise about myself was gaining an understanding of why people do things that the most part of me thinks is horrible. Crime, violence and murder are the craziest things a person can do to someone else and to explore why that can happen is something that’s very very interesting to me.

Check out the review for The Eyes of My Mother here.

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Justice League Trailer and Posters

Well, it’s about damn time, Snyder! This week we were annoyingly shown a few 20 second-long teaser trailers which pretty much showed nothing and pissed this film fan off! Now Zack Snyder, DC and Warner Bros. are showing us something with a little bit more depth. We have a Justice League trailer.

From the 2 and half minutes of CGI fuckery, we’re shown almost all of the League with Superman being the notably missing one because he’s “dead”. The team band together a couple of times throughout the trailer which shows that they can work together to bring down an enemy who is already here. Bruce Wayne is trecking somewhere to begin with before we see him and Diana Prince converse regarding the others meaning those he has found to form this team of superheroes. Aquaman, Cyborg then The Flash all appear in their respective introductory sections and, before we see them altogether, we’re given a brief glimpse at a swinging almost flying Batman. The action shown is a lot of fun whilst being given to us very sparingly as to not show much of the story. “What are your superpowers again?” “I’m rich”. Nice little double act from Bruce and Barry Allen. We have our first glimpse at Billy Crudup who is playing Barry’s father Henry Allen, as well as J.K. Simmons looking like a more seasoned Commissioner Gordon.

On a personal note, I think it looks too similar to Batman vs. Superman, which isn’t exactly promising. The problems with Snyder’s previous film make for too long a list to include here but the fact that this is primarily full of CGI makes me wonder where they are going with this film. There are strong parts to this trailer including Aquaman who finally has more than one word to say, as a few bits of comedy thrown in due to complaints that DC is taking itself too seriously. My other problem is that DC is rushing it’s way through it’s films, when you compare them to Marvel well, there’s no comparison at all. Marvel have taken their time building it’s own vast universe, slowly introducing the characters it wants to develop, hardly ever putting a foot wrong. Now, DC want the same thing. What they should have done, in my humble opinion, is basically the same thing. It would have worked out a lot better. Handing the reins to the DCEU mostly to Snyder is a huge mistake considering what failures his previous two DC film were. They had their moments but they were not quite what they needed to be. I’m keeping my hopes low and my fingers crossed, come on DC. You need a decent film.

The posters look pretty dam good, the design in sleek and smooth, showing how tough this team is. However some utter morons have commented that apparently Wonder Woman looks as if she’s peeing. What the fuck is wrong with people?! Anyway, check out the gallery below which includes the logo, each individual and the team altogether. Batman looks as if he wants to wants to get out of there and carry on saving the day, calm down! You’ll get your chance!

Directed by Zack Snyder, Justice League is out towards the end of this year. It stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher, J.K. Simmons, Amy Adams and freaking loads more! The story is set around the start of the Justic League which Bruce Wayne puts together after being inspired by the selfless acts of Superman.

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