Saturday, 22 July 2017

DUNKIRK BRINGS WAR TO CINEMAS

Pic from the IFI 70mm screening

A new Christopher Nolan film is always cause for attention, and with the release of World War II epic Dunkirk, he pulls no punches.

The film follows the historic events of hundreds of thousands of retreating British and French soldiers trying to escape the intense warfare by the beaches of Dunkirk, the civilians drafted to try help them, and the pilots who try to prevent enemy fighters from blowing them up.

Dunkirk is more of an experience than a film. Characters don't have detailed backstories or exposition. Instead, we are given little nuggets of information as they struggle to survive. The point being that war brings out something strong in everyone, whether it is bravery or cowardice. While American-led WW2 films tend to add a heroic sheen to the soldiers, this British take is much more sombre and sobering. You feel sadness and compassion for these (mainly young) men who are just trying to get home.


About an hour in, I realised I had barely blink, my eyes completely locked on the screen. Immersive doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of this film's ability to place you among the beach bombings, ship sinkings and airplane dogfights.The action is so immediate, so visceral, that your heart gets in a flutter, panicked that you are trapped in amidst the gunfire. Though visually arresting, the film is more a mix of documentary and video game, with its ability to ground you in the action. The nerve-shattering sound design and blood-pressure increasing score by Hans Zimmer add to an already effective mix.


Many Nolan regulars appear here, including Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, with young Irish talent Barry Keoghan featuring heavily as part of a small ship trying to bring the boys home. For One Direction fans, Harry Styles has a brief but well played part. We follow certain characters and storylines throughout, but the immensity and all-encompassing stress of war makes this a film about the event, with no piece being bigger than the whole.

Though it is touted as a must-see on 70mm film, many people won't have access to such facilities, but rest assured, you will be sucked in regardless of what screen you watch it on. That said, this is the definition of a cinema experience, so do yourself a favour and get out to see it.

It's an important film, one free of any glamour or gimmicks, and it deserves all the recognition it has received so far (and the nominations and awards most definitely in it's future).



Dunkirk is in cinemas now.

Enjoying reading what I'm writing? I make films as well. You can check out the film I produced right now at www.sodiumparty.com. Buying from here directly helps us make more films. You can also search for Sodium Party, Horses For Moths (you KNOW you want to know what that title means!) and The O'Briens on Amazon US/UK/Germany/Japan right now, and stream for free if you have Amazon Prime!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

I'm Not Sleeping

I'm not even resting my eyes.

I wanted to make a conscious effort to add in a bit more writing here recently, but I know it seems I have very quickly gone quiet again. But actually, following my Get Out piece, my boss asked me did I write reviews often, and encouraged me to contribute my thoughts on our sister site, Xpose.ie. 

Now, obviously, I am horror to the bone, but that doesn't mean I don't watch all kinds of films, so Xpose.ie is my current home to my writings of the non-horror variety. In fact, don't be shocked to see the odd romcom or sappy flick show up there (though wherever I can, I will totally get the horror fix out to the world!).

I'll be trying to keep adding material on to here, but in the meantime, you can see my writings over on Xpose.ie, typically on Friday. Here's the back catalogue so far (click to read the review):

Alien: Covenant
Passengers
La La Land
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Enjoying reading what I'm writing? I make films as well. You can check out the film I produced right now at www.sodiumparty.com. Buying from here directly helps us make more films. You can also search for Sodium Party, Horses For Moths (you KNOW you want to know what that title means!) and The O'Briens on Amazon US/UK/Germany/Japan right now, and stream for free if you have Amazon Prime!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

RIP MICHAEL PARKS


Kevin Smith has broken the news that acting legend Michael Parks has passed away at the age of 77. Absolutely devastating. Parks was a heavyweight who lifted every role he filled, which included numerous collaborations with Quentin Tarantino and Smith.

We've lost a real talent. Godspeed, sir.

I hate to report that my cinematic muse #michaelparks has passed away. Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I've ever known. I wrote both #RedState and @tuskthemovie FOR Parks, I loved his acting so much. He was, hands-down, the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform. And Parks brought out the absolute best in me every time he got near my set. From the moment I saw him steal the opening scene of #fromdusktildawn at an advance screening at the Sunset 5 back in the mid-90's, I said to @samosier "Could you imagine what it must be like to work with a Yoda of acting like that guy? I gotta write for him one day." It took me 15 years but my dream came true on Red State (for which Parks won Best Actor at the @sitgesfestival) and then again years later with #tusk. Only Michael Parks could have delivered the line "Is man indeed a walrus at heart?" and make it scary as fuck. My favorite memory of Michael is watching him and #johnnydepp act with and at each other, like a couple of dueling wizards, in their shared scene in Tusk. Parks was in Heaven that day, sharing the screen with another brilliant actor and creating an unforgettable performance. He elevated any flick or TV show he was in and elevated every director he ever acted for. I was so fucking blessed to have worked with this bonafide genius. But really, I was just lucky to have known him at all. My heart goes out to James (Michael's son), Oriana (Michael's wife), Quentin Tarantino (Michael's biggest fan) and any movie or music lover who was ever dazzled by the talents of Michael Parks. Farewell, old friend. I'll see you farther along... #KevinSmith #actor #genius #rip #walrusyes
A post shared by Kevin Smith (@thatkevinsmith) on


Enjoying reading what I'm writing? I make films as well. You can check out the film I produced right now at www.sodiumparty.com. Buying from here directly helps us make more films. You can also search for Sodium Party, Horses For Moths (you KNOW you want to know what that title means!) and The O'Briens on Amazon US/UK/Germany/Japan right now, and stream for free if you have Amazon Prime!

CAN ALIEN: COVENANT SHAKE OFF THE ALIEN COBWEBS?


NO SPOILERS HERE

1979's Alien is one of my favourite films, and it was a gateway into a lifelong love of the Alien franchise. Through its ups and downs, I have been there, enjoying, savouring, being engrossed in that world. In 2012, a lot of people believe the reputation of the Alien franchise was sullied by the more fanciful scifi-leaning prequel Prometheus, with its Damon Lindelof 'reworked' script making a relatively straightforward idea of humanity and creation into a confusing detour that further removed it from it's intended follow up film. The question has been could director Ridley Scott, an undoubtedly talented artist, but one who also has spent almost two decades milling out films both great and of questionable quality, bring the series back to its tonal roots and hit a home run in the scifi series.

The answer is yes.


Having returned from a preview of Alien: Covenant, all I can think of is just how different the experience was to seeing Prometheus. I know it's unfair to compare the films as such, but the common failings people has with the 2012 film (which I am actually quite a fan of) are absent here, with the new installment taking a more simplified survival horror route.

It's familiar territory plot-wise that sees the spaceship Covenant, who are shipping 2000 people and embryos to colonise a new planet, going off course to investigate a signal from a planet that harbors dark secrets that may or may not result in the familiar phallic-headed monsters creating chaos.

The simplicity is in the films favour, with points that were confusing in the previous film cleared up hear so no one is left scratching their heads as to what we are seeing. The most successful part of the film is the new additions to the Alien mythos that seamlessly connect Prometheus with the future installments in a way that is both wholly satisfying yet completely unobtrusive and unnecessary for those who don't seek it. In fact, though the film benefits from the context of the surrounding series, it works very well on its own merit for those who might not have seen any other entries.

Co-writer/co-star Danny McBride has been the subject of many words as to whether the more comically known talent would cross over. Well, not only does he cross over, but he steals every scene he is in, bringing an everyday man vibe, and hitting hard when hard hits. That is to by no means take away from the work of other stars such as Katherine Waterston or Billy Crudup, who, as part of the ensemble, successfully bring a realism to the film. The former's personal sorrow is felt throughout the entire film, while the latter brings a great counterpoint to the question of the reverence owed to a creator with his religious captain Oram. And let's not forget Michael Fassbender, the showstopper of Prometheus, who plays a different android in this installment. It's outstanding how much nuance he can bring to a role that could all too easily fall flat.


It's worth noting that this is one of the more grizzly installments in the franchise, with some scenes really pushing its 16 rating. It harks back to H. R. Giger's original designs, with some exact replicas in places, and you know if you got Giger, you got the beast. Though visceral, it doesn't toe the line with exploitative, as the Alien vs Predator films did. There is a maturity here that brings a gravitas and importance, though also undoubtedly a bit of drag in the middle of the film. And though the film never gets too full of itself, it does on a few notable occasions, underestimate the audience.

However, with that said, it is easy to consider this the best Alien film in the last 30 years (except for the oddballs like me who liked Alien 3).

There is a lot to say about the film, but probably best left until it is in wide release and everyone has had a chance to digest it. My final thought for the moment is that I groaned when Ridley Scott made a comment about how many more sequels to Prometheus he would like to do before it connects with Alien, but tonight, while watching Alien: Covenant, all I could think of was 'keep em coming!'


Enjoying reading what I'm writing? I make films as well. You can check out the film I produced right now at www.sodiumparty.com. Buying from here directly helps us make more films. You can also search for Sodium Party, Horses For Moths (you KNOW you want to know what that title means!) and The O'Briens on Amazon US/UK/Germany/Japan right now, and stream for free if you have Amazon Prime!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

WHY I WALKED OUT OF GET OUT

This is a long one, and a little opinionated. I'd love to hear anyone else's perspective once they read this essay. 


Tonight, I did something I thought I would never do; I walked out of a film in the cinema. Not only that, but I walked out of Jordan Peele's critically renowned Get Out.

But there's a story there.



I didn't leave because of anything to do with the film itself. The half hour I saw seemed about as good as everyone has been saying. No, what had me do the unthinkable was the other people in the cinema. Namely, the couples/family who brought in 3 underage kids; one about 4 or 5, and the other two about 2 years of age. And the kids did what kids do; cry, jump around, kick seats, talk loudly, try climb walls. To add to the kids, the adults had no worries about doing their best Mystery Science Theatre 3000 riffs at every line in the film, in between yelling at the kids to settle.

Though they were seated right behind me, there was no seats in this small screening room that would have separated you from the noise. However, you can't exactly blame the kids. It's a part of their nature, and maybe if the film had been a bit more age appropriate, there would have been other kids doing the same and no one batting an eyelid, but Get Out is rated 15A in Irish cinemas, and the crowd that was there was of the expected age bracket; couples on dates, Jordan Peele fans, or people who wanted to see it based on the good word (I'll tick that box). There was a noticeable tension in the room from people unable to concentrate on the film as the little 4 year old scaled seats and yelled back to her dad, or when one of the parents started waving their flashlight on their phone across the room to distract one of the criers. 

I have major sympathy to people with kids. I know it isn't easy, and sometimes you just NEED that bit of your life back, and hey, some kids can sit quietly through a film. Unfortunately, the parents didn't exactly set an example that gave me hope for the kids. I was weary of the whole situation 10 minutes in, but held out with hope for these people as long as I could, regardless of chair kicking and the conversations they carried on.

It wasn't unexpected that someone left to say something to management, nor was it a shock when management came in and had words with the folks. I couldn't hear the whole conversation, but I did catch them saying the kids had been quiet, followed by a manager insisting that people had complained. 

The manager went to make her exit and I could only hope the family would settle, but all hopes of that were dashed when one of the men yelled out 'I'll kick your fucking head in'.

I left very shortly after that, a member of staff apologising, saying the family had been warned going in that they shouldn't be bringing such young children in, and that security were on the way to eject them (presumably after the whole 'kick your head in' yell). 

I have never walked out of a film before, and it pained me to leave this one, because I have been wanting to see Get Out for months, and tonight was the first time the stars aligned for me to be able to. A big decision I had to make before leaving was the knowledge that if I walked out then, I would probably not be seeing Get Out on the big screen. It was a shit one, frankly. My hand literally shook as I got my refund, and I am now just counting the days the film comes out on Vudu (if my proxy allows me to purchase it) or failing that, Bluray/DVD in the UK and Ireland, which is late July, according to Amazon.

More people than not have their horror stories of a poor cinematic audience, and I know this isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But for what it is, the cinema is an important experience for a lot of people. I know for me, it is one of the very few places I can fully switch off. No phone, no messages, no work, no notes. I just sit and absorb a film. I can't do that when I watch a film at home. Sure, I can enjoy them, but I can also too easily get a call or text, or get curious about my Facebook, or want to know where I recognise that actor from and need to check it out. There's a reason people still pay for the big screen experience, and there is a sadly vocal minority who don't quite get that or care enough to give others the respect to enjoy it. 

That said, and I in no way have sympathy for that family being eject after the man threatening the manager, I do get itchy about the grey area that allowed such a situation to arise, and how there is nothing that can be done about it, technically.

Meet 15A:


This is the Irish Film Classification Office's mid-level rating. When I first saw the family arrive in the cinema, I thought to myself there was no way they could have been letting children that young into a horror film, but when the film started and the cert came up at the top, it affirmed that it was intended for people of 15 years old and over, BUT people below that age could be admitted if accompanied by an adult. So technically everything was on the up and up, though I highly doubt the intention behind that guideline was for toddlers to be seeing grizzly attacks, scare cues, or  swearing. It would be expected that the adults in the situation would only bring those underage if it was appropriate (which definitely was not the case this evening).

I am slightly divided on this. Tonight, I got the raw end of the deal because I had to walk out of a film when there was no way to be immersed (or even properly follow plot points) owing to the non-cinema appropriate activities going on. However, I don't think that means the rating in and of itself is a bad thing. When I was young, I was very able for horror films (though maybe not at 4 years old!). There are undoubtedly kids out there who would not only enjoy, but have their lives enriched by seeing certain films that might not technically be deemed age appropriate. That's freedom of choice, and a responsibility which should lie with a parent to help decide if their kid can see something like Get Out. 

I don't think the parents tonight had any thoughts of if the film was appropriate for their children. I think they wanted a night out and thought their kids were relatively well behaved. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, they were the kind of moviegoers who can't think of the fellow patrons over their own enjoyment, and everyone tonight was left with a story to bring home from the cinema. 

Sadly, it just wasn't the story of Get Out.

Oh well.

Enjoying reading what I'm writing? I make films as well. You can check out the film I produced right now at www.sodiumparty.com. Buying from here directly helps us make more films. You can also search for Sodium Party, Horses For Moths (you KNOW you want to know what that title means!) and The O'Briens on Amazon US/UK/Germany/Japan right now, and stream for free if you have Amazon Prime!