Monday, 18 August 2014

Starburst Magazine Issue 403: Turtles, Transformers and another short story!

In the latest issue of Starburst Magazine, there are three of my pieces of writing in it.

Firstly, there is the preview of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then there is my review of Transformers: Age of Extinction (which you can also find on the website here) and finally there is a horrible little short story that I wrote called The Nurse and the Butcher.

I hope you will consider picking up a copy either online or in your local newsagent!

Two Days, One Night Review (Deux Jours, une nuit)

Depression meets determination in this simple story as one woman fights to keep her job over a single weekend.  The Dardennes brothers returned to the Cannes Film Festival directing Marion Cotillard in a heartfelt and political, but ultimately frustrating drama.

Cotillard plays Sandra, an ordinary woman who suffers from debilitating depression and as a result, has taken time out from her job to try and get better. Just as she is expecting to return to employment, she gets a call stating that her co-workers have voted to each receive a bonus if Sandra is made redundant. With accusations that her foreman influenced the ballot, Sandra is given the weekend to try and persuade her friends and fellow employees not to vote to take their promised bonus, and instead vote to let her keep her job and help provide for her family.

Sandra has a supportive husband and two children but each of the people she tries to persuade has their own issues, problems and excuses. Times are clearly tough and Sandra's family are not the only ones with financial problems. As she goes around to speak individually to those who can decide her fate, she pops Xanax pills and must remain optimistic even in the face of rejection and her own uncertainty. Sandra wants nothing more than to give up but with the help of her husband she finds the strength to continue tracking down enough people to help create a majority in the second vote on Monday morning.

The problem with this slightest of stories is that Two Days, One Night quickly falls into a pattern of repetition. Cotillard is rarely off screen and even with her typically impressive performance, the film struggles to remain fully engaging. Her conversations with co-workers cover necessarily similar ground, even if the outcome of these encounters is rarely certain. The people she meets with are unfortunately almost instantly forgettable; realistic and completely convincing, but far from memorable. There are some exceptions with one man's shame filled admission and outburst being notable and another woman's life altering decision being a highlight. Their responses to Sandra’s pleas are varied; from icy cold to warm and refreshing. Sandra has to weather all these contradictory reactions, while ploughing ahead with her mission and trying to keep her emotions in check and head held high; not an easy task for a woman suffering from depression.

The Dardennes have an obvious political point to make and their message is clear from the start and then finally hammered home forcefully by the smart ending. The perverse decision to put Sandra's future in the hands of her hard up friends and fellow employees is unfair and a sinister tactic to ensure that the workforce are divided and conquered. It is symptomatic of the way modern workforces are treated, particularly those with few options for employment and who live in financial hardship. Sandra and her family will be forced back to social housing without her income but everyone else she meets is eager for their own bonus, whether it be to buy a new patio or to simply make ends meet.

Though much of the story takes a predictable course, there is a neat little twist in the tale and a surprisingly optimistic note in what could have been a relentlessly bleak trip. At one point, the film strays into almost laughable cliché, but in many others it is very much like watching a slice of real life. The Dardenne brothers’ typically realist style means handheld camera provides an intimacy to the drama while the complete lack of a soundtrack, except for when Sandra and her husband rock out to the car radio adds to the understated performances.

While Two Days, One Night has an admirable and potent political message to convey, as a narrative it is a bit like a depressing song on repeat, going round and round in circles and losing much of its power along the way. Dardenne fans will appreciate its rawness but even they may expect a little more from the French directors. Like its central character, Two Days, One Night has plenty of potential but doesn’t always fulfill it. 

More reviews from I Love That Film:

The Rover

Mr Turner  

The Captive (Captives)  

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

The Salvation 

Red Army

The Homesman

Life Itself 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Rover Review

The Rover sees a revolutionary performance from Robert Pattinson but as good as the young heart throb is, he still remains in the looming shadow of Guy Pearce in this gripping Australian drama from Animal Kingdom director David Michod.

Set 10 years after what is simply revealed as 'the collapse', The Rover follows drifter Eric (Guy Pearce) who simply wants to get his car back after it is stolen by a gang of desperate criminals. After giving chase, confronting the men and losing them again, Eric comes across Rey (Robert Pattinson), the mentally challenged brother of the leader of the group. With Rey wanting to return to the brother who left him for dead, and Eric still out to retrieve his car, the two men form an unlikely alliance as they take a road trip through the barren landscape.

Along the way, they meet an assortment of freakish characters who Eric either finds a use for, or (if they get in his way) brutally dispatches. Eric is a man on the edge, seemingly cold and psychotic but his dogged determination to get his car back and his evolving relationship with the naive and wounded Rey reveal something more to the man with a simple mission.

Guy Pearce is sensational as the tormented, cold killer in The Rover. Whether being utterly still and just watching his prey or stepping swiftly and assuredly into action, Pearce is magnetic. Grizzled and unafraid of cold brutality or harsh words, you don't need to know his exact motivations (only revealed in the final frames) to find him impossible to take your eyes off. Pattinson impresses as the nice but dim Rey, all innocence before some of Eric's cruelty starts to rub off on him. He is lanky, endearing and with disgusting looking teeth, it is a highly welcome departure from Pattinson's previous roles.

Michod, who dealt with the Melbourne criminal underbelly so memorably in Animal Kingdom creates a sweaty, grim, dusty and bleak world for his characters to travel through. Though 'the collapse' is never explained the world appears fully realised. Australia has attracted others from around the world, though resources are scarce, the land is barren and the locals are a selection of mean oddballs. As Eric questions the folks he meets, there aren't many that don't seem worth one of his bullets.

There are plenty of quick and shocking bursts of violence in The Rover and though the pace slows almost to a halt on occasion, it builds to an unexpectedly emotional resolution. The distorted, dirty score from Anthony Partos perfectly complements the gritty visuals and moral mystery of Pearce's anti-hero. Even with some lulls in the mid-section, The Rover opens and closes so strongly that it is a ride well worth taking.

More reviews from I Love That Film:

Mr Turner  

The Captive (Captives)  

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

The Salvation 

Red Army

The Homesman

Life Itself 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Referenced in a book on Found Footage Horror

Yesterday I discovered that an article of mine has been referenced in the book Found Footage Horror Films by Alex Heller-Nicholas . I bought this book last week as it sounds perfect for my PHD thesis and when I was looking through the bibliography, much to my surprise I saw this!

You can read the article here entitled Zero Day and Cloverfield: Shooting America's Scars here:

I Declare War DVD Quote

A quote from my review of I Declare War for Starburst Magazine has found its way onto the back cover of the DVD for the film. It's on shelves now at HMV (and other retailers as well I'm sure) so go check it out!

My full review of I Declare War is at Starburst Magazine here.

The quote is 'Call of Duty has nothing on the power of these kids' imaginations'.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Game of Thrones 80s VHS Intro

This video is too good not too share. Imagine if Game of Thrones had been made in the 80s. After a trip to the rental store, you open the box, pull out your clunky VHS tape and slot it into the machine. It's not been rewound of course from when the last person rented it, so after rewinding it yourself, you hit play.

Quite simply, I'd still watch the shit out of this!

Hunger Games Teaser: President Snow's Panem Address

Poor Peeta. Check out Josh Hutcherson in this teaser video for the third Hunger Games movie Mockingjay Part 1. He is brainwashed like so many of the citizens of Panem and is now President Snow's mascot.

Poor old Peeta is about to become a propaganda tool in the fight against the rebellion that will rise with Katniss Everdeen at the centre. This also means that we'll actually get more of a chance to see Katniss getting cosy with Gale as Peeta is going to be far too busy standing still and staring into space at Snow's side.

The third book is probably the weakest of the book series and the decision to split it into two films is perhaps unwise but with marketing like this, we'll just have to wait and see. No matter what, it will be good to see Katniss out of the arena and into a real war, and this will also be the final chance to witness Philip Seymour Hoffman's majesty on screen.

Does anyone else get a creepy Michael Jackson/Jimmy Saville-like vibe from the President in this video?

Panem forever baby...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

FURY Trailer brings out the big guns

The new film from director David Ayer gets a fantastic looking new trailer featuring its impressive cast battling through World War 2 in a tank. Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal will be packing that war machine with so much testosterone, you'll be able to smell the sweaty balls dripping off the screen.

This is the director of End of Watch, one of my top 3 films of 2012 as well as the guy who wrote Training Day. His last film, Sabotage, may have been a bit of a misstep but at least it gave Arnie a bit of a darker character for his post-Governor career.

World War 2 are often action packed and though The Monuments Men was a recent star packed disappointment, Fury looks like a gritter, dirtier and far more exciting ride that George Clooney's film. Logan Lerman is the only one of the major players who I'm not thrilled to see in this. No offence to Lerman who I'm sure is great but when he comes toe to toe with Pitt, Pena, Bernthal and LaBeouf, he's bound to struggle. What a cast and what a trailer! Can't wait for Fury to be unleashed in November.

More trailers from I Love That Film