Archive for October, 2012

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Ruby Sparks (Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris, 2012)

October 30, 2012

This review contains major narrative spoilers.

With their debut feature Little Miss Sunshine existing as a poster child for an often grating brand of American film associated with studio Fox Searchlight, it is a welcome surprise that Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ follow-up effort has a lot more – excuse the phrasing – spark to it. It offers a skewering of archetypes associated with modern romantic comedies and a certain type of independent cinema: the happiness-generating “manic pixie dream girl” of bouncy effervescence, and the wounded, supposedly soulful men these women so often serve as a means of inspiration and revival. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Curse of Frankenstein (Terence Fisher, 1957)

October 26, 2012

Having enjoyed success with the sci-fi horror film The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), the Hammer studio was keen to further exploit the apparent appeal of darker content – Quatermass had notably been one of the early recipients of the ‘X’ certificate – amongst the British public of the time. In the early stretches of the decade, horror cinema had mostly gone out of fashion, with the popular big-screen monsters now being of scientific or outer space origin. After Quatermass’ success, Hammer decided to resurrect the Frankenstein property, it being the blueprint fiction work for science leading to terror. The tragic creature of Mary Shelley’s creation had become a figure of mockery by the time of its 1948 encounter with Abbott and Costello, but Universal still held copyright despite the property’s apparent lack of profitability. As such, the script of Hammer’s reboot had to have as little to do with both Universal’s films and Shelley’s original novel as possible…

Full review at Sound on Sight, as part of “31 Days of Horror”

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The Soul of Flies (Jonathan Cenzual Burley, 2010)

October 22, 2012

Review written for Subtitled Online

The debut feature of director Jonathan Cenzual Burley, El alma de las moscas (The Soul Of Flies) is a self-funded and initially self-distributed picture. Made for less than €1000, the feature is an inspiration for all aspiring young filmmakers, especially as, in a DIY approach, Burley was also behind the film’s script, its editing and its cinematography, as well as being a producer. Although it shows a great deal of promise and has that inspiring back-story regarding its production, a successful, compelling whole is, unfortunately, not the end result. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman, 1964)

October 19, 2012

While the British Hammer studio mined European gothic staples in its horror cinema revolution, their American counterpart, albeit one less blood-soaked, could be found in a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations directed by Roger Corman. The Masque of the Red Death is one such example, presenting Poe’s piece of the same name, while also incorporating other short stories as subplots. The content of those shorts doesn’t allow for the most elaborate story structure, but the narrative framework of the film, still perfectly decent and concise, matters little as this is a film chiefly about atmosphere and macabre visuals, the latter coming from future director Nicolas Roeg’s marvellous cinematography…

Full review at Sound on Sight, as part of “31 Days of Horror”

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Seen Your Video #15: The Snobs vs. Slobs Fallacy

October 15, 2012

I was a guest on the latest episode of Seen Your Video, talking to host Chris Ward about various film-related issues of the last few months. Topics included the so-called “death of film culture” suggested in various think pieces, responses to the Sight & Sound greatest films poll and The AV Club’s top 50 films of the 1990s, as well as coming of age as cinephiles at the dawn of the Internet era.

Stream the episode here.
Alternatively, you can download the episode or subscribe to the podcast by looking up Seen Your Video on iTunes.

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BFI London Film Festival 2012: Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda, 2012)

October 14, 2012

Breakthrough success for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars outside of Japan has seen director Mamoru Hosoda labelled “the next Miyazaki” in certain circles, in regards to being an anime filmmaker of increasing international reach and appeal. Perhaps befittingly, his new film Wolf Children has some similarities in feel with highlights of Studio Ghibli’s output. It combines a high-concept, fantastical premise – like, say, Miyazaki having a literal flying pig as a protagonist in Porco Rosso – with a tender exploration of human growth as found in Ghibli’s more low-key dramas like Only Yesterday and the wonderful Whisper of the Heart

Full review at Sound on Sight

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The Fearless Vampire Killers (Roman Polanski, 1967)

October 12, 2012

Roman Polanski’s comedy was his first foray into both Hollywood and colour filmmaking, and, whether intentional or not, feels like a deliberate parody of the Hammer studio’s brand of gothic horror. Polanski’s film has similarly striking castle locales, but the general aesthetic here excels beyond imitation and is among the most beautiful in both horror and comedy cinema. Taking place in a snowbound Transylvania, the lavish studio sets and location shots from the Alps combine to create a gorgeous widescreen film that feels like a winter wonderland; a snow globe environment host to production and costume designs fit for a period epic…

Full review at Sound on Sight, as part of “31 Days of Horror”