Archive for May, 2013

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Highlights of June’s EIFF 2013

May 31, 2013

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After an excellent start to the tenure of new artistic director Chris Fujiwara in 2012, the Edinburgh International Film Festival returns this June with a similarly promising, extremely eclectic line-up. Last summer I provided Sound on Sight’s first ever coverage of the event, the world’s longest continuously running film festival, and shall be continuing to do so in a few weeks time; the festival runs from June 19th to 30th…

Full preview for Sound on Sight here

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The Big Wedding (Justin Zackham, 2013)

May 31, 2013

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Based on the 2006 French film Mon Frère Se Marie, Justin Zackham’s The Big Wedding is a huge misfire that squanders its collection of stars on cardboard-thin caricatures and tone-deaf comedy, while daring to try and wring unearned emotional pathos from ridiculous set-ups free of any recognisably human interactions…

Full review for The Skinny here

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Byzantium (Neil Jordan, 2012)

May 30, 2013

Byzantium

Two female vampires holed up in a seaside town hotel; for certain savvy viewers, this distilled description of Byzantium’s premise may bring to mind Harry Kümel’s strange and sensual film Daughters of Darkness from 1971. Neil Jordan’s return to both horror and the bloodsucking is a much different beast, though…

Full review at Sound on Sight

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Programme Notes: Something in the Air (Olivier Assayas, 2012)

May 23, 2013

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I was commissioned to write a set of programme notes for Glasgow Film Theatre, for their screenings of Olivier Assayas’ Something in the Air during the months of May and June. You can find an online copy of what I produced for them here.

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Epic (Chris Wedge, 2013)

May 22, 2013

Epic

Epic feels like a deliberate throwback to children’s adventure films of the 80s and 90s. And not necessarily the good ones – it’s plagued by a lot of similarities to 1992 eco-bore FernGully. What director Chris Wedge’s film does offer, however, is generally well-executed and engaging enough to make it a pleasant diversion…

Full review for The Skinny here

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Fast & Furious 6 (Justin Lin, 2013)

May 16, 2013

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Fast & Furious 5 (aka Fast Five) abandoned virtually any semblance of its series’ street racing routes, retooling the blockbuster franchise into an ensemble vehicular heist thriller; a brawny blend of Ocean’s Eleven and Bad Boys, albeit with less incoherent editing than a Michael Bay feature. The film’s ludicrous final half hour, involving a city-demolishing bank vault and every police car in Rio, was a legitimately thrilling example of big, loud and stupid spectacle; the only problem was that the preceding 90 minutes were a monotonous slog of miserable, repeated attempts at pathos and wallowing in series mythology. Though a few examples remain, much of the tedious fat has been significantly trimmed for Fast & Furious 6, and the fun absurdity of the prior film’s finale is spread far more evenly across the whole feature this time round…

Full review for The Skinny here

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Seen Your Video #18: The Notorious Rhyming and Whatnot

May 15, 2013

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On the latest episode of Seen Your Video, Chris Ward and I discuss Iron Man Three and writer-director Shane Black’s career, alongside Michael Mann’s Ali and a selection of the classic Universal monster movies. We also touch on recent changes at beloved online institution The A.V. Club.

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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Lost Classics: The Unbelievable Truth (Hal Hartley, 1989)

May 14, 2013

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1989’s Sex, Lies and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh) is often treated as the poster boy for discussions of the boom in American independent cinema, a wave that emerged at the end of the eighties and flourished for much of the early to mid-nineties. Soderbergh would eventually work a balance between more mainstream Hollywood efforts and smaller features with greater artistic freedom afforded by monetary success. Richard Linklater and Gus Van Sant, other prominent names of the American indie wave, would also venture down similar paths in their careers. One filmmaker who would not do this was Hal Hartley, a director whose debut feature The Unbelievable Truth also premiered in 1989. Though never gaining the same mainstream attention the others did early on, Hartley still had fairly outspoken support for much of the subsequent decade, only for the followers to rapidly diminish since, his name and filmography fading into relative obscurity in comparison to his so-called peers.

The films of Hal Hartley are of a notably mannered style. Though the majority of his filmography is by no means inaccessible, his writing and directing rhythms aren’t easily transferable to broader fare, and, perhaps explaining his lack of crossover success, he has yet to try doing so. Hartley has not stopped making films, but they are few and far between, and he has had to rely on crowd-funding for the completion of his most recent feature Meanwhile. His faded fortunes are a crying shame, but a re-emergence in profile has begun to take effect through recent critical re-evaluation via the home video releases…

Full feature for The Big Picture here

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Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams, 2013)

May 9, 2013

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The closing moments of the 2009 reboot of Star Trek saw a revival of its source material’s famous slogan regarding the Enterprise: “Their ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life forms and new civilisations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Though J.J. Abrams’ film acknowledged the property’s history, the conceit of its alternate timeline story made it so that the film wasn’t actually a prequel to the original series, laying down a path in which the younger versions of the crew could have new adventures with no obligation to align with established Star Trek mythology.

It is notable that the mission statement that closes Abrams’ film should be delivered by Leonard Nimoy’s incarnation of Spock rather than Zachary Quinto’s, or Chris Pine’s Kirk. In hindsight, tying the reboot series to its past one last time, before the apparent venture towards the new, now reads as a forecast of the 2013 sequel’s direction. Rather than relishing in the freedom to introduce fresh ideas and boldly go where no one has gone before, Star Trek Into Darkness is extremely reliant on repeating what has come before in its own franchise…

Full review at Sound on Sight

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Mud (Jeff Nichols, 2012)

May 9, 2013

Mud

Jeff Nichols’ strong follow-up to 2011’s Take Shelter is another examination of male conflict; this time in the form of a coming-of-age adventure tale. Ellis (Sheridan) and Neckbone (Lofland) are two Arkansas teens drawn to a tiny deserted island where – thanks to a flood – a boat rests high up in a tree. There they discover a leisurely fugitive named Mud (McConaughey), who’s waiting to meet his girlfriend (Witherspoon) for whom he has killed to protect. Lured by and ultimately idolising the man’s seemingly romantic ideals, the two boys become accomplices to Mud’s plans, which involve evading a vengeful family and its hired posse…

Full review for The Skinny