Archive for September, 2014

Please don’t scream. You’re beautiful.

Year Released : 2012MANIAC-4-sheet-final
Director : Franck Khalfon
Cast : Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder and Genevieve Alexandra

Elijah Wood is a man who has seemingly done everything he can to stop being typecast as fantasy characters after his role as Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings. Since then he has played a neuroscientist with stalkerish tendencies in the excellent “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, a hooligan in “Green Street” and the voice of a possessed puppet in the animated “9”, and he continues that trend in Maniac, a remake.

I’ve got severely mixed feelings about remakes. Some fall into the excellent side of the argument. The Thing (1982) and The Fly (1986), Night of the Living Dead (1990) and Dawn of the Dead (2004), for example, are a few of my favourite films and all are remakes, however, I could probably sit here for a long time and list films that are shockingly poor remakes, so I am always cautious when it comes to watching remakes.

I first heard about Maniac whilst on the London Underground and a very large poster, however, upon searching for when it was on in or near where I was living at the time (Newark), the nearest showings were all in London. Infact, outside of London there didn’t seem to be any showings anywhere. I found myself asking the question “How good can a film really be if it’s not being shown at 99% of the cinemas in the country but isn’t straight to DVD?” Don’t get me wrong, some of my favourite films didn’t come out at the cinema, such as the previously reviewed “Exit Humanity”, but something always strikes me as unnerving about a film that some have deemed good enough to be released at a cinema, but only a very, very small percentage.

Plot

Frank Zito (Wood) is a mentally disturbed man that leads a double life. By day he is the respectable owner of the family’s mannequin business, by night he is a murderer. With his mother being a prostitute during his childhood, Zito struggles to develop relationships with women other than one of antagonism and eventual murder. He experiences several dates, all of which end in the demise of the girl, and even openly stalks one off of a train before killing her in an alleyway.

Zito seems increasingly unable to live a normal life and his apartment turns into a testament of that as numerous insects gather around the dead bodies he stores around the place.

Just when all appears to be collapsing around him, he meets a French woman called Anna (Arnezeder) and the develop a relationship. She knows something is wrong with Frank but can’t quite place it but choices to ignore the comments made by her friends about Frank’s behaviour.

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So, was it good enough to stay away from the “straight-to-DVD” club but out of main cinema distribution?

Let’s start with the few positives that there are from the film. Firstly, Zito keeps the body of an early kill in his bedroom throughout the film, and you gradually see it decompose and become surrounded my flies. Just having that level of detail and reveal into his mental instability is excellent.

Wood continues his excellent path away from the land of Lord of the Rings and from typecasting in this excellent portrayal of Zito. His acting in this film is excellent, which is a large testament given that he is barely on the screen for the majority of it’s 90 minute run time. The film is shot from his first-person perspective and therefore Wood himself is actually not on screen that often and for me, not seeing him is one of the main problems that the film has.

Being shot entirely in first person perspective is highly unusual and I can’t recall seeing a film take a similar approach for that length of time. It has tried something new and that is always something to get excited about, however, whilst it is innovative, it is also restrictive. Because you can only hear Zito is saying and/or thinking, it’s hard to really get his sense of confliction without being able to see his face on the majority of occasions. The best actors show you their true emotions by facial expressions and one such example I will give is from the recently reviewed “J’ai tué ma mère” where one of the character has a look on her face where she is desperately trying to hide her emotions from Hubert, and just being able to see the confliction in a facial expression is far more impactful than hearing the thought of confliction directly.

First person isn’t all bad though and seeing a murder through the eyes of the killer in a movie is actually quite cool in many ways. Even in films where there is some first person killing (such as Doom), it’s not done overly well or you don’t quite get the feeling for the killing like you do with Maniac.

The pacing throughout the film is poor and even though it is 90 minutes too long, it is hard to argue against it feeling too long as it isn’t paced well at all. In many ways the film is similar to “American Psycho” in terms of the plot, but the reason that works so well as “Maniac” doesn’t is because it paces well, has excellent filler and a lot of excellent subplots to enhance the scenes of murder. “Maniac” doesn’t really have any of those and often feels forced. One such poor filler in Maniac is that Zito keeps getting visions of the girls he has already killed, and that feels so forced that it’s not actually that interesting.

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Summary

I found this film ultimately disappointing. The trailer made it look reasonable but I found it to be very slow, generally uninteresting and other than the final 20 or so minutes, completely unengaging. Whilst not completely awful, it’s definitely a bit “meh”. To put this into some context, I would put this into the group of films that I call “Watch once and be comfortable in the fact you will not watch it again!” I am certainly glad I didn’t travel to London to watch the film.

Wood is wonderful creepy and believable as Zito and his contribution to the film is the highlight of this 90 minute film that is otherwise lacking in good supporting characters.

Our love wasn’t ‘safe,’ but it wasn’t dumb. What is it you want, Fred? What is it? A child? A house? I can give you that. I’ll change.

Year Released : 2012Laurence Anyways
Director : Xavier Dolan
Cast : Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clément, Nathalie Bay, Monia Chokri, Magalie Lépine-Blondeau and Yves Jacques

In recent reviews I have been focusing on Xavier Dolan films, writing my reviews as I see his films for the first time, rather than writing reviews on films I have ever seen, and whilst “J’ai tué ma mère” and “Tom à la ferme” were both excellent, Dolan’s “Laurence Anyways” falls someway short of it’s predecessors.

With a lengthy run time of just short of three hours, “Laurence Anyways” doesn’t have the same charm as Dolan’s previous films, the characters aren’t as interesting and if anything, the film is about an hour too long as there are too many characters that add nothing to the film.

Whilst it hasn’t put me off Dolan’s films, far from it, there was just something missing that had made his previous films so delightful and whilst the aforementioned were both 9/10 (at least), I am struggling to think of this as nothing more than a 5/10, and even then I’m being generous.

Plot

Laurence (Poupaud) is an award winning novelist and literature teacher in Montreal. When he turns 30 he is due to have a romantic evening with his girlfriend, Fred (Clément), but when she surprises him by saying that they are going to go to New York for the weekend, Laurence bursts out in anger and reveals that he can no longer hide that he wants to be a woman. Understandably shocked, Fred takes several days to decide that she will stick by Laurence as he transitions.

Reactions from the local community are mainly negative and Laurence is frequently harassed on the street and his situation isn’t helped when he is fired from his job due to parent complaints. Growing further and further apart, Laurence and Fred split up after Fred starts dating Albert (David Savard).

As Laurence goes through his transition, he meets several unusual characters, including the Rose family and new romantic interest Charlotte (Lépine-Blondeau), but all the while he is still in love with Fred.

 

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Positives about the film…..

I can certainly relate to the Laurence character on some level. Being transgender myself I thought that the first hour or so of the film was very similar to my own experiences to when I first started telling my friends and family, as well as the excellent scene where Laurence admits to becoming terrified about entering the female toilets at his school. That was done in excellent fashion

In my previous reviews for Dolan films I have used the word “real” on a regular basis and for the first hour or so of this film, it continued along that theme. Having experienced very similar things to Laurence, I could definitely see the realism in it’s approach and for that, I commend it.

There is also another fabulous rant scene in a Dolan film this time Fred has had enough of a waitress’ questioning. The scene can be found below as the pure passion shown by Fred is a testament to the actress in the only scene where she is actually not tediously dull.

Much like his previous films, Dolan also includes several scenes that are full of vibrancy and colour, whereas most of the rest of the film has a dull pallet. This works well in my opinion as you know that what is happening is out of the ordinary and that what you’re watching is either a completely different state of emotion for the character, or indeed a dream like state. This film’s example comes from when Laurence and Fred are walking along a path and all of a sudden a lot of bright laundry just falls around them.

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Despite a very positive and real, it was hard to really get behind Laurence as a character, the longer the film went on, the less interested I got. For the first hour Laurence is very likeable and passionate about numerous things, but after that he just seems to lose something and was no longer than interesting.

Probably the biggest contention of the story for me was the Rose family, who feel like nothing more than filler and ultimately add nothing to the story other than as some friends for Laurence, which I get in some ways but realistically they actually add nothing to the story. If anything they actually become quite an annoyance as none of them show anything other than one aspect of their personality. It’s the same with Fred’s sister, who’s only character trait seems to be that she doesn’t like transgendered individuals, there is nothing else that she does during the film other than scold Laurence for his decisions and Fred for her’s to initially stay with Laurence. and as I said, it feels like they are there to be nothing more than filler in an almost three hour run time.

The secondary characters feel like nothing more than filler for the near 3 hour run time and this was also referenced by numerous professional critics, and whilst a long run time isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it certainly needs some interesting characters to keep it going. Dolan is a self confessed massive fan of Titanic, a film that exceeds three hours, but the reason that works is that there are numerous interesting characters in that film and you route for the two main characters, I don’t get that with this film. Neither Laurence or Fred are interesting enough to hold a near three hour run time together, and add in a poor selection of secondary characters, it makes you realise that this film is AT LEAST an hour too long.

One thing I also found a little strange was that even after he has admitted that he wants to be female, Laurence never actually changes his name, nor does the character encourage anyone to say anything other than Laurence. The film is set over a period of ten years, most of which Laurence spends living as a woman and I can only assume that by the end she has completed her transition, yet the name doesn’t change. One possible theory is that not changing his name means that people can still associate the new works to those that she won awards for before she started transitioning, but even then it is strange not to have changed name.

Lastly, something that truly bugged me, on a regular basis the characters switch between French and English mid-sentence for seemingly no reason. Now, don’t me me wrong, I’m fine with not needing subtitles, but why are they suddenly speaking English mid-sentence before going back to French? You may have noticed an example in the video clip above where towards the end she switches to English. Now, I appreciate this is set in Canada and not France so people can speak French and English, but it makes very little sense to just switch.

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Summary

Having now completed my Dolan trilogy (there are other films but I wanted to do three reviews for this site to make it seem like I could give a more detailed description of his work) I can say that I do enjoy his work but for me this was the weakest of the three films that I have seen. ” “J’ai tué ma mère” has a great relationship and dynamic between it’s two characters, “Tom à la ferme” had great character development, “Laurence Anyways” has neither of those.

It’s such as a shame as I really wanted to round off my trilogy of reviews of Dolan films with a third positive review, but I can’t.

The characters just aren’t that compelling and the majority of them are one dimensional. Maybe what this film was missing as the presence of Dolan on screen, which has been one of the main positive points from the previous films.

Watch the other two. Don’t watch this.

We should be able to kill ourselves in our heads and then be reborn

Year Released : 20091334150634444366184
Director : Xavier Dolan
Cast : Xavier Dolan, Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément and François Arnaud

In my last post I reviewed the French language film “Tom à la ferme” and at the end of that I said that I had decided to take a bit of an interest in the films of Xavier Dolan, the writer, director and star of the aforementioned. Following on from that I watched one of Dolan’s earlier films, “J’ai tué ma mère” (I Killed My Mother) and now I am firmly a fan of Dolan, who proves he isn’t a one-hit wonder as he again produces a masterpiece with his semi-autobiographical story about a teenager who struggles to deal with a very strained relationship with his mother.

“J’ai tué ma mère” is again in French and despite receiving an eight minute standing ovation following it’s debut at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, it was barely released outside of non-French speaking countries and recouped less than 10% of it’s $450,000 budget in it’s native Canada. It’s safe to say that despite it receiving such praise, and being nominated as Canada’s entry to the Best International Film category at the Academy Awards, it’s not surprising that it isn’t well known with such limited distribution to the non-French speaking parts of the world.

Dolan has truly shown his diversity as he has written two films (based on this and “Tom à la ferme”) that are so incredibly far apart in terms of tone, pacing and characters that it actually excites me as to what he will come up with the future and the first thing I wanted to do immediately after watching this film was to watch other Dolan films, which for me is what I want out of a director/writer, and one of the main reasons is that his character building it absolutely superb.

I can’t give a comparison from Hollywood as Dolan is truly unique and before I even tell you the plot, I urge you to watch this film, even if the title is misleading as he doesn’t actually kill his mother, nor does he even try and the title is based on a poem that the character writes during the film.

Plot

Hubert (Dolan) and his mother Chantale (Dorval) have an extremely strained relationship and after a relatively calm start to the film, they are soon having a full blown argument as she drives him to school. Points of arguments include what’s on the radio, running light and his reliance on her when his friends are starting to branch out into the world. She decides that she’s had enough and forces him out of the car.

Still in school, Hubert decides to vent his frustration about the situation with his mother by writing short stories, poems and recording videos about his true feelings towards her, including a piece called “J’ai tué ma mère” (I Killed My Mother) in which he explores how his mother is just another woman to him.

With almost permanent antagonism towards each other, they rarely have a civilised conversation and when they do, it isn’t long before descends into arguing. Hubert soon confides his feels with his teacher (Clément) and boyfriend Antonin (Arnaud). Hubert’s internal conflicts include admitting that whilst he would defend his mother if someone tried to harm her, he doesn’t love her like a son should love a mother and ultimately the only way for them to ever co-exist is to be separated, but can either live without the other?


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So what is awesome about it?

As with “Tom à la ferme” the film feels extremely real. Whilst in Hollywood films everything feels almost plastic, you get deeply involved with the characters in “J’ai tué ma mère” as you can see both sides of the argument perfectly. Dolan is a very selfish person, which even Antonin points out to him, and can barely see past his own needs, but on the flip side Chantale does regularly promise him things (such as having friends around and allowing him to move out of the house) only to then change her mind the next time that they see each other.

It reminded me a lot of my relationship with my parents growing up, and the ultimate message of the film is true of teenage life, familiarity breeds contempt as the only times that the characters do get along in the film are those moments where they have been separated for a while, and it’s the same with me and my parents. I turned 30 recently and I think I now have a very strong relationship with my parents, whereas when I was living with them I felt a lot like how Hubert felt in the film. That’s what makes it feel real, the sense that this could have easily been your life.

One exceptional touch I thought as well, much like true life, is that when Chantale finds out that Hubert is homosexual via his boyfriend’s mother, her initial reaction is one of shock. It’s not anger or disgust like in Hollywood films, it’s again very real. It’s almost a stunned silence as she gets on with the rest of her day in an auto-pilot mode. Infact, she doesn’t even mention to her son that she knows about his sexual preference until much later in the film.

There is one scene in particular that I remember from the film with regards to the relationship between Hubert and Antonin and that comes towards the end when they are painting a room before then giving into their urges and have sex on the floor. It’s quite out of tone with the rest of the film, including being very brightly coloured due to the paint, and I thought that was exceptional as it’s one of the few times you see Hubert happy in the film, so in many ways the tone that was set of it looking like it belongs in another film was right, as Hubert is a bit miserable throughout and this is the one time we see him happy. It also doesn’t hold back and actually shows that characters having sex. I must admit that did take me a bit by surprise.

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The acting in the film is superb, and whilst the arguments take centre stage in that respect, the stand out scene comes at the end when Chantale launches into the mother of all rants. She hears that Hubert has run away from a boarding school that he has been sent to and whilst wearing what is quite possibly the most hideous jumper in the history of film, she launches into a rant so passionate and well acted that I just have to write it in this review because it is so fantastic. If you think you have seen rants in a film before, think again.

So the rage begins : “That’s the damn limit, you arrogant individual. Who the fuck do you think you are? Do you teach “Mothering 101″? My manic-depressive mother spent half her life in hospital. I married a coward who left because fathering wasn’t his cup of tea. Fifteen years I’ve been waking up at 5:30 to get to work and drive through goddamn traffic so my son can get and go to school!”

The person she is talking to tries to interrupt….tries being the key word….

She continues : “SHUT THE FUCK UP! Goddman stupid-ass machos! You’re always quick to judge us as you strut around in your goddamn Bugs Bunny ties! You throw your red underwear on. Do you like pink socks, motherfucker? So don’t try to tell me that my son ran away because I’m a single mother! You all have 150 IQs and you, you, YOU auto-congratulate yourselves with your endless diplomas and when a 17 year old escapes from your establishment you dare tell me that I’m a bad mother. You persecute me with your questions and petty insinuations. You project your incompetence on me! Go fuck yourself, you son of a bitch and if I don’t find a reimbursement in my mailbox by next week I’ll come and make you cough up every last penny. HAVE I MADE MYSELF CLEAR?”

At the end of that, having witnessed the pure passion that the actress put into that rant, I almost stood up and applauded. It was just incredible.

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Summary

Dolan is an incredible director/writer and I would go as far as saying that this is not one ofapproved the best films I have seen during 2014, it’s THE best film I’ve seen during 2014. As I mentioned above, the first thing that I wanted to do when this film had finished was to watch another Xavier Dolan film, and that’s what I want from a film, something keeps me wanting to go back for more.

With characters that are so beautifully and intricately written, making you love them one minute, hate them the next before going back to loving them again, it’s impossible not to find yourself being compelled to watch the screen. It is 100 minutes of excellent cinema, and the rest for that, as I’ve stated above, is that it all feels real. This could be a situation in your life and those are the ones you can truly connect with.

Whilst some may be turned off by Hubert and Antonin having sex on screen, it actually adds something to the film as, as mentioned above, it’s the first time that you see Hubert truly happy and free from pressure.

Next time you go on a whim, try to go for the soybean field. It’s October, corn cuts like a knife.

Year Released : 201353096
Director : Xavier Dolan
Cast : Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu

How often do you watch a film where you don’t know the plot beforehand? That was the situation I found myself in recently when I watched the French language film, “Tom à la ferme” (Tom at the Farm). I had seen it on special offer on iTunes a few weeks ago and just from the poster it looked like an intriguing film, so without knowing what the plot was, even to the point where I didn’t watch the trailer, I decided to wait until I started this blog before watching it blind.

I had no preconceptions about the film going in, all I knew was that it wasn’t in the English language, which is an area I don’t touch on that often to be honest as I tend not to enjoy foreign language films, and can only think of a mere handful in my DVD collection (mainly REC, the Spanish horror franchise), but I might take a closer look at Xavier Dolan’s work after he wrote, directed and starred in this rather suspenseful film as themes such as violence, sexual tension and stockholm syndrome are explored in it#s 102 minutes.

In many ways it being in a foreign language makes it somewhat more enjoyable as you catch more of the plot reading the subtitles, and unlike some other French language films, this has it in abundance. Each of the characters is meticulously written with meaningful purpose (expanded on from the characters in the play that the film is based on) and not a single moment feels wasted, something which I certainly can’t say about a lot of modern films.

PLOT

Tom )Dolan) arrives at the farm of his now-deceased boyfriend’s family ahead of the funeral. He becomes friendly with Agathe (Roy), the deceased’s mother, although he soon realises that she did not know of her son’s sexuality and in order not to make the situation worse (finding out that her son had been lying to her) for the grieving mother, Tom decides to not read out his speech during the ceremony, a move that particularly offends Francis (Cardinal), the brother.

Francis subsequently terrorises Tom by both physical and mental intimidation, forcing him to remain on the farm by the way of violence, removing the wheels from Tom’s car and various other methods. After several failed attempts to escape, as well as his feelings of guilt towards not correcting Agathe’s ignorance of her son’s sexuality, Tom slowly starts accepting the fate that he will never leave the farm. He also starts developing an attraction to Francis, which makes the situation even more difficult for him.

The two develop a very fragile friendship that is complicated by Francis being fully aware of the relationship between his now deceased brother and Tom, as well as trying to hide the truth from his mother.

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So, was it better not knowing the plot?

In a lot of ways yes and I would recommend it. Going in you have no idea what is going to happen, you’re just there for the ride and Xavier Dolan does an excellent job of throughout.

The film does start off with pretty much the only point of aggravation I have with the whole runtime, some terrible camera work. The first five minutes consist of just Tom and at times the camera is so close to him that if the character is going around a corner, the camera follows and we’re suddenly looking at his shoulder, it felt very rushed and I will be honest, I did almost turn off due to that camera work. Fortunately the film does become steadier as it goes on and the cameraman learns how to do his job properly. That is the only major negative in the film and other than that, the opening to the film is excellent as Tom explores the empty farm with some very tense music, and throughout the entire feature the music is excellent.

Dolan does an excellent job as Tom and the way the character develops throughout is exceptional. When he arrives he is very neat and tidy, but once Francis has his grip Tom no longer cares about his appearance, and doesn’t even bother combing his hair, all of which makes the strong hint of Stockholm syndrome towards the end even more haunting.

Cardinal is haunting as Francis, almost to the point where you never know truly what he is thinking. One minute he acts as though he is perfectly in love with Tom, such as a scene where they dance together, and literally in the next you see Tom nursing a black eye. The Francis character has to deal with a lot of internal conflict and his performance, and the general appearance of him, reminds me a lot of how Zarchary Quinto portrayed Gabriel/Sylar in Heroes.

There are many examples of Francis flipping from a seemingly pleasant individual to one that you couldn’t want to meet in a bar (which seems fitting based on a conversation that Tom has with a barman towards the end of the film) and on several occasions they go from having what could best be described as a “nice moment” to Francis coming close to beating the life out of Tom. It’s the type of antagonist that I enjoy watching, one with unpredictability, similar to Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight.

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With only three characters for the majority of the film, it would become easy for the story to feel limited, but the conflict with Tom of whether he wants to escape or stay and develop his relationship with Francis further (but risk being severely injured on a regular basis) is entrancing, especially near the beginning of the film when you see him making an escape, swearing in various languages before realising he has left his luggage and going back, but then just a few scenes later he is presented with an opportunity to leave and doesn’t take it.

One of the highest points of praise I could also give the film is that the conversations between the characters feel natural. One of the main problems in mainstream films is that very little is said that doesn’t advance the plot, it doesn’t just flow and life doesn’t work like that. One such example of a natural feeling conversation is in the car between Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction where the latter reflects on his recent holiday in France, something that was completely irrelevant to the plot and that’s what life is like. If you’re on your way to work (for example) with friends, you don’t talk about what you’re going to do at work, you just have natural conversations, and that is what this film has in abundance.

The addition of a fourth character towards the end wasn’t needed in some ways and ultimately does make the ending feel somewhat forced and unnatural, but let’s face it, how many endings don’t feel forced these days?

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So worth watching then?

Yes, it is. I’m not going to lie, it’s not going to be a film that I will revisit on a regular basis. It’s one ofapproved those films that you don’t need to see it a second or third time to be satisfied with it and I would say in terms of a plot, character development and visuals, it is up there with one of the best films I have seen during 2014. I’m probably not going to watch it again, but I feel I don’t need to but I would recommend that you all do.

It is a shame that this film wasn’t widely released at the cinemas as it could have become a modern day classic. It was released in the UK in April 2014, but like most other countries, unless you saw it at a film festival, you weren’t likely to see it at all.

I will keep exploring Dolan’s films as he has a promising future if this is anything to go.

Love. Love is the key. Love and family. For what are night and day, the sun, the moon, the stars without love, and those you love around you? What could be more hollow than to die alone, unloved?

Year Released : 2005The_Proposition_5
Director : Nick Cave
Cast : Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, Danny Huston, Richard Wilson, David Wenham and John Hurt

I have simple tastes when it comes to films. All I want is an interesting story with good characters that have been well acted out and judging by that cast listed above and the trailer that you will find at the bottom of this review, I was very optimistic that this film would be excellent. 104 minutes later and it was neither interesting or particularly well acted.

There is no excuse for the poor acting as six of those seven are well known in Hollywood. Pearce has been in numerous big hits, as has Winstone, Huston is part of a famous acting family and has recently been involved in the Clash of the Titans reboot, Wenham played Faramir in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and John Hurt has been in more big films than I would care to list. There was no excuse for this film to be so horribly acted. No excuse whatsoever.

Infact, I’m going to go a long way to calling this film pretentious. It has a sweeping epic feel and a beautiful soundtrack accompanying it to it but ultimately leaves you disappointed after 104 minutes and having not heard of this film before the 24 hours prior, I wish I hadn’t heard of it. It’s a western style film that isn’t set in the west, infact it is literally as geographically far away from the wild west as you can get as it’s set in the Australian outback. Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it often felt like the film was confused as to what it was trying to achieve.

Initially I had wanted to leave this review until at least a day after watching the film I had to start writing this straight away because quite frankly, it has annoyed me.

Plot

Following a shoot-out between the police and the Burns gang, Charlie Burns (Pearce) and his younger brother Mikey (Wilson) are caught and taken to a local police station. Captain Stanley (Winstone) decides to make a proposition to Charlie in that if he can bring his older brother, Arthur (Huston), to justice then he is prepared to let him and Mikey go, otherwise he will kill the latter.

As Stanley struggles to keep the vicious nature of the crimes that the Burns gang committed (such as murdering and raping a pregnant woman) quiet, Charlie races to find Arthur,  but even when he does there is the understandable internal conflict. Could you kill one brother to save another, or would you do nothing and your inaction would cause the other brother to die anyway?

Stanley is also facing a wife who’s concerns grow with every day, a boss who wants him to make an example out of Mikey and various aboriginal tribes causing him issues.

800px-Richard_Wilson_as_Mike_Burns,_Guy_Pearce_as_Charlie_Burns_in_John_HillcoatÔÇÖs_ÔÇÿThe_Proposition

So what are the main problems and are there any saving graces?

For what was an interesting concept for the film, and what is admittedly very beautifully made in terms of locations, costumes, etc, the film just seems like one big mess after another with only one bright spot.

Well first of all I find it very hard to route for rapists and murderers, even when they are put in a difficult situation. They’re not really protagonists, afterall, they are vile people and the only reason you half want Charlie to succeed is because Mikey is seemingly mentally handicapped and therefore more than likely had nothing to do with the raping and murdering. I would go as far as saying that the Mikey character is one of the few positives of an otherwise largely forgettable film.

Mikey was played excellently by Richard Wilson, especially in the scene where Mikey is forced to receive 100 lashes for his alledged involvement in the crimes, only making it into the 30s before passing out but not before unleashing a flurry of pain and emotion as he struggles to understand what is happening. Despite being the least experienced from the main cast, Wilson actually does a far better job than his more experienced counterparts.

Then we get onto the acting, if you can indeed call it that, provided by Emily Watson. There are few actresses with a less varied emotional range than Watson and in any film that I have seen her in, she has yet to produce a performance that convinces me that she should be in the movie industry. Her character plays a seemingly happily married woman that then finds out that her husband has been covering up that her pregnant friend was raped and murdered, all before having her life threatened on several occasions, and despite a character description like that, Watson doesn’t once move from the vacuous expression that she conveys in every performance.

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This is Watson’s expression during the entire movie

Infact, it’s been quite some time since a performance has actually near enough single handedly taken this film from average to something I have no desire to watch again. Whilst the other performances, bar Wilson’s, are questionable, at best, Watson does what Dakota Fanning did to War of the Worlds and near enough completely ruins the film on her own.

I was also particularly surprised at Pearce’s performance. This is the same man who played the very animated Adam in “Priscilla : Queen of the Desert,” also set in the outback, and yet he gave a largely lifeless performance, rarely moving away from barren wasteland of emotions that accompanied his co-star. Now, I appreciate that the character isn’t going to be jumping for joy at the prospect of him being forced to choose between two brothers,

There is also precisely no bond seemingly between Arthur and Mikey, I don’t think the characters are on screen at the same time at any point, and they certainly don’t talk to each other on the screen, it’s just bizarre to that Arthur makes several long references to how family is important, yet doesn’t actually have a single interaction with one of his brothers on the screen.

Other that Watson’s “acting”, the only other thing that truly annoys me about this film is the characters talking at a volume where you can’t hear them. You can tell that a film has problems when even when at normal volume, you can’t understand what a character is saying to the point where you have to turn on subtitles. One scene in particular comes straight to mind when Watson’s character is in the middle of a bath and Stanley comes up behind her, they begin having a conversation without facing each other face to face, and yet Watson’s volume doesn’t change. If anything her volume gets lower.

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Summary

I don’t like pretentious films. I didn’t like “There Will Be Blood” or “Valhalla Rising” (which will no doubt appear as a review on this website at some point in the near future) for pretty much the same reason. Yes, TWBB was slightly better acted, but it still had that delusion grandeur that realistically it didn’t deserve. That was nearly 3 hours of nothing except for a man going very slowly insane, and I found generally unenjoyable….and yet I would happily watch it again over this tedious film.

There aren’t many films that I dislike to the point where I would never watch them again, but as this film is never likely to be on British TV because it’s not very well known at all, I would literally have to go out of my way to watch it again and quite frankly there is more chance of Emily Watson having a second facial expression than me watching this film for a second time.

For me the ONLY positive in the film is Wilson’s performance and if he chooses to return to acting after going into education soon after filming “The Loved Ones” then he could be the next big thing to come out of Australia.

Avoid at all costs.

“You’ve got 10 seconds to go or Daddy’s gonna nail it to the chair”

Year Released : 2010loved_ones
Director : Sean Byrne
Cast : Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Richard Wilson and Victoria Thaine

Making less than $35,000 worldwide, most of which was in it’s native Australia, it’s not particularly surprising that most haven’t heard of this film which most of the western world would describe as splatter films or torture porn.

To give you some idea of what is meant by those terms, I’ll highlight some of the better known films from that genre, “Hostel”, “A Serbian Film” and arguably most famously, the Saw franchise. So, I hear you ask, what makes this film different from the aforementioned collection of very poorly received films?

For a start, unlike the majority of others in the genre, there is actually a very good story behind the torture and subplots including what happened to the main antagonist’s former boyfriends, the relationship between the main protagonist and his mother, as well as the very heavily hinted pedophile nature of the father figure towards the antagonist.

With a virtually unknown cast at the time of release, “The Loved Ones” gives you a great chance to view the acting skills of some very youthful actors, as well as early glimpses into one or two that have since gone on to star in Hollywood, such as Xavier Samuel, who played Riley in the Twilight franchise and a role in the upcoming Brad Pitt film, “Fury”.

Plot

Lola (Robin McLeavy) appears on the outside to just be your typical teenage girl. She enjoys being feminine and appears to be a very friendly girl, that is until she she asks Brent (Xavier Samuel) to go to the prom with her and gets rejected. Whilst Brent gets on with the rest of his day, Lola suddenly starts revealing her true nature and it isn’t long before Brent finds himself being kidnapped.

Waking up in a strange house that has been decorated to resemble a prom night, Lola reveals that she doesn’t take rejection well and will make Brent realise that they are meant to be together, along with the help of her father  (John Brumpton), who is simply referred to as “Daddy” throughout the film. Almost more torturing for Brent is that sat next to him is a vision of what lay in store as there is mute woman with a huge and charred hole in the middle of her forehead.

Whilst Brent’s friends and family are searching for him, he is being subjected to being tortured by Lola and Daddy, including, amongst other things, nailing his feet to the floor so that he can’t escape and filling his voice box with bleach so that he can’t scream for help. As the film plays on Brent continues to get tortured and the twisted nature of the relationship between Lola and Daddy becomes more disturbing as the film progresses.

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In many respects the film isn’t as fucked up, but there there are quite a lot of scenes where you feel that you can’t watch anymore but feel that you have to just to see what is going to happen next, especially when you realise that Daddy performed a home-made lobotomy on Lola’s mother via drilling a hole in her head and pouring boiling water into the hole.

This is different to other torture porn films though as most of those are filled with characters torturing others for the pure sake of it, but in The Loved Ones you get the feeling that Lola and Daddy are genuinely mentally disturbed. They aren’t pissed at the world or want to teach people a lesson for some morality lesson, such as the Jigsaw character in the aforementioned “Saw” franchise, Lola and Daddy are pissed at Brent as Daddy’s pedophilia towards his daughter has included convincing her that she is perfect and boys that reject her advances need to be taught to appreciate her, and the fact that they do that by injecting bleach into someone’s vocal cords shows how mentally disturbed they are.

The relationship between Lola and Daddy makes this film though, whilst disturbing in it’s nature, it’s probably the strongest father/daughter relationship that I have seen in film for a long day. I must admit that having spent this review thinking of why I think this film is very different to others in the genre, I would say that this is the reason, and when you find out what happened to all of Lola’s previous love interests (revealed towards the end of the film), you realise that Lola and Daddy’s relationship has been that strong for a long time.

“The Loved Ones” isn’t your normal torture porn/splatter film simply because the characters are developed properly. The “Saw” franchise didn’t do that, one of the reasons that the series, despite lasting seven films, was received horrendously by critics and fans alike from film three onwards. “Hostel” certainly didn’t do character development, nor did “A Serbian Film”, this is the first film I have seen where a character gets tortured for a major portion of the film and get the torture isn’t the main attraction of the film.

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There are a few negatives though. There is a completely unnecessary sub-plot in the film where Brent’s friend gets a date and the film flips to that date throughout, constantly interrupting the flow of the rest of the film to the point where it’s like a car that is going 100mph and then stops for a red light, and it takes a long time to get back to up 100mph before it has to stop again suddenly.

When the film comes close to it’s conclusion, you find out how the date is relevant to the torturing, but it’s is the most tedious link I have seen in the film and was neither previously hinted at, or even really has an impact on the outcome of the film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always nice to see an underdog get a date and do well on it, but given that it had precisely no meaningful impact on the film, the film could have done so much better without it.

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Summary

“The Loved Ones” is one of those films that you either love or hate. It is unapologetically violent and it approveddoesn’t hold back on showing you what is happening. There is nothing left to the imagination, but for me the most enjoyable part of the film is that the excellent acting from the young cast, especially McLeavy, is compelling. You genuinely believe that she could happily torture you whilst maintaining a generally pleasant attitude, and that is a testament to her acting quality. There are far too many young actresses these days who play roles in horror films that play it so incredibly poorly that you never genuinely believe that they are in danger or in Lola’s case, causing the danger.

In my opinion some of the best and most original horror films are those that have no influence from America, such as the Spanish film “REC” (which I would love to write a review for on this site but it is too well known) and a whole plethora of English horror films, and if this is the standard for future films from Australia then their future is bright.

Trying to forget someone you loved is like trying to remember someone that you never knew!

Year Released : 2011Untitled
Director : John Geddes
Cast : Mark Gibson, Bill Moseley, Dee Wallace, Adam Seybold, Jordan Hayes and Brian Cox

Ever since childhood I have had a fascination with the zombie genre across various platforms. Ever since my brother gave me the first Resident Evil game back in 1996, I had been very keen on the subject and throughout the subsequent 18 years there have been many films on the subject.

The genre has been far from devoid of shockingly poor films though, with the most famous example of this being the Resident Evil series, a series of five (soon to be six) films that gradually get worse and worse as they go on. Infact, zombie movies in general do tend to be very poor, with very few exceptions.

The early George A. Romero films, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead were both excellent, as were their remakes, and although technically not zombies, I have thoroughly enjoyed 28 Days Later and the first two REC films, both of which are very similar to zombie films.

So in a genre that rarely produces a good film, where does Exit Humanity stand? It was described in the trailer as “this is not a movie, but a piece of cinema,” Exit Humanity makes a bold promise about what it is about to deliver and as far as I am concerned, it certainly delivers on that.

Not theatrically released in the UK, or pretty much anywhere else for that matter, you’d be forgiven for having never heard of “Exit Humanity,” even as an avid zombie film fan I hadn’t heard of it until nearly two years after it’s release. Despite a trailer that revealed pretty much all of how the first hour or so of the film went, I was certainly intrigued by a film that looked exceptionally well made and set in a time period where horror films rarely go, just after the American Civil War.

With a near enough completely unknown cast, Exit Humanity is certainly one of those films that you will love or hate, and for me it is very much in the former of the two options. It’s different from any other zombie film

Plot

Edward Young (Mark Gibson) returned to his family following the American Civil War and had settled down to a normal life, however, upon a return from a hunting trip, his family has disappeared and the area is infested with zombies. Eventually finding his deceased wife and son, Young plunges into a deep depression and is only denied suicide by a malfunctioning gun.

Knowing he can’t stay in his home anymore, Young ventures out and soon discovers Isaac (Adam Seybold). Although initially hostile, Isaac soon calls upon Young to help him retrieve his sister (Jordan Hayes), who has been kidnapped by an insane army general (Bill Moseley).

As they find themselves being hunted by both the living and the dead, Young is continually struggling to come to terms with the new world and slowly loses his grip on reality and sanity, attempting suicide on numerous occasions. The eeriness of his feelings comes out with the haunting quote “If this is the humanity that is left then I need an exit!”

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So what makes this film great?

Divided into chapters, this “piece of cinema” has many fascinating sub/mini-sections, including one where Young captures one of his infected neighbours and tests what they are capable of via various experiments. Remember that this is set several hundred years ago and therefore restraints had to be applied with virtually no safety precautions, and even when doing his test Young is still visibly terrified of his neighbour.

Exit Humanity only has nine characters that get decent screen time, but each has an excellent level of character development, ranging from Young and Isaac, to a doctor who questions his own faith in medicine and science as he can’t figure out what is happening or how to stop it. There isn’t a single weak character in the film, and you even care somewhat for the antagonists.

Some of the interesting subplots include the relationship between the general and his doctor. The general expects the doctor to find out how to control the zombie infection by purposefully forcing a prisoner’s arm into hole in a wall of a room full of zombies, and the doctor is not only very uncomfortable with this method, but is also faced with losing his understanding of science, openly admitting that he doesn’t know what is happening or why.

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Presented with a mix of live action and animation, Exit Humanity is visually stunning, and whilst the action is little and far between, I have never seen a horror film with as much character development, and Young’s slide into insanity is a fascinating journey, no more so than when an early suicide attempt fails and he realises that he is forced do with what he has.

The soundtrack and settings almost act as individual characters, with haunting melodies played on banjos accompanying the characters through their journey amongst sweeping landscapes.Wide open spaces may not fill you with dread, but certainly bring you into the main character’s feelings of isolation, especially early on the film before he meets Isaac.

Reviews have generally been mixed throughout the history of the film, however, the comments from those who have viewed it and reviewed it negatively seem to revolve around the theme of there being long spells between story advancement, but I personally would much rather have characters built to the level where you can what happens to them. Too many films from the zombie genre have too many characters that you don’t even know the names of, let alone care about whether the character lives or dies.

Zombie films could learn a lot from this movie. It is an exceptionally intelligent film that doesn’t treat it’s audience like they are gore-obsessed morons. Too many zombie films are just obsessed with showing hordes and hordes of people getting bitten and/or dying on a regular basis, and I’ll be honest, I have grown very tired of the genre in recent years, however, this film is a cut above not only most zombie films, but most horror films.

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Summary

In one sense this is a typical zombie film, in other words characters get bitten, die and then come back, but this stands out in a genre where most characters aren’t even named befapprovedore they die (yes, I’m looking at you Resident Evil). At just shy of two hours long, you feel like you’ve made a genuine connection with the characters that are alive in the film

It has characters that you care about, a very clever way of presenting itself and introduces ideas that other horror films don’t even touch on, and even hints that the whole zombie genre started in this time period (if they were all linked and linear of course), although that does lead me onto the only negative part of this whole review.

My ONE criticism of the film is the scene where it is revealed how this zombie infection started. Sometimes it’s nice not to know where it all started and I feel that this film would have been a lot better without the section of the film, especially when it turns out that the actual source is a bit ridiculous, which it is in this film. I can’t go into it fully without actually spoiling what actually causes the outbreak, but if you watch the film, you will release just how needless it was.

As I said earlier in this review, this is one of those films where there is no in-between, you either love or hate it, I am very much in the love it camp.