Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Film Review: Housebound (2014)

Copyright: Semi-Professional Pictures
Almost immediately, this film defines itself as, first and foremost, a comedy. In the opening sequence, a pair of ATM robbers is thwarted by a Bugs Bunny type mistake (and the subsequent hit in the head). Right after, the film jumps into the future, where one of them, a young woman named Kylie, is sentenced to house arrest.

The attitude filled Kylie returns to her family home, and to her mother, where she needs to spend 8 months wearing a locating device that will stop her from leaving the premise. Miriam, her mom, is happy to have her back, but the bad blood between them, located there since Kylie’s childhood, quickly begins to boil. But, at the same time, strange sounds can be heard in their old home, and this brings about bad memories of their previous family life where both believed at one point that the house was haunted.

Gerard Johnstone, the writer and director of Housebound, made just one mistake in the entire process, which is pretty amazing considering the budget and the relative lack of stardom in front of behind the camera. This mistake is the length of the film, and the fact that it loses steam on several occasions. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Film Review: The Drop (2014)

Copyright: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Certain parts of the US seem as if they were made for street violence, shady criminal dealings and colorful character that partake in this environment. Brooklyn, with its working class quagmire and a thick accent that can be recognized by people outside of the States, is definitely one of those places.

The Drop (2014) is a film heavily set in Brooklyn. Michaël R. Roskam created his movie so that it is fueled by mystery and suspense. The mystery part revolves around the notion of a bar that was formerly run by a small local gang, but which then got overtaken by a more ruthless and capable Chechen criminal organization. Now, the bar is sometimes used as the Drop, or a place where all the dirty money collected by the organization gets taken and kept for transport. The only thing is that the Drop moves constantly, but many people think about robbing it.

The suspense part of the film is handled by Tom Hardy, who plays Bob, the bar worker. His older superior, called Cousin Marv is the former owner of both the bar and the local gang. Now, Marv is angry and afraid, while Bob just wants to keep his head down. One night, he finds an abandoned pit bull pup, and decides not to walk away. This sparks a series of changes in Bob’s life, while at the same time danger looms over everyone.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

MFM Interview: Tracey Birdsall

Dawn of the Crescent Moon (2014) is a supernatural thriller about a group of students who travel to Texas to explore a Comanche legend, but soon come face to face with it, staring Tracey Birdsall and Barry Corbin (watch the trailer here). Birdsall began her career more than three decades ago, and today presents a strong voices in the area of independent film.

Recently, I got an opportunity to talk to her about her new film and the inspiration it drew from Native American folklore, but also about the changing role of women in the movie industry.

Courtesy of
Movies, Films and Movies (MFM): Indie horrors are definitely a very interesting genre in the age of the Internet, both as a financial model and an opportunity for artistic expression. What is, from your perspective, the biggest advantage in working in this genre?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Film Review: Dracula Untold (2014)

Copyright: Universal Pictures
If you don’t like this film, and I sure wasn’t made into its fan after I watched it, its name offers many possible puns. Like, this movie is so bad that its story should be like its title and it should have remained untold. Or, doesn’t this film kill its own name by telling the story which is supposed to be “untold”?

Granted, these puns are not that great. But, truth to be told (not untold), this film isn’t that great either. But, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I felt as someone who was robbed of 90 minutes. The key issue and the slipping point of this film is the fact that its director, Gary Shore, simply didn’t know where to take it most of the time.

The movie industry is continuously drawn to the story of Dracula and vampires in general. Psychologically speaking, there are so many good things in these tales that they are simply irresistible – sexual allusion of dominance, clothing style, the notions of unstoppable power that comes at a great personal cost – vampire have it all, and they are easy for everyone to understand them.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Film Review: The Equalizer (2014)

Copyright: Columbia Pictures
It’s very enticing to examine the newest Antoine Fuqua’s film as a pseudo-religious tale. In it, a character called Robert McCall is a deity right from the Old Testament. He is never uncertain about what is wrong and what is right, and is prepared to commit acts of unabated violence to help those who are in need. Watching The Equalizer, I saw only two modes of Robert’s existence – quiet nothingness in which he is practically an invisible older worker in a Home Depot kind of place, and the quiet rage setting, in which Robert becomes a demon of death who kills to solve problems.

In this setting, Denzel Washington, who plays Robert, reaches once more for a character he constructed a decade ago. This person is an ordinary guy who is in fact a real world superhero with unshakable faith in his ideals.

Even when Fuqua presents Robert in a state that might be near to something like doubt, just a moment or two later, we see him suffocating cops or destroying pipelines while he calmly walks away from the nuclear-like explosion. Because, you know, tough guys don’t look at explosions, especially if they are a murdering psychopath. Although Washington’s acting is strong, his physical demeanor and loosening facial skin tell more about a tired man who only wants to complete another gig where he uses interiors of cars to torture people.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Film Review: Gone Girl

20th Century Fox
All narrative art is about suspense of disbelief. This notion works on almost every level, and no film can ignore this. People shoot revolvers without reloading every ten seconds, and drive while they have long conversations when they don’t look at the road (which surprisingly easy leads to crashes in real life). 

Suspension of disbelief means that we play along and accept that things don’t need to be too realistic, first and foremost basic stuff like the passage of time – in reality, a visit to the bathroom can take up to 10 or 15 minutes in which nothing happens (well, nothing too important, usually at least), while in a film during that same time, once in a lifetime love affairs begin and end.

That is why suspension of disbelief is fine with me. But Gone Girl moves is one gigantic a continuation of disbelief that stomps on reality until there is nothing left by a fine powder that gets swept away by the laborious David Fincher. This director is by no means a stranger to hits and misses. He ended the 90’s as one of the visionaries of this weird decade where movies didn’t get things like the Internet, but tried hard. Just two years after Fight Club, a film that might be one of the key works of cinematic works art in this period, Fincher made Panic Room, a complete disaster of low ambitions and emotional detachment.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Film Review: The Maze Runner (2014)

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
Wes Ball, who directed this movie, plays his first cards with a lot of style, and also some guts. He doesn’t go the way I expected him to, opening his film with some kind of an info dump. He stripped away almost everything, and opted for presenting a completely bare, almost raw experience.

A young man wakes up in a middle of a field called the Glade, surrounded by boys of different age. He lost all of his memories, but immediately recognizes that others are organized in Lord of the Flies kind of society, but only this one lives in relative harmony. 

The only problem is that they are surrounded by huge walls, and the only way out of this place is through the Maze, an incredible, constantly changing structure that is full of dangerous creatures.

With this minimal verbal setting, the film drives on, basing itself on experience, not knowledge. The audience gets to find out new things along with the main character Thomas, which feels very organic. This is how he gradually learns the power balance in the Glade, shared between a teenage version of hawks, doves and owls archetypes, which differ in their approach to social structure and governance. But at the same time, all strive for the exploration of the Maze and hope to find a way out.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Crowdfunding push: Divine

Contemporary Berlin is the setting for this short film, and two completely opposite characters are examined in it, both coming from the Russia. The official Indiegogo description explains the film like this:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Film Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

Copyright: Open Road Films
Civilization, since the dawn of humanity, was about many things, but it was also very much about blood and entertainment. Ancient Rome first comes to mind when we think about stuff like this, but honestly, cultures that were completely clean of any kind of gruesome entertainment ritual, event or practice are few and far between.

The instinct behind this drive is very understandable. Thanatos, as the opposite of Eros, the instinct of life, is the instinct of death, the thing that looks for entropy as the final and complete resting place and a sanctuary from the often overbearing existence.
In his film, Dan Gilroy, who wrote and directed Nightcrawler, takes a long, hard look at this need of ours in the 21st century. Our probes might be landing on comets, but inside of us, the urge to witness death didn’t diminish with the onset of the modern age. In fact, it got some brand sparking new allies.

In his two-decade career, Gilroy mostly wrote screenplays, and produced several known movies, some of which, like Freejack, aren’t exactly superb. But, for a first time director, Gilroy chose a scalding subject and presented it with a merciless narration and an awesome cinematography of LA covered by the darkness of the night.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Film Review: Summer of Blood

Summer of Blood is a film that can be described as a splatter horror written by Larry David. If this sounds like a compliment, it sounds correctly, because this film is probably one of the best horror comedies in 2014, especially if we consider that it was made on a super low (I’m guessing here) budget.

But, instead of Larry David, a man called Onur Tukel is the main motor behind the film, having written, directed and starred in it. Apart from David, I could see hints of Woody Allen (mainly in the notions of looser lusting attention from women) and other influences, but at the end it doesn’t matter where Tukel draws his inspiration.

The point is that he tapped the genre of conversational, socially awkward comedy with incredible success.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Crowdfunding push: PLEASED TO EAT YOU!

This is a short film about a lifeboat scenario that includes cannibalism. Oh, and it's a musical.

Naturally, I am very interested in any art form that covers isolation, gruesome death by starvation and the possibility of eating human flesh. But, when all of this is provided in a musical setting, a genre that definitely lacks cannibalism (among many other things), I have no doubt that this crowdfunding project needs to be supported. The official PLEASED TO EAT YOU! description states:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Film Review and Ending Intepretation: Predestination

Copyright: Sony Pictures
My first association to Predestination was the movie Time Cop. Now, after I saw it, I feel like one of those people who, after hearing the word “Mars”, immediately things about the candy bar, not the planet. In the same fashion, Predestination has almost nothing to do with time cops running around the past busting crime before it happens.

Instead, it talks about personal growth and change in the setting that disposed of all the regular constraints of both time and matter. Michael and Peter Spierig, signed under the name of Spierig Brothers, made this film five years after their list project, Daybreakers, which didn’t impress me too much, mostly because of the bland characters it featured. Now, they are again experimenting with core science fiction ideas (Daybreakers was more about Sci-Fi than horror) but with a lot more success.

In their new story, based on a Robert A. Heinlein short piece, an agent working for a time traveling anti-crime organization hunts a man called the Fizzle bomber who continues to evade time alterations and manages to blow up more than 11,000 people in New York in 1975. The agent, known only as the Bartender, meets a man one night in a bar where he is working, and the man tells him he will tell him the most incredible tale in the world.