Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Field in England

Synopsis: In a remote field in England during the civil war, a rag-tag group of men fleeing the carnage meet other refugees who may have, quite possibly, very murky intentions. What follows next is a journey into the realms of the weird and the really 'out-there' as they all try to make sense of the encroaching madness that threatens to eventually overwhelm them all...

"Ere mate, this is the weirdest thing I've seen a long while! Not sayin it's a bad thing, but.."

Oh, Hell YES! This film ROCKS! It is a masterclass in how to make a movie that has a iconic look and feel which then, categorically identifies itself as a work of art from a undeniably gifted director. In this case it's festival favorite Ben Wheatley, with his latest effort, the 4th such cinematic offering he has brought to fruition.

This bold and intoxicating film grabs you from the very first scene - and holds you firmly in its grasp until the credits start rolling. What a ride inbetween! Making the brave decision to film it in luminous black and white is, absolutely an artistic masterstroke. Colour would not have given the same organic feel as B/W. It would still be quite the experience, but a lesser one in my mind. Aside from that artistic choice, there are many other significant factors which contribute greatly to the success of this project, chief amongst them are the superb casting (All the gentlemen onscreen are equal to the task at hand, it's unfair to single any one person out), the strobing, psychedelic, feverish, frantic fantasy sequences; the staccato editing; the ominous creeping soundtrack; the imaginative storyline that was completely fresh, unique, and very compelling. All these elements blended together seamlessly, to keep you totally focused on the events unfolding before you. Much like the protagonists, desperately trying to make sense of it all!

The story you may ask? What's it all about then? People, people. Words are, quite simply, not going to be enough. All I can tell you is this. It's set during the English Civil War. It involves no more than 5 characters. They're all strangers. Some of the men get friendly, others are less inclined. Some might be looking for treasure. There's the prospect of a hearty refreshing ale at an alehouse. Some might get injured, possibly some will meet a more severe fate. They might ingest some hallucinogenic mushrooms. Then things really get very weird after that...

Gotta confess that I actually haven't seen the other three films that Wheatley has made yet (2009's "Down Terrace", 2011's "Kill List", 2012's "Sightseers") but having viewed this latest title to his name, I'll have to make amends. Sooner, rather than later I should add, this film being so damn good. I'm very curious now to immerse myself in all the films that I've mentioned above. It's kinda like when you arrive really late to an event, you miss out on so much at the beginning that you kick yourself for being tardy. Inevitably, it's always very beneficial to know how any story starts. Thus, you then have the 'complete picture' which, of course, gives you a deeper understanding of the whole thing. That's always a better place to make an informed judgement on matters such as these.

The biggest task any filmmaker has, when starting a new film, is to realise his vision properly. To execute it the way he has visualized it countless times before in his excited cranium. Once the project is completed to his exacting standard, it readies itself for an audience to discover and (most crucially), for them to fall in love with it is the desired wish. If a director has a strong self belief that he can manufacture something extraordinary, then the chances are he can produce a work of major significance. A work that will resonate with an audience, and will stand the biggest test of them all. The passage of time.

With "A Field in England", Ben Wheatley has created a fantastic movie which has the requisite 'X-Factor' in spades. This should (If it hasn't already) be enough to propel him to the forefront of leading edge filmmakers who have a unique voice via this wonderful medium we so cherish.

Long may he reign supreme!

Jamie's Rating?

J for... Jewel!

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Band Called Death

Synopsis: The power of family is the cornerstone of this uplifting documentary that explores what happens when the Rock 'N Roll dream three talented brothers had didn't pan out the way they envisioned it originally, back in 1974. Nearly 40 years later, they find the musical landscape has changed - for their better... 

We are FAMILY, I Got all my Brothers and me....

The Musical environment in Detroit in 1974 was dominated by two major types of music - Rock as exemplified by Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad & Bob Seger. On the other side, was R&B & Soul, from the incomparable Motown record label. Still a force, but no longer as completely dominant as they once were in the 1960s. So, if you were a budding musician, then these two options were pretty much the established genres of music that you should be looking to play and record, if you wanted a long term career.

What though, if these two types of music weren't the types of sounds in your head, that you wanted to play to people? What if, you were cut from a different cloth? And had the upmost conviction that your new type of music had something else to offer? And, backed with this self belief, you also had the integrity to stay true to yourself - no matter what others may say about your brand of Rock 'N Roll?

Siblings David, Dannis & Bobby Hackney had the love of music instilled in them from the earliest age they can recall, their parents always having music in the house, and when the opportunity arose, the chance was grabbed to purchase instruments that would set them on a path none could foresee at that point of time. The future was a very distant thing. After wreaking havoc on the local neighbourhood with their growing prowess on their chosen kit, it became apparent to all concerned that these boys had talent to burn. While attending a concert by The Who, eldest brother David had an epiphany: "That's the type of music WE SHOULD BE PLAYING!" Won over by his insistence, the other two quickly agreed that Rock music offered the right outlet for their growing social awareness about where society was at in 1974. David had only one requirement that he would stipulate strenuously, in fact, he decreed that it was non-negotiable term and condition if they were to pursue this new found direction.  


Their new band was going to be called DEATH. Nowadays, its very easy to visualize the impact this one detail would present at that time in history. Back in 1974, three black brothers playing a 'fuzzed-up' raw, in-your-face sound that did not - in any shape or form - even remotely reassemble what else was happening in Detroit at that moment. It didn't even come close. And, they were called DEATH.

Initially Dannis & Bobby did not think that this name was going to help them climb the ladder to stardom - and beyond. David though, was able to argue a very coherent logic as to the reasoning that made him determine this was the right name. The catalyst being the loss of their beloved father through a tragic traffic accident (Killed by a drunk driver whilst he was rushing an injured workmate to hospital). This travesty affected them all, none more so than David, who began questioning his place on this earth. Once he saw the light, that the name would be 'perfect' for them - and reflective of their current reality - he was never ever going to consider anything else. With a couple of weeks to reflect on this radical proposal, the younger two swung in behind David, lending him their full commitment to this venture into the unknown, to boldly go, where no band had gone before.

Initially, they got great support from Ardent Recording Studio in Detroit, making the first demo tapes to start hawking around to radio stations and record companies. Most were impressed with this new aggressive sound, and might have been keen to give it the requisite promotional activity to make it well known, bar one minor detail. Yep, that name. Change it - and major success beckoned. It's only a name, right? Ah, no, that wasn't going to fly. At all. Not ever. Not as far as David was concerned. The name DEATH was an emphatic statement about these three talented musicians, and if David said no, they all said NO. Even though the other two knew that it would make a difference, but the core family value that their father imparted was this: Always look after your brothers. Always support them - no matter what.

On the very brink of getting a major recording deal with the influential Clive Davis (Head supremo of Columbia Records), they had negotiated all terms bar one. The name change. The band wouldn't budge. Neither would the record company. With that door shut, many others soon began to shut as well. What seemed like a great vision of a powerful new type of music to spread to the world, soon faded to a tarnished reality that uncannily started to mimic the gradual decline that was seeping into daily life in Detroit. Beat, broken-down, battered, Death gigged as much as they could, but without a recording to let people take home, they eventually got to a point where they had to change. There wasn't many other avenues open to them at that stage. David, having created the complete concept, naturally took it the demise of the band the hardest. David being the true 'artiste', who having decided that DEATH was going to be his vehicle for delivering his message to the people, quickly made up his mind that it was DEATH - or nothing. In his mind, there wasn't a plan b. The plan was for DEATH to succeed. That was that.

This heartfelt documentary provides another fascinating look into a band that should have been better known, but were fated to be cast on a different path than the one they assumed would lead them to rock 'n roll glory.  Yes, this doco may seem cynical to some, that it's another resurrection story to revise an overlooked band from complete obscurity, but credit where credits due. Thank god then, they made this lovingly crafted movie that pays full tribute to pioneers who just weren't made for those times. These guys need to be heard!

DEATH were of their time - and way ahead of their time. It is a shame that David didn't live to see the rewards that has belatedly recognized his iconic musical vision in 1974.The best way to repay him for his outstanding contribution to Rock 'N Roll is to watch "A Band Called Death" and spread the word to as many as you can. Most definitely, one of the best music documentary's this year...

Jamie's rating?

J for... Jewel!

To the Wonder

Synopsis: It's Terence Malick's latest film. Story? Hmmm... Read the review below. Then you'll understand why I cant write a more detailed synopsis...

We're on the road to nowhere.. (Metaphorically speaking of course)

This film is exactly the type of film that film festivals were made for. It 'ticks' many boxes, both good, and bad. Very very bad as well!

The 'Story' (A loose term if ever there was one!) goes something like this:

Ben meets Olga (who has a kid - about 12-ish) in Paris. They fall in love, they go to the coast, they mooch around. They kiss, they touch. They argue. They decide to move to the States. In a small town with pretty fields. They meet some neighbours. They argue. They make up. They make love. They quarrel again. Daughter gets homesick. They send her back to France. Olga gets lonely. They both go to church. She can't get a job. He gets fixated with contaminated earth in his hood. He gets rest of hood all worked about that. She meets troubled priest Javier. Ben decides to leave. He needs space. She goes to France 'cause she can't get a green card. He finds old flame lawyer Rachel who is helping with the soiled earth business. They go to her daddy's farm. She likes horses. They start horsing around together. Olga comes back. Olga finds out. Olga not happy. Ben leaves Rach, gets Olga back. Olga gets a homemade musical instrument from some dude. They hook up in a seedy motel. He does the deed, and buggers off. She feels used. She tells Ben. Ben throws a hissy-fit! Ben makes her walk home. Javier walks around the neigbourhood. Moping. Avoids crazy ex-junkie lady. Maybe there is a 'dream sequence'. Maybe not. There were 'other things' as well.

They all mumble. All the bloody time! 

Without doubt, this is unquestionably, Malick's most esoteric, European influenced, avant-garde project he has completed to date. It is also, quite categorically, his most frustrating, irritating, boring, incomprehensible, and ultimately, his most worst film at the same time. If ever any critic needed ammunition to add to their argument that he has 'lost the plot', then To the Wonder is a key element in the case against him being self indulgent. Which is OK, if the movie has a certain charm about it. This film is totally devoid of charm. To the Wonder is going to be very hard to recommend to anyone who isn't a devoted fan. Thinking about that point further, I would say this: Even the most devoted Malick fan will find themselves questioning very seriously about the relative merits (if any?) of this film. For the record, I think that Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World are bona fide masterworks, they are some of my all time favorite films. I could happily watch those movies again, and again. To the Wonder I'll probably never watch again in my lifetime. I'll qualify this by saying I don't hate it per se, I'm just not ever going to find the 'spare' time to watch it again. I know my opinion won't ever change. I got nothing out of viewing it whatsoever. It will not improve with additional viewings. It is what it is. A statement by the director that is of no interest to me now, and forever.

Maybe the next one will be more 'watchable'? The bonus these days is that we no longer have to wait an eternity for a new Terence Malick movie. The unknown is whether or not the damn thing will be worth the wait.

We can only hope (and pray! Lord, we need to pray for him... ) that this has all been a bad dream. We'll all wake up soon, and he'll be saying "Gotcha! Had ya fooled - didn't I! Wait for my next one. It will be something!".

Yeah, Right.

That 'something' better be damn good Malick...

Jamie's Rating?

J for... Joke!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2 days = 1 movie? Wha' happen??? But the movie I did see...

Bugger... Never experienced this before? 3 days in - and the body said NO! In emphatic fashion. Had a raging... headache!!! So, on Sunday, after struggling through the first scheduled movie, I wandered up to Albert Park, to clear my throbbing cranium, to no avail sadly. Got Wendy to pick me up, and toddled off home to relax. Sometimes, things just don't pan out the way you envisaged them prior. Still, the one I skipped (Doco "The Act of Killing"), I will definitely make an effort to catch later in the fest. It will be a memorable viewing, that much I'm sure of.

However, the movie I did see yesterday, Kiwi Anthony Powell's heartfelt paean to the majestic continent that he has called home for over a decade, the utterly enthralling "ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE".

You just know they're not kidding with that statement...

I can quite easily say this much, as of this point in time. Without hesitation, "ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE" is one of finest documentaries I've ever seen. I would wholeheartedly recommend this to all and sundry. It is put together with two key things that elevate any film into another category, Passion & Love. Both of these factors are hugely evident in this stunningly filmed look at how it is to live in of the most unique places on this planet. In fact, I would quite happily venture this thought. It will be, a definitive document of both how and why, people from all over the world choose (of their own volition) to head to Antarctica to live - and to return to - time, and time again.

Powell's love for the continent infects you with relative ease, so much so that by the end of the film, I was seriously starting to wonder to myself... Antarctica... Hmmm... Could I cope with living there? Could I be a masochist and try working through a Winter as well? (Many don't even attempt that! The entire population reduces from 700 to around 50 during the winter months). There's no flights in (or out) whatsoever in that period, due to the obvious reason. There is no sun. At all. No pilot worth his salt would be foolhardy enough to attempt it. And considering the only flight down is courtesy of the US Air Force, then your chances of being rescued in that season (Should a medical emergency arise), will be nigh on impossible.

David Attenborough may have looked at the wildlife there, Werner Herzog may have looked at how 'weird' some people are there, but for my money, Anthony Powell, being a 'native' of the land, 'gets it' like no-one else has. He totally understands the type of personality drawn to this foreboding environment - and what impact it has on them because he speaks the same language. He has pretty much had the same experiences as well.  Actually, you can make a case that 'Antarctican's' (No idea if that's how they describe themselves, but it 'fits' I guess?)  have, through living in this seemingly inhospitable place, developed their own unique 'culture'. Certainly, the idiosyncrasies they all invariably tend to display lends weight to this idea.
Powell conveys that although some of these people could be construed as socially awkward, they all embody the best of humanity for one simple reason. In Antarctica, no-one can hear you scream, whine, moan, sulk, and generally be a miserable bugger, due to the significant fact that you don't have any choice but to get on with all others as best you can. What are you going to do if it all gets too much? Dial a taxi? Bugger off somewhere else? Maybe its a 'category 3' weather event outside - minus 80! 200 kph winds! Er, no. You are going to do all you can to get on as best you can with person who may be 'bugging you' - there is no other feasible option available.

In creating such a fascinating story, Powell hasn't forgotten the key thing people want to see - Antarctica itself. The quite frankly stupendous visuals on-screen are gobsmacking, to say the very least. I've never seen Antarctica look the way it does - before viewing this documentary. Powell is an exceptionally skilled photographer, getting shot after shot of these vast but absolutely majestic landscapes that are a complete joy to see on a cinema screen.

If (and when) it comes back for another run at the cinema, then my friends, you owe it to yourselves to take a chance and view this brilliant movie on a big screen. It demands the biggest canvas possible. Failing that, it should not - under any circumstances, ever be viewed on a TV less than 50 inches in size. It would be a travesty to diminish this masterpiece to anything less than these recommended options!

There is one more screening tomorrow night in Auckland (6.15pm - at The Civic Theatre) I'd be pleasantly surprised if it sold out (It, by all rights should be the sort of movie to sell out, but then, the Civic is a big theatre). If you can, then take my recommendation seriously - and go and see it!

You will not be disappointed!

If you are, I'll slap you one! Until you 'come around'! :)

Jamie's Rating?

J for... Jewel!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 2. 5 Movies today!

Ok, day 2 of the film fest done and dusted! Big day it was - 5 movies viewed!

Movie 1: "Village at the End of the World"
Movie 2: "My Sweet Pepper Land"
Movie 3: "Persistence of Vision"
Movie 4: "PARADISE: Love"
Movie 5: "Lesson of the Evil"

Phewww... What a day of contrasting movies! Just about every human emotion possible was on display in these movies. Romance, perseverance, tenacity, stubbornness, pleasure, pain, power, gullibility, bravery, stupidity, desire, happiness, life, death, and plenty more inbetween! 

However, it's 11.58PM! I'm pretty damn tired after 7 movies in the last 3 days, so when I get a spare day early next week, I'll have 'proper' reviews then. 

Day 3 of Film Festival tomorrow (Sunday 21st) brings, coincidentally enough, 3 movies...

First up? "Antarctica: A Year on Ice". After that? "The Act of Killing". Lastly, "The Wolverine"? Wait you say! That's not a festival movie? Correctamundo! It's not. It's a different beast altogether. It is a media screening that I 'have' to reluctantly schedule in. But it's a freebie at least (Media Screening. 'Work' related. Seriously!).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Goblin play SUSPIRIA

The sets were stunning!

Well, as far as 'first-up' selections go for the film festival, Watching the iconic Italian PROG veterans GOBLIN performing their soundtrack to Dario Argento's "SUSPIRIA" will, quite frankly, take some beating. Until the next classic PROG band from the golden age of PROG pops up to do a similar kinda thing!

This was, unequivocally, a supremely fantastic example of the power that music has. Which, when used properly with the right visual imagery, combines to create a unique entity that is, in itself, an entirely new art-form altogether. I now want to go and listen to every single note of recorded music that GOBLIN has produced. Obsessed? Haven't really got started yet...

Honestly, the crowd were mad for it, clapping, cheering, yelling, screaming, roaring, laughing, crying... but seriously lapping up every hissing string, pounding drum, stinging guitar lines, ominous weird distorted vocalizations, and twinkly piano/Moog lines. And, the visuals? Well, they were another critical part of what makes this movie so memorable. The bold coloured sets, the striking colour palette used - Lots of dark, rich, vibrant - but eerie reds; spooky, ghostly whites; and a few moody blues to boot (Get the connection? Moody blues? PROG? wink wink?). I digress...

However, I'd forgotten that movies of this era relied more on the visuals and sound, rather than the acting, dialogue, and script! It should have been really scary in places, but I wasn't alone in bursting out in laughter. More than once! In fact, the whole joint nearly wet themselves at times. It is though, a fairly 'minor' criticism, when the overall experience was absolutely, already firmly implanted in my internal database as one of my all-time top 10 movie going experiences!

Sometimes my friends, there really is no substitute for the real thing. Seeing an event unfold before your own two eyes is definitely the best way to capture a special occasion. A record of it is nice to look at down the road, but it ain't no replacement. Don't think twice, its NOT alright! If you hear of an event that does interest you, then go and see it. You won't regret it. I promise you that much!

Heh, having said that, reminds me of all the carping, whining, and gnashing of teeth by those idiots who went to Neil Young earlier this year - and didn't realise that it wasn't going to be nice, quiet, acoustic Neil? No, you flaming dolt-heads! The bloody poster said, and I quote directly from it "NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE - ALCHEMY TOUR"!!! What that meant was that this is what you got. 3 full hours of full-on electric guitars, blazing, screaming, wailing forever! I was in heaven, a truckload of others clearly felt they got off at the train-wreck stop named 'Hell'. Jeez peeps! Do your homework next time. Bear in mind there are still a few practitioners of ART who overwhelmingly have a very evident need to still exercise the creative facilities that they have demonstrated prior. And would prefer to keep on innovating - rather than be reduced to playing variations on their fan venerated 'hits'.

Rock 'n roll will never die. Hey hey, my my indeed.



Monday, July 15, 2013

Pacific Rim 3D

Cast: Idris Elba (Stacker Pentecost); Charlie Hunnam (Raleigh Becket); Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori); Charlie Day (Dr Newton Geiszler); Burn Gorman (Gottlieb); Ron Perlman (Hannibal Chau)

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Synopsis: When a giant fissure in the Pacific Ocean opens, allowing giant creatures (Kaiju) through a wormhole, they inevitably wreck major carnage on earth. To fight them, giant robots (Jaegers) are built to counter their ever growing threat to the survival of mankind...

Website is cool! Have a look...


If your eyes temporarily glazed over upon reading that, then may I humbly suggest the rather obvious initial impression you might have could be this. Not my cuppa tea. Ever. 

I promise you this much, nothing else I write from this point is going to change your mind. Hey, I'm a realist. As much as it would be nice to think some people can open their minds to different genres of movies, your reality is this. If you only love chick flicks, then this type of film is not really in that kinda category. Granted, it may have a very small hint of romance, but nay, it is the merest hint, a passing twitch of the sensory glands. Gone in the time it takes to read this sentence you're reading right now.

Now that we've got that misunderstanding sorted, the rest of you can concentrate on whether or not Pacific Rim is worthy of both your time and money. That really is the key criteria when making that all important decision about 'Do I see this at the movies? Yeah, Nah. I'll wait till I can download it for free and watch it on a poxy little computer screen that does it no justice whatsoever. Hey, maybe I can watch it on my new smartphone on the bus to work!'

FOR F&#@S SAKE!!! Do not diminish this fantastic Sci-fi epic by doing the above! End of rant. Sorta. Master Guillermo Del Toro did not spend millions with the view that it will be perfect for the smallest screens known to man, no good people, he designed it to be seen with one vital word thundering loudly in his ear whilst making it. BIG. Very very BIG. Preferably in 3D. I agree with my workmate Dan, I'd rate it 2nd to "DREAD" for coolness in the 3D aspect. The 3D suits this film perfectly.

Now we've got these 'issues' sorted, we can discuss in earnest why you it is compulsory (If you deem yourself to be an action-movie fan that is!) that you should spend your hard-earned time and money to view this sci-fi epic on the big screen. 


Maybe I may have mentioned that previously? Can't remember... C'monit is, as they say, a 'no-brainer'. If you love Action movies (Who doesn't?) and Sci-fi (Again.. who doesn't?) then your decision is the easiest one you'll have to make regarding a movie to see on the big screen in a long while. If enough of us go and see, then there is the tantalising promise of a sequel to come! Hollywood loves nothing better than a sure bet. If it even hints of riches to come, the suits will practically be begging Del Toro to start making plans straight away. Hey, he's a very smart filmmaker, he has probably got most of the following story already sorted. You know it makes sense.

You know there is going to be a sequel to Prometheus? Again, it just makes sense.

Jamie's Rating?

J for... Jewel!