Sunday, 31 May 2009

28 Days Later *****

This is the film that has inspired so many horror films to use isolation and confusion mixed with zombies a key part of their story. There have been so many reinventions of the story told in 28 Days Later, but none have quite got it right.

This is a British film, so with that comes the very real and raw filming that British cinema tends to have. It's not as slick as Hollywood cinema, but as some people do not like this, I however do. It brings a sense of authenticity to the film which is so hard to come by, especially on horror movies. And with it being filmed around London impressively with nobody else on scene means it's even more mind blowing. This is probably why 28 Days Later has become a bit of a cult - Purely based on it's originality and brilliant cinematography.

Not only is the film like eye candy, the actual story, when it came out, was very new. We hadn't seen a film where it focuses around one man trying to find out what's happened to the abandoned city. Now there are many films that can give you this story, but if you watch this you will see how it is really done. It's intense, it's exciting, it's scary, it's emotional. This isn't your typical 'I'm going to kill everybody in sight' horror. This is a, if you can believe it, sophisticated gore fest.

It's definitely not one for the faint hearted. If you're easily scared I wouldn't see it because it will give you nightmares. But if you're one for the horrors you should give it a watch. And even if you have already seen it, watch it again. You're more than likely to have seen a few more horrors now. Watching this brings a breath of fresh air that you just can't seen to get from cinema much nowadays. And it's a film you can watch over and over again, and appreciate even more over time.

Danny Boyle directed this film. He's probably more known for Slumdog Millionaire now, but really you can see how film is his passion. He makes the experience a completely new one for you when you watch his films. He's also directed The Beach which is quite good in it's own little way. He knows how to capture an audience, and target the right people all at the same time. You really must give this a watch if you're not too scared to be in for a fright.

It's edgy, it's cool, it's brilliant. What more can I say?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Star Trek ****

This film is amazing if you're a Star Trek fan. I personally could not tell you whether the film sticks to the true origins of the TV series, but according to my brother, who is a huge fan, the film does so and re-invents itself.

From my point of view, most of the time I didn't really understand what was going on. I knew the jist of the story, but with all the references, the names, the characters, it all adds up to one very confusing yet brilliant film.

The effects are truly stunning, and with a budget of around $150,000,000 you would expect them to be. J.J. Abrams (who also directed Cloverfield) has brought that element of cinematography you just don't seem to grasp from other directors. He can scale properly, he create scenes which are packed full of tense action, and he can bring a huge phenomenon that is Star Trek into this very modern world.

The cast also carry themselves incredibly well. Sylar from Heroes is a main character, along with the ever lovable Simon Pegg and many other recognisable faces including the original Spock, which really adds a true sense of passion to this film. Chris Pine who plays the very cheeky Captain Kirk leads well, and has a real connection with the audience which is great.

It is disappointing that this film doesn't really stand up as it's own film, meaning that I would recommend you do some research into Star Trek in order for you to understand fully the happenings throughout. But I guess with a lot of Sci-Fi/Action films, they have a very surreal script anyway, so this just goes along with the characteristics of its genre.

If you know Star Trek well enough, look carefully at the scenes (you may need to go another time) because there are lots of little famous elements spread subtle throughout. It is a pretty amazing film to see in the cinema. I would really recommend seeing it if you're intrigued. You'll get the full experience, properly shown with a huge screen and great surround sound. But just be prepared to be a bit confused. The storyline is quite bitty, and you sometimes get so caught up in all the amazing action and mise-en-scene that you get distracted from the dialogue. But if you enjoy what you're seeing enough, that's not too bad.

The only reason this film didn't get 5 stars was because it was just that little bit too confusing. Other than that it's fantastic. Give it a go, you might be pleasently surprised. It starts off with a bang, and never lets you rest from that point onwards.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Coraline *****

I am in two minds about this film. One being that's it's done terrifically well considering this is predominantly an art-house film, and it's made it to the mainstream audience. The other being that considering what kind of audience it is aimed at, that being children, it in no way will satisfy their movie craving but leave them terrified.

There is no doubt about it, this is a superb film. The visual aspects of this are stunning. The dynamics of colour and scenery are compelling, as well as the storyline being a completely new idea; A little girl bored in a new home, finding a door to another world where her 'other parents' are waiting to make her happy once more. But little does she know, these parents are not quite right, and nor is the other world. It clearly holds a moral story to the children it is supposedly aimed at as well; don't wonder off and meet strangers.
But recently children are used to Hannah Montana, or friendly monsters trying to save the world. Not a world where parents want to lure them in and take their eyes. They are not used to having to run away from someone they trust. So, as good as this film is, it is nowhere near a child's film.

Of course, children can watch it because there are no apparent deaths or torture scenes. But the true elements of this film are just as scary. It has been created by the director of A Nightmare Before Christmas - Not Tim Burton, but Henry Selick. He has obviously been very interested in this type of Gothic film and has let his imagination run wild. Instead of going off course, he has created a film that's pretty amazing. The story builds throughout the film and doesn't lose focus which a lot of younger aimed films tend to do. It holds an interest for avid movie lovers, art-house fans and for people who generally want to see something that's going to be completely out of their comfort zone.

If you chose to take a child to this film, be prepared for nightmares to come, unless of course your child watches horror movies, then they'll be fine. I would really suggest watching this film if your interested in something new. It's not necessarily funny, but very quirky. Imagine, as Empire Magazine put it, Edward Scissorhands and A Nightmare Before Christmas combined and you might be somewhere near understand this type of film.

So, if you're put off by a horror movie, a child's movie or a film-noir I would suggest giving this one more try. It's not very intense, it's beautiful to watch and it's a breath of fresh air. If your child is demanding to go and see Coraline take them, they will either be pleasantly surprised or shocked. It's in 3D as well so it's a bit of fun for them to wear the glasses. Personally, I do not see the benefit of 3D films but they're taking off so obviously they're doing some good to the movie industry.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Captain Corelli's Mandolin ***

What a bizarre little film we have here. In the beginning it's incredibly slow, but towards the end this film is utterly compelling.

Based in Greece in the 1940s when the war was dominating every one's life, it focuses around the torment and torture that the Greeks, Italians and Germans had to face. We are given a love story, a friendship, a community and family life all surrounded by the chaos of the war.
With the dimensions of this storyline working very well together as one, and the acting produced from these very well established actors in the film (Penelope Cruz, Nicholas Cage, John Hurt and Christian Bale) makes quite a clever combination. It's just a shame it's so slow in the start.

The story becomes quite repetitive and predictable for a Hollywood ending. But even so, when you get into the last hour of the film, if you can manage it, you probably will find yourself being caught up in the relationships produced. You begin to feel for the characters, imagine the reality of the situations, and can really start to enjoy the film.

It is quite hard to keep up with the film in the beginning. It's a very bitty storyline to start off with, and doesn't particularly have any interesting qualities. You don't really know what the film is going to be about, and you aren't set off with any memorable signs for the rest of the film. Saying that, once Nicholas Cage is brought into the film, and you begin to lose any appeal towards Christian Bale, the film picks up.

And with the added setting of a Greek island being irresistible to the eye, and the brilliant acting produced from all the cast means that even though it's not the greatest film ever created, it's by no means one of the worst. It becomes compelling and exciting, dramatic and aggressive, passionate and romantic all throughout. With these mixture of emotions, it really does take you through a roller coaster ride of emotions that mesh very well together.

It's pretty brutal in a couple of scenes when the war is the most predominant storyline. You see graphic murders and torture scenes which is good in someways, because it shows the truth of the situation, rather than glamorising it. But just be prepared to be shocked purely on the fact that you're taken from one emotion to another.

So, if you can bear to be put through an hour and a half of an almost never ending story, for a very good one hour finish then sit with it. It's worth it in the long run.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful) *****

Roberto Benigni brings us a film that's not only delightfully pleasant, but heart-warming, insightful and very funny. It is an Italian production released in 1999 that brings together a complete opposite couple, and the devastation that the Nazi death camps had over so many individuals.

Now I know what you're thinking... Death camps and delightful don't exactly go together, but somehow in this wonderful little film it does. The happiness comes entirely from Guido Orefice (Benigni) who is a lovesick husband and father trying to make his son as happy as possible in the camp, whilst cater to his lost wife.

The film starts off showing what life is like for Giudo; which includes many comical scenes, and expressions of pure love for his interest Dora (Nicoletta Braschi). It's optimistic, upbeat and brilliant light entertainment for the whole family. And as it begins to develop into the camp scenes, this feeling continues to grow through that passion expressed from Guido. As well as this, it's perfect for introducing the topic of death camps to a younger audiences, as they have the child Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini) to relate to, and are not too traumatised by the subject.

Don't get me wrong, this film in no way condones the issue, but instead it offers an alternative plotline to what we have been previously given from similar based storylines. It shows how one person can have the drive to make his loved ones so happy, that he in return becomes happy from their reactions. It shows how one individual can change someones life through thoughtful little gestures. And it shows how someone can make the best of a bad situation.

Benigni not only starred in this film, but directed and co-wrote it. His pure intelligence to the script, as well as the cinematography and acting makes it so easy to watch, you become immersed in the story. You soon realise after witnessing this film that Hollywood movies aren't all they're cracked up to be. This has a real authentic and original script that brings a new dimension to film. And with the fact that this film is Italian, it gives a sense of culture to the experience.

So do yourself a favor, get a copy and watch it! Just make sure you're willing to read subtitles throughout.

Friday, 8 May 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine ****

A prequel to the previous X-Men films, this movie contains an insight into the character Logan, also known as Wolverine, how he came about the life he leads, and what characters have influenced him to become the super-human he is now.

This is a brilliant X-Men film, and most certainly brings back the qualities that the first film held. It's packed with action from start to finish, it has a witty edge that gives each character a different flare of life, and has so many special effects in you wonder if any of the film actually took place on set.

Looking more pumped and on great form, Hugh Jackman presents an almost animal like quality to his performance. He plays the multiple emotions in the script flawlessly and believably, which is usually very hard to come by in an action film. Most of the other characters involved are held back but it is built into the film to make Wolverine stand out, so this is doesn't disappoint at all.

A lot darker compared to the previous takes on the comic book series, this film was going to have to be made into an 18, but thankfully it has been reduced to a 12A... just, meaning it can gain a much wider and more appropriate audience. But don't think this is a soppy action movie without any gore or proper fights. It's oozing with moments of shocking and quite frankly disturbing scenes that would frighten any sane person. The only thing making this a lighter certificate rating is the fact that you don't see any of the blades/teeth/guns/and yes playing cards killing anybody, you work off the reaction of the character's faces. Don't get me wrong, it still provides a pretty horrifying film.

Of course, this sci-fi film contains the evil, crazy scientist. But as all of the mutants (thanks Simon) have a pretty cruel side to them from all the confusion they have had to grow up with, the scientist doesn't stand out all that well, which could be a downfall. I didn't really gain a feel for a particular bad character, as they all pretty much are out on their own. And added to this, with no defined good character means you can't really relate to one certain character, and gain a bond with them. So, although this film is all about Wolverine who you do love, but you know you're not meant to, it's pretty much an open field film where you can like or dislike whoever you want which is pretty unique.

So overall, if you're a fan of the previous X-Men films definitely see it. You'll find yourself back in love with the series once more. If you haven't seen them it doesn't matter. As it is set before the others you can get the story from the start. And if you didn't like the previous X-Men films, well then I wouldn't see it.

Analysis of a scene from Beetlejuice (Camera work and Editing)

Sorry it's been a while, I've actually been having a social life. Anyway, here's an analysis of the key Beetlejuice scene, but from a camera work and editing perspective.

The difference between the two factors of this analysis is camera involves the filming of the scene; what angles they use, what movement the director creates etc. The editing is how those scenes that were filmed are put together, and what special effects occur to give the scene full impact.

We see an ELS (Establishing shot) of the huge white house. The function of this particular shot is to give the audience a full understanding of the surroundings, and where the action is taking place so they will not be disorientated when introduced to more close framed filming. When the camera cuts to a shot of the couple walking out of the door, it is a LS (long-shot), low angle position. The LS provides a full picture of what the couple are dressed as, and also provides the surrounding picture, again to focus on where they are. A low angle position often gives the feel that those being filmed in this way are of dominance, as they look bigger and more powerful. However, the two characters are going to be in trouble later on during the film, so the fact that Tim Burton chose to have a low angle shot is quite interesting. Typically a director would have the shot high angle, making the characters look vulnerable, signifying they are not as confident as they should be, but as it is low angle it creates a more dramatic effect when you realise the two characters actually are dead. But then again, this film does focus on the two characters the whole way through showing they still are of importance to the storyline.

The camera then tracks the couple to the car (meaning the camera is on tracks, being moved across the floor to create a smooth, following gaze at the couple) and pauses once they reach the car. It still all remains in LS, meaning they have no immediate emotional attachment to the filming, but see their movement and surroundings. Once the car drives off, the camera is left lingering on the house possibly suggesting the importance of the house to this role, as the camera makes sure the audience understand this is the couple's home.

After this shot of the house, the camera then cuts to the couple in the car. It is centre framed, with both Barbara and Adam in the scene. This is known as a two-shot. It often provides the audience with a sense of the character's relationship with each other. And as it is so focused on the two, with the couple laughing and looking very much in love, the viewers get a real sense of how close these two are with each other. But cutting from this is another ELS of the vehicle driving through the dominant red covered bridge.
It is an ELS to show whereabouts the couple are, and makes the car look very small. Here is the indicator that something isn't quite right. The bridge looks so big, making the car look very vulnerable, along with not being able to see the passengers inside. This all adds to an almost uncomfortable shot, as you only see the car driving through, you do not see any emotion, the surrounding scene in tranquil, yet this huge bridge is clearly present in the scene.

All through these scenes mentioned there are no special effects. The only real special effects that occur happen later on during the film, when the afterlife becomes present, and you're given the shots of monsters and all sorts. It is mainly the cutting of shots that is the editing present in this analysis. As the cuts are infrequent, the sense of action is minimal. Only when the audience are presented with a number of different shots in a short amount of time does the scene start to become exciting, but I will get to that later.

Going back to the scene, we are next presented with another tracking shot following the car this time. Again it remains in LS, just to establish the mise-en-scene. But through this shot, a local man is cleaning his statues outside his house. He is placed on the 'golden mean' which means he is in one third of the shot, with the another two thirds of the shot free. But interestingly enough, the dog appears in high angle. Now, being the fact that the dog is the main instigator of the trouble, it would be more necessary to have him in low angle. But this would look very odd to the audience, and to create that dramatic effect, the dog is made to look as if he were not present which provides a very good cinematic give away - Everything in the scene is important. You shouldn't ever underestimate something put in a scene, but the audience are made to so don't feel too bad. It's all very subtle.

Carrying on from this, the car carries on being tracked, more likely on the crane this time as the shot is quite distant, and we are presented with ELS's of the hairdressers and shop, all again in LS just providing the audience with the scene. It is only when the camera remains static, and focuses on the car driving back, do the shots become slightly more exciting.

The camera cuts to a shot of the dog walking into the bridge, lining up the scene so the audience know how the dog got in there, and as the camera remains still, the car drives into the bridge. The camera cuts back to a two-shot of the couple in the car again, similar to before, and again cuts back to this apparent insignificant dog walking in the bridge. The camera cuts back to a reaction shot of the couple seeing the dog, and cuts to an interesting OTS (over the shoulder) from inside the car, when it is spinning - Notice how the cuts become more frequent? They are meant to, in a high action film, match the rate of your heartbeat to intensify the action. They almost become blurred with each other but give away so much detail - This is why an action scene is so intense.

From this the camera quickly cuts to a CU (close-up) reaction shot of Adam, then to Barbara screaming. These shots give the audience emotion that a scene needs. It makes audiences relate to the character's emotions, making you worried, scared and anxious. All what the scene needs in order to have the most impact.

The camera cuts away to another ELS of the car breaking through the bridge. You see all the detail; the wood falling, the car steaming and hanging on, all that make the action as realistic as possible. From another angle, an OTS of the car breaking through the bridge occurs, just so the audience can gain an almost point of view from the characters, but still see Adam and Barbara's bodily reactions to the crash.

We're suddenly presented with a low angle shot of the car balancing on the bridge. The camera remains still, and after having all these cuts makes it very uncomfortable to watch. We then see the dog on the golden mean, with the car in the other two thirds, balancing on a piece of wood, balancing the car on the bridge. With a slightly lingering shot of this makes it almost unbearable to watch. We then cut to an MS (middle shot) of the couple's reaction as the dog jumps off the wood. The MS provides close reactions as well as surroundings which is needed in this intense bridge scene. We then see that ELS shot again of the car falling into the water and sinking slowly. The camera remains static, so the audience take everything from the scene in.

It then ends with a low angle shot of the dog looking down - This epitomises the use of low angle. The dog looks dominant as he is the main instigator of all this mess, and remains alive.