Sunday, 20 September 2009

Adventureland ***

A film set in the 80s based around 20 somethings getting drunk and high whilst working at an amusement park... Ever heard of this storyline for a rom-com before?

It's quite a unique little story considering it's roots are on the same path as any other romantic comedy, and that's what makes it slightly more bearable to watch. It's got a great theory to the story and setting, and rejuvenates the 80s once more, so you know it's a little bit cool already. I'm sure Calvin Harris would love it.

The characters are each very carefully chosen and acted out well. From the eccentric park owners, to the parents of these students. Kristen Stewert (aka Bella) and Jesse Eisenberg play the couple of the film, and actually work quite well together. Stewert is her usual mysterious, pretty but doesn't know it girl, and Eisenberg is essentially the geek that gets lucky. They are complete polar opposites but that just caters to the whole audience. And with the supporting roles providing you every weird aspect of life you could possibly want, there's nothing more to crave.

The actual storyline isn't particularly original for a rom-com, but it does hold some redeeming factors. The lives of each person is completely different, and you understand this well. You can come away from this film feeling satisfied and having chosen your favourite character. It's all done at a pace which doesn't seem rushed or forced; it comes very naturally and you believe it.

It's definitely one to watch if you like something a little out of the ordinary, but it's by no means an Oscar winning film. It's just a lighthearted fun little storyline, with the quirkiness of the characters and set in a great decade.

There is a heavy focus on the use of weed and alcohol however. I can see why they have done this because it provides the feel for the young not caring about what they do and just living life, but it really doesn't need to be as involved as it is. It seems a little unrealistic because you don't really see any side effects like drunkenness or hallucinations from the drugs, and it almost makes it seem like a decent thing to do.

You might like to know the director of this film (Greg Mottola) is also the director of Superbad. It's definitely nothing like Superbad, but in terms of the cinematography it's quite similar. He uses this almost filter on the screen to provide the 80s scene, and gives real focus on the characters you should connect with. It works well as you come out of the cinema with your favourite character's quotes in your head.

It's just a fun film with some silly little gestures and quotes, and it includes a love story. See it if you want, your life doesn't depend on it though.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Why you should let cheesy horrors into your life... (For

Okay, so we’ve got a couple of horrors that the critics love to hate in the cinema at the moment – The Final Destination and Sorority Row. And we all know they’re terrible films based around pretty girls or thugs getting killed in the most hideous way. But they’re so bad they’re good.

They all use the same technique – Dark room, girl with no clothes on holding a huge blade, silence, loud bang, oh she’s dead. Right, so some who really dislike these movies need to open their minds a little. They’re fun at heart. In no other genre could you laugh at someone burning to death in a tanning machine than in one of these horrors. The acting is terrible, the camera shots are basic, but it takes us into this unthinkable world that dramatises everything. They’re like soaps but on a much gorier level.

And to be fair, these movies usually kick start an actor’s career. Anyone heard of Johnny Depp? Yep, his first film was A Nightmare on Elm Street. Brittany Snow, she was in Prom Night. Possibly one of the most predictable horrors about, but now she’s planned to do several films in the next 3 years.

They’re great, really. There’s no better way to spend an evening than to rent out a couple of these poor horrors and cringe away. Not at the blood, at the storyline! They’re not scary either, once you’ve seen a couple you begin to pick up the signs and start predicting who’s going to die next. It’s great for socialising.

As horrors frequently go main stream, a film genre of horror-comedy has arisen by them taking the techniques and manipulating them. One of the best scenes in Severance is where a huge spider is climbing up a girl’s back, she’s in a dark room, the tense music is going and then when she sees the spider, instead of screaming, she strokes it! Brilliant.

We’re even being given 3D horrors which explore a whole new realm of badness. So instead of shunning these cinematic creations, embrace them and let them live on! They’re all a bit of fun, and a hell of a lot funnier than some comedies around.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

District 9 ****

Ever thought you'd side with an alien if they invaded Earth? Well, after seeing this you'll probably think twice about what you'd do if an alien came knocking at your door. Instead of being scared of these creatures, District 9 makes you actually feel some kind of empathy towards them. They're language is understood by humans, yet humans still feel the need to blast their brains out, making this whole film kind of like a horror but on a much more action based scale.

There's a lot of fighting and wounds in this film, all of which aren't left to your imagination. You're given lots of juicy close-ups of these infected cuts, as well as nice deterioration shots of a human body - Such as finger nails (it still makes me cringe) peeling off. The effects are very realistic, which is quite a surprise when it looks relatively low budget at the beginning. But once the shots of the aliens, or Prawns their derogatory name, are shown, a lot of work has gone into making these creatures look as believable as possible.

Their eyes in particular are very well focused on, which is good because you can gain some emotion from them. This is probably why you side with the aliens rather than the humans. Yes, they are scary looking, but it's actually the humans which are causing all the damage.

There's just something about this film that doesn't quite hit the spot to be a classic. It's a very clever little story, being based around a documentary style film with lots of 'live action' shots meshed in between. But it all goes a bit Michael Bay towards the end. Don't get me wrong, Bay's great, it just didn't really fit in with the whole concept of the film. It's meant to make you think this is really happening, aliens living in a slum, but the fact that there are so many explosions and gun shots just makes it seem like something out of Transformers.

Neill Blomkamp who wrote and directed this film has done a good job, considering he's relatively new to the scene. It's obviously been heavily influenced by Cloverfield, it just doesn't have that sense of originality that Cloverfield gave us. Maybe because we've seen this 'Ooh is it real, is it not?' type cinematography and narrative before. Peter Jackson did produce this film, and you can see this in the work. It's very good at creating a scene and filling in all the detail, even minor aspects such as doors with holes in to make it look run down.

I would give this a go, just expect to cringe a little because it's a lot more brutal than it makes out.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

(500) Days of Summer ***** (For

What a brilliant, quirky, imaginative movie we have here. You should know, this is definitely not a love story. Well, it is but not one you'd expect to see. It's original, creative and a great story. Almost a little depressing if anything, but perfectly enjoyable to watch.

The beautiful Zooey Deschanel plays Summer. A girl who doesn't believe in love and lives life to the full. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (most commonly known as Tommy from Third Rock from the Sun) plays Tom, a lovestruck man who will compromise anything to be with Summer. For a start, the chemistry between the two is brilliant. They're both chilled and relaxed, and give a real sense of originality and believable acting to their roles. The conversations they hold genuinely seems unscripted, and they look as if they really belong together on screen. As well as this, they're both pretty to look at. And with a lot of shots showing Zooey's eyes or Joseph's cute features means it's enjoyable for everyone!

You can always tell when there's going to be a good film from the way it opens. This film opens with a unique little piece of text and a fun title sequence, which just sums up the film perfectly - Unique and fun. There are some brilliant editing features which aren't done in mainstream films very often, and it all seems like this could happen in real life; which is refreshing for a love story. It also has an almost 70s feel to the set. Their dress sense is a little old school, and the whole office seems to be dated. But as you see the brother and sister playing the WII, we notice we are actually watching a film set in present time. This just makes the film seem that much cooler because it can pull these almost out of fashion clothes and settings off by making it look fashionable.

The narrative is also just as impressive. The banter in every conversation is witty, clever and great to observe. Along with this, the story is like a breath of fresh air. The audience is finally being provided with a romantic comedy that's not only breaking away from the structure of a narrative that's most commonly seen in this genre, but given a whole new outlook on love in film. We don't need the pathetic argument or the soppy kiss, we're being given a realistic look at love. We see hurt, pain and frustration as well as excitement, joy and happiness. The mixture of up and down is perfect and not too demanding on your tear ducts.

I really would say this film is enjoyable for both sexes. Typically this would be classed as a 'chick flick' but as it's so original, I would definitely say it holds interest for men as well. The male characters in the film are particularly funny with comebacks that actually do make you laugh out loud. But it's not the typical slapstick comedy we see in films aimed at males, it's a sort of sophisticated comedy that's seen in real life.

This is an amazing film which is going to become a cult. It caters for everyone and isn't too demanding on your emotions. It's perfection. Just when you thought rom-coms couldn't redeem themselves, they just have.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Analysis of Alien scene from Cloverfield (For

With District 9 coming out (the very original interpretation of a Sci-fi) I thought it would be good to let you inside the making of a movie that’s a little out of the ordinary. Cloverfield (2008) was our first mainstream, completely handheld filmed movie to come out, and it’s become somewhat of a cult for any movie lover. Here is a scene that reveals the alien in all its glory, and really emphasises the tone of the film.

It’s the very beginning of chapter 15 - 01:04:14 to 01:06:55. Follow it along as I depict the filming of this all so brilliant sci-fi.

So yes, this film has used a ‘handheld’ camera all the way through. They call it handheld as it has the result of what seems to be a home video camera. It’s designed it give the movie a very action packed and realistic feel. The camera actually used was an extremely expensive one, usually sat on a tripod. This is because clearly the quality of the picture from a feature film camera is of much better condition than a home video camera.

We see an extended shot of the dropped camera on some wreckage. It’s dark, the materials are torn apart and the only sounds we hear are birds flying past and wind. It’s a very isolated shot. We aren’t given any other picture for a good 15 seconds. It makes you feel almost claustrophobic and you gain a real sense of destruction from the image provided to you. It makes you believe what the alien is causing is very serious and confusing as we don’t really understand what the material is that we’re looking at.

We begin to hear the walkie-talkie in the background to give some sort of evidence that there is widespread panic. It mentions that the alien is still alive, but it’s almost hard to focus on what it’s receiving as you’re so confused by the picture. This film was great for putting in subtle clues throughout to give away the story. You’ll need to watch it a good 10 times before you fully understand the story.

The material begins to move, and as it does the camera falls with it to make us believe this is a home video camera filming. A huge Hollywood camera wouldn’t fall so easily, but obviously it’s being encouraged to move by the cinematographer.

We hear the girl panicking and screaming at the boy who seems to be in pain. She’s trying to move him but we don’t quite gain access of this image, which again makes the situation unsettling as we do not know what’s actually going on. The camera begins to move a little more dramatically as she tries to move the boy, and it almost matches the panic given from her. The image is distorted, and the girl really seems in trouble.

Very quietly we hear from the walkie-talkie ‘god help us’ – Something unusual to hear through one which makes the situation that even more scary and realistic. Films like to portray a sense of reality, and with someone stating this over a walkie-talkie makes it seems more believable as they’re reacting like any sane person would.

We can see an image of the boy who’s hurt. His t-shirt is covered in mud and he has scratches all over him. He’s been thrown about and this kind of makeup makes us understand his pain a little more. He couldn’t have a crisp white shirt has it wouldn’t be possible with the situation he’s currently facing.

As the camera is being pulled about we see a quick shot of a dead body – A small but big gesture towards the danger of the situation. As the man is being pulled by the apparent camera man, the camera seems to hang directly in the centre of the screen, on his face. We see the reaction to his pain and relate to that. Whenever an audience are given a close up of an expression, you can’t help but react in the same way. He’s in pain, and the audience feel this by only being able to focus on his face.

As they stop moving the body, the camera drops on the floor. This looks like a fairly casual shot, but actually it’s been framed perfectly – It’s known as the ‘golden mean’. The camera image is in thirds. The third on the left are the people, the other 2 thirds are of the scenery. We see the people in the foreground and are able to focus around their anxiety, and then we see this city which is destroyed.

The scene isn’t at all pleasant. The buildings are on fire, smoke is coming from all over, and the people are worried. The girl holds the boy’s head for protection, and offers the audience their relationship. She is caring over him and is obviously helpless but trying to protect him. We then see two army fighter planes fly fast into the city – Something which would normally not be witnessed. By the audience seeing this it makes it seem that even more terrifying that the army have to be involved. The noises from these planes are so loud that they seem invading and add to the scare factor.

The group of people move from where they have been resting, and we see the wreckage from the helicopter crash. It shows what this group have faced, and is a real indication of yet more destruction caused. They seem to run away from the camera, but as one person realised they run back to retrieve it. As the camera is picked up clumsily we hear a scream from the girl. As the boy who’s filming looks up, the camera follows him. The picture becomes unfocused, and then refocused again. This makes the whole armature filming aspect seem more likely, plus providing that handheld feeling again.

As the alien is revealed, we see the dirt. The dirt was a very good way to make the picture seem real. We’ve seen the damage that’s been caused; of course the glass over the lens of the camera isn’t going to be crystal clear. By having these specs on the camera (which have been edited on afterwards) creates the feeling of carelessness. These people don’t care if the camera is dirty; they’re trying to save their own lives. All these little elements really help set the scene.

The reveal is done very slowly, so the audience can finally gain a good picture of this creature that caused so many problems. The footsteps shake the camera and are very loud. This creates an illusion of the power that this alien has. The screen is completely filled by the alien, showing the greatness of it. Behind is a very cloudy sky as well. We couldn’t have a clear blue sky here because it isn’t a nice setting. Grey is a dull colour, and to have that for the sky makes the whole situation that little more depressing.

As the alien looks down, we notice the boy whose filming is talking to himself as he is panicking. Suddenly the alien leaps down and for a second we have a clear picture of the face. This particular filming is almost POV as it is exactly what the boy would be seeing. Up until now we have just been witnessing what they’ve been seeing. It’s not necessarily been filmed to make you think you’re that person. It’s almost like this camera is you, and you’re in the situation as well!

As the camera gets pulled up and down, in the dark and in light we hear the girl once again screaming to create a sense of urgency and more panic to the situation. We hear smashing, see the body being swung, and his arms and legs appear. It’s all very confusing, and you just want it to stop.

When the image finally does stop it’s dropped next to the boy. For an extended time it tries to either focus on grass, or on the boy’s face. It becomes uncomfortable as you realise what you’re seeing isn’t necessarily you involved, but it’s what this handheld has picked up. The changes on focus make it seem real and quite disturbing. Plus, with the face being centre to the screen there is no one else to watch, so the audience have to sit and watch this camera focusing awkwardly.

We hear the girl yet again screaming and running over. She knocks to camera out of the way, and as it jolts it cuts to a black screen. But before it does that bars appear to show the connection cutting to add that final piece of editing to make all this filming seem like it’s happening from an inexperienced cameraman.

Hopefully that’s enlightened your viewing of Cloverfield a little, and you’ll think about all these different elements that go into a film to make it great! Enjoy District 9.