Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Codes and Conventions of Gore Fests (Inspired by Donkey Punch)

If you've ever thought about the codes and conventions of a film, here's a little break down for you. Horror films are the best kind to use for this as examples because they work around the same idea for a story, usually with no use of originality. This isn't a bad thing; it's a formula fans have become used to and expect to see in a movie. It's what they love about the films. So these codes and conventions of a gore fest really are for audiences to recognise and feel safe with (Safe being used in the most ironic way considering the genre I'm focusing on).

I'll break down the usual conventions of a horror:
- A group friends/family
- One mysterious person
- Night time
- Gore
- One hero/heroine
- Exaggerated weaponry

These are all familiar aspects you expect to find within a horror. People often confuse thrillers with horrors. The difference would be that horrors focus around the gore of a murder, rather than the motive. It often seems mindless and involves very weak characters in the storyline (usually loose women and macho men). Thrillers are a little more complex, focusing around the storyline of the murder, revealing it slowly and often having very creepy, long drawn out scenes. If you changed one of these conventions in the horror, say change night to day, that's when they start become a little more original. People can almost distance themselves from the storyline at night because the activities they do mostly consist of during the day. If you took a horror and made it during the day, it becomes a lot more disturbing. Funny Games (dir. Michael Haneke, 1997) is a good example of the reversal. All the murders occur during the day. It just doesn't seem right and becomes a lot more intense and real. Typical horror movies need these conventions to live up to a horror fan's expectations and keep this surreal, predictable world they've created.

Now lets take the codes. These are aspects of the film that provide the storyline to drive the plot along. It's quite hard to explain, but by taking a scene from Donkey Punch (dir. Oliver Blackburn, 2008) I can almost describe it to you. The group of young, promiscuous 20-somethings are sitting on the boat, sniffing drugs and talking about sex positions. In pops the term Donkey Punch (if you don't know what it means, Urban Dictionary it) which is an obvious code as this is what the film is titled. The boat provides the isolated location and the drugs provide the women to be a little more up for things, shall we say, and a little more unaware. Later on, these factors are a predominant part of the story so they need to be introduced. By having these features play a part in the story so early on means that the audience already have it in the back of their heads, meanings the script writers can include a hell of a lot more murders without having the explain a reason behind them. You're also given the characteristic of each of the characters early on so you can predict who's going to die. E.g. The female that's most up for sex will die first/The one that's the weakest will survive.

This is the case for most genres. They have a reputation and play on the codes and conventions because this is what the audience have become accustomed to. Notice it the next time you watch a typical genre like a rom/com or a horror. They devices are provided right at the very beginning all for you to have a satisfying outcome.

Monday, 22 March 2010

I Love You Phillip Morris ***

Jim Carrey playing a gay man along side Ewan McGregor... Pretty much a match made in heaven in terms of acting ability, but it just doesn't live up to that punch of entertainment you would expect to gain from this film.

It's a true story based on Steven Russell (Carrey), a gay man who lives his life by conning various people to gain as much money as possible. But once in prison, he comes across Phillip Morris (McGregor), a gentle and passionate man who he falls madly in love with. Now, this film is meant to be a twist on the Rom-Com which it is to an extent. It just could have played up to the conventions a little more.

It's not as funny as it makes out to be in the trailers. Jim Carrey is showing a little more of a serious side to his role in this film, and proves he can actually pull off any character he is given. But within a Rom-Com there is meant to be comedy which it just lacks. Maybe because this film can become a little uncomfortable at times because it's quite hard to relate to the characters. You're not really sure whether you're meant to like Steven or hate him. With Phillip playing this incredibly nice character as well, you almost think at the back of your mind the whole time 'YOU CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER!'

It is fun to watch though. The gay theme is pretty much exaggerated as much as it can be here. If you picture men in tight tops, fashion obsessed with grooming themselves as their main issue then you've got these two characters sorted. The stereotypes are at points a little shocking (the sex scenes being the main shock factor) but I guess they are meant to be amusing. However, they don't make you laugh out loud. Maybe Bruno sucked all the comical energy out of a gay stereotype for films to be able to work on that whole thesis now.

I guess this film is original in terms of the storyline, but that's it. The cinematography is typical, and the pace is average. If you want a little light hearted entertainment then watch it by all means... The acting is pretty damn good! Just don't expect anything groundbreaking.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Shutter Island *****

Shutter Island is superb.

Once again, Martin Scorsese (director of this, Goodfellas and Cape Fear) has out done himself. This really is one of the most artistic, thrilling, epic journeys I've been on in a modern day film. It has a similar vibe to it as The Shining and Silence of the Lambs. It's not really a horror though, more a psychological thrilling which keeps you entranced the whole way through.

I'll start with the acting. Having Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead makes this film worth watching. He really doesn't receive the credit he deserves in terms of his acting. He's flawless when it comes to taking a character and making them believable. And working off him is the ever lovable Mark Ruffalo. They really have a great working relationship together and bring this film alive with excitement and anticipation. Ben Kingsley plays the almost mad scientist type which ads to the whole mystery of the film bringing the viewing pleasure from the actor's side to a brand new level of awesomeness.

Now with the cinematography. Boy does Scorsese know how to use a camera. Please don't take the movements of it for granted. Look at the way you view the mountains, the claustrophobic corridors, the tight plain rooms. It's beautiful and he's captured every element of the situation right. The storm in the film is done so well you really believe it's actually happening. When it comes to the scenes which hold an intense atmosphere, there's nothing you can do but watch with great interest as the picture slowly reveals what's going to happen.

The setting is beautiful too. The secluded island offers the feeling of no escape while when we're in the mental asylum, you really believe you're there. I haven't been so captured and involved in a film for so long. It's just breathtaking. The storyline is just magnificent too. It slowly unfolds into a completely strange world and by the time it is over you really don't know what to think. All these elements put together really makes falling with film easy.
I can't fault this whatsoever. Don't be put off by the horror type feel the adverts give away, it's just a little creepy at times. You'll come out asking questions rather than feeling you can't sleep. Shutter Island is amazing, just amazing.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland (2D) ***

I would love to have Tim Burton's imagination. The way he can produce a vision of his is amazing. It's just a shame his storytelling abilities don't quite match up in this revision of the Alice in Wonderland tale.

He takes it from when Alice is 19, already having been to the world of the unimaginable, but thinking it is a dream. When she finally stumbles upon the place once more, what occurs is a repetitive yet fun tale of the characters and life again.

The extent of detail in each scene in brilliant. There is no doubt about it that Burton has done wonders on the idea of the Wonderland. The colours he uses are bright, yet when it comes to that Gothic tone he adores he knows how to produce it. The way in which the characters have been thought out is also a pretty fun sight to see.

You've probably seen images of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, but that isn't the finished product. The Hatter constantly changes depending on his mood which is fascinating to notice. And Helena Bonham Carter's portrayal of the Red Queen is probably one of her best roles. She's loud, bossy and mean; a complete contrast to Anne Hathaway who's a world loving sister of the ruling queen. The best character in my opinion was of course the Cheshire Cat voiced by Stephen Fry. It looks fake as it has been created with CGI, but it's whole persona and the way it moves is just enchanting. As for Alice (Mia Wasikowska), she's endearing and plays the part pretty well, if not a little odd. It just doesn't have that Alice magic it did in the cartoon.

I know it's a completely different reworking of the film and has been told from another angle, but there just isn't that sense of a new adventure. In the Disney cartoon, you're taken to all sorts of lands with various creatures telling a new story. In this you're provided with the same individuals, with similar settings all telling the same sort of thing. It's almost like a crazy remake of Narnia. The 3D version I can imagine would be gimmicky in terms of the way it's brought across, so I thought it would be nice to take the setting in without having the wear glasses.

I'm not saying this is a bad film, because it really isn't. It's beautiful to watch and fairly entertaining. The hype around it seems to have been a factor to let this film down. It's hard to put across the opinion because it is a film you should watch. It's Tim Burton doing Alice in Wonderland. But don't go in with high expectations because you'll just come out disappointed. If you go in, expect something a little weird and wonderful then you will be fully satisfied.
Fun Trivia: Burton filmed in Cornwall and has left the giant Toadstools in the forest where the grand house is at the beginning of the film. You can now visit the set!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Telephone by Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé... WTF?!

I know this isn't a typical piece to find on here, but I just had to mention it. The new short movie for Lady Gaga's song Telephone is probably more bizarre than most of the Art-House films I've seen put together.

The song is about the two singers in a club, trying to have fun but their phone keeps ringing because their partners are trying to get hold of them. Needless to say, this becomes a little annoying and in the song they request that the men stop 'telephoning' them. But this music video/short film has taken a different approach. Lady Gaga's put into prison, and it is Beyonce who rescues her. Unfortunately, they don't stay away from the crime scene for too long as they then commit a mass homicide.

Right, this seems like a pretty cool idea for a music video but you just become completely confused. Lady Gaga's outfits include police tape, Diet Coke cans, telephones, and a lot, and I mean a lot of skin (Listen out for the joke about her having a penis near the beginning). And this whole lesbian vibe you get from them seems a little uncomfortable.

It's looks to be themed on Thelma and Louise - A female buddy road movie. The two obviously work well together because they're both pretty bizarre when it comes to their music. If you've seen the music video for 'Video Phone' you'll understand. They're not afraid to be sex objects, clearly. And when watching this movie you're either completely in love with them or completely freaked out. I've never been a fan of Lady Gaga, but I have to say as crazy as this film is, it's pretty damn fun to watch.

It ends with a 'To be continued...' title appearing on the screen and you're left wondering what the hell is going to be done next. The end credits are run backwards, and a logo for 'House of Lady Gaga' productions appears suggesting she's actually had quite a big influence over the general theme of this short. Yes, that is obvious as it says she's executive producer etc. but usually it's the company that have the final say. She seems to be completely in control over every aspect from costume to editing. Which evidently leads this to be on the more surreal side of life.

So, if you want to be completely freaked out/aroused/humoured then youtube 'Telephone Lady Gaga Beyonce music video. It's the one that's around 9 minutes long. Prepare yourself.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The Princess and the Frog ***

A Disney Princess film in hand drawn animation again... FINALLY! There's just something about these that really capture your heart. All children should grow up with Disney; they are the best of the best when it comes to story telling. But it is a shame the latest of them has lost its edge a little.

Based in New Orleans, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) plays the heroine of the film who's ambition it is to run her own restaurant. But of course, she finds herself in a little pickle when she kisses a frog to turn him into a prince... Except she becomes a frog too. A good twist to the well known story, but it just doesn't have that magical feeling you get from Sleeping Beauty or Snow White.

The actual character of Tiana is quite charming and easy to enjoy. Plus she's a good role model for girls to relate to. Its just a shame the elegance you once got from these princesses has totally disappeared. It's almost as if Disney have tried to create a modern day version of what a princess should be. But where's the fun in that?! We want magic and glitter! The Prince Charming figure has also been forgotten, and we're left with quite a lovable rather than marry-able character of Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos). In terms of the bad character, he's actually very good. Dr. Facilier (Keith David) does bring that creepy element to the film, and it looks very inspired by Tim Burton in terms of the colour and objects used to surround him. Plus the little co-stars Louis and Ray seem to hold that childish type humour the kids all love. But it's got no characters really that are going to be memorable in the future. It's just another story being told.

This goes for the songs too! Where's the catchy number that everyone comes out of the cinema singing? It is full of music, and some which is great because a lot is really soulful jazz, but we've got no Wish Upon A Star equivalent. That was one of the most disappointing features. But in the end, it's full of character from the little songs which seem to be slotted in as and where so it's not all bad.

Disney have made a beautiful film in terms of the animation. The characters are gorgeous to look at, the colours are so popping it hurts, and it's not in 3D which makes it that even more appealing to watch! It's used no gimmicks and really stuck to the original use of classical hand drawn films. That's the most pulling factor of the film in my opinion.

So overall, little girls will love it because it's a fairy tale full of songs and bright colours. But for anyone who's grown up with Disney and have their favourite film already, this won't feature on the list.