Cinepub


31 Days of Horror 17: Snowtown (2011) by Jamie

Unless movies have lied to me, Australia is a terrifying hellscape filled with murderers, Lord Humungus and uncanny knife discernment. This of course goes without mentioning all the terrifying poisonous animals, Steve Irwin-killing stingrays and koala bears. As a younger man I wondered why we Brits sent our criminals away from the dreary weather to what seemed like a tropical paradise. Now I realise the true horror that is Australia.

And so I return to this continent forsaken by every God of mankind’s many myths for true life horror story of Snowtown. The movie is based on the Snowtown Murders of the 1990s and it’s kinda one of the oddest films based on a true story I’ve ever seen. It follows the story of 16 year old James “Jamie” Vlassakis and how he comes to be drawn into the murderous rampage of John Bunting and his band of thugs. The reason that this is an odd film is that the murders kind of take a back seat to the other events taking place around them. You still get to see a few scenes of murder and torture but this isn’t so much a film about the murders or even the psychology of the killer, as these true life serial killer films so often are. Rather it is, as I said, about how someone can find this self in this situation and eventually come to be a complicit, even willing partner in these acts.

And the movie achieves this in a brilliant way. The way it’s shot, the way music is used, it all makes the story play out like some kind of a dream with Jamie, and by extension the viewer, drifting along with the story almost as though he is helpless to fight back against the current that is dragging him a long this dark path. And by dream I mean nightmare. This is a dark, chillingly atmospheric film that could be used to teach people about how effective music, and even the sudden absence of music, in particular can be in conveying tension in even the most seemingly pedestrian scenes, scenes that you feel should give you a break from the way things a spiralling out of control but they don’t.

So yes, this is a breathtakingly beautiful expression of absolute terror and the way the human mind can be coerced into going along with that terror be it out of fear or misplaced friendship or, most likely, a mixture of both. Five pints out of five.

Snowtown_(film)



Review: The Great Gatsby by Jamie

Warning: This review may feature spoilers for a book that was first published in 1925 and that you can easily read in an afternoon…

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any film,” he told me, “just remember that all the movies in this world haven’t had the advantages that Jaws had.”

In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has led to the discovery of many curious hidden gems and also made me the victim of not a few films that were best left not viewed by the eyes of anyone.

And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit… I’m sorry, I’ll stop now. The point is that I saw ‘The Great Gatsby’ after reading/listening to the book and watching all four of Baz’s previous films. At the end of all this preparation I came to two conclusions. The first was that I really liked F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 book which is beautifully written and a mesmerizing account of regret, the decay of the American dream and unfulfilled hope and a stunning portrayal of decadently rich youths during the 1920s in America. The second was that for the most part I really like Baz Luhrmann films. There are quibbles here and there and none of them are making it into my top ten but for the most part all four films are entertaining in one way or another. So it was with somewhat raised expectations that I went into the Great Gatsby.

I shall spare you the normal lengthy synopsis because, as I believe I may have mentioned earlier, The Great Gatsby is based on a novel from 1925 which can easily be read in the course of an afternoon. Now the important things. Is it any good? Well, yes and no. As a film it’s certainly the kind of entertaining thing you’d expect from Baz Luhrmann. It’s bright, it’s brash, it’s glitzy and it’s glamorous. It’s a visual feast that’s at times reminiscent of ‘Moulin Rouge’. As an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, however, it’s woefully inadequate. Sure, the major beats of the story are there but that’s all it feels like Luhrmann’s doing, making sure he hit’s the very basic beats of the story without any of the substance. It’s as though he brought in an exorcist that removed the soul from the story.

At it’s very worst, the framework of the novel feels like it’s being used as a means for Luhrmann to get from one elaborate, raucous set-piece to the next. At it’s best you’ll walk away from the film knowing what the story is without really knowing what it’s about.

In the novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald manages to make you feel something for the characters be it revulsion, sympathy or at times a strange mixture of the two which I have dubbed revulpathy. In the film I end up feeling very little for anyone, not that it’s any of the actors fault in particular. They’re all perfectly serviceable with the exception of Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. To me, Maguire almost seems like he’s just playing his Peter Parker but in 1920s era costume. Somewhere along the line, Maguire seems to have been the go to guy for wide-eyed naivety but to me he always just seems to come of more as something of a gormless buffoon.

DiCaprio, on the other hand, is on the other end of the scale. He does more than a serviceable job. He’s the one bright star in the film in that his portrayal of Gatsby is pretty damn great. Out of the whole thing, his was the character I came closest to caring about though still the nature of the movie left me just short of that.

As for Debicki, well, she’s actually fine it’s just that the character of Jordan seems to be almost completely cut from the story after Gatsby’s first party and any further relationship between her and Nick is barely even hinted at.

The same goes for other characters who have vital scenes in the book such as the Owl-Eyes and Meyer Wolfsheim, both of whom I would argue are vital to the books ending, who are here little more than cameos early on in the movie. Then there’s the case of Henry C. Gatz who is cut altogether. The fact that Luhrmann seems to pay far more attention to the beginning of the book rather than it’s conclusion just seems to add more weight to the accusation that the director cares far more about putting scenes of big, glitzy 1920s era parties, most of which occur in the first half of the book, on film than he does the actual story he’s supposedly adapting.

Then there’s the music. Oh boy. You see, these big, glitzy 1920s era parties all feature music which blends jazz of the time with modern hip-hop and other modern music styles. I can understand what they were going for. I get that you wanted to get across the point that hip-hop today is like jazz was in the 20s. And I liked the use of modern music in Moulin Rouge. It fit there because the 1900s of that film is portrayed as some kind of insane, cartoonish reality, it shows the characters as being really ahead of their time and it just works. This, however, is supposedly an adaptation of The Great Gatsby. It’s jarring. Really jarring and it completely took me out of the film every time. Don’t get me wrong either. For the most part, I really liked the music. It just doesn’t fit.

And so we come to the end the review and what’s left to say? Well, like I said, as a film it’ll keep you entertained and it’s pretty much everything you’ve come to expect from Baz Luhrmann but as an adaptation of such a wonderful book, it’s a miserable failure. There was nothing stopping Luhrmann from making an original film set in the 20s with an anachronistic soundtrack. Hell, he could have made it a spiritual sequel to Moulin Rouge and everyone probably would have been perfectly happy with it. Instead it feels like he wanted to make a film set in the 20s but didn’t want to go to the work of developing a story for it so he took The Great Gatsby and filmed the visually stunning party scenes he’d been dreaming of. Then he realised that shit, he’d probably better try and actually adapt the actual story too and he did so, paying lip service to it and stripping away anything that made said story special in the first place.

As far as I can tell none of the various attempts at adapting the book into a film have been particularly successful with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald themselves famously walking out of the 1926 effort. Maybe a good adaptation will come some day. Maybe not. It eluded us this time, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Two pints out of five. Laterz.

It's The Great Gatsby, Old Sport!



Review: Iron Sky by Jamie

Moon Nazis! There you go. There’s a certain sub-section of film fans out there who will read those two words and try and see this film as soon as possible. And with good reason. Nazis coming from the moon is such a damn good idea that it’s hard to see exactly why it hasn’t been done before. We’ve already seen Nazi Zombies, though that probably has more to do with the unrelenting Zombie trend that the world is currently going through, and Nazi’s fighting cigar-chomping demons so it seems odd that it’s taken this long for the idea of Moon Nazis to make it to the big screen especially considering the fact that one theory for UFO sightings during WW2 was that they were secret Nazi aircraft.

Still, it has taken this long and it comes in the form of a fully crowdso0urced film. Yes, the money for this project came from the donations of people who wanted to see this thing made and why wouldn’t they? Again, Moon Nazis! The fund raising efforts were aided by the release of this early teaser trailer:

See that? Nazis on the Moon! And they’re coming back! So yeah, the idea for this film is certainly awesome. But does the finished product live up to this wicked awesome premise? Let’s find out with a quick synopsis. I’ll try and keep it spoiler free.

In the year 2018, The President of the United States (Stephanie Paul), under the advisement of her… adviser Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant) launches a new manned mission to the moon in order to help with her re-election campaign. One of the astronauts is shot when he discovers a secret Nazi Moon base on the satellites dark side. The other, a black gentleman by the name of James Washington (Christopher Kirby) is captured by the lunar fascists under suspicion of being a an Earth spy. Meanwhile Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) is a young teacher who is lecturing her students about ‘the most unpatriotic language’, English, as it’s the language they need to know for when they return to those who need their help the most. She seems to be fully devoted to the Nazi cause and more than a little brainwashed, believing that Hitler was well-liked on Earth and that Charlie Chaplin’s film ‘The Great Dictator” is a loving, short-film tribute to the Fuhrer. She also happens to be a perfect genetic match for Klaus Adler (Gotz Otto) whose ambition is to become take power from the current Moon Fuhrer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier) and lead the future invasion of Earth himself.

That’s pretty much an introduction to the major players of the film and their situation at the beginning of the film. I’ll leave the rest of the story a mystery because you should probably watch the rest of the movie yourself. So yeah, spoiler alert, I enjoyed this movie. At heart the film is a satire, in particular of the extremes to which the American political process seems to go to these days. For example, the way that the American President and her adviser react to the Nazis when they make themselves known to them is all about the American parties, the Republican Party in particular and the degtree to which some people view that party as having lost it’s mind a little. The fact that the President herself is a pretty on the nose parody of Sarah Palin just drives the point home further.

Around the web I’ve seen the film compared to ‘Dr. Strangelove’ a few times and, whilst it is a fun and funny film, it is not ‘Dr. Strangelove’ good although few things are so perhaps that shouldn’t really be held against it. The film even has a little homage to Kubrick’s classic film as well as a pretty dead on parody of that scene of Hitler yelling from ‘Downfall’. If you’ve ever used YouTube, you know what scene I’m talking about.

Now, as for the negative aspects of the film, well, it’s a low budget effort so some of the acting isn’t exactly top quality tohugh that kinda helps add to the cheesy feel that a film about Moon Nazis probably should have. Yes, a film like this certainly should have a certain cheese factor to it. The first time I watched this, however, I felt a little differently. Based on that trailer above, particularly due to the music, I thought that this was going to be a serious movie about Nazis from the moon invading Earth and I was actually a little disappointed when I found out it wasn’t. Having watched the film again, however, I can say that they got the tone just right and, as the reactions to ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ have proven, sometimes a premise is so ridiculous that it can’t be taken seriously and any attempt to do so will be met with indifference or ridicule.

Overall this really was an enjoyable experience and the little film funded by fans certainly deserves to be seen by as many people as possible especially those who get excited at the phrase Moon Nazis! Four beers out of five.



Review: The King’s Speech by Jamie

Royalty. As a British person I spend at least twenty-three hours a day thinking about it, even whilst sleeping. My morning begins by sorting out my pound notes by denomination and saluting the picture of the Queen on each one before singing the national anthem to the government issued poster of her that comes in a variety of different versions including a tasteful swimsuit edition.

As such it was my duty to go and watch The King’s Speech, a film about our current monarch’s father, George VI (Played by Colin Firth in the film) , who took over the position of King of England after his brother (Guy Pearce) abdicated the throne to marry a twice divorced American woman. The story of the film begins long before the abdication crisis, though it certainly plays a pivotal part in the plot, at the 1925 Empire Exhibition where the then Prince Albert, Duke of York has to give a speech at exhibition’s closing. Unfortunately the speech is a bit of a failure thanks to the Prince’s severe stutter.

After several unsuccessful attempts to try and fix the problem with various different treatments, his wife Elizabeth, the Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter) gets him an appointment with an Australian speech therapist by the name of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The film then follows the two as they try and fix Prince Albert’s condition both through exercises and trying to get to the psychological root of the problem. It also charts the growing friendship between the two, overcoming difficulties together such as the aforementioned abdication of Edward VIII, the Prince becoming a King and just what such a position means in a time when the title doesn’t really denote any kind of real political power.

That’s pretty much all of the synopsis I really feel like going into because I honestly want to spoil as little of this film as possible. I know some will say that you can’t spoil a film based on a true story but fuck you. Not everyone knows the story. I knew elements of it like the whole abdication thing but I didn’t even know that George VI had a stammer so that was new. It’s not really the kind of thing that’s taught in history class.

So how was the film? Well, I was honestly surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. Everything just seemed to come together. The acting was of the highest order, though I’ll concede the fact that there were times when Colin Firth could have reigned things in a little bit better but that’s a very, very small criticism of an otherwise near perfect performance. It was certainly nice to see Helena Bonham Carter playing someone who wasn’t bats hit insane or just weird for the sake of being weird and Geoffrey Rush was insanely likeable as the Australian who started of as a simple speech therapist and became the friend of a King.

It was also shot and directed wonderfully as well. There are a lot of shots of people just talking without much else going on but that’s fine for me. I’ve always been someone who has valued good story telling over flashy visuals and this film was put together in exactly the right way for the story being told. Not that there aren’t some interesting things going on. There are two scenes in particular that stand out, one where Albert is talking to his brother about Hitler during a party and another when Logue and the Prince are walking through a park in an incredibly foggy London discussing the possibility of Albert becoming King.

Also I don’t if it’s simply because I am British but found the subject matter far, far more interesting than I thought I would. I’ve always been interested by history but when I first heard about what the film was about I’ll admit it sounded a bit boring but I was very, very wrong. It’s fascinating to see the days of Britain gone by, back when we still had the last remnants of an Empire, so-called ‘colonials’ were looked down upon somewhat and things in Europe were starting to take a turn for the worst. It was also interesting to see get a glimpse into the private lives of the Royal Family, even one from the past. Of course, some things are changed for dramatic or artistic reasons. For example I did think it was a bit odd just how involved Winston Churchill was during the films climactic scenes considering he wasn’t Prime Minister yet and, indeed, wikipedia reveals that he wouldn’t have been involved at all but he’s a historical character that the audience would recognise far better than most of the people who were actually there so I can understand his inclusion.

If I have one criticism, and to be honest it’s not really this films fault, it’s just how many good British actors have been involved with the Harry Potter franchise and therefore show up in this film as well. I suppose it’s not really a criticism but it was somewhat distracting and it just took me out of the film a bit. I mean you’ve got Dumbledore, Bellatrix and that dude who turned into a rat all in this film and yeah… I suppose it’s my problem, not the film. At one point I was half expecting a flash back to the King’s younger years where he was being played by Daniel Radcliffe or something. Again, just a thing that bugged me personally.

Oh, and one final thing before I forget, the film is very, very funny. A hell of a lot funnier then I was expecting but it also has a lot of heart and at no point is the stammer itself ever really used for a cheap laugh, though some of the techniques used to attempt to cure it certainly are. Well, not cheap laughs. Good, awesome and I assume expensive laughs or something.

So yeah, when all’s said and done, I really, really enjoyed this film and heartily recommend it to everyone. Everyone. And the Queen enjoyed it as well saying she was “touched by a moving portrayal of her father” so I am literally duty bound to give this film five pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: The Loved Ones by Jamie

It takes a lot for a film to disturb or scare me. One that did both those things in recent times was a little Australian horror film called ‘Wolf Creek’, released in 2005. It’s basically the story of what happens when a group of backpackers come across a really fucked up version of the villain character from ‘Rescuers Down Under’. I mean really fucked up. Like torture and kill people fucked up.

Yeah, that film certainly left an impression on me. It somehow managed to include scenes of people being tortured but I didn’t get that general feeling of pointlessness that I normally get when watching films which have been dubbed, for better or worse, as ‘Torture Porn’. There was just something going on beneath the terror that made me actually care and get scared. It was a genuinely good film.

So we come today to another little Australian horror film which I would certainly put in the exact same genre as ‘Wolf Creek’. I dunno what that genre would be called… ‘Good Torture Porn’ maybe? No, that has completely the wrong connotation. ‘More-ture Porn’ because there is more going on than in the typical torture porn film? No, that doesn’t seem right either. It doesn’t matter. The film for today is ‘The Loved Ones’.

Brent is an Australian high school student who killed his father in a car crash whilst trying to avoid a bloody figure in the road. He has a hard time dealing with the events of that day, understandable really, especially since his mother seems to blame him for her husband’ death, even if se doesn’t say it directly. Still he does find some comfort in his girlfriend Holly. Sexual comfort, that is. Plus she loves him or something. There’s also his somewhat comical sidekick Jamie who has a crush on Mia, goth daughter of a local policeman who’s dealing with some pretty deep issues of her own.

Then there’s Lola. L-O-L-A, Lola. Lo, Lo, Lo, Lo, LoLola… Sorry. That had to be done. Anyway, Lola seems to be a bit of a quiet girl, doesn’t have too many friends, that kind of girl. She approaches Brent by his locker and asks him to the school dance but he turns her down, saying he’s already going with Holly This is a decision he’ll probably end up regretting.

While Brent is what I’ll assume is the Outback, because it’s outside and in Australia, Brent is chloroformed and kidnapped. When he comes round, he’s tied up to chair inside Lola’s house, with decorations hung all over the place as though it were some kind of homemade school dance. Lola is present as is her father and a woman, who doesn’t seem particularly cognisant of what is going on, whom they call ‘Bright Eyes’. From here the torture begins.

Whilst all this is going on there’s a subplot running concurrent involving Jamie and Mia and their adventures at the high school dance which provides a little bit of humour to the otherwise very dark proceedings whilst also adding another layer to the main story through the problems Mia is dealing with.

And that’s pretty much all the plot I’m going to give away. Anything beyond this would probably be considered a spoiler. I’ll just say that FUCK! The torture in this film is brutal and when you come to realise just what it is they plan to do with Brent it just becomes more and more disturbing. The film also manages to just draw you in, the tension in one particular scene (all I’ll say is it involves a drill and a kettle) becoming so heightened that I kept on standing up and walking around the room, occasionally taking my eyes of the screen as it just kept building and building to almost unbearable levels. It was fucking awesome.

Despite this rampant torture, there is, like I said earlier, so much that sets this apart from your ‘Saw’ films or your ‘Hostel’ films. I couldn’t give a fuck about any of the characters in any of those films (except for Danny Glover in the first Saw because every time he plays a policeman, I like to think he’s still Murtaugh after something terrible has happened to Riggs) but in this film, and indeed in Wolf Creek, I do. I care about the people being tortured which just makes everything so much more visceral, tense and generally uncomfortable.

The performances are all solid particularly those of Lola (Robin McLeavy) and her Daddy (John Brumpton) who play of each other as a psychopathic, serial-killing and possibly incestuous duo with seemingly twisted glee. Brent ( Xavier Samuel) is also pretty great especially conveying his thoughts and feelings the way that he is forced to because, well, let’s just say that after a certain point he doesn’t have much to say.

Overall if you like sick, twisted horror but can’t stand bullshit like the ‘Saw’ series then ‘The Loved Ones’ is probably the film for you. If I have one criticism I have, it’s the ending which just kinda happens whilst leaving a few storylines a little too unresolved for my liking. Still, four pints out of five. Laterz.

What follows is a trailer which to my mind is actually quite spoilerey. Watch if you want!



Mad Max: Children Of The Apocalypse Trailer by Jamie
16/05/2009, 2:07 am
Filed under: Fake Trailers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Max faces his toughest challenge yet in Children Of The Apocalypse (aka what happens when I stay in on a Friday night instead of going out drinking.)




%d bloggers like this: