Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Film review: Free Fire (2017)

In the dead of night in an abandoned dock building in Boston, 1978, Justine (Brie Larson), a well-connected businesswoman has facilitated a deal between some amateur IRA militants (Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Sam Riley) and vainglorious international gunrunners (Arnie Hammer, Sharlto Copley).  It is supposed to be a straight swap of a van of M16s and a suitcase packed with dollars, but tensions are high and one of the periphery goons on either side of the deal recognise each other leading to an altercation where bullets are exchanged… for the next 90 minutes.

That is essentially the whole plot of Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire: an extended shoot out in an old warehouse between rival egomaniacal criminal ‘gangs’.  Yet it is so tightly scripted, acted and contained that it could have lasted another 60 minutes and still been engaging. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Film Review: Design Disruptors (2017)

Early on in Matt D’Avelia’s Design Disruptors, someone remarks that ‘design’ is “solving old world problems with new world technologies.” – and with that, the tone is set for the next hour.  An assembly of some of the more progressive and influential design minds from some of the most disruptive companies – Faceboook, Twitter, Uber, Dropbox, Mailchimp, Evernote, Lyft – discussing the importance of good user experience and game-changing products and services.  It is a distinctly 21st century documentary, from its aesthetics to its language and rhetoric, and is a fascinating insight into the minds and processes of these mega companies that have had such an impact on our daily lives.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Film Review: Hell or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water
(contains minor spoilers)

It is so obvious from Hell or High Water that screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is a Texan native that I haven’t even Googled it.  The dialogue, hyper-masculinity, derisory sense of humour and 2nd amendment fetishism of this Wild West Road Movie all scream a lifetime’s research in the Lone Star State.

Two brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) & Tanner (Ben Foster), are robbing small town banks for small bills with nothing but pistols and balaclavas and a “shitty” getaway car.  The money, for Toby, is for a family emergency and strictly business, yet Tanner is fresh out of jail and enjoys the thrill of the heist.  The film then evolves into a double buddy-movie retiring detective Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Native American Alberto (Gil Birmingham) bickering like an old odd-couple as they follow the brothers’ tracks. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Film Review: Welcome to Leith (2015)

When a new resident arrives in a small North Dakota farm town with a population of 24 (including children), the people are naturally going to notice.  When they start to plant neo-Nazi flags and get the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Centre’s internal terroirism unit, the people are going to get scared.  When the new guy creates a website inviting his neo-Nazi friends to join him under the headline Cobbsville: White Supremacist takeover, the people have to take action… 

Monday, March 21, 2016

BFI Flare 30: Women He's Undressed (2015)

Women He's Undressed

If you’re reading this, I assume that you’re a fan of cinema.  And can certainly name a handful of directors, and probably producers and scriptwriters, but then it gets trickier.  How many established editors can you name? Or cinematographers?  How about production manager? Or what about costume designers?! 

Most of the people who have designed some of the most iconic images in cinema history are largely forgotten.  That’s the nature of the medium – the stars onscreen are mythologized, whilst the technicians behind the scenes are just cogs in a collaborative machine.  That is, until someone shines a light on a largely forgotten genius and suddenly the nature of the work is brought to the fore.  Orry-Kelly was one of the greatest costume designers of all time, working on such classics as Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Angels with Dirty Faces, Oklahoma! and Some Like it Hot.  

BFI Flare 30: Tangerine (2015)

It’s a sun-drenched Christmas Eve in Los Angeles when transgender prostitute Sin-Dee (Kiki Kitanna Rodriguez) gets back on the streets after a stint inside. Over breakfast, Alexandra (Mya Taylor) lets slip that Sin-Dee’s pimp boyfriend Chester (James Rasone)  is sleeping with another woman (or “fish” – a non-trans women).  This leads her on a frenzied revenge mission to find them both, via meth parties, donut shops and endless street corners. 

In the meantime, Armenian taxi driver Razmik (Karren Karagulian) with a taste in picking up pre-op trans hookers and having quickies in carwashes is also trying to find Sin-Dee for some fun, which does not go down well with his extended family… 

BFI Flare 30: Real Boy (2016)

The best documentary films shine a light on a corner of the world that is misunderstood and work to change viewer’s opinions.  Whether they’re about a huge phenomenon in culture or the life of just a single person, they should provide insight and they should do it with passion.

Shaleece Haas’ directorial debut Real Boy is exactly that: framing the formative years of a young transgender teenager amidst the transition from Rachael to Bennett Wallace.  As Shaleece follows him through hormone therapy and his ‘top’ surgery, as well as meeting similar young men including his transgender hero Joe Stevens, it is impossible not to feel sympathy for Ben and those like him through the compassion of the camera.

Ben and Joe on porch (Real Boy) 

BFI Flare 30: Seed Money, The Chuck Holmes Story (2016)

The narrative of America is littered with entrepreneurial opportunists spotting a gap in a market and filling it with the right product at the right time and changing history.  Yet Chuck Holmes will probably not feature in any school syllabuses any time soon.  As his right time was 1971 San Francisco, and his right product was hardcore gay pornography.

Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story

First sold as 8mm ‘smutty’ loops featured out of the back of a catalogue and then as feature length films sold on VHS.  Chuck founded Falcon Studios with a passion for sex, and men and an eye for business.