Tag Archives: Film review

Shelf Bite: Ex Machina

ex_machinaThere is nothing more human than the will to survive

‘Did you program her to flirt with me?’

Man’s fascination with playing God is a central concept to all those science fiction tales that force us to question our own place in the universe and the legacy we may leave behind. As with the seminal masterpiece, Blade Runner, where Ridley Scott built upon the visual details laid out by Fritz Lang and Moebius; Director, Alex Garland strips back the oppressed gloom yet still infuses the film’s narrative with a strong sense of philosophy, psychology and religious themes. The result is a near future with a similar, cynical undertone to Charlie Brooker’s series, Black Mirror – a pristine, product placed future that seems to be set next year rather than a far flung, dystopic conceit. Garland’s flawless script is about the trio of characters and their central conflict rather than a brash, Hollywood fair and closer in tone to a piece of theatre. The central drama is compelling and the special effects, as refined as they are, become almost invisible. Domhnall Gleeson’s naïve programmer contrasts Oscar Isaac’s nihilistic billionaire as he studies the interaction between his employee and A.I., Ava played by the beguiling, Alicia Vkander. With enough red herrings to keep any sci-phile on their toes, Ex Machina delivers a supreme vision of a future we are closer to than we realise.

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Shelf Bite: It Follows

movie-posters-twofive-04It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel. It doesn’t give up

‘It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.’

Another step into Carpenterville that explores the common tropes of 1980s slasher films in a unique and artful manner. Director, David Robert Mitchell infuses the camera with voyeuristic undertones that allows ‘it’ to perform; linger, creep and zoom in on our central character as she is ‘followed’ by an entity passed on through sex. With some genuinely disturbing visuals and, at times, misjudged acts of sexual (Freudian) violence the film builds enough tension to hold it’s audience until the final act looses it momentum. Maika Monroe, already beginning to build up a retro reputation from The Guest, delivers a sullen, paranoid performance that helps to highlight the separation and independency that teenagers begin to experience as they move away from their adolescence and the mistakes they make. The synth soundtrack and production design is both subtle and ‘in your face’ at times; much like the central theme. As with most films that involve teenagers; the characters remain oddly unsympathetic surrounded by distanced adults and yet, in highlighting those common moments of ‘don’t go there’, still manages to deliver a more than effective horror film.

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Shelf Bite: The Guest

The_Guest_Main_One_Sheet.jpg_cmykBe careful who you let in

‘I’m afraid I haven’t been fully honest with you…’

If you’re an appreciator of the current trend in retro thrillers kick started by Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive then The Guest is another welcome addition to the sub genre. Much like Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, the Director’s latest effort is a film that mixes sinister undertones, blistering action, thrill of the hunt and a dose of horror akin to the best of John Carpenter. There is even the menace of James Cameron’s original Terminator programmed with enough charm and finesse to give Jason Bourne a run for his money. With a solid soundtrack that sets the perfect tone Wingard keeps the delirium flying while he throws one or two red herrings into the mix. The Guest doesn’t set any new precedence’s but delivers a lethal punch and old school affair that elevates Dan Stevens’ central performance well beyond Downton Abbey’s tweed stereotypes.

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Spring

Spring_poster_goldposter_com_2-400x592Love is a Monster

‘I don’t think you’re ready for where this is going.’

Often, amongst the subpar horror fair of late, there are the hidden artefacts you stumble across that dare to deliver something different. As part of the current renaissance in intelligent, independent horror films that have the unhinged freedom to explore more metaphysical concepts there are the hidden gems built on the germ of an idea – the less tangible…the less obvious. Often deemed to have smaller audiences, the likes of Honeymoon and The Babadook have, at their core, something deeply personal shrouded in expressionistic brushstrokes that help to convey more thought provoking ideas. Although The Babadook descended into more of a cliché, Honeymoon managed to retain its serious, speculative approach and it is the same conviction that makes Spring one of the strongest horror films of 2015. It’s a sad state of affairs that such a masterpiece has zero marketing and is only released in the UK on DVD at the bargain bin price of £4.99.

With its more obvious tropes nested in the masterful tales of H.P. Lovecraft, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s second feature reminds us how a heady mix of romance can work wonders. Traditionally, these genres are not as removed from one another as we may think and have more than been taken advantage of in these Twihard years. Yet Spring manages to deliver a fresh and often beguiling approach with its meandering nature and stunning scenery swaying close to Richard Linklater’s conversational piece, Before Sunrise and therefore attempts to avoid the imagery we are all too familiar with.

After his mother passes away, a young bartender by the name of Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is left alone and angry with regret. When he prevents his friend from a potential glassing, a bar brawl ensues which results in the loss of his job. Before long his life is threatened by the hapless thug and the authorities begin their search. With nothing left to keep him rooted, Evan sets off for a random destination and ends up in Italy where he briefly meets up with a couple of cockney backpackers, secures a part time job and, amongst the wine and sunshine, meets the beautiful and alluring Louise (Nadia Hilker). As they begin to spend time with one another, it is soon clear that she hides a dark and terrifying secret that literally evolves throughout the course of the film.

Comparisons to Upstream Colour can also be noted; yet where Shane Carruth’s film deals with many ambiguous themes in a more speculative light, the visual language is just as arresting. Throughout the labyrinthine streets and swell of the sea, Benson and Moorhead take their time to explore character, which enables the viewer to accept the grotesque transformations Louise undertakes. In the moments the creature is seen it is disquieting, unsettling, shocking and disturbing – each transformation exploring the familiar while still retaining a fresh direction that helps to elevate its more primordial nature.

While Evan’s character deals with his estrangement from his homeland, it is during a key scene that reminds us of his unbridled love – in that no matter what happens to those closest to you, love knows no bounds; both emotionally and physically. In the opening moments of the film we understand Evan’s grief and relationship with his mother before he is cast adrift. As much as Louise is a myth, Evan is the truth behind how simple one man’s love can be.

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Rust and Bone

Rust-and-Bone-PosterBrutal Romanticism

‘If we continue, we have to do it right.’

Jacques Audiard’s unflinching melodrama is an exploration of how physical nature can render emotion – how they collide…and how often one cannot survive without the other. Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead) plays Alain, a single parent who attempts to look after his young boy after setting up a new life with his sister and her husband. This is a man who is more brawn than brains and his physicality lands him a number of roles that lead to a series of actions as the story unfolds. After he takes on his first job as a bouncer he meets Stéphanie, played by Marion Cotillard; who, once again, reminds us of her depth and versatility as she takes us through the pain and gradual rehabilitation of an amputee.

Their chance encounter reveals her distractions that lead to a horrific accident during her day job as an Orca trainer. At first we think she is dependent on him but as her will power increases and the relationship develops, it is clear that they are dependent on each other. Where there is strength there is weakness. Where there is tenderness there is brute force. Where there is tranquility…there is rage. This is the story of how an emotionally handicapped man relates to a physically handicapped woman – one who insults and destroys everything and anyone around him, while the she rebuilds her life. Using Alain’s lack of sympathy to her advantage, his disconnection helps her deal with the situation in a positive way – a subtle, yet complex approach to any modern love story. As Audiard builds each scene with broad strokes, as much as he focuses on the details, he is constantly aware of the juxtaposed nature of the story that builds towards a heart-stopping conclusion. Rust and Bone may be gritty and unconventional for most, but there is no doubt that it delivers unrivalled passion at every level.

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