Looking at: Unfriended

Well that was laughable. Unfriended is a new horror film trying to utilize social media and technology. The whole film takes place during a skype conversation between six friends and the computer screen is all we’re looking at in the film.

Now the concept was interesting. I saw the trailer quite a while ago and it had peaked my interest as there are so many films that failed to use social media and computers effectively in film (one of the recent ones trying this was Men, Women and Children). The film moves very seamlessly and the on-screen nature of it keeps you engaged with it’s added trinkets such as open tabs and cluttered desktop. It appears quite authentic.

However, it’s a shame that the film has to feature such unlikeable characters and have a very tried and tested plot. It takes place on the anniversary of a girls suicide. The film opens with the protagonist Blaire watching the suicide video and then moves to have a skype conversation with her boyfriend, which is later invaded by their friends and they start their meaningless conversation about how horrible people they all are. They are also joined by a random user with no profile picture. They discover it’s the dead girl’s account (Laura Barns). From here the “horror” starts. Same story, spirit comes back to haunt the characters, they all die one by one in some gruesome death and there’s some life decision at the end.

The concept was interesting, but the characters are those typical middle classed, white suburban, teenagers who have completely no depth to them and are at the surface relatively vile people. It is revealed that one of these characters was the cause of Laura’s suicide as an embarrassing video of her was uploaded by one of the group. There’s no investment with the characters, even the “virgin” character is a borderline emotionally bankrupt. When they start dying you just relish in the fact that we are now rid of such filth. The plot is thin and nothing new. They only part which I found interesting was when the characters started turning on each other, resulting to their survival instincts and revealing hurtful secrets. But even that was predictable.

The film is just laughable. I really hope the next film using this gimmick is some what better.

 

 

Looking at: Fast and Furious 7

Gonna put it out there, I had very little expectations for this film. I’ve seen the first and fifth film and didn’t like either. I had to give this a watch due to the $300 million it made in the first three days. What drove the hype around this film was Paul Walker’s death in the film.

Now, the film was a lot better than expected. Yeah it had the normal action film tropes which couldn’t be ignored but it’s called fast and furious so what you’re gonna expect. The story, Jason Statham is seeking revenge for his brother being in hospital which is what the protagonists did. He hunts the, down, there’s shootings, driving, killings, helicopters, drones etc. It’s a story that a child could’ve come with. A constant repeat of set ups with even more ridiculous and unachievable goals. But hey it’s dumb fun. I use the word fun very loosely however.

But the film’s biggest achievement was through it’s sentiment. There’s a big feel of family and loyalty among the characters which does make them interesting and pushes the film beyond the standard action film. Walker’s death was handled very well and respectfully in the film, I won’t say what happens to him but the film does give a very fitting tribute to him throughout the film which is where it shines.

Not a groundbreaking film, but enjoyable.

 

Looking at: Chappie

Enter the world of Chappie. Neill Blomkamp’s latest venture into the feature film game and it couldn’t come at a more pressing time with the news of him helming the next Alien film.

Chappie is a robot who has gained a consciousness and has to learn life much like a newborn child. I personally really liked this film. It is a mash up of Short Circuit and the original Robocop, both fantastic films. I liked that it featured the South African group Die Antwoord, they had great screen presence and had good dynamics with the title character. Hugh Jackman’s appearance as mullet wearing villain wasn’t unwelcomed and Dev Patel’s geeky scientist was nice but a bit in the background. With the scientist, Chappie was his creation but it’s Die Antwoord that really had the influence on him. At times, Patel would appear to give Chappie some life advice then run away in fear for most of the film.

The film does struggle to find it’s audience as it has the adorable “better at being human” robot who then suddenly becomes a bad-ass and starts carjacking. It’s too much for children but not enough for adults.

SPOILER

However, my biggest problem with Chappie was the final moments. These are big spoilers so don’t read on if you haven’t seen it. Towards the end, Patel’s character get’s mortally wounded and Chappie is also “dying” due to his battery running out. Chappie found a way to “upload” his consciousness to a computer. He then does this with Patel’s character and transfers it to another robot who then becomes Patel. This doesn’t work. Especially not the way it’s portrayed. It was very lazy, not something I fully believed in. The film was doing very well before the ending. A lot of things in this film happen with great ease, there isn’t anything challenging which again goes to the film not knowing what it wants to be. Everything’s confused, themes are mashing up against each other and it changes tone left right and center.

All in all, great film, just confused in parts.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhNshgSYF_M

Looking at: Board to Death (Short)

My first short film review, exciting times. Board to Death is a short film created by the Luton based production company Broken Lens Productions which consists of young and ambitious film makers. The story is a very simple one as a man goes to hunt down those who cheated with his wife where the names are revealed through a board game.

The film excels technically. The story is told through a sin-cityesque style, shot in black & white with an array of shots and a voice over. The performances are very good and the film is really nice to look at. The editing does feel a bit slow sometimes, there is a lot of stuff here that does harm the pacing a bit. Overall, technically, it’s a very well made film, you can tell the team behind it knows what they’re doing. When it comes to the story, it’s a very basic story told many times before only this time there’s the addition of a board game. It’s a nice touch, but nothing really special as such. The script is what I didn’t really like much. I felt in parts it really does drag on, especially with the expository voice over, show not tell as the phrase goes. However with some of the dialogue, it does have a sense of poetry to it, so it has nice segments, just not joined together well. With regards to the pacing again, there are some red herrings which are there for a shock factor but are just not that surprising and again really hurts the pacing of the film, it makes the film seem longer than it is, and that’s a real shame.

Overall, it’s a very well made film and you can tell a lot of effort has gone into the production and it does pay off, just bits of the script was lacking. However, something to check out once it’s released, gives a real insight to the talent there is in Luton.

http://www.boardtodeathofficial.com

Bill’s 2015 BAFTAs

Right with the awards night just a week away, time to pick my winners. This is in order as they appear on the website. Am sticking with the big categories which is the same I’ll do with the Oscars.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl

This was a no brainier in my opinion. Not only did she write the best selling novel it was based on but also created the fantastic screenplay.

Best Leading Actress:

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Great performance, Pike wonderfully captured the calculating nature of Amy.

Best Animated Film:

The Lego Movie

Everything’s awesome, need I say more?

Best Original Music:

Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel

It’s been a pretty dry year in terms of music but I’m gonna give it to Alexandre Desplat as it takes you back to the slapstick comedy days.

Best Original Screenplay:

Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler

This was a tough one, a lot of great screenplays in this category but I have to give it to the very clever and unnerving Nightcrawler.

Best Cinematography:

Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman

This was also a no brainier. Creating the illusion that the whole film was done in one take could only be achieved by clever editing and camera work.

Outstanding British Film:

Pride

A very strong category but Pride takes it with it’s warm and triumphant nature.

Best Director:

Richard Linklater

This was the hardest. All great films and wonderful talent at the helm but I have to give it to Richard Linklater for heading up one of the biggest cinematic achievements of recent history.

Best Editing:

Tom Cross – Whiplash

Before I gone on to the winner, why The Imitation Game is in the category is beyond me. The editing was very much average at best, nothing like the intensity of Whiplash.

Best Film:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The big one. Going by enjoyment factor alone…The Grand Budapest Hotel. Very fun and interesting film. It definitely stood out this year.

Best Supporting Actor:

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

No one else comes close to this. Just watch this and you’ll see.

Best Support Actress:

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Her last scene in the film, which completely wraps up the feeling of the whole film, was enough to surpass everyone else in this category.

Best Leading Actor:

Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Calling it now, this is Jake’s year. Such a strong performance and captures the very unnerving nature of the character who is hell bent to getting what he wants.

Hope you enjoyed that guys.

Looking at: The Theory of Everything

Finally got around to seeing this. The Theory of Everything tells the personal story of the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Wild and the difficulties involved with Stephen’s ever deteriorating health.

First of all, for those of you who think otherwise, there is very little in here about Hawking’s work. There are small scenes where they go over certain theories but nothing too deep. This is all about his relationship with Jane. The film starts with their initial meeting and date and very quickly, after his diagnosis, they are married. This is all within the first twenty minutes (roughly). Then quickly goes to the first child, career milestone, second child, next milestone, introduction of Johnathan (more on him later), third child, loss of voice, Elaine and divorce. The space in between these sections are quickly covered and we are focused on the intimate scenes between Stephen and Jane, how his disease affects the relationship.

The performances are fantastic, especially from Eddie Redmayne, worthy of the oscar nomination. But the story is just…flabby. There’s a lot there that can be removed or sped up. The initial build up of the relationship was so fast that we didn’t have time to get to know the characters and the chemistry is very forced. The chemistry between Jane and Johnathan (who Jane later marries) was much more believable than with Hawking. The film crawls on afterwards, feeling as if it will never end, then we reach the third act, marked with Hawking’s loss of voice and the introduction of Elaine, a carer. This is where the drama intensifies. A well put together final sequence where you really feel for all the characters.

Great performances, flabby story but fantastic ending.

Looking at: Ex Machina

Time to kick of the year with a fresh sci-fi thriller. The story of Ex Machina is about a young coder (Caleb) who wins a trip to the residence of Nathan, the CEO of Blue Books, the company that Caleb works for. What he finds there is that Nathan has created an AI (Ava) and Caleb is to be the human component to the turing test. For those of you who don’t know the turing test is a test that involves a human and a machine. The human would ask a series of questions to the machine and will determine whether or not it has consciousness. If it does it passes the test.

Decades ago the idea of a fully function AI was just science fiction, today, it is something that could become a reality tomorrow. Ex Machina explores our fears and desires for this advancement. It is told within the confines of a very stylish set and a very technical yet fluid script. The film is wonderfully performed and proves to be very thought-provoking.

There’s been a number of films in the past that looks at conscious AIs but Ex Machina explores this through sexuality. Through the course of the film, Caleb and Ava starts to develop a connection, a sense of mutual attraction. However whether or not this is genuine isn’t obvious. The three characters all have their own motives, Nathan to have his big discovery, Caleb to play the hero and Ava to seek freedom and to be one with society. In the trailer there is line asking if Ava was programmed to flirt with Caleb which poses the question were Ava’s feelings genuine or a means of escape? Which goes on to ask, does this still pass the turing test. In short, either way does. On one side she has genuine feelings towards someone which is a human response, on the other end it shows creative thinking to seeking ones goal, something a machine wouldn’t be capable of doing. Thus the whole scenario being the turing test, not just Caleb’s questions. I won’t go into spoilers but this is just scratching the surface of how deep this film goes.

It is a very clever and exciting film which starts the year off with a bang.