Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Killers, Gangsters, and Writers.

Four short years ago, director/writer Martin McDonagh released an almost immediate hit, In Bruges. A black comedy about assassins running around Belgium contemplating life and death. It is regarded by this humble blogger as one of the greatest films ever made. So imagine the film world's joy upon hearing that McDonagh was releasing a new film based around psychopaths, seven of them. A film that is so meta it hurts, this is Seven Psychopaths.

Out in America, Irish screenwriter, Marty (Colin Farrell) , is writing a new film called Seven Psychopaths. Anyone spot the meta yet? He is having trouble finding inspiration for the stories behind each of his psychopaths and eventually his good friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), steps in to help, despite objections from Marty. Billy, however, does introduce him to his first psychopath, The Jack of Diamonds, and puts out an advert for any other psychopaths to share their story. This is how Marty gains Zachariah's (Tom Waits) story and two more psychopaths for his film. But Billy leads a life that is likely to get Martin in trouble; he kidnaps dogs for a man named Hanz (Christopher Walken), who promptly returns them for the reward money. Things get out of hand when Billy steals gang boss Charlie's (Woody Harrelson) shih tzu, Bonny (Bonny) and the dog-napping pair and Marty have to hide away from the gang after them. They head into the desert and, as a trio, keep trying to write the screenplay based on the people they've met, the stories they've heard, and what is happening to them in their lives.

This is Christopher Walken holding an adorable puppy.
You're welcome.

When you put several black comedy favourites in one film you are always going to have a good time with your cast. Rockwell shines brighter than the sun in and amongst the dark hilarity. Constantly funny and holds the entire script together by his longing for something more interesting to happen. Billy's peculiar ways of helping Marty only complicate everything further and Rockwell plays it with such a dark naivety that you cannot help but love him but also never, ever want to meet him. Farrell, Harrelson, and Walken all do their parts strong justice. Farrell, as Marty, is ideal for the out-of-his-depth straight man in a world that is too bizarre for him to comprehend. The exasperation, confusion, stress, and anger are all clearly and hilariously portrayed by Farrell to great success. Harrelson is a true psychopath. A soft natured man, caring only for his dog, but who will easily put anyone down who stands in his way, all without acknowledging his own insanity and judging others on theirs. And Walken. Well, everything he does is hilarious unless it is meant to be touching and if that is the case, then you will be touched. A fantastic comic ensemble.

An idea of what the film is not like.
Though this is a scene from the film... It's complicated.

In terms of writing, Seven Psychopaths is nothing short of a piece of genius. It should be nominated for Best Original Screenplay at least. The dialogue will have you constantly snickering and giggling and belly laughing but yet the film is extremely clever. Subverting every expectation of film making at some point and making it work so well is a rarity. As with a lot of McDonagh's work, it also analyses life and death, as well as sanity and people as a whole. How does it fit all that in one film without dropping in quality? It should not work, but it simply does. Some amazing twists and turns along the way but the whole 'film within a film' concept is used so brilliantly that you cannot hep but to want to watch more. The fourth wall is almost non-existent at some points - see Billy look to Marty, almost straight down the camera, and say, 'The film ends my way,' before doing exactly the opposite of what Marty had said he wanted to happen in his screenplay. The post-modernism can even hurt your brain.

A really funny, fresh film. An incredible comic cast and some amazing writing don't just make this a great film, but also likely to be one of your new favourites. Everything is so engaging and enjoyable that it is impossible not to want to watch it again. No doubt it will be a cult classic. (Also works as a perfect prequel to Harrelson's character in Zombieland.)

Best Bit? A lot of people's favourite moment I'm sure, but Billy's imagining of the 'final shoot out scene' is possibly the funniest thing in any recent film.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Movies That I Haven't Seen But Should Have - Part 7: Super Powers

There are a lot of movies I'm ashamed to admit I've never seen. But rather than pretend I've seen them or change the subject when they’re mentioned, I've decided to share them with you. These films that are cult classics or masterpieces that I have missed or avoided, I am sitting down to review. Today's film is the most recent in this series of unwatched must-sees. Released this very year, it takes a few different genre's and turns them on my head. High school flick, superheroes, teenage drama, psycho thriller, found footage, there's a whole range of film aspects that get played with. This is Chronicle.

The story of three teenagers, hopeful politician Steve (Michael B. Jordan), abused and unloved Andrew (Dane DeHaan), and Andrew's cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), who stumble across a hole in the ground which is home to, what seems to be, an alien relic. Andrew, fortunately for all, has recently decided to film everything - mostly due to his alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) and bullies at school. After documenting the finding of the relic, Andrew continues to film as the three boys discover they have powers that give them the ability to move things with their mind and even fly. But this is a realistic view on three rowdy kids developing power. They do not consider the concept of saving the world or doing good - who would? They do what any normal person would do: compete against each other to see who is the strongest and have some fun screwing with society. Like always, things get pushed, boundaries get overstepped, people change. How will they manage to stay strong as a trio before their powers overtake them?

Their powers allow them to build with Lego.
Let's see Superman do that.

Irritatingly, it is hard to describe the acting without getting into the realms of spoilers. However, as always, this blog promises to be as spoiler free as possible. Found footage films have a difficulty in terms of acting. the camera does not capture everyone and everything and so the actors have to perform a lot without being on screen, particularly Andrew. (The film does have interesting takes on this though. More on that later.) The three leading lads do exactly what's needed of them. DeHann deserves a special mention for being the abused outcast. He stays clear of the one dimensional loser that so many high school films offer these days and instead takes us on a journey. The highs of being accepted, the sadness behind suffering, and, most importantly, the corruption of power in the wrong hands. Jordan, as Steve, plays an interesting role. The most popular kid at school but, again, unlike conventional teen films, he has a genuine interest in helping Andrew. It is a fine line. Be cool but also be sensitive. Jordan manages it like few others do. Finally, Russell, playing Matt, becomes the hero of the story. There's a possibility that, as the movie progresses, you can see suffering within Russell's performance - not as much as is within Alex, but it is still there and evident. It is subtler. It shows Matt's hardened personality and his innate need to do the right thing. Good performances all around.

Quidditch without broomsticks is the next big thing.

Found footage films are nothing new. They are, admittedly, most related to horror films, and therefore have a negative name for themselves but this is different. First of all, due to Alex's power of telekinises, he has the ability to make the camera float nearby without paying it much attention. This allows a lot of scenes to take place as if there was another person filming. On top of this, it is not just one camera that does the filming, it is any. There's a scene in which Matt talks to a girl who is video blogging and the exchange is shown from both camera's perspectives. Also, as the film progresses, cell phone footage becomes crucial to showing all the different angles. Like any other good film, Chronicle has all the angles needed. Being filmed in this manner not only engages the audience like a good POV film, but balances the engaging perfectly with  distancing  in order to best tell the story. Despite some far too plastic looking CGI and other special effects, the visual nature of the film is superb.

A fresh, unique, and thoughtfully enjoyable take on superheroes. Gritty and realistic and has the rare 'watch over and over' feel towards it. It may not go down in history but it is likely to become plenty of people's new favourite film. A great watch.

Best Bit? SPOILER ALERT: Andrew's complete breakdown. It's really quite touching as well as being completely entertaining.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

I'm Sorry.

We're almost half way through December and, after my best month blogging to date, I have posted nothing. I have no funny joke about a blogging coma. I'm genuinely sorry to all my readers. I don't want to go back to posting three or four posts a month. On top of apologising, I feel the need to let you know why I haven't posted. Obviously, I'm at university currently and December is ripe with a hundred different assessments but also I'm in three separate performances, fighting to prove myself to my Ultimate Frisbee team that I'm good enough to be captain next year, two singing societies with showcases, and a host of personal issues that are not to be discussed on this blog; this is for film talk, not my pathetic-ness.

I promise you will have a new post soon. I don't know what it'll be, I'll work something out tonight. In the meantime, feel free to visit the archive and see if there's anything you fancy reading there.

Yours apologetically,


I have plenty of unwatched films to get through.
Yes my hair is getting long. I'm a hippy.