Tag Archives: SXSW

SXSW: Us And Them

Danny is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. He’s not as eloquent as Howard Beale, but he IS galvanized into action. Angry about the iniquities between the haves and the have nots, Danny decides to kick start a revolution by live-streaming an attack on a member of the 1%.

Danny (Jack Roth, son of Tim) picks Conrad (Tim Bentinck) as his target, a wealthy banker he holds hostage alongside his wife and daughter in their McMansion. Danny and his pals hope to inspire\terrify the elite into making change, forcing Conrad to choose between his wife and daughter. Whether or not this is a good idea, it certainly doesn’t go as planned. Danny’s co-conspirators are a little less “big picture” than he’d hoped, and Conrad refuses to play the game. The anger and frustration are palpable from both sides, raw with hard edges, everyone’s values questionable.

The truth is, Danny is just as prejudiced against ‘them’ as they are against him. No one has the moral upper hand. Who do you root for then, as this thriller spirals out of control? Writer-director Joe Martin taps into the heart of outsider politics but muddies the water with unsympathetic characters. It’s also reductive, filtering the conflict only through the class system in Britain, working class vs wealth. Primarily played as a dark comedy, some of the flashbacks weaken the punch lines.  I can’t say I was ever truly on board with this one. The pacing is weird, sometimes frenetic, sometimes quite sedentary. But it’s the mixed messaging that’s most disappointing. This movie loses its thread and rejects its own cause. When you finally make it to the end you may just find yourself rooting for the wanker with the garden spade, and that’s not an enviable position for anyone.

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SXSW: This Is Your Death

Before being cast in Breaking Bad, Giancarlo Esposito was bankrupt and depressed. He started wondering if maybe his family was better off without him. That’s when this script dropped into his lap. It was the right thing at the right time.

This Is Your Death follows Adam Rogers (Josh Duhamel), host of a Bachelor-style reality TV show where he witnesses a contestant go off the rails and commit some serious violence. Shaken, he vows to use his platform for good, so he partners with network exec Ilana (Famke Janssen) and director Sylvia (Caitlin Fitzgerald) to develop a new show where people will commit suicide on air. This sounds like a terrible idea, doesn’t it? Exploitative? this-is-your-deathThe exact opposite of what Adam seemed to intend? He hopes the show will give a voice to the disempowered, raise awareness for their plights, maybe even raise money for their widows and orphans. But you can probably guess that this idea is a monster, and once fed by ratings, it will take on its own gruesome agenda.

Adam is not as shallow as he seems; he cares for a troubled younger sister (Sarah Wayne Callies) and is crushed by her disapproval. Ilana is mostly just trying to cement her position at the top – it’s precarious up there, and she’s become a little ruthless. Sylvia is there against her will, bound by a contract and a little sickened by what she’s doing, even if she is rather good at it. The thing is, predictably, Americans respond the only way they know how: by tuning in. By baying for blood. By demanding more, more, MORE. So the show becomes a death machine, gladiator-style, with blood-lusting spectators egging on deeply depressed individuals. Adam, swept up in fame and success, begins to lose his humanity. Will a budding relationship with his director be enough to bring him back?

This movie has elements of dark comedy, and of satire – you’ll especially love the bit with James Franco. But it’s also a mirror being held up to a disturbing trend in reality TV. Is This Is Your Death that far off the mark?

Giancarlo Esposito stars in as well as directs this film. It’s clear that the themes of the film resonate with him personally. This is not easy to watch, and to be honest, I was surprised to be moved as I was, and quite early on. There’s a callousness to the reality-TV world, but This Is Your Death manages to peek around the curtains a bit to glimpse the softer underbelly. The film ended a bit abruptly for my taste, but it’s resonant and noble in its pursuit.

SXSW: Game Of Death

Laurence Morais Lagacé and Sebastien Landry are two young Canadian directors who apparently have wild and sick imaginations.

A bunch of teenagers, who’ve already had the sex and done the drugs, are just bored Game-of-Deathenough to try a dusty old board game, Game Of Death. They should have read the instructions first – once engaged, the game counts down the 24 people necessary TO MURDER in order to “win.” The game doesn’t stop until 24 are dead. When the clock runs out, if no one is killed, the game itself will execute a player. How stoned would you have to be for this to sound fun?

They do what any normal teenagers would: beer bongs. But failing to take this game seriously is a fatal mistake: when the clock runs out, one of the characters’ heads explodes. Like, explosively explodes. Yes, I know, I’m quite the colourful writer! Bow down if you must.

At any rate, this game is For Real. Now there are 23 left to be killed and some interesting choices to be made. Will the kids turn on each other, prey on their neighbours, or sit back and wait for their own skulls to go bust?

Interesting fact about teenagers: they are devoid of morals. Apparently. And video games have definitely made them callous!

Interesting fact about me: I cannot spend an hour and a half listening to a teenaged girl game-of-death-F69597cry. I assume this the same is also true of teenaged boys. I understand that some people cry under pressure, but for the sake of watchable movies, I think film makers need to dispense of this annoying soundtrack.

Interesting fact about this movie: exploding heads are NOT the most disturbing thing about it.

Should you watch it? Hey man, no judgments. There’s no real horror here; no anxiety, no foreboding, no creepiness, just straight up gore and blood lust, plenty of both, and some gratuitous bikini shots thrown in. Perfect guilt-watch?

 

SXSW: Baby Driver

Is this the absolute coolest movie ever?

Honestly, I think I’d pay my $12 just to see that opening scene again.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver, the best in the biz despite his young age, according to his boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey). But Baby has a glitch: he wears ear buds constantly to fight tinnitus. So to him, the whole world is a soundtrack. And you’re about to enter his world.

Doc never works with the same crew twice, so we see a rotation of criminals including MV5BMzk0NzMyNzcyN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTYwNDU5MDI@._V1_Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), Griff (Jon Bernthal), Buddy (Jon Hamm), and my personal favourite, Bats (Jamie Foxx), personal motto: “I’m the one with mental problems in the group. Position taken.” GUYS, HE’S NOT KIDDING.

But don’t get attached to any of those fellows. This is Baby’s movie. He’s being coerced into this life of crime, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good at it. He is, however, trying to get out, and nothing is as inspiring as the love of a good woman. So when Deborah (Lily James) soft shoes into his life, he’s got a boner for the open road. But wait – you didn’t think getting out would be that easy, did you?

This is a film by Edgar Wright, whom I love, unreservedly. This is a very different sort of film from him, but he’s already thrust himself to the top of the game. When you catch your breath at the end of the film, you’ll have to answer me truly: have you ever seen action to equal it? Ansel Elgort’s character Baby is obsessed with two things: music, and cars. And so is the film; car chases and music both turned WAY up to 11. Anything that gets between them is incidental.

MV5BMTEyMzQxMTI0ODZeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDQ2MDQ1OTAy._V1_Wright is a phenomenal writer, and Baby Driver is just as quippy and quotable as any other in his oeuvre. The music jangles, sometimes wildly incongruous to what’s developing on screen, sometimes deliciously ironic, but it stitches the film together between Wright’s explosive action sequences. Wright’s films are always kinetic. His own exuberance for film making comes across on the screen, is barely contained by it, in fact.

If Ryan Gosling from La La Land fucked Ryan Gosling from Drive, Baby Driver is what you’d get. On paper, this isn’t the kind of movie I normally care about, or for, but on the screen it sang to me, I fuck-yeahed in the dark of the theatre, and I can’t wait until August when I can see it again.

 

 

 

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Incidentally, I have a mini poster signed by Edgar Wright himself. If you’re interested in winning it, Follow us on Twitter (@AssholeMovies), and retweet the relevant post. Comments here are worth extra entries. Good luck!

 

 

Also: super DUPER bonus: check out the comments section for ROBERT RODRIGUEZ doing a Q&A with Edgar Wright and stars Eiza Gonzalez, Ansel Elgort & Jon Hamm.

SXSW: Two Pigeons

I can admit when I’m wrong.

Okay, no I can’t. But I’m going to make an exception here. You know I don’t handle horror well and so I didn’t make 2 Pigeons a high priority at SXSW, despite it having an interesting premise. And you know, about 10 seconds into the film, I realized that I was wrong. It’s already better looking and better sounding than I could have imagined.

Hussein (Mim Shaikh) is an untidy, unscrupulous estate agent; the film’s press release describes him as “oily, amoral” but I confess to two-pigeons-F71465-thumb-860xauto-65830sort of liking him, probably mostly for his loud, flashy suits. Hussein seems like a pretty regular bloke. He gets up, brushes his teeth, hustles his clients, masturbates, goes to bed, does it again. But when Hussein leaves his apartment, we realize he isn’t so regular after all. He doesn’t know it, but he’s got an uninvited, unseen guest living in his home. Orlan (Javier Botet) only comes out at night, or when Hussein’s at work. Why is he doing this? And for how long? Only his dangerously thin frame hints at a time frame no one is comfortable with.

Turns out, this isn’t so much a horror as a super creepy movie. I could possibly handle a stranger secretly living beneath my bed, but I CANNOT abide by a stranger “recycling” his mouthwash back into our (secretly, to me) communal bottle, or using my face cloth in areas of the body that are NOT THE FACE. Although, note to anyone secretly living in my home right now: please, please avail yourself of whatever breakfast cereal you like. All you can eat. I promise, I eat the stuff so rarely I won’t even notice.

But back to the why: this guy isn’t just getting a free ride, he’s fucking with his landlord-dupe. This movie seriously preys on our unconscious fears: that even with our doors safely locked, our bodies, our safety, our personal space are not inviolable while we sleep. Every day, Orlan’s violation and desecration escalates. YOUR SKIN WILL CRAWL.

The one problem I had with the film is how unperceptive Hussein is. It feels just a tad too much that no matter how far Orlan takes the transgressions, Hussein just kind of shrugs it off. And the harder Orlan works at being disgusting, the more personal it seems. And yet director Dominic Bridges keeps us in the dark for far too long.

So that’s it. That’s as far as I’ll take you. Should you watch it? That depends entirely on the iron in your stomach.

 

 

SXSW: Porto

porto-F70243.jpgThe loss of Anton Yelchin somehow seems larger as time passes.  As you probably know, he died tragically about a year ago, crushed by his own (faulty) car as he checked his mail.  The outpouring of grief from his peers was massive at the time, and the more I learn about him, the more I get it.  He was a glue guy, an artist, a student of film, a true professional.  He made everything easier for those around him.  Those sentiments were echoed by Gabe Klinger during the Q&A for Porto at SXSW.  Porto is Klinger’s first narrative feature and he freely admitted how much Yelchin helped everyone involved and made the project better, because of Yelchin’s vast knowledge of and experience in making movies.

Technically, Porto is an interesting movie because it was shot on three different types of film: 8mm, 16mm and 35mm.  And it IS film, none of this was shot using a digital camera, and the movie feels better for it.  There is something about film that digital can’t match yet – a depth, a richness, and a darkness.  All those elements are appropriate for Porto, which is a story of intense love and loss, and the film types neatly indicate which time period we’re currently watching.

Porto’s lack of continuity makes a conventional story feel a bit more unconventional, but it also leads to repetition.  I wondered during the film whether that repetition was a consequence of Yelchin’s death but it appears to have been an intentional narrative choice, since a little post-movie research shows that filming was complete before he died.  The fact that a few details were added, or the scene extended, helped explain the repetition but I still found it to be a distracting choice.

That distraction was a minor one, especially considering the great chemistry between Yelchin and Lucie Lucas that’s on display here.  The leads’ performances make Porto worth watching.  Yelchin and Lucas have a spark that makes the audience feel the allure and power of this very brief relationship, and that in turn makes us understand why they still reminisce about their short time together.  I am sure Lucas deserves as much credit for that as Yelchin, as she’s his equal on screen.  Still, it’s hard not to focus on Yelchin since this might be the last time we see him, and I am struck by how much I took his effortless performances for granted until he was gone.

 

 

SXSW: Bill Frisell, A Portrait

Bill Frisell’s discography is incomparable. He’s worked with the best of the best, all of whom consider HIM to be The Best. He’s an actual guitar hero, his influence widespread, his sound envied and copies and admired. But Bill remains an unsung guitar hero, his name not well-known to those outside the business, and he’s pretty content to keep it that way. This documentary, however, is a character portrait of this very interesting man, and very influential musician.

MV5BM2Y1N2I1OTktMGIxYy00N2I1LTljOTMtZjBjM2IzNDRiNjg4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzMwNzMyMjk@._V1_The good thing about this documentary is that so many people line up to talk about Frisell: director Emma Franz assembles the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, and more, and the amazing thing is that all of the people have nothing but glowing things to say about the man. The GREAT thing about this documentary, though, is that it contains plenty of live music to love and appreciate, and gosh he’s got a lot.

Bill Frisell seems reluctant to talk about himself (he is however, inclined to sing the praises of other artists), so every nugget teased out feels like a treasure. This documentary will look at the very things that shaped his sound, with particular time spent peering into his brilliant mind and trying to understand music the way he does. There’s lots of great insight here, an intimacy I hardly dared hope for.

His guitar collection is impressive, but not as impressive as his genuine love for each one. It’s so endearing. What a great documentary to have stumbled upon, and I sincerely hope that it’ll be available for your perusal also.

 

SXSW: Lake Bodom

True story: in June 1960, four kids (two 15-year-old girls and their 18-year-old boyfriends) went camping. Three of them were found dead, stabbed and bludgeoned to death; the fourth was bloodied and blank, with no recollection of the violent attack. This case has remain unsolved in Finland for nearly 6 decades, but theories have turned into legends, and this film is born of those campfire ashes.

In Lake Bodom, Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mantyla) is obsessed with lake-bodom-2016-movie-featuredthe murders. He talks his friend Elias (Mikael Gabriel) into helping him recreate them, hoping to solve them once and for all, but Elias is in it for the sex, not so much the solving. They coax along two best friends who think they’re going on a very different trip – Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee) is happy to escape her oppressively-religious home life, and Nora (Mimosa Willamo) is just happy to spend time with Ida.

Since this is a horror movie, you know what’s coming next: this isn’t just a recreation. Shit goes down! But Lake Bodom isn’t quite as predictable or straight-up as that. There’s a series of twists that defy expectation, melding several horror tropes into a single film, keeping you guessing and interested and creeped the fuck out. This film looks better than any horror film has to. Some of the shots are full-stop beautiful, which only adds to the ambiance. Atmospheric and well-paced, Lake Bodom provides thrills and anxiety in equal measure, earning every drop of blood splashed across the screen.

Lake Bodom has a relatively low body count, but if you’re in it for the gore, no worries: it makes each one count. In detail. Graphic, brutal detail. Fans of horror who are tired of the same old thing are going to love this. Well, love and hate this. It really is quite scary and maybe not as “fun” as a traditional slasher flick – there’s real meat here, if you can stomach it.

Lake Bodom will be released exclusively on Shudder May 2017.

 

 

 

SXSW: Colossal

colossal-F71894Other than a major difference in size, Godzilla and a drunk have a lot in common.  They both stumble around erratically, they both have a temper, and they both wreck a lot of stuff.  Though Colossal does not feature Godzilla, presumably due to licencing issues, it does feature a giant monster terrorizing an Asian city (though this time it’s Seoul, Korea instead of Tokyo, Japan).  As you’d expect, the monster’s appearance is big news, so even Gloria (Anne Hathaway) hears about it eventually.  It takes a while for her though because of how drunk she got the night before.

Gloria’s got a lot of problems.  She’s just been kicked out by her longtime boyfriend for drinking too much and she’s been unemployed for way too long.  She’s got no direction and no prospects, so after losing her relationship and place to stay, she heads to her hometown and meets up with her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis).  Since Oscar owns a bar, Gloria stays there all night drinking, and a giant monster appears in Seoul about the time she’s stumbling home the next morning.

Colossal is different than I expected, which is not a bad thing.  Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo has created something unique, something much different than any kaiju movie I’ve ever seen.  Colossal is slow paced and focuses largely on people, not monsters, and the characters’ personal growth (/lack thereof) is a very important part of the story.  I don’t want to say more about what Colossal is or isn’t, as I think trying to figure out this movie is part of the fun.  There are definitely some surprises along the way, and those were high points for me.  It’s always interesting when a movie takes an unexpected turn and Colossal offers a few of them.

In support of the unique story, Hathaway and Sudeikis both deliver excellent performances, and the quality of those performances is why this movie works so well.  Seeing Gloria and Oscar reconnect after all these years, discovering each other as adults, is something we can all relate to but we soon learn that the stakes are a little higher here, because Seoul is in peril every morning.

Colossal is set to be released in North America on April 7, 2017.  If you’re interested in seeing a different kind of kaiju movie, one that is more character study than city-destroying rampage, then Colossal is worth watching.

Free Fire

Free Fire is basically a movie about an HR issue. Justine and Ord are two “point guys” in an arms deal. She’s bringing Chris (Cillian Murphy), an IRA guy who needs some M-16s to the table, along with his rag-tag crew, and he’s bringing Vernon (Sharlto Copley), the money-obsessed guy with a van full of guns (although, notably, NOT M-16s) and his own motley crew. From the minute these two rival gangs meet, the two sides are twitchy. All they have free-fire1to do is exchange the briefcase full of cash for the crates full of guns, and the deal is done. But they just rub each other the wrong way. Everyone’s got an unchecked ego, everyone wants to be the boss, and nobody’s going to make this easy. If arms dealers had HR ladies stashed away in some ficus-strewn office, all of this could have been resolved with a stress ball and some trust exercises. But arms dealers tend to offer very few benefits as employers, so instead it goes to hell.

It goes gloriously to hell. It turns out that the driver of the first gang had an issue with the driver of the other gang the night before, and seeing each other turns a bad situation worse. Suddenly everyone’s whipping out their little pistols and bullets are flying. How many bullets? About 7000 rounds, said director Ben Wheatley. That’s a LOT of bullets. So the whole of the movie takes place in this abandoned warehouse where this arms deal has been all but forgotten, everyone shooting at each other, everyone forgetting which side they’re supposed to be on, the sides in fact disintegrating as it quickly becomes every man for himself.

I knew going in that Free Fire is a 70s shoot-em-up genre film, but I had failed to fathom how funny it is. Sharlto Copley is an absolute scene-stealer, his over-the-top character MV5BZjk1NjRiNzctZWFiOS00MGJkLWE0YWEtYTI5ODBmYzQwNjg4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_really embodies the pure fun and wackiness of this film. It’s madcap madness and I totally loved every minute of it. I didn’t know I could have so much fun at a Ben Wheatley film. A terrific script by Wheatley and Amy Jump is quotable, the cheeky dialogue rolling off the tongues of a delightful ensemble cast. The frenetic, non-stop energy sometimes makes it difficult to keep track of who is shooting who, and where, but once you realize that even the principal players are confused, it really takes the pressure off. The anarchy is entertaining and you can tell it was as gleefully acted and directed as it is consumed. No true hero ever distinguishes him or herself , which doesn’t mean you won’t find your own favourite to root for, only that’ it’s an even playing field where anything is possible.

Free Fire was meticulously choreographed by Wheatley but still required logistic heroics of cinematographer Laurie Rose and precision editing by Wheatley and Jump. The movie charmed me with its audacious humour but it also pulls off an hour-long assault that sounds one-note on paper but honestly, I could have had more. I love the recklessness, the wickedness, the irreverence; I was greedy for it the whole way through and Ben Wheatley served it up as only he could.

 

 

 

Check out the comments section for a Q&A with Wheatley and some of the cast!