My review of The Killings of Tony Blair is over at Flickering Myth and below…
For many people outside of the political classes George Galloway has been something of a perplexing figure. Someone with the ability to lucidly draw attention to the many problems of world politics – he defended himself memorably in front of the US senate – he is someone with a gift for soundbites and pithy responses.
However, the decision to front this feature documentary himself is a big mistake. Despite having the ability and the credentials to bring necessary discussion post-Chilcot on Blair’s career, Galloway is also someone with the potential to draw attention away from the facts. Many who remember his ill-judged reality TV appearance see him as a fame-hungry provocateur, not really an attribute needed for a serious investigations of Blair’s money making activities and alleged war crimes.
The documentary would therefore have been far more hard-hitting without Galloway at its centre. Maybe it would have been better if he had just acted as the narrator? But no, he’s there every five minutes, usually at the centre of talks with a long list of political and cultural figures. Showing off his resplendent overcoat for all to approve of, or door stepping political figures in roving reporter mode.
Galloway is without doubt a smart and critical thinker, but making yourself the focus when the point is an analysis of someone else’s decisions makes the final product lost and confused.
This is not the only problem. Hurried looking satirical animation just looks amateurish and the variety of talking heads popping up just stretches out the running time. All in all then, not the best stick to beat old Tony with. I’m sure the facts speak louder than George on this occasion…
The Killings of Tony Blair is available on DVD and digital HD now.
- thousands of conversations
all happening at once
more and more people
all doing their stuff
the latest point needs to be heard
and the talking explosion is more than one word
- sounds on phones, on trains and on cars
in offices, hospitals, clubs and in bars
the sounds are getting louder just as I’m getting older
and silence is as precious as it’s rare
and we might want to care
or develop better ear plugs
My review of the stoned campsite thriller Dark Cove is over at Flickering Myth now and below.
Dark Cove is a Canadian indie thriller aiming for scares, intense frights and human tragedy. Hammering home the point that camping is never really a good idea, especially if you don’t know the terrain, the low-budget flick delivers less than it promises – which to be fair, wasn’t a lot to begin with.
Five friends from the city go off to the beach on the ‘wild side’ of Vancouver Island with the express aim of getting high and chilling out. With the beers, weed and magic mushrooms all packed up, off they set for a holiday of adventure. They then proceed to pontificate on a number of instantly forgettable subjects for more than half the movie. The scenery however is beautiful and this is the main thing that provides some kind of respite from the sparsity of ideas on show.
It is really in the scripting, pacing and acting that the flick comes a cropper. I’m all for slow build-ups when necessary, but here it takes over 45 mins for anything to actually happen. Prior to that it’s all unnatural sounding dialogue interspersed with gurning juvenalia and crude attempts at humour. This plus a painful soundtrack of ‘let’s get stoned’ bro-anthems detracts from any possibility of caring too much about what might happen.
Things only start to pick up after the introduction of three hippy, surfer types, two Australians and one Brit (cue bizarre accent) into the area. The Canadians, high on ‘shrooms, join the visitors for a bit of a sing along around the camp fire. That night, things take a grim turn as one of the visitors is a rapist who promptly gets beaten to death. The friends must then attempt to hide the body from the attentions of the other two travellers from overseas. When one of them finds out the film’s best part takes place. ‘Best’ as in hilariously atrocious, that is.
He’s got bottles for fingers
And cans for hands
A dumbphone extension
Leading straight to the glands
I know what he’s after
Cos I used to be the same
A blinding of the drama
And some pissing down the drain
Now he’s got no time for dinner
Or anything sane
But the clock is still ticking
And still he might change
But he might not.
Here I lay
Struck cold by a van
On the motorway.
Still and quiet
Like a dead bird or rabbit
Though getting hit by cars
Is not in my habit.
I turn and wave
As each new one
Passes me by
Bits of bone
Bits of flesh
Blowing from tarmac
Got proper stuck from A to Z
So chucked the roadmap instead
Drive on or walk on
There’s nothing left to see
Abandoned dogs listen
I promise them:
We shall run again
Review of Blu-ray review of Suture (1993) over at Flickering Myth and below…
Suture is a resolutely smart film. The title refers to the film theorist’s view of a film stitching ideas and themes into an audience’s perception of a film so wholly and completely that all sorts of things can be accepted. We as humans love to look for order in chaos, to find patterns where there may be none and to create plausibility for all kinds of bizarre outcomes.
The neo-noir crime story takes this view of film and uses it to explore a variety of moral and philosophical questions. How far can an audience be led down one path – and how great is their desire to be fully immersed in the story, despite logic threatening to shatter the suspension of disbelief?
The central problem that the film’s makers teasingly hope that the audience will put to one side is that the two brothers, Clay (Dennis Haysbert) and Vincent (Michael Harris) are clearly of different ethnicity. However, in the world of the story itself they are half-brothers with the same father and are frequently said to look so alike as to be practically indistinguishable.
The film is so well made that it goes beyond simply being a film professors idea of an experimental joke and showcases a stylish and captivating crime mystery.
Without giving too much away – Suture is a film to be experienced best with little or no prior knowledge of the plot – Siegel and McGehee have created a remarkable film. With influences ranging from Hitchcock and Frankenheimer to the crime sagas of the 40’s, this is a film wholly deserving to be seen by a fresh new audience.
Audio commentary with writer-directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee
All-new interviews with Siegel, McGehee, executive producer Steven Soderbergh, actor Dennis Haysbert, cinematographer Greg Gardiner, editor Lauren Zuckerman and production designer Kelly McGehee
Birds Past, Siegel & McGehee’s first short film, about two young San Franciscans who journey to Bodega Bay along the path set by Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s classic, The Birds.
US theatrical trailer
European theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm
Review of The Here After over at Flickering Myth and below…
With The Here After, Magnus von Horn creates a disturbing vision of controlled chaos of judgement and retribution. Starring Swedish pop star Ulrik Munther, the film relates the social reaction to a crime committed in rural Sweden. Von Horn takes a minimalist approach to the story, only allowing key elements to trickle out as the tension steadily amps up.
The non-mainstream approach of only letting the audience in bit by bit works well for the most part, with a good deal of sympathy for the central character’s plight being built up before all the cards in the pack are dealt out.
The main figure in all of this is John (Munther) who we meet at the start of the film leaving an unnamed institution in the care of his father (Mats Blomgren). The two travel back to their home town, partaking in the traditionally stifled conversation between teenage son and mildly stressed dad. Back at home, John play fights with younger brother Filip (a smartly funny show from Alexander Nordgren) and helps out with the household chores. No mention is made of where John has been or why he was there.
Aside from John’s shell-shocked attempts to settle down into family life (which, with the addition of a sickly Grandfather, is wholly and tellingly comprised of male characters) the early scenes convey an odd but superficially calm exterior.
The first clear sign that something far darker is under wraps is an encounter with a member of the town’s folk at the local supermarket. The shocking event acts as a trigger to the uncovering of the truth. There won’t be any spoilers given away here, suffice to say that the machinations of justice, moral judgement and social pressures loom large over the whole piece.
A fantastic performance from Munther showcases the difficulties communities face in the aftermath of tragedy and violence. Exactly how to come to terms with the realities of repressed anger and unresolved emotional activity is a problem laid out here in all its grim detail.
Drawing inevitable comparisons with Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, this tale of alienation and social exclusion is a tense, visually striking film displaying a quiet, studied gravitas.
The DVD includes two short films by Magnus von Horn, Echo (2008) and Without Snow (2011)
Picturing a bird
Brought down by a sniper
And wondering what
The fallout will be
I thought travelling light
Would make the most sense
As I need the strength
To remain free
The threats to our lifestyle
Are both real and authentic
And test what
We want to see
My review of the incredible Remainder by Omer Fast is over at Flickering Myth and below…
1. The faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information.
2. Something remembered from the past.
3. A potentially faltering and problematic thing with the capacity to occlude and confuse.
In Remainder, the feature film debut from Omer Fast, an intricately woven web of ideas and codes is constructed, both on-screen and off. The viewer is lured into a perplexing thriller that brings philosophical vision into a detailed run through of noir-ish themes and psychological horror plays. Adapted from Tom McCarthy’s cult novel, the movie shares the disturbing nature of films as diverse as Memento, Mulholland Drive, Pi and Spellbound.
Fast is an acclaimed visual artist well versed in the mind’s potential for playing tricks on an individual. Much of his work has focused on the subjective nature of reality, with video pieces asking questions of conventional storytelling and the erratic blurring of appearances. A picture never lies, we once learned. Fast has always been intrigued by showing how they frequently do, and providing insight into exactly how this can be.
In Remainder he uses a random event to explore how identity and reality is created. When an unnamed man (Tom Sturridge, Far From the Madding Crowd) is hit on the head by a falling object he awakens from a coma to find his memory erased and a compensation package for £8.5m. His lawyer instructs him that the money is his on the condition that he says nothing about the accident. This isn’t a problem; he recalls nothing. The only thing he can remember are tiny snapshots of images which he obsessively reconstructs into physical form, hoping to unlock further clues about his past life. As he delves deeper into the mystery surrounding him, he becomes embroiled in intrigue, suspense and immediate danger.
Remainder is a fascinating film, full of the real personal horror of losing one’s footing in the reality of life. Fundamentally it is concerned with trauma, an area that Sturridge brings out wonderfully well in his portrayal of the unknown protagonist. He manages to play the lead as a victim who is facing a profound internal struggle – while also imbuing him with a grim determination. There’s a strange sense of optimism in this, that the human spirit is so proud it will fight against debilitating events, looking for understanding and meaning.
The protagonist – an anti-hero really – is certainly not there to invite sympathy. At times he comes across as a rich kid spending his new found wealth on frivolous and speculative activities. There is method in his memory problems, though as he expends more and more effort – and cash – on bringing his memories back to life. In the reconstruction of various homes and property, Fast appears to be making a side comment on the gentrification of urban city areas (the film is based in London but the filming locations are as hared with the German capital Berlin).
Fast is also clearly concerned with the obsessions of film. There is more than a sense of Kubrick about Sturridge’s character; he tries to rebuild his memories with a huge team of assistants deliberating on exactly how to get the right sound, precise smells and accurate colour to the documenting of internal pictures. As well as his striking central performance, there is fine support from Cush Jumbo (The Good Wife), Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey) and Arsher Ali (Four Lions).
A remarkable movie, Remainder is a spectacular and mind-mangling trip.
Remainder is in UK Cinemas and on demand from June 24th.
My review of the feature doc The Seventh Fire is at The Metropolist and below.
The Seventh Fire is a drama documentary concentrating on the poverty and social deprivation of the Native American Ojibwe tribe living deep within Minnesota’s White Earth Indian Reservation. The very fact that the reservation is still referred to in some areas as the ‘Indian’ reservation goes some way to showing the cultural, political and sociological barriers still in evidence.
Jake Pettibone Riccobono’s feature debut provides a far reaching view of the deep rooted problems facing these people. Concentrating on two men, the older Rob Brown and 17 year old Kevin, the film charts the trials of living in a community where crime and violence is part of the natural order of things.
Brown, a complex character in his early 40’s, is about to face prison for the fifth time. Throughout the film he struggles to understand his responsibility in continuing down a path of destruction and abuse. The sharpness and wit of Brown’s self-reflection is brought out in sympathetic detail, and a character emerges of both victim and anti-hero fighting back against a repressive system. This is granted extra emphasis on the soundtrack, with Brown’s style of rap-poetry, worked on during long hours in the cell, given the space and room to impress.
The character of Kevin is more troubling. The teen meth addict and dealer aims to be the biggest drug lord on the reservation, and is clearly inspired by Brown’s prison exploits. He seems to have his life mapped out already, with a desire for more cash, drugs and power the only thing keeping him going. But underneath the tough guy exterior however is just another lost young man.
The script doesn’t hold back, and is not interested in showing the men in their best light. Indeed, this is a tough watch, with hard hitting points to make about American society and crimes of the past. The men are, in effect, victims of an abusive society and have been marked by their experiences just as clearly as the intricate tattoos they are so eager to display.
The Seventh Fire is a profoundly moving film, with haunting lessons to teach and difficult questions to ask. The executive production team, including Terrence Malick and Natalie Portman, clearly saw something in the original screenplay more than worthy of attention, and one can only applaud their decision to triumph the work.