Category Archives: journalism

Movie Review – The Basement

Review of low-budget horror/crime film The Basement over at Flickering Myth and below…

The Basement

Taking elements from crime and horror movies such as Silence of the LambsHostel and Saw and putting them all together in a sickly grim stew, at first look The Basement doesn’t appear to be doing anything too original.  Horror fans have seen a setup of character gets abducted by a lone nut and tortured in different ways countless times. However, with strong performances from its two leads and a collection of disturbingly entertaining scenes plus a strong resolution, the low-budget flick is worth sticking with.

Focusing on the interplay between imprisoned wealthy rock guitarist Craig (Cayleb Long) and serial killer Bill Anderson (Jackson Davis), most of the film is set in the basement of the title, where the two perform their bizarre psycho-therapy session.

The film has a good line in bleak humour, thanks to Long’s skill at bringing in different characters from his past and playing them out to Craig, who in turn is forced to perform the part of Bill. The ongoing session is alternately funny and tragic, with a few moments of close-up gross out torture.

The other sections of the film fare less well. Mischa Barton, the best known name in this film, is good as Kelly, but has less time to develop her role as the wife of the missing Craig. She does well with the scenes she is in, however, and is part of the wider story that elevates the film over a purely simplified shock and horror plot. Her scenes with best friend Bianca (Bailey Anne Borders) in the high luxury of her LA mansion are nicely put together and contrast well with the horrors that her partner is undergoing in the basement.

While the film is noticeably low-budget, it is put together professionally and features some good cinematography and edits. The pace mostly switches from extended scenes in the basement back to Kelly and Bianca trying to decide what to do next. Effective music and sound design also work in amping up the tension bit by bit.

Overall, given the pretty common start off for the movie, it turns out to be a surprisingly decent film. While baring some surface similarities with the M. Night Shyamalan movie Split, it turns out to be a very different beast, and is more in keeping with crime and suspense tales rather than anything more fantastical. What we have with The Basement is a horror designed to shock and surprise. It passes the test.

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Movie Review – What Still Remains

Review of post-global virus thriller What Still Remains is over at Flickering Myth and below…

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Oh, the apocalypse. Edging ever closer it seems, and in the thriller What Still Remains it’s there in all its grim glory. Desolate mountaintops and lonely valleys are captured in fine detail, bringing home a real sense of fragile isolation in this post-global virus world. The hunt for edible food, while also avoiding the scarred zombie-like ‘berserkers’ proves to be a quest in itself for anyone attempting to live more than five minutes.

Amidst this backdrop recently bereaved  of her family Anna (Lulu Antariksa), has to decide how much she can trust Peter (Colin O’Donaghue), a tough warrior type who promises her safe passage to his community across the wilds.

Both Anna and the audience soon have their doubts, not least when Peter proves to be just  a little too trigger happy. But he seems a far better bet than the survivors marauding around at every turn. Plus, he has nicer hair.

But in all seriousness, this gets to the heart of this moralistically ambitious film. It asks the question ‘who’s the most human?’, the good looking ones who speak properly and have all the right survival equipment, or the ones who howl and whistle and wear animal masks?

The two leads play against each other well enough, and there is a palpable sense that something horrible is just around the corner. And being a post-apocalyptic landscape, that is an entirely reasonable guess.

Also without giving too much away, there is also a good link between survivalist communities and cult religions of the kind that would undoubtedly spring up in such a situation. In this community Mimi Rogers’ character provides some icy tension of life in a home constantly under threat from outsiders.

All in all, the film provides a disturbing enough look at what could be in store for a badly messed up Earth. But with too much of the weight of humanity – and the film itself – specifically being carried by the lead, it doesn’t really have enough to go truly viral.

 

Movie Review – C’est La Vie

My review of French comedy C’est La Vie is over at FilmInk and below…

c'est la vie

The high stress, anxiety and emotion of planning a wedding reception is explored in this French comedy of manners.

Nakache and Toledano’s (The Intouchables, Samba) film follows experienced caterer Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri) as he attempts to throw a lavish wedding reception for Helena and Pierre in a grand 17th century chateau. He has delivered hundreds of wedding receptions in the past, all without a problem. What could possibly go wrong?

Pretty much everything as it turns out. Max and his team have been tasked with creating an event that is ‘sober, chic and elegant’. But we wouldn’t be left with much of a story if that was the outcome. Instead, farcical moments keep coming thick and fast, as we go from one pratfall to another. Max’s face displays a fixed grin at times, with the tension of the night threatening to explode at any moment.

He constantly instructs the staff to ‘adapt’, even when there are power outages and the only way to stave off guests’ hunger is with pastries and sparkling water.

Although the film is humorous by nature, with elements of slapstick tied in, it also has a sensitive humanitarian value at its heart. The stories of the players allow for a good measure of social realism to tincture the laughs, with Vincent Macaigne’s nervous-breakdown recovering teacher, Alban Ivanov’s clueless cook and Jean-Pierre Rouve’s lost photographer all played with heartfelt compassion.

A key feature of the film is that all the characters are largely sympathetic. Even when they are lashing out at each other, there’s always a perceivable reason why. So, when the party entertainer James (Gilles Lellouche) and Max’s assistant Adele (Eye Hadira) are sniping at each other in ever more comic and snarky tones, we always know why and appreciate the characters of both.

The element of reality keeps even the more absurd comic scenes firmly grounded, with subtly deployed scripting and cinematography offering the audience an insight into the characters’ inner lives. Dramatic internal struggles are touched upon and artfully hinted at, and we are left with a story of believable people with realistic concerns and aims.

Ultimately though, it’s a roaring good comedy which does far more for French film than it does for the wedding reception industry, which looks like bloody hard work. Still, c’est la vie…

 

In the park, but not down

In the park I feel able to relax, to experience a calm and peaceful tranquility away from the pressures and demands of my desk. The park is a new place to me, being as I am a newcomer to Sydney, but I have found it and the surrounding area to be extremely welcoming and inspiring. 

Most days I will take a stroll around the parkland, stopping to notice the various plants, trees and brightly hued birds swooping around the foliage or pecking on the ground’s surface. I sometimes sit with notebook and pen, scribbling down new ideas for stories or poems. But I don’t force them out of my head-space. I am soon drawn back to my present area and the park, and can feel happy and content to be a small part of something much bigger than myself.

My own culture is a mixture of things, but the concept of parkland originated in Europe, as I did, so I suppose we have that in common. More than anything else though, the idea of an urban park is a place in the city that everyone can enjoy equally and respectfully. And that is certainly something to get behind, I think…

Europe at Sea

The following review of the documentary feature ‘Europe at Sea’ appears below and over at Flickering Myth.

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Europe at Sea, an hour-long documentary film covering a wide range of issues all centred on the EU’s ability to cope with the various threats to its security, is a skillfully produced investigative feature.

Focusing on Federica Mogherini, the head of the EU Foreign and Security Policy as she formulates a global approach to world and European issues, the film mixes her personal responses to the job with insightful journalism on the ongoing issues of the day.

Mogherini is in effect the lead of this film, and her willingness to discuss and put across new ideas in the planning and development of security issues is the film’s most important comment. Her relative youth for such a high position is looked at, with her experience and ability being cited alongside the EU’s desire to bring fresh ideas into play for tackling new and unexpected concerns.

Produced by the film company Springshot, the documentary blends powerful cinematography with animated segments to present hard-hitting facts and information. A balanced and occasionally dryly humourous voice-over also helps to contextualise the quick delivery of information. Designed partly to take viewers away from dull political rhetoric and ill-informed tirades, Europe at Sea takes a close look at how Europe is able to combat the rapidly growing security and humanitarian challenges that are present both within and outside its borders.

The sobering and disquieting footage of the migrant crisis and its impact is one of the areas the film looks at in detail.  Operation Sophia – named after a rescued Somali woman’s baby born on a German frigate and operating since 2015 – is followed closely as the camera crew were allowed exclusive access to their working schedule in the Southern Mediterranean Sea.

The film also examines the implications of Donald Trump’s America, the threat of North Korea and the confusion surrounding the UK’s Brexit vote.  All of this is presented taking a methodical and balanced approach, making the most of both the powerful visuals and Mogherini’s practical and professional approach to showcase the essential work being done.

The Perfect Guy review

The Perfect Guy reviewed on The Metropolist …

Online Portfolio

So, I have a ‘webfolio‘. Put together by Contently, it shows off some of my articles in a pretty attractive way. Basically this translates as – ‘I’m looking for work’. Anyway, all the best for 2015!

https://robertwmonk.contently.com/