Friday, 27 November 2015

Ridley Scott teases the opening scene of Blade Runner 2

One of Hollywood’s biggest blabbermouths is at it again. This time detailing the upcoming sequel’s opening scene. Speaking at the AFI (American Film Institute) Festival in Los Angeles, Ridley Scott, who directed the first film and is producing the sequel, said . . . and this is according to Slash Film and Todd Gilchrist:

"We decided to start the film off with the original starting block of the original film. We always loved the idea of a dystopian universe, and we start off at what I describe as a ‘factory farm’ – what would be a flat land with farming. Wyoming. Flat, not rolling – you can see for 20 miles. No fences, just ploughed, dry dirt."

"Turn around and you see a massive tree, just dead, but the tree is being supported and kept alive by wires that are holding the tree up. It’s a bit like The Grapes of Wrath; there’s dust, and the tree is still standing. By that tree is a traditional, Grapes of Wrath-type white cottage with a porch."

"Behind it at a distance of two miles, in the twilight, is this massive combine harvester that’s fertilising this ground. You’ve got 16 Klieg lights on the front, and this combine is four times the size of this cottage. And now a 'spinner' [the flying cars featured in the film] comes flying in, creating dust."

"Of course, traditionally chased by a dog that barks, the doors open, a guy gets out and there you’ve got Rick Deckard. He walks in to the cottage, opens the door, smells stew, sits down and waits for the guy to pull up to the house to arrive."

"The guy’s seen him, so the guy pulls the combine behind the cottage and it towers three stories above it, and the man climbs down from a ladder – a big man. He steps onto the balcony and he goes to Harrison [Ford]’s side. The cottage actually [creaks]; this guy’s got to be 350 pounds. I’m not going to say anything else – you’ll have to go see the movie."

Though, if you’d like an idea of what comes next, the original screenplay for Blade Runner can be found online and it features this exact scene played out to completion.

Previously released information about the film includes that Harrison Ford is set to return as Deckard, the titular blade runner (replicant/android hunter) from the first film. Ryan Gosling has also recently confirmed that he is set to star in the sequel alongside Ford. Denis Villeneuve, most well-known for Prisoners and this year’s Sicario, has also been confirmed to direct the film, with Roger Deakins providing the cinematography.

That’s quite the creative team, but will Blade Runner 2 deliver?

This news piece was originally written for a university-assessed radio show project.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Hallow Review – Post-Natal Infestation

Corin Hardy’s The Hallow is horror with a purpose. He’s crafted a genre movie in which the brilliant production values are matched by real allegorical weight and where what the characters go through emotionally is just a frightening as what they’re exposed to physically.

Joseph Mawle plays Adam, husband to Bojana Novakovic’s Claire and father to their infant son. The two of them have recently moved their family away from the hustle and bustle of London so Adam can pursue his ’tree doctor’-ing in the stunning Irish countryside. But beneath the sweeping landscapes lie dark forests, and in those forests something darker still.

However, what begins as an environmentalism parable soon morphs into a far more human post-natal depression allegory as Adam and Claire’s dearest of treasures is in danger of being snatched from them.

Hardy knows just how great an empathy device he’s crafted with this child abduction threat and it ensures the stakes are never less than life and death. It’s not long before the unease reaches palpable levels, but Hardy refuses to relent and the tension continues to rise.

In this regard, the pacing can seem unconventional and, at times, unsustainable, but Hardy knows right where he’s leading us. Some beats seem to hit a little earlier than expected, but by the time the big finale comes around, everything feels just right.

Hardy is constantly toying with the audience, challenging their understanding and acceptance of genre tropes and utilizing a killer streak of dramatic irony. Despite this confidence with generic convention, many of the basic narrative beats do play out as expected, but that simply feels part of Hardy’s assured storytelling. I was never bored by the unsurprising plot developments, instead anticipating the story’s next twist and turn became an intrinsic part of the game and left dread’s dark shadow looming large over the unfolding action.

The narrative expertise is more than matched by the filmmaking technique on display. Firstly, Steve Fanagan’s sound design is superb and it does a lot of the heavy lifting early on before the hordes are let loose. Branches snap, gooey bits squelch and bones crunch to create a gloriously visceral soundscape. Add this to John Nolan’s outstanding CG-enhanced practical monster effects and Hardy’s got a film that belies its (presumably) minimal budget at every turn.

In The Hallow, great monster design, stunning visuals, affecting performances, and poised direction combine to create a terrific thematically driven twisted fairytale chiller. Put simply, Corin Hardy’s debut feature is one of the horror standouts of the year. See it!


P.S. Make sure you stick around for the gorgeous over-the-credits shot!

A big thank you to the FDA for hosting the screening!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse Review – At least the poster’s good

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is notable for being part of a new wave of funky retro-inspired horror movie posters. So it’s a shame the movie doesn’t live up the groovy artwork.

Three high school best friends (played by Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joey Morgan) are increasingly unsure of where they each stand with regards to their continued Scouts membership. Secret plans are made that are all but guaranteed to upset one of the members of the group, but don’t get too involved because it isn’t long until the zombie apocalypse comes rolling into town. The trio have to reconcile their feelings and team up to kick some zombie ass!!

As a set-up, it’s fine. That’s more than can be said for the execution, though. Christopher B. Landon (director) drops the wit of the best zombie comedies (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and Night of the Living Deb etc.) in favour of lowest common denominator R-rated bro-comedy. Most of this boorishness comes courtesy of Carter (Miller), the ‘irritating’ one to Morgan’s ‘loser’, with Sheridan’s Ben sitting somewhere in the middle.

It’s a significant step-down for Sheridan, who first blew me away in Jeff Nichols’ Mud. But some of that magic does just does shine through in places. Sentimental it may become, but the group’s rapport, led by Sheridan, is pretty much the best thing in the movie.

The zombie stuff has all been done before and even when the film tries to change things up a bit with the finale’s Dead Rising-esque makeshift weapons, they raise the body count but not the pulse. It’s a rather damning lesson that zombies aren’t enough; that there has to be something more, some kind of emotional or thematic core worth sticking around for. While they head in the right direction with the ‘I’m changing, but are my friends’ relationship line, it just isn’t enough.

There are hints towards a welcome old-fashioned charm in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, but they remain hints. No amount of zombie penis jokes are going to change that.


A big thank you to the FDA for hosting the screening!

He Named Me Malala Review – HeForShe

I’m ashamed to say I knew very little of Malala Yousafzai before watching Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary, He Named Me Malala.

For those of you in a similar position, Yousafzai is an 18-year-old Pakistani activist. At just 15, she was shot by a member of the Taliban for speaking out for women’s rights to education. She now lives in Birmingham with her mother, father and two brothers, having been transferred there for an intensive period of rehabilitation. And that’s where we meet Malala; in her family home.

We learn of her father’s inspirational work championing inclusive education in Pakistan, we hear her entertaining brothers paint an intimate, and overwhelmingly human, portrait of their older sister, however our time spent with Malala’s mother is fleeting, to say the least.

We do come to hear the mother’s tragic story, which goes some way to explain her sidelining, but it’s an odd decision nonetheless. I think there would have been a lot to learn from an additional five minutes spent in the mother’s company.

Instead Guggenheim mines the more obvious, and more inspirational, seam – that of Malala’s father, Ziauddin – and, fortunately, it’s an angle Guggenheim handles particularly well. Ziauddin is seen to be a fiercely passionate activist and a deeply loving father, and arguably the person who contributed most to Malala’s journey. But, as soon as the documentary seems ready to celebrate the work of a father fighting for his children, the attention is switched back to Malala as she informs us that while it may have been her father who named her, she is the one responsible for the Malala we now know. It’s a powerful message and one delivered with supreme confidence, by both Malala herself and the filmmakers.

It’s these intimate present-day moments that shine the brightest. But, there’s a dark story to tell here, one that Guggenheim simply can’t avoid; the shooting. Much of this backstory is told via a series of attractively handcrafted animated sequences, tracing the key moments of her childhood. We even head back to the first public speech her father made as a boy. While the animation can seem overly simplistic on occasion, the portrayal of Ziauddin Yousafzai first finding his voice is a triumphantly beautiful moment.

That being said, while some of these flashbacks work very well emotionally, the back and forth structure is ultimately a hindrance. The non-linear chronology lessens the beat-by-beat impact of Malala's story and the big moment doesn’t hit quite as hard as it could (and should) have. In that regard, one gets the feeling that Guggenheim’s documentary, as a whole, doesn't quite do Malala's inspiring story justice. But, what film could have?

He Named Me Malala is a truly moving documentary with a terrific subject. Malala Yousafzai is an engaging and eloquent visionary. And she’s not the film’s only fascinating subject. The time spent with Malala’s father expands the scope of the documentary, ensuring it covers the themes of family and love, in addition to the grander ideas present.


A big thank you to the FDA for hosting the screening!