Tag Archives: EIFF

“Police, Adjective” lacks pulse

My current spate of reviews come from the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where I believe I just encountered my first dreaded “festival film” which  one writer described as:

“the submerged nine-tenths of the film production world that gets only one or two screenings in its lifetime, in a near-empty cinema in downtown Gdansk or wherever.”

I say this because watching Police, Adjective was more dull than spending three hours in hospital waiting room.*

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Public Enemies was plagued by cast and crew tensions, technical blunders

For those of us who tried to warn the public that they were being swindled into buying tickets to an unfinished product with last year’s much anticipated Public Enemies (weak sound design, amateur framing, visuals that “looked like a wedding video” as my friend put it), the following offers some (belated) vindication.

A source at the Edinburgh International Film Festival said that technical details plagued the production of Public Enemies, thanks to Michael Mann’s mistreatment of the crew and poor management skills.

Crew members were financially and personally poorly treated and simple technological protocols (correct cables, lenses) were flouted.  The results were disastrous: A production designer quit, Johnny Depp had Mann apologize to the crew for his behavior, and the studio spent “$20-30 million dollars” in post-production trying to save the film.  Depp “hated Mann” for the way he ran the production.

It seems the crew got the last laugh though: The same source said that “thousands of dollars in office supplies” from Public Enemies were stolen and put to use for a film currently at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.  “You could say it’s a Michael Mann financed film.”

I’m a huge fan of Mann’s Heat and Collateral, but was dismayed by the poor production values of Public Enemies.  Though the film came out a year ago, I think it’s important to know the history surrounding a production so as to understand a film’s successes or failures.  There is the possibility that the person I spoke to could be some disgruntled crew member out to tarnish Mann’s image, but this person’s comments seem a reasonable explanation for the unusually bad quality of such a major Hollywood film.

EIFF Daily Roundup (part 6)

*I fall for Au Revoir Taipei

*Sir Patrick Stewart makes it so

other news

Au Revoir Taipei was a great break from multiple dramas in a row.  The Patrick Stewart interview was completely packed and it was cool to see him have such passion for his work (and the work of others) after so many years.  After the talk it made me want to start watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.  If DVDs and Netflix allow whole seasons of TV shows to be accessible, it would be interesting to go back and watch some older shows (especially Quantum Leap).

reviews to come

Police Adjective, Putty Hill, Cigarette Girl

EIFF Daily Roundup (part 5)

* I visited a hilarious HIGH School

* Winter’s Bone has a chilly, but warm sentiment

* Wasn’t Lucky enough to win the jackpot

other news

The director of Winter’s Bone spoke briefly about the film after the screening.  The lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence, is a Kentucky native and it made shooting in the Ozarks an accessible transition from one mountainous region to another.  I’ll have video up in a few days.

reviews to come

Au Revoir Taipei, an evening with Sir Patrick Stewart

Sundance favorite”Winter’s Bone” Cuts Deep

There is an oft-lamented dearth of strong female characters in cinema.  Lt. Ripley and Sarah Connor are the characters that receive the most citation, but I’ll be damned if we can’t add Ree Dolly to the roster – this is not a girl to be trifled with. Continue reading

EIFF Roundup (pt 4)

*Puppet shenanigans bring hilarity in Jackboots on Whitehall

*Nuclear proliferation documentary Countdown to Zero irks and informs

*Monsters suddenly becomes a contender as one of my favorite films of all time (Fight Club and Children of Men, its challengers)

other news

Friday was a big deal given I got to see Monsters. If this doesn’t become one of the most talked about films this year, the world will gloss over an amazing piece of cinematic storytelling.

After the film, director Gareth Edwards and the lead actors, Skoot McNairy and Whitney Able, hung around the cinema’s bar to chat about the film.  I spent a fair bit of time sharing with Skoot how the film delivered to me.  When he was heading out with the rest of the staff from Vertigo Films (who produced Monsters) he invited me to tag along.  Suddenly I was glad I chose the button up shirt that morning.

We got to a club near Princes St. and planted ourselves in the VIP room with an open bar.  Considering the absence of food in my belly, I maintained a two drink maximum.  Now, I’m not really a bar guy.  I like to hang out talking one on one, or organize  an event with an activity at the center, keeping casual drinking on the periphery.  Considering all this, I didn’t know how long I would be staying.

But it couldn’t have been a better environment.  I got to meet people working in different areas at Vertigo (trailer creation, script development) and even though I was just a random guy invited along (I was frequently asked my place in the production), no one gave me the cold shoulder.  I actually had a good time.

Not to mention that despite the loud, festive atmosphere, I was able to talk with Skoot and Whitney about the film (among other things).  As a filmmaker and critic, there is a lot to praise in Monsters, most of it’s in subtle ways general audiences won’t recognize.  So as I was rolling out my thoughts to Skoot or Whitney, I’d feel like I was talking at them, but they’d quickly tell me how much the appreciate such specific feedback, not just “Oh, it was great.”

I know that when I screen a short film I’m itching for the same type of feedback: Did you notice this sound effect?  Did this twist hook you?  Specifically with films distributed at the international level, there is little room for interaction between actor and the audience receiving that performance.  So the lengthy ramblings of someone who knows the nuance and difficulty of filmmaking, but who has had no involvement with the production, counts for a lot.  I know I’d love it if someone wanted to point out all the things that I displayed well.

Plus, how often are we allotted the chance to explain how a work of art affected us to the artist her/himself?  It’s definitely a two-way street of appreciative barter: artist wants to communicate to the world and the audience wants to return the call.

Fear keeps us locked away from one another, blockading the beautiful connectedness between us all.  Thus, it was soothing to walk home toward the rising sun, away from the assorted conversations with Vertigo people, and especially with Whitney and Sckoot,  and only feel the buzzing aura of connected sincerity that make our lives worth living.

reviews to come

HIGH School, Winter’s Bone, Lucky

“Monsters” leaves audiences in shock and awe

When you start watching films for a living, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” becomes the haunting muzak filling the background of your consciousness.  Films quickly pile up in the mediocre category, with few hitting genius, or even atrocious levels.  When Monsters finished, however, I was covered with goose bumps and wanted nothing more than to sit quietly in the dark to mull it over. It is a film so powerful, fascinating and personal that it is a celluloid definition of why we go to the cinema.

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EIFF Daily Roundup (pt 3)

* Jean Reno gets angry when he’s shot with 22 Bullets

*Blank City teaches me that 1970′s New York was the shit

other news

Not much to report.  It was a beautiful day:

Salisbury Crags

I live right next to Holyrood Park, so my daily walks to the cinemas start with this pleasant welcome to the day’s work.

But it was a little hot, reaching the 70′s without much wind.  Most Americans are laughing right now, but considering Edinburgh’s yearly temperature is 40-50 degrees with regular wind and rain, temperatures in the 70s are noteworthy.  Most places also lack air conditioning (you might need it 7 days out of the year), so the grocery store freezers and fridges are wheezing like old timers with emphysema trying to fight the heat.

reviews to come

Monsters, Jackboots on Whitehall (described as the U.K.’s Team America), Countdown to Zero

“The People vs George Lucas” is not just for the lightsaber licensed

It’s difficult to find someone who just hates the original Star Wars films.  Either you like it or you just haven’t seen it yet. The People vs George Lucas airs the  long-labored arguments that Star Wars nerds have been making since Lucas made Greedo shoot first–but the film is accessible, and still hilarious, to the wider community.

The film looks at the love/hate relationship between George Lucas and the original fanbase he gained back in 1977 with the release of Star Wars.  The film takes the traditional documentary route, with talking heads, archive interview footage of Lucas, and film clips.  However, it also includes fan submitted videos explaining how they feel about George Lucas.

The way the story is fleshed out is the true hook.  Lucas’ work before Star Wars is presented to showcase his power as a filmmaker (THX 1138, American Graffiti), and to then contextualize the ensuing years that would be solely dedicated to Star Wars.

As the chronology moves closer to the present, the nerd rage get a chance to shine: contributors rail against Lucas’ decisions to digitally change scenes (now Han Solo doesn’t shoot first, so as to make him less of a “dark” character), to add items to scenes, and his refusal to allow fans to have a theatrical cut of the film. Then of course the prequels are brought up, and you have a complete platform of complaints that fans across the world hope Lucas will hear.

The most entertaining touch is the plethora of Star Wars fan films that help tell the story.  The variety of filmmaking formats and techniques the amateur fans utilize is truly awe-inspiring and entertaining.  Some clips you wish you could just follow those down the rabbit hole…

The film is at its most thought provoking when dealing with the issue of the competing wishes of filmmaker and consumer; the documentary also points out that George Lucas himself argued against the colorization of black and white films on the same “cultural significance” grounds that his fans state as the justification of releasing a theatrical cut.

Though the film deals with Lucas’ conversion to the Dark Side, it is quite fair in its treatment of the man.  This could have been a vitriolic piece of hate-mail bubble wrapped with nerd rage, but instead treats the Lucas like a human being.  Or better put, a drunk uncle everyone loves because he’s family, but really hates for the grief he’s caused.  Either way, it’s classy in a way you never thought fanboys could accomplish.

Though there were too many commentors, that were then cut too brief, the film is funny, intelligent, and a delight to watch, particularly due to the fan films.  Now to see if it can get a response from Lucas.

My Sixth Sense is Tingling: Two Eyes Staring (Zwart Water)

Lisa and Peter go see what's hanging out in their basement.

From the haunted happenings of Poltergeist to Guillermo Del Toro’s excellent The Devil’s Backbone, children in film have been regular objects of ghostly terror.  Two Eyes Staring continues this tradition, with decent results.

Christine’s mother wills her a small mansion that her husband Peter loves, and her daughter Lisa loathes.  Peter convinces Christine to move in, but the house, and Christine’s past, are steeped in mystery by Christine’s evasive attitude concerning her mother.  As Lisa copes with the move and the subsequent loss of friends, she hears strange noises emanating from the basement.  Insert creepy music here.

Without spoiling the film, it does deliver fair horror atmosphere, with the accompanying jump scares that have become a staple of the genre.  The relationship between Lisa and Christine is deftly displayed as strained and cold, in comparison to how difficult it is not to smile at the warm relationship between father and daughter.  The mother is too interested in work, but dad’s affections come through in his respect  and familiar attitude.  The establishment of these cold and hot relationships supports the film’s final act - which delivers more than most horror tales.

However, the film’s length blunts its edge.  POSSIBLE SPOILER In an effort to firmly establish the reality which is then overturned, it spends laborious amounts of time hitting the same key.  SPOILER ALERT OVER In short: The length could have been trimmed to keep taut the flagging tension.  Further, the music crowds what could develop into deeper moments of terror; these items undermine the development of atmospheric and psychological creepies.  The Sixth Sense did an impressive job of generating  mystery, sustaining tension, and horrific scares sprinkled throughout. Two Eyes Staring is almost of that caliber, but not quite.

Even though the film makes some missteps, it’s by no means a bad ride.  It leaves you unsettled and your mouth agape with “Holy Sh*t!”-ness, which is more than most films are able to achieve.  Just give it some time.