Wednesday, 28 December 2016

TMMDI Top ten of 2016

2016 was a strong year for genre films but, in the end, bizarre indie films triumphed again (with Taika Waititi producing another instant classic). It was also one of the strongest springs in many years with 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Witch and High-Rise coming out within the space of a month.

Honourable mentions to The Eyes of my Mother, The Other Side of the Door, The Greasy Strangler, Lights Out, The Ones Below, Don't Breath and Hush.

1. Swiss Army Man

2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

3. 10 Cloverfield Lane

4. The Witch

5. Hardcore Henry

6. High-Rise

7. Nina Forever

8. Arrival

9. The Neon Demon

10. Shin Godzilla

What were your favourite films of 2016? Have I missed any out?

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Blade Runner 2049: first trailer

A trailer has been released this week for the upcoming belated sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Although in development for a long time, the details and images have been scarce (which isn't like Ridley Scott). But now, we get a full look at the continued universe first created in the 1982 classic and it certainly doesn't disappoint on an aesthetic level.

The atmospheric trailer also confirms what many had suspected in that Harrison ford is handing over the Deckard role to Ryan Gosling, in all but name. It was always clear that Denis Villeneuve had the visual chops to recreate the neo-noir future of blade runner, we will have to wait until next October to find out if the story can also hold up to the high concept, existential watermark of the original.

What do you think of the trailer? Is it too similar to the look of the original?

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Rogue One (2016): Review

Rogue One is a 2016 science fiction film. Directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) and starring Felicity Jones (Cemetery Junction), Ben Mendelsohn and Riz Ahmed (Four Lions). This is the first spinoff from the main Star Wars universe and serves as a direct prequel to Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).

The film follows Jyn Erso (Jones), the daughter of an eminent empire scientist responsible for engineering the infamous Death Star space station. Forced to grow up as a fugitive, Erso eventually falls in with the Rebel Alliance after coming across defected Empire pilot Bodhi (Ahmed), who has information suggesting a fatal flaw in the Death Star. In the meantime, the Death Star is becoming dangerously operational under the supervision of Director Krennic (Mendelsohn) and Grand Moff Tarkin (CGI Peter Cushing). The group of rebels are eventually able to locate the vital Death Star plans on an Empire controlled tropical planet, leading to a showdown where they are forced to make the ultimate sacrifice to enable the victory that would follow in A New Hope.

It’s no surprise with Edwards credentials that Rogue One is a dazzling visual display with thrilling action set pieces that meet the always high standards of the Star Wars franchise. That the film breaks from the overexposed Jedi/Sith lore of the previous 7 films and attempts to forge its own narrative is extremely refreshing, especially in the face of the enormously disappointing Force Awakens. The characters are interesting and diverse, apart from the infuriating C-3PO rehash, and I especially enjoyed the double act of Chirrut and Baze, a Chinese due playing monk and mercenary respectively. The inclusion of Darth Vader in the film was initially a concern, however, I was impressed by the restrained use of the iconic character and surely no one could complain about THAT scene towards the end.

The areas in which the film falls down are exactly the same as The Force Awakens, lazy rehashing and an overreliance on nostalgia. As hard as the film tries, lack of an opening crawl and fresh musical themes for example, it still can’t resist the occasional smug nod to the original trilogy. This is most infuriating when the imperial droid character is substituting for C-3PO (and sometimes Chewie) at every available opportunity and produced many eye rolling moments. And this leads us to the elephant in the room, Grand Moff Tarkin. It is absolutely baffling that they felt the need to include a fairly minor character from the original film, much less that they chose to go the CGI route resulting in an effect that was more Scorpion King than Oliver reed. Nobody would have minded if they had recast the character and every time the glassy eyed rendition appears on screen (which is far too much) it drags the film down into parody.

As a standalone film about war and sacrifice, Rogue One would be considered great. However, the gravity of the franchise once again restricts the freedom of a Star Wars film and leaves Rogue One sitting just above the murky rehash that was Force Awakens. The gauntlet has been laid down for future filmmakers tasked with expanding the universe’s less travelled roads and I hope that the more adult oriented approach continues. But, for now, we have an enjoyable Star Wars prequel, and who has been able to say that before?
*** 3 Stars

What did you think of Rogue One? How do you feel it compares with Force Awakens?

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Eyes of my Mother (2016): Review

The Eyes of my Mother is a 2016 horror film. Directed by Nicolas Pesce and starring Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini and Will Brill. The film is Pesce’s directorial debut and premiered at the Sundance festival.

The film is divided into 3 chapters; mother, father and family. In the first chapter a young Francisca (Magalhaes) witnesses her mother being brutally murdered but ends up keeping the attacker chained up in the barn and removing his eyeballs and vocal chords. In the second chapter, Francisca’s father also dies, although she attempts to preserve his body for a long as possible. She also meets a young girl in a bar and brings her back to her house, only to end up murdering her. And, in the third chapter, Francisca kidnaps a child and raises him as her own whilst also keeping the mother chained up in the barn to replace her previous pet. Things go drastically wrong when the child’s mother escapes and the authorities are alerted and close in on the demented Francisca.

I’m afraid Robert Eggers (The Witch) is going to have to move over, The Eyes of my Mother is the most visually striking horror debut of the year and is absolutely jaw dropping to witness. Although the setting is remarkably similar to The Witch (albeit more modern), Pesce opts for stark black and white and is the best use of the medium since last year’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. What’s even more impressive is that, even though there’s a strong suggestion that horrific violence is being committed, Pesce holds back from the obvious, instead choosing to cut to the aftermath, such as Francisca cleaning up a puddle of blood or placing extracted organs in the fridge. This is a clinical but also alarming technique and makes for a refreshing change from predictable gore.

Magallhaes is wonderful as the beautiful but twisted central character and Takashi Miike’s Audition (2000) immediately comes to mind during the more suspenseful sequences. If anything, you could say that The Eyes of my Mother isn’t doing anything all that new and the whole tortured captive angle has been touched on by everything from The Woman to Martyrs and back to Audition again. However, it’s the dramatic visual style and minimilast sound engineering (usually just the sound of leaves blowing in the trees) that create a haunting atmosphere that carries the film through to it’s grisly conclusion.

The Eyes of my Mother is both unapolagetically arthouse and relentlessly dark. Some of the nightmarish visuals will stay with you for a long time and is further proof that black and white cinematography still has a place and can still be incredibly effective. As debuts go, Pesce has set the bar incredibly high and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of the film? Did you like the visual style?

Friday, 9 December 2016

War for the Planet of the Apes trailer

The first full trailer has just dropped for the upcoming War for the Planet of the Apes and, to no ones surprise, it's absolutely stunning. Director Matt Reeves has been hard at work for many months in the Canadian wilderness with a cast including the returning Andy Serkis as well as Woody Harrelson. After 2 incredibly high concept installments, the franchise appears to be reaching new heights in terms of scale. Check it out...

And what about that bombastic score? We'll have to wait until next July to see Caesar and his Ape army make their last stand against "the Colonel's" forces but anticipateion is extremely high for what will hopefully make for a flawless trilogy.

What do you think of the trailer? Are you a fan of the rebooted series?