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This is by far one of the worst films i've ever tried to watch this year.
Now after letting that sink in, here's why. Oh and I reference certain parts of the film, so don't read on if you care about spoilers.
1) Nothing happens!
We have this opening title sequence of a man in a car driving around the freeway's of L.A. smoking a cigarette ... and it goes on like that for FIVE minutes. It's not telling the story, it's not furthering the plot, it's just making us all bored.
The "structure" of the film keeps cutting away to completely different people, and it's that point where we lose any emotional bond with the "characters". After fifteen minutes of this I just stopped caring, especially when it got to the whiny twenty something talking about his girlfriend and then it descended into this college frat boy conversation which made them both fairly unlikeable.
What cinematography? It looks like it was shot on a Mini-DV camcorder with no lighting and no colour correction. This makes all the radio station stuff looks like it's the black hole of Calcutta and the outside stuff look blown out.
There's no real change in camera shots either, all the compositions are fairly boring with no real attempt at a visual style. It's all straight on two shots, or single close ups. All the cutaways are to other people.
This isn't all that surprising since the film is basically a bunch of talking heads.
Who speaks like this? Anyone? It's all so forced! Remember what Harrison Ford said to George Lucas on the set of Star Wars ... "you can write this **** George, but you can't say it." There are conversations that just don't work because of this. For example, the DJ and his manager ... I was expecting something a little more than we got. In that particular scene we have to go back to point no.1 because nothing happens by the end of it! No real emotional change, no status quo change, no nothing. Thanks for stealing two minutes of oxygen.
So yeah for a film that's apparently dialogue driven, it's not doing any driving at all.
It's nothing to write home about, too bad it's used as an emotional cudgel to hit us around the head with.
What characters? The only real character in the film is the highly upset and slightly unhinged DJ! Everyone else seems to be phoning in their performances! (that's probably due to the dialogue, see earlier.)
Most of what you see in this film are fairly unlikeable people. The other guy in the DJ booth seems to sit there looking on with abject glee as his co-host melts down, whispering unhelpful lines. Not sympathetic at all. Actually this applies to most of the film it must be said.
Oh and if you have to explain to the audience via title cards what the character names are, that's bad too.
6) "Star Trek: Generations" syndrome.
This is a big one for me. If you've not seen that particular star trek film, let me explain.
An audience's emotional engagement with a film only occurs when they see something that provokes a visceral reaction within that person. It could be a horror film making people jump. A romantic comedy where the audience falls in love with the characters or "Irreversible" where there's a fairly horrific 9 minute sequence in it that reviles universally.
If you don't show this in any way shape or form, the audience tends not to care. If you only tell us about something bad happening then it's doubly false. That's ST:Generations syndrome.
This film has this glaring fault as a major plot point! Something has happened to the DJ character and instead of showing the audience, he just talks about it instead. Talks! We haven't seen it, we haven't experienced it with him therefore we don't care about it!
I can see where this all came from. The filmmakers saw "Crash" and thought "that's a good idea! We'll do an intertwining character story!" Unfortunately they missed the point behind crash: characters we have a connection with and actually care about.
What bothers me is this could have been a quite interesting film. There's a good point to be made out of the story, but it's so ineptly handled it squanders all it's opportunities. It's so bad, half the audience walked out of this film within 30 minutes of it starting. On that basis alone, I would highly recommend you avoid. If this is the state of indie film, we're all in trouble.
Ten Dead Men (2008)
This film is so utterly dreadful that I couldn't finish it. It's obvious that the "actors" were just martial artists plucked from a gym and had no acting ability whatsoever. There's been no story development past whatever gangster films the writer/director and producer decided to use elements of and lastly there's a voice-over ... which made me cringe every time I heard it, and insisted on telegraphing the story.
The story is not so much conveyed to us, but dictated to us which is just sloppy. Didactic films are not the way to go here.
It's at that point I stopped the DVD and checked out the IMDb. Guys, you proudly proclaim that this is your 40th film together. Did you actually bother learning anything from the previous 39? Things that are essential in film-making such as story, character, frame composition, lighting, sound design, music and directing? It's obvious that while you have the talent (or luck) to get projects off the ground, you've no idea about how to execute a film.
In summation, either watch a bunch of really good films and learn to see how they work ... or just stop now and let other people have a go. I really hope this isn't representative of your body of work but i've an odd feeling it is.
It Came from Another World! (2007)
You know you're in trouble when the person next to you falls asleep.
And snore mightily she did, and provided probably the most entertaining thing about this poor excuse for a film. We've got close up shots on objects for no reason, we've got a lead actor channelling a stoned version of William Shatner with his lines and we've also got actors actually saying lines that describe what they're doing on screen at that moment! All the way through the film ...
If this is supposed to be a pastiche on 1950's cheap sci-fi films, they only got the cheap bit right ... although I wasn't aware that PVC house doors were in common use back in the 50's.
By the way guys it's usually the case that repeating a joke over and over makes it less funny, not more funny. The filmmakers insistence on having the characters laugh and laugh about 30 seconds too long after a "joke" got old after the first time. Playing on 1950's sexual politics was a particularly unwise move too. I started to wonder whether they'd forgotten about the whole "meteorite from another world!", it went on so long. (Actually this whole part provided a good twenty minutes of screen time and just screams padding to me.)
Oh and if you're going to fake black and white, don't use the desaturate option to drain all the colour out. You failed with this as some scenes were actually slightly pink! Mixing in authentic 1950's video pulled from archive.org gave this film a real Ed Wood feel as the quality level between those and the (digital?) film footage is blatantly discernible.
After all this i'm in two minds about this film. I simply can't decide whether this is simply an extremely unfunny film deliberately made this way or it was just extreme incompetence. Either way, the woman sitting next to me asleep enjoyed this a lot more than I did. Your mileage will of course vary as the programmers of the film festival I saw this at seemed to like it.
Beholden is the kind of short film that gives a lot of feature films a bad name, and most other short films a black eye or two. You know you're about to watch something special when the festival technical director personally insists on making sure the film is projected in the right aspect ratio and delays the rest of the programme in the process.
We have an excellent story that is incredibly well acted, production values like you wouldn't believe possible for a student film ... hell, it makes most of the other short films I saw at the 2008 Burbank Film Festival look poor.
What impressed me most after the film itself was the story of how it was made. That's something i'll leave for the director and producer to tell in their own words. A lot of filmmakers liken the production process to a battle ... theirs truly was!
There isn't a shot out of place. No wasted moments and the lead bad guy is exemplary.
In short, highly recommended!
Death in Charge (2009)
Wonderfully comic and tragic!
Death in Charge marks yet another milestone for Writer/Directrix Devi Snively. I was privileged to meet Devi both at Burbank Int. Film Festival as well as London Sci-Fi. She very kindly gave me a copy of the film as I had posted my own film to her. Anyways moving swiftly on ...
Death in Charge is a bleakly comic and rather tragic film. It follows the Grim Reaper who has inadvertently been drawn into looking after a young child for the evening, co-incidentally after bumping off the babysitter first. This opening forms the basis of the plot and the resulting humour of the film.
Production values for the film are flawless. It looks hyper real in places, with judicious use of bright pastel colours and very hard to spot CG effects. In addition to this, a common fault I see with most short films is not present here ... bad sound. Effects are well done and use of music is well tailored to the scenes.
I can't really comment more without spoiling the film. Devi's own website (I think) has details of where it's playing next. I highly recommend you go see it! It's certainly one of the few films i've ever asked for a copy of!
Bravo Devi! I hope someone gives you some money for a feature soon!
Battlestar Galactica (2003)
More Jean-Luc Picard Syndrome
I'm finding it hard to know where to start with this travesty of a remake.
*** SPOILER ALERT *** They tried to make the characters more realistic by giving them individual flaws. However they went overboard with this. A good example is Starbuck. Not only would her actions in striking a superior officer be dealt with a lot more seriously, but her portrayal now just doesn't work.
A cigar chewing female pilot ... sorry Ms Sackhoff, your abilities don't quite stretch to the character and as a result ... you're unlikable. I can take Starbuck and Boomer being female but their new characters simply don't work.
This mini series suffers from a major amount of fluff and padding: something I like to refer to as "Jean-Luc Picard" syndrome. Given that Ronald D. Moore was a major writer and contributor to Star Trek, this ain't that surprising.
What I mean by all that is ... they TALK EACH OTHER TO DEATH. Let's agonise over something for a couple minutes of screen time (I checked), do it and then agonise over it for up to five minutes afterwards.
I'm not sure if they were aiming for length here and padded out to fill or they truly believe that people do this. Makes the story unbelievable for me.
Now for the nasty bit.
We have a major case here of "Deep Impact". I refer to the disaster film about asteroids hitting the Earth here. This means that whenever the director thought the emotional tension was getting a bit low ... let's drag in a child! (Seriously, watch the film and see what I mean). There is a moment when they introduce an orphaned child for PRECISELY and ONLY that reason.
Direction ... bad. Emotional arcs aren't directed properly and the actors don't seem to know how they should behave a lot of the time. Thus a lot of the characters seem flat. Someone here also decided to use "Cinema Verite" too ...
... which brings us nicely to the D.o.P. Pick a stylistic choice and have done with it! The start is shot conventionally with the usual master shot - close ups we've come to expect. About half way through this changes to a "NYPD Blue" style half-drama / half-documentary feel better known as "Cinema Verite". This wobbly camera work makes it hard to concentrate at times.
Aside from being wobbly ... they don't know how to use the aperture on their cameras either. It all is either bang on or about 1 stop over-exposed. This is something you can get away with when shooting film, but not on video (which they've used) where you have exactly zero latitude for this kind of thing.
Makes the pictures look like crud is what i'm saying.
Cylons becoming more human ... it strikes me as a cash saving exercise. Makes you look cheap guys.
Lastly, because my battery is running now, can we stop with the Cylons apparently being conflicted between religious nuts and nymphomaniacs.
To sum up. Characters that don't work. Direction that's obvious and flawed. Camera work that looks like crap and gives motion sickness. Story padding to the point where i'm screaming out in pain or boredom. (Took a lot of caffeine to get through this) I could personally cut out about 1/2hr out of this mini series and no one would miss it. If anyone would like to take me up on this ...
Cube 2: Hypercube (2002)
Here is a film that didn't need to be made
This film sucks. It's is one of the most pointless movies i've ever seen. The original Cube was intended as a low budget one off ... Cube 2 is merely a high budget sequel that doesn't make sense.
POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT.
Sure, the physics seem to stand up from my rather limited knowledge but the characters truely just bug me. No, they IRRITATE me and as a result not only do I not care about whether they get out ... i'm actually waiting for them to die.
I have major problems with certain early scenes where everyone seems to be yelling at once. It's dull to watch and painful to listen to. The dialogue is really bad in places ... just listen to some of the rubbish that they say and wonder who in their right mind actually speaks that way in real life. It's totally unrealistic.
I have major problems dealing with a later scene where two of the characters "get it on". If I was stuck in a life or death situation i'm sure that sex would be the last thing on my mind. Nah, not for this film. Instead we're treated to an effects laden sex scene which appeared to be almost entirely for titillation.
In the original film, not only did the characters each have an individual skill to contribute so that they could get out, but their character names reflected actual prison names too. Not so here, we've got a doctor, a senile mathmatician, a computer games designer, a lawyer and a P.I. Hmmm, I don't think that this motley crew could find their way out of a paper bag.
The character introductions feel artificial and forced. It seems the scriptwriter couldnt think of a good way to do it. He/She might as well have had the actors turn to the camera and introduce themselves!
However, the sound and effects design are pretty good. I don't think the music gives the same feel as the excellent score for the original but i'd still listen to it.
This still doesn't stop bad script and bad acting making this a real turkey.
leave well alone
Hmmm. Laughable CG effect (the opening titles for one look like on of my 3DS Max test renders), combined with camera shots that are too close and/or too wobbly. Add to the mix the Gullermo Del Toro style of frenzied cutting and you have a film that quite literally made me motion sick.
The direction was extremely poor, and there are so many incidences of this it's impossible for me to pick out a specific reference.
The script seems to lack coherent plotting or dialogue. Some of the dialogue is so poor that it defies belief. The only consistency is the fact that it's totally inconsistent. I've seen more holes in swiss cheese: the plot is so bad.
The heavy metal sound track and the obvious product placements either detract or just simply annoy.
Also, the comic book characters were human, with all the skills and weaknesses that go with it. In the film, they're practically superhuman.
This is a bad film and i'm not holding my breath for the inevitable sequel.
Children of the Dog Star (1984)
An excellent kids sci-fi series
Wow! I've finally found a mention of this program on the internet! I thought I was the only person who knew about it!
Anyway, I first saw this program when I was about four years old so that would make it about 1983 or so. I remember being transfixed with it but then many other children's programs did the same to me at that age.
Quite a few years later, I caught it again and got the last few episodes on tape. That was 1990 and it was still just as good then.
So without giving too much of the plot away, this is a series that managed to mix astronomy, alien contact and real world issues together while making it easy for children to follow. Add some extremely creepy music and events and you're in for a fun escaping ride.
I'm a student filmmaker at the moment and this program has done more to influence my style of film making than any other. The scene where Gretchen's character with the Daisy Rod walks into the old civil defence bunker is proof of this. The blinding light may be a bit of a cliche but hey, it works and works well.
If you can find the tapes, buy it. The 70's fashions aren't brightly coloured monstrosities so this show has aged extremely well and the science is still current.
White Lies (1998)
A racy take on the whole hate problem, canadian style.
There are spoilers in this review. Read with caution if you haven't seen this film yet.
No matter where you stand on the whole issue of hate between people of different religions, colours and creeds, you WILL read something different into this film depending on personal perspective.
I must point out it's very difficult to try and review a film without letting my own personal bias creep in. I will state for the record that i'm totally opposed to violence and that people who discriminate are fundamentally stupid NO MATTER what colour or creed or religion they are.
So here I am, the day after i've watched this film and i'm still thinking. This is good. What isn't good is the fact I found the films intentions slightly confused. For a start, the title is bound to provoke. Why? "White Lies" is a very sweeping statement to make when lies are all around us every day (and not just from white people either).
So we start out with a central character who (and let's face it) could be a sister or a daughter of any of us in the western world. Through the standard parental apathy that seems to permeate western culture, her questions are unanswered and ridiculed when all she wants is some answers. Then she falls in with some people who give her answers but probably not the right ones...
On a realistic point of view, my own experiences of hatred would make this film very realistic indeed even down to the "recruitment" of Sarah Polley's character and the fact that whether you're racist or not, violence permeates both sides.
Sarah Polley conveys a staggering range of emotion during the film, ranging from an insecure shy girl to a swaggering cocky young woman through the influence of her new "friends". Her "friends" gave her the support her school and family never did. Perhaps the most devestating part of the film is the televised debate between her and the anti nazi character. Watch it and see what you think.
The direction of Kari Skogland has an unusual aspect to it. It seems to be more experimental in it's use of camera technique to convey emotion. Kari uses unusual techniques which make this film difficult to watch at times but is well worth it if you persevere though.
Dennis Foon's writing is incredibly believable. The dialogue is exemplary in the fact that I could believe the lines the actors were given to say. Before you put that down to an individual actor/actress' performance, there is some dreadful acting in this film but the lines are still good. Credit must be given for a very believable story line which only had one slight flaw in my opinion where it came down to Sarah Polley's character trying to get a termination for her unwanted pregnancy. You'd think an intelligent if mislead girl like her would have taken precautions before sex. (I'm told that the canadian schooling system is excellent when it comes down to sex education but even an ignorant britisher like me knows what to do. This makes it all the more irritating.)
This film pulls it's punches and pulls them well. The starting titles with all the bodies hanging from the lamp posts on a city street (a la what happened to italian dictator Benito Mussolini) gives a good impression of how dark this is going to get and it does. The suicide scene is particularly memorable and shocking.
To sum up, I was impressed with this film. At times it is difficult to watch but then so was "American History X". The subject matter is not for everyone. My earlier comment of personal bias creeps in now. You will get out of it what your bias is. I found it to be an excellent example of what kind of things go on, but by that token I can imagine how some could use it to justify their ideals.
Certainly worth watching at least once.