Thursday, 22 September 2011

Film Roundup - September - Part 1

Since there are a few films already this month I’ve decided to split September in two, so keep reading for the first part of September’s film roundup!

First up, we have Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 1 which, whilst boasting the expected high production values and stellar cast, remains largely a fan service film which proves to be nigh on incomprehensible for those who haven’t seen the previous films in the series or read the books.

Whereas earlier Potter films were presented much more as fun standalone family romps, Deathly Hallows suffers heavily from relying on assumed previous knowledge as well as a decidedly unfamily-friendly gloomy darkness, pensiveness and angst that pervades the entire picture.

Of course the stakes are much higher now in the story and (I can only assume) the film follows the tone of the book closely and it is interesting to see how much it has shifted in tone since Chris Columbus’ Philosopher’s Stone (AKA Sorcerer’s Stone).

Despite its dreary nature, there is one highlight which takes the form of a short animated interlude explaining the origin of the Deathly Hallows, which strangely contains more charm than the rest of the film.

That being said, it has made me interested in seeing The Deathly Hallows - Part 2, if anything just to see how it all concludes, but as a movie watched on its own it’s pretty unsatisfying.

Next up is low budget British horror flick Salvage, filmed in Merseyside (on the old set of Brookside no less – fun fact for you kiddies!) about a mother’s desperate search for her daughter amidst a quarantine by armed forces due to an unidentified creature that escaped from a nearby beached container.

This film successfully overcomes the usual problems associated with low budget horror films by focusing heavily on the character’s plight and only showing the ‘creature’ very sparingly. Some may not enjoy the family drama elements and feel short changed by the lack of action and gore but I personally enjoyed it.

Neve McIntosh, who plays the mother, is the best thing about this movie and her performance is outstanding. Not a great film by any means but worth a watch if you don't mind low budget horror with good acting.

Similarly, another low budget horror is presented in the The Silent House (La Casa Muda) from Uruguay. Filmed entirely on location in one house on a digital camera with only three actors, this is pretty much as low budget as you can get.

The interesting part here, however, is the way the film is presented – in one long continuous take. Although this premise is not entirely original (see Rope and Russian Ark) and also unlikely to really have been filmed in one take due to filming logistics, the edits are disguised well and it does lend a unique sense of immersion with the film as it is all played out in real time.

Whilst the technical skill of the cinematography is impressive, the actual story is not and with the exception of one scene (utilising photo flashes for scares) the majority of the film is a damp squib with the almost obligatory ending ‘twist’ being highly unoriginal. Only worth watching for the purported single take film presentation - if you have an interest in the more technical aspects of film such as that.

Recommended to me as being one of the best martial arts films ever, I recently watched Ip Man. Telling the story of Yip Man, famous for his Wing Chun and being one of Bruce Lee’s mentors, Ip Man boasts great fights scenes and choreography but is mired somewhat by its overly heavy political message of the Chinese being enslaved by the Japanese during the War.

Reading up on it, it turns out that the events portrayed in the film are mostly fictional which is a shame considering the film is presented as a biopic. Having said that though, Donnie Yen is fantastic as always and the film is still worth watching once if only for the fight scenes.

As for it best martial art film of all time? Not even close. My personal favourite still remains Iron Monkey, which coincidentally also has Donnie Yen in it.

Finally in our roundup we have Attack the Block, based on the similarly ridiculous match-up of Cowboys and Aliens by pitting ASBO yobs against aliens.

Whereas Cowboys fails in its bland and muddled presentation, Attack the Block sparkles with its astute characterisations, witty dialogue and memorable performances. It’s usually very difficult for characters who we see mugging a young woman at the beginning of the film end up as characters we empathise with and root for, but director Joe Cornish and his young cast manage to pull it off with ease.

The aliens themselves are striking in their design and the action suitably bloody showing that you can still make things work effectively on a non-Hollywood limited budget. Special mention also goes to gang leader Moses (played by newcomer John Boyega) whose brilliantly nuanced performance belies his limited acting experience.

That concludes Part 1 of the September Film Roundup, with Attack the Block being the recommended watch.

One film that I left out of the roundup is Hobo with a Shotgun but only because it deserves a write up of its own! Stay tuned!

20 Sep 2011

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