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The Hunt (2012)

Vinterberg’s Danish drama, following Mads Mikkelsen’s nursey teacher turned pariah, stormed Cannes and rounded up an impressive trophy case of awards across the board, and rightly so.
The Hunt comes in as Vinterberg’s eighth feature length instalment and by far most widely known and critically acclaimed. The film follows Lucas, a meek and humble nursery teacher with a charming way with children, in particular with latch-key kid and quiet loner Klara. Almost unbeknownst to herself, Klara leads the townspeople the-huntinto mistakenly thinking that Lucas is a paedophile. As the title suggests, the townspeople, rallied and greatly misinformed amongst the confusion, turn on Lucas and brutality ensues.

 
The film handles the subject matter delicately and efficiently. Vinterberg presents a narrative in which not so much happens, but at the same time so much is being said. With the advent of recent media storms surrounding famous child abusers, the film seems increasingly more relevant now than perhaps it did in its original release in 2012. With the damage inflicted upon Mikkelsen’s Lucas from a mere accusation, Vinterberg puts society’s witch-hunt culture under a microscope in the microcosm of a small Danish hunting town. The success with regards to the film’s message is in no small part down to the performances of the two leads. Annika Wedderkopp’s Klara steals the spotlight by combining the face of pure innocence with the source of all the film’s negativity. You find yourself battling between utter dislike of an infant and realising that she is, even after the pain she causes, only a child. In one scene Lucas’s teenage son lashes out at Klara leaving you with an odd sense of satisfaction, which, once the film coming to a close, Vinterberg makes you feel incredibly guilty for. Similarly, Mikkelsen’s Lucas transforms from fun loving nursery teacher to utterly broken and hopeless outcast in a display of extreme versatility.

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However, outside of the two leads others feel two-dimensional. The film itself is relatively small scale: small-scale narrative, small-scale location and small-scale camera work. Whilst this works well in making the tension and hatred more poignant, there is little room for dead weight in terms of character. Lucas’s love interest, for example, seems arbitrary and without purpose; their romance as a result feels flat and stale. Klara’s father Theo, Lucas’s best friend, flirts confusingly between villainous and sympathetic throughout and anyone else’s name isn’t really worth remembering.
As a whole, The Hunt is a solid drama with brilliant performances that deals with perhaps the most taboo subject we know of today perfectly. Whilst certain characters may deter from the real matter at hand, Vinterberg’s pariah versus community narrative offers a fresh perspective on the power of accusation and people’s willingness to blindly believe the innocence of children.

By Christian McEvoy

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Review – Maniac (2012)

Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) is a serial killer. We experience his perverse perspective on the world immediately as Maniac opens; a Dutch angled point of view shot shows us views of a desolate city filled with desperate people. This isn’t necessarily reality, but it is Frank’s.

Maniac is a remake of a 1980 horror film considered a classic that I maniac-2012-uk-dvdhave never seen. However the story remains notorious; the son of a prostitute is subjected to graphic displays of his mother’s profession as a child and his relationship with sexual desire as an adult is unhealthy to say the least.

Frank exists in a constant battle between a desire to be close to women and the need to avoid any sexual activity. When he loses said battle he has a tendency to murder and then scalp dates. He then returns to his mannequin shop/home and places the skin and hair atop a mannequin. This is a man with a strong drive to connect with people but is trapped from doing so from just about every other aspect of his personality.

And trapped is what the audience is too. The film is shown from POV shots throughout, this gives a very literal and emotional perspective on everything he does. I wouldn’t describe the feeling this causes as genuine empathy, but it certainly puts those watching uncomfortably in his shoes. He fails to control his murderous impulses and can’t look away from his actions and neither can we. Conventional cinematography would not achieve this effect. On occasion the camera does actually disconnect from the POV perspective, the implication being that this is a further warping of his mind. When he can’t cope with being himself anymore he quite literally imagines leaving his body.

Due to this unique camera approach with its tinges of the surreal Maniac is never as bound by its format as a found footage film is. It also allows for more creative framing and imagery throughout, although some is quite on the nose. Such as Frank seeing his new crush framed next to a mannequin in a wedding dress with blinding, almost heavenly back-light. But that is as about as blunt as the symbolism will get. Despite the inherent heavy stylisation the camera rarely attracts attention to itself like this.

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The ‘can’t look away’ factor suits the film and actually elevates the gratuitous and sexualised violence above what could easily be exploitative purposes. This is Frank’s world and his view of it, to cut away would reduce the effect of the film and our understanding on how his actions affect him. You can’t have a film about a voyeuristic murderer without bringing the audience along as voyeurs.

Elijah Wood is spot on for the role as his big versatile eyes are easily able to show fear, regret, and general creepiness combined with perfectly timed uses of mirror shots to punctuate his mental deterioration.

One could criticise the film for not having any other thoroughly characterised people in it. However this is the character study of a solitary haunted man, if we are to have his true perspective we couldn’t have him getting to know and understand other multi-faceted people.

Maniac also thankfully understands that the better horror film uses the slow burning tension to unsettle and ultimately scare an audience, rather than cheap jump scares; being startled isn’t real fear. And this is where the only primary disappointment in Maniac resides as it isn’t as unsettling as it perhaps could be. I have been left closer to shaken by lesser films.

Maniac is well realised, how much it borrows from the original I cannot say. Given its unique approach I can say it has given itself a more purposeful identity than most horror remakes. At 90 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome or become gimmicky. It is suitable for casual horror fans to the well-studied intellectuals of the genre. For a film depicting the graphic murder of women, it isn’t entirely inaccessible.

Written by T.J. Fisk

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Review – Begin Again (2013)

Since 2007, when John Carney captured hearts everywhere with his incredibly moving and exceptionally well-written musical ‘Once’, audiences have eagerly awaited the directors return to the genre, hoping that Carney will be able to capture the magic and originality of a film that rightly took home an Oscar for the song ‘Falling Slowly’. Begin-AgainHis latest film, Begin Again, is a perfect companion piece to Once, (even if Carney’s decision to move away from the intimacy of two relatively unknown actors to a cast of stars does detract from the feeling of stumbling upon something very real and very special) which follows two down on their luck musicians who cross paths in New York city, and it continues to build upon the themes prevalent in its spiritual predecessor.

It begins with a chance encounter that leaves Dan (Mark Ruffalo) smitten with Greta’s (Keira Knightley) music and entranced by her undeniable charm as she regales a heartfelt song about a failed relationship to a mostly uninterested crowd in a dingy bar. As a failing music business executive, Dan believes he has stumbled upon someone special who may just give his career the resurgence it needs, and Greta is equally intrigued by his enthusiasm and openness, which is mainly due to the large amounts of alcohol flowing through his veins.

As the two embark on a musical and emotional journey we learn about the moments leading up to the start of their friendship through flashbacks and accompanying songs; Dan struggles to connect with his estranged daughter and partner, and Greta is still torn from her break-up with the up and coming rock star Dave Kohl (Adam Levine) who she travelled to New York to be with. The decision for the unlikely duo to record an album on the streets of New York gives way to a newfound creativity and both Dan and Greta slowly begin to come to terms with their troubled pasts.

tumblr_n3qapmbsnj1qjaa1to1_1280Knightley and Ruffalo give superb performances in a genre that neither are overly familiar with, and Carney coaxes a raw honesty from both his stars and the supporting cast to provide the film with a vibrancy matched only by the stunning locations of the city itself. Whilst the story does resonate on a deeper level than most musicals, it doesn’t quite have the emotional heft of Once, but offers enough humour and energy that audiences will still be able to relate to the characters regardless of their preconceptions.

Making the transition from the lead singer of Maroon 5 to the big screen far too effortlessly is Adam Levine, with his natural good looks and the ineffable swagger of a lead singer being perfect for his role as the story’s villain, Dave Kohl – whose name is likely to either keira-knightley-adam-levine-filmamuse or annoy fans of the Foo Fighters every time it appears on screen. James Corden is also a valuable addition to the cast as Steve, with his light-hearted humour and reassuring encouragement allowing Greta to shine even when she is feeling down.

As far as feel good summer movies go, Begin Again hits all the right notes, with its uplifting melodies and dazzling cinematography making you forget that you are actually in a dark cinema when you could be outside enjoying the sunshine. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but then again, it doesn’t need to, as Carney has crafted a delightful tale of two kindred spirits finding solace in each other as they set out to realise their true potential in a joyful celebration of music.

Written by Tom Bielby

Find Tom on Twitter: @filmbantha

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Review – Good Vibrations (2012)

Good Vibrations, directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn LeyBurn (Cherrybomb), is the story of Terry Hooley’s discovery of punk in Belfast during the 70’s. The film follows Terry or, as he will later be known, the godfather of Belfast punk. The war between the Irish PeterStrainGoodVibrationsMoviePosterCatholics and Protestants has just begun and Terry seems to be the only one not to have picked a side. Instead he preaches peace, something that will make him a target for both groups.

We follow Terry on his journey from peaceful neutral to the godfather of the Belfast punk scene. We see him discover Rudi and the Outcasts and their rise, fall, and eventual rise again to fame. Terry Hooley was played by Richard Dormer (Game of Thrones). Richard gave an inspired performance, the range of emotions his character demanded of him, often in the same scene, would be demanding to any actor and Richard truly succeeded in capturing them all. Terry was a loud character, unpredictable in not just his emotions but his actions. Richard’s portrayal was of such high quality that you could swear you were watching Terry himself.

Good-Vibrations-1What adds the layer of realism and reminds you, through the laughs and good times experienced when watching these live bands and listening to their music is the use of real footage. Footage from the violence on the streets, of clashes between the IRA and the police was truly humbling. It reminds you of the horrors that occurred during that time and the suffering of people caught in the cross fire.

Good Vibrations was definitely a film I enjoyed watching. Terry is a character I found myself rooting for, I was scared for him at times and felt sorry for him at others. What he did for the punk scene in Belfast was truly incredible and an inspiration to music lovers everywhere.

As Terry himself said, “When it comes to punk New York has the hair, London has the trousers but Belfast has the reason!”

Written by Oliver Willis

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Feature – What Is An Indie Film?

When you hear ‘indie film’ what do you think of? The style? budget? story? Well the term independent film tends to be a film created independently from the usual mainstream mode of filmmaking. A low budget firushsept09lm made by people outside of the mainstream film industry using unknown actors seems to be the quintessential indie
film, I mean you cant get more indie than that.

But lately we are being showered with self proclaimed indie films with that indie, quirky and cooky style. Think any film featuring Michael Cera, or early Jessie Esienberg and Zooey Dechannel and your along the right lines of the type of film I am talking about. The type of film where the main character is a geeky kid which doesn’t fit into mainstream society as he deems himself better due to his like of unknown, underground bands and exclusively watches classic and foreign cinema. He then falls in love with a quirky girl of the same interests but with some character defects but they find a common ground and together they can sit back and judge society and those pop, R&B listening, Hollywood watching jocks. But are these independent films  or are they part of this emerging indie genre.

These are films I like to refer to as mid-way indie films. Films whichScott_Pilgrim_vs._the_World_teaser have often been independently funded by one or more of the stars using their own production companies. So in that sense, yes, they can be classed as an indie film, but not in the sense of being completely apart from the mainstream film industry.

The third type of indie film is what I like to call the ‘high-end’ indie film such as Rush (2013) and any of the post Rushmore (1998) Wes Anderson films. Films which have a high budget, high publicity and cinema time yet remain independent from the Hollywood production company influence and funded by the filmmakers themselves.

Independent films are where the real stories are told, from filmmakers without the confines of meeting targets set by production companies. The film which get the least amount of publicity yet need the most.

Written by Oliver Willis

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Review – El Critico (2013)

A wonderfully creative deconstruction of the Romantic Comedy, this Argentinian drama introduces us to Victor Tellez (Rafael Spregelburd), a pessimistic film critic who sees little joy in life, and has a strong dislike for films that shun art in favour of pleasing mass audiences by recycling old tropes and clichés of their genre. Under pressure from his editor, who often has no choice but to alter his
derogatory reviews, and at odds with a past film-maker whose career he ruined, Tellez’s only happiness seems to come from POSTER EL CRITICO FINAL_01spending time with his beloved niece, educating her in the medium of film. This leads to one of the most delightful sequences in the movie where a montage of romantic comedies gives rise to a voiceover from Tellez, and he dissects a number of scenes to explain why he believes the genre to be trite and predictable.

Just as in the films Tellez dismisses, his life takes a turn for the better as he encounters a mysterious lady (Sofia) who captures his attention whilst searching for a new flat. Fate intervenes and, smitten with love, his view on the films that used to leave him frustrated begins to mellow, much to the chagrin of his fellow critics. Sofia, played by Dolores Fonzi (the wife of Gael Garcia Bernal) shares a number of traits with Amelie; her spontaneous nature, slightly eccentric dress sense and carefree attitude quickly draw Tellez in, and her abundance of cuteness also adds to the inevitable attraction. She is even caught quoting Amelie, in a scene which leaves Tellez as baffled as the audience – is Sofia aware she is referencing a much-loved romantic comedy, or is it just a quirky coincidence? The question is left unanswered but heightens her mysteriousness as well as affirming the hold she begins to have on Tellez’s heart.

el critico2.previewMuch like films of other genres which intelligently deconstruct their influences in order to transcend their humble origins, The Critic manages to be a love-letter to romantic comedies as well as bringing fresh ideas to the table.  Anyone who is even mildly obsessed with films, regardless of their preferred genre, will certainly relate to the multitude of pop references which litter Hernan Guerschuny’s confident script, and having Tellez’s thoughts narrated in French (‘just like in the movies’) is a brilliant idea that demonstrates both the director’s playfulness and his obvious fascination with world cinema.

There is a surprisingly sinister edge to the film where it almost verges into thriller territory and this is an unexpected and welcome respite from the romance, adding another layer to Tellez’s characterisation as he is forced to confront his demons from the past. Still, at its heart, The Critic retains a comic sensibility that will be sure to impress itself on audiences who are looking for an original romantic comedy, and will undoubtedly leave even the most cynical of viewers smiling. Whether you enjoy romantic comedies or dislike them; by appealing to both sides of the coin, The Critic has assured that it will be loved by those fortunate enough to see it.

Written by Tom Bielby

Find Tom on Twitter: @filmbantha

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Review – Whoops! (2013)

whoops_shoe_bigProving that creativity can overcome even the tightest of time and budgetary constraints, Whoops! is an engaging black comedy that was shot in just over four weeks on a very small budget, but neither of these constraints held the cast or crew back from delivering their desired vision with enough originality to make up for their limitations. Riding off the modest success of their online zombie web series, the aptly named ‘Zomblogalypse’, directorial duo Tony Hipwell and Miles Watts have served up another thoroughly entertaining comedy, and they continue to bring their wry humour to the darkest of situations – those of a squeamish nature may well be surprised by some of the more gruesome sequences in Whoops! – but the laughs keep coming, just as the death toll keeps rising.

At first glance the Clements appear to be a perfect family, Rose (Elaine Glover) works at an estate agent, struggling to avoid the unwanted advances of her lecherous boss, and her husband Dave (Philip Rowson) is a tradesman, with a shed full of tools that may eventually be used for more than just their intended purposes, and together they lovingly support their two children who both seem to be wise beyond their years. When Rose murders a man she mistakenly believes to be an assailant, the family is thrown into turmoil as Dave decides to bury the truth (and the body) to avoid losing his beloved wife to a potential life time in prison. Unlike most serial killers who have a penchant for killing, accident-prone Rose inadvertently adds to the body count in a number of unfortunate events, which leave Dave struggling to cope with the hardship of his wife’s actions as the police begin to close in.

Elaine Glover’s instant likeability plays a huge part in the film’s whoops-the-movie-1success; it was clear that audience members were rooting for Rose and her distressed husband Dave right from the beginning – even if no-one would condone their actions – and Rowson’s impressive turn grounds the plot with a plausibility that just shouldn’t be present given the increasingly bizarre situations the Clements find themselves in. The humour is perfectly balanced with the morbid aspects of the film, and the tongue-in cheek approach of the filmmakers ensures that audiences with an aversion to horror will not be swayed from the occasional splash of blood that sprays their way.

Proof, if ever it was needed, that independent British film continues to thrive in the face of adversity, Whoops! is a sure-fire crowd pleaser that deserves to reach a wide audience once post-production is complete. A few sound inconsistencies aside, there is little to be improved upon with this low-budget gem, which is bound to delight viewers who are offered the glimpse into a mind of a very clumsy serial killer. Stumbling upon this was an accident that I won’t forget in a hurry, and one that (unlike Rose’s murders) I won’t mind repeating.

Written by Tom Bielby

Find Tom on Twitter: @filmbantha

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