Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Byzantium (2012)

Director – Neil Jordan
Writers – Moira Buffini,
Production Company – Demarest Films, Lipsync Productions, Number 9
Stars – Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton

I’m a decent fan of The Borgias (writer/director Neil Jordan), though I often find it a little slow and drawn out.  That’s the same thing I have to say about Byzantium.  Cool story, nice rich look, but it’s a little slow for my taste.  I still hung on to Byzantium, it oozes quality, so I let it do its thing.  The screen play is by Moira Buffini (screenwriter/Jane Erye), that’s another movie I like but found decently slow.  So what’s my overall take?  Quality story, slow paced – but worth watching if you enjoy character driven flicks. 

Can I also just say what a small freaking world!  I watched Byzantium and Jane Erye back to back and had no clue it was the same darn screenwriter until about 15 minutes ago. 

Byzantium takes a new spin on things, with two strong female leads that couldn’t be any more different. Saoirse Ronan plays Eleanor, she’s quiet and always looking inside herself for something deeper.  Gemma plays Clara, Eleanor’s ever serving backer, keeping the two vampires with a roof over their heads for a couple of hundred years.  The performances by Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton are impeccable, I found myself getting lost in their delivery of lines, which was very nice.  I give mad props to the screen writer and actresses. 

So we have this lovely pair, and they’re vampires, and they feed.  You get to see just how different they are when it comes to the way they procure blood.  Eleanor gently massages her prey with her deep emotional hands, only taking from people who are in their twilight time or on the verge of crossing over.  She’s never scary, only gentle like an angel who’s been sent to these people to help them over.

Clara’s wild, and you’ll come to appreciate her far more as time goes on in this movie.  She’s sloppy at best, you’ll question why she does the things she does – but it all comes to light with timed flashbacks that help to tell the entire tale of this pair. Clara’s been used, it’s only natural that she would treat the rest of the world as a game that needs to be played in order to get what she needs.  She’s quite the protector, and by using her many strengths against those that would use her she’s able to help those that are weaker.

I definitely got lost in the cinematography and music, it’s gorgeous.  It’s so darn methodical, even to a fault…for me of course.  Like I said I did find myself checking the clock a few times, but it always kept me hanging on because I wanted more of this gem of a story. 

Caleb Landry plays Frank, he becomes quite obsessed with Eleanor and she with him.  They were a perfect fit in my opinion.  They’re both very awkward in this movie, and I could see them spotting each other in any surroundings and being drawn together.  That’s always a plus.  I hate it when movies thrusts two people together and really can’t give you any reason for the attraction. Here we have to very unique individuals, shy, awkward, perfect for overall tone.  I couldn’t have seen Eleanor with anyone else.

So while we learn both present and past information on Clara and Eleanor, you’ll also be privy to the larger picture.  The Brotherhood is out to find and eliminate Clara and Eleanor.  Through intelligent flashbacks, that are not at all cheesy, as flashback can sometimes be - you’ll come to understand how vampires fit into this world and why Clara and Eleanor are so different on many levels.

Want to know something else that’s cool – blood waterfalls…nuff said.  Also just took one more look at Neil’s directing list and he’s the director of Interview with the Vampire.  I swear I learn something new every day.  Sometimes I find out I’ve liked quite a few things from one director, Neil’s one of those directors.

Great Story, directing, acting - but I was a little bored - I guess I'm perplexed as to what my rating is....This is between a 6 and 7.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Seasoning House (2012)

Director – Paul Hyett
Writers – Paul Hyett, Conal Palmer, Adrian Rigelsford
Production Company – Sterling Pictures, Templeheart Films, Filmgate Films 
Stars – Rosie Day, Kevin Howarth, Sean Pertwee

I find out so much through IMDB these days.  I was watching a new film (that I liked by the way) called “The Seasoning House”, directed by Paul Hyett.  So after watching any movie these days I do my 15 minutes of work on IMDB to see what that directors done in the past.  I’m almost always surprised to see just how small of a world this movie making business is…and I’ll talk about that later.

Ok so first things first, The Seasoning House is pretty darn good.  Pretty good probably doesn’t make you want to run out and devour the movie this instant – and it shouldn’t.  I just want to let it be known that despite it not being perfect, it’s pretty good.

Pretty Darn Good, Pretty Darn Good, Pretty Darn Good - Sorry, I’m a goof.

Its 1996, in the Balkans – young girls kidnapped from their families are being prostituted out to the military, all whilst being kept in an old decomposing house.  During the film you closely follow Angel, a deaf and mute, girl who’s been kidnapped but reserved to take care of the girls versus being a prostitute herself.

One of the opening scenes in The Seasoning House is a brutal one.  You’ll be meeting the next influx of young girls into the house, and watch as Victor (brothel owner) makes sure the girls know who’s in charge.  The special effects and make-up in this scene are just great.  The make-up throughout the film is top-notch in my opinion.  The thing that isn’t top-notch from the get-go, Viktor.  I was highly disappointed in this character. I hated his lines, seemed so dorky.  He also looked so clean and polished compared to the others.

Viktor takes Angel under his wing. Angel is played by Rosie Day who manages to do a pretty good job despite her characters lack of speech.  Viktor notices straight away that she’s different.  Angel is deaf and has a large birthmark on her cheek, something that might hurt her in the “real” world but works to her benefit in this horrible situation.  I quite liked this, as it also gives Angel an out when she doesn’t respond to the cries and pleading of the other girls being held captive.  You might normally ask why a person wouldn’t help another who’s being tortured, but Angel can’t even hear their pleas…though she doesn’t make a lot of eye contact with them either, as I’m sure she can read lips in some manner.

So beings that Angel is sort of damaged goods, she’s left to pretty the girls up (though that’s laughable) and pump them full of heroin.  I think one thing this movie could have benefited from was cleaning the damn girls up, and make the house a little nicer.  Let’s face it that any dude who visits this place is a total creeper.  But I still feel like some of these girls where so fucked up that they would put off even the most vile man, so while the dirtiness of it added greatly to the cinematography – in my head, the state of the girls would put-off anyone.  Ok, so that’s that.


Eventually Angel develops a friendship with another girl being kept at the house.  This girl can sign, and Angel is immediately smitten and wanting to help.  The girl plays all her cards right with Angel, it’s hard to tell whether there’s a true friendship there or if she’s simply trying to manipulate Angel – I guess it doesn’t matter.  She knows that becoming a friend to Angel could be the difference between life and death.

^^^^^^^^holy crap scary man

Two words – Ryan Oliva (Ivan).  Two words – Holy crap.  I won’t give away the whole scene but holy hell this man is quite honestly one of the scariest men I have ever seen in a movie.  Ivan’s a “patron” of the house. I can honestly say I would probably die from fear if I were in a room alone with this man. This scene had me holding my breath and sets off the second half of the story.  Here’s where my biggest gripe comes from.

Have you ever been watching a movie and the main character is escaping but by dumb luck they end up in the worst place possible, like say the killers house?  Yes, you have??  Me too, it was called Eden Lake and I hated it then.  This also happens in The Seasoning House, twice.  This was my absolute biggest gripe, it’s just way too convenient.   The reason I still rate this higher than Eden Lake is that at least the characters are not doing moronic things constantly just so you can keep the story going.

Sean Pertwee (Goran) also meets with a highly questionable end..or does he?  It’s one of those endings where you get to draw your own conclusions, and I’ll be honest I would have preferred something a little tighter.  This isn’t some crazy thought provoking change your view on the world type movie, I don’t think we need such a broad ending.  It seems like people are scared to end things these days, I’m all for a director having a beginning and an end.  I don’t always want to draw my own conclusions.

End Spoilers

Flashbacks - something I normally hate, but they're not overdone here. It's a little convenient that some characters from her past show up in her future, but hey - this is a movie and movies are stories!

The music really sets the perfect tone in The Seasoning House, done by Paul E Francis.  I noticed it straight away, I love anything that sets such a great mood and doesn’t sound like canned movie music.  It reminded me of works like you’ve heard in Eden Lake and The Descent (though no one can beat David Julyan IMOP).   The music is pretty darn good.

I think Paul Hyett made it to second base with this one, I enjoyed it and I can’t wait to see what he has coming.  Paul has done make-up work on movies like The Descent, Eden Lake, The Children, and The Woman in Black.  I can see how some of these movies have rubbed off on him.  The Seasoning House, written and directed by Paul Hyett, is pretty darn good for a first time director.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Open Grave (2013)

Director – Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Writers – Chris Borey, Eddie Borey
Production Company – Atlas Independent, 852 Films, 
Stars – Sharlto Copley, Thomas Kretschmann, Erin Richards

So here’s the quandary I’m in with Open Grave, I feel like I should like it, but I just don’t.  It’s like when someone puts this valiant effort into making a new inventive cake flavor, but when you taste it you realize that something in the recipe is NOT working for you.  Does that make sense to anyone?

Open Grave follows a man who wakes up in a massive grave of dead bodies with no memory of who he is or how he’s gotten there.  He will meet up with a larger group of folks who’ve also woken up to find that they don’t know who they are, or why they’re here.  The rest of the movie follows these characters around while they try to figure out whose good and who’s bad.

I really enjoyed the overall concept, but I didn’t want the guts of the movie to be the characters trying to figure out who they are.  I wanted the guts of this movie to be these people figuring out what the hell is going on in general!  People, none of us remember who we are – yes this is weird.  For now, let’s just table that discussion and figure out if we’re in mortal danger and try to leave this place like we’re friends.  I don’t care who did what at this point, let’s just focus on surviving and finding other humans who might be able to fill in the blanks for us - deal?

Light Spoilers 

So there’s the gist of it.  All these characters spend most of the movie trying to remember who they are, and they also spend a lot of time giving everyone else the evil eye – because obviously one of these characters must be an evil bastard.  I just didn’t like all the paranoia that was happening, just seemed small beans to me.
I dislike movies that give a lot of attention to small time drama, when they’ve got this large concept looming in the background.  When I think of all the fun Open Graves could have had with the larger concept, I get sad they we mostly just watch a lot of adults bicker with each other.  I guess I didn’t need the slow burn of them figuring out who they are, it would have been much more fun for this to be solved quickly and for the characters to move on to the bigger picture. 


So there are a few other things that really drove me crazy.  I wouldn’t read any further if you still want to watch the movie. 

The Chinese writing mute lady, really????  I find it hard to believe that a grown woman, mute or not, couldn’t help guide the other characters a little bit more.  Make the mute woman a child, problem solved and no longer a flaw.

People can’t remember who they “are” but they are able to retain skills they had such as reading and speaking foreign languages etc.. I just wanted this explained more.  Why remember some things, but not others.

Jonah (Sharlto Copley), I’ve only seen him on District 9 – and he rocked in that flick.  In Open Graves he has the strangest accent. I can’t even really describe it – but it really distracted me.  Overall the acting from everyone in this flick did nothing to help, pretty flat and the dialogue was pretty goofy.

Also - Have you ever watched a movie, and during this movie a character picks up some random video camera?  Sure you probably have.  Have you ever watched a movie where that person then presses play on the video camera, and then what they watch is at the perfect spot so that they can see one of the other main characters doing something seemingly disturbing?  WHY WHY WHY!  This is too perfect! I cannot accept that this would happen in real life.  Other characters also happen upon other useful things such as maps and a cooler containing a cure.

I did like the music, so there’s that - but then the voice over at the end almost wiped it out for me.  

So there you have it.  I just didn’t like it, and if someone could please explain to me what’s up with that scene involving the infected masturbating woman and the infected dude banging his head against the wall - it would be very helpful. 

Or maybe it wouldn’t.

Again this is just all my opinion.  Add this to your repertoire,  I wouldn’t tell anyone not to watch it.  In fact, I see lots of praise for this movie.  So like most things, it’s someones cup of tea, just not mine.