345-Word Reviews: Only God Forgives


Only God Forgives Ryan GoslingFollowing the popular and critical success of Drive, Ryan Gosling reteams with director Nicolas Winding Refn for a film that is both more and less of the same: more vengeance, torture, blows to the head, and less movement, less dialogue, less significance. From its stately depiction of a neon-and-bokeh Bangkok (shot by Eyes Wide Shut‘s Larry Smith), to its hyper-Freudian, return-to-the-womb conclusion (cribbed from George Bataille’s Ma mère), Only God Forgives is a great-looking but stilted drama, painfully obvious, studiously enigmatic, and boringly sadistic.  Continue reading

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Spring Breakers Randomised


Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is an oddity wrapped up in a conventional teen-drama that warps into some kind of day-glo fever dream of bikinis, Britney, and assault rifles. Ostensibly the tale of four girls who commit a violent robbery to fund their spring-break trip to Florida so that they don’t miss out on the hedonistic, beer-bathing fun they imagine their peers are having. But it could just as easily be their heat-stroked collective hallucination. It is neither the lurid exploitation of Disney princesses it might seem to be on first glance (see accompanying image, above), nor the handwringing “won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children”, expose of “the Real Spring Break”, though it has the scent of both those things about it. It’s a little more haunting and confounding than that. It seems like a prime candidate for some randomisation, so I’ve subjected it to the process that will familiar to regular readers by now, and which can be recapped/introduced with a quick visit to some of the earlier entries in the series.

The randomiser has selected minute-marks 2, 24, 37, 54, and 83. That’s a good spread across the whole of the film, but there’s no telling what those images will yield. The first picture will be… Continue reading

345-Word Reviews: World War Z


World War ZNeither the calamity that its troubled production might have led you to expect, nor the triumph that its $250 million price-tag should lead you to demand, World War Zed offers a number of delights. This is a globalised disaster movie, told not from the perspective of bedraggled survivors who end up turning on each other in a desperate fight over dwindling supplies (the genre template laid down by Romero, and canonised most recently in The Walking Dead comics and TV series), but through the lens of a UN-led operation to find a solution to the zombie pandemic sweeping the planet. This omniscient overview sometimes dilutes what should be a terrifying vision of a world falling apart, because it gives an unwarranted sense of control over events, and the film plays out in a doggedly linear hop from one country to the next along a thread of tangential clues.

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The Spectacular Attractions Podcast Archive


Last year, I made a series of ten podcasts, mainly to see if I could. It was time-consuming at first, and though it soon became easier once I got the hang of the software, I didn’t have time to keep it going beyond that run of ten. I’d like to try these again in the future, perhaps with a series of interviews (any tips on how best to record Skype or iChat conversations to make them suitable for podcasts would be greatly appreciated), but the next thing I’m going to try is a video podcast. I’ll probably use some of the same subjects, but being able to use clips will make things much easier for me, and hopefully more interesting for you. In the meantime here, in one place, is the whole collection of Spectacular Attractions podcasts to date. You can listen here, or download to play on your own devices:

Halloween Picture of the Week: 50 Frankenstein Movie Posters


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In the run up to Halloween, here’s the first of a series of scary treats for you to enjoy while you scoop the guts out of a pumpkin or a neighbour. The story of Frankenstein is one of those that has been endlessly reiterated in movies and literature, from Edison’s 1910 adaptation to Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, via James Whale’s matchless Bride of Frankenstein and Frank Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker. There seems to be an enduring fascination with the reanimated corpse and its path towards self-definition, and the deceptively simple premise lends itself to many reconfigurations. Thankfully, this also gives ample excuse for some wonderful, often lurid poster art to tease us with sightings of the jerry-built creature. You should also pay a visit to the excellent, comprehensive Frankensteinia blog for more about the monster and his maker.

Picture of the Week #71: Pictogram Film Posters by Viktor Hertz


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These eyecatching pictogram film posters by Viktor Hertz continue the trend for minimalist posters inspired by popular movies. You can see more at Hertzen’s photostream on Flickr. And why not follow him on Twitter while you’re at it. Thanks to Catherine Grant of Film Studies for Free for the heads-up on this.

Picture of the Week #51: Jack Arnold


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This blog has seen more than its fair share of monstery movie posters, but it’s Jack Arnold’s (1916 – 1992) birthday today, or at least it was when I wrote this, and still is (just!) in some places far West of here. Anyway, it’s a flimsy excuse to liven up my blog with a batch of posters and images from some of Arnold’s best known films like Tarantula, Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man. The sensational imagery and hyperbole of the marketing campaigns is matched in the films themselves not by a similarly one-note gigantism, but with a considered delivery of that premise. Well, maybe not Tarantula, which is about a massive spider, but The Incredible Shrinking Man is quite a mournful, agonising account of the effects on its protagonist of an ongoing process of ensmallening (it’s a perfectly cromulent word). Plus, it has one of the most extraordinary, unforgettable endings in all science fiction cinema, which I won’t reveal here.

Initially an actor, Arnold’s career path was diverted when he enlisted in the Air Corps after Pearl Harbor:

As luck would have it they sent me to join a unit that was making a film produced and directed by Robert Flaherty. Now Flaherty was a kind of idol of mine so I decided to tell him the truth. I went up to this giant of an Irishman and said, look, I’ve got something to tell you–I’m an actor, not a cameraman. But I told him that I thought I would be able to handle the job. And I guessed he liked the fact that I had told him the truth instead of trying to fake my way through it and he kept me on.

After I got out of the Air Force a buddy of mine who had been in my squadron said, let’s go into business together. So we started a documentary film company. We made a number of documentaries over the years – for the State Department, the Ford Motor Company and so on, and we won some prizes. Then I made a film for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union called These Hands. It was a feature spanning fifty years of the union which was good enough to be released theatrically, and it got very good reviews. I was even nominated for an Academy Award which brought me to the attention of Hollywood. Universal gave me a contract with them as a director and I started working for them in 1950.

Picture of the Week #44: Brandon Schaefer’s Film Posters


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I keep coming across excellent fan-made (help me out in the search for a better term for it than that!) posters, and this week I direct your attention towards Brandon Schaefer’s collection of images, which you can find at his website or on his Flickr pages. Some great, unusual choices, but also some original takes on well-known favourites like Ghostbusters and Tron.

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Salt


Is it me, or has there been an unusually large number of films about people who kill other people for a living. We’ve seen romantic comedies about the ineffable awesomeness of being a super-trained assassin like Killers or Knight and Day, in which the suave charm of the male lead (Ashton Kutcher and Tom Cruise respectively) is inseparable from his ability to perform choreographed acts of sanitised slaughter, and in which the only defining characteristic of the females (Katherine Heigl and Cameron Diaz) is their utter interchangeability. Mostly we’ve seen ensemble mercenary pieces like The Losers, The Expendables and The A Team, tiresome examples of cinematic spread-betting – put all your quite-big stars in one basket and hopefully they’ll congeal into one big bankable name, and don’t forget to make blowing stuff up and shooting guns look fun. All of these are knocked into a cocked safety helmet by Salt, which trumps this sorry pack simply by winding up Angelina Jolie and letting her go about her business of making this kind of nonsense look serious and feel important.

Read on…

Spectacular Attractions Podcast #6


Gojira (Ishirō Honda, 1954)

This week’s podcast is about Ishirō Honda’s seminal 1954 monster movie, complete with sound effects and excerpts from Akira Ifukube’s superb score. Better known by the English title Godzilla, the film shows you what happens when a dormant dinosaur is woken form a deep sleep by atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific and gets out his grumpy by stomping on Japan’s biggest cities. This podcast focuses on the particular kinds of special effects used to depict these events, namely the man-in-a-monster-suit aesthetic, which allows an actor to lay waste to a miniature set. Following Philip Brophy’s argument that this technique is a historically Japanese approach, it seems that the rubber suit, rather than being a deficient or inadequate attempt at the illusion of scale, endows the monster with a specific vision of destructive force that allows us to identify more directly with the monster instead of dismissing it as something irreconcilably other.

DOWNLOAD: Spectacular Attractions Podcast #6

[Find more Spectacular Attractions podcasts here, or subscribe via iTunes here. Read the original post here.]

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