Features

The Silver Screen: April

GodisintheTV 23/04/2010

GIITTV takes a look back at this month's cinematic offerings...

Contributors:
Abbas Ali
Antonio Rowe
Chris Stanley

Edited by: Paul Cook.
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A fitting way to kick-off God is in the TV Zine's brand spanking new monthly film feature is to begin as we mean to go on. Thus, in this first installment we have aimed to deliver a selection of celluloid critiques , in-depth cinematic musings and the best (and worst!) ways to enjoy film on the small screen at home.

April has seen the clash of box-office titans with the Easter weekend providing a focal point of financial comparison. The 3D blockbusters Clash of the Titans, How to Train your Dragon and Nanny McPhee 2, saw an approximate cumulative Easter weekend gross of 18,000,000 between them, once again confirming the Easter weekend as the second-most profitable weekend in which to release a film.

However, it hasn't simply been a case of 3D films packing the punch. The 2D British film Kick-Ass has wowed critics and box-office tallies alike, adding over 7,000,000 to the UK's April box-office kitty.

So, it's been a financial windfall at the cinemas to say the least, but numbers and stats aside, have this month's cinema and DVD releases been any good and what burning issues have arisen?

GIITTV's Abbas Ali, Antonio Rowe, Paul Cook and Chris Stanley are on-hand to find out...

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MAIN FEATURE
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Antonio Rowe asks: “Is it The End of Big Marketing Film Budgets and whether Viral and Guerrilla Film Advertising is the Way Forward?

BlairWitch

For years now, films have been restricted to the same typical production and marketing cycle. The usual cycle is as follows; films are created, while being created snapshots are released to the media showing the stars busy at work. Thus hype ensues claiming this could be the next big record-breaking blockbuster a la Avatar. Production wraps up; the film is advertised via big billboards, mounted on the highways of Hollywood or on the urban streets of Leicester Square, with the starring actors' faces plastered all over them. Then you can't turn the TV on without seeing a trailer promoting the film. Then the actor who plays the lead role appears on a certain Mr Ross's chat show claiming that they had to 'dig deep' to play the role even pushing themselves so far as the murky depths of 'method acting' and they talk about how great the plot is and even find the time to slip in a cheeky anecdote regarding on-the-set pranks for good measure. Then finally after this heap of listless, expensive and partially needless marketing the film is released and inevitably reaches the dizzy heights of the box office.

All this may seem excessive and exaggerated but believe it or not the above details are practically the marketing/promotion timeline for any film that rolls out of Hollywood nowadays. And to be frank many of us are kind of (as you've probably guessed) bored of it. Is it really necessary to waste millions just to announce that a film is coming out and some of people might like to watch it?

What happened to the good old advertising days of the town crier?
If you're like us, then the thought of seeing another film been promoted with the tagline 'No.1 U.S Box Office Smash Hit' makes you feel like there is no hope for the advertising industry, then you'll be happy to know the tides may be turning in the form of viral and guerrilla marketing. Both forms of advertising have been renowned for the one thing that the advertising of films is lacking - creativity. Viral and guerrilla methods are essentially based on the sole belief if you create a medium that's fresh, creative and innovative to advertise your product, in this case film, people will take it upon themselves to acknowledge their friends about it's existence almost in a 'oh have you seen this...' kind of way, word of mouth advertising, if you will.

Major distributors have already taken note of the superiority of these offbeat techniques with the successes of films like Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity being derived from the aforementioned advertising strategies. With the latter of the two films, maximising the power of word of mouth to the extent of Paramount claiming Paranormal Activity would have never been released worldwide, if it wasn't for the fans 'demanding' the release and when the feature was released the tagline “first-ever major film release decided by YOU,” was used to promote the film even putting more emphasis on how important the audience is to the success of the film. This alongside with the use of social media such as social networks like Facebook and Digg made the campaign a resounding success and pushed the film to cult status with the gross revenue been $192,735,402. This all doesn't seem bad for a film that was created on a strict $15,000 budget and was destined to end up in a DVD bargain bin in your nearest supermarket.

Of course, alongside the pros of viral and guerrilla marketing these being; increased audience interactivity, more trustworthy and effective promotion (recommendations from a friend not a big bigwig distribution company) and the immediacy of communication with your demographic, just to name a few, there are some pitfalls. One of these just being the fact that unconventional marketing plans will not be suitable for every release and the thought of some action blockbuster been supported by a fanatical driven plea or an artistic marketing plan just seems unpractical. An additional hindrance would be the point that the only way some films can reach their demographic is with the blanket promotion that is already widely used.

By no means do we believe that every film should be backed with a smart, witty and sometimes slightly pretentious advertising campaign. But most films are a work of art and a fine example of modern culture, so surely their promotion/marketing should be just as creative and innovative as the film-making they seem to advertise.

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CINEMA REVIEWS
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> > > Kick-Ass < < <

KickAss

Kick Ass is a cult classic. The eccentric characters thankfully have more dimensions than just the one and there are some top-notch performances from the actors playing them. After a couple of years of churning out bland performances in films ranging from the average to just the pure insipid drizzle (see Ghost Rider and Next) Nicholas Cage is back on form and does the doting dad aspect of his character justice. Cage also supplies some of the most comical parts of the film and even manages to squeeze in an Adam West Batman parody for good measure.

Furthermore, somehow 13 year old Chloe Mortez manages to pull off the impossibly ridiculous role of Hit Girl without it seeming too controversial and unethical.

Then there is the stylised editing that pays homage to Tarantino but also puts its own unique twist on things and the music soundtrack is also above par too with a couple of great tracks. Inspired performances aside, the content packs a punch too. Suicide is the topic that is used for the film's opening joke, a masturbation montage and a child uttering obscenities at her father are all covered within the first 15 minutes or so into the film. Yeah it's not exactly an idle Sunday afternoon film to watch with your family. Remember, as mentioned earlier, the film is a cult classic not a mainstream classic. Some people will feel the film is an over-done stuffed Christmas turkey with all the trimmings. Feeling there is simply too many mind-bending elements existing in the film for it to work and if that doesn't put off some people, then seeing a scene which sees Hit Girl been shot by her father in order to toughen her up and get used to a bullet proof vest certainly will seem to some people just too much. This again adding to the fact that some of these characters and use of content will be simply be extreme for people.

The main reason why the film works and stops it from becoming an excessive black comedy/kind of superhero blockbuster train wreck is the fact that throughout the film there is an irresistible charm effect that's present mainly because the overall budget of the film has been reported at a measly 19 million. The fact something so entertaining and unique has managed to be created from this relatively small amount of money in movie-making terms makes the film all the more impressive, although surprisingly Brad Pitt is enlisted as one of the producers.

Kick Ass is a film that will be adored by its niche market and be regarded as preposterous by anyone who isn't in the niche market. Whether that market is millions of people worldwide or a couple or a couple hundred thousand, I don't know. You probably know already whether your part of that niche or not just by reading this review. this reviewer certainly is.

What is also promising is the film's open-ended plot leaving plenty of room for a sequel to this work of adrenaline-fuelled, cult cinematography.

Words: Antonio Rowe
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> > > Cemetary Junction < < <

CemetaryJ

I didn't grow up in a cold, grey, wet council estate in inner city Manchester in the 80s dreaming of escape. In the world of my imagination, I in fact grew up in a small town in America, in the 70s, far cooler than I actually was, driving round in a souped-up car, smoking Lucky Strikes, pulling girls who wore flares and listening to Led Zeppelin. And so it is for so many of us here in Britain. The world of our youthful imaginations find affinity in the depictions of Americana's finest coming of age movies, be it the small town of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, the rebellious New York nightlife of Saturday Night Fever, the angry, misunderstood cool of James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, or the mourning of lost childhood innocence and freedom in 80s flick Diner. And of course, the are the high school movies of John Hughes, classics like Ferris Beuller's Day Off, the Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink. Nowadays, there's Judd Apatow, of course. I could go on, but you get the idea....

We don't do that here. Youthful rebellion, escapism, struggling to hold onto one's dreams in the face of a cruel, uncaring world have always been depicted in grim, tragic terms, the “kitchen sink” dramas of the 60s, like Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (think Shamelesswithout the comedy and sense of fun), or, more recently, Shane Meadows' This Is England. For Americans, growing up can feel good, but on this side of the Atlantic, does growing up always have to be grim?

For the makers of Cemetery Junction, Ricky Gervais and his lanky cohort Stephen Merchant, the film came out of a sense that we could compete on an equal footing with the Americans. Thankfully, the results are beautiful, and joyous. The story revolves around three friends, first of all, Freddie Taylor (Christian Cooke), a handsome, sincere young man whose life is changing as he starts a new job working in door to door life insurance sales, after escaping from the factory his dad (Gervais) works in. Then there's his friend, good looking bad boy Bruce Pearson (Tom Hughes), an angry young man who is popular with the ladies, quick with his fists, and likes a drink, not unlike his alcoholic father, with whom he often clashes. Finally, there's Snork (Jack Doolan), the loveable loser of the bunch, who is a big miss with the ladies, and provides a lot of the comedy with his efforts.

While they go out, chasing girls, and getting into fights, their lives are changing, as Freddie realises he needs to leave the larking about and “grow up”, taking his new job seriously if he's to have any chance of escaping his humble working class background. Things take a turn for the unexpected when it turns out the bosses daughter is none other than his childhood sweetheart, Julie, who is engaged to his new mentor at work, Regional Manager Matthew Goode, an evil misogynist who prays on the fears of the people he sells life insurance to.

As for Julie, she's trapped in the backwards sexist attitudes of the time, given the old-fashioned values of her parents and husband to be, so when she shares her dreams of seeing the world with Freddie, sparks fly for both of them, and Freddie realises he needs to leave Reading to follow his dreams, rather than spend 40 years in a job he despises.
While the couple provide the romance of the piece, it's Bruce that provides the heart, as his carefree demeanour hides a great deal of anger. While he spends his days working the factory, outside work his childish antics often take a turn for the worse. He constantly clashes with the local police, regularly ending up in the cells, while constantly taking his anger out on his father, all because he did not standing up to the man who his mother had an affair with.

Bruce dreams of leaving his dead-end life, but never does anything about it until Freddie says he's had enough. Meanwhile Snork, dreaming of meeting foreign girls who won't understand his terrible chat up lines, and leaving his job at the local railway station, Cemetery Junction, agrees. But will they, or won't they find the courage to leave their small town lives behind?

While Cemetery Junction provides these likeable, familiar characters, who we care about, and a plot that feels familiar, there no major surprises or upsets, it's the experience that makes it worth watching. In the end, Cemetery Junction is like those train journeys on sunny days you experienced as a child. Nothing unexpected or bad happens, the sights are nice, and it leaving you with a warm, good feeling inside. And given that, in Britain, the feelgood movies we do have usually involve the affluent, upper middle class world inhabited by characters played by bumbling toffs like Hugh Grant, to see the lives and dreams of ordinary people celebrated in a joyous, glorious manner, is very refreshing indeed.

Words: Abbas Ali
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> > > The Ghost < < <

Ghost

First, to dispel any ideas that Roman Polanski has taken on a spook-story, the title actually refers to the lead character's ghost writing profession. Why the UK release of the film chose to drop 'writer' from the title seems bizarre and is indicative of the film's overall misguided direction.

Surprisingly, for a director that gave us the twistingly enigmatic neo-noir Chinatown and the heart-wrenching The Pianist this latest film, that follows the story of a ghost writer's entanglement in a political cover-up, isn't even close to Polanski's previous work. The film lacks urgency and cries out for a dose of subtlety as the plot plays out with far more than just a wink and a nod to the final “twist”, if we can call it that.

The subject matter is also too blatant and heavy-handed in tackling the issues that Polanski clearly aimed to highlight (the Tony Blair/war in Iraq fiasco) and becomes stale and placid twenty minutes in. Whilst it is enjoyable to see Polanski dabbling in the themes and atmosphere of film noir once again, The Ghost Writer persistently feels as if it is struggling to live up to what it could have been.

This is due to a handful of reasons. The casting is perhaps the biggest problem. Ewan McGregor playing a chirpy, pessimistic Brit and Pierce Brosnan playing the short-tempered Cambridge graduate Prime Minister feel awkward throughout and sap any credibility from the performances. Needless to say, Sex & The City's Kim Cattrall furthers the embarrassment. The film also dwells upon itself in the middle unconcerned with the snails pace of the action and exposition of every thread of the plot until the 'hints' become crystal clear. Polanski's cinematographer Pawel Edelman (The Pianist, Oliver Twist, Ray) is perhaps the film's saving grace. The look of the film is sharp, precise and ice cold with a fantastic attention to detail.

The sum total of The Ghost Writer's faults, despite a promising and could-be-engaging story, is a lengthy and drawn-out affair in which the action makes way for lingering, repeated hints at the film's twist which only serves to bore the viewer and attract attention to woeful casting decisions.

Words: Paul Cook
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AT HOME: DVD AND BLU RAY
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> > > Sherlock Holmes < < <

Sherlock

The first and utmost imperative thing you should note to yourself before watching Sherlock Holmes is that it isn't a Sherlock Holmes adaptation and the quicker this realisation hits home the more likely you are to enjoy the movie. Taking complete artistic license over literatures best loved character was a brave curiosity of a film and for those who are fans of the novels, previous films or the unfaltering Jeremy Brett series that was done with such respect for the original material, beautifully produced and acted to an inch of its life. Now the wonderful thing about the stories of Sherlock Holmes is that during the Victorian period we Brits had got around the world so a lot of the stories would feature strange and exotic plants, people and animals which created an almost mythical atmosphere to Doyle's books.

Some would deem these things to be important when reinventing the character and stories but luckily Guy Richie's attempt is pulled of better then you expect. The plot surrounds elements of dark arts and superstition where Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and Watson (Jude Law) prevent a ritual murder by a Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), months later awaiting his death sentence Blackwood requests Holmes' appearance and gives him a warning of changes to come and the prediction of three more deaths. From there we taken through back streets and the docks of London whilst occasionally visiting secret societies without giving too much away the full plot is at times hard to follow and a little ridiculous but this doesn't mean the film isn't entertaining. In fact the films finest features are those which provide complete entertainment mainly this takes the form of Holmes and Watsons dialogue with each other, there is obvious endearing chemistry that serves the film well. Aghast at conceding this, but the strange thing is that the excellent fight sequences also have the strong humour which features throughout. If you have never had any interest in Sherlock Holmes, you'll love this film and if you are a fan try and forget it is a Holmes incarnation.

Words: Chris Stanley
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> > > Saw VI < < <

Saw6

'The Game Comes Full Circle' is the tagline for Saw VI. That makes this the sixth outing for the franchise, for those of you who need to brush up on your Roman numeral knowledge. And to be honest this choice of words couldn't bring any more happiness or relief to me than the press announcement regarding the production details of Kick-Ass 2 could, for example. Jigsaw and his accomplice Amanda have been dead long since Saw III (2006) and yet for some nonsensical reason unbeknownst to me, the producers and screenwriters still think there is vitality in the franchise and a story to tell.

Sorry to disappoint them but frankly there isn't. The once refreshing, twisted moral and ethics based storyline where Jigsaw feels the need to serve up some (slightly corrupt to say the least) vigilante justice just seems outdated and trite. It also doesn't help that the casting is made up of unknowns whose acting CVs I could guess, are full of starring roles in those ghastly American made-for-TV dramas.

As for the trademark gore scenes that once made Saw unique and risqué just seem mind-numbing and sadistic. Even the slightly interesting flashbacks of Jigsaw creating the 'games' for his soon-to-be-victims and the plot surprise right at the end can't salvage this movie from being a catastrophe. The most disappointing thing about Saw VI is the fact that it's not even frightening. When films like Paranormal Activity are injecting some much needed scare and vitality into the horror genre, Saw VI just seems stuck in the past and still relying on the good old blood and gore = horror formula when that just isn't the case anymore. But don't worry, those of you who are hardcore fans of the laboured franchise, Saw VII has just finished production and is set for release October this year. Yeah... (Sigh).

DVD Extras: The usual collection of extras (director commentaries etc.) with a look behind the scenes of the Saw Maze.

Words: Antonio Rowe