5-Word 365 #121 – Over The Top

I did start writing this as a straight-forward review of today’s film, but it took an odd philosophical turn on me towards the end. Still, it proved to be a welcome respite after yesterday. Read More

5-Word 365 #101 – Sleuth

Much as Kenneth Branagh seems to have built his career emulating Laurence Olivier – even going so far as playing the man himself in the recent My Week With Marilyn – Jude Law has done the same but to a lesser degree by dipping in and out of Michael Caine’s back catalogue. This is the point where all that history comes together. Read More

5-Word 365 #086 – Franklyn

After yesterday’s fun at the trailer park, we’re moving on to some big city Dystopian sci-fi today. Or are we?

Franklyn

Good effort. Must try harder.

Four separate stories across two separate realities collide in the debut feature from writer/director Gerald McMorrow. In London: a man named Peter Esser searches for his missing son; Emilia, an art student, videotapes her suicide attempts for an installation; and Milo, a young man left at the altar, hunts for the memory of his first love. Meanwhile in, um, Meanwhile City, a masked vigilante detective named Preest plots the assassination of the individual responsible for the death of a girl he was meant to protect.

This movie is pretty hard to review in five words, but I can manage it in three: ambitious but flawed. For a debut feature, that ambition is to be applauded. There aren’t a lot of filmmakers who would have the balls and the imagination to try to lead off a career with a story like this, and fair play to McMorrow for the effort. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work as intended. Besides the somewhat overcooked script, a major problem with the film as far as I’m concerned is the casting of Sam Riley. I haven’t seen Control (through choice – sorry, but Joy Division just depress me) so I don’t have that performance in my head to compare this to, but his Milo is not much more than a whiney little boy dressed like a grown up. He’s irritating, and it ruined his part of the story for me and, as a consequence, the entire film. The former king of Rohan, Bernard Hill does well with the one-note character that is Peter Esser, infusing some genuine warmth into the man, and Eva Green impressed me with her dual roles as both the damaged Emilia and Milo’s grown up childhood friend Sally, hiding her natural beauty behind either excessive eyeliner or a shocking red wig. And no, the two aren’t twins. [Yarrrgh! – Cap’n] Sorry Cap’n.

Not a good look, Eva.

As far as I’m concerned, the best performance in the movie was Ryan Phillippe as Preest, although the character is clearly inspired by Rorschach in both look and deed. Frankly, I’m surprised Alan Moore didn’t sue. Like most of you probably did, I dismissed this guy as just another pretty-boy back in the Cruel Intentions days, but he has been impressing me more and more as the years go on, starting with the Billy Bob Thornton-starring weed comedy Homegrown. By the way, if you haven’t seen that (which is likely) do your best to get a hold of it. You can thank me later. It is in the Meanwhile City sections where this flick really comes alive, and Phillippe’s noirish narration is a big part of that. As a couple of you may know, I have dabbled a bit in noir fiction myself and McMorrow really understands that mood, even in such a fantastical setting as Meanwhile City. And fantastical really is the word. This completely made-up place is remarkable. It’s stunningly beautiful. I would quite happily spend hours looking at all the production art for these scenes. It is a gothic fantasy masterpiece that Batman would be proud to live in (and from me, that’s quite a compliment). If McMorrow had cut out most of the London-set stuff and just made a Meanwhile story, I for one would have lapped that shit up.

See what I mean?

I have to say though, the way the two worlds start bleeding into each other as the film progresses is very artfully done. It’s only in the last twenty minutes or so that everything started tying together, and the clues that had been dropped throughout all fell into place. The ending felt a bit pat though, a bit trite.

I had been aware of this movie since its brief cinematic run three years ago, and it is one of those flicks that pop up in the back of my mind from time to time as something I’d like to see. Ultimately I was disappointed, but I think McMorrow is capable of big things. I might have to wait a while to find out though, as he hasn’t had any further credits as writer or director since this film.

5-Word 365 #074 – Frozen

To preserve what little sanity I have over the course of this year, I’m going to change things up every once in a while. Instead of reviewing today’s flick the way I usually do – watching it then thinking about it for a while and composing my thoughts, such as they are – today will be a live, as-it-happens experience. I will be watching and reviewing the film at the same time! I know, it’s such a radical concept. Also, for once, this is a movie that I am completely ignorant of. In all fairness, this will probably contain spoilers. So here now, for your reading pleasure is…

Frozen

Three kids and a ski-lift.

00:00:10 Starz owns Anchor Bay? When did that happen?

00:01:40 Snowy mountains and a ski-lift, in a movie called Frozen. What a stunning stylistic choice.

00:03:33 The lead schmuck just said “What’s the worst that could happen?” They’re all doomed.

00:05:15 The characters are scamming the ski-lift operator to let them up the mountain without ski-passes. Evil deeds never go unpunished…

00:07:15 One of the Ashmore twins just corrected his buddy’s girlfriend’s grammar. Do they all have to be such bad people? I know a Finnish word that descibes him. I need to look it up though.

00:09:10 Some ominous creaking there from the ski-lift…

00:10:17 AND THEY’RE SMOKING! THEY’RE ALL GONNA DIE!

00:11:00 The lift stops, and our story begins.

00:11:45 Maybe.

00:12:04 It started back up again. This is going to be a really short movie.

00:14:31 It’s a montage. We all know that time goes quicker in a montage. They missed a trick by not licencing the Ski Sunday theme music for this bit.

00:15:22 What the fuck? The movie goes indoors and suddenly the picture quality shifts from modern digital to mid-90’s camcorder.

00:17:16 You’re glad you’ve had this chance to bond as a threesome? Really, dude? Subtle.

00:20:12 They are back on the lift, after persuading the guy they bribed earlier to let them have another run. This might be where the drama kicks in.

00:22:40 The lift stopped again. Okay, this is where our story begins. I hope.

00:23:23 So, we are trapped on a ski-lift in the dark with Parker, Joe and The Other Guy. So far, The Other Guy is a bit irritating but the other two seem alright. They are taking about what would be the worst way to die. I get the feeling not all of them are going to survive this.

00:25:29 Joe offers “The Sarlaac Pit” as the worst way to die. Geek and virgin credentials both established in just three simple words.

00:27:21 Dan. Other Guy’s name is Dan. I know you were all eager for me to clarify that.

00:28:09 That’s it Dan. Call your girlfriend a psycho when you’re stuck on a chairlift after dark. Excellent idea.

00:28:47 It’s Sunday and the resort will be closed until the following Friday. That is really shitty luck when you think about it.

00:31:13 Here comes the blizzard. That’s convenient. I get the idea that the writers are gonna throw every possible cliche at these three kids. I have a pound says Dan dies first.

00:34:31 A full moon. Another pound says we’ll see wolves within three minutes.

00:37:31. I just lost a pound. To myself.

00:37:50 Dan’s about to jump off the lift. I may be about to win that pound back, as the music comes to a crescendo.

00:38:43 Damn that was a bad landing. Ankles aren’t supposed to bend that way, are they? Neither are knees, come to think of it…

00:39:42 In all fairness, he really made no attempt to land well. A cruel person might say he deserves those multiple compound fractures and the probable life-threatening infection he will undoubtedly soon develop.

00:42:05 That was a howl. WOLVES ARE COMING!! Five minutes fucking late, but the wolves are coming!

00:43:56 Parker (the girl): “It could be worse!”. Exactly how, you silly girl? “It could be The Sarlaac Pit!”. You’re an idiot.

00:45:21 That is one angry looking wolf. All snarly and shit. I’d probably be filling my trunks right now if I was Dan.

00:47:45 Joe’s trying to climb along the cable towards the pole with the ladder. He should really be hoisting his legs up as well instead of just going hand over hand.

00:49:13 More wolves. Dan’s being eaten. I win a pound. That was a really effective and unsettling death actually, played mostly off the reactions of Joe and Parker. Kudos to you, Mr Writer and Mr Director.

00:51:32 And here come the recriminations.

00:53:32 Despite all evidence to the contrary, I’m actually quite pleasantly surprised at the quality of this script.

00:55:01 It really sucks that they have to sit in that lift for the best part of a week with their half-eaten, dead friend right beneath them.

00:56:37 I suppose they could zip their coats right up over their mouths, but that would probably spoil the sound quality. Not to mention it would ruin this rugged, snowy-beard thing Ashmore-twin’s got going on.

00:57:44 “You’re not gonna die, Parker.” I call bullshit. New bet: Parker dies.

00:58:47 Sun arise, bring in de morning.

01:00:01 Shit. Parker’s bare hand is on the metal safety bar. I saw Dumb And Dumber. This will not end well.

01:01:17 When you’re leaving half your hand behind on the bar, STOP TRYING TO PULL IT OFF YOU FUCKING IDIOT!

01:03:36 Ominous strings on the soundtrack. Can the situation really get any worse?

01:04:21 Parker just peed herself. Now she’s crying. Yeah, cos that’s your biggest problem. Personally I’d say that bloom of frostbite on your cheek that you keep rubbing at may prove to have a more lasting effect on you.

01:05:48 More kudos coming. This time to the make-up team. That frostbite is looking really good.

01:07:46 Joe is telling his One That Got Away story. I think they call this “character development”.

01:10:18 Their arses must be so numb by now.

01:12:03 Joe’s gonna give the cable another try. Use your legs this time, moron.

01:12:32 He nudged the bolt holding the chair on the cable. Parker is hanging precariously! I’m trying to type withug lookins at the keyboard!

01:13:21 WOLVES ARE BACK!

01:13:59 He made it to the next chair. All he has to do now is get to the big pole, then down the ladder and fight off a pack of snarling wolves.

01:15:02 If Parker’s chair doesn’t fall off the cable first…

01:15:50 He’s still not using his legs.

01:17:02 He made it to the ladder. I’m so happy! But now he’s on the ground and there’s a wolf hanging off his arm. Ski-pole to the eye. Nicely done, boyo.

01:19:27 She’s been up there another whole night. Did Joe make it to the bottom? Did the wolves get Joe?

01:22:14 Decision time, Parker. SHIT!

01:22:56 Sorry. The chair just fell off the cable. It caught on a loose thread of wire halfway down and she dropped safely, but the fucker landed on her leg.

01:24:17 She seems to be walking okay though. Relatively speaking.

01:24:49 Found Joe. Some of him, anyway. Dude, that’s nasty.

01:25:44 Parker is sliding down the mountain unhindered by wolves. If she smacks her head off a tree or something I’m going to be really pissed off.

01:27:01 She’s by the road. Laying down and falling asleep. And she’s been picked up. It looks like Parker will survive, minus a big chunk of hand and some cheek. There goes another pound.

01:28:32 Written and directed by Adam Green. Oh, the Hatchet guy. Nice job, Adam Green. Really.

01:29:26 The Ashmore twin was Shawn. The one from X-Men, not the one from Smallville. With Kevin Zegers as Dan, “and introducing Emma Bell” as Parker.

01:33:14 Fin.

So that was Frozen. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect much from that flick but overall I was pleasantly surprised. I thought the cast did a very good job, especially since it was just the three of them from twenty minutes into the run-time, then just two half an hour after that. Despite all behaving somewhat irritatingly at various times through the movie, I warmed to these kids (sorry). By the way, that Finnish word I mentioned at 00:07:15? It’s pilkunnussija.

Final verdict: Frozen is an effective little low-budget, high-concept survival chiller (again, sorry). It’s no masterpiece, but it achieves what it sets out to achieve: make you squirm, and reach for the thermostat. Definitely worth an hour and a half of your time.