The Dark Tapes (2017) – Indie Movie Review

NOTE: The following review of The Dark Tapes (2017) will remain spoiler free, avoiding important plot points or twists in order for you to experience the movie how I did.

The Dark Tapes is an independent horror/sci-fi experience that swept the film festival circuit during 2016, reaping 61 wins and/or nominations from it’s 30 festival appearances. It’s a film that audiences through a series of different ‘tapes’ depicting gruesome events that transpired throughout 2015/2016 – tied back to an experiment-gone-wrong that took place back in 2007. Got that?

When The Dark Tapes begins, it burns slowly. From the discovery of a camera, two individuals then stumble upon a bloody experiment-esque setting, that looks to have had dropped into chaos at the some point. The footage found on the discovered camera is checked by the two bewildered characters, therefore throwing us into what happened on each tape and offering a grim insight into the events that had unfolded. I will admit this, when the film first began I did begin to have some doubts sink in. The first tape focuses on an experiment – which is returned to throughout, acting as the spine of this anthology – and the dialogue between the two characters performing these experiments seemed very expositional. It was necessary to explain what the experiment would entail, they were recording their experiment so this exposition did fit how the characters would deliver it, however the abundance of “scientific” terminology and experiment details went on for a little too long, almost causing me to lose interest in the story before it had the chance to properly begin.

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The Dark Tapes (2017)

Apart from this minor issue as the film was gearing up, I can thankfully say that my interest was retained and I did not write The Dark Tapes off. The slow burner approach separately applies to the rest of the tapes that are shown throughout the film – however these are executed much better, building up a tense, edge of your seat atmosphere that you begin to choke on until it climaxes and you are subjected to whatever each tape has in store for you (often being pretty gruesome or chilling, to say the least). The dialogue in general flows naturally throughout, plaudits to the actors and their direction for this. The vast majority of the performances through The Dark Tapes are good, strong performances that work brilliantly with the cinematography decisions to really draw you into the world that’s being presented on screen, feeling very real – and therefore achieving a very creepy, unnerving atmosphere – in the process. The performances of Cortney Palm and David Rountree in the second tape in particular are ones that made me forget that I was watching a film instead of actual found footage.

One of The Dark Tapes most valuable assets is director/writer Michael McQuown’s use of silence. It serves as an effective tool to build up tension and suspense in scenes, one scene in particular had me watching through my hands in anticipation for a character’s potential demise. It’s not the loud bangs or sudden noises you hear that make you on edge – it’s the eerie silences that you find yourself forgetting to breathe to that really do it. It’s this crippling appliance of silence, coupled with the natural dialogue and cinematography, that really absorbs you into these different scenarios. Throughout the film there is plenty of practical effects which are greatly appreciated, the gruesome events that occur make you wince as you watch it – but the film doesn’t rely on only this aspect alone to serve its audiences appetite, making those moments count as particular flashes during its intertwining tale that crosses in and out of many horror sub-genres.

The crafting of scenes bring about an unsettling caution, curiosity and suspense which in turn chills you to the bone and leaves you with a heavy, sinking in the pit of your stomach. As events unfold you find yourself not being able to do anything but watch, even as the rest of your body shudders.

One thing that pulled me out of the film on occasion was the distortion effect used throughout. I understand that this aesthetic choice works for a found footage film, however the effect was overused – taking me out of the experience and allowing me to notice occasional attempts to mask cuts to different takes, etc. Some of the CGI used throughout the film looks the part however there would also be occasional moments where it doesn’t look so particularly good either. Unfortunately, the demon entities which appears throughout lost their scare factor (for me, personally) once I heard their dialogue – but don’t worry, there isn’t much.

Out of all the tapes, I would claim that “Cam Girls” was probably the weakest tape of the anthology, or at least the first half of it. The acting and dialogue during the first half of this tape did not hold up to its counterparts – but the practical effect work that draws my praises did partly come from this tape.Poster_Demon_small

Despite occasional blips, I really did find myself shaken by the first two thirds of The Dark Tapes. Unfortunately it is a film that drops slightly in it’s final third – the quality of the edit drops as the film desperately works to fit everything in and bring it round to a whole. It gradually became hindered by its own ambition because that’s what this film is at the end of the day, an ambitious piece of cinema. The Dark Tapes opted for an intelligent take on the found footage subgenre, trying to take it one step further. The flaws that this movie has are minor ones, little moments, but unfortunately are ones that build up and bring me out of the film and, in turn, water down it’s own sense of horror that it does such a good job of consistently building up. The ambition and vision behind The Dark Tapes is such an applaudable trait of the entire crew, however this sometimes also streams into making the overall story convoluted. This film might have proved to be more effective as a collection of short films rather than one whole piece. However I am confident that if you give these filmmakers, who are obviously very passionate fans of the horror genre, a slightly higher budget to iron out some issues that they’ve had to compromise with on special effects and editing, they are certainly capable of creating a twisted, suspenseful chiller of a horror movie. I look forward to seeing what comes of them next!

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I recommend giving The Dark Tapes a viewing at least once, you may just love it!

It is released on Video On-Demand platforms worldwide on April 18th, the film will also be available on Google Play, Vudu, ONDemand (Comcast- Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House & more), Dish TV, Amazon, Vubiquity (Verizon Fios, Charter, Sudden Link, Media Com & more), Xbox, Playstation, Sling TV & Vimeo.

You can purchase The Dark Tapes on iTunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-dark-tapes/id1212096983

 

 

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Ryan Gosling’s Top 5 Acting Performances

It seems to be to almost no one’s surprise that Damien Chazelle’s La La Land has waltzed its way through this years awards season like a romantic, colourful, musical whirlwind. It swept up all 7 of the Golden Globes it was nominated for, collected another 5 honours at this years BAFTAs, and it seems to be on course to take over this year’s Academy Awards (garnering a joint-record 14 nominations). One of the main components of the modern-age musical’s success is the two performances of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, both  of whom have earned Oscar nominations as Sebastian and Mia respectively this year. It is the third motion picture that Gosling and Stone have collaborated on (the first being Crazy, Stupid, Love then followed by Gangster Squad), the success from each being evident through the chemistry they spark between each other on the screen.

In this article I am going to recommend my top 5 personal favourite Ryan Gosling performances to you to go and watch before you see La La Land, therefore excluding it from the list. However; if you have already seen it – which I’m guessing many have since it has already made almost $300m at the Box Office – please feel free to use this list as recommendations to further your experience of Mr Gosling on the big screen. It slightly disappoints me when I hear people label Ryan Gosling as an actor who can only seem to play himself, so I’ve tried to select a varying collection of his performances that hope to show the man’s acting range in better light.

5. Lars and the Real Girl (2007) – Craig Gillespie

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Our first performance on this list is in 2007’s Lars and the Real Girl. It is a tale of a shy young man named Lars (Ryan Gosling), who enters into a delusional mindset and falls in love with Bianca, a lifelike sex doll. The concept sounds silly, but Gosling manages to bring life to this inanimate character throughout the film. Acting opposite nobody Bianca in scenes where no magic should spark, he manages to evoke emotions from himself, the lifeless face of his partner and most importantly, the viewer. Lars and the Real Girl is a very heartwarming story that manages to showcase Gosling as much more than your traditional love interest.

You can watch the trailer here.

4. A Place Beyond the Pines (2012) – dir. Derek Cianfrance

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Ryan Gosling stars opposite his now-wife, Eva Mendes, in A Place Beyond the Pines.

 

A Place Beyond the Pines tells the story of three generations and sheds light on how people can be driven to a life of crime for different reasons. In this film Ryan Gosling portrays Luke Glanton, a motorcyclist who travels with a touring carnival. After he finds out that his former lover has recently given birth to his son, Luke takes to using his riding ability in order to rob a series of banks to try and provide for his new family and be there for his child – unlike his own father.

You can watch the trailer here.

3. Drive (2011) – dir. Nicolas Winding Refn

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The story of Drive focuses around a Hollywood stunt driver who uses his talents to moonlight as a getaway driver for hire. However, he begins to fall for Irene, the girl next door – played by Carey Mulligan. In an effort to help her and her son out, the scorpion decorated wheelman is dragged into something bigger as a heist goes disastrously wrong and he is forced to try and protect them both from a local mob boss.

Gosling’s first collaboration with director Nicolas Winding Refn proved itself worthy after it gained both critical and audience praise, not to mention a cult-following on top of that in the process. Surprisingly, the film was largely snubbed at the bigger award ceremonies off the festival circuit, only attaining one Oscar nomination (Best Sound Editing). This ultra-stylish, neo-noir tale shows Gosling at his most brutal, showcased through some terrific ultra-violence. It also shows his acting ability behind a character who thinks a lot more than he cares to speak or feel. This is not Ryan Gosling playing Ryan Gosling, this is Ryan Gosling encapsulating the mysterious figure of The Driver.

You can watch the trailer here.

2. The Nice Guys (2016) – dir. Shane Black

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Set in 197os Los Angeles, The Nice Guys is an original action-comedy neo-noir about two not-so-perfect Private Investigators who are searching for a young girl named Olivia and a missing adult film star named Misty Mountains. This is the film that officially cements Ryan Gosling as a genuine comic actor. His natural charisma, comedic timing and impressive physical comedy is brilliantly used in this crime caper to full effect. The comedy is heightened even further by the chemistry between him and fellow cast members Russell Crowe and the very impressive Angourie Rice.

The Nice Guys was terribly underappreciated last year, only just making back its money at the Box Office. Film fans complain about the lack of originality in the cinemas these days, then when something original shows up it is pushed aside by the latest blockbuster – a source of immense irritation to me. To put things into perspective, The Nice Guys was topped at the Box Office by The Angry Birds Movie. Am I confident of a sequel? No. Am I hopeful of a sequel? Yes, very hopeful as Holland March and Jackson Healy have proved to be quite the comedic gold together. We can only hope.

You can watch the trailer here.

1. Blue Valentine (2010) – dir. Derek Cianfrancebv_russo1_01

Blue Valentine… oh boy, where do I begin? If you had doubt about Ryan Gosling’s acting chops, look no further. The story follows two intercutting time periods, one depicting how a young Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) fell in love with each other, with the other based six years later showing the two trying to hold onto and desperately salvage their failing marriage.

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“One make-up look in particular is very reminiscent of De Niro in Raging Bull”

This film shows Ryan Gosling at his very best, although he did not receive an Oscar nomination for this performance. He embodies the role of Dean through a powerful set of emotions and make-up (one make-up look in particular very reminiscent of De Niro in Raging Bull). To prepare for this role, Gosling lived in the house they filmed in with Michelle Williams for a month along with the young actress who plays their daughter. During this time the group recreated and filmed hundreds of hours’ worth of home videos and memories such as birthdays and Christmas’ etc in order to develop a true family bond before filming. Michelle Williams received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Blue Valentine, and both of these two talents return as nominees this year – Gosling for La La Land and Williams for the Boston-drama Manchester by the Sea.

You can watch the trailer here.

Agree with my list? Leave a comment and let me know what your favourite performances are from Ryan Gosling, and let me know your thoughts on his performance in this year’s La La Land. All reading and sharing of this article helps me out so if you decide to do so, thank you very much.

Finding Dory – TEG Movie Reviews

{Warning; This review may contain spoilers to Finding Dory}

This week there was a theatre full of children with their parents/grandparents ready to watch Finding Dory, the long awaited follow up to Pixar’s 2003 classic Finding Nemo… and then there was me and my girlfriend, two young adults sticking out like a sore thumb for some reason? We didn’t care. Now to be honest, I was rather surprised that us two seemed to be the only ones there from our age demographic because after all, who doesn’t love a good ol’ nostalgia trip back to the simpler times of our childhood?

Before I begin reviewing Finding Dory I would like to take a moment to acknowledge Pixar’s short film that was shown beforehand: “Piper”.

“Piper” is a story that follows a little sandpiper bird’s journey into independence and self efficiency from childhood – concentrating on the bridge between leaving the care of your parents to go out on your own two feet and survive, a story that is very relatable to me and many others who are about to leave home for University or the work world. We are blessed with an absolutely gorgeous animation style as the story teaches us all about the importance of independence, not being afraid to fail and try again on your own, even though the love and support of your family will always be near by. It’s cute, it’s heartwarming and set you up ready for the main film ahead. Kudos to that animation team!

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Piper is a gorgeous short film that quickly teaches it’s audience a heartwarming life lesson.

Now to the main event, did Finding Dory live up to expectation or is it a stain on a classic from an entire generation’s childhood? I can happily say it is not the latter.

Now Pixar have always had a pretty good track record for films (let’s ignore Cars 2) and have always set the standard when it comes to animation. Nothing changes in Finding Dory as the animation is beautiful, clean and really uses a set of good, varied colour palettes to really absorb you into these different environments, despite most of it being set underwater.

Despite being released 13 years after Finding Nemo, the film is actually set just one year after the events of the first film and pursues Dory’s backstory and her journey to rediscover the family she lost years earlier. It goes after your heartstrings straight from the get-go and continues to constantly pursue a tear or two throughout, but Pixar manage to do this whilst also keeping the film consistently funny and that’s the beauty of their films. They juggle your emotions so your laughter can be halted by a loss that makes you cry before the characters on screen share a moment that can warm your heart for a lifetime. It’s a rare thing…

I was pleasantly surprised by the new characters introduced onto this new adventure – including some such as; Hank, an Octopus who lost one of his arms to a child years before (so is now a Septopus), Destiny, a near sighted whale shark who taught Dory how to speak whale (legendary for that trait alone) and Bailey, a melodramatic beluga whale who is convinced his biological echolocation skills just don’t work.

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Ty Burrell’s Bailey proved to be a welcome addition to the Pixar universe.

All the characters add their own chemistry, personalities and comedy to the story and I found myself especially laughing at Ty Burrell’s Bailey into the final act of the film. As well as their likable traits, it’s these characters weaknesses and fears that also add to you warming towards them. Pixar doesn’t shy away from deeper topics, from Dory’s short term memory loss to how they touch upon the fact that Hank suffers from PTSD after his clash with a child years earlier, which is a rather surprising element to include in a children’s film.

One thing that a lot scriptwriters do that can ruin a film is always writing the characters an easy way around a conflict, never have them face any significant challenges and therefore make the story a lot less entertaining for the audience. The writers for Finding Dory were not afraid to challenge it’s characters, every single time you think something is finally going to go their way something almost directly opposite happens and as a result, the story kept me pretty interested throughout it’s entirety.

Although I do tip my hat at its writers for not being scared to challenge our favourite animated fish, this also contributed to one of my few criticisms of the movie. Whilst adventurous like it’s predecessor, Finding Dory’s ever evolving adventure sometimes got to a point where I felt pulled out of the story and didn’t care as much as I did during Finding Nemo. Now, I do understand that this is a Pixar film about talking fish, it’s allowed to “out there” obviously however Finding Nemo managed to be this great, daunting adventure across the deep blue whilst feeling kind of grounded and it made you worry a little bit more about it’s characters. I personally felt that this film lost a little bit of that magic and it became so “out there” that I got drawn out of the story and knew that the characters would turn out okay.

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Both baby Dory and her older self (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) won everyone’s hearts.

The story of how Dory lost her family and came across Marlin and Nemo is told through a series of flashbacks. I don’t personally mind flashbacks in stories however I did begin to feel a bit tired of the amount of flashbacks Dory was getting throughout the film, especially during the final half of the film when the main story is focused on the here and now. They could’ve worked to fit more information into less, as they did begin to take away from the film by the end. My last slight complaint with this film was the jokes about Dory’s short term memory loss, I just found there to be an occasional  oversaturation of unfunny memory jokes at times throughout, however it may be argued that the irritating feeling was intentional by the filmmaker as that was what the characters interacting with Dory were feeling about her condition.

Overall, Finding Dory was a genuinely fun film to watch. It did a good job at not staining its beloved predecessor, appeals to a massive age demographic and sends out strong and positive messages about family and self acceptance. Judging on my girlfriend’s reaction to the majority of the film too, I think it’s safe to say that baby Dory more than qualifies as “cute”. I’m rating Finding Dory:

7.5 out of 10!

Go support the film by going to see it in the cinema and casting your own decisions on it. If you’ve already seen it, what did you think? Let me know.

Thomas E. Griffiths

The Shallows – (Spoiler Free) TEG Movie Reviews

 

Today I went to watch Blake Lively in The Shallows, a film that has managed to make more than five times its $17 million production budget at the box office, and is still viciously on the rise. Now, I don’t normally have good experiences with “shark films” because most of the films we encounter today focusing around the sealife predators tend to be disastrous B-movies that are just looking to make a quick buck with very little craft or effort put in, however I’m happy to say that The Shallows is NOT one of them movies.

I will be quick to stress that The Shallows is also not Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster Jaws either, the competition that every single shark film will undeniably face, but it is good watch and here’s why…

Director Jaume Collet-Serra makes great use of the scenery of Australia’s Lord Howe Island with stunning shots of the beach, surfing and long, brooding drone shots over the (not so) deep blue where the shark lurks beneath – the film has a style to it that doesn’t fight to be seen but can be subtly felt enough so you appreciate it. Matching the scenic beauty is the story’s leading lady Blake Lively, whose performance in this really shows off her acting chops. I will admit that I was caught off guard here slightly because I don’t think I have watched any of her previous work, but I know I will surely keep an eye out for her future projects after this. When you have a film that is set in basically one singular location for the entire film, you really need strong performances to keep the audience entertained and the Shallows can be thankful to Blake Lively for delivering that.

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Blake Lively proves to have what it takes to carry a feature length isolated film on her own.

It was nice to see a protagonist these days (like Indiana Jones back in the original trilogy of films) actually suffering injuries and having to overcome difficult obstacles throughout a film as they come along instead of being able to just achieve anything they conveniently need to do so, and with this I felt that there was good creative ideas implemented into quite a lot of stand offs with the Great White too. Lively’s Nancy Adams shows brains, matched with courage, throughout and it’s a good job she does too because the slightest slip up can prove to be the end for her. Her injuries made me wince from time-to-time and these injuries, that can prove to be incapacitating at times, are what made me care about how her story ends against the predators circling her, and a befriended seagull with a broken wing, on the rocks.

When stand offs with the shark occur, after she’s developed one of many different plans, the tension builds and works very strongly throughout the second act. It builds well but doesn’t seem to rely on it’s soundtrack to do so, but silence instead. You gather the human vs nature aspect that the film explores and begin to feel a few more steps down from the top of the food chain us humans are used to.

Although I enjoyed this film it doesn’t come without it’s flaws of course…

We pick up bits and pieces as to what has sent Nancy to where she is through photographs, text messages and facetime calls to her phone throughout the first act of the film. I personally felt that this was a slightly lazy way to set up her back story and overall made me not feel for any of her connection to her family, I also felt no connection to her family as we had not seen her with them before the films events took place. If they were searching for extra running time, that would have been a good place to find it. I did care for Nancy, but it was because she was a fighter and also proved to be the underdog in the situation – not because of some paper thin backstory that had no real emotional weight behind it. Her father’s performance was also painful to watch and completely sucked me out of the film for the brief moments he was on facetime chat to Nancy. large_6vuxwCfBejPfUjMxrPgk0ANmVFq

You could feel that they were struggling to extend the running time of the already 86 minutes film during the first act as it seemed to drag harshly, however once we make it into act 2 everything picks up pace and it becomes more about her battle for survival against nature and less about her family, thank god.

Despite the fairly expositional first act, the only other problem that bugged me with The Shallows is how towards the final quarter of the film, the menacing shark loses it’s sense of realism drastically and ultimately becomes not that intimidating. It may have been the fact we saw to much of the beast? Maybe it was the CGI? I can’t quite put my finger on it but the tension and fear felt throughout the second act diminishes (to an extent) at the part with it should have been at it’s most intense.

Overall, I really found myself enjoying The Shallows. It has a great leading lady in Blake Lively and I became genuinely invested in how outcome throughout the film due to how much danger she is presented with. It holds a few pacing issues and lacks that main emotional drive behind the character back home, however the story is focused on Nancy and her survival in the situation at the beach so it doesn’t take away from the film too much. I’m rating The Shallows:

7 out of 10!

Go support the film by going to see it in the cinema and casting your own decisions on it. If you’ve already seen it, what did you think? Let me know.

Thomas E. Griffiths

 

 

My Top 5 Most Anticipated Films For The Rest Of 2016

We are now almost three-quarters of the way through 2016! However even though we’ve already had our fair share of good films (and unfortunately the bad too), we still have plenty to look forward too this year! I’ve taken the liberty to list the five films coming out in cinemas in the final quarter of 2016 that I’m personally most looking forward – maybe some of my choices will peak your interest? Let’s see.

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Directed by Gareth Edwards – In Theatres: December 16th (UK)

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Rogue One will be the first of the Star Wars Anthology films.

Disney’s first Star Wars Anthology movie will be focusing shortly before George Lucas’ beloved 1977 sci-fi epic, covering our the Rebel alliance managed to retrieve the plans for the Galactic Empire’s new superweapon.

As a Star Wars fan, naturally I am going to be excited for this film. Along with amazing looking sets and costumes, Gareth Edwards’ second studio outing is looking to bring us a new insight into the Star Wars universe, actually making a Star Wars film feel like a war movie. The official trailer that was recently released (you can watch it here) has ignited the hype that Disney was hoping for and I believe it will be more than enough to satisfy our Star Wars cravings until next year’s Star Wars Episode VIII!

4. The Accountant

Directed by Gavin O’Connor – In Theatres: November 4th (UK)

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The Accountant is a film that had largely gone underneath my radar until recently and when I had finally seen it’s two trailers (you can see the most recent one here)… I was impressed with what I saw. Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman won the majority of audiences this year despite Batman vs Superman not quite doing so, and he looks to be moving on with another impressive performance in this film. He’ll be acting alongside Jon Bernthal and Anna Kendrick, and after seeing Bernthal’s exquisite portrayal of The Punisher in Netflix’s Daredevil series – the hype grows larger.

Affleck’s character, Christian Wolff, is a mathematical savant who accounts finances for the world’s largest and most dangerous criminals in a secret life. Things such as when we see/hear how his senses react differently to the world when Anna Kendrick is asking him a question and Affleck’s line “I have difficulty socialising with other people, even though I want to”, seem to suggest Affleck’s character may have Asperger’s syndrome, a condition upon the autistic spectrum. This is also suggested with other things in the first trailer such as his doctor discussing his obsessive personality and how he has a small picture list of different emotions underneath the mirror – in order to help him develop a better understanding of reading people’s emotions.

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You can watch The Accountant’s first trailer here

I look forward to seeing this film along with seeing them apply such a complex condition as Asperger’s syndrome to its protagonist.

3. Hacksaw Ridge

Directed by Mel Gibson – In Theatres: November

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I talk in more depth about Andrew Garfield a little later on in this article, I’m really pleased with the choices he’s made with his career since the ill-fated Amazing Spider-Man movies. The trailer for this film looks great, it completely caught me off guard when I came across it the other week and I’m confident I may be heading to see this in the cinema come November.

2. Free Fire

Directed by Ben Wheatley – In Theatres: 2016 (date unconfirmed)

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Boston, 1978. A meeting between two gangs in a deserted warehouse descends into a shootout and a game of survival. When I seen Cillian Murphy and Brie Larson on the cast for Ben Wheatley’s next cinematic endeavour I was definitely interested – then I also noticed that Martin Scorsese was an executive producer on the project and I was sold.

This film is on the list – however it’s on here out of faint hope. I haven’t seen a trailer for Free Fire yet, although it is due to be released later this year. Ben Wheatley is steadily making his way up the directing ladder, not to mention that Murphy and Larson definitely have the acting chops to make this film something special – I also love Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby in the BBC’s 1920s Crime series Peaky Blinders. 

1. Silence

Directed by Martin Scorsese – In Theatres: November or December

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A passion project of his, Martin Scorsese has been trying to adapt Silence to the big screen since 1991. A story of two Jesuit priests travelling through 17th Century Japan facing violence and persecution as they search for their mentor.

This is my most anticipated film for the closing months of 2016 as it will be my first time seeing a Martin Scorsese film in the cinema (I just missed out on being old enough to see The Wolf of Wall Street, damn it). With a cast including Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, it’s set to be a refreshing outing for Scorsese. I obviously don’t need to be selling Liam Neeson, whose acting credits speak for themselves. But Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, who has recently shot to a new level of fame due to his role in the new Star Wars trilogy, are exciting prospects under Scorsese. Andrew Garfield looks to be distancing himself from his brief spell as Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man and really becoming a considerable name for more serious roles. He was good in last year’s 99 Homes with Michael Shannon and also looks promising in the recently released trailer for Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. I look forward to seeing what he can do under Scorsese’s direction.


Honourable Mentions

Here are some that failed to make my list but are worthy of a mention.

Imperium

Directed by Daniel Ragussis – In Theatres: September 16th (UK)

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A massive change of direction for Daniel Radcliffe and I really hopes it pays off for him. I never thought I’d be seeing him as an undercover neo-nazi anytime soon. Check out the trailer here.

Sully

Directed by Clint Eastwood – In Theatres: September 9th

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Although Clint Eastwood’s last few directorial efforts haven’t completely woo’d audiences (I personally enjoyed American Sniper, however I was horribly disappointed in Jersey Boys), I’m excited to see his latest: a film depicting the event of Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landing a plane in the New York’s Hudson River, and the resulting investigation seeking out to ruin him that followed. Tom Hanks will always have a place in my heart – not to mention how he’ll always have that immense acting talent of his too.

The Infiltrator

Directed by Brad Furman – In Theatres: September 16th (UK)

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I have a good habit of enjoying Crime-Drama’s about the cocaine-fuelled 1970/80s. Netflix’s Narcos is a great example of this. So when I read that Bryan Cranston was going to be leading the line against the Colombian drug cartel, along with kingpin Pablo Escobar, I was excited!

An actor who can jump between comedy and bone chilling serious roles, it’s nice to see Bryan Cranston finally getting more opportunity to lead on the big screen. I look forward to seeing him playing the other side of the legal coin as Federal Agent Robert Mazur in this, hopefully this isn’t another Black Mass and leaves me horribly disappointed… but I have faith in this one.

What do you think? Do you agree or am I missing some gems? Let me know!

 

 

6 Things I Learned Whilst Making My First (Crowdfunded) Documentary

It was around 3:40am and I was lying in my pitch black room doing an awful job at falling to sleep, this was probably not helped by my chain-drinking of tea earlier in the night. I wasn’t even close to falling to sleep, my mind was actually itching to make something. I was craving creativity. So I jumped out of bed, blindly searched for my laptop in the darkness consumed man-pit that is my bedroom and then set up my base of operations in the living room. I was going to make a Kickstarter project.

Kickstarter is a website where you can bring your creative ideas to the table, pitch them to the world and hope that they have enough faith in you to support your quest with financial backing and bring your idea to fruition. I had never attempted a Kickstarter project before so I was going in blind. On top of this, the idea for my project was to create a documentary – another endeavour I hadn’t yet attempted before.

My younger brother has a neurological condition called autism, so I decided to kill three birds with one stone (I’m an ambitious stone thrower). Let me create my first documentary AND learn more about my brother’s condition in the process AND use the documentation of my journey to introduce and educate society on the condition – raising awareness and understanding. The film – “Autism: A Curious Case of the Human Mind” (you can watch the trailer here) is currently in its final sound mix in post-production, but I’m going to use the last 12 months that I’ve experienced to let you know of 6 things I learned whilst creating my first documentary and I advise you take note on them to hopefully help you out in your own crowdfunding and filmmaking endeavours.

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My first documentary “Autism: A Curious Case of the Human Mind” will be released later this year.

 

1. Make Sure You Are Pursuing A Subject Matter That You’re Passionate About Or Want To Learn More About

It’s taken me just over a year for my film to be completed, and that can be considered a reasonably short amount of time (that is including the Kickstarter campaigns and 3 stages of production). Although this is considered a fairly short amount of time to create a film, I could see the mental effect that it was having on myself and my crew members. Was there times where I just wished that we could finish the film already? Yes. Am I glad that it’s over? Yes. Would I change the topic? No. I can safely say that I chose a topic that is personal to me and meant a lot – however I would change some of my approaches, which I’ll go into later.

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Me with Owen (left), my autistic brother who was the main motivation and inspiration behind my first documentary.

Making any film can take a long time – making a documentary is no different. When selecting a topic to document make sure it is something you’re genuinely eager to learn about and explore because the process takes time. If you’re no longer interested in the subject before you’ve finished your film – then the final product is going to suffer dramatically and you’ll feel the film is now a burden rather than an opportunity. Once you begin to delve into a subject matter for a documentary, it becomes almost all you think about and certain terms, people, events etc will run through your head constantly until your film is complete. I’m afraid to say that this happens regardless of if you’re enjoying it or not – so at least make sure that you’re constantly thinking about things that make you interested in how you can deliver them creatively to your audience and what you can learn from it. Your passionate can prove to serve as a vital motivator to get you and your crew through the most testing times of production – so make sure it’s there.

2. Get Your Contributors And Your Crew Together BEFORE You Get Funded

When my Kickstarter project got funded – I was literally like “Shit. Now I’ve actually got to make a documentary”. It’s a daunting task, especially when you’ve got a budget there but no crew and contributors to actually make your film with. Don’t just get out of bed and spontaneously create a Kickstarter project like I did, that’s a bad idea. If you’re considering pursuing a subject for a documentary, ask around first. Seek out people who are interesting to talk to and willing to be filmed, gather a collection of possible contributors ready so if you are lucky enough to receive funding you can go into production much, much quicker and organise your interviews closer together. Allowing you to finish production much quicker too.

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Meeting one of my contributors with her autistic son, Jake.

Simply, can you imagine successfully getting your project funded and then realising you cannot access the contributors you want to? So your film doesn’t reach or explore what you want it too? It’s a horrible and embarrassing thought. I had to endure them thoughts myself for a while after funding. As my brother is autistic, I idiotically assumed that I could film him at my leisure, speak to my parents about it on camera and also use their contacts with other autistic families to speak to me – that just didn’t happen. I didn’t get a crew together for a month after I received funding, then I couldn’t get any access to the contributors I wanted too for 2 months after that, and then another 2 months after my first interview. The waiting between interviews, trying to find contributors, can seriously harm your crew’s mentality. If your project loses pace, your team loses faith. If your movie loses steam, your crew loses esteem. Okay, okay, I’ll stop now but you get what I’m saying. If I had gathered my contributors before I got funded, I could have fit the entire filming process inside one month but hey, live life and learn.

 

3. Budget Properly Before Crowdfunding

On the back of gathering a plethora of possible contributors and your film crew, this allows you to work out an efficient budget for your project. Take into account wages, travel, catering. Not to mention your filming equipment, editing software and soundtrack!

You can work out how much it will be to pay wages, travel and possibly even accommodate your crew members when going to meet contributors. Your budget can also coincide with your “success” goals. Also, if you’re using crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, remember that they charge tax on your raised money so you may have to set your target slightly higher.

As I created my Kickstarter campaign, I had no contributors and no crew members attached to this project. I went with the mindset of: Borrow my filming equipment from my college, utilise college film students to build a film crew, use my parent’s (imaginary) contacts to get contributors. Now although I was able to borrow various pieces of equipment from my college and my film crew worked UNPAID, this was incredibly stupid and if this had been a bigger production, it would have easily crashed and burned.

I had a team of 6 film students aged between 17 – 20 years old, only one of that team could drive. So if that one team member was ill, working or simply not available, our transport would have to come out of our budget – one interview costing £60 in taxi’s alone, which broke my heart as that alone was almost 20% of our £330 production budget.

So work out what you want before you desperately need it.

4. Footage Attracts Interest!

I found this out during my second Kickstarter campaign, one that aimed to raise money for the film’s post-production process, soundtrack and film festival submission fees. By this time, we had already released the trailer for the film and this proved extremely useful in putting together our video for the campaign. Footage, behind the scenes clips, on set photography – it all serves a purpose and can also bring in interest on your social media pages, slowly generating an audience to showcase your work for!

 

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Me (top) looking rather rough in the second Kickstarter video and Owen (bottom) in the trailer.

When people see footage, they know you mean business – you’re not just some dreamer with a million different ideas but no actual ideas on how to make them into a reality. You can see the difference in support by comparing the two projects, the first one made £368 (before tax), whereas the follow-up campaign managed to bring us £678!

 

If you want to persuade others to invest time and money into your idea, my best advice would be to shoot a taster for them. Just a short 2 minute clip of the type of style or content you want to create can really open their eyes to see that you are serious in the pursuit of creativity. You can take examples of this working from films such as Saw, Napoleon Dynamite and even Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – all these films were developed and funded because of concept short films shown to potential producers.

5. Define “Success” For Your Film

To make a social impact? To go viral on YouTube? To get into film festivals? To win at film festivals? To win an Oscar? You have to decide what you want your film to achieve, and you have to do it early. My definition of success for Autism: A Curious Case of the Human Mind is if it gets accepted into film festivals, as it’s my first ever independent project and my first go at the festival circuit. So we’ll have to wait and see how that one goes.

Deciding what is considered as a “success” for your film is really important because it dictates your mindset throughout the project, it gives yourself and your fellow crew members what you’re aiming for and it allows you to set the correct budget for what you want to achieve. When your project is going through its ups and downs, you’ll want to change your goal for the project and you run the risk of doing yourself either an injustice, because it could be so much more than you’ve let it develop into or you’ll be setting yourself up for “failure” because you’ve taken too much on and you just don’t have the resources to reach your desired target. However, I will say that I do admire people who are not afraid to fail.

6. Audio Is Priority

Film is an audio/visual medium and although many would argue that the visuals are what make a film, it’s the audio that keeps your audience watching. An audience can watch a film with grainy and underexposed footage as long as it has good audio. However if the film has poor audio, no matter how beautiful your film is, your audience will stop watching.

When looking back on my production process, I wish I had prioritised my audio quality over my visuals. I was lucky to an extent, I had access to professional quality zoom kits for some of my interviews however I had to settle for a less than professional attached microphone for others. Even professional zoom kits can be rendered almost useless if placed in the wrong hands and with a team of film students behind me, the equipment was definitely in not-very-experienced hands (but that’s okay, because it’s a learning curve).

So when you are budgeting your equipment, prioritise your sound quality first because a film with good sound can take it from “here” *holds out hand towards you at a certain height* to “here” *raises hand about 2 ft higher*.

There, that was 6 things I learned whilst creating my first documentary! I hope you enjoyed the read and hopefully avoid the mistakes that I made on my first creative endeavour.

by Thomas Elliott Griffiths

Suicide Squad – TEG Movie Reviews

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David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” has currently brought in over $300 million at the global box office.  

{Warning; This review may contain spoilers to Suicide Squad.}

Yesterday I went to the cinema to watch one of this summer’s most hyped comic book movies. “Suicide Squad“, a film set to get us all cheering on the bad guys whilst they kick some ass and hopefully get DC back on track to catching up to current superhero cinema behemoth Marvel in terms of developing a cinematic universe. It’s certainly doing a good job at the box office, shattering records left, right and centre whilst already surpassing the $300 million mark at the global box office. Despite the mediocre reviews I still went in with high expectations, ready to see and judge for myself. However unfortunately, I left the cinema a little bit disappointed.

Now, although I did leave the film feeling disappointed and well… weirdly drained? That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy parts of this film because the truth is that there is a plethora of fun, entertaining aspects of this film to enjoy. Just not enough.

Pretty much straight from the off, we are hit with a soundtrack that gets you smiling and nodding along – the film’s soundtrack is a breath of fresh air when compared to Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” and this years “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice“. I believe at one point I even quietly celebrated to myself as three great songs followed one another in the film. I personally think Suicide Squad‘s soundtrack may even be a rival to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack (although personally, I prefer Guardians as The Jackson 5 always win me over).

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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s make-up took 5 hours to complete for shooting.

Matching it’s great soundtrack is the movies costume design, the squad looked the part! And I believe that this was easier to achieve because of the lighter tone of the film, an example of this is Harley Quinn’s outfit or maybe one of The Joker’s several attires (we’ll get back to puddin’ later on). Witnessing Margot Robbie pick up the black and red jester costume from the 1990’s Batman cartoon made my eyes light up! Whilst Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje‘s Killer Croc had a glorious 5-hours worth of prosthetic make-up, which I loved, the other standout was the first costume of Enchantress, one that I wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of other (hopefully less supernaturally powerful) women dress up as this Halloween.

I felt like the whole cast did a good job performance-wise, even Batfleck was great for the whole minute he’s in the film. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag proved to be a likeable counterweight to the Suicide Squad, who were likeable assholes that really did make it feel good to be bad, Margot Robbie and Will Smith‘s chemistry shined throughout.

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Will Smith and Margot Robbie had something special together.

Margot has really captured Harley Quinn which makes me very excited to see her appear in future films in the role and Will Smith’s Deadshot was performed and developed well through flashbacks – I really appreciated the father-daughter relationship and bought into it as emotional initiative for “the world’s most wanted hitman”. This luckily more than allowed me to forgive him for that cringe-worthy “So what are we? Some kind of Suicide Squad?” line that made everyone facepalm in the trailer. Although this is a group film – you can’t help but feel that Will Smith holds that leadership aspect and therefore, see a lot more of his face than other characters. Viola Davis put in a good performance, however I felt that the script tried to hard to make the audience hate her and sympathise with “our new favourite bad guys” and therefore this led me to be slightly put off. A fair shoutout to Jai Courtney on this one, I thought he was great as Captain Boomerang and his wonderful little pink unicorn, the simple fact that he’s transported to a mission briefing in a body bag before climbing out and punching the nearest guard was beautiful.

Now I’m going to explore the aspects of David Ayer’s comicbook feature that annoyed me a little bit, and to start it off I’m going to stay on the topic of performances…

Jared Leto’s portrayal as everyone’s favourite Clown Prince of Crime was something that a lot of us were interested and excited to see. It is the first live action interpretation of the character since Heath Ledger’s absolutely incredible portrayal in 2008’s The Dark Knight, so having Leto take on the roll, and also having his commitment to it be well documented online, was something that was hyping audiences up for Suicide Squad. The Joker’s large presence in the films marketing campaign  and his trailer-stealing appearance of the first trailer added more fuel to the fire. So when I left the cinema the other day only having seen “Mr. J” for around 20 minutes I couldn’t help but feel disappointed and slightly lied to.

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Jared Leto’s psychotic Joker only appeared on screen for around 20 minutes, disappointing a lot of audiences.

“Is he better than Heath Ledger?” – you can’t really answer this question, but I’m going to anyway and say “No, he is not”. Both of these two portrayals of the character are very different to one another – one is very, scarily real and the other, Leto’s interpretation, is very comicbook-esque. For what I seen of Jared Leto though, he was great as Harley’s Puddin’.  If I have to be completely honest, I almost wish we got a Joker & Harley Quinn movie because the scenes of them two were electric. Margot Robbie recently said in an interview that they had to leave out many of the scenes between them as it was taking away from the main story so I guess we may have to wait for one of Batfleck’s solo films to get a real feel for our new “gangster” Joker – and it’s something I am very looking forward to.

It frustrates me that Joker had so many scenes cut when they should have just cut Karen Fukuhara‘s Katana out of the film altogether as SHE DOES NOTHING THE ENTIRE FILM. I’d have happily cut her out completely and have an extra 15 minutes of Mr. J causing chaos and seducing Miss Harleen Quinzel with that slow, creepy laugh of his.

Enchantress, the villain of this film played by Cara Delevingne, is a witch who has consumed Dr. June Moone and wants to… wipe out all of humanity? I think. I can’t even be one hundred percent sure because I actually stopped caring about this. Because the film is heavily set in a deserted city, it doesn’t show you any humanity. You’re not ever reminded of the near 8 billion population of earth or even the near 20 million population of New York City. I do like Cara Delevingne, however her performance in this film is just not good enough and I’m afraid that she didn’t have a good character(s) to even work with. Dr June Moone is the key to Rick Flag’s heart, however you just don’t feel any connection between the two as the only real affection you see between them is narrated by Viola Davis in one of many expositional voiceover sequences. So her love story didn’t hook me, her plan to wipe out humanity with (surprise, surprise) a big blue beam firing up into the sky didn’t hook me either but at least her costume won me over, right? Well yes it started to but even that is quickly replaced with a far less impressive one afterwards. Could they just not be bothered with doing the make-up or something? I don’t know. All I do know is that Cara sadly disappointed me in this one – the CGI for her character didn’t help her out either.

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Dr June Moone was sadly a less-than-worthy match for our Suicide Squad.

The first act of this film was very exposition heavy, however I did enjoy it and it did it’s job fine at introducing me to our new rag-tag team of psychopaths. Once we got the ball rolling I really did enjoy myself watching the film throughout its second act – however the problem is it’s final act, because it just never seemed to end. I only know this because I found myself awkwardly tilting my watch in the cinema, trying to catch some light so I could tell the time, trying to figure how long I’d been watching and if it was close to ending. This was simply because I didn’t care about the villain or many of the consequences of if she had succeeded. This painstakingly slow third act hurt a little more too when a seemingly never-ending slow motion scene occurs near the climax of the story. It wasn’t a cool slow motion scene you see in other comic book films such as Quicksilver in FOX’s X-Men franchise or the use of slow motion in the Judge Dredd reboot, it was bordering on cringey.

Overall, I see glimpses of opportunity and promise in Suicide Squad. The pacing dragged it down and if David Ayer had chosen to pursue a more interesting villain than Enchantress then who knows what could’ve been. I feel like we’ve got quite a few performances to look forward to in future installments – installments that look to be slowly learning from each misstep. I’m rating Suicide Squad:

5 out of 10!

Go support the film by going to see it in the cinema and casting your own decisions on it. If you’ve already seen it, what did you think? Let me know.

Thomas E. Griffiths