Archive for the ‘Film and Television’ Category

Lights, Camera, AÇÃO!

July 29, 2010

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During the making of ‘O Divino, De Repente’ (2009)

Brazilian cinema, as an artform, is known for experiencing large fluctuations in terms of frequency of releases, due to the industry’s reliance upon the State for funding and incentives.

Despite this, the country has been responsible for some incredibly evocative and moving content over the past few years. Several key films have done much to lift the profile of Brazilian cinema overseas, showing the world an urban lifestyle far removed from the glamorous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.

In the 1940’s American genre films were very popular and many Brazilian production companies began to emulate them. The Cinematográfica Vera Cruz was one of the most prolific; established in 1949, Vera Cruz cinema represented the highly commercialized content that was beginning to characterize mainstream Brazilian cinema. Significant investment was made to these production houses, leading to large scale Hollywood-style studios that many felt produced films with high budgets but low on content.

As a result, many film-makers began to feel disillusioned and started experimenting with independent cinema. In the 50’s and 60’s a group of Brazilian directors began to practice a particular style and technique of film-making which became known as Cinema Novo.

Characterised by the Portuguese phrase ‘Uma câmera na mão e uma idéia na cabeça’, or ‘A camera in the hand and an idea in the head’, Cinema Novo was a retort, inspired by Italian Neo-Realism and French ‘Nouvelle Vague’ movements, against the output of the Vera Cruz, and aimed to authentically represent Brazilian life. Even today, with Brazil’s rise as a global economic power, the distribution of wealth is tremendously unbalanced; rich playboys party in the clubs of Rio de Janeiro while slums filled with the poor cover the hills overlooking the city.

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Cinema Novo addressed this by using Brazilian poverty as a main focus of the story-telling; a focus which, although the movement ended in the early 1970’s as a result of political oppression, can still be seen in contemporary works such as Carandiru (2003) and the Academy Award-nominated City of God (2002).

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Scenes from City of God (2002)

Brazil’s varied and engaging artistic output means that the country is constantly recognised as being a unique and rich cultural hub; for example, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, (MoMA), held a film exhibition between 15-29 July entitled ‘Premiere Brazil!’

Held every year in conjunction with the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, the event provides a platform for both new and established Brazilian film-makers to have a chance to premiere their works to American audiences.

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An image from Waste Land (2010) Directed by Lucy Walker. Image courtesy of moma.org

Over on the West Coast, the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival (LABRFF) has just finished its third edition, running from 27th April – 2nd May. LABRFF aims to provide a link between Brazil and Hollywood, raising the profile of Brazilian film-makers in the industry and promoting their films to a wider audience.

February saw the 2nd annual Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival, held over three days in the heart of Hollywood. HBR FEST is, according to their website, ‘a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the cultural and commercial exchange between Hollywood and Brazil.’

Much like LABRFF, the aim of the festival is to raise the profile of Brazilian filmmakers in Hollywood and elicit production and financing opportunities for international filmmakers; the first edition of the show in 2009 was held at the Egyptian Theatre and Mann Chinese 6 Cinemas, and was reportedly a great success for those involved. A total of eight feature films, documentaries and shorts are all given an enviable platform from which to air, many of them premieres.

Such cultural exchanges are very important; with the majority of the world’s cinema emanating from Hollywood it would be very easy for content to become homogenised and repetitive. By bringing in influences from countries such as Brazil, the industry can be sure of plenty of inspiration from a variety of global cultural capitals.

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With a landscape such as this, it is little wonder that Rio de Janeiro has inspired generations of Brazilian film-makers

In London earlier this year, Nike Sportswear premiered the release of Cadência, a major new film documentary and exhibition by director Daren Bartlett at Shoreditch’s Rich Mix exhibition centre. According to a review in Don’t Panic magazine, “Cadência sets out to articulate the ambiguous essence of Rio de Janeiro’s symbolic identity through its people, passions and traditions by exploring the underground phenomena of traditional kite culture, the masquerade of Clovis and of course, football.”

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In addition, an exhibition inspired by the film took place across the road at Nike’s 1948 store, featuring large-scale visual and audio projections taken from the film, a selection of art stills by Jiwon Park and catering by Brazilian restaurant Raizes.

Elsewhere in London, the HSBC-sponsored ‘Festival Brazil’ at the Southbank Centre runs from 19th June – 5th September, and celebrates Brazilian heritage in a vibrant and dynamic way. Although the event does not specifically feature cinema, it is an incredible celebration of Brazilian culture, from food and dance to literature and art.

Brazilian culture is unique in that its inclusive nature makes it feel accessible by people all across the world; the energy, vibrancy and richness of picture-postcard beaches and festivals juxtaposes with the gritty romance of the Cinema Novo favelas, providing beauty for those of all tastes. Given the ‘A camera in the hand…’ philosophy that underpins independent Brazilian cinema, there are arguably fewer places in the world where you’d rather be holding a camera.

James

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Summer Movie Mash Up

April 28, 2010

Screenrants Mike Eisenberg has compiled a trailer of teasers featuring the expected heavy hitters this summer. Keep an eye out for Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – THWACK!

Dré

South Park Turns 200

April 13, 2010

Mel Gibson, Kanye West and David Blaine will have their revenge on the little town of Colorado in an upcoming milestone episode, it has been announced. The cartoon’s 200th episode, simply titled 200, sees the residents of South Park subject to a class action lawsuit by the celebrities satirised during the shows 14-year history.

South Park co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker speak with Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin on the eve of the 200th episode of the hit Comedy Central series. Stone and Parker reveal their plans to revisit battles over the boundaries of what can and cannot be done on television—including a quest to see just how many celebrities they can manage to piss off in a single episode, and whether Comedy Central will once again try to stop them from depicting the image and voice of a cartoon version of the Muslim prophet Mohammed on the show.

Courtesy of Boing Boing.

Dré

Pixels

April 9, 2010

Whats that?

What if Pixels took over New York?

Patrick Jean, say it ain’t so!

Dré

Bi Polar Reviews: Shutter Island

March 18, 2010

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There’s certainly a purpose to all this madness—though to discuss how the film achieves this would be giving the game away. Rest assured dear reader, there are no spoilers in this review.

This week’s Bi-Polar Review: Shutter Island

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Martin Scorsese is from the New Hollywood school of thought. A title given to aspiring directors in the sixties and seventies; the generation of “movie brats” who had grown up with the cinema, studied the visual image and begun breaking down the studio contrivances in a (then) predominantly conservative industry. A self confessed film nerd, able to pluck inspiration from films ranging from Italian neo-realism to (in Shutter Islands case) concrete Hitchcock thrillers. Scorsese’s films have always played homage to films of past, but have also been coupled with his trademark stamp of death and onanism.

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Scorsese’s latest effort Shutter Island is no different, offering a structured gothic noir exhumed from a more than capable novelist. Mr. Lehane’s work is merely a framework with which Scorsese could etch, sculpt and mould from a lifetime as a movie admirer and decades as an esteemed director and auteur.

No surprises who takes the lead this time round. Leonardo DiCaprio, collaborates with Scorsese for the third successive time. Bringing with him that understated Bostonian drawl in the shape of U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels, summoned to the Island after a patient mysteriously disappears in Jonathon Creek fashion. As DiCaprio and his partner (a suitably restrained Mark Ruffalo) make inquiries of the patients and staff, they’re flummoxed by the seemingly implausible escape of a woman evaporating from a secure cell with around the clock surveillance, and second by how a patient could leave an island that makes Alcatraz look like the Isle of Wight. All theories point to Sir Ben of Kingsley, both Jekyll and Hyde of the hospital, a shrink who treats the prisoners as patients rather than criminals, but seems to be hiding something from poor Teddy. For his part, DiCaprio brings his own share of personal baggage: Still plagued by harrowing visions of Dachau, and his wife’s death in an apartment fire.

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What starts off as crime procedural slowly transforms into psychological thriller, as more torrid conclusions arrive, the pressure and claustrophobic atmosphere gradually start to eat away at Daniels’ nerves. Scorsese relishes in his protagonists nightmarish dream sequences and flashbacks that engulf his situation while heavily clouding his judgment. Shutter Island may initially seem like a nervy genre piece à la Cape Fear, but I would contend it lends itself more to a Hitchcockian tale, a carnival show where it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between the troubled and troublesome. Imagine walking into your neighbour’s house after there has been a less than cosy confrontation. You are unsure as to why the atmosphere in the room is so bloody tense, but if you had any sense – you wouldn’t bother asking.

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Teddy’s problems are never too much for Scorsese and DiCaprio to handle, who in their third collaboration in a row have developed a definite rhythm that is evident in every scene. It is almost effortless how Teddy’s anxieties begin to creep into our own, the director makes the most of this, by choosing claustrophobic close ups, moving the camera in a little too close for comfort so we can see and more poignantly feel the characters every last nuance. All in all, it won’t be a beloved film to most, inspiring more dissertations and smug berets than popcorn fanatics and box office receipts. While this may not bring many happy faces around conference tables in Hollywood, they should take comfort in the fact that Shutter Island has not only a clear sense of self and purpose, but demonstrates a director (and production team for that matter) on the top of their game. Put simply, this is Scorsese at its best and noir at its darkest.

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Part Two

If Shutter Island were a blog it would be a page dedicated to 9/11 ‘truthers’, awash with theories on Bush speeches and Dan Brown numerology, tales of secret establishments and handshakes. The kind of site that hosts stock gifs and secondary colour schemes – all-caps and Bill Hicks prophecies. Don’t trust The Man yeah?

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As soon as US marshal Teddy Daniels steps onto the docks of Shutter Island. We’re thrown into a world of storms, loonies, liquids, Sir Ben Kingsley and surprisingly lucid dreams. Oh yeah, there’s a musical score that would make the Queen Mary blush. Conspiracies arise in droves as a Nazi, a murderer, and some diabolical experiments are thrown into the mix – add a touch of British weather for good measure and you have yourselves one confused looking Teddy.

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Teddy’s running out of time, and for a while we don’t know exactly why. Once we do, Scorsese sets about wrapping things up a bit too fast, like a lecturer who spends two hours talking about student indulgence and apathy before realising he has ten minutes left to actually get to the point. This tendency to overindulge in Teddy’s mind state leaves us lingering in the mind of a clearly confused protagonist cocooned in his own anxieties and as such – confused and cocooned ourselves.

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At this point you are not quite sure whether it is you or Scorsese who are beginning to lose their marbles. Has DiCaprio stepped into a nightmarish noir thriller or a Scooby Doo episode? He’s not sure, we’re not sure, but Scorsese, the ever present conductor, quickly prepares for the next act – audience, I present to you – some rats!

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Running in at just under two and a half hours, there is a lot of food for thought for what is essentially a revitalised gothic B-movie. The narrative and pacing is completely at odds with the director’s presentation; disproportionate handling of both the technique and homage’s to the works of Hitchcock and Kubrick. When the secrets of Shutter Island are finally presented to the audience in such quick succession – you are with little time to digest. Imagine Paula Radcliffe running the first three legs of a 4×100 relay, she plods along in earnest bounds, gracious and dignified, while others piss past her (sorry, couldn’t resist). She isn’t going to be drawn into the sprint; she’s in it for the long haul after all. It’s taken two hours to get three hundred metres but she enjoyed the journey and for the most part, it was nice seeing her get through it. But wait, who is this on the horizon?

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‘Take ya Tena Lady Radders, Usain got this!’

Dré

Bi Polar Reviews: Ninja Assassin

January 26, 2010

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Long overdue and suffering from the recession (damn you Cyclops). I present the revitalised Bi-Polar Reviews for 2010. I say revitalised, basically part one and two will be posted together. I’ve had thousands of emails asking how to use that elusive left click. Pingbacks are our bread and butter after all. So I thought i’d save you the trouble and put one and two in a post.

If you missed how this works. Part One good, Part Two bad. Its early years as the Manic Depressive reviews didn’t catch on for some reason.

This week we have Ninja Assassin. Here is Part One.

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Ninja Assassin is the latest offering from James McTeigue. You know, the man who directed V for Vendetta. Still nothing? I only say this because in the advertising spots he has become the creator of The Matrix trilogy. They said that for V for Vendetta and they are pitching it again with Ninja Assassin. Marketing this as a film by the creators of the Matrix trilogy implies the Wachowski’s are in control of said project. Quick question, what is more appealing:

The man who directed V for Vendetta?
Or
The duo who directed the Matrix and inexorably fudged the next two?

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Ergo, they sucked. So why taint a promising sequence director with a good eye for the fantabulous?

So, plot…we’ll get to that in the second half. Let focus on where Ninja Assassin excels, those fight sequences. If you were going to be honest with yourself, you didn’t pay to see a film titled Ninja Assassin for its eloquence. A blade in the gizzards, put simply, says more than words ever could.

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Put a knife on a chain in any movie and I think you’ll find an audience. Add some throwing stars into the mix and you got yourself Citizen Kane minus a sledge. This is an unashamed B movie, looking at it from any other angle will leave you squirming for its 99 minutes. Watching the film with this in mind and I promise, you will have an enjoyable time. Killing is this films business, and business is certainly thriving. If you think of blood as its plot, this is the War and Peace we have been waiting for. All in all, you should have a bloody good time (sorry).

Ninja Gaiden The Movie, the film you have all been waiting for.

“Looks like another empty room”
Bam, ninja!

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Part Two

So there’s these assassinations occurring but nobody knows whose doing it. This one Interpol agent gets the idea that it might be ninja’s. But nobody believes her because there’s no such thing as ninja’s. Except there is such a thing as ninja’s and now the ninja’s want to kill her. So she teams up with the good ninja, played by Korean pop sensation Rain, who helps her seek revenge on the evil ninja’s, who happen to be his former clan. There’s some pretty nifty fight scenes along the way, and that wispy CGI that makes everything appear slightly supernatural. It also has its fair share of ninja blood. Ultimately, whether or not you will like it will largely depend on how fond of ninja’s you are to begin with.

The End

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Erm.

Oh. Did you ever notice how ninja’s get less powerful the more of them you put together? One ninja is usually this unstoppable force, their always the baddest ass in the room, secret weapon, secret style, secret hat. But put more than three of them in a room together and they suddenly get performance anxiety. Rule of thumb, if a movie has an army of ninjas, then you can be pretty sure our protagonist is going to breeze through them like [insert loathed chubby] and a hammock of profiteroles. Now since there is not a ninja cliché that Ninja Assassin doesn’t indulge in, you can bet that this one made it into the final edit.

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On the one hand part of me loves seeing cheesy martial arts clichés like this still kicking around. On the other hand they lose a lot of their charm when the authenticity is completely removed. When Bruce or Jackie flicked, twisted, kicked and screamed we had a static camera and the proof of physical exertion. Ninja Assassin simply looks too expensive for its own good. Believe me when I say I am not trying to sound like a Chinese proverb, but most of the films strengths are also its biggest weaknesses. From the cool, stoic delivery of our protagonist Raizo, to the legend that is Sho Kosugi and his earnest recital of every ninja villain stock line in the book. Both are acceptable traits within this genre, but could quite easily grunt throughout the movie and provide more weight to their roles.

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Speaking of stock lines, let’s see how many pretentious critical clichés I can fit into one paragraph. Story formulaic, the dialogue wooden, almost Ikea (slot ninja B into ninja B), acting woeful, even for a movie with the word ninja in the title. I would say that the film appeared to work on several levels without actually addressing six of them. Some have suggested 36, but The Abbott has been slipping recently so we forgive him for that last effort.

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Dré

Karate Kid Trailer

January 21, 2010

I mentioned this title last year among a horde of upcoming remakes.

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A story so good they had to tell it twice – kind of. This time round we have Lil Will aka Jaden Smith aka the other Dre taking the lead with Jackie Chan as the ever present fly catching, waxing groomer.

Here’s the trailer:

Dré

Lost? Watch this.

January 7, 2010

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ABC has released the annual Lost recap for their ever forgetful followers and the unenlightened potential audience. This video covers everything up until the first frames of the upcoming final season. 8 minutes 15 seconds summing up 5 seasons and 6 years of melancholy and bloody annoying non-diegetic knocks. Okay, I will accept that the programme can be thoroughly entertaining if you are willing to overlook the pretence, but they are some very big pretences. I don’t think their will ever be a show that offers so little to its viewers, on an episode to episode basis. It’s the television equivalent to crack or Kyle.

Or both…I digress, here’s the clip.

Dré

How To Train Your Dragon Trailer

December 30, 2009

DreamWorks has quietly debuted a second full-length trailer for their upcoming release, How to Train Your Dragon. DreamWorks clearly isn’t convinced that How to Train Your Dragon will sell on its own merits. Hence the elaborate intro with footage from all of their past movies. Hardly a strongest selling point but I was sold at Dragons anyway.

Heres the trailer:

Dré

Brooklyn’s Finest Trailer

December 4, 2009

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Overture Films has debuted a trailer for Antoine Fuqua’s Brooklyn’s Finest starring Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke and Wesley ‘Capone’ Snipes. The film looks interesting; certainly one worth keeping an eye on. I must warn you, this trailer might contain a few spoilers; if your the type who doesn’t like a taster- then I suggest you give this one a miss. Anyway, the film is a multi-strand of three stories: Gere is the cop with seven days left before retirement (stay with me), who gets saddled with the newest recruit in his last week. Hawke is the financially crippled husband and father; who considers pinching drug money to ease the troubles. Cheadle is the deep undercover cop assigned the task of taking down head thug (Snipes) with whom he has history. The three stories meet in a climactic event with hilarious consequences (okay, scrap the last part). The film definitely looks like the bastard child of Fuqua’s previous work Training Day and Scorsese’s The Departed: two solid flicks- hopefully this one will be too.

Here the trailer; Wire fans can look out for Mr Omar:

Dré