Beard Envy is a surreal journey into an aspirational, envy-ridden day-mare. Based on the spoken-word poetry of Robert Garnham, it tells the story of one person’s dream to have a beard.
You can almost taste the dirt in Daniel Bergeson’s short film Unearthed.
Who knew on a bright summer’s day when writer and director Luke Jeffery was scouting the location of his paranoid psycho thriller Hell’s Bells that we’d end up in a world where the doomesday clock was ticking forward.
Post-apocalyptic thriller Tear Me Apart (Cannibal Films) tells the story of two brothers – living in a cave in a barren part of Cornwall – who have been forced to turn to cannibalism to survive.
Although the eldest (Frazer Alexander) clings to the notion that their father will reappear, bringing with him the return of the ‘old world’, the younger brother (Alfie Stewart) has a warped moral compass, and craves the meat they source from the bodies of hapless nomads. Their brutal, brittle existence is plunged into chaos, however, when they cross paths with a beautiful teenager (Jennie Eggleton) – who may or may not be the last girl left alive. Her sudden presence awakens dormant feelings in the brothers, altering their lives in ways they scarcely thought possible.
The plot may sound shlock-drenched on paper, but the filmmakers have weaved together something far more contemplative. Shot in and around Constantine Bay, North Cornwall in June 2014, the shoot was blessed – or cursed – with the best spell of weather that the area had experienced in around a decade, and the volatile ‘four seasons in one day’ weather that the producers anticipated never materialised, giving the film a sun-stained, scorched-earth palette instead.
The young cast do a good job with the unusual subject matter, and underlying tension is cranked up one notch at a time by the sporadic presence of a posse of gun-toting strangers, prowling the nearby fields. Tragic, rather than exploitative, Tear Me Apart is a fascinating little film that really underlines the possibilities of what you can achieve with a great setting and a bold vision. The team behind the movie – director Alex Lightman, writer Tom Kerevan and DOP Ern Hermann – are said to be working on a series of novellas and animated web comics that delve deeper into the movie’s mythology, and their ambition is undeniably refreshing.
The local aspect was undeniably the hook for me, but Tear Me Apart definitely deserves to tap into an audience outside of the Westcountry. What it lacks in gratuitous viscera, Tear Me Apart more than makes up for in mood and setting. A low-key triumph.
Brown Willy – the place – is associated with power and mystery. As the highest point in Cornwall, the hill is regarded as a sacred mountain by members of the Aetherius Society, a UFO religion, and was seen as a communal area for prehistoric people, ‘who may have used the ridge as a ceremonial procession route.’
Writer and director John Tomkins is a major drum-beater for film in Torbay, Devon and the South West. The Runner is his fifth film, and you can but hope that the characters and situations in the film are based on the filmmaker’s nightmares rather than his experience.
Each year the team behind Exeter Phoenix’s Two Short Nights film festival go out of their way to put together an eclectic mix of contemporary cinema’s finest shorts.
Dartmoor Killing is the theatrical debut from Devon’s own, Peter Nicholson – best known for his work at the BBC and Channel 4. Nicholson’s film eschews the usual conventions of British cinema i.e. period settings, Northern working class strife or cockney geezers. Instead, it delivers a contemporary thriller with a twist of suspenseful horror.
Becky (Gemma-Leah Devereux) and Susan (Rebecca Night) are both in their late twenties and prior to Becky’s imminent wedding, Susan treats Becky to a holiday on the moors. However, Susan’s motives for visiting Dartmoor are far from selfless and it turns out she’s motivated by something other than rugged landscapes.
Arriving on Dartmoor the two ramblers make their way to their idyllic B&B, however, they cross paths with the mysterious, Chris (Callum Blue). When Chris injures his ankle, Becky and Susan offer to help him back to his picturesque but isolated moorland home. At first, this meeting appears to have been by chance but it’s here that the planned city break takes an unexpected and sinister turn, exposing deception and even suppressed memories from a terrifying past – hinted at through ghost-like visions.
Above all else, Dartmoor Killing is indebted to its local setting and fortunately the film’s Director of Photography (DoP), Nick Dance, has done a beautiful job of capturing Dartmoor’s natural beauty. It doesn’t quite match the dream like quality of Spielberg’s Dartmoor in War Horse (Spielberg, 2011) but much of that film was a romanticised vision – perfect for its ‘against all odd’ story.
At one point Chris opines that the moor is a dangerous place but this is never demonstrated through the mise en scène e.g. Dartmoor doesn’t have the harshness of the moorland depicted in Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (Arnold, 2011) or even the dreariness of the depressing, Blair Witch-wannabe, A Night in the Woods (Parry, 2011). There is danger lurking on the moors, but here it’s mankind, not nature that poses any substantial threat. Dartmoor Killing is more obviously linked to American psychological thrillers of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, films like Dead Calm (Noyce, 1989), Pacific Heights (Schlesinger, 1990) or Cape Fear (Scorsese, 1991).
Nicholson’s debut is an assured one, with good performances from the central cast and it beautifully captures the wonder of Dartmoor, whilst also managing to tell a story that defies the usual slew of British clichés. There are a few minor issues with the script but in spite of this Dartmoor Killing is a gripping thriller, and like the moors themselves, worth experiencing first-hand.
Whiplash (Chazelle, 2014) is about a 19-year-old, aspiring drummer, named Andrew Neyman. Andrew is reaching for the stars at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory – one of America’s most prestigious music schools. It’s here that Andrew meets his overzealous music teacher Terrence Fletcher (JK Simmons). The film centres upon their unusual relationship in what is essentially a ‘buddy’ movie – with Andrew wanting to be a great musician and Fletcher constantly pushing him. But, will Andrew overcome the odds or will Fletcher push him too far?
One last Christmas review from me before the big day, and it has to be the British made festive comedy Get Santa currently in cinemas as we speak, so may be a great time killer over the holiday season for all the parents out there.
Santa Clause has crash landed while test driving his new sleigh just two nights before Christmas, and finds himself and his reindeer scattered across the city of London. When he attempts to rescue his reindeer from the compound of Battersea Dogs Home he is arrested and thrown into Lambeth Prison. He calls upon the help of nine-year-old Tom and his ex-con father, Steve, currently on parole from a two-year stint as a getaway driver to break him out and help save Christmas.
Written and directed by Christopher Smith, best known for independent British Horror films such as Creep and Severance, Get Santa is a great British effort at the Christmas Film. The film stars an array of British faces in the roles including Rafe Spall, Warwick Davis, Stephen Graham and none other than the fantastic Jim Broadbent as old Saint Nick himself, and works tremendously well as both a Christmas film and a prison break film, oh and a comedy too. There are nods to films and TV throughout, such as Ronnie Barker’s Porridge, The Shawshank Redemption and many Christmas films lend moments along the way.
Jim Broadbent is one of those actors who in my mind can hardly do wrong, especially in comedic roles, and here as Father Christmas, he excels and possibly becomes one of the greatest on screen renditions of Santa to so far grace our screens. Rafe Spall gives a heartfelt turn as the ex con father aiding his son in this impossible mission in an attempt to make up for his absence.
The father and son team are tailed by the police, headed by Trainspotting’s Ewan Bremner and Steve’s stern parole officer played by Joanna Scanlon, and Santa’s little helper in the prison is the convict known as Sally Gunnell (rhyming slang for tunnel) none other than Warwick Davis, all of whom bring some fantastic comedic performances to the fold.
As is important with any Christmas family movie, the film is full to the brim with sentiment and merriment, but there’s enough here to entertain the adults as well as the kids, including the scene in which prison barber (Stephen Graham) helps to reinvent Santa into the prison safe “Mad Jimmy Claws”.
Get Santa is shot and edited tremendously well, with modest yet believable visual effects here and there, although with perhaps a little too much lens flare, as seems to be the in thing these days (thanks JJ Abrams), but all in all creates a great adventurous feel good journey which will have and your children on the edge of your seat, in fits of hysterics and holding back the odd tear too. If you like Christmas films, well, I think that Get Santa is going to become one of those classics that will make essential viewing for many years to come.
Based on cartoonist James Thurber’s 1939 short story of the same name, Ben Stiller‘s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is the second cinematic version to grace the screen, the first being the 1947 version starring Danny Kaye as the story’s protagonist.
Bad habits, bad manners, bad attitude. Billy Bob Thornton is the Bad Santa in this hilarious movie produced and devised by the Coen Brothers.
It must be a difficult task to create an original and fresh take on the zombie film. We have seen various different attempts on the genre that have worked, Simon Pegg’s Shaun Of The Dead (2004), or even the low budget Colin (2008) spring to mind, but more often than not they all tread the same stale water, great for Zombie fans, but film buffs can easily find them tiresome. But there’s currently a Kiwi produced ‘horredy’ hurtling through the festival circuits that has easily managed to maintain its own original take while still remaining true to the specifics of the zombie genre, and on behalf of the Devon and Cornwall Film site, I was fortunate enough to be offered an exclusive preview screening.
A look back in time here for the Halloween season, with a revisiting of this little gem of a horror film which has become something of a cult classic since its release, and like many successful foreign films, has spawned a shiny yet mediocre American Hollywood remake, I guess for those who struggle to read subtitles.
CUB (Govaerts, 2014) is about a Belgian Cub Scout pack that goes on a camping trip just over the French border, unsurprisingly, things don’t go to well for the Cub Scouts in this horror, but how does the film fare?
It has been seven years since the last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film, the underrated CGI affair from Kevin Munroe, TMNT (Munroe, 2007). And, it’s 21 years since the last live-action Turtle film – the disastrous and rightfully maligned, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (Gillard, 1993), often incorrectly referred to as Turtles in Time.
Jason Schwartzman should be quite used to playing writers by now, but none are as terrifyingly narcissistic as Philip, in Schwartzman’s newest film, Listen Up Philip (Perry, 2014).
Spring (Benson & Moorhead, 2014) is an interesting proposition, it’s a film that attempts and succeeds to defy expectations. Like the directors previous film, Resolution (Benson & Moorhead, 2012), it provides a unique take on the horror genre but also encompasses tropes we associate with others.
Next To Her focuses on two sisters, Chelli – pronounced Helli – and Gabby. The younger sister, Gabby, is intellectually disabled and Chelli has been caring for her for most of her life.
As the 54th BFI London Film Festival kicks-off the weather might be predictably dreary, but Clare Stewart, festival director, has lined-up an eclectic mix of films that make visiting the cinema – if you’re in London – a necessity.
The festival’s opening film is the UK/USA production, Imitation Game (Tyldum, 2014) and Stewart and her team of film programmers have picked a corker to open this year’s festival.
Imitation Game is a biopic about the life of Alan Turing; the British mathematician and cryptanalyst whose innovative machine (Christopher) broke the German Enigma code and helped to save millions of lives. The film focuses upon three specific points in Turing’s life: a founding friendship at school with a boy named Christopher; WW2 itself i.e. how Turing came to be involved in the top-secret, government project to decrypt the ‘unbreakable’ code; and finally, Turing’s arrest for indecency in the ‘50s – Turing’s only crime being gay and performing an ‘indecent’ act in public. [Read more…] about Imitation Game: faultless start to the BFI London Film Festival
After The Night/Até ver a luz tells the tale of Sombra, an outcast living a nocturnal life in the Creole-speaking Cap Verdean community of Reboleira. His only friends and family are his brother, auntie, a small girl and his pet iguana, Dragon. Mixed up with a local gang and indebted to the boss, Sombra is forced to participate in an armed robbery, but when that goes awry, he flees, desperately trying to make it through the night alive.
What with Michael Keaton’s current resurgence, I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at his largely overlooked, directorial debut, The Merry Gentleman (Keaton, 2008).
My Stuff, the debut feature from Finnish director, Petri Luukkainen, is a quasi-documentary and we join Petri – director and subject – as he embarks upon his experiment to forgo his possessions for one year.
The Nightman of Nevermoor was directed by Devon’s own, Chris Thomas and it was made on a shoestring budget of just £3,000, which was raised via crowdsourcing. The 50-minute short is a staggering achievement for the production crew, showcasing their filmmaking talents, while also illustrating their ability to work to a limited budget and time schedule.
If you’ve haven’t read part one and two of my Top 10 Films of 2013 I’ll provide you with a brief recap…
#10 Keanu Reeves
#9 Side by Side (Kenneally, 2012)
#8 Doctor Who: Day of the Doctor (Hurran, 2013)
#7 You’re Next (Wingard, 2011)
#6 Frances Ha (Baumbach, 2012)
#5 The Great Beauty/La grande bellezza (Sorrentino, 2013)
#4 Spring Breakers (Korine, 2012)
Just as Matt Smith’s time as the eleventh Doctor has ended, so to must my countdown conclude – Geronimo!