Prepare for lumpy throats and celebrations. Fort Box, Dom Lee’s touching story about childhood, has gone online after an extensive festival run.[Read more…] about Fort Box film, touching story of childhood, goes online
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Not even a fort could withstand the winter’s snow blizzard weather, and the premiere of Dom Lee’s Fort Box was postponed. The new date has been released, and we would recommend you hop in your (cardboard box) car and head to Crediton.
For multifaceted filmmaker Dom Lee, 2016 has been an exhausting, epic and fantastical journey. Not only did he create a fort entirely out of cardboard boxes, but he also fashioned a spaceship out of a garden shed.
Fort Box, new short film to be shot in Devon, is calling for actors in Devon to get in touch for auditions.
Game of Thrones, Veep, Boardwalk Empire and The Wire -some would say that today’s TV series are packing as much punch as the big screen. I myself have seen some great footage, action, drama and comedy this year all whilst being sat in the comfort of my own home but the big question is ‘are TV’s new releases coming up better than today’s cinema screenings?’
Gambling, gunplay and government conspiracies -Tom Leins reviews the latest DVD releases.
Created by esteemed TV screenwriter David Milch (NYPD Blue, Deadwood), and boasting a pilot directed by Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral) Luck (HBO Home Entertainment) was tipped for big things when it arrived on our screens earlier this year, only to fizzle out in chaotic circumstances.
This ensemble drama takes an oblique look at the world of horse racing in California -encompassing owners, gamblers, jockeys and disparate array of industry players. Looming large over proceedings is Chester ‘Ace’ Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), an organised crime kingpin who has recently been released from federal prison after serving a three-year stint for an unspecified crime. While he was inside Ace’s associates transferred the ownership of ‘Pint of Plain’, a promising Irish racehorse, to his faithful, long-time chauffeur Gus Demitriou (Dennis Farina, Snatch), as part of a complex plan to re-establish Ace’s empire. Elsewhere veteran trainer Walter Smith (Nick Nolte) sees an untested thoroughbred horse as his ticket back to the big-time -if he can keep his demons in check.
Despite its top-notch credentials, Luck was arguably overshadowed by the ominous off-screen stories that started to circulate almost as soon as the series started to air. Despite securing a second series on the basis of its first episode, HBO had a change of heart after a third horse died during production, and Milch and Mann were forced to issue an official statement to combat ‘fabrications and distortions’ supposedly disseminated by PETA. Even stranger was Nick Nolte’s revelation that tensions between David Milch and Michael Mann got so bad that Milch stormed the editing suite with a baseball bat in a fit of rage at Mann’s sluggish work-rate!
Despite Milch’s long and fruitful association with HBO, Luck now becomes his third drama to be cancelled by the channel before reaching its conclusion, following in the footsteps (or should that be hoof-prints?) of Deadwood and John From Cincinnati. Hoffman may dominate proceedings with his eye-catching TV debut, but it is the lesser-known performers who give the show its heartbeat. For example, the show’s most interesting sub-plot follows a posse of degenerate gamblers or ‘railbirds’ (played by Kevin Dunn, Ian Hart, Ritchie Coster and Jason Gedrick), who plan to make a killing by pooling their money to bet on a ‘pick six’ accumulator worth $2 million. In contrast, the Sopranos-esque storyline featuring a foul-mouthed Michael Gambon feels ill-suited to the slow-burning bigger picture. While it may not rub shoulders with classic HBO dramas such as The Sopranos, The Wire and Oz, Luck remains an engaging nine-part curio, and is well worth taking a gamble on.
Out now on Blu-ray for the first time is Southern Comfort (Second Sight), the cult 1981 movie from veteran director Walter Hill (The Warriors, Johnny Handsome). Long considered an allegory for the Vietnam War, Southern Comfort fits snugly into Hill’s testosterone-fuelled back catalogue, and recalls gritty cult classics such as Deliverance and Rolling Thunder. Set in 1973, Southern Comfort follows the fortunes of a Louisiana National Guard squad who are participating in weekend manoeuvres in rural bayou country. Cynical Corporal Hardin (Powers Boothe, 24) is an unwilling transfer from the Texas National Guard, and quickly registers his disgust at the behaviour of his new colleagues, and wants no part of the planned liaison with prostitutes that has been lined up by Spencer (Keith Carradine, Dexter, Deadwood). However, despite their initial hostility the pair are forced to rely upon one another when another soldier’s recklessness sees the squad come under attack from a vicious band of Cajun settlers.
Walter Hill is one of Hollywood’s most overlooked talents, and after almost a decade away from directing -his last film was 2002’s prison boxing drama Undisputed -he is poised to re-enter the fray next year with frenetic Sly Stallone thriller Bullet To The Head. Whether or not he can recapture the brutal verve of his career-defining 70s/80s hot-streak remains to be seen, and Southern Comfort is a vivid reminder of his knack for dark, macho morality tales. With an evocative Louisiana bayou setting and a typically haunting soundtrack from Ry Cooder (Paris, Texas), Southern Comfort has plenty to recommend it. While Deliverance remains the better-known movie thanks to its over-familiar moments of notoriety, Southern Comfort is certainly its equal, and will definitely appeal to fans of the better-known flick.
Low-budget Italian thriller The Arrival of Wang (Peccadillo Pictures) follows the fortunes of Chinese-language interpreter Gaia (Francesca Cuttica) who is offered a lucrative but mysterious assignment which pays well enough to lure her away from her dull movie translation day job. After being escorted to a secret location in Rome, she is locked inside a pitch-black room where she is asked to interpret the tough-talking interrogation of the eponymous Wang. Unnerved by the way the meeting is conducted by the domineering Inspector Curti (Ennio Fantastichini, Loose Cannons), Gaia demands that the lights are switched on. Only upon seeing Wang for herself, does Gaia realise why the job is shrouded in mystery, and quickly surmises that she may be in way over her head
Somewhat inevitably -considering the film’s central conceit hinges on its main twist -The Arrival of Wang runs out of steam almost as soon as it shows its true hand. While the plot point is undeniably quirky, it lacks the legs to carry the film, and the movie feels like a short film idea stretched out desperately beyond its use-by date. Cuttica impresses as the interpreter with a social conscience who finds herself thrust into a bizarre world of subterfuge and incredulity, but she is one of the few plus points. With weirdly sloppy direction and a stodgy narrative curve, the Manetti Brothers do little to distinguish themselves here.
Created and co-written by French cop-turned-filmmaker Olivier Marchal, whose previous credits include 36 Quai Des Orfevres (2004)and MR73 (2008), Braquo -The Complete Series One (Arrow Films) is a visceral cop-show about a squad of elite cops with a reputation for operating outside of the law.
However, following the suicide of their disgraced colleague Max Rossi (Olivier Rabourdin), who topped himself after his investigation into his jaw-dropping mistreatment of a criminal in a holding cell, four cops, Eddie Caplan (Jean-Hugues Anglade), Walter Morlighem (Joseph Malerba), Theo Wachevski (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and Roxane Delgado (Karole Rocher), embark on an increasingly violent mission to clear his name.
Their decision sees them go toe-to-toe with the very Internal Affairs agents who had been probing Max’s actions, and if they make one false move they could end up in prison alongside the very scumbags that they are used to busting.
The heavily recommended MR73 was described on these pages as ‘bleak, gritty and disturbing’, and Braquo (slang for ‘heist’) is effectively a variation on a theme for Marchal, with the acclaimed filmmaker broadening his storytelling scope to encompass eight episodes (with a second series currently airing on FX). Although comparisons have been made between Braquo and fellow Euro-crime imports The Killing and Wallander, the TV series that it most resembles is hit US cop drama The Shield, which notched up seven brutal series detailing the exploits of Vic Mackey’s LA-based Strike Team.
Grim and sordid throughout, Braquo pulls no punches in its walk on the wild side of French criminality, and cranks up the unease as the protagonists’ personal and professional lives start to unravel. All in all, a disturbingly intense French cop-show that is well worthy of rubbing shoulders with its fellow small-screen imports. Riveting and visceral.
Created by Liverpool-born screenwriter Jimmy McGovern -as the follow-up to his critically-acclaimed cop-show-with-a-twist Cracker –The Lakes -Complete Series 1 & 2 (Second sight) earned rave reviews when it first aired in 1997, giving well-known TV star John Simm (State of Play, Life on Mars) his breakthrough role in the process.
The series follows twenty-something Danny Kavanagh (Simm), who is desperate to escape from an unfulfilling lifestyle characterised by compulsive gambling and petty theft in his native Liverpool. On a whim he heads north to the Lake District, hoping to unleash his poetic impulses, only to quickly fall into a rut typified by heavy drinking, petty criminality and casual drug use. After getting a local girl pregnant, Danny quickly establishes himself as a familiar face within the community, but being part of the fabric of village life brings with it just as much temptation as the big city.
Before long, Danny is distracted by promiscuous rich girl Lucy Archer (Kaye Wragg, No Angels, The Bill), and the pair’s destructive flirtation leads to Danny becoming embroiled in a tragic event involving a trio of local schoolgirls
Although the first series of The Lakes earned widespread critical plaudits for its grittily realistic portrayal of a young man torn between a desire to better himself and a compulsion to indulge his more nihilistic leanings, the drama feels unfortunately dated, paling in comparison to similar material that has followed in its wake.
In contrast, the longer second series -which alienated late-90s viewers with its abrupt shift in tone -actually holds up far better, and makes for more compelling viewing. Rather than focusing on the tormented Danny’s inner turmoil, the second series instead explores the murky private lives of the rest of the village’s residents, pushing the show’s hitherto well-concealed dark humour to the fore. With adultery, rape and murder all on the agenda, outsider Danny effectively acts as the village’s conscience, and his intimate knowledge of local events puts him squarely at odds with his reluctant in-laws -who are harbouring dark secrets of their own
With McGovern sharing writing responsibilities in series two with a number of other screenwriters, the tone often becomes muddled, but the narrative remains compelling throughout. Although it occasionally resembles a Happy Shopper version of Twin Peaks, The Lakes still makes for memorable viewing, even if its transgressive impulses have been dulled slightly with age. Fuelled by an appealing of-its-time Britpop-heavy soundtrack, and boosted by a typically charismatic lead performance from Simm, The Lakes is a good show, just not the great show that newcomers may be anticipating.
BAFTA-winning comedy/drama Misfits -which tells the story of a group of young offenders who obtain super-powers after a freak electrical storm -has earned a cult audience since debuting in 2009, going on to rack up three enjoyable series -with a fourth commissioned for 2012.
However, prior to the filming of Misfits -Series 3 (4DVD), leading light Robert Sheehan (who played Irish Misfit Nathan) quit the show to try his luck in Hollywood (after appearing alongside Nicolas Cage in the dubious swords ‘n’ sorcery romp that was Season of the Witch), leaving creator Howard Overman with a huge hole to fill. Alongside resident delinquents Simon (Iwan Rheon), Kelly (Lauren Socha), Alisha (Antonia Thomas) and Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), Overman has drafted in Rudy (Joe Gilgun, Woody from This Is England), an appropriately foul-mouthed replacement for lovable rogue Nathan. As the new guy at the ill-fated Community Centre, Rudy is the recipient of the lion’s share of the funniest lines, and proves a good choice to fill Sheehan’s shoes.
The central premise for this third outing involves the gang getting to grips with their new super-powers -they all participated in a trade-off with drug-pusher-turned-super-power-dealer Seth at the tail-end of the previous series -leading to some unwieldy scenes in the early stages. After the dust settles, Kelly has a genius-level knowledge of mechanical systems (AKA rocket science), Curtis has the power to swap gender, Alisha has the power to see through other people’s eyes and visualise what they see and Simon gains the power of precognition. Meanwhile, new kid on the block Rudy can split into two, with each half of his personality displaying polarised behavioural traits. Equipped with their new powers the posse are forced to confront an increasingly unlikely array of enemies, including reanimated zombies and even Nazis; the latter in a warped alternative universe where Hitler took over Britain.
While neither the second or third series has quite managed to match up to the sublime first series of Misfits, the quality control is still pretty high, with Rudy injecting a breath of fresh air into the proceedings. However, in light of two more integral characters abandoning ship to work on other projects after Series 3, precisely how Series 4 will play out is anyone’s guess. For now, Misfits remains one of the most interesting homegrown dramas on TV, and anyone who has yet to sample its quirky ‘X-men-with-ASBOs’ narrative should make a bee-line for the box set.
Critically acclaimed Danish cop show The Killing II (Arrow Films) received a rapturous reception when it first aired on BBC Four, going on to scoop the BAFTA for best international series ahead of the illustrious likes of Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire.
Hot on its heels the BBC aired series two this winter, and the box set is now available on DVD. The second outing, which picks up two years after the events depicted in series one, finds lead character Sarah Lund stripped of her detective role following disciplinary action, and demoted to an undemanding position as a passport control official on Falster Island. However, following a grisly murder -in which a woman is stabbed 21 times, reputedly as retribution for Muslims killed by Danish troops in Afghanistan -Lund’s former boss Lennart Brix lures her back into the fold in an advisory capacity. However, the increasingly labyrinthine case swallows Lund whole, and the dogged ex-cop finds herself sucked into a twisted case with its roots deeply embedded in Islamic terrorism.
At just 10 episodes long, The Killing II is just half the length of its predecessor, but despite the reduced run-time, the show’s commitment to narrative depth remains intact, with the new plot taking in ever-shifting Danish politics and traumatised soldiers, and leading Lund well out of her comfort zone and into unchartered territory. While the show may prove to be too strange for viewers fed on pulse-pounding thrillers, The Killing has arguably revitalised the police procedural with its engrossing episode-per-day approach. The recent US remake -set in rain-drenched Seattle -proved that the show’s numerous high points were all too easily lost in translation, and this new story strand sees creator Soren Sveistrup flex his storytelling muscles once more.
In The Killing II Sarah Lund’s trademark woolly jumper may have changed, but the show’s uncompromising colloquialisms remain firmly in place, and the show is still one of TV’s most refreshing imports. Intriguing stuff.
Exeter-based filmmaker David Salas will have his short film Uncomfortable screened at a Totnes Cinema from Friday, December 3 to Thursday, December 9 after winning SHOOT, the Totnes Short Film Festival.
Sex, Leins & Videotape #16: Paignton film critic Tom Leins investigates a bumper selection of box-sets -just in time for Christmas!
Shameless Screen Entertainment are the best kept secret in exploitation film, and over the last few years they have won themselves a loyal following with their lurid selection of retro fans’ favourites.
We got in touch with director Dom Lee, who worked alongside David Salas, to create the music video for Awakening, the first single from the Sound of the Sirens’ album This Time. But first, here are Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood, the Sound of the Sirens themselves what inspired them…[Read more…] about The making of: Awakening – Sound of the Sirens video
With its premiere a year ago at the Two Short Nights film festival in Exeter, you can now watch Dom Lee’s Rocketshed film online, in its full three-minute entirety.
Exeter Phoenix’s annual short film festival, Two Short Nights, prepares to bring flocks of filmmakers, viewers and industry specialists to the city this December in a celebration of short film and the people who make them.
In this world of hi-tech communication pinging around, the new South West FilmMail is going old school with an email newsletter. The idea is to promote collaboration in the South West film community. We spoke to filmmaker Dom Lee – the force behind the new newsletter, who’s been selected for this year’s BFI Network x BAFTA Crew scheme – about what it is, how it will connect, and why you should sign up[Read more…] about South West FilmMail newsletter to promote film collaboration
As the highly anticipated third Hellboy film is set to hit the screens, it’s refreshing to know that the South West played its part in producing a cult-ish blockbuster.[Read more…] about Hellboy, new sizzler part-shot in the South West
For Resolutions, writer / director Heidi Jones explored a real-life situation to see how her characters would react. We spoke to her about drama, music and Sally Potter[Read more…] about It’s endlessly motivating to work with amazing people: Heidi Jones
Heaps of creativity, dedication and personality goes into creating a local, community radio station. Christ Jones captures the essence of Exeter’s Phonic FM in his documentary This is Phonic. We spoke to him about getting to what’s behind the airwaves[Read more…] about This is Phonic: Creativity, dedication and a wealth of human experience (interview)
Cut From Cloth is a short film that takes personal experience and expands it for dramatic effect. In the process it tugs on teams of talent for something quite special. It’s directed by Tommy Gillard, and produced by Simeon Costello to ask how the story developed and how they managed to bag such a top team.[Read more…] about Cut from Cloth: ‘Death is such an odd part of life’ (interview)
Critically acclaimed film director Ben Wheatley will be hosting a Q&A and screening of his latest film at the Exeter’s Phoenix’s independent cinema. It will be the second time the director has appeared at Studio 74, after bringing his Q&A tour of Free Fire to the venue last year.[Read more…] about Director Ben Wheatley heads to Exeter with Q&A tour of Happy New Year, Colin Burstead
The benefits of sitting in a cool, dark room can be often overlooked. Throw in a heap of fab flicks, and you’re really talking! Some people would pay a king’s, queen’s, or democratically elected leader’s ransom for such an opportunity. At Studio 74 in the Exeter Phoenix you can enjoy the dark room plus film privilege for just a fiver. Here’s how they sell it…
A series of controversial films which were either banned or heavily censored on their release are to be shown during Peninsula Arts’ autumn season, which carries the theme of ‘revolution’.
Community film making organisation North Devon Moving Image (NDMI) will be running two film making summer schools for children and teenagers this coming August.
This week the Exeter Phoenix announced the winners of its 2017 film commissions.
In our bid to broaden our filmmaking coverage we thought we’d share this Ghetto Film School release which breezed into our in-box. It popped in on Monday, March 21, so we’re guessing the event was a success. But there’s loads of info to glean, so we thought we’d share it nevertheless. Plus you get to see two of the films
The International Dublin Film Festival runs from February 16 to February 26. Here’s what you can expect from the film fest (sponsored by Audi, hence the A to the DIFF), which includes Vanessa Redgrave, Nathalie Baye, Kerry Fox, Ross Noble, Ben Wheatley, and Anna Friel joining top Irish talent Jack Reynor, Moe Dunford, Cillian Murphy, John Butler and Aiden Gillen on the red carpet.