What was the most divisive film of the year?
Ok, what was the second most divisive film of the year?
… Hmmm, alright, what was the third most divisive film of 2012?
Upon its release, Prometheus seemed to delight and infuriate in equal measure. It got good write-ups, as well as white-hot servings of reviewer rage. It took millions at the box office, yet left many baffled.
In short, nobody can agree if it’s good or not.
Lost scribe Damon Lindelof co-wrote Prometheus, and after the fanboy backlash that greeted the Lost finale, a lot of Prometheus‘s harshest critics took to the twitterverse to vent their displeasure at what they saw as the same failings to their various rag-tag groups of followers.
This is where social media comes in. You see, Lindelof has something of a track-record for engaging with fans, seemingly not even avoiding the disproportionately angry trolls who inhabit the interwebs. Lindelof even apologised to fans in the aftermath of the Lost final episode, and clearly has kevlar-skin for criticism. The Wall Street Journal published a piece on its Speakeasy blog interviewing Lindelof about the reaction to the movie, the way he interacts with fans, and creative decisions made along the way. It’s a fascinating read, and a great insight into the inner workings of his mind. I thoroughly recommend you check it out at this link.
For the record, I enjoyed Prometheus, although I can acknowledge that it has problems. If a film does enough with its story to get me hooked, plot holes don’t always bother me as much as some people, although they definitely have an effect. Whether some of these negative points will be addressed in the mooted sequel is hard to say, all I know is that I enjoyed the ride, and would have no problem telling Mr. Lindelof so myself.
It can be hard to get people to try new things. People as a group are difficult to influence, and, more often than not, would rather stay in their comfort zones and not experience anything new. ‘Why go visit a different country when my whole life is here?’, ‘sushi? That’s just raw finish, innit?’, ‘It’s easier to stay in and watch Transformers on DVD for the hundredth time than go and see Looper in the cinema, and I might not even like Looper, anyway’.
Why else would there be a whole industry (advertising) centred around getting us to be aware of new products if we didn’t need to be tempted, cajoled, and incentivised into checking out new things?
Most people think that they’re immune to this form of subliminal skullduggery, feeling so above the poor mindless minions who blindly accept what they see on TV, whilst still nonetheless displaying blind loyalty to brands of their own, who have more subtle ways of marketing. In short, we are constantly bombarded with messages, and they work on us subliminally. Turn on the TV, walk down the street, fire up your internet browser, and people are imploring you, charming you, shouting at you, just trying to get you to buy their products. The worst part? It sort of works.
The movie industry is no different. A film can be made with a huge budget, but is not considered to be in profit until it makes back its budget PLUS the P&A (print and advertising) budget; influencing you to go see the film can sometimes cost more than the film itself. The film marketing process encompasses all sorts of methods: actors are ferried around the world from press junket to TV appearances, film posters with pornographic shots of the actos are slathered all over towns and cities, and film trailers are inserted in front of similar movies, on TV and on youtube. In short, the movie industry works really hard to f*%k with your mind.
The last of these ways of influencing you, the movie trailer, is perhaps the most obvious and well-known. I used to look forward to seeing film trailers, I saw them as an integral part of the move-viewing experience. Along with the sticky floors, the styrofoam popcorn, and the BBFC age certification, trailers were all part of the excitement and glamour of a trip to the cinema. Everybody’s had at least one moment in the cinema where a trailer has rendered them incandescent in excitement for a new film, or where the first trailer for a feverishly-anticipated film is first shown. An effective trailer is an art form all of its own, in much the same way that iconic film posters are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Only problem is, film trailers have changed. As the ongoing battle between commerce and art is waged in Hollywood, the pernicious influence of the great satan that is focus groups is starting to make itself known. You see, a film studio shows films to people from the general public deemed ‘normal’, who then grade a movie and have a surprisingly large say in the fate of a film. There are many films that have been re-edited into incoherence in the aftermath of a focus group wanting a happy ending or similar.
The same is true of trailers. Trailers are shown to focus groups, and the mindless drones that populate these things say that they want to see even more of the film. I’ll say it again: they want to see more of the film!
‘Well, go and see the bloody film then‘ is what the movie execs should say, but, with their view obscured by the dollar signs in their eyes, they obsequiously add in yet more footage, sometimes stooping low enough to include the final shots from the films they’re advertising. It used to be the case that you didn’t see anything from the third act, or in some cases nothing at all from the finished film and it would make you go crazy with excitement.
Unfortunately, now we’re living in an age where The Amazing Spider-Man had an astounding 25 minutes of preview footage released (edited together into one coherent narrative by Sleepyskunk). The best trailers do show you footage of the film of course, but they show just enough to leave the audience slavering for more, still with questions, counting out their cinema ticket money in anticipation of having those questions answered.
‘What can we do about this?’ I hear you ask.
Well, nothing really. The endless money train that Hollywood is intent on riding on at the expense of quality films doesn’t show any signs of stopping yet. All we can hope for is that the fan backlash changes some minds, or that the imaginationally-challenged (it is a word), film execs find a new plaything. In the meantime, we can rejoice in those few trailers that don’t resort to story-spoiling, and close our eyes and ears when the less subtle ones assault our brains.
Check out (what I think) is the best trailer ever, below:
**This is the first review from returning contributor, Kaz. Over the next few paragraphs, gives you the skinny on The Expendables 2. If you want to let us know what you think about the film, please leave a comment below. Welcome aboard, Kaz!**
Remember the 80’s? Remember the likes of Commando, First Blood, Rambo, Bloodsport, Die Hard etc etc? These were the super hero movies of their time. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, these guys, they were the heroes of the big screen. Yes, acting ability was incredibly limited, but, if a studio wanted a big box office smash, one of the above (bar Van Damme, who dropped into b-movie mediocrity after Universal Soldier) had to be on the billing. The films were cheesy nonsense, one man against an army who couldn’t hit a mountain if it was sitting right in front of them, where the heroes could take cover behind a paper bag and bullets would just be absorbed into them, where every time a hero was shot, it was just a flesh wound.
Well, those days are now back it seems, and I’m not sure how to take it. Did I enjoy the movie? Hell yes, it is a testosterone filled action extravaganza! But it is also a little silly. Let’s get the bad bits out of the way first. One, Dolph Lundgren, you are not funny, in fact, Sylvester Stallone is made to look like Steve Carell in comparison. Some of the blood is so obviously CGI, it’s as if they got to the editing room, thought, hey, the blood packs just didn’t shout ‘WOW!’ enough, so lets paint some more! It looks fake, it is fake and takes away a tiny bit from the action. The acting, yes, it is horrid, I cringed at many a line. The story? What story, it is such a simple revenge and save the world plot that spending too much time pondering the holes, nay, the epic craters in it would probably take you until the end of time.
The Expendables and The Expendables 2 may mark Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to screen acting, but mark my words, 2013’s The Last Stand is the Governator’s real return to the silver screen. Sure, The Expendables films beat The Last Stand to it, but check out some of the reviews, and it’s clear the most critics don’t think either the original or the sequel are one of those “so bad it’s good” films. And in my opinion the joke has worn off, they’re just bad. The Last Stand actually has some pedigree behind it, despite its admittedly unremarkable title.
Arnie plays a border-town sheriff, forced out of LA by a scandal, who reluctantly joins a last-ditch attempt to stop a US-bound drugs baron. So far, so generic. But what really sets this apart (Arnie’s return aside) is the choice of director. Handling megaphone duties is South Korean auteur Kim Ji-Woon, whose best known works The Good, The Bad, and The Weird and I Saw the Devil marked him out as one to watch, even within a generation of talented Korean filmmakers. Kim Ji-Woon’s films have varied style and genre, but have always had impact and kineticism, something this film would arguably benefit from, in order to make the most of this plot. But also, Schwarzenegger has always been at his best when working with true directors, not hacks. Despite making some word-class dross in his time, Arnie’s place in cinematic history is assured, after his work with James Cameron resulted in the iconic Terminator movies, as well as Predator and Total Recall.
So, Kim Ji-Woon’s involvement is legitimately attention-snaring in its own right, coming as it does in the midst of other renowned Korean filmmakers directing their first English-language films. Bong Joon-Ho’s Snow Piercer is coming in 2013, and features Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Jamie Bell. If The Host and Memories of Murder blew you away, you’ll already be cursing the fact that you can’t yet book tickets for this one. Perhaps my favourite Korean director, Park Chan-Wook is releasing his film Stoker in March 2013, and Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew Goode is a cast list to whet the appetite. His Vengeance trilogy shocked, disturbed, challenged and entertained in equal measure, and these films are certainly ones to watch.
Check out the trailer for The Last Stand below, and feel free to leave a comment, hopefully making parodic reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political career.
One of the first non-mainstream, thematically transgressive films I ever saw was Larry Clark’s 1995 film Kids. From that moment on, my previously child-like eyes had been opened to a darker, more disturbing world, and I would never see anything the same way again. The best films and filmmakers can have that profound effect their audiences, and at 13, I was mentally-scarred. This tale of hedonistic drug-and-alcohol-guzzling teenage kids shocked audiences and critics alike on its release. Did I mention the sex yet? Oh, well the spectre of AIDS overshadows all the casual sex they indulge in, too. Just in case the drugs weren’t enough for you.
Morally-questionable characters, hostile, or at best ambivalent adults, and a documentary style gave the film a rough realism and cruel authenticity, furthering the impact of the raw and immediate script. And who wrote Kids, might you ask? Why it was the then-22 year old enfant terrible; Harmony Korine.
At this point, Kids probably represents the high water mark of Korine’s career (even if it isn’t even that well known itself), and although his directorial efforts Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy, and Mister Lonely have garnered attention since then, his new project, Spring Breakers may be set to finally give him the infamy his talent deserves.
Spring Breakers depicts a group of four college girls who decide to rob a fast food restaurant in order to fund their spring break. When they inevitably end up in jail, drug-dealer, arms-seller and all-round bad guy Alien (James Franco) bails them out, but, life just ain’t that simple, and it turns out he wants them to do something for him, too.
Alien is played by James Franco, who we know by now, is a SERIOUS ACTOR. When he’s not directing films, writing films, attending Yale, or lecturing on various topics at UCLA, he likes to dabble in a little acting. Not many actors get to dabble in such high-profile films, but then, not many actors look like James Franco (and I guess he is pretty talented, as well as being, well, pretty). In addition to Franco, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, two young actresses better-known for High School Musical and other tween music TV shows play against type as two of the girls. Working with Korine in such an attention-grabbing film is nothing if not a way to diversify for these two, and certainly displays a certain amount of bravery.
Whatever your take on it, this film will be worth seeing. Harmony Korine is always interesting, in his own batshit-mental sort of way. Just like Kids before it, Spring Breakers has the potential to make people sit up and take notice, and whether it turns out to be a controversial masterpiece, or a gloriously ramshackle train-wreck, we here at RBT wait with baited breath.
Anyone who saw 2008’s In Bruges knew that they were witnessing the arrival of a cinematic talent. Sure, Martin McDonagh had already made a name for himself as a successful playwright, but In Bruges really got the attention of the mainstream (myself included). Hell, his brother, John Michael McDonagh wrote and directed last year’s critically-acclaimed The Guard (the most successful Irish independent film of all time), so there seems to be a natural talent for storytelling in the McDonagh family.
There’s no doubt about it, when you have a film as darkly comic, effortlessly stylish, and critically-lauded as In Bruges, you tend to garner a certain amount of credibility. Martin McDonagh is currently the director and writer that all the big names want to work with. Why? Well imagine the shot in the arm it can give an actor’s career to work with such an acclaimed director, still on his way up? Like a filmic defibrillator, applied to your career, the awards people take notice, and suddenly you’re cool again. What’s not to like? Don’t believe me? May I point you in the direction of previous examples, such as Tarantino, Q. and Soderbergh, S.
What’s that? You want further proof? Well, how’s about the cast for his latest film, Seven Psychopaths? We have: Colin Farrell (natch), Abbie Cornish, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Olga Kurylenko, Tom Waits and Gabourey Sidibe. Not bad, right?
I mean, with a title like that, most people’s interest would be piqued, but a glance at that cast-list would induce most right-thinking moviegoers into a frenzied stampede to their latest multiplex, demanding tickets with mad vigour. So what’s this new film about then? It’s that screenwriter’s favourite: a struggling screenwriter. Here played by Colin Farrell, the poor scamp somehow manages to unintentionally embroil himself in the world of Los Angeles organised crime when some of his questionable friends kidnap a mobster’s dog.
Plenty of potential there, you might think. Especially when you consider how much In Bruges made of a couple of bored hitmen in Europe’s premier medieval city.
We can expect to catch this promising piece in around October time, since that’s when our American cousins will be getting their teeth into it. Watch the trailer below, and then feel free to gnash your teeth in rage, and type a comment with angry fingers if you disagree, or be nice. Your choice.
I was a big fan of the original Universal Soldier film and avoided the subsequent plethora of follow ups. Did you know there have been 6! yes 6 Universal Soldier films not including the imminent release of Day Of Reckoning. I’m not sure who is watching them but it is nice to see the return of the original Universal Soldiers and from the trailer it looks like this latest instalment could be a blast.
There’s no doubt about it, David Cronenberg’s films aren’t for everyone. In his 80s/early 90s heyday, his disturbing and distinguished films may not have created the ‘Body Horror’ genre, but they certainly defined it. The Fly, Scanners, The Brood, and the infamous Crash all brought a heretofore unseen psychological depth to splatter, finding new and interesting ways to make people feel all icky inside.
Hardcore Cronenberg fans have been somewhat disappointed by his recent output. A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Spider and A Dangerous Method have all disappointed fans by having a distinct lack of exploding heads and vaginal imagery. Now, however, perhaps those fans’ perverse bloodlust will be satisfied by the latest Cronenberg joint. Except it’s not David who made the forthcoming Antiviral; it’s his son.
There’s no doubt about it, making your directing debut not just in the genre your father specialised in, but the very epoch of the genre that he more or less made his own takes balls, and Brandon Cronenberg is clearly in possession of big ones, hewn from brass. Even the plot smacks of classical Cronenberg: Syd Merch (Caleb Landry-Jones) works for a company who specialise in harvesting diseases from celebrities, and then infecting paying clients with said diseases.
Early festival reviews have veered between joyous and underwhelming, but when it came to the Cronenbergian cinematic output, at least in the early days, it was ever thus. Whether Brandon Cronenberg will make it as a director, it’s too early to say, but as first films go, this certainly a provocative and attention-grabbing one.
Check out the trailer below, whatever the critics say, watching Antiviral promises to be an interesting experience. Currently it has no set release date, so fingers crossed it hits soon.
Indie Game: The movie is a documentary made by two Canadian film makers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky. Reportedly their first film which is an amazing achievement, it is well structured and professionally shot. The film as the title suggest is about the making of independent computer games, specifically for the Xbox Live Arcade platform.
The making of the film is as modern as its subject matter, it was financed by two rounds of Kick starter funding the second one reaching its goal in 24 hours. Kick Starter for those who don’t know is a website which you can pitch your project or prototype product to the public and ask for cash backing. In the case of Indie Game the movie the first round of backing if you donated enough money you would get a credit and the second round was a way of gathering pre-orders and using that to fund the last of the post production. Fitting as most modern Indie games are funded in the same manner.
Indie Game: the movie could be the perfect of Narrow Casting paid for and made by people who were interested and love the subject matter. Off the top of my head I can’t think of another film which is so target at one group of society.
The film concentrates on three main indie games and follows one of them through the final seven months of production and its launch. The games they follow are a already proven hit at the time of filming ‘Braid’, ‘Super Meat Boy’ the plucky new comer and ‘Fez’ the emperors new clothes of indie games. Each game gives you a unique angle on the developers and the intelligence and determination required to get a game released.
Super Meat Boy
I have been playing computer games since the C64 in the 80’s and believe that the story telling and design in modern game design is highly underrated by most of the press and public. Modern games and especially indie games are much more like interactive art than the blockbusting ‘Call of Duty’s’ of this world.
Although I earlier said this was a perfect example of narrow casting the beauty of this film it is about people and you don’t need to be interested in computer games to enjoy it documentary.
Indie Game: The Movie Trailer
7 out of 10
Francis Ford Coppola.
All 5 of the above names will be instantly recognisable to any self-respecting cinephile. Even if you don’t like their work, each name commands respect, and it’s undeniable that their influence will exert itself on the world of film for decades to come. So, with this in mind, surely the chance to find out each director’s favourite films would be good? Well, it turns out that you’re in luck. The excellent ‘The Playlist‘ blog at Indiewire has reproduced each director’s top ten favourite films from the pages of Sight & Sound, and it certainly makes fascinating reading. We here at RBT are big fans of the directors in question, and would advise you to read the full Playlist article, to find out their choices. To do so, click here.
A veritable cornucopia of truly classic films are on display – as are a few lesser-known gems – and it certainly serves as a great insight into the inner workings of each director’s mind. Anyone looking to broaden their filmic horizons could do a lot worse than getting to know the films on these lists.
Now, if only it were simply the case that watching these films would imbue us all with their powers of creating art, why, we’d all be millionaires! I don’t know about you, but my Amazon shopping basket has just had a few new additions, and hopefully next year, we’ll all be vying for the best Oscar win. May the best person win!
As always, leave any opinionated and/or diplomatic comments below.