Friday, 26 August 2016

Game Reviews: Max Payne 2 - The Fall of Max Payne


Following the eponymous detective, still struggling with his psyche and this time accompanied by long time friend Mona Sax- Max Payne 2 is far from a bad sequel. I don't expect video game sequels to present entirely new game-play ideas so long as the story and running thread of the series is sound- but something would have been nice here. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Vertigo vs Spoorloos


Today, let's take a look at two cinematic studies of madness and obsession- both co-incidentally relating to the loss of a woman: Alfred Hitchcock's almost universally revered Vertigo competes against George Sluzier's Dutch sleeper Spoorloos or 'The Vanishing'. Note that these Film Fights are only a bit of fun and are focused more on how two directors tackle similar themes and ideas than determining which I think is the better flick.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Horror... Horror...


The shower scene from Psycho. If you don't know the film then you know the moment. If you don't know the moment then you almost certainly know the music. It lies among the most iconic sequences in cinema for damn good reason and whilst I don't doubt its mastery I want to introduce a similar horror scene that I get a lot more from.

Where to Start With: Roman Polanski


In this series, I’ll be taking you through some of the great minds of 20th century film-making and trying to offer a ‘way-in’ for those who want to explore films of the past but don’t really know where to start. As the list goes on, the films become progressively less ‘accessible’ to first-time viewers, so work your way through them or if a story summary really grabs you then start there and work around it. Some may be for you and some won’t strike any chords regardless of how many times you see them- but you gotta start somewhere, right? This time around: Roman Polanski, the artist we need to separate from his art. Polanski is undoubtedly one of the most skillful directors in cinema but his controversial personal life leads many to denounce his work even before they’ve seen it. So: If that’s you, don’t think of what you’re watching as ‘a Roman Polanski Film’- just as a really bloody good one.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Eight Minutes of Cows


In the exceptional making-of documentary of Taxi Driver you should all see, the crew talk about Scorsese's at the time questionable choices in cinematography- and how they would often ask if it was 'ok' to drift into an empty hallway mid-phone call, or zoom into a fizzing glass of water. They described the confusion that it could inflict upon the audience as "what are we looking at?"- the idea that whatever a film-maker chooses to focus on within their work must, by nature, be essential to our consumption of that film. So whenever we are presented with an image, as disconnected or trivial as it may seem, we have to ask ourselves why we are being shown this.

That in mind: Béla Tarr's Sátántangó opens with an eight-minute long take of a group of cows.
The question I'm here to answer, as I'm sure many will ask it, is: why?

Saturday, 13 August 2016

60s Reviews...


Playtime is… Playtime. I’d usually provide you with a brief introduction to a movie’s story here but on to topic of Tati’s comedy masterpiece I find myself lost for words. Is there a conventional plot to Playtime? Is there really any characters, besides the director’s long-running Mr. Hulot- bumbling around the film’s pristine futuristic city with the ‘grace’ of a legless swan? No, not really- but is that a flaw? 


Where to Start With: Sidney Lumet

In this series, I’ll be taking you through some of the great minds of 20th century film-making and trying to offer a ‘way-in’ for those who want to explore films of the past but don’t really know where to start. As the list goes on, the films become progressively less ‘accessible’ to first-time viewers, so work your way through them or if a story summary really grabs you then start there and work around it. Some may be for you and some won’t strike any chords regardless of how many times you see them- but you gotta start somewhere, right? This time around: Sidney Lumet, the guy who really knew how to find a damn good script.

Revisiting Come and See


Three years ago, the opening scene of Come & See struck me as abhorrently off. Even before I was subjected to the grossly contrasting material the rest of the film has to offer, its poorly lit, shot and acted introduction jarred me straight out of the movie. I had recently finished both Apocalypse Now and The Thin Red Line, arguably two of the best war films of all time and inarguably two of the best-looking movies ever shot. Probably didn’t do the best for me in terms of immediate comparison but now, in 2016, I’ve come back to Elem Kilmov’s Belorussian opus and its opening scene struck me as one of the most profoundly defiant sequences ever to be slapped at the front of a film. 

"You don't have to do this"


The wise words of Anton Chigurh lead us onto the alarming frequency of AAA publishers shoe-horning in moral choice in their games. It seems that presenting this facade of depth and complexity represents a free pass beyond the realms of their usual mediocrity and that's a damn shame because the 'intelligent' systems reviewers are baited to praise haven't got a patch on some of the genuinely fascinating takes on ethical decisions in gaming. 

Christ on Film


Faith is one of my favorite themes to see explored on film and some of its most interesting ideas have spawned from a cinematic presentation of Jesus. I don't mean in the traditional sense, a-la the superb Last Temptation of Christ or Mel Gibson's far more excessive effort. Instead: Today we'll be looking at the manifestation of Jesus in regular human beings. 

Game Reviews: Undertale


The story of a young human child’s journey through a monster-infested underworld, Undertale blew its load all over the internet last year. Anybody who's been remotely interested in gaming culture will have heard of it and, refreshingly, I feel like this instantly uber-popular piece of art deserves a lot of the praise it gets. If you love them then fair enough- but to me the Dark Knights, Fury Roads and Five Nights at Freddy’s of the world are mediocre at best. With Undertale, we have a genuinely fascinating deconstruction of gaming with endearing characters, complex writing and ingenious mechanics. So I guess I’m devoting this introduction to congratulating Toby Fox for his astounding work- before I tear it to shreds below… 

Top 5 Films Less than 80 minutes long


I’m a big believer in natural brevity. Efficient storytelling in films like A Man Escaped impresses me to no end and it got me thinking as to the really short works of cinema that have left a lasting impression. Film-makers today seem to be angling for 150 minute messes that spill endless ensemble casts ad-nauseum but why can’t a limited chamber-piece be just as, if not more effective? People loved Whiplash, right?

So take this as a list of vital works you’ve got no excuse not to see: Too busy? It’s less than 80 minutes of your life- find the time. Not interested in one? Fair enough- pick another. Are they too old, in black and white or ‘foreign’…?

If the latter is your issue, in the nicest possible way I suggest you find another blog ;) If tedium is the cardinal sin here- then let’s crack on!