Wednesday, 26 June 2013

EIFF: Monsters University

Having so recently left the student domain, we here at Tantrum have an affinity for the student population. Not that we want to go back, you understand – but watching others go through the same rites of passage we did is a kind of divine retribution.

That being said, we don’t remember having half as much fun as it looks like they do at Monsters University. This is definitely a movie catering primarily to those fans who were children at the time Monsters Inc. was released – or at least, it will mean most to that particular demographic.

Assimilating popular American college stereotypes into a movie about animated monsters was always going to have its difficulties, but the subject matter is handled with aplomb. Prequels are also notoriously tricky, but the developing friendship between Mike and Sully is done deftly enough for it to become believable.

Okay, the movie isn’t groundbreaking in the way its predecessor was, and the opening sequence relies heavily on both prior affection for Mike and the nostalgia of the scare floor of Monsters Inc. This doesn’t make it bad – far from it. It’s an easy introduction, grounding the characters in the new environment of the university.

The stand out character for us in the film has to be Dean Hardscrabble, voiced by the perfectly chilling Helen Mirren. Just listening to the sound effects as she moves around the classroom was enough to give us the shivers, even if we hadn’t all remembered having a teacher just like her in our school careers. As with all kids movies, there is no such thing as an irredeemable villain – but you’re going to have to wait to find out just what redemption is offered.

Message wise, Monsters University does bring something new. The idea that university isn’t the only way to succeed in life and that hard work does pay off is incredibly important – as is the very clear statement that we can’t all be brilliant at everything. As they say in A Very Potter Musical, okay isn’t just good, okay is wonderful – and we feel that kids and adults alike could do with being reminded of that fact.

In short, if you liked Monsters Inc., you'll like this. Another example of how Pixar's animation is some of the best around, with familiar characters and a lesson actually worth listening to - just don't expect it to revolutionise your life. As the film itself says - average is worthwhile.  

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

EIFF: The Conjuring

Before you watch The Conjuring, ask yourself one thing – are you ready to be terrified beyond comprehension? If the answer is yes, then we suggest you go ahead and watch… although you might also want to take someone to hide behind. Just a suggestion.

The premise itself isn’t all that unique. A 1970s picturesque family move to a house in the country and start experiencing strange things – we know, so far, so typical horror movie. What makes this particular movie so utterly chilling is some stand out performances, excellent direction, a killer soundtrack, and… well, the scares.

No cheap tricks a la Paranormal Activity for The Conjuring. Based on a true story, the happenings are chilling enough on their own without the usual dropped heavy object or the bird in the fireplace – yes, Woman In Black, we’re looking at you. When the fear comes, and comes in waves spaced perfectly to allow you to almost relax in between, it comes wholeheartedly.

While of course there are some tropes that the film can’t avoid – the angelic looking child with an imaginary friend, the obligatory hair pulled by an invisible force scene, and the attempt to get rid of a possessed object known to move by throwing it in the bin to name a few – there are enough new twists and turns to make it something fresh.

Spanning nearly two hours, the film is a mastery of the slow build to a crescendo which has everything coming to a head in true horror fashion. That being said, the opening scenes are particularly noteworthy in the genre for simply diving into the horror they’re depicting. For all they’ve been used over and over, we’re pretty sure that possessed dolls are pretty much the creepiest thing we’ve ever seen.

The cast, especially given the youth of some of the actresses, do a stellar job of bringing the story to life. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are particularly outstanding as the paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Wilson, giving the movie a much welcomed comic relief at points and true heart at others. Particular gems of Ed’s include ‘Sometimes it’s better to keep the genie in the bottle,’ and our personal favourite, ‘When you get haunted, it’s like stepping on gum.’  What can we say, the man’s not wrong.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll be building blanket forts and hiding out among large groups of people until the terror passes.

Monday, 24 June 2013

EIFF: Paris Countdown (Le Jour Attendra)

Traditionally, Parisian cinema falls easily into one of two categories. You have the quirky, off the path films that warm your heart, and those that are incomprehensible, falling over themselves trying to be cool. Luckily, Parisian Countdown (or Le Jour attendra) falls into neither of these.

The film follows old friend Milan (Olivier Marchal) and Victor (Jaques Gamblin) as they try to navigate their way through a world they supposedly left behind years ago, after betraying a vengeful psychopath. Reunited once more, they’re left to near desperate damage control as events spiral beyond their control, and the question becomes simply how long can their fractured friendship take the strain?

The plot of the movie might sound familiar, but we had a pleasant surprise in store. This isn’t your run of the mill mid-life crisis film – these are men who are now cut adrift in the world that brought them everything they have now. Add to that a soundtrack that should have mass appeal, an impressively authentic feeling club scene, and a final scene sharp enough to lift the film above the rest of its genre.

The performances from the two lead actors are outstanding, bringing to life the dry humour which characterises the film. The chemistry between Marchal and Gamblin is enough to convince the audience that they are in fact long time friends, with the characteristic backbiting and familiarity that’s born from any kind of long term relationship. Our favourite one liner (of which there were many) had to be the wonderful “Japanese culture is too subtle for you.”

The film is subtitled, performed in the original French, and it’s all the better for it. We believe that there are some subtleties of language that English can’t quite capture, and let’s face it – insults always sound far better in French.

The setting is of course the city of love itself, and we’re struggling to think of a time the streets and the Seine were put to better use. Never overshadowing the performances of the actors, the picturesque scenery was the perfect foil to the gritty feel of the story.

Brutal at points, touching at others, and never failing to entertain, Paris Countdown uses the city as an effective backdrop to what is essentially a story of the hold old ties have over us all.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

At last, the day has arrived. Cue fanfare and trumpeters worthy of welcoming the King Under The Mountain himself...

So why should you be excited? That is, of course, if you're not already. Well, here's a comprehensive (disclaimer; comprehensive here might not stand up to dictionary definition) guide to why The Desolation of Smaug is going to be the best thing to happen to December since Christmas...

[1] A voiceover from Thranduil stating the obvious to a clearly unimpressed Thorin. Thank you for close captioning his pain, Elven King. Really summed up the whole first movie in thirty seconds.
[2] Scenery porn. Seriously, Mirkwood sounded horrific in the books and I'd be happy to live even there.
[3] Bilbo and his butterflies. We're torn between the adorable freeness of the moment, and giggling at the idea of King of Grumpiness Martin Freeman having to film that scene.
[4] Barrels everywhere! Oh, Killi, you make it look like such fun. Expect to see Barrel Bobbing at the next Olympics - you heard it here first.
[5] Legolas and appropriate prequel character regression. Watch this trailer, then watch Return of the King. We dare you.
[6] Tauriel. Oh, Tauriel. You call Legolas out and continue being the most badass elf warrior to grace Mirkwood.
[7] Gandalf and his mysterious missions. This one looks like one of the best, especially since Sir Ian McKellen will hopefully get to act with people who aren't just green screens.
[8] Giant spiders. Having Harry Potter movie flashbacks and planning just who we're going to hide behind in the cinema already.
[9] Bard, archery everywhere, and 'my lad.' Plus, the set up for the biggest troll (in the modern rather than Tolkien universe sense) of the whole trailer and our last point...
[10] SMAUG. Oh, you glorious beast you. We're placing our bet for Villan of the Year right now...

That's it then. If you're not excited by now, we don't suppose you ever will be. All that's left now is to find a way to pass the time until December. We're sure something will turn up.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Like The Films Of Old.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone has one film they love that they’d be ashamed to show anyone else. Well, that’s not quite how the quote goes, but it’s true nevertheless. The question is, just what makes us love them anyway?

Having watched Soapdish, the 1991 film starring Sally Fields, Whoopi Goldberg, and an incredibly young Robert Downey Jr, I can testify that it’s terrible. Deeply, heartily curled up with embarrassment as you watch terrible. Yet despite that, I can’t stop replaying it.

The story is simple. A soap opera actress at the height of her fame is being gleefully pushed from her pedestal by fame hungry newcomers, an old lover, and her scheming producer who’s just looking to get laid. Life mimics art as the real life dramas threaten to overshadow the show itself, culminating in a live episode to decide the fates of the characters.

Perhaps the only redeeming feature of this movie is its cast. The actors and actresses play to the ridiculous aspects, and the script has some surprisingly witty moments for them to work with. Not a serious film, definitely a product of its time, and yet so long as you treat it with the levity and suspension of reality that it demands, this terrible film becomes strangely hypnotic.

For me, Soapdish is a reminder that not all cinema has to be hard hitting and serious to become a classic. It might be ridiculous, with little discernible plot and absolutely no real world relevance, but I’ll take it over The Great Gatsby anyday.