Sunday, 23 July 2017

Berlin Syndrome: NZIFF Review

Berlin Syndrome: NZIFF Review


Berlin Syndrome: NZIFF Review
The holiday romance turns very sour in Berlin Syndrome, the first NZIFF title to feel like a commercial release.

In the adaptation of Melanie Joosten's 2011 novel, Brisbane back-packer Clare (Teresa Palmer, I Am Number Four) is on her own in Germany when a chance meeting at a traffic lights with English teacher Andi (Max Riemelt, Sense 8) takes place.

Attracted to each other, the pair edge their way to a highly charged encounter. The following morning, when Andi goes to work, Clare finds herself locked in the isolated apartment. Assuming it's an error, she dismisses it, but when the key she's given the next morning doesn't work and she discovers her phone's SIM card is gone, terror starts to creep in....

Berlin Syndrome had the potential to be a cliché (and sadly heads that way a little at the end), but instead offers a thriller that's more unsettling and psychologically creepy as it unspools.

It helps that Palmer has the right mix of vulnerable and lost in the early stages as she mixes the scared and excited of a tourist in a new city when she exits the Berlin underground. Not your typical backpacker and not saddled with a 'I'm running away /finding myself' back-story, Clare's actions seem plausible as the story plays out.

Director Cate Shortland (Somersault, Lore) takes time to build an atmosphere that's filled with inherent dread as the captivity begins and as Andi becomes cold, distant and definitely creepy. Shortland front-loads the bases from the get go, giving Berlin Syndrome a sense of something sinister lurking; whether it's shots of the ancient architecture of Berlin or the foreshadowing in art book. 

It helps that Max Riemelt plays Andi without the usual tropes of a maniac and seems all the more unhinged because of his own charm and detached affability. In scenes with his father and with hints of the Berlin Wall past trauma, there's lots left unsaid that help to build an atmosphere but which may frustrate those looking for a simple reason why he is what he is. (Though, arguably, he's responsible for some truly laugh out loud lines as he carries on like an apparently normal couple - pesto will never look the same again.)


But subtle is what Berlin Syndrome does best in its terrific opening half, as we follow Clare, discovering the clues as she does and leading to those heart-in-mouth moments. Palmer does much to imbue her character with a retreat-in-your-shell mentality to help with survival.

Ultimately, and sadly, Berlin Syndrome may lose some impact because of its resolution, but what plays out prior to that is quite gripping and filled with suspense.

Thanks to Shortland's eye for the smaller moments and Palmer's carefully selective and introverted turn, Berlin Syndrome ends up being more captivating and psychologically disturbing than you'd expect.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

My Year With Helen: NZIFF Review

My Year With Helen: NZIFF Review


Director: Gaylene Preston

There's plenty to get frustrated about with Gaylene Preston's latest My Year With Helen, in which the Kiwi doco-maker spends time within Clark's camp as she tried for the job of UN Secretary General in 2016.

However, it's primarily the boys-led system that will have you raging as the film plays out, not the way the film's constructed.

Tagging along with Ms Clark, Preston had the idea to follow and see what doing good (as was Clark's desire) could actually achieve. But what, of course, transpired is that Helen Clark became the eye of the hurricane in a bid to become the next UN Secretary General.
My Year With Helen: NZIFF Review

Hindsight is both a blessing and a curse to this documentary.

It's a curse in that we all know the depressingly failed outcome of Clark's campaign, but it's also a blessing because what Preston actually captures, rather than an intimate diary of her moods, dreams and desires is the fact the UN is in crisis. Having had 8 men run it since its inception, what Preston's doco does is show what exactly is wrong with the UN, and why the zeitgeist desire to get a woman to the top job galvanised so many, and ultimately, why the final result was so head-slappingly dumb and a thumbing to those campaigning for glass-ceiling change.

Preston's smart enough to use the camera to capture the trappings of the UN, and while there are a few candid moments when Clark is less guarded (though these come primarily when she is relaxing with her father in the Waihi Beach home, making meals for her dad - I defy anyone not to release a Helen's Chilli Con Carne after this-  or a fleeting glance of her using social media in the back of the car on her way to yet another press the flesh meeting), there's little salacious or shocking on show. Throughout the entire film, whether it's scouting on a plane to Botswana, or attending meetings with the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Clark is the diplomat you'd expect at the UN and the restrained politician so familiar to so many.

While Clark's campaign becomes the film's raison d'etre, and Preston's camera wisely captures the voices around her, rather than seeing Clark grandstanding, the United Nations becomes more of a focus of the documentary as it goes on.  There's a terrible nagging sense of it being desperately out of touch with the people it serves, whether it's a subtle side shot of a US politician texting while an impassioned plea is made for those stuck in Syria, it's here that Preston's masterful touches pull back the curtains on the horrific political machinations within.

If there's a criticism, it's that there's little debate and debrief into what went wrong after the final straw poll and the galling decision to install yet another white man in the top job; in the immediate aftermath, Preston captures the hubbub of others rather than using the exclusive in to get Clark's immediate reaction. So it is that once she shows, she's already in composed mode, the perfect politician.

But it's also in this moment, that Preston reveals her master stroke interview technique.

In just four words, a very laid-back intro of "What a thing, eh?" leading into the post-failed campaign interview, Preston says it all. It's at this moment the candid camera captures the pragmatic resilience Clark is famed for, her never off-guard manner personified, but threatening to crumble. It's fascinating to see, and depressing for its implications to so many.

However, in hanging on Helen for a little longer in this muted debrief, Preston draws us into her eyes, and the disappointment and dejectedness that lies within them. It's an utterly enthralling moment to behold and a technique that delivers an emotional and unexpected pay-off.

While My Year With Helen's focus is more on the UN bid (as would have been necessitated by events), and regardless of how you feel about Helen herself (the brief insights probably won't change any deep-seated beliefs) what actually emerges is a definitive rallying cry for change within; not just for feminists but for all those frustrated with political back and forths in the 21st century.

It's a sickeningly fascinating examination of the human condition, the politics of change and the lip service that goes in, but thanks to Gaylene Preston's light and deft touch, what it becomes is a dignified and restrained yet undeniable clarion call to arms.

Trophy: NZIFF Review

Trophy: NZIFF Review


Perhaps the most confrontational, yet sensitively nuanced piece of documentary making, Trophy takes you into the world of big game hunting and the arguments which lie within.

Opening with a father and son climbing into a camouflaged outpost before the son shoots a deer and concluding with the shooting of one of our species' finest, this documentary is provocative in ways you'd expect and disappointing in ways you wouldn't.

Smartly deciding to avoid any sensationalism, filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau decide to follow one hunter, Phillip,  who's determined to kill the Big 5 and one South African businessman John Hume whose belief and desire is to legally flood the market with rhino horn to prevent the tide of poachers.
Trophy

It could be a potent mix, and in parts of Trophy, perceptions and arguments over big game conservatism get a good solid airing, as figures point to the fact that since 1970 the world's lost 60% of its wild animals.

Equally, both Schwarz and Clusiau don't shy away from showing the horrific aftermath of a poacher's rampage - and certainly the sight of a rhino calf crying and running around in the equivalent of Greek mourning after its mother has been killed is nothing short of heart-rending and harrowing

Trophy's strength is how it flips perception of the argument and how you think you know what's going to be said, before actually giving you the other point of view. Even though it falls a little into its own trappings, with Phillip given enough rope to show his ignorance later on and Hume being given the chance to shine.

But it's entirely complex in its handling of the arguments and simply offers up no easy or obvious solutions. It merely showcases and balances the debate as well as juxtaposing the clashes of ideologies against a backdrop of a hunter shooting a restrained animal in the head. This is no easy journey, and it's refusal to adhere to a  no hear no evil, see no evil approach deserves commendation.

In the back of the doco, it perhaps squanders some of the more interesting elements over Hume's crusade and desires coming back to haunt him, but one suspects this was a time constraint and perhaps it's fair to suggest this was the meatier part of the final debate - the cost, both literally and figuratively, to those involved. It's a complex and confronting doco that doesn't squander sensitivity for the salacious by any stretch of imagination.

Ultimately, Trophy is a smartly put together piece on an endlessly difficult subject. It deserves commendation for an unswerving dedication to both sides and be aware, it won't leave you with a feeling of resolution at the end, merely the feeling the debate needs to be had.

It Comes At Night: NZIFF Review

It Comes At Night: NZIFF Review


Cast: Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough
Director: Trey Edward Shults

Balancing tension, claustrophobia and paranoia in equal measures, Trey Edward Shults' film It Comes At Night is a chamber piece for the doomsday preppers among you.

Opening with an old man struggling to breathe before he's put in a wheelbarrow and unceremoniously rolled out by gas-masked unknowns, accompanied by a red jerry can and a gun, It Comes At Night goes for the gut-wrenching right away, a veritable sucker punch to the "This could be any of you" ethos that punctuates its survivalist core.
It Comes At Night: NZIFF Review

Revealing the gas mask wearers to be a family, headed up by patriarch Paul (Joel Edgerton, bearded and downbeat), It Comes At Night zeroes in on their isolation in a house in the woods. With his wife (Ejogo) and son Travis (Harrison Jr) in tow, Paul's family unit is embedded into this post-apocalyptic world.

But when Christopher Abbot's desperate Will breaks in to their house one night, seemingly searching for supplies for his wife and child, a ticking time bomb of suspicion and mistrust is placed within this tight-knit unit.

And things are further exacerbated when Will brings his brood back to the house....

Less an outright horror, more a creeping insidious terror, It Comes At Night is perhaps more a psychological experience than a full-on fright fest.

It helps that surrendering to Shults' rhythms is the way to settle into this sedately-paced film that lies on soundtrack and palpable tension to ratchet things up. With claustrophobic close-ups and wide shots of corridors and an ominous red door in and out of the house, the dread is easily created early on.

Shults uses his weary-looking cast to ramp up an atmosphere of unease that's as menacing as it is frustrating, though an over-reliance on differently aspect-ratioed dream sequences involving Travis' night terrors punctuate way too much of this film as it unfolds.
It Comes At Night: NZIFF Review

Bleak and desolate it may be, while relying on the hoary trope of the unseen menace within the woods and that's always at arms-length, It Comes At Night uses its sparing sense of fear to reasonably terrifying effect. Dialogue propels great amounts of the implied ambiguity within as the survivalist nightmare reaches to a crescendo.

It's not exactly the kind of film which is going to leave many feeling bright and breezy, though with the reminder of a constant fear from the Doomsday Clock edging ever closer to midnight in these current climes maybe informing the NZIFF's desire to programme this, it does seem scarily prescient.
Abbott and Edgerton make for uneasy bedfellows as Will and Paul, and Travis' mixing of sexual awakening with a creeping sense of voyeurism at the new family (in particular, the wife played by The Girlfriend Experience's Riley Keough) proving to be a heady mix of uncertainty, there's more than enough to creep out those watching.

Fundamentally slow (despite its brevity and 90 minutes run time) and distinctly unsettling, It Comes At Night may prove to be a polarising film festival experience, but its quietly devastating voyage is deep-rooted in singularly human basic instincts - and is all the more terrifying for it.

I Am Not A Witch: NZIFF Review

I Am Not A Witch: NZIFF Review


Muted and yet surprisingly moving in its final moments, debut director Ryungano Nyoni's I Am Not A Witch is the tale of Shula, a girl living in Zambia.

The nine-year old is accused of witchcraft and hauled in front of local authorities, where the policewoman in charge is regaled with tales of her witchiness, including how she hacked off one man's arm with an axe (even though he tells the story with both arms intact.)
I Am Not A Witch

As the will of the village is to condemn her as a witch, Shula is sent to be part of the witch's community, an ostracised sect that live with ribbons tied to their backs, and whose freedom is held in check by giant rollers that go wherever they go.

But Shula's "powers" are questioned when she's asked to preside in a trial over a theft, and to identify the thief. Apparently being blessed with the sight, Shula's showered with gifts of gratitude, some of which are taken by her charge, the corrupt government official Mr Banda and the rest which are given to the remaining members of her witch's community.

However, Shula herself begins to resist the idea of being pigeonholed as something she is clearly not....

I Am Not A Witch is mournful and despite offering some obviously comic moments, Nyoni's film has depressing overtones for the world we currently live in. With Trump's America and The Handmaid's Tale clearly ringing in our collective ears, it's hard not to view I Am Not A Witch as some kind of rejoinder to this state of current global affairs. And while Nyoni's view is that the film mocks the Zambian way of life, it's heartbreaking to see the nine-year-old girl caught up in a world which literally shackles the women around it, in an overt form of slavery.

In among all this, Margaret Mulubwa's turn as quiet little Shula makes the film quite poignant and ultimately impressively moving. Whether it's dealing with a tourist who just wants a picture with the witch as she sits dejected in a totem she's been placed in for days or simply watching the village harangue and turn against her early on, Mulubwa's eyes do it all.

And while some of the scenes feel a little stretched and could have been excised, there's no denying the final sequence's power and imagery. Throughout I Am Not A Witch, Nyoni imbues the screen with some powerful shots and some simple images that speak volumes. It's here the power and tragedy of I Am Not A Witch emerges.

Bittersweet, sad and scathing of Zambia, Nyoni's I Am Not A Witch really does have a way of casting a spell on you that you'd perhaps not expect.

Kedi: NZIFF Review

Kedi: NZIFF Review


Cast: Cats, Istanbul vistas, People
Director: Ceyda Torun

It's perhaps no surprise that a documentary about cats is as fluffy as one of the feline's tails.
Kedi Film Review

But it's also perhaps no surprise that this gentle doco is as amiable and as universal as they come.

Against the backdrop of Istanbul's streets, so beautifully captured and brought to life on the big screen, Kedi follows seven different cats with distinct personalities and a grip on the people who inhabit the streets and live their daily humdrum lives.

With Torun running a street level rig, the film follows the pussies as they weave their way in and out of people's lives, shopfronts and cajole them to feed them.
There's no ground-breaking reason for Kedi to exist; it's simply a case of documenting life on the streets.

However, what emerges from the cod-philosophising of the nameless faces that extol the virtues of the rampant animals running amok in a friendly way, is a sense of community and a sense of belonging that these critters engender.

Despite the odd hyperbole spun by some of the anthropomorphizing and projecting tendencies of the commenters (one woman draws a long bow between how the female cats stand strong and upright in their dignity, whereas women of their religion are cowed and oppressed and that she "doesn't see elegance in women like that anymore"), what starts to emerge is a city with a tremendous sense of heart above all else.

As is mentioned early on, the cats have been there for thousands of years, and have seen empires grow and fall; they are as timeless in the fabric of the city as those who look after them.
From the baker who has an open tab at the vets to help to the sailor who feels duty bound to hand rear a litter of kittens whose mother has disappeared, this is the milk of human kindness writ large on the screen. Along with furry feline interactions - whether it's cat looking like it's been caught on camera stealing fish or another staring photogenically down the lens, there's something for all animal lovers here, though the more hardened cinema-goer may find parts of their own fur bristling as time goes on.

Slow-mo close-ups will look radiant upon the big screen and the film-makers in their gentle touches do nothing more than desire to elicit a sympathetic "Aww" from those subjected to this endless parade of cute.

Unlike the viciousness of former fest outing White God's canine uprising, Kedi has a soothing tone and deceptively simple ambitions to fulfill which it hits with relative ease throughout; it aims to showcase a city awash in humanity, with a co-existence of cats and their masters, basking in the glow of simpler times.

Kedi may not be cinematic catnip to the likes of Gareth Morgan, but there's a strong case to say that any animal lover or family seeking a gentle outing will be entranced by the warmth of this microcosm of furry life.

The Party: NZIFF Review

The Party: NZIFF Review

The Party: NZIFF Review

Continuing the British desire to only unburden repressed feelings in social gatherings, Sally Potter's The Party builds a fragile house of cards at a soirée, only to consequently scatter the deck without any food being served.

Opening with a 'how did they get here?' moment, the black and white melodrama plays out with some acidic aplomb by the troupe of players.

All gathered to celebrate Kristin Scott Thomas' Janet's ascension to ministry and politics, a group of fractured and apparently fragile friends begin to unravel in only the delicious way the Brits know how.

As the group comes together, Timothy Spall's Bill sits solo in the front room, hunched and haunted on a chair, with a wine glass in one hand, and with a near catatonic look on his face. But as the night goes on, everyone comes under scrutiny in some form or other.

Like a scab being ripped off or an itch incessantly being scratched, The Party's thrills come from the unexpected turn of events and the inevitably entangled revelations.

Perhaps it teeters perilously towards the end with disbelief, but Potter's black and white film crackles with dry acidity and typical scorn throughout, all topped off with a deliciously dark dry tragedy languishing within. It's fraught with spoilers to unveil what transpires within, but needless to say the troupe of players from Spall's distanced Bill, Thomas' haughty and yet easy to humble Janet, Patricia Clarkson's acidic April to Cillian Murphy's on edge Tom, all delivering in spades.


It helps the script is laced with one-liners and withering moments, as the sourness of the situation becomes more evident. In many ways, the film feels like a play with its whirling deliciousness on words and desire to ratchet up the moments to near contrived, but in Potter's hand, the curt run time feels just about right; any more would over-egg this pudding and any further reveals would push this dangerously close to cliche.

The Party's power lies in the picking over of the relationships and the unbinding of those ties; it's thanks to all involved that the polish and sheen comes tumbling from the screen; in black and white and close up, every detail is nuanced; from Spall's heavily white flecked beard to Murphy's drug-induced sweats, Potter's camera captures every subtlety.

This is most definitely one party to RSVP to at the Festival.

The Square: NZIFF Review

The Square: NZIFF Review


Provocative, confronting, and yet also unexpectedly amusing, the NZIFF's opening night film and the 2017 Palme D'Or winner The Square, from Force Majeure director Ruben Ostlund, is something else.

A satire on social reactions set within an art museum, it follows the museum's director Christian (Claes Bang) as a series of events are set in motion after the theft of his mobile phone. With a new exhibit set to launch, Christian should have his eyes and attention on what's ahead, but is dangerously distracted by the inane.

As events spiral, Ostlund's film teeters dangerously once again on a precipice between commentary on others and our social interactions - and as a result, it offers up some truly astounding moments of awkwardness and the surreal.
The Square NZIFF Review

There's no denial that the loosest of threads pulls the rest of the film together, and there are moments that make The Square feel like a confrontational series of sketches that very occasionally feel disparate and in danger of breaking off like an iceberg from the main narrative.

It helps little that the film's punishing 140 minute run time becomes a slog in the final hurdle and certainly even though The Square's lost 20 minutes in an edit, a few more cuts could have helped the searing truly soar high above the cinematic stratosphere.

And yet, when Ostlund turns his precise eye to social commentary, there's nothing more piercing.

With Sweden's streets littered with beggars and with cries of Help Me resounding in many of these scenes, there's a humility and an horrific mirror cast upon society and their trivial concerns. The public and the private are meshed and simultaneously ripped apart under his precise directorship.

If Force Majeure's focus was solely on the family and the dynamic post the event, The Square's broader and wider ambitions occasionally threaten to stop it from achieving glory as it loses its edge towards the end.

But on the way in this high wire act, one scene stands alone - a sequence in a high society dinner event for the museum that's terrorised by a performance artist behaving like a gorilla. Simultaneously amusing and utterly terrifying, this moment of Ostlund's film is electrifying. It's here that the societal commentary comes into play and that Ostlund makes you shift uneasily in your seat.

And it's for moments like this, as well as surrealist broad comedy that The Square commands to be seen - it's confrontational, outrageous and it's out of nowhere attitude at times mean it's as unpredictable as it comes. However, in the wash, it may see you asking some serious questions about how we are wanting and examining its commentary on what society reacts to and ignores - it's here The Square's power is compelling.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Red Turtle: DVD Review

The Red Turtle: DVD Review


Released by Madman Home Ent

Studio Ghibli's latest sees Dutch British director Michael Dudok de Witt taking on the story of a castaway on an island.

As the film begins, in greying waters and stormy seas, the man is tossed asunder, his boat ripped from him. Clutching onto it, he makes it to shore - albeit on a completely deserted island. Woken the next day by a crab running up his leg, the man plots to escape, using bamboo canes to make a raft.

But his attempts are thwarted by something smashing the raft.... with desperation setting in, the castaway tries again; this time, his nemesis is revealed - a red turtle...

Mixing existentialism, some sumptuous hand drawn and painted animation, facials that look similar to Herge's Tintin executions and all scored to a lushly mournful and occasionally soaring soundtrack, the animation The Red Turtle is wordless and will leave you breathless.

While comedy of the occasion is provided by a clutch of crabs scuttling back and forth in the castaway's world, the soar-away visuals of the castaway's plight, his midnight delusions and what happens may have a propensity to hit where it counts - in the heartstrings.

As the survival tale plays out over its 80 minute duration, there's Laurent Perez del Mar's soundtrack to send you into orchestrated orbit as the simple story unfurls.

It's a meditation of existence and of soul-searching as the castaway adapts to the rhythms of the island and the machinations of survival - but some of this may go over younger minds heads even if they are willing to go with the animated flow.


Ultimately though, The Red Turtle is a film that has deeper meaning, and will be a personal tale to each member of the audience.

It's a rumination on our place in the world, and acceptance thereof; all beautifully encapsulated in a Studio Ghibli  hand-drawn co-production that once again hits the heart strings and engages the brain so much - even when it offers so little by way of execution. 

Talking Baby Driver with director Edgar Wright and star Ansel Elgort


Talking Baby Driver with director Edgar Wright and star Ansel Elgort



In among the sound and fury of the blockbuster film season, Baby Driver’s being singled out for its originality.

However, outside of the plaudits Edgar Wright’s take has had on the heist genre, there’s one part of the film that deserves to have the greatest noise made about it.
Cornetto Trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs The World director Edgar Wright's latest film, Baby Driver, has already rated highly with both critics and audiences alike.
Baby Driver with director Edgar Wright and star Ansel Elgort
Baby Driver with director Edgar Wright and star Ansel Elgort

The Bonnie and Clyde style story about Ansel Elgort's getaway driver Baby who's got one last job to do before paying back his debt to a local kingpin (played by Kevin Spacey) is the culmination of an idea Edgar Wright had some 22 years ago.

In the film music is key to proceedings, and practically every scene is punctuated with the lyrical execution of a track, shifting the chapters of the story into gear.

The opening bank heist and subsequent chase sequence, which can loosely branded as Grand Theft Auto for the musically-inclined millennial generation, is remarkable for its execution and its visual interpretation of sound.

Elgort's driver has tinnitus and constantly lives in his head in a world of music to keep the noise in his head in check and the painful reminders of the past buried.

With the trademark Apple white ear-buds strapped in from an omni-present iPod (just one of the few retro touches Wright has littered his script with), the audience's first exposure to Baby is as he sits in a getaway car's driver's seat, with the sounds of Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion synchronised to the action on screen. Much like any kid obsessed with music, Baby lip-synchs and drums on the wheel of the car, waiting for his cohorts to arrive before setting the escape plan in motion.

It's a bravura setting out of the stall by Wright, and goes some way to bringing to life an idea he had over two decades ago, and, much like Baby's tinnitus, couldn't get out of his head.
Baby Driver with director Edgar Wright and star Ansel Elgort

Sitting down with Wright and Elgort on a gruelling cross-continental press tour in Auckland's Langham Hotel, the day after they'd sold out Wellington's Embassy Theatre and done a Q&A with Sir Peter Jackson, a jet-lagged Wright reveals there was just something about Baby Driver that kept nagging him.

However, it was a call that came from studio heads after being forced out of the Ant-Man film that made him realise the two decades old passion project could become a reality.

"Yeah the irony is when I was working on the movie that I didn't do, which will remain nameless," he says laughing, "I did think in the back of my mind, I thought 'Oh, if this movie does well, maybe I'll get a chance to make Baby Driver', cos I'd already written it at that point, and then when I was back - it was the first email I got from Working Title, which just simply said 'Baby Driver next?'
It was from Eric, one of my producers, and it said "Subject heading: So" then the main part of the email simply said: 'Baby Driver next?' and I was like Yeah, if we do get Baby Driver off the ground, this would be a dream outcome for this whole saga."

For the youthful Elgort, who had already witnessed the trappings of fame and worldwide success thanks to the 2014 Young Adult movie "The Fault in our Stars" with Shailene Woodley, the idea of working with Wright was a no-brainer.

"The character was great, and the director was great. I think about its story, character and film-maker for me  (when looking at roles) - that's really it. I don't care about budget or anything else when I'm looking at a film. Those three things were there with this."

It helped that Elgort was also a fan of Wright's previous work and his style of humour.

"Hot Fuzz is my favourite. I knew that when I sort of read the script and what he had done with Hot Fuzz stylistically and what could be possible with Baby Driver, I just thought, 'Wow this could be really cool'."

But if Baby Driver's already been a critical and audience success due to its stylistic edges and its use of actual car chases rather than the CGI excesses of the Vin Diesel Fast And Furious franchise, the high stakes thriller deserves to be lauded for doing something that Hollywood's largely shied away from in big blockbuster season - the normalising of a deaf person on the screen.


Baby Driver star Baby (Ansel Elgort) and on screen father Joe (CJ Jones)
While 2014's art house film Plemya, aka The Tribe, the tale of teenagers at a boarding school, dared to push the boat out, it was largely unseen by audiences.

Populated solely by actors who communicated in Ukranian sign language with no subtitles on any prints, and which screened only at the New Zealand International Film Festival, it's something which has largely rarely been covered on the big screen - and certainly rarely seen by a wider audience flocking to the cinema for a Friday night experience.

But it's something which Baby Driver squarely intends to change - and it's this achievement which both Wright and Elgort are perhaps proudest of.

In the film, Baby's African-American foster father Joe is deaf.

Baby spends his time communicating with him via American Sign Language (which is subtitled on the screen and which uses its own graphics to come to life for the audience) as well as placing Joe's hands on speakers so he can appreciate the music that Baby's always drowning in.

In many ways, this is the truest and purest relationship in the film.

It's not that Baby's desire to be with Lily James' waitress Debora isn't the emotional pull of the flick, but the earnestness and the sincerity of what transpires between Baby and Joe is ultimately more than tangible in the few scenes they share.

Veteran American actor CJ Jones, who plays Joseph, lost his hearing when he was seven, after falling ill to spinal meningitis. With his parents both deaf, Jones was already adept at American Sign Language (ASL), something which Elgort had to learn and considered as he prepared for the role, in many ways, to be a foreign language.

"But I wanted to be clean and sharp and do the language justice, so for that reason I learned with a dialect coach, not a sign language coach. Then CJ would give me suggestions and I would look to him as this guy really knows what he's doing."

For director Wright, the addition of Jones really made directing the film special, even if casting the role thanks to his own specific brief made things a bit harder. His notes stipulated Joe was "African-American, 85, deaf".

Wright saw Jones' audition first, and for him, while it wasn't specific to the brief he'd set down due to an age difference, everyone else after didn't feel like they were the right fit or fudging it was the right way to go.

"So the others (we saw) were like actors pretending to be deaf, and we'd already auditioned CJ Jones. And when I auditioned other actors who were pretending to be deaf, it immediately felt wrong to me and I had to see CJ again right away. I called and said 'I need to see CJ Jones again because I want to give him the part'; it was a no-brainer to me, watching other actors pretending to be deaf was just strange."

With Wright clearly getting emotional when recounting time on set and the directing process, it's obvious that CJ's presence had a profound effect on the English director as filming went on.

"And I remember it was very emotional for all of us and then working with him on set was incredible.
Me and Ansel both found it a really life-changing experience because working with CJ made me want to be a better director.
Because you realise when you're talking to someone who's reading your lips, 40% of what comes out is utter rubbish and nonsense and when you're aware of this, it forces you to be more succinct, more direct and more articulate and it was a beautiful experience shooting those scenes."

Wright's voice begins to crack at this point; and it's clear that it's more than just jet-lag.

"I know me and Ansel both get a bit misty-eyed when we watch them back because there was just something very pure about it, but hopefully what people have said about it is that it feels quite unforced.  I don't know what to say other than it was just something we had to treat the process of casting and the ASL with the respect it deserves. I'm proud to have worked with CJ and he did a screening on the Sony lot with the deaf community and that was another incredible experience and you realise how much it means for deaf people to see an actor like that on the screen."
Baby Driver in cinemas now
Baby Driver in cinemas now

For an original film in a market place cluttered by sequels or franchise films, Baby Driver's already been a commercial success, with many seeing it more than once at the movies.

Wright himself has been swamped with fan-art, home-made posters and drawings on his Twitter feed by those inspired by the film dubbed "Grand Theft Amadeus" online because of its mix of music and fast cars.

While Wright's latest meshes music and action, it's dangerously close to his take on a musical, a genre which he's happy to toy with and could potentially explore in future films.

"Would I do a straight musical? Yes. If there was the right thing. There are a lot of musicals I love and adore, and if there was the right thing, then yes, but I don't know what that is."

Wright remains coy on the prospect of what a sequel could offer (studio bosses are already said to be in early talks to return to Baby's speedy ways after the flick raced up the charts and netted a whole wad of cash), but he's definitely ruled out a prequel idea for the film, dismissing it as a potentially creative dead-end.

"The problem is this - you know the fate of the characters, whereas one of the things that works about Baby Driver and one thing that many people have commented on is that it's unpredictable. You don't know what and how it's going to pan out - especially with a starry cast , it's like you don't know what will become of those characters. And when things do happen, people are shocked. That's great as it's exciting; it's how it should be."

Elgort shares his director's enthusiasm for a sequel - "I would love to come back and do another. Where he goes you'd have to ask Edgar! I think a sequel would be another adventure and now Baby's finally grown up, it's cool to see. Now it's time for him to continue to be a man and take care of business."

But the last word goes to Wright - often hailed for his creative vision (his Scott Pilgrim vs The World remains an underrated entrant in his back catalogue), he's arguably had the last laugh after the Marvel deal didn't quite work out.

Citing fans who appreciate his every work, and the fact it's an original film that developed from the kernel of a nagging passion project, Wright's just glad he's allowed the space to do what he wants - and that it's actually good for the movies if it's appreciated by the average cinema-goer, already bloated from a diet of franchises and sequels.

"I don't know what to say other than just a heartfelt 'Thank You' - it's something that's come from my head and it's an original screenplay. When people are like drawing characters you come up with or quoting lines back to you, or fan posters and amazing artwork, it's just extraordinary, I don't really know what to say. It's good for the film business too, I go and watch franchise movies and there's plenty of those out there this year that I've liked. However, there's too many of them. Just having an original film out there competing against these franchises, makes me feel there's some hope left in the film business."


This piece first appeared on newsroom.co.nz and is reprinted with permission.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Talking Baby Driver with B-A-B-Y himself, Ansel Elgort

Talking Baby Driver with B-A-B-Y himself, Ansel Elgort


Baby Driver hits cinemas this week, and I was lucky enough to get some time with the film's star Ansel Elgort to talk the movie, his love of music and his desire to wear elf ears....

What was it that attracted you to the role - other than the music?

The character was great, and the director was great. I think about its story, character and film-maker for me - that's really it. I don't care about budget or anything else when I'm looking at a film. Those three things were there with this
Baby Driver

How much of Edgar's work had you seen before?
I'd seen it all, Hot Fuzz is my favourite. I knew that when I sort of read the script and what he had done with Hot Fuzz stylistically and what could be possible with Baby Driver and I just thought, "Wow this could be really cool".

Did you get a lot of the humour?
Of course, English humour is still prevalent whether it be as Americans have ripped it off a lot in the dry humour styles. Growing up I was very much into Fawlty Towers, which was definitely English. I definitely got it.

You're always looking to shift perceptions away in terms of roles, I'm guessing?

Honestly, I don't really care about perceptions. If I had a crazy streak where people kept coming to me with insanely good scripts and great characters that were YA romances, I would have kept doing them. It's just about script, character, filmmaker. And with a film like Fault In Our Stars, I loved the script, character and I loved Josh Boone and I wanted to do it. This is a script I loved - and the character, wow, the dude even makes music in the film at night - that's what I do! It was unbelievable.
The way it was described in the film, how he walks out of crime central on the coffee run and it's all to music and time. it was so cool.

28 takes for that for opening scene set to Harlem Shuffle- was that a difficult challenge?
I love a lot of takes and actually 28 is not that many. Usually when you're filming a scene,  you're doing 5 or 6 takes over 10 set ups, a day, so that's 50 takes a day. Doing 28 takes on one angle, I think that was just the shortest day on set. We started at 7am and we were done by 6. Everything was at least 12 hours and we had an ambitious schedule.

What kind of direction did Edgar give on set?
Everything, every kind of direction. He was hands on but we also did a lot of that work in prep; so we really took time to figure out who baby was. The thing is you know, emotionally he is a complex character but he's not like a crazy complex character, but he's not like a Henry the VIIIth character, it's physically and the choreography, the sign language and the stunts, the accent and all the little things that we did in prep that built up to who Baby was.
On set, we had it all figured out. and that was perhaps the most unique part about working with Edgar and something I really liked was that he was so specific and deliberate in prep. So when we showed up, we knew what we were doing. A lot of directors when you show up they give you directions and it completely changes the scene, a sort of "Woah I didn't know we were doing it this way, but that makes a lot of sense"; or it's take 3 and they're like It's not working, what are we going to do" and it's the intensity
With Edgar It's a "Remember you know what we're doing here?" it's a very simple - he's very effortless.
Storyboarding and performance mean you know what you going to do. It's a not a crazy challenge, it's nice to turn up and know what you're going to do, but you can't be locked into it, you still have to be organic in every take.

You mentioned about the choreography, was it harder than you expected?
No it was great, choreography is the kind of thing you get into your mind in 3 mins and then it's easy; it's like learning lines, but it's easy to me as I've learned a lot of choreography. That was definitely an advantage that I had, coming from musical theatre.

The relationship in Baby Driver which stood out more than Baby's one with waitress girlfriend Debora, was the one with your father CJ Jones. Talk to me about bringing that to life, cos that felt extremely natural, human and realistic, and felt poignant with so little said.
Yeah it really brought a heart and soul to the movie for sure  and er,  it was (pause) unique experience working with a deaf actor and working with ASL. I've never worked in another language and that's what it was - but you don't make sound with your voice. The scene where Baby eventually brings him to the home at the end, that's one of the most emotional scenes in the movie, and you're not talking.
It's all just with sign language, you're speaking a different language, and it's physical acting; it became like a memory and it's really cool.

It's normalising it as well, right? Not often you see a character like this in big budget, big summer films?
Exactly, that's what Edgar really laced into the movie - be it with Debora or with CJ  (Joseph)
Baby Driver

How did you approach that in terms of language? And learning it? You're not naturally gifted as a character in that, but it looks clunky as anyone learning a language would?
The nice thing about that was like you said, it's not Baby's first language or only language. It's sort of like he has a way of communicating with his foster dad, I think they spend a lot of time in front of the TV; he takes care of him and he was taken in when he was young. But I think Baby sort of lacked that parental figure and why he got into trouble as a kid, and why he started boosting cars and was the spirit of 85. so for that reason i figured that the language would be something that he knew  but was super clean or sharp in it. But I wanted to be clean and sharp and do the language justice, for that reason I learned with a dialect coach, not a sign language coach. Then CJ would give me suggestions and I would look to him as this guy really knows what he's doing.

It's a very moral tale as well - everyone gets their just desserts?
I think that's nice, without spoiling the ending, it's not like a regular Hollywood crime film where everything goes well for your hero, it teaches crimes that doesn't pay. It's quite funny when people come out and they're like "That's awesome, I want to rob banks now" - in the first scene maybe you do, but after that, not so much! He keeps avoiding the cops, but it catches up.

There's been talk of a sequel given the success - what would you like to see in one?
I would love to come back and do another. Where he goes you'd have to ask Edgar! I think a sequel would be another adventure and now Baby's finally grown up, it's cool to see that and see him grow. Now it's time for him to continue to be a man and take care of business.

You're phenomenally busy yourself with DJing and acting - what else would you like to do - what's your dream gig?
I would love to do a musical, but I'd also like to do a LOTR kind of movie, be in a fantasy world where I get to dress up like an elf or something. I love playing characters and I know that will come in time so I'm not freaking out about it. I always felt like I was a character actor growing up, doing acting classes and I'm really glad things fell into place. I'd also love to be in a musical, a sort of Guys and Dolls, West Side Story - like a classic musical made into a movie. Then I'd also like to do - there's a movie I have an idea for writing and possibly directing, and star in as well - that'll have music at its soul. Music is the biggest part of my life, I love acting, but as an actor I'm part of a big puzzle, but with music, this music I'm doing now, I'm writing it, singing it, producing it, it's all a journey from nothing to something.
That's really cool when as an artist you can really feel that nothing to something, and a movie, there's like a 1000 people working on it, but I love doing something by myself too. The thing about music is whether you like it or not, you have to appreciate it and where it's coming from and why it's at the place it has
Music is all about youth and trend, it's constantly changing - more so than movies change and any other art. I like trap music combined with punk music currently. Not the big commercial trap, but the smaller underground trap. It's cool staying on top of where music is going, and it's cool as a musician to want this. there's a reason why musicians don't last as long as actors or directors in terms of being in their prime. it's about the youth, of course the Rolling Stones sell out huge arenas and have the songs, but people are obsessed with their old records.

Tell me about the stunt work on the film and what you took away from it, aside form the red Subaru!
I learnt a lot and I think I'm a pretty good driver now, and I think my family trusts me behind the wheel, but I like to scare everybody and drift into my driveway. I pull 90s into my driveway and the only thing they're mad about is the skid marks in the drive. There's tons of tyre marks in the drive where I pulled the emergency brake!

Baby Driver is in cinemas now.


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Dunkirk: Film Review

Dunkirk: Film Review


Cast: Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, James D'Arcy, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Christopher Nolan


Dunkirk: Film Review
An apparent triptych of war stories that conclude and collide in surprising and spoilery ways, the breathtakingly intense Dunkirk is nothing without its thundering score from Hans Zimmer.

Its screeching, pulsing, pounding sonic blast powers the movie all the way and distracts from the relatively thinly drawn and relatively stereotyped characters.

Be it Tom Hardy in a mask and bomber jacket in the cockpit of a Spitfire above patrolling the skies and trying to keep others safe, or the avuncular Mark Rylance, helmsman of a fishing boat commandeered to head to Dunkirk or the desperate to get-out-of-hell squaddie played by Fionn Whitehead, the propulsion of the plot is knotted in its ticking score, which ratchets up the stress levels and tension to near unbearable.

Sketched out across the canvas of the evacuation of Dunkirk and blown big upon the IMAX screen, perhaps some of the heart is initially lost, ripped asunder in the tapestry of what Nolan is weaving.
Dunkirk: Film Review






But this is not what Dunkirk is setting out to do, nor is it what Nolan clearly has envisioned from his take on the conflict. 

In among the smaller moments and the muddied, desperate faces of nameless soldiers seeking evacuation and cowering in fear as Stukas and their death-dealing payloads edge ever closer, there are times when Dunkirk's delivery of spectacle and its one smart trick excel, hitting you emotionally where you feel you should have been guarded.

It begins and unfolds over a moment in 1940 with a soldier running through the French streets in a troop, desperately scrabbling to avoid bullets and get to the evacuation, and ends with Churchill's words echoing in your ears. But in between that, Nolan's Dunkirk is a sickeningly gripping film that reworks its timelines in ways that make you feel like you're in an enclosed room with the walls closing in against you, struggling for fear of where your next breath will come from, and wishing desperately that Nolan would loosen the vice-like grip you've found yourself in against the odds.

Pressure and tension are tangible throughout, with no direct heroes coming to the fore and just the apparently disparate actions of various men fuelling the fire that burns up this dramatic pot. Less a story, more a thunderingly visceral experience that evolves from what appears to simply be a plume of smoke in the sky in the distance, Dunkirk drops you in the centre of proceedings of one day at various points in it - from its very beginning the scope of this (bloodless) battle is evident. 
Dunkirk: Film Review

Troops line the beaches, desperately jostling and waiting in line to be evacuated, with the ever niggling threat of the German invasion nipping at their toes. Nolan doesn't need exposition to sell the scene (though Branagh's commander occasionally provides it) and uses the sparsity of the acting and the visceral edges to really place you there. 

Dunkirk's beyond tense, and there are surprises within. Death is waiting around every corner of the conflict, and the theatre of war, and the scale of Nolan's execution really makes it evident how truly horrific it would have been. 

But much like Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan where the emotional end led a level of cornball to what had gone before, Nolan finds a way to offer a bittersweet resolution for enduring this cinematic tour-de-force.  Granted, after stretching everything out over the previous 100 minutes, and leaving you with the heart-in-the-mouth feeling as you try to work out how the 400,000 trapped on the beaches could escape a potentially deadly fate, Nolan's denouement may be viewed as a little on the cheesy side, but given the spirit of hope which has been suppressed throughout this piece, it was perhaps inevitable.
Dunkirk: Film Review

Essentially re-inventing the war movie and somehow managing to provide an intimately gripping tale inside an epically structured landscape, Dunkirk is a piece of bravura film-making. There's no way you won't leave this film gasping for air and admiring the human spirit as well as admiring what Nolan has concocted.

Baby Driver interview - director Edgar Wright

Baby Driver interview - director Edgar Wright


Baby Driver hits cinemas now and is the latest from Edgar Wright, the acclaimed director of the Cornetto Trilogy.
Visiting NZ shores for the first time in 4 years since The World's End trip, Edgar sat down for some time to talk about the film and its inspiration.

Be warned, there are some spoilers ahead! (Not just of the car variety)
Baby Driver

You've been everywhere right, do you even know which country you are in?
Yeah it's not over yet, we have er four more countries to go yet - Australia, Malaysia, Brazil and then Mexico. And then maybe that's it, unless we go to Asia as well

Thanks to Baby Driver for bringing to life every Grand Theft Auto chase in my head  (Edgar laughs) and actually doing it properly...
Well, it's funny, I don't own that game, but I have played it round at my brother's and it's interesting because I did think it would be interesting for a generation brought up on Grand Theft Auto to present them with some of the thrills of that game.
And it's funny when I played the first one - the first was the one with overhead shots, right? - games like that and Driver, based on Walter Hill's The Driver, intrigued me - and it would be interesting with this movie to show you what that would be like in real life and in quite a few instances, show you some of the trickier situations.
Cos I think the thing is a lot of people, both through movies and video games, have the fantasy of what it would be like to be in a heist and being pursued, and the reality of it is a real nightmare. It's almost what the premise of the movie is; the first chase is the fever of being a getaway driver, and the end of the movie is the nightmare of being a criminal.

It's a very moral tale, and the driver gets away at the end but still gets punished - was that important to you?
Spoiler alert! (Laughing)
It was always in the script like that, there was never a version where they get away at the ending; If you have them get away with it completely, it seems like it's an advertisement for carnage - and I felt it was important. Here's the thing; a lot of current movies have this idea of good criminals and bad criminals; a lot of movies present you with a "He's a criminal but don't worry he's one of the good guys"
But what this movie is about, its essence, is there is no such thing as a good criminal, everybody who is a criminal, is bad in a way.
I think that thing is that Baby starts the movie compartmentalising his involvement in these crimes. His earbuds and shades are a see no evil, hear no evil approach.
He needs the music to motivate him, but it's also the music that is motivating him but also creating a bubble in which he's trying to exist and sort of the events of the movie are there to pop the bubble.
So I thought it was something where you kind of like set up this sense of this gang of robbers being a charming but fascinating bunch, but you very quickly reveal that Baby is in a nest of vipers. This is a life he has to extricate himself from  - the movie is about the getaway driver trying to escape his shadow.

What was the choreography like for you? Was it a nightmare to prep and turn into reality?
It wasn't a nightmare in the sense it was always the main sort of thrust of the enterprise. It was always the idea was to do a film about a character that is completely obsessed with music and also happens to be part of the high stakes job; the premise of the movie on a experiential level is that every scene is a different song, so I started with that idea and I kind of had to follow it through to its natural end. The worst crime would have been to start the movie with all the choreography and halfway through think it's too tough and just jack it in, and then the unique premise would have gone out of the window. So we stuck to it all the way through, and it's an amazing thing to come to the movie with all of these songs and routines, stunt scenes etc, bits of rehearsals we had done and follow it through. We played the songs in on set and the actors acted to the songs and it was choreographed to the songs and it was a joy. It didn't make it any easier, but you could tell on set that it was going to be something different and therefore something special.

Having a studio come to you after that small superhero film fell through must have been quite a boost given the idea had been in your head for quite a while?
Yeah the irony is when I was working on the movie that I didn't do, which will remain nameless (laughing) I did think in the back of my mind, I thought "Oh if this movie does well, maybe I'll get a chance to make Baby Driver" cos I'd already written it at that point, and then when I was back - it was the first email I got from Working Title, which just simply said "Baby Driver next?"; it was from ERic one of my producers and it said "Subject heading: So" then the main part of the email next was "Baby Driver next?" and I was like Yeah, if we do get Baby Driver off the ground, this would be a dream outcome for this whole saga.
I'm not going to say it was easy, probably the toughest thing is just getting the film made, getting the green light; that required getting all the actors on board , getting the budget worked out, how you'd make it for that money. That process itself was a tough one.

How do you feel about the fan reaction online to the film in terms of the art etc that's been sent across for a fresh concept, that's incredible?
It makes me feel - I haven't come to terms with the fact it's out; it's an idea I've had for so long and I've been talking about it for so long, and you start to feel like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, Oh it's out, we made it, it exists and people are watching it. And not only that, people are seeing it multiple times.
That's great, I love that - people who have been multiple times, I don't know what to say other than just a heartfelt Thank You - it's something that's come from my head and it's an original screenplay and when people are like drawing characters you come up with or quoting lines back to you, or fan posters and amazing artwork. It's just extraordinary, I don't really know what to say. It's good for the film business too, I go and watch franchise movies and there's plenty of those out there this year that I've liked. However, there's too many of them.
Just having an original film out there competing against these franchises, makes me feel there's some hope left in the film business.
Baby Driver

Colossal and this have stood out for being completely different this year
Anne Hathaway came to a screening of this in New York and I was able to say you were great in Colossal!

The other thing I really wanted to touch on that really touched me was the relationship between Baby and CJ Jones; how was that as a working experience? Did you have to change how you did things?
Yeah the thing that was really amazing in that was that I'd written that part and I'd specified in my casting brief that it said "Joe - then in brackets it said 85, African American, Deaf" and you write down this is who I want that character to be, the actual casting process was a lot more difficult and yet a lot simpler at the same time.
Difficult in that there aren't that many working deaf actors of that age range, and ethnicity. When we did a cast brief for it, my casting director said there's one guy who almost fits the brief, but he's 20 years younger, there's nobody specifically of the age you're talking about.
So the others were like actors pretending to be deaf, and we auditioned CJ Jones and when I auditioned other actors who were pretending to be deaf, it immediately felt wrong to me and I had to see CJ again right now. I called and said I need to see CJ Jones again because i want to give him the part; it was a no-brainer to me, watching other actors pretending to be deaf was just strange to me.

Could it have crippled the film as well (if it hadn't been the real thing with the actor)?
Well I think that's something that happens - I don't want to comment on that too much, I can only talk in terms of what I've done, so I don't want to badmouth other films; however in my binary decision making process and moment having seen a deaf actor audition was good and seeing other actors who weren't deaf pretending to be deaf, I had to give it CJ. We saw him again and he gave another amazing audition and we told him in the room. "CJ you've got he part".
And I remember it was very emotional for all of us and then working with him on set was incredible and me and Ansel both found it a really life-changing experience because working with CJ made me want to be a better director. Because you realise when you're talking to someone who's reading your lips, 40% of what comes out is utter rubbish and nonsense and when you're aware of this, it forces you to be more succinct, more direct and more articulate and it was a beautiful experience shooting those scenes and I know me and Ansel both get a bit misty-eyed when we watch them back because it was just something very pure about it, but hopefully what people have said about it is that it feels quite unforced.
It's happening, I just read a review of birthsmoviedeath by a deaf viewer who was touched by it because they said the path to better representation is not making a big deal out of something. So the fact that Joe is deaf and Baby talks to him in sign language for the hearing impaired is treated as normal and so, I don't know what to say other than it was just something we had to treat the process of casting and the ASL with the respect it deserves. I'm proud to have worked with CJ and he did a screening on the Sony lot with the deaf community and that was another incredible experience and you realise how much it means for deaf people to see that actor on the screen. I don't know what else to say, I'm getting quite misty-eyed talking about it now

If you  were to tell your younger self this is the reaction you'd be receiving for Baby Driver, what would you say?
Why didn't I make this movie earlier? (Laughing)

The music is integral to the film - is this your musical? Is it a musical for the GTA generation?
I would do a musical - somebody came up on the internet with describing Baby Driver as Grand Theft Amadeus, I love that; that's a better title! Would I do a straight musical? Yes. If there was the right thing. There are a lot of musicals I love and adore, and if there was the right thing, then yes, but I don't know what that is

There is talk of a sequel, are you keen to do it?
Definitely being explored - I think a sequel though; prequels are difficult because you know , you immediately take out, there's not that many prequels that work - can you name one? The problem is this you know the fate of the characters, where as one of the things that works about Baby Driver and one thing that many people have commented on is that it's unpredictable, you don't know what and how it's going to pan out - especially with a starry cast , it's like you don't know what will become of those characters. And when things do happen, people are shocked. That's great as it's exciting; it's how it should be and I always love that in films, like Hitchcock, Tarantino, Scorsese, Brian de Palma when there's like "Oh wow, did not see that coming!"

Is there a one line email waiting for you after you finish the Baby Driver press tour?
Not yet, I've already said I need to collapse after this tour; I feel like I'm 90% nespresso - I need to get back to a more human level!

NZIFF Q&A - Swagger of Thieves with Julian Boshier

NZIFF Q&A - Swagger of Thieves with Julian Boshier


Talking Swagger of Thieves with director Julian Boshier


My film is…… Swagger of Thieves.
Swagger of Thieves

The best thing about being at the NZIFF is…… 
The realisation that the past ten years of production, has not been a waste of time.

The Moment I’m most proud of in my film is…… 
The final frame – the completion of it.

The thing that makes me the proudest of my team in my film is…..
This film did not have a team – it was a rather solitary affair.

The reason I carried on with this film when things got tough was…..
I could not give up, as I was too deep emotionally, spiritually and financially.

The moment I think that will resonate most with the audience when they see my film is…….
The emotional highs and lows of addiction, rejection, ageing and friendship.

The thing I hope most people will take from watching my film is….. 

That Swagger of Thieves is a film that needed to be made, and was made well.

More info on Swagger of Thieves at the NZIFF Website - click here

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

NZIFF Q&A - Human Traces

NZIFF Q&A - Human Traces


Director Nic  Gorman talks NZIFF Film, Human Traces

Human Traces

My film is 
HUMAN TRACES.

The best thing about being at the NZIFF is ...
Two and a half weeks of immersive film watching, being at one of the first festivals in the world to see films from Cannes, eating Tommy Millions pizza while making a dash in between films at Nga Taonga and The Paramount, seeing incredible films with a full audiences projected onto NZ’s best screen at the Embassy.

The Moment I'm most proud of in my film is
There’s a Hectors’ dolphin, a Hoiho, and a New Zealand sealion in it - three increasingly rare species that we need to act now to save.

The thing that makes me the proudest 
Of my team in my film is just making it, after filming through horizontal hail storms, over sharp rocks, next to dead seals and albatrosses, fetid cow carcasses, floating sheep (it was like we filmed in the animal graveyard of the south), in such physical demanding conditions every single day and still managing to be positive, creative, intuitive and energetic. Every day.

The reason I carried on with this film is...
When things got tough was it was a very long walk home.

The moment I think that will resonate most with the audience is
Each reveal, when the story changes gear, and we start to identify with a new character and start seeing the world through that character’s eyes.

The thing I hope most people will take from watching my film is..
An immersive, and at its heart, a very human experience that was designed to be seen on the biggest screen you can track down!

Find out more about Human Traces at NZIFF here!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Baby Driver: Film Review

Baby Driver: Film Review


Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, Jamie Foxx, CJ Jones
Director: Edgar Wright

Seeded from an idea Spaced and Cornetto Trilogy director Edgar Wright had two decades ago, and given life after studio executives caught Wright on the hop after being bounced off Ant-Man, Baby Driver is a jukebox blast of a movie.
Baby Driver
Baby Driver

Centring around the story of hotshot driver, Baby (Elgort, in relatively mute, but extremely physical form) who's blackmailed into one last job by Doc (Kevin Spacey, in monosyllabic but charismatic form), Wright's latest marks a more mature directing outlook.

When the assembled crew of volatile Bats (Foxx), Buddy (Hamm) and his wife Darling (Gonzalez) are teamed up with Baby, Baby decides to try and get away from the job, after falling for local diner waitress Debora (James).

But with the clock ticking, and the screws tightening, is Baby ever going to be able to just drive off into the sunset with his love in the passenger seat?

Riffing on many a familiar heist premise, and with the stonking soundtrack providing the cues for much of the action and editing, large parts of Baby Driver are high-octane, adrenaline-fuelled fun. The synchronisation of sound with the onscreen action proves to be a great boon for Baby Driver, as it mixes the music that Baby's permanently listening to with life around him (including a breath-taking one take street walking sequence that exceeds La La Land's highway opening number).
Baby Driver

While it's fair to say that perhaps the romance doesn't quite gel as much as it could thanks to Debora feeling more like a passenger than a driver of the story, the women feeling slightly underwritten, and the back third of the film feels raced and jumbled, what Wright's brought to the screen for the rest is a relative delight.

From a laundromat scene where different coloured sheets flow in wash in the background via a sublime choreography to the use of sign language in Baby's relationship with his father, Wright's eye for details and their execution is second-to-none.

A physical Ansel has to use his gangly gait and the music to propel most of his action along, and Elgort willingly surrenders easily to the beat, imbuing Baby with a heart, and a naive innocence that's grimly catchy.
Baby Driver

There's much of Baby Driver which feels fresh on the screen, even if the trademark Wright quick cuts show up at the end. With a script that's more like an album transposed on screen, music's a major part of Baby Driver and gives the film its beating heart. But it's Wright whose eye for cinematic flair and directing maturity hold the film together when the wheels threaten to fall off.

In a cinematic landscape which is overwhelmed by sequels and superheroes, Baby Driver (along with Colossus earlier this year) demonstrate there's still thankfully a place for originality at the movies.