Monday, 31 December 2018

Sticky: #FilmReview Hiatus


Short version:

I'm done with reviewing everything I see at the cinema. For the foreseeable future, at any rate. It's become too time-consuming to try and find interesting things to write about things which are largely uninteresting, especially given that I'm sitting through the films in the first place.
But I've covered a fair old few over the years, so now's the time to knock it on the head.

Cinema visits will continue and I'll be compiling some manner of micro-review over on the Twitter and the Facebook. Film-talk will carry on in those same places (mostly Twitter, to be honest), and I'd love for you to come over and say hello (if you haven't already).

This won't be the final blog post at World Of Blackout, but at this point I'm not planning anything in terms of frequency, tone or content. Stuff will appear as it appears.

So long and thanks for all the clicks!

…mañana!



Long version:
Disclaimer: I'll apologise now for the repetition of the words "film" and "movie" that follow. I generally try and minimise and balance the count of those out across an article, but in a block of text such as this, it becomes self-defeating. Whatever.

Ah, you kept going down the page. Lovely.
Take a seat, dear reader, and pour yourself something from the bar.
Ice is in the bottom.

And so. It arose, properly, from a conversation I had with a close friend, in a London hotel bar in December 2010. After a day's catching up and general carousing, the conversation strayed onto the creative arts, media and our own respective online presences, such as they were. At that point I'd had World Of Blackout on the go for a couple of years, but there was no real form or direction to it, just amateurish whimsy posted at irregular intervals. This wasn't a film-review blog.

Yet there were a handful of film reviews in there. I'd had a Cineworld Unlimited card since mid-2007, and would occasionally post observations about what I'd seen - again with no real form or direction. I'd even done a brief stint through Facebook of watching twelve movies in twelve days and writing about them (later ported to the blog as a point of reference), which seemed like an outlandish feat at the time. Film was something which interested me, but certainly wasn't a main focus. This wasn't a film-review blog.

Anyway, I mentioned in passing how I liked writing, but often struggled waiting for inspiration to strike. A blog needs a broad subject after all, it can't just be a stream of consciousness or an online diary of inane events no-one but the author will care about. My companion remarked how he'd enjoyed the few film reviews I'd posted sporadically through the year. He said I should do more of those, in that loose way you encourage a friend while in casual, semi-drunk conversation.

And with that, reader, a light went on. Challenge accepted. As those who know me well will attest, I'm not one for half-measures. I decided at that point to rate and review everything I watched at the cinema, from January 1st onwards. All things. Any cinema. Plus some home-viewings as well, probably, but they wouldn't be the focus. The idea was that this would a) provide me with a regular stream of consistently themed, yet tonally varied, source content, and b) help me focus my hobby and appreciate film more clearly. After all, why have an Unlimited card if you're going to see movies while they're brand new, without any sort of analysis or evaluation? You might as well be watching them later on television and saving yourself £16 a month. This was all before Letterboxd.

So, everything would be picked apart. Those I liked, those I didn't, even multiple visits to re-watch the same thing. Because if you're not getting something new in seeing a movie more than once, then why are you doing it? Even if it's the repetition which makes it better, think about why that applies to some movies and not others.

But this still wasn't a film-review blog. Other people did those, I reasoned, and they were far more focused with greater knowledge and deeper appreciation than me. I was just a guy trying to really hammer the Unlimited card and have something to show for it other than knowing the cinema staff to chat to.

And so it began. 2011 saw me go to the pictures 93 times. 2012 was a neat 100 times, 2013 was 137, and onto 2014 (145), 2015 (157), 2016 (158) and 2017 (142). As I write, it's September 2018 and we stand at 95. That's a lot of words written. Reader, it became a film-review blog. Slowly, the header-structure of articles took shape, social media feeds were introduced, the 'branding' morphed into something more theatrical, and the amount of non-review content all but disappeared. No news, little opinion, mainly just reviews. No firm structure or word-count to aim for, just a broadly consistent level of summary and readability (although some of you would question this, I know). I quickly settled into my preferred discussion format of too many superfluous adjectives*1 and sentences which are slightly too long to comfortably read (and let's not forget my love of parentheses*2).

As well as spending too much time sitting in the dark at my local, World Of Blackout became 'my thing'. It was what I did, in fact it still is. "Hi, I'm Ian, I spend too much time analysing movies you'll probably never watch". I've met some fantastic and amazing people, online and in The Meatspace, as a result of writing online. I'm proud to call them friends directly as a result of 'my thing'. And that's fine, we all get a thing. But this is a time-consuming thing. And who among us has time to spare, in the 21st century?

The problem is that while I type quickly, I write slowly. Over all the years I've been doing this, I still haven't developed a method of sitting down and banging out a review in twenty minutes. Even with taking notes in the cinema (yeah, I'm that guy), by the time I've translated my scrawl, formed my bullet-points into coherent sentences, formed those into a roughly linear breakdown of the piece, assembled the header and footer information and typed the whole thing up in hard HTML (my own decision for greater format-control, and not one which slows me down that much to be honest) while constantly tweaking and self-editing, the average review takes longer to publish than the film did to watch.

And frankly, many of them aren't worth that (although a warning not to see Pixels will always be worth any amount of time taken to create it). The moment a backlog starts to build up (like when I watch four things back to back on a #FilmDay), it becomes less of a hobby and more an obligation. One which I imposed upon myself out of curiosity and boredom.

When I started (or committed to) the film-review blog, I didn't have an end-point in sight (because why would I?). I just wanted to get more out of movies. That's definitely happened, as I can't watch anything now without half of my brain forming soundbites for the pull-quote I'll use in the social media link. But life never remains static and I have less time these days to be repeatedly analysing Mark Wahlberg's inability to emote. Yet on he continues, almost as if he's not reading. Probably too busy getting up in the middle of the night for happy-time, or something.

Well, I've had enough. I'm not flouncing out of the internet, closing or even abandoning my accounts, it's just that for an OCD-angled brain like mine, this seems like a good time to hit Pause.

As of Sept 13th 2018, I have rated and reviewed one thousand titles.

That's not 1,000 blog posts, and it's not 1,000 review posts when you include rewatches. It doesn't even count anthology-season roundups or cramming weekends. It's one thousand times where I've sat down to take a look at the specific thing I've just watched.

This seems like a good time to hit Pause.

So, as noted up top, this won't be the final post at World Of Blackout. And there will, in all likelihood, be some movie reviews at some point in the future. I'm still writing at Set The Tape, general film chatter continues on the Twitter and the Facebook, and I'm currently compiling a template for quick-and-dirty micro-reviews (because we all know I can't just switch it off completely), which will be posted to both. And I'll probably continue to link to those from the Review Index page, for those of you who check the site first and the socials second.

This is not farewell, it's just let's see what happens next.

Always in motion, is the future.

…te veo, chico!




*1 Yes, that is the joke. Thank you. [ BACK ]

*2 Oh and the footnotes! Where would I be without the footnotes? [ BACK ]


DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Review: Spider-Man - Into The Spider-Verse





Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2D)
Cert: PG / 117 mins / Dir. Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti & Rodney Rothman / Trailer



Now, as some readers may recall, I wasn't exactly going a bunch on the trailers and previews for Sony Animation's new franchise-milker Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. I like ol' web-head, although he's far from my favourite Marvel hero, but this looked like it was going to be a two-hour migraine. In fact, it's probably not unfair to say that the more I saw, the more cautious I became at the prospect of watching the entire movie. But I digress; to the pitch...

PARKER


Teenager Miles Morales is struggling to fit it, both at school and at home. Bitten by a radioactive spider as he sprays graffiti in a subway, he meets Peter Parker and begins to realise he now has the potential to be New York's next superhero. But with Kingpin's subordinates attempting to build a machine which bridges alternate universes, a rift in the spacetime continuum causes other iterations of Spider-Man to appear in Morales' city. Together, the heroes attempt to destroy Kingpin's creation and return to their own realities before everything is ripped apart. But Morales has a learning-curve to climb first...

So, good things first. The film is ambitious both in scope and execution, an increasing rarity in the superhero genre as it becomes more crowded. As potentially confusing as the narrative is, everything is laid out clearly yet not over-explained, and the well-directed voice performances sell everything in between, so that even if the audience misses some of the minutiae, the emotion of each scene comes over neatly.

PENELOPE


But. Into The Spider-Verse is, as suspected, a headache-inducing two hour funfair ride which feels like trying to burn out a fever by washing down bags of Haribo with Sunny Delight. Sony's handling of Spider-Man as a property has been 'scattershot' for a long time now, and this broad sweep feels like someone in an office calling down to the writing-room for brighter colours and more Easter Eggs, irrespective of what the movie might need.

The art-style and character designs are gorgeous, but let down by an ADHD approach to pacing and soundtracking, with distractingly framey animation. The film often looks like it's been rendered in 12fps in a bid to save time and money. And on top of the 100%-saturation palette, there's so much stylised ghosting and blurring, alternating between background and foreground objects that I genuinely kept wondering if I'd accidentally booked the 3D screening and walked in without glasses (alas I would have seen this in 3D, but the timings didn't work out now that cinemas aren't prioritising stereoscopic screenings any more).

Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman's screenplay is very self-aware, but in all honesty I think that DC's Teen Titans Go! To The Movies played the existential comedy card with more charm. And that's a sentence that me from twelve months ago didn't think I'd ever be typing (although Aquaman lands later this week so let's not get too excited, eh?).

GAGA


I like that this is Sony playing with the multiple threads of Spider-Man continuity, but Spider-Verse doesn't so much tie those together as just point out that they all exist. It feels a lot like a feature-length pilot for a dimension-hopping anthology series, in which case it would serve its purpose very well. But I'm not sure how much a casual audience is going to get on with the intricate in-jokes and frenetic presentation.

All in all, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse reminded me that I am a middle-aged man and that not all cartoons are made for me nowadays. Which is fair enough. The film's engaging enough while it's on*1, but I'm forgetting it already…

The business-end:

Is there a Wilhelm Scream? Not sure, really.
Is there a Stan Lee cameo? There is.
Is there a mid-credits scene? Nothing animated, but a great message.
Is there a post-credits scene? There is.



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Thematically, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies.
Visually, a migraine
.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you're going to watch it at all, go big or go home.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is, but you won't get the full effect.
Which may not be the worst thing in the world
.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
I have no idea

Although while we're on the subject, it's nice that Nic Cage has now voiced a Superman and a Spider-Man, this year. This is a trend I hope and expect to continue
.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's entirely possible.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't hear one, but heard more than one like it.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: The voices of Poe Dameron, Quinlan Vos and Major Vonreg are in this.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 However you end up reacting to Into The Spider-Verse, boredom will be the last thing you feel. [ BACK ]

DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Review: Suspiria (2018)





Suspiria
Cert: 18 / 153 mins / Dir. Luca Guadagnino / Trailer



Let's be honest, if you're having a production meeting and one of the outcomes is that Thom Yorke should do the music for your film, there's a good chance that you're making something which is going to test my fucking patience. Suspiria is impeccably made, but I'd be lying if I said there weren't long stretches during which I was thoroughly bored.

The plot: In 1977, a young American woman runs away from her religiously strict family to a dance school in Berlin, right next to the wall which divides the city.
Turns out it's run by witches. There we go.

BREAKING MY HEART


Now to be fair, my main problem here is that I don't 'do' dance. I appreciate the coordination and precision, and I understand that there's emotion and symbolism contained within, and that's all well explained within the film itself. But it's just not a visual language I understand*1. They may as well have the characters speaking in tongues, frankly.

A point of note could also be that I haven't seen Dario Argento's 1977 original movie, but in all honest that shouldn't matter - this is a remake, not a sequel. I'm under the impression that this is a relatively faithful interpretation and expansion of that, so any issues I had with the new film are likely to stem from the original.

SHAKING MY CONFIDENCE


Another problem could be that Dakota Johnson is interesting to watch, as is Tilda Swinton, but everybody else? Really not so much. The overall grotesquery is nicely escalated, but it's like a two and a half hour episode of The League Of Gentlemen without any jokes. Any which way, Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria is too long. I expected self-indulgence, I'd just like to be more engaged while that's happening (cf. Mandy).

Don't get me wrong, I admire Suspiria a great deal. But over two and half hours, it's going to take more than chin-stroking to keep me onboard. Besides, at least I'm not the guy in front who sighed audible for the last 120 minutes of the film.

Oh, and since the film prides itself on its technical prowess, I'm just going to say it: the drop-shadow on the subtitles is too far from the source lettering, there's a gap between the two and it's distracting as fuck. Yeah, I do typography, not dance…



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Tonally, Under The Skin. Yeah.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you think it's your thing, absolutely.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
I imagine it'll struggle even harder to capture your attention in the living room, unless you're already onboard and are the kind of viewer who'd normally watch it in the cinema anyway.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
No.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Hahahaha, absolutely.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Prosthetics makeup designer Mark Coulier also worked on Attack Of The Clones, and since Suspiria has some truly outstanding effects, I'm counting that as a direct link.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Nor is it a series of movements I can fully understand, ie - I don't dance. Not that I watched the film with a sense of growing envy you understand, but at no point was I thinking 'yeah, I know that move'. The dancing itself is fine, is what I'm trying to say. It's more the fact that it meant little to me in scenes which weren't directly a telekinetic voodoo sequence. [ BACK ]

DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Review: Isabelle





Isabelle
Cert: 18*1 / 80 mins / Dir. Rob Heydon / Trailer



Well, then. The 2018 British Horror Film Festival took place at Cineworld Leicester Square on Sat 24th November, and I was lucky enough to see some of its content. I've done a quick roundup of some of the short films on offer here. There were things to watch, there were questions to be asked and I'm delighted to note that most of my pointers from last year seem to have been taken onboard. Nice to know I'm not wasting my time, at least.

Part of all this was Rob Heydon's Isabelle, the story of Larissa (Amanda Crew) and Matt (Adam Brody), a young couple expecting a baby who move into a new house in New York State*2. When Larissa miscarries, the trauma and isolation she feels is heightened by the strange young wheelchair-bound woman in the neighbouring house, Isabelle (Zoë Belkin), who always seems to be watching from the upstairs window. And none of this is helped by the girl's reclusive mother Ann (Sheila McCarthy) and the hushed whispers in the neighbourhood about the house…

First things first, this wasn't a hate-watch. Second things second, I didn't hate it. Third things third, but I have issues. Or rather, the film has

NEIGHBOUR


Oh, mate. When your supernatural neighbour is actually, really, actual cackling, you're probably trying too hard. Yet conversely, not hard enough. It's fine having the creepy villain sitting in the upstairs window next door, but like the Eiffel Tower in a bad euro-thriller, she's apparently visible from every room in Larissa and Matt's house.

The film feels let down by its own jump-scares and desaturated colour-palette. Blumhouse have already flogged that horse to death and I'm certain Isabelle had more to offer at an early stage. Heydon can't quite make up his mind what story he wants to tell, or how it needs to be told. Between the eerie nursery, the near-death experience, the Samara-Lite™ across the way, the third-act exposition coming from a series of old newspaper articles and a possession sub-plot which isn't sure if it's based around fanatical Catholicism or the occult, there's a disappointing lack of anything actually new.

Oh, and the baddie has glowing red eyes. That's how we know she's bad.

SULLIVAN


Isabelle is structurally sound but feels like it's bringing nothing to the party. It has the air of a short film which has been expanded out to feature-length*3, but then doesn't have the extra writing to properly explore the psychological roots of it characters. On top of this jumble, we get occasional scenes from inside next door's house which telegraph the backstory before our protagonists find out, so that it's not clear whose perspective this is all coming from.

The film runs on rails like a ghost train made by people who have only ridden on other ghost trains. The story's big reveal takes its sweet time coming, which is ironic since it's been telegraphed since the first appearance of The Ghoul Next Door. Mark Korven's score is intrusive, not bad per se, but just generic fare played too loudly and too often. And Finder Spyder, the in-movie search engine equivalent of the Wilhelm Scream, for when you know in advance that Google will just say no.

Oh, and then there's some tacked-on, batshit-crazy Sliding Doors type ending which can only be because a) writer Donald Martin wanted a happier ending than the one the screenplay was otherwise headed to, or b) writer Donald Martin thinks this might leave it open to… a… a sequel (quiet at the back).

SON AND DAUGHTER


I actually felt slightly bad about watching Isabelle in a cinema (although it was thankfully the one of the day where the creators weren't present in the room), because this is otherwise destined straight for the DVD shelf in Sainsbury's. And not the one with the chart releases on it.

The worst thing is that the emotional cornerstone of Isabelle is grief, with Amanda Crew and Adam Brody both turning in really strong performances and moments of genuine upset. To a lesser extent there's a parallel story playing out over at Isabelle's house, although that's really not explored. All of this seems like it's gone to waste as a lot of heavyweight issues and themes are papered over with a cheap horror flick, the very opposite of what the genre is best at.

Fun fact: Isabelle won the award for Best Feature Film at the British Horror Film Festival 2018.

Unrelated fact: Because the screening of The Exorcism Of Karen Walker was cancelled at the 11th hour*4, Isabelle was the only feature film to play at the British Horror Film Festival 2018.

Make of that what you will.



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
All of the other suburban horror-flicks, let's be fair.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It's not.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Stream it, tops.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Nope.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
I've you've watched it as well, probably not.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Amanda Crew was in that Age Of Adaline with Harrison 'Solo' Ford.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Well, the rating on my ticket and on Cineworld's website says it's an 18, but the film isn't actually listed on the BBFC site yet which means it isn't officially rated. It plays like a 15, anyway. [ BACK ]

*2 Yeah, I don't quite understand how a film from a Canadian director, with a Canadian cast and set in America is being presented at the British Horror Film Festival, either. Although this sort of thing happened last year, too. [ BACK ]

*3 Well, 80 minutes. I mean, 90 is the rock-bottom standard for a feature, but 80 (including the end-credits, remember) just feels like it isn't trying. Yet at the same time, there's a lot of padding which could come out with no adverse affect (probably the opposite, in fact). [ BACK ]

*4 And this is in no way intended to put down the BHFF, but what was last year a multi-day festival with four feature screenings plus shorts on the one I attended, seems to have become a one-day event with twelve shorts and one full-length movie (due to the aforementioned cancellation). Less of a Festival™ and more of a Hiring Out Screen 2 For The Day™ with some trophies in the corner. And while it was moderately busy, the screenings I was at weren't sold out and seemed to be mostly populated by people coming to watch their own movies, although I suspect that's a Film Festival thing in general. I just get the impression that either interest in the BHFF is waning, or it was organised at the last minute. Frightfest doesn't have this problem. There, I said it. [ BACK ]


DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.