Sunday, 27 September 2015

A Bad Case of Loving Who: Episode 2

So far, Doctor Who Season 9 is actually pretty great. Chris and I are understandably shocked and chuffed. We had expected to spend most of our new Doctor Who podcast being disappointed, but colour us excited!

Here's our recap of The Witch's Familiar:

Thursday, 24 September 2015

It does indeed Take(s) Two 2 Tango

It was an honour to be sound recordist, 1st assistant director and a side character in Nathaniel Kelly's latest film, It Takes Two To Tango. It's a wacky comedy and feel-good high school lark, mockumentary style. At nearly 40 minutes in length and created with less than a shoestring, this was a stellar effort by Kelly and all the lovely people who dedicated some of their time to the project.

And the movie is now up on YouTube for all to consume. There's also a snazzy webpage all about the film over here!

Monday, 21 September 2015

New Podcast Materialising

Yes, I have started a few podcasts within the past few weeks. Now I just have to make sure they don't all die after one episode!

This latest one is a Doctor Who discussion podcast, which I've just started to coincide with the 9th Season of the show premiering. Doctor Who is a show that I love tremendously and often hate vehemently, and therefore it should be a good topic for some weekly TV conversation!

Here's our Episode #1.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Everest (Review)

When you trek into a film called Everest, which is based on true events and stars of slew of well-known actors, you have a pretty good idea what to expect. Probably an expansive drama or tragedy, portraying people at the peak of human endeavor, pushing themselves to the edge. That, Everest delivers. But we've seen that before. I feel the need to demand a little more out of this movie.

Starting with the positive, the cast is pretty amazing. I'm a big fan of Jason Clarke, and he's a great lead, surrounded by about a dozen other excellent actors. No trouble in this camp, they all deliver fine performances - though I'd argue they weren't given a lot to perform.

The story progresses slowly and predictably for the first half, without a lot of conflict or drama. But in the second half, when things start to go poorly for our climbers, the chain reaction of unfortunate events is effective. I'll tell ya, I didn't want to climb a mountain before seeing this film, but now I'm very put off.
Could someone tell Gyllenhaal the mountain's a little higher on the green screen  than that?
I think that in order to be an emotionally effective film, Everest should have focused on fewer characters and streamlined dramatic stakes. Basically, tighter storytelling. There are several key sections in the film where I did find myself engrossed by a moment of tension, or elation, but it never lasted or hit me as hard as it should have. The film is juggling too much, there's no room to breathe, and we're out of oxygen tanks.

But of course, this is a true story being told. Director Baltasar Kormákur likely juggles so much because he simply wants to portray this entire scenario with honesty. Unfortunately I just don't think it makes excellent drama.
Altogether now, woooaaahh!
The cinematography is of course excellent. Each section of the mountain is captured beautifully. There's also great sound design to match. When storms hit, you are sonically buffeted by wind and snow. Which is particularly striking when contrasted with a clever cut between an Everest storm and a quiet home in Australia. Throw in Dario Marianelli's beautiful - if forgettable - score, and you've got a lot of great filmmaking to enjoy.
Assuming this was shot after Nightcrawler and Southpaw, Gyllenhaal must be hurtin'!
In the end, I wanted this film to explore is the why. Why do these characters want to put themselves through this crippling challenge? Why climb Mount Everest? The film certainly acknowledges these questions, nods at them, flirts with them, but ultimately never brings anything satisfying to that discussion. The script simply doesn't try to say anything much interesting. Sure, the story successfully extracted some emotion from me, but it never investigated the meaning behind what happened, or told me why I should care.

Everest is the movie you expect it to be, but nothing more, and that left me somewhat disappointed. Good, but not great.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Gift (Review)

How can you pursue a "fresh start" when you're the same person you always were?

If you haven't seen it, I'm going to say here - at the top - that I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and think it's a particularly excellent experience if you go into it knowing very littleabout the plot and characters. So I advise that you only read on if you have either seen The Gift, or you don't care about me trying to care about you right now.

The Gift depicts the slow and fascinating disruption of a married couple when they start to receive visits from an old friend. Now, that synopsis actually makes the film sound rather dull to me. But actually, the film is so laser focused on the three lead characters, on peeling away their layers, that the drama quickly becomes far more fascinating. From the opening scene it's all about learning who these characters are and, before long, relearning. Very little actually occurs during the film to change them, but as a viewer, discovering more about their pasts twists your affections in shocking ways. A powerful theme of the film is the question of whether a person can change, as an adult, from who they were as a child.

Like any superb thriller, The Gift plays on the audience's expectations. The film builds slowly, planting small seeds, aware that they will grow and multiply in the thinking viewer's mind. It reminded me of last year's Gone Girl in this way. Between every scene I felt the desire to turn to those around me to ask, "What do you think about [character] now?"

Perhaps it is thanks to the simple and relatable hook of the film (a visit from the past) that I found the audience to be pulled in very quickly. We wanted to know more about these characters, and before long the film made us regret it (in a good way).

Almost as an experiment to test audience engagement, the middle section of the film includes a series of jump scares (some of which pop, some sizzle out, and some are red herrings). In my screening, we were all hooked. Every time the cinematography forecast a potential jump scare the whole cinema tensed up. Then when the film relieved the tension, laughs, gasps and sighs echoed from every seat. This isn't a horror film, and we weren't a horror audience, so we didn't want to be scared, and that's why it was so effective.

I could see absolutely no flaws in Jason Bateman's performance. It's a similar character and performance to his great role in Disconnect, although The Gift goes much deeper. The audience is shown many more sides of his character than is comfortable. Like many actors known for their comedy, I have always preferred Bateman in dramatic texts.

Rebecca Hall plays a complex role with a wealth of honesty. For the most part, her character is the closest we've got to an audience surrogate. Therefore it is extremely satisfying that she is portrayed with so much intelligence and agency. Many similar characters in other films are ignorant of danger or poorly perceive the events around them, but Hall's character does everything I would have done in her situation - and that's fantastic to watch. The frustrating horror in which the victims never call the police, this is not.

And this point goes across the board. There are half a dozen side characters who appear throughout the film who all seem like such realistic, living characters - even with very minimal screen time. Characters on screen are not often this perceptive of each other, this intricate. Well written, well directed.

Speaking of... how Joel Edgerton wrote and directed this film while giving his incredible, subtly aggressive performance is difficult to comprehend. His became one of the scariest performances I've seen in a while, without even a creepy smile. And it's frightening because it feels so true, and so tragic.

The haunting soundtrack is simple and very effective. Composer Danny Bensi knows how to creep into the back of your mind and disturb you. The score keeps close to a delicate, ponderous little theme for the most part, except when sonic madness is required, which - judging by my tense muscles at the end of the film - was delivered effectively.

The overarching messages of the film are bold, challenging, devastating, but most importantly - important. These are ideas worth spreading (oops hi TED). And tying it all up in a puffy red bow, The Gift is a thrilling character drama which will haunt me forever. TouchĂ©, Edgerton, I'll see you in Black Mass.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Making My Friends Impress Me For Fun

Despite a slew of dreadful technical issues (including poor performance from both Skype and Google Hangouts - possibly due to the peccable Australian internet), I've just published the first episode of a new game show style podcast! It's a wacky idea that starts very basic in this first episode, but that I hope to build on in the future! Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sci-Fi Podcast Continues

I just finished the second episode of my fictional futuristic podcast. This episode features some ideas about taking control of sleep, and dreams.

This podcast episode marks the first time I've used Adobe Audition to edit, and I think you'll be able to notice the little uptick in sound quality!