"I think Cinema can express our dreams more than any other medium."
"I had an extraordinary belief in myself. For years people told me to give it up and even though I was poverty-stricken, I never thought I should give it up."
"When it feels scary to jump, that is exactly when you jump. Otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life."
"A screenplay is just another venue to tell a story."
"Other people need happiness to live, but I don’t."
The Voices by Michael R. Perry
The Voices is one of the best scripts I’ve read in a long time. It is a unique yet disturbingly bleak comedy. Yes, it is a rom-com but soaked in blood and gore and dressed in the darkest clothing imaginable. It’s basically a refreshing spin on the serial killer genre, taking place in a heightened reality and shows us the world from a serial killer’s colorful point of view, because reality is too grim to live in.
The story is about an innocent looking, 40 something, honest and over-friendly, Jerry, who works for a bathroom fixture factory. He’s an ordinary looking loner and his only friend in the world is a talking dog, Bosco, who loves him unconditionally no matter what and a conniving, bastard, criticising cat, Mr. Whiskers. Jerry hears voices speaking to him all the time, ranging from pets, to decapitated heads, to socks. Yea, he’s fucked up in the head and he’s just stopped taking his pills, despite his shrink’s orders. He’s about to discover how big of a psycho he really is, a psycho with a loving heart who just wants to be happy.
When he is tasked with organising a picnic for the company, Jerry finds a purpose in life. He feels loved and takes the job seriously, making sure he delivers the best picnic ever. When his co-worker in accounting seeks his help to set up her playlist for the picnic, Jerry takes a special liking to her, even though she’s just being friendly. Eventually they somehow end up on a sort of date that goes horribly awry. And no matter how much he tries to prevent it, he ends up killing people from there on, women, basically. And the whole thing ends in the most bizarrely uplifting and surreal fashion; a third act that you will not see coming from a mile but will make sense in the world that Jerry has created in his sick mind.
The thing I loved about this script is the writing style. It immediately draws you into the world the writer is creating, and its ability to make us sympathise with a serial killer, even though what Jerry is doing is downright despicable and you know it’s all going to end real bad for him. But still you feel for Jerry, you root for him for some strange reason, deep down inside you want him to make it, escape, run away, or find a cure. The writer has created a situation, a reason for us to care for Jerry. To be able to create such kind of empathy for such an awful but misunderstood being is a sign of great mastery of the craft of screenwriting and character building. And for that The Voices scores high marks.
Also, we get a clear distinction, from time to time, in the script that the world from Jerry’s point of view is a lot brighter, livelier and cheerful, almost like a dark fairy tale than the grim reality that surrounds him, and he chooses to be happy than face the reality that awaits him, whatever the cost. Even in the final act, Jerry goes out in the most unusual yet memorable and unforgettable way. He’s found true happiness and he’s not going to let the cruel, ugly, real world take that away from him. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just unfortunate that he ends up becoming who he is.
Everything is so well written, spaced and well described. The dialogues are clean and neat and wonderful, and the setting is odd yet intriguing. This script is a work of art, and though it may seem like I’m overpraising it a little too much, the truth is that’s how I felt after reading it. It is still lingering in my mind hours after having read it. It’s the kind of script every aspiring writer should use as an example, to study and perfect their craft. It’s rare to find a script this well crafted, where originality, vision, skill and ambition is evident from page 1. The whole movie played vividly in my head and I highly recommend it. It’s floating around on the internet and shouldn’t be hard to find a PDF of the script.
This was a far better, engaging and much more entertaining look at mental illness than the sappy Silver Linings Playbook ever was. And now, there is a movie on the way based on this script, directed by the wonderfully talented Iranian writer-director Marjane Satrapi. I’m not sure how the movie is going to turn out, but in the back of my mind the whole time I was thinking this is something only the likes of Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry can do justice to the script. And while Ryan Reynolds seems like an odd and instinctively wrong choice, I hear good things about his performance and the reviews for the film have been pretty good. But I was hoping someone like Sam Rockwell would play the part as he would’ve taken this role to a whole another level. I’ still look forward to seeing how well it translated to screen when the film releases.
Simply put, this is a must-read for aspiring writers or avid screenplay readers.
I give it 4/5✩ with a B+
I’m not sure how the film is going to turn out, but in the back of my mind the whole time I was thinking this is something only the likes of Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry can do justice to. And while Ryan Reynolds seems like an odd and instinctively wrong choice, I hear good things about his performance. But I was hoping someone like Sam Rockwell could take on this role as he would’ve taken it to a whole another level.
"Study your craft and know who you are and what’s special about you. Find out what everyone does on a film set, and ask questions and listen. And make sure you live life."
"Actors in any capacity, artists of any stripe, are inspired by their curiosity, by their desire to explore all quarters of life, in light and in dark, and reflect what they find in their work. Artists instinctively want to reflect humanity, their own and each other’s, in all its intermittent virtue and vitality, frailty and fallibility."
"When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?, ’ I say, ‘Your salary.’"
This is a a no budget, low fi, mystery, suspense, sci-fi thriller shot on a Canon DSLR that is packed with more ideas than your average sci-fi blockbuster, most of them bordering on fantasy. This little flick is in the same vein as Primer (2004), Timecrimes (2007, where a lot is achieved with very little, all through strong writing and adroit execution and relying on ideas to produce ambitious, wide reaching, heady, twisty, mind bending, and high quality work.
The story begins when a ground of friends gather for an evening dinner party. Everything seems normal and ordinary until the power goes out. They soon discover that the entire neighbourhood’s power is down except for one house. A few of them approach the house to check it out and soon return somewhat shaken, having seen something they can’t quite explain. Soon strange and creepy occurrences start taking place; smartphone displays crack, banging on the door, car windshields are smashed, people appear in the shadows, and all of it somehow has to do with a comet passing Earth on that very night.
This is one of those one-location movies, where the entire movie takes place in one small setting, in this case, the confines of a house. And it is always exciting to watch what the filmmakers can do with limited resources and a group of actors, as they have to overcome many obstacles and find creative ways to keep us engaged and not lose our attention. And in that regard, Coherence (2013) surprisingly engages early on and keeps you hooked till the very last shot. It builds an eerie atmosphere and an unsettling tone. It gets you curious and intrigued as it explores themes of parallel universe, alternate reality, duality, individuality, the fear of the unknown, heady scientific ideas and theories, also managing to function as a relationship drama and a suspense thriller. The mystery keeps you watching and the actors keep you invested. Co-Writer and Director James Ward Byrkit proves that you don’t need gazillions of dollars and A-list star cast or expensive CGI to craft a truly engaging and satisfying sci-fi film.
Of course, movies like these never get big screen treatment and never make shit loads of money that most crappy sci-fi blockbusters do. But this will definitely turn into a cult classic in the near future and will be watched by many over and over, discussed, dissected, and studied, because that’s what great science fiction films do; invites its viewers to use their own interpretations, to reflect on the ideas explored by the film, to share their opinions and views on various elements of the film rather than numb them with relentless CGI and fantasy action, which is fun sometimes, but you end up purging the Science in the Fiction.
The only flaw I can find in the film is that sometimes the characters, their reactions, their motivation for the actions they take, some of the dialogues and a few performances don’t feel authentic and seem a bit forced at times. Also, the hand held aesthetic here took me out of the movie a couple of times, though it did add urgency and intensity to a few other scenes, but still the camera was shaking way too much and sometimes actors’ faces got cropped where they shouldn’t have been. But these are very minor flaws in a film that achieves so much and do not affect your overall experience.
The filmmakers of this little movie have proven once again that all you need is a unique idea, a strong screenplay, a single location, dedicated actors and skilled craftsmanship to make a solid, gripping, mind bending, sci-fi flick, or any flick for that matter. In that regard, Coherence deserves the love of the same audience that Primer (2004), Timecrimes (2007), Upstream Color (2013), Moon (2009) and many others of its kind have earned.
I give it 3.5/5✩ with a B
"I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that."
"Part of the sickness in America is that you have to think in terms of who wins, who loses, who’s good, who’s bad, who’s best, who’s worst…I don’t like to think that way. Everybody has their own value in different ways, and I don’t like to think who’s the best at this. I mean, what’s the point of it?"
Blue Ruin (2013)
Blue Ruin (2013) is a Kickstarter funded feature film that is probably little seen and almost completely ignored by the general public. But it got heaps of praise from critics and based on the reviews I gave this film a look. Boy, was I happy to find this little gem.
The story is about a beach vagrant, a homeless man living off of thrown away food, taking showers by breaking into people’s homes, and scavenging whatever he can find, while his permanent base is an old blue pontiac that belonged to his parents. One day he receives news from a local police officer about the release of a man who killed his parents years ago. Revitalised with new found purpose in life, the beach vagrant sets out to avenge his parents by killing the man responsible for murdering them. But soon after committing the deed he finds himself fending off the man’s entire family and forced to protect his estranged sister from harm. He then sets out to settle the score once and for all by taking matters into his own hands.
Tragic, funny and violent. This film is a quiet, slow paced, minimalist revenge thriller that takes its time to build up to a bloody, explosive climax. Don’t go into it expecting a full blown action packed, Charles Bronson-fronted action thriller, you’ll be greatly disappointed if that’s what you’re expecting. Instead it does something different within the familiar tropes of the genre. There are bursts of violence that come unexpected and out of nowhere, and the film strides along at a slow but purposeful pace, taking time to develop its lead character and his journey to become the who will protect what’s left of his family. It’s a character study within the revenge genre while never going over the top.
The film is very well shot and composed, the camera work is smooth and the plot is slight but carefully constructed, unfolds slowly to reveal a few unexpected twists that make things interesting. Writer and Director, also DOP, Jeremy Saulnier shows great craftsmanship and promise as a director. He has the makings of the next big director and he has a style of his own. This film shows what he’s capable of and it also shows when you do justice to crowd funding, especially when the end product is this good. I hope all those who shelled in their hard earned cash to fund this film got their money’s worth.
Marco Blair makes for a very unusual leading man but he really makes his character work. He projects a kind of sadness to him, he conveys the tragedy of his character’s life through his emotive, mostly silent performance, and rises to the challenge when he is required to resort to violence, showing a different facet of his character, who may appear weak, timid, and introverted but isn’t afraid to die and will do anything to protect his sister.
If there’s any fault in it, it’s that the film is a little too slow paced at times, with not much happening, except in-between and until the climax. And it still feels like as if Saulnier has a long way to go before his style can become a signature. At times this film can feel like the early works of a great director who will be known for his later, much more fleshed out and accomplished films. But that’s just me.
A well balanced performance and terrific film making make for a solid little revenge thriller that deserves a lot more audience than it got.
I give it 3.5/5✩ with a B
I love movies that are set in one location, with one character, movies that are a one man or one woman show; movies like 12 Angry Men (1957), Moon (2009), Cast Away (2000), Tape (2001), and recent movies like Buried (2010), 127 Hours (2010), Gravity (2013), All is Lost (2013) etc. Such movies are so much more fun to watch. They are exciting in that they bring the creativity out of its creators through the limitations of the setting/premise and it’s thrilling to see how they come up with clever ways to make the film engaging and not bore us.
Locke (2013) joins the same ranks. It’s a brilliantly executed drama set entirely within the confines of a moving car. Its lead character interacts with other characters only through a hands free phone installed in the car, that’s the dramatic structure, that’s where the conflict is built from. The movie opens on a construction site and then we see Ivan Locke get into his car leaving the site, later we find out he is a construction foreman and he has left things incomplete just hours before the commencement of a historic project. We find out that he’s made a mistake, he’s driving towards some place, and along the way he is going to make tough decisions, life altering decisions, decisions that will have ripple effects, decisions and choices that will affect not only him but people he knows, because he is willing to pay the price for that mistake. He’s a man with a purpose, a man who is in the driver’s seat, in control of his life, a man who will make everything okay, he will fix everything, he will take care of his personal, professional and private life. He’s a man fighting himself and his everything in his existence.
Locke (2013) is an existential examination of how one mistake or one decision can have drastic changes to your whole life, how the choices you make have an effect on everyone around you. “The difference between a moment and an instant is forever”, as one character tells Ivan Locke. Ivan Locke fights to overcome his demons, his flaws, his father, and various other conflicts to do what he thinks and believes is right. It’s a tense, gripping drama that requires an actor who can carry the film and keep us engaged throughout the ride. After all this is a movie about a man in a car, literally.
Tom Hardy’s the perfect man for the job. The camera stays above Hardy’s waist all through the movie and Hardy takes up the challenge of conveying the frustrations and emotions of his character through his face and hands, while communicating with other actors only through a hands-free phone. He commands the screen and keep us glued to the film till the end. He has proven himself to be quite a versatile actor over the past decade and he certainly drives this film home, excuse the pun.
Written and Directed by Steven Knight, the writer of the excellent films Eastern Promises (2007) and Dirty Pretty Things (2002), makes a confident second feature as a director after the disappointing Jason Statham vehicle Hummingbird/Redemption (2013). He could’ve faltered here as well, the film could’ve gone wrong in so many ways. But his focus on the character and the writing makes Locke (2013) a compelling watch. It’s a stripped down character study, where we get to look into the soul of a man who is tested by life and face the consequences of his decisions and choices. I was, however, a little underwhelmed by the revelation of the “mistake” Ivan Locke made, which initiates the whole plot. I thought it was something much more grave, something that was going to put Locke (2013) and the people close to him in danger, something that echoes a thriller. But instead it settles on a somewhat cliched reason for the mess Ivan Locke gets himself in.
But that’s just a minor gripe i have with the film. As it progresses forward, the dedicated acting and adept direction, and a unique setting makes up for the flaws. In the end I found myself liking this film a lot. It felt like watching a deeply engaging stage play that is both thought provoking and emotionally satisfying.
I give it 4/5✩ with a B+
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
One of the best films of the year. Epic in scope, ambitious in its execution, thought provoking in its ideas and themes with special effects that are truly ground breaking and revolutionary and taken to the next level, to the point where you can’t distinguish a motion-captured/CGI character from a human character because you’re so invested in the story. When they say special effects should serve the story not overshadow it, this is what they mean. There are no caricatures or simple good guys or bad guys. These are characters who have tough decisions to make, who are reacting to the change that is taking place around them, who have to protect their families, who have to rise up to their responsibilities, they are complex and not just one-note. The character development of Caesar is especially astonishing; seeing him going from a confused youth, a prisoner to a revolutionary from the first movie to a father, a husband, a leader trying to protect his people and keeping a shaky truce with humans in this movie.
Matt Reeves has really emerged as a director whose work should be keenly anticipated from here on out. He and his team of wizards have delivered us a mature, dark, and wholly refreshing vision and I can’t wait to see how they develop this saga forward in the next sequel, seeing how much potential it has generated from this sequel alone. I can already see them taking us a few more years into the future when Earth finally becomes a Planet of the Apes. As it stands right now, individually, it works just as well without even having to look back on the first movie in this franchise, and that’s a remarkable achievement. It sometimes feel like a small drama full of conflicts within the confines of a summer blockbuster.
Andy Serkis and Weta Digital have taken motion capture to the next level, quite possibly a human level. The performances by both (CGI) Apes and humans are great, but every time the Apes take over the screen, it’s breathtaking and a sight to behold, especially Caesar once again. There is a sense of power, command, ferocity in their presence and performance that the humans can’t match. You are completely invested emotionally and visually, that they look and feel real not just some computer generated fakery. The first film had some dodgy CGI effects but here, it’s so advanced and so well rendered that it looks like a giant upgrade. This could really be the film that could make history if the dim-wits at the Oscars actually acknowledge and honor Andy Serkis’ performance.
All in all, a thrilling and highly satisfying science fiction thriller that is hands down one of the best big-budgeted, summer blockbusters of all time; a sequel that leaves its predecessor far, far behind.
I give it 4/5✩ with an A-
P.S. Avoid the 3-D version as it adds nothing to the experience.