Thursday, 3 June 2021

The Killing of Two Lovers (2020)

What a visual delight this film is. Forget the storyline, look at the imagery - beautifully created and executed by director/writer/producer Robert Machoian. It really is a feast for the eyes and well worth grabbing when you get the chance (or pay Curzon Home Cinema) for this alone.

There is a story of course, and it's a very ordinary, everyday story about a family who are trying to stay together. David and Nikki got hitched up and pregnant right out of school and have not known much else. They have four kids, an older teenage girl and three younger boys, but mum and dad have made a terribly adult decision to try a break from each other (the story never tells us really why) and that during that break, they would be free to see other people.

David goes to live with his dad while Nikki looks after the kids in the family home. They seem hopeful about getting back together, though he apparently more so than her as she takes a lover. The opening scene is a powerful one as David stands over the bed of his sleeping wife and her lover, gun in hand, and we think instantly that this is The Killing of Two Lovers. But it's not. Though it does give us an instant insight into the mind of David and how he's coping with the new situation.

The director is not afraid to linger on close-ups, play with focus to good effect, stick a camera in one position and let the scene move for itself and generally make pretty much every frame of the film an image worthy of a wall framing. The style of Fargo or The Handmaid's Tale as every frame is carefully considered. Placing the camera on the driver's door of the car, fixed focus, while the scene plays out, driving is done, conversation engaged in, is a favourite trick which, again, works really well.

Most of the cast are relatively inexperienced in film, much TV work, but each of them perform their parts to perfection. Particularly Clayne Crawford as David, Sepideh Moafi as Nikki and a great performance by Avery Pizzuto as Jess, the teenage girl. She's old enough to understand what is going on but not old enough to get herself out of the situation. There's one scene in the car with dad where she excels, holds herself in prolonged pose whilst expressing by voice and face the stress and anxiety that her character is feeling.

David is doing well, holding it together, even going out on 'date night' with Nikki as agreed they would, until stresses boil over and there is a confrontation with Nikki's lover. Prior to this, there's a creepy scene as David follows the lover into a 'one stop' shop, the lover not knowing who David is, and they get uncomfortably close. There are numerous great scenes like this and although the story is a very simple one, they also help to carry the audience forward keeping interest high.

The cinematography is further enhanced by the outdoor setting of this small town America where there's loads of open space and a skyline littered with hills and mountains. Big open dusty roads and loads of room between houses and the few shops and facilities.

It's a great little film, superbly presented by a small team with a real 'indie' feel to it. It's engaging and enjoyable throughout mostly down to the fabulous camera work and director using that to get the best from the cast. I can't praise the visual delight highly enough here. As for the title, well you can make your own mind up as to what that actually is about when you come to the end. Super film, highly recommended.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

PodHubUK Podcasts for May 2021

 ...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 1st May
Steve and I are back again this weekend with special guest Chris Kelly who joins the debate about cameras in phones vs proper cameras and lenses!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Part 2 - Classic Boxes
Sunday 2nd May
Sunday again so Gareth and I are back with a tech catch-up or two! This week we get our knickers in a twist about Chrome and Edge, try to unpick paid-for podcasting, hark back to interesting boxes/packaging and loads more.

Projector Room
Episode 87 - Minari Castaway!
Wednesday 6th May
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with another round of thoughts on all things film, cinema and TV. This time we tackle Tusk, muse on Minari, consider Cast Away and as always, get on Like a House on Fire!

The Phones Show
Thursday 7th May
Join Steve in the back seat of his car as he explains all about what he uses and how, when having to 'work mobile'. Some good tips and ideas for all Road Warriors!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 8th May
This weekend Steve and I welcome back Mike Warner who gives us another masterclass in all things off-piste, making Android and Lineage work hard for our enjoyment of mobile phones. Keep up at the back!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 9th May
Gareth and I are back again with our weekly catch-up of what's caught our eye in tech. Loads of stuff as usual, from crystal-ball gazing about future Samsungs, the fruit of Project Treble, Huawei Harmonising the East to top tips around the web - lots of tasty morsels! Oh, and we're back to one whole show instead of two parts! Consistently inconsistent, see!

Whatever Works
Episode 137 - Mow Them Down!
Friday 14th May
Aidan and I are back with our fortnightly splurge of Whatever Works for us and the Group Members. Thanks all for your input. Loads of stuff thrown around as usual from Gorillas to Yogurt and much between! Oh, and watch out for fruit-loop drivers if you're walking around Reading supermarket carparks!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 638 - Bulging at the Seams
Friday 14th May
Nice and early this week, Steve and I bring you our latest thoughts on all things mobile phone. My experiments with Ready For and Steve's Marshall Headphones and Bluetooth exploration amongst all the other usual goodies.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 16th May
Gareth and I are back again for another weekend roundup of all the tech stuff that's caught our eye in the last few days. Cheap smart watches, Royal Mail autonomous island-hopping drones, Zenfone 8, Ready For, plus bargains and a harkback to Mvix! All good fun.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 639 - Android 360
Wednesday 19th May
A bonus mid-week special, you lucky people 😂 Steve and I grab our microphones to bring you up-to-the-minute natter about all things mobile phone, specifically the Android 12 Beta 1 release and Sony's Reality Audio 360 and related paraphernalia!

Projector Room
Episode 88 - Jupiter's Oxygen!
Wednesday 19th May
Gareth, Allan and I are back again for another look at all things film, cinema and TV. Plenty to chew over again this time as we gasp for Oxygen, head for Jupiter, decide on The King of Monsters and engage with The Housemaid from Korea!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 22nd May
Steve and I are back in our usual weekend slot and this time we welcome first-timer Bart Busschots to join us and chat about Apple, Photography and Podcasting! Loads to get through and a good time was had by all.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 23rd May
It's Gareth and I, back again with a weekly roundup of what we've found interesting in tech. Plenty of goodies as usual including Gareth's fave - the new and exciting Evercade, thoughts of Google I/O, a punch-up about nine zero's, boxes of bargains, acres of Apps and a red Phone Box just 10cm from Brighton!

The Phones Show
Wednesday 26th May
Steve's most exciting year in smartphone history: July 2006 to August 2007. Join him to find out the what any why!

Whatever Works
Episode 138 - Duckboard Quartet!
Wednesday 26th May
Aidan and I are back again - and early this time, with a cheerful look at Whatever Works for us and you! This time we dabble with Duckboards, accord power to the Accordion, firk with Funnels, repel Rodents and even bathe Biscuits! What's not to like?! Do join us for an hour of madness!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 29th May
Steve and I welcome back Ed Hause this week to chat about all things mobile phone but specifically experiments between cameras in phones and add-on gear, like the DxO One, Moto Mod Hasselblad and Sony QX10/100. Plus all the usual news, comments and thoughts.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 30th May
Gareth and I are back again this weekend with a roundup of a load of tech stuff. Gaming is a big theme as everyone tries to find one I've heard of 😂 while Gareth enthuses with gusto! Nano II is here from Anker, more Gaming on the Surface Duo, a new USB-C standard in the pipes and a big Switch to Valve!

The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - Tech Addicts

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds - Tech Addicts

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

Monday, 31 May 2021

Stowaway (2021)

This was an interesting idea and film created by Joe Penna (Arctic) which I watched with thoughts of the excellent 'The Martian' as we considered Mars! Unlike the latter, we never actually see Mars the planet in this outing but rather the drama is all collected within the five month journey trying to get there.

There's a crew of three heading for Mars, sometime in the future (clearly), are going about their business when suddenly a fourth person falls out of the ceiling, unconscious. When he comes round, he has no recollection of what happened and how he was there, but he was a part of the ground-crew working on the ship before take-off. During his fall, he not only breaks the arm of the Commander of the mission but also knackers one of the oxygen backup supplies.

We get to know the crew members - Marina, David and Zoe as they talk about a solution to the problem of Michael's appearance and the impact on their now depleted oxygen supply. Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Knives Out, Unlocked), Anna Kendrick and Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) share their space and resources for the time being with Shamier Anderson (Goliath) playing Michael. As you might imagine, it's all fairly claustrophobic and (relatively) low-budget as the whole film is shot in and around the craft.

This is the point at which they decide, having tried really hard to work out various solutions, that if they all four stay on the ship, they will all die before they get to Mars. They can't go back, either. So the big moral question is posed about what they're going to do. If there's three of them, they will survive. The tension begins to rise as the dilemma throws itself around between them which all four of the actors approach in a convincing manner.

There's more tension in store for the audience as there's a critical space-walk which needs to be executed with the stakes growing as a solar-storm approaches. It's all anxiety for the characters, stress for the audience and at one or two points I was on the edge of my seat!

It's a very well shot film, thoughtful and considered, whilst also taking in convincing views of space, the planets and the out/inside of their craft and associated equipment. Well worth a look and available now on Netflix UK.

How It Ends (2018)

I really enjoyed this film about some sort of apocalyptic event (which is never really explained). It gives an insight into what it might be like for ordinary people if something big was going on, but all channels of communication were pretty much down so actually, nobody knows or can be told what's going on. Directed by David M Rosenthal it's an interesting sideways view of how it could be.

Theo James plays Will who is the partner of Sam and they live in Seattle. Sam is pregnant and Sam's dad doesn't much like Will. There's a anxious opening when Will visits her parents while on a business trip to Chicago and this tension sets the scene for what's to come between the two main leads. Sam's dad Tom is played by Forest Whitaker. He's an ex-military man and clearly no man is going to be good enough for his daughter, particularly when he is instrumental in resettling her thousands of miles away from her parents.

Whilst in Chicago, the event happens. They soon lose communication with each other and so proud dad and loving partner head off by road to 'rescue' Sam, even though they can't know where she is by then, or even if she is alive. The film then turns into a road-trip with the two of them in the car trekking across distance and the focus of the film is survival of this trip (or not) and the mini-adventures they get into along the way.

There are lots of these adventures of course, each an incident of their own, as they come across situations and people who are equally lost and numb, others beginning to make provision and get organised but many just disorientated and often dead. As far as they all know this could be the end of the world - How It Ends, maybe. Much of the film though is about the changing relationship, learning and evolution of the relationship between the two men. How they start off with that anxiety I mentioned, then end up in a position of mutual reliance in order to survive and reach the girl they both love.

Interesting visually with harrowing landscapes sets which are convincing and they got the pacing of the story just right. The acting by the two leads is convincing, and indeed those around them. Anyway, it's on Netflix UK just now and I think it's well worth a look.

Spoiler alert: There isn't really a clean ending to the film. This has got considerable bad press from those expecting every film to have a neat Hollywood ending tied up with bows, but I think that this reflects the nature of what is going on and helps to place the audience into the shoes of the characters facing this thing, whatever it is. It also leaves it open for some bright spark to make a sequel, I guess! I dread to think how people these days would cope with films like Hitchcock's The Birds!

Saturday, 29 May 2021

An Imperfect Murder

I don't think I'm alone in not quite being able to work out what I think about this 2017 short film which leaps between arthouse, murder/mystery, psychological thriller and insightful character study. It's all of those and more - or less, if you go by general reception of this James Tobac offering.

James Tobac, the writer, actor, director, producer has been previously involved with works such as Bugsy, Fingers and even appearing in Woody Allen's Alice. Here, he tries something different it seems. A slightly removed reality centred around an actress who is approached by her ex-boyfriend and in a struggle, accidentally kills him. Concluding that there's no way for her except to cover it up, she disposes of the body and tries to move on.

The audience isn't really very sure about whether or not the above is true, however, as she meanders between reality and the self-indulgence surrounding a book that she is writing which seems, half the time to be about the topic of this film and story. It's a bit complicated in terms of what's what, so much better really to focus on other stuff on offer here.

The central performances of the key characters are beautifully executed, almost inside vignettes with a tad more glue than expected. Sienna Miller (Layer Cake) takes the lead as Vera as others come and go amidst various scenes which generally drill deeply into her life and situation. Alec Baldwin turns up as a policeman for a couple of scenes, trying to quiz her about the alleged incident. Tobac himself also throws himself into the mix for a spell before the most interesting scene arrives involving the late Charles Grodin.

Grodin plays her grandfather who is suffering from confusion, disorientation, forgetfulness and anxiety as an ageing man. Vera sits with him and her mother, his daughter, over a simple meal. The scene takes ten minutes out of the running time and is worth seeing in isolation, for those who can't be bothered with the arty-farty content of the rest of it. Grodin portrays the difficulties facing the old man in a quite frightening way and Miller supports with patience and understanding. It's a film within a film and certainly eye-opening.

The rest of it is slow, dialogue-based mainly but beautifully shot with well considered camerawork, angles, lighting and focus in pretty much a closed apartment set. It feels like it could have been written for the stage, in this respect, but Tobac has made the most of the interior keeping it visually interesting throughout.

The star of the show though seems to be the music as it sweeps through classical music, so powerfully delivered in all the right places, peppered also with choice modern cuts too. It is an attempt at an arty piece of work which, unlike most folk out there it seems, I think has been pulled off. It's interesting and different. As a fan of arthouse, I forgive the cries of pretentiousness from critics and prefer to be open-minded, trying to soak up the show looking for positive attributes. There's enough here for me in that regard, but you may not think so. It's only 70 minutes, so why not try!

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Being a Human Person (and About Endlessness)

The portrait of a very interesting man is presented here as a documentary but released as a film, shot during the making of his last film (though he has now started working on another)! It's an odd concept but I was keen to see it as I had previously followed the work of Swedish director, storyteller and filmmaker Roy Andersson and likened it to a cross between Terry Gilliam and Salvador Dali!

The 'final' film and work of Andersson is called About Endlessness and is his usual crossover between the bizarre, funny, sad and reflective but more importantly empathetic view of ordinary people facing ordinary problems and the absurdness of life and existence. It's highly stylised as it was in A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, You, The Living and Songs from the Second Floor amongst many other works throughout his career.

Watch any one of these films and you'll get the style and art, attention to detail and approach straight away. You'll wonder what on earth is going on, what it's about, what it means and what the artist is trying to portray. It's a cranial journey which is fun and very interesting to pursue. The film is mainly a bunch of somewhat thematically related vignettes (as are many of the others) which the supporting documentary, Being a Human Person, here helps to explain via the medium of the mind of the man himself!

He clearly wanted to make a film about himself as he fully intended that this film would be his swan song (even if he changed his mind afterwards)! I would suggest watching the film About Endlessness first so you can reference the scenes and understand first-hand what is being spoken about when you see the documentary. I'm not usually one to go for documentaries - I'm really not. I would much rather watch the film than a 'making of' but this is different because it's, as I said at the outset, much more than just that - and much more a portrait of the 75 year old man who has spent his life creating.

Insights into how he has lived his life, how he lives full-time in his studio, how he spends a month with unknown actors (who often feel like they are living furniture) and his crew creating each of the sets needed in his film/s inside the studio (there is no reference anywhere to location sets) and how, on a personal level, he has struggled with alcohol use. This has had an impact on those around him, particularly the crew he employs who are clearly very loyal towards him and care about him as a person deeply. The documentary doesn't dwell on that but it's an interesting part of his life. It actually paints a picture of the man as jolly, cheerful, generous and friendly. The kind of person with a boozers' conk who you only have to look at, in order to smile. Think Tommy Cooper!

It's also interesting on a technical level to see how the team have cooked up studio trickery (often very manual) to execute shots in the films which you would really think were genuinely on location, in a surreal kind of way! This also explains why the camera in the sets is placed in position and left there mostly. It's an odd effect because the sets are not locational and via his methods, they look clinical with little buzz of ordinary life. Surreal. Every item and person is placed purposely. Like a painting. A drawing. It's hard to explain - have a look! We're taken on a tour of the studio and find out how that technique ensures that false streets and buildings can look as they do without digital or technical trickery. Old fashioned painted film sets. Really very interesting.

The work of Roy Andersson is clearly an acquired taste. It's very arty-farty but also funny and challenging for the audience. During the documentary when quizzed by him after a viewing, some people found the film to be funny and he expressed surprise, as he was going for something else. Interpretation is the key here and that is, of course, true of most art-forms. In that respect too, he has achieved.

I really enjoy all of these films and recommend them highly, as I do this documentary and insight into the man. They tend to come round on Film4 or late-night BBC2 - or you can of course buy the DVDs. Interesting, different and beautifully presented.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Golden Exits (2017)

A film comes along sometimes which leaves you wondering why on earth the filmmakers bothered making it. Cutting straight to the chase here, this is one of those. Dull, boring, overlong, uninteresting, dour, depressing and dull (a second time). I really tried to find some redeeming factor in the outing, but can only find my personal desire to watch the film's star - whatever she's in!

Yes, the far-too-cute Emily Browning (Kill the King, Legend, Sucker Punch) will win me over every time - but even she, in this as Naomi, adds to the general glumness of what is going on and apparent pointlessness of the effort. She plays a girl from Australia visiting New York to refresh after a string of failed infatuations painted up as relationships. She gets a job working with an archivist in a small and claustrophobic office with a chap who, like all the other characters, reflect the futility of existence.

Mostly musician Adam Horovitz plays this guy but really should have stuck with music. He is married to a woman who doesn't trust him to keep his hands off Naomi as their relationship is clearly imploding. She has a sister who is bitter and twisted, willing to stick the knife in where she can, to anyone. There's a young couple in the mix who run a music studio, she not trusting him to keep his hands off Naomi either because of previous form.

Everyone is bitter and twisted, pretty glum and nasty to each other that you wonder why any of them stay together. Glimmers of hope evolve as some of the characters start to recognise that their desires and potential behaviours are damaging to not only themselves but also their situation and those around them or who depend on them.

The film seems to want to very much be a Woody Allen style New York slice-of-life but it misses on pretty much every point. There's no comedy, no one-liners, nothing to engage the audience with the characters, no sharp wit, no snappy dialogue - just the dour side of a bunch of people who are dysfunctional with an object of desire thrown into the mix. Lust for the men and jealousy of her youth and beauty for the women. Mostly. All of whom end up really wishing that she'd never turned up in the first place, even though they all know they're part of a downward spiral of misery, regret and self-harm.

It's not that it's short of acting talent with Mary-Louise Parker, Lily Rabe, Jason Schwartzman and Chloë Sevigny making up the cast - and there are glimpses of what could have been, given a decent story and good script. What is on offer here couldn't really light up any room, whatever the wattage of the bulb or how small the room! There's lots of hand-held camerawork going on and it often feels like a very amateur slice of filmmaking.

It really is a depressing viewing, so I wouldn't recommend it unless, like me, you just have to watch the star! There's only so much reality orientation one can take and this is a step too far. Avoid.

The Killing of Two Lovers (2020)

What a visual delight this film is. Forget the storyline, look at the imagery - beautifully created and executed by director/writer/producer...