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Interview

The Best Christmas Short Ever – Interview with Writer Tyson Yates

About 4 years ago, I went to the Brisbane Backyard Film Festival. Two films from that night stuck with me that I truly loved and have never stopped talking about. One is Follow that Taxi (I did an interview with Sam Monaghan this year) and the other is It’s Christmas. It is one of the funniest and most original short films I have ever seen and my favourite Christmas short ever. On top of this, it won the audience award at the Brisbane Backyard Film Festival. Before you read this interview, go and watch this film below, it is well worth your time.

Recently, I did an interview with the writer of It’s Christmas – Tyson Yates. Tyson is a Brisbane based writer and director. On top of this project, he has written Lemonade – a comedy web series – and wrote and directed Smashed – a comedy short which won Audience Choice at West End Film Festival. Read on for more.

DP David Aponas and Tyson behind the camera

What inspired the story of It’s Christmas?

“I used to work in journalism, but my number one thing was writing for film. One year I upped and left and do a year of film school. I plopped myself down in Brisbane and did a year at university.”

“The whole idea is just kind of a typical Christmas for me, I am from a small country town in Northern NSW. It was hot, sweaty, there was drama over the prawns. This one was just one of the first scripts that just flowed out of me. I don’t think I struggled to write that one at all. It was just taking tid bits from my family and inserting into the script. And also just who doesn’t love writing genre.”

What was your process writing for this and writing in general?

Kristie and Tyson Yates

“When you are writing you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I think the unspoken thing though is that no one has it right – even some established filmmakers and writers. There has never been this smooth process in writing. But I think the background in media and written journalism really helped the discipline of it. When someone is paying you to write a story you don’t have an option of not feeling it or having mental block – the deadline is 5.”

As someone who writes and directs did you find it hard handing over the It’s Christmas Script?

“I have directed the last couple of things I have done. I released smashed a couple of years ago and that was the first major thing I directed. I just decided to Direct to get it done in the exact way it’s in my head. With It’s Christmas, I must have been a terrible person to have on set because I was following the director around and buzzing around like a fly. I think in the future I will focus less on directing and more on script writing because it’s just a huge commitment.”

Tyson directing actors – Winnie Mzember (middle) and Kyle MacCallion

Are there any specific Christmas movies you love or are inspired by?

“I really love the tone of A Moody Christmas. It spoke so much to me and I think they were aiming for the same thing because it feels like a person experience of an Aussie family. I have had a couple Christmas’s in the cold, and you miss it when you’re not here. I also love genre Christmas movies like Krumpus.”

Were there any general movies that inspired it as well?

“Absolutely Sean of the Dead. Edgar Wright is a perfect example of a filmmaker who can take ridiculous concepts and squeeze sentiment into it.”

Tyson on sound with Nicholas Rowan (sound) and Mellisa Johnson (makeup)

Other Projects

Creating both Smashed and Lemonade, what have you learnt from both projects and would advise filmmakers about starting a web series?

“I am from the school of keep it simple. Everyone does their share house comedy, it’s low stakes. You watch some amazing comedies like Arrested Development and Scrubs, the comedy just comes from the simplicity and characters – something I am still learning. Don’t be discouraged by not nailing something. It was interesting at film school how many people wanted to be at the finish line already. I have resigned myself to the fact that it’s going to take a long time to learn but the best way to do that is to keep it simple.”

As someone who also did one year of film school, I was wondering your opinion on it and if think it’s worthwhile?

On the set of Smashed

“There are two different camps, I guess. I learnt a lot from film school and especially what not to do in a safe situation. You are at the mercy of whoever else happens to be in your cohort. It can be a bit of a scramble to get on top. I didn’t have that problem to much as I had some pretty set goals. There was also good teachers I learnt a lot from. But the reason I left was because the classes and lessons were starting to repeat themselves.”

What is next for you?

“I recently got a job in a production company so any of my film projects just stopped at that point. I had a hiatus for a few years and then recently we jumped back on board with the short stack guys and shot a short film in August. It’s very similar to smashed in that it’s a couple of locations and housemates together. We are just doing the assembly edit now so it’s looking good.”

If someone came to you with one film wish, what would it be?

On the set of It’s Christmas

“I don’t know if I would want to wish my way to the finish line. But me right now I feel I am still finding my way through writing and directing. I would be absolutely horrified to have a world class actor standing in front of me asking what do to. It would be something small like making an indie feature that is well within my means. I would love to have this indie gem of a film that is well regarded. And then I am happy to be sky rocketed into making a Marvel film, substance abuse, not seeing my family – you know, the Hollywood dream.”

Where do you want to see the Australian film scene in 5-10 years?

“I think I have never really put much thought into getting funding. “I guess i believe that a good script will have it’s time and eventually get made. I know people bang on about funding being political, but those people usually have a shit script. I like to believe that a good idea, a good script, will get picked.”

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Film Reviews

Glass Onion Non Spoiler Review: The Best Movie of 2022?

Knives Out was one of the best movies of the last 5 years. It is one of the most entertaining and rewatchable movies I have seen in a long time and will undoubtedly be considered a classic in 10 years. So… the question becomes how do you top this and more importantly is it even possible? Can Rian Johnson improve upon one of the most loved and successful movies of the last 5 years? Truthfully, yes… Read on for more.

(Since this movie is very easy to spoil and I understand how easy it is to ruin it, I will keep it very broad and simple.)

Before I watched this, I was trying to work out what Rian Johnson could do to keep the audience guessing and surprised. As a filmmaker, it is embarrassing for me to admit that I had no ideas. Despite this, Rian creates a new and compelling that story that will keep you glued to the screen from the beginning. It goes in directions I didn’t expect at all and plays upon the traditional narrative perfectly. Rian Johnson knows exactly what the audience is expecting and manipulates it from beginning to end.

One of the best parts about the first Knives Out is the characters. They each feel completely different to the other and are addicting to watch. I truly believe Knives Out A Glass Onion has better characters. Each one is a very clever and refreshing take on the modern celebrity.  But what’s even more important is that they feel like real people. They have multiple layers that are revealed as the movie progresses and while they have flaws, you understand where they are coming from.

On top of this, they are cast perfectly. Everyone in this movie brings these characters to life. With a different cast, this movie is nowhere near as gripping and entertaining. I think lately films just load up on huge casts only to get ticket sales. But with Knives Out 2, it feels like each actor was chosen for the character and not for their level of fame. Cough Cough Amsterdam cough.

Before I move on, I have to talk about Daniel Craig. This character that him and Rian Johnson have created is one of the best movie detectives I have ever seen. He is this weird mix of being an idiot while also a genius that I love. It is a unique and refreshing character that I could truly watch an entire season of. Also, he is just very funny. No matter how simple the line is, he manages to always deliver it perfectly.

While I loved this movie, there was definitely a slump. About halfway through, I just found myself a little bit bored. I think in moments it treats the audience a little stupid and takes too long explaining things. It isn’t terrible it’s more just feels like the run time could be cut down by about 10-15minutes. Also, I think some of the humour doesn’t really work. It occasionally just feels forced and never seemed to get many laughs in the cinema.

One of the most important parts of a murder mystery is the twist. Now in the first Knives Out, the reveal never felt surprising or satisfying to me. In the sequel, I kind of feel the same way. But I think that’s on purpose. There are so many other twists and turns in this movie that the killer or killers doesn’t seem important. Instead, I think Rian Johnson wanted to focus on creating twists as the movie progresses instead of in the last few moments.

Should you watch Knives Out A Glass Onion?

Definitely. This movie is a very entertaining and enjoyable watch that will keep you guessing from the beginning. While the cinema run is over, watch it as soon as it’s out on Netflix so it doesn’t get spoiled for you.

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Interview

The Macfarlane Brothers Interview

Lachlan and Austin Macfarlane are two filmmakers based in Brisbane, Australia. For over 14 years, they have been making sketch comedy shorts with heavy VFX. Now they both work tirelessly on their TikTok and YouTube Chanel – racking up millions of views and even starting viral trends. Read on for more.

You both have been making short films and content for over 10 years, what created this attitude to just make stuff and get it done?

“I started making films just for the fun of doing them when I was like 10. It was just doing things for the fun of it. By the time I got to the end of school it was even more of an incentive to make videos. Also, when you’re at Uni you only make 7-8 things and I feel you want to finish with more than that.” – Lachlan

“I started getting into editing because I was making Marvel trailers. The reason I got into VFX was because I wanted to make Doctor Who intros. It harkens back to us being kids and having lightsabre fights and thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if we could make actual lightsabre fights.” – Austin

Across your careers, you can see how much your VFX has improved. Is this from school, University or just teaching yourself?

“I would say both but mainly self-taught.” – Lachie

“In year 8 and 9, every lunch time I would do a VFX shot. I would shoot it on my laptop, and I would do stuff like shooting a door and it would explode. Another day, my friend punched me and turned into a lunchbox.” – Austin

What’s your process in making these insane TikTok’s and reels you create?

“We will write, shoot, direct, star in, all ourselves. We split up the post tasks because we each have our own strengths. I will usually do the VFX while Lachlan will do the editing.” – Austin

“We will try to film as much as we can on the weekend and then work on it through the week and then get started on the next one straight away. It’s ultimately just about maintaining that repetition.” – Lachlan

“We both have so many ideas but unless it’s something we instantly jump at, we don’t even film it. Our sister is a good judge…. If we show it to her and she laughs it’s probably going to be good…” – Austin

Looking back on film school are you glad you did it or do you wish you did your own thing?

“There are way more people saying don’t do film school than there are saying do it. I would say it depends… When I went to film school, I found it hard to stand out from everyone else. It was difficult, I think at my school you needed a big personality and to be different from everyone. But ultimately it got kind of easier as you get to know people and I found it worthwhile in the end as I got heaps of connections who later got me a job.” – Lachlan

“I think for Uni you get out what you put into it ultimately. I work full time now as a junior online editor and I wouldn’t have got that job if I didn’t go to Uni, and the programs I use at work I learnt from uni.” – Austin

Can you explain the whole Michael Buble story?

“We love him and have loved his Christmas album since we were kids. We made this TikTok where we take him out of the ice for Christmas. I opened my phone the next morning and he had sent us a message on TikTok and commented it. I will ride that high until I die and we are very chuffed about that” – Austin

What filmmakers really inspire you.

“The Daniels definitely. It was very inspiring seeing how they went from small little sketch stuff to features. They are a team of two guys and we have taken a lot of inspiration from their style and we took on that comedic black comedy tone. Also, Edgar Wright and how he shifts your focus so well and so uniquely.” – Lachlan

What are some of your favourite films?

“The World’s End is one of my favourite Edgar Wright films because it has that emotional side. Also, any of Alfred Hitchcock’s films are incredible. Ours are both the same basically as well.” – Lachlan

“Swiss Army Man is my all-time favourite. Parasite, Psycho and the 400 Blows. I love Belfast, Little Women, Whiplash and Star Wars.” – Austin

Where do you want the Australian film scene to move?

“I would like there to be more. I am very new to the industry, but I would love the public to be more into it and proud of it. Also, shows that it doesn’t have to be about Australia.” – Lachlan

“I love how many productions are happening on the Gold Coast.” – Austin

What is next for you guys?

“We are going to make bigger short films. But for now, we are just doing TikTok and YouTube. Next year we are going to try for the Screen Queensland Skip Ahead program.” – Lachlan

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Film Reviews

Black Panther Wakanda Forever (Non-Spoiler Review)

I think I must be one of the few people in the world who didn’t love the first Black Panther. While the first two thirds were great, that last act was so terrible that I cannot rate the movie highly. But after seeing the trailer for Black Panther Wakanda Forever, I was excited for the sequel. It looked like a completely new direction for this series and the MCU entirely. But does it live up to the hype of the first movie? Read on for more.

Black Panther 2 is unlike any other Marvel film (the closest one I would compare it to is Winter Soldier simply for the pacing). It is a carefully crafted movie that takes it’s time with each character. While it does have some moments where it drags, the story doesn’t feel like we are trying to get from Point A to Point B but instead delves into some heavy concepts. In particular, the exploration of grief and vengeance creates one of the most emotionally layered and complex Marvel Movies. It effectively feels like such a breath of fresh air in the recent slate of formulaic films.

What adds to this excellent writing is a beautiful looking film. Each shot is vibrant and bursting with colours. The costumes, lighting and set design keep your eyes glued to the screen and add a depth to these incredible worlds. On top of this, the VFX look realistic. With the recent Marvel films looking like garbage, Black Panther 2 once again stands out. Only 2 shots in this movie look a little rough and that is completely respectable considering the scale of these set pieces.

The action in Black Panther Wakanda Forever never feels like the focus of the film. It is simply a backdrop for the story. Nevertheless, the few actions set pieces in this movie are very entertaining. Ryan Coogler weaves in his signature style to create fast paced and high stakes fight scenes. Each punch feels like it hurts and for once we see some people get stabbed.

What I loved most about this movie was the performances. Maybe it is because they are drawing from Chadwick Boseman’s passing but every actor is bringing 120%. In particular, Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett. How they portray their grief for T’CHalla’s death is some of the most outright heartbreaking acting the MCU has ever seen. I also loved the introduction of Tenoch Huerta as Naymour and Dominique Thorne as Ironheart. As usual, they have cast actors who are perfect for these roles, and you instantly want to see more of.

The final act of this movie had me on the edge of my seat. Not because of the suspense or stakes but simply because I thought they would botch the ending like every other Marvel film. But honestly, they didn’t. Ryan Coogler wraps up this spectacular film with an amazing action set piece and a touching conclusion for Chadwick Boseman.  

Should you see Black Panther Wakanda Forever?

Definitely go see this in cinemas. It is an epic story that deserves to be seen on a big screen. And if you loved the first film, this one is even better.

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Interview

Polyamorous – An Interview with showrunner Archie Waterson

At the beginning of this year, I interviewed Archie Waterson on a documentary he produced – The Diamond from Sierra Leone. Recently, the short doco was selected into the Heart of Gold Film Festival (a pretty big deal for a filmmaker so young). Once again, Archie is back with a brand new project he has been working tirelessly on. Polyamorous is a mockumentary web-series made in 8 weeks. After watching it once, I instantly went back and watched it again because I was amazed how much him and his team pulled off in such a short amount of time. It is funny, clever and most importantly, original. Read on for more.

Archie Waterson (right) on set with Hunter Smith

What is Polyamorous?

“It is a mockumentary story about 6 people in a polyamorous relationship and the highs and lows they go through trying to be free spirited. It follows the perspective of Mackenzie who is monogamous and is in denial who is following her partner who wants to join a polyamorous relationship to leave her.”

What inspired this story?

Tai Scott, Janice Devarakonda and Matthew Cieslar on set

“I was having a beer with my friend, and he told me he was in the dating game. He went on a tinder date and this girl who he got along well with and she said I’m in a polyamorous relationship. I didn’t know what this was and I kind of got obsessed with it and started watching a ton of documentaries. Through all these shows, I kind of discovered 6 architypes through it.”

What was the writing process and how did you go about it leading a writers’ room?

“The process came from fleshing out the story first. I wrote the character breakdowns, the log line, the pitch and all these characters so I knew who they were and what they would be like in this relationship. I wrote the pilot then I got all my writers and from there, each writer was linked to an episode, and we built this arch for Mackenzie, Jake and Tash and the rest of the relationship.”

How do you the test out the joke /comedy?

Lachlan Wormwell and Archie Waterson on set

“For me, it was weird because I never really wrote for the screen, comedy wise. I feel like if I’m in a social setting I am kind of funny and I make people laugh. I have always wanted to do comedy. What I found is that I try and give to people who I find funny and if they like it, I know I’m onto something.”

What has been the most challenging part of making a web series?

“Overall, it was an intense process we did in 8 weeks. The hardest part for me was finding confidence in myself at the start when I’m pitching it. The stress and anxiety of trying to appease 50 people was challenging. But other than that, it was a very smooth process and I didn’t find too many challenges.”

Are there any other plans to release it other than the festival run?

“Once this all ends, it will be released onto YouTube and Vimeo. I also want to take it to the ABC as a proof of concept to show them.

Do you ever have periods of self and lack of motivation and how do you combat that?

The crew of Polyamorous

“I have in my life. At this point, I feel weirdly motivated and confident which helped in the process. The pressure allowed me to always remain motivated. I feel like the way to get out of these slumps is to reassess why you do it and that creating is a blessing.”

Talking Movies

What movies and shows inspired Polyamorous?

“In terms of style, ‘’What We Do in the Shadows” and “The Office” were two big style guides. “Shameless (US)” for the dynamics between the characters and their chaos.”

What filmmakers do you look up to?

“I love Larry David. I just want to be one of those guys who seems effortless but really cares for the craft. I love Taika Waititi who is this creative inspiration, making stuff from a place similar to where we come from.”

What is the worst thing people do in the cinema?

“People chewing popcorn loudly. Some people are just loud chewers and it’s fucked.”

Tai Scott, Rowan Williams, Archie Waterson and Adelaide Lapere on set

The Future

Where do you want the Australian film scene to move?

“I want comedy to not be Australian cliches. I think people living in urban parts should have a voice because they are just as interesting as people in London and New York. I want there to be a blend where it’s not just tourism but beautiful Australian stories.”

Matthew Cieslar, Bianca Rapp, Janice Devarakonda, Abigal Waugh, Hunter Smith, Chris Nguyen and Archie

What is your one film wish?

“I would love to get coffee with Larry David. I would love to have a job comedy writing for a TV series.”

What is next for you?

“Probably the grad slate next year. Just writing again and getting back into the development phase again.

Anyone you want to shoutout?

“I want to shoutout Amy Lightbody, my producer on the show. She put in so much work and she just made the process super smooth for me.”

All photos taken by Sam Goldsmith and Felix Lovell.

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Interview

The Pallidura – Australia’s next best horror web series

Nathan Simmons is a Brisbane based filmmaker. He is currently in his second year at University and runs a production company known as Salty Dog Media. Recently, he was the show runner for the horror web series The Pallidura. After watching Episode 4, I was amazed at how well crafted and scary this series is. It will definitely be an amazing horror web series that I am very excited for. Read on for more.

What is the Pallidura?

Nathan on set

“It is a story about a couple – Curtis and Jessica – who are celebrating a birthday. An old friend comes to the party with a mysterious painting and once he enters the party Curtis’s life is never the same.”

What was your big inspirations for this project?

“The idea came in a writing workshop we had. The educator said, think of an object in your home and how it can attract a character. I thought about how some people can have a fascination for a painting and some people can have a hatred for it. The story has evolved from a divorce story where one partner hates it and one loves it to where it is now.”

Throughout the whole process, how do you maintain motivation and a good headspace?

“I never had bad feelings. It’s because I love it and I love making films. I really wanted to make the story as good as it can be. We spent like 50 hours writing it in the writer’s room. It was also a learning opportunity to as well because these ideas came from my head and I had to communicate it with 60 other people.

What are your plans for releasing it?

“60 people worked on this so it would be cruel if people didn’t watch it. We are currently looking at what festivals it can go out to. Obviously, there are a lot of horror festivals it would suit. YouTube would probably be the very last place we would stick it. We might even take the idea to screen Queensland.  I wouldn’t mind telling the idea again…”

Isabella Lee, Molly Humphries, Bailey Leis on set

TALKING MOVIES

What specific movies or shows inspired the Pallidura?

“The Babadook was a heavy one. I love the allegory of depression and grief. Oculus was another good one as well. The original idea was inspired by The Ring but I have never seen it, I have seen Scary Movie 3 though. I really like Jordan Peele’s movies, I’m on board for everything he does.

The Babadook

Are there any key writers and directors that inspire you?

“I love Tarantino. I was also watching Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul at the time and it’s where I got a lot of visual style from. Big fan of Spielberg but I didn’t use any of his techniques.”

What scares you personally when you watch horror?

“Not knowing. I hate jump scares and don’t find them scary. I just find them really annoying. I saw SPIRAL and that movie pissed me off because they just relied on loud noises. I also watched Dahmer and that had some terrifying moments, especially where the cops let a victim back in.

What is the worst thing people do at the cinemas?

Charlotte Chaffer-Brock, Nathan Simmons and Jude Buxton on set

Fucking talk. Shut the fuck up when you watch a movie! I watched Halloween Kills last year and there was these people who kept talking and saying they didn’t find it scary. I can’t stand in, don’t ask me about the plot.”

The Future

 Where do you want the Australian film scene to be in 5 years?

“The movies they are making are more aimed at the older target audience. Movies like The Dry and Red Dog are created for that age demographic. I just think there should be movies about a random thing that happens in an Australian city. Like the Matrix was shot in Sydney is a perfect example. Ultimately, they just haven’t hit me as a target audience yet.”

If a film genie came to you with one wish, what would it be?

“I would love to direct a feature. If I was funded, I would love to write, direct and edit a feature and show it in the cinema with my family and friends.”

What’s next for you?

Salty Dog Media. It’s my new business media company with Chris Radman where we make content for other people and we are open to collaborating with others.”

“Huge thanks to all the students involved in creating the Pallidura. Especially Abbey Rose who helped out as the series coordinator. Everyone should be super proud of what they have done. Can’t wait to show the world what all of us have made.”

All photos taken by Grace Newlands

Sam Cotton Wong and Nathan on set
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Article

The Most Underrated Australian Horror Movie Ever

“All the little devils are proud of hell”

When you hear the term “Australian horror” not much usually comes to mind. Maybe Wolf Creek, The Babadook, Rogue and potentially even Picnic at Hanging Rock. And while these films have their merits, I truly believe there is one that constantly flies under the rug. It is a film that I have never stopped talking about since I was 16. A film that Martin Scorsese himself raves about. A film that makes you feel so uneasy and uncomfortable it is almost hard to recommend – Wake in Fright.

Since most people reading this haven’t heard of Wake in Fright, I will give a small recap (I would honestly go watch it first though). Wake in Fright is a horror/ thriller directed by Canadian director Ted Kotcheff. It is about John Grant, an English school teacher living in a small town in 1970s Australia. On the holidays, he attempts to leave the town to visit Sydney. However, he gets stuck in Yabba – a tiny mining town – after gambling and drinking away his money.

Now hearing that may make you think that this film does not belong in the horror genre. But I think that’s exactly what makes it so special. It is not your stereotypical horror story about a killer or monster. Instead, the horror lies in the town, the people, and the situation.

Upon John’s arrival at ‘the Yabba’, it is very clear how much of an influence gambling has over this town. From the two up games to the obsession with the pokies, Kotcheff displays this horrifying hold that gambling has over people. Like a ghost, it possesses this small town and keeps them hooked.  And soon enough, it grabs John and takes a complete hold of him. John forgets his ambitions and dreams of making some quick money. But with any gambling addiction, the end is never pretty. John loses all the money he has worked so hard for and can no longer visit his girlfriend.

One of the smartest parts of this movie is the use of climate. In particular, the focus on Australia’s harsh and unforgiving heat. Every scene makes you feel like you are profusely sweating. The sun constantly beating down on our protagonist is draining both on John Grant and us. It effectively makes the audience constantly uncomfortable from the moment this movie starts. 

Wake in Fright reveals one of the most fundamental flaws of Australian culture – toxic masculinity. As John starts talking to Jannette, a man around the table says, “he would rather talk to a woman than drink?” Every woman in this movie is either insulted, used for sex, or abused. It reveals to us this dangerous but very realistic misogynistic attitude that exists deep down in Australian culture. A deep-rooted and horrifying perspective of women being inferior.

But perhaps the greatest horror of Wake in Fright is the portrayal of alcoholism. From John’s arrival in Yabba till the end of the film, he is force fed this poison. Declining alcohol in this town is the equivalent of slapping someone in the face. The physical queasiness this had on me was something I don’t often feel in films. It was such an accurate portrayal of the Australian drinking culture that I completely understand why this movie didn’t do well – people don’t want to see the truth. They don’t want to see an outsider expose their country’s biggest faults.

The Yabba is not simply a small outback Australian town. Instead, it is a hell. All these themes display a horrible and dangerous outlook on life. John Grant is trapped in a place that has drained him of any ambitions. A place that has transformed him into what he once hated most. John has been infected with this nihilistic perspective on life. What Kotcheff shows the audience is that this way of life is the horror. These views and substance abuse can lead to a wasted and toxic life, whether you realise it or not.

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Film Reviews

Marvel’s first step in the right direction – Werewolf by Night Non-Spoiler Review

Over the past three years, Marvel’s track record has not been the best. Out of the last five movies only one stood out for me. While the shows are entertaining, they are formulaic. More and more, I am hearing people bag on this universe even though they once loved it – something that is completely justified. In all honesty, Marvel is just losing its way. It has started to focus on quantity not quality.

But one week ago, I heard about a new movie coming out that would be a 50-minute Halloween special. Instantly, I was intrigued. The idea of Marvel doing something new and refreshing in their slate of films sounded incredible.  That film was none other than Michael Giachino’s Werewolf by Night.

Harriet Sansom Harris as Verussa in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

If you do not know what this film is about, I will quickly break it down (the marketing for this was rubbish so I’m assuming most of you don’t). Werewolf by Night is a 50-minute horror film set in the MCU directed by composer Michael Giachino. It is about a group of monster hunters who gather to hunt a creature to compete for an ancient relic.

The tone of this movie is incredible. Michael has balanced this campy and fun horror vibe with a little touch of the Marvel formula. While at times it could have dived more into the horror side, I loved the allusion to 50s’ horror movies. The black and white grainy film was an amazing choice and enhanced this call back. Even the slight moments of gore fit this movie perfectly and had me wincing.

One of the core reasons this movie works is the set design and style. Each location in Werewolf by Night is truly haunting. The maze especially is by far the best location Marvel has ever created. It feels like a cheap and tacky horror ride that you are on with the characters. As a result, the whole film is such a stark contrast to the MCU. There is no CGI planets or a greyed out New York. Instead, we are brought back to a classic real-life set.

Even the fight scenes in this film feel new and refreshing. Zoe White (DOP) uses light in this movie to make each fight scene look beautiful. The flashes of bright light keep the audience engaged and glued to the screen. And it doesn’t stop there. The rest of this movie looked gorgeous. Despite some dodgy VFX, Werewolf by Night reminded me how powerful black and white truly is.

The performances in this movie are excellent. Gael Garcia Bernal brings a whole new layer to this type of character I haven’t seen. He is so calming and casual in his role which is a perfect contrast as his character develops. Laura Donnelly was great, but I think her character needed a little more screen time. She didn’t have enough scenes to flesh her backstory and as a result it felt a little flat. On the other hand, Harriet Sanson was amazing. I love when an actor fully commits to being over the top and outlandish and that’s exactly what she did.

Should you watch Werewolf by Night

Yes absolutely. Wait until night, grab some popcorn and watch this film. It is a very fun and entertaining movie that I think is very important for the MCU.

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Film Reviews

Is Don’t Worry Darling that bad? (No Spoiler Review )

After years of drama, gossip and rumours Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling is finally here. Before the film was even released, it had been trashed for the performances and plot. This can instantly destroy a movie. Audiences go into the cinema jaded by reviews or potentially don’t even see it. So is Don’t Worry Darling as horrible as everyone says? Is Harry Styles’ performance that atrocious?

Don’t Worry Darling is one of the most beautiful looking films of the year. The cinematographer – Mathew Libatique – creates this pristine and elegant world. Every shot has the perfect light that accentuates this idyllic 1950s’ town. While the constant lens’ flares aren’t for me, I am 100% here for the world that he and Olivia Wilde have created.

Beautiful cinematography needs to be coupled with a well-constructed and tight plot. With a run time of 2 hours and 3 minutes, the audience must be kept engaged from the get-go. Unfortunately, I was not. I just found myself kind of bored in this movie. Scenes drag on for way for too long and once you figure out what’s coming, it just feels kind of bland. I know Olivia tried to include some moments to keep you hooked but they just weren’t enough. Ultimately, the beats of this story feel repetitive and dragged out.

What really failed for me in this movie was the horror. I understand it’s meant to be more psychological than physical, but it felt very flat. I cannot even recall some of the sequences because of how forgettable and repetitive it was. It didn’t feel like any new horror was brought to the table but instead just repeating what has been done in cinema for the last 30 years.

Florence Pugh certifies herself as an incredible actress. She is so talented at being scared that if all she did for the next 10 years was horror I wouldn’t mind. On top of this, Florence delivers some dodgy lines excellently. I truly believe she puts this film on her back and carries it to the finish line.

Now the backlash on Harry Styles’ performance is warranted – it’s not great. He isn’t even that bad it’s just that there are so many other talented actors out there who would have smashed this role. It always feels like he is trying to give an Oscar worthy performance by screaming and yelling a lot when it isn’t warranted and doesn’t make sense. In a movie this high budget and high concept, Harry doesn’t belong.

Everyone else is good. Chris Pine replicates this type of Andrew Tate man in a way that I haven’t seen in a film yet (no spoilers). Olivia Wilde shows off her comic abilities and adds this light-hearted touch to the film. Gemma Chan and Nick Kroll were amazing but just not in it enough. With all of Nick’s talents, he should have been in this film much more.

Before I go into spoilers, I want to highlight the soundtrack. John Powell has created a new and refreshing horror movie sound. Every time it played it made me genuinely remember to write about how good the music was. He has blended breathing, humming and music together to create a chilling horror theme that feels very different to everything being made right now.

!!!!SPOILERS!!! (RANT)

The twist in this movie is one of the most predictable and bland pieces of writing I have seen. 15 minutes into this film I had guessed what it was and spent the rest of the film praying it wasn’t that. The problem with Don’t Worry Darling is that the writer and director think they have this Sixth Sense level twist on their hands and spend the whole movie building up to it. But it isn’t. Instead, the audience should have been shown earlier what is going on and the rest of the film should have been her working it out and attempting to escape. Imagine if this film had a similar plot to the Truman Show but really focused on how horrifying and scary this situation is. There could have been stronger ties to abusive relationships and control instead of this washy garbage. There is just so much wasted potential for this high concept idea that really could have been something special.

Should you see it in cinemas?

No, this is definitely a streaming movie. While all the pieces are there, it ultimately just falls flat due to a predictable script. If Harry Styles wasn’t in this film, it would be on Amazon Prime right now.

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Film Reviews

Three Thousand Years of Longing Review

George Miller is back with his third film in 10 years. Mad Max, Babe, Happy Feet – all critically and financially successful and yet we rarely see his name pop up in the credits. So something big had to be next for Miller. And that ambitious film was none other than Three Thousand Years of Longing. A film so unique and different that it makes complete sense for Miller to direct. But was this film worth his return to directing? Does it live up to the hype of his previous films?

Three Thousand Years of Longing is a romantic / fantasy film written and directed by George Miller. It sees a lonely scholar – Tilda Swinton – who is granted three wishes by a Djinn (Idris Elba).   

Every time you go to the cinemas, you kind of know what you are already going to see. Between trailers and marketing, you have a pretty rough idea of what is coming. I was completely blindsided by this film. Three Thousand Years of Longing shocked me from beginning to end and that is for one core reason – the sound design.

I haven’t seen a movie as precise and careful with its use of music and sound in a long time (probably Mad Max actually). Each scene uses it so sparingly that it makes the audience glued to the world in front of them. Even the transitions between locations use natural sound to make the film flow. But what accentuates this creative choice is the writing.

George Miller and Augusta Gore have replaced music with a script that feels like a song. The dialogue has a perfect rhythm that makes this film flow. You almost forget the lack of music when the words spoken by Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba feel poetic. For a film about storytelling, Miller understands exactly what makes a story work. It is not about the visual elements but instead the spoken word and that is exactly why this narration works so well. And while these effects were striking, they were not what made me love this film. Instead, it was the movies core theme.

The emphasis on the importance of storytelling to humanity is a perfect golden thread and something that means a lot to me. Three Thousand Years of Longing not only reminds the audience on why we need stories to survive but also the different forms they can take. It accomplishes this through roughly 6 separate stories each more intriguing and different then the last. With different themes and messages, they will leave any audience wanting to spend more time in the mind of George Miller.

Like a song however, the film ebbs and flows. It did have moments where I lost interest and was not completely gripped by the story. I think it comes down to the run time. While an hour and 40 minutes is by no means a long film, I do think it could have been cut down. If this film was 15 minutes shorter, the pacing would have been fantastic. When so much time is spent in one location, it is pivotal that the audience is still hooked by the story and especially the actors.

(Spoilers)

Now I did like the performances of Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. In fact, I loved them. They both did an excellent job of displaying loneliness and how it affects people in different ways. Also, what stories can mean to people’s lives. Where their performances fell a little flat was in the chemistry. I never felt the love between them. While they bounce off each other well, the sudden turn in the story didn’t make sense for these characters. It felt like a sharp right turn in a direction I didn’t think these George Miller and these actors were going for.

Should you see this film?

Yes absolutely. It is a movie that will sit with you for days on end. Not only is it a completely original story but it is the craft of it that will keep you hooked. However, I do recommend going in expecting a slower pace and a different method to most Hollywood movies.