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The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Greatest Film Never Made?

How does one know thyself? When confronted by the realities of our station in life, how do we respond to them? Will we take advantage of what time we have left to fulfil the passions that burn within us?

These questions percolated in my mind as I read Tim Lucas’ novel The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes, a fictionalized account on the making of Roger Corman’s 1967 psychedelic opus The Trip – which first appeared in cinemas on this day 55 years ago.

Cover art by Charlie Largent.

The Subject

Cinemaverick: Corman in his element during the making of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967).

By the mid-1960s, Roger Corman, a top-tier producer/director for B-movie studio American International Pictures (AIP), had become dissatisfied by the constraints of his series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations starring Vincent Price. Endeavouring to make films that reflected the controversies of the times, his first attempt at such a movie, The Wild Angels (1966) – a biker drama starring Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, and Bruce Dern – was a major box office success. For its follow-up, Corman turned his attention to a particularly hot-button subject: lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD or acid.

Japanese poster for The Trip.

Directed from a screenplay by a long-time member of Corman’s talent pool, Jack Nicholson – better known today for playing a certain Clown Prince of Crime! – the resulting film, The Trip, follows disillusioned commercial director Paul Groves (Fonda) as he seeks to gain personal insight through an LSD trip: the first of its kind depicted in a motion picture. Guided by his guru friends John (Dern) and Max (Dennis Hopper), Paul witnesses a parade of sensual and terrifying imagery throughout his hallucinogenic odyssey that forces him to consider his place in the world, and especially his relationships with women; he is torn by his feelings for his wife Sally (Susan Strasberg), who he is soon to be divorced from, and Glenn (Salli Sachse), an acquaintance of Max’s with whom he feels a mutual attraction.

Alternately confounding, nauseating, sexy and funny, The Trip remains a thoroughly engrossing watch, marked by its rapid editing and depictions of nudity, both of which were considered ground-breaking for the time. Although its style and subject matter reflect key interests of the hippie movement (LSD was made illegal across the United States soon after its release, and the film’s portrayal of it prompted the British Board of Film Censors to ban the movie for 35 years), the film’s thematic underpinnings still carry weight decades after the Summer of Love. As someone who doesn’t have any experience with such drugs, I was pleased that the film wasn’t an excuse for flashy imagery, and that it grounded the psychedelic experience in human drama through its focus on whether Paul can form personal connections amidst the emotional turmoil of a divorce. Among those The Trip impressed upon its initial release was a young film buff from Cincinnati named Tim Lucas…

The Author

Lucas with his legendary tome Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. To say this guy knows his movies is putting it lightly.

A renowned film critic/historian with fifty years of professional writing experience, Lucas is best known for co-publishing (with his wife Donna) the pioneering home media review magazine Video Watchdog (1990-2017), and for writing the celebrated critical biography Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark (2007). He has provided audio commentaries on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of over 100 movies, covering not only most of Bava’s films and several of Corman’s, but works by directors as varied as Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Sergio Leone and Orson Welles. Lucas has also penned three published novels: Throat Sprockets (1994), The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula (2005) and The Secret Life of Love Songs (2021). A throughline that connects Lucas’ work is his focus on our capacity for experiencing and expressing love for each other. This is an appropriate motif, given the themes of Corman’s film and the story he has weaved about its creation.

In 2003, Lucas began writing a comical screenplay about the making of The Trip with his friend, writer/artist Charlie Largent. Their story was structured around Corman’s revelation that, despite not outwardly fitting in with the counterculture of the period, he prepared for the film by undergoing an LSD trip on the beaches of Big Sur, California, surrounded by colleagues who witnessed and recorded his observations.

Bill Hader, Corman and Joe Dante at the 2017 script-reading of The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes.

Although The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes was soon optioned by Corman’s protégé, Gremlins (1985) director Joe Dante, and it is set to be co-produced by SpectreVision (Elijah Wood’s production company), the film has yet to see the light of day. The closest the project has come to being actualized was a 2017 script-reading at the Vista Theater in Los Angeles, billed as “The Greatest Film Never Made”; reviews of the reading unanimously praised Bill Hader’s portrayal of Corman. These aborted attempts to make the movie inspired Lucas to rewrite Kaleidoscope Eyes as a novel, drawing on correspondence with Corman’s wife/producing partner Julie, and his long-time assistant Frances Doel, to expand the story beyond what was in the script, which by this time had undergone several revisions, including contributions from writers Michael Almereyda and James Robison.

Commentary

My personal collection of Lucas’ first three novels.

Lucas’ earlier novels are characterised by their unconventional approach to narrative structure. Primarily written from the first-person point of view of the protagonists, they frequently take unexpected turns into other modes of writing, including transcripts of film scenes and interviews (Throat Sprockets); diary entries, letters and commentaries written by characters years after the referenced events (The Book of Renfield, in the style of Bram Stoker’s Dracula); and songs (The Secret Life of Love Songs).

The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes continues this trend, albeit to a lesser extent than its forebears, by presenting its first four chapters out of chronological order, with chapter titles indicating the month and year in which the events take place: the story begins in November 1966, with Peter being awed by Jack’s script for The Trip, before flashing back five months earlier to Roger in the throes of post-production on The Wild Angels. It diverges from Lucas’ previous works by being his first novel to be largely written in a narratorial third-person style, with its only ventures into first-person occurring in Chapter 11, which chronicles Roger’s trip. As a reading experience, I would describe Kaleidoscope Eyes as Lucas’ most accessible novel, and appropriately his most cinematic.

The picturesque beaches of Big Sur, where Roger partook in his trip, became a major location for The Trip.

As with his earlier books, Lucas demonstrates meticulous attention to detail: his vivid overview of the changing cultural landscape in mid-60s Hollywood in Chapter 2 (which he describes as “the Summer of Foreplay before the Summer of Love”) infuses the location with a sense of excitement, where anything is possible and change is the law of the land. His imagination is on full throttle in his renderings of Roger’s trip, which are appropriately thoughtful yet bizarre. Consider the passage where Roger’s musings over the grains of sand that comprise Big Sur’s beach evolve into the observation that “God was a surfer”.

My personal copy of Reynold Brown’s poster art for X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.

Given the setting, comparisons to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) and its 2021 novelization are inevitable (Lucas has revealed that Tarantino was among the first to read Kaleidoscope Eyes’ script, and quickly voiced his desire to play the role of Roger’s friend, screenwriter Chuck Griffith). Like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which revels in its tributes to classic Hollywood TV shows, movies and Spaghetti Westerns, Kaleidoscope Eyes is full of references to Corman’s other films. These include his civil rights-themed drama The Intruder (1962) – the commercial failure of which makes Roger hesitant to make more “personal” films – and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), the poster art for which helps him devise an on-the-spot pitch for The Trip to his AIP bosses Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson.

Chuck Griffith about to meet his demise at the jaws of Audrey Jr. in The Little Shop of Horrors – a little movie that has left a large legacy.

I also spotted several funny references to The Little Shop of Horrors (1960): when Chuck tries to buy LSD from a dealer at Venice Beach, the dealer promises “Lots plants cheap”, a verbatim reference to a sign on Mushnick the florist’s wall, and Audrey Jr.’s catchphrase “FEED ME!” rears its head during Roger’s trip. The book is also packed with period detail (such as Metrecal, a predecessor to Sustagen that Roger drinks), and references to the music of such artists as Herb Alpert (“Spanish Flea”). As with the call-backs to Roger’s movies, these might throw off a reader unfamiliar with them, but Lucas’ fast pace allows 60s novices to get back on track to the heart of the narrative.

A scene from Corman’s pseudo-Poe film The Terror (1963) – described by Lucas as a “sorry-assed picture” – featuring Jack Nicholson and his then-wife Sandra Knight.

An advantage of the novel’s third-person approach can be seen in Lucas’ fleshing-out of the book’s cast. With a few exceptions, the supporting characters of his other novels tend to be abstract, in part due to the often-egotistical perspectives of the protagonists. Here, most of Roger’s friends and colleagues are clearly-defined, likable creatives who you want to see achieve success. Peter is a wide-eyed dreamer who wants to carve a legacy of his own, rather than simply being “Hank’s boy”. Jack is a hardworking, emotive artist who is frustrated by the bad hand life has dealt him thus far – his divorce from actress Sandra Knight inspires Paul and Sally’s split – but is determined to reward Roger’s friendship and trust.

Lucas gives Frances Doel (pictured in 2011), an overlooked member of Corman’s team, a chance to shine.

Appropriate given her background and Oxford education, Frances is very much the Alfred to Roger’s Batman, a sounding board as much as she is a faithful assistant. Chuck – who recalls Harry Connick Jr.’s portrayal of Dean McCoppin in The Iron Giant (1999) – is a cool beatnik who happily guides Roger through his trip despite his initial 600-page script for The Trip being discarded in favour of Jack’s more streamlined take. Another of Roger’s protégés, Peter Bogdanovich – whose directorial debut Targets (1968) is prominently foreshadowed by Lucas – is a sharp-witted dandy keen to make the leap from critic to filmmaker. In their brief scenes, Bruce and Dennis are intellectual, curious thespians eager to give Roger their best work in their performances as John and Max, and while he does not turn her into a fully-fledged character, Lucas offers a nice appreciation of Salli and her portrayal of Glenn.

The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood share much in common, but both are reflective of their authors.

Whereas Lucas’ previous novels can be described as ranging between melancholic or tragic in tone, Kaleidoscope Eyes is the first to demonstrate his lighter side, imparting a sense of optimism that shines through the darkness. It shares a view with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that, as long as you have friends in your corner and take risks, you can clear the hurdles Hollywood puts in your way.

What about Roger himself? Given the book’s generally light tone and its loving tributes to several celebrated talents, it might have been easy to make him an amiable everyman, a vehicle through which the story unfolds, but Lucas turns the maverick moviemaker into arguably his most complex protagonist yet.

Paul directs a commercial in The Trip. While Corman has admitted that Paul is something of a semi-autobiographical vehicle, Lucas demonstrates they aren’t one and the same.

In his audio commentary for Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Lucas notes that the heroes of many of the director’s films are truth-seekers. This is an attribute that also describes the leads of Lucas’ prior novels, and one which he applies to Roger, whose persona is defined by his incongruities: he has the dress-sense of an old fogey, the mind of a businessman, the heart of an explorer and the soul of an artist. Despite his personal tastes not lining up with those of his younger hippie colleagues, he is determined to accurately portray the psychedelic experience with as much realism as possible in the confines of a low budget, consulting Chuck and Jack about their experiences with LSD and extensively reading the works of such proponents of the drug as Dr. Timothy Leary in preparation for his trip and the film informed by it. Roger’s various faculties come into play in not only how he conducts his work – he views himself as a problem-solver who wants to work out “how to turn $300,000 into several millions” – but his love life.

Peter Fonda and Salli Sachse relaxing behind the scenes of The Trip. The relationship between their characters reflects the “real-life” drama Lucas reveals to us.

Reading through Lucas’ books, I have been struck by his consistent focus on the relationships between his main characters and the women in their lives. His stories cover a wide spectrum of how men interact with “the fairer sex”, including seeking a partner with mutual erotic interests (Throat Sprockets); experiencing the pain of unrequited love and the danger of seduction (The Book of Renfield); and discovering the duality between spouses and muses (The Secret Life of Love Songs). Here, Roger is depicted as a 40-year-old serial monogamist; although courteous and deeply attracted to women (“The Earth is a woman… and I am HUMPING HER!” he screams during his trip), he has trouble allowing them to embrace his multifaceted makeup. Despite having three different girlfriends over the course of the story, Roger’s behaviour is carefully portrayed by Lucas as not creepy or predatory, but indicative of someone who ends relationships as soon as it is clear they are not long-term.

Mr. and Mrs. Corman (pictured in 2010) – a co-production five decades in the making.

Paralleling Paul’s conflicted feelings for Glenn in The Trip, Roger is unsure about the deepness of his friendship with Julie Halloran, a researcher who shares his passion for problem-solving. He deliberately falls out of contact with her while preparing for the movie, fearing that she would not approve of his own “research”. The manner in which Lucas resolves this will-they-won’t-they dynamic not only does justice to the climax of The Trip, but the union they would eventually share together.

Lucas delivers two symbolic masterstrokes during Roger’s trip, which serve to convey his attitude to life: the constant, heightened ticking of his watch, and a “journey” into a giant rabbit-hole covered by screens showcasing every movie that has been, and will be, made. Unlike Paul, who is subconsciously ashamed of the commercialism of his chosen profession, Roger (in both the story and real life) has always embraced the artistic and commercial aspects of filmmaking. His determination to take advantage of what time he has left (in typically punctual fashion for Roger, his trip ends ahead of schedule!) has led him to not only push boundaries in his own movies, but also foster promising talents who might not have otherwise gotten the big break they needed. Indeed, numerous graduates of Roger’s informal “film school” would go on to become Oscar winners, including Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme and James Cameron.

“Art + business”: Corman seals a deal with Ron Howard for the latter’s directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto (1977).

And the ending? Well, although you can already find out about it online (Dante has already shot part of it as a form of “insurance”, and Ozploitation legend Brian Trenchard-Smith has told me that he was involved as a stand-in), I encourage you to discover its power – it’s a provocative capper that’ll leave you with those burning questions I asked at the start of this deep dive. Without giving too much away, it also neatly harkens back to both the ending of The Book of Renfield, and a phrase Roger may (or may not?) have uttered towards the end of his trip. This line, in turn, is a reference to a phrase claimed by Stephen King to have been uttered by Ray Milland’s character in an unedited version of the ending to X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

A fun, hauntingly beautiful tribute to one of the great craftsmen of the film industry and the power of his work, The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes earns my highest recommendation. I only hope it’s a matter of time before the rest of the movie version is made…

Oh, no! The author of this article accidentally dropped acid before taking this selfie… now he thinks there’s a bunch of go-go girls dancing to the tune of “Tomorrow Never Knows” within the camera lens!

The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes is available from PS Publishing at https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-man-with-kaleidoscope-eyes-hardcover-by-tim-lucas-5700-p.asp (print) and https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-man-with-kaleidoscope-eyes-ebook-by-tim-lucas-5829-p.asp (eBook). Signed copies of the book are available from Video Watchdog at https://videowatchdog.com/home/HTM/mwke.htm.

The Trip can be rented on Apple TV+ and is available on Blu-ray from UK distributor Signal One Entertainment at https://www.signal1entertainment.com/products/the-trip-blu-ray.

Watch the trailer for The Trip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWX_-rO-1nU

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Interview

A Conversation with Sam Monaghan

If you have been to any film festival in Brisbane, you will have seen Sam Monaghan’s face. AISLE 4, Follow that Taxi, It’s Christmas, Heist, Copperpillar, A Werewolf in Byron Bay – these are some of the many short films and web series Sam as acted in. On top of this, he is in Cheeky Moon’s upcoming web series It’s a Cult, is one third of HIRED GOONS and has been in Thor Ragnorak and Aquaman. Please do yourself a favour and watch some of these shorts at the bottom of this article.

Recently, I had the pleasure to go over to Sam’s house and have a chat. We dived into his career, his goals, all about film and in particular, the Australian film scene. It was one of the best conversations about this chaotic industry I have ever had. What was so refreshing was that Sam didn’t bullshit me. Unlike a lot of people in this industry, he told me how challenging this life truly is. But ultimately, Sam’s passion for film was always there. While it may have dipped, the love always came back stronger than ever. Read on for more.

A Brief Introduction

FRAZIER: Can you just introduce who you are and your many roles.

SAM: I feel like I am introducing myself from Hitchikers Guide – resident of planet earth…

I consider myself first and foremost a creative person. I love to act, enjoy writing and have done a whole bunch of other roles so I can do those things (producing, directing).

FRAZIER: So you produce to act essentially?

SAM: There’s not a lot of opportunities to act in Brisbane so you got to make your own work. You get to have a lot of fun and write some stupid roles like Half man half caterpillar.

FRAZIER: What is hired goons – for people who don’t know?

SAM: Hired Goons is a film production company. It was started before I joined by Pearce Hoskinson and Tim Goodwin who are very amazing creatives themselves. They started it in 2017 and the goal was to do corporate work to fund creative work. I joined in 2018/2019 just when their growth hit so I will say it’s a correlation not a causation. We used all that money – much to my wife’s dismay – to make stupid comedy films.

The Hired Goons team

FRAZIER: So, you had a career before film?

SAM: I left well-paying jobs to come do this. My wife didn’t marry into that when we were dating. I kind of just got fatter and more creative. But she’s highly supportive.

Sam’s Film Journey

SAM: I will kind of tell you the journey I have been on if you like?

FRAZIER: Yeah absolutely.

SAM: Back in 2014, my Mum had a big car accident. She was in a coma for about 4 months and in hospital for a year and a bit. I was doing this job I didn’t really care for. I thought “oh man, you could really die tomorrow.” Pretty cliché, but it was a wakeup call. I knew I wanted to do film and came in super bright eyed, and bushy tailed to the industry.

SAM: I was like 25 and all the other 25-year-olds were so jaded from auditioning for so long. I kept thinking “what are you guys upset about you get to do this!” Because of that, I had this energy at the start and was booking stuff. They were just sitting there waiting for the phone to ring and I was like “go make stuff.” I went through all that until I was jaded like them and burnt out…

SAM: Since then, I am now taking a long-term approach to my film and creative work. I have met some of the most creatively talented people who have been doing this work for 30-40 years and they are still striving. While it doesn’t sound inspirational or like any of the self-help books you read, the reality is that some of the most talented people never make a sustainable career out of their creativity. My goal is to have a fulfilling life while working on my creative outlets.

Sam Monaghan and Gabriel Stolz in It’s Christmas

The Process

FRAZIER: Your comedic timing in your body of work is excellent and so noticeably good. But has it improved over time or were you always like that?

SAM: I haven’t done any formal training. I did one semester of film at university when I first went. I think I have always had a natural inclination for timing and comedy. I used it in my family when I was growing up to diffuse a lot of tension which made me good at it. Weaponised comedy has been my approach to life outside of film. I use it to disarm people, test people, charm people.

FRAZIER: Can you dive into the Follow that Taxi feature film?

SAM: So Follow that Taxi, Peirce wrote into a feature film. We were lined up to shoot that in March. We raised an exceptional amount of money. You think, it’s just two people talking in a taxi and I then I read it and it was probably one of the best screenplays I have ever read. It was full of heart, hilarious, good rhythm, we cast it and produced it. And then, covid…. We looked at rescheduling it but we never knew when it was ending.

FRAZIER: What separates a good director versus a shit one for you in terms of talking with actors?

SAM: I think the very first thing you should do as a director, particularly if you have written it, is let go of your ideas. As soon as you get there, you got to let it go and see what they bring. It could be so much better then what you were thinking. Never direct an actor before they have done a take as well. And always let me improvise. You can cut it out later but you just got to let me get it out of my system.

FRAZIER: On that note, what separates a big Hollywood set versus an indie film. Excluding the money and budget?

SAM: I think it’s the same with any big business, the bigger you get the more care you lose. When you are an indie, you can be very nimble and adaptive. I was an extra on Thor Ragnarök. It was a weird experience. We were there for 6-8 weeks everyday which is unheard of.

FRAZIER: 6-8 weeks as an extra!?!

SAM: We were reshooting these group scenes constantly. I just think there’s more opportunities when you have more resources but having two much resource can limit your creativity.

FRAZIER: When you are first reading a script, what do you look for?

SAM: I want to see that someone understands plot, makes sense, the characters have real motivations. It’s not just meandering for no reason. On the other side, if it’s a sketch it just needs to be fuckin funny man. It must make me laugh and think that’s funny.

What’s next?

SAM: I have written a short that I am going to direct and put together in the next few months. It is absurd. It’s one of my favourite scripts because of how dumb it is. It is such a waste of people’s time.

FRAZIER: Is that how you are going to get them in? “It’s a waste of your time”

SAM: Well… it’s about an oom-pah Loompa who gets diagnosed with diabetes. It’s just tragic and straight. There’s a lot of puns in the first scene but it’s just funny because it’s so sad. I even had a friend graciously make me an entire miniature oompah Loompa set out of paper Mache. She took a year and a half to do it..

Sam Monaghan on A Werewolf in Australia

FRAZIER: Holy fuck.

SAM: Yeah, it was a crazy amount of work, but it looks sick.

FRAZIER: So, it’s got to win an oscar now.

SAM: Yep… I am also in a couple of short films coming up. I just did It’s a Cult with Cheeky Moon.

FRAZIER: Oh yeah, I recently did an interview with them. Can you talk about working on that set with Alastair and Claire a little?

SAM: Alastair and Claire are two of the most incredible people I have ever met. That’s it, that’s all I have to say… Nah, it was such a delight because I came from being exhausted and burnt out from film work. It’s a Cult came, and it was so refreshing. It is just beautiful. It’s heartfelt and funny. I got to be a bit straighter and more serious.

FRAZIER: I was talking to Cheeky Moon about your comedy skills, and they were saying how incredible you were as a dramatic actor. Especially some really challenging scenes.

SAM: Well that’s what I found so exciting about it because I had been stuck in Comedy for so long. My character in this show had real feelings. I got to focus on the moment and being a part of something so moving.

FRAZIER: In terms of working with directors, who is your dream person to work with or project to get off the ground?

SAM: To start with, I would make the Follow that Taxi Feature film because that was such a blow and I need that closure. I would love to work with Ricky Gervais and Robin Williams I would die to work with. I would have to now as well. What is the right answer though?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

FRAZIER: Fuck it’s a hard question aye.

SAM: Yeah told you ya prick.

FRAZIER: Probably Edgar Wright though…

SAM: Oh fuck yeah that’s definitely the right answer. Hot Fuzz is probably my favourite comedy as well.

FRAZIER: Or Martin McDonagh. He is my favourite writer.

SAM: Oh my god of course! Best writer for sure.

The Brisbane Film Scene

FRAZIER: This is always a challenging one, but where do you want to see the Brisbane film scene move. Even if you just change it or just progress it.

SAM: A long time ago, I was passionate about it. I always thought, I am going to change this place. Hired Goons goals was to showcase the talent here. Now that I am old and jaded, I don’t give a fuck about Brisbane.

FRAZIER: Hahahaha. See I am like you were before you were jaded.

SAM: You will get their kid, you are just a boy… But I would still love to see it grow and expand. If I ever do get traditionally successful, I will never forget Brisbane. I would love to come back and do indie projects.

Make sure to go check out Sam’s short films below. Whether he is acting, directing or producing, they are truly some of the most entertaining and hilarious productions I have ever seen.

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Interview

Making an Indie Romance – An interview with Charlie Baz

Charlie Baz is a Brisbane based writer, director, and actor. He is a co-creator of a new production company known as 2nd Circle Studios whose focus is on creating work that is story driven. 2nd Circle studio’s film show reels and promotion for people looking to get their work made. Through this, Charlie has written and directed an upcoming romance known as It’s nice to meet you. Talking with Charlie reminded me why I love interviewing creatives – seeing how passionate artists are about their projects. I am extremely excited to dive into this interview because of how enthusiastic Charlie truly is.

Emily Crow, Charlie Baz and Ethan Waters

What is It’s nice to meet you?

“It’s fancy boys’ night and Chris falls in love again. Will she be the one? This story is a classic love story that is very close to my heart. I wrote it from how I have interpreted romance my whole life.”

Where did this idea come from?

“A few years back, I had this very deep crush and fascination with this girl. I kind of based it around what that could look like. It is not a real story, but it came from real feelings.”

Why should people see this film?

Emily Crow and Ethan Waters

“Everyone loves a romance. Even if you don’t, there is something so sweet about watching people fall for each other. It also looks amazing, and I can only thank Jarod, our DOP, for that (Jarod Woods). The music is also stunning as well – written by Natalie Ferris. “

“It’s also short, so it will take you 15 minutes if you watch it twice…”

Biggest challenge of making an indie short film?

“Postproduction. I was editing it and I now know why a director shouldn’t edit their own films. There is so much technicality and obsession with getting everything perfect.”

“All in all, it was just praying that it would work. Just hoping it would translate from script to screen.”

Jarod Woods and Charlie Baz on set

Charlie’s Writing Process

How long was this idea bouncing around in your head?

“Honestly, subconsciously, forever. I started writing this short film in 2020. It was very boring and a clinical romance film. Something that came off that was “is that how I interpret romance?” I just realised the relationship to romance and love in my own life and I think that brought out the feeling that this film brings. “

How long did it take you to sit down and write?

“It was never really done. I could always go back and rewrite it. But probably like 6-7 months of proper rewriting.”

“When I’m drunk and out with friends, I will write on a scrapbook a lot. I will think of a moment, open my notes, and write it. The next day I look at it and think why was this anything.”

How did you put yourself into the script?

“Its quite a raw snapshot of me a year ago. Even when I was directing it, it’s like I was directing something so close to my heart.”

When you are writing, how do you keep focused when writing?

“I kind of don’t…”

“I really enjoy writing and telling stories. I want to do that for a living. I use distraction to help me write. I try and write a page a day. I will then take a break for a few days and when I come back it’s like I was too in it.”

What are the core challenges of writing a romance?

“Making the characters interesting. I look at films like La La Land where both characters are interesting and feel like distinct people with personalities. The struggle is writing an interesting relationship and not interesting characters.”

How has an acting background helped with writing and directing?

“I direct people how I would want to be directed. I came from a place of just talking a lot. From a writing perspective, we were reading so many monologues and scripts. You get a gauge of what you actually like.

What are your final goals with It’s nice to meet you?

Liam Wallis on set

“I think my dream for this film is for people to see it. For me, I want it to work as a proof of voice. I want it to be accepted into festivals but that’s also not the end of the world for me.”

Favourite movie, director, and show?

“My favourite film is easily La La Land. I do love Damien Chazelle. I really really love Bertie Gilbert. He makes lovely short films. My favourite show is Normal People, it’s just a bloody beautiful show that doesn’t need to be recreated or touched.”

If you could choose your dream project to make or be apart of, what would it be?

Bertie Gilbert

“Working with Bertie Gilbert would be amazing. Acting or on crew. I also have this short, long film idea. It’s a story about a band who is on the verge of breaking up. I really want to be able to do that with crowds and mosh pits. Honestly though, just being able to go to work and make cool stuff with my mates, that’s all I need.”

Where do you want to see the Brisbane film scene move in the next 5 years?

“The film scene in Brisbane is pretty good. I would love for more of a community involvement. Its very insular, in its own little section that is pushed off to the side. I would love for more people to get amongst it.”

“With Australian films, a lot of the time it is the same stories. A bushman, small town, someone who needs to belong, a murder etc. It can be interesting – Baby teeth – but I would like to see more films that don’t have an Australian feel to it.”

The crew of It’s nice to meet you

The short film is out this Friday July 15th on the 2nd Circle Studios YouTube Channel. Make sure to like it and share around this incredible project.

Categories
Film Reviews

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER REVIEW

Thor Love and Thunder is finally here. Now I’m not going to bother with the whole spiel about who directed this and the cast and the plot and the blah blah blah. We all know who Thor is and we all know who made this film. At this point, Taika Waititi feels like he owns Hollywood. He is in every film; can choose any project he wants and seems to have complete creative control over his movies. Now I love his other films. Jojo Rabbit, Boy and Hunt for the Wilder People are incredible, but I was never that obsessed with Thor Ragnarök. Going into Thor 4, I was hoping he would prove me wrong. Unfortunately, he didn’t. Let me explain…

Too Wacky

Taika Waititi has been building up how crazy and silly this movie is for years. In every interview, he goes on about being surprised what Marvel let him do – after seeing it, it’s certainly not a flex. There is certainly some weird shit, but it honestly never felt true to the story or character. It just seemed like Taika wanted to go as crazy as possible just to be different. Its like he was so focused on being weird and wacky, he forgot to write an interesting story and compelling characters.

The fundamental problem with this is the number of fucking jokes. I’m all for a strict comedy and I love Taika’s humour but in this it felt so draining. Even in dramatic moments, he seems intent on making everyone be as stupid and idiotic as possible. I cannot remember a single scene that just lets the characters feel real and authentic. This is so disappointing because Taika is one of the best directors and writers when it comes to dramatic moments. In all his films, he has these scenes that really punch you in the heart. But for Thor, I cannot think of a single one…

Acting

There is some big fucking names in this film, and everyone is doing something completely different. Chris Hemsworth is as good as ever. His comedic timing is excellent and is as sexy as ever. However, he doesn’t seem to push the character in the right direction (This probably isn’t his fault). In this film, it feels like Thor has taken a step backwards instead of forwards. He has returned to that same destructive idiot we see in the first film. I think it would have been much more engaging to focus on a Thor who was really depressed, had PTSD and had given up fighting. They touch on it a bit but don’t dive into it as much as I would have liked.

Christian Bale holy fuck man. He is taking 50 shots and making 40 of them. Bale absolutely goes for it in this film, and I am here for it. He has some really heartbreaking and dramatic moments that only work through his performance. On the other side, Christian can be so terrifying when he chooses to be. It’s so refreshing to see an MCU villain that actually feels scary and has a purpose in their movie. I have a theory that he took some inspiration from working with Heath on Batman. Both characters take up so much of the screen and make it their film. Essentially, they bring something new to the villain stereotype that we haven’t seen before.

Pictured: Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher

Natalie Portman…  I hate shitting on actors I know are talented but what the fuck happened here. Natalie Portman is an amazing actress who has some deep range. Unfortunately, comedy is not included. She is so talented at dramatic acting but whenever she tries to be funny in this film it is hard to watch. I have a slight tingle that a lot of these lines were forced improv and you can see how forced and unnatural it is for her. Other then that, her fight scenes are amazing and she really sells being a Thor.

Action (minor spoiler)

There is a lot of action scenes in this film and all of them are pretty forgettable. Sure, Taikia has a striking 80s style he injects into Thor but the choreography or set pieces never really stuck out to me. Except for one scene…

The fight on the Moon planet. What a fuckin fight scene. Choosing to make it black and white was a perfect decision. The way the light from the hammers shines in the bleak darkness and how contrasted and stylised this world is (Chefs Kiss) is so refreshing. Marvel always gets a lot of shit for its bland colour palette, and I think Taika knew that. By taking away all colour, it is actually more effective then just dumping a bunch of it in like the rest of this film.

The MCU

I know I talk about the MCU a lot and that is for one key reason – it’s the biggest thing in the world. The MCU is pumping out so many shows and movies its even hard for me to keep up. And I truly believe this affects Thor a lot. If Thor love and Thunder came out 5 years ago, I would be praising this film and so would critics. But there is so much superhero content that is all equally good that films now have to be a 10/10 movie to stand out.  Remember Shang Chi, Eternals and Black Widow? I don’t at all. Not necessarily because they are bad but because there is so much of this being pumped out. I remember the Batman. That is because it’s a crime film first and a superhero movie second. Thor just feels like another superhero movie with some wacky moments and a lot of jokes.

Should you watch Thor Love and Thunder in cinemas?

Yes absolutely.  This film is still a very entertaining and engaging movie but as Scorsese says, it is just a theme park ride. There is no memorable scenes or heartbreaking moments. Honestly, if the story was a bit more complex and layered, this film could be so much more. There is to much focus on getting from point a to b and not on exploring these once interesting characters.

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Article

La La Land – Jazz, Love and Everything In Between

“I think about that day, I left him at a Greyhound station West of Santa Fé.”

From its very first line Damien Chazelle’s La La Land introduces the core dilemma of not only its characters, but countless creatives everywhere; the things we sacrifice for our dreams. This sacrifice is played out in the beautiful but heart wrenching story of a struggling jazz pianist and an aspiring actor, played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone respectively, who meet and fall in love while pursuing their dreams in Los Angeles.

And what a Los Angeles it is. Damien Chazelle paints a rich portrait of the city and its duality for those who pursue their ambitions there. La La Land’s Los Angeles depicts itself as a technicolour dream world right from the opening number, only for this illusion to come crashing back down as soon as the music stops, leaving behind a still beautiful, yet callous Los Angeles. Chazelle walks a fine line between romanticising the city and showing the reality of living there, never sugar coating how cruel Hollywood can be, but still managing to depict the beauty that the characters see in it when viewed through the lens of their dreams and aspirations.

For Sebastian, played by the always impeccable Ryan Gosling, that dream is jazz. Seb’s main goal in life is to open a jazz bar in the city where he can play whatever he wants, for as long as he wants, as long as it is pure and true jazz. The only issue – Jazz can never really be pure and true, even though Seb would never admit it. Seb is a firm believer in the idea that ‘Jazz is dead’, a saying common among jazz elitists who think that, unless you’re playing Miles Davis to a tee, you’re not playing jazz. For a genre where one its most influential pieces is literally called Giant Steps, this belief is a bit limiting to say the least.

Jazz thrives on experimentation and growth, and while they mightn’t sound like a Coltrane quartet, artists like Kamasi Washington and BBNG are proving with every new release that Jazz is anything but dead. Regardless, to Seb, Jazz is in need of saving and he is willing to face conflict and compromise and everything in between to be the one who saves it. To him, the dream of owning a jazz club and saving the genre, is beautiful, perfect and very, very exciting.

Doubtlessly, just as exciting for Damien Chazelle, was being able to include this reflection on Jazz into a film of his own. An ex-drummer himself, it’s easy to see how big of a role the genre has on Chazelle as an artist, with him and his frequent collaborator, Justin Hurwitz, including elements of the genre in every score they compose, from their breakout hit Whiplash to their earlier student film Guy and Madeline on a Park bench.

It’s not just a novelty either, as in every film they make, Jazz is the perfect choice for their soundtrack, style and setting; La La Land is no exception. Jazz is, in its DNA, inherently a genre about dreaming, moving forward from traditional forms of music, chasing improvisation and energy, following the emotion of what this sequence, what this half-second  of music could be. It’s an electrifying genre that sets the perfect stage for the development of La La Land’s story and style. That is until something else joins the fray. A new tune, a new sound, a new player in the composition and a new dream for both Sebastian and Mia, love starts to blossom.

Who isn’t a sucker for love? It’s easy to act like a snob who hates anything that could be considered a rom com, but deep down, even if we never admit it, we’ve all watched that one trashy Adam Sandler film way too many times. Love in rom coms and the majority of films on the gilded Hollywood screen is perfect, heart-warming and entirely constructed. The romanticisation of ‘love’ as  a concept is a well-known issue in cinema and narratives as a whole, with a large majority of movie going audiences at least unconsciously aware of the questionable reality of Hollywood love.

And yet, you’d be fooling yourself if you said you’d never found yourself wishing to find someone with a boombox outside your window, someone to tell you that ‘you’ll always have Paris’, that you ‘complete’ them. Everyone wants Hollywood ‘true’ love, whether they admit it or not. The reality is though, that ‘love’ only exists in the sometimes.

I don’t know whether I’m qualified to say it but sadly for those of us that dwell in the real world, happily ever after isn’t a possibility, hell even ninety minutes of enemies to lovers followed by a fade to black isn’t going to happen. In real life, love, as written by Hollywood, is harder to catch than that. But it can be caught, and that is what La La Land is so adept at doing.

In real life, that look, that touch, that kiss, are the only moments of Hollywood magic that make it into our mundane lives, and La La Land understands this, telling its viewers that if you want to find Hollywood love in reality, you have to look for the magic in the moments. By using old school Hollywood mainstays, musicals, tap sequences, Chazelle creates moments of acknowledged unreality to portray the reality of love. Love isn’t a rom com. Love is, walking past your car to get a few more minutes of chatting in, touching hands in a cinema, dancing in between shimmering stars. Love is a dream, shared by two people, and it is beautiful. But you can’t dream two things at once. So what happens when that love clashes with your dreams for the future? Cue the epilogue.

Five years after parting ways both Mia and Sebastian have made their dreams a reality, with Mia ordering coffees from her old work before being driven off to set in her own personal golf buggy, and Seb fine tuning the keys on his very own Jazz club’s piano. By a twist of fate, Mia manages to stumble upon Seb’s club and is dragged in by her husband to listen to just one song.

Seb spots Mia as she takes a seat and the two share a look that tells you everything about their past five years. You can practically hear the voices in their heads running rampant, going over every ‘what-if’ scenario, every scrap of connection, and conflict that brought them to this very moment. Seb takes a seat as his piano. He plays three notes. The world stops.

Suddenly we are rocketed back to Mia and Sebastian’s first meeting, to a different reality where a kiss starts the couple on a whole new dream, in a whole new Los Angeles that is just as stunning as a musical and everything that could go right, does.

A melody of every love motif, date song, and moment of musical passion from the film plays as Mia and Sebastian dance, hand in hand, from beautifully dressed sound stage to sound stage, each set depicting a defining moment in their relationship that, in this technicolour dream world, goes exactly the way they wanted it to. Mia aces her audition, leading to the two weaving in between waves of back up dancers as they make their way to Paris, kissing under the Eiffel tower. Seb opens up his jazz club ‘Chicken on a Stick’ and plays his heart out, while Mia gets made up for her leading role, coming back together at night to wander the streets of Paris, hand in hand, a portrait of true love.

After yet another dance in the stars, the pair sit down to watch their life together play out on a cinema screen showing their home movies. Moments of real-life magic, true love, flicker on the screen, the pair living happily ever after as a family, with all their dreams a reality. Finally the lovers wander the streets of Los Angeles, finding their way into a Jazz bar. And suddenly we are back to reality. Seb plays the tune out. He looks up at Mia from his piano. She knows exactly what he played. A song of dreams, jazz, love, and everything in between. Their song. Mia smiles. Seb smiles back.

Mia follows her husband out of the club and Seb starts on another song. They each return to their lives, their dreams made reality, knowing what could have been but still being happy in spite of it. That’s what the film has to say about the things we sacrifice for our dreams. That is the creative struggle. That is Damien Chazelle’s La La Land.

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Interview

How to get your web series made? – an interview with cheeky moon

I was lucky enough to interview Cheeky Moon’s own Claire Coe and Alastair Craig. The writing, filmmaking and sketch comedy act are based in Brisbane and have seen plenty of success already. They have been featured on Funny or Die, the ABC and film festivals all around the world. But perhaps at the centre of this is their upcoming movie length comedy series IT’S A CULT. As soon as I saw this announcement, I knew an interview with them would be perfect for 44 Clovers. We dove into their upcoming show, the struggles along the way and the teams writing process. Also, becoming viral in a nudist community…

What is IT’S A CULT?

“It’s an 8-part comedy web series with a healthy dose of drama. It begins as an anthology about 4 different vulnerable people – a former master chef contestant turned crook, a writer and a couple struggling with infertility. All these people converge on this self help pseudo-scientific organisation which is run by a literal puppet.” – Alastair

Where did this idea stem from?

“I have always been interested in cults (as a non-cult member). In particular, the stresses of running a cult like the office side of it. Alastair and I met and worked for 6 or 7 years now, and we really wanted to write a narrative together. We both loved PT Anderson and how he made Magnolia, splitting facets of his personality into the work.” – Claire

Biggest struggles and problems of creating a web series by yourself?

“Filming wise, it is getting a lot of busy people into the same space at the same time. I also had just had a new born baby…“– Alastair

“For writing, keeping track of structure, pacing reveals, and especially keeping the balance of drama and comedy was fun but definitely took a lot of time. Also, in production, we were shooting through covid, wearing masks, and socially distancing.” – Claire

What are your goals for releasing It’s a Cult!?

 “Our plan is to put it on YouTube. We explored potentially pay walling, but we realised we just want as many people to see it as possible. We do hope to rent out a cinema and make a large scale event since it is feature length.” – Alastair

What shows, writers or directors were big inspirations going into this project?

“I consumed a lot of West Wing, especially the back end of it. I wanted this Sorkin rhythm to it. Also, Mad Men. Even though I am never in the mood to watch it, I always think, I have never seen a scene like that. It never feels cliché and the trajectory, dialogue and emotions always surprises me.” – Claire

“The main character we were writing had a kind of Fleabag energy to it. It feels like a cliché now but we constantly took that show to heart and compared our show to Fleabag. Phoebe Waller Bridge said that when the audience’s mouths are the widest with laughter cram down the drama. That’s something we definitely took to heart because there is a lot of drama in this series.” – Alastair

Why should audiences pay attention to this web series?

“We hope the strange energy of it is something that compels people. It is a genuinely surprising show. There are comedic episodes, dramatic episodes, experimental episodes. We really hope people are going to enjoy that unpredictability and that ride. And also PUPPETS.” – Alastair

“We also include a lot of our own personal struggles. It’s so worth while to explore our own anxiety and depressions. You just hope people connect to these ideas and feel a bit better.” – Claire

Cheeky Moon’s Writing Process

How many hours a day were writing during the peak period?

“I write everyday personally. And we write together 2-3 times a week.” – Claire

“It took a solid year to get from new parent to a functional writer again.” – Alastair

Do you challenge with keeping focused and how do you combat this?

“Writing together is definitely a huge tonic to this. If one of us isn’t feeling motivated, we can bring it to the other person, and they can find what works. I have been very lucky to have such a talented writing partner that I am accountable to. But if you find the right partner it offsets a lot of the problems of being a solitary writer.” – Alastair

“I’m not good with the internet…” – Claire

How did you know It’s a Cult was finished?

“I probably didn’t when we were writing. I was constantly and constantly revising. Writing was quite intuitive, we really wanted to consider each character as they all go through a lot of grief and heart ache. We just wanted to do right by each character.” – Claire

“We just kept polishing scripts up until we were filming. I do remember when we wrote the final scene, and we could finally put full perspective and context on the characters journeys. The sense of closure on nailing that scene was amazing.” – Alastair

Cheeky Moon went viral in a nudist community. Please explain?

“Actual nudist communities thought that what we did was an example of a healthy message. As a result, they shared it around nudist communities where it gained a following. We also entered into a clothing optional film festival in Texas where it won best nudist film despite being completely censored. It ended up just being a tagline we use for marketing now.” – Alastair

Advice for people wanting to write / perform comedy but are afraid of diving in?

“I think I am a poster child for shy and awkward person who thinks their funny who took the leap into comedy even though I was super anxious socially. But if you think you are funny and if you are at you’re day job and you are not doing it because you are making little videos or cant help but be funny you are probably onto something.” – Claire

“Consuming as much great comedy as possible from as many sources as possible. Armando Iannucci, Shaun Micallef, Mitchell and Webb are all people we keep referring back to for great energy. Just asking what they do and dissecting sketches on a technical level. It’s impossible to not to get something great from asking these questions.” –  Alastair

Where do you think the future the future of film in Brisbane will be and where do you want to see it in 5 years?

“It would be great if it felt like a larger world. There are so many extraordinary people out there and it would nice if they made it to the film industry. Casting far and wide would also be a wonderful thing because there are just so many comedians laying low. I just want it to be bigger and as exciting and unpredictable as possible.” – Alastair

“Definitely more recognition. The crew were super talented and funny, and it would just be nice to see more attendance.” – Claire

Dream project you could work on or get off the ground?

“I have always wanted to reboot the Jurassic Park franchise…” – Claire

“The dream would be for Shaun Micallef to adopt us and put us into his writer’s room as his adult children. “ – Alastair

Any advice you have for filmmakers for getting stuff started and made?

“We live in this age where you can just make it yourself. We have had far less luck with funding bodies or grants or competitions then we have with just putting a little of our money into productions and putting it onto Youtube.” – Alastair

“Its very much a team project. If you meet someone whose taste you admire, just ask them. If they say yes in a committal way, follow it up.

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Film Reviews Uncategorized

Jurassic world dominion is not as bad as you think (review)

I honestly had no intention of seeing Jurassic World Dominion. The Jurassic Park franchise is just one of those things I don’t really care about (like a lot of people with Star Wars). The first movie is great but after that, there all pretty much the same aren’t they? On top of this, the film is getting eaten alive by critics (no pun intended). Every reviewer I watch is slandering the film for the same shit. Nevertheless, on a cold Monday night, I filled up my water bottle with a special orange juice (probably impacted the review) and saw Jurassic World. And honestly, its not as bad as everyone is saying.  

I do not understand what critics are expecting going into this film. Citizen Kane with dinosaurs (no stealing this idea)? Jurassic World Dominion is exactly what I expected for a modern blockbuster about dinosaurs living in our world. An overly convoluted plot, good action, dumb one liners, average acting and some pretty rough jokes. It is not a good movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. There are some parts I really did enjoy and a lot I didn’t. Let me explain.

Action versus Plot

The action and set pieces in this movie is underrated. There are some sequences in this film that are really good. They were creative, thrilling and used the dinosaurs in an interesting way.  The motorbike chase with the raptors was exactly what I wanted from this movie. Even that whole criminal underbelly was so visually interesting. It felt like every corner was filled with something new to look at and reminded me of the Moss Cantina in Star Wars. Also, the sequence where Bryce Dallas Howard is escaping from the big dinosaurs is great (they should’ve held on this moment for longer.)

The problem is that it is surrounded by one of the most bland and overcomplicated plots I have seen in a while. I would start zoning out whenever these exposition dumps came up because they just don’t need to be there. A MOVIE ABOUT DINOSAURS DOES NOT NEED A COMPLICATED PLOT!! Hollywood has this obsession with having to justify everything for audiences. People come to these movies for action and dinosaurs. The plot should be super super simple and entirely focus on these two elements (John Wick is a good example).

Inconsistent Actors

Chris Pratt in this film is very disappointing. Maybe it’s the writing or his political beliefs or god knows what but he just isn’t the Pratt we used to see. He has no jokes, charisma or charm that audiences loved from him in Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Rec or even the first Jurassic World.  I know he is capable of it so it just doesn’t make sense why his performance and character is so bland and one dimensional.

On the other hand, Jeff Goldblum is fucking incredible. Every line he delivers in this is just funny. Its like no matter what he says it made the audience laugh. He has this delivery that feels so natural and I think its because he improvises most of his lines to suit himself. What’s weird is that he is only utilised in the last act of this film. The whole movie should’ve been written around him! Goldblum should’ve been like Nick Fury – recruiting everyone to try and save the dinosaurs.

Everyone else is solid. Bryce Dallas Howard and Laura Dern are amazing at acting scared and always interesting to watch. The villain of this film is bit of a disappointment. Campbell Scott’s performance is unique and I get that he was going for this bumbling CEO out of his depth but he should have some shade of evil to him. I really liked Dewanda Wise. She felt like an 80s action star just taking over the film with this appealing self-assuredness.

 VFX / Puppets

JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION

The VFX in this movie are incredible. I never once questioned if the dinosaurs were real until the film was over. I think audiences just expect that these days and don’t appreciate how hard that truly is to do. Every dinosaur, every backdrop, every single thing was consistently amazing. Most modern blockbusters have some very dodgy CGI at times (Marvel movies especially) but Jurassic World’s budget was used excellently.

I loved the use of puppets in this movie. While it was clear they were puppets, it is still so entertaining to watch. Seeing how they make them look realistic is mind blowing and more movies should be using as much puppetry as possible. Even if it does look obvious on a digital camera.

Should you see Jurassic World Dominion?

Honestly, unless you love this franchise you could wait until it comes onto streaming. I do think it is worth seeing for the action and Jeff Goldblum alone but there are huge chunks that could put you to sleep. Maybe just bring some special juice and you will be fine.

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Why Netflix’s newest film Spiderhead doesn’t work? (Minor Spoilers)

After Top Gun’s huge opening around the world, director Joseph Kosinski returns with Spiderhead. The sci fi / thriller stars Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller and was released by Netflix yesterday. Alongside all of the film nerds out there, I was very excited for this, for one key reason – Joseph Kosinski and Miles Teller teaming up again. Unfortunately, Spiderhead is not even on the same playing field as Top Gun. Let me explain.

Pick a Genre

Spiderhead has a couple core problems that I believe if they were fixed, would make this movie very very good. The first one being the weird tone that is trying to be balanced. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are amazing comedic writers (Deadpool, Zombieland). In this film, they seem intent on inserting jokes as much as possible. Moments of high drama and tension are ruined by weird lines that don’t fit and poor music choices. I truly believe that if Spiderhead kept a simple dramatic / thriller tone it would completely change this film. Lately, every Hollywood movie has this need to be “funny” and “witty” where it doesn’t even work. Creating genre pieces is good and should be done more.  

Chris Hemsworth is good in this. He is solid but not amazing and it is absolutely not his fault. He is playing a standard charismatic / manipulative antagonist. The problem is that I was never afraid of his character. He never felt like a villain and there is so much room for him to be a terrifying two-faced force of evil. Instead, they give us Chris Hemsworth just playing Thor for 2 hours. YAY…. Once again, the writers seem intent on making him funny and charming. Just imagine if in the first 30 minutes he was all fun and games and then slowly we see cracks of this evil and crazy man.

Predictability

As with Top Gun Maverick, Spiderhead is extremely predictable. With Top Gun it doesn’t matter because the action carries it but with Spiderhead, it has nothing keeping me glued to the screen.  There is some twists in this film and while I didn’t necessarily guess all of them, I didn’t care. They happen but don’t really affect the outcome of the movie. More weirder and creepier shit needs to be going on in this film. There is nothing in Spiderhead that is keeping me guessing or intrigued.

Even the shooting and colour grading of this film is generic. It has this boring look where I feel there is so much creative space to explore. The whole complex was even mundane. Kosinski constantly just cuts to these overhead shots of the facility with some pop music on top that gets very tiring very quickly. Maybe it was the studio, but I don’t understand why a simple script like this one does not have a bold and engaging style to it. Missed opportunity.

FRAZIER’S PITCH (Spoilers)

Now its time for a new segment called Frazier’s pitch. I will explain how I wish this film was done. I don’t want to sound like arsehole because I know nothing about filmmaking. This is just what I wish I saw.

First things first, Spiderhead should’ve been a strict sci fi / thriller. As a result, we could have focused more on the program and characters and less on shitty jokes. The whole Spiderhead program should have also had more suspicious activity going on so that the audience is always guessing. Essentially, more creepier clues that Jeff and Rachel slowly uncover. For example, belongings from previous patients, body parts etc etc. The reveals about Jeff and Rachel’s past should have been done earlier on as well because it had this big build up and was very underwhelming. In addition, the whole B6 drug and program needs more of a backstory. But what is most important is the tone and style. If Spiderhead had a unique look and feel to it I guarantee you critics would be raving about it. Instead of feeling like Michael Bay’s the Island, it could have been like Ex Machina. Yes exactly, a big difference.

Should you watch Spiderhead?

I very rarely say this because I enjoy most movies, but you can probably miss this one. It is so bland and formulaic that I don’t think a modern audience will leave being grateful they watched it.

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Something Completely New: The Wolf of Snow Hollow Review

The Wolf of Snow Hollow came out in 2020 (I know I’m late, don’t @ me). It is a comedy / horror / drama directed and written by up-and-coming filmmaker Jim Cummings. The film is about murders in a small town that may or may not be by a werewolf. It is not what I expected in the slightest. I have seen his debut, Thunder Road, and loved it. Thunder Road took over the indie film scene and launched Cummings into the spotlight. As a result, I thought his style and stories would be affected but they are most certainly not, let me explain:

Style, style, style

Cummings has such a unique (you guessed it) style. Going into this film, I had a pretty clear idea the tone and plot it would go for. I was so wrong. The Wolf of Snow Hollow barely dives into the Wolf. It jumps between genres, styles and pacing with no care for what your film schoolteacher told you. It has this chaotic energy that once you settle into is kind of addicting. At one point I verbally said to my self “what the fuck is happening?” But while I said this, I had the fattest smile on my face you have ever seen.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow reminds me a lot of An American Werewolf in London. Oddly enough, not for the Wolf. Instead, it is for the world building. Both movies have these very interesting and unique settings. The characters and environment is so engaging because its not afraid to simply feel like a movie. Essentially, both films don’t strive for realism. They understand the absurdity of the concepts and heavily lean into them. As a result, the audience is more inclined to accept how batshit crazy these worlds are.

Indie Acting

I think a big problem with indie filmmaking is finding talented actors. Not necessarily because of the budget but simply the resources to find people who suit the part. No one in this film is terrible (I genuinely mean that). It’s just that some of the actors don’t really suit the parts. In particular, Robert Foster and Jimmy Tatro. These two are very very good actors. BUT they are kind of built for a specific part. Jimmy for the jock / idiot guy and Robert for a moody / grumpy old man. Now these characters are similar to that but just slightly off. I hate typecasting but it just felt like a weird decision by Cummings. Maybe he wanted to subvert expectations.

Scary or Funny?

The Wolf of Snow Hollow jumps constantly between horror, comedy, and drama. However, it doesn’t really dive into any of these for too long. Essentially, Cummings clearly doesn’t want this to just be one genre of filmmaking. I think this is something that applies to all of his work, and we will see a lot more of as he grows in Hollywood. While this style of writing is not necessarily for me, it is appealing to watch as you are constantly kept on your toes and there is never a dull moment.

The Ending (Spoilers)

Spoilers!! The ending of this film was interesting. It did get me, and I didn’t expect it, but didn’t really feel satisfying. I think this is because there wasn’t enough clues for it or honestly focus on the plot. If this was a dark crime thriller where there’s two detectives searching for a killer who could be a werewolf, this ending would bang. But since this film doesn’t focus much on the crime aspect, it just feels a little underwhelming.

Ultimately, every little complaint I had is simply a consequence of someone with a very specific creative vision. I have so much respect for Jim Cummings because he doesn’t give a fuck what modern audiences, critics, or the box office think. He simply sticks to his path and ignores the rest. Thereby, there is going to be things I don’t enjoy or a lot of audiences like. But I would rather see a real vision that is refreshing than another Hollywood remake.

Should you watch it??

Yes definitely. Just go in expecting something very different and you wont be disappointed.

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Why Blade Runner 2049 is the Greatest Sequel you have NEVER seen before.

A follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was always a point of discussion and contention within the sci-fi community during the late 80s and 90s. With people wondering what happened to characters like Deckard and Rachael after the final credits rolled? How would Ridley Scott add to the Blade Runner continuity with a sequel? And, whether or not it was necessary at all to make a sequel to the cult classic?

And while the narrative did continue within the novelization version of Blade Runner, penned by K. W. Jeter (which ran for 4 books), a definitive cinematic sequel to Blade Runner would remain in development hell for decades to follow.

It wouldn’t be until director Dennis Villeneuve, notable for his work on Sicario (2014), Arrival (2015) and Dune Part 1 (2021), would enter the project. After a few more years in development, a sequel to Blade Runner, titled Blade Runner 2049 would be released to the public in 2017.

Despite its critical reception from both audiences and critics alike being extremely positive, the film was considered by Warner Bros as a box office failure, only raking in $259.3 million at the box office on a $185 million budget.

However, despite Blade Runner 2049 not being a financial hit. Many filmmakers, including myself, consider the film to be one of the greatest sequels of all time, not only due to its thought-provoking plot, immersive themes and its masterclass in cinematography and visual storytelling. but also, through the film’s respect and consideration of the 1982 original film’s themes and message of; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

This is why many filmmakers consider Blade Runner 2049 to be one of the greatest sequels general moviegoers have never seen before, and here’s why.

Blade Runner 2049’s Plot

The plot of Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the original. Here, the audience is introduced to K (played by Ryan Gosling). K is a Blade Runner for the LAPD, acting as judge, jury, and executioner for replicants who need to be “retired”. It’s revealed to the audience that K is also a replicant, hunting his own kind so he may stay alive for a few years longer in the post-apocalyptic world of Blade Runner. However, when K discovers that a replicant named Rachael (the same Rachael from the first Blade Runner film) possibly gave birth to a replicant child with Deckard, K’s life and his journey are sent spiralling down the rabbit hole of truth. K is forced to come to terms with the sins of his past and consider whether or not he, himself is a replicant or a human. K’s journey of self-discovery would lead him to meet Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) and the two must band together to find the replicant child before it’s discovered by other replicants and instigates a war between humanity and replicants.

While I don’t want to spoil anything about the film and implore you to watch the movie yourself, it cannot be understated just how impactful the film is when it comes to portraying K’s journey of self-discovery. K is a ruthless, cold, and calculating Blade Runner at the beginning of the film, however, when his journey leads him down a rabbit hole of self-actualization and reality-breaking revelations, we are shown a broken, determined man fixated on nothing but uncovering the truth.

The film’s execution when it comes to the presentation of themes like identity, destiny and what it means to be alive is handled in a way that is not only subtle, but also is the focal driving point of the whole story. Never deviating away in order to service an unnecessary sub-plot. This, in turn, makes the film’s plot feel more focused and sharp, compared to a messy branch of sub-plots that ultimately never go anywhere and serve to only overcomplicate a story of this magnitude and importance.

Blade Runner 2049’s Cinematography

The cinematography of Blade Runner is something that is always been a major selling point for the film and even won the film an Academy Award back in 2018. The film’s cinematographer, Sir Roger Alexander Deakin (notable for The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men and, 1917) employed a single-camera set-up for the film. While this technique of cinematography is seen today as a relic of old filmmaking, in Blade Runner 2049’s case, this single-camera set-up only serves to straighten the creative vision for the film and strengthen what is ultimately chosen to be shown on screen and to the audience in the films final cut.

Each shot of Blade Runner 2049 feels important, needed, and symbiotic in telling this cohesive story. Every shot feels cold, dark, and dreary to match the films post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk aesthetic. Sir Roger Alexander Deakin uses each frame and shot to tell a story, no space on the screen is wasted or unutilized, which in turn makes the world feel more alive than ever for the audience.

Whether the camera is flying with K through the neon-soaked streets of 2049 Los Angeles, following K through the orange wastelands of future Las Vegas or, the bleak factories of future San Diego. Each shot, scene and cinematic angle has its own unique story, voice, and character. No shot in Blade Runner 2049 is wasted and every second of screen time only serves to further the plot that plays out on film.  

Blade Runner 2049’s Voice

As previously touched on in the plot breakdown of the film, Blade Runner 2049’s themes of identity and destiny are given great gravitas throughout the 2-hour and 43-minute runtime of the film. K’s journey of self-discovery and metaphorical rebirth from a ruthless, soulless replicant to a human who feels compassion and pain for the ones he’s lost, feels natural and purposeful by the filmmakers.

The film does an excellent job of giving K’s story ample time to breathe and develop when compared to other Hollywood blockbusters, K’s relationships with his holographic girlfriend JOI, his friendship with Deckard and his battle against fellow replicant / Blade Runner, Luv, all feel natural and fleshed out by the end of the film.

The idea of what it means to be alive is a question that the Blade Runner series was built upon. And this idea of what it means to be alive is epitomized by K’s journey of self-discovery and destiny throughout the film. With Blade Runner 2049’s presentation of a replicant who can feel emotions (K) to its audience, the film openly challenges its audience to reevaluate their ideas and values when it comes to the definition of what it means to be alive/human.

That’s what makes Blade Runner 2049 the greatest sequel you have never seen before.

Conclusion

While Blade Runner 2049 may not have been the box office success many studio executives at Warner Bros were hoping it would be. Blade Runner 2049 in recent years has started to be recognized by filmmakers alike as one of the most impressive pieces of cinema to be released in recent memory. Every second of this film is purposeful and engaging, its cinematography and portrayal of K’s journey is both breathtaking and gorgeous in every way possible, the film showcases just how engaging both Dennis Villeneuve can be as a director and the world of Blade Runner can be when in the right hands.

And while the general movie-going audience wasn’t interested in watching this film back in 2017, I strongly encourage each reader of this article to put Blade Runner 2049 on their watchlist in order to truly experience what they missed out on 6 years ago.

That’s why Blade Runner 2049 is the greatest sequel you have never seen before.