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Non-Review Review: Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a limp misfire.

There’s no doubt that the film comes from a place of affection and sincerity, reportedly inspired by writer and star Will Ferrell’s delight on discovering the camp weirdness of the Eurovision Song Contest. Indeed, The Story of Fire Saga has clearly been produced with the enthusiastic participation of the contest itself; the film uses a lot of branding associated with the event, features cameos from commentators like Graham Norton, and even ropes in a couple of past participants for its most endearing tribute to the surreality of the competition.

Marching on.

However, whether because it constrained by the official branding or simply by the limitations of Ferrell as an outsider looking in, The Story of Fire Saga doesn’t work. On a basic level of comedy mechanics, there are not enough jokes to sustain the indulgent two-hour runtime. On a more fundamental level, The Story of Fire Saga often fails to grasp what makes the Eurovision Song Contest such a beloved cultural institution. There’s a sense in which The Story of Fire Saga could be about almost anything else, and would be functionally the same movie.

This is a disappointment, particularly given that The Story of Fire Saga is being released in a year without the Eurovision.

A pretty weak ‘Vision.

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Non-Review Review: Apostle

The paraphrase Ernest Hemmingway, Apostle happens at first very slowly and then all at once.

Written, directed and editted by Gareth Evans, Apostle wears its influences on its sleeve. The premise of the film invites an easy observation along the lines of The Raid meets The Wicker Man.” This is massively reductive, of course. It also misunderstands the film. If anything, the more accurate (but equally reductive) description of Apostle might be “The Raid by way of The Wicker Man.” Evans period piece exploration of religion and devotion is very much a game of two halves. Perhaps even that might be more accurately formulated as two-thirds-to-one-third.

The only boy who could ever reach me…

Apostle suffers somewhat in its pacing. The first two acts of the film are given over to a sense of mounting dread and anxiety, to the slow and gradual reveal of what precise brand of horror is unfolding on this mysterious island maintained by this mysterious cult. Evans is a capable director who skillfully creates a sense of the uncomfortable and the uncanny, but the issue with Apostle is that any cinematically literate audience has a very good idea where these two acts of mounting dread are inevitably leading.

However, Apostle really comes into its own when it finally plays the hand that it has been carefully and slowly hinting towards in its first ninety minutes.

Burning inside.

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My 12 for ’14: The Guest and a Halloween Christmas Movie…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

2014 was a spectacular year for genre work. Perhaps emboldened by the success of genre fare (shared universes! talking apes! killer racoons!) in the summer movie season over the past number of years, it seemed like both major and minor studios were more willing to play with concepts that could easily seem absurd or throwaway.

’71 blended its historical real-world setting with the claustrophobia one might expect to find in horror thriller – a zombie movie set in seventies Belfast. The Babadook is a awards-caliber study of disillusioned parenthood that just happens to use the language of a supernatural horror. Birdman is a blistering Hollywood satire and character study driven by imagery and iconography more traditionally associated with fantasy. There has always been genre overlap, but it seemed particularly pronounced this year.

theguest

The Guest revels in its pulpy nature, offering a gleefully absurd intersection of a classic slasher movie with a more traditional holiday fare. The story of a mysterious visitor who moves in with the family of a deceased soldier, The Guest is wry and quick-witted, subversive and cheeky in equal measure. Anchored by a script from Simon Barrett that refuses to pull any punches, razor-sharp direction from Adam Wingard and a superb central performance from Dan Stevens, The Guest is a pure pulpy pleasure.

In many respects, The Guest feels like what would happen if you asked John Carpenter to make a Christmas movie. Only set at Halloween.

Flying the flag...

Flying the flag…

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Non-Review Review: The Guest

The Guest is a pulpy delight. It’s a glorious throwback to classic seventies horror, with writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingart perfectly channeling the mood and feel of classic seventies exploitation films. It’s affectionate and unapologetic. It is gleeful and grim. It is darkly hilarious and also brutally pulpy. The Guest is a film that knows exactly what it wants to be, and accomplishes that with great skill.

Seeing red...

Seeing red…

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