Sunday, 25 May 2014

Tribute: Gordon Willis 1931 - 2014

Over the last couple of years I have become a big fan of Woody Allen films and have grown to appreciate not just the talents of the director but of the whole crew - including the wonderful cinematographer Gordon Willis, who unfortunately passed away this week. 

Gordon Willis is famous for his collaborations with Allen, as well as his work on The Godfather trilogy, Klute (1971) and All The President's Men (1976).  Apparently known as The Prince of Darkness in the industry, because of his use of shadow, he was one of Allen's favourite DoP's to work with, and shot the iconic Manhattan poster image of Queensboro bridge. 

Despite his reputation as one of the best cinematographers of his time, and having worked on several films that later would gain the status of classics, he was only nominated twice for an Oscar, the first for Zelig (1983) and the second for The Godfather Part III (1990). Surprisingly, he wasn't nominated for his work on Manhattan, despite its incredible imagery, or my personal favourite, A Midsummer's Night's Sex Comedy, with the glorious shots of an Edwardian summer in the country. 

Anyway, I think the best tribute to give Gordon Willis, is to go and watch his work. If you haven't seen one of his films, go watch a one! If you have, re-watch it again and remind yourself why he was so good.

I also recommend checking out the BFI tribute, his career in 12 pictures and No Film School's article, which includes video interviews with the great man himself.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Sir Joseph Banks Crowdfunidng Campaign - We Can Do It!

This week I am not reviewing a film or television show. Instead I'd like to tell you about The Banks Endeavour. 

The Banks Endeavour is  an authentic period drama and documentary that Red Dog Film, the company I work for, are planning to produce if we can raise enough through a crowdfunding campaign currently running on Indiegogo

Why should you be interested this you ask? Well, the documentary/drama is about Sir Joseph Banks, an explorer and botanist that did a huge amount for science, exploration, for example...

  • He sailed on the Endeavour and discovered Australia with Captain Cook. 
  • He was involved in bringing hundreds of plants back to Britain - he and his party were the first Eurpoeans to come across the Eucalyptus tree. 
  • He is considered by some to be the father of Australia. 

The strange thing is though, despite doing so much for Britain and being involved in so much, he is hardly known to the public. Surprisingly I seem to be one of the few people who seem to have heard of him. I knew his name growing up as a child because we had a Banksia rose growing up the side of our house and my father told me who is was named after. It continues to be one of my favourite flowers, because of the creamy yellow colour of the petals and because it has no thorns.

One person who has know about, and has a great appreciation for Banks though, is David Attenborough. He even recently came to the opening of a Banks exhibition at a local museum The Collection, and gave our crew an interview for the short documentary below. He also intends to be one of several interviewees bookending the 40 minute drama we intend to produce.

So that's a brief idea of what the project is about and personally, I think Sir Joseph Banks deserves more awareness. I've been helping out on the research side of the film and the amount this man did and touched upon during the Enlightenment period is incredible. 

In many ways this project reminds me of a fantastic programme called Breaking the Mould from the BBC Four, which was about Florey, Heatley and Chain. If you don't who these men are, they were the people who turned penicillin into a usable drug during the Second World War. Though many people justly credit Fleming with discovering penicillin, the work behind making it useful for hospitals and safe for humans was done by those three men. That programme still sticks vividly in my memory because it showed me amazing people who I never knew about it. 

I like to think that The Banks Endeavour can do that too. That people will suddenly realise that the plants in their garden, that Kew, that Australia would never have been what they are without one man - Joseph Banks.  

Anyway, so if you'd like to get involved and help support this film please click on the Indiegogo link here. The Banks Endeavour is also on Twitter and Facebook, so even if you can't donate please spread the word. 

Many thanks for listening...
Girl With A Gun Mic 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Review: The Crazies

I had no idea what to review this week. Which is ironic since I've watched several movies over the last few days. Three Woody Allen films, one Roland Emmerich disaster film and The Crazies (2010), which is the film I'm reviewing today.

The Crazies is directed by Breck Eisner, who also did that fun action movie Sahara back in 2005 and who, according to IMDb is going to be directing the new The Karate Kid 2 - which based on my experience of the other two films is probably going out to be something that's solidly done but nothing special.

Because unfortunately, I did not find The Crazies particularly special. The plot is as follows...a plane containing a biological weapon has come down and contaminated the drinking water of a rural farming town in America. This causes the residents who drink the water to become sick to go crazy and start killing people, including their families. The military of course turn up to deal with the problem, separating the town's Sheriff David (Timothy Olyphant) and our hero, from his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) believing her to be sick. However David thinks they made a mistake. Judy is pregnant and that he believes has given her a fever. So, along with his deputy Russell (Joe Anderson) , he decides to go back and save her.

I think the main problem with this film is that it feels too familiar - when I first saw the case I was expecting a zombie scenario, and even though the killers were definitely not zombies, there were lots of similarities. 

Honestly, I felt they could've been a bit more creative with it. The writers could've come up with any disease they wanted under the heading of 'biological warfare' but instead we just had crazy people, made crazy by drinking water - and isn't an infected water source rather a cliche in movies? 

The disease was explained pretty vaguely anyway. We only knew what the main characters knew, after 48 hours you started going crazy. The symptoms were never fully explained or realised, and though there seemed to be hints of physical transformation later, it wasn't really explained either. 

Nonetheless, the film looked good and some stand out spots. I personally thought Russell was a lovely loyal character who brought some warmth to the film. Meanwhile a certain scene with a pitchfork was particularly menacing, and I thought the shots of endless farmland not only looked great, but really made you realise how isolated the heroes were, how far from civilisation. 

In summary: A well-made, but run-of-the-mill horror/thriller that will entertain, but probably not surprise most horror fans, especially not zombie fans.