Green Room (2015) Review

greenroomuk1DEAD BY DAWN 2015

GREEN ROOM (Dir- Jeremy Saulnier, USA, 2015)

Starring- Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, Joe Cole

UK Cinema release May 13th 2016

Jeremy Saulnier’s previous feature, BLUE RUIN, made quite an impression, particularly on this reviewer as it ended up in my best of 2014 list as it was a superb take on the revenge drama with a protagonist who sets out on a quest of vengeance but is out of his depth. Since then and since last year’s Cannes film festival in which this film was premièred GREEN ROOM has been high on my list of films to see of 2016 and thankfully Dead By Dawn festival had this as their opening night film.

Much like BLUE RUIN the protagonists in this film find themselves eventually plunged into a situation that they are not used to and have to muster up their own survival instincts to at least have some chance of getting out alive. This time round it’s a punk band called The Ain’t Rights consisting of Pat (Yelchin), Sam (Shawkat), Reece (Cole) and Tiger (Turner) who are on tour through the pacific northwest of America. They are broke having to syphon fuel from parked cars to get to their next gig. They meet a local radio host who puts them in touch with a contact and gets the band a gig with decent pay, at an out of town club outside of Portland. Little do the band realise that the club is Neo-Nazi run.

GREEN ROOMAt their gig they jokingly play a cover of Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off which antagonises the crowd. After the show when Pat goes to retrieve Sam’s phone and he walks in on a recently murdered dead body with the perpetrators standing over it. The bouncers of the club quickly keep the band behind against their will and it soon becomes clear that they are a problem. The band themselves soon realise the situation and soon fight back taking one of the club bouncers hostage and helped by club regular Amber (Poots). Soon when head of the Nazi group Darcy (Stewart) comes to sort the mess out, it becomes clear that the punks are marked for death and soon have to figure out a way to fight back.

As mentioned previously like BLUE RUIN the film focuses on characters who are out of their depth and not used to this situation. The punks themselves are fantastically portrayed by the cast, and their rendition of Nazi Punks Fuck Off is a great and brilliant comic scene in terms of the band deliberately taking the piss out of its audience but then realising that it might not be the right choice of song as there is more of the crowd than of them. Yet the scenes where they confront and stand off against the Nazi’s are done in such a way to show their vulnerability and amateur thinking that ends up causing some nasty injury’s to them. Then when things start to go out of control they soon dig down in deep and become just as brutal as their captors utilising what ever they can get their hands on as weapons. These scenes are superbly staged and Saulnier doesn’t skimp on showing the nasty and gruesome results.

greenroomuk2Yet they are also thrilling and intense and matched with a vain of dark humour throughout but supplemented with a sense of dread especially whenever the heroes of our picture step out of the room which is their hold up and which becomes the films only safe haven. There’s a hint of a throwback to the horror films of 80’s and 70’s with its simplistic grindhouse style, basic plot and moments of jarring violence. As in BLUE RUIN, Saulnier manages to conjure up something fresh and thrilling from a basic under siege story and also pits two sides against each other that express differing views. The band with its left-wing ideals and antagonistic expression through their performance and music up against the more harsher and regime like world of the neo-Nazi group.

This is evident when Darcy (Stewart) arrives to close down the scene and get rid of the punks as he organises his fascist obsessed troops in military fashion to block off any exits that the band can escape from and utilise vicious attack dogs against them. Playing against type Stewart is excellent in his role. Sporting an almost Walter White look, he obviously relishes this chance to play a character that is more tactical commander than straight out boo-hiss villain and in many respects you can understand the reasons for his actions in that he has been left no other choice but to dispatch the witnesses than face the fall out that will unveil some of the not so legal operations behind his venue.

greenroomuk3Often thrilling, fun and a wild ride GREEN ROOM is a fantastic follow up to BLUE RUIN. Managing to capture a naturalistic look in the films early stages and making use of the films club location with its grimy, dark and run down look as well as infusing this with a brilliant soundtrack of punk and death metal that complements the brutal action, Saulnier has made a superb, darkly comic and bloody genre picture that is thrilling and full of gritty energy that again confirms him as a talent whose next feature will again be highly anticipated.

9/10

Green Room (2015) Review

greenroomuk1Green Room (USA, 2015)
Dir: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart

UK Cinema Release – May 13th 2016

Plot: Struggling for gigs, and scrapping by on cash and petrol, The Ain’t Rights accept a billing at a Skinhead venue out in the middle of nowhere. Tensions are already high as the band antagonise their Neo-Nazi audience, but things spiral out of control when Pat (Yelchin) witnesses a murder in the green room. The owner, Darcy (Stewart) wants to keep everything underwraps from the law, plotting to take The Ain’t Rights out of the picture.

The opening film of this year’s Dead By Dawn Festival in Edinburgh, Green Room brings wildly escalating tension and cringe-inducing gore. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this one ever since I heard about it. The idea of Patrick Stewart, Enterprise Captain and British National Treasure, as a villain in a horror film is something that I found deliciously intriguing. Mix in the hardcore punk scene and it’s just a really cool film.

One thing that I found particularly enjoyable about Green Room is how well it captures quite a niche side of the punk scene. The band members of the Ain’t Rights are the right mix of cool, aloof, posturing punk kids, and dorky losers. While being interviewed at the start of the film they are asked for their one Desert Island Band, and they choose various cool and respectable bands. That question crops up several times in the film as their façade drops and the truth comes out. More mainstream choices are admitted and I can feel the moment where more stubborn “true punks” might label them posers.

greenroomuk2There’s also the skinheads, the Nazi extremist side of punk that most punks would rather forget. They’re not some caricature, there’s a realness to them. There’s a lack of swastikas and Nazi salutes in this film and it’s for the best. There’s no need to waste time on establishing the Nazi ideology that they follow, we just need to know that these are the bad guys, we’re all aware what a Nazi is. Instead the time is spent stacking the odds against the protagonists. Things get very tense very fast.

When the shit hits the fan in Green Room, it shows that it isn’t afraid to get brutal. The gore effects in Green Room are spectacular, especially in a cinema screening with gasps and groans from audibly uncomfortable audience members. It manages to hit the right level of upsetting without tipping over to ridiculous as arms are cut up and stomachs are sliced open.

There is only one downside I found with Green Room and that there’s a moment in it where you feel like the writers wrote themselves into a corner. The odds are stacked far too high against our heroes so they try to re-adjust the balance and it all falls out. The skinheads make one fatally bad choice, and then it all feels a bit too easy. The ending is pretty satisfying but at the same time it feels like there could have been a way to get there without the bad guys getting incompetent.

greenroomuk3An excellent start to the festival and a film that I do look forward to showing to friends, especially the gorier scenes. It’s a film with a fantastic cast with some pretty well known names. Anton Yelchin continues his horror work after Odd Thomas and Fright Night, and Alia Shawkat continues life after Arrested Development, and another horror role after The Final Girls. Patrick Stewart is very menacing as Darcy, even if he’s more of an evil schemer than one to get his hands dirty.

7/10

Altitude Film Distribution & Picturehouse Entertainment present GREEN ROOM, in UK & Irish cinemas FRIDAY 13TH MAY.

greenroomAltitude Film Distribution and Picturehouse Entertainment present GREEN ROOM, in UK and Irish cinemas FRIDAY 13TH MAY.

Synopsis
Down-on-their-luck punk rockers The Ain’t Rights agree to a last-minute gig in a backwards Oregon roadhouse. The gig soon takes a sinister turn as the band members stumble upon a grisly murder scene and find themselves targeted by a ruthless club owner and his associates, determined to eliminate all witnesses.

From the internationally acclaimed filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier (BLUE RUIN), GREEN ROOM is a nerve shredding thrill-ride with a thick vein of dark humour, featuring a gripping ensemble performance from Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, GREEN ROOMMacon Blair and Callum Turner.

Social Details
GreenRoomTheFilm
@GreenRoomFilm
Greenroom.film 
#GreenRoom

Burying The Ex (2014) Review

bury1Burying the Ex (2014)

Directed by: Joe Dante

Written by: Alan Trezza

Cast: Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario

Running Time: 89 Minutes

UK Certificate: 15

Studio: Image Entertainment

Max, played by Anton Yelchin (Terminator Salvation, Star Trek), is in a relationship with Evelyn, played by Ashley Greene (Twilight Saga). Evelyn is wanting to save the world in the most organised, eco-friendly way imaginable. She is unstable, irritating and often uses guilt to make Max believe he is in the wrong. Poor Max.

Working in a horror store, Max finds a Satan/genie trinket that apparently grants the wisher their hearts desire ‘the evil way’. Max promises Evelyn, bated by the promise of fancy-dress sex, that they will always be together forever in front of said item. The major issue is that Max is getting ready to break of the relationship, she is a control freak and folding away his classic, imported, movie posters is the last straw. In a freak accident, Evelyn is killed, allowing Max to get out of the relationship without breaking her heart.

bury2After a period of mourning Max moves on and meets the beautiful Olivia, Alexandra Daddario (San Andreas, True Detective), a girl who was seemingly made for him, she’s beautiful and quirky, relaxed and funny, everything Evelyn was not. Here arises the problem as Evelyn rises from her grave, believing that Max will greet her with open arms, after all she still thinks they are together and can pick up from where they left off, regardless of her smell and rotting flesh.

Based on a short story by writer Alan Trezza, the screenplay is witty and fully formed, but doesn’t rely on the usual tropes of a film of this type. Joe Dante directs confidently and with a flair usually seen by younger, indie directors. Dante is known for being able to mix horror and comedy successfully, early successes being The Howling, Gremlins and Piranha. With ‘Burying the Ex’ he continues this skill to great effect.

The three main leads are all wonderfully cast. Ashley Greene is perfect as the crazy, clingy, controlling, undead, Evelyn. Anton Yelchin has true sparks with Alexandra Daddario, they play off each other extremely well and you really feel their connection crackle on screen. The make up for Evelyn is a wonderful use of prosthetics and reminds us of how a little can go a long way, a small amount of CGI is used to create a few body contortions, or at least I believe it was CGI, otherwise Ms Greene is one flexible young lady.

bury3Burying the Ex is a black comedy with heart, a sometimes funny film, which should give the audience a grin, if not a chuckle from time to time. It was nice to see director, Joe Dante, returning to the type of stories that helped him make his name and hope it prompts him to try his hand at something bigger, something akin to one of those wonderful gems from my childhood such as Innerspace, Explorers, The ‘burbs and Gremlins. I can recommend Burying the Ex to anyone who likes things a little quirky, a little fresh or anyone who wants to see if Mr Dante hasn’t lost his touch…FYI he hasn’t.

Movie Rating: 7/10

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

OOnly Lovers Left Alive (2014)

123 mins

Dir: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Tom Hiddlestone, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska and Anton Yelchin

Two vampires Adam (Hiddlestone) and Eve (Swinton) have been in a centuries-long relationship and are reuniting, after time spent apart, in Detroit, where Adam spends his time secluded in his music studio, producing his ‘funeral music’ that has earnt him a huge cult following. The pair face a struggle to find a constant source of pure blood supply as well as the imminent arrival of Eve’s sister, Ava (Wasikowska) who has a history of losing control of her ‘hunger’…

It is a sad fact that it has been a long time since a modern day classic vampire film has emerged. The last truly fantastic example was David Slade’s frankly terrifying adaptation of the ‘30 Days of Night’ series which did a superb job of making vampires a proper image of pure fear once again. There was also the cult-hit ‘Queen of the Damned’ at the peak of the nu-metal craze with its kick-ass soundtrack and heavy emphasis on sex appeal and of course Coppola’s masterpiece in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, with Gary Oldman providing the best ever turn as Dracula (I went there) and the film bathed in gloriously OTT lashings of stylised gothic romance.

O1 So where does ‘Only Lovers left Alive’ come into the equation of vampire films? Simply put, it’s a future classic that officially has set the new bar for vampire films to come. Of course, this is an opinion that will certainly not be shared by all. Indeed, many will simply loathe this film and call it arty hipster pretentious wank and if this review works on any level, you’ll hopefully be able to see precisely how people could have such drastically contrasting opinions!

Possibly the main stickler for many will be the plot or rather, in the negative view, distinct lack of one. My brief synopsis at the beginning only dealt with one particular incident in a film that is far more content to let mood and atmosphere take precedence. On top of this, the film’s main focus is just to stare longingly like a besotted teenager at the deep gothic romance that sizzles between its lead characters. Oh and they’re friends with the still alive Christopher Marlowe (Hurt) and the adorably hopeless Ian (Yelchin) who is Adam’s manager of sorts.

Much time in the film is dedicated to lengthy discussions about famous authors, books, instruments, musicians and great thinkers. Some will derive great humour from the cheeky nods to various pieces of classical culture but this is sure to alienate those who are less ‘cultured’ and certainly to mainstream culture would smack of trying to be incredibly ‘hipster’ for the sake of it. It is debatable as to whether or not the film is actually in on the joke, Adam sternly rebukes Ava when she asks for a digital download of his music (he favours vinyl, of course) and Ian is made to look very desperate when putting on his own pair of sunglasses in a club to try and fit in with the undead trio.

O2 Short of Adam’s dramatic threats of suicide to escape the ‘zombies’ (regular people), a certain nasty incident that befalls hapless Ian and the need to obtain pure blood, there is very little by means of narrative drive. In place of punctual neck puncturing, the film devotes to time to simply following the lead couple as they take in the dark and desolate city of Detroit on their many drives at night. This is certain to infuriate most but the film has this deceptively vampiric way of drawing you in and leaving all desires for tension or even conflict behind. A comparison could be made that is almost as if Nic Winding Refn helmed his own version of the still over-looked ‘Near Dark’, with extra layers of gothic romance turned up to 11.

It must really irk Jim Jarmusch that the perfect tagline for the film has already been inappropriately used by the first ‘Twilight’ film. “When you can live forever, what do you live for?” is much better suited to OLLA as it is the crux of what makes the incendiary onscreen romance between Hiddleston and Swinton so compelling. Yes some may find their constant lounging around in each other’s arms and endless fawning over one another distasteful, but what Jarmusch has expertly captured is the idea that each means absolutely everything in the world to the other. This is the kind of epic love story done on such a small scale that we have not seen in a long time, or certainly not as well conveyed by two of Britain’s most talented actors.

03We are invited by Jarmusch to almost feel like an unseen third party in their relationship, that they love each other so uncontrollably that it can’t help but over-spill and wash over the audience. It’s not all passionate embraces and endless shagging however, the two share their squabbles that remain even after their third wedding but also they, like the film, have a very dry sense of humour about their vampire status. The film’s standout scene is when the two of them share blood popsicles together, yes an easy gag but one that works perfectly.

Hiddleston oozes the vampiric sex appeal of the ‘troubled artist’,  a mess of black hair covers his face and he spends most of the time shirtless but never is he insufferably moody, just an alluring misanthrope who is more than capable of holding your attention with a piercing stare (move over Loki). Swinton provides the ‘brighter’ counterpart, a novel and nature lover who seems to be the only being capable of eliciting a smile out of  Hiddleston and the pair have such a firey  onscreen chemistry that fits together like ying and yang. A PROPER undead romance done properly and one that rivals even Oldman’s Dracula and Ryder’s Mina, that’s how powerful it is!

O4The delicious black cherry on top of the film’s dense trance-like atmosphere is the mind-meltingly perfect moody tones of the soundtrack, helmed by Jozef van Wissem and Squrl. Adam’s ‘funeral music’ is featured heavily throughout as it perfectly encapsulates his doom-laden and nihilistic attitude of life and when things start to go wrong for the characters. When the music transcends from simply being background to a key component of the overall success of the film, again much like with Winding Refn’s work, clearly it’s working perfectly. The moody tones are wonderfully counter-balanced by one scene when Adam and Eve dance to a poppy vinyl track in one of the film’s few outward examples of being even remotely ‘cheery’.

Ultimately, the film’s appeal is aimed directly at those who revel in the gothic romance element of the vampire mythos. Those who prefer their coffin-dwellers with more bite and less navel-gazing had best steer clear but what cannot be denied is that this film has all the makings of a genre classic that will be taken and poured over for years to come.

Verdict: An intoxicating piece of pure gothic cinema, the likes of which we have not seen in many a year. Excruciatingly slow for many but for others, a bewitching, profoundly romantic delight 10/10   

Odd Thomas (2013) DVD Review

ODD THOMAS 001ODD THOMAS (2013) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe, Patton Oswalt, Arnold Vosloo

Written by: Stephen Sommers (screenplay), Dean Koontz (novel)

UK Certification: 15

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 93 minutes

Directed by: Stephen Sommers

UK Release Date: 3rd February 2014

Odd Thomas… odd production history. This movie based on the novel by Dean Koontz was shot all the way back in 2011. With a box office director in Stephen Sommers (G.I.Joe, The Mummy, Van Helsing) as well as a decent cast and a not so shabby budget ($27million) everything seemed in place for a modest hit. However, things seem to have derailed somewhat in 2013 due to a legal action that alleged a misuse of the advertising funds to the tune of $25-$35million. So still without a US release, and creeping onto the UK market fairly anonymously having bypassed the cinema this really was a curio.

ODD THOMAS 002We open in a California desert town where a narrator introduces himself as Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) who confides in us that he was meant to be christened Todd but things got a little mixed up. He is also a man of strange abilities as straight away we find Odd being confronted by a young girl who it seems he’s quite familiar with. A short while later we find him standing next to a convertible owned by Harlo Landerson (Matthew Page) whom he accuses of murdering the girl he is with. By describing specific evidence to him Harlo knows he’s been (somehow) caught by Odd Thomas, which results in a chase swiftly followed by an arrest. “I see dead people” he says “but I make sure I do something about it”.

It’s a full throttle opening which leaves you in no doubt as to the quirky comic book-esque direction the film is going to take. The appearance of Willem Dafoe soon after as Chief Wyatt Porter signifies that he’s fully aware of the talents that Odd possesses, and also that he’s happy to utilise them in the pursuit of justice. In the meantime though we get some insight into Odd’s regular lifestyle – a fast food chef and a fairly proficient one at that, and he also has a girlfriend Stormy (!) (Addison Timlin) who is party to his talents. Those aforementioned talents also include the ability to see ‘Bodachs’, gooey alien-like demons who crowd around and feed off death. When an infestation of demons descends onto his town and make a beeline for a specific person, Odd realises that the fit may be about to hit the shan.

Odd Thomas is far-fetched, ridiculous, has convenient plot contrivances and a few characters with as much depth as the shallow end of a swimming pool. I can go on with a list of haughty criticisms, but that would overlook the fact that this movie is just so much FUN! I’m not the biggest Sommers fan, nor I have I read the Dean Koontz novel, but Odd Thomas is such a successful blend of comedy and horror that surely even the most miserly critic would have to acknowledge the enjoyment in watching it.

ODD THOMAS 003Anton Yelchin is superb as Odd, he’s funny and confident and brings an ‘average guy’ persona to a role in which Hollywood would often be tempted to cast a six-pack beefcake. Willem Dafoe meanwhile may not be stretched in his role as the police chief but he still offers a presence that benefits the movie. At times Odd Thomas feels like a lavishly produced pilot for a TV series, but even saying that would be a disservice to this blast of a popcorn movie that will hopefully gain some much needed exposure on DVD and achieve the status it deserves.

7.5 out of 10