Friday, 14 February 2014

Sex After Kids Review

A problem arises early on in Sex After Kids because of its instant quality of shooting. Digital may be the future but cinematographers often speak about how they have to use filters to dim down the quality of the shots otherwise they look too colourful, too crude, almost cartoonish. That problem is apparent here. The camera's cleanliness and all too polished look makes it seem amateur, with no colour palette used for a consistency throughout the shoot. There seems to be no colouring, no grading, instead the lights are on full and every detail is on show in a sadly distracting fashion.

Sex After Kids follows the Love Actuallys, Valentine's Days and New Year's Eves trends of late but in a much more crude, honest fashion. Focusing on the title itself as its main plot point we follow several very different couples connected through different ways explore the problems of their love life after having children. Its range is broad and nice, focusing on a single dad, an elderly couple newly alone once more for a sexual reawakening and a lesbian couple facing the trouble of their relationship and no pre-assigned societal roles. All is new and different but as is the case with the three montage-esque films mentioned above, there are too many characters to ever connect with any of them. Though they may be different in some ways, they all seem to follow a similar type that we've often seen instead of reinvigorating the sex romcom subgenre.

More problems come from the performances of actors in the piece which can sometimes draw attention to themselves like the artifice of the cinematography. One of the more genuine performances comes from Katie Boland whose character is, sadly, underused; her performance of a comfortable 22 year-old is refreshing and contains the chemistry the rest of the film craves whenever she's on screen. There is chemistry between most of the couples but some scenes suffer from poor attempts at crude humour - which is, in fairness, few and far between - or from one-liners that make it seem like a cancelled sitcom; almost asking for the canned laughter in the background.

Sex After Kids isn't a failure by any means but it does have a lot more to give in more capable hands. It's slightly well crafted but it feels a little loose, the pacing odd and the beats seem to come at unusual times. It means that the story's structure feels unhinged; it needs a tightness when following so many different stories or it feels jarring. Bad writing hasn't caused this but it's just got the looseness of a newcomer who is clearly trying to refine his craft. It could come from the writing or directing but there's talent there to be refined, it is rather rough at the moment but polishing takes time. Some of the lines are fantastic and the ways that some characters develop is genuinely interesting, it shows an originality is there to be used. It's a shame that it paves its way to more common traits that the audience switches off to.

There's plenty to like in this, there's plenty to be refined here but what it needed was either more time writing it or another's eyes to explain why and what doesn't work and how to better it. The writer-director Jeremy Lalonde has potential with this being a more adult and original take on the montage romances but it still suffers from the jarring, stilting pacing that they do too but in a much more obvious way. The others are more polished and done by people who have refined their craft, which is what Jeremy Lalonde needs to do. More ideas to come from Jeremy are ones to be excited about as he's a filmmaker with talent that will eventually start to understand cinematic grammar and pacing. Sex After Kids has plenty of funny moments, plenty of good intentions and isn't afraid to shy away from issues that other films are but it still feels like a more amateur than professional construction which is disappointing. An opportunity for a comedy of Judd Apatow satisfaction is left begging. 


Friday, 7 February 2014

Out of the Furnace Review

Out of the Furnace is already contending for this year’s most wrongly marketed film. The trailer shows it more as an action-thriller revolved around revenge but it’s a more a character piece, a film that brings out the best from the actors. Scott Cooper gets the best out of his actors although that’s not hard considering the talent involved: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whittaker, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe. That’s one hell of a cast for an indie film and it’s important that you have these people to embody their complicated characters. Dramatic characters involved with a rough past, getting involved in bad situations but what the trailer explains is only the second to third act. Avoid the trailer if you can.

Christian Bale and Casey Affleck play brothers Russell and Rodney Baze respectively. Russell works at the mill, like their dad before them, working hard and earning a living even though the threat of closure is looming. Rodney is a soldier who has returned from Iraq with PTSD and a refusal to work for a living after sacrificing his sanity for America. Rodney will do anything for money except work a regular job and Russell  is bailing him out of debt constantly. The best character introduction though is Woody Harrelson’s which incidentally opens up the film and sets the tone for it. It’s a terrifying character which is played much more muted than his in Natural Born Killers but similar in their use of vicious violence.

Back to the performances, they all have to be appreciated because of how they enrich the characters. You can tell how enriched they are by Christian Bale making Scott Cooper promise to not make this film until his schedule freed up and also by how Leonardo DiCaprio was originally attached to star but ended up producing. All of these people ensure quality when they have their name attached which is why it is a shame that this was underseen over in America. Christian Bale plays the loyal brother who goes through difficulty and hardship with a nuanced, mature performance that has a couple of moments that will raise a lump in your throat; Casey Affleck is outstanding as the younger, traumatised brother; Woody Harrelson as the violent Jersey boy with no remorse; Willem Dafoe as a guy who has got himself into more than he can handle; Zoe Saldana as Russell’s girlfriend but it’s more complicated than that; and Forest Whittaker as an honest policeman caught by jurisdiction issues.

Aided by the subtle direction of Scott Cooper, it never calls attention to time lapses or other flashy tricks it could have easily adopted. He’s chosen to concentrate on the actors and their performance, lighting them so well with cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi (Silver Linings Playbook, The Grey, Warrior) that aids the darkness and emotions of the film. You can’t ignore the writing done by Brad Ingelsby as well as Scott Cooper’s. They’ve created densely, layered characters in a story that spans a few years in its sombre pacing. Out of the Furnace is a well crafted film that is grossly missold as a straight up action-thriller when it is a clever character driven, atmospheric ensemble piece. You can’t go wrong when the actors really embody their characters like they do here.


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Paul Furr's MTOS Questions on Childhood Movies

Every film fan has a special affinity with films of their childhood. Films that were watched on repeat, dialogue that can still be quoted to this day and of course those films of questionable quality that are still remembered fondly.
So here are 10 questions that will root to your love of the movies, and in some cases, even show your age...
Q1: What was the first film you ever saw at the cinema?

Q2: Everyone has one, what was that one film that you used to religiously watch on repeat as a child?

Q3: The guilty pleasure, what was that bad film from your childhood that you still have an affinity with to this day?

Q4: As a kid we were all inevitably stopped from watching films where the certificate was out of bounds... What was the first 18 certificate film you saw as a child and how old were you?

Q5: The rites of passage for every kid was to get into the cinema for a film they were too young for, what was yours?

Q6: What was the first film you saw that you actively disliked and do you still hate it to this day?

Q7: What was the first serious film you saw as a child that cemented your love of cinema as an art form?

Q8: The Video/DVD Rental store was ever present in a lot of our childhoods, what was your first ever rental and in what format?

Q9: As we all have ever expanding film collections, what was the first Video/DVD you ever owned?

Q10: Finally, what are your top 3 Childhood Films?

Remember to join in on Sunday the 9th of February at 8pm (GMT) on Twitter! Also remember to tag all your responses with #MTOS so everyone can see.