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Sunday, 24 April 2011
Thursday, 21 April 2011
Indecision is a destructive trait in any area, and is often deadly in film. All Good Things really can’t decide what it wants to be, odd considering it’s based on true events and proudly states this at the bookends of the film. But its indecisiveness unintentionally runs parallel with the indecision of its story and characters.
The story is directly based on Robert Durst a wealthy son of a New York real estate mogul. He witnessed his mother’s death at a young age and predictably was never the same. He was eventually arrested and tried for murder in 2003 and is suspected to be involved in other unsolved crimes linked to the Durst family. He is portrayed in the film by Ryan Gosling but the character name is changed to David Marks (all other characters based off of real people also have their names changed). Early in the film we see him rebel against his upper class roots. He marries a girl from a humble working class background, Katie McCarthy (Kirsten Dunst), they move to the country together and seemingly live their happiest days together. They set up a health food store naming it “All Good Things”. But the shop and their whole life style is being funded by David’s dad Sanford Marks (Frank Langella) who is constantly trying to encourage David to come and work for the family business, which he eventually does.
In enters the indecision, he chooses the job based on feelings of obligation rather than need or want. His wife didn’t want him to do it, and he has ultimately doomed their happiness. But impending doom is weaved into the narrative before even their fairy-tale like time in the country. Marks is shown mumbling to himself incoherently, and it’s established early on that he was present for his mother’s suicide. The film utilises a framing device to show this, it flashes back from David at his trial to the events that lead him there, with Gosling looking surprisingly convincing in old man makeup. His dark past and questionable psyche makes his romance with Katie tragic, she is initially blissfully unaware but her realisation changes her character for the worst.
Dunst portrays her as the epitome of sweetness. She is completely sincere and hides nothing, she is initially intrigued by his unique differences but eventually becomes aware of just how deep they go and what they are rooted in. He never talks about himself to her and she marries him without ever knowing about his mother or his personal demons. She is at last enlightened by David’s long-time friend Deborah Lehrman (Lily Rabe). Who breaks the information in an overly sunny and blasé fashion, when seeing Marks’ other female friends his choice of Katie as a wife seems far more puzzling. His mysterious past slowly breaks free of its repression following the revelation that Katie is pregnant, finally showing his rage tinted colours and requesting with no real reasons that they shouldn’t become parents. Indecision again with Katie being torn over whether to proceed with an abortion. Adding to the already incredibly dark tone, with a work obsessed David regrettably absent. The sweet and hope filled girl she once was dies, another victim of his scarred mental state.
The first two thirds of the film revolve almost solely around the tragic romance of David and Katie. They clash over her decision to pursue a medical career. It constantly builds and builds with the viewer painfully aware that this cannot end well. His long hidden dark emotions emerge often because of their dying relationship. His worst actions are left ambiguous, remaining off-screen; we are only shown Katie’s true terror at their aftermath. Their relationship is truly interesting and you really fear for her as well as sympathise with David because of his demons. This makes the sudden shift the film takes all the more worse. The shift links into the seeming indecision that the film has. For the first hour it chronicles a tragic romance, but from then on every aspect of it shifts. The narrative techniques, the time period, characters, everything. It turns into a far less compelling film, becoming a poor crime mystery genre film that sees David go on the run. Now, I’ll avoid spoilers as best I can but I have to write about this part of the film because it’s a significant chunk of the narrative and not a twist ending. Marks’ is suspected of various things and decides to flee to Texas, where he is seen in a costume far less convincing than his old man one but deliberately so. He meets Melvin Bump (played by will-always-be-the-library-detective-from-Seinfeld, Philip Baker Hall) and shit goes down.
The films indecisiveness is painfully apparent in its concluding third. It’s debatable that the awkward shift is unavoidable due to the true basis of its story. But All Good Things doesn’t seem to have any problems taking liberties with aspects of the story other than this. Who did what and why within the criminal acts in question are played around with endlessly. They have never been proved in real life but the film isn’t hesitant in pointing the finger at those it believes committed them. It changes and fabricates what it needs to in order to make the story more compelling, but this doesn’t prevent the incredible drop off in quality in the films closing chapters. Which are a little stupid and mostly uninteresting, the dark tone inexplicably lightens given the subject matter and it arrives at its feature length running time not at a stride but crawling on bloody stumps.
It’s not due to lack of talent that the film concludes as lacklustre. I hadn’t heard of director Andrew Jarecki before but his previous work (Capturing the Friedmans) was nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. His direction is simply fine; with rare shots verging on fantastic (particularly the shot of Marks’ sitting at his desk as a building is constructed behind him). Ryan Gosling is one of the best young actors working today but he never really gets to show it. He gets the frustrated and demon filled side of David Marks’ down but never gets to embody an all the way snapped version of him, with the director instead opting for ambiguity. Dunst is fine as the sugar sweet Katie but her downfall is never really more than a few depressed expressions. The mystery was never solved in reality and the film decisions to incriminate its characters are far too predictable, it throws some red herrings into the mix but they’re not overly effective. It just can’t decide if it wants to be a romantic drama or a crime mystery.
The troubled and tragic romance of David and Katie Marks is a compelling plot point, it promises a thrilling pay off that just never materialises. It has similarities to another Ryan Gosling drama/romance film: Blue Valentine, and if anything All Good Things made me realise how good that film actually is. It’s two thirds a decent film but the conclusions commit a greater crime than any committed by its characters.
Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Posted by Alex Layzell at 4/19/2011 01:11:00 pm | | Labels: 2010 , Audio Autopsy , Dawn of Chaos , England , Hartlepool , Promo , United Kingdom
That is not to suggest that they offer anything ground breaking or genre shattering, they merely play a myriad of death metal styles in a very professional execution; one could suggest they play it as an umbrella term, furthermore they somehow manage to smash together these various styles in manner that offers considerable integrity and a nice superflous flow from one style to the next. Some moments feel like a frantic axe wielding zombie survival horror, with others seeming more demonic and blasphemic, to an occasional old school Swedish Death Metal prangs. The release although short (what do you expect from a Promo, hell at least its longer than 90% of those grindcore releases you listen to! silly boy) really offers quite a lot, and I can honestly say hand on heart that they really do employ plenty of varying techniques to make for the most part non of the passages sound the same or similar. The only thing left to be desired is a decent audio quality recording quality, which I am sure will come in time. I certainly will be keeping an eye on this band.
Sunday, 17 April 2011
- Perhaps I am slow on the uptake, but Brutal Truth are also recording a new album for 2011, well actually it has already been recorded, and the title for the release is "End Time", due this Summer. (source)
- Grincore Karaoke has released yet another set of fantastic releases, this time round from Inerds and Cloud Rat here
- TLAL has released Sidetracked's Uniformed 7" available here
- G&P's Grindcore Alphabet has reached letter K (here)
- Not really music related news in the purest sense, but google video willl be closing down and all its content with it, in favour of having youtube as googles only video service, you are now able to download and transfer all google videos to youtube. (source)
- This tickled my humour and is typical of google genius yet comical tactics, youtube users who upload copyrighted material and are caught on it, have to watch an educational video and pass a quiz on the subject of copyright, before being allowed to upload again! (source)
- HMV have been given support suprisingly by the record label industry offering to cut the costs of supply in order to throw a lifeline to the dying industry behemoth, (source)
- Suprisingly the EU has hired a former record Industry representative, with the task of a a new music copyright, as for the direction he is likely to go is unclear at the time being (source)
- L Dram is missing in action, but known to be pondering if readers will ever understand this whole L Dram scenario's.
- Random Fact: Consumption of TNT turns urine amber or deep red, which people often mistake for blood.
Friday, 15 April 2011
Posted by Alex Layzell at 4/15/2011 11:59:00 am | | Labels: 2011 , Audio Autopsy , Gridlink , Hydrahead , Orphan
Amber Grey by far and wide, is renowned for being a technical masterpiece of mind blowing proportions. Backed by a legendary cast, Gridlink put 2008 in the history books, by recording a release that offered a technical masterpiece in a fast paced rhythmic manner, the end product being the grindcore equivalent of Paganini's 24 caprices. Of which their 11 minutes of splintering precision trumped the decades of effort of contenders and was named in true democratic fashion the King's of Grind. So the very thought and anticipation of Amber Grey's heir; Orphan, was enough to send large chunks of the Grindcore community in a spiritual state of zen whilst drooling and muttering babel and the very thought of it. So how did this second heir to the third Chang Dynasty fare?
Basically this is everything Amber Grey was, this time round one minute longer, packed with more dexterous precision, harmonious flow and enough condensed passion to inspire a thousand playwrights.
Jon Chang as ever screams forth his inner nerd in a blazing series of shrieks all of which coded in an enigma and flurry of obscure cultural referencing, leaving each new deciphered word to askew your original interpretation of the message. Heavy on the treble guitar work weaves in and out of various moods, retaining that riff and shred inducing cacaphonic bliss and admiration that made we were first plunged out of the blue head first back in 08.
The drum works beats frantically in a scattering, yet somehow military precision (S.A.S. styled) coordinated rampage, creating an immediate sense of urgency, and pincering down the rate of fire that is discharged to a recognisable level. Vocals are the same vocal chord shredding we expect and love, this time round on occasion sporting the rare low pitched bellow to reflect the moments of a dark mood.
Now this next bit in the review is probably the moment I am going to regret and receive hate mail from the John Chang cult for the next dozen years, or until the Phelps idiocracy finally pick a bone with grindcore.
Although I would agree 100% that Orphan is more precise, technical, faster, coordinated and overall better on a theoretical basis. I can't help but feel they abandoned or left out the aggressive overtones they had back in Amber Grey. This feels more to me like a Hayaino Daisuki meets some elements of grindcore release than what I felt they offered earlier. It was the aggression of Amber Grey, whether intentional or a byproduct of what they did that grounded it all and gave it a direction I really liked, this time round the aggression has been superseded with a frantic feel of mixed emotion with a gross discharge of adrenaline, which I must commend is executed fantastically and they really do immerse the listener in such a vibe, just I personally preferred the emotive threading of the earlier. Perhaps I am just the odd one out on this one.
In any case, Orphan is a fantastic release that does not fail in expanding on everything that made Gridlink the masters of the realm and without a doubt is up there in the albums that people will idolise decades afterwards, unless of course the Chinese World Empire of 2045 doesn't wipe it out.
Thursday, 14 April 2011
Science Fiction has its droves of devotees, but it has become such a broad term that Sci-Fi fans continue to do what they do best and moan up a storm about its current state. Inception had elements of it, and the Star Trek reboot was packed with it. But many of these somewhat Sci-Fi films cater more for the mainstream than the people with Silent Running posters on their walls. Their plots are based around fantastical technology over its theoretical possible counterpart. Then in 2009 we got Moon, a reclamation of the Sci-Fi genre by one of its biggest devotees: Duncan Jones. Well we all think he’s a devotee but in truth he became the Science Fiction Messiah so quickly that we’re still learning about him. I’m one of the legions of people that can easily wax poetic about Moon. Explorations of solace, morality and identity amidst a rich Sci-Fi background fronted by Sam Rockwell and scored by Clint Mansell, it was mind blowing. Even its film poster is one of my all-time favourites. Blatant homages and use of genre tropes made it an instant modern Sci-Fi classic. With its story revolving around the mining of Helium-3 it possessed scientific accuracies that even NASA had to admit were impressive (the film was screened for NASA at their request). All eyes were on Jones following one of the strongest directorial debuts in recent years, he reeked of potential and now had a budget big enough to show it.
Source Code is a testament to the broadness of the Science Fiction tag, while Jones had originally been at the forefront of those seeking a return to storytelling based in the technological potential of the human race, Source Code exists comfortably as a more fantastical narrative. The technology that drives the plot could never happen; it exists merely as a way to explain and ground something that is often a mystical occurrence. Brief techno babble explanations are given to allow more time for action. It’s not a natural progression from Moon but Jones maintains his Sci-Fi crown for the time being, saved by the wide criteria of his favourite genre. Source Code is a thriller film, it dedicates little time to what powers it and instead opts for a popcorn action feel.
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) opens his eyes to find himself on a Chicago train. He has no memory of what brought him there. The beautiful stranger opposite him however seems to know him, but not as the person that he thinks he is. She is Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) who is apparently a friend of his, but why is she calling him Sean and why does the ID in his wallet say Sean Fentress? You don’t want to know these answers before watching the film so you might want to stop reading. I’m not going to spoil any major plot points but knowing nothing at all will certainly help your enjoyment. Colter is meant to know nothing and unravelling the plot along with him must be the best way to approach the film. This is unfortunately a luxury that the current state of film trailers deprived me of.
Overwhelming confusion and disorientation leads him to the trains’ toilet, and a reluctant stare into the mirror confirms his fears. He isn’t Captain Colter Stevens. The man looking back at him is Sean Fentress, who is visually represented as a different actor in reflections to achieve this effect. The Gyllenhaal-less reflection only makes his state of mind more fucked and before we can speculate if he’s insane or not he’s dead as an explosion rips through the train killing everyone aboard. Yet he now finds himself suspended in his familiar army attire in an unfamiliar chamber. He is now himself but this mental health shattering morning continues when Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) appears on a screen and demands to know who destroyed the train. Finally granted a reprieve by proving he knows nothing, this poor man is made privy to exactly what the fuck is going on with extensive exposition. He is inside Source Code a program that allows a participant to exist within the last eight minutes of a person’s life. Entrants maintain their free will, and can move freely and take actions that the original possessor of the memories didn’t do. Colter just experienced the last eight minutes of Sean Fentress’ life. A passenger who was killed on a train bombing that morning. The attack was the first in series of proposed attacks in Chicago with the attackers responsible promising to make their next suckers nuclear. Colter must go back into the Source Code and locate the bomber so the following attacks can be prevented. He remains unsure but is quickly convinced to serve his country and retries the Source Code. Several repetitions of Fentress’ final minutes are seen with Colter’s growing familiarity of it becoming a vital part of his arsenal.
Source Code finds time to explore themes of human relationships and the concepts of strangers in spite of its rapid pacing. The rapidity doesn’t even phase its romance subplot; Colter has intercepted a budding relationship between Sean and Christina, with him seemingly awakening in the middle of one of their many flirtatious conversations on their daily commute. Christina has been waiting for him to make his move, mistaking Colter’s weird behaviour for a new found spontaneity in Sean. All the groundwork has been done, enabling Colter to come in and sweep her straight off of her feet. Colter can see it and seeing her openly forward interest in him his own interests change suite, setting himself the task of saving her and everyone aboard the train by ignoring insistences that he can’t change the past. It’s a unique romance, from Christina’s perspective it’s completely just. She has all the pretext. Colter develops his romantic interest through a series of eight minute sequences with her memory being reset every time. He must have the perfect eight minutes to get what he wants. You can argue that he’s taking advantage of her, negating to tell her that he isn’t the man she originally fell for; this could’ve destroyed the romance plot thread if it weren’t for Gyllenhaal’s abundance of charm.
Jake Gyllenhaal is much more of a drawing force for Source Code than Duncan Jones is, and he rightly gets to play leading man. His performance seems a result of a collaboration with Jones rather than of following instructions. An approach similar to how he worked with Sam Rockwell in Moon. Jones lets the film be actor lead rather than an auteur piece. The direction is brilliant but the character is as Jake Gyllenhaal as any of his other performances, semi-serious and light hearted. With such a high concept anything else would be unwise, in a reality with no consequences why would you have any fear of, or a regard for public perception? Humanity bleeds into his character during emotional revelations that break down any concerns over his number of dimensions. Developing from maniac confusion to gleeful exploitation his character is a joy to watch. Ridiculously gorgeous Michelle Monaghan is another highlight with her repeated flirtations never failing to be sweet and Vera Farmiga adds an unavoidable ethical element with her torn loyalties.
Jones has created a more modern Sci-Fi film rather than following the themes established in his revivalist debut. This change in focus may not be a necessarily conscious one as Source Code wasn’t penned by him unlike Moon, it was written by newcomer Ben Ripley. While it’s a great script you have to think that Jones is producing other people’s scripts as a way of further proving himself. He got to show what he can do with a substantial budget but not with one of his own scripts and when that project happens it’s going to be exciting. He’s a great director of actors and his traits can now be identified as his body of work increases, including a strange auteur identifier involving Chesney Hawkes and beautiful uses of freeze frame. Source Codes presentation is pretty seamless, with only mild and unimportant niggles residing in an ending that would’ve benefited from a better sense of ambiguity and an incredibly mixed musical score: which shouts loudly in your face to remind you you’re in an action film.
Jones moves onwards on his quest to make interesting Science Fiction films. A quest that he has so far achieved in both Indie and big budget studio contexts, considering he’s a newcomer in both areas that’s impressive. His second feature is a form of intelligent filmmaking that’s worth reliving again and again.