Monday, 25 October 2010

Buried (2010)

Image: Icon Film Distribution

Opinion seems to be split on Rodrigo Cortés’ thriller. Some audiences found the man-in-the-box conceit dull and not worth 90 minutes of their time. Others found it claustrophobic, gripping, and almost unbearably tense. I found I belonged to the latter group, and was very happy to be out of the cinema breathing fresh air.

Paul Conroy (Reynolds) wakes up in a coffin. He’s a civilian truck driver in Iraq whose convoy was attacked. His captors have left him his lighter, a torch, and a mobile phone. He’s told that he has 90 minutes to get 5 million dollars ransom, or he’ll be left to die. Can he reach the people who can help him in time, and will they be able to find him?

The conceit of the single, tiny location with one actor and his mobile has drawn comparisons to Hitchcock’s work but its clever economy is more reminiscent of Larry Cohen, who, among several 80s horror films, wrote Phone Booth and Cellular. Cortés, working from a script by Chris Sparling, has made a superior thriller. While the director does occasionally go too far trying to come up with stylish, ingenious ways to shoot a man in a box, it’s his skill with the camera that does half the work of keeping the audience interested for the duration. At its best, the camerawork emphasises the narrow confines of the box, lingering on Paul’s desperate face, the beads of sweat running down alongside the grains of sand that begin to seep in.

The other half of the heavy lifting is done by Ryan Reynolds. The actor hasn’t had to work this hard since John August’s little-seen drama The Nines, and delivers a career-best performance. Paul Conroy goes through the stages of grief in ninety minutes, raging at answer-phones and ex-girlfriends who don’t listen to his pleas for help, desperately trying to get in touch with his boss in America, and pleading with his captors to release him. It’s a powerful reminder that he can do more than superhero movies and Sandra Bullock rom-coms.

Buried is not perfect. There are holes in the script’s logic that aren’t sufficiently explained, and some of the actors performing the voices on the other end of the phone aren’t as good as they should be. Some of the script’s political critique comes across as a little flat and obvious, but Cortés and Reynolds work hard to remind us that Buried is, at its heart, about a man who is staring death in the face. Thanks to their sterling work, the film is one of the most brutally efficient thrillers of the year.


Sunday, 24 October 2010

Stunning Black Swan Teaser Posters

Images: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Attention folks! We've got an early Christmas present for you, courtesy of those intuitive guys over at Fox Searchlight who know exactly want we want.

While we wait impatiently for the release of Darren Aronofsky's highly anticipated thriller, Black Swan, the studio has released 4 limited edition teaser posters for the movie, which hits our screens in February next year. It's a long way away, we know, but hopefully this'll brighten up your week.

As much as we enjoy your company here at Fohnhouse, instead of simply gazing at the beautiful imagery on this here blog, head over to the movie's official UK Facebook page to enter an exclusive competition for your chance to win the limited edition artwork - signed!

We were contemplating keeping this news a secret, but we are here to aid and abet, and so not telling you would be criminal.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

10 Things We Learnt About Rachel Portman

Image: FG/Fohnhouse

Music is the soundtrack to our lives: it conveys our mood, changes as we evolve – although certain melodies remain constant. It creates memories, forms part of an experience, and it’s with us from the beginning until the end, a lot like a musical bed, on which a film lies.

The score lends a hand to the narrative, enabling it to fully express itself and convey it’s message to an attentive audience, ready to watch, listen and be engaged. For this reason, it can be said that music, the soundtrack, is a crucial component in the filmmaking process.

Last night, in support of the film score, composers Rachel Portman (Never Let Me Go) and Molly Nyman and Harry Escott (The Arbor) were at the London Film Festival to talk about their work. After the discussion, we caught up with Portman to find out a bit more about her.

10 things we learnt about Rachel Portman:

1. She got into composing for film as she was “discouraged as a classical composer”. She later realised that it was “the most fascinating job in the world.”

2. Being a female composer hasn’t prevented her from gaining work; however, she does like when she’s given the opportunity to create scores for more thrilling films like The Manchurian Candidate, as she is more known for producing softer music for films such as The Duchess and Nicholas Nickleby.

3. She was the first female to win an Academy Award for best original score (for Emma in 1996).

4. The movie wasn’t a box-office success yet she enjoyed working with Roman Polanski on his adaptation of Oliver Twist.

5. She composes at the piano, but doesn’t play on any of her scores.

6. A composer is usually given about 7 weeks to create the soundtrack, but she was given only 3 and a half for the movie Chocolat.

7. Composing the Beloved score was a challenge, as the director wanted a soundtrack comprising of only African instruments, and her knowledge of such objects was limited.

8. She cites “so much determination” as the key to becoming a successful composer.

9. She got her break when she went to a talk by director Alan Parker (Fame, Bugsy Malone, Mississippi Burning). She was inspired and sent him a tape of her work. He was impressed and subsequently gave her a call.

10. For anyone beginning to gain some recognition and needing an agent, her advice is to choose a junior agent who is also hungry, as they will therefore “grow with you”.

Never Let Me Go, scored by Portman, is released nationwide 21 January 2011.


Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Social Network

Image: Columbia Pictures

Having made several thrillers over the course of his career, including the sinfully superior Se7en and the underrated Zodiac, and sauntered on the softer, romantic side with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, director David Fincher is back and mingling with the cool kids for his latest feature - and possible Oscar contender - The Social Network.

Based on Ben Mezrich’s novel, “Accidental Billionaires”, the film chronicles the rise of Facebook, from Harvard to Hollywood, with co-founder Mark Zuckerberg as the story’s main player. On the road to infamy, Zuckerberg is dumped by a pretty young thing, seduced by the Napster king, and slapped with two lawsuits - one courtesy of his best buddy, Eduardo Saverin, the other from three Harvard seniors, including the Winklevoss twins, who believe he supplied them with misleading information.

From the setup and a trailer lined with the Kanye West “Power” track, you’ll be inclined to believe that the movie moves along at a blistering pace, when in fact it doesn’t; the journey is actually quite a leisurely one - although it’s apparent from the first scene, if you fall asleep, you’ll miss razor-sharp architectural arrangements, brought to you by a fast-talking, compulsive Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who lets us know from the get-go that he’s not to be messed with – even if he is a tad insecure and unpopular.

Eisenberg is superb as the main protagonist, portraying a funny but guarded character that you want to sympathize with yet criticize all at the same time, mainly for the part he plays in the disintegration of his relationship with Saverin, played by the equally splendid Andrew Garfield, who plays rich and cool effortlessly, whilst having the ability to turn up the heat convincingly to confront Zuckerberg and his newest associate, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), at a pivotal point in the narrative. The film does, however, portray Saverin, along with Zuckerberg, as an outsider, itching to be part of the in crowd, but with Garfield’s boyish good looks, it’s hard to believe he’s not already in the club.

Musician-turned-actor Timberlake sheds his sexyback skin to deliver his breakout performance as the smooth-talking, party boy Parker. Although it should be noted, due to Timberlake’s resemblance to actor Ryan Phillippe, as well as the film’s setting, The Social Network does occasionally evoke thoughts of ‘90s teen flick Cruel Intentions.

All in all, though, David Fincher has produced an excellent, restrained, dialogue-driven piece of cinema, that keeps gums running long after the credits have rolled (which is helped by the fact that Facebook has since become a multi-billion dollar institution). His usual darkly warming tones are still present, but he chooses not to dazzle his audience in order to thoughtfully put forward each gentleman’s case.

Verdict: A fair representation of a complex drama. The movie does tend to jump between two timelines a little too often, but a great ensemble performance (and a flawless computer-generated “twin” effect) keeps the film on both tracks. Smart, inspiring, if not a little elitist, The Social Network is a must-see for a society enamoured with Facebook.


Monday, 18 October 2010

Meet The Filmmakers: The Social Network

Image: Fohnjang Ghebdinga/Fohnhouse

The cast and screenwriter of The Social Network were in town last week to promote their new movie, so we took ourselves along to a gathering in central London to hear what Jessie Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield and Aaron Sorkin had to say about the David Fincher directed story.

Released at the weekend, The Social Network tells the tale of the inception of Facebook. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the infamous site, in the words of Sorkin, “Facebook was invented by a 19-year-old Harvard sophomore named Mark Zuckerberg in 2003.” “What started as a dorm room operation then became, in the blink of an eye, what it is today, 500 million members; if it were a country it would be the third largest country in the world.”

With Facebook having such status, it could be assumed that the actors were under great pressure to portray the founding characters, but for Eisenberg, the experience wasn’t all that daunting, as he had access to video clips and footage of Zuckerberg, “I initially expected it to be limiting to play somebody real … but I actually found it very freeing.”

In addition to Zuckerberg, the movie also features a portrayal of co-founder Eduardo Saverin, whom Garfield described as “the male girlfriend of the relationship” whose alliance with Mark changes when Napster co-founder Sean Parker enters the equation: “as Sean Parker, Justin’s character, is introduced, it becomes a non-sexual love triangle, where one of us gets replaced in Mark’s life.”

Timberlake echoed Garfield’s sentiments, adding, “I keep hearing that Eduardo is the angel and Sean is the devil, but I would put them in the category of the tortoise and the hare … I think what Sean has done in the past makes him cavalier or almost legendary to Mark’s character, as it’s written in the film.” A film that seems to have earned David Fincher universal praise, from critics and audiences alike.

We’re off to see the film later, so stay tuned for our take on this intriguing story.


Saturday, 16 October 2010

Happy Birthday Oscar

Images: FG/Fohnhouse

One of the greatest writers to have ever lived was born today, 156 years ago. 156 is an unreachable age, even for someone whose life isn’t tragically cut short, and so, instead, we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of a boy, who was born to be Wilde.


An Interview with Mark Romanek

Image: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Acclaimed director Mark Romanek was in town this week for the premiere of his new movie, the quintessentially British Never Let Me Go, and Fohnhouse was fortunate enough to ask the man himself one or two questions.

A few of you at this point may be wondering who Mark Romanek is, as his feature filmography is limited, having only made three films over the course of his 25-year career. But what may be lacking in the movie-making department is fiercely made up for in the music video sphere – although the lack of recognition is actually a reason why the director turned to feature filmmaking. Music videos are essentially produced to bolster the career of an artist, and rarely highlight the aptitude of their makers. And so, having been seduced for years by the lifestyle that accompanies this career choice, and having sprayed his scent all over the field, with “little poems” like “Closer” (Nine Inch Nails), “Free Your Mind” (En Vogue) and “Are You Gonna Go My Way” (Lenny Kravitz), he left the game. But speaking at the festival, he is still happy to recount his days working in the medium, as he was, ultimately, able to learn his craft and prepare for life in the feature lane.

While it’s understandably difficult to select an all-time favourite, the director did like the result of the “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” video, and almost enjoys the fact that it wasn’t Janet Jackson’s most successful song. “It wasn’t widely seen as it didn’t become a huge hit … but I like how it came out.” Well, so did The Recording Academy, and so do we, even more so now we’ve learnt that the sentiments evoked within the video were achieved artificially, courtesy of a set built on a sound stage in Los Angeles.

He then went on to talk about his inspiration for the concept of the video, stating, “I had a certain amount of disgust about the way black culture was being depicted … yachts, Cristal champagne, hoes and crap.” “I guess i’m just a white boy with a love of black culture.

Speaking of things black, or white, we had to ask him about his experience directing another Janet video, in which she was in the company of her notorious, now deceased brother, in one of the most expensive videos ever made. “Fascinating and crazy” Romanek called the experience. And the dancing? “like seeing the greatest magic trick you’ve ever seen, and you know it’s not a trick.”