Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"The Town" Dublin Premiere with Ben Affleck (Here Be Spoilers!!!)

Crowds gathered a couple of hours early outside the Savoy Cinema on O'Connell Street in anticipation of writer, director, producer, movie star and all-round talented guy, Ben Affleck, who was attending a screening of his new film The Town, hosted by the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Coming to the attention of critics and screaming girls alike in 1996 with the superb Good Will Hunting which he co-wrote and starred with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck's star rose and rose as he went from indie darling to heartthrob to action hero until, more recently his star began to dwindle due to some truly awful additions to his CV (the worst of which involved J.Lo). The handsome star seemed to be on a downward spiral and was in danger of becoming a mere house-husband to wife Jennifer Garner and their two daughters. However, as it turned out, he was not waning, but merely had his head down working on an exciting new venture into the world of directing. Blowing the socks off Hollywood with his debut, Gone Baby Gone, Affleck shocked  everyone by making a self-assured, technically brilliant and highly engaging emotional drama starring his brother Casey and Amy Ryan, who he directed to an Oscar nomination for her role.
Now he has returned again to gritty drama, this time more action-centric which focuses on a gang of bank robbers in the Charlestown area of Boston, an area notorious for bank and armoured car robberies. This time he also takes the leading role as emotionally lost bank robber Doug in The Town. This is an outrageously slick movie with twists and turns aplenty and more tension than I usually like on a Monday night. The film is currently enjoying critical and financial success Stateside and will surely enjoy the same when it opens here on Friday 24th September.

Affleck was greeted by screaming fans but was rather quickly ushered inside to talk to the eager press. He was joined by his very lovely co-star Rebecca Hall, who looked elegant in a contemporary black gown, no doubt by some designer I know nothing about (feel free to inform me if you have any idea). they eventually made it inside and gave a brief introduction to the film, promising to come back for a Q&A after the screening.

Luckily, they kept their promise, because by the end of the film, the salivating audience were dying to pick Affleck's brain about the making of this fantastic thriller.

JDIFF's Grainne Humphries mediated the session and began by asking him if was aware of Charlestown, growing up in Boston. He replied "I grew up quite near Charlestown. I knew of it’s reputation. It was notorious, an Irish neighbourhood. It had 49 murders one year and only 25 were solved because of their famous “code of silence”.  The murders got a lot of media attention, the bank robberies, less so. He felt that the bank robberies and the criminals themselves were interesting characters and enjoyed the research part of the process which seemed far more simplistic than one might imagine; "Actually, I did a lot of internet research. I researched robberies in Boston, then Googled any names I came across then found out their prison, called up the prison and asked if I could have an hour or two with them. They all said yes so I travelled around to all the prisons. It was fascinating and they all had great stories" Seemingly, a lot of the situations in the film were taken directly from these men including a great moment where the gang are at the end of a long chase scene and they find themselves eye to eye with a beat cop and he looks away, not wanting to get involved.

Apparently some of these guys ended up in the movie. they were encouraged to come in for the open extras casting and they were really happy to be cast and Affleck thought “good, 'cos I wouldn’t wanna see you angry”.

The spotlight then moved to Rebecca Hall who has thus far been fairly quiet. Grainne asks about her experience in the film. She reveals that Ben is; "irritatingly good at everything he puts his mind to. Irritating and inspiring." Affleck adds that there is a balance of action and love in the movie. The heart of the movie is a guy who just wants to change. A woman is often the only way a man can change his ways. "I wanted to cast someone magical, not just some starlet. Someone you could really fall in love with." Rebecca's first day was when he realised she was perfect for the part. they shot a very difficult scene in a laundromat. It was a difficult scene because she had to come across flirty at first and then have a breakdown, but she pulled it off perfectly and Affleck was sure he'd picked the right woman.

The session then opened up to questions from the floor, with someone asking Ben "If someone put a gun to your head, would you rather direct or act and what was the most difficult part of directing this movie?" Rather surprisingly, I thought, he claims he would rather direct. "
You get to steer the material more.There's times when you're an actor...or at least when I'VE been an actor where I've been wanting to steer the ship one way and the director is wanting to steer it another way and I don't know that either one of us is right but it's very frustrating to be at cross-purposes...I anticipated that everything was gonna be hard so nothing really surpised me in it's difficulty." He went on to say that one of the biggest challeges was getting the cast and crew to believe in him and earning their trust. Also, the specificity involved in shooting the action scenes is a lot less fun when working on them, than watching them. He also gives a shout-out to his cast (and therefore himself) by saying that the most interesting thing about action is that you can have spaceships, or dragons fighting one another or whatever but if you don’t care about the characters then it’s not effective so when action sequences work it’s a real testament to the actors.
When asked what his favourite scene was he said, "I really loved the stuff with Rebecca at the ice hockey rink with all the kids around. I think its really added to the coda of the piece and it was really moving. I loved all the white in the background. And it was easy to shoot...everything else was terrifying."
Some cheeky audience-member asked if he would like to make something in another genre. He laughs and replies; "I guess I better do something different. After Gone Baby Gone I would have liked to have done something different but I really wanted to play this part so I went for it."
A lady in the audience (presumably someone's Ma) interjected to tell Ben that she thought he and Rebecca  were "lovely" and she was glad he went in and shot those fellas in the shop....ahem...moving on!

Ben gets all giggly when asked if he has any plans to work with his brother again? He laughs that the thing about brothersis that you have a great rapport which is great for working together but if you butt heads on something you just wanna kill them. "I’d love to work with him again...I’ll do anything as long as he knows I’m the boss (laughs)!"

Both he and Casey had films in the Venice Film Festival this year. Ben talks a little about Casey's hoax documentary, I'm Still Here. He calls it a "wonderful film all about the media and Joaquin Phoenix plays a character who is finding the whole thing difficult who loses it". He deftly avoids talking about the scandalous outrage that was a year-long lie about Joaquin Phoenix's fake foray into rap music and emotional breakdown.

Someone in the crowd asked was Heat an influence to which he again, gets a bit giggly: "Heat...hmmm (laughs) Yes, Heat. That movie!" His odd reaction is due to the fact that all the guys in prison that he interviewed during his research invariably asked “so, you know that movie Heat?” And when he was conducting research in the FBI the guys brought him around, took him through the offices and they had a POSTER of Heat in one of the offices. Part of being a director, he claims, is sometimes picking the right people to steal from. Heat was definitely an influence, as was Rififi, Gomorrah, Amores Perros.

A member of the audience asked what the collaborative writing process was like and Ben answered, "Writing Good Will Hunting was a very different experience because we improvised a lot of it. We would record ourselves talking our way through it and then write it into the script." The process of writing The Town was different because there was a very long draft of the script and then Affleck wanted to add all these great stories from the prisoners soa lot of material had to be cut "because nobody wanted to make a 6 hour movie". The rewriting process also changed the ending from the source novel.  In the book, Dougie dies in the end. Ben felt that ending would be very hard to play so they changed it. They thought very hard about changing it back but it didn’t feel right so they changed it again and made him die in another way, but it still wasn’t working so they ended up changing it back. Ben slyly plugs the eventual home release "The other ending will be available on the Blu-Ray."

An audience member asks was it their intention to make the film feel true-to-life and questions some references to CSI in the film. "We really tried to make it feel real. The references to CSI were impovised on the day. In fact I’ve never been in a movie where lines get into the movie and the gag reel" then he quickly changes his mind and says..."actually, no I have."

An avid fan of Rebecca Hall proclaims that he loves her and then proceeds to ask what her journey has been like in her rise to movie stardom. She looks overwhelmed and exclaims tha it has been amazing. From Starter for Ten to working with Chris Nolan on The Prestige, then Woody Allen now Affleck (makes a thumbs down gesture, then laughs). She claims it has been a whirlwind but nothing really has changed. "I’m still getting jobs I want and so far have been working with people who really excite me."

The floor is then closed to questions and Grainne Humphries closes the Q&A with the inevitable "what's next" question. Ben states that he is starting a movie in 3 days in Oklahoma with Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weiz, to be directed by Terence Malick. An exciting prospect if you ask me. He then thanks the audience graciously and says goodnight to rapurous applause from the crowd and motions for Rebecca to answer the question, though she seemed to think they were finsihed. She answered that next up is The Awakening, a supernatural drama and a movie with Will Ferrell, Everything Must Go. She will also be appearing in Twelfth Night at the National Theatre in London.

At that the stars bid the adoring crowd adieu! All went back to normal as I excitedly bounced off to discuss my new favourite heist movie with my friends over a pint! 

 - Charlene Lydon

Monday, September 20, 2010

Joe Dante Interview

Legendary director JOE DANTE is releasing his much-anticipated, The Hole 3D this week. A filmmaker who has never been afraid to scare youngsters with such films as Gremlins, The ‘Burbs, Small Soldiers and The Howling is using 3D to great effect with his latest fun foray into horror. He talks to Totally Dublin about the film, his days on Eerie, Indiana and what he learned from working with Roger Corman...

The Hole along with many of your previous films including Gremlins and Small Soldiers are dark family films that contain actual menace. Is this something lacking in today's family films?
There’s a tendency to make family films a little “treacly” and that’s somewhat old-fashioned and I think that comes from underestimating children. I remember when Gremlins came out there was this great, big drama about the scene where the Mom puts the gremlin in the microwave and there were all these parents complaining that their children are gonna put their little brother or sister in the microwave; or put the poodle in the microwave; or put the cat in the microwave and I just thought it was so ridiculous because children are smarter than that. People are always underestimating them.

I think the best children’s films are the ones that are not specifically aimed at children, but are aimed above that because children can pick up on things much better than people realise. I think they can tell the difference between fiction and reality much better than people imagine. And I base that on being a kid! 

So, do you think kids like to be scared?
I think kids LOVE to be scared! I was an “atomic fear” child. I grew up in the 50’s where everybody thought the bomb was gonna go off at any moment. Every plane that flew over was a possible bomb-dropper. But I was drawn to go see these “giant ant” movies, movies where radiation was gonna change strange things into huge monsters. And these movies scared me to death. I would come home and have terrible nightmares. My parents would ask “if they make you scared, why do you go?” and I would say “because I have to”. I was drawn to these scary movies, even when they scared me the most.

Look at Grimm’s Fairy Tales, look at Disney movies. They all have huge scary moments. Everybodys first scary moment, usually, is seeing the witch in Snow White, which some people haven’t seen in a long time, it’s pretty intense. The flight through the forest and the transformation of the Queen into a witch and the way that they try to kill her in the forest, it’s pretty grim stuff!

Over the years, this odd genre, horror, which has never gotten any respect, it has always been treated as a third rate genre, we find the only consistent money-maker has been the horror movie, the lowly horror movie! It has been the one thing that studios can always count on to make money. That’s because younger audiences like to go and watch depictions of death that they can laugh at and feel superior to.

Speaking of young people, your young cast in The Hole 3D are fantastic. Do you find it difficult when directing such young actors to get the right balance of fear and lightheartedness?
Well, I’ve done a lot of pictures with young kids for some reason. I don’t have any of my own but when I look back over my filmography, there’s all these movies with kids, many of which, you might notice, are from broken families, and my family wasn’t broken.

Part of the fun of working with kids is they don’t bring a lot of baggage with them. The main thing when you make a movie initially is to cast it and after that you’ve done half the job at least. One of the things that the studios like when you’ve got a kid in your movie, what famous kid can you get? They want Miley Cyrus, or they want Hilary Duff, or Zac Efron. The problem is if you cast it that way the baggage that the kid brings with them outweighs the character. Now it’s Miley Cyrus playing the character, it’s no longer the character. I think for a movie like The Hole you need fresh faces for audiences to feel “he could be like me”. I don’t think people identify very much with celebrity kids but they do identify with kids that seem like real people and it’s not hard to make a kid actor, if he’s good, seem genuine.

When you’re acting as a child it comes from a less cluttered place than when you’re acting as an adult so the trick is to find people who have the chemistry. Certainly Chris (Massoglia) and Haley (Bennet) had chemistry. We had them read together, we had all the contenders read together actually. And these two really had a spark which made everyone in the room instantly think these are the ones to cast. And Nathan (Gamble) who I didn’t meet, I had just seen him in The Dark Knight and he was a pretty great actor and I said I didn’t have to meet him and if he wanted to do it I was glad to have him. And in a way that worked out. Him, Chris and Teri Polo really, really looked like a family.

The Hole called to mind a TV project you were heavily involved with, Eerie Indiana. Did your work on this influence The Hole?
I think so. Eerie Indiana was a dream project for me because I was in on the ground floor and I was there from the pilot and when they asked me to stay on as a creative consultant, I did several more episodes and it’s a dream for a director to have a TV show to go to when he’s not directing a movie. I just say “well I’m not doing anything, I can go direct a few episodes of Eerie Indiana”, which is a show where I know who the characters are because I helped to create them. And again, that was another case, if I hadn’t been on that show the kid they would’ve chosen to play the lead would have completely wrong. Everyone wanted this geeky kid in the lead but I said “no you have to use this other kid” who was slightly more attractive but I think he’s much more of a real kid and they went with my idea and it worked out.

The show itself didn’t really work out unfortunately because it had a pretty bad timeslot. But oddly enough, years later they started to run it on the Fox Network as a kids show in the morning and it became so popular that they said “well now we only have 18 episodes, we need more episodes” so they went to Canada and they shot several episodes with a different cast in a replica house and they made it seem, with editing, that the kids from the previous episodes had transformed into these other kids. You haven’t seen it cos it’s really lousy. But the first eighteen episodes were quite good. There is a DVD of the whole series but you’ll have to go on Amazon to find it.

You started off making films aimed mainly at adults with The Howling and Piranha then with Gremlins the target audience got younger and wider. Was this a plan?
Gremlins kind of redefined my career because it was my first giant hit and a lot of people are not lucky enough to get that big a hit in their career so I was immediately offered family movies so I did a film called Explorers which was Ethan Hawke’s first picture and River Phoenix’s and that was a fun time except for the fact that the studio changed hands and they made me release the movie unfinished. They just said “stop, stop working, it’s finished”. So I was never very happy with that movie, even though people have come up to me saying they loved the movie when they were kids and all that. To me, I just look at it and see an unfinished movie.

After that I did Innerspace  which was not a kids movie but it was certainly a family movie and then I did The ‘Burbs, which was the same and then Gremlins 2, and Matinee. They were all family-oriented pictures so I was kind of “typed” a little bit. But you don’t really have a plan, you’re just lucky to keep working.

Earlier in your career you worked closely with the legendary Roger Corman. Is there anything you learned from Corman that you still use today?
All of us, and there were quite a lot of people who worked for Roger, we all learned stuff we never forget and stuff that we constantly use on movies big and small. The only thing that ends up on screen is the thing that happens between when you say “action” and when you say “cut” and there may be a lot of time between you saying that or you may go from shot to shot very quickly. You basically try to maximise the amount of time you actually have to run the camera and minimise the time you spend to light and block and do all the things that aren’t on camera.

When you work for Roger you learn the best way to block a scene so that you don’t have to light it and you don’t have to do a reverse and you don’t have to take extra time for the close-up. You can move people around in the frame so that the close-up comes naturally in the shot. And all those things, are things that you take with you when you go on to make movies. You might be making a film like Gremlins 2 where it’s like watching paint dry between shots. It’s like, “oh the puppets are broken, we gotta wait”. But you still have to hurry up when you’re shooting the shot because you have to get on to the next set-up. Then you find in your head all these little tricks that you learned when you worked with Roger and you trot them out again.

I heard a rumour that you were working on a script for a film about Roger Corman making The Trip?
That’s true actually. I have a script and it’s very funny. It’s called The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes. It’s about Roger’s experience taking LSD and making The Trip and it’s a movie I’ve been trying to get made for several years. I’ve had various actors attached and money has fallen out and money has come in and actors have gone away. It’s been quite an odyssey actually. But I think we’re getting to a point now where there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Right now happens to be a really tough time for getting movies financed, the economy being what it is.

I have to ask...
You’re going to ask me about Gremlins 3! I know you have to ask and I’m afraid I’ll have to tell you the same thing I’ve told everyone else; there are no plans to make Gremlins 3. I think rather than do Gremlins 3D, they’ll just go back to the beginning and start over and reboot the whole thing with different designs and different technology.

The technology we used in the first films has been outdated for many years and movies are defined by what we do with the technology. There were things we could do so we wrote them into the script. There were things we couldn’t do so we took them out. We put up signs on the set saying “Funny Things Gremlins Could Do” and people would come in and write “Throw darts at Gizmo”  and so we would do that. It was very ad-hoc filmmaking but I just don’t think that technology is relevant anymore and I think that they’ll want to get some new ideas because obviously it’s a well-known franchise.

Recently James Cameron's commented that Piranha 3D uses 3D exactly how it shouldn’t be used. How do you think 3D is best used?
That was a “rant” actually. His point should have been, I don’t know whether it was or not, that the idea of 3D is being sullied because so many movies that are not made in 3D are being released in this fake 3D process that’s added later and is actually very inferior to the real thing. It causes  eyestrain and it’s very dark and it’s an impediment to actually watching the movie. Piranha 3D was a movie that was not shot in 3D. So, I think the basis of his rant, although it sounded like he was criticising the movie, was that 3D is a viable medium and we now have the best quality 3D that we’ve ever had and a chance for it to be really used intelligently by filmmakers but that is being damaged because there are so many crappy products out there that people are going and getting headaches and thinking why should they pay extra money to get a headache and see a very dark version of the movie that isn’t even really in good 3D. So I think the whole greed factor has the possibility of killing off what may be the last wave of 3D. I think that’s a shame because I think that 3D is a very useful storytelling tool. I don’t think it should transform cinema so that everything is in 3D, nor do I believe that when 3D TV’s come out people are going to sit in front of their TV’s for the same amount of time as they watch regular TV and watch the news and watch Oprah in 3D because that’s ridiculous.

Do you have The One That Got Away, a movie that you regret didn’t get made or a movie you would’ve liked to get made?
I have a couple. I have a script by Terry Jones of Gulliver’s Travels that’s really wonderful that I never managed to get made and I have a script called Termite Terrace which is about Chuck Jones’ early days at Warner Brothers. But I’ve learned my lesson, never develop a script that involves characters that you don’t own because I couldn’t rewrite it for Woody Woodpecker, it had to be Bugs Bunny. That one never got made, they made Space Jam instead.

- Charlene Lydon (from Totally Dublin:http://www.totallydublin.ie/film-feature--55.html )

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Enter the Void

Directed by: Gaspar Noe  

Written by: Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Gaspar Noe  

Starring: Paz De La Huerta, Nathaniel Brown, Cyril Roy.

Rating: 7/10

In a nutshell, Gaspar Noe's often exasperating but always visionary Enter the Void follows a man on his journey from his last hours on earth, through his death and his journey into the afterlife. The first twenty minutes or so follows Oscar as he takes a hit of DMT (a very potent hallucinogen) and goes on a visually arresting, if slightly over-long trip. He then leaves his house to give his friend a stash of drugs he owes him only to be chased and shot by police when he gets there. From there, his death and afterlife mirrors the philosophies behind the Tibetan Book of the Dead which theorises (I’m sure I’m putting this very crudely) that one's soul floats around, watching the world without them until they figure out how to leave their old life behind and move on. To recommend this film to audiences is perhaps a wrong turn, as it is bound to strike most as indulgent, immoral, needlessly vulgar and uncomfortable (particularly in Oscar's tendency to watch his sister having sex whenever possible). However, with suitably forewarning, this is a film that any self-respecting cinephile should make a point of seeing, and especially on the big screen.

Noe proved with Irreversible that he was a technical genius and that his eye for original visuals knows no bounds. He also proved that he wasn't afraid to shock his audience and has quite the nasty streak running through his stories. In both visual content and shock factor, Irreversible was merely a precursor to his magnum opus Enter the Void. With an endless stream of nasty images and depressingly dead-eyed unpleasantness, it is difficult to feel anything for any of the characters, but none of this dampens the impact of Noe's probing, soaring, spectral camera as it floats in and out of lives and deaths. I don't know if it has ever been done before but the camera-as-spirit conceit is  highly effective and one which puts a very interesting moral spin on the voyeurism of this film. Noe takes voyeurism to extreme, as Oscar's spirit jumps in and out of bodies in often very unusual and even shocking circumstances.

The trouble with Enter the Void is that it is difficult sometimes to know whether to laugh or be shocked. Some of the content is pretty outrageous and even quite silly. However, for every roll of the eyes, there is a gasp of astonishment in terms of the intensity of the cinematic experience. Having now seen this film twice (it premiered at JDIFF 2010 in February), I must say I was pleased to see some superfluous scenes towards the end cut out, giving the film a somewhat more streamlined effect.
Your tolerance for Noe’s self-indulgence will most likely decide your level of enjoyment of this, a film I imagine will very much divide audiences, but it is at the very least a visual milestone that should be seen on as big a screen as possible (though somehow I can’t see this one gracing Screen 1 in the Savoy anytime soon). A flawed piece, but one flooded with moments of genius.

 - Charlene Lydon (from: www.filmireland.net)

If you want an idea of what to expect check out the TRAILER and for a taste of the manic energy, here's a clip of the opening credit sequence which suitably sets the tone for what's to come.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Written by: Jonas Frykberg

Directed by: Daniel Alfredson

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Yasmine Garbi.

My Rating: 4/10

The first film of the trilogy The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo premiered at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in February to a warm reception proving to be a highly enjoyable and very accomplished murder mystery. Noomi Rapace embodied the character of Lisabeth Salander (the titular tattooed “girl”) magnificently and was certainly the high point of the film. Although not quite a classic, I’m sure the fans of the novel feel it was faithful. The second film follows just six months later, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and unfortunately it isn’t half as entertaining as the first film. In fact, it is alarming how inferior this film is to its predecessor.

The Girl Who Played With Fire sees Lisabeth accused of a double murder that just so happens to involve the Millenium publication that Mikael Blomqvist work with. She and Blomqvist have not kept in touch since the events of the last film but they both separately pursue the villain in this film in order to clear her name. The dynamic of two heroes searching for the same villain but not coming into contact until the final minutes is ambitious, but it unfortunately leaves the film feeling a little heartless. Michael Niqvist is painfully dull as Blomqvist, as he was also in the first film and makes it almost impossible not to find yourself wishing away most of the film, waiting for Lisabeth to get more screen time. It is clearly her film and Noomi Rapace tears up the screen every time she appears. The character of Lisabeth is the heart and soul of the story and as we peel back the layers and get to know more about her, the more interesting she becomes. I would go so far as to say that this character is the only thing that prevents this film from being a very mediocre thriller.
The Girl Who Played With Fire stretches your credibility to the extreme. As far-fetched as the first film was, this one will undoubtedly have you raising your eyebrows more than once. The final act is particularly ridiculous and although some might enjoy the bloody endgame (I did!), there are a lot of plot points that are difficult to buy into.

This is a standard murder mystery which is poorly played out, but is strengthened by another incredible performance from Rapace. The story is not half as classy as the first film, but it’s worth a look if you like a tantalising mystery.

 - Charlene Lydon (from: www.filmireland.net)

The Hole 3D

Written by: Mark L. Smith

Directed by: Joe Dante

Starring: Chriss Massoglia, Haley Bennet, Nathan Gamble, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern

My rating: 8/10

The Hole 3D (not to be confused with the Thora Birch vehicle of the same name from 2001) is a good old-fashioned horror yarn for youngsters. No gore, no nudity, just good scares! A grumpy teenager and his little brother move with their single mother to a small town. They soon befriend the beautiful girl next door and they happen across a giant, ominous hole in their basement. The hole is seemingly infinite as the boys conduct a series of experiments including lowering a night-vision camcorder down and throwing a handful of nails in (to tremendous 3D effect, as you can imagine). What they don’t discover over the course of these experiments is that the hole, once opened, lets loose your greatest fear which then proceeds to stalk you. A simple setup, but it is used very well, not only for thrills but as a sometimes thought-provoking look at the fears that you don’t realise you have.

The very obvious but extremely effective “evil clown doll” is great for scares and a hammy throwback to old-school horror of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. The other “fears” are somewhat more cerebral and as the film progresses, some of the fun tends to get lost in the family issues storyline. However, it is a well-written piece and the script reveals drips of information at a suitably subtle pace. The young cast do very well in roles that should have been very annoying and there is an element of class to proceedings overall. While this is certainly not by any means an important or a very original film, it is great to see films aimed at kids that refuses to condescend to them. The Hole plays it for scares, and isn’t afraid to do just that. Children will be terrified and delighted in equal measure. The 80’s gave us kids’ adventures that dripped with real danger like The Goonies or Labyrinth, and of course Joe Dante’s Gremlins movies. These films were quite nasty, and unlike most of the saccharine rubbish kids are dealt these days, they are quite menacing. The Hole is a worthy successor to these films and isn’t afraid to push your nerves just that little bit further than you might expect.

From the poster and trailer I expected a tween adventure with a supernatural twist akin to Are You Afraid of the Dark or Goosebumps? To my delight, this was far more enjoyable than just a silly kids’ film. It is certainly directed towards young teenagers but the great thing about The Hole is that it is actually scary!

This film is full of menace but keeps the tone light enough to maintain the element of fun. Dante keeps you on the edge of your seat with constantly mounting tension and silly jumps that make the audience giggle as much as scream. This is as fun as horror gets and for once the gimmick of 3D is used as just that... a gimmick.

Certainly not high-brow but lots of fun and scarier than you might expect!

The Runaways

Written & Directed by: Floria Sigismondi

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Michael Shannon

My Rating: 7/10

The Runaways tells the story of the now relatively obscure band that began the career of the now legendary Joan Jett. The Runaways may be obscure now, but they made quite a splash in their day. Joan Jett and Cherie Currie were international icons and the concept of an all-female punk-rock band was unheard of before them. Their songs were simple and not exactly profound but the girls’ raucous joie de vivre and Cherie’s tendency to “flaunt her wares” ensured that they became an overnight sensation.

The film tells the girl’s story from just before they met. Joan (Stewart) was a tearaway, teenage punk who liked men’s clothes and loud electric guitar. Cherie (Fanning) was a good girl gone bad who cut off her long, angelic, blonde hair and performed at her school talent show miming David Bowie in spandex and face paint. Joan meets legendary manager Kim Fowley outside a club and begs him to listen to her band. He instantly sees the potential marketing sensation and he and Joan handpick Cherie randomly from the crowd to become their singer.

The rest, as they say, is history. We’ve all seen this film before. It is your typical biopic, all sex and drugs and rock n roll, and then the inevitable fall from grace. I don’t judge biopics for being formulaic. It’s very difficult to deviate from the conventions of the genre. So, conventions aside, this is a decent film that works in what it sets out to do: give a snapshot of the world The Runaways came from. The visuals, the colours, the costumes and the music are all vibrant and exciting. The girls are sexy, spunky and fearless in their performances and the chemistry between the two leads is perfect. The relationship that is built between Joan and Cherie is both intimate and awkward. Neither girl quite understands the other but both are swept away in the excitement of their friendship and the whirlwind of their new-found fame. Of course the sex and drugs that were once so enticing soon become a problem, especially for the naive and bratty Cherie.

The appeal of the sweaty, sexy, exciting club scene is what makes this movie stand out. However, it loses its way somewhat towards the end as the band’s downfall is handled lazily and feels a bit tacked on. If you like your girls slutty, your music trashy and your clothes held together with safety pins then this movie is for you. However, if you’re looking for a profound analysis of the music and historical context of The Runaways, you’ll come away disappointed.

 - Charlene Lydon (from: www.frankthemonkey.com)