Weslar

The greatest film blog of 'morrowland

Month: September, 2016

Thoughts on “The Magnificent Seven” (2016)

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The revival of a classic western genre is catapulted by the cast that will ultimately define the new generation of classic heroes and tropes. A giving dynamic that represent different corners of the Western genre that it feels fresh and also very reminiscent of the classics.

As the story goes, seven men form to take on an oppressive villain through glorious action packed shoot outs and so does that story get told here. The story is tried and true very much seen but champed through its iterations and from the perspective of a fan of westerns, The Magnificent Seven embellishes the heart and the soul of those classic films. Although not to trample on the way a western is made, it’s created as an homage in the sense that it’s very much grounded in the types of characters seen, and the role they play as to each be separate from one another.

The films cast, chosen very wisely consists of the seven, the magnificent seven, those being Chisolm (Denzel Washington), Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). The process of meeting each character isn’t the focus for the films story, it doesn’t take too much time away from the seven of them interacting with one-another, other than to give insight to what they can do and what they’d bring to the team.

The premise of their mission is to take back land derived from them by Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) & Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) request revenge on behalf of the bereaved town living in fear under Bart’s thumb. Chisholm accepts and on the search for men to pull this feat off.

The use of classic western tropes provide enough nostalgia to relish in, but not too much that takes away from a new experience. The over the top, how the hell did they survive that approach sprinkles on the fun whilst not being too ridiculous when it comes down to the finale as everything becomes more realistic.

Each character provides their own story and depth, not an explicit amount of backstory but an idea of the characters history and turmoil they’ve have survived. Which doesn’t take away from the impact of their interactions and their likability, it is more focused on the interactions between the group than it is on each individual character.

Although some get more backstory than others which seems to be the usual affair for a film with a larger ensemble cast. The 12A rating also affects how much we see and what is altered to imply rather to display – which is a missed opportunity tonally which creates a more slapstick appeal.

The choice to make each character essentially the Terminator reduces the appeal or empathy felt towards any one of the characters on screen, which constrains the appeal to being attached to a character involved.

The Magnificent Seven took me back to a place as a child when old westerns would be played on TV and the over-the-top action and suspense played full into my imagination is replicated here. When expecting very little, I was surprised to have a great time whilst watching this film, although it’s skimping over character development in some areas and the fact it’s tame violence & risk reduced the overall impact of the film.

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Writing a Video game, the right approach + Other musings.

Straight off the bat my up-to-date impressions on writing a video game is that it’s an incredible experience, and so full of inspiring moments – it’s a long road ahead, and a journey that I go on with the most dedicated group of individuals – Mark Gregory, Nathan Winfield, Adelson Tavares, Callum Donaldson, Jeffrey Zwaans, Joseph Marin, Adam face, Eddy Kassabian, Allison Summers, Rachel Alderson – sounds like a great band line-up.

I can’t express how fun and inspiring it has been, and continues to be at the moment. Having conversations that everyone’s involved in, getting the team on the same wavelength and discussing story ideas, how something should look/sound, and generally having a good time working on Tether has been the overall vibe so far.

This is the part where I hope that the future for the game is fruitful, that people just like us will take a chance on it and take a dive in the game that we are incredibly passionate about making.

I digress from that to talk about what I think of the challenge of writing a video game (my first and hopefully not last) and comparing it to Writing/Directing Film/TV.

For intents and purposes I’m not a fully fledged TV & Film Writer/Director; not yet anyway. The formats are completely separate (obviously), but as it’s creating a story and characters it’s really just the same in both industries. For TV & Film characters are, in pre-production written as to be acted/lived out for a viewers eyes & ears but not to interact with. On social media/in-discussion anything that involves interaction is a response to the medium but their’s no direct contact in the moment, more reaction than anything (not a bad thing, just the beginning of my comparison here).

As for a game, there’s all that plus the fact that the player is in control. The player dictates where the character goes, what they choose to interact with and if they choose to interact. This being the case it is an incredible task to formulate a story to then pepper in valuable context and expository elements to flesh out the world that is in the hands of the player. That each written element has to serve a purpose and connect/run parallel to telling a compelling story – in whatever way that may be – to not act as filler, to serve the story going forward and the world being established.

A lot of the time, I’ve written out of necessity. To have nothing to work from causes a block in thought process, if you don’t write anything down you can’t change or add anything. So that dissection of the content is the time when you find out what works and what doesn’t. This creates the foundation for events to unfold, the structure is being set.

On another note it’s a philosophy of mine not to write exposition for the sake of it, the content has to serve some purpose, to back up the narrative and theme of the story being told.

To give an example I could say something completely for the sake of it, to increase play time, or to make it look like I’m generating story in the bucket loads – but this is unnecessary. When it comes to what should be incorporated it should always have relevance. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece in writing or something to connect completely with the narrative, just as long as it fits and belongs to what story is being told.

The time spent writing valuable story and content surrounding it takes not just a second, but a monumental amount of time to process and develop an idea into a connection. For a game there’s much more to the script than the main text. There’s the Collectables for a start, and as long as they fit they’re worth including.

Audio logs and Transcripts serve a means to developing the world, hints at the mental state of character or their surroundings. Their use is of exposition on a level that has to be mixed right. Too much information and it’s overdone, too little and it will read as pointless. It’s about filtering information, snippets of context that add another piece of the puzzle onto the board to fill out the picture of the narrative.

In addition, the inclusion of those Audio Logs and Written Transcripts create the task of when do I use them? Where should they be found? What do they say and if I have to what shall Change about them? Is this one needed? All these things add up to so much writing and time spent doing so.

Like I said before, it’s not how much you write it’s what you write, and that can take time; and it does take time. When writing for film I thought it was a tough to process, the complexities of script writing (which I don’t want to shrug off as easy compared to game writing) it’s just another beast that needs to be tackled. But with a film you don’t have to consider the audiences physical interaction.

In a video game the player is taking up the mantle of the character you’re having them spend all their time with. That there needs to be connection, some empathy or even apathy felt for them to be engaging for the player. The elements in producing written work is incredibly complex and time consuming, and for me this is a learning curve, a different avenue for story that I’m going to be telling in a completely new format.

Film writing has and will always be my baby, my passion. Video game writing is going to be an interesting addition to my portfolio of stories I’ve told. As long as I can engage with the audience through the game and because of the game, then that’s a worthy payoff for the incredible amount of effort and time spent diving into the world being created.

Thoughts on “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”

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The bond is the most interesting development throughout Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the detail I could not be more invested in is the interaction between Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) & Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison).

The setup – a young 13 year old foster kid Ricky Baker is relocated to live with his new foster family. They are the last resort for Ricky as no-one, I repeat no-one, is able to care for him at all, due to the nature of his character, a troublemaker, someone who feels abandoned by his mother which has imprinted an uncaring mentality upon Ricky’s.

Bella (Rima Te Wiata), or adoptive Aunt Bella to Ricky has taken it upon herself to set this kid straight, to show him love that he’s never had and to give him stability to which he can learn from and grow. The opening 10 – 20 minutes focus solely around the two of them and their relationship forming – through hunting a bore in hilariously grotesque fashion – Ricky passes out at the sight of Bella, gutting it and smiling throughout. The comedic pacing and editing is constant throughout.

The contrast between Uncle Hec and Ricky is set from the beginning, the separation he wants to have from the kid leaves the impression that he is just another mouth to feed, and that he didn’t really want him in the first place.

Over the course of the opening act, Aunt Bella suddenly drops dead; just like that in a moment following hilarity caused my heart to stop, to be hit with such force shocked me. Although being followed by an inappropriately comedic funeral procession cameo lead by director Taika Waititi’s priest, aligned itself back into form. The story begins to shift gears as child services formulate a plan to remove Ricky from the property to relocate him to another home, that fact which doesn’t ring true with Ricky.

From here on out it becomes a manhunt to find Hector and Ricky. Paula (Rachel House) and her police colleague (Oscar Kightley) are back on the case to follow in the footsteps of Ricky and his mad Uncle Hec. This is the formation of the entire film going forward.

Throughout the journey there’s a lot to indulge in but no specifics I’d like to share, it’s best an experience when nothing is discussed beforehand. But as most of these films go, the focus draws from the interaction between the two leads, these two are polar opposites, both from completely different backgrounds.

Out of humour becomes the harsh reality of covering up emotion. Although the comedic elements in Hunt for the Wilderpeople show that these two are more in tune than they’d like to portray. The relationship grows and precipitates in a time that Hector thought against, their bond is forming and from the outside it’s heartwarming and charming, although a little awkward when Ricky doesn’t realise the innuendo riddle he spins in the middle of the manhunt for Uncle Hec; involving hunters and his uncle making him do things – I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Different points of contact change the flow of the film, including a branching moment where Ricky has to search for help for a ranger at death’s door in the woods has him splitting from Hector. Ricky meets a girl along the way and she brings him into her home, they share stories, sausages & an eager selfie-driven-father is Ricky’s biggest fan. His return journey to Hector propels the search for Hector, this showing Ricky’s newly adept nature at tracking and survival as apposed to Hectors judgement of them at the start.

A vast sprawl of New Zealand is explored in the film, the beautiful locations evoke the senses and heightens the emotions between the two. Their relationship can take a step back to look at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is best explored when they’re together. Ricky brings the ashes of Hector’s wife Bella along for the journey, only revealing them to him to give him a chance to scatter her ashes – a moment that leads to the connection being fully formed. That their future is together and to be a family.

It’s really moving to observe the films choice of taking two people from different backgrounds and having them form a bond over adversary, having the realisation that they’re not different from each other at all. That their lives meant something, but they just couldn’t understand until they tried to find it for themselves.

One of my favourite films of 2016, completely enthralled me. Beautifully shot and crafter story, editing, pacing, comedy.

Thoughts on “The Infiltrator”

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A lot of things can be said about undercover thrillers, and that is that your main characters find some common ground with the enemy, the profound notion that a criminal can become a friend or as close as family isn’t as absurd as it sounds. That’s what creates dynamic that is tangible, you can understand the gravity of the situation because you understand friendship, family.

In the line of duty Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston, Walter White – Breaking Bad) plays it cool, but don’t be fooled by his nonchalant patience under it all he’s bricking it. The agency pulls him in, after a sting operation goes right and wrong, injuring him in the process. His retirement is offered up, but the chance to take down Pablo Escobar and his associates is too enticing.

Evelyn Mazur (Juliet Aubrey), Robert’s wife and daughter Andrea Mazur (Lara Decaro) are kept out of the loop, in a moment of clarity realises her husband is still undercover and is left as the wife who is on the outside of her husbands business. Out of the loop, unaware. But the grim ramifications of his cover creates personal, a public shame to her opinion of him. Her completely and total lack of insight leaves her frightened of Robert.

Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo, Aurelio – John Wick) an uncertain compadre of Robert, and, eventual  favourite develops through his arrogance into his trauma to focused in a matter of the films 2 hour run time. Ever so interesting is the go-to guy, Dominic (Joseph Gilgun, Woody – This Is England). Although him being an arrested felon leaves the statement as curious, Dominic feels a responsibility to be grateful to Robert, they’ve formed a bond quite irregular for their unique positions. The interaction between him and Robert shows a layer of complexity to him as a character, the prior assumption is to judge him, to have an idea before and idea can be formed from observations of the character.

The con-is-on, Robert, now Bob Musella is deep undercover. Connecting with the Columbian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar associates, Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) Escobar’s top Lieutenant as a business man laundering money for them in the States. The rouse is to get close enough to form a concrete bond to study and record the goings on of the Kingpin’s operation, going through and meeting his most respected cohorts through intense meetings that captivate you and your nerves just to see Bob reel though lies and lies keeping composure and remaining calm.

The pure comfort observed as they bond, their wives bond and the fallout is a tremendous extraction of the convention. They’re enemies but on the same ground they’re friends.

On the side is the ‘Messengers’ for Escobar Gonzalo Mora Sr. (Simon Andreu), Gonzalo Mora Jr. (Ruben Ochandiano), Javier Ospina (Yul Vasquez) play it to frightening levels of insanity, the delivery of masochism from Gonzalo Mora Jr. only displays the craving for money over a life ensures their bloodline to care for paper than a fellow human being. Javier and his “Bodyguard” are obscure and out of the norm, their presence unsettles you and does Bob. This back and forth raises tensions that reveal as a performance that you can never tell is real or fake, increasing the risk.

The level of character detail is phenomenal, the main characters feel fleshed out and consumed in the world. As is their job to blend in, you buy the fact their facade is almost real. The constant high level of threat ensures the reaction to sudden impactful and violently executed sequences revel them in their terror. And you can buy that, in their response, the camera keeps close and doesn’t look away. The act is folding and something’s going to break them.

The films isn’t action heavy, it isn’t supposed to be high-octane. It’s a Thriller and a character study first and foremost, the level of character development insists you care and the you do, it’s harder to keep a calm rhythm. One after the other you’re invested in moments that build those connection and the trust, which leads Bob closer and closer into the heart of darkness.

The main takeaway for me from The Infiltrator is that pacing and length character study creates more of an impact when you invest your patience and emotion for the struggle of a bond eventually to be broken between confidant and handler, in a sense criminals see their work as business. Does this mean the morals are intact? No, it doesn’t, but you still feel a connection and react accordingly.

For it’s length of almost 2 hours, the film feels a lot longer than it would be perceived to be. The pacing is genuine, as if you were in the world with them, dreading the next scene to come along and have something unravel the plan.

Also, Tom Sawyer gets high on you.

Thoughts on “Blair Witch”

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The thought of returning to the woods was a daunting thought, especially following the 1999 original. You’d have thought someone wouldn’t dare go there but when family is involved, incentive becomes paramount.

Blair Witch takes us back into the Black Hills Forest into a similar set up to the original, but adds the implication that our characters are in search of the house Heather Donahue vanished in.

The film is found footage, but when was that unexpected. The same tech is used albeit up-to-date and slicker, earpiece cameras & drones are thrown into the mix adding to better show the perspective and give new dimensions to being lost in the woods.

Heather’s brother James (James Allen McCune) views footage online, footage found around the time of Heather’s disappearance, revealing her in the house in the end of the original. From then on he takes his girlfriend Lisa (Callie Hernandez), and friends Ashley (Corbin Reid) & Peter (Brandon Scott) to the people who found the footage Talia (Valorie Curry) & Lane (Wes Robinson’s) house. The pair take them out into the woods.

It’s found that the pair have no clue as to where they were going, and wanted to tag along with the main group. From then on the world crumbles around them, and this is where it gets interesting. Throughout is a constant sense of fright. It doesn’t scare because you can’t see what causes the disruption. But it’s in the anticipation that causes you to be aware of something you have no concept of, which lingers in your train of thought, dread is your only thought.

In these encounters it’s hard to find dimension in characters though, mostly seen as being there, reacting to it. But that isn’t a bad thing, I didn’t need to find more layers than one to enjoy their performances. They’re taking us on an experience, something that we’re on the ride for.

Following is unparalleled psyche stretching tension in the final moments, or, final act of the film as the crescendo builds and story unveils itself. In the details Adam Wingard gives us answers, if only you notice them. Reestablishing the lore, making good work of a fanbase that relished the original for its realism surrounding the Blair Witch depicted as truth giving a satisfaction to fans.

The film takes advantage of the upgrade in technologies for the cinematography, the use of drone, earpiece cameras and DSLR’s compile to ingrain the feeling of the moment through its raw nature of found footage, which looks great. Using some well placed shots and stabile imagery which decreased the motion sickness.

Blair Witch gives more answers than it does questions. Somehow that leaves me more conflicted, the wonder was so magical about the original. Although this does not spoil the experience because it’s a double-edged sword in this sense.

The film manages to build upon the aesthetic of the original, the atmosphere is claustrophobic in an open space, the logic of no firearms within the group baffles me – in the woods where you could be killed by anything a would animal as opposed to a ghost.

Given everything that a found footage film is, Blair Witch doesn’t necessarily add anything new but refines it and tells an interesting story in the most simplistic way. For me it engaged me in their journey and made sure to keep me engrossed in the downward spiral the films characters were heading towards.

Thoughts on “Captain Fantastic”

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Captain Fantastic is an outlandish family film. The cash’s live together in the woods beyond the reach of civilisation – living off the land and all that it can give. The responsibility has fallen upon Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) to take care of his 6 kids as his wife Leslie is taken ill and under care in the city. Their kids all imbue the independent nature of their father & their made-up and to be perfectly honest interestingly unique names adheres to their qualities as independent.

Their names; Bo (George Mackay), Kielyr (Samantha Isler), Vesper (Annalise Basso), Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), Zaja (Shree Crooks) and Nai (Charlie Shotwell) all playing their roles in the family as keen to be separate from one another but that still come together as one.

In the beginning we are welcomed into their home and realise, in an instant, that they are of their own making. The cabins built in the middle of the woods provide an idea of time and scale as to their motivations.

The real estate surrounding them is luscious in natural beauty, but also in practicality. Providing them with sustainability and wonder at the same time. In addition to their on-the-road bus converted into their own portable home, which is where we see them the most for the length of the film.

The film falls under the category of a road movie, and rightfully so. Most of the running time the family move from place to place to eventually arrive at their destination, all of which is revealed in the opening act.

An emotional journey takes them through such realisation as to what life is really like, from the perspective of the kids they know little of the real world and have been submerged in literature and teachings by their father, to understand this Ben focus’ his teachings on the written word, tasking them with challenges and keeping them in check; testing them on what they’ve read. Creating a father/teacher dynamic that feels sincere in intention, as you understand later when in comparison with state educated children.

The life experience is realised once we see Bo, the promising young academic fall in a quick trance of love with a girl he’s never met before. Under the impression of instinct over pragmatism, he quickly proposes and is laughed of as it is responded to as a joke, by, the funny guy. Then it’s over – a moment of pure chemical reaction, but that is all he needed to feel real, to understand what he’s been missing, a cruel revelation to Bo.

The film keeps the family central to the story, their lives are the motivation that pushes the film along to give you an understanding of who they are, why they are who they are and the most important, where they’re going. This is all told with details of their character most noticeable is through the eyes of Rellian, the teenager of the group, feeling a sense of rebellion at the angst he’s experiencing.

Most interesting is the fact he is the one that sees what their life is really like and who has deconstructed it and fallen folly of its charm, and wants to be a part of something civilised and established.

The visuals aid in the close, tight nit personality of the characters in the world they inhabit a courageous view of a family so in sync, that their pain and their separation feels saw and apt to being relatable in some way.

The music, settles you into the atmosphere and the range it takes is to see it through a different perspective. The finale has a rendition of one of my favourite songs which defines it as their own, unique take. I won’t spoil it but it’s the most delicate – then joyous – take on the song to date.

If there’s one thing that I took from this film is that life falls into many things but the way you approach it is your only concern. The morals and ethics are each to their own, but this film points out the positives and negatives that connote the reason for choosing each side. The remote teachings from literature and personal experience opposed to the classical education system draws parallels in method, but not in result, showing that whatever it is to be human is in the way you want to pursue it.

Captain Fantastic by far imprinted itself onto me as a film that takes me away to that special place, but if I stay too long I’ll probably break down and cry – the perfect justification.

Thought’s on “Don’t Breathe”

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So let’s take a walk, down an abandoned street. A street full of derelict property and the sight of no-one around, take this as a sure bet that things are about to get a bit stressful. Sure, the setting is an obvious way to stage a robbery gone wrong, having no access to help. Our heroes are already at a massive disadvantage from the get go.

The film follows three main protagonists, Rocky (Jane Levy, from the Fede Alvarez remake of ‘Evil Dead’), Alex (Dylan Minnette, of Goosebumps fame) and Money (Daniel Zovatto, from the intriguing Horror/Thriller ‘It Follows’). The three earn their living as ‘cautious home invaders’, their mandate is to fence goods for a total of under $10,000 so that the crime, if they’re caught, will result in the more favourable prison sentence; I’m not sure that counts as favourable.

At the start of the film the characters are in quite the predicament, Rocky lives with her addict mother and her new boyfriend Travis, whilst taking care of her little sister Diddy, she’s desperate to make enough money to move to California, to take her sister away from the wretched life she’s been living.

Money in a career that callously implicates him as a struggle. And Alex, the straightest arrow of the three, the only one with a stabile home life and respectable upbringing. Their reasons semi-justify the lengths they go to, to secure a future from their troubled beginnings, baring Alex who’s along for the ride for Rocky.

Rocky’s family life contrasts Alex, for she at the lower end of the spectrum would love nothing more than to get away from her ‘guardians’. Alex on the other hand has warrant for staying with his father, being that he’s more stabile and coherent than Rocky’s mother.

Alex and Money, two of Rocky’s closest friends, Money being closer as her boyfriend, steal from the rich and sell anything they find to a dealer named Raul. Raul tips them off about a man that could possibly be their next hit, they move into scope out the area and discover the man is blind. Having that parallel of Don’t Breathe being a literal translation, of, or he’ll hear you.

Alex’ dad works for housing protection, this gives the gang ease of access, having keys for each house on hand to use at their own will.

In the mix of a love triangle aptly put in recent social climate by Money, or as threatened by him to Alex, “Stay in the friend-zone.” in an awkward display of macho from Money. This quickly fades as the home invasion becomes evasion and escape; if it all possible.

The helpless victim, the Blind Man (Stephan Lang, Avatar) is played to aggressive but subtle perfection. The impact is sudden and the quiet chaos plays out in a tense 90 minute brawl of tense structured moments that has the film cut between the characters.

The effortless pacing between crucial points create a band of relenting tension as you are pulled into the madness from one moment to the next, never feeling that any of it is over done, or repeated. This praise goes to the direction by Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead Remake) and his cast & crew for putting the camera right in the moment and us, the audience, in perspective whilst making us believe their predicament to be true and tangible.

Don’t Breathe captures what it means with rhetoric interaction. It’s not a question, it’s not a thought, it’s an imperative reaction you keep in mind, that as you watch the film you will find out what it means to be in the characters shoes – or out of them.

– An impressive house invasion film that intrigues & displays a raw fear though it’s talented cast, with beautiful visuals and use of sound to its advantage.