Author: James Baxter

Searching For Sugarman, Film Review.

[5_stars] How often is it that you get a documentary, the content of which seems so far out, so miraculously implausible that it leaves you thinking either a) perhaps the director has exhibited a little too much artistic licence; or b) if all this somehow adds up then why on earth am I only just hearing about it now!? Whether a film or a record enthusiast you will find it impossible to avoid asking both questions throughout Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching For Sugar Man, the chronicle of South African record store owner Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman’s journey to discover whatever happened to American folk-rock musician Jesus Rodriguez… you mean you haven’t heard of him? Well, this is where it gets interesting. Leading a minstrel-like existence in the early seventies, Jesus/Sixto Rodriguez could be found performing in desolate bars and clubs in Detroit, unfortunately garnering very little popularity; except for in South Africa as it goes.  Peculiarly enough and unbeknownst to the rest of the world (that’s including Rodriguez!), he was lauded alongside Elvis and The Beatles as amongst rock n’ rolls most important icons; all this because of a single tape that was smuggled over! Nobody knows what became of the man—not even the acclaimed producers and engineers who alleged to have worked on his two albums Cold Fact and Coming From Reality. Urban myths circulate over a potential suicide, the most...

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Classic Film– Audition (Takashi Miike)

Consider for a moment a typical romantic comedy—let’s take You’ve Got Mail for the sake of argument. Now, imagine if it were to be forced at gunpoint into relations with the always delightful matriarch of the video nasties, I Spit On Your Grave. Well, for those of you curious enough to wonder what the unlikely spawn of  these two disparate films would look like… Takashi Miike’s Audition folks! Never one to shy away from the controversial, Japanese director and prolific powerhouse Takashi Miike has made a name for himself as a purveyor of the violent, the grotesque and the just plain weird. Audition is no exception to this rule—and yet this seems to be the only rule it makes a point of following! Nowhere else is Miike’s uncanny ability to straddle genres and quash audience expectation quite as unsettling as in Audition. As the film starts we’re introduced to Aoyama, a widowed bachelor seeking to assimilate himself back into the dating market. Being somewhat shy and a little rusty Aoyama begins a rather unconventional search for a partner at the pressure of his friend working in the film industry, Yoshikawa. It turns out that the two will host a series of phony auditions for a fake movie project with the sole purpose of gathering a selection of prospective dates for Aoyama During preparation for these questionable auditions, Aoyama becomes...

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The Room, Film Screening At FACT.

For a film lauded as the Citizen Kane of bad movies it’s perhaps no surprise that FACT’s much anticipated screening of The Room drummed up an audience of devotees as keenly obsessive as any you’re ever likely to see at the cinema. The person responsible for this frenzy? Tommy Wiseau; an intriguing question mark of a man if only for his suitably zombified get up including but not limited to lanky black hair and perennially zonked-out exression; imagine Alice Cooper after a series of steroid injections. Given his position as writer, director, producer and (you guessed it!) lead actor, our gothic Orson Welles has, arguably more than the film itself, fallen into the wide open arms of cult cinema fandom. The Room tells the tale of banker, Jonny (Wiseau) and the gradual dissolution of his relationship with his fiancé Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). As the film clunks into gear, Lisa finds herself bored with their stable relationship and decides to hit it off with Mark causing Jonny to reassess his connection with those he thought he knew the best. Though there are novels shorter than the list of things wrong with The Room, the plot, while uninspired, in no way prepares you for the sheer ineptitude of pretty much every aspect of the film. Plot points are introduced and then abandoned, overlong sex scenes...

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Killer Joe. Film Review.

Uncompromising— my word of choice in what will no doubt be a fruitless effort to describe the unhinged ferocity of William Friedkin’s latest cinematic opus, Killer Joe.    Adapted from the Tracy Letts stage play of the same name, Friedkin brings to the big screen the grim tale of a southern American family’s attempt to knock off the indirectly referred to mother character in the hope of  pilfering the money left in her will. They do this by hiring Joe (Matthew McConaughey), an aviator wearing detective come part time murderer topped off with the obligatory Stetson. What ensues is a madcap hour and a half of southern fried film noir of a similar likeness to Friedkin’s previous work, Bug (another Letts adaptation) in both psychological intensity and mordant black humour. The family, played by Emile Hirsch (the deadbeat son and progenitor of the plan, Chris), Thomas Haden-Church (the dopey father, Ansel) and Gina Gershon (lascivious step mother, Sharla) all pull out stellar performances as one of the most dysfunctional families you’re likely to see on screen. Of particular mention however, is JunoTemple’s inspired performance as the enigmatic daughter Dottie who also happens to be the prospective recipient of her mother’s small fortune. Dottie is soon dragged into a stark tale of mistrust once Joe expresses an interest in her unassuming and naïve ways. What she doesn’t know however, is...

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Naked by Mike Leigh, Classic Film Review.

Despite the lengths many of us are willing to go to prevent the onset of revision and other exam related traumas, perhaps the idea of enjoying some stark, social-realist cinema doesn’t quite top your lengthy list of procrastination activities. This being said, Mike Leigh’s despicably underrated Naked has something of interest for anybody remotely interested in cinema. Outside of its tough, gritty and often harrowing subject matter, Leigh’s masterpiece—and it is a masterpiece!—is coloured with a cynical humour, all tied together in a career defining performance by David Thewlis as the bitter, brilliant, misanthrope Jonny. Regardless of its critical acclaim, picking up two awards at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival (one for Leigh, one for Thewlis) and Leigh’s consistent prolificacy, Naked has largely faded from the forefront of extreme cinema. Famous nowadays for his involvement with the Harry Potter line of films as Remus Lupin, Naked was the film that gave steam to Thewlis’ career and, according to the man himself, the experience of “living” Jonny is something that still troubles him to this day. Opening, tellingly, with an ambiguous rape scene (does he rape her? Is it consensual sex that’s become out of hand?), the audience is immediately alienated from their protagonist. Before this continue, it should be said that if you want to get a good idea of Jonny in all his malevolent horror, imagine the unhinged spawn of Alfie and...

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