Sound Of My Voice – Film Review

The only qualm I have with Zal Batmanglij (yes, the director’s name is Batman!) and Brit Marling’s film Sound Of My Voice is that its title is missing a ‘the’; the feeling that I am beginning a sentence halfway through makes me uncomfortable. But then, how apt that the film’s title seemingly leaves bits out and makes me feel off since that’s exactly what Sound Of My Voice does as a film.

Brit Marling is Maggie; a prophet to some, a cult leader to others. She is a hidden enigma that professes to be from the year 2054 and is here to, well, she plays her cards pretty close to her chest so we’re not really sure what her plan is. All we know is that the followers that she is amassing include Peter (Christopher Denhem) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) who have infiltrated the group to exploit it as the cult-scam they believe it is. Though, as they grow to be one with the group the pair slowly forget why they joined Maggie’s sect, and the line between investigator and disciple blurs.

Although its protagonist/antagonist (Sound Of My Voice can be delightfully ambiguous) claims to be a time traveller the film remains very grounded; exploring a more human drama that focuses on the dilemmas its characters are going through emotionally than on Austrian bodybuilders with a proclivity for nudity and cool one-liners – though, Marling occasionally does dress down and sing popular songs from the 90s.

Marling and Batmanglij don’t stop at their characters when it comes to Cult Counselling 101 either. Through its quiet, minimalist style and absorbing tone the rituals and activities that Maggie asks of her followers are often just as effective on the audience as they are on Peter and Lorna. When Maggie asks her supporters to close their eyes and imagine being a child you feel yourself joining in as you enter the same state of longing as those acting on Maggie’s whim. This immersive style is fun for the most part until one particular activity crops up which (for cleanliness reasons) involves placing a plastic sheet on the floor. Whilst I am certain that Batmanglij and Marling have created the next step in immersive cinema (5D!) I’m not so certain that cinemas will like the cleanup that may come after the audience’s involuntary participation.*

Sound Of My Voice is a well-chaptered and remarkably powerful film full of emotional and dramatic epiphanies that will have you glued to your seat even when the credits roll. A [maybe] sci-fi, pyschological drama that is filled with crisscrossing ideas about divinity and the power of persuasion that impresses far more than most films so far this year.

Although it leaves you with plenty of questions, Sound Of My Voice gives you the tools for some very thoughtful after-film debates and a burning desire to know where its cast and crew will go next.

Sound Of My Voice will be in UK cinemas on 3rd August 2012.

*If this isn’t exactly clear – I am referencing a scene in which the group decides to purge their negativity by putting a finger down their throat. Cue the Mexican wave of sick in the cinema hall.

Out Now – 29th June 2012

Storage 24
A British monster movie set in a storage facility. The Guardian loves it and the Daily Mail hates it. I know who I trust.

Friends with Kids
What to Expect When You’re Expecting with the cast of Bridesmaids. Boom.

We Are Poets (limited release)
Documentary film looking at UK teens who are involved in spoken poetry. The Leeds youth poetry team compete in America’s most prestigious poetry slam event. Poetry slam. Poetry. Slam. What?

Joyful Noise (limited release)
Glee for grown-ups starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah. *shudder*

Killer Joe (limited release)
I can’t tell you what the plot is but I can tell you that the cast includes personal favourites Juno Temple, Emile Hirsch, and Thomas Haden Church alongside Matthew McConaughey looking like he might be about to do something right for a change.

The Fairy (limited release)
A man falls in love with a fairy after she grants him three wishes. A joyous comedy which completely won me over. A non-silent tribute to silent comedy films filled with slapstick and silliness.

Your Sister’s Sister (limited release)
This is billed as a comedy but the trailer and storyline suggest more of an angsty drama as a man sleeps with his best friend’s lesbian sister despite having feelings for his best friend. Expect 5 minutes of sex followed by 90 minutes of guilt, regret, and anger.

Dark Horse (limited release)
A deliberately detached comedy about two people falling in love (almost) that I found too detached to really engage. It’s been eight months since I’ve seen it, and it hasn’t been on my mind once since.

Lovely Molly (limited release)
Don’t let the title fool you, this is a horror that contains strong language, sex, violence, gore and hard drug use. Sex! Violence! Gore! Phwaor!

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (limited release)
70s comedy re-release. “A surreal, virtually plotless series of dreams centered around six middle-class people and their consistently interrupted attempts to have a meal together.” Sounds delightful.

King of Devil’s Island (limited release)
Uprising in a Norwegian boys home! Stars that nice Swede from Mamma Mia! but features less singing and more sexual abuse.

Glastonbury The Movie (In Flashback) (limited release)
It is 17 years after its original release and Robin Mahoney has “retooled” his documentary about Glastonbury.

The Athlete (limited release)
Biopic of Ethiopian Olympic runner and Paralympic archer Abebe Bikila. Something tells me Bikila has trouble sometime in between the running and the archery.

Last Flight to Abuja (limited release)
“Mid-air difficulties forces a Nigerian commercial plane into an emergency landing with devastating consequences.” Don’t worry though guys, British Airways actually have a flight leaving from Heathrow tonight at 22:50.

Exit Humanity (limited release)
“A young man’s struggle to survive in the aftermath of a deadly undead outbreak during the American Civil War.” I have to admit to knowing very little about the American Civil War so for all I know it did involve an outbreak of the undead. I did Geography. Ask me about longshore drift sometime.

Looper – New Trailers

Looper, the indie sci-fi action thriller about a man contracted to kill his future self sent back from the future, has a second slightly longer UK trailer and a UK poster to boot.

Directed by indie film wunderkind Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Bruce Willis’ face Looper has easily become my most anticipated film of 2012. It even comes above Katy Perry: Part Of Me which is saying something.

Oooh trailer!

Ooh posters! (click to see versions larger than you know what to do with)

You may notice a UK mobile phone number written on the door in the poster, I called it and just got the message “calls to this number are barred”. However a trip to reveals a viral website featuring a single film still. I expect more will come over time.

UPDATE: There’s a new US trailer now too!

Nora Ephron 1941 – 2012

19th May 1941 – 26th June 2012

“My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have the potential to be comic stories the next.”

Nora Ephron wrote one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time; When Harry Met Sally. The film includes cinema’s greatest declaration of love as Harry details everything he loves about Sally:

I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

For this speech alone Ephron will be greatly missed.

The Fairy – Film Review

The Fairy is the third collaboration from Belgium-based trio Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy and in short it is absolutely fantastic. Hotel clerk Dom lives a boring life until one night Fiona checks into his hotel, tells him she is a fairy, and grants him three wishes. Dom and Fiona fall in love (during an underwater dance sequence) and must fight to stay together.

The Fairy is unusual in that it is a comedy relying mostly on visual gags and slapstick yet somehow it does this without ever seeming too broad, juvenile, or lowbrow. Instead the physical humour is almost clown-like – it is graceful, controlled, and truly hilarious. It’s hard to get across just how wonderful the film was, to describe any sequence in too great detail might ruin the effect should you see the film yourself. What I will reveal is that the film contains the funniest birth scene, car chase, foot chase, disguise, blind bar man, musical number, dance sequence, and dog smuggling I have had the pleasure of seeing.

The film came from such a fresh direction that the audience in my screening didn’t quite know what to do with themselves. A large proportion sat in stony silence while a few of us laughed loudly (and at times snorted embarrassingly) and a couple on the back row repeatedly exclaimed, “Oh my god, what on earth is this film?”. When I try to draw comparisons between The Fairy and other things I have seen I find it hard to find another work that sufficiently matches the eccentricity and energy on display here. If you can imagine the physical humour of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau combined with the fun-loving slap-stick high-energy double-barrelled fun to be found in the stage version of The 39 Steps then you’re almost going to get a sense of how The Fairy will make you feel.

Wacky, unique, touching, and with funny ingrained deep in its soul The Fairy reached deep down inside and touched me somewhere I’m ticklish. Much like I felt after first seeing The Artist I left the screening with a broad smile and a warm heart.

The Fairy is on limited release 29th June 2012. Make the effort and see a modern comedy marvel.

The Five Year Engagement – Film Review

He sees her from across the room and his heartbeat quickens. He is a superhero bunny and she is Princess Diana. From their first glance they know they are destined to be together. They move toward each other and made awkward small talk; the kind of small talk that fills lovers of sappy romantic comedies with tingling joy. But then, you’re feeling all gooey inside as well? What is this sorcery, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt? How dare you use such convincing chemistry to sucker us into your make-believe love story! For shame! For entertaining and heart-warming shame!

Tom (Segel), a sous chef on the verge of a managerial promotion, and Violet (Blunt), a psychology graduate attempting to embark on her post-doctorate studies, are in a still-blossoming relationship that couldn’t be better after a clumsy but romantic marriage proposal. When Violet is offered a doctorate position in Michigan the pair uproot and postpone the wedding until they are happily settled once more. However, the move stunts Tom’s career and turns him into a begrudging househusband while Violet’s life becomes better every day. The Five Year Engagement then begins to explore identifiable relationship distresses, looking at outsiders’ opinions as well as the pair’s own as we watch Tom and Violet’s relationship fall slowly to pieces.

In a recent interview Jason Segel revealed that every time an actor is chosen for a part in a film he penned he goes back and rewrites the film completely (or any scene the character impacts, at least) to allow any actor to excel in their role. This method is certainly evident in The Five Year Engagement as just about every character, big or small, is wholly fleshed out and has a justified presence in the film. From the neighbourhood friend or begrudging mother to the old boss who appears in two scenes, everyone has a part in the film’s humour and overall impact. Particularly shining is Alison Brie as Violet’s overly dramatic sister, Suzie who steals every scene she appears in (in addition to having a more believable English accent than Emily Blunt herself) and definitely deserves a spin-off/sequel akin to Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s Get Him To The Greek or the upcoming This Is Forty (following side characters of The 40 Year Old Virgin).

Of course, fleshing out every character not only takes attention away from the film’s key figures (you will more than once wish that we were watching the story of some of the bench characters) but also lengthens the film by a pointlessly excessive amount. Whilst The Five Year Engagement stands at 125 minutes long, its primary plot should only last 80 minutes at best. We’re just lucky that Segel and the film’s director, Nicholas Stoller (dir. Forgetting Sarah Marshall) are talented enough to keep us somewhat absorbed through the numerous sketch show-like scenes that fill in the time between the actual plot.

The Five Year Engagement is one of those rare mainstream romantic comedies that has as much feeling as it does Hollywood fluff and is better for it. Although stretching it for time in terms of story, the varied likes of character’s pig fetishes, stale doughnut metaphors, and househusband knitting skills will keep you highly entertained. A definite Orange Wednesday occasion with your partner.*

*If you don’t have a partner it’s still hilarious to watch a relationship fall apart, no?
If anything, it is even more satisfying – Tim (single, not remotely bitter)

Out Now – 22nd June 2012

The Five-Year Engagement
Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie and Rhys Ifans are all worth a trip to the cinema on their own so having all five in one film very nearly makes this a must-see. I only say very-nearly because I am useless at actually going and seeing films I want to see. For plot, see title.

Chernobyl Diaries
Horror film set in the ruins of the Chernobyl disaster as an extreme tour guide stumbles across hordes of mutants. Lovely. I wonder how this is going to go down in the Ukraine…

Lay the Favorite
Wacky summer comedy with slightly dodgy sounding name!

Think Like a Man (limited release)
Sexual politics comedy! Women, eh? Men, eh? Couples, eh?

Where Do We Go Now? (limited release)
Broad religious comedy in which a group of Lebanese women try to ease religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in their village. Hang on, this one might be a drama.

Victim (limited release)
A young man tries to break out of a cycle of violence. My advice? Stop killing people you loon.

Planet of Snail (limited release)
Full synopsis because it confused my brain: “Young-Chan comes from planet of snail where deaf blind people live slow and quiet lives. When Young-Chan came to Earth, nobody understood his language and he was desperate. Then an angel walked into his life. Soon-Ho knows how it is to be lonely and soon becomes an inseparable part of his life. Young-Chan also discovers an amazing world under his fingers as he learned to read books with braille. Hopes began to grow and he dreams of writing a book. However, Soon-Ho cannot always be there for him because of her own problem of spine disability. The couple now should learn to survive alone. While Soon-Ho uneasily spends her first day waiting for his return, Young-Chan goes out for the biggest adventure of his life.”

The Last Projectionist (limited release)
Documentary charting the history of independent cinemas and the changing world of projection. All centred around the UK’s oldest working cinema, in Birmingham no less.

Silent Souls (limited release)
A man and his “companion” (suspicious) take the body of his wife to cremate it. Can’t help thinking it would have saved a lot of effort to cremate her and then transport her. What inefficiency.

The Rise & Fall of a White Collar Hooligan (limited)
It’s gritty, it’s British and it involves football. I’m out.

Cloclo (limited release)
Biopic of Claude François who surprisingly enough is French.

Out Now – 20th July 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
When it is discovered that the vampires plan to take over the United States who else would it fall to to fight them off than the President at the time, Abraham Lincoln. Suddenly Buffy doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous by comparison. I only hope Lincoln doesn’t spend as much time falling in love with brooding males as our favourite vampire slaying perky blonde used to.

Wagner’s Dream (limited release)
Documentary following a famous stage director’s attempt to put on an ambitious production of Wagner’s 16-hour opera Ring. I know very little about opera, less even than ballet, but have a look at the trailer below and marvel at one of the most complex sets I’ve ever seen.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Trailer

Best on a beloved novel by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a film about being on the outside at High School. Apparently the film is “a moving tale of love, loss, fear and hope-and the unforgettable friends that help us through life”. More important than things like plot is the fact that this film marks Emma Watson’s first role post-Potter and as she finished that franchise with the highest acting score (as the charts show), and she is by far the most attractive, we will be watching her performance with great intrigue.

This could be a coming-of-age classic or a pretentious teen drama – though frankly it could also easily be both.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower arrives in UK cinemas on October 5th.

One Shot Movie Competition

There’s one type of scene in a movie that will get me nerding out more than any other; the one shot. Whether it be in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Atonement, or (kind of) in Children of Men I can’t help but admire any scene which unfolds in a single shot with the camera never cutting away. These are technical feats which help to keep the viewer immersed in the film and are far from easy to pull off.

A new competition has been launched, the One Shot Movie Competition, looking for short films of any genre under 10 minutes in length which have been filmed using a single shot. Pack up your editing software for this project because to win the title of Best One Shot Movie 2012, and a prize of £1000, your short cannot contain a single cut.

Visit for important things like rules and details on how to enter. The deadline for submissions is midnight on 31st August 2012 and the winner will be selected by a panel of industry experts and the winner will be presented with a trophy at Hackney Picturehouse on 26th September 2012.

Forget the £1000, I just want the trophy.