Fire in the Blood – Film Review

Fire in the Blood

Fire in the Blood follows the scandal of governments blocking access to affordable AIDS medication to highlight the injustice inherent in the protection of patents on medicine by large pharmaceutical manufacturers. The documentary lays out the facts by speaking to those directly involved in the crisis – there are no spectators commentating from afar. We hear from a former pharmaceutical CEO who is now speaking out against the industry, the men who have fought to produce non-branded medicine at cost prices, and those suffering from AIDS; some of whom have access to drugs and some who do not.

While the drugs needed to manage the AIDS virus cost roughly $1 a day per patient the fact that the patents are held by large corporation means that the annual cost for a patient is thousands of dollars rather than hundreds. Some countries allow for the production of “generic” drug which are chemically identical without the hefty price tag but this is not available worldwide. Fire in the Blood acts to expose this global catastrophe in which prices of medicine in third world countries are dictated by what Americans can afford.

Fire in the Blood 1

The film has a strong opinion and is not shy about expressing it. Director Dylan Mohan Gray gets his point across deftly by letting those affected speak for themselves. No defence is offered because what is happening in the world of pharmaceuticals is indefensible. I think the film may have me convinced.

It’s tricky to review a documentary of this nature as I find myself talking more about the subject of the film rather than it’s quality. Following the screening I attended Gray held a Q&A for the assembled journalists and rather than talk about how the film was made the session quickly evolved into a passionate debate about the issue we had just been educated about. No one was taking the film lightly and at one point I thought two critics were going to have a fight. This did not happen at the King’s Speech press conference. The aim of Fire in the Blood is to inspire outrage in its audience and from the response I saw it is a roaring success.

Engrossing and important Fire in the Blood needs to be seen by as many people as possible and is on limited release in the UK from February 22nd.

Film Club #1 – Black Pond

Black Pond

If Mark Kermode can have a film club then so can we!

The idea is that at sporadic intervals we will suggest a film for everyone to watch, our loyal readers will then watch the film (within the next day/week/month), and then people can share their thoughts in the comment section below.

“Do you have enough readers for this to even remotely work?” I hear you ask. I’m not sure but let’s give it a try.

The first film is my pick and I have chosen the 2011 British comedy Black Pond. The film’s plot is hard to describe but loosely put it involves a dysfunctional family gathering for dinner which is attended by a stranger who promptly dies.

The film has a strange dry humour that hits my comedy sweet spot. It was nominated for the BAFTA award for Outstanding Debut and the writer/directors won the Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer. It also features the film debut of Simon Amstell and the return to acting of a post-scandal Chris Langham.

Enjoy some fresh British film-making talent and let us know what you think in the comments.

Black Pond – trailer from Black Pond film on Vimeo.

Buy the DVD. Watch the Film. Share your thoughts.

Out Now – 15th February 2013

Sammy's Great Escape

Sammy’s Great Escape
Sammy is a turtle caught by a poacher who hatches a plan to escape with his fellow captives including a seahorse, lobster, octopus, and penguins. Because Die Hard isn’t for everyone.

Reign of Assassins (limited release)
“Drizzle/Zeng Jing tries to start a new life after she had betrayed her gang and hid the remains of monk.” Was she in a gang of monks? Can monks form gangs? Is an abbey just a gang hideout!?

For Ellen (limited release)
The wonderful Paul Dano dons some grim facial hair to play a failing musicians who travels over-night to fight for custody of his neglected daughter.

Side By Side (limited release)
This one’s for you film nerds. A documentary looking at the raw material of cinema – the film itself. Film you put in a camera, not film as in movie. Is digital the future? Is film dead? Do most people even care?

Madame de… (limited re-release)
BFI re-release of 1953 French drama about a pair of earrings which are passed from lover to lover in a sordid circle of jewellery and deception.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (limited release)
Documentary about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. And you thought A Good Day to Die Hard was the least romantic film this week.

Out Now – Valentine’s Day 2013

A Good Day to Moulin Rouge

Beautiful Creatures
A fantasy romantic drama co-starring Emmy Rossum, Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons. Two young people fall in love alongside supernatural elements. (I honestly have no idea)

This Is 40
Judd Apatow and his usual cast show us all just how tricky life is when you’re forty. Apatow wrote and directed this film about an unhappy married couple which stars his wife and children. A little too close to home perhaps?

A Good Day to Die Hard
I don’t quite understand the title but suffice it to say that McClane is back for a fifth outing and this time he is in Russia with his son. With a 12A rating expect the tamest Die Hard yet.

Run for Your Wife (limited release)
Danny Dyer stars in a British comedy about a man with two wives. Thanks to some charity related bribery the film features cameos from the likes of Judi Dench. No charity is worth Dench playing “Bag Lady” in a Danny Dyer film.

Murder 3 (limited release)
Third installment of the Bollywood Murder thriller trilogy. Who knew a Bollywood thriller trilogy existed?

Moulin Rouge! (one day re-release)
The perfect film for any couple who likes their romance shoved in their faces in the form of frenetic singing and dazzling visuals.

Romeo & Juliet (one day re-release)
A better choice of classic Baz Luhrmann romance for any couple who like a bit of Shakespeare but want a contemporary twist and an attractive cast.

The Race is On DVD Competition

Children's Hour

If there is one institute we love above all others here at Mild Concern, more than the BBFC even, it is the BFI. As part of their tireless work to preserve, promote, and produce the best of British cinema they are steadily taking classic kid’s films made by the aptly titled Children’s Film Foundation and giving them a DVD release.

The second volume of these films is released on DVD on February 19th under the title The Race Is On. The DVD contains the films Soapbox Derby, The Sky-Bike, and Sammy’s Super T-Shirt. You can read about the three films in my review and a clip from Sammy’s Super T-Shirt can be found at the bottom of this post if you would be so kind as to scroll and then click.

What makes us love the BFI even more is that they have given us a copy of The Children’s Film Foundation Collection Volume Two: The Race Is On to give away on DVD. To enter just fill in your details below. Entrants must be UK residents and competition closes on 22nd February 2013.

Continue reading

Hitchcock – Film Review

Hitchcock

Over Christmas the BBC decided to celebrate the great Alfred Hitchcock by screening some of his films, including the wonderful Rebecca, and co-producing drama The Girl which portrayed Hitchcock as an abusive sex pest as he directed Tippy Hedren in The Birds. The Girl was a fantastic piece of drama with Toby Jones giving a deep performance as Hitchcock and the film taking a strong, if not necessarily accurate, stance on the type of man Hitchcock was.

Now in cinemas we have Hitchcock which takes place just before The Girl as Hitch (“hold the cock”) tackles his new production of Psycho against the advice of everyone but his long-suffering wife Alma (Helen Mirren). In contrast to the sinister tone of the BBC’s effort Hitchcock has a more jovial atmosphere. Anthony Hopkins plays Hitch with his tongue in his cheek and seems to be aiming more for caricature than for character. The film opens with Hopkins addressing the camera in the style of Hitchcock and this nicely sets the audiences expectations for the rest of the film.

Hitchcock 2

While the main plot is concerned with the less than smooth production of Psycho the more interesting story at play here is the relationship between Alma and Alfred, something that was far from the spotlight in The Girl. As Hitchcock becomes engrossed in his new film, and new muse Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson giving her best performance in a good few years), Alma cheats on him in the worst way possible; by helping to adapt a script for another man. Mirren and Hopkins make for a great dysfunctional couple; much as they may fight there’s an underlying love that breaks through. In a film with little authenticity it offers a glimpse of genuine tenderness.

Where Hitchcock goes slightly astray is in its fantasy sequences involving Ed Gein, the psycho who inspired the novel Psycho which inspired the film Psycho (which later inspired the Gus Van Sant remake Psycho). While the rest of the film is one loose bikini away from becoming Carry On Hitchcock these brief interludes are closer to Carrie than Carry On. Hitchcock dreams about talking to Gein and even starts fantasising about using the psycho as a psychotherapist. The scenes are jarring and have no real impact on the rest of the film so are a bizarre inclusion.

Hitchcock 3

Hitchcock does not fare well from direct comparison with The Girl lacking as it does the dramatic weight, distinct message, and flawless acting of the latter. A direct comparison isn’t exactly helpful though as they are two different beast. The characters involved may share names but they do not share personalities and neither do the films; one is most certainly a drama and the other more of a comedy. The two films can contradict each other and still co-exist.

For my money Hitchcock is just as valid as The Girl; it is less enthralling but makes up for it in entertainment value.

Out Now – 8th February 2013

Wreck-It Graham 4

Wreck-It Ralph
Featuring characters from arcade games ranging from Sonic and Mario to Pacman this animated adventure follows one villains quest to become a hero. Oscar nomination count: 1

Warm Bodies
A romantic comedy in which one of the romantic leads actually is a zombie? A film about flesh-eating and love conquering all; the perfect Valentine’s film.

I Give It a Year
A UK comedy set after the point at which most romantic comedies end; when the unlikely couple get together. Here we see the newlyweds struggle through their first year of marriage with all the hilarity that involves. The trailer makes me laugh so I have hope.

Hitchcock
Following Hitchcock during the making of Psycho this biopic gives a more balanced view than the BBC drama The Girl but features an inferior Hitchcock. Oscar nomination count: 1 (But only for makeup so let’s not get too excited)

No (limited release)
My knowledge of Chilean politics in 1988 is non-existent at best but thanks to Google I can proudly state that the plot can be summarised by saying that “ad executive comes up with a campaign to defeat Augusto Pinochet in Chile’s 1988 referendum” without having a clue who Pinochet is. Oscar nomination count: 1

I Wish (limited release)
“12-year-old Koichi, who has been separated from his brother Ryunosuke due to his parents’ divorce, begins to believe that the new bullet train service will create a miracle when the first trains pass each other at top speed.”

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman (limited release)
A mind melding animation covering the falsified life story of Graham Chapman. A must for any fan of Monty Python and great fun for the rest of us. I liked it, what more do you need?

The Fall of the Essex Boys
British gangster film. Sex, violence, drugs, and all the swears. ‘Citing.

Is That a Conspiracy in Your Pocket or Are You Just Paranoid to See Me?

Hollywood Subliminals

It may seem unwise to spend an evening slagging off another film blog but I have stumbled across something that I cannot help but react to. The blog in question is well designed, thoroughly researched, and is made with way more effort than the one you are currently reading. The blog has one fatal flaw though: it is utter bollocks.

Hollywood Subliminals is a website dedicated to revealing the many hidden messages in Hollywood movies that it claims point to a variety of conspiracies and nefarious activities that most of us simply don’t notice. You could argue, as I would, that the reason we don’t notice these messages are that they simply do not exist but no doubt this is just playing into the hand of the shadowy agencies at work here.

One particular thread the site focusses on is “Project Monarch” in which a subject undergoes electroshock torture as part of programming and mind control which can be easily identified by the subject having one eyelid slightly droopier than the other. Actors from Michelle Ryan and Kevin Bacon are said to display this and so are actually programmed drones. Or something.

To highlight the level of ridiculous that this site is founded upon I will run through the three subliminals it claims are contained in everybody’s favourite film Back to the Future and see if I can find them in a film the site fails to cover (because it is obscure and terrible) Midnight Meat Train starring Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones. Midnight Meat Train is a terrible horror film and if I can crowbar subliminals into this cinematic disaster then that proves to me that it is all hokum, claptrap, and bunk. Or I suppose I will prove that the conspiracies are real and more widespread than the blog has already covered.

Eye of Horus
The Eye of Horus is the most common subliminal on the site and is represented by a triangle with an eye at the top. This double triangle with a circle at the top is ancient occult symbolism and according to the site is absolutely everywhere. Mostly the Eye can be found in a poster or shot with a face somewhere near the center. This face then acts as an eye and the triangles are drawn around it lining up with the occasional object and surface. The poster for Back to the Future contains two Eyes of Horus and the site highlights four more from the film itself. Can I find an Eye in Midnight Meat Train? Of course I can!

Meat Train

What makes this particular subliminal so easy to find is a combination of film-makers wanting to frame a shot symmetrically, and thus have the actor in the middle of the frame, and the fact that humans have faces on top of wider shoulders which make a natural triangle. Is this triangle a reference to the occult or just someone overthinking the shape of a human being? The site has an example from The Avengers underneath which it states:

One who looks at the above decoded symbol from The Avengers might initially dismiss this as simply brightly colored lines drawn over the top of the image.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

Freemasonry
Back to the Future‘s second subliminal message references Freemasonry, a shadowy organisation that does all sorts of shady things including putting hidden messages into films. References to Freemasonry take many forms and can include the number 33 or a pair of compasses but the most common occurrence seems to be checkered flooring. That’s right. Any floor in a film with a checkered pattern is actually a subliminal message and this includes the hallway in Hill Valley High School down which Marty McFly walks. Midnight Meat Train does not have any checkered flooring but I did find this:

Midnight Meat Masonry

Those seats almost make a checkered pattern. Almost. Not quite, but almost. Enough for me to confirm that the film is most definitely making a discrete reference to Freemasonry for some reason. No doubt about it.

9/11 Foreshadowing
Hollywood Subliminals is convinced that Hollywood knew about 9/11 years in advance and made reference to it in numerous films. As far as this site is concerned making reference to 9/11 is as simple as having the number 9 and the number 11 onscreen at the same time. Back to the Future is a great example of one of the more discrete references to the disaster that would occur 16 years after the film’s release. When Marty is at Two Pines Mall the time is 1:16 which turned upside-down makes 91:1 which speaks for itself. Now let’s look at the poster for Midnight Meat Train:

Meat Train 2

A torturous stretch in which I really had to force the subliminal message to come out? Precisely. What a load of nonsense.

If you find yourself bored online this week please have a read of the huge number of films on Hollywood Subliminals. Marvel at the depth of detail that the site goes into and slowly shake your head with incredulity at the fact that some people actually take this seriously.

Hyde Park on Hudson – LFF Review

Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson is a little confused about what makes for an interesting film. It is convinced that we want to watch a romance between FDR (Bill Murray) and an annoying woman (Laura Linney) rather than enjoy the social awkwardness when King Bertie (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) come to stay. The story of this momentous visit from British royals is for some reason told through the eyes of FDR’s mistress who is mercifully absent from many of the scenes surrounding the visit. Linney’s Daisy is most fawning or crying over FDR – loitering around like a wet blanket with nothing better to do than hang around looking needy as FDR’s wife (Olivia Williams) looks on with all the contempt I myself was feeling.

Murray gives a routinely robust performance as FDR managing to be amusing without ever trying too hard. He plays a warm president with a slight weakness for women and an effortless charm. In contrast the royal couple are a socially awkward pair experiencing culture shock in their first trip to America. It helps that The King’s Speech has made us familiar with this pair but the never less than perfect Colman and the not-quite-Colin-Firth West play a stiff but friendly couple with a fear of hot dogs and a humanising vulnerability. These three combined with Williams make for a curious double date as the two couples gradually feel one another out and gradually become friends.

This could have easily been a very enjoyable, if slightly lightweight, period drama about international relations. There is plenty of meat here for a film dealing with a similar mix of humour and historical importance as The King’s Speech with which Hyde Park on Hudson would have made a perfect double bill. However… Laura Linney’s character stops this from happening. Whenever the film shift to focus on her dull affair with FDR the film veers away from anything interesting and ends up an inconsistent mess.

Hyde Park on Hudson is a promising film that has been sat on by Laura Linney. The film has been left flat and deformed and is no longer fit for use. What a waste.

Out Now – 1st February 2013

King's Speech on Hudson

Flight
After successfully landing a crash-bound plane Denzel Washington’s pilot is discovered to have been flying while intoxicated and turns from hero to pariah. Oscar nomination count: 2

Hyde Park on Hudson
Bill Murray stars as Franklin D. Roosevelt in a film that features too little Murray and far too much Laura Linney. Far, far too much.

Bullet to the Head
“After watching their respective partners die, a New Orleans hitman and a Washington D.C. detective form an alliance in order to bring down their common enemy.” Starring Sylvester Stallone. Obviously.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away (limited release)
Aerial acrobatics from the world’s most famous circus with some kind of romantic narrative tying things together.

Bullhead (limited release)
Dutch thriller about a young cattle farmer who falls in with the wrong sort and whose life spirals out of control. I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about getting involved with sheep here but I can’t quite find it.

The Punk Syndrome (limited release)
Documentary about “Finland’s most kick-ass punk rock band”. Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät are a band with a difference; each member is mentally handicapped. And now some sort of joke about a current band being mentally handicapped. Are Rizzle Kicks current?

Do Elephants Pray? (limited release)
Probably not.

Chained (limited release)
David Lynch’s daughter directs a horror about a boy brought up by a serial killer. Will he follow in his adopted father’s footsteps?

Antiviral (limited release)
David Cronenberg’s son directs a horror about a dystopian future in which diseases passed through a celebrity’s body are the new hot commodity. With a bit too much body horror without anyone to relate to I did not enjoy this film.

A Place in the Sun (limited re-release)
BFI re-release of the 1951 romantic drama in which a poor boy falls in love with two women. Oscar win count: 6