Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Review - Snowtown

Warp Films do not make the most digestible of movies. The past few months has seen their name attached to the brutal horror of Kill List as well as Paddy Considine’s absorbing debut Tyrannosaur. It is no surprise therefore to learn that Snowtown, a film based on the ‘bodies in the barrels’ murders of Australia’s most notorious serial killer John Bunting, is part of Warp’s increasingly noteworthy stable.

Following an encounter between a local paedophile and three of her sons, single mother Elizabeth (Louise Harris) is relieved to have John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), self-confessed vigilante of the “diseased”, step in to mete out his own brand of justice. And in Bunting, Elizabeth’s impressionable son Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) finds a father figure. Yet instead of being his salvation from the violent trauma that has scarred his youth, John leads his new found disciple closer to the abyss.

In his feature length debut and with a cast largely made up of first time performers, director Justin Kurzel has made an astounding piece of work. The 120 minute runtime is not so much watched but endured. The relentless bleakness of a drab housing estate on the outskirts of northern Adelaide provides the perfect canvass for Kurzel. The cold grey tints of the photography paired with intermittent murmurs of an understated but darkly portentous soundtrack combine for an exhausting experience. It pushes the viewer to the precipice of oblivion from the very beginning as even scenes at the family breakfast table threaten to explode into unimaginable brutality. However, the greatest success of Snowtown is the effortless blending of the mundane domesticity of suburban life with the horrific nature of the crimes. Kangaroos are regularly butchered in the garden; cricket commentary resonates in the background during a violent rape, whilst locals unknowingly lend a hand to digging foundations for an extension that doubles as a mass grave.

John Bunting, capably brought to the screen by the only professional actor in the cast – Daniel Henshall, is a character that naturally has a sort of magnetic horror due to the true nature of the story. As repulsive as his atrocities are, his capability to carry them out and the rationality he places behind them make for a compelling watch. Whilst most of these horrors take place off screen, occasionally revealed through the recorded voice messages Bunting forces his victims to make, there is one prolonged scene of torture that is truly distressing. Yet even here, where other directors may lose their way, Kurzel follows through with the film’s convictions as it is at this point that Bunting is revealed for the monster he is.

Make no mistake about it; Snowtown is an incredibly difficult watch but a remarkable film nevertheless.

Published via on 2/12/2011.

Review - Anyone Can Play Guitar

The Oxford music scene has punched well above its weight for the past 30 years. Whilst Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Sheffield are often hailed as the epicentres of modern British music history, Oxford has every right to be held in the same esteemed company. The city gave birth to one of the defining bands of the last 20 years in the form of Radiohead whilst the legacies of Ride and Supergrass continue to leave their imprint on the British music scene today. But for every Radiohead, there are hundreds more like Dustball and The Nubiles that fail to make it. Narrated by Stewart Lee, an aficionado of the scene as a student in the 1980s, Anyone Can Play Guitar is a well executed documentary by director Jon Spira. It realises that the heart of the Oxford story, and thus the film, is with the almost-made-its as well as the cult local heroes that continue to champion local bands.

Told in chronological order, Spira couples effective use of interviews, live footage and music videos with an unsurprisingly excellent soundtrack as he coherently traces the musical lineage of Oxford from Here Comes Everybody to Foals. The journey through this time is as funny as it is tragic. There are stories of the local record label, Shifty Disco, dismissing signing Coldplay as there is no need “for another Radiohead”. Whilst Andy Yorke, younger brother of Radiohead’s Thom, is forced with his band Unbelievable Truth into the shadow of his sibling’s success. However, none can count themselves more unlucky than The Candyskins. Continually on the verge of fame for the best part of 10 years, their crowd-pleasing single ‘Car Crash’, which seemed destined to launch them to new heights, was pulled from release following the death of Princess Diana.

The focus is intermittently moved by Spira to those outside the limelight who devote their entire lives to the benefit of the Oxford scene. Local linchpins, such as the journalist Ronan Munro and Shifty Disco’s Dave Newton, are interviewed. These conversations, coupled with anecdotes of local promoter Mac, highlight the people and energy that are continually needed to keep Oxford as a leading light in British music. Whilst the history of The Zodiac (now a Carling Academy), whose main stage was once the greatest aspiration a local band aimed for, is used to stress the need for modern identikit commercial venues to allow access for local bands to play on their stages.

The scene is clearly one close to the heart of Jon Spira. The film was funded by online donations and sponsorship from Fender and at times the tiny budget is evident in the finished product. The sound quality in interviews, particularly with Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Foals’ Yannis Philippakis, is rarely consistent. Yet it seems harsh to criticise a film for failures that result from a restrictive budget when it is clearly made with the most honourable of intentions and a vast amount of love. Anyone Can Play Guitar more than fulfils its objective of providing an entertaining account of the history behind a city now intrinsic to British music.

Anyone Can Play Guitar is currently on a UK-wide tour of cinemas. It is also available now on DVD.

Review published via on 19/11/2011.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Actors Against Gravity: Intolerable Posters

After nearly six months and multiple cases of equilibrium deficiency, Actors Against Gravity has only just dipped a toe into Hollywood's endless Cocytus of poorly designed marketing efforts. The list of actors to publicly suffer continues to grow whilst some of their co-stars have begun to actively embrace living life at a slant.

Catherine Zeta-Jones continues her battle after announcing her disagreement with the Earth's answer to Pritt Stick in the poster for No Reservations. Whilst George Clooney finds use for himself as a book-end to prop his colleague up in 2003's Intolerable Cruelty. The film was praised by the Long Island Press for being "a conventional Hollywood comedy boasting a bolder indie heart, the film essentially combines the worst of both worlds."

Clooney it must be said is only at a marginal lean which may be a result of trying to keep Zeta-Jones on her feet or by external forces such as a sturdy breeze. However, he will be placed under observation for the meantime.

Actors Against Gravity can still be found on twitter @gravityvictims

If you see actors suffering then get in touch:

Together we can defeat gravity.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Cheryl Cole Cast In Street Fighter: The Musical

The Big Screen can exclusively reveal that Cheryl Cole has been cast in a musical reworking of 1994's Street Fighter.

Despite the fact that a director is still to be named and the script not yet written, Cheryl Cole has signed on to play the role of megalomaniac, General M. Bison.

Following a stuttering few months in her media career and her failure to crack the American market, Cole has been looking for a new direction and is eager to press on. Although the musical is seemingly lodged in the mire of pre-production limbo, the Girls Aloud star has already begun rehearsals and has had a costume designed specifically for the role.

The lack of music and lyrics have not deterred her in her preparations. The face of L'Oreal has been writing a number of songs herself in the hope they may be used. Whilst no recordings of the songs are yet to exist, working titles released by a spokesman for the singer include Finish Him (Killing Him Swiftly), Perfect (K.O!) and a reworking of It Ain't Easy Being Green (A Ballad for Blanka).

The Big Screen is excited to release this photo of the "M. Bison" costume during a rehearsal. The similarity to Julia's 1994 costume is sure to please fanboys.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Things I'd Like To Do With The Actor James Gandolfini: #1 Go For A Pint and A Pub Quiz

It's been a busy few weeks and stacks of DVDs have replaced trips to the cinema for the meantime. Frustrating but the thought of Transformers 3 is keeping me far away from the big screens for at least another week.

Time has been an issue for the lack of content and writer's block. Words usually flow for me when it comes to writing about film but many hours were spent re-writing and then scrapping a rant about Jesse Eisenberg. In short, he gets on my tits. Some day I might have the eloquence to explain why.

Anyway, this all leads to a new article for the blog and one that will hopefully become semi-regular (expect more updates for Actors Against Gravity soon). And so The Big Screen Presents: Things I'd Like To Do With The Actor James Gandolfini.

About a month ago, having fallen asleep during The Last Castle, my dreams were infiltrated by an imposing figure in the form of James Gandolfini. As he has a role in the film it seems completely normal to have gone on to dream about him. However before falling asleep during the film, there had been a news report on the benefits of breastfeeding. These two elements combined in a lethal fashion in my head like a lorry full of mentos crashing into a Coke factory. It was out of control. My subconcious decided on the most disturbing scenario it could imagine. Me, my adult self, was being breastfed by Tony Soprano and discussing certain scenes of In The Loop.

It was only after I had woken up that I realised just how horrific my slumber had been. More worrying was how ambivalent I was during the entire act. I spent the rest of the morning considering how having shared such an intimate moment with the man that we could relocate our relationship to a purely platonic plain.

Things I'd Like To Do With The Actor James Gandolfini: #1 Go For A Pint and A Pub Quiz.

We would meet at my local. It would seem quaint and very English to Jim (I can call him's cool) and he would feel inclined to fit the ambiance by buying a pint of Black Sheep Ale for £1.85. A mere sip of the lukewarm ale would lead to a conversation about how all ale tastes like piss and lukewarm coffee. We would both laugh. I tell him I'll get the next round. I'd buy a pint of Strongbow and grab him a pint of Coors Light. Frosty cold glasses makes for an infinitely more enjoyable set of drinks. For the next round we would swap beverages. He wouldn't get over the crisp tang of Strongbow and can't quite get used to it. 'Nevermind, it goes down like water' he duly notes. An above average score follows on the quiz and we narrowly miss out on a third place finish. It doesn't matter though as we've had a great time. A shake of the hand and nod that says 'Same time next week'. See you then Jim.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Actors Against Gravity - Oscar Nominees Diagnosed

A disturbing discovery was made this week as literally tens of movie posters were put under the glare of the anti-gravity spotlight. At first the promotional posters for the 1994 romantic comedy Only You may seem like they have managed to escape the usual pitfall of the two leads leaning upon one another. The movie, which went under the radar for many despite critics lauding it as "easily forgettable", sees Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr playing around with ouija boards and carnival fortune tellers in the search for a disgustingly happy ending.

However, further research into the promotional material of the film has shown a VHS cover (although no one is believed to have bought the film on video) displaying one of the most horrendous cases of excess gravity yet.

The corner of the poster highlighting the 45 degree angle whilst the muted smile that straddles Downey Jr's smug visage hides his pain at his inability to balance.

It is a worrying indication of the widespread issue that faces actors today. Both Tomei and Downey Jr have been Oscar nominees in the past which suggests a great inner strength to overcome their difficulties with equilibrium in their profession. Nevertheless these are only minor victories and they are two more high profile names to join the list alongside Carell, Bullock, Affleck, Zeta Jones, Roberts, Hudson, Grant, Russo, Kevin Costner, Richard Gere and Matthew McConaughey (who is now believed to be living at a permanent 30 degree angle). What kind of life awaits these stars of today?

Who will help these veritable treasures of modern culture who struggle so severely to find gravity in their performances? You can! And we all can by spreading awareness of their plight.

Join us on twitter @gravityvictims to keep up with breaking news in this on going struggle.

Together we can overcome gravity!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Actors Against Gravity: Costner and Russo Laugh To Hide The Tears

Golf Pro. Love Amateur. Gravity Sufferer.

Another high profile Hollywood name to fall victim to the Earth's most powerful force became apparent this week. The poster for 1996's Tin Cup, praised by the Los Angeles Times as "dispiritingly conventional and obvious", shows the two leads sharing a moment of light-hearted warmth. Perhaps Rene Russo told her co-star that joke that she knows. However, no amount of smiling can gloss over the worrying position of Kevin Costner. He has found himself at a quite unfeasible angle as he tries to enjoy life at a permanent 45 degree slant.

Russo seems to serves two purposes in this poster. The first is to act as a guide of as near to an upright angle as is possible in a romcom poster. This highlights the ludicrous nature of Costner's stance. The second seems to be physically pulling Costner away from an even more absurd angle. It is unclear how strong Rene Russo actually is but she appears to be pulling her co-star up to a workable angle by only using a three finger grip on his right forearm.

Sources close to Costner indicate that his move away from the limelight in recent years may be down to his struggle with gravity. One source goes further and claims that the Dances With Wolves star spends up to 8 hours a night lying at an entirely horizontal angle.

A disheartening development as the fight to find a cure continues!

Together we can defeat gravity!

Friday, 6 May 2011


Confessions (告白 Kokuhaku) is another example to the world that the Far East has taken revenge cinema to a whole new level over the past decade. Following in the elaborate vengeful footsteps of Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, Confessions sees a teacher exact her punishment on the two pupils responsible for the death of her daughter. A syringe filled with AIDS infected blood is the unusual weapon of choice used to taint the milk of the guilty. With everyone having received their daily dose of calcium she calmly breaks the news to the unknowing class. However, the sweeping of four awards at the 34th Japanese Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) as well as making the nine film shortlist for the ever competitive Best Foreign Film category at this year’s Oscars suggests there is more than purely dodgy dairy products and classroom disharmony on display.

Writer and director Tetsuya Nakashima has had little success with previous films Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko in his attempts to breach the Western market. Both only managed a handful of screenings in festivals and independent cinemas across Europe and North America before promptly making their way via DVD release to the dimly lit World Cinema aisle. Confessions though, having been released on DVD at the end of April, has received a limited release in cinemas nationwide thanks to leading distributors of East Asian cinema, Third Window Films.

The reason for the wider release than his previous films seems to lie in the greater appeal to a Western audience which is most clearly evident in the film’s soundtrack. Nakashima, who also takes on the role of Music Supervisor, rejects a purely instrumental score and instead opts for a mixture of tracks specifically composed for the film and others that were not. The result is an intoxicating cocktail of one part bizarre odes about milk, a few hefty measures of heavy ambient rock, a tinge of Radiohead’s recent back catalogue with ‘Last Flowers’ then finished with a decorative umbrella composed of KC and the Sunshine Band’s ‘That’s the Way (I Like It)’. Whilst the mix may seem overly eclectic and at times downright peculiar on paper, it works perfectly when blended with Nakashima’s creative vision. The final sequence in particular highlights the brilliance of Nakashima’s choice and execution in using previously released material to complement his story. ‘Farewell’, a track released in 2005 by Japanese experimental rock band Boris, with its ominous wave of distorted guitars crashing into Nakashima’s imagery on screen leaves a brutally cathartic aftertaste as the credits begin to roll.

Confessions was released on DVD on April 25th. Visit for news and details of cinema screenings nationwide.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Film Poster of the Week: The Thing With Two Heads

In some rooms men meet together to change in the world. In others, they meet to produce some of the most gloriously awful B-Movies ideas of all time. With a concept to rival that of Surf Nazis Must Die! comes The Thing With Two Heads.

The film is a relatively simple idea that is easily summarised by the tagline:

They transplanted a white bigot’s head onto a soul brother’s body!

It stars Rosey Grier, a former American football star, as a death row inmate who takes up an offer to participate in a secret medical experiment to avoid the electric chair. It has everything that can be expected from a B-Movie horror with a blaxploitation twist. There is no end to the jive, choppers, guns and puns!

“More power to you, brother!” says a black prison guard, as he is about to flick the switch on the electric chair, being one of the finer moments. Though whilst other moments of racial banters may seem ill judged, particularly when the bigoted head cries “What are you gonna have for dessert? Watermelon?!”. It is hard not to say that this film is incredibly entertaining (and disturbingly surreal for a Wednesday morning). It is worth a watch alone for the seamless switches between the prosthetic heads and the actors squeezing alongside each other in their costume.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Actors Against Gravity: Condition of Sandra Bullock Improves

Sandra Bullock – one of the biggest names to suffer at the hands of Newton’s discovery – has seen a marked improvement in her condition.

Having previously been seen at a near 45 degree angle in the poster for Forces of Nature, Bullock is now close to an upright angle. Something that still remains elusive for many of her colleagues.

However, the news is tainted with sorrow. Hugh Grant, a man who had seemingly avoided the disease intrinsic to romantic comedies despite making a career out of them, has finally succumbed to gravity. Possibly in an attempt to add some artistic value to Two Weeks Notice, praised by critics as “something of a disaster”, Grant and Bullock try too hard to add weight to their performances.

The resulting imbalance in acting gravity has caused them to resemble the top of a house of cards.

Scientists at NASA have been asked to look into the problem after concerns were raised that unnecessary leaning and excess gravity could spread to the general public.

Have you seen actors struggling with their deadliest foe? Spread awareness by emailing so we can highlight their plight.

Together we can overcome gravity.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Actors Against Gravity: No Reservations

Full marks to Catherine Zeta Jones for overcoming the stigma that surrounds mental illness and announcing that she had been receiving treatment for bi-polar disorder.

Sadly her one time co-star Aaron Eckhart chooses to suffer in silence.

The list of actors suffering from the Earth's gravity continues to grow. The condition first diagnosed in Matthew McConaughey is becoming endemic to weak Hollywood romantic comedies. Steve Carell, Ben Affleck, Sandra Bullock, Richard Gere have now all joined McConaughey in his semi-horizontal life.

Eckhart's problem may go unnoticed at first in the poster for 2007's No Reservations - a film lauded by The Independent as "fantastically smug and boring". However, if you crack out a ruler, draw a completely vertical line through the centre of his legs to the top of his head and then use a protractor to measure the disturbing angle at which he was standing.

By my own calculation, he is about 8 degrees from standing vertically.

An insignificant amount that many will sneer at but that kind of ignorance will mean that actors in romcom posters are eternally destined to struggle at the hands of gravity.

Have you seen an actor suffering from gravity? Perhaps they have too much or too little - either way it is a serious problem. If you do then email us at

Together we can overcome gravity.