Category Archives: Uncategorized

Better Call Saul – Uno

Better Call Saul HeaderLast night, Saul Goodman – Breaking Bad’s slimy, two-bit ambulance chaser played by Bob Odenkirk  – weaseled his way back onto our screens in AMC’s Better Call Saul. For creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould,  spinning off from their monolithic series was a risky move and their fan base – used to the finer things – would be quick to pipe up if their latest serving of Albuquerque pulp fiction was not up to muster. With the first instalment, ‘Uno‘ – dropped onto Netflix yesterday like a briefcase of cash left in a train station – we can rest assured that we are in safe hands as the Gilligan directed episode delivers in dark comedy and a melancholic tone, with a knowing performance from Odenkirk, as well as a few familiar faces on the sidelines.
We begin with a black and white ‘cold open’ – a stylistic technique that was perfected to an art form on Bad – in which a moustachioed Saul is working behind the counter at a greasy Cinnabon, his paranoid eyes fixed on the skinhead hunk of muscle who appears to be staring angrily back at him. It’s a red herring; the man stomps past and greets his smiling family outside with a big hug as Saul breaths a sigh of relief through his unfashionable whiskers. Back home, he pours himself a punchy cocktail and settles down with a video tape of Better Call Saul commercials before we launch into a vibrant, scratchy, technicolor intro that seems to finish as soon as it has started.
Better Call Saul B&WThis masterful sequence, through its style and use of generic tropes, sets an intoxicating tone for the episode and indeed series that will follow. The black and white photography, whilst serving as a time-defining shorthand (these events are taking place after the events of at least this first episode) it also clues us into Gilligan and Gould’s noir sensibilities, referencing the oppressive filmmaking styles of the 40s with deep shadows, stark contrast and low angles.
These noir affiliations ring throughout the episode, particularly in the photography – shot here on 4K digital – but also in its instigation of heavy plotting, sleazeball character types, and – in one alarmingly necrophilic instance – some pretty shocking gallows humour. It’s a delight to see Saul himself, here going by his given name Jimmy McGill, making a start in the business, psyching himself up in the men’s as the milkshake slurping courtroom waits patiently.

Bring on episode two!

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Deranged (1974)

Deranged Review

Director: Jeff Gillen, Alan Ormsby
Screenwriter: Alan Ormsby
Cast:  Roberts Blossom, Cosette Lee, Leslie Carlson
Runtime: 84 mins
Certificate: 18
Release Date: Out now on BR BUY NOW FROM ARROW VIDEO

derangedbedOf the films inspired by Wisconsin body-snatcher Ed Gein, Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby’s 1974 oddity Deranged steers closest to the truth, the opening narration informing us that only the names of the characters have been changed: a quick Wikipedia search will prove its accuracy. Our subject, Ezra Cobb, is less of a Movie Monster than Norman Bates or Leatherface and the low key settings route his exploits in a more mundane realm than Bate’s Motel or even Texas Chainsaw’s backstreets.

Read the full review of DERANGED @ RHYTHM CIRCUS

Jaws

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenwriter: Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb
Cast: Roy Schneider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw
Certificate: 12
Runtime: 124 min

There is something about watching movies as an impressionable youngster – the age when repeated viewings are preferred (finish, rewind, play) –which causes incidental, non-essential moments stand out. Just as when a word is repeated until it becomes abstract,  (‘towel’ is a good one), snippets of dialogue, the twitch of a hand, the lost face of an extra who has forgotten he is on camera, become the transcendental personal reasons that you love film as an adult.

Jaws is a beautiful tapestry of such moments; a note played on a harmonica at a beach party, the sing-song cadence of Richard Dreyfuss’ “That’s not funny, that’s not funny at all”, a big tooth bending as a mechanical jaw breaks Robert Shaw down into bite-size chunks. There are the stars, the excitement, the time in history into which Jaws was born – all aspects of the film that have earned it it’s sterling reputation – but it is these almost inconsequential moments that make you smile or cry or quote along; moments that make Jaws yours.

The story – production, reception, legacy – has been reprinted ad nauseum, and when that
happens a film’s Greatness can lapse into cliché. Do yourself a favour: if you haven’t seen it in while or (grit teeth) never seen it, go and watch Jaws (available in endorphin pumping high-def) because this story of a menacing Great White Shark and the three men determined to catch it (“the whole damn thing”) really is a phenomenal experience.

It is not perfect (let me finish), but its imperfections are part of its beauty and every frame is infused with a twentysomething Steven Spielberg’s adoration for storytelling and cinema. He shares his enthusiasm with anyone who will listen, compounding a mix-tape of his favourite tricks with from Hitchcock to Tobe Hooper. It has a freshness, a buoyancy, and whilst there is no denying Jaws’ ability to shock – that poor little Kitner boy – the lasting impression is one of intimacy and warmth. Remember the story you wrote in your writing book in Year 1 about why you love your Stretch Armstrong so much? It feels like that.

Whilst borne out of technical difficulties, the restraint that the film has with its Big Bad feels perfectly calibrated, Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb’s script is snappily written, John Williams’ score is John Williams’ score, and the triumvirate of actors – Roy Schneider, Richard Dreyfuss, the fan-fucking-tastic Robert Shaw – share legendary chemistry.

Verdict: A family film, a horror classic, an adventure, the arrival of The Blockbuster. The whole damn thing.

Olly Moss: Celebrating Oscar History

As the Oscars once again draw tender-hookingly near, our cinemas are flushed with pictures of high caliber and film chatter is at a vibrant high. The shmooziness of awards season may induce a groan from those of lesser humour, but it is undeniable that this January it has yielded some absolute delights (check out the below post for Disney’s fantastic nommed short, Paperman).

In the run-up to the ceremony, poster designer Olly Moss has designed this fabulously geeky tribute to each and every Best Pic winner from the then to the now, an artful quiz which film students will now forever covet for their bedroom doors. The obvious ones are indeed obvious – “King of the World” are ya eh Jack? – but the real fun of this is the frustration that takes hold when you find yourself at a loss.

Let the games begin!

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