A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at Charlize Theron’s Cold War spy story “Atomic Blonde,” the masterpiece theatre murder mystery “Lady Macbeth” and the found footage scares of “Phoenix Forgotten.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Erin Paul to have a look at the big weekend movies including Charlize Theron’s Cold War spy story “Atomic Blonde,” the masterpiece theatre murder mystery “Lady Macbeth” and the found footage scares of “Phoenix Forgotten.”
All found footage films need to find a reason to exist, a reason why there is a camera set permanently to the on position. In the case of “Phoenix Forgotten” it’s a sister trying to make a documentary about her brother’s disappearance.
“Are you going to be filming the whole time,” asks her father.
“That’s the whole idea,” says Sophie (Florence Hartigan).
“I feel like Harrison Ford,” he laughs.
With that framework out of the way the story gets going, using the (now debunked) real life Phoenix, Arizona UFO sightings of March 13, 1997 as a backdrop for the action.
When sonic booms rocked the city Josh Bishop (Luke Spencer Roberts) didn’t buy his father’s explanation that the air force was doing a practice run overhead. Shooting some grainy footage, the teenager decides to investigate. With the help of school friends Ashley Foster (Chelsea Lopez) and Mark Abrams (Justin Matthews) and a borrowed school handy cam he sets off to into the desert filled with curiosity. The three never finish their make shift documentary. Disappearing after they left their car on the desert edge, extensive searches by a small army of law enforcement turn up no clues. Were they I they in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was it a fight over the girl? Or was it something otherworldly? “We didn’t find anything,” says a police officer involved in the search, “so who knows what happened. It’s hard to speculate.”
Twenty years later sister Sophie picks up the story, arriving in town with her ever- present camera. “What if Josh was on to something?” she says. “We always assumed he got lost or kidnapped or murdered. What if…” What if he got kidnapped by an alien? “I’m starting to sound like him,” she muses. When she finds Josh’s video camera, returned to the lost and found of the school he borrowed it from, more clues emerge.
As a genre found footage is showing it’s age. From the brilliant “Blair Witch Project” on it has been used, primarily in cheap-and-cheerful budget horror and sci fi films, to create a sense of urgency in a first person narrative. Trouble is, they’ve been done to death and their techniques don’t feel fresh anymore. At some point the screen will fill with static (check), the cast of unknowns will look panicked and confused (check), the protagonists will run, camera in hand, causing the picture to jiggle as though it was strapped to the back of a runaway horse (check), there will be Dr. Tongue-style close-ups (check) and the inevitable dropped camera freeze frame (check).
Despite the stylistic predictability “Phoenix Forgotten,” succeeds on several levels. Director Justin Barber has a nice ear for the rhythms of the character’s speech and draws good naturalistic performances from the cast of unknowns. The story doesn’t completely impress, and Barber takes way too long setting up the mystery, but the actors are engaging. He also does a nice job cutting together Sophie’s slick documentary footage with the grainy 1990s handy cam material.
“Phoenix Forgotten’s” mix of fact and fiction isn’t all that scary but Barber does whip up some intense and paranoid moments.
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies the long awaited sequel to “The Blair Witch Project,” the biopic “Snowden,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the return of Renée Zellweger’s most famous character in “Bridget Jones’s Baby.”
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, including the found footage frights of “Blair Witch,” the rom com delights of “Bridget Jones’s Baby” and”Snowden,” Oliver Stone’s biographical look at one of the decade’s most controversial figures.
The long-awaited Blair Witch Project follow-up doesn’t have a theme song, but if it did I’d suggest Teddy Bear Picnic. In particular the line, “If you go out in the woods today you’re in for a big surprise,” because, boy, there are some shockers in the movie’s dense woods.
“When I saw our film I was scared,” says Corbin Reid who plays Ashley in Blair Witch, in theatres today.
“I actually had chills,” chimes in co-star Wes Robinson. “I thought that was cool because I don’t think that’s an easy feat for someone who was there shooting it, who read the script and knew everything that was going to happen. It is the combination of the shots and the sound design and everything.”
Shot last year with the woods of Squamish, B.C., subbing in for the story’s haunted woods, the movie follows James (James Allen McCune) who was only four years old when his sister vanished while making a 1994 documentary about a witch said to haunt the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland. James thinks his sister may still be alive. Cue the jump scares, red herrings, things that go bump in the woods and close-ups of scared young people.
“Not to get too macabre,” says Corbin, “but I think one of the reasons people are attracted to horror is because you’re dealing with death in a safe space. It is something unknown to everyone. We don’t know what happens after we die, but you get this fictional setting that you can live it out in. There is something about exposing yourself to your fears. If you can laugh at it or move through it, it forces you to deal with it. You become the master of it.”
Robinson praises director Adam Wingard’s skill at scare making. “Adam always gives you a real sense of security in his films. Then when you’re not expecting it, he takes it away.”
“It gives you time to really sink into the psychological aspect of it,” adds Corbin. “You establish the relationships, and then you have something to lose. It’s not just trick after trick after trick. That’s the thing I love about the filmmaking. It’s not cheap. Everything is earned and everything is smart. It is thought out. I think that’s why there is such an effect.”
In Blair Witch, Wingard does a good job with body horror — ick — and primal fears of the dark, small spaces in the unknown. “Everyone’s fear is represented at some point in this movie,” says Wes.
Corbin and Wes spent two months in the woods shooting and getting inside the new story, but how familiar were they with the 1999 film? Corbin was just eleven years old when the original movie caused a sensation but that didn’t stop her from trying to see it. “I went with my sister and she didn’t know it was rated R,” she says. “She got in but my mom had to come pick me up.”
“I actually saw it in the theatre,” says Wes. “I was with a lot of adults. We went to see it and it traumatized me. It’s weird where life takes you, though, because I had no idea when I watched it that I would do the sequel one day.”
The long awaited “Blair Witch Project” follow-up doesn’t have a theme song, but if it did I’d suggest “Teddy Bear Picnic.” In particular I’m thinking the line, “If you go out in the woods today you’re in for a big surprise,” because, boy, there are some surprises in the film’s dense woods.
“Blair Witch” begins with the core cast preparing to return to the scene of the strange disappearances documented in the original film. James (James Allen McCune) was only four-years-old when his sister vanished in 1994 while making a documentary about a witch said to haunt the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland. James thinks his sister still may be alive after he found some blurred footage online that seems to contain a shot of her. Teaming with friends Peter (Brandon Scott), Ashley (Corbin Reid) and student filmmaker Lisa (Callie Hernandez) he sets off to find answers, camera gear in hand.
They meet up with Darknet666, the Burkittsville stoner couple named Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry) who posted the footage that grabbed James’s eye and proceed into the woods in search of the house seen in the 1994 footage. “This area has a history happening that nobody really wants to talk about,” says Lane ominously.
Lane, an expert in Blair Witch lore warns the troupe, “The legend says if you look directly at the witch you die of fright,” as strange things begin to happen. Cue the jump scares, red herrings, things that go bump in the woods and close-ups of scared young people.
This really should have been called “Blair Witch: Return to Burkittsville” because the style of the film so closely apes the original film. Shadowy, half lit images fill the screen as the camera careens around the screen as if it was tied to the back of an agitated mule. It’s all over the place, rarely resting on any one image for longer than a fraction of a second.
In the first hour it’s same old, same old. It feels like every other found footage film that came after ‘Blair Witch Project. ” Then, about sixty-minutes in things get really shaky… I mean scary. When director Adam Wingard gets over his love of jump scares and does a pretty good job with some body horror—ick—and primal fears of the dark, small spaces in the unknown.
“Blair Witch’s” final third actually made me say “yuck” out loud and question why I was spending my life watching this movie. In a good way. When Wingard moves past the cheap theatrics he concentrates on the uncomfortable scares that horror fans crave. If you want to feel scared in a place where you are actually safe, go see “Blair Witch” in a theatre. For me, the best part of “Blair Witch” was listening to the audience, the other people in the dark, give in to the film’s frights.
An exercise in “found footage” handheld camera technique, “Into the Storm’s” story is almost as shaky as its visuals.
Playing like a cross between “Twister,” “Wizard of Oz” and “The Blair Witch Project,” the story is set in Silverton, a small Midwestern American town besieged by tornadoes. In just one twenty-four hour span deadly twisters rip through the town, sending sensible citizens rushing for cover while a storm chasing documentary crew led by director Pete (“Veep’s” Matt Walsh) and meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies of “The Walking Dead”) rush headlong into the cyclone to get some up-close-and-personal footage. Meanwhile Gary (Richard Armitage) and son (Nathan Kress) are on the hunt for their son/brother Donnie (Max Deacon) who went missing when the storm started.
Director Steven Quale was the visual effects supervisor on “The Abyss,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “True Lies,” “Titanic” and “Avatar,” so the guy knows how to stage an action scene. It’s the other stuff he has trouble with. When the wind isn’t tearing the town apart it’s as if Quale doesn’t know what to do with the characters or the story.
To kill time between the wild wind storms the characters tell you what is about to happen—“Oh [crap],” says Allison, “it’s headed for the school!”—and talk about shooting anything that movies. “I can’t stop filming or I’ll be fired!” says cameraman Jacob.
Everyone seems to have a camera crazy-glued to their hands, and those who don’t seem to spend their time yelling, “Make sure you keep filming,” to the people who do. In fact, this movie should have been called “Keep Filming,” because it is the film’s mantra.
Mix that with a wooden performance from Richard Armitage that would make Woody Pecker’s mouth water, a series of tornadoes and a Firenado—an idea so silly I imagine the makers of “Sharknado” rejected it as too over the top—and you get a disaster movie that is a disaster of a film.
TORONTO – The latest monster thriller to hit movie theatres is making some people queasy, but it has little to do with gore.
“Cloverfield” features the jerky shooting style of a hand-held movie camera and some audience members say it’s too much to bear. One Toronto blogger says more than a dozen people walked out of the screening he attended and that he spotted fresh vomit in the hallway leading out of the theatre.
“I can’t recommend this movie for anyone who isn’t into self-torture or hasn’t had a robust dose of Gravol,” the blogger, identified as “Allen” says at Guinevere.ca.
“Cloverfield gave me the worst motion sickness I’ve ever had,” a blogger named Almostzooey adds on Jezebel.com. “I thought I was going to vomit in the middle of the theatre.”
With obvious parallels to 9-11, “Cloverfield” is about a monster who terrorizes New York City and a group of friends that catch the mayhem on a camcorder. The film has drawn largely favourable reviews so far, with its champions defending the cinema-verite style as integral to the storytelling.
The shooting style is similar in feel to 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project,” featuring shaky views of panicked characters and bouncing shots of the ground when the beast sends them running for their lives.
Movie critic Richard Crouse said filmgoers seated next to him grumbled throughout the screening. He called the camera movement so erratic that “it makes ‘The Blair Witch Project’ look like it was shot on a Steadicam by Ansel Adams.”
Still, Crouse lauded the technique for lending a strong sense of realism and intensity and for evoking the shaky news footage that dominated coverage of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Cineplex Odeon said Monday that it anticipated the herky-jerky motion could rub some people the wrong way. It posted signs at its theatres warning viewers that the camera work could cause side-effects associated with motion sickness similar to riding a roller-coaster.
Spokeswoman Georgia Sourtzis said the warnings are “a courtesy” to audience members and that anyone upset by the film can seek a refund. Complaints must be lodged before the film has ended and would be assessed on a case-by-case basis, she said.
Sourtzis had heard of a few complaints at one theatre, but didn’t have an overall picture on what moviegoers across the country felt of the “Cloverfield” camerawork.
“Some people were uncomfortable with the filming technique and it did cause them some uneasiness,” she said of one theatre in Burlington, Ont.
“Blair Witch,” also a Cineplex release, elicited complaints of dizziness and nausea when it was released.
Fans of “Cloverfield” say the shaky style is not that bad.
“It’s no different than riding in a car,” Craig Fulford said Monday after buying a ticket to “Cloverfield” for his second viewing.
Fulford said the wild views are central to the plot.
“It wouldn’t have made sense otherwise,” he said. “They’re supposed to be recovering a tape after this disaster. If someone’s filming with a Handycam it’s … going to come out like that. And you’re running around the city and it’s blowing up, it’s going to be totally herky-jerky like that.”
Crouse said he actually found the more extreme swinging motions to be beautiful.
“When you have these incredible visuals of this guy running and all you see is … shafts of light and a blurry image on the screen from his hand moving back and forth but you’re hearing the sounds of these people running and the swish of the air as it rubs up against the microphone on the camera, it’s pretty intense,” he said.
“That whole thing kind of all comes together. It quite literally had me on the edge of my seat and I see 400 movies a year.”