Elstree Film Design and Rob Finlay

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After hours, days and weeks of emailing production companies with a keen interest for work experience, it is often that you don’t end up hearing back. You might send them a second email, if you could still remember the details. Elstree Film Design  (EFD) have no such hospitality, they replied within minutes and, after the initial shock, things progressed: a phone call. Here is something that was made very clear to me at EFD, don’t waste your time with fancy emails because calling is ten times more effective. If I’d called the company first, an instant interest would have ben expressed on my part and no doubt a clear resolution to the matter by the end of the call, no treading on mailbox eggshells. However, it is never easy to confront a cold and icy line out of blue water, yet such is the task of life, so lets make it easier for ourselves by picking up the phone.

I met up with Rob Finlay, the company director and a great musician as well as a filmmaker, who inspired me to talk passionately about film. I quickly developed a keen understanding of the work Rob does at EFD and his productive, forward-thinking and tactile approach. For a company who started on the corporate scene only two years ago they are making clear waves in the sector and have exciting prospects for the near feature. With a prolific output, a prime and crisp location, and a small dedicated team with big minds, I hope to visit EFD again very soon. All I can say, is the work experience was thoroughly enjoyable, flexible in the productive sense of the word, and.. get your placements in!  There are only a few companies in this industry who have such warm open doors; they care for the future, remember their pasts and are highly intelligible workers of the present.

To finish this blog post, I have an exciting recording of a Skype interview I did with Rob. I also have an innovative music video embedded, a fantastic project that I was fortunate enough to help develop alongside EFD. Find the interviews on my YouTube channel here, or the full interview embedded below:

Music video: Rob Finlay – Call Back the Day

Visit Rob’s personal website here for more cool videos.

Or, and finally, Visit EFD for a leading service in corporate video!

Haider – It doesn’t strike one as an appealing piece of cinema, but come hell or high water this is certainly striking!

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Haider (India/2014)

UK Release by UTV Motion Pictures – 2nd October 2014

Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj

Brief Synopsis: A retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in a conflict driven state of war on terror. A young man returns to this homeland to discover shattering circumstances that lead to great strife – a maddening search for the truth begins. 

This film is a bomb. This abstract interpretation almost encapsulates everything about this film. On the surface level, the bomb ticks, it goes off and the aftermath brings devastation and then it goes off again to end all cause. On the second level, the aesthetic is in a constant stream of change, it is always amidst the very explosion of the bomb. On a third level, the bomb is even more timeless and clearly depicts the raw humanistic features of destruction that are inescapable. In other words, there is no escaping for the characters in the film and no escape for the audience either (apart from a short interval!).

I was initially puzzled, duly stunned and later on extremely tenterhooks as this exasperating and almost madly dramatic piece of cinema unfolded before me. It is not quite a masterpiece in the sense that I like to think of one; it is almost too impressive in its set pieces and brash in its revelations. It is too energised and well crafted in different places that it feels like three movies in one. However, Bhardwaj is no doubt impeccably masterful in his constructive shifting of tone and constant pace as the film progresses and reaches its intolerable climax.

I don’t feel fashioned enough to Bollywood cinema to understand fully what may lie between the lines, but the initial spectacle of this film is a truly global event and great cinema. Whilst the odd performance felt uncultivated, the lead Shahid Kapoor (Haider) expresses mind-blowing emotions and a fresh unveiling of traumatic circumstances that hits the mark of the near unthinkable. There are interesting relationships in this film; Haider’s relationship with his mother (Ghazala), played by Tabu with an almost equal intoxication, steals the show and presents a minefield of intricacies. A number of other relationships are explored with intricate detail, but perhaps there is too much shape-shifting going on.

Nevertheless, bring barrels of energy with you to the cinema because this is an exquisite treat of explosive and even poetic proportions. You will not guess all the plot twists and turns despite the Shakespeare outlet and you will become almost entranced by the magnetic lead performances.

4.5/5 stars

A Walk Among the Tombstones – It sounds far more enticing than it really is

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A Walk Among the Tombstones (US/2014)

UK Release by Momentum Pictures – 19th September 2014

Directed by Scott Frank

Unfortunately, this film leaves no room for curiosity or character insight. Yet, those elements are not entirely necessary for the film to play out in its own confidence as a systematic and noirish thriller.

Liam Neeson is hard at home with tough nails, fierce jujitsu skills and ex-cop attire. However, there is no explosive dynamite, but rather a late package that Neeson carries on his shoulders at a steady pace, marking off every checkpoint along his obstacle course. The obstacles are not thick and fast, but they are hollow and potholed. I may have been in a passive mood, but the two killers who Neeson is after appear pathetic on all fronts: they are not scary, they are whimsical in their approach to crime and there is not the slightest chance that they will get away. The victims and their relations, who act as the catalyst for Neeson’s seemingly unprompted involvement, also come across as ill informed and lacking the bite for what should be nail-biting thriller. The plot is straightforward and clear-cut for a no doubt exciting experience, but the elevating spine is missing.

To conclude, it appears that the lack of subtlety, the lack of reasoned time and place of the characters and intelligible events, left me stricken with a rather dry experience.

2/5 stars

Ida – It just feels so pure, it’s hard to explain..

Ida Pawel PawlikowskiIda (Poland/2013)

UK Release by Music Box Films – 26th September 2014

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Brief Synopsis: Ida is about to take her vows when she heads out into the open with her Aunt Wanda on a voyage of discovery. A dark secret of past family trauma relating back to the Nazi occupation awaits. Quite simply, neither life will ever be the same again.  

Every frame of this film acts the equivalent to a piece of artwork that one wants to behold. It is meticulously crafted in lightly faded black and white with every mild camera movement articulating the sense of approaching drama. The film is entirely minimalist and beseeches the cold and faded landscapes of a semi-derelict and post-war land. Here is a clear and finely cut case of less is more. Stunning.

Agata Trzebuchowska is magnifying in her portrayal of a young woman (Ida) on the cusp of becoming a nun. Her deep eyes give off a radiance of complex feelings about the surrounding world. Her long blonde hair is symbolic of her freedom, her beauty and ultimately, the particular power of individual human features. Every object or element in Pawlikowski’s frame begs depth and interpretation of meaning. I won’t get caught up with details here, but the hungry viewer should watch the material with finesse.

Ida’s Aunt, Wanda (Agata Kulesza) leads her on an uneasy road to discovery, yet what she discovers is a haunting depiction of reality and the suffering that lies beyond. Wanda’s character lays the foundations of communist décor in 1960s Poland; she is a retired judge who is excused of any wrongdoing and an outlandish character consistently searching for truth and pleasure. One feels as though the ground may erupt at any moment.

Pawlikowski is not afraid to lead us directly into his narrative, he does not spend lengths developing the characters backgrounds for example; he simply presents us with them and lets the ambiguity draw us inside. This is reason alone to herald the magnificent performances and ingenious camerawork. A number of conclusions can be drawn from this film, a number of insights gained and a number of subtleties left to explore, if so inclined. I will certainly be watching it again.

5/5 stars

Sex Tape – Laughable Crap!

1138130 - SEX TAPESex Tape (US/2014)

UK Release by Columbia Pictures – 3rd September 2014

Directed by Jake Kasdan 

Whilst you may be having a fit about how bad this movie is, I ask you to look beyond how it appears and laugh at the satire it presents of the age we live in. Indeed, the plain fact that a film has been made about a couple that looses their sex tape in the cloud is laughable, but oddly peculiar and admirable. It is a simple concept that screams bad movie, but the film is relevant, somewhat bizarre and an awakening of how online (or should I say Apple driven) our society is; yes, beware it is a cosmic scale ad for Apple.

Each character is foolishly pleasant. Annie couldn’t be played by anyone other than Cameron Diaz (or the film would make zilch) and Jason Segel who is squeamishly admirable plays her husband, Jay. Annie’s boss Hank (Rob Lowe) is entertaining as a middle-aged CEO desperate for a line of cocaine once the family are out and with an ego great enough to forge his appearance onto iconic works of art hanging up in the home. Annie and Jay’s best friends, Robby and his wife Tess (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper) are simply just desperate to get hold of the sex tape and indulge in the fantasy themselves. This is cringe warfare, but if you let your hair down it can at times be raucous laughs, especially when things turn bonkers at Hank’s house in search for the tape. However, there are moments that could have been more intriguing and it is arguably a weak effort from a strong writing team of Kate Angelo, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller.

It is clear that Jay is a character that is still tongue-in-cheek about the fact that he ever scored with Annie and, consequently, it is amusing watching him lust over her and become frustrated at managing the relationship. In fact, the chemistry between Annie and Jay is the best thing this movie has going for it, they are actually relatable in their playful manner, even when they act like children. I am assuming that we have all acted childish with our partner once in a while? Anyway, if you want to watch what is essentially laughable crap with your partner, this is it!

Side note: if you are wondering what nudity is on show here, the movie shouldn’t disappoint!

2.5/5 stars

 

The Riot Club – It is controversial and uncertain, but not to be missed either

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The Riot Club (UK/2014)

UK Release by Universal Pictures International – 19th September 2014

Directed by Lone Scherfig

Brief Synopsis: It is all about reputation and worth in this destructive depiction of two first-year students at Oxford University falling under hard times.

It is almost an edge of your seat thriller, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. I moaned, clutched my churning stomach and even felt like spitting across the room at one point (in disgust that is). There was even the occasional glance down at my watch, never a good sign. Yet, this is certainly evidence of Lone Scherfig provoking a significant response, for the actions are fatally immoral, preposterous, and unfortunately, pretty funny by way of disgustingly indulgent acts. The characters all distill an air of oddball humour, distaste and intrigue. It is, in fact, a compelling mix of attributes for the once entertained viewer.

What do these students really believe about society? Is it all a mask? Of course, but need the mask ever be broken? Not if money is in the equation. Yet, is Scherfig being irrationally exploitative of Oxbridge and overtly indulgent for no apparent reason? Well, yes, but then lets drop the context and focus on the individual; we have all met a similar character to those in The Riot Club. The film is highly relatable on a singular theme of the enslavement of power and money, the latter the contributor to the former!

Of course, these rich individuals do not have to be public schoolboys, although public schoolboys clearly attribute a higher ratio of this addiction, so it is clear that Scherfig has latched onto this welcomed state of class in Britain. It is inevitable, therefore, that this film will greatly offend those who are part of the institution, it may even make others decide on Durham instead, or it may make the alienated and yobbish youth of our society (again a generalisation, but this is largely a generalised film we are talking about) work harder so that they can go to a good university and partake in unthinkable acts with rich friends. Not too good either!

I believe that Scherfig is highlighting the obscene acts that the youth of today often feel compelled to get involved in; it is that vile term that is so infectious: the ‘lad’ culture. Here things may be spiced up for dramatic effect, but such similar imprudent acts can be witnessed on the sidewalk in any town (and more often than not, by the youth of today). So, buckle up for disagreement or settle in haste for a noteworthy film with impressive performances from a young and promising cast of British male actors.

3.5/5 stars