Author: Amanda Clarke

Review: Playing It Cool

The story of Playing It Cool follows a screenwriter (Chris Evans) tasked with writing a major romantic comedy. The problem is that he doesn’t believe in romance or love, that is until he meets the perfect woman (Michelle Monaghan) at a charity event. True to generic form, she is involved with another man, so Evans befriends her in the hope of falling out of his infatuation, opening paths to a complicated relationship. Playing It Cool hits every cliché of romantic comedies presented in a cute little package. It starts out promising, poking fun at the genre, playing with the “meet cute” that is a staple of the genre. Stylistically, it’s off beat in a good way, with Chris Evans’s narrator inserting himself into others’ stories and his heart following him around in a cloud of cigarette smoke like the brooding hero from a 1940s film noir. Evans and Monaghan are both charming as the unnamed leads and they have decent chemistry. When their hands meet for the first time, sparks literally fly and it’s almost believable. Unfortunately, the longer the film goes on, the more things begin to grate as the self-aware touches that make the first half enjoyable disappear, leaving us with nothing but the very tired tropes of the rom-com. At this point the film loses its cool. The light hearted tone is jettisoned in favour of one...

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Contributions of black women in film

With the announcement of the Oscar nominations, many were angry to not see Ava DuVernay’s name among the best director nominations, but most were not that surprised to see the omission. In an industry dominated by middle-aged white men, it can be difficult for anyone who doesn’t fit that designation to receive support and recognition for their work. It is particularly difficult for women of colour to break into the ranks. They often must work twice as hard to receive a fraction of the recognition afforded to men in the industry. This is to the detriment of film as a whole because while each individual filmmaker beings their own experience to a film, similarities between filmmakers who identify as part of the same group become very apparent the more films you watch. This is why diversity behind the camera is just as important as diversity in front of it. Films directed by women have a distinctly different sensibility than those directed by men and this difference becomes even more pronounced when you add race to the equation. So with that in mind, TFS would like to take the time to acknowledge some of the contributions of black women in film. Amma Asante Amma Asante is a British writer director born in London in 1969. Her first feature film, A Way of Life, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in...

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Review: What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows follows a group of four flatmates, Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) and Petyr (Ben Fransham) living in Wellington as they go about their lives. Shot in a documentary style, the film highlights the everyday trials and tribulations that come from sharing a flat with incompatible personalities. The catch—they are vampires, trying to stay under the radar as they hunt for victims and try to navigate their undead existence. Over the last decade or so the vampire myth has become part of popular culture and that is what writers/directors Waititi and Clement are counting on. Following in the proud mocumentry tradition of Christopher Guest, What We Do in the Shadows sends up the most familiar bits of the vampire myth from their aversion to crosses and sunlight, to their lack of reflection and the inability to enter a building without being invited. There are sight gags and blood galore, which just adds to the ridiculous fun. The film also plays with documentary tropes, opening with the logo for the New Zealand Documentary Board (an organization that doesn’t really exist) and combining talking heads footage with images of old documents and hand held shots following the characters through their lives. It’s all very entertaining, and gives a nice counterpoint to the serious nature usually reserved for vampires, no matter how ridiculous...

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Review: Two Days, One Night

Two Days, One Night tells the story of Sandra, a young mother, who discovers upon her return to work that her colleges have voted for a bonus instead of keeping her on. After convincing her boss to agree to another vote, Sandra has the weekend, the titular two day and one night, to get a majority to agree to lose their bonuses so she can keep her job. It doesn’t seem like that kind of film, but by the time Sandra meets with her final co-worker on the second day, the tension has built to a level that rivals a well crafted thriller. Two Days, One Night is a subtle character study and a masterclass in the use of theme and variation, grounded in a masterful performance from Marion Cotillard. Each co-worker Sandra visits begins with the same speech from her, and their responses are all very similar. There are sixteen people, but there are really only two outcomes to her visit. Either they will support her to keep her job, or they will opt for their bonus. However, the subtle nuances from the actors provide an engaging commentary of the working class. No one is vilified, these people have been given a catch twenty-two no matter which choice is made everyone loses something. There is also the underlying story of Sandra’s struggles with depression that caused her to...

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2015 Predictions: Rise of the small films

There are only two things I ask of the film industry for 2015, and I hope these predictions come true. First, can we please cool it with the superhero films and young adult adaptations? I realize that this is a long shot, as due to the success of Marvel’s film and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay at the box office, it looks like these trends are going to continue for a while yet. Marvel already has two films scheduled to come out in 2015 plus a new tv show and have announced their planned films through 2019. There is also the second part of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and the Divergent sequel to look forward to. If these films rake in the cash that they’re expected to we are most likely in for another solid decade of these huge budget action blockbusters. Although, with The Hunger Games coming to a close, everyone will be out looking for the next franchise. It’s a safe bet that it will be a fantastical dystopia and most likely feature a female lead. I will continue to hope for Hollywood to realize that Tamora Pierce’s books are perfect for adaptation to the screen and there is years worth of material in her publications. My second request is for Hollywood to continue the trend, however small, of increasing the profile of women both on-screen and off....

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Review: Big Eyes

Big Eyes is the story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams). Married in the 1950s to Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), Walter became famous for his paintings of big eyed children, except the work was not his. For the better part of two decades, Walter passed Margaret’s work off as his own. The film follows her life from her first divorce until the public revelation of Margaret as the true author of the works. Big Eyes is far and away the best film that Tim Burton has made in at least a decade. It takes awhile to get going, with a set up that is overly contrived with an unnecessary voice over that tries to make the film into something bigger and more important than it is. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz also spend the first twenty minutes or so trying a little too hard to be likeable before they settle in and find their rhythm. Once Burton gets to the meat of the story when Walter starts to pass Margaret’s work off as his own, everything settles into place. Adams is perfectly cast, with her own big eyes exuding innocence and naivety that progresses to a steely determination. Waltz is also a perfect choice, oozing charisma and charm, but also capturing the smarmy, slightly psychotic side of Walter perfectly. The film around the two central performances is solid. The story of...

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The TFS List: five greatest advances in cinema

The history of film has been driven by technical innovations and inventions as the studios all try to compete to create the next big spectacle that will increase their chances of a hit and reduce their costs. Here are five of the most important technological developments that have revolutionized the film industry for better or worse. Synchronized Sound After the invention of the film camera and projector, the most important technical innovation in cinema history has to be that of synchronized sound. Since the invention of motion pictures, people were attempting to record sound along with the image. Edison...

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