FMP Research – The Film Review Blog – Chinatown

Chinatown is a 1974 film directed by Roman Polanski, also known for ‘The Pianist’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, and is written by Robert Towne, who also wrote ‘Mission: Impossible 1 and 2’. This film stars Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston.

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The story follows J.J. Gittes and his associates when they are hired by the wife of a chief executive of a water company because she accuses him of cheating. This all goes wrong very quickly when it’s revealed the person who hired them wasn’t the real wife and the husband is found dead the next day. There is this conspiracy about the water being wasted which is the cause of the husband’s death as he found out something he shouldn’t have. A lot is then uncovered about different people and what is going on. It’s interesting to see how all the pieces fall into place.

Jack Nicholson plays the cocky, kind hearted private detective, J. J. Gittes, who can be very violent when he needs to be. He is caught up in all this and there is no way he’s going to drop the case. This character is likeable in parts, then hated by the audience in other parts. He is introduced as a good-tempered, jokey kind of guy but when things begin to get rough, he becomes more resilient and does anything to get the answers he wants, even if that means beating up a woman.

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Jack Nicholson is a master of anger, he knows how to control it and knows when to use it. I’ll be talking about Chinatown and how Nicholson controls and uses anger in this film, but he has a whole array of films where he uses different types of anger. In Chinatown, he understands what type of character he is playing so he uses anger when he doesn’t get what he wants.

In a scene that’s hard to watch, Gittes thinks he has a good, and truthful, story of how everything happened. But when Evelyn says he’s wrong, Gittes loses it. Jack keeps his anger level to a minimum before the slap, only raising his voice a little to entice Evelyn in telling him the truth. She keeps refusing, so his anger rises and grabs her. He realises what he’s done, and calms himself, telling her what happened to her husband, blaming the murder on her.

When she lies again, he slaps her. , He doesn’t hold back, his anger is full-on, and if he doesn’t hear what he wants to hear, he will slap again. The next couple of seconds are hard to watch because Gittes doesn’t understand yet and even though she’s telling him the truth, he won’t stop. When he realises she was telling the truth and he doesn’t apologise for what he just did, it adds another layer to his character – he doesn’t want to be wrong and when he is, he hides the fact he was by moving on quickly.

Faye Dunaway plays the secretive and seductive widow, Evelyn Murray. From the moment you meet her, it feels like she’s hiding something. She doesn’t like to have long conversations as she’s afraid she might reveal something she shouldn’t. When she’s talking to Gittes, who can see right through her lies, she gets anxious and shakes. To calm herself, she smokes, a lot, and she’s sometimes so panicked, she forgets she already had one lit. You could take from this that she’s so overwhelmed with her husband’s death she gets confused, but she doesn’t show much emotion when learning of his death.

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The screenplay was written by Robert Towne who perfectly captures the stereotypical detective, with their distinct accents and overall tone. The conversations between people get to the point, nothing they say is filler – it’s important to the case or foreshadowing something later on.

This film has a ‘kick in the stomach’ ending that leaves you disgusted and sad, and I won’t spoil it because it’s a lot more shocking if you don’t know about it. It also has one of the most famous quotes in film, ‘Forget it Jake, It’s Chinatown’, which has since been used in other films and TV programmes.

With everything this film has to offer, I’ll be taking inspiration from it’s writing, with the way the lines are structured and spoken, and how every line is necessary to the plot and the growth of characters. This film is a classic, with shocking and hard to watch scenes that leave you distressed and uncomfortable. The stereotypical detective role is given time and care to establish, and Jack Nicholson nails it.

9/10

FMP Research – The Film Review Blog – Sin City: Theatrical Version

Sin City is a 2005 film directed by Frank Miller, who also directed Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, produced 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire; and was also an uncredited writer for the Netflix shows Daredevil and Jessica Jones. The other directors were Robert Rodriguez, who directed the Spy Kids films and From Dusk Till Dawn, and special guest director, Quentin Tarantino.

Sin City is made up of multiple stories put together, with two stories being cut in half and put either side two other stories. The first story isn’t relevant to anything, it’s only used as an intro and outro of the film where a man who is credited as ‘The Man’, played by Josh Hartnett, is some sort of hitman who kills a woman in a red dress and a main character at the end. This was the concept scene that Robert Rodriguez filmed to convince Frank Miller to allow him to adapt Sin City, and which brings you into the world of Sin City, giving you a glimpse of the style to come.

The next story we are introduced to starts off with detective named Hartigan, played by Bruce Willis, who frees a girl named Nancy from captivity but must take responsibility for the kidnapping as the real kidnapper is the son of the Senator. Hartigan is locked up for 8 years, being forced to confess to a crime he didn’t commit. When Hartigan gets out, he tries to find Nancy, who is now 19, but the real kidnapper follows him so he can finish what he started. So now Hartigan must protect Nancy from being kidnapped again.Related image

The second story is Marv, played by Mickey Rourke, who is set up to take the fall for a hooker named Goldie, played by Jaime King, who has been killed. Marv must find out who the killer is and, during that, goes on a massive revenge spree, killing people left and right in gruesome and brutal ways.Image result for sin city Marv

The next story follows Dwight, played by Clive Owen, who threatens a gang who hit his girlfriend, played by Brittany Murphy. This leads to Dwight chasing the gang into Old Town, which then starts a turf war when something bad happens, which then needs to be covered up. This storyline gets out of hand quickly!

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The three main characters – Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Clive Owen – all share the same type of personality. They are very rough and angry looking characters, and the actors go all out, over the top even, in making these characters seem like they are failing in life, taking wrong turns and attempting to fix their mistakes.

At points, the acting seems bad, with the actors forcing their lines too much but that might be down to the style of the film or the fact they are paying homage to older detective films and to the graphic novel by exaggerating the dialogue. Some people will see this as a negative, but if it’s being faithful to the source material, I can forgive it for that.

This film is based on the graphic novel ‘Sin City’, running from 1991 to 1992, by Frank Miller who also adapted it to the screenplay. Frank Miller also made the Marvel Daredevil comics running from 1981 to 1983 and DC’s The Dark Knight Returns in 1986. Miller has had his fair share of writing experiences. When he moved his Sin City graphic novel onto the big screen, he didn’t want to change anything, so he copied and pasted the dialogue over to have a true adaptation.

The voiceovers bring extra character to each person. On the outside, they are a tough, strong, big person, like Marv, but when their thoughts are projected with the use of voiceovers, they become soft, talking about love and describing how people look. It’s a big contrast between the outside and inside.

Robert Rodriguez did the same when it came to the cinematography. He looked through the graphic novel and copied each shot to also have a true adaption. Each board in the novel is a shot in the film so everything from the characters to the dialogue to the visuals is all faithful to the original source material.

The use of selective colour in the film adds to the personalities of the characters; a red dress, red lipstick, blue eyes, blood etc. The use of blue shows vulnerability, while red is used for danger.

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I wanted to watch this film because I’ve been thinking about using that style. I hope watching it would help me make up my mind.

There are two obvious things I’ll be taking away from this film:

  • The voiceover. The use of it when describing the characters surroundings and thoughts work so well that I think I could take that and use it to describe my character’s surroundings and thoughts as he progresses through the story.
  • The selective colour. I feel like selective colour will work in my world and my story. I’ll point out the important things in the scene to draw the eyes of the audience to the object or person.

Overall, this is a very faithful adaptation of the graphic novel and the visual style is unique and original as no other film has done anything like it. In some places, there is bad acting that puts you off just a little bit but that doesn’t stop the gruesome gore-fest that happens on screen.

9/10

FMP Research – The Film Review Blog – Seven

REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS

The 1995 film ‘Seven’, or ‘Se7en’, is directed by David Fincher who, before this film, directed Alien 3 and swore never to direct a film ever again. I’m glad he did. The film stars Brad Pitt who plays Detective Mills, Morgan Freeman who plays Detective Somerset, Gwyneth Paltrow who plays Tracy and Kevin Spacey who plays John Doe.

The story follows William Somerset, a retiring detective, and David Mills, a detective who was relocated by his request, who become partners for the week as Somerset settles Mills into his new position before he retires. Their first case together is a suspected homicide with a man apparently eating until he burst. Somerset refuses to carry on as he doesn’t want a big case for his final week but is denied reassignment to another case while Mills is put on another case.

Somerset goes back to the original crime scene to search for clues and finds the word gluttony. At Mills’s new crime scene, the word greed is spelt out in blood. Somerset then connects the two cases together using the seven deadly sins; Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Envy and Wrath. Five more murders take place, and Somerset and Mills become obsessed in the killer’s methods and skill.

Brad Pitt plays the light-hearted detective, David Mills, who has moved to the un-named city with his wife. This city is set up as a horrible place and people ask him throughout the film why he moved here and his reason is that he wants to ‘do some good’ and was attracted to this city full of dread and crime, which confuses Somerset.

Brad Pitt had just come off filming ‘Legends of the Fall’ and was fed up with these stereotypical and predictable roles and stories and wanted a change. He was attracted to ‘Seven’ because of the ending, which was the same as many actors on the project. When the studio called for a re-write of the ending, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman said they’d leave the project if it was changed. The studio backed off and the ending remained.

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Somerset is a serious, yet wise, detective who has been living in the city for most of his life and is fed up with the amount of crime and violence there is on the streets. He is a man who keeps to himself, quiet and most of the time alone, yet has a soft heart, worrying about families affected by the killings. He is very sarcastic when it comes to people who point out the obvious, or to people that are in his way.

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Kevin Spacey plays John Doe, the main antagonist of the film, and is definitely one of the best performances and villains of all time. The emotionless character performs inhumane acts that disturb the characters and the audience just thinking about what happened. He is the devil, and Kevin Spacey owned the role. I can’t think of anyone who could replace him.

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Andrew Walker, who also wrote ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘The Wolfman’, was the man behind this intense and violent script. He started off with writing an episode of ‘Tales From the Crypt’ in 1993, and then found fame when he wrote the script for ‘Seven’. After that, he wrote ‘8mm’ starring Nicolas Cage and then got called in by David Fincher to script doctor the film ‘Fight Club’. He has slowed down on writing but the nightmares he put on paper will always be there.

His ideas of violence and gore are shown through the eyes of David Fincher which really adds to the dark grittiness of the screenplay. He has obviously put a lot of planning into this rollercoaster of events, bringing in the seven deadly sins, amazingly disturbing acts committed on people and multiple plot twists that are both unpredictable and shocking. Even with controversy when it first came out, the ending is one of the best closures to a film ever with the intense and shocking ‘What’s in the box?!’ scene.

Andrew also doesn’t disclose where this film is set, revealing only what the characters think about where they are based. They talk about it being crime-ridden, and a place no one wants to stay. This adds a whole new mystery of why they aren’t revealing the location, adding a sense of discomfort with the characters.

The cinematography was directed by Darius Khondji, who later did cinematography for Alien: Resurrection, The Immigrant and The Lost City of Z.

A lot of the shots are very smooth and planned with very little handheld camera shaking, which shows the detectives slowly working the case out or having the upper hand on John Doe. David Fincher and Darius Khondji use handheld camera shakes when the characters are either in an unfamiliar place, like the Sloth scene or when they are under stress. What this does is show the audience when the characters are at their weakest and most vulnerable.

A perfect example of this is when Mills finds out his wife has been murdered by John Doe. His slow realisation of what John is talking about is unveiled with a slow dolly towards Mills. It then cuts to a static shot of John and a handheld shot of Mills and Somerset which continues until John is inevitably shot. This handheld camera look signifies Mills’s world crumbling around him. It shows the dominant character in the scene, John Doe, controlling what Mills thinks.

The opening title sequence is a very iconically disturbing due to its use of sound and imagery that makes the audience uncomfortable to watch yet is so distinctive and interesting that you can’t stop watching. The music adds to this discomfort with its dirty and most of the time muffled instruments. It’s mainly made up of a guitar being played but filtered to make it sound like it’s being played in a tin and this gives it a very unique sound and feel.

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The production team used real, violent crime scene photos to give this opening sequence that extra creep, stomach-turning factor that sticks in your mind. The imagery isn’t random, each clip tells you a bit about the killer without revealing his identity. The countless shots of the book with his scribblings and grotesque pictures begin to piece together what type of character John Doe is; it tells us he doesn’t hold back when it comes to his creative murders. Each picture shows how ruthless and inhumane he is – performing these crimes and the imagery of cutting himself to hide his identity. Just from the opening title sequence, he is someone to be feared.

The two main elements of this film I used as inspiration for my film is the overall feel of the film and the opening sequence. The feel is a very bleak and unpleasant, not a place you’d want to go or live and this is all set up with the amount of crime that’s taking place. This world we are introduced to is sickly and dirty and it creates such a dark feel to everything.

The opening scene has things flashing onto the screen from writing into a book to fingers being cut. All these are either close-ups or extreme close-ups, giving a depth of field blur to the image to make the audience concentrate on certain elements shown on the screen. I really like the way clips are overlaid with opacity and some clips sped up to give the sense of time passing which I’m a big fan of.

Overall, this is one of my favourite films of all time with disturbing imagery, captivating performances and riveting plot twists. David Fincher brings Andrew Walker’s gruesome and unnerving script to life in a brutal fashion and really shows what David Fincher is capable of.

10/10

FMP Research – Catching Up With the News

Recently a man called Ian Brady was brought to light again as the news of his death was confirmed. Ian Brady and his girlfriend, Myra Hindley, committed five murders of children spanning from 12th July 1963 to 6th October 1965. They were sentenced to life in prison, with Myra dying on 15th November 2002. Ian died on 15th May 2017.

Four of the five bodies were found but one is yet to be discovered and now Ian is dead, there is very slim chance the last victim will be found.

His death has brought these tragic deaths back into the news once again and I began to have concerns with my film’s name and the whole concept of it. My film revolves around a murderer performing killings on top of Tors in Dartmoor, dumping them there until someone finds the bodies. This plot and the name of the film, ‘The Moors Killer’, might remind people of Ian Brady’s doings and upset them. The murderous couple who were famously nicknamed ‘The Moors Murderers’.

To avoid people comparing the two, I’ve decided to change the name of my film to something that has less chance of being compared to the killers. I haven’t got a new name yet but in the coming weeks, I will begin to brainstorm and come up with something better.

Unfortunately, I am too far into production to change the plot entirely. If I had known that this story would be back in the news for hopefully the last time, I would have changed the idea to something people can’t relate to real life events.

I know that it’s unlikely people will compare my film to these murders but in case that situation does arise, I need to be careful. Changing the name will avoid people making claims that I’m disrespecting the five children who were murdered.

FMP Research – The Film Review Blog – The Third Man

REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS

The Third Man is directed by Carol Reed, who also directed the 1968 musical ‘Oliver!’, and stars Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli.

The story follows a writer named Holly Martins, played by Joseph Cotten, who travels to post-war Vienna in Austria because of his childhood friend Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles, offers him a job. He arrives only to find out Harry mysteriously died in a traffic accident. Holly seems sceptical about Harry’s death and is positive that his death was a murder which is the opposite of what everyone else says.

Joseph Cotten plays Holly Martins, giving a memorable and terrific performance as a strong-minded writer who looks where he shouldn’t and gets into a lot of danger by asking the wrong questions. He is a very human character in that he’s very stubborn yet determined to get to the bottom of what’s going on. The surroundings of the character really help us relate to him. He can’t speak the language of where he is, so he as to ask what people are saying and with no subtitles, the audience relies on him to work it out.

The character of Harry Lime is a snarky and inhuman character, not caring about people who take his phoney drug. He became deep in the black market, selling counterfeit medicine that kills instead of saves. Leading up to when Holly was coming over for the job he offered him, the police were hot on his trail so, with the help of his associates, he fakes his death. Throughout the film, we get to understand what Harry was up to and the devastating effects his product has on the human body.

He is one of the most putrid yet lovable villains ever to be thought up, making it onto countless top villain lists. If you are looking for ways to make such a classic villain, this is the film to watch and even though he only comes in halfway through the film, he steals the whole thing. He is set up from the beginning as the mysterious person, only a hand full of people saw what happened when he supposedly died. But the build-up and the anticipation of meeting him is all satisfied when the face of Orson Welles is revealed and he puts on his devilish smile, classic.

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It’s been known for a long time that Orson Welles is a marvel when it comes to film. He excels in both acting and directing compared to others. He would normally direct and act at the same time, as he did with his 1942 film, Citizen Kane, but for The Third Man he wrote the script, taking massive influence from the novel of the same name, and let another director take the reins. But it is well known he was a real pain when it came to filming. Orson wasn’t present for the first two weeks of production, forcing people to stand in for him like the crew and even the director. When he did show up, he basically threw out the script, improvising most of his lines which lead us to the famous cuckoo clock speech, so it wasn’t all bad.

The cinematography is truly outstanding, filming a lot of the scenes on location in the bomb-ruined streets of Vienna. The film popularised the use of the Dutch angle which is where the camera is tilted sideways giving it a unique style, making everything feel out of place and creating long shadows. In a place that was destroyed by the events of World War 2, the Dutch angle really makes Holly’s perspective of things show if he’s confused or not. The Dutch angle is used when he’s being chased, not knowing where he is and blindly going wherever he thinks is right. The Dutch angle is also present when he is trying to figure something or someone out. The camera is Holly’s mind and really helps the audience understand the character a lot more.

The music of this film is a high-pitched set of songs giving at lively an upbeat feel and gives the feeling Holly is always on the move. The main theme has become one of the most recognisable songs ever made making it into films like David Fincher’s 1995 film, Seven and the 2002 action film, xXx starring Vin Diesel. All the music was played on the same instrument, a zither and was performed by the then unknown Anton Karas who was approached by Carol Reed at a party to write a few songs for the film but then gave him the task to write all the music for the film. It’s a true masterpiece and adds so much to the tone of the film.

The writing is very well done, throwing you into a place you are unfamiliar with, just like Holly. For the audience, Holly is the most relatable character in the film because, with no subtitles for the foreign language, we need to ask others what they said or ask them to repeat themselves but in English just like Holly. This is the best way to make the audience think to try and work out what they are saying because it’s written in a way that even if you don’t speak the same language, you still know what they are saying with body positioning, hand movements and the tone they speak in. If we had a translator with Holly everywhere he went, we wouldn’t have this mystery, it would be very easy to work everything out.

In a film that has amazing writing, directing, acting and style, I take everything into account when it comes to making my film. In my eyes, this is a perfect film, captivating its audience with its use of words, cinematography and story. It throws you into Holly’s shoes as you attempt to find out what is going on, revealing awful truths and coming to terms with what is really going on. With Orson Welles on board making the film, you know it’s going to be good which is why I’m giving The Third Man a…

10/10