Escape From Tomorrow (2013)

Escape From Tomorrow is made interesting by the very way that it was shot. Escape from Tomorrow is a feature length film shot almost entirely in Disney World/Land without permission from Disney.  Just the fact that they were able to make this is a crazy thought, even more so that it has received such a wide release, even being shown in theaters and added to Netflix. The spectacle of seeing a dark horror movie filmed in Disney World is the reason to watch it, but the question is; Does Escape From Tomorrow have any depth or entertainment value beyond the production gimmick?

Well sadly the answer is; not really.

The story follows Jim, the father in your typical Disney going family. Jim is a sexual deviant who stalks a pair of young french girls around the park and the mother is nagging and annoying. The two children completely lack any traces of character.

Escape From Tomorrow manages to have fairly good cinematography for a large amount of the film which is especially impressive considering how it was shot, with many real people walking around and the general chaos of the park around them. There are some shots that they spent a very long time planning to achieve. The effort is valiant and doesn’t go unnoticed, but then there are particularly awful looking scenes. There are a handful of scenes that would horrible on their own, and are highlighted more so by the overall nice presentation of the rest of the film. More than one scene has the actors very obviously and poorly green screened into B-roll footage of the amusement park and it does not look passable at all.

Escape From Tomorrow is full of really bad acting. The best acting you can find in this film is passable, while the worst actually comes from the lead actor. He is consistently terrible throughout. By the end of the film I had actual become accustomed to the bad acting and stopped being as distracting, but adjusting to the bad does not make it good.

Escape From Tomorrow attempts to be a creepy screwed up horror film, but largely fails. The “scares” are too few and far between and when they do pop up they often fall flat. The closest the film got to be effective from a horror standpoint was actually the opening credits which managed to provide a genuinely surprising moment, but this one solid moment was cheapened when it was revisited later on in the film, to lesser effect.

The film seems very unsure of the tone that it wants to convey. It presents itself as a cerebral horror film, but then it throws comedic elements at you which don’t mix well. In the end both elements miss their mark and what few moments could have been funny, are muddled and ruined by the confused tones of the movie.

The Pacing is dreadful. Escape From Tomorrow has a meandering plot that kills far too much time following the characters as they walk around the park, go on rides, and do absolutely nothing of any importance. The movie wastes time and feels as though much of it was shot without purpose other than stretching out what probably should have been a 20 minute short film into a feature length film. As a 20 minute short this concept may have actually worked better. A more condensed runtime would have helped Escape From Tomorrow as most of the time it will have you waiting for something to happen, and when it does happen, it will likely disappoint. It also doesn’t help that pretty much all of the set pieces and interesting moments are given away in the trailer.

The gimmick is interesting but the film fails to impress beyond the fact that it actually got made and released the way it was produced. I would only recommend it to those who are seriously interested in the concept of a film shot guerrilla style in Disney world, otherwise definitely stay away. The concept is incredibly intriguing, but a much stronger plot and acting would have been needed to stop this film from being a disappointment.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

kiss kis bang bang

kiss kis bang bagn

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a dark comedy with a strong noir edge mystery about a murderer being pursued by a gay private investigator, a thief mistaken as an actor and his childhood love interest.

Though this movie may be enjoyable to the casual movie going audience, it is especially appealing to those well versed in the medium of film. Film buffs will find great pleasure in this film as it takes the conventions you’ve come to expect and twists them around to great comedic effect. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” follows a somewhat generic murder mystery plot, but infuses it with genre defying dark comedy at crucial moments to steer the film into unexpected territory with the comedy forming to the point of perfection and hitting its mark every time.

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While the comedy and some of the direction/cinematography stop “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” from being a true hard boiled noir, all the style is still there. The film has a great grasp of the noir style, with a lot of darkly lit sets, many washed over with heavy color as many neo-noirs do.

The music is also excellently noir and it is impressive how the often serious music manages to avoid clashing with the comedic moments that occur simultaneously. The music is all great and genre fitting, until the end credits where they used a horribly unfitting song. I’m one to usually read through the credits of a film if I like it, and the music choice stopped me from doing so. This isn’t a bad mark on the film itself, just a poor decision from the soundtrack department which up until that point had been so great.

The two leads are great. Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart and Val Kilmer as Gay Perry are both terrific. Each character is well formed, and though the characters never take on the buddy cop formula, they do have good back and forth on screen chemistry which makes the comedy work that much better. The excellent comedic writing is pulled off flawlessly by these two leads. The female lead, Harmony Lane played by Michelle Monaghan, is a different story. The threeactress did a fine job, but the writing of the character does not work to the film’s benefit . The only aspect of the film that didn’t work to me was the romance between Harry Lockhart and Harmony Lane. I really can’t see why she is worth all the trouble or why Harry would even want to be with her, she’s honestly quite a whore.

The film has one of the absolute best narrations of all time from Robert Downey Jr. as his character tells the story while having quite a bit of difficulty. He goes back to parts he forgot, criticizes scenes and gets off topic. All to excellent comedic effect. The film is very self aware which works in its favor and gives a feeling of true originality to the film.

The clever, tightly written script is the main reason to watch the film. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is hilarious but also manages to be very cool and stylish with a nice noir tone and even managing to have a pretty damn cool final shootout.
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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is a fantastic film. I highly recommend it to all fans of cinema. Anyone looking for a neo-noir, a comedy or even a low octane action film will likely find a good time wrapped up within “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, it can even work as an alternative Christmas film like “Die Hard” or “In Bruges“.

 

Max Payne: A Reason to Live – by Sam Kench

max payne title card

This is a short that I wrote, directed, edited, and did the cinematography on inspired by the Max Payne video game series.

The Max Payne games are fantastic and I highly recommend them, I might get around to an actual review of these games eventually but this is my tribute to the series. It’s not a recreation of the game, but more of a side story revolving around the title character.

We shot this a while ago, over the summer actually, but it got stuck in post production for a long time. Once I got After Effects and learned how to do the VFX I was able to get the muzzle flashes, smoke and blood dones. This is the first video I’ve done VFX, so there was a steep learning curve. Now it’s finally finished and public.

Max Payne is played by Emmett Morrill, I provided the voice for the narration, and Elias Redcloud played Walter Santiago. The goons are played by myself, Andrew Fortier, and Logan Frye. I hope you’ll all check it out and enjoy it and maybe leave some feedback.

Here’s a little background information about the making of the video:

  • This video was shot in one day coming hot off the heels of another larger scale project which I hope to be able to release in the future.
  • Max Payne’s costume was a joint effort by Elias Redcloud and the owner of Green Carbon 2112. The jacket belonged to Eli, and the Max Payne tie was custom made for the video by Amy Lyn.
  • The day before filming I sat down with Emmett Morrill who played Max Payne and we played the game. I had him pay close attention to Max’s mannerisms. The way he walked/ran with/without guns, the way he takes cover, and especially the way he jumps. The trademark of the Max Payne games is the slow motion diving and shooting and this is something that I strove to recreate for the video. It was important to me that we were faithful to the dives and that meant getting serious height and flying backwards into the ground. This is hard to do from a stunt person perspective as it is very hard to stop your body from instinctively putting your hands down and catching yourself. We used a crash mat for Emmett to dive onto to make it a little easier on him.
  • Max Payne’s signature emotion is his trademark hyper frown, it’s not quite a Dredd hyper frown but it’s pretty close. Max is a guy who has no joy in his life so we spent a great deal of time working on Emmett’s frown.
  • The video was filmed downstairs at the Gordon Nash Library in New Hampton New Hampshire which is where we held our film club meetings over the summer.

A sequel video is currently in pre-production but it could be a while before that takes off. The rate at which it happens depends largely on locations and actors as well as the editing, but if enough people are really itching to see the sequel I can make that priority.

 

Man Bites Dog (1992)

man bites dog poster

Spoiler Free

man bites dog poster

Man Bites Dog is a film that I had been trying to find for a while. A DVD eluded my grasp but I was pleasantly surprised to find the film available on youtube. You can watch it there if a DVD is not available.

I really like the title. “Man Bites Dog” It’s obscure and peaks the interest of any potential viewers, and it has great relevance to the film, in a metaphorical way.

Man Bites Dog is a Belgian film. The full original title is C’est arrivé près de chez vous which means “It happened in your neighborhood.” The film wants to convey a strong sense of reality immediately.

Man Bites Dog is a found footage film. I am not a big fan of the genre. I would almost say I hate the whole genre but there are of course exceptions. Most found footage films are terrible. Paranormal Activity is dreadful and there are more awful exorcism films than I care to list. There are a few good found footage films like the newish horror film V/H/S which I plan to review eventually. Is Man Bites Dog one of the few good found footage films?

The footage that has been found is a documentary that was being made by a crew of independent filmmakers focusing on the day to day activities of a serial killer. I find man bites dog sittingthis concept to be fascinating. It’s such an interesting idea and could easily make for a great film. The found footage effect is completely necessary in this film. Found footage is much more understandable when it has a purpose to the plot. Here’s an example, Man Bites Dog needed the found footage effect as part of the story. End of Watch (While being a good film) did not need to have the found footage effect. Change a couple lines of dialogue and it would have been just as effective.

Man Bites Dog is known as a dark comedy. The comedic element of the film is actually a major selling point, even the tagline promotes this ideal saying “A killer comedy”. I did not think of Man Bites Dog as a comedy. I feel that this could be misleading to some viewers. There are some funny moments, but it’s not a comedy in the traditional sense. It’s the absurdity of the situation and the reactions of the characters that bring the comedy. Calling Man Bites Dog a comedy is like calling Terminator a love story. Yeah there are some underlying themes and few key moments that represent the genre, but it’s not the center point, nor is it focused on a great deal.

Man Bites Dog is a hard film to classify. It’s very strange, which is a big reason of why it’s so effective. When picking a genre, I would say it’s close to horror. Not in the traditional sense of course. Man Bites Dog is horror in the sense that Red State is horror. The events that take place are heavily based in reality and could actually remyhappen. The actions of the characters are truly “Horrifying” from a realistic stand point. The fact that these things could very easily actually happen makes the situation frightening.

The main character is serial killer named Benoit he is played by a man who is also named Benoit. In fact, most of the cast uses their real names. They’re even playing themselves in way. In the film is a camera crew and director, playing the camera crew and director is, the camera crew and director. It’s strange to think that this guy is playing himself, who is killing people.

Benoit is a very interesting character. He’s not a mindless killer like Jason, and he’s not a high class intellectual like Hannibal Lecter. He’s closer to a normal guy. I think this makes the situation all the more tense. Here is a guy who can blend perfectly into society committing heinous acts. In fact there are scenes with Benoit’s parents who are his real parents. They thought that it was an actual documentary on their son, they didn’t know that their son was portraying a serial killer.

Benoit is an uncompromising killer who kills mainly just for entertainment. He does steal from the people he kills, but the money is not what he’s after. Benoit has a poetic nature about him. He even gives a full poem about pigeons. man bites dog pigeonHe makes stark commentaries on life while taking it away from others. He satires what is acceptable in society while breaking preset taboo’s.

Benoit is the focus of the film. He spends most f the run time talking to the camera, but there are other characters. The film crew which consists of three people at any given time. They are poorly developed aside from Remy the director. He is a well constructed character and you follow his progression throughout the film. The other film crew members are completely flat. The things that happen to them have very little impact due to their lack of build up. Most of the other characters in the film are simply people who get killed, there are some side characters but no one that stands out.

Man Bites Dog is truly shocking. The film sets out to surprise the audience and it succeeds in doing so. The film is very jarring in an intentional effective way. The black and white film and the handheld found footage really add to the effectiveness of the man bites dogcrimes that are committed. This is one film where the found footage effect enhances the film.

Right from the opening shot of the film, the tone is set. A shocking display of violence taking place in a public crowded area. That set’s most of the film up from there, aside from the social commentary. The film is incredibly realistic which is what makes it effective. The murder is not glorified, it’s realistic. The setting of the film enhances the effect as well. Crowded areas and abandoned areas alike. The filmmakers did not build sets for the film, they went out and found places where they could kill people, and places where they could dispose of the bodies. The areas are real locations in the city where the film was shot, true geurilla film making. the low budget and geurilla style of the film just enhance the experience.

Man Bites Dog is a truly unique experience. It’s unlike any film I’ve seen before. The film does drag a bit towards the end. It feels as though the film would have been just shy of a feature so they added a few scenes as fluff. The scenes aren’t completely bad, but they do feel out of and unnecessary. Almost out of character. The film almost feels as though it has two endings. The movie hits a spot where it could end, then continues a little further only to end right after that.0

Man Bites Dog is an incredible experimental experience and should get more recognition for it’s ingenuity. The filmmakers never went on to do any other films. the main actor has gone on to be in other films, but the directors mainly Remy Belvaux the main director ended after one film. It’s a strange case where a director or writer do only one film. He did commercials after but no features or even short films. Perhaps it’s a case of a man feeling the need to tell just this one story. Maybe he thought he had completed his masterpiece and wanted to go out on top. Maybe he just couldn’t think of anything else, I don’t know, I’d like to, but I don’t.

There is a very strange case that I just found out about. There is a sequel. Yeah, it’s just called “Man Bites Dog: The sequel” But it came out in 2012 a full 20 years after the original, and it doesn’t feature any of the same cast members. The same character of Benoit but a different actor. Now normally I would just assume that this was a fan film. It takes place in New York this time, so I would figure that someone saw the original and really liked and decided to make a fan tribute sequel where they lived. The really weird thing is that one of the writers of the film is named Remy Belvaux which is the name of one of the writer, director, and actors of the original film. That is really weird. Did this guy change his name or did he just happen to have the same name as the guy who wrote the original movie? That would be very weird. It’s even weirder considering the real Remy Belvaux committed suicide. It’s a very strange case. I would like to know more information on this.

Man Bites Dog is definitely worth watching. It’s not for the casual viewer and it may require you to be in a specific morbid mood, but the film is one of the best found footage films I’ve seen to date, and is an incredibly interesting profile of a serial killer, done with a low budget which only enhances the effect. Controversial and morbid, but a well done cinematic experience.

 

Taken (2008) movie review and original artwork

Taken (2008) movie review and original artwork

 ‘Taken‘ Stars Liam Neeson. I think this is Neeson’s best role.

Neeson’s done a bunch of crappy movies in his time, but he can still be awesome. As long as he’s in a good movie like Taken‘.

The basic plot of ‘Taken’ is that Neeson’s daughter goes to Paris and get’s kidnapped. Then Neeson has 96 hours to find her. The thought of finding someone who is a continent away seems daunting. Neeson used to be a spy for the CIA, but retired to be closer to his daughter. His wife has divorced him, taken custody of the daughter, and remarried to this rich old guy. I’ll go out and say it, the mother is just a total bitch.

After Neeson saves the daughter, you might think that they throw the cliché in and have him and the ex-wife get back together again, but that doesn’t happen. That is a very good thing.

Original noir artwork created by Sam based on the Taken DVD cover

I like that the movie doesn’t follow clichés. The action is extremely well done. Unlike in the Bourne movies. I hate the Jason Bourne quick cut shaky cam technique. I think that it really takes away from the action, when you can barely tell whats happening.

The quick cuts also lack authenticity to the fights. Extremely long takes are hard to do, but are often some of the best shots, like in ‘Hard Boiled, the shot in the hospital that lasts four minutes, is considered the best shot in the movie.

‘Taken’ mixes short cuts and longer cuts, in a very good way. You can feel all of the hits. When Neeson hits somebody it isn’t just a random punch, you can see the precision he employs. Every punch or kick he throws is to incapacitate his target in the fastest and most effective manner. So all the hand to hand fighting is well done.

Liam Neeson in Taken

What about the shooting? What usually happens is Neeson is taking the guy’s out quietly with hand to hand, then a single shot get’s fired off alerting the other guys to his presence, then the shooting starts. The shooting is done well, very well.

The last part of the action is the driving sequences. This is my only real complaint about the movie. The driving scenes, are actually pretty boring. There is a chase or two, and there’s shooting involved, but they just sort of went on for too long, or maybe the scoring was the problem, but the Driving scenes were far less enjoyable than the rest of the movie.

The character’s precision and professionalism are really shown. His lethality is outstanding. It is interesting to see how the character thinks. The way he finds his daughter is very smartly written. The movie has balls. The character is ruthless and unrelenting. When he is torturing the man who took his daughter, after he finds out what he knows, he leaves him being electrocuted, until he dies, slowly. That is a good mark from me. A lot of other movies wouldn’t have had the guts to do that.

My favorite part of the movie happens right at the end. This moment really separates the movie apart from other action films for me. When the last guy is holding a knife to his daughters throat and Neeson is pointing a gun at him. the man starts to negotiate and Neeson just shoots him in the head. That is awesome! Most movies would have him throw down his gun and comply with the bad guy, but not “Taken”. The only other movie I have seen this done in was “True Lies” when Schwarzenegger does it to save his wife. It’s a little different, but basically the same.

Taken is a great action thriller. It has much better action than most thrillers, and a much better story than most action movies. I really appreciate that the movie went all out. Taken is one of my favorite action movies. a great film. (I am involved in the production of a TV show with about 4 episodes inspired by “Taken”)

 

Following (1998) Neo-noir month part 1 of 3


Following is a Neo-noir film written and Directed by Christopher Nolan. Christopher Nolan is a well known director now, but Following was his first feature film. He is most well known for The Dark Knight and Inception.

I think ‘Inception‘ is horribly over rated. I don’t think that it is a bad movie but people say that it is the best ever made, and that is a gross overstatement. “Inception” is a movie that I need to watch again, maybe I missed something.


The Dark Knight is a good movie. The best batman movie ever made, but I still think that it is a little over rated. There are large scenes that are useless and should have been cut from the movie. The movie needed about 30 minutes trimmed out of it in my opinion. I didn’t really like “Batman Begins” at all. I do however think that his movie “The Prestige” is very good, I will be doing a review of that movie at some point.

Now on to the “Following”. Despite thinking that Christoper Nolan is very over rated, I still think that he is a good director. I only watched “Following” because Christopher Nolan directed it, and because Netflix told me it was like “Pi” (The next movie I’m going to review for Neo-noir month). “Following” stars Jeremy Theobald, who has pretty much only worked with Nolan. The other star is Alex Haw, who has only been in this one movie. The movie is told out of order, and can be a little hard to “follow”.

The main character goes through a complete appearance change, his hair, clothes, everything change. Later on in the movie after it jumps between the time frame a couple of times they explain that he changed his appearance for a specific reason. before that part happened I wasn’t actually sure if it was the same actor or just one that looked very similar. The same character also gets horribly beaten, and that is almost another completely different look.

He gets horribly beat up in a fight between him and Alex Haw. The fight is completely pathetic. The actors are just not good at “movie fighting”. It ends up looking silly and really pulls you away from  the serious tone.

I really did not like the female character. Maybe it was the actress, or the way she was written, but I really didn’t care about what happened to her and found any scene with her boring. The other two characters are okay.

The movie had an idea that I really liked, but would have liked to have seen done differently or expanded upon. The idea of breaking into people’s homes, not to steal stuff but to just to interfere with the lives of the owners. “You take it away to show them what they had.” I like the message behind that quote. The fact that people don’t know what they have until it’s gone, people take so much for granted. I would like to see this idea in another movie. I might use this theme myself.

The title “Following” comes from what the main character likes to do, follow people. This is another interesting theme. he followed them, not to attack them or stalk them, but just to see where they go and what they do. When he started he would just pick a random person that looked interesting and follow them. He would never follow the same person twice. He breaks his rule and trouble happens. The idea of following is interesting but just like the robbery I feel it could have been expanded upon. It seems like the part that inspired the title is kind of lacking.

I really like the ending. The whole story wraps up very nicely and things come full circle. The ending is not really a twist but a jump. The ending made the movie worth watching in my opinion.

“Following” is an okay movie that has some really good things going for it. But, not worth going out of your way to watch.

Video

“Extortion” a neo-noir short film by Sam

This video was written, shot, and edited in one day. I edited the video on Sony Vegas Platinum 11. I wrote, produced, directed, edited and was the cinematographer and art director. I also acted Marcus alongside Shaun Hathaway playing Joey.

The movie is styled as a neo-noir movie, with a unique visual style. I made the film pure black and white; no grays. The style is influenced by noir works such as “Pi”, “L.A. Noir”, and “Sin City”.

The suit is a reference to Tarantino‘s “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs”, and the boss’ name is a “Pulp Fiction” reference as well. The music is the theme to Darren Aronofsky’sPi

We shot the video in a secluded parking lot behind an abandoned building. Someone saw us filming and thought it was real (a compliment to our acting!) and called the police. The police showed up and we had to explain to them that we were just shooting a movie.

Like this video? Visit The Tam Guardians on You Tube to see more of our work.