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'Unfriended' Brings Horror To Screen Addicts


Joe Swanberg

Horror is a reliably profitable genre, generally cheap to make and always popular with young audiences. The trick is to come up with a new gimmick. It's been 16 years since 'The Blair Witch Project' launched the found-footage craze, which was picked up by the 'Paranormal Activity', 'V/H/S' and '[REC]' franchises, among others, plus one-off hits like 'Cloverfield' and 'Chronicle'. Now with 'Unfriended', there's a new twist: the real-time computer screen horror.

The poster for 'Unfriended'The poster for 'Unfriended'

Laptop, tablet and phone screens are dominating life more than ever, and 'Unfriended' plays out in ways that are only too familiar, as the teen protagonist Skypes and iMessages her friends, scrolls through Facebook, Instagrams photos, answers emails and looks up information on Wikipedia all while listening to her favourite music on Spotify.

Continue reading: 'Unfriended' Brings Horror To Screen Addicts

The Sacrament Review


Good

Yet another found-footage thriller, this chilling horror film at least has some solid roots as a fictionalised version of real events. The fact that something like this actually happened (on a vastly larger scale in 1978) gives the movie a lot of weight it might not otherwise have. And the realistic setting and grounded performances help sell the story.

It opens in New York, where hipster magazine reporter Sam (AJ Bowen) enlists cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) to travel with photographer Patrick (Kentucker Audley) to visit a mysterious commune called Eden Parish deep in a foreign woods. There Patrick's sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) is working as the assistant for Father (Gene Jones), who has created a religious paradise far from the crime and greed of civilisation. Of course, the cynical journalists begin to wonder if anything can truly be this idyllic. And sure enough, before the end of the day someone hands them a note that says, "Please help us!"

While there are several potent issues gurgling throughout the story, filmmaker Ti West keeps the focus on the lean, mean scary-movie aspect, adding an atonal score to ramp up an underlying feeling of tension beneath the otherwise beautiful scenes of hippy parishioners living in peace. But the mask begins to slip, and things turn genuinely unsettling before breaking out into all-out nastiness. After the slow and involving build-up, what comes next feels rather a lot more staged. And grippingly terrifying.

Continue reading: The Sacrament Review

The Sacrament Premiere - Arrivals

Joe Swanberg - The Sacrament Premiere - West Hollywood, California, United States - Wednesday 21st May 2014

Joe Swanberg
Joe Swanberg

Drinking Buddies Review


Good

Small and earthy, this low-key drama simply follows a group of 30-ish characters as they use their friends to sort out their own issues. It's nicely played with a raw openness, although filmmaker Swanberg has a tendency to overdramatise scenes to make a point rather than letting things play out organically. Even so, it's sometimes painfully easy to identify with these flawed people.

The story is set around a small Chicago brewery, where Kate (Wilde) works in the office then hangs out after hours with the guys who make the beer. So she's often late arriving home to her music producer boyfriend Chris (Livingston). For a weekend away, Kate and Chris are joined by Kate's work buddy Luke (Johnson) and his girlfriend Jill (Kendrick). But as they hike in the countryside and hang out together, attraction springs up in all the wrong places. Back home, Kate and Chris decide to separate, while Jill heads off on a long-planned holiday on her own. And as Luke helps Kate put her life back together, their flirtation comes to a head.

In fine mumblecore style, this film meanders through its scenes focussing on conversations while skipping over some key moments that might have helped us understand things more clearly. It feels more like a slice of life than a plot-driven story, even though we can see early on that Kate and Luke are on a potentially messy collision course. Fortunately, both Wilde and Johnson bring offhanded honesty to their roles, creating realistically awkward interaction that bristles with possibilities. These are people at a specific point in life where they feel the need to settle down even as they're still exploring their options.

Continue reading: Drinking Buddies Review

The BFI London Film Festival 2013 - Drinking Buddies premiere

Joe Swanberg - The BFI London Film Festival 2013 - Drinking Buddies premiere - London, United Kingdom - Friday 18th October 2013

Anna Kendrick and Joe Swanberg
Anna Kendrick and Joe Swanberg
Anna Kendrick and Joe Swanberg

Drinking Buddies premiere

Joe Swanberg - BFI London Film Festival: 'Drinking Buddies' European premiere held at the Odeon West End - Arrivals. - London, United Kingdom - Friday 18th October 2013

Joe Swanberg

Quentin Tarantino's Top 10 Movies of 2013 (So Far)


Quentin Tarantino Woody Allen Kathryn Hahn Juno Temple Richard Linklater Cate Blanchett James Wan Vera Farmiga Patrick Wilson Joe Swanberg Jake M. Johnson Olivia Wilde Alfonso Cuaron George Clooney Sandra Bullock Gore Verbinski Seth Rogen Johnny Depp

Movie buffs have begun to anticipate Quentin Tarantino's Top 10 movies lists in recent years. The legendary director's run-down of his favorite movies of the year has made for interesting reading in recent years and is often regarded as the antithesis of the Academy's choices of the year's best.

Juno Temple Kathryn HahnJuno Temple [L] and Kathryn Hahn [R] In 'Afternoon Delight'

He passed on devising a list last year, owing to Django Unchained, though in 2011 Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris - a wonderful movie that actually went onto win Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars - topped Quentin's list, edging out Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the excellent Moneyball, with Brad Pitt. Tarantino threw in a couple of curveballs with X-Men: First Class, The Skin I Live In, Attack The Block and Warrior.

Continue reading: Quentin Tarantino's Top 10 Movies of 2013 (So Far)

You're Next Review


Grim

Wildly over-praised by audiences desperate for a scary horror movie, this film has little more than the germ of a solid idea followed by a series of predictable cliches. It's a clever twist on the violent home-invasion scenario, fraught with family tensions and shifty characters. But the story develops without much sense of direction, and all of the scary bits are added in post-production through jolting editing and a freak-out sound mix.

It centres on a family gathering at a palatial summer home for the 35th anniversary of Paul and Aubrey (Moran and Crampton). All of their kids are here: Crispian (Bowen) is nervous about bringing his girlfriend (Vinson) to meet everyone, and his three siblings Felix, Aimee and Drake (Tucci, Swanberg and Seimetz) have also arrived with their respective partners (Glenn, Myers and West). The usual arguments are re-ignited at their first meal together, but they're quickly interrupted by a bigger problem: someone shoots an arrow through a window and begins picking them off one by one. As they are forced to work together, Erin rises to the challenge, leading the defence against the invaders.

The set-up is fairly simplistic, as the family members all have a sense of dread about this gathering, knowing that it's going to be tense. Then the fiendishly efficient attackers arrive, dressed like ninjas with animal masks, well-armed with knives, machetes, hatchets and cross-bows, plus booby traps to make the house itself a killing machine. None of this is very plausible, frankly. The actors aren't quite up to the challenge of making us believe the inter-relationships, and the plot is deeply contrived. The filmmakers seem determined to make a film without a single gun, which is intriguing until people pick up a tiny steak-knife to defend themselves when the handy baseball bat would be a lot more effective.

Continue reading: You're Next Review

Olivia Wilde's 'Drinking Buddies,' The Smartest Comedy of the Year


Olivia Wilde Jake M. Johnson Anna Kendrick Joe Swanberg

Joe Swanberg's new comedy Drinking Buddies is set in a craft brewery, in Chicago. It's not your typical setting or the likes of Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Jason Sudeikis to 'do their thing,' though it works, to perfection, in places.

Drinking BuddiesJake Johnson [L] and Anna Kendrick [R] Star in 'Drinking Buddies'

It premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival whilst also screening at the Maryland Film Festival and received solid reviews. It follows Kate and Luke (Wilde and Johnson), co-workers at the brewery where they spend their days drinking and flirting.

Continue reading: Olivia Wilde's 'Drinking Buddies,' The Smartest Comedy of the Year

Los Angeles Screening Of Drinking Buddies

Kris Williams, son and Joe Swanberg - Screening of Magnolia Pictures 'Drinking Buddies' at ArcLight Hollywood - Los Angeles, CA, United States - Thursday 15th August 2013

Joe Swanberg
Kris Williams, son and Joe Swanberg
Kris Williams, son and Joe Swanberg
Joe Swanberg
Kris Williams, son and Joe Swanberg

Drinking Buddies Los Angeles screening

Joe Swanberg, Ron Livingston, Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde - Celebrities attend Magnolia Pictures' Drinking Buddies Los Angeles screening at ArcLight Hollywood. - Los Angeles, CA, United States - Friday 16th August 2013

Joe Swanberg, Ron Livingston, Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde
Joe Swanberg, Ron Livingston, Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde
Joe Swanberg, Ron Livingston, Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde and Ti West
Joe Swanberg, Ron Livingston, Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde
Joe Swanberg, Ron Livingston, Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde

You're Next Trailer


When the Davisons decide to embark on a vacation to a remote getaway house with their family and friends to celebrate a wedding anniversary, everything seems so perfect, peaceful and undisturbed. However, when a crossbow arrow comes flying through the window killing one of the guests, they realise that their blissful weekend has turned into a deadly nightmare when it is revealed that three axe-toting murderers in animal masks have been stalking them for days, waiting for the right moment to butcher them one by one. What they hadn't banked on was that they would become the ones watching their backs when the most unlikely guest of all, Erin, starts hunting them down.

Continue: You're Next Trailer

Drinking Buddies Trailer


Kate and Luke are co-workers at a craft brewery who have a remarkably close friendship where they never fail to make each other laugh and always have time for each other. There's definitely a spark, but Kate is in a semi-casual relationship with music producer Chris and Luke is contemplating marriage with his other half Jill. However, when the couples decide to spend the weekend together, Kate and Luke's similar personalities mean they end up with a lot of time on their own together, to the unease of their respective partners. It proves too much for Chris who thus decides to end it with Kate leaving her homeless and devastated. Luke and Jill agree to take Kate in until she finds a place of her own, but can she and Luke continue to keep their deeper feelings for each other buried in such close circumstances?

'Drinking Buddies' is a romantic comedy about the pain of heartbreak, confusion in affections and finding true love. It has been directed and written by Joe Swanberg ('LOL', 'Kissing on the Mouth') and made its premiere at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival. It will soon be released in US movie theatres on August 23rd 2013 and in the UK on November 8th 2013.

Click here to read: Drinking Buddies Movie Review

V/H/S Review


OK

A mixed bag of found-footage horror shorts, this anthology gives rising star filmmakers a chance to do something original with the genre. Of course, some of the clips are much more effective than others, and some are little more than gimmicky jokes. But each one shows a hint of originality, and some of them are genuinely terrifying.

There are five segments here, as well as a framing story that connects them all through a stack of VHS tapes in an extremely creepy house. The oddly moralistic "Amateur Night" follows three guys (Sawyer, Donlan and Sykes) who set out to make a porn film but get much more than they bargained for. The strongest film, with by far the most developed characters, is "Second Honeymoon", which follows a couple (Swanberg and Takal) on a holiday to the Grand Canyon, where they are stalked by a sinister intruder (Sheil).

Less interesting, "Tuesday the 17th" is a sexist, cliched short about a group of teens who have a supernatural video-glitch encounter with a massacre that happened in the woods. "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger" is a seriously freaky Skype conversation during which Emily (Rogers) worries about her past while her boyfriend (Kaufman) tries to calm her down. And in the most visually accomplished film, "10/31/98", four young guys go in search of a Halloween party but stumble into a horrifying haunted house.

Continue reading: V/H/S Review

Alexander The Last Review


Good
For the last couple of years, filmmaker Joe Swanberg has been one of the unofficial "people to watch" in the indie movie world. A passionate participant in the "mumblecore" movement, he gained attention with Hannah Takes the Stairs in 2007, and scored solid reviews (including mine) with 2008's Nights and Weekends. With Alexander the Last, Swanberg aspires to the next level -- in story scope, character development, and artistic commentary -- and just misses the mark.

It's not for lack of trying. Swanberg builds a loose character setup within an ambitious background of reality and artifice. He asks us to consider when intimacy is true, when it is simply make-believe, and when the hell we should be able to tell the difference.

Continue reading: Alexander The Last Review

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