Short Sessions – What Jack Built

What is that thing Jack is building in his cellar? How could such a device be used? Perhaps it has something to do with that creature out in the woods..

What Jack Built is Matthew Mahler’s short film from 2015 starring actor Timothy J. Cox as a man who I can only describe as an aspiring mad scientist type of guy. It is essentially a silent film with a score that really pulls the piece together, building tension when it is most apt, and providing some relief when needed.

The lead and only performances here came from the man who sent me these shorts in the first place. Timothy J. Cox provided an entertaining performance that meant the ten minutes spent viewing this film flew by pretty quickly. He totally nailed the mad scientist/boy who never grew up thing! All the time I spent watching him, I thought he could so easily have been a young lad who was just playing around in his treehouse or woodland den. For me, this is what made the short such good watching.

Now, I can’t not mention the score for this piece. The soundtrack was composed by the film’s writer and director, Matthew Mahler, and it would certainly seem to me that he is a man of many talents. The reason the concept of this short worked so well was because of the music that accompanied it. It may be a long shot to say this, but for me, the music is up there with the Jaws score when it comes to tension building. There were a few shots where I was drawing similarities from the 1975 classic with regards to how well the score complemented the rest of the piece.

What Jack Built is another wonderful example of what you can do with a basic idea and about ten minutes’ worth of footage. Again, it is a film a would recommend to anyone contemplating creating their own short as it provides a good example of the kinds of ideas you can work with when you have only the bare bones of a film set and production crew. This would be an idea that could so easily be scaled back for first-time filmmakers, which is why I would say to spare ten minutes for it.

All in all, What Jack Built is a well-coordinated short film that builds tension brilliantly as a result of the coordination between actor and score. The concept is a unique one, and leaves quite a few questions unanswered by the time the end credits start rolling. I would definitely urge you to see this if you are an aspiring filmmaker, or just fancy seeing the early stages of a career belonging to a writer, director or even composer who could one day be a name of some significance in film.

Review – Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead

After quite severely bitching a job, five criminals face imminent death.

Reformed gangster Jimmy The Saint (Andy Garcia) has gone straight by recording messages of the terminally-ill so they can give ‘Afterlife Advice’ to their loved ones. Business for his company begins to slow and he is forced to turn to a loan shark to keep the whole thing afloat and to accommodate his own expensive personal taste. The proposition from an underworld overlord who is an old acquaintance of Jimmy’s comes at completely the right time with and attractive sum of money attached to it. Jimmy takes up the offer and assembles a team of ex-associates to carry out one last job. but when it all goes wrong, Jimmy and the gang become the ones with the price on their heads, and one by one, they are tracked down and prevented from ruining any future ventures for good.

As a lover of a good gangster film with an all-star cast, its not hard to guess what attracted me to Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. It is a film that i enjoyed, although I didn’t think it was the finest the genre has to offer. That being said, I would quite happily watch it again.

The cast had some real heavy weights amongst it. Andy Garcia was the loveable rogue, Jimmy The Saint. He gave the character some real charm and gave the impression that Jimmy was one of those old-school gangsters, which was good to see in a lim that isn’t really that old. He brought forward some of the class and subtlety that The Godfather possessed way back in the 70s which i liked a lot.

I was quite surprised to see Fairuza Balk’s name in the opening titles – I hadn’t realised she was in the film. i thought her character was a nice addition to the film as she worked well in showing the softer side of Jimmy and showed us how he earned the nickname of ‘The Saint’. She was also very entertaining to watch at times and managed to lift the film out of some of it’s heavier moments.

The film cam e with a fairly standard storyline, but i felt it was done well enough in order to make it watchable for most. There were tinges of comedy flecked throughout and pretty good characters to keep the masses entertained. I had personally expected a bit more action, and cant help but feel slightly disappointed by what was actually on offer, but I can’t complain as the final result was a solid film.

Overall, it might not be earth shattering, but Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead is an entertaining way to pass a few hours of your time. I found it to be quite an enjoyable flick with nothing that required too much brainpower or hard work to figure out. It might not be for everyone, but it is certainly worth checking out.

Short Sessions – Total Performance

A day in the life of an actress who gets a little too close to reality.

Cori (Tory Berner) is an actress, but until she gets her big break, the way she makes a living is a little bit different. She works for a company that employs actors to play opposite real people who want to practise a difficult conversation. Whether it be a break up, a firing or an embarrassing confession, the company provides a living breathing sparring dummy for their clients.

The second short film I was sent to review was Total Performance. The premise of this film is quite an interesting on, and while it might not have quite the same substance as the previous short, Dirty Books, it was certainly a fascinating watch.

Tori Berner’s performance as the lead was alright, however I can’t say I was ever really that fond of her character, Cori. I just felt like she was a bit whiny in one of the last final confrontation scenes, and that just turned me off of her completely. Before that, however, I found her to be quite watchable, and her performance was really rather convincing.

Tim was played by Steven Conroy. Conroy’s character was one that I found quite funny. I don’t know whether the level of humour was intentional, but the way he constantly seemed to manage to dig himself a bigger hole to fall into just made me smile. Both that and the fact that he never really seemed to feel comfortable around Cori left me highly entertained. What can I say? I love to see people squirm!

As I’ve said already, I didn’t really find there to be an awful lot of substance behind the story here – I’m not saying there wasn’t any, I’m just saying if there was, it wasn’t obvious enough to me. that being said, for what it was, Total Performance was still an entertaining bit of viewing, and is once again an example of what you can do in the space of twenty minutes or less on camera. I have to say, as someone who is currently going through the process of thinking up ideas for their own short film, these shorts have provided me with some good inspiration, and if how we’ve started is how we mean to go on, I’m sure they will continue to do so.

Overall, Total Performance is an easy-going film with an interesting concept. The performances are of a decent quality, and the plot is attention grabbing. If anyone has a spare twenty minutes during their day, I would say that it would be well spent viewing this film, especially is filmmaking is something you’re thinking of venturing into. 

Review – Spy

A CIA desk-jockey volunteers to go undercover to get inside the world of an international arms dealer.

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a desk bound CIA analyst. She is the unsung hero behind most of the Agency’s most dangerous missions. However, disaster strikes when her partner, Bradley Fine (Jude Law) goes off the grid. Susan volunteers to go where she has never gone before – undercover – in a bid to avenge her missing partner, and prevent a global crisis.

Spy is one of the more recent collaborations between actress Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig. I quite enjoyed their buddy movie, The Heat, and so when I got the chance to see this I was more than ready for it. It is a film that I found to be rather funny, with one performance in particular standing out for me.

I’ll start with McCarthy. In a way, she played two different here – the real Susan and the undercover Susan, While they were both entertaining, undercover Susan was the persona I preferred. She was the same type of character McCarthy played in The Heat – a ballsy, foul-mouthed woman who refuses to take any nonsense from anyone. I understand that she may be an acquired taste when in such roles, but I like it. For me, it works. 

Jude Law was excellent as super spy Bradley Fine. His character was the epitome of all those cheesy James Bond roles that have emerged over the years. He was so cringeworthy, but that’s why I loved watching him.

Now we move onto my favourite character in the whole film. Jason Statham played Rick Ford, a spy who had done it all. I was left absolutely destroyed by some of his lines. My favourite had to be the one about Barack Obama – a good ten minute break was needed from the film after that one. Apparently, Paul Feig wrote the character with Statham in mind, and that’s why I think it worked so well. He was essentially an exaggerated version of himself, and that’s why it was so brilliant.

The story was equal to just about any other spy plot. Do not be mistaken, it is the comedy here that lifts the film from watchable to quite good. The narrative on the whole was pretty standard.

Overall, Spy is a solid film which I think could provide anyone with a few good laughs and a couple of hours’ light entertainment. It is definitely one of those movies where you could get a bunch of friends together to watch it with. And for me, after some of those glorious horror I’ve been watching of late, it made a nice change to watch something that I knew I’d have a fair chance of enjoying.