Guns Akimbo

Guns Akimbo could be written off as cheap cartoonish thrills or simply whack-job hyperactive splatter without a touch of artistry like some of its type, but the fact remains that it’s actually a really good film from all standpoints and I had a ton of fun with it. Daniel Radcliffe has been doing his best to shed the deeply rooted Harry Potter mythos and pick some genuinely edgy, offbeat scripts (Horns, Swiss Army Man) and this one slam dunks squarely into that niche. In the not too distant, slightly dystopian future a terrorist cell of lunatics operates a gladiatorial games match called Skizm, in which various freaks, degenerates and maladjusted humans fight each other to the death all over an unnamed city (actually a super arbitrary combo of Auckland and Munich) as advanced drone technology catches it all and a vast, unruly community of online users observe over the interwebs. Radcliffe is Miles, a meek, beta computer programmer whose only joy in life is to troll user-boards relentlessly until he makes the wrong comment to the wrong account and finds himself targeted by the CEO of Skizm himself, a deranged, tattooed fiend called Riktor (Ned Dennehy). He’s kidnapped and wakes up with two giant guns *literally* nailed into his hands and turned loose into the death match that is Skizm for his troubles, where frying pan turns to fire but quick as he finds himself hunted by the game’s ruthless reigning champion, a rambunctious goth waif named Nix (Samara Weaving). Being an inexperienced softie he finds himself in quite the predicament until… well I won’t spoil the story but it goes to some fun places. Much of it is Miles furiously cavorting about the city with Nix in hot pursuit as vehicles are annihilated, bystanders are blown to pieces and several thousand rounds of ammo are emptied into everything animate and inanimate set to a thunderous, skeleton reverberating electronic score by Enis Rothoff. The action is frenetic, meticulously choreographed and strikingly brutal especially whenever Weaving, who is wicked here, shows up to pulverize a horde of enemies like some kind of nightmarish hell-shryke who escaped from Hot Topic. Radcliffe spends much of the film in a confused, exasperated daze and sort of just.. bungles his way into escaping each new hurdle, it’s a fun shtick. Dennehy is an actor to watch out for as the villain Riktor. He’s an Irish dude who made a distinct charismatic impression as one of the second tier baddies in Panos Cosmatos’s Mandy, but he’s positively in another orbit here, a rambling, incoherent, cheerfully psychotic animalistic nut job who is just too much fun to watch. This film falls in the category of super duper torqued up stuff like Crank, Smokin Aces and Shoot Em Up that are a ton of fun for the right audience yet many will find to be just too obnoxious and cacophonous for their tastes, which is fine. I enjoyed this a lot, it’s got style for days, momentum like nobody’s business, ruthlessly pitch black humour and even finds a moment for an albeit heavy handed (literally) yet pretty effective nugget of social commentary on toxic internet gaming culture and the poisonous, desensitizing, voyeuristic prism violence is viewed through online. Fun times.

-Nate Hill

Alfonso Cuarón’s Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban

Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban is my favourite film of the series for several reasons. There’s a scene early on where Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon does his best to step in for Richard Harris, who was pretty much perfection in the role) addresses the students of Hogwarts at the start of the year, imparting to them how they must beware of darkness residing in their world, but not to forget the power of light, especially that of finding it in even the darkest of places. This is an important moment because with this film and the arrival of director Alfonso Cuarón to the franchise, there’s a distinct change in many aspects of the story, mainly a much darker tone than the first two which were helmed with orchestral gloss by Chris Columbus, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as I love those ones too. But with Cuarón there was not only a focus on the scarier, spookier aspects of the wizarding world, but an attention to detail, time spent on world building instead of breathlessly rushing from set piece to set piece, plus a deeper and more complex emotional core as Harry, Ron and Hermione become teenagers. Voldemort takes a bit of a vacation from terrorizing their world and is substituted by the shadowy, soul sucking dementors, as well as Gary Oldman’s sinister and omnipresent escaped convict Sirius Black. Oldman brings a haunted, unstable edge to Black in his initial scenes and a scrappy gravitas later when we learn the truth about his past. David Thewlis is a fantastic Professor Lupin, spiritual guide and mentor to Harry through some tough times, him and Oldman really class up the joint. There’s a playful inventiveness to this one that the first two just didn’t have, and it stems from the atypical approach often taken in adapting children’s books into films: the darkness, the unknown, the mature elements are often glossed over and the very palette of the story is somehow… simplified. That’s not to say that Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber Of Secrets weren’t dark, scary or mysterious.. they just lacked a certain maturity, genuine menace and pause to reflect on this arresting world and drink in every detail before the next action sequence. Prisoner Of Azkaban is the real deal, an entry with a standalone atmosphere that also sets the tone for some ‘dark and difficult times’ that indeed lie ahead for the rest of the story.

-Nate Hill

Conceptually Speaking: An Interview with Sylvain Despretz by Kent Hill


Sylvain Despretz really is the personification of honnête homme. And he has been a man of the world since an early age. Travel was a part of his life; the other constant being his love of the cinema.

He is an artist of great style and skill and after his schooling he worked as an art director for a top Madison Avenue agency then moved on to illustrating Graphic Novels in California under the mentoring of the internationally famed artist Moebius. From there he would set out upon what would become and astonishing career as a story board artist and conceptual designer.


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His work you’ll have seen, gracing the screen in a myriad of films in a variety of genres. Movies like Gladiator, Alien Resurrection, Panic Room, The Fountain, (Tim Burton’s) Planet of the Apes and The Fifth Element. These including work on Don’t tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead and the coming Luc Besson sci-fi extravaganza: Valerian. He has worked with  and on films directed by the true masters of the screen including Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

But, as you will hear, Sylvain has become disenchanted by the current repetitive nature of Hollywood’s cookie-cutter output. He is now driven by the notion that the only way to usher in change, is to be part of a creative revolution that places an emphasis on original voices instead of corporate responsibility.


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To this end he is now embarking on a journey that will see him stepping away from the drawing board and moving behind the camera; bringing his own visions to life using that mysterious blending of industrial light and storytelling magic.

He is a learned Hollywood veteran who has seen the Dream Factory from the inside, and his stories and wealth of knowledge and experience was and is fascinating to experience.

The designer behind the scenes and the future man in the director’s chair, proud am I ladies and gentlemen to present this interview with the one and only, Sylvain Despretz.