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Talking Movies with Spling - The Case for Christ, Warehoused and T2 Trainspotting

Spling reviews The Case for Christ, Warehoused and T2 Trainspotting as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Movie Review: Pronoia

Pronoia is a haunting, eerie and atmospheric mystery sci-fi drama short film written and directed by Nick Efteriades, starring Stelio Savante, Hannah Jane McMurray, Catherine Chadwick and Lou Mastantuono. A man (Savante) and woman (McMurray) wait out a rainstorm in a hotel bar somewhere between '"here and nowhere.' When the TV news reports the disappearance of a high-ranking Pentagon official, neither he nor she know of the ramifications it will have on their brief, seductive encounter.

The intriguing title, Pronoia, refers to a state of mind and polar opposite to paranoia, describing the sense that there is a conspiracy that exists to secretly benefit people. The Shining's influences are present in the hotel corridors, ghostly patrons and lobby as a curious dialogue plays out between a couple, whose alienated standpoint creates palpable tension. We're thrown in the deep end, as this dark, cold and sleek film plays out with minimalist precision. From the graceful camera movement, we get a suave look at what seems like an excerpt from a much broader work.

We're entranced by the mysterious man at the centre of Pronoia, played by South Africa's very own Stelio Savante. Surrounded by question marks, we try to get a better understanding of him as Savante's mercurial performance keeps us guessing, unsettled and on edge, waiting for him to explode with answers. He's supported by Hannah Jane McMurray, who heightens the intrigue with her exquisite features, an otherworldly disposition and a deer-in-the-headlights vulnerability.

The story seeps out in moments as we piece together a puzzle, which is obscured to layer further tension. Pronoia swathes itself in atmosphere and style in a similar fashion to the work of Anton Corbijn. While beautiful, the jagged storytelling leaves one feeling alienated and muddled, feeding on scraps and falling back on the eerie atmosphere and pensive mood. While somewhat incoherent as a short film, one gets a good taster of what to anticipate from a full feature.

Movie Review: Free Fire

Free Fire is a crime thriller and dark comedy caper from Ben Wheatley, who seems to have been heavily influenced by stylish action directors, Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. The film is set in a Boston warehouse in 1978 as a meeting between two gangs turns into a bloody shootout and a game of survival. While never short on ammunition, he's armour-plated this single location vehicle with an ensemble including the likes of our very own Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Sam Riley, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Jack Reynor and Armie Hammer. Some of the coolest cats in Hollywood enter the fray of a gangster's playground to get the money, the guns or both.

Free Fire is aimed squarely at fans of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, essentially blending American Hustle with Reservoir Dogs and b-movies of the '70s. This dusty minimalist ensemble crime thriller takes place at a warehouse and is there to stay as a deal goes horribly wrong. Bad language and gunfire pepper the film as some rather amusing dark comedy plays out between a hotch-potch of surly characters. With very little dialogue, lots of shouting and ricocheting bullets, it's a pretty dark, gritty and violent flick.

Ben Wheatley laces it with style in the quick draw editing and wardrobe department, even making some space for the nostalgic and peaceful music of John Denver to usher in a refreshingly sombre Deer Hunter mood. Unfortunately, while amusing and stylish, it lacks substance... and nothing, even Sharlto Copley's outrageous South African accent and ad-libbed "lekker" and "boet" can refurbish the bullet-riddled target. While the off-the-cuff dialogue, fresh cinematography and paintball style camaraderie make it entertaining - it never rises above it pulpy comic book actioner status.

Free Fire

"Boys, I guess we'll never have Boston."

The character performances from the underdog crew keep it on-track as relational discord is established and plays out in the body count. Copley is a lynch pin acting like a kingpin, playing into his South African heritage with great gusto and off-handed charm as a wild card. Brie Larson holds fort as the sole actress, wrangling her way into the picture against some cringe-worthy chauvinist barbs. Sam Riley is slithery as a low-life scumbag, Cillian Murphy keeps his composure as the dark horse, Michael Smiley is reminiscent of Peter Stormare, Jack Reynor lands some good laughs while Armie Hammer plays Big Daddy Cool.

Quite amazingly, despite its quick unraveling, it holds together, but could have benefited from more dark comedy in the vein of Monty Python or the unscripted comedy genius of Christopher Guest films. With so many wounded gangsters crawling around and trying their hand at chin-up bravado, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for great comedy went to waste. It's still pretty funny, especially with Copley's outrageous character trying to call the shots and opening the floodgate, yet one gets the impression Wheatley was trying to keep a lid on the potboiler to maintain some level of reality and prevent it from drawing direct comparisons with Anchorman.

If you prefer films with a bit more meat and a story that doesn't just skip the car chase onto the third act showdown, Free Fire may not be your blood-smeared cup of tea. However, if you've enjoyed single location films before and can handle a barrage of urban artillery and f-bombs with tongue-sticking-through-cheek humour, you may just like it!

The bottom line: Off-the-wall

Movie Review: Warehoused

An estimated 12 million people are living in refugee camps with only 0.1% being re-integrated into normal society. Directors, Asher Emmanuel and Vincent Vittorio, seek to address this problem through Warehoused: The Forgotten Refugees of Dadaab, an earnest documentary dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of refugees and their need for basic human rights like education, safety, shelter and clean water.

While the film takes a global stance on the issue of refugees, it focuses on those living in the world's largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. The film-makers get up close and personal with several of the reported 500-600k refugees, investigating their situation within the camp and exploring some of the issues surrounding their protracted confinement and seeding in other countries around the world.

Much like God Grew Tired of Us, we're dealing with a group of individuals who have been displaced by the political, social or wartime circumstances affecting their homeland. In a similar vein, the film-makers travel to Willmar in the United States, one of the resettlement towns where a refugee family have been transplanted. While the repatriation is touching and the cultural immersion is fascinating, the encampment is the main focus in Warehoused, identifying intricate issues such as: food being used as a commodity, unchecked crime within the encampment, problems relating to the host country and the sporadic population growth of these long-serving camps.

Warehoused documentary

"What is home?"

Through experts, authors and industry specialists, the filmmakers get a broader understanding of the issues facing the organisations that support these camps and the inner turmoil caused by the growing need for these centres for the displaced. As wars continue, the camps multiply creating a generation of alienated people who are born into a suspended state of captivity. Frustrated by the long waiting lists for resettlement and stunted by the cold hard facts of the situation, some try to escape, finding themselves vulnerable and at the mercy of nationals.

The documentary is a tapestry of real-life accounts, talking heads and on-the-ground footage with simple animation to connect the dots. Warehoused: The Forgotten Refugees of Dadaab is successful in its mission to create awareness around Dadaab and the on-going global crisis. Instead of manipulating the audience, the film-makers take the time to get a practical snapshot of the situation, humanising the affected and delivering the facts with as little distortion as possible. While a little scattershot, it's an eye-opening and important account of life within the camps, resettlement and the hunt for a solution to reverse the rapid growth of refugee camps around the world.

The bottom line: Earnest

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