Off The Radar: Grand Piano (2014)

grand_piano_still_a_lRoze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tom Selznick branded as the most talented pianist of his generation returns on stage for a comeback performance after five years of retirement, as a result of nightmare performance that halted his career in an instant. To add to his ongoing nerves, during the opening of his concert he discovers a message on his score sheet stating that he will be killed if he makes a mistake. While playing in front of a large audience, Tom must figure out who has him at gun point and for what reasons.

This isn’t your average thriller as the premise may suggest, and that may be why the film isn’t a complete flop. That being said behind the preconceived premise, the twists and turns that take place may not be as inventive as one hopes. What saves it from becoming a generic thriller is the direction of Eugenio Mira and performance of Elijah Wood, who has relished his freedom lately and taken up a number of low budget projects. Grand Piano is set in one location and is filmed in real time, yet it remains engaging and is rarely dull.

As classical music is, the camera work is elegant in its movement and is reluctant to use the same angles excessively keeping the location fresh but also working hand in hand with the music as a way of expressing the chaos taking place in front of a clueless audience. The cinematography as a whole is a good enough reason to watch this film. The editing is also masterfully utilized on occasions to symbolize violent acts, such as suddenly cutting to the stroke of a bow along a cello’s strings to show what crime had just occurred. Without the sophisticated camera work, Grand Piano would lack the thrills and tension which make the film at times exciting.

Upon doing some research I was surprised to find out that Elijah Wood has limited piano playing abilities and that most of what was filmed was the craft of his hands, and that alone merits praise for his performance. Having to concentrate on his precise hand movements, acting and listening to John Cusack via an earpiece takes some major multitasking skills and it totally succeeded. Despite not seeing much of John Cusack, his voice succeeds in being convincingly menacing.

It is an unusual film but that’s what gives it character, providing quite a pleasantly unique viewing experience. It’s tense when it intends to be and quirky in others, despite underwhelming twists and perhaps a payoff too, it’s a film definitely worth watching as a guide on how to make a low budget film that looks classy and is as intriguing as any other blockbuster thriller; and hey it make even convert you into a classical music enthusiast too.

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Europa Report (2013)

europa report 4Roze-Rating: 3 / 5

Europa One will be the first spacecraft to carry Men and Women deeper into space than ever before. Their mission is to board one of 63 of Jupiter’s known moon’s, Europa, one of the closest habitable places in our Solar System. The crew set out for a long journey to their destination leaving them alone in space after communication breaks down with earth. They have to conquer the danger’s of space but also their mental well being.

Europa Report adopts the found footage style of film making, and with editing it literally feels like a documentary/news report. Since the premise sets up a groundbreaking time for mankind and space travel, camera’s are set up within the spaceship so that earth can follow the crew’s every move. This gives the films style a rational reasoning. For its low budget I think this was a pretty smart move because it made little weaknesses in special effects forgiving and added some form of realism to the film. Overall we’re given an even better insight to life in space, if not thrilling it is definitely interesting.

What I found is that this film really focuses on it’s science more than cheap thrills or cliched disasters. Europa is actually the closest habitable place in our solar system and could possibly hold some form of life, we have no idea and in that respect it is quite thought provoking. I’m not much of a space nerd but it does provoke questions about space and life that I rarely think about. If your truly into Sci-Fi and enjoy the Sci more than the Fi then Europa Report may be up your ally. To me it’s what diminished the enjoyment of the film, I quite like thrills and good special effects when it comes to Sci-FI and this didn’t offer much. There was definitely a sense of suspense when intended but I’d like to see more out of a film set in a place that’s actually reachable. All the science stuff kinda went in one ear and out of the other because you expect it to be nonsense.

It was nice seeing some familiar faces in the cast. Sharlto Copley probably the bigger of the few, known for his work in Sci-Fi. Of course he plays more of a tame character in a realistic setting this time as opposed to his over the top badass’s. If your a fan of Dexter, it will be quite a reminiscent moment seeing Christian Camargo again AKA Rudy; luckily over his serial killer ways. The rest of the cast includes Michael Nyqvist (Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol), Daniel Wu (The Man With The Iron Fists), Anamaria Marinca (Five Minutes of Heaven) and the lovely Karolina Wydra in her first major film role. In honesty there are no major performances, what the film lacked was chemistry between the group. The only character that seemed to be connecting with other characters was Sharlto Copley. Other than that they were solid.