Sunday, 31 August 2014

Extinction (2014) Review & interview with actor/writer/producer Ben Loyd-Holmes

I know what you're going to say, dear reader. "You cant fool me, matey-boy, I've got your number. You come on this Internet thing and spout your nonsense mutterings and ramblings in the quite frankly ridiculous hope that someone out here in the world might find what you say vaguely interesting"

Of course I could find little fault in that part of your argument, however I know that there's more that you want to get off your chest.....there always is.

"And don't think that you can pull the wool over my eyes, sonny Jim. We all know that you've been banging on about this Extinction movie for well over a year now with all that malarkey with it first being known as The Expedition and then being changed all of a sudden for some reason. It was probably due to some so-called movie bigwig chappie sticking his nose in thinking that people might get confused with a film that sounded like a Bear Grylls episode - and nobody wants to watch that!"

Once again, there's little for me to dispute there, though your rantingvitriol  well argued discourse doesn't end there.......

"Then there's all that blathering on which you've been responsible for since this film's origins as a Indiegogo crowd funding project, then through filming/production, post- production and interviewing of that director laddie, Adam J. Spinks (and what the hell does the bloody J stand for, eh?). If that wasn't enough, you've been chinwagging with luvvies from the movie such as that Ben Loyd-Holmes ( I really don't trust him, even if he did appear in the best Bond film, like ever - he has shifty eyes). You can't tell me that you're going to be exactly impartial and objective..... really?"

At that point you would then probably go off into a rant explanation into the numerous grammar and spelling mistakes that usually accompany my scribblings - bustards.......

Now, I suppose the last two points (certainly the final one) could have an element of justification. However, I can assure you that my unbiased objectivity is one of two things in life that I pride myself on, I intend to be genuinely honest in my appraisal. If I don't like it then I will well and truly say so, of that you can be sure. 

BTW, the second thing that I pride myself on is my seriously wonderful ability to recite word-for-word the dialogue of the whole of The Wicker man (1973) whenever I watch it. For some reason that 'talent' doesn't seem to instill much in the way of appreciation from friends & family who have long since given up ever watching it in my presence, citing something along the lines of "bloody annoying git".

So yes, I will be perfectly honest in that I did want this film to be good, I really did - but it certainly won't stop me from saying it's bad if I think it is. In actuality, before I even watched it, I knew that this film happens to have a couple of elements that immediately cast doubt in whether I would even half like or not. For a start, it is from the often maligned 'found footage' sub-genre, which for many of us was a much loved type of movie, particularly within horror, for about 2 or three days a few years ago. Secondly, this film contains monsters (in this case, Dinosaurs), whose authenticity and quality can often be the difference between a good movie and a great movie - or worse, the difference between a good movie and a god-awful one.

As usual, I stray too much,  so to the real point of this article, a review of the film and then an interview with writer, actor and producer Ben Loyd-Holmes.

"So for once in your life, stop blathering, blithering and waffling about and actually give us the brief synopsis of Extinction?" I hear you ask. Well, ask no more.

"Deep in the Amazon jungle a research team lead by a respected Professor strive to protect vulnerable and endangered species, but when their guides abandon them they soon realize they are in the hunting ground of prehistoric apex predators."

Fab - an everyday story about a team of experts who journey into the uncharted parts where they inadvertently make the discovery of a lifetime. Unfortunately, as tends to happen in movies, this discovery of a lifetime has a tonne of razor sharp teeth and isn’t too keen on them being there!

I said a few sentences ago that after watching the evolution(sic) of this film over the last year or so that I really wanted this film to be good - so much so that I actually decided to request a second opinion. In fact I went even further than that and got a third opinion as I roped both my wife (well, not literally) and my son into watching it with me. To be honest, she wasn't too keen at first, as you may remember me mentioning in a previous post that she doesn't have much love for horror movies and views my obsession with them with ill-concealed mirth. However, I quickly explained that this WASN'T a horror movie - it was a Dinosaur movie! For some reason she still wasn't that impressed, nevertheless, she agreed to watch it. The fact that I might of mentioned that it would probably contain scenes of men running wandering sweatily around the jungle in shorts could may had some help in persuading her.

So the three of us proceeded to sit down and watch this movie about a group of boffins that travel to the Amazon to study endangered animals in the remote jungle, but then find themselves as the true endangered creatures as they realise they are in the hunting ground of prehistoric predators. I will clearly say it now before I go any further - the three of us agreed that Extinction is quite simply a hugely enjoyable cinematic treat. It is a delight.

Having read the 'blogging movie reviews for dummies' book from cover to cover it seems that I actually have to write a little bit more than that previous sentence. Luckily, I have nothing better to do with my Saturday (well that is, until later tonight when Doctor Who is on).

Extinction is essentially a  film of two wonderfully different acts. Act 1 is a gentle-paced introduction to the characters that make up the ill-fated research team and follows their initial journey into the rain forest. There seems like a genuine attempt from the film makers to give the audience time to get to know the people, and by doing so we automatically learn to care for them and their predicament. This is a factor that many contemporary films tend to sadly forget, unless you have some sort of emotional connection with a character then all the special movie tricks in the world will simply become boring very quickly. This, for the modern I-want-it-now touch button generation may be something of a risk, after all, patience in some elements of modern society seems often to be something of a premium.

The real action of act 2 takes place only after a good first half of the film's running time, which in truth turns out to be one of the film's major strengths. Instead of rushing headlong into carnage we are given the chance, via the documentary style filming, to eavesdrop into the group dynamic. For example, the relationship between the 'filmakers' Michelle and Jason (played by Sarah Mac & Dan Caren) is a fine combination of mutual annoyance, sarcasm and bewilderment whilst Jason on his own frequently occurs the wrath of his fellow travellers due his inability to keep any form of internal monologue - the looks he gets from Robert (Neil Newbon) as a result of his 'quips' are simply priceless.


This leads us nicely onto the the cast performances, which is one of the many factors that often negatively impact on lower-budget adventure films. Extinction contains an ensemble of fine performances throughout, in fact I'm in the unusual situation of being unable to find a weak link in the cast as there is often at least one lurking somewhere. I've already mentioned the amusing interplay between the talented (and very delicious) Sarah Mac and her cameraman who suffers from terminal verbal diarrhoea. Another notable performance comes from Simon Burbage as Tim, who acts as the requisite 'we're all doomed' character that a film like this just shouldn't ever be without. Ben Loyd-Holmes is suitably convincing with his role as Professor and subsequent man of action who also deals in a successful business of memorable one-liners. 

I do also have to mention Neil Newborn, who plays the role of the role of the Professor's partner - for some reason that I can't put my finger on my wife was particularly smitten with his performance. Now while he did play the part of the enigmatic Rob, very well I did notice that there was an audible sigh from Mrs Blogger whenever he happened to appear on screen. Very strange.

A film of this type can live or die by the quality of its monsters. I've lost count of the number of times a reasonable low-budget movie in terms of acting and plot has been severely let down by badly applied CGI and even worse practical model effects. I must admit that this was the one area I was concerned about before watching the movie and genuinely doubted that the film makers would be able to pull this off. However, pull this off they do because the Dinosaurs look authentic, fantastic and bloody damn scary! The makers rather cannily hold off for some time in providing us with a crystal clear view of the Dinosaurs, instead the initial views are mere fleeting glimpses from the cover of the jungle. However, when we do finally see them in all their CGI or practical model glory they work very well indeed.

Which brings us onto the elephant in the room - our old friends, Found and Footage. If there was ever a genre of film making that created a Marmite love or hate it reaction, this is it. In truth, apart from Cloverfield, Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity I can't come up with many others that I could spend time watching . I've never been a true fan of the style itself,  but more so the jumpy all over the place jolting camera effects designed to give it all a feeling of 'reality' when all it actually ever does is make one feel well and truly want to be physically sick. 

Thankfully, Extinction doesn't fall into the traps that have befallen many before by trying far too hard real-life authentic in the camera effect. In truth, whereas the concept is that what we are seeing is obviously found footage, the movie is actually filmed more in a Docu-footage style which gives it a sense of professionalism - after all, the research expedition is supposed to be being filmed by a professional cameraman and so the that's the way it comes across to the viewer. This in turn compliments both sections of the film where we bear witness to some stunning scenery and camerawork (I won't tell you where it was filmed, that would spoil things) in the first half before some genuinely exciting adrenaline filled chase sequences and an expertly filmed pulsating final third of the movie.

The responsibility for the confidant and assured pacing of the movie would be with the director, Adam Spinks. When I interviewed him in July of this year about Extinction it was clear that not only did he and the rest of the team want to make a ripping adventure yarn but that they wanted the project to reflect a genuine love for the natural world and for the spirit of discovery.  Adam is a bit of a closet cryptozoologist (aren't we all) and to him the idea that a remnant species of dinosaur could live in the Amazon was just so exciting that he couldn’t say no to making the film. I know that producing this movie was one big learning curve for him and the crew and he was clearly very proud of what the team achieved in the making of the movie. And he has every right to be.

But don't just take my word in regarding this movie as nothing short of immensely enjoyable. From what I can gather many of the notoriously hard to please visitors to FrightFest a week or two ago liked it too when Extinction had its world premiere. If comments & reviews on social networking sites are anything to go by (well it must be true if it's on Twitter) then the positive vibes from most of those who saw it probably carry far more weight than I could ever do.

I say 'most' of those who saw it' because my main worry for Extinction is that there will be some who may may find it difficult to get past the two issues of its found footage style and the fact that the action takes its own time to take place. Indeed, I have seen one review that seemed to find it impossible to focus on anything else but that and by doing so spectacularly missed the point and the genuine qualities of the film. I won't name the review, partly because I completely disagree with many of it's comments, but also because it is quite simply badly written and conceived. The general subtext of the piece seemed to focus on the validity from a horror point of view of the movies' inclusion at FrightFest, rather than the qualities of the film itself. I would suggest that the particular horror snob of a writer learns some of his horror history and watch something like The Wicker Man (1973) to understand that chills don't have to always be of the machete in your face kind that he seems to think they should be.

I would urge you to watch Extinction when it goes on general release and put aside any negative feelings you have for found footage, if I can do that then anyone can. Lets be clear, this is not a horror film per se, but a richly layered exciting adventure that in its final act will leave you gasping for breath. It's a genuine treat.

Oh and BTW, my wife loved the film (thanks Neil) and my son thought it was, in his words, "a real step up from some of that indie film stuff that you normally watch, dad". To the layman, those words may not seem like the height of movie adulation, but for he of few words it was praise indeed.

Interview with actor, producer, writer Ben Loyd-Holmes


I was very lucky to grab a little bit of time to chat with Ben and ask him a few piercing questions, because as you can see from the excerpt below from his IMDB page, he is rather a multi-talented, multi-faceted and very busy guy. Some may argue that they could find his CV rather annoying and subsequently feel a little insecure, however I couldn't possibly comment.

Ben Loyd-Holmes was born on April 28, 1981 in London, England. He is an actor and producer, known for Skyfall (2012), Band of Brothers (2001) and Breaking Down (2014).

He made an appearance at the HUB fan convention and since then has gained a base of loyal fans, calling themselves his 'Official Fangirls' and setting up facebook groups and fan pages / fan sites.

He is also a keen sportsman of a high level. He is a fully qualified Rock Climbing instructor, Martial Arts instructor, Scuba Divemaster, horseman, Swimmer, Boxer, Fencer, to name but a few. Though he doesn't teach he often competes. He has fought under BMAI, WAKO and PKA is part of the MLT/BMC, PADI and many others. He was taught to ride horses by Janet Rogers at Film Horses in Windsor.

Ben has been nominated at the Film Guild Awards for Best Actor for his role as 'Ethan' in feature film 'The Hike' (2011), an award winning producer (AHM - 2012 - Best Feature Film - the Film Guild, British Horror Festival). If that wasn’t enough he also won the award for Producing Best Feature Film for the feature film Art House Massacre in 2012.

Talented and successful. I think I hate him….


Firstly, many thanks Ben, for taking time away from schmoozing at film premieres to answer a few questions!

BLH - Pleasure

Q) I’ve followed the progress of this film ever since the Crowd Funding campaign was launched what seems like eons ago. What was the experience like for you personally?

"I have it on good authority that no Dinosaurs
were hurt in the making of this film"
BLH - crowd funding is brutal. It's amazing. It's a lot of things. We didn't raise enough to make the film, but we did make enough NOISE to get the film funded traditional ways and find lots of people to support it. The money we raised went directly into the development and funding of the film. Our problem in funding it that way was that I was unwilling to tell everyone it was dinosaurs, what it was at all. I wanted it to be a surprise, wanted the idea to be safe... and wanted to have the positive energy without the doubt of 'how will they do that'.. Well we did.

Q) For those who don’t know anything about Extinction, briefly explain the plot (but no spoilers!)
J

BLH - Well... it's a Dinosaur movie! That's pretty cool I think most people will agree. The film is based on a team of researchers that go to the amazon to study endangered animals in the remote amazon jungle, only to themselves to become the endangered ones then they realise they are in the hunting ground of prehistoric predators... We've shot in an ultra realistic documentary style... but hopefully people will know .. its not actually a documentary and the dinosaurs weren't harmed in the making of the film!

Q) What were the challenge and overall experience during filming?

BLH - making and working with practical dinosaurs is a tough thing. On top of that, there's the locations and there's the drive to do something more interesting and different to everything else that is out there. It's not easy. That is the real challenge though. All that. Because without those elements there is not film. Working with the cast and the crew in all that, it's exciting but it's hard.


"Don't worry lads, I think we've lost em....er, lads?"
Q) I recently interviewed the film’s director, Adam Spinks, who was effusive in his praise for the cast. What was he like to work with? A real tyrant I Imagine?

BLH- Adam is not a tyrant... far from it! He loves film making and has a lot of fun doing it, so much fun sometimes we had to remind him there was a shot to be filmed! Unfortunately I often had to be the tyrant. Every production needs one to keep the mob in order... It takes a Wolf to rule the Dogs as someone rather well known once said to me. We encouraged a lot of fun and we had a lot of laughs but sometimes you face an issue and it takes a bit of that to get it on track.

Q) Obviously, Big Al and some friends may make an appearance so is there a fair degree of CGI involved?

BLH - We have a good amount of CG but also a lot of practical. We didn't want dodgy CG, so we spent a lot of time and effort creating both CG and practical affects that looked great and could stand alone, didn't rely on each other. Then combined them to make them next level. We are really pleased with what we've achieved.

Q) What would you say to convince those of us who may not be the greatest fans of the found footage genre?

"Dear diary, we're buggered"
BLH - I'd say don't worry, I'm not either. This isn't a STANDARD Found Footage Film. I think like any other style of camera work, it can be awesome, but it can be terrible. The only problem with Found Footage, is that a lot of people think it's an easy and cheap way to make a film. They think that, but they are wrong. And what happens is a lot of crappy found footage films came out. The reality is that it's hard to do Found Footage well, if someone cocks up a line at the end of a take, there's no cutting round it, it's gotta be done again. Every take. It means the entire thing is much harder to do well. We also do not have shaky camera work, no motion sickness, our camera man, in the film, is an actual cameraman, so their camera work is much better than if it's an amateur or a random.

Q) Why was the title changed from The Expedition to Extinction at such a late stage?

BLH - Extinction was a name we came up with at the start, but it's one we didn't go with because we didn't want to give the Dino side of it away. We went with Expedition because we didn't want anyone to know the Dinosaurs were the creatures that were hiding in there and it also reflects the film well... now we are at the release stage, we want to label the film and brand the film in a way that really reflects what it is and what it's about. We love the 'new' name and can wait for everyone to see it.

Dolores Reynals messes up the 'Extinction cast in height order' pic
Q) Extinction recently premiered at Fright Fest with you and the rest of the crew appearing too. What was that experience like?

BLH - It was great to see the film at Fright Fest, because the organisers have such a great taste in movies and the standard is high. Our film isn't really a horror, it's got some scares, but it's not a 'horror' so we were pleased when they wanted to include it, because in their words 'it's incredibly entertaining'. Sitting at the Vue Leicester Square with an audience paying to see your movie is a wonderful feeling. Listening to them laugh at the jokes and gasp at the scares. It's wonderful. That's who you make films for. The general audience. To sit and enjoy it.

Q) What are the plans for the films general release?

BLH - Our distribution partners are working on the release dates soon, but there's a really big release coming for it which is great. Really pleased to see how well it's been taken and great to know so many people will get the chance to see it.
  
Q) Finally, what does the future hold for Mr Loyd-Holmes?

BLH - I've got a couple more films on the go already... and a few other things... It's a really busy time. I'm really happy to be where I am at right now. It's take a lot of work but, it's good to have got here. I'm doing a few talks for o2 and other organisations in how to succeed in this business and other similar subjects related to Film, Acting and Entrepreneurship , which is fun and always interesting. So yea lots going on!

Once again, thanks for taking part in the interview, Ben.

BLH  - Thank you !





The Imdb page for Extinction can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3033080/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

The Facebook page for the renamed Extinction can be located at https://www.facebook.com/ExtinctionTheMovie

The Facebook page for the previous name of the movie, The Expedition can be located HERE

You find out about and follow Extinction on Twitter @EXTINCTIONfilm

Ben Loyd-Holmes has a rather fab website at http://benloydholmes.com/

4 comments:

  1. A great found footage movie huh? When is it released?

    The dinosaur in the pic looks awesome!

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    1. Apparently it's all to secret regarding the release date etc. I'll pass on any details as soon as I know. The Dinosaur looks even better in the movie!

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  2. great review, very well conceived. every one of the cast and crew of this film worked their behinds off. from just the trailers I have seen, I can tell it is going to be an awesome film. I am not much of the "Found Footage" genre, but I believe it goes into a whole different dimension from what we expect of the genre as a whole. I was very lucky to get the opportunity to pledge to get the film made, so it's a good feeling to see it get a decent review. Thank you. ... T. Smith

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    1. Thank you! - I'm sure that you won't be disappointed with the results of your pledge, it's a hugely enjoyable experience. Yeah, as I said in the piece, I'm not a great fan of FF either but when it's done in a different way such as this I can put my negative feelings to one side.

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