This was a surprising movie. One which seemed like a production too cheap to be any good, but it actually works. The movie is written and directed by Jeff Baena (I Heart Huckabees, 2004) centres around attempts to cheer-up Joshua, Joshi, our eponymous hero. The movie covers the events of a “Batchelor” weekend a group of his friends had planned for Joshy (Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley, 2014). However, four months prior to the weekend, joshy’s fiancée, killed herself. While at home one evening, Josh arrives home to fine her in a funny humour, he goes to the gym only to return to find her dead.
As the bachelor party date falls due, the landlord of the property they hired contacts them to remind them of the booking, they decide to go ahead with it, in order to cheer Joshy up. And now enter the 21st century; the weekend was planned by email, and as a result various of the people on the weekend do not know each other, most know Joshy.
An so our group of soon to be friends gather, each, as it happens with their own issues also. Josh’s pall Ari ( Adam Pally, Happy endings , 2011) looked after the booking and is the central point, he seems to be the level headed one, he is met by Adam (Alex Ross Perry, Queen of Earth, 2014) Adam is in a break-up situation with his girlfriend and is sharing his grief with everybody. Adam is one of those up-tight individuals who will not use a hot-tub because of the disease risk. They a joined by the very enthusiastic Eric, (Nick Kroll, “I Love You, Man” 2009)who has everything planned out, much to Adam’s disgust, who intended for everybody to play his extremely complex Co-op board game .
As the weekend moves on, various others join the group as they attempt to sail through the weekend and help Joshy. We see Adam eventually get in the pool after a long conversation with the repair man (Jake Johnson, New Girl 2011). Not helping matters is the visit by his dead fiancee’s parents who blame Josh for their daughter’s death. We also see Ari, possibly falling for one of the girls they met on the first night, despite his own family dynamic.
In short this is one of those “road” movies where the stars are on a journey through their lives, without actually going anywhere.
This is truly one of the saddest comedies you will ever watch (premise-wise). I’ve deliberately not mentioned many/most/all of the gags and situational comedy, suffice it to say it works well. You spend much of the movie thinking just how lucky you are – not to be any of these people, even though we can all recognise elements of ourselves in most of the characters.
The Neon Demon has been described as “weird” by many people, it is weird, slightly, but not in a plot sense, it is slightly weird overall. This is the latest work from Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, 2008), who has made a name for himself in giving us movies which are stylistically his own. The movie can be described as a horror, but it is perhaps more a satire or allegory for the dreams and jealousies of the fashion industry. If it had been written 150 years ago it would have been on a par with the Grimm fairy tales (before Disney and the polite crowd tamed them).
One of the first things to hit you about this movie, even before the story starts to take hold, is that stylistically it is an homage to the works of Dario Argento. Scenes such as the first meeting between our doe-eyed new girl, Jesse (Elle Fanning (Trumbo, 2015) and make-up artist “Ruby” (Jena Malone Inherent Vice, 2014) in the changing room of a photo-shoot are purely Argento, through-out many of the key scenes are the cinematography of Argento, even smaller seemingly minor shots are taken from the Italian Maestro (the hallway chase near the end is purely him) Indeed certain scenes and even plot lines seem to be taken straight from Susperia (Dario Argento, 1977).
The Story revolves around a young girl, Jesse (Elle Fanning, Trumbo, 2015), who is seen as having a natural look superior to the plastic augmented “false” beauty of many of the others. A boy, Dean (Carl Glusman, Embers 2015) she met, takes some photographs for her, which get her in to an agency (she had promised to “drop his name” but did not) She is befriended by a make-up artist, Ruby who brings here to a party where she meets Gigi (Bella Heathcote (The Rewrite, 2014) and Sarah (Abbey Lee, Mad Mad Fury Road, 2015) a friendship of sorts begins due to Ruby’s efforts, immediately the digs and barbed comments begin, under the guise of opinions on the industry.
Ruby’s star continues to rise, while the others are left in shock as to how a “rough-diamond” like her with no plastic work can get work-on. This is all against the background of her own life and where she is living in a seedy motel, managed by an equally low-life, Hank (Keanu Reeves, John Wick, 2014). Reeves is excellent as the manager, projecting the seediness and darkness of the location. The darker side of the modelling industry is constantly referred to, be it Ruby’s age (she turned 16 a couple of weeks before coming to LA), while her own boyfriend, the slightly older Dean, at first is rightly shocked by her age, only to have come to terms with it, within a few hours (as he tries to kiss her). Ultimately the motel becomes an allegory for the seedy nature of the modelling world and the young people aspiring to fame. One can only imagine the symbolism of the mountain-lion at lose in her room at one stage.
The violence in the movie draws very much from the imagery, and expectation. This is a visually stunning piece. Even the soundtrack harkens back to the music of Goblin and their work on th elikes of Suspiria. That said it can also be put against David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive (2001) as we see a young hopeful aspiring Hollywood starlet coming up against the dreams, aspirations and failures of those who would make their fortune in LA. One can also see hints of Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin, (2013), nowhere more so than in the photo-shoot with the legendary “Mark” (Desmond Harrington, Dexter, 2008).
Visually it is fantastic, however the Horror element is a little underwhelming, we see so much of Argento, that we expect his horror touches, we get hints of them, but ultimately the horror is not in stomach turning detail, but realisation of the blood lust to gain the “thing” which the younger model had. Some people will love this film, many others will hate it. It is not a film for amateurs, you have to want to watch it, and experience it.
7/10, it would be higher, except I think the plot suffered a little by being overly recognisable as an homage to Argento, as a result, I was constantly expecting something that did not happen.
Atom Egoyan’s (The Captive, 2014) latest movie revolves around an elderly Zev Guttman (Christopher Plummer, The Last Station 2009) with early stages of dementia who has recently lost his wife, both of whom lived in a retirement home. With Zev is Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau, David and Fatima, 2008) another elderly Jewish concentration camp survivor, like the others.
Physically fit but mentally starting to suffer form dementia, Zev is about to undertake a cross-country journey in search of the man who they believe Killed so many of their family members; a man called Rudy Kurlander. He is aided in this search by Max who despite being physically limited and confined to a chair, still has a sharp mind and has done all of the research. He constantly reminds Zev of the pledge he made to his dying wife to find and kill the man responsible for so much suffering.
They have the name of the man responsible, as well as the knowledge that he moved to the US some years ago. Max has managed to trace the four Rudy Kurlanders alive in the US who might meet the description of the man in question.
Alone and with a letter from Max detailing everything (to help him remember), Zev sets out on a journey. As he progresses, he meets four very different people, one turns out to be a non-Jewish fellow Holocaust survivor on the edge of death, with whom Zev can spend a few minutes in shared grief. This in contrast to the former soldier, just an ordinary person not involved in the evil of the concentration camps and who claimed, like many others, not to know what was happening at that time. We can look at these people as individuals with a part to play or take the larger view, that they each represent a condition of humanity, the innocent victims, those blind to the atrocities, and as we shall see, the inherited evil of life and those who deny their own identity, hiding from their judgement.
As Zev progresses, with Max’s help and support, he eventually tracks down yet another Kurlander, John Kurlander, this time he is a policeman (Dean Norris, Secret in their Eyes 2015) son of a former Nazi. Kurlander jnr. Is proud of his father’s past and is happy to show Zev around, until he realises he is Jewish and the attitude changes completely. This is one of the more tense periods of the movie, where we genuinely do not know if Zev will survive it.
Against this Zev’s own son (Henry Czerny, The Fifth Patient, 2007) is frantically trying to find him, and manages to traxck him down to the home of the last Rudy Kurlander and arrives at the house shortly after Zev himself arrived. This last home is where this Rudy Kurlander (Jurgen Prochnow, Das Boot, 1981) lives with his daughter and her family, in what can only be described as comfortable surroundings. Rudy does not like to discuss what happened in the war. This is said to Zev immediately, but they meet and begin to talk. Soon after Zev’s son arrives the situation come to a climax. Yes the others were Rudy Kurlanders, but this man was not, he had another identity, one known to Zev, even if he did not realise it due to his dementia, when the memory finally falls in to place and the big question from his search needs to be reassessed, Zev has only one “decent” course of action open to him.
Maybe Max knew Zev’s secret, more than Zev did. A slow boiler which brings you along, it was released shortly after Landau’s passing, but we still have Plummer giving his art to the world.
I need to mark this one out of 10, – 7/10, There are a number of scenes which are powerful in their simplicity, speaking with the young boy on a train, thinking he was his grandson, buyng a gun despite barely being in control of his abilities and the final climax where the truth is exposed finally; they all come together to give a solid production.
This is Yorgos Lanthimos’s (Alps, 2102), first English language film. Lobster finds us in a European setting, which does not specify where exactly, in a time set as the near future. It is a world not unlike ours except for a couple of very specific differences. In our heroes’ world single life is not permitted, once you are of age you are expected to find a mate, if through life your mate dies or leaves you, you are expected to find another partner. If you are found not to have a partner, you are sent to an establishment to try find one and so survive. If after the end of your stay, you are unsuccessful, you are turned in to an animal of your choice to live out your days transformed into whatever creature you pick.
And so it is that David (Colin Farrell, Fright Night, 2011 ) is introduced to us. After his wife leaving him, he now has to go and find a new partner over the next 45 days, or turn in to the animal of his choice. David is a quiet, meek but thinking person, watching what is happening and trying to adapt to get through the experience. This is not a conventional movie, it is deliberate, paced and low key. Even the weather is dull and uninviting, but that all comes together to give us something we can perhaps relate to, the ordinariness of the surroundings, contrasts with the absurdity of the human activity.
As the days go on, many of the guests either was out and disappear or keep working to find a partner they are matched with. The “Hotel” runs a series of activities to help this, including hunting of loners (with darts) who are not up to the mark. Society is geared to couples; even parts of the hotel are off-limits to single people. It is against this background that he begins to spend some time with some of the other guests in particular as they each try to cope or succeed in finding a partner.
As the days progress, David meets and begins to get to know a short sighted woman (Rachel Weisz, Definitely Maybe, 2008). He also sees what his fellow guests are doing to survive and teams up and watches them. Ben Whishaw (Perfume, 2006) is the Limping Man, a character not beyond manipulating the situation to his needs, a lesson David quickly learns. All of the characters are identified by their characteristics, their meekness, short-sightedness, limps or lisps.
Lisping Man, (John C. Reilly, Tale of Tales, 2015) provides us with that perfect foil to Farrell’s David. David is quiet and introspective, Lisping man is open and chatty, easily befriending such as David or Limping man. Emotions are high, as the stakes are and from time to time emotions flair, none better than the fight between Farrell and Reilly’s characters during the archery session.
The humour is very, much situational and dark, as much a reflection on our own society and the pressures we place ourselves under, issues such as our place in life, esteem, partnerships, human understanding. The style is deliberate, dystopic and resembling something like the down-trodden masses we see in films like 1984 (Michael Radford, 1984). The scenes resembling “Blind Date” showing the couples who have joined together.
It is certainly a thought provoking and dark movie which will have you questioning whether or not you want to actually watch it for the first few minutes, but then you find yourself engaged in it, willing the characters along, sharing the highs and lows and asking yourself some serious questions about society.
A number of people will be thinking about watching this film because Colin Farrell is in it (from a sex-symbol) perspective, this is not an action movie, it is a very cerebral one, and guess what, it is the type of role which he is best suited for. He cut his teeth in TV drama, and for a reason, he is a very capable dramatic actor, as are Reilly, Weisz, Whishaw and many of the supporting cast. This is an excellent movie once you tune in to it.
I’ve been thinking about how to open this one, would l describe the film as a “coming of age” movie or one about a boy forming a band to impress a girl. It is those but not specifically, and to simply describe the film as one or the other of them would be to do it an injustice. John Carney (Once, 2007) gives us a movie about identity, who we are, who we think we are and who we dream of being. It is 1985 and our young hero Conor is going through some changes, though not ones of his liking or making. Coming from a middle class background, the family is in financial trouble, due to work drying up for the parents and sacrifices have to be made. One of those sacrifices is Conor’s schooling as he is taken from a private school and dropped in Sing Street Christian Brothers School (a public school).
Here we have the middle class boy, with his middle class background suddenly in the working class school, without even the correct colour shoes. This brings him into contact with Br. Baxter (Don Waverly (Ondine, 2009) The Christian Brother with a not very Christian attitude. Another who is not who he seems. Br. Baxter becomes Conor’s nemesis, as they struggle over shoe colours, hair dye and make-up. To its credit, Carney manages to avoid dropping the movie into the quagmire of sexual scandal, though hints at it, the Christian Brothers were not going to escape completely from the sins of their past.
Against all of these struggles in life Conor, practically on his first day in school, noticed a girl, Raphine (Lucy Boynton, Ballet Shoes, 2007) sitting nearby on her doorstep, he immediately falls for her. And as with many lads of his age, he immediately begins to woe her. She’s out of his league, so in an attempt to impress he first repeats some musical trivia his older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor, Glassland, 2014) shared only the night before and then announces he has a band and would she like to be involved. Indeed Brendan, with his own issues, still manages to ensure Conor has all the brotherly advice needed to get through life and get the girl of his dreams.
What follows is a quest by Conor to quickly find a group of guys he can call a band. He actually manages to do this without any major issue. Indeed the band aspect of the film is straight forward and of no major issue. As part of his band, Conor tells her, they are going to make a video, if she , the model she claims to be (almost…)would like to be in it. She reluctantly agrees to give the video some weight by appearing in it. What follows is a group of young boys trying to pull together a mid-80s new wave music video, with all the situational gags possible. Mark McKenna, Ben Carolan and Percy Chamburuka, all deserve mention as his fellow band members.
And so through the usual trial the boys manage to get it together enough to film the video, which is pure new-waveish, 1980’s punk-rock. All of this initial band success is against a personal background that sees the family split up as their parents are separating and the children are being dispatched to a new apartment with their farther (Aiden Gillen, Calvary 2014), While his mother ( Maria Doyle-Kennedy (Jupiter Ascending, 2014) moves in with her new boyfriend no one is happy about that arrangement. Away from his music, he turns to his older brother for advice on everything from relationships, music to life in general. We go on to learn how his would-be model girlfriend is a lot more fragile than made out to be.
In school the band decides to play in a school event coming up, this provides the scene for their first public performance and also a chance to make a statement of rebellion against Br. Baxter and the school. Another of those people who is not who or what they seem is the school bully, Barry, played by Ian Kenny who is from a hard home and a life of domestic violence, however when it comes to being the tough-guy in school, young Barry is good at scaring people, but not very good at seeing threats through and Conor notices this, ultimately asking Barry to be their roadie, something he happily agrees to, he has a purpose.
As this quest for identity and discovery develops it does so against the social backdrop of 80s Ireland and emigration. Conor slowly realises his only hope for happiness is to leave his home, Dublin and Ireland and head to London (with nothing). Supporting Raphine through her own struggles, they embark together for London with the help of his Brother, using his late-grandfather’s boat…
Written and directed by Patrick Brice (Creep, 2014). This is a perfectly fine piece of entertainment. I say this because given the subject matter and story line it could have been made a number of ways, from a Woody Allen 1970’s angst ridden social farce or a glorified soft-porn TV movie. Instead Brice manages to pull off an exploration of the fears and weaknesses.
Alex (Adam Scott, Krampus, 2015) and Emily (Taylor Schilling, Argo 2015), together with their young son RJ are new to LA and don’t know many people. Against this they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman, Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009) an extroverted Los Angelino while at the part with their son RJ, Kurt is there also with his son. After a short conversation (which leaves Alex and Emily scratching their heads) they are invited to dinner with Kurt and his wife Charlotte. Dinner starts off normal enough with Alex and Emily learning that Charlotte is an actress. They later see some of Charlotte’s “work” as they get to know their new friends better during the night.
Indeed as the night progresses we are exposed to the extroverted confidence of Kurt and Charlotte, which ultimately reaches the point where Kurt decides they should all take a plunge in the pool outside, obviously the hosts are all for it, while our more reserved guests are somewhat shy about doing so nude. A reservation “justified” by the large size of Kurt’s manhood, compared to Alex’s. We can see the tension between everybody, Alex is not too comfortable with the events of the night while Charlotte is more open to allowing events unwind as the night develops.
This leads to some tension, which Kurt seeks to remove by showing Alex his pool-house where Kurt practices his art (the majority of the paintings are of the female reproductive organ) and also his breast suction pump films which they make for the Scandinavian market.
Alex, not at all comfortable with the night would be more than happy to leave. As the night progresses he spends some time talking with Kurt, as Emily and Charlotte also spend some time talking in the bed room.
As it turns out Kurt and Charlotte are not the perfect couple of their image, they have the same insecurities as the rest of us, but they do not want to accept these. While they all come from the point of not being happy with their lot in life, they begin to realise that what they have is not as bad as they thought it was.
On the down side the camera work resembles that of a cheap made for TV movie that does not inspire the casual viewer to sit down and watch the movie, the dialogue is a little stained in places but overall it works.
This is a safe 3*** movie with no pretensions of greater.
The 2014 film by Abderrahmane Sissako, takes you by surprise and ultimately leaves you sitting there wondering what just happened with your life. I say this because if like me you sat down to this film and immediately were struck with the slowness of life and the movie at the start, only to find that you cannot leave it, then you know what I mean.
Set on the outskirts of a small village near Timbuktu in Mali the film mainly revolves around a small cattle herder and his family and the “local” ISIS thugs who now control the area. The film is a serious statement made in a way that draws us in to listen to it, rather than shout the message at us. We see the tranquil nature of life as people go about their normal lives only to have it regulated by the ISIS thugs to the way they believe the locals should live. Music and signing are banned, but yet the locals continue to play music and sign in the privacy of their homes, in defiance of the thugs. People are forced to dress according to the rules of their new overlords.
The local Iman is forced to walk a fine line between representing the local people on religious matters and protecting them where possible and lot having himself murdered in the process. Against all of this Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed) lives his life, looking after his family, his wife Saima (Toulou Kiki) and daughter, even his cow-herd (who might be suitable to marry his daughter one day).
There are difficulties such as the bad relations he has with a neighbour who nets the local river for fish. These nets are a cause of concern as the cattle get in to them and destroy them. Life is regulated by the ISIS thugs, who we get a look at. Abdelkerim is one of the ISIS enforcers patrolling the region. He is helped by a local young man who speaks the local language. In deed much is made (in a subtle manner) about how the ISIS thugs are outsiders come in to impose their way on the local people. We see how many of them are in fact from places such as Libya and other countries and practice the bad habits such as smoking they are demanding the local population stop form doing. It should be noted that Sissako’s balancing of the reaction of the local population with the specific story is well done, setting the background and conditions we need to know about for the story to work.
In the course of events, one of Kidane’s cattle is killed after destroying nets while in the care of the young cow-herd. Kidane goes to the fisherman to seek compensation, a struggle follows and in the fight the fisherman is killed. The murder is reported and the local ISIS thugs, taking a break from hunting down people singing and enjoying themselves, arrest Kidane.
The trial “scene” or questioning by the ISIS chief (Salem Dendou) is a study on true evil. The insidious quiet type which tries to present itself as right and decent. Quietly, seemingly during the interview Kidane is sentenced to death the next morning as he could not pay the blood price of far more cattle than he owns. The chief inflicts cruelty in a manner which suggest he is being charitable. Through all of this they must use an interpreter (who seems to be not quite as fundamentalist as his leader) which emphasis the foreign nature of the overlords. We also see just how hypocritical they are, practicing those things which they also ban. We also see through them as uneducated and nothing special. These are a foreign unwelcome people who are not as true and pure as they would like the world to believe. Their power is in the force with which they inflict their way of life on the local populations.
With death approaching, there are no options left for Kidane, he is to be publically executed and the townsfolk forced to watch, is there any chance for him?
The power of this film is in its understatement. The dialogue is sparse and only used where needed. Sissako prefers to show the viewer what is happening, rather than tell. The cinematography is similarly used, giving us a picture not just of the landscape but also of the live of those people who populate that landscape.
Robert Eggers’ (the Tell-Tale Heart, 2008) movie is set in the early 1600’s with a new England farming family, headed by the farmer husband and father (Ralph Ineson, Intruders, 2011), a man of strong religious views, are banished, for religious reasons from the community they live in. Needing to build a new life for the family, they settle down a couple of days away from the town and build a new existence for themselves. Life is hard and the family is struggling to make an income in the harsh New England countryside.
As hard as life is, it still goes on. Each member of the family has their position and duties accordingly. And this is where the film works. The movie draws on the folklore of the early New England settlers as they came to terms with the new land, the strange surroundings and the natural fears and superstitions of life at this time.
There is an under lying tension within the family, As the father and mother (Kate Dickie, Red Road 2006) struggle to make a success of their little farmstead, the children also have responsibilities and duties. It is to this background that things start to happen. The two oldest children are of an age where the tensions of hormonal changes are coming into play, most especially for the son, who is becoming aware of himself, so to speak. One day while taking care of the youngest child, the oldest, Thomasin, (Anya Taylor-Joy, Viking Quest, 2015) loses her, but only after taunting the middle daughter, Mercy (about witches and saying she was one). This of course leads to all sorts of implications. The Son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw, Oranges and Sunshine, 2010, a person who could have a bright future ahead of him) is caught in the middle of this and goes to find his little sister, only to make things worse.
The days following the disappearance of the child are tense ones, made all the more tense by the otherwise mundane arguments and struggles of life, which are blown-up in the tensions of the struggles. Eventually things are said and accusations are made, Did Thomasin do something to her little sister, did an animal take her or did the [ubiquitous] with in the woods take her?
As we are drawn in to this struggle, the tension mounts, but then we are introduced to a new element, the witch herself, it turns out there is a witch in the woods, who might actually have taken the child.
Over the next while the presence of the witch is hinted at and explored at first, but then takes a larger part of the story-line, especially with the use of the family mail goat as a familiar, who might actually be the devil. The last act or so of the film is an old fashioned blood and gore horror segment which needless to say culminates in the great showdown. This final denouement (and yes any denouement should be final…) is to me the lessor event. As the tensions in the household mounts and events begin to take their toll, the children are taken over and possessed, with young Caleb especially affected. This scene is one of the better ones of the film.
Now, let’s be clear; this is not the great horror movie people seem to think it is. It could have been, a nerve wrenching thriller playing on the fears and dangers hidden in the dark corners and damp ground, or it could have been an old fashioned horror with our heroes fighting the evil monster etc. Instead it tried to do both and so ultimately failed to succeed to the level it wanted. The acting by the younger actors in particular in first class, even if the character of the mother seemed a little over the top (more the character than the acting).
This is a good film, scoring a safe 3 stars, it could have been much more, if it decided to go one way or the other. Personally I would have liked a movie where we never say the protagonist, but only the fears, reactions and struggles of the family.
Directed by New Zealand director, Taika Waititi (What we Do In The Shadows, 2015), in-short the movie concerns the disappearance of a young teenager with his foster guardian for about 6 weeks in the New Zealand bush, with a national manhunt underway for them two heroes.
Our Young protagonist, Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison, Paper Planes, 2014)) is a street smart young lad full of attitude, though always strangely likeable. We never know why he has been taken from home, all we do know is that this city kid has been placed in the care of Bella (Rima Te Wiata, House Bound, 2014)) “call me aunty Bella” and her silent grumpy husband, Hector, (Sam Neill, Daybreakers, 2009). The social worker looking after Ricky is the officious job’s worth, Paula, (Rachel House, Whalerider, 2002).
Despite initial problems, such as Ricky deciding to run away on his first night, and only managing to get about 200 metres from the house, before falling asleep with exhaustion only to be found the next morning by Bella. In the days that follow, Ricky and Bella develop a relaxed relationship, with Ricky slowly settling in. Small gestures by Bella such as a hot-water bottle in the bed, of a small collection of books for Ricky read. Life starts to take on an ordinary pace. Hector is still a silently grumpy as usual. Indeed, the only time we see Hector show emotion is when Bella unexpectedly dies at home, Hector is distraught.
A man of few words, He and Ricky get through the funeral and begin to settle down at home, only to receive word that the authorities are going to collect Ricky in about a week. This is the key point in the film, upon which all else hinges. Ricky decides to run away, however he gets lost, Hector looking for him, finds him but quickly there-after, injures himself, resulting in them taking six weeks in the bush to recover. During this time, the social worker is convinced Ricky has been kidnapped by Hector and a full-scale manhunt is launched. Eventually Hector and Ricky discover this, and have to cope as best they can while trying to recover the situation. The interactions they have with the public range from co-operative to trying to turn them in. We follow them as Ricky tries his hand a hunting for the first time, or building a shelter, or sharing a camp with Hector. Together they try to survive, seeing off risks from civilians hunting them, dodging the police and keeping fed.
The only down side is the Characterisation of Paula’s social worker, as it was overly manic and more than necessary for the part, allied to this was the use of a “SWAT team looking for the couple of fugitives (Watching SWAT teams search through New Zealand bush wears off as a joke fairly quickly).
Sam Neill is perfect for the role, gruff and uninterested (or so it seems) at first, his character has a caring side which comes out as the film moves on, as do the secrets Hector carries with him as he goes through life. As with most of these movies, Hector not only teaches Ricky about life, but the reciprocal takes place also. Together they deal with the challenges their escapade causes, learning a bit more about each other, as they do.
I could go into detail, but that would just ruin the story, as with any chase they are eventually caught and have to deal with the consequences of their actions. This could have been a twee piece which would have had me pull my eyes out, but no, it is well crafted (apart from Paula, sorry!) and entertaining, young Dennison gives a first-class performance alongside one of New Zealand’s greatest actors, who as usual does not let the side down. This movie brings together a loud, self-confident street thug and a lonely grumpy old man missing his life partner and results in as assured young man, preparing to take his place in the world, alongside his friend and mentor, Hector.
Written and directed by John Michael Mc Donagh, this is the second of a loosely based trilogy. The subject matter is not connected, rather locations associated with McDonagh’s background. The first installment was “The Guard” (2011). Described as a black comedy, it might be better described Dark thriller with a touch of dark humour thrown in.
Although described as “dark” this is a very entertaining movie, which from the start drags in the viewer and keeps us alongside to the very end. Brendan Gleeson’s character is that of Father James, the local parish priest in a small rural parish in Sligo. Boarding the coast, there are some fantastic backdrops (having spent two years living in the area, I can say the scenery is every bit as photographed for the film. Fr. James we learn came to the Priesthood later in life, after his wife died. As with any normal person, he has his daemons, he is open about his hard drinking ways in the past, now he controls his life and habits. As “normal” as he is, the villagers, his parish, are what can best be described as an “odd bunch”.
The film opens in confession, here we learn that one of his parishioners was abuse as a child by a priest. In the parishioner’s quest for vengeance, he has decided to kill a priest, not just any priest, but a good priest, someone people will notice. He is told he has just over a week to live, they even make an appointment for the following Sunday on the beach. We are not clear if he actually knows who his killer is. Following a discussion with his less than helpful Bishop (David McSavage), the Bishop feels that the confession was not valid, as absolution was not present and so he should report the issue.
Instead Fr. James uses the week to put his house in order and try find a way to stop what is going to happen. In to the mix comes his adult daughter (Kelly Reilly, Sherlock Homes, 2009), recovering from a suicide attempt. We see through her that his relationship with her has been strained over time and in deed still shows some stress marks but they know they have something to work out and so do. They treat each other as adults.
Over the coming days, we see Fr. James deal with his parishioners, the wife beaten by her lover, the lover who has no remorse and even the cuckolded husband, who is quite happy for his wife to have an affair, as it takes the pressure off him and basically they can get on with life. As part of his ministering to his flock he visits an old American writer who is living in a remote area accessible only by boat. While bringing the old writer his messages, he makes a request for a gun (Walter PPK). After some banter Fr. James says he will try and see what he can do. In the course of the next day he pays a visit to the local Police Inspector, to borrow a gun. The inspector is at home, with a male prostitute. Fr. James is not fazed by this or the prostitute’s behaviour. The prostitute is played by Owen Sharpe, I mention this because of his recent role in “’71” playing the young IRA killer, a completely different role, both done well.
As the week goes on, he has to deal with his curate, Fr. Leary (David Wilmot, Vikings 2013) who is not exactly the caring type, more concerned with image rather than substance. Fr. James is rather blunt in his opinion of him as a priest. Indeed one of the defining characteristics of Fr. James is his bluntness. When we see him with the financier on the edge of arrest (Dylan Moran, Black Books, 2000) who is trying to put things right (in his own way). Fr. Leary fawns to Moran’s character, while Fr. James just basically sees through the acts and gets down to business naming a figure and looking for the check.
As the week goes on, we start to see things taking a chilling turn, with his local church being burnt down and even his pet dog killed, we are not told who is responsible for these acts. We see the tensions mount to breaking point, while we also see moments of clam and belief, no more so that the French couple of holiday who were involved in a car crash, the husband is killed, while the wife escapes unhurt, we see in her a person of Faith and in so doing also see his Faith, it is real to him.
He has no airs and graces, when one of the village odd-balls, Milo Herlihy (Killian Scott, Love/Hate 2010-2014) sees Fr. James in church to ask for his advice regarding women; the conversation turns surreal. He basically has urges, possibly to violence , to control these urges he has decided to join the army, which he is convinced is full of psychopaths anyway and so should be a natural home for himself, Fr. James attempts to bring him back to reality by suggesting he read certain magazines, only to have milo say he has already tried them. What we see is a man casting no judgements and genuinely trying to help. His chats with the atheist (and cynical ) doctor, (Aidan Gillen, Love/Hate 2010-2013) also give us an insight to his view on life and his outlook on things in general, while at the same time not forcing a believe or rationalisation on the other person.
In dealing with his parishioners and even his daughter (and by extension himself) we do see a “good Priest”. Fr. James’s character is no Saint, he has his flaws and weaknesses like any person. He is essentially a person who is trying to help is parishioners without overstepping. However the various scenarios thrown up by the locals work at both levels, firstly allowing for a local and immediate (personal response) but also causing us to see the reaction of a kind and compassionate man, even if one who does not suffer fools to gladly.
Among all of the local community there is one who stands out, the altar boy, Mícheál (Mícheál Óg Lane, the Guard, 2011) he stands out for one reason, essentially he has reprised his role in The Guard, as a comic foil for Gleeson. This time it is a little more subtle but equally as good.
This movie shifts to an climax which can only end one of two ways, Fr. James alive or dead. A good man alive or dead. What we saw was a week in the life of a small parish, all seemingly tranquil and calm while below the surface there is violence, loneliness, suffering and pain and only one man has an idea as to what extent the people of the village are suffering in their various ways, just as he is dealing with his own daemons. This is dark in its subject matter but the cinematography and sharp lines place this movie in the first league.
It is felt Gleeson might get an Oscar nomination for this role, he deserves it
A south Korean movie, directed by Bong Joon-ho (The Host 2006) based on the screen play by Kelly Masterson (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, 2007) and Bong Joon-ho. The world has been destroyed by attempts to stop global warming which have gone totally wrong. Faced with the growing threat of global warming, an experimental new approach was developed, which entailed seeding the upper atmosphere with a chemical (CW7) to overcome the effects of global warming.
One of the first things you notice about this film is the cast. I have to admit, it is probably not the cast I would have picked, but that said, I would have been wrong. The casting works well and I wouldn’t change any of them. Behind the scenes, there is some discussion about The Weinstein Company taking out about 20 minutes of the film to suit western viewers. The movie is based on a French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige”.
The film opens in the train, but with a narration giving us the history of the efforts to stop global warming which ultimately resulted in the destruction of civilisation by virtue of the CW7 working too well and forcing the world in to an ice age. We quickly learn that those on the train have been on it for 17 years, entirely self-contained. Life is dystopian for many and carefully managed and controlled overall. The train itself is a huge affair purposefully built by an eccentric transport mogul who had no confidence in the CW7 solution so he built a special train which linked in to the world’s rail transport system and provided a place of refuge for the select few, constantly travelling around the world, never stopping.
Never stopping has a price. In order to keep the train moving the passengers are carefully ordered. First class, standard and economy. We learn about the workings of the train and its society from the huddled masses in economy. As bad as conditions are, we are told they are “the lucky ones” as they got on the train and are still alive. For seventeen years these people have been in the windowless back carriages at the tail of the train. Things are not good. People are huddled in to any corner they can find. The background is explained to us through the eyes of those trapped in the back. There have been up-risings in the past, all of which have failed. One of the key aspects of the uprisings is getting out to the armoured carriages in to the next carriages on the train. The people are fed a stable diet of protein pars to keep them alive. The protein bars are provided by the “Train” We also notice that although these third class passengers are in rags there is a fully uniformed security force and also train crew.
Chris Evans (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014) plays the part of Curtis, he is the leader of the would-be rebellion. He must decide when to act and how to. Key to their plan is rescuing Namgoong Minsu (Kang-ho Song, The Host, 2013) who is the security expert who designed the security systems for the train, keeping the carriages separate. The only problem is that he is a drug addled prisoner in the train’s prison carriage. Curtis together with his Lieutenants; Edgar, his second in command (Jamie Bell, Man on a Ledge, 2012)) sporting a strangely passable Irish accent who is the no-patience action man; and Gilliam, the older sage, respected by all and carrying the wounds of previous encounters. Discipline is savage, beatings are regular and extreme, often involving loss of limbs. Other rebellions have failed, they have looked at why and hopefully have a plan to overcome these issues. In to the mix of this we see the “overlords” using these third-class passengers as nothing more than a resource to be taken from.
At one scene we see one person taken to the front of the train to provide musical entertainment for the upper classes. We later see him and others who have been taken, their minds’ washed to be compliant and subservient. Meanwhile children are being taken to the front and nobody knows why.
Authority on the train is in the person of Minister Monroe (Thilda Swinton, Adaptation, 2002) who is the voice of authority, endlessly engaging in a passive aggressive dominance over those in third class. Eventually when they notice that the guards on the carriage actually have no ammunition in their weapons, the passengers rise-up. Using weapons and tools they made, they make their attack, first to the jail carriage where they rescue the security expert and his girlfriend. Using their skills they move forward first past the prison carriage, then they take the food and water carriages, revealing some of the nasty truths involved in life on the train. After a series of often bloody battles, against firstly the guards, then axe yielding black clad figures to then more armed guard and some very nasty people along the way. Eventually they make their way forward, glimpsing along the way how the rest of the upper-class passengers live. Ultimately they arrive at the Front, and meet Mr Wilford (Ed Harris, the Way Back 2010). Here talking with Wilford they rebels get an idea of just how perverted life has become on the train.
We are told as the film progresses that the key to survival is balance. There is plenty of food (for the privileged) the key is balancing the demands with supply at the right times and seasons. This even stretches to the punishment of the third class passengers, it is calculated that 74% must die. We have become used to video games producing tie-in movies, however this is a movie which almost feels like a video game despite not having one at its origin. Each Carriage is essentially a new level with new associated challenges for the rebels to overcome.
This movie could have been too busy, with so much cramped in to so tight a space, both physically and emotionally, but the characterisation works, Evans’ Curtis is very underplayed, what we know of him comes from revealing moments as the movie progresses, to ultimately a character we have confidence in as a leader. Swinton’s Monroe is a nasty piece of work showing nothing but disdain for the passengers through her passive aggressive control. We see just how lose control is later on as she is used to lead the rebels through the train. Those upper class people they pass are largely disgusted by what they see, interrupting their on-going lives. The food shortages present further back are not seen here.
The only obvious weakness that presents itself, is a slight continuity issue; where having established that the guards are out of ammunition we later see a full use of ammunition as the rebellion gathers pace, perhaps it is rationed to certain areas. The other slight weakness is the issue of blockages on the line, is it only now that these are causing problems, are they normal with the rebellion deflecting away from essential management of them?
When we eventually meet Wilford, having already gotten a background on him we see a person who is immediately comparable to “Christof” the show’s producer and “God-like” character. We see the same calm omnipotence here. There Characters are perhaps a little too similar, given the respective plots. Very smartly we are shown not just his power but also how fragile it all is, perhaps his character is more comparable to The Wizard from The Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan). His power is based on what people think of him. Minister Monroe’s character shows us how the train’s front has almost taken on a mystical, even religious aspect, with Wilford being almost worshiped.
That said, this is an excellent movie with an excellent cast, Evans, gives one of his best roles, Swinton is almost unrecognisable, Bell and Hurt support magnificently. It should be pointed out that even additional supporting cast duties are taken up by well-known character-actors more than capable of supplying what is needed.
In the last scenes we see a polar bear; does this signify freedom, danger or the sub-text that the bear looks fed and, if it is fed, there is life of some sort, where there is life; there is hope. As viewers, Bong, quite deliberately allowed us to get to know those people surviving at the back of the train and what they have to endure, are we allowed to hope for their future.
This is very much a hybrid movie, merging the characterization of western film with the manic nature of some of Korea’s most successful outputs in recent years (The Good, The Bad and The Weird, Kin Jee-woon, 2008). There is violence, but it is a tool of the plot, especially in how the lower class passengers are treated and in one or two scenes it is quite graphic, but just on the right side of what is needed.
An excellent movie which could have been mind-numbingly bad in other hands.
This has been the surprise movie of 2016 for me so far. Set in Northern Turkey it is Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut feature, and one which will get him noticed. The film is set in modern day Turkey in a rural community, seemingly modern, but privately conservative. One early summer’s day the 5 sisters around who the story revolves are at the beach on the way home playing with some of the local boys. By the standards of the “western viewer” their actions were nothing of any much worth to notice, but in conservative small town Islamic Turkey, this was too much, young men/boys and girls playing about in such a manner was not acceptable. Their sins were to be kids. Hearing of their actions from the complaint of an old neighbour, the girls’ grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas) acts to curtail the situation.
Effective immediately, in order to prevent further shame to the household, the girls are forced in to “traditional” shapeless dresses, and no more unsuitable western clothing, which might corrupt their young neighbours. As if this was not enough the girls are effectively placed under house-arrest, not allowed out to mix with friends or swim.
As this incarceration rises tensions, the girls’ uncle (Aybert Pekcan), their guardian does nothing to settle the situation, turning the family home effectively into a prison, with new locks on the doors, bars on the windows, and gates to block access. Against all of these changes, the girls continue to fight back in an attempt to control their own lives, not always successfully. In all this very definite characters arise among the girls as they, ultimately futilely, fight back against what is being imposed on them.
The ultimate humiliation being visited upon the girls, is their marrying-off, almost immediately upon events starting, their uncle decides it is time to find them suitable local husbands. What follows is a very sharp look at the clash between the modern world and traditional conservative practices of an older generation. Much of the film deals with how the girls are forced to come to terms with this and accept their new husbands, or not.
An interesting sub-plot, is the attempt by the girls to escape their destiny, and live the western life they dream about. Will they all be able to escape?
At first glance this would seem as a light-hearted drama comedy, however, as the movie progresses the darker clash of cultures begins to drive the film. As with any well-crafted movie there are moments of light-hearted hilarity to counter-point the deeply unsettling aspects of the movie.
Well worth the time taken to watch it, one of the best movies that I’ve seen so far in 2016. 4/5
Directed by Aaron and Austin Keeling (more known for their short movies) An interesting idea which ultimately lets itself down by giving us too much and tool little at the same time, creating a movie which is a mixed bag of everything. A young couple recovering from issues which reveal themselves as the movie goes on, move in to a house in a sleepy Kansas sub-urban town. Here immediately the film falls for its biggest weakness, cliché; as the couple is introduced to us arriving at the home, the host/estate agent is the type of mono-syllabic character Which makes Lurch (Adams Family 1964) seem carefree and reckless, as it turns out he was a red-herring, appearing nowhere else for the film.
We find out that Jennifer (Emily Goss) is 7 months pregnant and has agreed to move back to her home town with her partner while he takes a temporary job locally. Straight away the scene is being set as we see the house deliberately set to look suitably old and scary. Which is fine except, one room is perfect and nicely restored, while the hallway etc. has bubbling peeling paint. Nothing much happens at first, then little things start to happen, but only as long as we the watcher sees them. As the house continues to make its presence felt, the stresses build up for Jennifer. Stresses which are not helped by her over-bearing mother. It turns out her mother arranged the house and job, despite the two of them barely being on speaking terms. As Jennifer is drawn deeper in to the horror of the house, the others (including some local friends of her mother) are more and more inclined to believe it is Jennifer, and not the house which is the issue. It also does not help, that as her hate of the house and her surroundings grows, her husband (Taylor Bottles), is settling in to town and has accepted a full-time position.
This could have been an excellent movie, but there was nothing new in the offering, if the writers had decided not to actually show the entity, it might have been a better movie, as it would have kept the mental terror whole. The tension between Jennifer and her mother (Cathy Barnett) is perhaps a little too much given the already occupied story-line. Somewhat cluttered in its presentation, leaving the viewer to try and catch-up a number of times, it could have tried to do its own thing.
The film builds to its ultimate end, not a million miles from expected and so not reaching too high an achievement. The Taking of Deboragh Logan (Adam Robitel, 2014) was a much better piece of work. Over all a familiar take of a familiar story, which could have been much more interesting.
Overall a “Middle of the road” 2.5/5 (I could not stretch to 3)
Some directors take a life-time to get established, however Paulo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty 2013), has done this in less than half a dozen films. Those not used to Sorrentino’s works might take a little while to get into this movie, but when you do, it will reward you. The movie is set around an elderly Maestro, played by Michael Caine (Get Carter, 1971) who while trying to enjoy a holiday in an upmarket Spa-hotel in the Alps with his daughter and best friend (Mick Boyle, played by Harvey Keitel (Thelma & Louise, 1991)), who is trying to write his final masterpiece screenplay). Despite the tranquil setting (with camera-work to match) there is an underlying tension, the Maestro’s daughter is unhappy with the treatment of her mother by her father, who he last visited 20 years ago (was it her grave he visited?).
Much of the film is made up of the Maestro and Boyle working through their issues, usually together, while not allowing the tranquillity of the surroundings to be interrupted. Their time at the hotel is enlivened (relatively speaking) by a young actor, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine, 2006) also staying in the hotel as he prepares for his next role, keeping mostly to himself, and not imposing himself on any of the guests.
Behind all this, pressure is being put on the Maestro to perform his most famous piece of music as part of a celebration of the Queen’s birthday, the request is personal from the Royal family and not just some producer trying to fill an event programme. Boyle meanwhile is working with his writing staff on what could be his last great screenplay. Added to this is the fact that the Maestro’s daughter is married to Boyle’s son, however they are splitting up due to his infidelities, both fathers show their displeasure with the young man.
As the movie progresses with the heroes working through the issues, the viewer is drawn in by the musicality of the presentation, the visual aspects are stunning and the acting perfectly levelled for the work in question. I could go into detail on the plot and ruin the movie, suffice it to say, this is a movie to sit-back watch and enjoy. Sorrentino’s own The Great Beauty (2013) or Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) would be similar to this one.
Don’t be fooled by the slow/serene start, this movie grips you from the start and walks you along the Alpine storyline right to the end. Each of the leading cast gives the type of performance we’ve come to expect from each of them. Well worth experiencing.
If I was writing a school report from this movie, I would probably write “Could do better…”. It is not a bad movie, but given who is involved, I was expecting more. Directed by Michael Mann (Public Enemies, 2009), I came away with the feeling the effort that should have been put in to the movie was not used. Despite the name this is simply a police procedural, thriller type movie with relatively little in the way of “techno-plot” indeed given some of the errors and continuity breaks I think those involved perhaps did not have the technical know-how to close out the movie from a plot perspective.
The movie opens with an excellent graphics sequence (possibly a highlight) showing code being sent to a computer which turns off a fan at a Chinese nuclear power station and causes a breach (they said meltdown at one stage, but if it was, there would not have been people running around the site in civilian clothes just days afterwards). Shortly after the commodities markets in New York are hacked and feedstuffs a spiked netting a $75m profit for our bad guy. While working on the nuclear a Captain, Chen Dawai, (Leehom Wang, My Lucky Star, 2013) in the PLA (a rising Princeling judging by his description) he recognises some old code he is responsible for, he along with his old room mate in college, Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth, Thor 2011), who just so happens to be doing a prison sentence for hacking some banks and costing them about $50m, depending on which part of the movie we refer to, he is either doing 13 or 15 years in prison for this.
Long story short, Hathaway is released on furlough after Captain Chen links with the FBI and his Network engineer sister ( Wei Tang, The Golden Era, 2014). Despite initial reservations the FBI lead investigator, Carol Barrett ( Viola Davis, The Help, 2011) sees their worth and backs them as they end up following clues around the Far-East.
Eventually Hathaway puts the clues together, not so much from his cyber skills as from his ability just to stand back and look at the complete picture.
If you ant to look at this movie with any sense of seriousness, you will be disappointed, if however if you like a movie with people running all over the place, shooting everybody and anybody while seemingly never getting in trouble, then you will love this.
There are a number of huger plot holes – if you are trying how to disable a pump PLC system , you don’t need to find one of the pumps at a nuclear power plant, which will raise headlines. Speaking of PLCs (Programmable Logic (not Launch) Controllers are a fairly basic piece of kit that even I was programming when in college a generation ago, so no big challenge there. There are also a number of continuity errors, in Tshirts changing colour, stains on suits suddenly disappearing etc.
Hathaway who is supposedly a SW genius does some funny stuff like use a browser/domain name to indicate an IP address (dodgy) and I’m not going to ask when he got in to an illegal server farm, how he managed to find the drive he needed and hack it.
As a chase-‘em, shoot ‘em up movie it works, but anybody with more than an ounce of engineering or coding skills is going to be entertained much. The closing scenes in Jakarta also strain the imagination, it is noteworthy how many people ignored gun & knife toting westerners as they possessed along the road with their torches. I also have a problem with the “little things”. After arriving in Malaysia (illegally) they seemed to have no shortage of ready cash and indeed in the closing scenes Hathaway actually takes €5000 out of his, supposedly secret Swiss bank account; two things in the few hours he was in Malaysia, how did he mange to get his bank card (there nothing to suggest he had this or other private belongings prior to the last arrival), oh and why use Euro when going to Switzerland, rather than Swiss Francs.
I started off giving this a *** rating but the more I think about it, and how unconvincing the movie was from both a characterisation and technology perspectives I have to revise down to **. This might be a little harsh, but like I said at the beginning “could do better”. A final comment is the effect of mixing the digital and 35mm camera work, hmm – small doses please, it was certainly over used and grated a few times.
Director Dean Israelite’s first feature length movie works well for him. Opening with High-school kid, David Raskin (Jonny Weston, Insurgent 2015) making a video presentation to MIT for acceptance on one of their college programmes with the help of his two friends Quinn (Sam Lerner, Nobody Walks, 2014) and Adam (Allen Evangelista, Belas, 2013). The film is largely shot in POV (Point of view) format, that is always through a camcorder or such like always used by one of the kids. David’s sister Christina (Virginia Gardner, The Goldbergs. 2013) is the primary recorder. The POV format largely works, even if there are one or two sequences where it is not as successful.
Routing through some old belongings in the attic he comes across a video-camera once owned by his father who was killed in a car accident about 10 years ago. While looking at footage, David notices something, just a frame or two, but he notices it. Reviewing the home-movie in question it is clear David in in the movie as his 17year old self, with his 10yo self also there. Noticing that the David in the film was heading for the basement, they decide to check down there.
Now here is a significant weakness in the film, centred around a young technically gifted student, whose father was an engineer, he (David) only now goes down to the basement and “discovers” his father’s workshop and very quickly its secrets.
Pretty quickly they find the time machine, or at least the workings of it and all of the necessary blue-prints, and as any kids do, they decide to finish building it. With much chaos and experimenting they manage to move something back through time. Of course all of this has the added benefit of entangling one of David’s school mates; Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black D’elia, Born of War 2013), David has a crush on her and as with most young lads of his age, he is totally unable to act on it. A good section of the movie deals with the youngsters building and improving the time machine, often with mixed results.
First the five youngsters experiment with sending inanimate objects back and forth through time, but David is eager to move things on and after much tinkering and adaption, they have a time travel device which they can bring with them, which can transport them to when they want to go (within a limited window of a couple of weeks, but growing as they tinker)
As the movie progresses it starts to take on a slightly darker more sinister hue. After firstly starting off with small things, they decide to “surgically” (my words) interfere with the past, but very quickly learn that one event might have a knock-on effect on another even though the two may not seem linked. After making changes to the time line. On their first trip back they see how the lawas of nature actually kick-in to prevent them from meeting themselves in the past, if they do, bith are removed from nature, no longer existing.
These trips back in time start of light enough, with Quinn using the trips back to ace a pop-quiz in chemistry and then get more intense as they try to undo changes to the timelines brought about by their travel. These changes which seem like nothing much have implications which spread far and wide, the ripple effect being nicely expounded here.
This film is a lot more watchable than I thought it would be and indeed deals with some of the more fundamental aspects of time travel, concentrating on the effects (as thought) rather than on the pure science of the physics. Indeed this is where the film lets itself down slightly, but only slightly.
Without going into the physics of time travel the movie looks to the impacts and how the people involved try to deal with and correct what they have done. One could argue that there is not a whole lot original in the first half of the movie, when even the movie itself draws parallels with some of those time-travelling presentations which came before (even down to video shots of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989).
The second half is where the movie really kicks in and ups the tempo. This is an interesting look at the whole area of time travel and its consequences and might be compared to About Time (Richard Curtis, 2013). Much of the tension surround the undoing of the consequences of even the supposedly smallest actions when they went back in time. One of the issues with Time travel movies is the potential for the heroes to go anywhere, any when in time. Almanac carefully circumvents these issues by building in practical limitations to their device and so keeping the movie on a relatively (sorry for the pun) tight perspective and prevents it from tackling too many physics questions.
Over all it works, with perhaps just a little bit too much time spent on the concert in the baseball stadium, but then again there are implications for the event. It also manages to convey some of the science of time-travel without breaking into applied physics. The movie does have some convenient plot holes but nothing that takes away from the picture overall.
This award winning movie is based on the last day in the life of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan, That Awkward Moment, 2014) , a young black man from the Oakland/San Francisco Bay area who despite all that is wrong in his life wants to do things better. Directed by Ryan Coogler, this was his first feature length motion picture.
Oscar is a small time criminal who has served time in the near distant past ( the film does not go in to details of why he served time, but that is a matter of public record). Although out of prison a while not, he is still struggling to do this right. Indeed our first scene with him is of he and his girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz, A guide to Recognising Your Saints, 2006) discussing his having cheated on her with another women. We quickly get an insight into his life; His girlfriend is the mother of his child, but they do not all live together, instead staying with respective families.
Trying to convince Sophina, he is on the right track, he resolves to do things right. With this begins a journey that takes him through his day. I’m not going to recount the day, play-by-play. What we see is a young man trying to make things right and start over. This is at one and the same time the most importantant aspect of the movie and also perhaps in the weakest. Some watching this have thought that the first half of the film tended to paint Oscar in to some kind of Saint who has had his Damascus moment. This is not necessarily the case. At least two of the events in his day have no basis in fact and were added by the director to further build the character of Oscar.
Apart from his girlfriend, Sophina, Oscar also has two other powerful females in his life, his daughter Tatiana (Adriana Neal, Repentance, 2013) whom he adores and his mother, Wanda (Octavia Spencer, Snowpiercer, 2013) who plays the archetypal mother, strong and though when she needs to be and loving at the same time.
In many ways this movie could be a case of “What ifs” but it is not, it is a case of “this was”. The movie takes us through the day in what is essentially a well stitched together set of scenes which culminate with Oscar, Sophina and friends taking the BART to and from San Francisco to see the new Year’s Eve fireworks. Having previously decided to drive in , Wanda persuades Oscar to take the BART, on the thinking that it should be safer.
Events unfold on the train, having previously been the scene of good-natured cheers, things turn south very quickly and indeed end almost as quickly. Having stopped the train, BART transport police come on scene, led by Officer Carruso (Kevin Durand, Real steel, 2011). Coming in hard and heavy the situation is tense, Oscar and his friends, defend themselves and react to the police behaviour, vigorously but politely and non-aggressively.
Events unfold as they did and are presented in a tense atmosphere. The movie, while perhaps trying to find its feet early on, builds up to a crescendo with the scenes at Fruitvale Station, which come to the audience quickly and hard once they come. There is no escaping the emotion of the events of that night and indeed the events of subsequent years elsewhere have pushed this movie in to a very exact focus.
This film has an agenda, to show the needless death of a young man. Whatever your views on these events, this movie shows a young man, trying to make something of his life, despite the challenges he faces, only to be cut down as he looked to start a new life for himself.
A firm 7/10 with some issues regarding the direction, but overall it brings us the viewer along and allows us to be caught in the emotion of the events of that day.
Directed and co-written by Neill BlomKamp (District 9, 2009) Chappie is set in The Republic of South Africa in the near future, more specifically in Johannesburg. Faced with ever growing rates of lawlessness and violence the South African police purchase a series of android robots from a local company headed by Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver, aliens 1986), these robots are fully mobile AI’s with human interfaces to help control them. Initial trials and usage are going well. Crime rates in the city fall and criminals are genuinely fearful of them.
The opening sequences tell you straight away that you are in a BlomKamp movie with the by-now familiar camera styles. With his opening shots we see how law and order is being restored. In the middle of this we meet drone 22 (who will become known as Chappie), who is severely damaged in deployment and sent to the scrap heap. As this is going on Deon Wilson (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire, 2008) the engineer behind the androids has been working on a full AI program for the androids and has finally cracked it. He is prevented from trying his latest work on any of the robots. As this happens he is facing competition from inside the company in the guise of Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) who has developed a remote controlled ground drone which is basically a walking tank, full to the gunnels with high grade armoury, however his program is cancelled because of the success of the drones.
If life was not hard enough, some of the local criminals, suffering from the effects of the drones decide to Kidnap Deon to force him to shut down the drones. As luck would have it they kidnap Deon when he has a van load of spare parts in the back of his van, while he is getting out of the Lab so he can build his own full AI unit with his new software installed. Once captured, it becomes clear he cannot help them, but it is discovered that he has the making of an android in his van. He agrees to help them build it so he can fit his own AI software in to the brain.
They agree reluctantly, the leader of the gang, Ninja (also called Ninja today) wants the android for a big hoist. His friend Yolandi ( Yo Landi Visser, Focus 2015) develops a soft spot for Chappie as he grows. After some struggles Chappie (played by Sharlto Copley, District 9, 2009) has his AI brain and begins to learn how to behave in the human world. Ninja feels no emotion for him and treats him like a weapon basically, trying to train him to be an effective killing machine, Yolandi on the other hand develops a maternal bond with the ‘droid.
All this happens against the gang trying to plan their biggest Hoist, Deon not trying to get caught, and Vincent Moore discovering what is really happening and then planning to kidnap/destroy Chappie. As the movie develops is grows into three strands; the relationship with Chappie as he develops essentially following the characteristics of a truculent teenager; the training of Chappie by the gang despite attempts by Yolandi and Deon to “humanise” him and keep him away from violence. The third strand is the rivalry within the company and the attempts by Moore to discredit the androids and have his system used.
This of course culminates is a disaster for the city of epic proportions which ends up with Moore and his robot battling Chappie and his gang. While this is going on Deon’s work on AI have sparked Chappie’s interest and he himself manages to progress it. Ultimately they develop the ability to transfer a human conscience in to an artificial brain, this might be able to help them in their fight to survive.
I am trying hard not to ruin the plot line. I watched this shortly after watching Ex Machina (see below) it is interesting to see the take on artificial intelligence and how we as a society are prepared to live with it. Whereas Ex Machina had science and suspense, Chappie has action and a reflection, despite all that is going on we begin to see Chappie in an almost “human” light.
On the negative side, there are one or two small issues with the film, despite being in South Africa, the majority of the cast is white, Dev Patel (English of Indian extraction), something which considering the film is shot in South Africa was noticeable. One other aspect is what I would consider a hole in the story “Security” aspect. The facility where the robots are made seems to be totally incapable of any type of security (which facilitates the storyline) but this causes a certain weakness in the film. I should also point out the film does nothing to advance Johannesburg’s reputation internationally, rather cementing it as the violent city it is often known for.
That said, the movie manages to capture the discussion on what constitutes “humanity” and the nature of being, having a soul and the next life. Are we humane just because we are human, is the soul the preserve of humans?
6/10 An entertaining movie with some excellent special effects, but still somehow managed to give the feel of a small budget production. Overall quite watchable with some rough edges round the corners, perhaps deliberately.
At first blush this seems a highly original piece, however as you settle down to it one begins to see very firm shades of Frankenstein. From a cinema perspective, despite the technological bias I was brought back to the 1972 classic by Joseph Mankiewicz, Sleuth where Michael Caine and Laurance Olivier are in a house together and at least one of them has murder on his mind. Although the intention here is not to kill the tension is still there.
The film starts with a young programmer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson ,About Time, 2013) who works for the world’s largest search engine “Bluebook” winning a week’s stay with the founder of the company, Nathan (Oscar Isaac, a Most Violent Year, 2014). Caleb is flown up to near Nathan’s home (in deepest Alaska) but has to go the remaining way on foot, due to the helicopter pilot not being allowed to get any closer. After some very awkward first moments and the first greeting , the two eventually settle down to an all-be-it uneasy working relationship. It turns out Caleb was there for a reason.
Caleb is there to help Nathan with his latest creation. At the age of 13 Nathan developed the algorithms for a search Engine called “Blue Book”. Now a silicon valley billionaire he tells Caleb the secret of his success was that while others saw the search engines as a way of knowing what people were thinking about, he saw it as a way of knowing how people were thinking. It turns out Nathan has developed an AI and wants Caleb to conduct a Turing test on the AI to see if she can pass as human.
This of course cannot be a pure Turing test, and as such is the foundation for some very intense and possible disturbing discussions between Caleb and Nathan. When Caleb meets the android Ava (Alicia Vikander, Seventh Son 2014) he quickly realises there may be more to the week.
As Caleb learns more from Ava and gets to know her, he sees that both Ava and Nathan seem to have very different views on each other. As each day passes Caleb sinks deeper in to a rabbit hole which would have impressed Alice on her way to Wonderland. As with the original Frankenstein, Adam or in this case Ava needs to escape. Plans are hatched and the situation quickly descends in to one of survival.
Throughout you get a sense of being trapped in the bunker of house which Nathan has, indeed this is reflected in how even Caleb has access to the house. The person we see with Caleb is the real person, everybody else may not be what or who they seem. Isaac’s Nathan is a perfect example of characterisation; we were never meant to like him and as the movie progresses we are given no reason to actually start liking him.
It is a great tense thriller, the plot is generally tight, although some developments are fairly well sign-posted, if you manage to catch the clues. There are a couple of turns and twists; not all of which predicted.
The tension and edginess of this production make it work, it is dark and the more we learn of Nathan the more we begin to wonder if he shut himself off from the world or did the world discard him. Who will escape the confines of the house, how will the android survive the week by passing the test. Is the android the only person being tested?
The special effects are flawless and seamless, important given the nature of Eva’s android frame. If you are looking for stomach turning violence you will not find it here, but if what you seek is an intelligent piece of cinema, watch this one.
This movie is as much a modernisation of Frankenstein as a reflection on the modern world around us. Written and directed by Alex Garland, this is his directorial debut.
When George Miller first gave us Mad Max in 1976, I was too young to appreciate it, however as a kid growing up I was one of the many who managed to see them and love them, that said by the time it came to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome I felt (even at my then relatively tender age) as if the magic had worn off, while discussing the films recently, I recalled that it was actually a number of years before I watched the entirety of Thunder Dome.
Speed forward a generation and Miller has given us a new “episode” is the life of Max Rockatansky. I say episode as that is exactly how Miller described it when asked, it is not a prequel, sequel or other, but a new episode in the continuing adventures of Max
This time round Max is played by Tom Hardy (Peaky Blinders, 2014) who must be one of the busiest actors out there at the moment., He pretty soon runs into Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, Mad Max, 1979 as “Toe Cutter”) and his band. Immortan controls the only source of fresh water in the district and together with two other local settlements; Gas Town, ruled by The People Eater (John Howard, All Saints 2001) and The Bullet Farm, run by the Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter, the Great Gatsby, 2013) they control the district. Immortan has developed an almost cult based society with those who serve him directly and act as his foot soldiers being given the necessary food to survive, other clanging around outside are left to be thankful for any scraps. As with the previous offerings society is mechanical and post-apocalyptic.
While a prisoner of Immortan, Max is to be used as a “Blood bag” for the one of the War pups – these are the (usually dying from radiation poisoning) young people under Immortan’s rule. Immortan has developed a psuado-religion with his War pups/dogs willing to die for him and go to Valhalla. In Max’s case the War Pup in question in Nux (Nicholas Hult, warm bodies 2013). Life is complicated when Imperator Furiosa , (Charlize Thron, Prometheus, 2012) one of Immortan’s more senior people, escapes with one of his war wagons ( a large fortified petrol trailer -which seems to be broken in to containers carrying water and human milk- and tractor) and, most importantly his 5 wives, all of whom are fit and healthy and capable of producing children, with at least one of them currently pregnant. Alarms are raised, and the war pups/dogs are sent out to capture them, indeed the neighbouring settlements are brought in and together the three leaders and their mechanical armies hunt down Imperatur Furiosa, here war wagon and as they discover the hidden wives. Max is attached to one of the war pups as a blood transfusion supply, however undaunted, the war pup, Nux (Nicholas Holt, Warm Bodies, 2013) volunteers to join the chase.
And now the fun really starts. As the chase begins Immortan Joe brings his warriors together, in a fantastic display of post-apocalyptic engineering right down to the booming sound truck with its own rock guitarist hanging from cables as he riffs to the assembled wildness. What follows is a genuinely edge of seat sequence of set-piece stunts which come off brilliantly.
Eventually Max manages to not only free himself from Nux but also get to the war wagon, its water and fuel and along the way discover the real cargo. Furiosa is taking them to The Green Place an almost mythical land she remembers from growing up. To add to his troubles, Nux is not too pleased to have lost his blood supply and to have done so in such a public manner, seeking to gain Immortan Joe’s approval he volunteers to get on to the war wagon and rescue the situation, Immoratan Joe promises him Valhalla and the brainwashed pup goes to his death. However he does not die and actually contributes greatly to events, though not as Immortan would have liked.
The chase continues and of course many are killed along the way in fantastic displays of destruction and mayhem. Eventually they come to Furiosa’s homeland where they meet a group surviving women, one of whom, the Keeper of the Seeds (Mellissa Jaffa, Komodo, 1999) manages to nicely convey how much life has changed. I don’t know if it was intended but the spirit of the women of the Green Lands was reminiscent of the characters and their strength shown in the 1956 classic A Town Like Alice (Jack Lee).
Things of course don’t exactly go to plan, but as with any good story, things have a way of working out to everybody’s (mostly) pleasure.
This movie might be an “episode” but from the perspective of popularity, it is effectively a reboot bring the franchise to an entirely new generation. I’ve tried not to say too much, the movie is visually spectacular, with a great cast and some witty dialogue, enjoy it.
To those who say the role of max has been diluted and there is too much of a female lead, I would simply say; no, you’re wrong.