Youth (2015)


Some directors take a life-time to get established, however Paulo Sorrentino (Thyouth-2015_e 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.

Score 4/5



Beasts of the Southern Wild

I had to stop and think about this one; not so much as to the quality of the film; it is excellent, but rather its nature. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a movie for its own sake. BSW (for obvious reasons) is the story of life in the Bathtub as told through the experiences of a six your old girl called Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis, Annie 2014). Drawing its inspiration from her play “Juicy and Delicious”, Lucy Alibar co-wrote the movie with director Benh Zeitlin. This is Benh’s first feature length movie, and it does not show.

On one level BSW allows us to experience life through Hushpuppy’s eyes but on another level it also show the complex relationship between her and her hard drinking, independent father. By extension we also get to witness the lives, interactions and even society of those who live in the Bathtub. The Bathtub is an area of forgotten and neglected swampy, bayou, or at least it was. The locals are under orders to remove themselves. There are no big houses or estates here, this is the land of the dispossessed, what homes are here are those cobbled together by their inhabitants.

The people are proudly independent of the city. Indeed the sense of independence and social isolation is reflected in the child’s own living arrangements. She lives with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry, 12 Years A Slave) however they live in two separate “buildings” she in the shack on stilts and he in the wreck of a bus. The whole community is somewhat similar, even down to her education. The community here are essentially Cajun hippies, but that does not do them justice.

The background and cinematography is excellent and indeed just as the characters endear us to them, so too does the camerawork to the place and time, we get to experience some of what it is like to live there and experience some of the hardships. Life is not perfect for them. Pressure is on to remove them from the area and this looms large in the background. There is drama in the relationship between Hushpuppy and Wink and the others living there.

When we see the storm strike there is a very tangible sense of dread and foreboding, this continues to dread and nervousness during the storm to be followed by a certain sense of relief. The people of the bathtub are still alive. Wink in his makeshift boat/raft visits round his neighbours as he does they slowly come round or meet him. There is no “woe am I” from the community, this is life. This is what these people signed-up for.

One cannot help but wonder if the real message of the film is that we can be happy with nothing except our friends and neighbours around us and the most basic of shelter and food. Indeed the feeding regime differs little between human and alligator, chicken carcass or fresh fish.

Not overly burdened by script but beautifully shaped and presented. This is certainly worth a couple of hours of your time, time you will not miss. The plot is simply life and how we deal with what we have in life.


An excellent all round piece of work.

Written and directed by Peter and Michael Spierig, the team behind Daybreakers (2010). Time travel has been conquered, at least to a limited extent based on a time zero in the early 1980’s. From this time limited travel over a period of 53 years is possible. However the time travel take its toll on those who travel, slowly degrading them physically and mentally. The number of jumps in time is regulated and overseen. The time travel itself is secret and limited to 12 agents in the Temporal Bureau, the travel is controlled and monitored, with strict rules about missions and and deviations from missions. The impact of travel is carefully monitored. Noah Taylor (Lawless, 2012) plays the part of Mr. Robinson, the shadowy figure who seems to interweave the lives of our protagonists, his role and influence becoming clearer as the story progresses.

The Story opens with an agent (Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight, 2013) trying to stop a bomber detonating his latest effort when the arrest goes wrong and the agent is blown-up and nearly killed, such are his injuries that his have needs to be reconstructed. The reconstruction allows him time to get ready for his last case, the travel back to hunt for the “Fizzle “ bomber, a serial bomber whose works have been escalating to the extent that in March 1975 he killed almost 10,000 people in New York.

Our agent recovers and returns to the time as a barman, he he meets a woman a single mother (Sarah Snook Sleeping Beauty, 2011), with a fascinating story, one she says cannot be beaten. The story details her unique life from the day she was dropped off in an orphanage and the various struggles she had fitting in (her younger self played by Freya Stafford) right up to her adult life and the challenges she has faced. We see how these challenges have quite literally shaped her. The agent listens and actually offers her a a chance to make do a wrong, a chance she finds unbelievable, she takes him up on the offer. He lets slip a little detail of her life, how did he know this, he explains it away, but we are warned.

Pretty soon, it becomes obvious that things are not as they seem. This is a thriller, one where suspense is not a dirty word. I am tempted to say there are a number of twists to this move with plot developments coming left, right and center, but that would be to do the film a dis-service. This plot is one of the most well thought-out I’ve come across in years, there are not twists in the plot so much as well directed curves which ultimately lead us to the climax.

I cannot say too much because to say anything risks giving away an excellent plot. This is a film where all of the aspects must come together for it to work. The script is tight, remarkably so, the cinematography is aligned perfectly to the plot developments, with the subtle stylization for the different time periods. Movies with twists are often just average movies where a writer or producer etc. decides something else is needed. Here there is nothing else needed. This is a carefully plotted story which brings you along .

If you are the type to run about in and out to the kitchen making coffee or pop corn during a movie, then this one is not for you. Once you turn on this film you need to sit down and watch it through. This is a story with no space fillers or padding. It is brilliantly executed. A lot cold be said to analyze this film and the subject of time travelling paradoxes, but that would ruin the experience of the movie. That said it would be no harm to understand the concepts of the paradoxes.


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 passible 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 t 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 worshipped.

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.

Upstream Color

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is more of a visual art-work than an entertainment movie. It was written and directed by Shane Carruth (Primer 2004) who also stars in the co-lead role of Jeff. Treating it as a movie I would classify it as a sci-fi romance, but only barely just. We are given glimpses of information that may or may not add to the plot. The first thing to say, is that you cannot watch this movie like an ordinary cinema offering hoping to do nothing more than entertain. Upstream is a story, visually as well as through words, It might take more than one watching to fully appreciate the movie. Throughout the movie there are a number of visual clues and prompts placed in to the scenes, if noticed/seen they add to the understanding plot and the movie.

This movie is about the unseen powers directing us, including the power of attraction. Does the power of attraction take over a couple and their perception of the world outside? Do their experiences together begin to merge into one shared history? Once of the key characters is a young lady called Kris (Amy Seimetz, The Sacrament, 2013). She is kidnapped and forced to consume mid-altering/controlling bugs (more maggots), these may be associated with a particular plant, though the scenes with the plant may be out of time sequence. She is held in her apartment where her kidnapped sets her to do a number of tedious meaningless tasks over and over, once he is happy she is truly under his control, he manipulates here into going to the bank and essentially giving him everything, done to her house. This and the various other acts, ruin her life, these are actions she has no memory of, but must live with the consequences.

As if life had not already thrown enough curb-balls at her, she now finds herself linked to a man called Jeff (Carruth), their paths cross a number of times and they begin a relationship, there is something wrong, deep down both know this but cannot identify what. There is a link, for some reason they can share the same childhood stories, she is able to correct a detail in a story of his childhood he is telling, after a number of events such as this, they bring the issue to a head. Kris confronts Jeff wanting to know why he is confusing his memories with hers, or is he?

To further complicate things, we come across a man who is playing strange sound clips (taken from everyday life) into the ground. He has what looks like an isolated pig farm, he also grows maggots, the same maggots Kris has inside her. Through the sounds Kris eventually ends up at the farm where he transfers the maggots from Kris to one of his pigs. Again here we begin to see attraction between two of the pigs. We also see a connection to a plant, does it have a toxin, what is the importance of the colour blue?

You will probably have to watch, emphasis on “Watch” this movie a couple of times to get all of the visual clues from it. I would like to tell you the plot, but I would have to know what it was first. This is a close to unique movie, it is not for the lazy viewer. Give it the attention it deserves and you will enjoy it. If you are the type to enjoy a mug of cocoa or some pop-corn with your movies, make sure you have them before you sit down, because this is not the movie you can simply watch in the background. To write any more would just be added guesswork, this movie is visually appealing, tightly scripted and is either:

0/10 – if you get worked up by the complexity, or

9/10 – if you don’t get all worked up by the complexity.