If I Stay, review

If I Stay was 2014’s big (ish) teen romance. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, in a role that is relatively tame compared to her usual character choices, R. J. Cutler’s film took Gayle Forman’s popular novel and adapted it for the mass market. A commercial hit, but somewhat of a critical flop, Cutler’s film is an intimate portrait of adolescent love. It’s wet and soppy. It’s a little unbelievable – but that’s down to the source material – but, if you’re a fan of similar fare such as The Notebook and The Lucky One (or anything Nicholas Sparks related, i. e. full of tragedy), this is for you.

The premise is an original one, taken from Forman’s novel, which is said to be written in a lyrical prose. Music is a main theme, pairing classical and indie to great effect. Moretz portrays Mia, a talented cellist. Jamie Blackley (in a breakout role) is Adam, love-interest and frontman for rising rock band Williamette Stone. These two characters are pretty much the sole focus of the film, which is interesting, yet problematic. If I Stay follows Mia as she experiences an out of body experience following a fatal car crash with her family. This alone is an unfathomable loss, but the main sense of grief is centered on her on-again off-again relationship with Adam. Fourteen year olds will love watching this romance play out – older audiences will question the relevance this holds following Mia‘s family tragedy.While viewing, this doesn’t really register, upon refl

moretz and blackley in if i stay

moretz and blackley in if i stay

ection the issues of the narrative come to the surface and cloud the overall effectiveness of the film.

Its not all bad, though. Blackley is electric in his first position as leading man. Sexy, confident and broody, he channels an indie energy that is often seen in male characters within Brit cinema – it’s nice to say goodbye to an all-American hero for once. The chemistry between the pair never reaches the depths of McAdams and Gosling, or DiCaprio and Danes, but Moretz and Blackley play their respective roles dutifully and together create a romance worth rooting for. Mireille Enos supports as Kat and stands out as a captivating talent in the little screen time she has – watch out for future performances from this kooky young actress.

While the script and run-time lets Cutler’s picture down, the cinematography and soundtrack make up for it. Juxtaposing rock legends with classical names, Heitor Pereira has chosen a carefully selected score which music fanatics will certainly appreciate. The musical component plays a strong part, and watching the story of both leads play out in respect to this is one of the most captivating elements. A backyard party which sees the cello meet the acoustic guitar lends to a stand-out scene, as messages of family ties and young love radiates from the screen.

Generally, If I Stay is an enjoyable, yet intense, watch that will serve as a guilty pleasure for many. The whole idea of wanting to live on because of true love is fairy-tale esque, and does hold a sense of beauty, but this alone gets tangled up amongst different strands of loss. Having said that, there’s a mass audience for this kind of genre, and those that seek it out for this reason, will treasure Cutler’s adaptation.

Point Break – the trailer

When I initially heard that Point Break was being remade I did have a kind of glimmer of hope that it would be half-decent. By half-decent I mean, close enough to its original to stay quirky, but adapted successfully for a contemporary age – keeping in tact the messages and themes of community – and consumerism – that Katheryn Bigelow’s triumphant feature encompassed.

Now, I have only seen trailer number one, but it isn’t looking too promising from where I stand. Boasting a pompous budget and startling effects, the concept seems to of changed from small town surfing and local bank robbing to the likes of Interpol, globe-trotting and unrealistic stunts.

Development is obviously integral when it comes to adaptations, but the trailer suggests Warner Bros haven’t just caught on to the success of the original and tried to re-create that, but quite simply taken an already acceptable narrative and run away with it losing, in the process, the essence of the original.

It’s 100 percent too early to judge the entire feature – and trust me, I want to like it- but for now, I approach with a little caution. The mass market will love it. Fans of the original? Perhaps not so much.

Fifty Shades of Grey, review

Two thoughts occurred to me while watching Fifty Shades of Grey. One; do people really find this stuff sexy? Two; what a cringe fest – not the most articulate of definitions I know but the film doesn’t exactly inspire intelligence. It’s certainly not all bad but won’t be winning film of the year award any time soon – and what genre does Taylor-Wood’s film even fit into? Romantic drama? Maybe. Torture porn? Could be. The truth is, despite the junctures of genuine romance (which there are a few) the film is almost promoting abusive relationships. And I’m not sure that’s something I’m okay with (in fact I know its not). Supposedly a film for women, in many respects it actually objectifies them. Not cool E. L. James. Not cool.

In no way is Fifty Shades‘ deliberately coming across as a negative piece but it certainly promotes unhealthy and objectifying relationships throughout. For many it will just be a bit of a laugh; something to make jokes about. But the truth is, this is a poorly written and cliched film that is too skimpy on the details to truly be classed as romance and way too intrusive when it comes to degrading sex. I’m not exactly a feminist but come on, this is poor. The whole plot is pretty simple, too. Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) – an English Lit student – interviews billionaire businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), although its never fully explained how he has attained his wealth. After an intense first meeting the pair quickly fall in ‘love’ and thus what ensues is a lot of deliberating on Ana‘s part about whether to become Grey‘s submissive. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and Rita Ora turns up as Marcia Gay-Harden’s daughter.

jamie dornan and dakota johnson in a promotional steele for fifty shades'

jamie dornan and dakota johnson in a promotional steele for fifty shades’

The biggest problem is Dornan as an actor portraying Grey. Its the whole sadist man-whore with a personality that resembles a puddle that is challenging, for Dornan has proved his validity in Hollywood with previous projects but I think anyone would struggle with conveying a puddle (going off track a bit here). With little in the way of real charm or charisma Dornan gets lost at sea and its Johnson who takes charge throughout (ironic really). Taylor-Wood and screenwriter Kelly Marcel have been sure to add asides of wit as not to appear to be taking themselves too seriously with this project and it definitely comes as a light relief, for certain scenes do spark with legitimate humour. Putting aside the whole sex theme thing for a moment, as a film away from these scenes Fifty Shades‘ is sloppy and really rather dull. Together there is definite chemistry between the two leads but if you asked what else happens in this 125 minute feature apart from the sex you would be hard-pressed to find someone with an answer.

It’s mildly entertaining fare with a better soundtrack and an even better lead but this isnt Taylor-Wood at her best – you just need to watch Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy to see that. Despite it’s failings, Fifty Shades of Grey has quickly become a box-office smash hit so it must be doing something right. That something just isn’t class.

Three coming-of-age movies that will change your life

A dramatic title – but fittingly so. The coming-of-age film hold’s so much resonance. In one form or another, a coming-of-age movie can reaffirm your lust for life, and your want for adventure. They take you back to a time when the world felt as though it was at your fingertips, and it hits you right in the feels when necessary. For this, we will call this kind of film a genre – a genre that holds a whole lot of power, intelligence and an aura of total cool. Everybody loves a bit of cool, right? There are tonnes of coming-of-age dramas, comedies and so on but this post is dedicated to just three. Beyond Clueless, a documentary that will count down and celebrate this genre has had its release, and for a more varied look into this form of cinema hit it up. For now, join me in remembering three of the best that take you back to your youth and inspire you to seek out all you wish to achieve in your life. Lets go. Quick note: Rather than a count down of 1-3, the films featured are being appreciated in equal measure, for they all have their merits and stand out as some of the best we’ve seen.

Almost Famous

the cast of almost famous

the cast of almost famous

Directed by Cameron Crowe, a director celebrated for his authentic (however eccentric that may be) look at life, and his inspiring authorial work on an array of fantastic features. Released in 2001 and starring Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit and narrator of Beyond Clueless, Fairuza Balk, Crowe’s film explores life on the road as Fugit’s William embarks on a tour with Crudup’s band Stillwater. This is rock N’ roll storytelling at its very best, with a killer soundtrack to match. Crowe successfully manages to avoid band-movie cliches and instead delivers a piece of enigmatic cinema full of realistic youthful moments as played out by Fugit. William‘s naivety, genuine passion for music and want for adventure are all characteristics that help make him one of the most loveable protagonists on film and his adolescent wisdom is portrayed rather wonderfully. Lost at sea seems an appropriate metaphor, for 15 year old William is in over his head in a world dominated by sex, drugs, booze, rivalry and hella-cool surroundings including the legendary ‘Riot House’ on Sunset. You’ll want to be transported back to the 1970’s (whether or not you grew up in this decade) and Crowe’s film will change your view on life. Now a cult picture, Almost Famous is a near-perfect portrayal of life on the road – with all of the highs and lows that come along with it.

the-spectacular-now

shailene woodley and miles teller in the spectacular now

The Spectacular Now

Recently reviewed with a gleaming five stars (if I awarded stars, anyway) The Spectacular Now is possibly the most realistic portrayal of a teenage relationship ever seen on screen. Painfully under-appreciated in the mainstream world, but praised with high recognition from critics and the festival circuit, James Pondsolt’s film is a heart-wrenching depiction of the difficulty of growing up and accepting responsibility. Interestingly, Pondsolt concentrates on Miles Teller’s Sutter‘s lack of enthusiasm to move on to higher education, for he loves the here and now at highschool. Popular amongst students, and with a charismatic charm that is truly infectious, Sutter embodies the woes, worries and excitement that comes with being 17 and in love. Shaileene Woodley provides support in the way of smart and loving Aimee who will only see the best in those around her. The pair are an absolute treat to watch together and Pondsolt’s direction of their un-dramatized relationship is a genre defining package. Come the end the tears will flow, and come the days after, you will still be recalling what you watched and how it made you feel. The Spectacular Now is independent cinema at its best and truly powerful that brings a simple, yet effective, spin to the coming-of-age formula.

logan lermann, emma watson and ezra miller in the perks of being a wallflower

logan lermann, emma watson and ezra miller in the perks of being a wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chobsky’s film, which he adapted from his own novel, is a stab right in the heart. Don’t worry – in a good way. Exploring the domestic issues of being a teenager, Chobsky creates a whimsical tale of first loves, abuse, suicide, mental health, and homophobia in 1990’s suburban America. A heavy watch in many aspects, what we are left with is a film of great depth and emotion. Logan Lermanm, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller star as friends Charlie, Sam and Patrick who navigate the difficulty that comes with being ‘different’ in an environment which hardly allows it. Charlie‘s innocent narration of the events unfolding around him are perfectly scripted, and easily relatable, for he is at an age where he is open to new, and exciting (albeit slightly dangerous) thing’s that we all, at one point, felt compelled to try. Lermann’s performance is stellar and Charlie is epitomized in some way or another as all of us. A poignant look at adolescence, a time where we believe life is infinite, and we are unstoppable – really rather lovely.