Brotherhood Review

Nine years after Adulthood and ten years after Kidulthood comes the final instalment of the franchise, Brotherhood. They bare similar names and follow similar themes but audiences are as interested in the inner-city narrative today as they were upon its original release. Why are we so enthralled by youths behaving badly? Is it Noel Clarke’s determination as actor/director to showcase society’s pitfalls and its effects on the young? Or do middle-class cinema-goers just enjoy watching a glamorised version of those who live just one or two boroughs away? Whatever the reason for this franchise’s continued success is, frankly, irrelevant for it captures the attention of an audience and it showcases the talents of bright British stars on the rise.

In Brotherhood Clarke’s Sam is married with two children, he works several jobs to provide for his family in a nicer neighborhood than we’ve seen him in before and he does what he can to stay clear of trouble. Is he an alien in this world? When his brother is shot in a nightclub and an old enemy returns from prison for revenge Sam must decide whether to acknowledge his violent past or run and suffer the consequences. Neither option being the preferred. It’s a story of change, and accepting that change. Most interesting in this instalment is the realisation that Sam, who murdered a teenager in the first film and somehow found redemption in film two, is not a nice man. He cares about his family and he wants to do right (after years of doing wrong) but he leads with violence and his morals are questionable. Brotherhood and Adulthood are character studies of a leading man who began life as an antagonist but somehow developed into a protagonist through careful writing and the positioning of harder, darker wannabe gangsters.

The narrative is nothing we haven’t seen before and it isn’t particularly lay

Brotherhood Unit Stills

ered but it gets the job done. Brotherhood allows its audience closure and this in itself is enough to please adoring fans of the social drama. In the ten years since Kidulthood came crashing onto our screens shocking parents and affecting adolescents, we’ve seen an array of London estate dramas that focus on angry young men and the women who follow. Kidulthood was gritty and disturbing because we knew it wasn’t far from reality, its soundtrack was a who’s who of UK’s top rap and grime artists and it was undeniably British to the core. Since this time the genre has evolved but its two sequels perhaps haven’t. We’ve become desensitised to the gritty violence, and the continual degradation of young women is as offensive as ever without any take-away commentary behind it. Brotherhood differs from its predecessors in that there are one or two strong female roles but these characters are present because of their entanglement with men and don’t have a whole lot of screen time to themselves.

Compared to the likes of Channel 4’s superb urban drama Top Boy, Clarke’s film doesn’t compare in style, direction or story but it does serve as a satisfying end to an iconic series of Brit films. A flawed but necessary entry – with a brilliantly unexpected turn from Stormzy – Brotherhood continues to demonstrate the strength of low-budget filmmaking with a cast of relatively unknown stars.

Brooklyn, review

As far as film-making goes the John Crowley-directed, Nick Hornby-written Brooklyn is damn near flawless. With a wonderful screenplay, charismatic cast and envious costume design, the feature is a joy on the eyes as it transports you to another time. That time is the 1950’s, when the American Dream was a hope for many and immigration figures were tripling. We follow shy Irish girl Eilis to Brooklyn and back as she discovers herself and the life she seemingly wants to live.

John Crowley has taken a sentimental novel, written by Colm Toibin, and adapted it into a gorgeous film full of beauty and raw emotion, cleverly capturing the feeling of being young and lost and young and in love. Saorise Ronan portrays Eilis, Oscar-nominated for her role and rightfully so. If you ever had any doubts about the actress who has more than proved her on-screen talents, Crowley’s film will eradicate these surely. Ronan is sensational in her leading role, sure not to over-complicated Eilis – or more importantly, perfect her. Human like us all, the character is relatable and likeable and the transformation we see over a short 112 minutes is masterfully crafted by actress and director Crowley.

cohen and ronan in brooklyn

cohen and ronan in brooklyn

Supporting Ronan is Emory Cohen – almost unrecognisable here from his divergent role in The Place Beyond the Pines – and industry favourite Domhnall Gleeson, with added strength in the shape of Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters. The star in this exceptional ensemble is Cohen. He’s endearing as Tony, an Italian-American with more than enough personality, and even more beguiling charm than you’d expect from an actor who is slowly (but ever so surely) rising to Hollywood prominence – and his performance in Brooklyn should sure enough cement him as a force to be reckoned with. The chemistry he shares with Roman is so natural and innocent – the kind of schoolboy love that we all secretly wish we could experience. Crowley does well to translate this from page to screen without an aspect of uncomfortable cheese that is too often present in contemporary romances.

The entire cast comes together to form a full feature that is never lacking in presence or meaning. Hornby writes with a warmth film-goers have come to recognise and appreciate and he transcends a time in history without making this a boring historical feature. Brooklyn escapes the pitfalls of most romantic dramas to make this a beautiful – and timeless – piece of cinema that tugs on the heartstrings in all of the right ways. More than this, the movie shouldn’t just appeal to woman, or fans of Toibin’s novel, for it is a rounded narrative that escapes the normal ties of genre film-making, speaking from a place within us all as it explores what it is to be human as Eilis steps outside of her comfort zone for the first time.

See Brooklyn and as you do, let go of any preconceptions of what this genre is and can be, for Crowley loses them all and recreates it so effortlessly here.

It Follows, review

It Follows is an indie dream. Atmospheric, low-key and teeming with nostalgia (if you’re an old-school horror fan), David Robert Mitchell delivers a movie that is startlingly inventive first time-around but no doubt serves as repeat watching due to its nature of serving up something new each time. It Follows is far from the formulaic teen-slasher or paranormal sub-genre that has dominated cinema screens in recent years and it’s kinda’ hard to put it in any barrier. Mitchell is genre-busting here, for one minute you’re watching an adolescent romance play out, the next a nightmarish horror – this is very clever film making.

In It Follows we meet Jay (Maika Monroe), a young woman who – after going on a date and sleeping with the guy – is left with strange repercussions to deal with. The aftermath is a follower, one who changes in appearance every time she sees it and one which has malevolent intentions. Long story short, the follower is kind of like an STI, but much, much worse than herpes. So, anyway, Jay (with the help of her kooky pals) sets out to beat this thing in whichever way she can. But, how to do such a thing when you don’t really know what it is? That, pretty simply, is the premise to It Follows.

maika monroe as jay in it follows

maika monroe as jay in it follows

Maika Monroe is an absolute dream in her role as Jay. She’s likable, you want her to succeed, and shes totally relatable if you’re anywhere between 16-25. Monroe is on her way to super-stardom (or at least should be) and among several impressive performances – she is possibly the only good thing about the disappointing The Guest It Follows is one to get a hold of. She is supported by Keir Gilchrist as Paul, Olivia Luccardi as Yara and Lili Sepe as Kelly – all of whom share a great chemistry as they support Jay on her journey against the entity she is haunted by. Mitchell brings out the best from his cast with an original script which is quietly thoughtful and a direction that is reminiscent of horror films of the past. At 100 minutes its a relatively slow-build but this lends to a relationship between Jay, Yara, Paul, Kelly and their audience. The entire feature is atmospheric and where a thunderstorm might seem cliched in any other ‘teen’ horror in It Follows it only pushes the greatness of the piece forward. The soundtrack is an electronic treat with melodies that pop up frequently meaning you’re totally unaware of when you should be concerned that something terrible might just happen.

It Follows is great in the way that it doesn’t show you a whole lot; there is no stream of barbaric violence or continuous scares but there are several carefully timed moments that do keep you on your toes. The antagonist of the film, the entity, is frightening in the way that you can see him or her but you don’t know where it’s from or what it wants, and there’s a lot of well-crafted enigma which propels the film into fantastic territory.

Unique and tense with a whiff of the 1980’s, It Follows is a gem to the horror genre.

 

2016: Five Films To Look Forward To

2016 is just around the corner and with it comes a fresh new batch of movies. Below are just a few of many that will grace our big and small screens in the New Year in a super speedy round-up of what to look out for. Watch out for an indie version coming soon!

And kind folks of the interwebs, this is based on UK release dates.

jordan and stallone in creed

jordan and stallone in creed

Creed – Director: Ryan Coogler, Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Tompson

2016 appears to be the year for filmic revivals, Creed being a spin-off of the much loved Rocky series. There are myriad reasons in which to get excited for this early-year release, including the direction of Ryan Coogler; the presence of his Fruitvale Station collaborator Michael B. Jordan; a return to the world of boxing, as seen through the tinted eye glass of Mr Sylvester Stallone, and a contemporary spin on a series that was becoming tired after six installments.

Suicide Squad – Director: David Ayer, Cast: EVERYBODY..Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne 

David Ayer meets DC? Surely that’s a quick winner in itself. It’s a long wait until August to see this supervillain film which boasts the best in Hollywood acting talent, but if the trailer is anything to go by, Ayer’s portrayal of an America brimming with ‘gifted’ bad-guys is going to change the game for comic-book adaptations. With a Watchmen aura to it and an ensemble cast to please any cinephile, Suicide Squad and its team of anti-hero’s could just be the one to sway naysayers of the genre. Watch this space.

X-Men: Apocalypse – Director: Bryan Singer, Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult

The new reboot of X-Men, in which Matthew Vaughn revitalised the old-hat series alongside a fresh-faced young cast of men and women was initially really pretty good. It all changed with the second installment which saw original director Bryan Singer come back on board. But, we can forgive the faux-pauses of Days of Future Past and gleefully welcome Apocalypse. Why, you ask? As briefly as it can be:

  • Tye Sheridan, Sophie Smith and Evan Peters are just three of many new actors joining the already beloved ensemble, with Apocalypse shaping up to be a satisfying entry into the series.
  • Apocalypse himself, played by Ex_Machina‘s shining star Oscar Isaac, looks like one of the most malevolent antagonists the franchise has had (and that’s really saying something).
  • The presence of Rose McGowan is always welcomed. Clearly.
russell and jackson in the hateful eight

russell and jackson in the hateful eight

The Hateful Eight – Director: Quentin Tarantino, Cast: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen

Quentin Tarantino’s latest foray into the Western might seem like an obvious choice, but the auteur always surprises his audience with one or two tricks. He also always manages to nab a bloody fantastic cast of veteran actors who you kind of forgot about but who’s acting abilities are drawn out through the magic of the Tarantino vision. Django Unchained was universally loved and it wasn’t anywhere close to the directors best efforts (yes, Jackie Brown could just be the best) so its likely that The Hateful Eight will be on a similar par. A return from Reservoir Dogs co-stars Tim Roth and Michael Madsen will no doubt bring about nostalgia for long-standing fans of the enigma of a director, and it’s always Tarantino himself who audiences are so beguiled by.

Chi-Raq – Director: Spike Lee, Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett

Spike Lee’s latest cinematic effort is already out, but I figured it would probably take most us until the New Year to make the effort in viewing it. In a joint partnership with Amazon Studios, Lee brings back his urgent thematic content surrounding race and America with Chi-Raq, a film that – if it’s anything like its trailer portrays it to be – is unsure of its genre. It’s all a little up in the air thus far, with critical consensus being positive but public response drawing controversies from Lee’s portrayal of a contemporary Chicago swarmed in gun crime. Either way, Lee is back on our radar and his material is generally a winner – make this one to see.

 

 

The Purge: Anarchy, review

It should be said straight off the cusp that neither The Purge nor The Purge: Anarchy are great films. The first foray into the world of America’s new Founding Fathers was floored from start to finish with forgettable characters and an indoor locale that didn’t spark the imagination. Anarchy succeeds in ways its predecessor doesn’t yet still fails to stand out as a horror film that’s of much cinematic worth, this is down to the basis of the narrative being completely floored. There are innumerable plot holes in the whole idea of the ‘Annual Purge’ in which the premise for the film leads on and that’s where the  fundamentals for nit picking begins with both features.

Anarchy sees the sixth yearly killing spree take place in a United States that is now under the control of sadistic Founding Fathers. What viewers discover in this installment – that wasn’t explored in film one – is the Purge as the governments way of wiping out the countries lower class citizens. Political commentary really is never far away in the feature, from gun culture in America to capitalist powers, there’s a mild serious exploration there that director James DeMonaco is intent on pursuing in order to make this more than just your average horror. Does he succeed? At times yes, but neither films true potential is ever fully realised.

masked antagonists in the purge: anarchy

masked antagonists in the purge: anarchy

The biggest change between the sister films comes with the changeable locations in the follow-up. Spectators watch as a group of five strangers move together to survive the night and it’s this that propels that narrative into better territory than the original. There are three sets of characters, too. The audience only fully get to grips with one (and barely) but they all share scenes throughout the film that do, at times, lend to a genuine intensity that’s so clearly missing from film one. Having said that, only two of the five main actors have a true on-screen presence and there are so many points in which forced dialogue becomes the overwhelming focus of the run time; this is down to both the delivery (Zach Gilford’s performance is truly wooden) and the poor writing (courtesy of DeMonaco).

Gilford will be known by many for his impressive performance in cult sport drama Friday Night Lights, a series that the actor can be remembered for positively. Can the same be said about his role as Shane in Anarchy? Definitely not.The only impressive names in the entire ensemble are Zoe Soul as Cali and Frank Grillo as Leo who share a father/daughter chemistry that is the only character development that makes its mark on the audience. Michael K. Williams pops up at various points in the narrative as the leader of a resistance group, his presence is welcomed. Williams has an undeniable fierceness that is fully realised in his role here. Director DeMonaco relies on visual scares but there’s only so many times the doll masks cause a reaction (and that’s lost somewhere in the earlier half of the film). Throw in a government official known as Big Daddy who drives around in a monster truck, killing innocents, and a finale in which the wealthy partake in a barbaric Hunger Games style evening, and you’ve got yourself a super violent picture of contemporary America, right?

The Purge: Anarchy made a whopping $119 million – which, considering its $9 million budget, is one hell of a profit – it was also met with a better response than the first by critics. It falls short by some miles of being a well-crafted, sensibly paced and intelligent feature, but it will please spectacle-loving horror fans.

Drive, 2011 – Understated Filmmaking At Its Very Best

It’s likely that if you’re reading this review you’ve already seen Drive; a film full of ingenuity and originality, one that stuck in the minds of cinema-goers for some time following its release. There are myriad ways in which Nicholas Winding Refn’s masterpiece leaves a lasting impression. From the eclectic, nostalgic score to the punch-you-in-the-face violence, Drive has an endearing quality despite the underlying brutality and the hard-to-crack impassioned characteristics of Ryan Gosling’s The Driver. Having said that, these are the refinements that allow Drive to transcend a particular mood – a feeling that evolves and changes from viewer to viewer, but one that evokes questions of morality, ethics and life choices. Aesthetically Drive looks as though it could of been released in the 1980’s with its simplistic set pieces and mise en scene; as an entire piece the various components come together to make Refn’s feature an entirely contemporary movie.

The main talking point following the release of Drive was Ryan Gosling’s nail-biting performance as this character who is seemingly impossible to read. The Driver is passionate but somewhat psychotic, with a malevolence that hangs uncomfortably in the air – when will he turn, and who will bare the brunt of it? Gosling adopted this antihero almost silently, yet so memorably. He went on to play another quietly haunting role in Refn’s art-house film Only God Forgives, this didn’t, however, inspire the same kind of reception from its audience. The Driver, the titular character of the film, is on the brink of losing any shred of humanity he still encompasses, there are two people who can save him from becoming completely engulfed in a life of violence and gangsters – Carey Mulligan’s Irene and her son Benecio (played by Kaden Leos). Said gangsters are led by Ron Perlman; an actor of diverse talent yet one who is so comfortable playing the antagonist. As Nino, Perlman channels a barbaric streak that slowly simmers throughout the film up until the moment in which the unspoken cruelty becomes visually grim (it’s these scenes that distinguish Refn as a filmmaker unafraid of challenging his audience).

ryan gosling as the driver in drive

ryan gosling as the driver in drive

Categorised as neo-noir, art house, crime and drama (the list could go on to include romance with Mulligan and Gosling sharing a sizzling on-screen chemistry that simmers in the background) Drive is genre busting at its very best. Adapted from the 2005 novel of the same name written by James Sallis, penned by Hossein Amini and with cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel, Refn and co’ collaborate to ensure the feature stays clear of  clumsy criminal underworld cliches and a formulaic narrative that can be called from start to finish. The Los Angeles setting is refreshing too. With a gritty, moggy look on the eyes and a juxtaposition of The Driver‘s life on and off set, the locale is as pivotal to the story in the way that Mulligan and Bryan Cranston are, just as Gosling’s dialogue delivery is.

Whether you’re going into the film from a new perspective or you’re a returning viewer already aware of just how important the movie is within the world of cinema, Drive is a fresh watch each and every time you set your eyes upon it. Cinematic genius that’s stripped back and unforgettable. It made Gosling the respectable star he is today and set the tone for the films that have followed, but yet viewers still return for more of Nicholas Winding Refn’s incomparable feature that sparkles like a fresh penny.

Memento To Receive The Remake Treatment

Remakes are popular in the world of cinema. It must be that whole idea of making a quick buck. If done right though, remakes can be a smart move. Soon audiences will see a high-def Point Break reworking and in the next couple of years it will be Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Fun fact: director Nolan and his brother supposedly chose the order of chronology for the feature by throwing a deck of cards with the scenes on down the stairs, the order in which they fell is how the narrative played out. Smart, ey?

guy pearce as leonard in memento

guy pearce as leonard in memento

The big question here is why Memento next? At only fifteen years old, Nolan’s acclaimed thriller is relatively recent. Chosen by critics as one of the best films of the decade following its 2000 release, Memento was honored with Academy Award nominations and garnered an impressive box-office profit; this alone demonstrates the remake as a financially smart move in the world of cinematic reworkings. Remembered for its nonlinear plot-line and exploration of various themes, Nolan cemented himself as a director to be taken seriously with the feature and has gone on to direct some of the best flicks of the last ten years – does anyone understand Inception yet?

Who will helm the project? AMBI  Pictures have claimed the rights to the story and have justified their reason for playing around with the original because Memento has been consistently ranked as one of the best films of its decade.” Can they capture that response with dipping a toe into the murky world of amnesia and murder or will the brilliance of the original be caught up in glitzy mainstream film-making? Time will tell! Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.

Gone Baby Gone, review

Ben Affleck’s directorial debut might be nearing the ten year mark, but does that diminish the power and effecting ability as a director the actor holds over his audience with his kidnapping thriller Gone Baby Gone? Although this might be a rhetorical question, in an attempt to swiftly get ones point across, the answer would be no. Stylish in ways, underplayed in others, and with a narrative and lead performance that genuinely stays with you following the end scene, Affleck’s mastery behind the camera is seen so prominently with Gone Baby Gone, and that mastery continued with Argo and The Town – both of which were met with acclaim.

Its not Ben we see as lead protagonist here though, it’s his brother Casey. Younger in years, yes, but lesser in talent? Not a chance. Casey is so believable in his role as PI Patrick Kenzie that the word method springs to mind and his identity as a real person is never questioned during the entire run-time. This won’t be an overly-long big-up of this fantastic film, for many of you will have already seen it – and therefore know its worth. What this will be, is a nod to a daring, intelligent and thought-provoking feature full of striking performances both in front of – and behind – the camera.

Gone Baby Gone is a straight adaptation from Mystic River and Shutter Island author Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name. Centering on two PI’s, Affleck’s Kenzie and Michelle Monaghan’s Angie Genaro, the narrative combines two stories of abduction that opens up a dark and murky underworld of police corruption and, more interestingly, the conscience that comes with right and wrong. Its not always an easy watch – in fact for the latter half, it really isn’t – but if you can overcome the difficulties of a narrative that deals with missing children, drug dealers and pedophiles, you will appreciate the starkness and originality – and importance – of Affleck’s feature.

In dealing with such an intense narrative, you need fierce performances. Affleck demands that from his cast, and they in return deliver. Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris and Amy Ryan support, the latter received an Oscar nod for her role as the drugged-up, alcohol-fueled mother of missing child Amanda and she certainly deserved it after creating a character who spectators both sympathise with and loath in equal measure. The ensemble are strong, and as a viewer you can never be sure who to trust – which is always refreshing amongst a flock of new releases each year that are quite predictable.

The shining star, though, is Casey Affleck. He teems with realistic emotion and heart, he is truly likeable, and he portrays an everyman – from a rough neighborhood, yet he’s worked hard to produce a successful career for himself. Kenzie is the man in the middle, connecting the residents of Dorchester, Boston, to the middle-class cops who lead the case. The underlying message seems to round out to a questionable upper-class society, and an almost forgotten lower-class who are made up of criminals and addicts, along with their neglected children.

Perhaps a little pretentious in length, but basically perfect in every other aspect, Gone Baby Gone is no doubt the Affleck brothers own gem – and a gem for critics and audiences alike.

Jurassic World, review

Jurassic World; the fourth installment in a series of films which started so well but couldn’t seem to perch atop the high pedestal in which film one – Jurassic Park – set. That’s not to say that this new feature after a fourteen year break is bad. In fact, it’s far from bad. But, does it hold the same level of intrigue that the original did? I suppose that’s up to the individual spectator to decide. My guess would be that enthusiastic fans of Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg’s thrilling film will be somewhat disappointed by Colin Trevorrow’s foray into the fictional Isla Nublar resort park.

Made on a not-modest-at-all budget of $150 million Jurassic World has currently obtained a phenomenal box-office success of $1.515 billion (and still counting). Weeks into its cinematic release the film is being shown twice a day, every day, in cinemas with audience members still wanting to experience – or re-experience – the awe-inspiring story of a world where Dinosaurs roam around a tropical island and kill off a bunch of people. Four films later, it still holds interest, that much is known.

The question of, is Jurassic World any better then the poorly received Jurassic Park 3?’ remains unanswered. And it will surely stay that way, for critics reviews have been generally kind, and the box-office smashing records speak for audience members but one thing is for certain; something is missing in the Speilberg-produced, Trevorrow-directed film. That something might simply be the fact that no sequel, no matter the budget or the cast, can ever overcome the genre-defining masterpiece that is the 1993 Jurassic Park. With its striking puppet-Dino’s and that kitchen scene, the original still stands today – some twenty-two years later – as a feature film that is as refreshing and good-looking as it was upon release.

bryce dallas howard in jurassic world

bryce dallas howard in jurassic world

Trevorrow brings us back to the original island, one which hasn’t been visited since film one. Now engulfed in futuristic theme-park rides and made-up Dinosaurs, the park is fully functioning and open to 20,000 guests. Arrival at the resort produces chills, for the films slogan read ‘the park is open’ and to see John Hammond‘s dream a reality is both scary and exciting for long-term fans of the franchise. We visit the new over-the-top park with its contemporary buildings and, get this – Dino petting zoo –  but we also get a glimpse of the original visitors centre that is now dilapidated and overgrown, which looks dystopian and bad-ass all at the same time. The odes to filmic times of the past are appreciated and the nostalgia of the piece is what makes it such a strong feature.

The cast is led by Bryce Dallas Howard as Clare Dearing, the parks operations manager, and Chris Pratt as Owen Grady. Making a return is B. D. Wong as Henry Wu, the doctor who so confidently told Jeff Goldblum in film one that the Dino’s couldn’t naturally evolve. Oh, he was So wrong. Here, he’s been up to all sorts of mischief, taking control of these once-extinct animals just a teensy bit more then he should. Howard and Pratt are both strong in their roles, the latter exceptionally so. New Girl‘s Jake Johnson provides the majority of the films humour, and the actor is a genuine talent – especially when it comes to comedy.

The only bug-bare would be the inordinate amount of plot holes. Grady trains the Velociraptor’s to a level in which they don’t try to eat him (whoda’ thunk it?), yet he came from the Navy…so, where has this skill come from? Then there is the much-talked about point of Howard running around in heels the entire 124 minute run-time. Oh, and the biggest distraction of the feature? The constant product-placement that rules a big portion of the first half of the film. Coca Cola Life? Check. Starbucks? Check. Mercedes? Check. Ben & Jerry’s? Yes, check. It’s so obvious it’s almost funny, and it unfortunately causes a bit of an issue in regard to taking the film entirely seriously. Having said that, it isn’t all bad. There are one or two impressive visceral scenes, and the creation of a new Dino is a genius idea in terms of bringing something exciting to the audiences metaphorical table.

Younger audiences who are unfamiliar with Jurassic Park and didn’t experience it while it was still the 1990’s will love this shiny-looking epic. It’s got humour, it has attractive leads, and the action-packed Dino fights are all there. People who consider themselves to be part of the fan-canon of ‘World‘s predecessors may struggle with the repetitive nature the franchise has adopted, and the lack of charisma – as well as genuine scares – Trevorrow’s film holds. It’s a satisfying and reminiscent watch, but it certainly doesn’t hold up to the original.

 

City of God

Fernando Meirelles’ compelling, uncompromising and, frankly, brutal, drama City of God is now thirteen years old. Age has no relevance in the case of features such as these. As relevant and heady today as it was in 2002, Meirelles’ exploration of Rio De Janeiro’s stoic Favela’s holds as much importance in 2015 as it did in the early 2000’s. Full to the brim with blatant violence and uncomfortable scenes of adolescent malevolence, City of God comes under many a critics ‘One to watch’, and serves as repeat watching despite its ability to stay with its viewer. Less of a review, and more of an appreciation piece, here, I delve into why Meirelles’ film of poverty, love and gang warfare should be watched by everyone who considers themselves to be a film aficionado.

rodrigues as rocket in city of god

rodrigues as rocket in city of god

Cidade de Deus took its inspiration from two sources. One, a kind of semi-autobiographical novel by escapee of the Favela’s Paulo Lins. Two, a documentary released prior to Meirelles film that focused on the ongoing battle between the residents of the Brazilian ghettos, and the city police who came charging into this separate world with a handful of brutality at the end of the 20th century. Merielle’s and co-director Katia Lund took much interest from the latter, and felt they needed to bring this big city, with its dancing, parades – and gun-filled, drug-fulled Favela’s – to the forefront of Western culture. And that, they did.

Casting a host of never-heard-of actors (as well as one or two familiar Latin faces) the pair brought the terrifyingly real narrative of one Favela in Rio to the screens of millions. No longer a secret, these urban living spaces gripped a nation – and this fascination with the civilians who happily (and some, not so happily) call this place home, has continued on. Just two years ago City of God – 10 Years Later was released, charting the lives of several of Meirelle’s actors. Three years ago saw a three part documentary, aired on the BBC, which followed an array of families living in contemporary Brazil. Together, Lund, Lins and Meirelles successfully made the Favela’s a talking point, opening Westerners eyes to the tough and troubled world of Rio’s hilltop housing estate.

douglas silva as li'l dice

douglas silva as li’l dice

Despite the level of neo-realism that accompanies the film – including a visceral and intense colour palette of burnt oranges and yellows, and an in-your-face ability to reiterate this idea that nothing, and no one, is safe –  City of God manages to juxtapose a level of cinematic glory with documentary fervor that keeps events seemingly real, and the viewer constantly unsure of what might happen next. The unexpected nature of a number of incidents, including that hand or foot scene, and a heartbreaking goodbye to Bene (Phellipe Haagensen) lend to the consistent realism in which Lund and Meirelle’s managed to create with this triumphant foreign feature.

Braulio Mantovani writes with an effective simplicity; the lives of five or six separate characters – all equally important in their own right – come together, not one underdeveloped and not one underwritten. From the rise and fall of psychopath and drug lord Li’l Ze, to the heartbreak and woes of good guy turned vigilante (of sorts) Knockout Ned, Mantovani gives each resident of Rio’s Favela, each character within Lund and Meirrelle’s film, their chance to dictate to the audience how their environment has shaped them – for better, or more frequently, for worse.

Images of children carrying and shooting guns, a symbolic chicken running for its life and a tale of triumph for protagonist Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) are just minor details in a 130 minute film that, some thirteen years later, add up to firmly settle Cidade de Deus into the realms of culturally important, and critically applauded cinema.