Magic Magic, review

In 2013 director Sebastian Silva gave us pensive drama Magic Magic. Boasting a kind of who’s who of young contemporary indie actors – Juno Temple, Michael Cera and Emily Browning – the film stands as a portrait of the varying stages of mental illness as Temple’s Alicia suffers a breakdown while away on holiday in Chile. It all sounds rather morbid on paper, and it’s pretty damn morbid on screen, too. But, Silva’s film is a pivotal exploration of the paranoia, loneliness and most importantly – danger – of unrecognised psychological problems.

Temple has built up her career since her St Trinian days in a number of independent flicks that can definitely come under the out-there status of a lot of art-house productions. She has had central roles in Killer Joe (alongside the veteran of kookiness Matthew McConaughey) and Horns and smaller, but no less impressive, turns in blockbuster fare such as Atonement and The Dark Knight Rises. In Magic Magic as Alicia Temple takes front, back and centre as she leads us through her journey from semi-normality into the unhinged realm of her mind as her health deteriorates. Interestingly – and rather boldly – Alicia is not particularly likeable, but Silva and Temple are sure to entice sympathy from viewers as her state worsens. What we view over 98 minutes is Alicia’s loss of her ‘self’ as she becomes a stranger to those around her. This element to the film holds a genuine sense of foreboding for we ask ‘Who is the threat?’, the last 30 minutes follows a kind of ticking time bomb structure as we await to find out the terrifying outcome we all know is coming.

juno temple as alicia in magic magic

juno temple as alicia in magic magic

Temple is certainly triumphant as a young woman encapsulated by paranoia and mental health issues. She balances moments of true joy and normality with sudden outbursts, which lends to a realistic depiction of a girl on the brink of desperation. For, depression has areas of light and dark and the actress is sure to represent both. Supporting her is the always wonderful, always kooky, and always downright eccentric, Michael Cera. A key name in the world of quirky dramas Cera is often recognised as the adorable underdog who rises up victoriously and steals the hearts of everyone involved. Here, he is far removed from that stereotype and instead plays a traveler who is, yes, both kooky and eccentric, but laddish and unthoughtful. He also portrays this youthful belief that he is immune to the troubles of the world. The latter is not an unlikeable quality, but it does lend to an unexpected naivety as Cera portrays Brink. Temple and Cera share an uncomfortable scene together which in many respects could be seen as sexual assault from a female to a male. Silva does not linger on this and the scene is not uncomfortably long, with no harsh camera angles. Instead Cera – Brink‘s – reaction is pondered upon and this signals the change in Alicia as she finally becomes a danger. Beyond this, the sudden and shocking act is a reminder of why mental health should be pin-pointed sooner, and never ignored. Silva should be congratulated on tackling the subject, despite the morbidity that comes with it here.

At only 98 minutes Silva’s somewhat daring feature still feels too long. Eeery and silent for the majority, Magic Magic is reminiscent of indie thrillers such as Preservation – which while far removed narrative wise, rely on silence and non-diegetic scores for effect. Effective? Yes. At times a little overbearing? Most definitely. Silva also appears to lose sense of what his film is about and the latter scenes become a miss-mash of confusing events which are not given enough explanation and are too surreal to be taken seriously. Like with a genuine reaction of ‘C,mon, really?’. That’s never the response you want from your audience.

Brimming with young and exciting talent and boldly exploring an often ‘taboo’ topic, Magic Magic is worth your time – but not necessarily worth repeat watching.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service, review

Kingsman: The Secret Service is director Matthew Vaughn’s return to what the Brit helmer does best; Profanity left, right and centre? Check. Gratuitous violence accompanied by sophisticated choreography? Check. Vaughan took a break from the world of R-rated antagonists to create X-Men: First Class. Obviously a franchise for the masses, the film still stood as a Vaughn feature – Jane Goldman penned the screenplay and the editing and visuals were all there – but of course that streak of adult content we are all so used to was gone. Fans of the somewhat stylized director will be pleased to know its back, in force, with his latest, Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Adapted from the graphic novel titled The Secret Service and created by Mark (Kick Ass) Millar and Dave Gibbons, the film centres around Eggsy Unwin, an adolescent chav who has the potential to become one of a team of elite spies who are at the top of the espionage game. Supported by Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Samuel L. Jackson, Taron Egerton as protagonist Eggsy is not only entirely likeable here, but somewhat triumphant in his first blockbuster role. Intelligent and quick-witted, Firth becomes a mentor for him and the pairs on-screen chemistry (which is represented as a kind of father/son bond) is enjoyable to watch ensue. Jackson is in full ham mode as the villain of the piece. As Richmond Valentine, he wants to create a new world, full of VIP’s and scarce of anyone lower than celebrity. With a fear of blood and gore (which plays host to a number of ironic jokes), Valentine is Kingsman‘s Bill Gates. It’s all rather absurd, but in an enjoyable, we-aren’t-taking-ourselves-too-seriously way. The latter point reiterates the British personality Vaughn’s film’s always seem to encompass.

colin firth as henry in kingsman: the secret service

colin firth as harry in kingsman: the secret service

While entertaining, the film is far from perfect. Penned as a comedy, the laugh-out-loud gags are few and far between. The 129 minute run-time is a little to much, and combat scenes tread the line of becoming pretentiously long. At moments Kingsman is reminiscent of Kick Ass, which definitely can’t be a bad comparison but for the sake of originality it might be here. Having said that, these are just small faults in a feature that has done remarkably well. Shot on a budget of $80 million, it went on to take $400 million at the Box Office. Beyond impressive profit margins, Kingsman has cemented Egerton as a talent to watch and he is geared up for the central role in up and coming films Legend and Eddie the Eagle. The flick also stands as a who’s who of contemporary British acting. Vaughn and Goldman have this wonderful routine of picking the best in young acting ability and propelling them towards greatness – this is no different.

By no means perfect, but indulgent – and hella’ enjoyable.

 

Ex_Machina, review

Acclaimed indie writer Alex Garland released his directorial debut earlier in the year. What followed was a host of critical acclaim as the film fled into select cinemas around the UK. Behind everyone else, but still keen to watch, I finally sat down today to view Garland’s first efforts behind the camera. I wasn’t disappointed. Ex_Machina is a force to be reckoned with – but in an eery, silent sense. If you’re looking for a futuristic action that depicts the rising up of AI and the fall of man, this isn’t your bag. If you’re a fan of intelligent cinema that asks the bigger questions – look no further. Slow but steady is the general pace, with the film divided into small and concise sections based around a question and answer process between Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb and Alicia Vikander’s Ava. The latter a stunning robot, created by the somewhat brutish Nathan (Oscar Isaac).

Garland both wrote and directed the feature, and has included a sense of impending doom that frequents the film. This is only suggested through conversation, and it’s a powerful force. Garland proves himself as a talented helmer, directing his actors with what appears to be simplicity. For Ex_Machina is little less than startling, but in the least imposing way possible. It all sounds rather confusing, but to fully understand you just need to sit and watch. At 108 minutes the film is a perfect length – any longer would inspire tiresome clock watching. Movies based on artificial intelligence are generally a mixed bag. From the classic AI to the blockbuster I Robot, audiences have been provided with a hearty selection when it comes to this somewhat diverse genre. Garland decides not to follow the rules with his take on the sci-fi conundrum, but instead poses interesting ideologies that ask the question; ‘Who’s really the bad guy in all this?’ or at least something along those lines.

oscar isaac and domhnall gleeson in ex_machina

oscar isaac and domhnall gleeson in ex_machina

Gleeson, Isaac and Vikander all share the screen equally as the story of Ava, her creator, and the middle-man, comes together. Isaac provides us with a character who is possibly the most intelligent man on earth, yet hounded by drink and violence – these pivotal flaws come to the surface when necessary and before they are visible the actor makes sure he delivers an underlying malevolence through carefully selected mannerisms, and dialogue delivery. Isaac is the stand-out performance from the moment he welcomes Gleeson’s Caleb into his home. Vikander is of course striking as Ava; graceful, charming and naive, as a spectator you can’t help but root for this manufactured being who longs to survive. This point brings me to the main theme of Garland’s piece – humanity and the contemporary age. Technology is rapidly evolving, and with it society becomes increasingly attached and dependent. This is of clear concern to the director, who suggests we are all being watched from the opening scene. Could technology be the thing to wipe us all out? It seems Garland may think so.

The idea that we gaze upon things we perhaps shouldn’t is reiterated to us throughout, and it becomes clear towards the end that Ex_Machina is not so much about a future world, but the world we live in today. The creation of Ava (who is the object of admiration here), as an AI with a human face and robotic body is a triumph. Realistic and unnerving, Garland and his team have managed to design a character who may appear as alien to the human race as is possible, but comes with enough wisdom, and apparent heart, to suggest otherwise. Beyond the look of Ava, the set-pieces and locale deserve an applause, too. Rob Hardy took charge as director of photography and juxtaposes harsh interior with visceral locations, meaning the claustrophobic environment of Nathan‘s hide-out never becomes too over-bearing.

Not everyone will enjoy – or even understand – Alex Garland’s bold debut, but those that will, will treasure it. Understated, intense – and even a little scary – the writer come director has proved he can successfully translate page to screen, and do so with clarity and elegance.

Lords of Dogtown, review

In 2005 director Catherine Hardwicke (perhaps better known for her contribution to the Twilight franchise) embarked on a journey into the lives of the infamous – and influential – Z-Boys. Following on from the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, Lords of Dogtown is an exploration of skateboarding legends Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams and Tony Alva during their climb to success. Audiences watch as Emile Hirsch, John Robinson and Victor Rasuk portray the trio as they pioneer classic skating tricks and each respond to success and attention in their individual ways. Heath Ledger provides a somewhat comedic support as Skip Engblom. As Zephyr owner and Z-Boys helmer, Ledger sparks in perfect method mode.

Now ten years old, Hardwicke’s film – set in the 1970’s – encapsulates the spirit of youth and rebellion from the skating trio perfectly. Beyond the charismatic leads, its Hardwicke as director who really needs the praise. To watch Twilight you wouldn’t really believe she was responsible for this and the controversial (yet acclaimed) pic Thirteen. While her stab at the vampire franchise was the best in terms of reaching out to a mass audience – enabling adults to enjoy the soppy love story too – ‘Dogtown showcases the directors stylistic intentions, with a docu-drama feel present throughout. With various locations in the boys ‘Ghetto by the sea’ framed differently, some grainy, some flooded with orange and yellow lighting, and a soundtrack dominated by Bowie and Hendrix, this is not your average sport biography. This is indie film-making at its quirkiest.

lords-of-dogtown-2005-pic-5

the cast of lords of dogtown

The cast is generally dominated by young talent that at that time were mostly unknown. Today, Emile Hirsch is recognized by most, and has gone on to star in an array of quirky cinema. As Jay Adams, the young actor embodies vulnerability, rebellion and an undeniable sex-appeal, and his on-screen energy is so often lacking in actors of today’s contemporary Hollywood. Robinson and Rasuk both provide support but its Ledger and Hirsch’s vehicle. While the rest of the cast don’t quite come up trumps, when together, the laughs and anarchic nature of the Z-Boys takes over and you swiftly forgive any acting pho-pars.

We see the story unfold between the years 1975-1977 and Hardwicke uses a number of montages to round out the slightly overly-long run time of 107 minutes. From skateboarding competitions to the creation of now integral moves on the board, we watch as surfing takes second-place to the new craze and as various companies try to sway Alva and co’ into joining their team. The skating narrative takes centre-stage, and the juxtaposition of almost pixelated ‘recorded’ footage (used at it’s best for close-ups in empty swimming pools) and the generic cinematic style, is coupled well to give the film a lucid visual.

emile hirsch as Jay Adams in lords of dogtown

emile hirsch as Jay Adams in lords of dogtown

The story of the Z-Boys is as poignant as it’s ever been, as Jay Adams (‘the original seed’) passed away last year. As the film comes to a close we are given a brief summary of the skaters lives post-Venice Beach and in a simply shot, yet deeply moving scene, you can’t help but wish they could all reunite. Lords of Dogtown‘s integral theme is community, and the community and family that comes with the skating world is always a pleasure to delve into. To see that become fractured as the boys grow up, as each have different priorities – for Jay the most important thing was being able to pay his Mum’s rent – as an audience we feel ourselves rooting for not just Jay, but Stacey, Tony (and even Skip). Peralata penned the screen-play and who else would of done the job better? Director of ‘Z-Boys and a key figure in the skating world himself (he mentored Tony Hawks), the film-maker and writer gives us plenty of insight into what each of the trio cared about the most, but carefully manages not to judge despite the somewhat tumultuous relationship they had.

Catherine Hardwicke’s foray into the world of 1970’s skating may be ten years old, but it looks and feels as edgy as any new-release today. Undeniably under-appreciated, Lords of Dogtown is a fun and subtly moving film that educates us on a time in sport that we may of been previously unaware of. We all wish we could of been a part of that world.

Dangerous Minds, review

Fifteen years ago the true story of marine turned English lit teacher Louanne Johnson was adapted (from the acclaimed novel My Posse Don’t Do Homework) and brought to the screen by John N. Smith in the shape of Dangerous Minds. Now, I’m not claiming that Smith’s film is  a societal eye-opener or cinematic gold that unearths the wrong-doings of the poverty stricken families of America. But I am saying that after re-watching the inspiring story, the film stands on it’s own as a strong exploration of the difficulties of growing up in a world dominated by hierarchy and gang battles. Dangerous Minds is also beautifully 90’s and anyone who grew up in the decade will be transformed back to the days of Coolio and LV’s Gangsters Paradise which just so happens to be the theme song. Those melodic beats can win anyone round.

Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Louanne, a tough cookie going through a divorce (from an abusive husband) and seeking a new adventure in her life. Joining the Parkmont High School, she is given a group of teens who have been failed time and again by the system and live their lives day to day – some carrying guns for protection, some from downtown slums and others not given the attention their clear intelligence obviously needs. Renoly Santiago, Wade Dominguez, George Dzundza and Idina Harris all co-star and help bring together a culturally diverse cast. Feiffer, Harris and Dzundza are the strongest when it comes to acting ability, but the weaknesses of the rest (as well as the slight cliched character representations) can be forgiven when you remember there is real heart to this story.

michelle pfeiffer and wade dominguez as louanne and emilio in dangerous minds

michelle pfeiffer and wade dominguez as louanne and emilio in dangerous minds

The film was scored by The Revolution’s Wendy & Lisa and boasts the best in 90’s hip-hop – you can’t help but rap along with the famous Coolio and LV track which opens the story and successfully reiterates the kind of tone – and locale – audiences can expect. Smith’s direction is pretty simple, and that’s appropriate as the majority of the story takes place in Pfeiffer’s classroom. If anything, a little more background on the students in which Johnson inspired would be appreciated – especially when it comes to Santiago’s Raoul and Dominguez’ Emilio. The latter’s departure from the narrative owes to a pivotal scene – and possibly the best of the entire feature – as Pfeiffer showcases her talent. There won’t be a dry eye in the house.

Smith’s film is a good adaptation exploring a woman who inspired a group of forgotten teens in a bid to get them away from the life in which is destroying them. Further exploration of the ghetto’s these kids come from would owe to a more varied narrative, and some much needed time away from the classroom set piece but generally, Dangerous Mind‘s is one of the strongest of this school drama sub-genre that came about during the late 90’s/early 2000’s. It’s entertaining fare that is desperately trying to make a social comment – and it certainly achieves that to some extent. This is urban drama for the masses.

Prometheus, review

Ridley Scott’s prequel to his classic sci-fi Alien is a contemporary revival of a genre that the director is seasoned at. With escapades into foreign territory, Prometheus is an unabashed return to formulaic science fiction fare – but in the best possible way. A sequel is well on it’s way so it felt appropriate to pay due respect to the somewhat under-appreciated 2012 feature. One of the biggest selling points is the ferocious cast, which reads like a who’s who in Hollywood right now: Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce all join together to strengthen a script in need of some TLC.

Firstly, it’s almost impossible to successfully convey the plot without writing convoluted ramblings. I’ll try anyway. Its 2089 and a team of archeologists, geologists and fans of “Big fucking rocks” arrive on an alien planet on the Prometheus ship, in the hopes they will meet their makers – or ‘engineers’ – as they like to call them. What the team encounter is a host of unfriendly foes who wish to stay a mystery. It all sounds confusing but on screen it makes sense…just pay really good attention for 124 minutes and you’ll get it, I’m sure.

The running time is certainly an issue, and there is definitely not enough character development afforded to any of the ensemble apart from Rapace’s protagonist Elizabeth. Fassbender as robot David is her equal when it comes to who needs the most attention paid, and as always he sparkles with enthusiasm – you will never get less than 100% from this diverse actor. Fassbender has managed to engulf the mannerisms of the futuristic AI rather successfully. The sequel should promise a further glimpse into the lives of the pair – if the follow up stays true to the end of its predecessor.

a promotional still from prometheus

a promotional still from prometheus

The weaknesses of Scott’s feature can be overlooked when it comes to the quality of computer graphics and the intelligent use of contemporary technology seen in the film. Images of holographic visions from the past are coupled with some nauseatingly real alien effects and fans of the genre will be in their element. On a budget of $120 million we wouldn’t expect any less.

Scott’s return to the Alien franchise is perfectly judged, and while Prometheus isn’t cinematic gold it is an entertaining ride that boasts some original ideas (which today’s industry seems to be lacking hence the ridiculous number of remakes coming our way). The final scene pays homage to a cult moment in cinematic history and who doesn’t love a little bit of nostalgia.

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, review

With the release of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Film 4 had their network premiere of its predeccesor, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach). With a who’s who of veteran British talent and a wonderful wit, John Madden’s film is a truly sophisticated and enjoyable watch that reminds everyone being old is simply just a mind set. Released in 2012 and filmed on location in India, ‘Marigold Hotel is a good-looking feature that may appear to just be aimed at an older audience but certainly appeals to people of all ages.

judi dench and penelope wilton in the best exotic marigold hotel

judi dench and penelope wilton in the best exotic marigold hotel

Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel, Penelope Wilton (and more) all star as a group brought together in a Hotel that is far from exotic in look but in body and soul is capable of curing all of the pensioners woes. Coming from different walks of life and all dealing with their own trials, the ensemble charismatically come together to give us a fun, genuinely funny film that is at no point too heavy. Addressing homophobia, loneliness and class barriers, Madden successfully brought the old to the young while showcasing the best of British acting talent. Dev Patel is on form as Sonny, the manager of his families hotel with a lustiness for life that penetrates the older residents of the ‘Marigold. Despite the ability of actors such as Nighy and Tom Wilkinson Patel is never swallowed up and stands his ground as a strong personality (long gone are his Skins days). With a host of talent on display, Dench is outstanding as Evelyn, a compassionate woman who is finally finding herself. Dench is a treasure, and her career in diverse roles is a credit to cinema.

Despite the length of the feature (124 minutes could definitely be cut down by some) and the initial scrabble to introduce each character individually, John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is an immersive and wonderfully upbeat film in an industry often dominated by doom and gloom narratives.

 

Man on Fire, review

Man on Fire is now eleven years old. Tony Scott’s film exemplified the director’s slick transition from corny territory (seen in Top Gun) to contemporary, stylized cinema. Edited at warp speed and finished with a visceral colour palette that perfectly sets Mexico City as a locale of danger and violence, Man on Fire stands as one of the best features from the director. Scott, you gave us cinema at it’s most energetic and visually immersive, seen prominently here. Starring Denzel Washington as Creasy, a retired CIA agent struggling with his conscience (frequent religious imagery and questions of will God forgive him are featured in the first half successfully demonstrating his guilt). Radha Mitchell and Marc Antony star as the wealthy parents of Dakota Fanning’s Pita, who is in need of protection from a group of kidnappers known for targeting families for ransom.

Scott’s feature is a film of two halves; the first full of character development and setting the stunning scene of Mexico City. The on-screen father/daughter-esque chemistry between Fanning (only ten years old at the time of filming) and Washington gives those watching a sense of warmth, and come the end the pairs friendship makes way for plenty of emotion. Its these two that carry the film (despite Fanning’s lack of scenes in the latter half) with Antony bringing little in the way of anything in his role as Pita‘s Dad. Mitchell is more impressive and has her moment to shine at several occasions. Mickey Rourke provides further support during a dive in his career, and despite his comeback not happening until several years after, his on-screen presence is clearly seen here.

denzel washington as creasy in man on fire

denzel washington as creasy in man on fire

Th repetition of certain images and the split in dialogue between Spanish and English propels the film into the realm of intelligent blockbuster (and these are becoming harder and harder to come by in recent years). Scott, writer Brian Helgeland and cinematographer Paul Cameron all do well in their respective roles with the latter’s eye of urban beauty deserving credit. The lack of positivity surrounding the picture is perhaps understandable if this were to be released in recent years – but eleven years ago this was pretty original fair. Today, there are tonnes of thrillers similar in genre and style being released, not quite with the same flair or courage to represent modern issues, that Man on Fire possesses.

Critical acclaim was mixed – some heralded, some frowned – but Tony Scott’s film is ferociously good-looking (juxtaposing bright lights and vibrant club scenes with blood-soaked violence) and features Washington in a role he is now seasoned at. Original, and packing a political punch, Man on Fire is one of the best (and sorely underrated) of it’s genre.

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.

The Drop, review

Michael R. Roskam gives us a treat of a film with The Drop, a toned-down gangster flick that concentrates on family ties, issues of territory and the importance of street credibility in Brooklyn. Adapted from the short story Animal Rescue, Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini star, the latter in his last role before his tragic death in 2013. Gandolfini is at his best here as ‘CousinMarv, an ageing wannabe mobster who, unwilling to get his own hands dirty, sets of a chain of events that culminates in a revenge-esque narrative. The plot is straightforward; gangsters drop money at various bars around the neighbourhood, said money gets stolen, someone needs to take the blame. For what seems like an elementary storyline, there are a number of great components that help to make Roskam’s film a refreshing watch.

The attraction for most will be the cast – this ensemble, featuring Noomi Rapace and John Ortiz in supporting roles, work well together to build a solid, and realistic portrayal of working-class inner-city life. Roskam is careful not to overdo the urban grit that the film encompasses and even better, the violence is kept to a minimum and only present when truly necessary. This violence helps to turn Hardy’s Bob into a two-dimensional character and its in this role that the actor can be seen as the pensive, brooding male that he is now so recognised for (hell, if you’re good at it, why not?). Sure, Bob shares similar traits to other characters Hardy has taken on, but he does the whole masculine-protective role well and its always a pleasure to watch him take on said persona. Beyond this tough-guy act, Hardy’s Brooklyn accent is immensely impressive and if you were unaware of just how British the actor was you wouldn’t, for one second, believe it was just practice.

promotional poster for the drop

promotional poster for the drop

The heart of The Drop lies with a unexpected supporting character, and really its this character who steals the film – the little Pitball puppy found in a dumpster in the early minutes. Rocco, as Bob and Nadia decide to name him, is adorable beyond words and is actually the main factor that brings several of the group together. It all sounds a bit strange at this point, but honestly, its a rather lovely aside to a genre usually dominated by death and brutality. At times Dennis Lehane’s script feels a little stilted, and it moves along at a snails pace for the majority but having said that The Drop is simply a cool (yes, cool), surprisingly upbeat film that will leave you satisfied.

To finish off it is most definitely appropriate to pay respect to Mr James Gandolfini. The actors career spanned over twenty-five years and he became known for his work in a number of critically acclaimed television and film roles, from everybody’s favourite – The Sopranos – to Killing Them Softly and True Romance. Known to many as Tony Soprano, and possibly remembered for one of the best lead performances in a television drama for the past twenty years, Gandolfini will continue to be recognised for his wonderful contribution to the industry, both on the big and small screen. James, thank you for sharing your talent with us.