6 Years, review

Hannah Fidell’s adolescent romantic drama 6 Years is an emotive, realistic depiction of a relationship on the brink of despair. That despair, is constant. And that continuity verges on boring. But with strong performances from the leads Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield, Fidell’s budget flick achieves something, even if that something is only minute.

Remember the days of straight to VHS? Yeah, me too. It usually meant the film had a terrible cast, an even worse narrative, and a budget to match. In the contemporary film market today, it doesn’t. There are an array of stellar independent films that don’t meet the audience they deserve due to a window release system that favors blockbusters and star-power over underplayed quality. While Fidell’s 6 Years doesn’t quite match up to similar movies The Spectacular Now, Adventureland and Short Term 12, it does warrant an appreciative audience. Thanks to Netflix, the film should receive it, with AHS fans chomping at the bit to see an on-screen return from Farmiga.

Director and writer Fidell tells the story of Mel (Farmiga) and Dan (Rosenfield), a young couple reaching adulthood who have been in a relationship for six years. As they embark on different journeys their romance becomes entangled in bitterness, jealously and violence as we watch this sad couple attempt to make things work. Supporting performances come from Friday Night Lights actress Dana Wheeler-Nicholson and Bates Motel‘s Joshua Leonard and the ensemble are strong. The performances from this somewhat unappreciated (and perhaps, relatively unknown) cast are what keeps the feature together and the plot moving along. The biggest issue is what you gain as a viewer. Apart from feeling genuinely moved at the strength of Farmiga’s role as Mel, it’s hard to take away anything much from this 80 minute drama that, simply put, is incredibly glum. With lots of alcohol, self-destructive behaviour, and one or two uncomfortable scenes, 6 Years will sit comfortably amongst 16-25 year old’s but will struggle to find a wider demographic.

farmiga and rosenfield in 6 years

farmiga and rosenfield in 6 years

It’s not all bad, though. There’s an interesting exploration of underlying violence in relationships that isn’t pin-pointed often enough in popular culture, and the bravery of Fidell to include this as a theme – as well as be sure not to over-play or under-play that – is intelligently done. This in itself is thought-provoking and creates a divide between the two leads, forcing us to choose a side and stick to it. Although, thanks to the complexity of long-term relationships and the strength of the script, you will find yourself swapping from Ben to Mel and back again. The visuals are great, too. Lot’s of visceral colours make for a truly contemporary movie, and it’s an attractive feature. The repetition of house-parties and flashing lights becomes predictable though and as a viewer we just want to see this bleak story move forward. It doesn’t happen and therefore never fully engages its audience.

6 Years is an authentic – if somewhat under-whelming – story of a young couple and their tribulations. Farmiga and Rosenfield have a genuine chemistry that is electric and toxic at all of the right moments. These performances alone save the film from the dark depths of melodramatic indie territory and propels Hannah Fidell’s second feature into positive territory. It won’t blow you away, but it’ll make you think.

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first trailer for Favreau’s The Jungle Book hits the internet

The Jungle Book is a beloved children’s novel and film that has been adapted into a live-action adventure movie by Iron Man director Jon Favreau. With a April 2016 release, audiences have a while to wait before setting their eyes on this starry re-boot, but the first trailer has given a taste of what spectators can expect.

With Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba and Christopher Walken – among a host of other big names – Favreau’s re-telling of Rudyard Kipling and Disney’s classic tale promises to be a film suitable for all ages. While there are some questionable effects in this first trailer, the narration of Johansson’s Kaa and the appearance of the young Neel Sethi as Mowgli brings a level of anticipation from returning fans of the 1967 original.

The Jungle Book will be released in 3D and IMAX, and by the looks of the trailer will focus heavily on effects come its cinematic debut. Let me know what your initial thoughts are in the comments box!

Furious 7, review

Racing-action movies have always been popular amongst audiences. 2001 welcomed Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, a new installment of the genre that no-one expected to blow-up just like it did. Seven films later, Furious 7 proved to be the most successful yet. Spectators were both eager and sombre in the lead-up to release for the latest feature. Eager to see the return of a cast that they had come to love. Sombre because it also meant they said goodbye to not just a character, but an actor who had proved to be a beloved name for audiences everywhere. Paul Walker helmed the series of films alongside real-life buddy Vin Diesel and Furious 7 became so much more than just another action movie, it became a touching memory to the life – and legacy – of Paul Walker.

From insane effects – done incredibly well – to one or two cheesy lines, that are so aware of their placement, and an on-screen chemistry between an ensemble cast that is as real as can be, James Wan’s Furious 7 is a fitting addition to the franchise. It’s not all perfect, in fact it’s not even cinematic genius, but it is cinematic gold. With a box-office profit of $1.512 billion and an impressive array of positive reviews from critics, Wan reminded everybody just why they fell in love with the characters, the film, and the premise back in 2001 with the first movie.

the cast of furious 7

the cast of furious 7

Funny, and never attempting to take itself too seriously, Furious 7 is a well-devised action that hasn’t compromised in any aspect. Heartbreaking – for obvious reasons – Diesel, Wan, and writer Chris Morgan, dealt with the tragic events of Paul’s death in such a respectful way. The final scene is underplayed but so incredibly moving, and even the hardest heart on the sofa will shed a tear come home-viewing.

Think what you will about this racing bonanza that loves to go over  the top and even further, but you can’t deny the simple brilliance of this poignant film that goes back to the roots of the narrative to deliver nostalgia, cameos, and enjoyable performances from Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russel, Dwayne Johnson, and Ludacris. Universal have capitalised on the cheesier moments of the film and cleverly turned them on their head to acknowledge the obvious hilarity, and only Fast and Furious could get away with these.

Furious 7 is a filmic guilty pleasure not just for fans, but for naysayers too. But beyond the pure enjoyment of Jason Statham as an antagonist and the return of everybody’s favourite racing crew, James Wan’s film is a heart-wrenching depiction of a group of real friends who had to say goodbye to somebody they love. The theme of family means more now than it previously has, and rings true through the delivery of stellar performances. Paul Walker was the best at what he did; an action hero who loved his family and his F and F co-stars. Audiences will always remember Furious 7, not just because of the homage to the actor, but because it’s actually a really great film. A fitting goodbye to a beloved man.

Miss You Already trailer sets high expectations

Can any of you think of a better, quirkier female duo than that of Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette? No, me neither. Both actresses are known for roles in an array of indie and mainstream cinema from Little Miss Sunshine, Whip ItMuriels Wedding and Fever Pitch. Two of the most talented names in the industry, Barrymore and Collette have been in the business of stellar performances and memorable characters for over two decades, and Catherine Hardwicke’s up-and-coming Miss You Already promises just the same. The film currently stands as a filmic female super team, and I like it.

Hardwicke’s film, written by Morwenna Banks, will tell the story of long-term best friends Milly (Collette) and Jess (Barrymore) through the highs and lows of both their shared, and private lives. Following a shattering diagnosis for Milly, audiences will watch as the pair cope with the news together. The film co-stars The History Boy’s Dominic Cooper and The World’s End‘s Paddy Considine. The trailer is looking good, with laugh-out-loud moments present and an undertone of emotional subtlety hovering somewhere amongst these. There are also a great selection of scenes that exemplify the on-screen chemistry the female leads share. Director Hardwicke is well-known for her diverse work behind the camera, and Miss You Already looks to be a step in a different direction for the helmer of skateboard biopic Lords of Dogtown and controversial drama Thirteen.

If the feature film hasn’t been told entirely through the trailer then expect fantastic things from this comedy-drama that hits screens September 25th in the United Kingdom and November 6th in the US.

Say Anything (1989), review

Today, audiences are inundated with an array of romantic dramas, romantic comedies, action romances…the list goes on. Tales of soppy love and unrealistic depictions of said love have proved their worth amongst cinema-goers. While there are a bunch of these genre films each year, the production values, casting, and overall pizzazz (yes, pizzazz), of these movies has somewhat taken a dive over the past ten years. Romantic dramas were at their peak during the 1980’s, with Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful and – the focus of this review – Say Anything. These forays into teenage romance were simple, yet effective, stories of people of opposites coming together, and overcoming pitfalls. Coming of age narratives, in a sense. Cameron Crowe’s 1989 directorial debut might not be on the level of his later efforts, such as the classic Almost Famous, but Say Anything shines with the filmmakers wit and charm, and showcases his ability to take a straightforward story and tell it so candidly, so warmly, that it unravels into a feature that leaves its audience pleasantly surprised. Putting it simply – it’s actually a really, really good romance film that isn’t just for a bunch of people who enjoy this genre.

John Hughes was a big helmer of the influx of these movies in the 1980’s, with the popularity of teen romance taking over cinema in the latter half of the decade. Crowe clearly cottoned on to the praise of Hughes work, but set out to add his original spin to the well-known formula. Said formula is generally boy likes girl, gets girl, break-up incurs, romantic gesture and reunion ensues. This is basically a spin on Todorov’s narrative theory, and is seen in the majority of films perhaps just in a different instance. Ensuring that Say Anything stand out from the crowd, Crowe turned this structure on its head by deleting the unrealistic romantic gesture (think crazy rain sex scene from The Notebook) and replaced it with authentic drama and dialogue. The director simply ensured that his audience could (and still can) relate. And that, we surely do – relationship woes definitely haven’t changed 26 years later, that much is true.

From father-daughter connections to bonds of friendship and themes of fitting in and the pressures of society on young adults, Crowe helmed this project from page to screen and produced a film that set the tone for the rest of his career. Character-driven stories are the mans fortay, and Say Anything is a pretty decent example of that. While devotees of the director might shun this first feature, it shouldn’t be shoved into the derogatory box of “Just for fans of the genre.”, because it genuinely stands as a movie that could woo the strongest of naysayers. Even the Ghettoblaster scene is a winner, and who would of expected that following The Big Bang Theory‘s reference?

Half of the brilliance of Crowe’s debut is in the cast. John and Joan Cusack, Lili Taylor, Jeremy Piven (only in a brief performance here), Frasier‘s John Mahoney and the wonderfully natural Ione Skye propel the films premise into great depths. This isn’t multi-layered, textured filmmaking, but it is an engaging and relatable story of young love that we have all experienced (perhaps just not in such a theatrical context). If you enjoy nostalgia and a bit of 80’s cinema, and already find yourself a spectator of such fare as The Breakfast Club, and the aforementioned Pretty in Pink, seek out Say Anything. In fact, if you were to see any film of this genre, from that quirky decade full of perms and Madonna fashion, see Crowe’s take on it. You won’t be disappointed, that’s a stellar promise.

Leonardo DiCaprio and pal Martin Scorsese team up for Devil In The White City

Long-time collaborator’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are set to pair up once again, this time for an adaptation of The Devil In The White City: Murder, Magic And Madness At The Fair That Changed America. The novel, written by Erik Larson, is based on the true story of American serial killer Dr H. H. Holmes and was released in 2003 to a plethora of acclaim.

Industry favourite DiCaprio acquired the rights to the story in 2010, and now, five years later, production is finally in sight. With the actor and pal Scorsese attached, there was an auction – or as you can imagine, some kind of brawl – over who would distribute the movie, with Paramount coming out on top.

The true-life story takes place in 1893, and centres on both Holmes and architect Daniel H. Burnham. Billy (The Hunger Games) Ray will pen the screenplay, with the feature marking DiCaprio and Scorsese’s sixth cinematic collab. The pair have previously worked together on Gangs of New York, The Departed, and the 2014 memoir adaptation The Wolf of Wall Street.

In a daring role – and one which sticks to DiCaprio’s want to stray from convention – could this be the film to clinch that Academy win for the repeat nominee? Answers on a postcode.

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.