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.

Trainwreck Review

In Trainwreck we meet Amy. Amy is a 20-something magazine journo who lives in New York city. From the outset we are introduced to her through her provocative behaviour of drink-fueled one night stands, balanced out by her apparent career goals and obvious love for her sister and father. We are meant to laugh when, in an early scene, Amy finds herself in bed with a random from one of her many mid-week nights out – and we do. But 100 minutes in to the 124 minute running time, when this happens again, we don’t laugh as hard as we should.

Judd Apatow is an ingenious director in that he picks strong female and male leads to dominate his crude comedies – of which there have been many. And it’s obviously a winning formula. Trainwreck made $140 million after being filmed on a budget of just $35 million, and the general consensus is that it’s good – really good, in fact. Amy Schumer is the driving force of the film, and positioned with her we navigate New York through booze, recreational drugs and encounters with work colleagues, family and love interests. Bill Hader is spectacular (as always) as Aaron, the sweet-as-a-button sports doctor who Amy is forced to profile for work. The pair become entangled romantically, but not with a whole lot of romanticism.

amy schumer and bill hader in trainwreck

amy schumer and bill hader in trainwreck

Trainwreck is unique in its depiction of Amy and Aaron. Amy is a bit of a mess; she smokes weed, rocks up to work late and is surprised when Aaron wants to take things further with her after another one-night encounter. Aaron is a sweet-natured doctor who questions, but accepts, his girlfriends rebellious behaviour. Apatow and Schumer have successfully reversed the expected characterisation of how a man and a woman should behave and by doing so escape genre cliches, but as an audience we want to see some kind of journey in this dramedy that places us with a not-so-likeable protagonist. We only see a realisation of needed change from Amy when her actions have serious repercussions, and by that point it’s hard to keep on caring. Hader and Schumer are supported by a strong ensemble including Oscar-winners Brie Larson and Tilda Swinton but both roles are underdeveloped and the latter’s is laughably stereotypical.

Schumer is a star, and she will go far thanks to her strength as a writer and obvious comic prowess, but this isn’t one of Apatow’s strongest works. Trainwreck falls short of sentimentality and genuine displays of human emotion when it becomes lost to uncomfortable sexual encounters that should make us laugh but just make us squirm.

 

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.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – J. J. Abrams rights the wrongs of its predecessors

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has set a new box office record, introduced an ensemble of likable contemporary characters and has won over a new generation of fans who will now be seeking out the originals. Why has all of this happened? There are, of course, several reasons but none as strong as the man himself; Mr J. J. Abrams. The director has every practical method up his sleeve in order to revitalise tired franchises. He did it with Star Trek and now he has done it with Star Wars. This is the installment for an audience that dismissed Episodes 4, 5 and 6; it’s Star Wars for the naysayers, for everyone.

The Force Awakens has rejuvenated the franchise and Abrams has taken the narrative back to its 1970’s roots. As the iconic titles arrived on screen I had a sudden (and entirely belated) realisation as to why there was such anticipation around this new film, even following the utter panning of the early 2000’s efforts. It’s the nostalgia of the cult series, and it seeps out from every pore of the movie. From scene transitions that echo The Empire Strikes Back to witty conversation between Han Solo and the beloved Chewbacca – Abrams and George Lucas have collaborated to pin point what fans love, and develop that for a modern audience. Written by Lawrence Kasdan, Abrams, and Michael Arndt the script is seemingly a dream. Cliched and trite, The Phantom Menace – and the following two features in that particular series – had scripts that were hard to handle, The Force Awakens has improved ten-fold and this is a witty and intelligent movie that spends time reminiscing on the good ol’ days while still propelling the narrative forward.

daisy ridley as ray in star wars: the force awakens

daisy ridley as ray in star wars: the force awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes place thirty years after The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader is long gone and The Republic is under threat from a new malevolent group known as The First Order. Leia leads The Resistance and Han has returned to his smuggling days with best pal Chewwy. While old favourites return, new faces arrive. Fresh talent Daisy Ridley and John Boyega lead the story as Ray and Fin; their chemistry is electric and the duo echo in a new phase for the franchise. There is a bright future for Abrams’s take on the popular story, and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren – the new Vadar of the piece – is a young and genuinely scary antagonist, yet he holds an underlying naivety that makes him real. To welcome Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill is ingenious, too. The trio were what made these films so beloved for it was their original story that captured the hearts of cinema-goers and while Ford is the star of the veteran actors, they’re all welcomed back gleefully. The arrival of a new droid, BB-8 is a superb move. For a robot that doesn’t have any understandable dialogue, he has so much personality, one that inspires a connection between him and his audience.

The battle scenes are perfectly paced and timed just right, the visuals of these scenes are backed up by new-age effects that are never questioned. Old meets new but in a way that is measured correctly. This new movie, the seventh in a series that is loved by many, will sit as a classic. Sitting in the cinema, watching The Force Awakens, I noticed the quiet beauty of the story that takes place in a galaxy far, far away: here, on Earth, it unites the young and the old, people of all backgrounds and histories. We all love this tale that takes place somewhere in the stars and this initial magic has been captured once more. Well done Abrams, you did us all proud.

 

 

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.

Spike Island, review

Shane Meadows, known for his exploratory directorial motives – often into the realms of British sub-cultures – released documentary The Stone Roses: Made of Stone in 2013. The feature was a look into the legendary Stone Roses gig that took place in May 1990. Similar to this, but non-fiction, director Mat Whitecross made, at the same time, Spike Island; a dramatised picture based on the same concert. An indie pic, the film features an ensemble cast, all of whom were relatively unknown at the time. Today – just two years on – we know Emilia Clarke as Game of Thrones’ Daenerys and Nico Mirallegro as My Mad Fat Diaries’ Finn. Small on budget (and even smaller on box-office takings), Spike Island is a whimsical tale of adolescent friendship, first time love, and a time in music that was pivotal within the British industry. It’s almost definitely a little hap-dash – some could even use the derogatory term flimsy – but if you too inhabit any kind of urgency to live life to the fullest (like the characters here do), Whitecross’s feature is the film for you.

the cast of spike island

the cast of spike island

The film takes place over the space of 72 hours, as a spectator you watch as a group of teenage lads attempt to attain tickets to the Spike Island ‘Stone Roses gig that took place in May 1990 in Widnes. The premise is simple, and the characters involved, including Elliott Tittensor as Tits, Jordan Murphy as Zippy, Adam Long as Little Gaz and Oliver Heald as Penfold encounter a number of diversions along their road to being gig-happy. In terms of narrative and script, its all very, very British, and perhaps a tad cliched. There isn’t much room for an American audience due to, one) the Manchester setting which means all actors involved talk in a strong accent that even people who don’t live ‘up North’ will struggle to understand, and two) the humour is based around a English wit that is hard to tap into unless you inhabit the UK. The Britishness of the feature is what makes it so strong, but this too is what limits its audience – the film took just under £100,000 at the box-office, likely due to a limited release. Though it’s an unappreciated – and barely seen – film, Spike Island isn’t a bad movie.

The group of male friends have a genuine chemistry, bouncing off of one another’s youthful energy, the atmospheric half hour at the gig is truly engaging, and director Whitecross genuinely manages to make those watching wish they could of been at that classic moment of  music history. Spike Island will, for some people, sit on the brink of greatness. These people will likely be fans of The Stone Roses and might of even been to the gig, in this way the film serves as a zeitgeist of the time. Others will cast the film to one side, seeing it as yet another Brit comedy-drama that holds so many similar themes to a number of other movies of the genre. Despite the split that Spike Island likely creates amongst its audience, it should first be seen – and then, hopefully, be loved.