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.

Advertisements

The Walking Dead – if you didn’t know, it’s back!

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ll be totally aware that AMC’s The Walking Dead is back – and it might just be better than ever. I talk a lot about the exploration of humanity seen in recent seasons of the Robert Kirkman-created zombie drama, but in No Way Out and The Next World, writers have delved into the bravery of the Alexandria community, and the new-found courage of many of its inhabitants. The series has also, at this stage in its popularity and success, reinvented the zombie genre and turned it into something fresh and new. It’s changed in its thematic qualities and the way in which those are explored, it fuses evocative scores and stylised fighting scenes with thoughtful dialogue and tender moments of conversation. Zombies are now fair game in a drama and don’t just sit in the horror genre, meaning this is T.V. that is accessible for most.

Through the medium of television, the creators behind this fantastic show have had the time to evolve the narrative and this is where the genre suffers in film but thrives on T.V. There isn’t a need for constant action because we know and care about the characters and want to see their individual stories develop. Now, after a lengthy six seasons and 77 episodes, audiences are seeing an actual journey – not necessarily one of physicality, but one of mentality. Frequent director Greg Nicotero is studying his characters with succinct detail, demanding emotion and realism – both of which have been seen (perhaps more so than in seasons past) as genuine facets of strength which demonstrates the ability of the ensemble cast.

The sudden change of pace is refreshing and makes for a non-formulaic set of episodes that means The Walking Dead continues to stray away from the conventions of modern television. While the first eight episodes of the sixth season were disappointing in their slow descent to eventual anarchy in Alexandria, these final six could save a series that many have questioned is waning in its effectiveness. We have had emotion and wit, and carefully crafted tension that is generated from an atmosphere created through the use of lighting and locale, and – most importantly – we have a set of characters we root for.

Welcome back, Walking Dead.

Fear the Walking Dead: So Close, Yet So Far, review

With only four episodes to go (gutting, I know) and a whole lot of ground still to cover, episode two of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead didn’t do a lot in terms of picking up the pace. While we say goodbye to another character – which isn’t necessarily emotional considering how early on in the story we are – we also say hello to some gruesome content. Interestingly, said material is in relation to Nick‘s (Frank Dillane) drug problem, rather than people eating one another. The cold turkey sub-plot is still the most intriguing element to the multi-layered narrative, and the introduction of a new family into the mix is promising. What we have here is a small selection of characters, of different backgrounds and ethnicity’s, and this in itself realistically depicts a contemporary America (ignoring the zombies, of course). Kirkman’s current creation is genre-busting at its very best.

Despite the slow-movements of the virus taking its grip on Los Angeles and the lack of zombie-human combat scenes, director Adam Davidson and co have carefully created an intense and somewhat frightening portrayal of a city in distress. With The Walking Dead we never had the early days of the apocalypse, meaning we didn’t witness the collapse of society as the outbreak takes hold  of America. To produce a series that is entirely dedicated to portraying the beginnings of what Rick, Daryl and gang have been left to deal with is an exciting prospect, and one which I – and I’m sure millions of other viewers – can’t wait to watch unfold. From riots and police ‘brutality’ to distant screams and an ominous non-diegetic score, Fear the Walking Dead is shaping up to be an outstanding series from a talented team of writers, directors, and actors.

 

Fear the Walking Dead, Pilot: review

While I’ve been vocal since the big reveal of a new series that I’m not keen on the Fear the Walking Dead title, in the build-up to Sunday’s pilot episode, I began to come around to the idea of a brand new The Walking Dead spin-off. Penned as a sister series, FTWD brings audiences a bunch of new characters, a vibrant LA setting, and an insightful look into the build-up to the apocalypse. The Walking Dead begins in the midst of the outbreak- most people have already been eaten or turned, and we are placed with just a handful of survivors, with little in the way of clues or answers regarding the initial virus. This in itself raised lots of questions for members of the fan canon, more so now that the Robert Kirkman mega-series is about to go into its sixth season. Because of the total success of the graphic-novel adapted AMC series, I was pretty doubtful at how original, compelling – and even enjoyable – Fear the Walking Dead would be. It turns out, following the 90 minute premiere episode, it’s pretty damn good. To that, I let out a sigh of relief as I begin to eagerly await the next installment.

curtis, dickens and dillane in fear the walking dead

curtis, dickens and dillane in fear the walking dead

The whole idea that this prequel begins right at the start of the outbreak is such a refreshing approach to a genre which is still loved by many, but tired in several aspects. It’s rare to watch an undead project that gives its audience the low-down from the beginning moments of what caused humans to become flesh-eating monsters, and to see writers Kirkman and Dave Erickson work with that here is an exciting turning point for this category of entertainment. Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert are attached as executive producers, and while the majority of WD‘s crew have turned their attentions to the making of this new series, we are inundated with a host of unfamiliar faces. With no Andrew Lincoln or Norman Reedus in sight, we dive into the turbulent world of 18 year old heroin addict Nick (Frank Dillane), his worried mum Madison (FNL alumni Kim Dickens), his sister Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and new step-dad on the scene Travis (Cliff Curtis).

Appearing as a drama series and containing few familiar tropes of the horror genre, Fear the Walking Dead has boldly set out to become something of originality. While the ‘Walking Dead comparisons will remain for the first few episodes, expect Kirkman’s escapades into the world of Hollywood zombies to surpass expectations and become independently – and rightfully – known as its own work. Clearly a slow-burner, don’t expect tonnes of gratuitous gore and a decaying cityscape all in series one, but what you can get geared for, is a character-driven narrative that concentrates on relevant societal themes. I won’t give anything away in terms of spoilers, because it needs to be seen from a fresh perspective, but if the remaining five episodes can shape up to be anything like this initial introduction, we are in for a televisual treat. It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised, right?

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, review

Eccentric mainstream cinema is a rarity, for kooky film making generally attracts a smaller audience. Every now and again we are presented with a movie that successfully executes quirky performances and a somewhat out-there narrative, that somehow doesn’t alienate the general viewing public. Think Juno and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is definitely more Juno kooky then that of Birdman, or any Wes Anderson feature, but it’s unique enough, and compelling enough, to stand on firm ground as its own success story. Brimming with stand-out performances, and with an enjoyable combination of comedy and heart-felt emotion, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has created something spectacularly special with this adaptation of the 2012 novel by Jesse Andrews.

Rejon’s film follows Greg (Thomas Mann), Rachel (Olivia Cooke), and Earl (Ronald Cyler) as they embark on a new-found friendship following Rachel‘s cancer diagnosis. Don’t be put off by the heavy subject-matter, and it’s easy to imagine what you must be thinking; “Not another The Fault in Our Stars?”– and, no, this is not another weepy teen drama about terminal illness and epic romance. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot of romance in sight, and while at times that can edge towards disappointing, it’s actually rather refreshing. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is genuinely a story of friendship, and how something as terrifying and unfair as cancer can bring about new and unexpected relationships. Supporting the three leads are a host of well-respected actors, all of whom have proved their acting abilities time and again. These include the wonderful Connie Britton, Kings of Summer actor Nick Offerman, and The Walking Dead and Fury actor Jon Bernthal. The three mature faces within the cast are perhaps not given enough screen-time, but when present, they add an extra layer of acting prowess, and successfully support the young talent who drive the narrative forward.

mann and cyler in me and earl and the dying girl

mann and cyler in me and earl and the dying girl

While Mann, Cooke, and Cyler are currently in the midst of making a name for themselves within the Hollywood scene, together, they come across as young thespians who are entirely aware of their individual abilities, and how best to execute these in Rejon’s feature. Cyler is the stand-out, despite not being afforded enough dialogue – as Earl, Cyler embodies confidence and wit, and he becomes a firm favourite as the story of these high-school seniors unfolds. Cooke as the ‘Dying Girl’ of the title never overacts in her role as a 17 year old who is facing terminal illness, and the understated performance we see from her should invigorate actresses who will take on similar characters to take the same road. Too many times audiences have seen hammed-up, over-the-top facades of people on the brink of death, while here Cooke and Rejon allow the subtleties of Rachel‘s change in mood and personality to create an effect on their viewers – something which deserves to be applauded.

What is truly fantastic about this film adaptation – which was penned by original novelist Andrews – is the love of bizarre cinema that hovers amongst the story at all times. From visits to zany art-house video stores, to the recreation of well-known movies into titles such as ‘A Sockwork Orange’, Andrews and Rejon are two collaborators who happily pass on their love of cinema within this film. In a way, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a feature that encompasses lots of different short films – if the audience are only able to see fragments of each of these. This isn’t just a tale of death and the sadness that inevitably comes along with that, but the strange and memorable moments of life, as well as the pressures of contemporary society on adolescent teens. It’s all done so well, so originally, and the imagery and visuals of the feature are some of the best we’ve seen this year. From cardboard cut outs of the Pittsburgh setting, and montages of iPhone stop-motion animation, to the final unveiling of Greg and Earl‘s film for Rachel, each scene has been so thoughtfully attended to, and that in itself creates such a delicate feature.

It’s not a word that can be used often when describing contemporary cinema – particularly of late – but Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a beautiful movie, that is a genuine pleasure to witness unfold. Quietly moving, intelligently scripted, laugh-out-loud funny, full of bohemian performances, and winner of the coveted Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, this isn’t to be missed.