Swiss Army Man OK. So here it is, the premise. A desperate man
discovers a farting, dead body on a beach and the two become friends, embarking
on a flatulent journey that will bring them to the edges of society and maybe
even save a life. If you don’t find the premise intriguing, then don’t watch
the film. If you do however, you will see the most quirky, original and
strangely poignant film that you’ll have seen in a while. Directed by Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert. There are two great
performances at the centre of the film and both Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano fully
embrace the characters and bring us an arty, grotesque and touching comment on
loneliness, society, depression and acceptance. There are moments that do feel like missed
steps including, to my mind, the final scene but on the whole, the imagination
and strange beauty ofthe film’s
central premise carries it through. A genuinely bizarre, humorous and unconventional
film. An odd journey. An odd, wind powered journey towards hope. 7.5 out of 10 Cert 15 (UK) 97mins 2016.
See the trailer here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrK1f4TsQfM
Room Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank,2014) and based on the screenplay & 2010 book by Emma Donoghue, Room centres on a young boy, Jack, who has known nothing of the world other than the room in which he has been held captive. Together with his 'Ma', his world has to change quickly as they bid to escape from their captor, 'Old Nick'. The first half of the film is claustrophobic and personal and the second half is tragic yet hopeful. The naïve, first person tone of the book has been perfectly captured in the low level camera work and the focus on faces and simple relationships. Brie Larson won an Oscar in 2016 for her performance but, for me, it is the young wonder of Jack ( Jacob Tremblay ) that really steals the show. A wonderful film about parenthood, learning from life and growing through experience. Emma Donoghue was rightly nominated for an adapted screenplay Oscar.
Bad Moms Utter, utter bilge. Offensive, sexist, unrealistic, completely devoid of anything that vaguely resembles comedy, this film is a complete waste of everyone's time. 'BadMoms' is full of characters that nobody could relate to and it has a plot that is as stupid as it is thin. A whinging 'Mom' ( who somehow lives in a massive house with 2 massive cars and 2 massively over-effected kids ) takes time out from her consumeristic lifestyle to have a 'breakdown' and run for the local PTA job. Loud montages replace plot development and crass, thinly veiled 'phobic' statements are supposed to pass as humour. The bar is set from the first few seconds of the film and it never manages to scrape itself off the floor. A poor attempt to cash in on and invert 'The Hangover' franchise, it is lacking in every department. With a wealth of talent on screen, (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn amongst others) it is a disgraceful waste to produce such a nothing film. If you are the sort of person that finds this stuff entertaining, you really need to take a look at your life. Sorry. Save your time and don't encourage this sort of vacuous nonsense. 'BadMoms', bad people, bad idea, bad film.
Knock Knock It is very rare for a film to make me so angry. Disappointed often but rarely angry. It is not enough that this film robbed me of two hours that I won't get back but to find that some people actually rate it as a serious film astounds me. The acting throughout, from everyone involved, including the dog, was appalling - plenty of energy but still appalling. The script, plot and sexual motives all shared a common score of Zero and the idea that I'm supposed to think 'he got what he deserved' is offensive. Directed by Eli Roth ( Hostel / Cabin Fever ) and starring his real life wife, Lorenza Izzo along with Keanu and Ana de Armas, it really feels like a re-make project that got out of hand and spiralled away from them all. The ending left me pleading for it all to have been a bad dream, a psychotic meltdown or even a metaphor for something lame - a cop-out plot twist that would have, at least, been worthy of my time and effort. An utter waste of time, energy and talent. I cannot find any reason to recommend 'Knock Knock' to anyone - unless you are studying film and need an example of how to not do just about everything. It was such a shame to come to this film via Keanu's much better action thriller 'John Wick'. Watch that instead.
2 out of 10.
Cert 18 (UK). 2015.
Dad's Army Nostalgia is not often a good enough reason to make a film of, or bring back, a much-loved classic. Re-inventing the 1970s TV series for the big screen was never going to be received well enough to work for older fans. Mess that up and you're doomed. For the younger audiences however, the nostalgia of the original characters holds absolutely no weight. So, stick to the tried and tested formula of the television comedy and hope for the best. This new version is basically a series of well-intentioned impressions of the beloved predecessors. Effort and attention being lovingly spent there, rather than developing new characters or a convincing plot line. Even though the cast seem to be loving their involvement, it all seems a little unnecessary. There is loads of British talent on show throughout, Toby Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bill Nighy taking centre stage. New characters are also a-plenty but mostly underdeveloped. 'Dad's Army' lovers will probably enjoy the film if they can get past the new versions of the previous cast - if not, they could find it too distracting. It is likeable enough but lightweight. There are some chuckles to be had but for me, there isn't enough laughter or emotion mixed in to the nostalgia. Younger and new audiences will struggle to find enough plot, humour or character to make it a lasting or worthwhile piece. The Home Guard bumble through with a stiff upper lip but there's not much fighting spirit here.
American Hustle There's loads of great performances in this con artist, FBI shakedown but it looks and feels like a drug-fuelled party held in a 1970s costume department. There's just too much 'Wig' going on. Like Christian Bale's character, Irving Rosenfeld, it is hard working, entertaining but a little bit bloated. The colour and energy of the film distracts from the main characters and plot, meaning I was left not really caring for any of the main players. Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Christian Bale and especially Jennifer Laurence all shine and they play off each other with hyperactive intensity. For all their effort and that of the props department, it is a movie that doesn't quite match the sum of its considerable parts. The main problem with that being that it seems quite a long film to leave you feeling so empty. Enjoyable, high energy, fluffy and a distraction from anything there to get your teeth in to. Like candyfloss.
OK, so here are my thoughts on which films I think will walk away with the statues at the Oscars 2016. I think 'The Revenant' will take the bulk of the 'big' awards but there are plenty of deserving films that will be fighting for the others. 'Mad Max: Fury Road' will do well in the technical & production catagories. I'm hoping 'Ex Machina' gets something.
Best Picture - The Revenant
Best Director - Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant
Best Actor - Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
Best Actress - Brie Larson, Room
Best Supporting Actor - Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Best Supporting Actress - Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Best Original Screenplay - Ex Machina
Best Adapted Screenplay - The Martian
Best Cinematography - The Revenant
Best Film Editing - Mad Max:Fury Road
Best Production Design - Bridge of Spies
Best Costume Design - Mad Max:Fury Road
Best Visual Effects - Ex Machina
Best Makeup and Hairstyling - Mad Max:Fury Road
Best Sound Editing - The Martian
Best Sound Mixing - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Original Score - Bridge of Spies
Best Original Song - Spectre
Best Animated Feature - Inside Out
Whiplash When does pushing for glory become psychologically abusive? There are so many reasons why Whiplash is, in my opinion, the perfect film. It is not just because the script and screenplay crackle with intensity or that the film, directed by Damien Chazelle, literally never takes it's eye off the central character, Andrew. It is not even that the film was put together in less than 3 months on a remarkably small budget (£2Million). Nor is it the stunning performances that bristle with punishing ambition and the bitter sweet dangers of pushing too hard for greatness. Miles Teller and the Oscar award winning JK Simmons are both fantastic, sparring with each other throughout, a drum kit doubling as a boxing ring. Teller should also have been in the running for multiple awards for his outstanding performance. It is not just the wonderful Jazz score or the beautifully timed edit that give it a free, yet insanely focused feel. It's not the painful, high tempo, 'Rocky with Drums' training scenes or the spiteful, aggressive, redemptive tone of the ending. It is the whole. The ensemble, that pushes it forward. Raising the finale to a spine tingling final close-up. It forms one of those rare things, a film that I could watch over and over again, taking something new each time. Whiplash.
OK, so here are my thoughts on which films I think will walk away with the statues at the Oscars 2015. There could be a big 'USA/Brit' swing thing this year, with 'The Imitation Game' & 'Theory' versus the 'Boyhood' & 'Birdman'. It could go either way but I think 'Boyhood', the excellent 'Birdman' and Keaton will win by a beak and if that does happen, then 'Imitation' and 'Theory' will be drastically under represented by the end of the night. The 'production' statues will be dominated by 'The Grand Budapest Hotel', such a large gathering won't go unrecognised.
Best Picture - Boyhood
Best Director - Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
Best Actor - Michael Keaton - Birdman ( 'Theory' close enough 2nd to steal it)
Best Actress - Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor - J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress - Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Original Screenplay - Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Adapted Screenplay - Graham Moore - The Imitation Game
Best Cinematography - Emmanuel Lubezki - Birdman
Best Film Editing - Boyhood
Best Production Design - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Costume Design - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Visual Effects - Interstellar
Best Makeup and Hairstyling - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Sound Editing - American Sniper
Best Sound Mixing - Whiplash
Best Original Score - The Theory of Everything
Best Original Song - 'Glory' Selma
Best Animated Feature - How to Train Your Dragon 2
Best Foreign Language Film - Ida
X-Men:Days of Future Past This is a great example of the idea being better than the reality. On paper, a time travelling X-Men film starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Halle Berry and many others, seems like a great idea. Uniting the old and new cast together in one awesome film. However, if the writing is this lazy and incoherent, no amount of special effects and star dust will cover up the holes. The story is all over the place, sudden revelations crowbarred in to provide a workable plot point. Whole histories erased and characters rewritten in the name of a 'reboot'. More time was probably spent writing the cast list than developing a convincing storyline, choosing to go with 'Mutants+Matrix+Terminator'. Done. The two saving graces were
Birdman Riggan Thomson ( Keaton ) used to be a cinema star. An actor who played a comic book superhero in blockbuster films. The Birdman. Now, twenty years later, he is staging a risky, Broadway play and searching for acclaim and validation. His mental stability and personal life are falling to pieces and financial pressures and critical reviews may tip him over the edge. Riggan battes himself, his daughter ( Stone ), his fellow actors ( Norton ) and his 'Birdman' past. Apart from the brilliantly intense central performances from Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and Edward Norton, there are three main elements that really standout for me in 'Birdman'. Firstly, the wonderful, jazz-infused score that 'pops' and 'sizzles' throughout, adding to the freestyle weirdness of the script, sometimes encroaching on the perceived reality. The second is the long, sweeping camera shots that weave in and out of the action, continuous image streams that elegantly follow the story and add to the building insanity. You will struggle to find the joins. The third is the soaring use of
August: Osage County It is not often that you see the brilliant Meryl Streep outdone in the acting department but, for me, Julia Roberts steals the show here and does just that. After a family tragedy, the various members of the Weston clan return home to their parent's Oklahoma house for a meal that turns in to a battle of the matriarchs, where dark secrets and family tensions are brought to the surface. Based on a play and screenplay by Tracy Letts, the film centres on this one meal and its aftermath for the majority of the film's two hour run time. It is testament to the great script and superb performances that such a limited backdrop produces such an engaging film. There is lots of acting to be seen here. So much so that Benedict
The Raid 2:Berandal (Indonesian with subtitles) It is said that 'sometimes, less is more'. In the case of 'The Raid2', more is definitely less. For me, the beauty of the first film (review here) was in its rawness. The room by room, floor by floor, single focus of its mission, the pin-point accuracy of the choreography and the up-close snapping of the fight scenes. The second film begins almost exactly where the first ended and is straight back in to that breathless, bloody style that gained director, Gareth Evans many plaudits after the first film. Iko Uwais returns as Rama, the rookie Jakarta cop and he hits the dizzy speeds that were so impressive in his
What We Did On Our Holiday Created by Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, this is essentially a big screen version of their BBC hit 'Outnumbered' (but in conjunction with the British Guild of Comedy Actors and the Scottish Tourist Board, maybe). Different parents, different children but the same, nicely observed comedic overtones. Starring Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Ben Miller and Celia Imrie amongst others, it is a pleasant enough, good natured film that hits the modest targets that it sets itself. The story is centred around Doug (Tennant) and Abi ( Pike), who are in the throws of a separation. Together with their three kids, they travel to the Scottish Highlands for Doug's father's 75th birthday party. The father, Gordy ( Billy Connolly, in contemplative form ), has a terminal disease that he wants kept from his grand children. It seems everyone is trying to keep up appearances and secrets. Farcically, nobody manages. As with 'Outnumbered', the script seems to be there mainly for the adults, allowing the children to freely riff around certain topics - the source of most of the comedy. There is just enough laughter and pathos to make it an enjoyable watch, without drifting in to uncomfortable sentimentality. It feels more like 'big TV' than 'small film' but that doesn't mean that it can't be satisfying. The Scottish scenery and all those involved come out looking good and I would have happily watched more. A quintessentially British, pleasant and gentle comedy/drama that has some genuinely touching moments.
Philomena is the true story of one lady's fifty year struggle to find her son,
who was forcibly stolen from her when she was a very young woman. ( Based on the book 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee' by Martin Sixsmith). Following a teenage fling with a young man in a local fairground, Philomena ( Dench ) was forced to give up her baby boy
for adoption by the Catholic nuns with whom she was forced to live and work. They also convinced (!)
her of the shame she should feel at being an unmarried mother and that the child trafficking was part of her religious duty. On the boy's 50th birthday, Philomena breaks the tragic news to her daughter and together they make contact with Martin Sixsmith ( Coogan ), a BBC correspondent,
to ask him
Safety Not Guaranteed After the discovery of an unusual newspaper advert for '..somebody to go back in time with me..', a Seattle journalist and two interns embark on a trip to investigate any possible story. What they find is a quirky and paranoid supermarket attendant who claims that he is planning a trip through time to rediscover a previous love. He claims that he has built a time machine, is being followed by Special Agents and needs to train an accomplice for the journey. As the details unfold, it seems that there is more to his story than meets the eye. Mark Duplass plays Kenneth, the eccentric time traveller and he has the strongest of the roles, giving the character real depth and a crazy believability. Aubrey Plaza ( Parks & Recreation ), Jake Johnson ( New Girl, 21JumpSt ) and Karan Soni all put in solid performances as the investigators, all of whom have their own baggage to bring to the story. It is the chemistry between Kenneth and Darius ( Plaza ) that really drives the film forward and their weird relationship is a joy to watch. The highlight of which is a 'Zither solo' - something that doesn't happen in films very often. From the
Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d'Adele) French with subtitles. Telling the story of a young French girl and her journey of discovery through adolescence, love and her same sex relationship, this film has attracted a lot of controversy and a Palme d'Or at Cannes 2013. It is easy to see why. The acting is spellbinding, Adele Exarchopoulos ( Adele ) and Lea Seydoux ( Emma ) are both intensely believable as the young lovers and the director, Abdel Kechiche has created an emotional, in depth study of their story, whilst being accused of pushing the actors beyond boundaries. ( more here ) The directorial style is one of concentration and visceral close-up, focusing on all aspects of the characters facial features, particularly their mouths. Talking, smoking, kissing and eating - all seen through the lens of intimacy. The sex scenes ( cert 18 ) are intense, extended, messy and real, again pushing the boundaries of decency in to voyeurism and pornography. All of which has the effect of leaving you feeling the awkwardness of the blossoming relationship. You won't see such
Nebraska Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb and Bob Odenkirk star in this slow paced road trip film that explores ageing, relationships and life's aspirations. Filmed entirely in black & white, the cinematography is beautiful and expansive, showing the vast emptiness and claustrophobia of Nebraska's wide open spaces. Directed by Alexander Payne ( Sideways 2004, About Schmidt 2002, The Descendants 2011 ) it tells the story of an old man called Woody Grant ( Dern ), in failing health who is determined to travel across state to claim, what he thinks is, his million dollar prize from a local marketing campaign. After several failed attempts to walk the route, he is finally joined on trip by his son ( Forte ) who just wants to help and understand his father's obsession. The trip takes in Woody's home town and he re-visits family & friends and reflects on his past. Once word gets around
Lone Survivor stars Mark Wahlberg as one of four Navy SEALs on a secret mission to hunt down and kill a Taliban leader in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. Also starring Taylor Kitsch, Eric Bana, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster it is as brutal and uncompromising as its setting and title suggests. The main body of the film is centred around a fire-fight with enemy soldiers after the SEALs are ambushed and is extremely in your face. The battle scenes are up-close, loud and crunching - the stunt work, battle-injury
The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Di Caprio both work really hard to bring their best to the party for this 3 hour epic based on the life/memoirs of Jordon Belfort, a stockbroker who wormed his way to a personal fortune and a reputation for corruption and decadence during the 80s and 90s. Scorsese brings all his usual style to a film that seems to celebrate the excesses of the period and DiCaprio enjoys throwing
You're Next When the Davison family descend on their secluded, country manner to celebrate the parent's wedding anniversary, they are in for a rotten weekend. One by one ( and in an entirely predictable order ) they are picked off by a group of mask wearing home invaders who have already taken care of the neighbours. Nobody, however, counted on there being a battling uber-aussie, Erin ( Sharni Vinson ), meeting the 'In-Laws' for the first time. Can she protect her new extended family and get them out alive? 'You're Next' is a straight up and down 'who-done-the-slashing-and-invading' movie, nothing really original or clever
Gravity Every now and then, a film comes along that raises the bar. 'Gravity' is that film. The special effects really are something special. It looks beautiful and the 3D version is full of depth, 'space' being the ideal setting. For me, there are a few issues with the story and characters but the spectacle more than outweighs the problems. As good as Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were, I thought their parts could have been played by any old person. George Clooney's impression of 'Buzz Lightyear' even detracted from some scenes and some of his 'actions' seemed out of character. ( email me for details!) Couple this with the fact that Sandra Bullock's character seemed to have had two days training before going on a space mission, ( manuals?), it left me feeling that there were a few holes in the film.
Dallas Buyer's Club In my opinion, Matthew McConaughey has been shuffling towards an Oscar winning performance for the last few years and, following his role as a rodeo cowboy, given a month to live after being diagnosed with HIV, he has finally grabbed one. McConaughey reportedly lost over 40 pounds to play the role and the result is instantly shocking. Set in the early 1980's and based on the real-life story of Ron Woodroof who smuggled unlicensed drugs from Mexico to Texas to treat his condition, McConaughey is mesmerising. Between him and Jared Leto, who plays a fellow sufferer and cross-dressing
Ok, so plenty of people have been asking me what I think will win or should win awards at this year's Oscar Ceremony. Here is a list of my thoughts.
Best Film - 12 Years a Slave
Best Director - Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity
Best Actor - Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyer's Club
Best Actress - Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor - Jared Leto - Dallas Buyer's Club
Best Supporting Actress -Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years a Slave
The Purge Sometimes, an interesting idea is just not enough on which to base an entire film. In the near future, American society has spiralled to the point where all crime is legal for one day a year. This government sanctioned killing spree is supposed to rid the society of it's undesirables whilst the 'good/rich people' lock themselves in to their heavily fortified houses. Not a bad starting point. Unfortunately, the idea is very quickly undermined and it soon turns in to a limp, lacklustre film that thinks it has something to say. Never tense, with nothing particularly scary to deal with, it doesn't manage to raise itself above the level of a violent 'Twilight Zone' episode, sponsored