Archive for the ‘ FILMS 2014 ’ Category

’71

‘71
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This film set in the troubled streets of Belfast during 1971 captures perfectly the claustrophobia, fear, trepidation and lack of trust which the troubles engendered among the city’s occupants at this time of unrest. Jack O’Connell is outstanding and continues his impressive line of performances which began with Skins and has seen him mature into an actor with the intuition to match his skill. Directed by Yann Demange the film often feels as if it is closing in on itself and this technique brings home the plight of O’ Connell’s character Gary Hook, a young soldier stationed in Belfast as his first posting away from home.
After a confrontational stand off on the streets of Belfast where a hostile crowd have learnt of the army’s presence Hook finds himself abandoned by his unit and witnesses the horrific slaying of one of his colleagues. The next few hours are crucial to his survival and the streets of Belfast are littered with those who, fearful of their own position if they help a soldier considered the enemy by many, are unwilling to help if it means risking their own skin.
Hook nervous, bloody and bruised finds himself isolated and terrified as everyone he meets is a possible assassin or at the very least a contributor to his demise. It is a situation which leads him to an area where his safety is at most risk and it soon becomes clear that even those who should be siding with him cannot be relied on for their loyalty whilst others put themselves at risk in the act of human compassion.
The tension of Belfast, with burning burnt out cars on seemingly every street corner, along with paranoia, violence and mistrust is rife throughout this film. O’Connell is simply exceptional capturing every nuance of the abandoned soldier’s fear and miscomprehension of the situation he finds himself in. Definitely a thought provoking film ’71 is one which holds your attention throughout its duration and stays with you for several hours after.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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Well the hibernation is now official and after a fairly mild start winter has replaced autumn with a sudden chill in the air. The expectant air of Christmas looms ominously and the masses have already started discussing the John Lewis ad on social media. I do wonder when your life takes such a turn that the annual appearance of a shop ad becomes a matter worthy of discussion and even manages to reduce some to tears! Remind me to never take that turning; it must be the one marked ‘tragic’!
Elsewhere the end of one of the best series on terrestrial TV, Peaky Blinders, finished up last night and one good looking Irish man, Cillian Murphy, is to be replaced next week by another, the former Calvin Klein model Jamie Dornan as possibly the best looking psychopath ever, in The Fall. That will be the next few Thursday nights taken care of then! BBC2 at 9pm.
Out at the cinema this week I have seen one of the best films of the year, Nightcrawler, and in total contrast one of the worst, Mr. Turner. To the latter first and this Mike Leigh attempt at a biopic of the famous artist was a bitter disappointment that seemed to drag on for hours. At several junctures during the film the central character was close to death but only marginally more often than I felt close to it.
I went along on the advice of a dear friend who obviously has no taste in such matters, not that I shall ever remind him of this… often. It was doubly disappointing in that when eventually I escaped from the cinema-the seasons had changed twice at least in the interim- I assumed that at least I may have missed Christmas. In fact the only good thing about the whole experience was that although I had visibly aged at the films conclusion my companion-the recommender of this drudgery- had aged far more than me. Seriously, this film should come not with a guidance setting but an anti-ageing product!
Nightcrawler on the other hand is a sharp, sexy, well paced film in which Jake Gyllenhaal excels as the creepy protagonist with both sociopath and psychopathic leanings as well as a craving for success at any cost. Definitely one of the most compelling films I have seen in a while and a full review can be found here. Definitely recommended!
After unfortunately missing the return of The Hook ‘n’ Pull Gang last weekend I am determined not to make the same mistake this weekend when the mighty Primevals play at the Citrus Club in Grindlay Street this Saturday –Nov 8th- to launch their new album. Supported by The Phlegm and The Trama Dolls this night is probably the best night out this weekend for anyone who loves rock and roll. There are other things going on-notably glam homage The King Rockers at Studio 24- but The Primevals gig looks like being the one to catch.
Right the weekend starts now so have a good one everyone!
Poster at top by Al Hotchkiss.

NIGHTCRAWLER

Nightcrawler
Nightcrawlerfilm

This compelling crime thriller starring an impeccable Jake Gyllenhaal and equally impressive Rene Russo, written and directed by Dan Gilroy is one of the best films I have seen thus far this year. Gyllenhaal more than adequately inhabits his role of Lou Bloom a young man in search of a career, fame, notoriety and respect at whatever the cost and make no mistake there is no value put on anything other than this success, not even the life of a colleague, if the situation necessitates it. It is this flagrant disregard for others which makes Gyllenhaal’s character so fascinating and watchable whilst the sociopath/psychopath hybrid which determines his personality is as creepy as it is compelling
Once Bloom discovers there is market in selling video footage of crimes and accidents and the aftermath that follows them he decides a career in providing the most intimate, voyeuristic and forensic footage possible with no consideration for the victims of these crimes or the fatalities of an accident or a shoot out. In this he is initially supported by Nina (Russo) who is seeking to boost her own flagging career and although when he suggests mixing business with pleasure she is at first horrified and disgusted but this soon turns to admiration as his skills and sheer determination rapidly become more attractive to her as she realises how much of a boost his input gives to her own kudos and value.
This act of convincing others that he is taking them on the road to success and they should simply do as he says without question is a tactic he uses on his assistant Rick(Riz Ahmed) only when Rick questions his motives and demands that he be treated a little more fairly and receive adequate recompense for his endeavours you sense that he is sealing his own fatal outcome.
As I said before Nightcrawler stands tall amongst the best films I have seen this year. It has everything: great performances, superb pacing, style, gravitas, moments of dark humour and skilful direction by Gilroy. Definitely not one to be missed.

GONE GIRL

Gone Girl
Gone_Girl_Poster
This David Fincher movie is at the centre of a controversial storm as to whether it empowers women or sets their cause back decades. Certainly it is a very modern approach to what is essentially a cold, calculating femme fatale but whether or not Fincher has used Rosamund Pike’s character ‘Amazing’ Amy Dunne as anything other than a bewitching, fascinating captivating film character, who drives the narrative of this film in several different directions, is irrelevant when considering how compelling her and co-star Ben Affleck-as her husband Nick- are at delivering nearly two and a half hours of convincingly intense cinema.
It would seem to outsiders that Nick and Amy have the perfect marriage and lifestyle-so organised even their cat has its own room- and cocooned in their own smugness, ‘We are so cool I would want to punch us in the face’ one of them decries at some juncture, but it is all surface and underneath the cracks are rising to the surface.
Matters culminate on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary when we first meet Nick as he visits his twin sister Margo ( Carrie Coon) with matters obviously preying on his mind. On his return home he finds an obviously staged burglary has taken place and Amy has disappeared amidst signs of a struggle. He then finds himself caught up in the midst of accusations and media manipulations as it becomes clear foul play has taken place but with the absence of a corpse an actual arrest for Amy’s murder is nigh on impossible even despite the mounting evidence.
How that evidence keeps mounting!
Nick has been having an affair. Nick has accrued thousands of pounds of credit card debts. Nick has recently negotiated a life insurance policy for over a million dollars in the event anything should happen to Amy.
It all seems a little too clear cut though and even the investigating police officer feels this way and postpones his arrest until the evidence suggests that this is the only feasible option.
It is at this juncture that the film takes the first of its many diversions into another twisted narrative before this one twists into another and then yet another. It is a convincing device and at no point of its two hours plus duration does this film ever waver or lose the audience’s attention taking them to unexpected places with its unpredictable twists and turns. Just when you feel it is time to breathe easier the film takes flight and moves off in another direction without ever feeling overly contrived or unconvincing.
Ben Affleck is outstanding as browbeaten Nick who has to summon up inner strengths to survive the onslaught of the hopelessness of his situation but it is Rosamund Pike who is a revelation. Cold, calculating and detached she is the epitome of the icy blonde Hitchcock searched for throughout his many movies-Tippi Hedren may have looked the part but let’s face it her acting abilities were limited at best- and give a performance which inspires both love and hate in equal measure.
Definitely a cinematic experience worth spending a couple of hours involving yourself with and Fincher’s direction and Trent Reznor’s score serve to up the ante into making this an almost perfect mystery thriller.

I AM DIVINE

I Am Divine
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This documentary directed by Jeffery Schwarz detailing the rise of the late, great Divine from his Baltimore origins to national then international and onwards to the brink of mainstream success is like its subject matter; in that it is funny, poignant, challenging and, especially at its conclusion, more than a little tragic.
The thing about Divine which set him apart from other drag acts, apart from his vast size which contributed to rather than distracted from his appeal, was the fact he was always willing to go that bit further, be that bit fiercer and more than prepared to be that much more outrageous than his rivals. Whilst other drag queens on the scene took themselves much more seriously Divine was prepared to send both them and himself up whilst simultaneously being wholly serious about what he was doing. Teaming up with fellow Baltimore outcast/freak John Waters was a stroke of genius and one suspects without this fortuitous pairing neither would be the recognised important figures they are today.
Born Harris Glenn Milstead, though always referred to Glenn when growing up and Divine thereafter, to a conservative middle class family who indulged his leanings as an obviously effete child by encouraging him to enter the hairdressing and beauty world where his talents could flourish without too much embarrassment to his family’s sensibilities. However with the arrival of the sixties and the counterculture Glenn started to indulge in more and more outrageous antics until a rift leading to a total fall out with his family was necessary if he intended to continue down the path he was following. It rapidly became clear this is exactly that path was one he more than wanted to follow; in fact it transpired he wanted to lead the way down his own particular path.
Teaming up with John Waters and a group of fellow outcasts a few low budget movies were made, culminating in cult classics such as Mondo Trasho, Pink Flamingos-with its infamous eating dog shit scene- and Female Trouble. These films started to breakthrough nationally and eventually became classics on the gay and underground scenes and after this Divine’s rise to international renown was inexorable. Meanwhile a musical career was added to an already growing portfolio with several records-‘Native Love’ and ‘Shoot Your Shot’ are still personal favourites to this day although the sight of Divine, in all his glory, wobbling around on Top Of The Pops whipping himself into a frenzy whilst belting out ‘You Think You’re A Man’ is a moment that will always stay with me-—adding to the growing legend.
Around this juncture mainstream success was on the horizon and an appearance in the most successful Waters movie to date, Hairspray, showed that behind the outrage was real acting talent; an appearance as a man for the first time in ‘Trouble in Mind’ confirmed this. The success of Hairspray awarded Divine appointments with big time players and he was about to start work on the networked comedy with a recurring role in the now classic series ‘Married With Children’. Unfortunately circumstances conspired that on the weekend before he was due to start shooting-he was actually already ensconced in his Hollywood hotel preparing his lines- when he had a massive heart attack which killed him.
The tragedy of such an event would not have been lost on Divine however who would probably have appreciated the irony. Here was everything he had worked for; money, success, recognition and, probably most importantly, acceptance. It did ensure however his legacy remained a cult and, whilst it is totally selfish of me to say this, personally I am glad he remains known only to those who remember him and whoever they decide to introduce to the man and his legacy. In a way it keeps him a little closer to those who loved him without having to share him!
I Am Divine is showing at the Cameo Cinema until Thursday.

THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY

The Two Faces of January
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This screen adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel directed by Hossein Amini contains her usual stylistic devices: exotic locations, luxuriously understated attire and glamorous characters oozing sophistication masking a ruthless ambition whilst dark and dirty dealings lead them into a cesspit of deception. It is an extremely watch-able film from the very off as impressive Greek architecture co-ordinates beautifully with the understated but exquisite clothes of its three main characters who subsequently become inextricably entangled in a series of events which drag each of them further and further to the depths of their souls whilst their polite middle class facades, although slightly ruffled and scuffed, remain intact.
Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and Colette MacFarland (Kirsten Dunst)-if these are indeed even their real names- seem, on the surface, to be a wealthy and sophisticated American couple. On their version of a ‘Grand Tour’ they stop off in Athens where they meet up with a young tour guide Rydal-the impossibly handsome Oscar Isaac- who makes a living as a tour guide whilst creaming off extra profit by ripping off his charges. It turns out that he is the multi-lingual son of a leading American archaeologist who tried to instil his children with a privileged and unique education which should set them up for life. Rydal’s reaction to all of this was to run away from the future his father had mapped out for him and, in essence, attempt to escape the very world the MacFarlands are trying to represent whilst simultaneously attempting to gain entry into.
Immediately there is an attraction between Rydal and Colette but there is also something of a bond between him and Chester. It is never made explicit whether this is a father-son or homo-erotic attraction but although Colette is the focus of both men’s attentions there is also the hint that she is also merely in the way.
It transpires early on that the MacFarlands are not exactly who they say they are, in any regard, resulting in their dubious past catching up with them with a confrontation which leads to murder and the subsequent cover up three find themselves embroiled in a downward spiral which sends each of them plummeting to new depths of their being. No-one in this sordid tale is wholly innocent but the feeling that if a little more honesty was applied then the situation, whilst still bad, would not degenerate quite as far as it eventually does with further fatalities, deception and corruption wrecking each of their lives.
Despite the fantastic surroundings-after Athens both Crete and Turkey play supporting roles in what is essentially a three handed outing- it is also an extremely claustrophobic film as it is the small and ever increasing insularity, due to circumstance, of the central triumvirate’s world which we mostly inhabit. The performances are excellent with Viggo Mortensen playing a charming but charmless rogue, Dunst as the seemingly innocent but obviously knowing wife and Isaac as the good looking, deceptive but essentially honest rich boy determined to make his mark on the world on his own terms. It is a film layered with sexual tension between the three of them and although I felt the ending lent itself to Hollywood tradition it is still an extremely slick, seductive and worthwhile film I would not mind seeing again. That is recommendation in itself.

FRANK

Frank
Frank trailer

This offbeat comedy drama by Jon Ronson has a light touch but a dark soul. Starring Michael Fassbender and based on the true life tale of Frank Sidebottom, who performed in a papier-mâché head, it mixes a soupcon of fact to create a film that is as simple as it is complex whilst maintaining a kudos that will garner it favour amongst the avant-garde. Fassbender manages to give a great performance even if for the majority of the film he has to rely on vocalising his various facial expressions-much to the chagrin of his volatile and antagonistic acolyte Clara (Maggie Gyllenhall)- and even though at the films denouement the mask is removed this adds little to the mystery of the character but rather lends the film a more conventional structure.
Narrated throughout from the viewpoint of Jon(Domhnall Gleeson), a wannabe musician and composer, who has his sights on stardom to break out of the mundane world he inhabits living with his parents whilst working the nine to five nightmare in an office. When the band Soronprfbs come to his town and their keyboard player tries to drown himself in a suicide bid, following a mental meltdown, he flippantly offers his services as a replacement and finds himself whisked away to an isolated recording studio with the mysterious Frank- who bears some resemblance to the offbeat Captain Beefheart- and his even weirder bunch of supporting musicians who idolise him to the point of fanaticism.
The recording process inevitably does not go smoothly and Jon unwisely offers to pay for it out of his inheritance from his grandfather without realising just how much it is all going to cost. The scenes at the recording facility range from serious to violent to heartrending whilst even incorporating some comedy slapstick moments. The whole feeling is one of a surreal dream come nightmare where everyone involved is playing an absurd extremist creating a tortured epic.
Inevitably this set up is bound to lead to further disaster and indeed it does whilst combining offbeat humour with pathos. As an audience we are rooting for Frank and his celebrated, but far from conventional, talent but somehow in our hearts we know this can never, ever be and mainstream success will always elude him. Therefore the ending of the film is notably downbeat and its attempts to explain the character of Frank fail in their objectives because it is the mystery and fantasy we have already projected onto him which provide the film’s major motivational tool and charm.
Despite this Frank is a seriously thought provoking film which questions the value of fame, integrity and celebrity. Although simply presented it is full of complexities which give it a depth which might not seem obvious from the outset but become more apparent as the film engages you in its surreal ambitions. Because of this it works on several levels and leaves you feeling emotionally connected to a character that has spent the majority of the film encased in a giant papier-mâché mask. This, in itself, is no mean achievement!