Here’s a (VERY BELATED!) rundown of what we saw in August with whoever reviews it getting the right to bestow a star rating.
More talk on all these in the latest Podcast – #33
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Note: This list is of course by no means complete, we’re only rankin’ wot we seez. Where two films get the same rating they’re ranked alphabetically. NW denotes a Nigel review, PMcG is written by Páraic.
Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach team up once again for this delightful look at growing up and finally succumbing to responsibilities. Lola Kirke plays Tracey a college student starting out in New York who feels overwhelmed and seeks refuge and guidance through soon to be sister in law Brooke (Gerwig). Initially Tracey is in awe of Brooke’s carefree energy, witticisms and can-do attitude yet she soon sees through the façade. Realising that Brooke is as lost as she is Tracey turns her adventures into a story in order to get into a sniffy prestigious literature society.
A road trip ensues where said story is revealed and the subject is far from pleased. This thirty minutes of the movie is where the term screwball may be rightly used giving rise to the best chuckles. All the performances are solid with Kirke and Gerwig shining through and as with Frances Ha there are some sublime song choices. Further proof that Baumbach should only do films where Greta is involved.
Looking at the poster and marketing campaign for 45 Years might have put a few people off. Likewise the queue in your local cinema was probably made up of mostly over-50s couples. Put simply, anyone who overlooked Andrew Haigh’s terrific drama about the evolution and turning points in a long relationship will now be kicking themselves.
Haigh made his name as director of the 2011 gay drama Weekend and here’s he’s changing tact a little to tackle an old married English couple Geoff and Kate (played by Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling) as they approach the weekend of their 45th wedding anniversary. The only spanner in the works is that news has arrived that the body of a former lover of Geoff’s has shown up, years after she died in a tragic accident. So long has gone on, but it’s obvious that as a couple they never really dealt with the elephant in the room. In the space of a week, with a looming anniversary party coming up, Kate is forced to re-assess everything she thought she knew. The plot is so simple and moves along slowly but the film’s strength is in the two lead performances – don’t be surprised to see this pair as sleeper contenders for awards consideration in early 2016.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Marielle Heller’s directorial debut is a frank and honest look at the trials and tribulations that 15 year old Minnie (Bel Powley) encounters as she becomes embroiled with her mother’s boyfriend.
Kristen Wiig is the mother and Alexander Skarsgard is the boyfriend/paedophile. We see things from Minnie’s perspective and sympathise as she is clearly groomed, becoming totally lost in a confusing seedy world of drugs and sex. Wiig is great at portraying a shitty mom and Skarsgard pulls off the feat of almost making you like him – or at least realise what Minnie sees in him. Bel Powley perfectly conveys the awkward misgivings teens posses about the world all to eager to become an adult.
An unexpected film lies in wait compared to what is hinted at in the trailer.
Trainwreck is enjoyable and very funny and has to be highly recommended. But it’s also a little disappointing as it doesn’t really say a huge amount new about women and relationships, in fact it’s really just re-telling a story told a hundred times before (think Seth Rogen in Knocked Up), only this time with a raunchy, confident lady at the front and centre. (full review)
Precinct Seven Five
This is the first major feature from director Tiller Russell who has been involved in a plethora of true crime stories and documentaries over the years, with ihs only credit of real interest being that of an Associate Producer on Richard Linklater’s Bernie.
The film tells the story of former Brooklyn police officer Michael Dowd who was arrested in 1992 and opened up a massive can of worms by confessing to stealing money, drugs and guns in order to make a few extra bucks while working in Brooklyn. Precinct Seven Five sees him opening up and telling his side of the story. Typical revelation – he was on a retainer for a Dominican drug gang named La Compania taking in a minimum of $4000 a week just for turning a blind eye and passing on any tips when required.
The film is very slick and snazzy and seems set up to turn Dowd into a bit of a rock-star and hero. If this were a fictional story like Goodfellas, you could turn a blind eye but it’s much harder here and will leave you feeling a little like you did after watching The Wolf of Wall Street and then seeing the real-life Jordan Belfort’s efforts to build a speaking career out of his wrong-doing.
Despite this real-life morality issue, it’s a damn enjoyable story and is destined to be a big hit on Netflix.
Straight Outta Compton
When I saw the trailer and posters for the N.W.A. rapper biopic Straight Outta Compton, I assumed the film wouldn’t be for me and it would glamourise the gangster style in a way that we’ve become all too immune to. It turns out that F. Gary Gray, aside from having a dyslexia challenging name, is actually a deft hand at holding off on the clichés and easy traps of this kind of film, and actually treats the whole thing with the right balance of sensitivity, balance, humour and drama. Yes the abuse and misogyny is glossed over, but this is a Hollywood treatment.
He’s helped along by a brilliant ensemble cast which sees O’Shea Jackson, Jr. playing his father Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E. All three possess a magnetic screen presence which keeps you watching as their group gets very famous very quickly, before collapsing with tragic consequences. Also major props to Keith Stanfield as Snoop Dogg.
The film also stars Paul Giamatti, repeating his trick of being a prick of a music manager after last month’s efforts in Love & Mercy.
Here we have another adaptation of a John Green young adult book (he who brought us the smash hit The Fault in Our Stars). Paper Towns sees model turned actress Cara Delevingne plays the part of Margo Roth Spiegelman, the girl next door to own very average teenage boy Quentin (Nat Wolff). She’s elusive and impossibly cool but almost inevitable they drift apart in high school. The setup is very formulaic for the first half hour and then Margo disappears and the whole thing turns into a Famous Five puzzle to find her. The whole thing kind of plays on Delevingne’s ethereal quality by getting her to speak slowly and disappear in and out of the film.
The puzzle part of the story is fun but director Jake Schreier employs way too much slow motion like as if his iPhone just discovered the 120fps setting. This reaches a nadir at the film’s closing scenes at prom in the the most ridiculously closing scene you’ll see this autumn.
Having said that it’s packed with fun, clever references and moments and if this is the kind of thing that sixteen-year-olds are going to see in the cinema then times aren’t all that bad.
Hard to Be a God
Do you like 3 hour black and white Russian films with no overriding sense of plot or coherence of dialogue where the fourth wall is constantly being broken? If the answer to this question is yes then Hard to Be a God is for you. This was widely hailed as a masterpiece by most upon it’s release as much for the fact that it saw the light of day regardless of it’s quality. It was finished by the son and wife of Aleksey German as he passed away in 2013 before the film was complete.
Here is the IMDB synopsis “A group of scientists is sent to the planet Arkanar to help the local civilization, which is in the Medieval phase of its own history, to find the right path to progress. Their task is a difficult one: they cannot interfere violently and in no case can they kill. The scientist Rumata tries to save the local intellectuals from their punishment and cannot avoid taking a position.” Now I would imagine most people reviewing the film read this before seeing the film or had been briefed as you wouldn’t have the faintest idea this was occurring as the film starts with Rumata talking directly to us. There are no space ships or white coats or test tubes simply the middle ages sans la Renaissance. Which is a world covered in shit and piss.
There is no question that the film is visually impressive, while being hard to watch and presents us with some of the most striking images of the year but the story is impenetrable and disjointed making the piece an endurance test.
The Man From UNCLE
Guy Ritchie is back! Those of you wondering whether Ritchie would get to continue his homoerotic double-act work after the Sherlock Holmes series stalled can rejoice.
Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are paired together as rogue CIA and KGB spies, ending up working together for Hugh Grant who is English. It’s the 60s and England, the USSR and the US are all working together, who said the Allies died after 1945?
The whole thing is very silly, very sexist and yet perfectly fine. Summer 2015’s #1 “Sure I’d watch it on a plane” film.