Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

You’ll understand when you get divorced someday!

Year Released : 2015

Director : Stephen Dunn

Cast : Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams, Joanne Kelly, Aliocha Schneider, Jack Fulton, Sofia Banzhaf and Mary Walsh

Diverting away from films I found in a pile of VHS tapes whilst at the house of my parents, I’m going to look into a film that has been on my Youtube playlist for some time now. I really should get through that list properly as there are some films that have been on there for a few years.

Those of you who are long term readers of this site know that reviewing smaller, independent films meant that I was able to discover up and coming directors such as Xavier Dolan, so to have a film that describes itself as part him, and part David Cronenberg (another great director), is a treat, and one that I couldn’t resist.

If it can be even remotely similar to Dolan’s efforts then I will be very happy as he is arguably the most accomplished director when it comes to LGBT films, but whether it turns out to the the case is another matter as for all I know it could be nothing like either of them, let alone the two combined, but we’ll see.

Plot

Oscar’s (Fulton – Child, Older – Jessup) parents split up when he was a child and his only companion was his pet hamster, who he imagines talks to him. His friends also suspect that he will grow up to be gay, but after being called on it he follows a bunch of teens visually beating another young man, ending with them shoving a pipe up his rear. He is traumatised by what he sees and his father Peter (Abrams) says that it happened because he was homosexual, further worrying Oscar.

Several years later Oscar is involved in a photography project with Gemma (Banzhaf) in the hopes of moving to New York when he meets a new co-worker named Wilder (Schneider). Oscar finds himself being sexually attracted to Wilder, but is still haunted by the incident with the brutalised teen from several years prior. This new connection with his feelings coincides with a breakdown in the relationship with Peter.

Oscar and Wilder begin to bond, but a brief conversation between the latter and Peter leads to more trouble as he believed that Oscar and Gemma were in a relationship. Peter slowly starts putting the pieces together and realises that his son might be homosexual.

So is it a genuine mix between Dolan and Cronenberg

For the first time in a long time after seeing a description like that, I feel that I can genuinely see why it was made, and for once I fully agree. There are definitely similarities in the techniques of film making, and I would argue that there is also a touch of Nicolas Winding Refn in there as well. It takes the best aspects of the three whilst feeling completely unique, and this is only a good thing.

The characterisation in the film is remarkable, with the relationship between Oscar and Peter being exceptionally well developed. Their interactions with each other get more and more tense as the film goes on, especially as the latter starts to realise his son’s sexuality. It is an interesting dynamic and the best part is that whilst Peter is as close as the film comes to having an antagonist, he is certainly not an awful human being.

Peter is clearly going through issues throughout the whole film as he struggles through his separation to the point where he keeps his ex-wife’s belongings around, and how he gets hurt when he finds that Oscar described him as a deadbeat in an art project. There are glimpses of him being a good dad, such as the scene right at the beginning of the film where he pretends to inflate a balloon with a dream and place it into Oscar’s head, but he lets the issues get on top of him and each good deed is countered by the opposite.

 

He is just one of the several captivating characters in the film and visuals definitely aid you falling into Oscar’s world as he struggles to come to terms with what he saw as a youth. This includes a scene in which he is having sex with a man at a party, visualises the brutal attack from his youth, and then imagines himself vomiting screws and a variety of other similar objects.

Make no mistake, this is a visually brutal film, but it is also a captivating experience and it is one of the best LGBT films I’ve seen in recent years, and comfortably one of the most unique films from any genre that I have reviewed for this site. This is helped by the excellent electronic soundtrack, bringing you into this world.

Stephen Dunn is a director that I will be keeping a keen eye on in the near future and if he can produce something as engaging as this on a large scale, he could achieve the same heights of the aforementioned three directors.

Summary

“Closet Monster” is captivating, engaging and most importantly, driven. The great characterisation is simple, yet effective, and that is a sign of great film-making.

Stephen Dunn has fell well and truly onto my radar with his mix of Xavier Dolan, Nicolas Winding Refn and David Cronenberg, and this is about as fresh as I have seen in a long time, certainly for a film in the LGBT genre.

I would thoroughly recommend “Closet Monster” and the films of Stephen Dunn will hopefully appear on this site again.

 

Racist? I’m not a racist!

Director : Mick Jacksondenial

Year Released : 2017

Starring : Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott

Hello again all, it’s been a while hasn’t it? The reason for my lengthy break is due to moving home again recently and not having access to the internet. This means that I haven’t been able to scour Netflix or other sources for less-well-known films, and I’ve had to wait until I got a day off from work when I had nothing planned to be able to sit and write a review. Please note that I still haven’t got broadband at my new house and it doesn’t get installed until Friday, but after that I’m going to try to do a lot of reviews in a short space of time.

But anyway, onto the review.

“Denial” is a film that has been on my Youtube playlist of “Films I want to watch” for a long time, but even then I was genuinely surprised that it got a cinema release in my native UK, but I certainly wasn’t complaining and it gives me a chance to review a new film. It was also surprisingly popular at Leicester Square for a film that’s not well advertised, so I was even contemplating not reviewing it for the site, but I decided to go with it anyway as I don’t think it’ll be a film that the majority will know.

This became the 18th film I saw at the cinema in 2017, and only the second that I’m considering for my Top Ten at the end of the year (I’m currently at 21 for the year), that’s how much I liked it.

Plot

Back in the early nineties there was a war of words between historians Deborah Lipstadt (Weisz) and David Irving (Spall) in relation to whether the holocaust really happened. Irving confronts Lipstadt at a presentation she is giving, and later starts legal proceedings against her due to comments made about him in her book. Weisz spends her time defending herself from not only the press and the London based survivors of the holocaust, all whilst trying to find the proof for her legal team, headed by Anthony Julius (Scott) that Irving is what he appears, a Hitler-sympathiser that is trying to embarrass the Jewish people rather than just another racist.

The case starts with Irving representing himself, and over the subsequent weeks Lipstadt has to prove that Irving has lied on numerous occasions, therefore meaning that what was said was not libellous.

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Why is it good?

I’m going to start off with arguably my favourite part of the film and that is the portrayal of the characters. Each actor puts in a great performance of their respective characters, but the stand out character is clearly David Irving, the antagonist. It makes you really dislike Irving as a person, and much like the priests in “Spotlight”, he doesn’t seem to believe what he is doing or saying is wrong. There is a section in which a part of his diary is read out to the court and how he has taught his daughter numerous racist insults, and yet he doesn’t think that he has done anything wrong, and despite hearing what he has just written in his own words, he speaks with all honesty when he utters “I’m not a racist”. You actually believe that he believes that, even though all of the evidence points to the contrary.

I’d be really curious to see what Irving himself thinks of the portrayal of him in the film.

Make no mistake, this is not a film that will gauge the excitement that a lot of other courtroom dramas have in the past, but it is one that builds itself up effectively. Such simple scenes, such as one set in the camp at Auschwitz, give you a real feeling for the wider scale of things. It is a court case that has true implications world-wide instead of just a small scale issue that similar films focus on.

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The subtlety in this film is it’s key attraction, with such simple things helping you build an idea of the character, and one such example of this is right at the end when the court case is over and Irving goes to shake the hands of the opposing side, and they all walk off in disgust. This is an excellent portrayal of what would be a realistic scenario as, if you’d heard a person being racist on such a regular basis for the better part of three months, you’d be very disinclined to shake their hand, regardless of whether you won or not. You can just tell that they all just want to tell him exactly what they think of him, but the simple refusal of a handshake would tell him more than several well-chosen words ever could.

I’ve always struggled with talking about films that I like on here as it’s hard to put into words why I view it with esteem, whereas criticising films is very easy. I’m not going to sit here and claim that this is a brilliant film, because it isn’t quite at that level. It is however a very decent courtroom drama and whilst I will probably never go out of my way to watch it again, it’s one that I would recommend you watch if you get the chance.

If “Denial” is at a cinema near you then I would definitely recommend you spend ninety minutes of your time to watch it.

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Summary

“Denial” is a very good film that focuses on the characters in a courtroom situation, and the fight for the truth, but what I liked about “Denial” is that it showsapproved that the truth is subjective, and this is what makes Irving a very dislikeable antagonist. It’s simple, yet impactful storytelling.

Don’t go into it expecting a twisting plot that leaves you on the edge of your seat, it’s not that in the slightest. What it is however is a movie that will get you emotionally invested and on some levels very angry. I won’t claim to know the ins and outs of the whole case, afterall, I didn’t even know that this was a real case until the film had began, but it got me far more engaged that a lot of similar films did.

This is film-making done right, and whilst it’s nowhere near earning the “perfect” stamp, it’s definitely “approved”.

 

I’m a lean, mean, joint-smoking machine!

Released : 2015being_charlie_poster

Director : Rob Reiner

Main Cast : Nick Robinson, Cary Elwes, Devon Bostick, Morgan Saylor, Susan Misner, Common and Ricardo Chavira

Firstly, my apologies about the gap since my last review. I was hoping to post this review last week but I’ve spent most of that time at week and ill.

Another film from my Youtube list of films I want to watch, I am looking forward to what will hopefully be the first decent film starring Nick Robinson that I have seen. He has been in “Jurassic World” and “The Fifth Wave”, neither of which were great. He is one of a growing number of young actors that seem to constantly get roles despite not seemingly having any emotions. Having said that, I’m happy to give anyone a chance and to be fair to Nick, two bad films doesn’t necessarily make him a bad actor, so here we go.

I like stories about redemption, as well as deep and complex characters. Some of my favourite characters in movie history are those that are multi-layered and aren’t simply one-dimensional wonders. There appears to be something relatively unique about this given that the character seemingly doesn’t want to be redeemed, but feels the need to.

I’m not claiming that it is a completely new concept, but at least it’s trying something slightly different, and I applaud them for that. Having said that, the reviews I’ve read have not been good at all, so

Plot

Charlie (Robinson) leaves his rehab centre on his birthday and promises his parents that this time will be different, all before stealing the prescription medicine from the mother of a guy giving him a lift. He does eventually get back home but is sent back to rehab within minutes as his father (Elwes) is scared that he will ruin the Governors election campaign that he strong favourite for. Charlie only agrees due to convincing from his drug-taking accomplice Adam (Bostick).

The extremely disgruntled Charlie quickly makes friends at the new rehab centre, and finds himself developing a romantic relationship with the emotionally unstable Eva (Saylor). The two work their way out of the rehab centre and into half-way houses, although they are actively denied spending time with each other, although they can spend time away from the houses together with the permission of their parents. Charlie’s mother (Misner) gives permission for him to do this and the pair make their way to a beach house for a romantic get away, but can both of them stay away from the drugs, or will old habits return?

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An improvement on the usual Nick Robinson offerings?

Robinson is considerably better in this film than some of his previous efforts and I think that’s because he has found a character that has some depth to him, which is something that can’t be said for most of his other efforts. There is a scene towards the end of the film *spoiler warning* in which the character has reached such a low that he ends up taking drugs again, but even as he’s doing it you can tell that he’s trying to convince himself not to do it, and Robinson captured that very well.

That scene was the moment I realised that I liked the movie as I found myself thinking “don’t do it” and I felt very personally disappointed that the character had decided to undo all of his hard work. The thing is that you understand where he is coming from at that point in the story. I won’t reveal why he gets to that point, but you understand, even if you don’t agree.

Without revealing what it is, the reason you understand is because the film, whilst not pacey in any sense of the word, develops the characters quite well, including the minor characters, and that relationships between them are explored more than most similar films. The relationship between Charlie and Eva is fairly interesting as well and the reason for this is that you can never figure out her motivations or what she is thinking, and whilst the two have a natural connection, they never look like they will ultimately end up together due to her insecurities. In some ways the relationship is similar to Scott and Ramona from “Scott Pilgrim vs the World”, but with the insecurity being in the opposite gender.

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As mentioned above, the film doesn’t have any pacing whatsoever really, it is very much a character driven film and I can imagine that this would turn a lot of people off. For me I’d rather have a film that takes its time to have a developed set of characters, rather than something happening every single minute and yet you don’t care. For example, most of the horror films released these days fall very much into the latter. They will spend the time trying to increase the body count as quickly and violently as possible, but they don’t take the time to get you to care about the characters that are being killed.

Whilst they’re not fully fleshed out characters, you get to know quite a few of those staying at the rehab and half-way centres that Charlie and Eva are at, so you get to see what each is like interacting with others when each other isn’t around. What makes this even better is that the conversations when they’re with other people don’t revolve around the other person, which is another common trend in movies. The problem with a lot of films involving a romantic angle is that when either side of the relationship are away from their partner, that’s all they can talk about, whereas “Being Charlie” doesn’t go down that route, thankfully.

The only issue that I really have with “Being Charlie” is that it is somewhat predictable in terms of the relationship between Charlie and his father. The ending feels a bit unoriginal and whilst the majority of what was before it was fresh, the final ten or so minutes was nothing that I hadn’t already seen.

I do also find it funny that the rapper “Common” appears as one of the main cast, even though his character has maybe five minutes of screen time. It’s not even as if he is a well known name in the acting world, especially not well known enough to be credited as a main cast member.

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Summary

Don’t get in expecting a fast-paced look at the world of drugs in youth culture because you’ll be expected. Infact, if you’reapproved expecting nearly 100 minutes of anything even vaguely similar to other films where the taking of drugs is a plot point then you’ll also be disappointed, but if you are after a film that builds its characters to the point where you become emotionally involved them and their decisions.

I’m not going to lie, I’m being a bit generous by giving this the approved stamp because for the majority I wasn’t really sure whether I liked it or not. I loved that it was developing the characters, but there just wasn’t a lot happening and you are waiting for long periods of time for the story to move along somewhat.

Still, give it a watch and I am giving it my approved stamp because it is ultimately a decent film and one I think that those who read my reviews on a regular basis will enjoy for the most part.

It took God six days to create the universe, you should be able to get your act together in five!

Year Released : 2016images
Director : Zach Clarke
Cast : Addison Timlin, Ally Sheedy, Keith Poulson and Peter Hedges

If there is one thing that I hate it is when a film tries to pass itself off as something that it is clearly not. This can range from comedies that say they offer original jokes,  yet you’ve heard them all before, or the word “unique” in a description of a film and yet when you’re done watching it, you feel an overwhelming sense of familiarity. That being said, I am prepared to give a lot of films a chance and that’s why I decided that “Little Sister” would be the next film that I reviewed.

I first saw the trailer for this a few weeks ago and thought that it looked relatively interesting, which makes a change from some other films I’ve reviewed in the recent past, but looking a certain way and being a certain way are two very different things.

For those that haven’t read this site before, I write this mini-section before watching the film, so please keep that in mind as despite being interested in the film, I am already anticipating giving it a negative review unless it lives up to the promise in the trailer of it being unique and interesting.

Plot

Colleen (TImlin) has purposefully separated herself from her family and joined a convent following on from her mother’s (Sheedy) attempted suicide and drug dependency. Despite claiming to be happy, the other nuns believe that she isn’t truly enjoying the experience and actively encourage her to consider her future.

One day her mother sends her an email advising that her brother Jacob (Poulson) is finally out of the hospital after returning from war, but his entire face has been burnt. Colleen returns home to find that nothing has changed, her house and friends are exactly the same as when she left them, but her brother is understandably reluctant to reveal his new self to the world.

Colleen decides that if nothing has changed but her, that she will return to her old look and she re-dyes her hair, and this helps her to finally connect with Jacob again. The two reacquaint with each other and this finally helps Colleen reintegrate with her family again, or so it would appear

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As quirky and unique as it is advertised as?

Films that advertise themselves as being unique and quirky are usually the complete opposite, and are infact remarkably dull, tedious and uninteresting….and “Little Sister” falls firmly into that category. It is remarkably dull and lifeless, regardless of it’s attempts to tell us otherwise simply because a character changes hair colour several times.

The main problem with “Little Sister” sister is that it presents itself in the trailer as being weird, imaginative, but this is far from the truth and this is caused by Colleen, a remarkably boring central character. If you’re going to claim to be something very different than everything we’ve seen before, that actually needs to be the case, but the character of Colleen is precisely the same as pretty much every angsty young-woman ever depicted in film.

Addison TImlin’s performance fits the role perfectly well, but the problem is that anytime the character shows anything that remotely involves reflecting any emotion other than sadness, TImlin appears to be well out of her comfort zone. There is a scene just after she dyes her hair for the first time in which she lip syncs to a metal song and does a weird little dance, but you can tell from the poorly-hidden look on her face that she is clearly not comfortable, and this happens a few more times throughout the film in which the character is trying to be zany, but you can tell TImlin isn’t sold on the idea.

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You don’t get a chance to take a break from the character as she is in nearly every single scene in the movie. The other characters aren’t given a chance to breathe, or indeed for you to really see their relationships with each when Colleen isn’t around. If you’re focusing primarily on one character, you at least need to see the others when that character isn’t there on a regular basis. For example, you virtually never see Jacob without Colleen, and the only thing that you see her parents doing when she’s not there is attempt to take recreational drugs whilst in the bath. Not allowing the characters to develop their own personalities means that you ultimately don’t care, and that sums this whole film up for me.

Whilst not awful, I found that this offered precisely nothing that I hadn’t seen before in other films, and ultimately it will be one of those films that in a year or two I will see listed on my list of reviews that I will remember very little about. It is a completely forgettable movie with unremarkable and one-dimensional characters.

At least it was only ninety minutes long.

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Summary

Despite marketing itself as something different, “Little Sister” is that the same bland, unimaginative, slow moving type of film that I have seen and reviewed numerous times before.

Whilst the efforts of everyone are not awful by any stretch, there is nothing about this film that will be memorable after a short amount of time, infact, give it a week and I probably won’t remember the name of a single character from this film. That is how forgettable this movie is.

At a mercifully short ninety minutes, if you do decide to watch this then at least it won’t take up a long portion of your day.

God’s a c***

Year Released : 201675ce00dc8d0902fecbde090b16d136a1
Director : Andrea Arnold
Cast : Sasha Lane, Shia Labeouf and Riley Keough

As mentioned in my last review, I have started working in a new cinema and this one is more prone to getting in smaller, independent films, and when I started there last week I was filled with delight when I saw the names of films that I had never heard of, one of which was “American Honey”.

Now, I like to think I keep up to date with all upcoming releases, so I automatically become intrigued when I see a movie on the film list that I don’t recognise, so when I saw the words “American Honey” I got excited, but I didn’t watch a trailer going into it and therefore I had very little knowledge about what the film was about, other than it is a road trip movie.

Yeah, that was a mistake…..

Plot

Star (Lane) is seemingly stuck in a dead end life, jobless and looking after her two younger siblings whilst her dad drinks himself to death, and the mother does everything she can to disassociate herself with them. One day, whilst hunting for food in a dump truck, Star catches the eye of Jake (Labeouf) and after a brief conversation, he offers her a job selling magazines. She accepts and soon heads off on a road trip with people from all corners of the United States.

Upon meeting the owner of the sales team, Krystal (Keough), Star is left in no uncertain terms that she can be abandoned in the middle of nowhere of at any time if she doesn’t sell, and/or prove her worth, but she is paired with Jake during training, the leading sales person. Things don’t go according to plan when Star purposefully sabotages a sale that Jake is on the verge of securing, and the pair come to blows on a regular basis, but then soon start a relationship.

The only issue with that is that Jake is in a weird relationship with Krystal, and the latter doesn’t take too kindly to Star impacting Jake’s sales, as well as making it perfectly clear that she is the only woman that he is interested in. How long can this go on, especially when Jake realises that Star is using her body to get sales.

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Worth the watch?

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a film that is nearly three hours long and yet have so little happen during it. I have no issues watching long films at all, but to sum it up I have a friend that reviews films as well and he summarised it perfectly when he described it as a “road trip that goes nowhere”, and even as early as 40 minutes in I was bored out of my mind and was incredibly tempted to walk out. I wouldn’t have missed anything worth watching. To put that in some sort of context, I have seen some horrible movies down the years, something that are ultimately far worse than this, and yet I’ve stayed.

The film is a big waste of nearly three hours of your life and it tries to use the psychology of having regular introductions of loud music to keep you interested, but it really doesn’t. Whilst the odd song here and there adds to the story, such as when Star’s father forces her to dance with him, but then there are those scenes in which they’re travelling on the bus and rap music is blaring out and you’re subjected to a full four minute rendition from people who can’t sing, and it has no relevance whatsoever, although I do suppose that fits in with a lot of the characters. To put that in more context, I don’t like rap music.

So many of the characters are inconsequential and irrelevant that it makes you really wonder why you should care about any of them, even the main characters. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the acting is bad by any stretch. Everyone does a decent job, especially Labeouf, but the very fact that they share the bus with roughly fifteen other people and yet I couldn’t tell you a single thing about any of the other characters, other than their names (most of which you’ll forget by the end of the film), and that isn’t a good thing.

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I think one of the problems that causes it to feel much longer than nearly three hours long is that there are just so many scenes that are completely uninteresting, or off-the-wall random, that you find yourself having your mind wander. I found myself having a conversation over Facebook with the aforementioned friend and that’s how unengaging the story is. A film that lasts nearly three hours isn’t a bad thing, but a film that has that length needs to be interesting on at least some level.

The only aspect that I do like is that you get to see a good picture of what America is like in areas that you don’t often see, such as the city of Kansas, which rarely features in films that don’t involve the land of “Oz”. Let’s face it, the vast, vast majority of films set in America are set in the three main cities, New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles, so it was nice to see somewhere that you don’t often see. If you’re after a movie that shows you different areas of a part of the world that is regularly in film, then this is the one for you, but that is ultimately the only positive thing that I can say about a film that takes up nearly 1/8 of your day.

Visually it’s decent enough, as are most films that rely on natural light, but ultimately this is a film that when I do eventually get around to ranking all of the films that I have seen this year, this will be low in the list, and if I’m being honest, in any other year this could have easily featured in my Bottom 10.

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Summary

A completely forgettable film that offers nothing and I think a quote from “American Psycho” sums this movie up perfectly, “I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling.” I like to think that I can take something positive from most films and can use it at some point during my life, but this is not one of those.

“American Honey” is a completely unremarkable movie that I was already starting to forget within fifteen minutes of finishing it, and I have been waiting patiently for the cinema that I work at to stop showing it so that I can review it. Infact, I think at the time I described it as a film that has a beginning, but no middle or end.

You only have a short life in the grand scheme of things, don’t waste some of it watching this.

Talking to your father is like talking to a rock!

Year Released : 2015lx8j8fax
Director : Rodrigo Garcia
Cast : Ewan McGregor, Ciaran Hinds, Tye Sheridan and Ayelet Zurer

Now I am going to start this off by stating that I am not religious. I do not follow any faith and whilst I believe that there probably was a person called Jesus at around this time 2000 years ago, I don’t believe that he was a son of a theoretical deity, and that he was simply a man that was so far ahead of his time that the only explanation that people could come up with is that he was divinely touched. That’s my opinion.

The reason I mention this is that I have no idea if the story of Jesus’s interacting with a family in the desert is in the Bible or not, I have no interest in really finding out and the only reason I mention this is that if anyone is overly religious reads this, nothing I say is designed to offend you, so please don’t take my beliefs or review of a film as an attempt at causing upset.

But anyway, regardless of religious beliefs, I am not put off at all from watching films featuring religious characters if the story is decent enough, and the trailer for “Last Days in the Desert” got me intrigued enough to watch the film, and so I sit here in anticipation of not being entirely sure what type of film I’m about to watch.

Plot

Yeshua (McGregor – just for clarity, the character is only ever referred to by this name, and not Jesus) is making his way to Jerusalem after a lengthy fast in the desert. Despite being hungry, Yeshua is otherwise fine physically, but he is haunted by visions of the Devil (also McGregor), who goads him along the way about his poor relationship with his father.  After a few days Yeshua meets a young man (Sheridan) and agrees with his father (Hinds) to work in exchange for water and shelter. They are building a house for the young man, simply known as “Son”, whilst also caring for “Mother” (Zurer).

“Son” reveals that whilst he is happy to help build the house, he doesn’t want to stay there as he wants to see the world, but his father is adamant that he should stay and build a community with his parents. The devil eventually reveals to Yeshua that “Son” is the result of an affair that “Mother” had, unbeknowst to “Father”.

As time goes on Yeshua becomes friends with the family, but his becomes morally conflicted when “Son” starts to become more active in his desire to leave, which eventually causes an accidental tragedy.

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Is it a religious film?

Whilst the story obviously revolves around a religious figure, I wouldn’t really class this as a religious movie as it’s about one man’s moral conundrum and dealing with an evil presence. Take away the character’s name and this could have just been a very normal, generally enjoyable drama film.

All of that being said, this has to have had one of the most needless and pointless endings that I’ve ever seen in a film. The final shot, which I’m going to spoil, even though it isn’t really a spoiler, is of two men overlooking the desert that the film has been set in, and taking pictures of each other. It takes you completely out of the preceding 90odd minutes of your life, and there isn’t a single justifiable reason for ending a film that was otherwise very well done in such a manner.

However, that is the only major negative that I can think of for “Last Days in the Desert”. It’s not a blockbuster style film, but it’s rather the type that I love, a character driven piece. There are only five characters in the film (well, ones that have any lines or aren’t taking pictures of themselves), but you get to know these five characters relatively well, and for me the most interesting one was that of the Devil. The reason for that is that whilst he is trying to antagonise Yeshua, he reveals his weariness with everything and how eternity has become boring in it’s predictable nature. This presented an interesting side to a character that I thought I was easily going to be able to predict.

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He was one of many parts that surprised me about the film, not least of which is that it isn’t overly preachy, if preachy at all. You’ve got Jeshua and the Devil occasionally referencing God, but other than that there isn’t a lot of religious stuff going on, hence the comment earlier about even though the central character is a religious icon, you don’t feel like it’s a film driven by religion.

Acting wise everyone is pretty solid, everyone is very competent and you believe all of the characters because of the respective performances, even if there is one bizarre scene in which “Son” farts and Jeshua starts laughing, which was strange beyond belief. McGregor’s role as the Devil is pretty interesting given it’s the antithesis of the other character he’s playing, and the two look exactly the same in terms of style and clothing, so it’s an interesting method of portraying two very different characters, but McGregor nails it.

The pacing is excellent for the film that it’s trying to be, and the soundtrack aids in this. Don’t get into the movie expecting 100mph action, suspense or thrills. It is a very slow film, so much to the point where there are long spells in which nothing is being said or done by anyone.

Last Days in the Desert Ewan McGregor sitting by the river

Summary

A film featuring religious characters that isn’t overly religious is a breath of fresh air, and whilst the film is approvedvery slow in parts, I found myself enjoying it for the near 100 minute run time. I think that you can enjoy this regardless of whether you’re religious or not, and I get the feeling that it has a relatively low IMDB rating because the Christian community didn’t get the exact story that they wanted.

It’s not perfect by any stretch, and I still for the life of me can’t figure out why they included a shot of people taking pictures right at the end, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen such a stupid decision in a film.

I would recommend “Last Days in the Desert” if you’re into character driven films, but if you don’t then don’t bother as you’ll end up very disappointed.

Thirty-three men, trapped underground, and we don’t even know if they are alive?

Year Released : 2016The_33_(film)_poster
Director : Patricia Riggen
Cast : Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Juan Pablo Raba, Kate del Castillo, Jacob Vargas, Cote de Pablo and Bob Gunton.

Right at the beginning of 2016 I moved to the city of Leeds and transferred from one cinema in a certain multiplex chain to another. The new cinema had 13 screens and this allowed more space for them to show smaller films, and therefore I was delighted, if a little surprised, when “The 33” was going to be shown.

Now whilst “The 33” did relatively well in America, it was practically non-existent in my native UK, and the fact that I was the only person in the screen (and one of only three people who went to watch it all week) should tell it’s own story, but I had been looking forward to “The 33” for some time.

Please bare in mind that this is more than likely going to be a much shorter review than usual given that it’s several months since I saw this, and I haven’t had the chance to rewatch it yet. The only reason I am reviewing it now is that my internet at home isn’t working and therefore I can’t watch new films online (and there are none on TV that interest me at the moment), and I’m reviewing this on my phone.

Plot

In 2010 a group of miners went to work in the San Jose mine in Chile. It started off as a normal day for each of them, with some having a normal day, others coping with drinking disorders and another having a very troubled relationship with his sister, but little did they all know that there were discussions going on as they entered the mine about how it was so dangerous.

The owner ignores all of the warnings but he is soon horrified as the largest rock in the mountain collapses, trapping 33 men under ground with a limited supply of air, food and water. Mario (Banderas) appoints himself leader of the group, but he struggles to keep morale up as no-one knows for sure if they are going to be rescued.

Meanwhile, several miles away, Laurence Golborne (Santoro) convinces President Piñera (Gunton) to allow him to mount a rescue, but when he gets down there he not only has to deal with the already troublesome situation of how to get the miners out, but also the gathering families outside of the gates and how he rarely has positive news for them.

Can Laurence get them out in time?

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So did it deserve more attention?

In my opinion, most definitely. It has an excellent cast, lead by the ever dependable Rodrigo Santoro (more on him in a minute), a storyline that gets you hooked and best of all, it’s pretty much all factual. I remember watching the news way back in 2010 when this incident was going on and whilst you had other things going on in the world, the miners trapped underground kept me hooked to the television, and the film did the same.

Now I’m not going to sit here and claim that it’s a masterpiece, and it does suffer from the obvious and unavoidable issue that anything based on well-known events has done previously, and that is that you already know what is going to happen. Similar to most films based on major historical events, it’s hard to get truly invested because you know what is going to happen at the end, but ultimately the issue isn’t really that big in this due to the story telling.

The filmmakers do a great job of capturing the many layers to this film, such as how the miners are keeping motivated in the mine, their distrust of each other with a limited supply of food and water, how the families are interacting with Laurence, and how he also tries desperately to overcome all of the negativity to get the men out of the mine, and that is so interesting to watch because of the portrayal from Rodrigo Santoro.

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Those who have read my site in the past will know that I am a big fan of Santoro, and two of his films have featured in my Top 10 for the year at one point or another in 2016 (this and “Jane Got a Gun”). He was also arguably the main antagonist in my second favourite film of last year, Focus (you can see my full top 10 here). Rodrigo controls any scene he is in and this is no different.

You feel the characters anguish as he wants to help in many different ways, but is restricted by guidelines and safety issues, and he faces an internal battle to keep his own positivity up in difficult circumstances. His is a very different type of performance to those trapped underground, and with no disrespect to any of the actors who played the miners, I found the above ground scenes more interesting.

That isn’t to say that the scenes in the mine are bad, not in the slightest. With thirty-three characters in that situation you’re obviously not going to get to know everyone, but the film tries it’s hardest to get as many covered as possible and it relatively succeeds.

As I said earlier, the only real problem that “The 33” has is that the edge is taken off by the fact that you know what’s going to happen when you go in, but that still didn’t stop me from enjoying this, and as mentioned a few paragraphs ago, it was in my Top 10 for the year so far at one point (although it’s since been replaced).

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Summary

An enjoyable drama that keeps you engrossed in what is going on, and Rodrigo Santoro unsurprisingly shines in his role. Surely it’s only a matter of time before he gets the lead in a major Hollywood film, approvedrather than just a bit part player?

“The 33” is an excellent film and whilst it stretches a bit at times, it is still a great watch and I would definitely recommend it. Don’t get in expecting action and scenes moving at a fast pace, it is a character based film and is mainly dialogue based.

If you go in expecting an edge of your seat drama, or something to be constantly happening, then you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you go in with the correct expectation levels then you should be absolutely fine.

 

You know, lemme ask you a question first. You’re a heartless bottom feeding motherfucker. Well, I guess it’s not really a question. Is it?

Year Released : 20142rwmR-nuP1M
Director : William H. Macy
Cast : Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin, Laurence Fishburne, William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman

I write this introduction for this review after watching the film, which is something that most of you know that I don’t do that often, infact it’s very rare indeed, and the reason I have done this is that it was a spur of the moment thing to finally watch a film that had been on my “Films I Want To Watch” playlist for some time after England conceded a last minute equaliser to Russia in the European Championships.

Because of that I had no time to write an introduction beforehand, and I’m sort of glad I didn’t because it was actually going to be my second time of attempting to watch “Rudderless”. The first had come a few months ago but I wasn’t in a mood at the time to watch a near two-hour film (if you haven’t noticed most of my reviewed films fall between 80-100 minutes), but after rewatching the trailer the other night, I knew that it was what I wanted to go with.

Please note that at some point I will be talking about the twist in the film, so please be wary going ahead.

Plot

Sam (Crudup) has just secured a major contract for his advertising firm and he calls his son Josh (Miles Heizer) to celebrate. Josh fails to show up to the bar and it is only as he is leaving that Sam notices that there has been a shooting at Josh’s school, and that he is one of those dead. The family spends several days grieving and Sam returns to work, stating that it’s what he needs.

Two years later Sam has left his job and now works as a contracting assistant at a house, as well as living on a boat. After a visit from his ex-wife (Huffman), he comes across some of his son’s music and he decides that the best way to mourn his son is to sing his music to a mass audience. He goes to a local open-mic night and performs one of Josh’s songs, capturing the attention of Quentin (Yelchin), an aspiring musician that works at a doughnut shop.

After a bit of convincing Sam agrees to let Quentin play with him, and it eventually becomes a band as more members join the band, but when the truth about the day in which Josh died is revealed to the band, it threatens to destroy everything.

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So, the twist?

I’m going to get it out of the way now and talk about the twist. Now, for those who don’t want to read what the twist is, I am going to place a series of ===== after talking about it so that you know where you can rejoin in, but trust me when I say that it is an excellent twist and one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. Alternatively, look to the next image as that will be the point at which I finish talking about the twist.

Right, so if you’re still with me then I assume that you want to know what the twist is then?

Well basically obviously we know that Josh was killed as part of the mass-murder that was committed at his school, but about 3/4 of the way through the film you learn that he was actually the murderer. This isn’t revealed or even generally thought about prior to that point in the film, but the clues are there (such as it seeming very odd that news crews would be so obsessed with getting an interview from Sam) and it also brilliantly explains why Sam has trouble dealing with his grief. Obviously he wants to grieve for his dead son, but he can’t bring himself to accept that his son would do such a terrible act.

The best twists are the ones that make you sit up and focus your eyes on the screen, and that happened for me with this. When you see Sam and his ex-wife at the grave, and you see that it has words such as “murderer” written all over it, it just clicks you’re like “damn, that is a great twist” because up until that point you knew exactly how you felt about the situation, but then it starts making you question the usage of his songs, something which becomes the central plot point of the final half hour or so of the film.

Right, that’s it, spoiler done. I don’t normally do spoilers but I just had to talk about it because of how brilliant it was.

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So away from spoiler talk I have to start with the performance of Billy Crudup. I had only ever seen him in three films (that I can remember him in anyway), Watchmen, Spotlight and Glass Chin, and this was comfortably his best performance across the board for me. He is just fantastic and his delivery of already excellent lines of dialogue were a delight.

It’s at that point where I can’t actually imagine anyone else playing the role of Sam, and he does it so brilliantly, especially in a scene near the end when he finally breaks down over what has happened (see spoiler if you are curious). You are engaged with him as a character, and you understand exactly where he is coming from. His tragic character is brought even more into focus when the twist is revealed, and Crudup brings you right into that character with a heartfelt and laudable performance.

He heads up a cast that are all fantastic, and Anton Yelchin, despite playing what seems like a typecast character for him, is also great. My one real complaint about his character is that Laurence Fishburne’s character mentions that he needed help, but you never truly find out why.

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The music in “Rudderless” is excellent and very catchy, it’s easy to see why people in the film kept going to see them and how they grew, and it might even be worth buying the soundtrack as well, that’s how enjoyable it was.

And finally, I’m going to talk about something I don’t usually talk about and that is the direction of the film. This was William H. Macy’s debut as a director and he made a promising start. I have no idea if he has directed anymore films since (I can’t be bothered to look just for the sake of writing this, I might look afterwards), but if any of his follow ups are anything like this then I would be very keen to see them.

I am actually very surprised that this didn’t get a mainstream release, or at least not in the UK anyway. I think this film would have done very well in the UK market, and I urge anyone who hasn’t seen it to do so.

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Summary

I was sat watching this film with a smile on my face throughout and it’s one of the easiest approved stamps that I have given for quite some time.approved

The acting is fantastic from all concerned and the music throughout brings you right into the film, and you have a genuinely good time watching it, especially with the twist.

I can’t recommend “Rudderless” highly enough.

 

So when someone holds a door open for you they’re treating you like a kid, but when they don’t they’re an asshole? Is that how it works? You claim that you want to be treated like everyone else, but what you fail to realise is that the longer you focus on trying to be normal, the longer it’s going to take for you to realise that no-one’s normal.

Year Released : 2016large_1454266848
Director : David Michael Conley
Cast :RJ Mitte, Ray William Johnson, Paloma Kwiatkowski and Daphne Zuniga

You know those trailers where that makes the film look remotely interesting and get you excited, but then turn out to be pure garbage? Well “Who’s Driving Doug” doesn’t reach that level of awfulness, it is certainly not even remotely as entertaining as the trailer makes me briefly look, and infact I would go as far as calling it one of the most pretentious movies that I have ever seen.

Now, you may gather from that that I’ve actually watched the film before writing this bit (something that I don’t normally do for those that haven’t read this site before), and I’ve struggled to motivate myself to write this review due to a combination of things going on in my personal life, and the film just not being that entertaining.

Whilst it’s not an awful film by any stretch, I am genuinely surprised that one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive review, giving it a score (at the time of writing) or 20%.

Plot

Doug (Mitte) is a heavily disabled student at college and he requires a new driver after his current one quits. He posts an advert that is quickly taken down by Scott (Johnson), a slacker who has just been declined a place at the college. Scott soon approaches Doug and is hired.

On their first journey together, Scott reveals that he is from Las Vegas, and Doug takes an immediate interest as his dad wasn’t able to take him before his death. Scott gets a call that requires him to drive home and Doug agrees to go with him in exchange for using his car. They take Doug’s friend Stephanie (Kwiatkowski) along for the ride.

As the journey goes on the trio become good friends and they enjoy a gambling session when they eventually arrive in Vegas, however, things change when Scott hires a prostitute for Doug following an earlier conversation about if he was a virgin. Stephanie believes that Scott isn’t the best person for Doug before the two end up having sex, which causes a rift between the three and makes the rest of the trip very uncomfortable.

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So why is it pretentious?

Let’s start with the positives and there was a moment that made me audibly laugh. I don’t laugh out loud that often but this particular mini-scene was a gem. It comes as Scott and Doug are approached in the casino because the owners don’t believe the latter is over 21. Scott tricks the security guard into thinking that Doug’s ID is in his back pocket, but to get it out it would require picking him up and flipping him over. The security guard realises it isn’t worth the hassle and walks off.

There are moments of heartfelt honesty in the 95 minute run time, and they do capture how Doug reacts to being in Vegas very realistically. I’ve done that face many times before myself when going to places where I have waited to go for a long time, so I liked that.

And the final part of the film that I actually liked (yeah, there wasn’t a lot) is the scene in which Doug and Scott have their final fight. Doug is trying to apologise to Scott, but he wants no part of it, and the way the scene ends is so well acted by all concerned that it was hard not to get drawn in, even if everything beforehand made me feel very disconnected….which leads me neatly onto the negatives from the film.

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As I’ve mentioned a few times already, this film feels exceptionally pretentious because it seems to think that it can get by by being a movie that’s trying to force you to feel sorry for the characters. However, for that to be the case the characters actually have to be remotely interesting, and because of this the film gives off the impression that it thinks it is far more important and life-affirming than it actually is.

Despite there being genuinely heart-felt moments and other parts that you can genuinely enjoy, the film is otherwise largely dull and lifeless, with even the conflict later on in the film feeling completely forced. There are several reasons for this, including the pacing being off, the story itself just not being that engaging and probably most importantly, none of the characters are particularly likable.

Doug isn’t really a likable character. Whilst there are moments where he does show genuine concern for others, he is largely caught up in his own problems and he defines himself by his disability. He is just so incredibly self-centred that it’s hard to like him, especially when you realise he can’t see that his mother is still struggling following his father’s dead. Even right at the end Doug lambasts his mother for keeping his father’s ashes. He takes no consideration to the fact that maybe she isn’t ready.

Scott clearly points out that he’s a bit of a hypocrite in many ways and this continues to be highlighted long afterwards, especially when Doug turns against Scott because of his relationship with Stephanie. Doug’s seemingly one dimensional and self-centred personality means that when he makes his final speech during the film, about how he doesn’t care what other people think, it has lost a lot of the emotional impact that I feel the filmmakers were going for. The film tries to force down your throat that you should be the best you can be and not let your “weaknesses” stop you, but it’s just not written in a way that actually makes it a journey of self-growth that you’re interested in.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that being disabled is a big part of anyone’s life, and my brother has spent most of the last twenty years in a wheelchair due to a progressive disease so I know first hand what it’s like and how hard it can be for someone to live with a disability, and for those around them to support them, but to present someone as being defined by their disability, rather than it being just a part of a larger whole, took me completely out of the film. There aren’t really any secondary characteristics to Doug and he’s not a good protagonist.

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There is also the issue of the slurry nature of Doug’s voice in the film. RJ Mitte is a fantastic actor and to be fair to him, he doesn’t do anything wrong in this role, but in this film his cerebral palsy is just played up so much that, in the nicest possible way, it’s hard to understand some of the lines of dialogue. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that with the character it is going to be the case where the voice is going to be slurry, but it sometimes means you’re concentrating so hard to understand what he’s saying that it’s hard to notice other things going on.

It’s just one of several needless problems with the film, and it’s almost done as if no-one actually went through and checked it afterwards. For example, about ten minutes after a scene in which Doug says that it’s not possible for him to smile due to the muscles in his face, it shows a flashback to when he is rolling downhill on his wheelchair and the character (played by a child actor in the scene) is quite clearly smiling. There are quite a fair few scenes in which whilst it isn’t to the extent that most people would call a smile, it’s obvious that the character is happy based on the expression of the mouth alone.

And finally, the biggest problem for me is something that I rarely comment on in a negative sense and that is that the soundtrack doesn’t really seem appropriate to the film. All songs are by “Death Cab for Cutie”, but there are times when a song is playing in the background that neither fits what is going on, or indeed the pacing. As they ever Las Vegas there is an instrumental piece of music that just doesn’t fit in, and it’s the same when they’re gambling. It just doesn’t word, but it’s hard to put into words why it doesn’t work.

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Summary

A film that could have been better so easily, but it gets lost in its own self importance that it’s hard to really appreciate it on any level, and this isn’t helped by having no likable characters in the film.

Doug is one of the most one-dimensional disabled characters that I’ve ever seen in cinema and it is such a shame because RJ Mitte is just wasted in this completely lackluster film. He is joined by a cast of characters that just don’t really hit any emotions whatsoever other than boredom.

Don’t bother, there are far better “road trip” films out there.

Why did you get into journalism?

Year Released : 2016Truth_2015_poster
Director: James Vanderblt
Cast : Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, Stacy Keach, David Lyons and Bruce Greenwood

There are several good and bad aspects of working at a cinema, so much so that I am currently writing an article about it, but for me the main benefit, other than being paid of course, is the chance to watch as many films as I want for free.

I’ve worked at three cinemas for a total of close to two years now, and in those time periods I have seen roughly 80 films, at least 60 of which I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. This can work both ways, it can reveal some hidden gems that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, but I also run the risk of seeing films that steal time away from my life.

But anyway, I digress. Last week the cinema I was working at started showing a film called “Truth”. I’d never heard of it, which is something very strange for me as I keep relatively up to date with all releases, and no-one I spoke to knew a single thing about it. Tickets had been exceptionally few and far between, but then I watched the trailer and I got excited by it, especially as it seemed to be a somewhat similar film to the excellent “Spotlight”, and therefore I went along on Monday evening, with my salted popcorn and Pepsi Max (not sponsored) in hand, and watched “Truth” in a screen all on my own.

I know some will question why I am reviewing a film that has been released at the cinema, and is still going. Well in the past I have done it on occasions where the film isn’t seemingly that well known, I’ve been in a screen with only a few people in it, it doesn’t have a high level of ratings on IMDB, etc.

I would also state that before I review this, due to the subject matter I have to make it clear that I have no political agenda with regards to this, I simply wanted to watch a decent film, and more to the point, not being American I couldn’t give the slightest care in the world to if what Bush is accused of actually happened.

Plot

In 2004 and Mary Mapes (Blanchett) becomes aware of a series of documents that call into doubt George W. Bush’s tenure in the US Army, a key part of the upcoming election campaign. The documents alledge that despite claims to the contrary, Bush’s was regularly AWOL from training and when he did eventually show up, he was quickly transferred to the Texas National Guard, a favourable move. Mary hires Mike (Grace), Roger (Quaid) and Lucy (Moss) to help her investigations.

The investigations lead to Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett (Keach), who has documents from various members of the military from Bush’s time of service that prove this. The team uses these and numerous other sources that back up the cover up and they get numerous witnesses stating on camera that everything is accurate. The team eventually put out a CBS 60 Minutes news piece, hosted by legendary news anchor Dan Mather (Redford). The documentary is initially deemed a success.

Soon afterwards however, many online bloggers start questioning the documents, stating that they could have easily been forged in Microsoft Word due to the exact same spacing, fonts and various other aspects of the package’s default settings. Every piece of new evidence that the team find is quickly dismissed, and this isn’t helped by Burkett admitting that he lied as he felt Mary was being overbearing.

As time goes on, CBS look to start covering their backs, all whilst the members of the team are being hounded and vilified, especially Mary.

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A hidden gem or a waste of a section of my life?

This falls very much into the hidden gem category and I would urge you to watch it if it’s still showing at a cinema near you when you read this.

I’m going to start right off of the bat by saying that this isn’t quite on the same level as “Spotlight”, although to be fair I think it would have struggled to reach those heights. In many ways “Truth” is indeed very similar to that film, although there are obvious differences with the subject matter, but in terms of the most basic level of the plot (a news team trying to uncover the truth when all doubt them), it’s very similar.

Let’s start with the acting and to use an American vernacular, Cate Blanchett knocks it out of the park. She is brilliant as Mapes and you genuinely start feeling for the character, especially in the latter section of the film in which she gets attacked on a personal level and has to deal with her rapist father becoming involved. You see a great character development as she starts off as a cock-sure woman full of self-confidence and transforms into a vulnerable and fragile person, and it’s a great way of looking at the way people handle things online as people say things, often forgetting that there is a person on the other end of the abuse.

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People forget that back in 2004, the internet wasn’t anything like it is today and was still relatively new. Internet pages, such as forums, didn’t have as much scrutiny as they do today and some of the comments that people post on a blog post that shows Mary’s picture is a sign of the times back then, and more importantly, it started her breakdown that continues throughout the film. It’s an important and realistic part of the plot, and Blanchett’s portrayal of a woman hurtling into depression is exceptional.

It would be unfair to single her out though as all of the cast do a fantastic job, especially Topher Grace, who offers up a very different type of character to what I’ve seen him play in the past. Granted, Grace may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s very rare you’ll see him in a role that is similar to what he’s played in the past. Quaid was almost also born to play this role and you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing that character.

One thing that I also love is that the filmmakers have taken care with regards to making the film have the relevant versions of software for the time. For example, they use a correct version of Windows Media Player and the Google homepage shows 2004 right at the bottom. It’s such a small detail that is so important, and yet a lot of filmmakers get it wrong. Infact, at the time of writing, there is only one anachronism on the IMDB “Goofs” page (a tram system seen at an airport that wasn’t installed until six months after the events of the film), and for any movie set in the past that is quite an accomplishment.

Whilst there are tiny moments here and there when the film drags, I was never bored and not once did I look at my phone (I was in the screen on my own so I wasn’t disturbing anyone). It could have been so easy to make this film uninteresting (not intentionally of course), but they avoided that and made an excellent film.

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Summary

“Truth” is a very clever and poignant look at how people forgot the initial point of something to suit their own agenda.approved

The cast do a great job portraying these characters and none of them put a foot wrong. This helps with the level of care that has been put into to making the film as realistic as possible. Whilst there is the odd minor error here and there, it doesn’t distract from an excellent story.

Don’t go in expecting the same level of emotional impact as “Spotlight”, but it’s still pretty darn good.

Definitely watch “Truth”