Archive for the ‘musical’ Category

Maybe you’re living in my world. I’m not living in yours. You’re just material for my songs.

posterYear Released : 2016
Director : John Carney
Cast : Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Ben Carolan, Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton, Karl Rise and Aidan Gillen

It’s not often I review films that are out at the cinema, infact it’s exceptionally rare, with only three examples that I can think off of the top of my head, but I have just got back from watching “Sing Street” and noticing it’s low amount of votes on IMDB, I decided that it’s still obscure enough to review.

Again, I don’t often review mainstream films that are released at the cinemas, but I get the feeling that this won’t have much of a market outside of it’s native Ireland, and therefore I’m taking a punt and reviewing it. Obviously I could be completely wrong, and I hope in many ways I am because this is a fantastic film.

Anyway, time for the review….

Plot

In the mid 1980s a lot of people are emigrating from Ireland to England to prosper, however, Conor (Walsh-Peelo) and his family aren’t going anywhere. His parents are arguing constantly due to restricted finances and because of this, Conor has to change schools and go to the local catholic establishment. There he is soon targeted by bullies, both in terms of other students and the faculty.

After being beaten up by one of the bullies, he is befriended by Darren (Carolan), and he soon notices a girl standing on the opposite side of the street that he is attracted to. He braves it and decides to flirt with the girl, Raphina (Boynton), an aspiring model. During the conversation Conor tries to impress her by saying that he has a band and would like her to appear in the video. She agrees, but now Conor has to actually create a band from scratch.

He does so with the help of Darren, as well as the musically talented Eamon (McKenna), and various others. As time goes on, the group becomes highly competent, but Connor’s relationship with Raphina takes several unusual twists and he soon questions whether it’s worth the effort.

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So why worth the review?

Being an 80s kid, I love the music from that era, and this film genuine feels like a throwback to a time that ended nearly 30 years ago. The songs are fantastic and catchy, the characters are likable, the development is pretty much spot on, and the three-act structure is well used throughout.

So let’s start with the music, the central point of the film, and for me, it was music that definitely fitted into the era pretty well, albeit with an obvious modern twist. I have seen some other reviews, including one or two personal friends, who didn’t like the film, nor it’s soundtrack, but I think is definitely a film for anyone who is over a certain age, and probably won’t appeal to a lot of people, but songs such as “Drive It Like You Stole It” not only sound like they would belong in the 80s, but would potentially be successful today.

The characters are interestingly written as well, and seem to capture the era quite well, especially when Darren uses a racial slur to describe a potential new band member, and genuine seems to not know it’s an offensive term. This was at a time in history where racism was still relatively common place in the UK and Ireland, with numerous footballers of a non-white origin regularly getting abuse on the terraces.

Visually the film looks appropriate for the era, although not being Irish I can only compare it to the way the 80s looked in England, with the haircuts especially reflecting the era. For example, the character of Eamon sports a haircut that is bordering on a mullet, as well as Conor’s attempts to redefine his look to match his musical heroes.

But for me, the best part about the film isn’t someone who is in the band, but rather the character of Brendan, played by Jack Raynor. Brendan is very relateable due to his desires of escaping his mundane life, only to get trapped and feeling like he has no way out. It’s how most late teens/twentysomethings that haven’t achieved anything feel, and he just shows how you can turn out if you depend on music and don’t have a back up plan.

His is just one of a number of different issues tackled by the films, and despite being what is ultimately a musical romantic-comedy, it touches on a lot. Themes of bullying, divorce, ambition, depression, rejection and friendship. It’s rare to get a film that covers so many different themes, and it’s nice to see a smaller film make such an effort.

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There are a few issues with the film though, the first of which is arguably the more important and that is that everything seems a little effortless. The band are just good right from the off, something which is highly unlikely. The school and the local area just happens to all of the musicians that they could want, all of whom know straight away what they’re doing. There is seemingly no bedding in process, they’re just a cohesive unit right from the off and there isn’t really a struggle.

And the same can be said for the relationship between Conor and Raphina. It never really feels like Conor has to really do a lot to get with Raphina. In some ways I liken the relationship to that of Scott and Ramona in “Scott Pilgrim vs the World”, i/e a shy, socially awkward guy suddenly becomes attracted to an outsider and gets more than he bargained for, but unlike that relationship, you never really feel like Conor and Raphina aren’t going to end up together.

My only other issue is that some members of the cast have very strong Irish accents, which don’t get me wrong, I expected going in, but there are occasions where I couldn’t catch what was being said.

Other than those minor issues, “Sing Street” is very enjoyable.

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Summary

“Sing Street” is an enjoyable coming-of-age romantic comedy that explores more films than your averageapproved Hollywood blockbuster. Although the band members don’t really seem to face any struggle at any point in terms of forming a band and making songs straight away (I’d be really curious how long this film is supposed to take place over), you are behind them all of the way.

With catchy songs throughout, the atmosphere and feel good factor is there for all to see and here, and considering that this is my first exposure to Irish films (that I’m aware of), it’s left me wanting more.

Definitely watch it if you have a chance.

Fuck you, I’m going to Guam!

Year Released : 2001HedwigandtheAngryInchMoviePoster
Director : Sean Byrne
Cast : John Cameron Mitchell, Micheal Pitt, Miriam Shore, Alberta Watson and Maurice Dean Wint

If you’re transgender, like me, then the chances you’ve heard of this as it is one of the most important LGBT films of the last 20 years. Infact, this is probably one of the better known films that I’ve ever reviewed on this site, mainly due to it becoming a successful broadway show (well, more successful after the release of the film) that starred Neil Patrick Harris. If however you’re not in the LGBT spectrum then there is a very good chance that the words “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” mean nothing to you, and this review is aimed at you.

Infact, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a unique film on this site in the sense that it is a type of film that I’ve never reviewed before…..a musical. I’m not one for musicals at all, infact I have virtually no interest in them normally. This is the reason why I have no intention of ever seeing a Bollywood film, even though I work in a cinema that shows three or four every month.

Please note that I didn’t re-watch the film for the below review. This was done all from memory.

Plot

Hansel (Mitchell) grew up in a small town in the eastern half of Germany before the Berlin wall was knocked down. One day, he meets an American soldier called Luther (Wint) and he successful convinces Hansel, who was effeminate anyway, to have a sex change, become his wife and move to America. Hansel goes through with the operation, as planned, but the operation is not successful and the result is neither penis or vagina, instead just a lump of flesh between the legs that Hansel, now known as Hedwig, calls her “Angry Inch”.

Hedwig moves to America, as planned, but Luther soon leaves her for someone else and she is left completely on her own. Depressed, Hedwig forms a rock band consisting of Korean army wives. She soon meets Tommy Speck (Pitt), a devout Christian teen and the two write music together. Hedwig renames him after the Greek word to knowledge, Tommy Gnosis. Despite their bond, Gnosis soon leaves and steals Hedwig’s songs, becoming internationally famous in the process.

Bitter, Hedwig continues to tour with the same songs and consistently contacts various members of the media to badmouth Gnosis. Her life goes into a downward spiral as she tears up her boyfriend’s passport and is abandoned by her band. However, an unexpected meeting changes everything for both her and Tommy.

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So why is it a landmark film even though relatively few have heard of it?

Well I think there are quite a few reasons why “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (I’m simply going to call it HAI for the rest of the review) is a landmark film because issues regarding transgenderism tend to only focus on one or two aspects, such as coming out and the eventual operation, whereas HAI actually takes place (for the most part) after Hedwig’s operation. It shows what life can be like for anyone who is transgendered after everything is over, and how other than the obvious, that the lives aren’t that different.

It tells the story of someone who feels hurt when she is betrayed by a friend (more on the relationship between Hedwig and Tommy in a moment) and how you’re trying to not let it affect your life, whilst simultaneously trying to make the other person’s life hell. It’s very true to life and shows that no matter how strong you think you are, the situation can easily get on top of you.

The hurt that Hedwig shows and feels is very real and genuine because they took great care in developing her relationship with Tommy. It’s a bit of an odd relationship, don’t get me wrong, but there are definitely a representation of a common theme in the film, a speech by Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium, a myth that basically suggests that at one point humans were effectively two people that were joined together before the Gods tore them apart from anger. To summarise how quickly their relationship sours, if the film was shown in chronological order, one minute you’d have Hedwig giving Tommy a handjob in the bath, to them hating each other minutes later.

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That is exactly what the film is like in general. It is unlikely anything you have ever seen before and it is a gem. It is completely unique, with characters that are completely engaging. The very fact that I can write this review completely from memory, having not actually watched the film for about five years, just shows how unforgettable the story is.

The comedy contained within HAI is very different to most other comedy-musicals. As you can tell from the trailer at the bottom of the review, the humour will amuse some, whereas it will alienate many others. This is definitely not a film that anyone with any homophobic tendencies will enjoy because the jokes are very much geared towards the LGBT community, as is the sexuality of the character of Hedwig, who might I add is played to perfect by John Cameron Mitchell. He completely nailed it in the role and even having watched the videos of Neil Patrick Harris as the character on Broadway, you can’t picture anyone other than JCM as Hedwig.

He heads up a cast that is completely competent and pulls off everything that is thrown at them, and this is summed up very well by the fact that I didn’t realise until I was looking up the cast details that Yitzhak was played by a woman. She is fantastic as Hedwig’s boyfriend, and Michael Pitt absolutely kills it as Tommy. I’ve seen a few of his performances since, such as in “Funny Games” and the TV show “Broadwalk Empire”, but nothing compares to his character that you want to fail and succeed at the same time, and in many ways, the character of Tommy goes through more development than that of Hedwig.

Finally, like any musical, I have to talk about the music and whilst I don’t normally enjoy musicals at all, and some films including songs that they didn’t need to completely ruined them for me, but HAI’s music adds to an already enjoyable experience. The songs are very catchy and memorable, and what is especially unusual is that because Tommy has stolen Hedwig’s, several songs are repeated in the film but in completely different genres. Hedwig’s is usually more in the glam-rock style, whereas Tommy’s versions are often more hard-rock, and they reflect genuine attitudes of the characters, and quite possibly the cleverest use of this is right at the end when *spoilers* Hedwig reaches her lowest point and walks into a room where Tommy is covering Hedwig’s “Wicked Little Town” (my favourite song in the film) and although the words are slightly different, he changed nothing else, and this is a great symbolism of their reconciliation, despite their past.

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Summary

Emotionally engaging, well acted, lyrically unique and fun, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is unlike anything that you’ve ever seen before and I mean that in a good way. It’s one of the most memorable movies that I have ever seen and thatapproved is no more evident than the fact that I was able to do this whole review from memory. I didn’t have to rewatch the film.

“Hedwig and the Angry” is a film that unless you are homophobic, you’re probably going to enjoy. It’s very racy, very out there and very in your face, but that is a strength in this case. There are very few things about this film that most people won’t find some enjoyment in, even if you’re not into musicals. I wasn’t and I still loved it.

Give it a go, you won’t regret it.