Films

Under The Skin

Year: 
2013
Director: 
Jonathan Glazer
Review: 
“I’m only going to see it, if it’s got a good review in the Daily Mail!” said my Vin Diesel, action-film loving friend. A five star review in the Mail, coupled with a superlative appraisal in the Guardian, meant that on Saturday night we found ourselves in the local Picture House. Maybe I missed something, but this really was a load of old tosh. Granted the idea’s good; cast the lovely Scarlett Johansson as an alien driving round the suburbs of Glasgow in a white, transit van, picking up men who end up enticed into a vat of black, gooey, liquid. She takes pity on a young man suffering from a disfigurement of the face caused by neurofibromatosis, although it doesn’t stop her victim from getting the chop from her motorbike following accomplice. The sudden change in her character, caused by this encounter, is never satisfactorily explained and eventually leads to her demise. I couldn’t help thinking that if the lead had been played by an unknown actress this would have been panned.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
Not sure! However, it certainly didn’t appear to appeal to the shoot ‘em up, sci-fi fraternity (my friend) or to me who likes something a little “deeper"!
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20 Feet From Stardom

Year: 
2013
Director: 
Morgan Neville
Review: 
'That walk from back by the drum riser to the front of the stage - it's complicated' says The Boss in this Oscar winning documentary on the unsung singing stars of popular music. From Spector to The Stones, Ray Charles to jacko and Joe Cocker these singers often gave songs that vital difference that transformed them into classic hits. A plethora of stars line up to pay tribute to Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Táta Vega and others but the real grit comes from these wonderful women themselves with great style and wit. The only duff note is the inclusion of Judith Hill, who unlike the other ladies featured has neither the voice or experience to warrant her inclusion. Felt like a deal was done somewhere to feature her where we could have had 10 more minutes on far more interesting stories. Yet moments like Merry Clayton's isolated 'Gimmie Shelter' vocal which caused spontaneous applause at this London preview show showed where the real wonder lies.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
A Friday music night on BBC4. As a big fan of this period of music there was still plenty here that I didn't know and tales that need to be told. The role of the professional, dedicated backing singer in music is rapidly becoming a thing of the past so its a timely reminder of how vital these women were to how rock n roll sounded. For them that walk to the front is elusive but for music fans they are forever present in those unforgettable hooks and melodies.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Year: 
2014
Director: 
Wes Anderson
Review: 
Hold onto your hats folks it's another pointlessly daft Wes Anderson film, with the usual Maguffins, silly jokes, outlandish costumes, fantastic sets (the hotel interior is actually an Art-Deco department store on the Germano-Polish border), all held together by a bravura performance by Ralph Fiennes. In fact, as the suave concierge of a Mitteleuropean hotel, he ducks and dives and charms and schemes his way through art theft, a prison break, a chase scene and a fascist coup, amongst others. He carries the film and sweeps you along with him. I don't like Anderson's films as a rule-but I liked this one.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
Any other Wes Anderson films, Ralph Fiennes' more comic roles (such as In Bruges)

The LEGO Movie

Year: 
2014
Director: 
Phil Lord & Chris Miller
Review: 
On paper, it doesn't sound promising - a feature-length animated film based on a toy line. But 'The Lego Movie' is far smarter, funnier and more charming than it has any right to be, under the circumstances. Co-writers and directors Lord & Miller have clearly given a lot of thought to making the concept work, and the end result is a story and a visual style that does justice to the iconic Lego name. As with the best family films, it aims itself at the adults, and doesn't pander to the kids. The script is sharp, the realisation - largely CGI, but designed to look like traditional stop-motion animation - is excellent, and there are a good few surprises along the way. And as someone who rediscovered their childhood love of Lego in adult life, one particular aspect of the film strongly resonated with me. The best advice I could give is to put your preconceptions to one side - I'd be genuinely surprised if there's a better animated family film this year.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
Lego, Batman, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
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Her

Year: 
Horse
Director: 
Joke Spinze
Review: 
Spoiler alert. Doleful, sensitive Joaquin Phoenix plays a very creepy future-person in a pastel-coloured future-world where mens' waistbands have risen to their navels. And Operating Systems have Artificial Intelligence and our hero Theodore Twombly (and no I am not making this up) falls in love with his OS and they have, like, a Relationship. Which would be awesome if this was a Farrelly Brothers comedy, but it's a sensitive Spike Jonze meditation on the Meaning Of Lurve. So yargla. I mean, the sex scenes are the most tongue-shrivellingly embarrassing I've ever seen. And here's my Big Beef (ladies - stand back); the OS has AI, right, but no visual expression, which is nuts. Theodore Twombly immerses himself a holographic video game, but his OS can't even steal someone's Facebook picture? I'm, like, WTF? It's about the Purity Of Lurve, see, as an abstract. Except for the wanking. But I still think this should have been a great comedy - Theodore Twombly (contd. below fold)
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
even looks EXACTLY like that joke glasses/nose/'tache toy you thought was a laff riot as a stupid kid (see attached 150x150 pixel image). It's impossible to shake this image as you watch him - which is the SPOILER I mentioned earlier. Plotwise, you know what's going to happen because you're smart enough to see where this whole thing is going, you beady-eyed rascal. I know who's going to enjoy this movie on this blog, I could give you their names. It's <i>nuanced</i>. Just not a laff riot.
Sting Ono's picture

20 Feet From Stardom

Year: 
2013
Director: 
Morgan Neville
Review: 
The interweb says: The untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others. These gifted artists span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but each has a uniquely fascinating and personal story to share of life spent in the shadows of superstardom. Along with rare archival footage and a peerless soundtrack are intimate interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting to name just a few. I say: A none-more-Afterword fillum, it navigates the waters between talent and success. As Gordon Sumner says, "It's not about talent. It's about luck, circumstances, destiny... I don't know what it is. But the best oeople deal with that."
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
Any of these threads: http://theafterword.co.uk/content/backing-singers-thread http://theafterword.co.uk/content/great-backing-vocals http://theafterword.co.uk/content/songs-which-lead-and-backing-vocalists-have-dialogue Lisa Fisher on any recent Stones tour. Darlene Love every Christmas on the David Letterman Show. Merry Clayton's singing on Gimme Shelter.
dogfacedboy's picture

The Wolf Of Wall Street

Year: 
2013
Director: 
Martin Scorsese
Review: 
Like 'Goodfellas', 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' takes a young fresh faced hero and turns him into a drug addicted, unfaithful, money hungry anti-hero. Indeed the whole film relies on whether you give a damn about him. Jordan Belfort is a monster and DiCaprio somehow makes him, if not likable, then believable despite his frequent OTT moments. The sexual politics of the film are pathetic - its trophy wives (once married you're in hell) and whores - early on a woman has her head shaved for £10,000 to get DD breast implants. However this is a world of macho, drug fuelled teenagers masquerading as businessmen, the unprincipled egotists who caused our current financial mire so you expect nothing less. Jonah Hill is brilliant as dopey Donnie often featuring in the light relief as in when he and DiCaprio overdose on Quaaludes resulting in slapstick gold. Even at 3 hours it didn't stop being entertaining and ghoulishly fascinating. Just a shame Joanna Lumley is the only 3D female character.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
Other Scorsese flicks like Goodfellas and Casino often have reprehensible people living lives that you simply wouldn't like to be a part of yet there are somehow made sympathetic and understandable despite their psychotic tendancies. After the umpteenth line of coke sniffed off a hooker's buttocks whilst rolling in stacks of cash you either realise its heightening the sense of pure excess or you're praying they all OD. A brash, bold truth telling or hateful mysoginistic trash - it's your call.
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12 Years A Slave

Year: 
2013
Director: 
Steve McQueen
Review: 
Shame that in January you think you might have seen the best film of the year. '12 Years A Slave' is a phenomenal film that outweighs any accusations of " Oscar baiting over worthiness" with stunning cinematography, score and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and first timer - Lupita Nyong'o turning in peerless performances. Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt and Paul Giamati also shine in smaller roles in this tale of a man kidnapped and sold into slavery in the mid 1900's America. Fassbenders slave owner is truly a monster but with all the flaws and fear that make him so on display. Rarely an easy watch but unflinching in its portrayal of the darkest period of American history and I wonder if an American director would be so brave. I hope Steve McQueen (or "not Paul Newman, the other one" as my neighbour described him) continues to make jaw-dropping films. His artistic background give us superb lingering images that other more experienced eyes would miss. Bloody marvellous
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
With a strong stomach to the violent, racist, unforgiving and unsatisfying world the film creates. It's strong stuff but not leeringly pornographic in the way 'The Passion Of the Christ' was. It serves the narrative, character development and above all its subject. To be honest it's probably a rather sanitized version of events but brilliantly told.

Hunger Games 2 Catching Fire

Year: 
2013
Director: 
Francis Lawrence
Review: 
In search of entertainment on NYE for 2 families we opted for this over three hours of Hobbity action. Four grown-ups and three children aged 10-12 thoroughly entertained by instalment two of the Battle Royale tweenie epic. Jennifer Lawrence is back, doing her screamy sobby gurn face (here at its best as - spoiler- a 90s rock star gets beaten up) and pulling arrows from her magic everlasting quiver. It's no suprise that Katniss is marked for death by president Sutherland and a 'greatest hits' games is pulled together to take her out. The first half of the film develops the plot and characters, while the second half delivers the bow-slinging action. It's not just a replay of the teen eliminator, as the film (for those who haven't read the books) does deliver a neat twist that puts the actions of many of the characters in a different light. Though Donald Sutherland appears to run a fascist dicatatorship, like Birgitta's Denmark, with about 3 other people, it's a good middle parter
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
Hunger Games 1, Battle Royale, Lord of the Flies, 1984 and any of the obvious influences on the source novels. Fans of Nazi-era monumental hellenic-style architecture.

The Epic Of Everest

Year: 
1924
Director: 
Captain John Noel
Review: 
This is the BFI restoration of the original print. It is in black and white with some original tinting. It's the Everest story that everyone knows - Mallory and Irvine disappearing on the way to or from the summit. I spent the best part of a year in Tibet over 5 visits in the '80's and '90's, also spending a bit of time on the slopes of Everest. Noel's film brought it all back. The terrain has not of course changed much but one could argue that the Tibetan people themselves are continuing to suffer as much now politically as they were back in the 1920s economically. It seemed right to see this on Armistice Sunday as the men who went on this expedition from Britain were mainly survivors of the Great War. The captioned commentary emphasised this as well as a more spiritual attitude towards the mountain. I can really imagine the audiences the first time around looking at the footage like we do at scenes from spaceships. And...it really is good to read that 'Himalaya' is the plural!
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
It's an interesting counterpoint to Touching The Void, but with added cultural resonance.

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