12 Years A Slave tells the true story of Solomon Northup, (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a free black man from New York in 1841. He appears to be relatively affluent and well respected, living side-by-side with white people. A skilled player of the violin, Northup accepts an invitation to earn some extra money with a travelling circus. He is then abducted and sold into slavery, at which point he has all of his liberties taken, even being reduced to accepting a name other than his own. As a slave, he becomes knows as ‘Platt’. For 12 years, Northup endures the most horrific conditions and treatment imaginable, traded as ‘property’ by merciless slave owners. This truly remarkable film charts those 12 years, and how.
First of all, let me preface this by pointing out that I have not reviewed a film since September 26th, 2013. Not because I stopped watching movies or having opinions on them, merely that I have just not felt compelled to write. I ‘lost the bug’ somewhat. Well, having been fortunate enough to attend a preview screening of 12 Years A Slave, I can’t shake the urge to get back to my keyboard and share my feelings on it. Continue reading
Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in tightly woven child abduction thriller Prisoners. Jackman plays the oddly named Keller Dover, a father whose daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) is taken early on in the story, along with a friend of hers. Gyllenhaal is Detective Loki, who is assigned to this case. Over the two and a half hours of the film, there are several twists and turns and multiple suspects in the case.
At it’s best this movie is entertaining, dark and highly engaging, inviting the viewer into a sense of hopelessness and extreme sadness felt by the families of the missing girls. It is also intelligent and provides a level of social commentary in the way suspects are treated and what desperation will drive a person to do, especially in War-on-Terror era America. Continue reading
After her moped is stolen, Lola (Franka Potente) fails to pick her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) up from a deal where a large amount of money is involved. This sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Manni losing 100,000 Deutschmarks that are owed to his boss. He phones Lola to tell her that if he doesn’t manage to get the money to his boss within 20 minutes, he knows he’ll be killed. He quickly conceives a plot to rob a nearby supermarket of the money, much to Lola’s disapproval. She instructs him to wait, and says she’ll get to him in time, and tries to plan a way to get the money.
The film is relatively short, clocking in at just 80 minutes. Within this time, we see the story played out three times. Each of them starts with Lola hanging up the phone to Manni and making a run from her flat down a spiral staircase. For this, the picture deviates from live action to animation. I liked this touch; it adds a quirky element to the film that never feels forced or out of place. In each of the three versions of the story, Lola sets out to run to a bank where her father works in the hope of convincing him to give her the money. Along the way, she encounters several different people. These include a woman with a pram, a man riding a bike alongside her, a man driving an ambulance and a few other characters. Continue reading
I’ve made it to 25 years of age without seeing Schindler’s List. I’m not sure how. Maybe, in the back of mind, the idea of sitting down for three hours to watch a film that I knew would depress me was off-putting. However, my desire to watch it and remove another ‘must-see’ movie off of my ‘not-seen’ movies list finally lead me to watch Steven Spielberg’s classic film about Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson). In Poland during World War II, Schindler is an industrialist concerned with making money. As he witness the persecution of his Jewish workforce over the course of the war, he becomes more and more concerned for their welfare.
In 1939, the Germans moved Polish Jews to a ghetto in Kraków. Spotting a chance to make some money for himself, Nazi party member Schindler gets himself a factory and a deal to make supplies for the German army. In a ruthless business decision, he opts to employ Polish Jews rather than Catholics as their labour comes cheaper. He employs Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) to help him, owing to his contacts in the Jewish community, and Stern sets about having as many Jews as possible deemed ‘essential’ for the war effort.
Both Neeson and Kingsley give excellent performances. As Schindler, Neeson is able to take advantage of the best character arc in the film. Starting off as a business man hoping to profit from the war, and slowly becoming a sympathetic man determined to help his workforce and save them from the horrors of the concentration camps, he more than does justice to the man at the heart of this remarkable story. Continue reading
Attack The Block is the 2011 directorial debut from England’s Joe Cornish. In South London, a gang of seemingly no-good teenagers are forced to defend their block from an alien invasion, requiring the help of a woman they had mugged earlier in the night.
I would normally say that being predictable, clichéd and refusing to stray from genre conventions are all things to criticise a film for. Strangely though, these can all be said of Attack The Block, yet I found them to actually be strengths, rather than weaknesses. I knew within five minutes who the hero would be and the type of journey they were going to take. What Joe Cornish manages to do as a writer though is work in plenty of in-jokes and tongue-in-cheek nods to familiar plot devices that made me smile plenty of times. Continue reading
With Rush, Ron Howard turns his directorial attention to the 1970’s Formula 1 rivalry between English racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl).
We get a great early indication of the kind of character James Hunt is when at the start of the film he turns up at a hospital injured, dressed in full race gear, and tells the nurse that his wounds came as a result of a fling with another racers wife. Naturally, he then charms her into sleeping with him too. So there you have it, as markers go, Hunt is well set up as a play boy, 2 parts arrogance to one part charm. The first time we see him race is in Formula 3 where he is established as a top racer. It’s here that he comes across Niki Lauda for the first time, and their great rivalry is born.
Lauda is nowhere near as flashy as the Englishman. Instead, he is a devoted, rather dour individual, incredibly skilled at racing and extremely knowledgeable in the setting up of a racing car. Not willing to hang around in the lower divisions, he finds a team short of money and buys his way into Formula 1, prompting Hunt’s team to do the same thing. Continue reading
Lovelace is a biographical film about Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried), who became known to the world as Linda Lovelace, a one-time pornographic actress who appeared in one of the most lucrative adult movies of all time. Abused by her increasingly violent and desperate husband Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard), she struggles to break free from his grasp and start her life again.
I’ll start off with the things I did like about this film; the central performances are excellent. I can’t tell you whether Seyfried is a particularly good Linda Lovelace as she’s not somebody I was previously familiar with, but her acting in this movie is of a very high standard. The nature of her role requires her to portray a level of personal torment and unhappiness, which she conveys perfectly. She also does an extremely good job of inhabiting the sexy, sassy and playful side of the character. I found her to be a fantastic casting choice and she is thoroughly watchable for the entirety of her time on screen. Continue reading
American David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his English wife Amy (Susan George) move to England, where they are hoping they can enjoy the quiet life in a picturesque setting. Their move soon turns nightmarish when a group of locals start to harass the couple, becoming more menacing as the film progresses, leading to an epic conclusion.
As a quick warning, please be aware that there will be some plot points discussed that you may consider to be spoilers – if you don’t want to know them then stop reading now.Released in 1971, Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs has long been seen as an iconic and controversial film. The concluding scenes are incredibly violent; I was expecting it to be fairly tame and just violent by the standards of the time but that isn’t entirely true. Don’t get me wrong, there are more graphically violent films made these days, but there are still moments that took me a little by surprise and I can see why it would have generated the controversy it did on it’s initial release. Continue reading
In 2010, Kick-Ass became a hit movie by somewhat subverting the super hero genre that has become such an increasingly turgid staple of the Summer Blockbuster season. That took the moralistic stance of a lot of those movies and, whilst keeping them intact within the characters, the film displayed graphic violence and an 11-year-old girl using insults of a sexual nature that provided both laughs and some genuine shock value. Seriously, the first time you hear her drop the C-Bomb is a genuine surprise.
In Kick-Ass 2, Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are back, and this time they’ve got some new friends. Well, Kick-Ass has anyway. He joins a group called Justice Forever, a collective of vigilantes that have been inspired by Kick-Ass himself. Hit Girl (or Mindy) is suffering a moral crisis. When her dad died, she made a promise that she would listen to the words of her new guardian, Marcus (Morris Chestnut). He forbids her to don her vigilante guise, to which she reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, Kick-Ass is out fighting crime with his new mates, lead by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and desperately wants Hit Girl to join up with them.
Now, let me tell you, I love Kick-Ass. I re-watched it recently and it’s so refreshing to see it in a world where studios are desperate to churn out any old super hero move they can because they’re guaranteed money-spinners. Films like Kick-Ass and Super are so welcome and a genuine breath of fresh air in an increasingly stale format. Continue reading
When North Norfolk Digital, the radio station that employs Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is taken over by a company called Gordale Media and rebranded as Shape, Alan manages to keep his job at the expense of fellow middle aged DJ Pat Farrel (Colin Meaney). Pat doesn’t handle it so well, and takes the staff at Shape hostage. Alan becomes the contact point between the police and Pat, and as the situation attracts the attention of the media, Alan senses the chance to become a real star.
I decided a while ago that I wasn’t going to review Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, as I was worried that I would be too biased. I have long been a fan of the character; I’ve watched the two series of I’m Alan Partridge more times than I care to think about, as well as the various other shows he has appeared in. The shows are endlessly quotable, and the trailer gave me high hopes that the movie would be the same. Continue reading