Check out my review of this inspiring indie documentary here
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood was seemingly a masterpiece in every way, yet he has managed to outdo himself with The Master. This film is an incredible cinematic experience, perfectly made and brimming with intrigue.
The Master is a superbly crafted film. Every frame seems perfectly chosen and every edit is thought out to perfection. The film looks beautiful from start to finish and each shot is packed with meaning. The soundtrack, while not quite as haunting as There Will Be Blood’s, is atmospheric and memorable. The dialogue flows naturally and is impeccably written. The central performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are some of the best I have ever seen.
The character dynamics, rather than the overall plot, are what drives the film, and with the craftsmanship behind every scene these fascinating characters occupy, these dynamics are engrossing and thought provoking. Phoenix plays an alcoholic, sex obsessed drifter suffering from PTSD who meets The Master (Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic cult leader. The two begin an unlikely friendship under the watchful eye of The Master’s subtly powerful wife (Adams). While there are breathtakingly beautiful shots and moments of drama, the standout scenes of the film come from the regular conversation between each of them. It is worth repeating just how good these performances are; everything from how they sit to how they shout is just so convincing and helps you believe in these individuals completely.
There is such depth to this film that it certainly requires more than one viewing. This is perhaps the only drawback to an otherwise impeccable movie. It is not really a flaw, but its lack of accessibility does mean The Master is not for everyone. It is similar to doing Shakespeare at GCSE; most school kids find it boring and difficult but if you have the interest it is a thoroughly rewarding experience.
A refreshingly female driven comedy, Bridesmaids takes a wonderful cast and makes perfect use of it. The film consistently delivers great laughs in various scenarios and a well-delivered romance plot rounds out a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Everything from simple yet effective gross-out humour to smart one liners that are almost pieces of social commentary is used create laughs, and as a whole it all works brilliantly. The hit-rate of the jokes is very impressive and there are several full on laugh-out-loud moments. Unfortunately the material offers little that is new or subverts genre norms, but the jokes are much stronger and funnier than a lot of modern comedies.
The cast is the heart of this film, not least because its members helped create some great improvised moments. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne are all terrific. However even with the female focus, the standout star is the brilliantly loveable Chris O’Dowd. The comedic talent that brought him so much success with The IT Crowd is on full display here.
The second half of the film leans more towards rom-com than straight comedy, resulting in slightly fewer laughs, but it retains the warm yet occasionally crude tone that permeates the humour. Bridesmaids may not be a revolutionary comedy but it is very, very funny and does a lot to progress female driven film in Hollywood.
Check out my review of short action thriller Chameleon for UK Film Review here
Filming the same actors over 12 years to show them ageing in real life is what made Richard Linklater’s Boyhood famous. However the film is far more than just a clever idea, it is a phenomenal film literally about growing up. It is an engaging, funny, moving and relatable masterpiece that explores childhood and parenting in great depth.
The film has no real plot in the normal sense of the word, it simply follows Mason Junior (Ellar Coltrane) from the ages of 6 to 18. His life evolves naturally and realistically, there is no great drama or plot twists, it is simply conveying real life, which it does perfectly. The jumps in time are unannounced and irregular, instead they are shown by how the characters look and the setting. This results in the feeling similar to seeing a friend or relative after a long time, where things have changed but there is still a great sense of familiarity. Although Mason is the focus, we watch his sister (Lorelei Linklater), Mum (Patricia Arquette) and Dad (Ethan Hawke) grow and change in their own ways, making the film much more than just a tale of ‘Boyhood’. The cast is the real strength of the film, Arquette and Hawke are undeniably superb and the child actors, including the many side characters, are exceptional throughout. This is an accomplishment that should not be overlooked, casting very young actors that need to have the skill to remain talented throughout is incredibly hard, as shown by the Harry Potter franchise and, to some extent, Modern Family. With their talent and the pitch perfect script, the film manages to explore and tackle themes and issues that in less skilled hands would come off as overly sentimental or irksomely quirky.
One of these themes is nostalgia, something that is challenging to do without appearing like you are trying to get a cheap emotional reaction from the audience. It is handled expertly. It is not trying to shove a toy or popular song down your throat shouting “remember this??” Instead the film is simply using the music, clothes, Gameboys etc that were around when it was filmed in a completely natural way. It feels like 2002 because what you’re seeing is 2002. This is yet another example of how Linklater’s idea and hard work really paid off. Had the same script been shot in one go using makeup and different actors to portray the ageing process it just would not be as effective or moving.
X-Men: Apocalypse is the ninth film in the increasingly convoluted X-Men series (including Deadpool) and provides 2016 with its fourth major super-hero flick. Set in 1985, the young X-Men, led by familiar faces Professor X (James McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), face a suitably threatening Apocalypse (Oscar Issac), the world’s first mutant, who wants to rebuild the world for him to rule. It’s a story that had potential from the source material, but unfortunately falls to genre clichés too often. This is a real shame, especially since director Bryan Singer’s earlier X-Men films were so good at creating thought provoking plots within the super hero genre.
This lack of thought provoking material really bugged me, themes like prejudice and the fear of difference were brushed to the side for a by the numbers world destruction plotline. Bar a couple of reasonably well-handled scenes with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) including a return to Auschwitz, the film lacks any real emotional punch. There is even a character death that is seemingly forgotten within five minutes. The poor and occasionally cheesy writing delivered by some surprisingly average acting really doesn’t help. There are a few good jokes, mainly from Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, but some of the laughs in the screening I attended were for scenes that clearly were not intentionally funny.
Quicksilver, who is given the screen time he deserves, is the real bright spark of the film and keeps it from being, for lack of a better word, boring. Evan Peters seems to be having the time of his life playing the speedster. He brings to the screen the joy that belongs in modern super-hero films. His trademark scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past was a show stealer and I for one was eagerly anticipating its follow up. Fortunately I was not disappointed. His magic moment is longer, funnier and more ambitious than the original jaw dropper. It is without doubt the highlight of the film.
However that one great moment of movie magic cannot save the film from its occasionally shoddy pieces of filmmaking. The opening act is clunky and jumps around the world in a confusing manner, as if it’s setting up a subplot, forgetting about it, then suddenly remembering fifteen minutes later and rushing to revisit it. The romance between Scott Summers and Jean Grey is unbearably forced and the CGI opening titles are cringe worthy.
There is some fun super powered action to enjoy in the final third, but in a year with the outstanding Captain America: Civil War, and the hilarious Deadpool, there isn’t much to keep it from feeling a bit underwhelming.
Dark, twisted, ultra-violent and uncompromisingly explicit, Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece provides an unmistakably brilliant yet uncomfortable viewing experience. Based on the book of the same name, the film follows Alex, a young boy who is as equally obsessed with extreme sexual violence as he is with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, spending his evenings with his pack of ‘droogs’ causing mayhem until he becomes the centre of a controversial government brain-washing programme designed to rid society of crime.
The film explores powerful issues, such as government intervention, the importance of free will and the split between the young and old of society, that make the film continuously thought-provoking and disturbingly relevant. Kubrick achieves a grounded sci-fi feel through intelligent use of sets, backgrounds and props. Instead of crazy gadgets or robots, erotic art and quirky costumes give the sense of a different society. The film looks futuristic to an extent, but feels very realistic, making its content even more apt and terrifying. Kubrick also incorporates the book’s made up language, Nadsat, a combination of English, Russian and Cockney rhyming slang. It results in intriguing dialogue that feels like you are part of an older generation attempting to understand the weird colloquialisms of teenagers. This language is prevalent, thanks to narration from Alex himself. Malcolm McDowell’s definitive performance is unnervingly brilliant as the psychopath. He comes across as charming in his speech yet repulsive in his actions. He often refers to the viewer as ‘friend’, creating an uncomfortable personal relationship between oneself and Alex. The juxtaposition of his speech and actions makes for an engaging and interesting character, and it is easy to see his influence throughout cinema.
A Clockwork Orange is a multi-layered motion picture that has great range and depth. It deals with ever more relevant issues and themes and is therefore a true must watch film.