The Dark Knight Rises (2012 dir. Christopher Nolan)

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Possibly the most anticipated film of the summer and having been to see the film in its opening weekend I now know that it broke every record.

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An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (UK release 2014 dir. Terence Nance)

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Sandra’s Verdict

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is the debut film of young African-American filmmaker Terence Nance. The experimental film is semi-animated and difficult to place into a genre, it is a drama, a romance and as it claims ‘educational’, and although described as non-fiction often extends into ‘what if’ fantasy scenarios.

The film explores Terence’s feelings after his beautiful friend, and object of his desire, Namik Minter, calls to cancel plans she had made to visit his apartment one night in 2006. The narrator explains that the film is really two films, one about his feelings that night called How would you feel? made in 2006 and the other made much later after Terence shows his film to Minter called An Oversimplification of Her Beauty.

As well as exploring his feelings for Minter, Terence also recalls numerous past loves through animation, photography and film; all the while with his own academic narration.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is an ambitious and refreshing film that will not be to everyone’s taste due to the narrative and artistic risks it takes. However I enjoyed it and would definitely see it again for its honesty and the beautiful images it paints and would urge you to give it a go. I think Nance is a refreshing new talent and cannot wait to see what he will create next.

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2012 dir. Martin Scorsese)

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Sandra’s Verdict

There are a lot of films based on true events out at the moment and The Wolf of Wall Street in that sense is no different. However unlike some of those films, which tend to trace the steps of the virtuous and high-minded as they battle through prejudice and other adversities, The Wolf of Wall Street gives audiences a kind of respite, allowing us to revel in the vulgarities of 1980s and 90s banking. The film is a comical retelling of the antics of amoral Jordan Belfort while he was head of brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont, his debauched nights with prostitutes and friends and his drug addiction right up until his conviction for fraud and money laundering followed by his reincarnation as a motivational speaker. After all the ‘banker-bashing’ that has been going on since the 2008 banking crisis it is refreshing to be able to laugh at these characters and to a certain extent Scorsese has done here with bankers what he achieved  with gangsters in his earlier films. In some ways this film can also be compared to Goodfellas, in that it is amusingly narrated by the main protagonist on whom the film is primarily focused, features a Pesci-like sidekick and  women are either sexual vessels or nagging wives. Scorsese himself has confirmed that there are likenesses between the two films.

Leonardo DiCaprio, who is not known for playing comedy roles, is extremely funny in this film as is the more accustomed Jonah Hill, who plays Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s business partner. There are also some unlikely appearances from the likes of Joanna Lumley, who shares an onscreen pash with DiCaprio, and French actor Jean Dujardin.

The Wolf of Wall Street is an excellent film, filled with energy and wit and should not be missed.

 

12 Years A Slave (2014 dir. Steve McQueen)

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Sandra’s Verdict

British director Steve McQueen does an excellent job adapting Solomon Northup’s 1853 biographical book 12 Years A Slave about his own experience when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery and sent to New Orleans. Northup, born a free man, lived in New York with his wife and two children, as an accomplished violinist he made his income playing society balls and as a carpenter, but was tricked by two white men and enticed to follow them to Washington to join a fictitious circus, whilst there they got him drunk, destroyed his identification documents and sold him to slave traders under the name of a southern slave called Platt Hamilton.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s depiction of the conflicted Northup is captivating and heartbreaking as you see him forced to act against his conscience and I expect that he will be nominated for the Best Actor award at the Oscars in March. Likewise I expect Lupita Nyong’o to pick up the Rising Star BAFTA for her portrayal of the brutalised Patsey, the object of slavemaster Epp’s molestations. Fassbender, a McQueen favourite, is on form, as usual, as the cruel alcoholic Epps and Cumberbatch is equally good as the more forgiving but by no means less culpable Ford.

12 Years A Slave is the first Hollywood film to follow a slave narrative and I hope it has paved the way for more to follow. It is an absolute ‘must see’ for the insights, truths and contradictions that it presents. It would be a fully deserving winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.

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Django Unchained (2013 dir. Quentin Tarantino)

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Andrew’s Verdict

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Actually I had high hopes for this film before I walked into the cinema coupled with a slight thought that ‘Tarantino’s films have been ok but not as good as Jackie Brown/ Pulp Fiction’. Well I would put Django up there as one of his best. The script is fantastic and I believe Christophe Waltz should be treated like a gem. He was great in Inglorious Bastards and his performance in this film is even better. That goes for all the cast: I thought Jamie Fox, DiCaprio, Jackson and really the entire cast delivered an ensemble that I have to praise. Blaxploitation abounds and there are hilarious moments and also graphic scences that bring to the fore the rawness of slavery and racism. The first part of the film sees Waltz and Fox and as Waltz takes Fox under his wing and teaches him the art of bounty hunting. In fact its the force of Walt’s character and the sharp wit that we come to love. Fox in contrast blossoms towards the end of the film as the journey to save his wife takes the bounty hunts into the home of southern slavery and its peculiar white/ black, master/ slave relationship which will probably surprise audience who aren’t familiar with the exploitation of blacks outside of the work field. It seems interesting that this film and Lincoln are out at the same time and might point to something about the current zeitgeist.

Really Tarantino is back to his best. He’s taken his love of spagetthi westerns, Blacksploitation and the music of that era and created an unbelievable referenced film that is enjoyable, cringe worthy, thought provoking and manly. What I really like about this film is the balance, and what I mean by that is how often do you sit through a 2:45 hrs and not notice day turn to night?

Something Wild (1961 dir. Jack Garfen)

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Sandra’s Verdict

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I attended a small screening of Something Wild with the director, Jack Garfen, at the Renoir in Bloomsbury last week and was fortunate enough to listen to him introduce the film and be able to question him about the film’s themes and depictions after the feature.

Carroll Baker, Garfen’s wife at the time of filming, plays the 17-year-old protagonist Mary Anne in this formerly banned film with delicacy and agression. Although her character is raped early on in the film she remains immaculate and sophisticated (not a hair out-of-place) as she then goes through poverty, self-destruction and captivity. Having kept ‘what has happened’ a secret she leaves her parental home and prematurely moves into the adult world of Manhattan’s rougher quarter. During the course of the film she seems to tumble-down a rabbit hole, marching, floating and stumbling, she passes through various locations without finding peace and leads herself to the edge of Manhattan Bridge where she is pulled, ‘saved’ and captured by Mike (Ralph Meeker).

We are then taken through a series of scenes where Mike having failed to win her over with milk, bread and steak keeps her locked in his one-roomed basement flat. After a series of fracases, during which Mary Ann kicks out at her strangle holds and Mike attempts to show his admiration, though flawed and dependent, she is finally to reach an equilibrium again via Broadway and Central Park. It is unfortunate then that she returns to Mike’s needy embrace.

The craftsmanship of Something Wild is excellent from the script to set design to lighting. Nevertheless I could not understand why after being freed Mary Ann would return to wed her captor and I posed this question to Garfen at the end of the screening. Garfen of course defended his ending and talked of the praise that the film had got from some feminists because of the strong female protagonist. His interviewer pointed out that feminists, who argued that she was not truly liberated because she returned to her captor and thus suffered Stockholm syndrome, were missing the point.

The film according to Garfen dealt with a lot of issues that were in his subconscious at the time of making it, such as his having survived a Dachau concentration camp in Nazi Germany whilst his Jewish family were killed, his relationships and his emigration to New York. Garfen identied with Mary Ann having also been in captivity and consequentially unable to accept love from the women he had been involved with. This is an interesting comparison but I think it is important to accept that although Garfen attempts to give the film a romantic ending with Mary Ann being married and reunited with her mother, this seems hurried and unconvincing as she seems to have resolved everything over the course of a few months.

I enjoyed this film and accept that in its context it was a challenging film for audiences to watch; however I cannot help but feel disappointed by the backtracking at the end. I would have preferred it if May Ann had liberated herself and moved forward toward an alternative future rather than meet the expectations of marriage, children, and bondage.

Ted (2012 dir. Seth MacFarlane)

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Andrew’s Verdict

I was expecting something a little more dynamic and genuinely humorous in either a more stupid way or perhaps with the comical jokes. Instead the plot is typical and formulaic and my description of the movie could describe a number of movies.

The teddy bear is just a vehicle for Seth Macfarlane to peddle his obnoxious brand of humour. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a little bit of obnoxious humour and have been rather partial to watching Family Guy, which he created. None of the more intelligent and satirical humour from Seth Macfarlane’s Family Guy transfers to the film.

The movie follows the relationship between a boy (Mark Wahlberg) and his teddy bear Ted (voiced by Seth McFarlane) and the moment where the boy grows up and has a choice to make between his relationship between his teddy bear and the girl of his dreams. We’ve seen this type of thing played out in many films: the bad influence of a friend coming between a couple and the general ultimatum that follows and how everything is reconciled at the end. This time that bad influence comes from Ted. What we get, that makes the comedy, is a bad bear who smokes weed, and tells obnoxious sexual, racial and homophobic jokes. This to me is just Seth McFarlene.

We get our customary cameo, which again is so so, in the form of Flash Gordon. We could go through a list of 80s stars and build something around them that’s not really that interesting. Watching this film is like having one of those friends (in this case Seth McFarlane) who finds something amusing and because you’ve been unfortunate to laugh at the joke you are then subjected to every possible reference to the same joke in a slightly different context. And to make it worse the contexts get even more extreme in your
friends belief that, that is what makes the joke funnier. Its enduring and painful and by association you are somehow complicit in the joke and I refer here to the Brandon Roth joke that becomes extremely tasteless at the end of the film.

There a some moments of laugh-out-loud cringe worthy humour but as an overall film, TED is unremarkable. Finally, Patrick Stewart why are you doing a voice over for this film?