Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the band's UK and Ireland tour. On the one hand, filmmaker Michael Winterbottom had complete access backstage, so he catches the band members on the tour bus, in the dressing room and around town. But nothing very interesting happens with them, and their performances are cut short on-screen. Instead, there's an awkward fictional storyline stirred in that feels like little more than a distraction.
This artificial plot centres on 21-year-old London music executive Estelle (Leah Harvey), who joins Wolf Alice as they travel to Belfast and Dublin, then crisscross England, Scotland and Wales before heading to London. Along the way, Estelle falls for roadie Joe (James McArdle) and they have a rather torrid fling. Meanwhile, the bandmates (Ellie Rowsell, Joff Oddie, Joel Amey and Theo Ellis) are lounging around, trying to find time to sleep, doing interviews with local press and having photo shoots in between their gigs, at which they're supported by Bloody Knees and Swim Deep.
Oddly, the film doesn't really work as a rock doc, since Winterbottom only includes snippets of the songs. This is a shame, since Rowsell has so much stage charisma, elevating Wolf Alice's distinct brand of edgy pop. But the strangest thing is that the bandmates never get up to any backstage antics at all. They have some late-night raves in pubs, but they otherwise reveal very little about themselves. Even in the interviews, the questions are all resolutely superficial. Instead, the movie seeks some emotional interest in the romance between Estelle and Joe, cross-cutting their languid sex with the band's stage performances. Both Harvey and McArdle are solid in the roles, but there's no context to their interaction. And the meeting with his mother (a cameo from Shirley Henderson) in Glasgow is bizarrely pointless.
Continue reading: On The Road Review
As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising that the resulting movie defies genres. Not only has it sparked a debate about Netflix-produced films that people want to see in cinemas, but it's also a story with huge political resonances laced through its premise. That said, this is essentially a movie about a girl and her beloved hippo-sized pig. And it's warm, witty and remarkably engaging.
Swinton plays twins Nancy and Lucy, who take over their family's multinational corporation after their ruthless father dies. With a desire to feed the world, Lucy has bred a series of gigantic pigs and placed them with farmers around the globe. Ten years later, her celebrity judge Johnny (Jake Gyllenhaal) crowns the winning pig as Okja, raised in the Korean mountains by teen Mija (An Seo Hyun) and her grandfather (Byun Heebong). But now Mija is horrified that they are taking her best friend away, so she sets out on an epic quest to Seoul to find Okja before she's put on a plane to America. Meanwhile, a group of animal rights activists led by Jay (Paul Dano) is also trying to free Okja, and they hatch a plan to take Mija to New York and stage a very public rescue.
The film has a snappy, witty tone that propels us into the story, with moments of satirical comedy, earthy humour and some exhilarating, inventively staged action. And the reason it works so well is due to the title character: thanks to seamless digital effects, Okja emerges as a smart, playful and brave creature whose bond with Mija is very strong indeed. This adds a powerful emotional kick, balancing the cartoonish but still remarkably textured performances from Swinton and Gyllenhaal. By contrast, An nicely underplays Mija, while Dano and his gang (including Lily Collins and The Walking Dead's Steven Yuen) add an intriguing edge of soulful compassion.
Continue reading: Okja Review
Shirley Henderson poses alone and with co-stars Isabella Laughland and Letitia Wright on the red carpet for the premiere of Urban Hymn held at Curzon Mayfair, London, United Kingdom - Tuesday 27th September 2016
New York - the 1950s. A young and aspiring American poet, John Malcolm Brinnin (Elijah Wood), takes it upon himself to wrangle his favourite poet and bring him back for a performance in the United States. The poet in question, is a lyrically powerful, yet over-the-top hell raising Dylan Thomas (Celyn Jones). As Brinnin battles against the powerful and abrasive Thomas, his idolisation for the man falters. That is, until he steadily starts to understand what is truly going on inside the head of the poet. When the two men are finally on the same page, everything begins to become clearer for Brinnin; despite his ordinary world being totally shaken up by this new addition.
Continue: Set Fire To The Stars Trailer
By Rich Cline
Filmmaker Charlie Stratton takes a rather obvious approach to Emile Zola's iconic 1867 novel Therese Raquin, ramping up the melodrama while drenching everything in shadowy doom and gloom. It's such a bleak film that it sometimes feels like a spoof, pushing every emotional story element to the breaking point. But the resilient premise still has something to say.
In deeply repressed 19th century French society, Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) is an orphan raised by her over-involved aunt (Jessica Lange), sharing a bed with her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton). When she comes of age, Therese is simply expected to marry Camille, after which all three move to Paris to open a shop. Soon Therese meets Camille's old pal Laurent (Oscar Isaac), who sparks her lust in ways the wheezy Camille never could. And as they begin a torrid affair, Therese and Laurent know that they can only be together after Camille is dead. So they hatch a nefarious plan, but life doesn't play out quite as they expect it to.
Writer-director Stratton makes everything so stylised that it can't help feeling stagey, with streets, sets and costumes that are relentlessly drab. The main colour scheme is dark greys and browns, and everything is swamped in murky shadows as the characters swap anguished glances. The actors do what they can with this. Olsen and Isaac manage to generate some sweaty chemistry, which transforms into something very different in the final act. Felton finds some humanity underneath Camille's obnoxious exterior. Lange merrily chomps the scenery as the glowering, over-reacting matriarch. And casting Matt Lucas, Mackenzie Crook and Shirley Henderson in key supporting roles can't help but add some unexpected comedy ("I have a touch of the vapours!").
Continue reading: In Secret Review
The BAFTA TV Awards 2014 nominations have been announced - is your favourite show in there somewhere?
The nominations have been announced for this year's BAFTA TV Awards, which will be held on Sunday 18th May. After an outstanding year in television, this year's awards will make for gripping viewing with nominations covering all categories of TV talent. Channel 4's comedy series, The IT Crowd, leads the way with four nominations alongside the broadcaster's chilling crime drama, Southcliffe, according to BAFTA.
Actor Richard Ayoade & Comedy 'The IT Crowd' Could Clean Up At The 2014 TV BAFTAs.
The IT Crowd dominates the best performance in a comedy categories as Richard Ayoade and Chris O'Dowd are each nominated whilst their co-star Katherine Parkinson has been nominated for best female in a comedy and the show's final episode is up for best sitcom.
Therese Raquin is a young woman living with her aunt and cousin Camille. One day Madame Raquin informs her that she and Camille are to be married after which they will settle in Paris. Though it was not a pairing of her choosing, Therese tries to attract some interest from her rather unpleasant cousin who appears to be shrugging away her every advance, even on their wedding night. In Paris, Camille meets his childhood friend Laurent, a painter, who they invite to stay. Intrigued, Therese soon finds herself engaging in an illicit and passionate affair with him behind her husband and aunt's back. As their relationship deepens, their yearning for one another becomes stronger and they began to plot a way to get Camille out of the picture which ends in his murder on a boat trip. Far from gaining peace, the couple find themselves racked with guilt and highly suspected by Madame Raquin.
'In Secret' is the tense romance thriller written and directed by Charlie Stratton ('Faux Baby'). It is based on the 1867 classic novel 'Therese Raquin' written by Emile Zola and is also the subject of a play by Neal Bell. It is set to be released in US theatres on February 21st 2014.
By Rich Cline
As another full-on Irvine Welsh adaptation Trainspotting did in 1996, this bracingly original movie puts a new filmmaker on the map. Not only is this a loud blast of both style and substance, but it refuses to water down its subject matter, taking us through a shockingly profane story in a way that's both visually inventive and emotionally resonant.
This is the story of Bruce (McAvoy), an Edinburgh detective who's determined to beat his colleagues to a promotion. He's also a relentless womaniser, sexist, racist and drug addict. And he'll do anything to get ahead, hiding the sordid details of his private life from his boss (Sessions) while undermining the other cops at any chance while pretending to be their friends. In quick succession, he gets young Ray (Bell) addicted to cocaine, flirts continually with Amanda (Poots), has a fling with the kinky wife (Dickie) of fellow officer Gus (Lewis), torments Peter (Elliott) about his sexuality, and takes Bladesey (Marsan) on a sex-tourism holiday while making obscene calls to his needy wife (Henderson). All of this happens while Bruce leads the investigation into a grisly murder.
McAvoy dives so far into this role that we barely recognise him in there. Bruce is so amoral that we are taken aback by each degrading moment. And yet McAvoy somehow manages to hold our sympathy due to the film's blackly hilarious tone and a startling undercurrent of real emotion. Even though he's a monster, we see his boyish fragility, especially in surreal sequences involving his therapist (Broadbent), which merge with his fantasies, hallucinations and nightmares.
Continue reading: Filth Review
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Bruce Robertson is a vile, devious and emotionally disturbed individual who also happens to be a Detective Sergeant. Off duty, he lives a life of debauchery; snorting line after line of cocaine and indulging in sordid sexual encounters with numerous women while trying to control his unpredictable bipolar personality. On duty, he does everything within his power to trick, deceive and ruin the lives of his colleagues with whom he competes to achieve a promotion to detective inspector. He does nothing to hide his radical views on race and women as he attempts to solve a grisly murder that seems to have more to it than he initially thought. With the web of lies he weaves throughout his life, will he be able to sort out truths from the untruths in order to maintain his sanity as his deteriorating mental health threatens to cripple him? And will he ever be reunited with the wife he is so desperate to resolve things with?
Adapted from the novel by Irvine Welsh, 'Filth' has been directed and written by Jon S. Baird ('Cass') and sees an intense star-studded cast convert to screen an compelling story of insanity, romance and deceit. This shocking 18-rated crime drama is set to hit UK cinemas in September 2013.
By Rich Cline
An impressive cinematic experiment, this film is worth seeing for its big concept and documentary touches, even if the narrative is frustratingly underdeveloped. We can actually see the passage of time, as the cast and crew shot this fly-on-the-wall drama over five years. So it's a shame there's so little going on to hold our interest.
The story takes place in rural Norfolk, where Karen (Henderson) is struggling to take care of her four young children (played by the four Kirk siblings, using their own names). Her husband Ian (Simm) is in prison, and taking the kids to visit him is a big outing. Things get easier when he's transferred to a lower security location and given weekend passes to visit his family. But as the years pass, the children grow up and Karen and Ian's relationship begins to shift. And for help, Karen befriends a local man who fills Ian's upcoming release with mixed emotion.
Winterbottom assembles this as an intriguing blending of the kitchen-sink drama (most notably portrayed through Michael Nyman's surging score) and a grainy, hand-held documentary. There is no shape of a plot to speak of, and few significant events along the way. Essentially, the film is merely examining these four children as they age over five years, which is rather astonishing as we've never seen it captured on film like this. Their scenes with Henderson and Simm are especially well-played, beautifully revealing the affection and tension between parents, children, spouses, brothers and sisters. Even though we never find out why Ian was imprisoned, Simm gives him a quiet realism that plays nicely opposite Henderson's superbly underplayed exhaustion.
Continue reading: Everyday Review
By Pete Croatto
Rambling monologues featuring rhyming dialogue. Lead characters named "He" and "She." Camerawork aching to be lauded in Film Comment. A maid serving as a philosophical voice of reason. It's all there in Yes, Sally Potter's endless, numbing cinematic essay on... on... something.
"She" (Joan Allen) is a London-based scientist (born in Belfast, raised in America) whose open marriage to her stoic, stuffy husband (Sam Neill) is dying a slow, painful death. "He" (Simon Abkarian) is a cook from Beirut, who meets her at a party, beginning a torrid affair that puts both on a physical and emotional trek taking them to Beirut, Belfast, New York, and a groovy Cuba.
Continue reading: Yes Review