First-time director Owen Harris boldly attempts a comedy even blacker than American Psycho or Filth with this 1990s Britpop satire, but he never quite gets the tone right. Based on the bestselling novel by John Niven (who also wrote the screenplay), the film lacks a single character the audience can identify with or root for. And since it's impossible to care about the slimy anti-hero, the movie ends up merely feeling mean-spirited.
The slimeball at the centre is Steven (Nicholas Hoult), an A&R man at Unigram Records at the peak of Britpop in 1997. He's had a run of hot new artists, and doesn't let his loathing of pop music slow him down, tormenting his assistant Rebecca (Georgia King), his faithful scout Darren (Craig Roberts) and his matey colleague Roger (James Corden). He's also so determined to get a promotion that he takes things to violent extremes, then becomes even more annoyed when the job goes to his hated rival Antony (Tom Riley). So now all he has left is the search for another vile musician he can turn into the next big thing.
The film has a sleek, snaky energy to it that nicely recreates the cut-throat atmosphere of the period. And Niven has a lot to say about how the music business abuses truly talented artists while promoting inept stars like Steven's aspiring girl band Songbirds. Essentially, this film is a full-on assault on a British society where self-absorbed jerks climb the corporate ladder because they're ambitious, not because they're actually good at anything. The one sense of balance in the story comes from a cop (Edward Hogg), who's investigating a murder but really wants Steven to help him launch his own musical career. In other words, the film is shouting its themes at the top of its voice, rather than letting them hit the target with quiet precision.
Continue reading: Kill Your Friends Review
It's the mid 90's and the music scene in the UK is booming. Excess is the word of the decade and the music industry runs on a steady supply of drugs, booze and huge amounts of money. Steven Stelfox is a young A&R manager at one of London's biggest labels but in reality it's quite by chance that he's made it. It's a dog-eat-dog industry and when your ideas run out there's a good chance you'll be cast aside. Not wishing to be the next for the chopping block, Stelfox takes his career ambitions to a whole new level. How well would you survive when even your friends are your enemies?
Since its release in 2008, John Niven's book 'Kill Your Friends' has become a cult classic. Niven himself had worked at many record labels and inspired some of the themes behind the story. Whilst the story is fiction and no one was actually killed, many people in the industry draw many parallels to what actually happened during those years.
There's a blast of raucous energy to this lively comedy that sets it apart from the pack; aside from a willingness to get deeply rude and incorrect, the movie is actually very funny. It helps that it's packed with snappy characters and witty dialogue, and that the cast makes the gratuitously vulgar humour come to life in surprising ways.
It opens with happy couple Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), whose idyllic life with their ridiculously cute baby is interrupted when a frat house moves in next door. They want to be cool about it, so introduce themselves and nicely ask the fraternity leaders Teddy and Pete (Zac Efron and Dave Franco) to keep it down. They even indulge in a bit of partying themselves. But the noise only gets louder, and when Mac and Kelly call the cops in a moment of desperation, they spark a war that escalates into a series of crazy practical jokes. This also gets the fraternity in trouble with their university administrator (Lisa Kudrow), which only fuels the battle.
Director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement) keeps things moving briskly, packing every scene with shamelessly coarse humour. For every joke that falls flat (like a breast-feeding set-piece), there are five more gags immediately following that generate gut-busting laughter. While the plot is little more than a series of elaborate pranks, there's an unstoppable momentum that builds to a riotous party climax. Even more important is the way the actors are allowed to twist their stereotypical characters to add some meaningful subtext.
Continue reading: Neighbors [Bad Neighbours] Review
After his acclaimed drama Submarine, actor-turned-filmmaker Richard Ayoade applies his considerable visual skills to this striking blackly comical adaptation of Dostoevsky's novella. Bristling with wit and snappy details, the film's style overwhelms its emotional core, leaving us unable to feel the punch of this odyssey about a young man wrestling with his own identity.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Simon, a loner who's still anonymous at work after seven years in his desk job. Secretly in love with the copy girl Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), he watches her through a telescope from his flat and digs through her rubbish. Then just as he's assigned to mentor the surly teen daughter (Yasmin Paige) of his manager (Wallace Shawn), James meets new employee Simon (also Eisenberg), a mirror image of himself who is far more confident, fun-loving and, yes, popular with everyone in the office.
Ayoade designs the film like a drab variation on Terry Gilliam's Brazil (and more recently The Zero Theorem), with that same claustrophobic sense of overcrowded anonymity and Kaflaesque bureaucracy. It's not particularly original, but it is fun to watch, especially on a big screen where we can take in the detailed sets and costumes, as well as a steady procession of amusing cameos from the likes of Chris O'Dowd and Submarine stars Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Noah Taylor and Craig Roberts. All of this adds to the general chaos of Simon's life, as well as his deep urban angst. But we're too distracted to properly sympathise with him.
Continue reading: The Double Review
Simon is a timid, uncharismatic and largely forgettable man who doesn't seem to be getting anywhere in life. He is rarely acknowledge at work and is a stranger to all his colleagues, his mother is disappointed in his lacklustre life and to top it all off, the woman he loves, Hannah, remains firmly indifferent to his existence. With his future hanging in the balance as he fails to make an impression on anybody, his life is further thrust into oblivion with the arrival of his doppelganger and complete opposite, James - who is newly employed at Simon's work. Unlike Simon, James captivates everyone he meets and is destined for success - even Hannah has his attention as he rapidly takes over Simon's life. With everybody else totally ignorant of the creepy resemblance, Simon is forced to snatch his life back by any means possible.
Continue: The Double - Clip
Simon is one of those sorts of people who can never seem to make an impression on anybody. His work colleagues barely know his name, his love interest Hannah remains stoically uninterested and his mother is unsupportive and, quite frankly, thinks he's rather strange. Already in danger of letting his life slowly slip from his grasp, things start to get dark when a new employee joins Simon at work. James is the spitting image of Simon in every way from the hair and clothes to the voice and smile; however, the very obvious difference is that James is brimming with confidence with a magnetic charisma that charms everyone he meets. Simon appears to be the only person who notices his resemblance - a frustrating prospect when Hannah starts to become extremely interested in James. Simon simply can't let this imposter infiltrate his world - but just how far will he go to stop him?
Continue: The Double Trailer
Simon is already running the risk of seeing his life crash and burn around him, with his reticent personality forcing away any love interests (or even friends), attracting much disappointment from his mother and losing him support in his career, but things are about to go further downhill very soon. A new employee named James has taken up a position at his workplace but, to Simon's horror, he looks and sounds identical to him - only with a more extroverted disposition and captivating character. Simon's too afraid to try and change things in his life, feeling comfortable (if a little depressed) with remaining in the shadows, but when James starts to take over everything he holds most dear, he is forced to try. But can he battle his demons while remaining sane at the same time?
Continue: The Double - 2 Snakes Clip
Kelly and Mac Radner are a young married couple with a baby daughter who are starting to feel a little claustrophobic inside their family home and are desperate to get back into the party spirit. However, the phrase 'be careful what you wish for' couldn't be more apt when they watch a college fraternity move into the house next door. In a bid to get their new neighbours to keep the wild partying to a minimum, they attempt to welcome the seemingly friendly new arrivals. To no avail, however, as they end up having to call the police when one party gets out of control and find themselves subsequently being terrorised in all areas of their lives by the frat boys. Determined not to be victimised by a group of college kids, the Radner's respond with their own revenge tactics - but who will have the upper hand in the end?
Continue: Bad Neighbors - Teaser Trailer
Being diffident, introverted and generally awkward in social situations, Simon finds his life increasingly difficult as he feels unappreciated in his work life, disparaged by his disappointed mother and rejected by his only love interest. Unable to find the courage to turn his life around, things are about to get much, much worse as a new employee at his company named James shows up. James is Simon's ultimate doppelganger, and his appearance only serves to make Simon increasingly more nervous as, although they are identical in looks, they are total opposites in personalities with James possessing a much more confident and magnetic character. Gradually, James starts to infiltrate Simon's life, taking over everything he holds most dear with Simon being driven completely insane in the process.
Continue: The Double - Teaser Trailer
Mac and Kelly Radner are filled with enthusiasm when they learn that the house next door is up for sale and can't wait to welcome their new neighbours into the area. However, watching the arrival of a removal truck and a bunch of college kids clutching a sign made up of Greek letters, they realise that it has in fact been sold to the local school's fraternity which could spell big trouble due to their party-heavy reputation, but, nonetheless, they do their best to greet the young owners. Soon, though, they become the neighbours from hell when Mac and Kelly's newborn baby is exposed to frequent episodes of debauchery and even the couple themselves become a target for chaos. They decide it's time to get their own back and vengefully strike out against the frat house - but that only makes their lives worse.
'Neighbors' is an over-the-top but nonetheless hysterical new comedy directed by Nicholas Stoller ('Forgetting Sarah Marshall', 'Get Him to the Greek', 'The Five-Year Engagement') and written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien in their screenwriting debuts. Touching on the very real anxieties about college antics and new neighbours, it is set for release on March 7th 2014.
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