Thursday, 1 June 2017

After the Storm - Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda

If someone were to ask me what Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film is about, I could accurately, and most unhelpfully, say ‘Life’, which could make the film sound morosely ponderous when it isn’t in any way.

Whilst the characters occasionally flirt with philosophical notions of what the meaning of life is, much to their own amusement and amazement, Kore-eda is much more interested in letting his characters participate in the life they’ve been dealt and to navigate a way through the joys and disappointments along the way.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Adult Life Skills - Dir. Rachel Tunnard

A little quirk can go a long way on screen and thankfully Rachel Tunnard, who writes, directs and edits this feature length adaptation of her BAFTA nominated short Emotional Fusebox, balances the idiosyncrasies of her characters with an affecting story of grief and the difficulties in overcoming it.

On the cusp of her 30th birthday, Anna (Jodie Whittaker) spends her days and nights tucked away in her mum’s shed at the bottom of the garden. She has yet to come to terms with the death of her twin brother, but is forced into confronting her future when she has to look out for eight-year-old neighbour Clint (Ozzy Myers).

There have been plenty of films with characters clinging on to their teenage years as the realities of proper adulthood rapidly approach, but Adult Life Skills posses an overwhelming sincerity that treats Anna’s troubles with the respect they deserve; there’s never the sense that she should just simply get over it. People react to tragedies in different ways and the intricacies of Anna’s life and character (such as her enthusiasm for making videos starring faces drawn on her thumbs) lend the somewhat familiar narrative framework a uniqueness that may be described as twee, but is distinctly human.

The overriding honesty of the film is exemplified in Jodie Whittaker’s engaging performance. You feel the frustration of Anna’s mother and grandmother (Lorraine Ashbourne and Eileen Davies) as they try to help her but also understand why she is reluctant to move on. A tad more urgency during the early stages of the film might not have gone amiss, but Tunnard makes powerful use of imagery to keep the story flowing; the sight of young Clint shaving his head is more moving than any words could be.

Adult Life Skills is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Neruda - Dir. Pablo Larraín

The biopic has been a mainstay in cinema for as long as filmmakers have been looking for stories to tell, offering actors the challenge and responsibility of bringing a real person to the big screen. It is a genre unto itself with its own trappings and clichés, which have been effectively parodied in the likes of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Pablo Larraín’s latest film is, in strictest terms, a biopic of Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda, but that description belies the film and its approach to capturing a person’s life on film. Larraín has enjoyed a steady rise to prominence and acclaim across the world and with Neruda he has developed his capabilities even further to deliver an enigmatic and at times breathtaking challenge to the conventional biopic.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Free Fire - Dir. Ben Wheatley

Beards, bullets and bloody-minded idiots collide in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire: a lean, rollicking cinematic jolt to the senses.

An abandoned Boston warehouse is the meeting point for an arms deal between Irishman Chris (Cillian Murphy) and cocksure South African Verne (Sharlto Copley); each accompanied by a band of merry henchmen and mediators to ensure the deal goes smoothly. After rumblings of deceit and unsavoury transgressions emerge, the palpable tension is broken by gunfire and a chaotic fracas in the rubble ensues.

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Good, The Bad and The Box Office

26 films that collectively took less money at the U.S. box office than Suicide Squad did in just 3 days.

A majority of box-office headlines each week focuses on the big hitters, the franchise entries and sequels whose performance in the opening weekend is often taken as an indication of long-term financial success. Will film X surpass film Y? Will film X cross $1 billion gross worldwide? Has film X met box-office expectations?

Discussion of box office figures has gradually found its way into more and more online discussions, with larger box office takings often used as inherently flawed evidence to claim one film is better than another.

Away from the big franchises, there isn’t the same level of discussion. The reporting on smaller films is available if you want to read it but there’s less understanding as to what those figures mean. Is a $5 million opening weekend a good result? Will the film make back its budget? Does that matter?

In short, how much money do smaller releases take compared to the multi-million dollar blockbusters? In particular, I decided to see how these smaller releases compared to Suicide Squad, which was not only one of the year’s highest grossing releases, but was generally received poorly by critics (it holds a score of just 26% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad.