Cert: PG Runtime: 130 mins Director: Frank Capra Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell and Henry Travers
Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends
It’s the season and one film has dominated my brain this year is It’s A Wonderful Life! For me it’s the essence of the season and a must watch. So what is the film about? One fateful Christmas Eve, George (James Stewart) receives a visit from Clarence, a celestial messenger, who prevents him from jumping into a freezing river. The pair travel together through moments in George’s life to show him what the world would be like if he had never existed. There’s no need to take it apart scene by scene or examine its plot, its themes or do a character study of George Bailey. No need to attach more meaning than was intended, to imagine symbols where they don’t exist, or to ignore the ones that do. No need at all.
For if you are one of the many, the growing many who cannot watch this film without tasting tears, tears of joy, tears of sadness, then you know exactly what I am talking about – that further discussion would only serve to diminish the film’s beauty.There are few films that are in this category, that hit notes as true as this. “Casablanca” is one, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is another, where everything comes together, where magic is not only seen in one scene, but in every scene, every line, every look and moment in the film. Pure magic. That’s what this is, folks. Pure magic. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. And the less talk about it the better. We talk too much nowadays, anyway. Just watch it and let it move you to joy, to tears, and tears of joy.
Cert: 12A Runtime: 133 mins Director: Ryan Coogler Cast: Michael B.Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew and Graham McTavish
Time takes everybody out; time’s undefeated
The Rocky Balboa franchise has long been in the memory for me. Growing up Rocky was a film you had to witness as a child, for me Rocky IV is the best personally. The fact that the Balboa story is to be resurrected with the tale of the son of Apollo Creed, you had to answer that call and accept. These films are very uplifting and they do encourage people. The fact that Stallone has been nominated and winning supporting actor awards has baffled me. It was time to find out what the whole shabang was about. So what is Creed? After a lifetime of pugilism, two-time world heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is now retired and living in Philadelphia. But life throws another curveball at Rocky with the appearance of Adonis Johnson Creed (Michael B. Jordan), troubled son of his late rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed. Adonis never knew his father, who died in the ring, but is determined to follow in his footsteps. Rocky reluctantly agrees to become his trainer, even as he takes on an opponent more merciless than any he faced in the ring.
‘Creed’ has demonstrated the importance of allowing others the chance to inject new and innovating ideas into a much loved character. The very impressive Ryan Cooglar is the young Director given the important role of reinvigorating a franchise that had been on life support. He has been wise enough to continue with a simple formulaic story knowing that there is only so much a film like this can achieve. He fits a solid narrative perfectly in its boundaries but with enough room for the story too find an emotion edge and performances from talent that is well above par. Aaron Covington’s screenplay provides well balanced dialogue superbly performed by the characters that matter.Don’t go into Creed expecting to see Rocky, because you won’t. This is a new vehicle. Its story has flaws, and that’s understandable, but there was something else that bothered me about this movie. It needed more heart. Maybe a training montage, or an inspirational quote, or even a visit to father would’ve sufficed.
Instead, I saw a lot flash and excess. And that’s fine, I guess I just expected more of a ‘champion’ picture.Michael B.Jordan’s performance is hard to dislike. Jordan’s chemistry with Stallone was always going to make or break the outcome of this film but both actors look comfortable moving around each other. This is Stallone’s best performance of his career and just might the tough guy win an academy award for his hard work.With a script that demanded a quality showing, Sly gives his heart and soul to a performance that oozed character and filled the cinema with emotion. Tessa Thompson plays Adonis Johnson’s love interest, Bianca, and her presence doesn’t get in the way of the solid story. Bianca provides a calm voice of reason to a youthful boxer that is boiling under the surface. With a beautifully shot background of modern day Philadelphia, ‘Creed’ gives the chance for a new generation to experience the iconic Rocky legend.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 118 mins Director: Todd Haynes Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Pulson, Jake Lacy and Kyle Chandler
Some people change your life forever
Todd Haynes is one of the gems in film making community. Carol is his latest venture and it has been ringing in the film communities ear for a while. It has been on my radar for some months now and it was worth the wait. This was a film that was labelled as the lesbian film of 2015. You can clearly see this is a film about love. I do hope that it does get a good audience and the stigma disappears. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s book of the same title Carol is the story of Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) spots the beautiful, elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett) perusing the doll displays in a 1950s Manhattan department store. The two women develop a fast bond that becomes a love with complicated consequences.
This is a cinematic master-class from Todd Haynes I haven’t seen such a perfectly made film in a very long time. The framing, score, lens, cinematography, editing, sound mixing and acting are phenomenal. This is a film about love not being gay. You go through Carol connecting with the character, we have all experienced love and all it’s toils in our life. It really hits the heart at some moments and Haynes does not emphasise the hardship of being gay in the 1950’s. It’s the journey of a young woman finding her feet in life and Carol finding happiness that she deserves. Haynes never highlights the build up of the friendship of the girls, you have to observe it yourself. There is a lot going on in each shot and a keen eye is needed. Carol is mainly conveyed through looks and innuendo this is what makes it interesting. We are continuously wondering what are they thinking? do they know they like each other? It’s utterly gripping.
Cate Blanchett’s performance as Carol is nothing but stellar, honestly I couldn’t think of a better casting. She is so strong, free spirited but she can convey her tender side well too. She has gone through a lot in her life to get to the stage she is at when she meets Therese. Clearly she just wants to be happy, but her marital issues are holding her back. Rooney Mara had a lot more work in her character she’s fragile, naive and sweet. But she is a very sheltered character so we have a lot more facially expressive performance from Rooney. Mara is very selective of her films and I am utterly delighted she went for Carol. The chemistry between them is electrifying and I think we all can agree award nominations are coming. Kyle Chandler and Sarah Pulson give great supporting roles too, it’s not the two dimensional characters we normally see in a drama. Carol is by far one of the best films of the year and I would encourage anyone with a love of cinema to watch it. It’s not for everyone but it’s worth a risk.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 125 mins Director: Judd Apatow Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, John Cena, Brie Larson, LeBron James, Colin Quinn, Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton
Have you fucked before? Where is she buried?
Amy Schumer is becoming a behemoth within the world of comedy. I have watched a few of her stand up shows and I do like her. She has written and starred in Trainwreck directed by Judd Apatow. While I’m not the biggest fan of Apatow this seems like a fresh rom-com. I did anticipate Trainwreck to be be slightly different from your average rom-com but probably it’ll be the same as the others. So what is Trainwreck about? Ever since she was a little girl, Amy (Amy Schumer) was told by her philandering father (Colin Quinn) that monogamy isn’t realistic. Now a grown-up journalist, Amy is certainly taking after her dad – sleeping with a succession of people and barely staying around long enough to ask their names! But when Amy is sent to interview successful sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), she soon finds herself questioning her promiscuous lifestyle…Trainwreck was interesting a skank as the the main character, she goes through men like a fat kid does with chocolate. Amy Schumer has some great comedic timing through out the film. She really is comfortable in the role. I imagine it was easier casting herself rather than anyone else since she created the character.
Bill Hader was hilarious as always a great casting choice. He did have some very dull moments but over all great job. But John Cena was fricking hilarious the scene in the cinema was amazing. There is a Mark Wahlberg joke in there that is just utter brilliance. LeBron James was ok in here but his jokes felt very forced upon the audience. I couldn’t believe Amy Schumer’s boss in the film was Tilda Swinton, she looked very different to anything I have seen her in before. This was a great high caliber cast but the dialogue in some segments was so dull and un-flattering. Like any Apatow film this is too long and this is what killed the film for me. I honestly don’t understand why he makes two hour plus films! A lot could of been cut out. The middle point of the film made Trainwreck very dull and very generic like any other rom-com. I hoped for something better and it didn’t deliver at all! If it went down to one hour thirty and a few script tweaks happened it could of been much better. The great cast chemistry carries Trainwreck to the finish line, it’s definetley a one watch kind of film. But if you like simple rom-coms go for it. Out in UK cinemas this Friday.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 123 mins Director: Anton Fuqua Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Oona Laurence, Rachel McAdams, 50 Cent, Naomie Harris and Forest Whittaker
A fighter knows only one way to work
Jake Gyllenhaal is the best actor of his generation by far. He proves it over and over again from Zodiac to Nightcrawler recently, Southpaw is his latest film and man he looks hench. He is going down the Christian Bale road now with the bulking up and loosing weight etc. When I saw the first Southpaw trailer it seemed ok nothing special just another boxing movie. But what lured me in really was Gyllenhaal, if he wasn’t in the film I wouldn’t of bothered watching this. So what is Southpaw about? Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a boxer at the peak of his fame who has nevertheless decided to announce his retirement. However, Billy’s world is shattered when his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) is killed in a car accident. Subsequently spiralling into a cycle of self-destruction, his young daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) is then taken into protective custody. Billy’s only shot at redemption is to climb back into the ring for one final bout. Working with personal trainer ‘Tick’ (Forrest Whitaker), Billy sets out to prove himself and be reunited with his daughter.
Southpaw is your typical Boxing genre movie but rather making something original and unique it plays the stereotype well. We have all the clichés of a Rocky movie with the style of Raging Bull. Anton Fuqua has done a brilliant job in making Southpaw the best boxing film for a very long time. It’s a very basic plot of redemption and a man trying to build his life up. For me it was very emotional and gripping, the trailer did ruin the film a bit for me so I’d try and avoid it if possible. Anton Fuqua brought a very interesting twist to the fight sequences by using POV. We were the boxer we reacted to each punch, dip and dive. It gave Southpaw a very unique twist even the slow motion shots were fantastic especially in the end fight. The main issue with Southpaw is it’s predictability you just know what will happen next. It has some very slow pacing too some segments were slightly boring and dull. The montage scene was very corny, I understand the whole Eminem connection but damm that song sucks fluffy donkey balls.
Jake Gyllenhaall is nothing but brilliant as Billy Hope. His physical transformation from Nightcrawler to Everest to Southpaw is impressive (he is pulling a Bale). There is more to his performance than his body change, his mannerisms, ticks and tone were very different and Billy Hope could beat Rocky any day in my opinion. I doubt he will get any awards buzz for this but his fan-base will be growing even more now. Oona Laurence out shines Gyllenhaall as his daughter. She wasn’t the cute little girl you expect, she was strong, ferocious and determined. This was supporting actress material, if she continues like this she will be a star of the future. Rachel McAdams has found her groove again me thinks she is electrifying in True Detective. She is brilliant as Maureen in Southpaw she is the glue that binds the family together and the heart of the film. Honourable mention to Forrest Whittaker here one of his best roles in a while. With Fuqua’s style and a great calibre of cast Southpaw is one of my favourite films of 2015 so far. Go watch it and try and avoid the trailers.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 95 mins Director: Ryan Gosling Cast: Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith and Ben Mendelsohn
The wolves… if they’re not already at your door… they’re gonna be there very fuckin’ soon
Cannes 2014 gave Ryan Gosling’s directorial début some of the worst criticisms any film has received in it’s history. It’s been re-cut and fixed and it still suffering in the hands of the critics. What is the real issue here then? the critics? or Gosling? The fact Gosling has just gone straight into directing and writing has pissed a few critics off. Gosling has worked with some of the best directors in the world including Derek Cianfrance and Nicolas Winding Refn. Surely started to learn his craft while working in the industry? I really don’t want to get into this too much but it seems inevitable that this is the hot topic of the film. What is Lost River about then? Single mother Billy (Christina Hendricks) is struggling to pay the rent and keep a roof over the head of her teenage son Bones (Iain De Caestecker). So she accepts a work offer from her bank manager Dave (Ben Mendelsohn), who runs a bizarre club of creepy cabaret acts as a sideline. Meanwhile, Bones swoons hopelessly for the girl next door, Rat (Saoirse Ronan), and attempts to provide his mother with financial assistance by looting empty homes for valuable scrap metal. During one of these sorties, the teenage crosses paths with a psychopath aptly named Bully (Matt Smith).
It’s safe to say this is an admirable attempt by Ryan Gosling. He has taken various ideas from many film-makers like Winding Refn and David Lynch.It’s a mesmerizing modern gothic fairytale in the heartland of America. It’s very symbolistic of how the financial fall has effected lives in the states in my opinion. Families are struggling a lot, thus we have Billy finding work in a twisted club. Mother’s will go far in order too establish food and shelter for their kids. We have Bones struggling in making a life for himself as a young adult, there is no opportunities for him. Yet again we see the struggle of getting out of poverty. We see the rise of dangerous characters like Bully and Dave, they have power and money. This intimidates people, and they can buy fear and power. The use of the nightclub it truly shows the darker side of desire and fetish. If you have the money your darkest desires can come true. For me it truly is the nightmarish status of our society at the moment. It’s a timeless issue I understand this but I can relate this. The premise is great but it does slack in dialogue sometime. It can be very cheesy and cliché, but the dark undertone of Lost River helps that.
For a film about poverty stricken America, the visualization is very lavish and rich. Benoit Debie was a great choice mind you. It’s bright, vivid, focused and over indulgent, the viewer is just spoilt here the use of red and blue is fantastic. But for the type of film we are watching it should be much grainier and rougher in my opinion. Gosling’s imagery is a direct influence of Refn, for me if he intended on this he should of given it his own twist rather than just copy. Cinema will always be homages to the directorial great, there will always be copying and mimicking but you have to give it your own twist. The fact he has created this world is phenomenal, he gave the characters great depth and he established an interesting world. The score gave helps deliver the tone of the film, but yet again seems like a Refn score. His casting choices were great too, Christina Hendricks was a powerhouse of emotion. It’s her best work to date, since Mad Men is finishing this year I hope we will see more of her now. Iain De Caestecker is unknown to me, but he seemed like a younger Gosling role. But he was a great protagonist and developed well throughout. Matt Smith and Saoirse Ronan seemed rather underdeveloped but Smith was menacing along with Mendelhson. Gosling has a future in film-making I think. But he needs to learn his craft more and create his own stamp not copy and stitch other directors themes, methods and tones. But Lost River isn’t as bad as the critics say, don’t let them dictate your opinion on cinema. It’s an art form and should be judged by everyone not a minority.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 130 mins Director: Cédric Klapisch Cast: Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Joffrey Platel, Albert Dupotnel and Mélanie Laurent
Give chance a chance. I believe in you! Your life’s not over! Maybe it hasn’t even started.
Recently I’ve been having a French film binge and this has culminated in me writing up some reviews. First up Paris, this city for me is wonderful. I watched Paris a few year back but this was before I started logging reviews. Right then what is Paris about? Pierre (Romain Duris), a professional dancer, suffers from a serious heart disease. While he is waiting for a transplant which may (or may not) save his life, he has nothing better to do than look at the people around him, from the balcony of his Paris apartment. When Elise (Juliette Binoche), his sister with three kids and no husband, moves in to his place to care for him, Pierre does not change his new habits. And instead of dancing himself, it is Paris and the Parisians who dance before his eyes.
Klapisch demonstrates his maturity as a film-maker in this wonderful vignette of Parisian life. He illustrates his themes of loss, mortality and ennui through various characters, from the haunting Duris, his companion the composed and exceptional Binoche, to the satirical Luchini. Duris’s performance is particularly moving. Many scenes involve his character dolefully reflecting on his serious illness; but rather than being sentimental or clichéd, Duris brings an emotional realism and subtlety to the role that is truly refreshing. Duris has an immense screen presence – you simply can’t look away from him. Klapish wisely elects to concentrate on building strong characters. He succeeds, so much so that it becomes easy for him to create simple, believable story lines for them. The real link between them? They are fallible, restless, tentative, longing… in other words, they are human. It has a great natural look to the film, the cities soul has been shown to the world. The soundtrack is utterly captivating also, it’s been in my music collection ever since I watched. Ce film capte l’amour et la vie magnifiquement . Il allume mon amour pour la ville aussi.