Sunday 27 March 2016

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa - Review

For a comedic actress and writer as prolific as Tina Fey it's sort of shocking that she's never starred in a smash hit film. Her commitments to television are a big reason for this, but someone as funny as her should've been given the keys to a comedy franchise at this point. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot marks a slight shift on Fey's film resume. Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa plant Fey's comic sensibility in a journalistic war film that's a tonal balancing act jumping through different genres.

Fey is Kim Baker, a nowhere USA news producer in 2004 whose luck changes when a foreign correspondent position opens up in Afghanistan. Her arrival in the battleground looks like a deleted scene from Zero Dark Thirty and then a local calls her a “shameless whore”, which is Whiskey Tango Foxtrot's tonal balance in a nutshell. It's a mid life crisis rom com set in a war zone but with western comedic convention and the little tension found in it's harsh location is overwhelmed by gags.

Friday 25 March 2016

Zootropolis by Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush - Review

Zootropolis (or Zootopia in the US) is the newest film from the Disney production line, directed by the trio of Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush. The simple plot surrounds Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a police officer in Zootopia working a case with rogue fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), when it turns out to be more than just a standard missing person report. Yet the element that’s ‘exciting’ people the most is how the film supposedly deals with racism and teaches children to be good people and not judge them by who they are or what they look like. I guess there’s no better time than this to get into it, but I think the film fails completely.

Saturday 19 March 2016

BFI Flare 2016 - The Pass by Ben A Williams

Adapted by John Donnelly from his critically acclaimed play, and directed by Ben A Williams, The Pass opened the 30th London LGBT Film Festival (FLARE) this year. The Pass is first and foremost a brilliant Russell Tovey vehicle. For those unfamiliar with the play, it tells the story of a closeted football player Jason (Tovey), in an episodic narrative which spans 10 years of his turbulent life. The story takes place mostly indoors and is told in a three acts structure, separated by five years in between each act. Bar the last act, it is mostly a two hander.

Thursday 17 March 2016

Knight of Cups by Terrence Malick - Review

The landscapes of South Dakota. The magic hour on the Texas prairie. The all-powerful nature of Guadalcanal. The strange beauty of a new world. The cosmos staring back at a family. The drifting of romance among the terrain. Now Malick brings us to the modern world of Hollywood as his quiet screenwriter Rick (Christian Bale) wanders through studio back lots, parties, strip clubs, and fancy smancy houses.

If you're somehow unfamiliar with the work of Terrence Malick then I suggest working your way through his filmography before diving into this modern motion poem of the Hollywood dream factory. Slowly Malick has been fine-tuning his art and for better or worse, has stripped away common elements of narrative film. His last two works, and this one, are not narratives but rather personal memories from Malick himself that he's recreated in evocative images and whispers of dialogue. The Tree of Life (2011) has grown in my mind to be a flawed masterpiece and works as a bridge from his earlier more narrative driven films and his new abstract quandaries. Where To the Wonder (2013) felt like an experimental seed planted by The Tree of Life, this film has roots and begins to grow branches of profundities.

Monday 7 March 2016

Marguerite by Xavier Giannoli - Review

Marguerite is loosely based on the story of real life American socialite Florence Foster Jenkins, who became infamous for her insistence in pursuing a passion for singing despite her tragic lack of abilities. Here the character has been turned into a wealthy baroness in the Paris of the 20's, where the memories of WW1 are still raw. While originally keeping her "talent" to a select group of acquaintances for private concerts, a chance encounter with a journalist and an anarchist leads her to a bigger project, singing on stage for a real audience, much to dismay of her husband and those who try to protect her from the truth.

Director Xavier Giannoli and actress Catherine Frot are not household names in the UK, yet they are big stars in France. The former made a name for himself with The Singer (2006) with Gérard Depardieu, the story of a melancholic, ageing ballroom singer. The latter has had a consistently rich and rewarding career over the last 20 years, often with comedic parts but with a few notable dramatic ones too. She is best known here in the UK for her part in the terrific The Page Turner (2006).

Sunday 6 March 2016

Fidelio: Alice's Journey by Lucie Borleteau - Review

Fidelio: Alice’s Odyssey is the feature film debut by actress turned writer/director Lucie Borleteau. The film chronicles the sexual and emotional tribulations of its principal protagonist, a young female sailor and her adventurous journey into sexual and emotional discovery aboard an old cargo ship.

Alice (Ariane Labed, The Lobster, Assassin's Creed) is offered a placement on the ship after the sudden death of a crew member. She finds herself in familiar surroundings and male colleagues she has grown to know what to expect from. She does not flinch at the thought of sleeping in a dead man’s cabin while his body is still on board the ship. Although in love with her boyfriend Felix (Anders Danielson Lie), Alice goes on a journey of sexual discovery in her globetrotting voyage aboard the Fidelio.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Touched With Fire by Paul Dalio - Review

As spring rolls around we enter the first round of indie films, which is my favorite movie season of the year. Touched With Fire, from first time feature film director Paul Dalio, tries to balance a delicate love story of bipolar psychiatric patients, Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby).

Carla and Marco are both poets - neither are very good. Both suffer from bipolar disorder and are off medication. We travel a year in their lives through ups and downs and checkpoints in their relationship. Dalio handles bipolar disorder in his script less like a study or exploration and more as a "how to live" guide, which proves to humanize the disorder while also limiting the story. The character's passion for poetry and artistry suggest that there's a connection between artistic genius and bipolar disorder although Dalio's script and filmmaking prowess are never quite able to articulate this to the audience. The character's struggle is apparent and well acted but never is their pain or euphoria firmly felt. The result is a well meaning but artificial document of bipolar through the lens of a love story.