Hide Your Smiling Faces – Film Review

Hide Your Smiling Faces

I like to think we can trust each other, me and you, so I must confess that I am considering lying to you right now. I want to tell you how much I loved watching Hide Your Smiling Faces. I feel as though loving the film is the right thing to do. I think that because it was made with heart and integrity I should have liked it more than I did. I couldn’t do that to you though; I need you to believe me when I say a film is worth seeing. I have to admit that I did not like Hide Your Smiling Faces. I did not dislike it either but that road leads to mediocrity which is simply not good enough.

Enough about me, let’s talk about the film.

Daniel Patrick Carbone has made his writing and directing début with a low budget tale of a neighbourhood tragedy. One hot summer a young boy in a rural American community is found dead at the bottom of a bridge. This event may be insignificant on a global level but in the close-knit town small ripples are felt by everyone. The focus of the film is on two brothers, one of whom knew the dead boy well, as they come to terms with his death, try to fill the endless summer days, and indulge in more than a little navel gazing. Once the initial death is out of the way there is little to be found in terms of plot with the remaining events taking place inside character’s heads rather than out in the open.

Hide Your Smiling Faces 1

There is plenty to admire about Hide Your Smiling Faces and from the glowing reviews included in its press notes it appears that other critics have not struggled so hard to love the film. The cinematography is gorgeous in that digital indie fashion we have come to know and love with beautiful colours and a pleasantly narrow depth of field. The film is presented as if a distant memory with scenes drifting into one another and tight plotting nowhere to be found. The acting and dialogue are naturalistic to a fault and Carbone has clearly made a very personal film as authentically as he could.

Sadly as much as I might admire the craftsmanship and skill that has gone into making Hide Your Smiling Faces the film’s success relies on it making a personal connection with the viewer. The film spends so much time with just two characters who don’t always say what they truly feel that you need to relate to them in order to care about what they are doing or even understand what little is actually happening. Despite my, and the film’s, best efforts no bond could be forged between myself and what was being projected onscreen.

Ultimately Hide Your Smiling Faces was too low-key to register with me and I found myself a little restless and disconnected. There’s no telling whether this gentle narrative will win you over but I can’t honestly tell you that it succeeded with me.

Hide Your Smiling Faces is on limited release in UK cinemas from 1st August 2014.

Out Now – 25th July 2014

The Purge Hercules

I’ve heard whispers that this latest version of the legend of Hercules starring The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock is not completely awful. I refuse to believe these rumours and instead rely on my personal bias and prejudices which tell me it will be terrible.

The Purge: Anarchy
Last year’s The Purge brought us the interesting concept of an annual event during which all laws in America are suspended and raised the eternal debate as to whether Ethan Hawke should be taken seriously or not. The concept is back with a wider scope but without Hawke and reviews are mixed.

Earth to Echo
An alien needs help from a group of children to get home. What new element can they possibly bring to the formula so classically realised in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? “The movie is shot in found footage format.” Oh good grief.

A period (1984) family drama about a young lad who does wrong but finds rehabilitation through his love for football. A film couldn’t appeal to me much less than this.

The House of Magic
Belgian animated adventure about a cat who goes into a house of magic. Sorry, not a house of magic. The cat in question enters The House of Magic. Hilarity ensues and everyone learns a valuable lesson.

The Lady from Shanghai
Orson Welles’ famously shambolic film noir gets a second run in UK cinemas sixty-six years after its original release. Go for the atmosphere, not the plot.

Both director David Gordon Green and star Nicolas Cage are known to be hit and miss with their output. United they are getting a great response for this low-key drama about a convict finding redemption through his relationship (not like that) with a teenage boy.

Who is Dayani Cristal?
I have no idea. Sorry.

Hindi action drama about an adrenaline junkie starting a new career as a thief. Not an option you’ll normally find at the Jobcentre.

Danish crime drama about skinheads in grey hoodies.

Scar Tissue
British thriller in which a young man finds himself being stalked by a serial killer… WHO IS SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD! If your mind isn’t blown simply by reading that sentence then maybe you can handle this film.

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden
Documentary about some unsolved disappearances on the Galapagos Island of Floreana in the 1930s. A classic example of spicing up a weak title with an overly dramatic subtitle.

Branded to Kill
1960s Japanese action drama about a hitman who, I kid you not, has “a fetish for sniffing boiling rice”. If you find yourself targeted by such a man my suggestion would be to get some rice on the hob ASAP.

Smart Ass (Cine Lumiere only)
French comedy drama about business school students who set up a prostitution ring. I did Business Studies many years ago and we sold balloons for Valentines Day. We certainly missed a trick or two.

Mindscape (Empire Leicester Square only)
“A man with the ability to enter peoples’ memories takes on the case of a brilliant, troubled sixteen-year-old girl to determine whether she is a sociopath or a victim of trauma.”

Michael Apted’s Boyhood

Apted Boyhood

As an aspiring film writer and chronic procrastinator an above average amount of my spare time is spent reading what the rest of the world has got to say about film. Doing so allows me to stay in touch with the latest fads, deepens my belief that a good sub-editor is vital, and highlights when someone has been copying somebody else’s homework.

The numerous glowing reviews for Boyhood are a key example of when film journalists seem to be influencing one another or tapping into a limited group archive of cultural references. A striking number of reviews for Boyhood have made at least a passing reference to Michael Apted’s Up documentary series and I call shenanigans.

To back up my case I have performed a literature review of sorts and checked the coverage of Boyhood in 14 popular UK publications, skipping lowly blogs like this, to see how frequently Apted’s documentary oeuvre was mentioned alongside Linklater’s opus. The result is below:

Apted Chart

As you can see exactly half the reviews I read mentioned Michael Apted or the Up series. I am being generous to myself here and including Mark Kermode’s review in the Observer which merely refers to all the other critics referencing Apted because 50% is much more satisfying a figure than 42.86%. As I see it there can be only two reasons for the ubiquity of the comparison:

  1. It is a valid and obvious observation.
  2. One person had the idea and everybody else copied.

First let’s see if Apted’s Up series is a valid and obvious companion piece for Linklater’s Boyhood.

Up is a series of documentaries following the lives of fourteen British children. The first installment was made when the kids were just seven years old in 1964 and the series has revisited the participants every seven years with the most recent film made when they were fifty-six. In contrast Boyhood was filmed for a few days every year for 12 years taking the lead character Mason from the age of six to eighteen.

While both do follow children growing up I would argue that the comparison of Up and Boyhood is neither obvious nor valid. Boyhood‘s filming process may have been periodical but compared to Up it has a relatively smooth flow. Watching the former it isn’t always obvious when one year moves into the next apart from when hairstyles or levels of pubescence have dramatically changed. The two projects have completely different rhythms with Up actually following a similar beat to Linklater’s other most popular cinematic work; the Before trilogy.

In the Before trilogy we follow the romance of Jesse and Céline at nine-year intervals taking them from youthful love to embittered marriage in the space of three films. This pattern is much closer to the Up series if we really do have to find an Apted-Linklater connection. I have visualised the pattern of filming for the three works below to prove my point beyond any doubt and perhaps beyond all reason.

The Up Pace

Boyhood‘s filming schedule is a relative uninterrupted shoot when compared to both the Before and Up franchises. I think we can happily dismiss the first option and say that referring to Michael Apted when discussing Boyhood is both invalid and disputable. Linklater himself has dismissed Up as being a source of inspiration and now we have the charts to back him up.

Maybe it’s just because of my age – the Up kids have always been grown ups closer to Jesse and Céline but for older wiser critics they are always going to be seen as the children that started the series decades ago. If only they could have seen my charts before they submitted their reviews.

All of this leaves us with the second option; that one critic had the crazy notion to compare the documentaries to the story of Mason and everyone else jumped on their wobbly bandwagon. I’m not saying they did this maliciously but by foul means or fair the idea lodged in their brains and resurfaced when time came to write their reviews. Perhaps a critic loudly made the comparison at a press screening, critics do love to say impressive things to each other, and it was subconsciously picked up by those seated nearby. Only a seating plan for all Boyhood screenings can prove or disprove this theory.

There really is no other conclusion; Boyhood is not akin to the Up series (but the Before trilogy may be) and if you read too many reviews for the same film certain analogies and opinions will start to repeat themselves until the cinema journalism community starts to resemble one hive mind.

A worthwhile investigation I am sure you’ll agree.


Reviews mentioning Apted:
Radio Times
The Times
Daily Mail
Sight & Sound

Reviews not mentioning Apted:
Total Film
Financial Times
Daily Star
Little White Lies

No/Gloss Film Festival 2014

No Gloss Film Festival 2014

On the 11th and 12th of October this year a cinematic cavalcade will be taking place up North in Leeds. The event is the third annual No Gloss Film Festival and what makes this festival unique is it showcasing independent films of all shapes and sizes. While many of the bigger festivals seem to show the same batch of films as they start their march towards the Oscars No Gloss is proud to show “films unlike anything you have ever seen”.

Considering the fact that 2013’s line-up included a felt animation about a pig’s digestive system I’d say they aren’t overselling the individual nature of the festival.

Last year we sent along Mild Concern’s Northern Correspondent, Rach, to see for herself and she enjoyed it so much we’re sending her back she has insisted on returning. I’m almost certain it was the excellent line-up that has tempted her back and not the excellent food on offer but you never can be sure.

You can read the full line-up, buy tickets, and generally get distracted over at the pleasantly glossy No Gloss Film Festival website. You can currently get early bird tickets for just £12 which covers the whole weekend and is painfully the same cost as seeing just one film at a regular film festival.

I’m genuinely gutted that I can’t make it myself and urge you to go along and enjoy something a little different this October.

Out Now – 18th July 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Apologies, this week it has been quite literally too hot to type. I am sweltering away writing this and it’s all for you dear reader.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The Planet of the Apes has previously risen and is now dawning. The first instalment in this prequel franchise was OK and the latest is apparently even better. Consider this one A-OK. I think your enjoyment of the film essentially boils down to how seriously you take a monkey holding a shotgun. In real life I advise you always take armed apes incredibly seriously.

Pudsey the Dog: The Movie
Don’t look away and pretend this isn’t real. This is happening and we are all partly to blame. Every time we watched Britain’s Got Talent “because it was on” we contributed to the justification for this talking dog film to exist. I’m sorry for the part I played and I hope that you are too.

Some Like It Hot
I have not seen this now classic 1950s comedy. I do know that it involved Marilyn Monroe and two men in drag and that in a nostalgic haze all reviewers are giving this re-release five stars.

Finding Vivian Maier
During her lifetime Vivian Maier was “just” a nanny but after her death was discovered to be a secret street photographer of considerable talent. This documentary documents this.

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
Shep Gordon is a Hollywood manager, agent, and producer and now the subject of a documentary directed by Mike Myers. When Hollywood makes a film about Hollywood it can be fascinating or of no real interest to anyone else. I’m not too sure I care about this one.

I Am Divine
Another documentary. This features Divine, international drag icon and cinematic muse, and is suitable for fans of the subject.

Grand Central
Sexy French film in which sexy French people have sexy French sex.

Norte, the End of History
Filipino drama about a family man wrongly convicted of a double murder. While he suffers in prison his wife struggles to keep their family afloat and the real roams free. Pick of the week for sure.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to shower. All this typing has worn me out.

Out Now – 11th July 2014

Richard Linklater, the man who made you cry through the entire Before trilogy, has made a low budget epic about one boy and his family that is set and shot over the space of 12 years. It’s lovely that this film is getting as much press as it is and I can’t wait to see it this weekend.

Transformers: Age of Extinction
This came out either last Saturday or yesterday depending on how you fancy treating a five-day preview window that ends when the film comes out. More robots transform with the added bonus of Mark Wahlberg with his perplexed face and flexed muscles.

Begin Again
John Carney, writer/director of Once, return to the genre that he mastered with a romantic musical comedy with a little more sheen than his previous outing. Knightley and Ruffalo star in a film that I suspect is slightly less cringeworthy than it might at first seem.

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania
The synopsis is too long and convoluted for me to translate here so let’s just say that it is an Indian romantic comedy drama and be done with it.

Moroccan documentary about a woman fighting to get her marriage recognised and earn her daughter legitimate status. “It is also a complex and compelling portrait of Moroccan society and its attitudes to women, female sexuality, their position in society and access to education.”

Goltzius and the Pelican Company
Biopic about Hendrik Goltzius, “a late 16th century Dutch printer and engraver of erotic prints”. Apparently his focus was on erotic illustration of stories from the Old Testament which is not a book I have found particularly sexy in the past.

Mr. Morgan’s Last Love
Michael Caine and Clémence Poésy (forever Fleur Delacour in my heart) star in this drama that utilises that favourite plot device; the unlikely friendship. Can an old man and a young woman really be friends?!?!?

Love Me Till Monday
A phrase that has a varying level of commitment attached depend on when in the week you ask it. British comedy with a female lead! Shame she is focussed on finding herself a man.

Kickstarter is Eating Itself


Good grief everyone. Good grief.

Debate Kickstarter all you like but at the end of the day it is a decent tool to get money to a creative type from those who want to help them create their art, craft, or food. We can debate all day whether Zach Braff was a little cheeky asking for fans to fund his latest film but this pales in comparison to the gluttony of spam that is currently clogging the arteries of the crowdfunding site.

On 3rd July 2014 a Ohioan going by the name Zack Danger Brown started a Kickstarter project to make himself a potato salad. Yes, you read that correctly; a potato salad. Zack was only looking for $10 and his humourous project somehow caught the imagination of thousands of backers who have given him well above his most target. The widget below shows you just how bizarre things have gotten and unsurprisingly other people are keen to cash in on this hopefully short-lived phenomenon.

I daren’t even look at the American side of the equation but at the time of writing there are dozens of UK imitators hoping to make it rich by boiling an egg or making a cup of tea. The full list of current UK rip-offs is as follows; lemonade, more potato salad, egg salad, frying a frozen egg, boiling an eggcookies, chocolate chip cookies, curry, a mega pizza, a regular pizza, another regular pizza, yet more pizza, random pizza(!)an oreo milkshake, evil cream pie, couscous, cake, another cake, the ultimate cake, a really nice cakepie, potato brownies, “a dinner”, peanut dessert, hotdogs, pimped out pasta, crumpets, punk burgers, porridge fingers, steak, coleslaw, cheese on toast, a sandwich, secret fudge, and a £100 cup of tea.


To clarify none of these are people setting up a business, creating art, pursuing a dream, or doing anything other than trying to get money for a making some food for themselves. What is most annoying is that they have simply seen someone make a joke and are now producing poor imitations in the hope of getting reflected glory. I realise that this is what the internet is largely made up of but… it really annoys me.

Anyone with a genuine food based project is currently lost in an avalanche of secondhand jokes and stock photos of food. I don’t know why Kickstarter has become such an issue with me, perhaps it is because I am fond of the site and have happily backed over a dozen projects including comics, films, and podcasts and even helped a man his own pasta stall in exchange from some delicious samples of his produce. On the other hand it might just be that I hate seeing people being so lazy as to simply repeat the same joke they have seen and not come out with their own way to be ironic online.

And if I need to get particularly righteous here is the first of Kickstarter’s three rules:

Kickstarter Rule Number 1

Let’s just wait and see how easy it is to share out a pizza funded by thousands.

Long live Kickstarter! And may the “hilarious” faux projects be short-lived.

University Challenge Class of 2014

University Challenge Class of 2014

For the past two evenings on BBC Two a charming documentary has been airing about the selection process for University Challenge. Class of 2014 is a warm knitted jumper of a show offering nothing but love and respect for both the long running quiz and the encyclopedic students who fight to take part in it. While The Voice may be a friendlier version of X Factor it still glorifies the ability to sing far too much in my view whereas here the focus is on the perhaps equally arbitrary skill of knowing a whole lot of facts.

I’ll confess to you now that I don’t actually watch University Challenge; the questions are way too hard for me and the contestants seem a little alien. While elsewhere on TV competitors are a glamorous and coordinated bunch here we are dealing with academics more likely to be seen sporting an unconvincing beard and functional glasses than skinny jeans and Ray-Bans. A huge portion of culture is teaching us to fit in and avoid the nerds but with Class of 2014 those very nerds are shown as human beings with hopes, dreams, and fears; all of which feature Jeremy Paxman. These are my people after all.

Across the two-part documentary we see the various selection processes each university uses to pick their five team members and follow each team as they are tested and interviewed by BBC researchers until the final 28 teams are chosen. Former competitors pop up in interviews commenting on the whole process like war veterans telling tall tales from the battlefields and are shown helping to train the new recruits to fight their rival teams and Paxman himself.

Stephen Pearson

One particular highlight is seeing the intense training regime organised by University of Manchester librarian Stephen Pearson who has been described as the “Alex Ferguson of University Challenge. With an iPad full of questions and a homemade buzzer system by his side there is no greater asset than Pearson for a budding University Challenge team. His generous spirit and dedication to the show is what makes this film special; everyone is just plain nice with no backstabbing or double-crossing.

Class of 2014 is a very simple documentary but one that I found strangely enjoyable. It was a window into a unique subculture that exists around a quiz show that I had never bothered to give the time of day before. A subculture in which Paxman is God and an encyclopedia forms the holy text.

I’ve no doubt fallen for a not-too-subtle marketing ploy by the BBC but who am I to complain? As the episode came to a close the filming of the quiz itself began and credits rolled. We now knew the contestants well, had grown to like their little ticks and personality quirks, and wanted to know how they got on. When the BBC announcer informed us that the new series of University Challenge would be starting on Monday night at 8pm my flatmate turned to me and suggested, “series record?”. Series record indeed.

You can watch the two episodes of Class of 2014 on BBC iPlayer now, I only hope it gives you half the pleasure it gave me.

Out Now – 4th July 2014

A Hard Days Night

We’ll be back on our feet soon, I promise! In the meantime…

Having left behind the loveable character she played in Gilmore Girls (like you didn’t watch it too) Melissa McCarthy has carved a niche for herself playing brash supporting characters and now finally that character has a film of her own. Who cares what the plot is? You’re going to get what you paid for, McCarthy saying rude things and looking a bit messy while you gasp in shock and amusement.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared follows a 100-year-old man who climbs out of the window and disappears. The rest of the plot doesn’t feature in the title so clearly isn’t worth worrying about. Features foreign languages; you have been warned.

The Anomaly
Noel Clarke continues to try to prove that British films aren’t all romances, period dramas, or comedies with his latest directorial outing, a sci-fi thriller about a man who only experiences nine minutes of each day with the rest of the time given over to mysterious exploits.

Cycling With Molière
French comedy about two actors rehearsing a play as they cycle along. By rehearsing the play and fighting over roles the pair find their relationship changing as they view it through the lens of Molière’s verse. Great for fans of Molière or… bikes.

Here and Now
“Inner-city girl Grace doesn’t want to spend a week in the country helping her parents save their marriage. Country boy Say finds Grace both obnoxious and attractive. Amongst the scenic grandeur of the dying days of summer the pair search for distraction and, against all odds, find each other.” I don’t think it was against all odds as for a boy finding someone both obnoxious and attractive only makes them that little bit more attractive.

Bobby Jasoos
Indian action comedy about an aspiring detective. Apparently a film about a “lady-detective” is a new concept in India so that’s a good thing right there.

Lekar Hum Deewana Dil
Indian romantic comedy about a newly wed couple who move to avoid the bride’s parent trying to enforce an arranged marriage. Bollywood king Shah Rukh Khan has endorsed the film and its freshman lead actor Armaan Jain so we can all rest easy.

The Year And The Vineyard
Spanish comedy drama in which a Sicilian in the Spanish civil war falls through a hole in time and ends up in modern-day Spain. What’s not to love about that plot?

A Hard Day’s Night
Re-release of the classic Beatles film which serves as a reminder that there is one thing One Direction have yet to attempt; scripted films. Oh the horror!

One singer who is acting these days though; Ronan Keating. Good grief.

Secret Sharer – Film Review

Secret Sharer

There are times when I watch a film and see it as perfectly reasonable but then take a step back and consider how someone else might see it; how someone else might see themselves being represented. In these cases the film doesn’t always stand up to the extra scrutiny. Secret Sharer is a perfect example of this type of film.

On the surface Secret Sharer is a perfectly respectable romantic drama on the high seas. Polish (and yet somehow completely British) aspiring seaman Konrad (Jack Laskey) is given a major promotion and tasked with captaining, for a time at least, a Chinese cargo ship. The crew do not trust their new leader and suspect him of being tasked with sinking their home so its owner can claim on insurance. Konrad struggles to gain their respect and get the ship back into some kind of order. The crew is lazy, disobedient and potentially dangerous so Konrad has a lot to contend with.

Secret Sharer 2

Adding further complication to his task Konrad discovers a figure in the sea one night and after helping her onto the ship discovers her to be the beautiful, completely naked, and potential murderous Li (Zhu Zhu) on the run swim from her husband. Fearing for her safety Konrad hides Li away in his cabin and donates a spare shirt (eventually) to spare her modesty. From here Konrad must decide whether to hand Li over to the authorities or hide her, whether to carry out his orders or stand by his crew, and generally work out whether it is right to follow the rules or his heart.

Secret Sharer comes across as a perfectly competent romantic drama about a conflicted man doing his best to assert himself of the leader of a brutish crew while falling for a potentially dangerous stowaway. Despite the cinematic setting of a ship at sea Secret Sharer, directed and written by Peter Fudakowski, has what Mark Kermode might call a televisual feel. This aside there is no great flaw and the film meets the requirements of being a three star film; a mild concern and nothing more. That is until I took a step back and looked again.

As a white male I am not always as sensitive to racial stereotyping or a misogynistic way of filming but even I felt a little uneasy about the way characters other than Konrad were portrayed. The crew was a mix of Asian stereotypes; portrayed as either fat and lazy, food-obsessed, or as violent thugs. As for the only women in the entire film, Li was reduced to an exotic woman to be tamed and spend the majority of the film either naked or wearing nothing more than a man’s white shirt. The BBFC have classed the film at 12A and state that, “there are also images of female nudity, but this is not particularly sexualised” but I would disagree. The camera isn’t afraid to examine her every nook and cranny as the cameraman does all the sexualising so Konrad doesn’t have to.

Secret Sharer 3

I will stop lecturing you on the male gaze now but suffice it to say that the character of Li deserved a little more fleshing out and a little less flesh.

Other than that though… it’s OK. I quite enjoyed it before I thought about it too much.

Secret Sharer is on limited release in the UK.