52 Tuesdays – Trailer & Poster

52 Tuesdays

I’m not a huge fan of posting trailers but I will make an exception for a film that really got me in the gut.

52 Tuesdays comes from debut director Sophie Hyde and follows one year in the life of Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) as her mother (Del Herbert-Jane) transitions from woman to man. The film was shot one day every week for a year and as a result brims with authenticity.

A full review will come nearer the release on 7th August but for now let me just say that it is a beautiful and tender film that tackles issues of gender, identity, and growing up and handles potentially heavy issues with a lightness of touch. You can tell it’s going to be five stars already can’t you?

Out Now – 19th December 2014

Guys and Dolls

Apologies for recent slackness on the blogging front. December is a busy month. Rest assured that I will have my top 10 films of 2014 for you before the year is out. As for the films from last week let’s just say that you should ignore The Hobbit and see The Great Museum instead.

Dumb and Dumber To
Twenty years (TWENTY!!!) after the original comedy about two dumb friends was released we have a sequel. I am skeptical as to how well the jokes will work two decades later and can’t quite understand why this film was made. For that reason I’m out.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
American comedies seem to aspire to trilogies these days and Night at the Museum today successfully completes its transition from a mediocre 2006 comedy to a full-blown trilogy. This time the museum is in London which makes me mildly less apathetic about it all.

Guys and Dolls
Re-release of the classic 1950s musical comedy starring Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons, and Vivian Blaine. I realise that I am prejudging the previous two films but my uninformed and biased recommendations would be to see a classic musical this week.

“Legendary explorer Thor Heyerdal’s epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsa wood raft in 1947, in an effort prove that it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times.”

Lengthy fantasy comedy drama from India about a man who asks questions no one has ever asked before. I’ll admit it, I am curious to find out what questions he is going to ask.

Out Now – 14th November 2014

Life Itself

Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!
The horrendous Nativity series is now officially a trilogy. What next for this Coventry-based Christmas caper? I cannot bring myself to even imagine what the plot might be. Bonus points to the writers for referencing a popular film from over a decade ago in the title.

The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch is great as Alan Turing in a film that brings his story to the big screen but doesn’t quite do it justice. I kinda liked it.

The Drop
Another good but not great film in the form of a thriller starring Tom Hardy as a bartender embroiled in gang business. I saw it, enjoyed it, and have no reason to see it again.

Action comedy starring Vinnie Jones about four criminals who end up in Eastern Europe having all manner of 18 certificate mishaps. I haven’t seen Vinnie Jones in a European romp since the golden days of Euro Trip.

Life Itself
Documentary exploring the life, career, and sad passing of the world’s most popular film critic Roger Ebert. Lots of good reviews from critics hoping that one day a film this good is made about them too.

Third Person
An impressive looking cast star in a series of intertwining stories about love set across the globe. Writer/director Paul Haggis has won many Oscars but this film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 24%. When you remember that one of his Oscars was for Crash suddenly the quality of Third Person isn’t such a surprise.

“A historical drama that depicts the relationship between Dietrich von Choltitz, the German military governor of occupied Paris, and Swedish consul-general Raoul Nordling.” This week is a very strange week at the cinema.

We Are the Giant
“Since late 2010, more than a dozen nations have experienced popular uprisings that have collectively been called the Arab Spring. Protests, buoyed by predominantly young participants and social-media organizing, have exposed repression and led to regime changes. What does it mean to take part in a collective action that has the potential to unseat dictators and bring previously undreamed-of freedoms to a people?” If nothing else this week has plenty of films that defy me trying to simplify their narratives.

The Guest – Film Review

The Guest

The Peterson family are mourning the loss of their son in Afghanistan when a stranger comes to call. David (Dan Stevens) claims to have been a friend of their fallen family member who has come to check that they are all OK. It isn’t long before he has won over the whole family with his charm, intensity, and toplessness. The only person not so keen is rebellious daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) who senses that something is not right with David and that he may not be what he claims…

I imagine you can guess whether Anna is right or not.

The Guest is a thriller… of sorts. It is certainly thrilling but this is not a film where you gasp in horror when someone is killed or in danger. Instead you laugh loudly, punch the air, and shovel yet more popcorn into your chuckling face. The aim of the game here is to have fun and not take the film, or David, too seriously. While working within the confines of a horror/thriller writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard are doing so with a wry smile and seemingly a desire to entertain rather than scare their audience.

Whenever David does something a little unusual, something to indicate he isn’t the perfect houseguest but possibly a maniac, it is done with an arched eyebrow to ensure we know it’s only a bit of fun. The Guest so desperately doesn’t want to be taken seriously that every scene comes complete with a metaphorical wink or nudge to indicate that the film has its tongue firmly in its cheek.

The Guest - Maika Monroe

The film starts slow and calm but events gradually escalate towards an explosive, dry-ice, mirror maze conclusion with no real resolution. It is when the film is at its most fantastical that the earlier, almost sarcastic, tone makes sense. If the first two acts were to be taken seriously the film would be a taut thriller ending in a mismatched Die Hard finale. As it is the whole feature feels like a bit of a joke so when guns start blazing (and they do) and grenades start rolling (and they do) it all feels perfectly logical. Whether this mix of genre and tone works for you or not depends wholly on how happy you are to enjoy the film as a piece of satire or whether you want it to stand up to closer scrutiny as a film in its own right.

Dan Stevens is perfectly fine as the mysterious antagonist though the role of emotionless Übermensch may not be much of a stretch acting-wise. More work has been done on his accent and body with one transformed into a low American growl and the other a lean, buff physique. Any roundness from Stevens’ Downton Abbey days is long gone and fans will enjoy the entirely plot-centric/gratuitous topless scene. Do not fear misogynists as the film also has Maika Monroe who never seems to wear anything but thigh high socks or stockings. Something for the whole family. To ogle.

The Guest succeeds in being the barrel of fun it wants to be but isn’t as satisfying in the long-term. With David being such an enjoyable sociopath to watch I wasn’t sure if we were rooting for him or for final girl Anna. When the grand showdown comes down to the two of them, and her brother Luke (Brendan Meyer), your emotional response needs someone to cheer for.

Unfortunately when you spend all your time with your tongue in your cheek, winking with one eye, a raised eyebrow, wry smile, and a frantically nudging elbow you are going to come across as a little odd. What The Guest has in spades is excitement and amusement but it then unfortunately lacks in being a true horror or thriller.

A heck of a lot of fun though.

Good, not great, The Guest is in UK cinemas this Friday.

Out Now – 29th August 2014

Obvious Child

Let’s Be Cops
One third of the cast of New Girl star in an appalling looking comedy about two guys who pretend to be cops. That’s it, there’s your plot.

As Above, So Below
A team of explorers go poking around underneath Paris and find all manner of spooky goings on near the gates to hell. When I visited Paris I was satisfied with a trip up the Eiffel Tower but each to their own.

If I Stay
Emotional book adaptation that doesn’t star Shailene Woodley, where were you Shailene?! A girl is forced to decide whether to live or die during an out-of-body experience. Her body is in a coma while her spirit does sufficient acting to fill a feature film.

Night Moves
Dull and uninspiring thriller about three environmentalists who want to blow up a dam and do so. The characters and emotions were a little too subtle for me and what some might fight brooding I found boring. Some reviewers bloody loved it so what do I know?

Million Dollar Arm
Jon Hamm goes to India in search of future baseball stars and instead finds out that people can be valuable in ways that don’t generate millions of dollars. A two-hour Disney sports movie. Eeesh. An American in India! Whatever next!

The Grand Seduction
A small island has to convince an American doctor to stay so that they can build a factory or some such nonsense. Confusingly the island in the trailer appears to be in Ireland but is in fact in Newfoundland which is some kind of Canadian island filled with English, Irish, French, and Scottish immigrants. I’m baffled.

Mystery Road
Australian thriller in which an “indigenous detective returns to the Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl.” I’ve heard good things and Australian crime dramas are so hot right now.

Obvious Child
The best decision you could make at the cinema this week would be buying a ticket to see this gem. To quote myself; “I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed Obvious Child. It is the rarest of cinematic creatures; a romantic comedy that has something to say.” Prepare to love Jenny Slate and wonder why more films can’t be about real women.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
German 1920s horror about one scary piece of furniture. Probably the first horror film every made this is the direct root of every scream you have released whilst in the dark cocoon of the cinema.

The Guvnors
“The Guvnors is a violent thriller set amongst the clans and firms of South East London, bringing two generations together in brutal conflict.” As I currently live in South East London I prefer to not watch any films that aim to highlight the constant peril I am living in. Admittedly my life is less like a violent thriller and more like an episode of Spaced with gentler pace.

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
“The story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz, who took his own life at the age of 26.”

Out Now – 15th August 2014

The Rover

Let’s all pretend that I wrote this on time and not two days late…

The Expendables 3
I haven’t seen this instalment in the franchise that continues to roll on despite how much I ask it not to. See also: my review for The Expendables 2, I’m pretty sure it all applies to this one too.

Hector And The Search For Happiness
Simon Pegg continues to show that despite his talents Pegg’s agent really struggles to find a decent film for him to star in that doesn’t involve Edgar Wright. I urge you to read Robbie Collin’s review as it says all you need to know about why you should not see this film.

The Rover
With stubble covered acting chops Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson star in this Australian drama. It is set after a world-changing financial collapse and the rest of the plot is a mystery to me but we are in the hands of Animal Kingdom‘s David Michôd so no matter what is going on it’s sure to be worth a look. Plus Pearce and Pattinson… amiright ladies?

The Congress
Robin Wright plays a version of herself who signs over her likeness to a film studio so they can make limitless films starring her without Wright’s approval or involvement. Twenty years later Wright attends a celebration in an animated world and the whole film loses the plot. A few too many ideas here in a film that some people will blindly love and decry naysayers as “just not getting it”. I get it; the film is not good.

We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Crime! Drama! Thriller! Three teens want to get out of their small town so turn to the only answer: crime. When they steal from the wrong man they are sucked into organised crime and at some point perform covers of The Animals classics. Most of this is true.

Singham Returns
Singham is back!

The Unbeatables
Animated comedy about Football. RUN AWAY!!!!

Dinosaur 13
From what I hear/read/vaguely-remember-having-seen-somewhere-but-I-don’t-know-where this is a surprisingly gripping and moving documentary about the discovery of the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found. Prepare to cry over a collection of bones like you’ve just finished a family bucket of KFC by yourself.

Blood Ties
“Two brothers, on either side of the law, face off over organized crime in Brooklyn during the 1970s.” With a cast including Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, Marion Cotillard, and Zoe Saldana it’s surprising that this is only getting a limited release. I blame Stallone.

The Notorious Mr. Bout
Documentary about the “notorious” Mr Bout (who?) a former arms smuggler (smuggled weapons and not limbs). To see this film as Bout would want smuggle your own popcorn and sweets into the cinema; Haribo strapped to your inner thigh and popcorn in condoms ready and waiting in your gut. ENJOY!

Out Now – 8th August 2014


The Inbetweeners 2
The Inbetweeners have always managed to be everything I hate about comedy and yet remain incredibly amusing. In their second big screen adventure the boys head down under and scatological humour ensues.

Planes: Fire & Rescue
A Disney sequel to the spin-off from the worst Pixar movie thus far. On this basis I will not be recommending you spend your hard-earned money here.

What do you do when your boyfriend dies and his mother can’t speak English and didn’t even know he was gay? Watch this film to find out! Just a shame they had to tarnish this sweet story with Coca-Cola sponsorship.

Wakolda / The German Doctor
“The true story of an Argentine family who lived with Josef Mengele without knowing his true identity, and of a girl who fell in love with one of the biggest criminals of all time.”

Korean drama with no spoken dialogue but lots of sex, violence, sexual violence, and general 18 certificate shenanigans. A wife takes violent retribution after her husband’s infidelity.

Welcome to New York
Apparently including a 30 minute group sex scene with Gérard Depardieu as the focal point this drama about a powerful man driven by lust is not really for me, you, and certainly not your parents.

God’s Pocket
It is bittersweet that Philip Seymour Hoffman has had no one big final film with the prolific actor having a number of film scheduled to be released posthumously. For Hoffman there will be no career-defining final turn as The Joker. This week we get the directorial debut of John Slattery which is receiving mediocre reviews. Surely any Hoffman is worth a look before we do finally run out of his peerless performances?

All This Mayhem
A documentary that promises an unfiltered look at the world of skateboarding. “Brothers Tas and Ben Pappas’ intense bond and charisma take them from the pinnacle of their sport into a spiralling world of self-destruction.”

To Catch a Thief
Cary Grant! Grace Kelly! Alfred Hitchcock! Get yourself to the cinema!

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 – 6th June 2014

Grace of Monaco

Grace of Monaco
Despite getting laughed at rather than lauded at Cannes last month we are still being punished with a wide realise of the Nicole Kidman starring biopic of Grace Kelly. A film hasn’t been this poorly perceived since… actually it was only nine months ago when Diana stumbled into the spotlight. Double bill anyone?

22 Jump Street
The preceding film in this reboot franchise 21 Jump Street was a real surprise. What I thought would be a dumb comedy turned out to be a clever film that wasn’t afraid to poke fun at itself and won me over with its charm and silliness. If this sequel is even half as good then I will be a little disappointed but if it is, let’s say, 75% as good then that’s fine by me.

Holiday – A Soldier Is Never Off Duty
Indian action romance thriller in which a “military officer attempts to hunt down a terrorist, destroy a terrorist gang and deactivate the sleeper cells under its command”. This synopsis doesn’t explain where the romance come in so I think we can safely assume that the officer falls in love with the terrorist.

Cheap Thrills
When buying your ticket for this American comedy about a scheming couple who two men through a series of dares over the course of an evening do your best not to wink after you say “one adult for cheap thrills please.”

I Declare War
Canadian action comedy drama looking at when “summer war games between neighborhood kids turn deadly serious when jealousy and betrayal enter the mix.” Lord of the Flies Canadian style!

The Dirties
Canada is back for more, this time with a drama about two boys filming a comedy (?) about getting revenge on their school bullies. One of them takes it all to seriously and I think something harrowing happens.

Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets
The title is a lie, this is actually a film about Pulp first and foremost. Any life, death or supermarkets are purely incidental.

South Korean drama about an innocent student who is drawn into a group of elite high school students and turned into a monster.

Fruitvale Station
Critically acclaimed and award-winning US indie that tells the true story of a young man who spends the last day of 2008 trying to turn his life around with consequences that shake his town to its very core. Or so I have read.

Benny & Jolene
UK independent comedy with an improvised feel about a folk duo who don’t do a whole lot. This film amused and frustrated me. Best watched when you’re doing something else as well.

The Sacrament
Religious thriller from indie horror superstar Ti West. Expect spooky cult goings on.

Benny & Jolene – Film Review

Benny & Jolene

Benny & Jolene is an improvised British comedy about a folk duo travelling to their first music festival. That is roughly the extent of the narrative although if I were feeling more generous I could talk about how Jolene (Charlotte Ritchie) finds herself selling out and changing her style to please their record label while Benny (Craig Roberts) finds himself pushed to the sidelines as he pines for Jolene and the music they used to perform. The plot is the bare bones on which the two leads are left to build the body of the film through their performances and improvisations but the result is something slightly less than the sum of its parts.

Roberts has never put a comedic foot wrong since he first caught everyone’s eye in Submarine and Ritchie repeats the awkward funny charm that has helped make Fresh Meat so successful but these two on their best game simply aren’t enough to make a film. There is so little to the film beyond the characters that there is little to keep you engaged from scene to scene. Roberts and Ritchie are fine company but you want them to move their performances to a film with a little more to it. There is no message here, just mildly amusing scene followed by mildly amusing scene.

The improvisational style gives the film a feeling of authenticity that is frustrating as often as it is engaging. Improvisation can lead to small comedy gems within scenes but also leaves each scene to run on far longer than an audience has patience for and results in numerous edits within a single shot that quickly moves from a stylistic choice to a jarring effect that hampers the film’s flow.

The great lead performances almost save the film but at the end of the day the cast simply weren’t given enough to go on. The supporting cast includes the likes of the excellent Dolly Wells and Rosamund Hanson but they suffer a similar fate of doing good work in a weak film. Perhaps I am being too harsh; the film is sweet and funny and was an enjoyable experience but it didn’t give me any real cinematic sustenance. With a little more plot and a stricter script this film has the potential to have been a real winner, instead we’ll have to settle for bronze.

Benny & Jolene is on limited release in the UK from tomorrow.