You Instead – Review

At a musical festival two rock stars in the middle of an argument are handcuffed together by a mysterious man. Adam (Luke Treadaway) is the lead singer for a popular group while Morello (Natalia Tena) fronts a much newer band, now forced to perform their most important gig yet with an extra rock star in tow.

All other considerations aside this is a feat of film-making. Filmed over five days at last year’s T in the Park, film-makers had to contend with crowds, mud and all the complications a live music event brings with it. Any limitations this may have put on the production work in the film’s favour, the improvised dialogue and endless moments captured by chance lend the film a free-wheeling and natural feel. For a film where music is king the atmosphere this creates is indispensable, the joy of live music is the rough edges and all the edges are rough in this film.

Treadaway and Tena make for good leads, both likeable and convincing as the rock stars they’re portraying, and after her short shrift in the Harry Potter films it’s good to see Tena get a fully fledged character to play. The rest of the cast are perfectly suited to their roles and the T in the Park crowd make for the most convincing extras you’ll see in 2011.

With plenty of footage of live music, a great atmosphere and convincing cast it’s hard for the film to fail, the only aspect letting the side down is the plot. With this being billed as a romantic comedy I hope it isn’t spoiling things to suggest the two cuffed singers fall for one other. Sadly both Morello and Adam are both in relationships when the film begins, Adam to a vapid model (Ruta Gedmintas) but Morello to a perfectly nice guy played by Alastair Mackenzie (Monarch of the Glen‘s very own monarch and not the only Glen cast member in attendance).

It is the breakdown of these relationships and the blossoming of Adam and Morello’s that are not quite convincing. With the whole film spanning a couple of days the emotions seem a little irrational and characters just go along with the plot without complaint simply to make things easier. The plot failings are nicely hidden by the bells and whistles of the festival, but a few characters still feel painfully crowbarred in to soften the blow for any jilted lovers.

You Instead is like a good pop song, the emotions are all over the place and there’s no complex plot but it has a great atmosphere, is moving and exhilarating and you can’t help but get swept along.

You Instead is in cinemas 16th September 2011.

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Attack the Block – DVD Review

We’ve covered this film so much you should know that we love it. Admittedly some cracks start to show on a second viewing but the excerpt from our review below still holds true:

This film is a powerhouse, particularly for a low-budget British monster movie, all the skill behind the camera makes up for any lack of budget, the aliens themselves a testament to ingenuity over cost.

At long last we have a DVD to review with some decent extras. The first disc holds the film and three different commentaries. The first features Joe Cornish and the young cast, the second Cornish and the older cast and the third commentary just Cornish and Edgar Wright. I only had time to listen to the final commentary, but being a fan of Wright and Cornish feel I made the right choice. With few references to the film as it played, this was more an extended discussion between two filmmakers about making your debut film. Funny and enlightening stuff.

On the second disc are five proper documentaries, one lasting for almost an hour. Rather than just talking heads and brief clips of behind the scenes action, this DVD goes in-depth into the whole production and doesn’t gloss over the more stressful side of filming on a tight time scale. One thing I couldn’t find was the featurette titled Joe’s Massage, either it was removed after the list of extras was released or it is an Easter Egg I failed to stumble upon.

Attack the Block is out on DVD and Blu-ray on September 19th 2011, and you should probably go and buy it.

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Attack the Block – Review

As he briefly introduced the film last night Joe Cornish described Attack the Block as a first time for everyone involved; for himself, for the cinematographer, for Basement Jaxx and Steven Price producing the score and for the 11 young actors bearing the brunt of the film. But from the opening shot as we move down from the nights sky to Oval tube station it is clear that this is not the work of amateurs.

Joe Cornish is no stranger to writing, he’s currently going from writing for Spielberg to writing for Marvel, so it’s no surprise he has managed to produce a funny and action filled script. What is surprising is the dialogue of the gang who discover, and try to fight off, an alien invasion on their block of flats. It’s something that caused me major concern in the trailer and the clips that were released but in the context of the film is not nearly so jarring. You can see Cornish did his research, something highlighted by just how awkward it sounds when Luke Treadaway’s Brewis, more private school than council estate, tries to pull off the dialogue himself.

As a director Cornish keeps his camera moving in a slow and steady style, there’s never so much shaky cam or fast editing that you can’t tell what’s going on. Cornish is happy to let the visuals get the attention they’re due, and the fact that such cinematic visuals are possible in a block of flats is down to Thomas Townend in his first feature as cinematographer. Townend makes the most of dark corners, harsh strip lighting and smoke to create a series of eerie and beautiful images.

Basement Jaxx and Steven Price’s debut score provides the usual necessary functions of making the scary moments scary and the tense moments tense but adds another unique layer. This is no orchestral score and the Jaxx-esque music playing throughout reflects more the culture of the kids involved, adding to the setting rather than taking you out of the film. Danny Elfman would have ruined it.

Moving swiftly on to the conclusion of this review, brilliantly set up structurally in the opening paragraph, let’s talk about the real stars of the film: the stars of the film. As mentioned, Luke Treadaway provides some solid comic relief as the outsider trying to look cool and fit in with the gang of youths. The very gang of youths that had not acted before but became the heart and soul of the film. Terrifying, funny and heroic in equal measure throughout the film, the gang of young tearaways go from petty crime to alien warfare and we go right along with them. As their mugging victim, Sam (Jodie Whittaker), learns to stop fearing and judging the group, we do too and by the end we’re right by their side, kitchen knife in hand. Special mention goes to Alex Esmail as Pest for making me love a character I know and dislike in real life.

It’s hard to be totally objective when I’ve been taught to love the work of Adam and Joe in the past year but there’s no denying this is a great, thrill ride of a film and a confident debut by all involved. This film is a powerhouse, particularly for a low budget British monster movie, all the skill behind the camera makes up for any lack of budget, the aliens themselves a testament to ingenuity over cost.

Now as a treat for anyone who is still reading, a clip featuring Mr Joe Cornish:

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