Beginners – Review

In 2003 Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) loses his father (Christopher Plummer), gains a Jack Russell and falls in love with a French actress called Anna (Mélanie Laurent). The story of Anna and Oliver’s burgeoning romance, and Oliver grieving, is sprinkled throughout with scenes from Oliver’s childhood with his mother and the final few months of his father’s life as he is diagnosed with cancer and comes out of the closet as a gay man.

It would be easy to call out Beginners for being overly twee, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is fully present, Mike Mills takes on an occasionally stylised directing style and the dog has subtitles, but in truth the film comes off as charming rather than quirky. My worries than the varies story threads would be completely separate, and the love story merely a tacked on extra, we unfounded.

Through seeing Oliver’s childhood with a dissatisfied mother and his joy at seeing his terminally ill but newly reborn father’s joyful final months, we understand everything affecting his relationship with Anna. We can see what is holding him back and pushing him forward without it ever being said in dull dialogue, though perhaps the same cannot be said for Anna.

The three leads, McGregor, Plummer and Laurent, give equally layered and subtle performances but are all overshadowed by the greatest Jack Russell ever. There’s a special joy to be found in small dogs with faces resembling old men.

Beginners isn’t going to blow your mind but is a small film with a lot of charm.

100 points if you spot Lou Taylor Pucci’s cameo.

Submarine – DVD Review

It’s no secret that we love Submarine, and it will take an impressive batch of films in the next five months for it not to reach our top 10 of 2011. This tale of a teenage boy dealing with his parent’s troubled marriage and struggling with a first love is as near perfect as any film this year. Richard Ayoade’s direction is stunning, unpolished and creates frame after frame of gorgeous visuals.

The cast all seem to understand the tone of the film perfectly, from Yasmin Paige and Craig Roberts as the awkward young couple, to Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor as the awkward parents on the verge of breakdown. Only Paddy Considine gives a slightly misjudged performance as a marginally too broad mystic healer.

Submarine is a must-see and for me, a vital addition to my DVD collection.

The DVD has a fair few added features including a commentary with director Richard Ayoade, author of the Submarine novel Joe Dunthorne and director of photography Erik Wilson, cast and crew Q&As, music video, deleted scenes and interviews. The Q&As are taken from the film’s appearances at various film festivals and mostly consist of Ayoade being completely endearing and self-effacing while avoiding answering any serious question directly.

There is also a full version of Through The Prism with Graham T. Purvis, essentially a long performance from Paddy Considine in character and to camera, and footage from a test shoot which shows just how well planned and considered Ayoade’s style was. With such a low-budget we are sadly lacking any form of a making-of documentary.

This is an essential release and is out on DVD and Blu-ray right now. You won’t regret it.

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Kaboom – Review

It took a while for me to settle into Kaboom with it’s “quirky” dialogue and overly boosted colours but I gradually settled into what seemed like a slightly above average sex comedy. Then it all got a bit weird and a global cult and a witch were introduced, the colours got brighter and the dialogue got quirkier.

According to the rest of the audience Kaboom is hilarious, not only the one liners got a laugh but sometimes just a scene change warranted a chuckle for no good reason. One man in front of me even did the full rocking back and forth and clapping routine twice. I think they were all plants because Kaboom is nowhere near as funny as all that.

If you’ve ever wanted to see the Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, Haley Bennett or Roxane Mesquida naked then you’re in luck… otherwise I wouldn’t bother. It seems Mysterious Skin was a one-off bit of brilliance from Gregg Araki.

There’s a chance Kaboom was brilliantly stylised and I just didn’t get it, but more likely it’s a terrible film. Luckily there is no UK release date just yet.

Submarine – Review

Submarine is pretty great.

Here we have a British film that is not gritty, involves zero gangsters and is not a bland romantic comedy. Instead we have a story of a young boy worried because his parents haven’t had their dimmer switch down halfway for months and who is forced into a relationship by a girl at school, who then dictates what he writes about her in his diary.

Submarine is written and directed by Richard Ayoade (Moss from The IT Crowd), and both are done in a playful way which show a love for film and a real raw talent.

The two young leads Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige carry the film well, easily matching the more established supporting cast which includes Paddy Considine and Sally Hawkins.

Submarine is a fun and effortless watch that does not lack in heart. It has no UK release yet but when it does I suggest you go and try not to smile.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Review

I was looking forward to It’s Kind of a Funny Story, it looked like a funny heartwarming tale about people in a psychiatirc hospital possibly with an indie soundtrack, but it let me down and fell pretty flat.

The main problem is the main character Craig played by Keir Gilchrist, he is supposed to be depressed and suicidal but going by everything we’re shown he seems perfectly fine. This completely deflates the entire plot as he ends up completely fine too having no development at all, apart from discovering a love for making quite unimpressive paintings.

The film also features too may twee cutaways, far too deliberate efforts to make the film “quirky” that just come off as desperate. These include a pointless animated sequences and a glam rock music video for the entire duration of a lip-syncing performance of Under Pressure.

While Craig may be a dull character, some of the other patients provide much more intrigue. Both Emma Robert’s Noelle and Zach Galifianakis’ Bobby are interesting, fragile characters whose journeys inside the hospital would have been much better subjects for the film.

It has its moments but it a deeply flawed and overly self-conscious film.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Review

Last night I finally got to sit down in a packed cinema and feast on the visual delight that was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In order to not be totally biased I will give a nod to the odd pacing, the lack of explanation of certain plot points and the fact that it didn’t have the full emotional weight of the comics. This sort of thing happens when you condense six books down into a single two hour film.

Those two hours were amazing though. The audience was laughing right from the Universal logo and I had a minor heart attack during the opening credits, a feeling I last had when first seeing the trailer on the big screen. Scott Pilgrim is a relentless assault on your senses and rollicks along firing out jokes, fights and sheer energy at you as the scenes flow almost too seamlessly from one to another.

Never has a film had so much though put into each individual frame and every sound you hear. For a fan of the books and a fan of seeing something different coming out of Hollywood, Scott Pilgrim is what I have been waiting for. Edgar Wright is a genius and the cast are wonderful. I was about to list the stand out actors but it came to 13 so just look and marvel at the full cast list on IMDb.

And the music!

The best review of Scott Pilgrim I can give is that at the end I was tired, a little bit sweaty and my face hurt from smiling so much.

The Brothers Bloom – Review

Rian Johnson, writer and director of The Brothers Bloom, has only directed one other film and that film, Brick, just so happens to be one of my all time favourites. He also recently directed an episode of Breaking Bad one of my all time favourite TV shows. My expectations were suitably raised upon going to see Bloom and as such I was slightly disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good film; funny, stylised and surprising. Bloom just isn’t quite right.

Where the film suffers is with timing. While the film is under two hours long it seems to drag a lot in the middle; a con movie such as this needs to be a bit faster paced but Johnson’s plan to have a con movie with sympathetic characters requirs time for emotional scenes that held the film up. Ultimately this was a worthy sacrifice; what it lacked in pace it made up for in heart as while we never knew the characters true motives as the film went along we did start to care about what would happen to them.

The entire cast, Rachel Wiesz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi and Robbie Coltrane were perfect for their parts and performed well. The direction and general production design were both very stylised, something that is often seen as a criticism. Personally I think it is often a plus point if you notice a particularly nice camera move, there’s nothing wrong with direction standing out as good as opposed to being overly generic. The music is also a treat, and as with Brick is provided by Johnson’s cousin, combining piano and various jazz instruments to create a unique sound, so different to most hollywood films.

With good direction, writing, music and acting it’s hard to know where the film comes up short but it does, if only slightly. Thankfully it remains clear that Rian Johnson has a real flair for writing and directing and any comparisons to Wes Anderson should be taken as a compliment.

Whip It – Review

On Friday I was down in London for the premiere of Whip It, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut starring Ellen Page as a girl who stumbles, and falls heavily, into the world of the roller derby.

Sometimes I worry that most of Mild Concern‘s reviews are positive, but there is no way I can criticise Whip It, and I tend to avoid films I know will be bad. This is not a gritty drama or a broad slapstick comedy but a genuinely enjoyable and heartwarming comedy, a fun family film with no sense of a message that never strives too hard for a gag. Even the love story takes a back seat to the joys of the roller derby.

I am an Ellen Page fan so enjoyed her performance though she is not exactly distancing herself from the role that made her famous. Barrymore’s direction does not scream first time filmmaker and the roller derby scenes have a real energy to them, so kudos to her. The roller derby scenes certainly had more energy than the demonstration on the Southbank before the film. Even Jimmy Fallon is at his least irritating, which is a real relief as his performances can often ruin a perfectly good film.

If you want to see a film you will enjoy then go and see Whip It, it is as easy at that.

Whip It is in cinemas on 7th April 2010.