Sometimes, the art of great poetry lies in its oblique qualities. This is something that biopic/art house flick/historical expose Howl struggles to come to terms with over a brief 80 minute running time -after all, who wants Howl, one of the seminal poems of the 1950s, explained objectively?
Submarine manages a kind of miraculous balancing act: it’s cynical without being nasty; wistful without being sickly; and funny without being juvenile. As much a product of director Richard Ayoade as it is an adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s novel, the film’s vibrant, cine-literate, fourth-wall-breaking verve brilliantly captures the sense of how we as people valiantly attempt to impose a cinematic outlook on our day-to-day lives, before unveiling the poignant moment that comes when we realise our lives don’t march to the whir of a Super Eight camera.
‘I once had a girl … Or should I say, she once had me…’ The Beatles hit Norwegian Wood remains as powerfully ambiguous as ever, and now the Japanese film of the same name, taken from a novel which uses the song as a dramatic device, takes on its own cryptic essence. Recommended to all those who desire to be challenged by enticing, baffling world cinema, what Norwegian Wood loses in warmth and compassion it makes up for in complexity. Consistently interesting, unusual and unpredictable, those who are averse to atmospheric subtext over clearly delineated emotional logic are advised to steer clear.
Felicity Jones, star of snow-boarding romantic comedy, Chalet Girl, is anything but a chilly presence. In fact she’s an absolute delight, holding a predictably fluffy, though perfectly enjoyable, project together with sheer verve and star-making pizazz. Even if the film is little more than a spring-board project designed to launch Jones onto bigger and better things, the filmmakers deserve plaudits for taking the plunge and casting her in the lead -a gamble that more than pays off. She carries the pressure of the film on her shoulders beautifully, and come the end, there’s nowhere else we’d rather be than firmly on her side.
She plays former skateboarding champion Kim, who lost her confidence in a road accident that killed her mother. Grabbing the opportunity to work for some posh toffs at a chalet in the Austrian Alps, she leaves ill-domesticated dad Bill Bailey (a nicely sympathetic role) at home and hits the slopes. And that’s not the only thing she hits on when she eyes up the son of her moneyed client, Ed Westwick. Throw in the obligatory battle with the inner demons (will Kim make a success of herself in the snowboarding championships?), and you have the classic Cinderella tale.
It’s never less than perfectly watchable though, and is given a lease of life by some nice sparky chemistry between Jones and Westwick, not to mention some well-observed supporting turns (as the dad on the other side of the financial ladder, Bill Nighy is refreshingly non-snooty). Tamsin Egerton as the upper crust chalet girl who’s the ying to Jones’ yang is fine in a stereotypical role; Brooke Shields on the other hand barely registers as the mother disapproving of the cliched fairy-tale union.
But it’s hard to quibble with such a meringue, especially given Jones’ immensely likeable performance (lovely to see a sympathetic central role for a change), not to mention luscious Alpine lensing that makes you want to get out in the mountain air. Credit to director Phil Traill and editor Robin Sales too for actually making the snow-boarding sequences entertaining too -in other words, watchable without stooping to the dreaded jittery editing. It may fade from memory as quickly as last year’s snow-melt but Chalet Girl proves there’s something to be said for charming, unpretentious, uncynical viewing.
One of the most significant and pre-eminent examples of a film club in Devon and Cornwall, Torbay Film Club has gradually built a reputation for eclectic programming, privileging foreign language and art house cinema not often shown at the local multiplexes. On the door admission costs just £5.50 and yearly membership is just £29. Here’s what Caroline Gott, acting web manager, had to say.
One of the most important assets to a piece of cinema is a glorious soundtrack. Few things are more transporting than a full-blooded motion picture score, something which can evoke any number of emotions from terror to excitement to a soothing sense of calm and peace. As we move into spring, here are a selection of beautiful lyrical melodies that capture the essence of spring in bloom.
Drive Angry is the very definition of a guilty pleasure and benefits from an enjoyably oddball streak of gallows humour. As oddball as star Nicholas Cage’s hair. In fact, Cage’s very casting -that strange, droning, monolithic presence catastrophic to some productions and invaluable to others -seems itself to be a tongue in cheek move, but one wishes the limelight was taken by co-star William Fichtner, stealing scenes right to the very end.
Rango is a sheer joy from start to finish and allows director Gore Verbinski to put the bloated monstrosities that were the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels behind him. It actually hearkens back to his more innocent work on Mouse Hunt, although, as with many animated films of late, it may only be a kids movie on the surface. Dig deeper beneath the child-friendly, madcap visuals and one finds that John Logan’s sharp script is possessed of a rare literacy and intelligence. And that intelligence extends to more than just a few pot-shots at Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns (brilliant though they are).
The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper’s dramatization of King George VI’s battle with a stammer, and the Australian speech therapist who helped cure him of it, has garnered universal acclaim -and deservedly so. Now crowned with four Oscars, it boasts terrific, pitch-perfect performances from Colin Firth as the King, Geoffery Rush as Lionel Logue and Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth.
At last year’s October CINE event at the Exeter Phoenix, I was fortunate to catch up with Ben Barfoot, Lee Wade and Robin Mayes of Fuse fame. This remarkable film saw its makers develop a brand new, groundbreaking form of technology, blending real life and animation (almost but not quite akin to rotoscoping) in an extraordinarily ambitious and exciting fashion. The dystopian feature proudly displays its science-fiction influences throughout, although, as the guys explained to me, making it wasn’t exactly a bed of roses…
‘Hi, I’m Paul’, a lost, lonely extra-terrestrial states to befuddled comic book geek, Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) in the wilds of the Arizona desert, Graeme’s best friend and travelling partner Clive (Nick Frost) having fainted in shock beside him.
True Grit. A remake or not a remake? That is the question. Less controversial are the undeniably superior filmmaking skills of the Coen brothers, skills which underpin this cracking new adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel. When compared to Henry Hathaway’s 1969 John Wayne starrer, it’s arguably a much more accomplished and effective work, restoring the narrative tangent of the story and moving beyond barnstorming star-led theatrics, instead venturing into gripping character study underpinned by weighty Biblical subtext.
Jason Statham continues to prove he’s the Arnie for the i-Pod generation in The Mechanic. Just like the Austrian Oak, Statham boasts the sort of indestructible presence that cuts through the most idiotic of material, singlehandedly ensuring The Mechanic remains halfway watchable. Mercifully, director Simon West also has him retain his London accent, there’s no Pasadena by way of Peckham nonsense here.
In what has already proven to be a tragic start to the cinematic year, the news of composer John Barry’s death has hit audiences, critics and filmmakers alike especially hard. One of cinema’s most noteworthy melodists, he was also a great innovator, pioneering, through his 11 James Bond scores, The Ipcress File and others, the sound of the 60s, along with such contemporaries as Elmer Bernstein, Alex North, Henry Mancini and Jerry Goldsmith.
Hereafter unfortunately is three quarters of a great film and one quarter of a substandard one. But first, let’s start with the good stuff. First and foremost, it continues Clint Eastwood’s desire to push himself as a director into incredibly ambitious, unusual material well outside his comfort zone.
So Ricky Gervais offended all and sundry at the Golden Globes, leaving Colin Firth with the unenviable task of having to add dignity to proceedings when picking up a much deserved gong for The King’s Speech. And now all eyes are on the BAFTAs, where both Firth and the film are expected to do gangbusters. It deserves every success, but the real joy of this year’s nominations lie in the overlooked categories.
Romantic comedy would seem to be out of character for Ed Zwick, macho director of lavish melodramatic epics like Glory, Legends of the Fall and Defiance, until one scours his IMDB back catalogue and discovers About Last Night lurking in the wings. An intimate story of passion and affairs starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, it was the kind of small-scale project on which Zwick made his name; Love and Other Drugs marks his return to such material.
Adapted from the third book in CS Lewis’ landmark Narnia series, The Dawn Treader comes bearing the kind of unfortunate name that seems to pre-empt critics and audiences having their knives out. ‘Simply treading water’; ‘Fails to make a splash’ -the list goes on.
In the Tony Scott school of hard knocks, it’s not content for a character to merely get knocked to the ground in a fist-fight. The fist must connect with the face from five different angles -preferably in slow motion once -before a hectic montage sees the body fall to the floor accompanied by ear-bleeding sound effects. If he’s feeling especially energetic, he’ll speed the camera up and then slow it down.
“It appears to be normal,” intones Wilford Brimley gravely, as he dissects the hideously twisted and monstrous corpse of an unidentified creature, observing it has a complete set of internal organs. As if on cue, we cut to the cadaver’s face: a horrific tableau of pain, horror and terror. The fact that it seems to be fusing with an additional head next to it should alert those nearby to the imminent threat.