‘Joy Division’ – 8.5/10

Standard
‘Don’t turn away…’
Portrait of Joy Division

People often speculate about what a third Joy Division album would have sounded like or how a fourth Nirvana record would have turned out. In both cases people wring their hands about being robbed of what surely would have been an essential piece of work. To yearn for a lost masterpiece from either band though is to miss the point. Both Kurt Cobain and Joy Division singer Ian Curtis were tortured souls and both bands were doomed from the start. The fact that their lights shone so briefly is what makes their frustratingly small musical output so astonishing. No matter how successful both groups became (and arguably because of this) the alienation, loneliness and drug addiction(Cobain)/epilepsy(Curtis) would have got them in the end.

‘Joy Division’ is an exhaustive bbc4 documentary taking in the bands humble beginnings as Warsaw after forming at the infamous Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall to Curtis’ death on the eve of an America tour. While it is really interesting to see interviews with Tony Wilson (RIP) and to see and hear archive footage from producer Martin Hannett and Joy Division manager Rob Gretton, it is the interviews with the band themselves as well as the live footage from the shows that leave a lasting impression.

068.tif

Hooky, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris make for insightful and funny interviewees and while the story of Joy Division and Curtis is a dark one the three former bandmates inject a lot of warmth and poignancy in to what is a brilliant documentary.

Totally essential for any Joy Division/New Order fan ‘Joy Division’ would also make a great introduction for anyone interesting in discovering Joy Division for the first time.

Birdman – 7.5/10.

Standard

Fading star and former Batman Michael Keaton plays fading star and former Birdman Riggan whilst notoriously difficult to work with but brilliant Ed Norton plays notoriously difficult to work with but brilliant Mike.

birdman-movie-review-10202014-090704

After four days I am still not sure what I think about Birdman. Brilliantly directed but also overly pretentious. Expertly acted but all the characters feel (purposefully?) like caricatures. The score fits perfectly but also becomes a bit tiresome. Birdman is an enigma.

It is always great to see Ed Norton and Naomi Watts but every character here feels like a kind of Wes Anderson cartoon. The performances aren’t bad but at no point does anybody in this film feel like they could be an actual person who exists in real life and the normally reliable Emma Stone’s bratty drug addict is just plain annoying.

It can’t be denied that Birdman is definitely ambitious but ambition alone does not make a classic film. We are talking about a best picture winner here for Christ’s sake! On that subject I am astounded that Birdman took home the best picture gong. Of the nominated films that I have seen I would put Boyhood slightly ahead and The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel and (my favourite) Whiplash miles in front Birdman.

So is Birdman a brilliant Charlie Kaufman-esque satire on fame with art imitating life imitating art or a daft self indulgent mess? To be honest a bit of both.

…And They Lived Happily Ever After – 6/10.

Standard

Wine, cheese, people smoking cigarettes whilst drinking wine and eating cheese, two sex scenes inside the first 30 seconds… I think I have just watched a French ‘Rom Com’.

1x52mOwW59QHnVm8SQNXH8diIWC

I initially downloaded this film because of Johnny Depp being first billed on IMDB. While his early non speaking two minute cameo was not exactly what I expected I was still left with an fairly interesting film about love and infidelity and other French things.

Directed, written and starring Yvan Attal alongside his real life wife Charlotte Gainsbourg, They Lived Happily is an offbeat tale of three dirty old men and their mostly long suffering wives and mistresses.

It is always difficult to stick with a film with no likeable protagonist to root for but an excellent Radiohead heavy soundtrack plus high quality acting just about kept me invested. I did feel come the finale that Attal was aiming for some kind of high concept character study that just ends up being a bit of a mess.

Honeymoon – 7/10.

Standard

Loving couple ignore thousands of horror films and have their Honeymoon in a cabin in the woods. The inevitable ensues.

tumblr_n10gll5ycl1qh0oqco1_r1_500

I spent the opening twenty minutes of Honeymoon mapping out a negative review in my head. Game of Thrones Rose Leslie (Ygritte) has a dodgy American accent and the scenes displaying the love she shares with her new groom are far too sickly sweet. After The Cabin in the Woods turned the genre on it’s head I didn’t expect to see something so derivative so shortly afterwards…

Luckily when Honeymoon does finally get interesting it brings with it a surprising new take on the genre and succeeds where similar films like Dark Skies failed.

Honeymoon is creepy and a bit nasty but it stuck with me and as I have said many times this is often the yardstick for a successful horror film.

Whiplash – 8.5/10.

Standard

Brilliant film featuring a nine minute drum solo (no really).

Whiplash-5547.cr2

Whiplash has gone straight into the IMDB top 250 at #38 and has been nominated for five Oscars despite being one of the lowest grossing best picture nominees ever. I can safely say Whiplash lives up to the hype.

On my blog back in March of last year after watching Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now and Rabbit Hole I said he was ‘definitely one to watch for the future’ (this might sound like showing off but I am only right about stuff once or twice a year so fuck you guys). In Whiplash Teller is a revelation. He is a whirlwind, with the intensity of Ed Norton and the passion of Di Caprio. It is a scandal that he hasn’t been nominated for best actor at this year Oscars but he WILL be nominated in years to come.

The supporting cast is fine but Whiplash is totally a two man show. The tension between Teller and almost equally astounding J. K. Simmons is palpable. Teller is in every scene but when paired with Simmons it feels like they don’t even come up for air.

This was clearly a passion project for rookie director Damien Chazelle and he also takes plenty of risks which only makes Whiplash more satisfying as both a piece of art (and it is art) and as a massive success.

I was sucked in, I was invested in the characters and Whiplash grabbed hold of me from start to finish. The friction and understanding between Simmons and Teller makes Whiplash a must watch. No excuses.

Friday the 13th – 7/10.

Standard

Betsy Palmer who played Mrs. Vorhees called it a ‘piece of shit’.

Writer Victor Miller admitted he was capitalizing from the success of Halloween…

Jason Vorhees barely appears and isn’t the killer…

fart-friday-the-31st-halloween-or-friday-the-13th-which-is-better-b3cc4e89-cb60-4438-9d98-bd799eb0c97b

So how the hell did this movie spawn 11 sequels and one of the most well known killers in horror history? It is actually quite difficult to say. ‘Kevin Bacon’ definitely isn’t the answer, though his massive hair cut is a welcome addition to any film.

Friday 13th attempts to take the most successful aspects of Halloween such as the famous POV opening and merge that with the insular insanity of Evil Dead. What transpires is a film nowhere near as good as either but a franchise more successful than both. Horror fans love mythology which explains the success of Halloween, Hellraiser, Child’s Play, Nightmare on Elm Street etc etc. The odd thing with Friday 13th is that Jason was never meant to stumble out of Camp Crystal Lake and into a sequel – the mythology was born by accident.

None of the Friday 13th films were particularly critically acclaimed either but there is no doubting the continued popularity of the Vorhees story. As for the film itself its badly acted, predictable, almost laughable in places but for all its faults ***SPOILER*** Mrs. Vorhees makes for a memorable and creepy killer, the score is brilliant (Especially the famous ki ki ki ma ma ma sound effects) and there is just something about Friday 13th that screams ‘cult classic’ which sets it apart from some of the other dross around this period (Black Christmas, Prom Night).

Not as good as the sum of it’s parts, nowhere near as good as it’s peers (The Shining came out in the same year) and not even the best film in it’s own franchise but against all the odds Friday 13th is a film I always enjoy watching. An unlikely and baffling success story.

The Imitation Game – 8/10.

Standard

A very British film from a Norwegian director.

The Imitation Game Movie New Pic (2)

Imitation Game tells the amazing and incredibly sad story of WWII code breaker Alan Turing.

A very talented all British cast including Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Charles Dance and Matthew Goode all throw themselves into Turing’s story with a level of reverence that the story absolutely deserves. Cumberbatch in particular follows up a series of impassioned interviews about Turing in the films promotional run with a brilliant performance. Anti social genius he may be but Cumberbatch’s Turing is definitely not Sherlock 2.0. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing is at once vulnerable and arrogant, layered and emotional without even coming close to crass sentimentality.

Keira Knightley impresses yet again with a turn that cements her growing reputation as the best British actress since Kate Winslet. More like this and Never Let Me Go and less like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Knightley will find herself turning her Oscar noms into wins soon enough. Speaking of which Cumberbatch must be a big contender in the best actor stakes this year. While the supporting cast are also very strong, particularly Knightley and Watchmen’s Matthew Goode, it is Cumberbatch who has taken responsibility of this project by owning the role of Alan Turing.

Cumberbatch et al have ensured The Imitation Game will be remembered as one of the best films of 2014.