Cocaine Godmother – Brand New Trailer!

Do you ever hear a silly film title and just think “This is ripe for mick-taking”, then find out it’s actually serious film? Yeah. This is Cocaine GodmotherCocaine Godmother is based on the life of Miami drug lord Griselda Blanco (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a pioneer of the drug trade in the 70s and 80s.

Despite having a title  that sounds like an Adam Sandler parody of Narcos, where Pablo Escobar’s nagging aunt (Played by Sandler, obviously) takes over the drug trade, it’s actually a pretty serious film based on an interesting true story. Catherine Zeta-Jones looks the part, and the film itself honestly doesn’t look bad. Unfortunately, it’s a Lifetime picture, so there isn’t too much hope attached to it. But…Who knows?

Cocaine Godmother premieres on Lifetime on 20th January.

Brakes – Review

There are three different types of films in this world; those you enjoy, those you despise and those you just can’t place into either category.

For the most part, everyone has their own preferences with a few exceptions which are arbitrarily attached to one group (Citizen Kane in the good, the entirety of the DCU save Wonder Woman in the bad, and The Room and Manos: The Hands of Fate somehow managing to inexplicably fall into the middle category.)

Image from film shown without comment on the good/bad dichotomy above.

Brakes, the debut film from British actor Mercedes Grower, falls firmly into the middle category too, as it struggles gamely to create a unique and quirky, multi-narrative story with a non-linear plot. It sounds convoluted, but it’s quite easy to follow along with the story when you’re watching.

The film revolves around the relationships of a wide variety of characters in London, first focussing on their endings before making a u-turn and showing the beginnings. The style itself is slightly reminiscent of Memento, albeit without any amnesia and a lot more characters. The large amount number of narratives throughout the film’s run-time keeps everything moving swiftly, yet still managing to introduce you to the characters and understand their motivations and feelings.

Many of the scenes are improvised, meaning there is a lot of pressure on the actors to perform. Some do so admirably, whilst others seem to struggle, merely repeating lines over and over again as if to simulate an argument. It’s not a big deal, and all the actors are skilled enough to allow you to gloss over these moments, but it can get a little tedious whilst you’re watching.

The main problem drawing Brakes back from being a fantastic first foray into directing for Grower is due to the relatively poor quality of the actual production. It was filmed using a handheld camera, which makes the entire affair feel as if it was shot on a boat on rough seas; likewise the first vignette sees regular continuity errors on one of the props used in the scene. Despite all this, the ropey production values do little to hurt the overall appeal of the piece, and one must assume that, were Grower’s budget bigger or she weren’t filming in such a guerrilla style, the overall quality would be vastly improved.

Possibly the strongest element of the film is the soundtrack. Using a variety of tracks, each one perfectly encapsulates the mood that is being shown on screen. The songs also ease the transition between scenes, helping to smooth the story and emotions as they leap between the cast.

Ultimately, Brakes is an incredibly ambitious project that promises a lot before falling at the last hurdle. There is plenty to love in here, from the fantastic performances, to the stories that are short, sweet and full of emotional depth. The camerawork might make you feel a little queasy if you suffer from sea-sickness, but that should not be used as an excuse to avoid watching this poignant film.

You may not end up loving it, but it will carve out a little place in your heart that will keep you thinking about the film long after the credits have rolled.

Brakes is out 24th November 

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Review

Back in 2002, Evil Dead director Sam Raimi weaved a web of movies for Tobey Maguire’s fresh-faced nerd Peter Parker turned superhero Spider-Man. Spawning one of the best comic book sequels of all time with Spider-Man 2, and a disastrous third outing (with the best crotch based dancing) in Spider-Man 3, we all needed a regeneration for the creepy-crawly hero. Flash forward to 2012 where Andrew Garfield assumed the mantle of Spidey, under the direction of the best named director Marc Webb, in the Amazing Spider-Man series. Tackling the origin story again, by the time the sequel landed it was as awkward and uncomfortable as Gwen Stacey’s landing (too soon?)

So when the news broke that Peter Parker and his latex wearing antics would yet again hit the big screen, we were a bit dismayed that we’d have to sit through another Uncle Ben death and spider biting escapade. However, seeing the already established Spider-Man in Civil War, we were stoked for the upcoming outing. Could Tom Holland’s rambunctious energies save the teen hero?

Apparently he can because Spider-Man: Homecoming is amazing.

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Set immediately after Captain America: Civil War, Homecoming sees Parker wishing to scale the heights of hero-dom under the guidance of Tony Stark. But Iron Man has other ideas and wishes to see Parker trained before he tackles bigger battles. Frustrated, Parker comes across a fiendish ploy in New York city and uncovers a bigger plot. Does he have the nerve to bring this latest villain down?

Gone are the “spider-sense” tingles and the biologically made webbing, sending Parker back to his comic book origins. In their place, there is now an adolescent charm, a frivolous and hilarious atmosphere, and superb chemistry between Holland, his teammates, and the audience. Director Jon Watts tackles the enormous task of updating Spider-Man with fervour, establishing a new, somewhat baby-faced hero who you are immediately invested in. The morose blubbering of previous incarnations have been side-lined for a doe-eyed and naive character wishing to reach the grandiose heights of the Avengers when he is being treated like a kid. His foolish antics submerge him in a lot of trouble but tackling the character from a teenager angle allows this fresh beat to take hold and also solidifies the tone in some sort of realism. Because, of course, a 15 year old kid (who looks and acts 15,) wishes to be treated more like an adult and is irritated when that doesn’t happen.

When Tom Holland was cast, most people were bewildered because of how youthful he looks. We’re so used to seeing these characters played by 30 year olds that when a similarly aged actor is cast, it’s alarming. Luckily, Holland is perfectly placed in the latex here. His wide-eyed excitement against his immaturity in crime-fighting is balanced impeccably. Swinging into action (and I believe doing most of his own stunts,) Holland’s Parker is an unforgettable whirlwind of fun. It’s not simply the amusing elements that Holland does well; in more tender or serious scenes, the emotion conveyed is palpable. Holland has proved repeatedly that he has a promising career. With Spider-Man, he has shown that he is a tour-de-force.

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In fact, acting wise there is not one role that is wasted here. From Zendaya to Hannibal Burress, each character plays a part well. Kudos to the younger cast here who establish this amusing High School full of jocks, popular characters, and loveable weirdos. Yet typecast stereotypes they are not and there are enough layers to allow you to warm to every teen involved including Parker’s bestie Ned, providing a supply of laugh-out loud comedy. Michael Keaton, donning the wings as a literal Birdman, is always compelling to watch and does villainy extremely well. Though Marvel will always have a problem in villains, ever since they peaked with Loki (but more on that at a later date.)

The approach for the latest Marvel outings seems to be working because they are tackling this films from a different genre – just with superheroes. Ant-Man was a heist film, Winter Soldier was a spy film, and Homecoming is a teen romp. Only Watts is able to build upon this John Hughes atmosphere (which he does lovingly play homage too) by splicing in enough action to turn Pretty in Pink into Pretty Damn Amazing. Not an ounce of zest is wasted, the film flows with a smart pace and a spirit simply not done in the previous outings.

Animated, lively, and completely entertaining, this is the Spider-Man outing many have wished for.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is out 5th July 

“It isn’t just limited to prisons.” – Director Jairus McLeary talks The Work

We are always being told not to be emotional. We’re taught to keep our feelings to ourselves, to suffer in silence, and not to cry. We’re constantly told to bottle up until it explodes.

Directed by Jairus McLeary & Gethin Aldous, The Work revolves around volunteers that head to Folsom Prison to participate in a group session with prison in order to deal with their emotional conflict and open honest. In a visceral and vital documentary, The Work tackles truth and humanity in a compelling way.

We were lucky enough to talk  to Jairus McLearly about his riveting documentary, out now on Home Entertainment!

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How has the tour gone?

It’s gone well, a lot of travel, and I couldn’t be happier.

There’s been such a great reaction,  how does it feel to have these positive responses? 

It’s been such a great reaction, I didn’t know what it would be and it has been very positive.

How did you come about this project?

I was a volunteer, just like the subjects were. In this case, it was my father who was first to go through and he helped to organise it. My brothers and I had this dealt with this type of work before. This was just a new thing that he invited us to go to.

I volunteered around 2001/2002 and it wasn’t until I moved to LA in 2006 to pursue a career in this type of film. We started planning in 2006. I had people who were working in the film industry and we put a crew together, shooting in 2009. It was a real collaborative effort and people all brought their expertise. They had volunteered before we had money. We asked if they’d like to work on the film and no one said no.

I think we set about to capture the experience in the circle and everybody that goes in. It’s not just about the prison, it just happens to take place there. It’s about what’s underneath. We hope to draw attention to the type of people who are in prison. The things they are going through and how they strife to better themselves. They are trying to do the best they can and you have to approach it with no judgements about prison in order to do better.

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You’re family are heavily involved in the work too. How did that change the household? 

My father was the one who started doing this kind of work. I was sixteen and he came home and started crying. He wasn’t prepared for fatherhood or parenthood and he knew he was guaranteed to make mistakes. We watched a lot of years going of him going through the work and my mum also went through it. So our household became like one of those circles. An open family that extended to family and friend.

How difficult was it shooting in prison? 

The whole thing was different. We shot in 3006 and it is only just going out now. There were a lot of problems with funding and the economy crash. People wanted me to change what the film was going to be creatively and then it was hard to work with prison administration inside Folsom Prison. It was essential that there were no guards in the room. What people do is strictly confidential and the administration saw exactly what happens to the men who go through the work, I guess that developed trust . Editing was hard: We didn’t know how people will view a bunch of men going through these deep emotions. We developed different story-lines and we wanted to show why this happens. We shot putting the audience in the circle and tried to get them as close as possible.

Did you have any issues with the prisoners? 

Not at all. We discussed going in and the pros and the con,. When the cameras came, they’d chosen which guys were going to be in the circle and everything just started. It was immediately clear that no one was going to ham it up. They were just eating up the camera themselves. They wanted us to show people that these guys were trying to be better people within a see of negative voices. They were reality sharers, talking about how scary prison was and their background, they wanted to be as truthful as possible.

How open were the volunteers? 

It takes time from the jobs and school. But there are volunteers from different backgrounds and every session we get more volunteers interested.

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How can we apply the work to other practise and how can we address men and emotions?

I think it has applications everything. Across screenings, we come in contact with people who are affected. They talk to us and say how we can do it here and there. Forget about prison, a lot of people say “I need to go talk to my father or mother or wife.” It ripples. Half the population has PTSD, buildings have boarded up holes, and there are graveyards in places. It is just really conflict resolution between a person and the conflict within themselves. Robert Albee (Founder of the Inside Circle Foundation, pictured above) has done this in South Africa, Northern Island, and with Native American tribes. It isn’t just limited to prison. It’s spreading.

The Work is available on DVD from 27 November and on demand now