Category Archives: Reviews

The latest and the greatest in films!

The Seventh Fire – Review

Culture.

It’s an important part of who we are. It comes from a long history bestowed onto us from our parents, their parents and so on. Culture is there as an amalgamation of the past and the present. It allows us to remember who we once were whilst still evolving to how the world is now. Culture is so fruitful and vibrant – each country has different subsections that gift our lives with this understanding and love. There are also bad cultures – drug, crime and violent groups that have perforated through history.

Despite this, a lot of the good side of these groups would and should continue thriving to this day. At least, that would be the case if one certain Empire didn’t spend years trying to twist or destroy other cultures. One such community is that of Native Americans. Pushed to near extinction, the traits and history of the Natives, who were ruthlessly cut down by settlers, has left many with this archaic view on the dwindling group and therefore drench them in stereotypesI’m starting this review as such because the terrifically astute and eye-opening documentary The Seventh Fireperhaps places the audience into a subsection of culture they simply forgot about – and allows them to understand the people in the heat of it all.

The Seventh Fire, directed by Jack Pettiebone Riccobono in his first feature, revolves around Rob Brown, a Native American gang leader who lives on a Minnsesota reservation and is facing his fifth stint in prison. As part of the Ojibwe community, he must come to terms with his responsibility and how he abused it, bringing a violent drug culture and introducing it to everyone he knows. Amongst the community is Kevin – a seventeen year old “protégé” who wants to be the biggest drug dealer, following in Rob’s path.

Presented by Terrence Malick and with Natalie Portman as Executive Producer, in its own redolent and alluring way, The Seventh Fire is a necessary watch. The title comes from an old adage of that after the destruction of a culture, the youth will rise in its place and return the community back to the roots and tradition. A title which captures the visceral vein running throughout this film as you urge the young Kevin to change his ways before it’s too late. By no means is this an easy watch – the almost cocksure attitude surrounding drugs and violence will cause you to shuffle in your seats. But these are people, fully fleshed out in front of the camera, that despite their degenerate ways, they have ambition, hope and personality. Rob even regales text and literature which gives depth to a documentary narrative that has been strung out before – drugs, crime, and gangs.


By no means is Jack Pettibone Riccobono is wielding his camera to judge – this isn’t Benefit Street or Ross Kemp and Gangs (which, by the way, isn’t the metaphor I really wanted either but the first that came to mind). The director is aware of how easy it is to implement a story that causes you to tut or lament about the people at the centre of it – which is what steers away from. It’s without a specific agenda other than to showcase the community of the Ojibwes honestly and with all their problems – self-inflicted or imposed. It’s with this narrative that The Seventh Fire opens to its audience and allows you to engage with Brown and Fineday and their whole community as observers rather than criticize. All the while, this does not silence your thoughts and you’ll leave mulling over the situations and the pseudo-gangsters who, in some way, try to immortalise pop culture icons (there’s even a Scarface poster above them at one point which is very indicative to how they believe their drug empire should’ve gone).

There are times where the film drags with no coherent aim, especially the beginning but as the real-life characters of Rob Brown and Kevin Fineday are introduced, the film comes into it’s own. Without this conscious thought, it’s bloody difficult to ease yourself into it. However, when you do – the film burns with this story of almost redemption? Certainly it has this element of understanding and captures a piece of America which has never before seen on screen. And despite the issues here within the Ojibwes “tribe”, it is a film about humanity still  and how, even now, it could thrive with hope once more.


The Seventh Fire is out May 13th 

A War – DVD and Blu-Ray Review

There are plenty of movies out there that take a look at the casualties of war. Probably not the physically ailed populous that get bombed by every country that ever lived. Ever. But the Western culture chooses to immortalise the struggle of those doing the firing. From American Sniper to Eye in the Sky, there have been a barrage of movies that tackle the inner workings of soldiers on the front line, their mentality blown to pieces like those they choose to shoot at….

OK. I’m being heavily disrespectful and cynical because I do have deep respect for soldiers who are forced into war by government’s nefarious schemes and ploys in the same way I have respect for those caught in the crossfire. What is alarming is the choice to focus on one and not the other, it seems very one sided.

So when A War came out, the recent Danish contender for the Academy Award, there was skeptism that this movie would do justice to – not only the pain and strife of our leading soldier – but to the world and the people around him, suffering at his hand.


But in the hands of Tobias Lindholm, who also directed A Hijacking and The Hunt, A War manages to portray the intricacies and difficulties of warfare without over-simplifying or sugar-coating the emotion.

Anyway, Danish movie A War looks to be a poignant and thrilling drama about the Afghan war. Starring Pilou Asbæk, it revolve around Claus who is on tour within an Afghan war whilst his wife Maria is holding day to day life together. However, when they find themselves in a troubling situation, he makes a decision that could impact the lives of his men and his family back at home.

Lindholm has never been a director to shy away from excavating truth in all its gritty emotion. The film director can masterfully command the screen with enthralling effect. The first half of the film feels clichéd and reminiscent more of war films that have come beforehand. Despite the hand-held camera shaking nail-biting tension through your skin, you can never shake The Hurt Locker heroic likeness so immortalised in Katherine Bigalow’s film that no other can escape allusions.


Yet Lindholm is clear to never stray from the narrative and themes of the film – the consequence of action and how bravery is only celebrated if there is no loss of life. The conflict here evolves A War from the usual war garb and into an intellectual struggle between who is actually right and wrong when it comes to battle. Lindholm explores a deeper side than just the initial pain of war and the unfolding of the war crime and trial juxtaposes the grittiness fantastically well. In fact, it deepens the tension as the palpable courtroom sweats like the heat of the desert.

Rising actor Pilou Asbæk is a revelation, at least to English speaking audiences, and a commander Claus Michael Pederson, you see the visceral conflict etched in his fibre, his being, and every second he is on the big screen you are absorbed into this soldier’s journey: As someone who is punished for trying to survive but also as someone who must pay for his actions. Asbæk is a marvel and does well to establish a connection with the audience. Tuva Novotny is splendid as his suffering wife, trying to keep the situation away from her family both physically and mentally too. It’s an terrific cast effort that brings Lindholm’s work to stunning realisation.

One of the best war movies you’ll ever witness, A War is a superb, deep, and full of emotional turmoil. Most remarkably, however, is Lindholm’s astute awareness of the real casualties of war…


A War is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now! 

Room (2016) – DVD and Blu-Ray Review

There are spoilers here.

The jaunty music rang out across the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood as the 87th Academy Awards were in full swing this past February. The song perhaps grated against the usual swell of classic film scores and elegance that populated grand events such as this. For keen ears, it is the music that  was uttered softly, in hushed pain, from the winner of Best Actress – Brie Larson in Room and for many big fans of Lenny Abrahamson’s seminal work, Big Rock Candy Mountain was a soulful nod to the past year’s best performance.

And Brie Larson completely deserved the golden gong.

The 26 year old actress was pretty much the sole frontrunner of award season. The performer, who started acting throughout her teens and gained traction during her early twenties in films such as Scott Pilgrim vs the World and 21 Jump Street. She gained acclaimed for her role in Short Term 12 – a film which you all should see by the way – but it was this year’s heart-wrenching Room that solidified her as one of the world’s greatest actresses (oh, and my Twitter friend for about three months.)

The actress has soared and if you missed her impeccable performance in Room, which fought off the likes of Charlotte Rampling and Cate Blanchette, then it is luckily out on DVD and Blu-ray today.

Room revolves around Joy who, seven years ago, was kidnapped by a man known only as Old Nick and is held in an 11 by 11 foot enclosure. Giving birth to a son, Jack, Joy makes the decision to tell him that life within Room is all there is and everything within the television does not exist. However, urged yet again to escape when Old Nick takes away their power, Joy tells him the truth and Jack is forced to confront a larger world than the one he has known – the little and dingy Room


A commented bounded around from a dear critic friend who stated that Room was very similar to The Revenant: The Oscar winning movies were about survival and perseverance. Whilst one battle with the harsh nature and brutal beauty of the world, the other took on the brutality of man in all his sickening horror. Joy’s story, told through the round eyed innocence of her son Jack, is the endurance through kidnap, rape, and confinement and then, the preservation of her son when he is unwantedly born.

More so than the obvious and physical entrapment displayed here, Room excavates a remarkable understanding of mental illness such as Ma switching off for days on end whilst inside the room and her inability to readjust outside of Room. In fact, two of the arguably more troubling scenes within the film are when she faces what has happened to her and Jack that, juxtaposed against the seemingly idyllic and now foreign world she used to live, breaks her spirit all over again which is shown in the conflict with her mother and the news-reporters contempt for sensitivity (accusing her of being an unfit mother for not allowing Jack to escape.) Room never tackles the subject matter with a clunky hand.


Brie Larson is the spirituous and intricate performer who solidifies these themes. She is able to layer Joy with the realist emotional changes that her vitriol and rage as well as hope and courage are all utterly believable. The sense that this young woman was taken in the prime of her life and suffered for seven years under the command of someone else rocks throughout the film and Larson handles this story – a very true one for some people – with completely control and sensitivity, weaving the heftiness of her suffering in understated gestures, the bags around her eyes, and the pain etched into her voice. Larson takes a role that could’ve been wrongfully enhanced by melodrama and, instead, quietly hurts. Surprisingly, it’s a performance louder than most.

Lenny Abrahamson demands the excavation of the human soul in most of his work that the ferocious director encroaches from whilst the young Jacob Tremblay, who, during press junkets and red carpet shenanigans became our adoptive son, is a revelation and can tackle the arc of wonder and frustration tremendously well.

Room is a marriage of Emma Donoghue’s story with these superb talents and it liftst into this powerful and superb feature.


Room is out on DVD and Blu-Ray 9th May

Looking Back…Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

To celebrate the release of I Saw The Light, Sarah looks at Tom Hiddleston’s best work in Only Lover’s Left Alive.

I have to admit that in my journey through cinema, I have missed one vital director; Jim Jarmusch. In fact, a few writers of my film team have filled our section with glorious articles on his films and I’ve been sat there, editing them, like “how do I not know about his man?” Because for glorious and intense independent films that spout poetry and intellect, Jarmusch is your man.

Starring the delectable Tom Hiddleston and the wonderful Tilda Swinton, Jarmusch has re-vamped the vampire genre. It revolves around Adam and Eve, two ancient vampires who are living in the 21st Centuary. Adam is a rock-star who is plagued by fans and finds solace in a companion in Ian. Eve lives away, getting the best blood from a dealer. When Adam finds himself lost and as suicidal as a vampire can be, a phonecall from Eve, who happens to be his wife, reunites the soulmates. But their reunion is lessened by the arrival of Eve’s sister Ava upsets the roster.


This is exactly how you develop a waning genre and bring it into a modern setting. Conflicting the gothic poetry of the vampire lore with the bright lights of cities makes Only Lovers Left Alive. The drawl of the drama is, albeit slightly pretention, is purely divine. Jarmusch weaves a story that is not only visual in depth and so vibrantly beautiful that your eyes will devour every scenic joy. The film is infused with wit, dark humanistic emotions that can only be experienced in the after-life and a lack for life from the already dead. The haze that surrounds Only Lovers Left Alive is simply celestial, like a sleep walk through the film that’s dreamscape is impossible to not adore.

At the centre of this impossibly gorgeous film is two stars that exude this bereft and depth of a vampire life. Brooding and cynical, Tom Hiddleston’s Adam is stunningly done. Hiddleston conveys the want for rest, that archaic notion that life has been lived repeatedly and the stumbling world around him just effervesces this aura that irritates him. He deliberately adds personality that is both droll and exhausted. His counterpart is just as delightful. Tilda juxtaposes his lust for “death” with this calm yet jovial nature that is able to capture light within the dark. Her lucid acting that powerful captures verse and speech. The pair entwine in this mystical relationship that enchants in its mystery.


It’s impossible not to hear this review in a sultry tone. But that is almost the narrative of this film. Only Lovers Left Alive is a good charming independent film. It oozes the romping sex appeal and seduces the audience. Though vampires will always perforate our cinematic outings, ranging from the bad to the excellent. But no one will ever do vampires quite like Jim Marmusch who simply and exquisite gives us this wonderful film. The little nuances, the impeccable music and two lovers, strewn across the stars of time make Only Lovers Left Alive simply magnificent.


I Saw The Light is out in cinemas now 

Bad Neighbours 2 – Review

by Jo Johnstone

Bad Neighbours was the surprise hit of 2014. The film followed a young newlywed couple as they brought their first house and had to contend with a fraternity of boys moving in next door. The film featured all-out war between the two and was destined to have a sequel.

For Bad Neighbours 2, Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron all return for this comedy sequel with the addition of Chloë Grace Moretz as the sorority sister from hell. Sticking to the already successful formula of the first film, Bad Neighbours 2 is a gross out comedy that is sure to please fans of the original.

The film picks up a few years after the first. Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) are raising their young daughter when they realise they are expecting a second child. While selling their house to move to a bigger one. a sorority of young girls, led by Shelby (Grace Moretz), move in next door. The girls are being mentored by their former student neighbour Teddy (Efron), who resents the couple for his criminal record gained in the previous film. Yet when Teddy decides to switch sides and help the family, it is all-out war with the girls.

The sequel sees Nicholas Stoller, known for Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, back in the directing chair with Rogen again serving as producer to the film.

In terms of narrative and concept, the sequel has stayed true to the original film. It’s the young married couple fighting a group of crazed partying students accept this time, the students are girls. The film has three joining plots which all get equal attention in the film. There is the couple vs the students. The female students desire to create a sorority that is allowed to hold their own parties and, finally, Teddy’s reluctance to move on past his college days. Each narrative offers its own jocularity and paces this comedy well.

The bulk of the humour comes from the war between the two houses and the pranks they play on one another. As the film progresses, the pranks become more elaborate, even sending one character on a wild goose chase around the world.

As with all Seth Rogen comedies there is a fair share of gross humour. From a scene where Kelly vomits on Mac’s face during sex to the scene where the students throw used tampons at the couple’s window, its grim viewing and not for the easily offended.

A lot of the films appeal is thanks to the comedy and charm of the original cast. For the sequel, the three now must work together and the results are absurd and excellent. Again, small cameos are done well and add to the humour of the film from Lisa Kudrow’s straight talking Dean to Kelsey Grammer’s overly emotional father to Shelby. The only missed mark is in character Shelby. Grace Moretz is a great actress but she is awkward in this role. It is easy to believe her as strong and rebellious but the street smart attitude and gang sign references feel very over done for such a talented young actress.

The new additions of the sorority house match the crazed antics of the previous all male group and then some, proving once and for all that girls can be just as bad as the guys.


Bad Neighbours 2 is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now! 

Florence Foster Jenkins – Review

by Georgia Sanders 

Based on the true story of the woman dubbed ‘the worst singer in the world’, Florence Foster Jenkins is an emotional immersion into the very real problems of a woman with an unwavering determination to become a part of the musical world for which she had such intense affection.

Unable to play the piano since contracting syphilis and damaging the nerves in her hands, Florence – played by the ever-perfect Meryl Streep – takes to singing as an outlet for her musical passions; despite her lack of skill in the area. A combination of her wealth, large entourage of friends, and tirelessly devoted husband, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), ensure that she never receives an honest word’s feedback – that is, until her ambition gets the better of her, and she books herself in to perform at Carnegie Hall.

St Clair’s blatant love for his wife is so tangible that, even upon seeing their relationship’s complications, one has the utmost faith that their connection is a deep one – and that there must be more to the situation than at first appears.

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It seems almost a waste of breath to attempt to explain how flawless Streep is in this role – for she is eternally flawless – but to do the film justice, I truly must. She fully embodies the human layers of Florence; her real talent, her passion, the seriousness with which she takes her craft – as well as her naiveté, her aging wounds and their result in her striking need to attempt projects way out of her depths in an almost bipolar surge of positivity.

Accompanied by polite, timid, pianist, Cosme McMoon, formidably portrayed by The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg – whom, it seems, is much more capable an actor than Chuck Lorre gives him credit for – Florence pours her soul into her painfully screeching performance through a combination of confidence and obliviousness.

Meanwhile, even side characters such as McMoon develop their own depth, bonding with the audience and bringing you in to their select group of unlikely companions.

Rarely does one come across a film that is filled with such overwhelming joy and yet such devastating sadness. The quippy and soulful script leaves us both laughing and ugly-crying within moments of each other, with classy comedy – sometimes in as little as a masterful look from Grant.

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Enveloped in all of the glamour and wonder of the era, Florence Foster Jenkins beams with laughter, tears, new friends and inherent solidarity. It is an utter joy to witness – and like the very real quote from both Streep, and the real Florence herself states – “they may say (she) couldn’t sing, but they’ll never say (she) didn’t sing.”

And with that; I’m off to see it again.


Florence Foster Jenkins is out 6th May