Tag Archives: Elle Fanning

Teen Spirit – Fragments Festival Review

By Sandra Collingham

It is a tale as old as time. A young pop starlet dreams of fame and fortune with their singing and are soon thrust into the terrifying world. We’ve seen it over and over again in movies such as the recent Oscar winner A Star Is Born, and before that the 1976 A Star Is Born, and before that Judy Garland’s A Star Is Born, and finally the 1934 movie A Star Is Born.

Anyway, regardless, pop stardom and ingénue fame have sparked many outings on the big screen. Teen Spirit is a film hoping to twist the narrative into a more contemporary feel with Elle Fanning leading the way.

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Directed by Max Minghella (best known for his acting roles in movies such as Horns and 10 Years,) the film revolves around Violet, a shy Polish born British teenager who dreams of life beyond her small town. Wishing to pursue her passion of singing, relegated to wailing in pubs, Violet enters a singing contest with the help of an unlikely mentor. Soon she is thrust into the competition and the bright lights of the pop-world.

Set to an outrageously catchy soundtrack that ranges from Ellie Goulding to Sigrid, Teen Spirit is a vivid and energetic film that captures the ferocity of a pop-singing and being a teenager in equal measure. Shot by cinematographer Autumn Durald, famed for crafting music videos such as Janelle Monae and Haim, Teen Spirit has a definite look and feel that embellishes colour and crafts this modern vivid feel to the film. It’s a stunning watch that matches the confidence of Minghella’s direction and the catchiness of whatever tune is blasting out. It is somewhat of an addictive watch.

Elle Fanning perhaps acts her hardest and brushes off any naysayers she has about her acting talent. Here she imbues Violet with a vibrancy, a hopefulness and also has pipes to match. Fanning also gifts Violet a complexity that may not have been there in the initial script and whilst Violet may seem like a character without too much writing, Fanning gives her personality which triumphs here.

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The biggest problem with Teen Spirit is that it is desperately clichéd, presenting us with a story that has been told over and over again with only the flare to set it apart from the rest. This may make the film a predictable watch as well as a very shallow one too. The script and subsequent film somewhat wastes the character by never delving deeper than it should’ve done which is a great shame.

That being said, whatever surface level it skims, it does so gleefully – with all the talent of Elle Fanning and all excitement of the titular Teen Spirit.

Fragments Festival plays 7th – 15th June! 

Live by Night – Review

Ben Affleck has had a roller-coaster career. When he is good, he directs, writes, or performs so viscerally and amazingly; whether that be his penmanship in Good Will Hunting, Academy Award winning Argo, or his role in Gone Girl, Affleck has proven repeatedly that he can be talented and iconic. When he is bad, it all twists into either ridiculous outings such a Gigli and The Accountant or produces some rather lacklustre content. It’s the biggest shame because you know Affleck can hit it out of the park and he has proven that repeatedly, and then when he is on a golden streak it quickly becomes soiled. Even when he is playing Batman.

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Which is why, following on from the disaster that was The Accountant, Live by Night had to excel. It had to power forward away from Affleck’s failure. Sadly, however, it fails to shoot above an average status, becoming a somewhat overlong gangster garb.

Starring and directed by Affleck, Live by Night. The film revolves around the roaring twenties and  an underground network of gangster-run speakeasies. Enjoying the spoils of this criminal underbelly, Joe Coughlin has turned his back on his strict upbringing. However, when he crosses the paths of a dangerous opponent, his world is turned upside down.

The premise to this film would make a perfect hour and a half action romp, right? Man crosses a villainous gang leader and has to get vengeance or fight for his honour. That shit is thriller movie gold, with a 1920s’ style, and those round circular guns that I’m trying so hard not to call Bugsy Malone weapons because these don’t shoot sludge. Concisely put together, Live by Night could have been so much more. But based on a book by Dennis Lehane, it’s hard not to want to transfer a lot of the material onto the big screen. The biggest problem, then, is making that an amenable transition but somewhere in the translation, the excitement of the novel was lost.

It’s not for a lack of Affleck trying his hardest. True to form, Live by Night is an aesthetically pleasing and the acting from a cast consisting of Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, and Sienna Miller is pretty good. However, the story on screen never amounts to anything fresh that we haven’t seen before. It’s speakeasy gangsters, for god’s sake! That means fedoras, furs, jazz, and shoot-em up scenes. Live by Night jumps and leaps through time, losing characters in the dialogue as it goes (several people close to Joe die and all they are given is a throwaway line,) and you have no emotional investment in the characters. That’s the biggest sin of the movie: There is nothing here to make you care about Joe and, therefore, it is stripped from tension or entertainment.

(Also, for a film called Live by Night, they do an awful lot of deals and crimes during the day. That’s neither here nor there but an observation that crossed my mind.)

For a lazy Sunday evening where you don’t have to work too hard for your cinematic meal, Live by Night is a pleasant and average film. But with a talent like Affleck leading the way here, Live by Night is a diluted action film that never is as fulling as you’d hope.

Live by Night is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

How to Talk to Girls at Parties – Brand New Trailer & Clips!

I love John Cameron Mitchell. Love him. LOVE HIM. From Hedwig and the Angry Inch (a perfect creation,) to Rabbit Hole, I  believe we are finally tapping into his genius. This continues with his latest film – How to Talk to Girls at Parties.

Starring Elle Fanning who is an alien touring the galaxy with her group. However, she breaks away when she meets two people and have to explore “the most dangerous place in universe –“ Croydon. Cue the shenanigans!

There is nothing about this concept, trailer, and talent that I don’t love and it should be an interesting product, indeed.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is out May! 

20th Century Women – Brand New Trailer!

Despite everyone claiming otherwise, there is still a distinct gap between the sexes, especially in Hollywood and the media. Whereas men are nearly always strong, silent and able to defend themselves and their families at the drop of a hat, women still often act meek and demure and need to be rescued by the virile hero. Though, admittedly, some of the more recent films (such as The Force Awakens and Gravity) have begun to help demolish that aspect of the filmic world.

It is within these newer, closer-to-enlightened times that we see the latest trailer for 20th Century Women enter the world. Set to a speech by President Jimmy Carter decrying the youth of the 1970’s, the trailer shows a fantastic cast, (Annette Benning, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning) as three women help a young boy learn various important life lessons such as freedom and love.

The trailer sets the film up to be a funny and endearing experience, with plenty of bright colours to help evoke the 70’s youth culture.

20th Century Women is out 20th January 2017.

The Neon Demon – Review

Nicolas Winding Refn is the great polariser. His work has always been met with controversy and split opinions (except Drive. I think we can all admit that Drive is legitimately one of the best movies of all time. Ok? Ok.) Anyway, Refn’s work has pushed the boundaries of cinema. Like David Lynch of Takashi Miike, he doesn’t just tease with the boundaries, he kicks them far past “good taste” and into the murky waters of toe-curling horror. Between Bronson and Only God Forgives, Refn has tackled the darkest and looks to go further into the terrors of humanity with The Neon Demon.

The premise has been worn well but never as elegantly as this. Jesse is a young girl from a small town, landing on the streets of LA in hopes of becoming a successful model. With her natural beauty, she is quickly sent up ranks of the industry as many fawn over her looks. Three women – two models and a make-up stylist – are soon caught within Jesse’s web and wish to ensnare her for themselves.

The Neon Demon is an experience that begs for your pound of flesh and then some. Set against the backdrop of the opulent hues and aching skyline of LA, Refn has developed a horrid fairytale for the beautiful age. Three witches set upon a young virtuous girl and spice her with wanting and hellish powers, looking to twist her naivety into their own darker cause. Soon they will reap upon the young girls being, consuming her blood, body, and beauty to satisfy their whims and desires.

Refn doesn’t gift the audience as he leads you down the beaten path, this time scattered with sleazy motels and glimmering runways. His imagery and command of a scene skim a shallow edge of pretention, utilising the beauty and talent of his actresses as though we, the audience, were another beast raring to consume them. In his use of the titular colour and the delectable Elle Fanning, he allows a brutally enchanting story to come through. Beauty sordidly fuses with the grim and the concoction flickers on the screen with a sense of allurement and longing that can only beat within you in lust, drive, passion, and, yes, bewilderment.

Those who may have had doubts on Elle Fanning’s talent (myself included) can only bite their tongues fiercely down. With the director not keen to populate his films with that much dialogue (the exception being Bronson), Fanning has to convey equal amounts of innocence and drive within her character in near and nervous silence. She displays a vicious princess at the heart of becoming and her transformation into, presumably, the titular creature is an accomplished, invigorating, and pounding sequence where Jesse faces who she is and who she is twisting into. The role is that of a more stoic and unruly debutante as Natalie Portman’s Black Swan role once was. Fanning is graceful and deadly, honing in the struggle between nice and ambitious well enough for the audience to be warmed and warned by her character.

The witches three that lure Fanning’s Jesse into the pulsating underbelly of modelling are tackled defiantly by Jenna Malone, Bella Heathcote, and Abbey Lee. The trio of defined actresses play characters each usurped by Jesse’s entrance into their world and as jealousy broils inside of them, they each play a unique role that turns the plot into a damned and murderous one.

As smoke glides across mirrors, as does The Neon Demon puff with a vapid and unforgiving nature. At times, the enlarged egos and extremities in front of you coerce titters of either discomfort or disbelief, and whether or not Refn had intended this to be the case is left to interpret. The feature is definitely not Refn’s most accessible (though definitely his least original narrative) but that is part of the enjoyment. With an utterly masterful score by Cliff Martinez, another triumph by the composer, the feast beckons you to dive further into the meat of the story and the palpable tendons and grizzle will linger long upon your taste. Digest it, savour it, and become it, The Neon Demon beckons steely stomachs and hungry eyes for what is easily the most complex, unusual, yet completely phenomenal film of the year.


The Neon Demon – Brand New TV Spot

There is no finer filmmaker out there than Nicolas Winding Refn. His popularity incites polarity and his work is always sublime. Whether you are a fan of his work or not, you cannot deny that he is producing unique, rich, and memorable pieces of cinema. Only God Forgives, Drive, and Bronson all smatter with the superb, the bizarre, and the achingly brilliant.

Now he returns with upcoming tantalising thriller The Neon Demon.

When aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

There is no other or eloquent way to put this but we are so fucking excited for this film. With Jenna Malone, Bella Heathcote, and Abbey Lee, this is going to hit you in all the right places. See all the TV spots from the thriller. They are so very good.