Why Jennifer Lawrence was perfect to play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games – they’re both feminists through and through

As lucky Kinder in London, we go to screenings of blockbusters – as well as our more favoured smaller, more independent, underground film releases. But there isn’t anything wrong with that – just because a film is Hollywood, doesn’t mean it’s automatically too mainstream, too product placement heavy, or too glamourous for us. Sometimes Hollywood films suck – but not always.

And we really like The Hunger Games.

Mostly it’s because we have a thing for Jennifer Lawrence.

silver-linings-playbook-image-1(Jennifer Lawrence at Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook)

We really, really started to get her when we saw Silver Linings Playbook – an unexpected gem of a film, right from the Stevie Wonder mentions, to Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of someone living with bipolar disorder, to Jennifer’s role as Tiffany – a brash, sexy, but vulnerable individual (and a role that Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for).

Now, The Hunger Games is totally different. Coming from Young Adult fiction, it could be mistaken as a Twilight-type affair – all lovey dovey – but it’s not. (Jennifer, as Katniss, does have love interests – but her biggest interest is to protect her family, friends and the world around her from the regime they’re living under).

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(Jennifer playing Katniss in The Hunger Games)

Katniss wields a bow. She volunteers to enter the Hunger Games to protect her little sister – and as we’ve seen in the latest instalment, she’s getting rebellious against the totalitarian rules her nation lives under.

Jennifer Lawrence, too, is a rebel. She spoke out on Newsnight about the pressure that girls feel to be thin. Which is a very, very rare move in Hollywood.

Check her out here.

Oh Jennifer, we love you.

Oh, and P.S. – she did this at the Oscars.

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Rosie x

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Literature and the Barbican

Why is the Barbican so amazing?

Because it is the LARGEST multi-arts and conference venue in Europe.

The huge, towering concrete jungle that looks rigid, militant and BRUTALIST in its architecture is actually home to a cultural flowering of art, music, theatre, dance and film!

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Built in London, upon an area desecrated by the Second World War, during the 60s and 70s it began as a residential estate. But it is now so much more than that…

It houses the Barbican Arts Centre, vast libraries, the Museum of London, The City of London School for Girls and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (where one of us got her ‘Grade 8 Performing Arts’, and ‘Shakespeare Award’. Ahem).

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In 2001 the Minister for the Arts awarded the Barbican Grade II listed status.

One can see why.

It is colossal in scale – you can easily get lost inside it. Plus it occupies such a cohesive and all-consuming place in the London skyline. The whole complex is so distinct and seamless that it easily sits apart from all the law firms and towering glass banks full of city boys surrounding it (eww).

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It is also pretty cool that some of the buildings are named after notable British historical literary figures (we are literature geeks after all…) Examples include:

Defoe House – after Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders)

Johnson House – after Ben Johnson (the playwright behind satirical plays Volpone and Bartholomew Fayre)

Bunyan House – after John Bunyan (writer of The Pilgrim’s Progress)

More House – after Thomas More (Tudor period author of the Latin-Utopia)

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AND OBVIOUSLY SHAKESPEARE TOWER…the bard who needs no introduction!

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Rating: ****

Anne x

Blue is the Warmest Colour – Palme d’Or Winner

Being proud advocates of LGBT culture (we have spent a lot of time in Berghain…) we were really excited when news began to trickle forth from the Cannes film festival 2013 – of the Palme d’Or winner ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’.

Based on a French graphic novel and garnering much critical acclaim all the way back in May – it has taken an age for it to hit our screens. But it is hard to avoid the vivid imagery scattered all over the underground stations in London.

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The film is very visceral – real and intense in its portrayal of the ups and downs of modern day lesbianism. The acting by Adèle Exarchopoulos, ranging from a 15 year old discovering that her erotic feelings for boys are severly lacking, to a woman torn by her feelings for another female, are heartbreaking in their honesty and vulnerability.

Léa Seydoux, playing the sexually more mature and at-ease Emma, has had a liberal upbringing and is an artist – comfortable in her sexuality. Her flare and bright blue hair awaken feelings in Adèle that both excite her and make her feel welcomed to a life she didn’t realise she had been missing all along.

Yet the path to true romance never runs smoothly. The film raises questions of whether such erotic intensity can ever turn into something with durable longevity?

Blue-Is-The-Warmest-Color-2In the aftermath, what EVERYONE has been talking about (and over-hyping) were the supposed graphic sex scenes between the two women portrayed in the film. Director Abdellatif Kechiche has courted controversy – with critics claiming that the sex is too pornographic and not faithful to true lesbian encounters.

Even the author of the graphic novel has condemned the piece with the statements: “heteronormative [people] laughed because they don’t understand it” and that gay people “found it ridiculous”.

We found it neither of these things.

However, now both actresses have come forth to proclaim that they shall never work with director Kechiche again and have described the experience as “horrible”. There have even been suggestions that prosthetic vaginas were used.

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I don’t know if we were the only ones NOT to be utterly shell shocked by such de-Hollywood-ised sex scenes?

But in many ways it was refreshing.

Three hours full of subtitled French cinema flew by.

We were mostly obsessed with the camera’s permanent gaze upon the girls’ mouths – there is definitely a lot suggested by this oral fixation on screen. We see them biting their lips in frustration, licking their lips, pouting, kissing, chewing – in fact Adèle is always seen to be open-mouthed – lips trembling, eating with her mouth full of food. or with a cigarette hanging from between her lips. I think we get what Kechiche is trying to suggest…

However, we found the more heart wrenchingly painful moments were the ones that stuck with us – the homophobic high school mob scenes, the tear-stained cafe encounter,…and the moment the man comes running out of the art gallery after Adèle leaves – where a moment’s hesitation leaves one wondering how many missed opportunities there are in everyone’s life.

Rating: ****

Anne x

Powder Room – a review

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(From left to right – Jaime Winstone, Riann Steele and Sarah Hoare)

We were excited about Powder Room – it’s got a stellar cast, from Sheridan Smith, to Jaime Winstone and Oona Chaplin (who I am personally obsessed with. Her hair! The fact that she’s Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter! Her tantalising performance as a sometimes-escort in Channel 4’s Dates earlier on this year. The list goes on).

Basically, this is a Brit flick for the girls.

And it’s good – but not as good as it maybe could have been.

Sheridan Smith (who is always amazing. In everything) plays Sam. She’s on a night out – with two different sets of mates. One bunch, her ‘true’ friends, are are also the so-called ’embarrassing’ ones – the ones who nick drinks because they’re skint, get so wasted they end up hiding in toilet cubicles whilst wrapped in bog roll, and shamelessly shave their armpits in the ladies’ loos (well, the latter is  just Jaime Winstone as man-eater, Chanel).

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(Oona Chaplin, Sheridan Smith and Kate Nash)

Sam’s other bunch of mates are played by super-cool Oona Chaplin (Jess), and Kate Nash (Michelle) -yes, really – Miss Nash is an actress now! I didn’t even recognise her without her fringe, to be honest – what a transformation – though not one I’m totally convinced by. But it’s clear from the start they aren’t Sam’s true friends – just a bitchy friend of Sam’s from the past, and her snobby Parisian mate.

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(Jaime Winstone and Sheridan Smith)

Sam spends the night flitting between the two gaggles of girls – with increasing tension and unease. Who are her real friends? The ones she’s grown up with – and outgrown a little – or the chic duo that Sam aspires to be like?

As the narrative moves forward, we see that Sam’s life has actually been unravelling in front of her eyes for months.

I liked this film. Sheridan Smith gave a great performance – and I sympathised with her character, as many girls will – skint, upset, confused, heartbroken, stuck, bored, whatever – there’s a quality in Sam that we can all relate to. And probably several if we’re honest.

Jaime Winstone and Oona Chaplin too were fabulous, as always.

And I liked that the film revolved around the toilets at a club – which is, though a bit of a cliche, the place you often spend half your night nattering with your friends.

The bits I didn’t like? The random bursting into song. I guess that was too… jazz hands for me, but that’s just me. Others will like that element – and the film is based on a play.

This is a slick, girly film, and it’s one younger girls especially will like. I can’t see it becoming a cult classic or anything – but it’s definitely worth a watch. If only to see Jaime Winstone shaving her armpits in a club toilet.

Our rating: ***

Powder Room is at cinemas  from 6th December. 

Rosie x

FOPP Film Club – The Kings of Summer at The Roxy Bar & Screen

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The Roxy is an amazing place to watch any films that you may have missed when they were initially released. This bar and screen mean that you can combine dinner, drinks and cinema. Pushing back the curtain at the rear of a small bar down Borough High Street you can happily throw yourself down upon one of the many comfy, burgundy leather sofas and watch a film sprawled out with booze, friends and food within easy reaching distance.

Once the film starts the only illumination is via candles casting a warm, red glow across the room. This is much preferable to cramming yourself into a crowded Odeon full of screaming children and with popcorn flying.

Many of the films include intervals as well so you can have a crafty cigarette or toilet break without missing any of the action onscreen!

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We went to see The Kings of Summer, an indie flick that is a admittedly a very funny coming-of-age tale in the style of Stand by Me.

Unfortunately the film was only given a limited release in the US and UK – meaning not as many people got the chance to laugh out loud to three boys’ harebrained attempts at building a fortress in the middle of nowhere and fending for themselves against the wilds of nature.

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These young boys, disillusioned by their everyday lives – full of stifling parents, humdrum schoolwork, and high school bullying,  decide to escape and run wild and free in nature, learning to fend for themselves and eventually returning to society as fully fledged men (sort of).

Our absolute favourite character had to have been Moisés Arias playing the ridiculously weird Biaggio. His large bug eyes staring out at his contemporaries in all manner of camouflaged nooks and crannies  – simultaneously freaking out everybody in the cinema and providing the majority of laughs (at one point confusing the symptoms of cystic fibrosis as signs that he is gay!?)

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Other actors worth watching are the Justin Bieber-styled Nick Robinson (the brains behind the great escape), Megan Mullay (Karen from Will and Grace!) who is as funny as ever but in a totally different way, and Mullay’s real-life husband – Nick Offerman. They must be one seriously funny couple off-screen!

The film was showcased to us by the FOPP film club – the wonderfully cheap DVD, CD and book store.

One could tell that the hosts of the event were passionate about the film they were showing and took great delight in opening it up to a wider audience. Something FOPP should be applauded for!

Unfortunately during these penny pinching days FOPP’s fate has suffered like so many others – now only one shop exists in London (whereas before there had been 150 across the country).

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So head down to Covent Garden and make sure another staple of the British high street doesn’t crumble! Failing that, give The Kings of Summer a chance. Indie films and indie shops are a precious but increasingly rare commodity these days…

Our rating: ***

Anne x

Photos: Danny Baker, The Kings of Summer promo & Sboy2010

Warum haben wir diesen Namen?

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“What’s in a name?” // “Was ist in einem Namen?”

(from Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet – Act II, Scene II)

Explaining our name…

WIR KINDER FROM LONDON = WE CHILDREN FROM LONDON

You might find yourself asking why this website is not entitled in the conventional German of “Wir sind die Kinder vom London Stadt” (“We are the children from London town”).

Well, aside, from the URL being ridiculously long and confusing for anyone who can “nicht sprechen Deutsch” it is to do with one city, one book, one film, one song (Bowie’s Heroes) and one woman. That woman being the protagonist from Ulrich Edel’s cult film Christiane F – Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo (1981).

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Yet Christiane is no fictional character, living in West Berlin during 1975, during the height of the divided city and the wall, she became embroiled in a world of drugs – hashish, LSD, pills and heroin. What makes this tale so shocking is that her decline into depravity began when she was only 12 and by the time she was 14 her heroin addiction was so strong that she was a full time sex worker. This was a decade, documented in both Stern magazine and Edel’s film, when teenage drug use and child prostitution were rife.

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The pivotal axis upon which the film turns is that of David Bowie and his input – both acting as himself and providing the musical soundtrack. Christiane maintains that her first heroin experience was at a Bowie concert – a scene that is re-enacted in the film and which exposes a 14 year old girl’s adoration for the singer.

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There is also a fucked-up but tragically emotive love story between Christiane and the (gorgeous) Detlef who she meets at the infamous nightclub Sound. It is her love for him the leads her into a whirlwind of drugs and crime – all in an attempt to be closer to him. Detlef introduces her to the sordid underworld of the sex and drug scene at the Bahnhof Zoo train station – yet it is here that she learns her lover and best friend is also engaging in homosexual prostitution behind her back – his yearning for heroin is stronger than his love for her.

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Be warned – Stealing from family, performing underage sex acts, junkies overdosing and graphic withdrawal is shown in lurid detail.

Modern day Berlin is not typified by this film – where the cinematography is dark, unclean and rundown. Former landmarks used in the film no longer exist and the child actors used in the film (most of whom were still in school) have never gone on to great fame.

David Bowie’s Heroes is a song that resonates through the soul, however, very few know of Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo and the warning that Bowie was trying to give – having struggled with his own demons during his Berlin Years of 1976-79.

Christiane F. is not an easy watch, despite the unfounded promise that the real character went on to live happily ever after…

This is a gritty bildungsroman, showing that life is never easy, but this film is a piece of history and an artistic expression that is not to be ignored. Indeed, it is by observing literature, music and cinema (in this cult classic and in general) that one sees reflections of life – both the highs and the lows. Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo stays with you long after you have finished watching it. Perhaps it will inspire you in some way to make something of yourself no matter what life throws at you.

“At 12 it was Angel Dust. At 13 it was heroin. Then she took to the streets”

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“The Image of a Generation”
Anne x
Photos: Stills & promotional shots from Christiane F © Euro Video

Justin and the Knights of Valour – Film review

Once upon a time there was a young lad determined to follow in the traditions of his forefathers – to venture on a quest and return a hero to his kingdom. Along the way he encountered a motley crew of folk and rescued a damsel in distress…

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This is a tale told from generation to generation – in this instance it is Antonio Banderas’s retelling of the stock tale in animated 3D format, with the help of the Academy Award nominated Kandor Studios.

We meet Justin (Freddie Highmore) as he rebels against his father’s wishes to become a lawyer and escapes to a training camp run by monks for the Knights of Valour (of whom his grandfather was one). Far from being a handsome and robust youth, Justin is a bumbling and slightly pitiful animation – more of a village idiot than hero-in-training.

To balance the good versus evil continuum, the audience are presented with Heraclio, a dark knight threatening to overthrow the queen, and his camp sidekick Sota. Sota’s vanity and ostentatiously effeminate gesticulations match Rupert Everett’s voiceover perfectly. There is also Sir Clorex (Banderas himself), a false knight with a penchant for the ladies (adults may note that it is perhaps no coincidence that his name is reminiscent of a brand associated with male virility).

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Moments of slapstick humour ensue from comedian David Walliams who plays Melquiades – a soothsayer with a split personality, who mutters to himself like a Gollum-esque madman. There are laugh-out-loud scenes, for children at least, due to the sheer buffoonery and calamitous actions of Walliams’ character.

The animation is spot on, and Granada-based Kandor graphics have made every effort to incorporate cartoon versions of the stereotypical fairytale landscape, although the characters all look a bit like mythological versions of Bratz dolls. 3D splashes of rain fall from the sky, castles crumble around you and there is a flying crocodile masquerading as a dragon called Gustav (which sounds funnier than it sadly is).

On the topic of dragons, fans of animation are predicting that Banderas’s film is a direct attempt to mimic the success of 2010’s hugely popular How to Train Your Dragon. Let’s hope that this film is more successful at soaring to success than poor croc-in-disguise, Gustav.

Our rating: **

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/09/05/justin-and-the-knights-of-valour-movie-review-2/

Future Cinema presents Dirty Dancing at Hackney Downs

One of the largest outdoor screenings of 2013 has been Future Cinema’s Dirty Dancing at Hackney Downs, with a run spanning three days (Friday 30th August- Sunday 1st September). Swarms of people gather in fancy dress, all in costume as Baby, Johnny, hula girls or bedecked in 60s headscarves.  The queues for entry are so long that bemused walkers in the park stop to ask “What on earth is going on?”

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Dirty Dancing (1987) is part of the collective female psyche, and a seemingly feminine version of football hooliganism abounds. Once the film starts, malevolent characters are booed and vehemently heckled, yet when love scenes are beamed across the grass there is a collective intake of breath and whoops of joy. This is a film that people are passionate about. The vast majority of the audience are women who know the script word for word and leap up off their picnic blankets for every song and dance.

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What makes Future Cinema’s screening so special is its festival vibe. The Facebook event alone had thousands confirmed as attending, and the place is awash with people. The park resembles the main stage of a festival – except with people flash mobbing rather than moshing. Actors re-enact the scenes shown onscreen in the flesh: there is Johnny’s chalet (where the romance happens), the talent show, mass hula hooping sessions, art lessons – even a large replica of the staff quarters (the most happening place to be, with a real onsite disco) and the legendary ballroom where “nobody puts Baby in a corner”. No detail has been left untouched, and there is even a chance to hold the infamous watermelons, which is no easy feat!

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Future Cinema has created a totally immersive experience, and recreating Kellerman’s Vacation Resort was a wonderful idea. Rather than forcefully thrusting the audience into the event, it invites them with food, drink, theatre, dancing, cinema and much more! At the end of the night, no one wanted to leave this rollercoaster of a holiday. From nostalgic tears at the memory of Patrick Swayze, to throwing beach balls into the air with wild abandon, this was a perfect way to spend one of the remaining days of summer.

Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/09/02/future-cinema-presents-dirty-dancing-at-hackney-downs/

We’re the Millers – Film review

We’re the Millers lays on the humour thick and fast. Dave (Jason Sudeikis) is dealing weed around Denver, meeting with regular customers and old college friends alike. There is a laughable and stark difference between Dave’s lackadaisical lifestyle compared with his contemporaries – he lacks the burden of children, a wife and bills.

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It is only when Dave is mugged of his entire stash and all of his money that the audience realises being a small-time drug dealer is perhaps not the easygoing lifestyle it first appeared. It seems the only way to rectify this sticky situation and appease his boss is for Dave to smuggle drugs across the border from Mexico. Inspired by an encounter with a real-life, wholesome, RV-driving family, he decides to recreate the stereotypical all-American, butter-wouldn’t-melt Christian household and have them assist in his quest.

The comedy is amplified by Dave’s choice of lowlife characters to fashion the illusion of a typical 2.4-children family unit. First there is Rose (Jennifer Aniston), a neighbouring stripper. The inclusion of Aniston affords the film many chances to show us that the actress, now in her forties, still has “it,” with numerous scenes of her cavorting scantily clad around stripper poles. Emma Roberts as grungy teenager Casey is hilarious, persistently on her iPhone despite being homeless and contemptuous of her faux-family.

Finally there’s the endearingly cute Kenny, played by Londoner Will Poulter, whose version of TLC’s Waterfalls in the film causes audience members to contort in fits of laughter. His role is that of the wide-eyed and innocent virgin, taught about the birds and bees by his newfound “family members”. This causes an eruption of giggles as the awkward jokes around incest ensue: Poulter pulls nervously in the region of his groin as Aniston prances past in her underwear and Sudeikis shouts: “Have some respect – that’s your mother!”

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Although critics have not necessarily taken to the film, with its dry humour and semi-offensive jokes, audiences will find this a welcome surprise in the comedy genre. We’re the Millers might not find critical acclaim but hopefully that will not dissuade members of the public from flocking to the cinema, as it is arguably the funniest film of 2013 thus far.

Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/08/16/were-the-millers-movie-review/

Luna Cinema presents E.T. at Opera Holland Park

Brockwell-Lido-showingLuna Cinema runs throughout British summertime screening a series of classic movies at a host of scenic locations around London and the South East. Some of the wonderful venues sourced by Luna include Brockwell Lido, Hampton Court and Leeds Castle. On Thursday 8th July, we attended a showing of Steven Spielberg’s mammoth hit E.T – The Extra Terrestrial.

Opera Holland Park has been chosen as the site for this film, standing beautifully in Kensington, surrounded by parkland and some of the most expensive houses in the country: the vista is gorgeous. Opera Holland Park is a semi-indoor, canopied theatre that plays host to a season of opera in the park. With the run having just finished, Luna Cinema has wisely commandeered this beautiful setting for a four-night stint of classic films. The next few nights will include Breakfast at Tiffany’sWest Side Story and an evening of silent films. Luna Cinema will then continue its tour of the South East and open up at its next well-considered destination – Lulworth Castle, Battersea Park, Warwick Castle and many more are on the schedule.

It is fitting that as the sun sets behind the park and the moon rises, the audience at Luna are able to watch that familiar “squashy guy”, E.T, drift across the night sky on a bicycle. Touted as “the best-loved film ever”, a voice welcomes “Ladies and Gentlemen” to the viewing. There is less formality than at your local cinema: people whisper throughout and make frequent visits to the bar as well as the rotisserie kitchen on site, The Cock ‘n’ Bull. It is a relaxed and jovial vibe, with couples aplenty and many arms slung casually around the backs of their respective partners’ seats. For a first date it would be a winner for sure! Families are also in attendance for the child-friendly screening.

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As the sky darkens, purple lights illuminate the canopy and the atmosphere of a modern amphitheatre is created. Laughs are drawn from the crowd who will have seen this film time and time again, yet it stands the test of time. Drew Barrymore’s cherubic curls bouncing across the screen draw “awwws” and giggles from adults and children alike. Luna Cinema is a place to recapture your fondest cinematic memories and to create new ones in stunning surroundings.

Our rating: ****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/08/09/luna-cinema-presents-e-t-at-opera-holland-park/

Silence – Film review

A journey of discovery begins when sound recordist, Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride, returns to his native Ireland on a quest to escape from manmade noise. Roaming the wilds and echoing landscapes of Donegal he finds it near impossible to find peace and quiet. The only bearable sounds are those of nature: the call of a bird, the babbling of a brook, or the buzzing of a bee. Throughout his travels he encounters a series of other humans used to living on the periphery of society and is told by a barkeeper to be careful, as “too much quietness will drive a fella mad”.

Silence-promo-2With his microphone standing unattended in sublime and desolate vistas, the audience are often left with minutes passing and total inactivity – save the howling wind. While the main character is desirous of silence, the audience is probably not expecting such stifling scenes and may find that time stretches out and isolates them. The film is successful in raising awareness that we live in an age of inescapable noise and constant communication, but leaves one a little uncomfortable with such inaction.

The movie acknowledges that humans are naturally sociable beings – whenever Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride encounters another soul in these empty landscapes they are immediately drawn to one another and share tales. Pat Collins, the director, states that the film was largely influenced by travelling folklore collectors from the 1930s and 1940s. Silence has moved this into a contemporary setting, with many of the characters narrating their own lives in rural Ireland. Thus the film is part fiction, part documentary.

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Collins’ love affair with remote settings and silence leads to moments of philosophical musing. At times the raging winds are likened to the voices of the dead wailing their untold stories, stories that were deemed too insignificant for the history books. These narratives of ordinary people have empty swing-sets and abandoned houses providing visuals. The script proclaims that there is “wisdom” and “infinity” in silence: human life comes out of silence, akin to the first note of a song. All life and movement is like a song … until our final breath, where we are again met by silence. This is a challenging movie to watch but leaves a dawning comprehension of what it is like to never set down familial roots, showing how loud silence can truly be.

Our rating: ***

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/08/03/silence-movie-review/

Spike Island – Film review

Manchester, red bricks, mass unemployment and a refusal to accept that life has to be grim up North – this film may be set during Thatcher’s rule but it is also set during the reign of The Stone Roses. We are introduced to a gang of young rascals by the protagonist “Tits”. Tits addresses the audience directly and mirrors the introduction to the similarly Manchester-based series Shameless in this aspect. Indeed, many of the cast are recognisable from British television – the cast of MisfitsDownton Abbey, and Hollyoaks all take up positions as future stars.

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The boys are in a band, Shadowcaster, in homage to their idols The Stone Roses. As time ticks by, the audience realise that every hour is building up to the life-changing moment (and genuine gig) of The Stone Roses performing at Spike Island on 27th May 1990. But none of them have tickets! Thus begins a whirlwind, hare-brained adventure that involves stealing cars, hiding in the undercarriages of coaches and using dinghies to traverse the Mersey. Some events ring true to life and one certainly would have been terrified driving down the motorway full of thousands of cars loaded with “pocketfuls of Es and speed” with I Am the Resurrection blaring.

The film unfolds around the back stories of life in working-class Britain. Tits’ father lies dying in hospital, and the other boys too have their own secret hardships – an alcoholic mother, abusive ex-servicemen dad, unrequited love, a disappearing brother… Their only chance of escape, in this coming-of-age story, is Spike Island. The phrase “It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at” is bandied about and the film ends with the boys becoming men after a series of highs and lows. There are scenes some might find clichéd, like the eventual romantic clinch being met with fireworks.

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This is too much of a feel good film to truly register the gritty realities of working class lifestyle – really a light-hearted take on events – and very few of the characters are totally developed, rendering some interchangeable. While many films are based upon obsessions with music (Quadrophenia to The Who, Christiane F to Bowie) this one feels like how Channel 4′s Skins would envisage a jolly trip to see The Stone Roses. The real critics will be those who loved and lived at Spike Island 23 years ago.

Our rating: ***

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/05/31/spike-island-movie-review/

The Big Wedding – Film review

Director Justin Zackham has set forth to create a huge, all-star, hilarious romantic comedy based upon the 2006 French film Mon frère se marie, but does he succeed? The Big Wedding looks at the trials and tribulations of an extended family coming together to celebrate their adopted son’s marriage. Initially, watching the trailer leaves one in a state of confusion, with its overwhelming list of characters. Actors trying to induce laughter include Susan Sarandon, Robert De Niro, Amanda Seyfried, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Robin Williams and many, many more.

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As the film unfolds, the confusion dispels and the plot is very watchable. It transpires that Alejandro (Ben Barnes) must convince his adoptive, divorced parents to reunite for one weekend to keep up appearances for his strictly conservative biological mother. The film relies heavily upon jokes around the language barrier between his alcoholic buffoon of a father Don (De Niro) and his American family, contrasting with his ultra-religious Colombian mother and flirtatiously liberal Spanish-speaking sister. Casual racism is typified by the bride’s mother Muffin who is terrified at the thought of having “beige, bilingual children” and the priest (Robin Williams) who congratulates the groom on graduating from Harvard along with the “rest of China”.

Jokes are thrust upon the audience thick and fast, and while they attempt to be risqué, often fall flat and feel inappropriate. The first vulgar joke arrives with ex-wife Ellie (Keaton) stumbling in upon Don about to perform a sexual act on his new lover, who happens to be Ellie’s old best friend Bebe (Sarandon). There are lots of poor attempts at slapstick foolishness: De Niro falling into a pool, or Katherine Heigl being sick down her father’s back. It seems impossible to stumble through any bedroom door in this family home without finding some farcical happening, usually accompanied by overblown sexual noises.

The big revelations come pouring forth on the wedding day. All the scandals: secret pregnancies, illicit affairs, marital reunions, bisexuality and the loss of virginity are grimly predictable. The audience will have seen them numerous times in other wedding comedies. Plenty of these disclosures should have devastating effects on the ceremony, but no one seems to care. Instead, this wacky modern family reunites in its eccentricity and dance together blissfully to Michael Bublé – a clichéd happy ending that one could tell was coming from the opening credits.

Our rating: **

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/05/15/the-big-wedding-movie-review/

Oblivion – Film review

Director Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion is visually spectacular. Barely a second goes by without explosions or dramatic scenes of a war-torn earth. This world, originally created in Kosinski’s mind as a graphic novel, hasn’t been inhabited by humans for sixty years due to an alien invasion. Sweeping vistas of destruction reveal why Jack (Tom Cruise) and his colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) have taken to the skies for safety. It is from their cloudy haven that they attempt to fix drones sent out to recover mankind.

oblivion-cruiseShielded from the pandemonium below, they exist in a sterile environment, reminiscent of a floating iPad, pure white and meticulously clean. Jack’s romantic gesture of flowers is met with disgust at the toxins it could pollute their false utopia with. If this is an attempt at infusing Cruise’s character with charisma then it’s lacklustre. Kosinski’s aim was to keep his cast small, yet in between the fight scenes we never feel empathy. One feels no compassion for the characters even when their lives are in danger. This lack of depth means they are as anonymous and unlikeable as the mechanical drones that are constantly buzzing across our retinas.

The film is awash with technology, a forever gun-toting Cruise has a plethora of gadgets: spaceships, motorbikes, heat sensors. The filmmakers seem keen to stuff the film full of high-tech apparatus. This is a case of Cruise doing what Cruise does best: the all-American posturing hero, and unsurprisingly for an American disaster movie, despite the entire world being desecrated by aliens (resembling futuristic orcs), the only heart-wrenching memories of the pre-war world are of New York.

However, there are moments that thrill. Suspicion mounts as the audience are unable to lay their eyes on the fearsome Scav aliens for the first half. Fear of the unknown is not to be underestimated in sci-fi! Also be prepared for a tumultuous turn when Morgan Freeman, a renegade earthling, turns Jack’s world upside down with his revelations.

Sadly the film relies heavily on cliches and one-liners designed to have impact: obviously his spaceship is called “Odyssey”, and of course Jack and his wife (Olga Kurylenko) talk of growing old together beside a beautiful lake. The dialogue is sparsely predictable. Sayings are drummed into us from the offset, such as Jack’s notion of “home”. This makes it tiresome when Cruise finally pronounces  “I’m Jack Harper and I’m home”.

Our rating: ***

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/04/09/film-review-oblivion/

Like Someone in Love – Film review

like someone in loveWe meet Akiko, a student, in a crowded bar. Despite her wide-eyed innocence and childlike demeanor, we learn that belying this façade is a secret that Akiko is struggling to keep from her family, fiancé and fellow classmates. It is at night that we meet her, and it is by night that she is pushed into a world of high-class escorts in order to pay for her studies. By the next day, we discover she is pretending that she is in love with her fiancé, Noriaki, who is struggling to control her every move by brute force and utter manipulation.

Rin Takanashi’s moving portrayal of guilt at betraying her grandmother (standing her up to meet a client) means that she falls into a “Little Red Riding Hood” role. She fails to see her grandmother because she is led astray by her pimp Hiroshi. In this case the red symbolism of sexuality is portrayed by her slathering on of brash rouge lipstick.

The film title is based on an Ella Fitzgerald song. The audience first hears this playing when Akiko enters her elderly client and soon-to-be avuncular rescuer’s apartment. Although he has hired her as an escort, Takashi has laid out a romantic meal and seems more comfortable in the dining room, adorned with pictures of his dead wife, than the bedroom. The song becomes poignant as we realise that all the characters are trying desperately to go through the motions of being in love, when really it is just a means of ridding oneself of loneliness, gaining money, or control.

Abbas Kiarostami, part of the 1960s Iranian New Wave film movement, chose Tokyo as the second location he has used outside of his home country. Scenes are predominantly set in cars, with the capitalist cityscape swirling around his young protagonist, a girl from a rural village. Characters’ reactions are refracted, reflected and highlighted through the automobile’s windows. There is a large importance placed on boundaries: frames, doors, windscreens and mirrors all act as metaphors for the blockades the characters have built up. They also add to the realism of the film; objects get in the way, blocking our view, and sometimes it is not immediately obvious who is speaking. One becomes so used to the protection these boundaries give that it is all the more shocking when they finally come ambiguously crumbling down.

Our rating: ***

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/04/06/film-review-like-someone-in-love/