Sunday, September 14, 2014


ABOUT CHERRY is a movie that deals in cinematic cliche. A ruthlessly hipster soundtrack, handheld camerawork and nonchalant dogma-esque cutting.  We know the heroine, Angelina, is a good kid because she works hard at the laundrette and hold her friend's hair back while she vomits. But we also learn that she's so passively naive as to be irritating.  Her vapid wannabe rockstar boyfriend urges her to take pornographic photos and she agrees. Why? She's doesn't do it out of economic desperation. Neither is she making a political point about feminist empowerment a la Sasha Grey. At one point a casting agent asks her point blank why she wants to do porn, and she says "because I want to try something new." I mean, WTF?!  Angelina seems upset when her mum won't let her speak to her kid sister afterwards but why didn't she expect any ramifications?  I guess it's the same lack of awareness that leads her to ignore her best friend's obvious crush on her.  

By this point of the film I'd pretty much lost all interest in the movie despite the fact that we hadn't yet gotten to the big name cameos: Dave Franco as a sleazy lawyer who frequents the strip club that Angelina works in, and Heather Graham as the porn director who first shoots her.

The shame is that this movie, being co-written by a real fetish star, could've genuinely shed some light on how the porn industry works and how girls get brought into it.  Maybe it really as bland as all this but somehow I doubt it. This is exploitation cinema without the exploitation. As it is, ABOUT CHERRY feels about as authentic as a cheesy mainstream Hollywood coming-of-age movie, except that this time instead of a "hooker with a heart of gold" we have a "porn star with a brain of marshmallow".

ABOUT CHERRY aka CHERRY has a running time of 98 minutes and is rated R in the USA.  the movie played Berlin 2012 and was released on demand in the USA in 2012. It was released in the UK in 2013.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

LFF preview - SERENA

So, I'm in cinema detox for the month before the BFI London Film Festival.  I'll be watching forty films in ten days and reviewing them all here! In the meantime, here's the JUST-released trailer for one of the two movies I'll be seeing by director Susanne Bier.

SERENA is apparently set in 1920s North Carolina with Jennifer Lawrence playing a world-savvy woman who builds a timber business married to Bradley Cooper's George - a man with a past.  The costumes look gorgeous and there seems to be shades of Scarlett O'Hara in the role.  Plus anything with Toby Jones in a supporting role is worth checking out.

Sunday, September 07, 2014


THEY CAME TOGETHER is a high quality spoof of the romantic-comedy genre from writer-director David Wain (ROLE MODELS) and Michael Showalter. It stars Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as the lovers and features comedians of the calibre of Ed Helms, Bill Hader and Jack McBryer (30 ROCK). It comes out of the gate strong - absolutely nailing every cliche of every dumbass Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigl movie you've ever seen.  "New York is almost another character in the story" leading to those opening credits where a helicopter sweeps over the city on a bright sunny morning. The romantic lead Joel (Rudd) is a nice guy with a bitch girlfriend who he catches cheating.  He has close friends who fit all the stereotypes - the married one with kids, the dickhead womaniser who isn't as hot as he thinks he is - and as they rightly point on the basketball court - he needs to combine all their strengths to win!  Meanwhile, the romantic heroine Molly (Amy) is a classic manic pixie-dreamgirl in the Zoe Deschanel mould - running a cutesy shop threatened by evil corporates where, you got it!, Joel works. They meet cute at a party, and ultimately get over their immediate antipathy.

As I said, the film is absolutely spot on in how it skewers lazy rom-com screenwriting. Let's be honest - has there been a good romantic comedy since WHEN HARRY MET SALLY?   And it's absolutely the right choice for all the actors to play it straight.  But even with the short running time of the film (80 minutes) it still got pretty boring and felt a bit like an SNL skit stretched beyond itself.  The movie didn't run out of steam but I did.

THEY CAME TOGETHER has a running time of 83 minutes and is rated R in the USA.  The movie played Sundance 2014 and was released earlier this year in the USA and Canada. It went on release in the UK and Ireland this weekend.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Random DVD Round-Up - DIVERGENT

DIVERGENT. Hmmm. What to say about this film, based on a wildly successful set of Young Adult books by Veronica Roth which I have not read, and which from the look of this film are unfortunate enough to sit in the shadow of THE HUNGER GAMES. To wit, we are in an American dystopian future with people oppressed by some kind of self-elected elite.  Our plucky heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley - THE DESCENDANTS) is much like Katniss, someone of unusual talent and resourcefulness competing in a a kind of martial game to break through into some kind of better future.  In this case, the citizens of the world are categorised by their dominant personality trait. Tris, in true Harry Potter style, sits uneasily across the thresholds and opts to leave her parents 'house' Abnegation for Dauntless, while her brother opts for the Erudites. What follows are training challenges that play out much like Games, and a good dose of romance with the enigmatic but hot "Four" (Theo James).  Naturally, Tris hooks up with a bunch of the least promising trainees, and guess what, they eventually come out on top after banding together and being nice. Ultimately there is some kind of showdown in the first strike in a civil war between the factions.  There's meant to be a hugely emotional moment but at this point I was so numb to it, it floated right by me. I just didn't care about the people, the fight, and the whole movie felt like a pale shadow of HUNGER GAMES.  Maybe that's unfair - maybe if I'd seen or read Divergent first I wouldn't have felt so turned off. But it is what it is.  Shailene Woodley is a great actress but somehow a soupy romance with Four plays far more simplistically than the complex triangle comprised by political exigency in THE HUNGER GAMES.  Or maybe it's because THE HUNGER GAMES pushes the dystopian fantasy farther and crazier - Effie Trinket, I'm looking at you - or that it's satire on modern pop culture is more biting.  Whatever the reason, DIVERGENT feels very, very thin by comparison.  

DIVERGENT has a running time of 139 minutes and is rated PG-13. It is available to rent and own in most countries. It opens in China on September 8th.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Random DVD Round-Up - NEED FOR SPEED

NEED FOR SPEED is so much macho bullshit it makes the FAST & FURIOUS franchise look like the Ingmar Bergman of car-racing flicks.  We're in the sort of clumsy, asinine movie-making that epitomises THE EXPENDABLES except without the self-knowing irony. Some lazy reviewers have argued that you shouldn't expect better from a movie based on a video-game, but that's to do video games a disservice. The simple fact is that ex-stunt driver and director Scott Waugh only knows how to direct by pasting together action set-pieces  and scriptwriters John and George Gatins (REAL STEEL) have either no interest in or no talent for depicting real human emotion.  

Random DVD Round-Up - THE LEGO MOVIE

If Marxist theories Slavoj Zizek made an animated kids movie, THE LEGO MOVIE would be it!  It'a audacious in its deep satirical criticism of modern consumer culture - creating an alarming but entertaining picture of a dystopia where people are subjected to an almost Orwellian fascist mind-control - fooled into buying over price coffee, too busy watching mindless TV shows to notice that big corporations rig the elections.  The ultimate irony is that this movie was produced by yet another corporate behemoth, and its gratingly catchy theme song "Everything's awesome" itself became a non-ironic hit, raking in ever more phat cash for President Business at Warner Brothers.