Sunday, June 09, 2019

LIAM GALLAGHER: AS IT WAS



LIAM GALLAGHER: AS IT WAS is a rather earnest and ultimately rather charming documentary about the former front-man of one of the 1990 supergroups, Oasis.  It picks up as the group splits, thanks to increasingly violent and still on-going fighting between Liam and his brother Noel, and the documentary never really recovers from the absence of Noel's point of view, and Oasis' tracks.  We then move to the start and collapse of Liam's follow-up band Beady Eye and onto his eventual solo career. It's kind of touching to see how much Liam just sees himself as a rock-band front-man - he never considers anything else or just giving up. He's genuinely shocked and winded when his brother pulls the plug on Oasis. And there's even something admirable in the fact that he managed to pull himself out of addiction and recommit to music, thanks to the love of a good woman -his now wife/manager.  The sincerity of his desire to just play music for his fans is touching and there's something credible about him that bands like Coldplay will just never have.  He's still just rocking up to concerts in a parka with some loud guitars and his snarling singing style trying to give kids a good time. Good on him - genuinely. How many super famous rock musicians have anything like this kind of self-awareness and happy ending?  I had found the first half a bit dull but was ultimately won over by Liam's charm! Just seeing him rail against PG Tips while on a tour bus with his kids is funny and lovely.  Would that all rockstars managed to achieved this kind of balance.

LIAM GALLAGHER: AS IT WAS has a running time of 85 minutes and is currently on release in the UK on screens and streaming services. 

Sunday, June 02, 2019

A VIGILANTE


While BOOKSMART is getting all the hype, Olivia Wilde stars in a taut beautiful revenge thriller that's quietly slipped onto our screens.  A VIGILANTE is the debut feature from writer-director Sarah Daggar-Nickson, and is pretty much carried by Wilde who plays Sadie, a domestic abuse victim turned violent vigilante.  

In the present day, scenes alternate between Sadie quietly, meticulously, threatening abusers with violence to get them to leave their victims alone - and Sadie working on herself - whether training in spartan hotel rooms, or attending victim support groups. Both scenes have their own weight.  There's an impressive authenticity and realism in how Sadie prepares for her missions, training herself in make-up and disguise on youtube videos.  The score is particularly effective in giving her missions a workmanlike, unglamorous, but deadly serious vibe.  And then in the quiet more reflective moments, whether alone or in group therapy, the film has a quiet, simple power of authentic suffering.  Daggar-Nickson avoids anything showy - she just lets her camera focus on these women as they tell their awful stories in a straightforward, heart-breaking way.  

A VIGILANTE is then - a superb debut - and even moreso because it manages to get the balance just right. It doesn't shy away from showing violence, and its impact, but never feels gratuitous or exploitative. And while it purports to show that vengeance is a solution, it also has Sadie tell the women that they need to find a new support group when they leave - the violence gives them a chance, but it isn't actually a long-term sustainable solution.

A VIGILANTE is rated R and has a running time of 91 minutes. It played SXSW last year and was released in the USA earlier this year. It is currently on release in the UK, including being available to rent on Sky. 

MAUDIE


MAUDIE is a biopic of an apparently famous folk artist made by director Aisling White and written by Sherry White. It stars Sally Hawkins as a woman who is severely arthritic and infantilised by her family, escaping to menial labour for a fisherman (Ethan Hawke) who abuses her.  She self-medicates with chain-smoking and painting, has the luck to be talent-spotted by a rich socialite and achieves a measure of fame and financial independence.  This shift in power naturally impacts the dynamic with her now husband, who becomes almost sheepish in the latter half of the film, and genuinely tries to help Maudie achieve some kind of emotional closure as her health deteriorates.  

The movie is well enough made and well acted and I know one should never criticise the choice of a film's subject but how well that subject was treated. All I know is that it may be possible to make a super interesting film about Maud Lewis but this wasn't it. I found myself at a distance from the characters, admiring their acting, without ever really feeling their emotions or actually caring about what happened to them.  The whole thing just fell earnest and Oscar-baity and frankly dull. 

MAUDIE has a running time of 113 minutes and is rated PG-13. The film is available to rent and own.

SERENITY


And so the McConaughaissance crests its wave with this awkwardly shit thriller from British writer-director Steven Knight (LOCKE, PEAKY BLINDERS).  McConaughey plays a washed up fisherman/tour guide for rich tourists on a paradise tropical island with a trademark wise loyal sidekick played by Djimon Hounsou.  All goes tits up when his ex-wife turns up begging him to kill her new abusive husband for the sake of their son.  The key issue is that earnest sweet princess-next-door Anne Hathaway sucks at playing a femme fatale, and there is zero chemistry between her and McC.  You wade through an hour of this awfulness and then the plot gets a bit twisty and momentarily interesting, except that you can't shake the feeling that this would all have been handled with more wit, brevity and horror in a BLACK MIRROR episode. 

Avoid at all costs. 

SERENITY is rated R and has a running time of 106 minutes. It is now available to rent and own.

KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE


Rachel Lear's and Robin Blotnick (THE HAND THAT FEEDS) re-unite for another socially conscious documentary, following a crop of young radical liberal candidates for US public office, including the now incredibly famous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The film won the audience award at Sundance 2019, timing its release fortuitously for the upswing of optimism around a new crop of diverse progressive entrants to Congress, lining itself up for a May 1st Netflix release.  

The film itself is a tightly edited, dynamic and compelling tale of how to start a fight-back after the shock 2016 presidential election result.  We follow a handful of hopefuls trying to challenge good ole boy incumbents who seem shocked that anyone would have the temerity to challenge them.  While I - like many others I'm sure - came to the film to find out more about "AOC" - a woman who seems to have shifted Democratic environmental policy with a tweet - I stayed for a genuinely moving tale about what it takes to campaign at grassroots level. One forgets how - even in this social media age - people still have to go knocking door to door, listening to their voters, husting and canvassing. It's somehow reassuring to know that the basic mechanics of politics are still what they were in the eighteenth century.  Of course, I knew AOC won, and that was still uplifting. But I hadn't heard of the other candidates and was genuinely surprised at how on-edge I was as the results began to come in.  

So this doc works perfectly on two levels - first as pure thrilling entertainment - but hopefully also inspiring people of whatever political views to get engaged, pick up that clipboard, listen to people and get into politics. 

KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE is rated PG and has a running time of 86 minutes. It is available on Netflix.

Monday, May 13, 2019

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM


This film is utterly without merit, joy, wonder or intelligence  It is a shameless cash-in on a tired franchise, without any of the majesty of the original.  Even worse, it teases us with memories of that film with an early cameo from Jeff Goldblum and a late cameo from BD Wong. Worst of all, it wastes the talents of arthouse director J A Bayona, who made the exceptional A MONSTER CALLS

In this new instalment, a few years after the dinos go bonkers on Isla Nubar, a volcano threatens to make them all extinct again. Goldblum's rational scientist argues for this but reformed park exec Bryce Dallas Howard now wants to rescue them as living creatures deserving of our help. In doing so she enlists the help of ex-lover and dino handler Chris Pratt, and is funded by James Cromwell's dying billionaire and ex partner of the park's original founder.  Of course, the moral of this series was always that the real monsters weren't the killer dinos but the evil capitalist bastards who sought to exploit them. And so it goes with this non-surprising plot-twist.

The whole thing is over-loud, over-long, emotionally involving and lacking in intelligence. Avoid.

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is rated 12A and has a running time of 128 minutes.