Friday, October 23, 2015

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Punisher, Sin City, The Rocketeer, Superman and The Diary of a Teenage Girl are all movies made from comics (or graphic novels).

Unlike the others which are about larger-than-life characters, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is about a fairly ordinary school girl living with her solo mum in 1970s San Francisco. Minnie is somewhat neurotic about her appearance and lack of sex-life. Left alone with her mother's boyfriend, she takes advantage of the situation to loose her virginity. Being set in 1970s San Francisco, drugs are a big feature of the film and Minnie experiments with drugs as much as she does with sex.

The narration of the film is done through the device of Minnie's audio diary, recorded on cassette tape. Some of the scene transitions are done using the cartoons that Minnie draws, which echo the origins of the film as a graphic novel, and also the drug culture of the time.

Bel Powley and Alexander Skarsgård are effective as teenage girl and adult lover, with the power in the relationship shifting back and forth between them. The setting in the 1970s feels partly familiar and partly foreign -- emphasising that things have changed a lot both in technology but also socially in the last 40 years. It is a stark contrast to the paranoia parenting of the 21st century.

Ian's rating 4/5

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) works in a police hostage rescue team in an Arizona border town. The film starts with her and a SWAT team attacking a house to rescue some non-existent hostages. But they do find a lot of dead bodies, which they think are killings ordered by a Mexican drug lord. Afterwards she is invited to join a CIA led team that is fighting the drug war at a higher level.

The team, which is mostly composed of Delta Force soldiers, take Kate on their operations including a trip to a very hostile and dangerous Mexico. She is treated as baggage by the guys, especially by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) who recruited her and the mysterious Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro). She wonders why she was asked to join.

The action is shot in pseudo-realistic way rather than the typical Hollywood action (no leaping cars, no hordes of baddies being mown down with ease). Though there is a very high useful coincidence / "cavalry showing up just in time" quotient.

This isn't a film about a female cop morphing into a crack bad-ass anti-drug gang vigilante. Rather she has trouble coping with what the guys take in their stride. Kate represents us -- law abiding middle class people, who can't hope to fight those bad Mexicans and need the guys who go beyond the law to fight the bad guys for us.

While the film has a dark edge to it. I think it enjoyed itself too much taking a Donald Trump attitude to Mexico, to take it seriously as a critique of the war on drugs There is a parallel secondary story that shows Mexican women and children as innocents, but it feels like an after thought.

Anne thought it felt like the pilot to a TV series and I see on Wikipedia that there is talk of a sequel.

Ian's rating 3/5

Monday, October 05, 2015

The Brand New Testament

The Brand New Testament is billed as a surrealist film, which should have put me off it. I have found surrealist films polarising, I love them or am very bored and confused by them. Mostly the latter.
God is alive and well and living in an apartment in Brussels with his wife and daughter, Éa. He controls events that happen (those events outside human control) with his PC from a filing cabinet lined room. To his daughter's frustration there is no door between the apartment and the world outside. Éa is keen to escape the apartment and her father's corporal punishment like her her better known older brother JC. Once she does escape she sets out to recruit six disciples and leave behind a written account of their adventures together, hence the name of the film.

Knowledge of Christianity is probably a disadvantage when it comes to watching this film. Apart from the concept that a child could confuse an overbearing parent with an adult's explanation of an omnipotent God, plus some pop culture ideas on God's responsibility for what is wrong with the world, it doesn't pay to try and dig too deeply into the premise behind this film. Just enjoy this quirky film about a girl's rebellion against her dad and her surreal adventure with a bunch of more or less abnormal people and a gorilla.
Ian's rating 3.5/5

Monday, September 14, 2015

Turbo Kid

While Turbo Kid is a Canadian film it is set in an anonymous semi-industrial, post-apocalyptic wasteland. A world were people live off the refuse of the the twentieth century, water is scarce and control of the water supply is the source of power.

Turbo Kid has its roots in an era when BMX bikes were cool and comics were read by kids, and not by middle aged men. Our hero is a young scavenger. An orphan who dreams of rescuing a girl in the manner of his favourite comic book hero. When he finally meets a girl (overly friendly and enthusiastic, pink haired Apple) he is nonplussed, but Apple's kidnap by Zeus's henchmen spurs him into action. He is reluctantly assisted by an itinerant arm-wrestling champion.

The action in this film is accompanied by BMX chases, fantastic improvised weapons, gore and fountains of blood. Some of the violence is not for the squeamish, even though it is intended to be funny.

Michael Ironside plays evil Zeus with relish, channeling the best of B-movie and James Bond villain sadism, revenge and gloating, surrounded by his BMX riding henchmen (and woman). As the man with his hand on the tap, he supplies water and sadistic entertainment to the local population. As each of his henchmen are bumped off Zeus and The Kid are brought closer and closer to face each other in the final denouement.

Turbo Kid doesn't take itself seriously. It is out to entertain us as if it were the love child of Spielberg and Tarantino.

Ian's rating 4/5 Anne's rating 3.5/5

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice is a long, drug addled, shaggy dog story of an investigation by a Los Angeles PI, on behalf of his ex-girlfriend. While there is an almost constant female voice over the plot is not easy to follow and in fact I'm not convinced that it does make sense. Afterwards, given the ubiquitous drug use in the film, I wondered if the narrator was reliable.

The setting is the early 1970s (probably during Nixon's 1972 election campaign) and the film captures that time stylishly and makes it look very exotic when viewed from 2015.

There are a few (too few) well executed comic scenes linked together by a kaleidoscope of sub plots. In fact by the end it seems like the whole story is a series of almost unrelated sub plots linked together by one or two major characters. If there was a point, I missed it.

Some other reviewers suggest watching this film multiple times but I'm unlike to invest the time to verify this -- the trailer is worth seeing though (4 stars for that).

Ian's rating 2/5, Anne's rating 1/5

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Invitation

Have you ever been the only person in the group who can see what is blatantly obvious? They can't all be stupid, therefore they must be deliberately ignoring it - right?

Will and his new girlfriend attend a party given by his ex- and her new man. It is obvious to Will that this isn't just a dinner party, there is something sinister going on. Each time he raises his concerns they are casually refuted by the hosts or by subsequent events. Obviously Will hasn't fully recovered from collapse of his previous relationship. How will the hosts and other guests react to his increasingly erratic and irrational behaviour? Luckily this group of friends are keen to make this evening a success despite Will.

The Invitation takes place in one evening (supplemented by Will's flashbacks) and, apart from the opening scene, in one location. None of the cast are Hollywood A-listers but they largely play their parts well. My guess is that the budget for this film was low and mainly spent on script writing and rehearsing rather than special effects and exotic locations.

This is a simple and effective thriller with a long slow entree of red herrings, preceded by a little road kill. Just before we die of hunger waiting for it, the main course arrives. It is a hearty, simple dish with a Guyanese influence. Served with dash and full choice of weaponry to deal with it. Nothing subtle here. There is no dessert, just a quick coffee to follow and no left overs for dinner the next day.

Ian's rating 2.5/5

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Misfits

The Misfits has all (or at least a lot) of the characteristics of a traditional Hollywood movie - made by one of the big studios (MGM), filmed not that far from Hollywood with some great western scenery, and featuring some very famous and good-looking stars. It has extra cachet because it's the last movie starring either Marilyn Monroe or Clarke Gable.

Viewed in the twenty-first century we can boggle at the drunk driving, the lingering shots on Marilyn's bottom, the animal cruelty and men who'll suggest a relationship shortly after meeting a woman for the first time. And yet the process of two people who are attracted to each other trying to work out how to assimilate and adapt to each other's opinions and lifestyle is a pretty timeless one, and it's what gives the movie its heart and makes it worth watching fifty years later. That, and the fact it's lovely to look at.

The Misfits is maybe a little too prosaic to be called romantic, but it is a love story nonetheless.

Anne's rating 3/5. Ian's rating 3/5.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Our Little Sister

It was off to the Embassy yesterday for the first festival film of the year. Our little sister is a pleasant family drama. Three twenty-something sisters attending their estranged father's funeral meet the fourteen-year-old half-sister they didn't know they had. The three of them thought their father was "useless" whereas their half sister Suzo was much more attached to her father than to her mother.Their mother left when they were in their teens, so they're used to sticking together. They suggest Suzo comes to live with them in the house they inherited.

Suzo moves towns to move in with them and the film covers the year following the move.We the audience get to know the sisters, their routines and the flavour of their lives and relationships.We think about the influence of your upbringing and your position in the family on how you turn out as a person. 

The film has some the same flavour as Like Father Like Son  which is probably because they're made by the same director, something I've discovered since I watched it.The characters are very likeable, so it's an easy watch. The scenery is pretty and so are the actresses, but seeing it on the big screen isn't really vital.

Anne's rating : 3/5