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