Review: T2 Trainspotting

Review: T2 Trainspotting

Danny Boyle once again shows how poignant a film he can make at the helm of the Trainspotting sequel.

Mark Renton returns, after 20 years, to his hometown at a pivotal time in his life in order to reconnect with some old friends whilst simultaneously tapping in to a sense of nostalgia he has long since left behind. But the friends he returns to have their own agendas and quickly they become entangled in each other’s drug addled, criminal web. However, as much as the film is about these four characters, it’s also about something far larger and arguably far more important. T2 spends a lot of it’s time reflecting on the struggles of an older generation, and their constant attempts to stay in touch with and relevant to a world that is quickly leaving them behind.

One of the many ways the film does this is by further exploring the difficult upbringings that brought Renton and his peers to where they are now, but it does this whilst villainising the choices they make. Every character strikes a perfect balance in various shades of grey; they’re criminals and bastards yet incredibly endearing at the same time. It’s clear that they are trying to do the best for those around them, but we watch as they tumble further in to the addictions which have already consumed them.

The film tells this story of addiction as much through its composition as it does its script. It’s visual presentation is  deliberately inconsistent, where one frame is Dutch angled and shaky the next might be aggressively cut but floaty at the same time. It’s obvious that the visuals are a reflection of the sporadic personalities being portrayed. The cinematography is another example of the films incredible sense of balance as each scene is often a juxtaposition to the last, for example day time is often seen as pastel and washed out where midnight is lively and vibrant. It’s a struggle between the natural and the artificial, the healthy and addiction.

Music plays as vital a role in this film as the visuals do and Boyle further demonstrates his care and love for a good soundtrack. From start to finish a wide variety of licensed tracks move and blend smoothly in to one and other, perfectly highlighting the mood of a scene or a character.  What’s exceptional about the soundtrack of the film is that it only overwhelms a scene or a mood when Boyle clearly intends it to, despite the intensity of the music used. It’s a further example of Trainspotting’s exceptional sense of balance, of Boyle demonstrating the running sense of Dichotomy in far more than just the film’s script.

T2 Trainspotting is a film released at the perfect time, a consideration of nature versus nurture from the perspective of a criminal drug addict. The film’s entire construction is used to make the audience consider the characters, their generation and their story. At times it’s an overwhelming feast for the senses, but only when it needs to be. Trainspotting is a perfect example of a film constructed with balance and, whilst it’s not perfect, it’s likely to stay with its audiences long after the credits role.


T2 Trainspotting scored: 9.2/10

Review: Assassin’s Creed.

Review: Assassin’s Creed.

First time director Justin Kurzel does a good job of building on the DNA of the video game franchise, but loses the makings of a good film along the way.

Justin Kurzel has done his research, this is clear right from the beginning of Assassin’s Creed, it can be seen in everything from the opening, to scene to the composition of shots, to the design of costumes and props and all the tiny little details that litter the film from beginning to end. This is perhaps the strongest part of Assassin’s Creed’s construction: the attention it pays to the source materal and the inventive ways it adapts that source material to the screen.

But whilst this film does a good job of bringing characteristics of the game to the screen the big thing that feels lacking here is a new, and, more importantly, a good story. Assassin’s Creed attempts to tell a story in one movie that was previously told in 2-3 games. The problem here is that vital parts of the story don’t get the development they deserve and as a result conflicts, tensions and relationships don’t feel fully formed. This leads to the main story of the film being bloated and too shallow all at the same time. It’s clear that there is a much deeper story to be told here (think The Da Vinci Code crossed with The Matrix) but the narrative on offer is forgettable at best.

Visually the film is inconsistent. On one hand it looks beautifully similar to an Assassin’s Creed game, the film manages to capture the white, sterile environments of the Abstergo Corporation, the tiny lines of detail on props and costumes and even the blocky, float-y modern architecture from the games portrayal of the present. But at the same time the film is incredibly dark, far more dark than it needs to be. It’s as if the film was shot beautifully but on the wrong camera settings, so the audience is left watching a film where the art direction and production design are fantastic, but the actual watching of it is underwhelming.

For the most part Assassin’s Creed is unimpressive, it’s visuals are well made but often feel washed out or bland, it’s story line, save for the small touches of fan service, is unimpressive. the acting on show is mostly fine but there’s little in the script for the cast to work with (Cotillard is bland as a vehicle for a corporation and Fassbender is either spitting out dialogue or grunting.) But the film deserves some major praise for taking risks in it’s adaptation of the source material. Things like the films Animus have clearly been given care and attention in being brought to the screen and a major chunk of the films dialogue is delivered with subtitles. Whilst these risks advance a mostly boring plot Kurzel deserves praise for putting a level of effort and risk in to a film of this size.

Ultimately Assassin’s Creed is a film for Assassin’s Creed fans, if you like the franchise you won’t need introducing to it and you’ll be able to appreciate the deeper level of story telling and film making taking place here. Unfortunately that won’t make the paper thin story any better or any less shallow by the time the credits role, but it might make it a more enjoyable few hours none the less.


Assassin’s Creed scored: 6.7/10

Review: La La Land

Review: La La Land

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dazzle in a tale of modern day Los Angeles love, told as an homage to the golden age of film making and musicals.

Mia (Emma Stone) is a young, aspiring actress making do as a barista in a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers lot. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a struggling musician with a great appreciation and talent for Jazz. Both trying to get their big break, these two characters struggle with rejection and self-expression in the highly competitive world of L.A and Hollywood. La La Land tells the story of these two characters as they cross each other’s paths and a romance begins to blossom.

The story is utterly charming and this is down to, in no small part, the fantastic acting on show from Stone and Gosling. Stone is a joy to watch on screen, bringing a youthful energy to a character who is a fantastic balance of delicate and resilient. Gosling is equally excellent as he breathes life into a character who is more arrogant and blunt but equally charismatic. But it’s when the two are on screen together that La La Land is at its best. The two actors create a dynamic and relationship that feels genuine and instantly relatable. Their emotional highs and lows together become more and more emotionally intense as their onscreen connection builds to its climax.

But La La Land’s story is also a product of its presentation and that too is exceptional. Each scene of the film flows together with clinical precision, transitions from one period of time to another are beautifully handled and as a result the audience are kept sucked in to the story for, nearly, the entire running time. The other aspect that makes La La Land’s presentation so fantastic is how well balanced the story is. Both main characters receive the same amount of development, and though their stories are very different, they are equally well told. This balance extends to the music as well, the film is full of excellent, catchy musical numbers, at no point do they overwhelm the story but at no point does the story overwhelm the music either. The songs stand on their own, in memorable and stunning sequences, but are also vital to the telling of the story. It’s another example of the balance of La La Land being masterful.

But above everything else La La Land is a film built of incredibly beautiful cinematography. Every scene is a painting and every painting is as different and vivid as the last. Vibrant colours dominate scenes and move with the scene as it progresses. Movement is also key to the gorgeous cinematography. Rather than cut from shot to shot the camera lingers, making entire sequences play out in stunning examples of single shot choreography, the camera floats from one composition to another with minimal cuts. All of this comes together to present the perfect homage to 50’s cinema; shots are composed perfectly, with beautiful, striking use of colours and an incredible sense of authentic scale. La La Land is not a cover version of an era past, it is the golden age captured in a lens and let loose on the screen once more.

La La Land is a perfect example of how to make a film that is both a homage to the past and a step in to the future. The film’s portrayal of a hopeful and yet realistic Los Angeles fills you with optimism for Hollywood going forward. The film has a few forgettable minutes here and there towards the beginning of the third act. But every other second of this film is charming, beautiful, genuine and stunningly constructed. If you have even a sliver of interest in the movie industry then La La Land is a must see.


La La Land scored a 9.8/10.

 


This review was edited by Joanna Hollins, for more of her work click here: Joanna Hollins.

2016: Album Of The Year

2016: Album Of The Year

Following on from Movie of the year it’s now time to run down the best music released in 2016 but before that here are some special mentions.


Enter Shikari: Singles.

Enter Shikari haven’t released a full new record since last year’s The Mindsweep, they did, however, release a small selection of new music this year and it was fantastic. Redshift started the year off with a softer, pop rocky ode to the universe and Hoodwinker closed the year out with a stomper of a track, one of the heaviest Shikari have made in a while. they couldn’t be put in any slot on the album of the year list but they more than stand up with the best music here, keep it up Shikari!

Busted: Night Driver.

Their first album in 13 years Night Driver is a departure from the teenage pop rock sound that defined this band for the opening years of their career. This album starts off with smooth synths and goes from strength to strength. It’s an uninhibited pop record and goes to prove how good this genre of music can be when it’s made by damned good musicians.


5: Panic! At The Disco: Death Of A Bachelor.

Death Of A Bachelor is the first official record where Panic! At The Disco means Brendon Urie and that means Death Of A Bachelor is the product of Urie’s creative process alone. For the most part this is a damn good thing. Panic!’s fifth album is made of a combination of modern pop rock and Sinatra-esque, 50’s style, swing jazz. On paper it’s an odd combination but Urie’s smooth voice does a fairly good job of pulling this all together. The only real failing of the album is that it doesn’t commit to that crooner style more. None the less it’s a fantastically produced collection of songs that shows just how talented Urie is as a musician.

 

4: Little Bribes: Obstacles.

Little Bribes are, in no uncertain terms, one of the most interesting independent bands of the last few years. Full of energy and buzz, it’s rare that you hear a band both so heavy and so authentic. Their debut E.P. released this year is chock-a-block with catchy, guitar driven music, the likes of which will have you humming and head banging along in no time. The best way to describe Obstacles is: If Taking Back Sunday made their best, heaviest record yet, but recorded it in a garden shed. And if that description doesn’t tempt you to listen to this band, who knows what will. Little Bribes are a fantastic breath of fresh air which they’ve managed to bottle perfectly on Obstacles. They very much deserve your attention.

 

3: Radical Face: The Leaves.

Every record from Radical Face’s The Family Tree has been an easy inclusion on each of these lists and The Leaves is just as deserving. The Leaves is the final part in a series of albums designed to tell the story of a family during turn of the century America with a super natural twist. This time round the album features more obvious use of electronic instrumentation and even stronger use of percussion than its predecessor. One of the most defining things about The Family Tree has been its subtly haunting tone and The Leaves captures that ethereal sense perfectly for a final time.

 

2: Good Charlotte: Youth Authority.

Good Charlotte are one of the most underrated bands on the planet and Youth Authority is absolute proof. The album starts off with bright vibrant guitars, on point drums and vocals that catch your attention and for the next 12 tracks it just gets better. Perhaps the best thing about Youth Authority though is the way in which it genuinely captures the feeling of pop punk from the early 2000’s. A genre that Good Charlotte arguably helped to define. This record is fun, fast and joyous and if you grew up listening to this kind of music, you owe it to yourself to hear Youth Authority.

 

1: Green Day: Revolution Radio.

By the end of 2016 people were calling for Green Day to release American Idiot part 2. What they didn’t know is that Green Day already had. Revolution Radio is one of the most mature, politically motivated records Green Day have ever made. But mature does not mean quiet as this record is also the most lively, punky album the band have put out since their classic rock opera of 2004. Green Day deserve this year’s top spot because of how perfectly written, performed and produced this album is. From the very first song it’s tone and message is consistent and on point. Every piece of instrumentation is as good as Green Day have ever been and the album flows from track to track perfectly. Revolution Radio is by far the best album of a very dark year.


This is the last blog I will publish in 2016, if you’ve taken the time to stop and read anything published on this blow in the last 12 months thank you so so much. See you in 2017.

2016: Movie Of The Year.

2016: Movie Of The Year.

2016 was far from a champagne year for film, but among a year of some fairly major flops there were some damn fine releases and here are the best, but first some honorable mentions:


Hail, Ceasar!

The Cohen Brothers do a damn good job of capturing the feeling of cinemas golden age. As an original work it struggles but as an ode to an era of film making past it’s something quite beautiful.

10 Cloverfield Lane.

Dan Trachtenberg uses tense claustrophobic shots to tell the story of a woman fighting against a man who is either her captor or her saviour. Twilight Zone-esque and full of palpable tension it’s a fantastic first step into Hollywood produced by JJ Abrams.


  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Rogue One is a dark, dense and gritty story that takes place within the Star Wars universe. Rather than focusing on a force user, Jedi or “chosen one” character the story instead focuses on a Jyn, the daughter of a family tied to the construction of the Death Star. Rogue One is more focused on giving a genuine feel of humanity and strife to the rebellion. These are not just characters on the “good side”, they’re desperate individuals pulling together to fight a foe who seems totally insurmountable. Rogue One takes a beloved franchise and twists it to feel new, interesting and gritty in many of the right ways.

 

  1. Deadpool.

Deadpool is easily the most memorable movie of 2016, it is one of the funniest films released in the last few years due in no small part to the incredible, 4th wall breaking performance of Ryan Reynolds. Deadpool’s commitment to dark humour and a mature tone helps to separates the movie from its super hero peers, making Deadpool feel fresh and vibrant in a genre that felt somewhat bloated this year. It’s brutal, messy, sexy, gory and hilarious from start to finish exactly as you’d want a Deadpool movie to be.

 

  1. Captain America: Civil War.

Civil War switches up the usual Marvel formula by replacing the traditional Macguffin based antagonist with a deep, tense and human drama driven by the politics of The Avengers. The film’s plot is fantastically smart and just when you think it’s running out of steam it surprises you with another card it’s been playing close to the chest. It’s action is beautifully choreographed so that every member of its giant ensemble has their own recognisable fighting style and can be picked out and followed amongst the fast paced, giant scale battles. Civil War manages to make a Marvel film feel fun and action packed but also tangibly tense and like it has real consequences. It’s a brilliant action movie that manages to stay two steps ahead of its very excited audience at all times.


So the best of the year has begun, next up is 2016’s album of the year. Thanks for reading!

Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Gareth Edwards captures the feeling of Star Wars in a movie whose genre far far removed from the franchise.

Rogue One tells the story of Jyn Erso, the daughter of a family influential to the creation of the Death Star. Many years after our first introduction to her Jyn is used by the Rebel alliance and it’s from here that she learns of her connection to the Death Star plans, the might of what those plans can do and why she, along with her band of fellow rebels, has to stop it.

The story starts very quickly, introducing Jyn, her family and her initial motivations in very quick succession. In fact it’s a little too quick, as many of the motivations of early characters get lost or misunderstood. But as the story moves on it’s key focal moments become much clearer and by the middle of the second act many audience members will be rooting for the hero’s of the piece.

Visually the film is one of the most striking things put to screen in 2016. It is utterly gorgeous. Star Wars movies are known to be bursting with all sorts of life and characters and oddities, creating a sense of something alien in a way that only Star Wars movies can. But this film manages to recreate that world with a much more desolate set of scenes. The opening sequence is a perfect example of this: An alien planet with no living creatures or agriculture save from one family in a muddy home. The entire scene Is shot with three main colours on the palette and it uses them perfectly. This scene sets the tone for the entire movie. This is Star Wars but it’s darker, grimier and more grounded than you’ve ever seen.

The score for the film is similar to that of the visuals. It’s new and different, but it feels right. It’s interesting to note that this is the first score for a Star Wars movie which has not been touched by John Williams. Instead Micheal Giacchino is the person responsible for this score and it is fantastic. It emulates Williams enough to evoke everyone’s child hood memories of Star Wars sounds. But it also takes risks with Williams trademark sounds and does so to fit the more mature tone of the film. An educated ear will be able to tell the difference but even then will respect the intentions of Giacchino’s score.

The biggest issue the movie faces is in it’s pacing, the beginning of the story happens far too quickly and the movie keeps up this fast pace. So the films initial hooks are left a little flat. It could be argued that the movie is hoping for the audience’s prior knowledge of the franchise to do some work here, but none the less, there’s a first act that requires slightly more screen time than Rogue One is able to give it.

However, what it does manage to do is take the Star Wars franchise and turn it in to a fantastic Sci-Fi war movie. It’s utterly gorgeous to watch and listen to despite it being not quite perfect in telling a story. Gareth Edwards deserves a huge amount of credit for stepping in to such lofty unfilled shoes and doing a very good job.


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story scored: 8.7/10

Review: Get Better: A film About Frank Turner

Review: Get Better: A film About Frank Turner

A well-made film that leaves you wanting more, mostly for the right reasons.

On a purely mechanical level Get Better is fantastic. It’s a rugged but clearly passionate documentary that has a genuine air of honesty about it. the captured shots are often playful and filled with an energy that you’d expect considering the subject matter. Visually the film is a little rough around the edges  but it  manages to combine enough recent footage with archive footage to touch on every major milestone you’d want to see in an account of Turners (to date) career.

One of the ways in which the film really shines is, appropriately, in the use of music. Director Ben Morse clearly knows Turner’s back catalogue inside out and does it serious justice. For example: when a studio track is shown over shots of the band in concert, it’s clear that the images which are used have been carefully chosen to capture the feel of the track being heard.

But even better still is the underlying score, for which versions of Turner’s original tracks have been slowed down, tweaked and recorded instrumentally. Hearing familiar songs played in a different way to evoke a new emotion can be a powerful hook In to a scene and it’s cleverly used here in a film which demonstrates how powerful music can be.

But whilst the documentary is created fantastically it’s the source material that causes the biggest issue. To put it simply: It ends far too soon.

A documentary of this form usually tells the story of a person or event reaching the peak of their success or notoriety. But this film does a good job instead of, quite literally, highlighting and demonstrating Turner’s steady Rise. This is definitely to be respected but as a result there is no crescendo, it always feels as though Turner (and Morse alongside) are destined for bigger things.

Is this bad? No, the film clearly does what it sets out to do: it tells the story of Turner’s career up to this point and there’s obviously a story to be told. Managing to go from rooms of 6 people to headlining Wembley is damned impressive. But no matter how good the documentary is, there’s always a feeling that there’s a third act over the horizon, a sudden gasp or rug pull or dynamic change that just doesn’t happen.

To call a documentary ahead of its time is highly presumptuous. So it’s a testament to Turner, his music and Morse’s portrayal of him that this documentary feels like it ends too early to truly record his best moments yet. If you’re a fan of Turner’s work, or good music stories it will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. Now all we have to do is hope Turner and Morse go on to even bigger things, so they can give this film the third act it deserves.


Get Better: A Film About Frank Turner scored 7.7/10