FILM REVIEW: High-Rise

Ben Wheatley’s adapatation of J.G Ballard’s 1975 novel is an erratic, full-on assault of the senses.

Doctor Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is the newest resident of  a pioneering, high-rise development – the brain child and vision of architect, Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), who also happens to be the building’s most lofty resident, inhabiting the entire top floor with its beautiful roof garden.

It’s a building within whose walls, residents, it is hoped, will want for nothing, with shops, a gym and a swimming pool all laid on for convenience, limiting the residents’ need for any interaction with the outside world. Most importantly, it’s a building, be it through default or design, that adheres to a strict class structure; the wealthier the resident, the higher their abode within its confines.

Doctor Laing resides on the 25th floor, somewhere in the middle. Going against convention, he is invited by Royal himself to mix with those who reside within the building’s higher echelons at a series of lavish parties, something that’s met with a mixed reaction within the building. Despite potential ructions, Laing’s existence within the development generally remains curiously trouble-free.

It’s quickly apparent that he is very much the exception – his independent stance is a sort of teflon Switzerland to the building’s increasingly warring factions – as a savage class struggle erupts between the floors, threatening to decimate Royal’s residential utopia.

High-Rise is a curious piece. The performances cannot be argued with. They’re strong right across the board:

Luke Evans plays the maverick, unhinged, Richard Wilder, Sienna Miller is excellent as sultry seductress, Charlotte Melville, whilst Reece Shearsmith is a predictably left field piece of casting as the particularly unloveable oddball, Nathan Steele.

To successfully flow with the High-Rise narrative, it’s certainly essential to suspend all notions of realism. J.G Ballard’s dystopian, nightmare vision of a society tearing itself apart is realised through director Ben Wheatley’s visually stunning, elaborate, over-exagerated scenes of excess, violence, sex and often brutal justice.

In all honesty, it all makes for somewhat confused viewing.

Whilst it’s undoubtedly high on impact and, at least on initial viewing, apparently low on subtlety, there is an over-riding sense that it’s all far too dense; there’s just too much going on and not enough clear justification as to why all events have so quickly unfolded and come to a head in such a way.

As a metaphorical, cautionary tale of the injustices and havoc induced by Capitalism, High-Rise certainly packs punch, but it’s how it all plays out, in the detail – the confused carnage of a rather foggy narrative – that it does fall down somewhat.

High-Rise is one for a repeat viewing, or better still a first read of Ballard’s seminal novel, but that’s brought about more from a need to ‘un-muddy’ the narrative waters a little, than any great pointer toward the film’s potential for enduring appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

FILM REVIEW: Hail, Caesar!

A new Coen Brothers film always lives up to the hype, doesn’t it?

Picture the scene if you will:

I’m surrounded by a lot of people in just an ordinary, local cinema, and they’re all laughing – a lot.

This is a screening of Hail, Caesar! a film endowed with a stella cast performing at the top of their game, benefiting hugely from an intelligent, sharp, witty script awash with satire and political and cultural references. Not only that, it’s being directed by arguably the two hottest properties in Hollywood film direction, and all around me, people are at times howling with laughter; that’s right… howling with laughter!

So why am I still not laughing?

Yes, I  crack the odd wry smile, emit an occasional snigger here and there and I’ll own up even to a couple of actual laughs out loud, but here, in this cinema, I’m either sitting amongst a couple of hundred corpsing Ricky Gervais clones on nitrous oxide that simply can’t help themselves, or this is clearly some funny shit, and more fool me for being the one unable to appreciate it.

In 1998, the Coen Brothers unleashed the The Big Lebowski upon the cinema-going public. It soared in popularity up into the lofty realms of ‘cult classic’ – deemed by all and sundry to be The Coen Brothers’ enduring masterpiece. Most importantly of all though, it was unanimously declared to be… an absolute laugh riot!!

Only, it was none of those things; at least not to me.

It was an ok, mildly amusing, plodding dirge of a film when compared to so much of their other, far superior output, with a propensity for the over-use of the word ‘dude.’ Basking as it did in the plaudits and gushing adulation, it quickly became my film nemesis.

I have put myself through 6 (SIX) screenings of The Big Lebowski in the ensuing years, determined to finally see what all of the fuss was about – to finally ‘get it,’ yet time and again, its ‘charms’ continue to evade me.

So, what possible relevance does this have to The Coen Brothers’ latest piece, Hail, Caesar!?

I read somewhere that The Coen Brothers “have found their funny again.” That inexcusable, throwaway phrase apart, I will say this: The Coen Brothers have not found their funny again, because I’m not convinced they ever had a ‘funny’ in the first place, at least not a ‘funny’ in that uncontrollable, laugh-out-loud sense, for that ladies and gentlemen is what we’re talking about here – slapstick Laurel & Hardy, early neurotic Woody Allen, The Life of Brian – that kind of ‘funny’.

What they have done is written and directed a perfectly watchable, nicely put together, intelligent, mildly amusing, often silly, light-hearted bit of nonsense, bolstered by an excellent cast.

I actually enjoyed it in spite of my reservations. It was a most welcome piece of light entertainment on an otherwise miserable day.

But they were all laughing… like hyenas?!!

Perhaps it’s just me. Perhaps I’m just too swayed by the weight of public opinion?

I do love a good Coen Brothers film, but once in a while they go and throw in a Big Lebowski and now they’ve hurled Hail, Caesar! into the mix, just to add to my confusion and compound my misery.

There’s only one thing for it; I must go away and re-watch it, 6, maybe 7 (SEVEN) times… and almost inevitably arrive back at the very same conclusion I came to in the first place.

C’est la vie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: The Witch

The Witch is a story of folklore, pieced together from various documented historic accounts of dark deeds and happenings alleged to have transpired in New England in the sixteen hundreds.

A devoutly christian family having relocated from their farmstead in England have set up their home and joyless religious existence on the edge of an impenetrable woodland.

Here they live a simple life of subsistence until one day, from virtually right under the nose of eldest child, Thomasin, (Anya Taylor-Joy), the family’s newborn child disappears, never to be seen again.

There follows some brief footage of the baby in the hands of a naked presence, illuminated by fire light, in the middle of the woodland. This renders redundant – though not to their knowledge – the family’s certainty that the baby had been snatched by a predatory wolf.

A period of deep mourning and much religious, verbal self-flagellation follows – as though this doleful family needed another excuse for such dispirited behaviour!

Sadly for them, it’s merely the start of a catalogue of cursed happenings.

With the family’s corn crop inexplicably failing and a gathering belief in their minds that the devil is very much at work amongst them, an ever increasing level of in-fighting and peculiar behaviour envelops the family. Emboldened though by an unshakable religious fervour, they seek to rid themselves of that which is fast becoming impossible to repudiate; they are under some sort of evil curse.

As the succession of disquieting occurrences mounts up, the family – at their wits’ end -perform ever more exasperated religious rituals and procedures, desperate to restore some semblance of normality to their lives once again.

If only it was so easy.

Director Robert Eggers paints a very bleak picture here in The Witch. Indeed, if we were to pick a handful of textbook elements generally deemed necessary to construct a successful horror film, this ‘bleakness’ is just one of many boxes successfully ticked in this tale of good and evil.

William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine’s (Kate Dickie) stern, Puritan collective persona, the cold unfamiliarity of the use of an olde English dialect, the possessed, synchronised over exuberance of a pair of creepy twins, and the demonised movements and bleatings of Black Phillip, the goat, are all, in their way, classic staples of the horror genre, and when underpinned by a sparing use of Mark Korven’s discordant, glissando string and eerie vocal score, they serve to lend The Witch seemingly all the ingredients necessary with which to achieve a truly memorable and unsettling outcome.

On the one hand I’m in agreement with those that believe The Witch to be a well-worked and engaging piece and one that does indeed play upon its audience’s fears of witchcraft, the dark arts and the occult… to a point.

On the other hand, I’m also in agreement that there’s definitely something missing; for whilst the film’s bleak, doomed outlook, relentlessly sinister atmosphere and scenes of crazed possession carry it so far, the real question, as with all horror films, remains: “Does The Witch truly get under the skin and generate genuine discomfort and fear in its audience…?”

As nobly as it tries – and it really does – not for this particular viewer.

I suppose a ‘horror’ film must live and die by such criteria which in this case is a shame, as with a few notable scene exceptions, it can’t be said that The Witch truly delivers on that front. Taken however as an interesting, at times strange and slightly unsettling piece, full of atmosphere, The Witch is memorable, perfectly decent and more than deserves an audience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Deadpool

 

 

Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is a bit of a messed up anti-hero. An ex-special forces, now mercenary idiot who, through a combination of charm and wise-cracks just about masks the unsavoury deeds he performs and the rather unsavoury character that he actually is.

On discovering that he’s been stricken with terminal cancer, he has a life or death decision to make. Does he remain stoic in the face of the inevitable and see out his final days alongside his sweetheart, Vanessa, (Morena Baccarin), or does he sneak away and take up the bizarre proposition that’s been offered to him by ‘the recruiter’ (Jed Rees), to undergo some bizarre experimental procedure to be cured of his cancer, whilst simultaneously adopting super-human powers in the process?

With the latter option a formality, he quickly wishes he’d not bothered as the procedure is particularly gruelling to say the least. Things are not helped with it being performed with unnecessary relish by the sadistic Ajax (Ed Skrein), leaving Deadpool with total face and body disfiguration.

A few explosions and a bit of falling debris later, left for dead and understandably not a happy camper, Deadpool vows revenge on his tormentor and thus a rather large amount of carnage commences…

There’s really not much more to Deadpool than that. There’s much CGi wizardry , some additional super-human characters join the fray attempting to keep Deadpool on the straight and narrow, and a larger than average body count piles up in savage fashion.

Shackled by such a dead-end plot, the film really hedges its bets on Ryan Reynolds’ lead character as he cracks one-liner after one liner and attempts to rip up the Marvel hero rule book, poking fun at the nuts and bolts of the genre with great glee, albeit in considerably reverential fashion.

It’s fast-paced, it’s crude, it’s violent and it rattles off the gags at break-neck pace. Some hit the mark, but a fair amount whistle by, a good deal wide of the target. Above all though, it’s all annoyingly self-aware and smug in that ‘we’re going to rubbish our own scene before you have the chance to’ manner.

Ryan Reynolds, in a role that has a tendency to come across as a sort of vulgar Jim Carey – lite, is sufficiently amusing in places to just about pull this one out of the bag, but it really is nowhere near as amusing or clever as it thinks it is, or indeed needs to be. Add to this, there really are only so many gross-out gags and scenes of super-human characters pointlessly pummeling twelve bells out of each other to no avail in a sea of spurious CGi trickery, that you can watch before it borders on the boring.

Ultimately, the whole contrary, sending one’s self up approach has been done to death and more importantly, done far better than it is here.

There’s a point in the film when someone delivers some smart-arsed, glib comment suggesting that there’s a Deadpool film franchise to be made out of it all.

I dare say there is and almost certainly will be.

There are plenty of people that would whole-heartedly back that sentiment I’d imagine if the screening that I attended was anything to go by, but it’s a rare event for a sequel to ever top its predecessor and considering Deadpool is nothing to write home about at its best hit and miss, and at its worst, tiresome, I won’t be holding my breath for the next installment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: A Bigger Splash

In the idyllic surrounds of the Italian countryside, renowned rock star Marianne Lane, (Tilda Swinton), and her beau, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), are taking a peaceful, well earned break. The stresses and strains of touring have taken their toll on Marianne and more specifically, her voice.
Such peace will be short lived however with the impending arrival of larger-than-life, Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes), Marianne’s ex producer and lover.
His arrival, accompanied by his ‘daughter’ Penelope (Dakota Johnson), is one of characteristic enthusiasm and over exuberance.
Harry is to peace and quiet what cold water is to a chip pan.
His appearance does not just mark an end to the tranquility, but in no time at all acts as the catalyst for the unearthing of old skeletons, and a real sense of uneasiness quickly descends upon the vacationing four.
Disguised by his mask of charm and joie-de-vivre, Harry’s war of attrition proceeds to change the romantic dynamic into a test of trust and tolerance for all.
Harry’s inability to pipe down and Marianne’s inability to respond vocally to his inappropriate advances and attempts to rekindle their amorous past is a stark and well played-out contrast. Despite the obvious hinderances to their communication channels, their interaction is nonetheless riveting and at times electric.
Paul’s fortitude in coping with his ‘friend’s’ provocative antics is admirable, but his patience fast becomes worn and when one adds in the extra dimension of the mischievous Penelope’s (Dakota Johnson) advances towards him, a potentially hot scenario threatens to boil right over.
 Fiennes’ performance in particular is superb, striking just the right balance between being the ‘life and soul’ and a serial annoyance, and to a point, he goes some way to making this a film that delivers; but with such a stunning, seductive Italian backdrop and with such acting talent on display, A Bigger Splash really should make a bigger splash than it ultimately actually does.
There’s simply not enough to make this tale of tangled, festering love interests stand out from the crowd, and it’s another piece that we can chalk up to losing its way somewhat as it fairly apologetically shuffles towards a rather tagged-on, unsatisfying conclusion.
It’s not without its quirks and charms with some impressive scenes, memorable moments and engaging performances, but A Bigger Splash is merely worth a watch, and nothing more.

 

GUEST FILM REVIEW: Triple9 (by Parvez Siddiqui)

“999….Triple 9….Officer down!!”

So now we know why we Brits shouldn’t use 999 in the US. We tempt the fate of every policeman responding to this call, when all we wanted to do is get the cat out of a tree!

I went to this film after being quite excited by the trailer. Heat meets Deep Cover (a highly underrated cop/ drug land film with Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum), a heist, dirty cops, underworld connections, all being my type of faire in a movie.

I won’t go over the film, as Hugh has already done this, but its explosive start had me drooling. But then once the twists and turns started, I found myself getting a little confused, and quite frankly, apathetic to what was going on.

The ‘Triple9, Officer down’ call, was explained far too often, and it’s as if they licensed the use of the term to make sure they got every dollar they could out of it.

Casey Affleck, as our reluctant hero, didn’t really use his aloof charm, rather, he looked as bemused as I was. Aaron Paul was underused and I think that he could have been more of a hero than Casey if he’d been utilised properly. Everyone else, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, et al, were all OK.

Kate Winslet, however, did not come across as being as nasty as I’d hoped. I like female villains to be nastier and more on the edge than their male counterparts (like Lena Headey in Dredd). With someone of her talents, she did not frighten me, she just seemed to ask her henchmen to do the bad stuff. Would it have killed her to pull out a fingernail or two?

I’m not saying that this is a bad movie, however, I was expecting Heat for a new generation, and this is simply not it.

FILM REVIEW: The Big Short

To fully dissect the ins and outs of The Big Short would be to insinuate that I had any sort of reasonable grasp on the ins and outs of the financial industry. Sadly, I can’t say that I really do, and at times it’s therefore a bit of an up hill struggle to fully appreciate the inner machinations of the unfolding scenario in director Adam McKay’s tale of the financial irregularities that led to the crash of 2008.

Whilst it’s of course intriguing to know the exact details of the situation, it is however not necessary to get overly bogged down in the minutiae to pick up on the fact that something was seriously afoot in the world of banking, and it’ll come as no shock to anyone, nor is it a plot spoiler, to suggest that the banking industry’s greed and foul play was the key factor that brought about such financial devastation, leading not just to the collapse of established investment banking institutions like Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns, but more importantly, leading to such devastating world-wide misery for so many.

Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a glass-eyed, socially awkward hedge fund manager has a hunch that the U.S housing market is in fact a bubble that’s going to burst. It’s a theory which goes against accepted ‘wisdom’ with the U.S housing market perceived to be a rock solid safe bet, but it’s a theory that he backs up by trawling through reams of bank mortgage data.

Burry is alone in his assumptions though and consequently considered a bit unstable by his peers, but he’s willing to put his company’s money where his mouth is. In an unprecedented move he proposes to bet against the housing market.

For the banking system, deals like this are akin to printing money, and naturally believing him to be insane, readily lap up the wager, whereas Burry’s colleagues are left in a highly nervous state and less than impressed.

Word of Burry’s ‘lunacy’ reaches Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), an investor and smooth operating salesman at Deutschebank who knows a get-rich-quick scheme when he sees one. He too goes against the grain, deciding to get in on the act.

By chance, word finds its way to FrontPoint Partners, an investment management firm, where Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his team, reticent at first, fall for Vennett’s persuasive charms and they too decide to back this hairbrained scheme, as do, through a totally unrelated incident, a couple of rookie investors who happen upon the opportunity by accident. For them it’s their ticket into the big time having been denied a place on the big boys’ investment table by one of the larger banks.

Once again, the banks are quick to bite their hands off, and take all the wagers.

Thus a fairly tortuous waiting game begins; a game that requires the holding of nerve and the maintaining of faith in one’s hunches and suspicions.

Adam McKay, best known for his writing and direction of Anchorman, injects a fair bit of humour into The Big Short, which ensures that the serious content remains buoyant and that the plot is not allowed to wallow or stagnate.

The cast is collectively strong, savvy and full of energy, delivering sharp, slick dialogue with panache.

Particular plaudits though go to Steve Carell, an actor who, whilst you wouldn’t consider him the next Robert De Niro, and who is often unfairly accused of only ever playing Steve Carell, always seems able to put enough heart, soul and sincerity into his parts. Once again, here he presents himself as a thoroughly believable, engaging screen presence.

In The Big Short, Carell’s character, suffering from long-term depression, is pushed to the brink through the gradual realisation of the scale of deceit and wrong-doing within the banking industry, and a trip to a banking convention in Vegas will finally push him over the edge, revealing the true depths to which those within the industry’s seemingly moral-free world will actually stoop to.

Of course, history tells us how this one ends up. Quite how such a scenario was ever allowed to play out remains mind-boggling to say the least, and has only increased, quite rightly, the level of distrust in the banking system as a whole.

What many of us were unaware of though was that there were those that became stupidly rich on the back of such malpractice.

As ‘Partridgian’ as it may well sound: Needless to say… Michael Burry, the FrontPoint Partners team, Jared Vennett, the rookie investors and countless others… had the last laugh, but it’s credit then that McKay, through this enormously entertaining film, ultimately refuses to paint a picture of winners and losers, just greedy, untrustworthy criminals and those who sought to expose them for who they really are; albeit exposing them from a by now insanely wealthy standpoint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Youth

Any film that commences with a character spurning the slippery recruitment drive of one of her majesty’s sycophantic ‘yes men’, automatically has me on-side.
Happily, this remains the case throughout director Paolo Sorrentino’s poignant and thought provoking, Youth.
Retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and his friend, film-maker, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), are relaxing at a beautiful health and wellness retreat in the Swiss Alps.
It’s a serene location; somewhere where two friends can unwind and contemplate their lot.
Fred’s position in life seems certain. He’s retired with no plans of a return, whereas successful film-maker Mick, surrounded by a group of eager and substantially younger up-and-coming writers, is using the trip to work on the script for his latest, and greatest (in his mind at least), magnum opus. Here, he thrives on the youthful energy and creative influence that his young cohorts inject into his project. Mick may be of older years, but he remains a man full of drive and ambition.
Unlike Fred… whose rebuttal of the Queen’s advances, whilst commendable in isolation, is not simply some anti-establishment stance that he’s chosen to take; there are far more deep-rooted, personal reasons for his dismissal of the offer placed on the table that will become clearer as scenes unfold. That is of no consolation though to a clearly staggered royal foot soldier.
Together with Fred and Mike at the resort is Fred’s daughter, Lena, (Rachel Weisz) who organises Fred’s affairs and schedule in her dual role as his assistant. It’s a loving yet strained relationship owing to Fred’s largely absent father routine during Lena’s formative years.
One of the chief triumphs of Youth is David Lang’s superbly evocative soundtrack. One quirky musical scene in particular stands out with Fred conducting a sort of cowbell ensemble in a field. The performers? The cows themselves.
There is however one key motif in particular taken from one of composer Ballinger’s renowned ‘Simple Songs’ which springs up time and again throughout the film in a variety of forms, from the rhythmic rustling of a sweet wrapper in hand, to a child’s afternoon violin practice, right up to its tumultuous, full-on emotional realisation at the film’s conclusion. It’s a theme that plays a key role in shaping the film’s structure and flow.
Indeed, it seems that Sorrentino is a director highly influenced by the power of music in film, as confirmed in Lang’s own words: “When talking to him [Sorrentino] about it, it was very clear that music was part of the organizing principle of the film.”
Youth is a piece that ruminates over those existential questions that we all mull over. In observation of a wide variety of weird and wonderful fellow resort dwellers, Fred and Mick try to contemplate what it is to be young, to be old, famous, reclusive, obese, decrepit or of body beautiful; a luxury perhaps only afforded to those that can truly say that time and worries are not pressing on them?
Try as they might, this is a luxury that neither Fred nor Mick can truly claim to have.
It’s a visually stunning, sonically sumptuous piece, rich in symbolism, and both Caine and Keitel are tremendous in their respective roles, as is Weisz. Whilst there are a couple of questionable, ‘clunky’ moments which appear to come straight out of left field – the Paloma Faith sequence in particular seems out of place and unnecessary within the whole scheme of things – such moments fortunately vanish as quickly as they appear, and crucially, leave no lasting negative impression.
Youth is a melancholic meditation on ageing, coming to terms with both life and mortality, and our attempts to find some semblance of inner peace as we inch ever closer towards our maker.
Alternatively, Youth is about the kind of levels of gratification that can only be achieved through finally being able to pass four drops of piss after three days of trying.
You choose.
Wonderful stuff.

FILM REVIEW: Triple 9

Last year’s truly excellent Sicario raised the bar for hard-hitting, brooding action thrillers. Triple 9, in some ways at least, takes the baton and runs with it.

A gang of criminals together with a number of ‘dirty cops’ are up to no good, using their expertise, insider knowledge and street know-how to pull off a number of heists at the behest of the Russian Jewish Mafia.

On what they presume has been the successful completion of their most recent escapade, they are distressed to discover that their paymasters are not only unhappy with its outcome, but insistent upon one further job, blackmailing them in the process.

It’s a job that’s bordering on the impossible, and any thoughts of successfully navigating its myriad issues are impossible without pulling a ‘Triple 9’ distraction tactic (a ‘Triple 9’ being the recognised police reaction code for killing a police officer).

It’s clear that this job is going to be particularly problematic.

With major personal concerns at stake, the gang pursue this final goal, but very quickly all best laid plans begin to unravel and it becomes clear that some of the people they’re depending upon have not read the script properly.

In an increasingly volatile environment, a game of double-cross, bluff and revenge ensues and it’s left to redneck wayward ‘straight’ cop, Jeffrey, (Woody Harrelson), to attempt to foil this plot and come to the aid of Chris (Casey Affleck) – a genuinely straight cop and the unwitting pawn in the criminals’ game – in the process.

There’s good support from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Clifton Collins Junior and Norman Reedus, amongst others, all of whom are convincing in their respective, crooked roles, whilst Kate Winslet’s turn as Russian Mafia boss, Irina Vaslov, is both sinister and beguiling.

John Hillcoat’s direction is strong and purposeful, maintaining a good pace and urgency that both captivates and enthrals as the action unfolds. He’s engineered a plot line here that’s powerful and relentless, weaving in and out, wrong-footing as it goes, springing some genuine surprises.

Add to this a thumping soundtrack from Atticus Ross, reminiscent of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s great work in 2015’s Sicario, driving the action on and ramping up suspense levels in the process, and it’s all too good to be true, right?

In some ways, yes, for there’s one key problem with Triple 9.

For all of the good things that it brings to the table, ultimately it comes across as a film whose director has cherry-picked his favourite aspects from any number of his favourite crime thrillers, moulding them all together; not always convincingly. It’s a film therefore that falls victim to its own over-complicated ambition. In attempting to lead the viewer on a merry dance, Triple 9 does rather tie itself in knots, ultimately falling over itself and losing its way a little towards the end.

Don’t let that be a deterrent though.

It’s not perfect. There are flaws and things that perhaps should have been addressed prior to the final cut, haven’t been.

Nevertheless, Triple 9 still successfully manages to pack a considerable punch and stands ably on its own.

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: How To Be Single

There’s something quite alluring about Dakota Johnson. She’s got that vulnerable, pretty, girl-next-door thing down to a tittle and Hollywood seems determined to exploit those cutesy charms for all they’re worth.

And, more power to them, I guess.

Here, she plays Alice in How To Be Single (HTBS), which – let’s not dress this up to be anything more than it actually is – is a sequence of fairly flacid set pieces following the antics of a bunch of twenty/thirty somethings, all of whom share one thing in common. For whatever their reasons, they are all currently single. Some are desperately trying not to be, some are revelling in their ‘mono’ status, whilst others are going out of their way to regain the solitary state of being that they’re convinced they’re being denied; ‘discovering themselves’ in the process.

Do we care?

Well, with the sort of plot predictability that you’d assume is surely a’comin’, you can take as read the bigger picture here without fear of missing anything of importance… Each character’s inevitable life lessons are indeed learned along their respective journeys of self discovery.

Instead, if we concentrate on the film’s micro picture – for that, if anywhere, is where HTBS at least partially works and where any nominal value can be found – with a handful of stand out scenes, some reasonable interplay between characters, and at least a small sprinkling of gags that don’t fall flat on their face, HTBS does have its moments.

In all seriousness, this kind of turgid, predictable nonsense can’t be easy to put together convincingly, so hats off to Director Christian Ditter who has somehow managed to bring enough buff and shine to affairs to at least keep it moderately engaging and distract sufficiently from the barrage of cliches and schmaltz that seem inescapable within this terrain.

With the likes of Rebel Wilson’s, larger-than-life (in more ways than one) wise-cracking character, Robin, the film at least tries to remain grounded,  diffusing any tendencies towards over predictability through frequent crude humour, delivered in a no nonsense style.

The gags however are hit and miss to put it politely but that’s the least of the film’s problems if I tell you that HTBS has a worrying tendency at times to veer a little too close for comfort towards that whole slick and enormously insufferable, Sex In The City, thing.  Now, that’s a particular barrel whose bottom needs no further scraping, thank you very much!

A contrived and unnecessary addition to the IMDB database it may well be, but to its credit, owing to a number of decent enough performances and probably on balance, just about sufficient laughter to carry it through, HTBS somehow lifts itself, bedraggled, out of the straight-to-DVD bargain bin at Woolworths (R.I.P), dusts itself down, and presents itself as an unremarkable yet fairly watchable, relatively inoffensive and always uninspiring couple of hours of your time on a wet and rainy Sunday afternoon.