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FILM REVIEW: All This Mayhem

The world of skateboarding is alien to me. I don’t know the first thing about it and have never wanted to, so it’s thanks to the occasional member freeview screening at Greenwich Picture House cinema that I get to see films like this; and on this occasion, I’m certainly glad I did.

Essentially, All This Mayhem is a true story documentary about the rise and fall of Tas and Ben, the Pappas brothers, two kids from a rough and ready background in Melbourne, Australia, that rose to the top of the competitive ‘Vert’ skateboarding world, briefly toppling an all time great Tony Hawk in the process. It’s also a real old school tale of ‘the higher they fly, the further they have to fall’ – no pun intended.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that the Pappas brothers were at times, by their own admission overly cocky and arrogant and ruffled more than a few feathers, so much so at times that you’d be forgiven for having little or no sympathy for the pair of them, yet, interestingly, such was their heartfelt passion and balls-out approach to life, you can’t help but side with them and feel their pain as their story unfolds and life deals them often shattering, self-inflicted hammer blows. Indeed, the brothers pressed the self-destruct button on life with such regularity, it’s a wonder the sky didn’t cave in on their world a lot sooner than ultimately it did; and how it did, in a maelstrom of drug abuse and reckless, over indulgence and disastrous decision making.

As with all good film documentaries, All This Mayhem lays on the thrills, spills and jubilation along with the  pain and anguish and does so in the most absorbing and at times hard-to-watch manner. It’s emotional, edge-of-the-seat stuff that had me well and truly sucked in.

A really well paced and put together effort that deserves a larger audience than I suspect it will ultimately receive.

Very highly recommended.

 

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FILM REVIEW: Boyhood

Some years back, I watched a young Ethan Hawke babbling some pseudo-psychological lines that he was using to impress Julie Delpy in Paris. It was grating. I wanted to turn it off. I didn’t and I’m mercifully thankful for that. Indeed, some years on I can honestly confess that ‘Before Sunrise’ is one of my favourite films of all time; more importantly, it introduced me to the work of Director Richard Linklater who completed his ‘Before’ trilogy with the also incredible ‘Sunset’ and more recently ‘Midnight’. The resolution? of this trilogy left me and I’m sure countless others, hanging, in need of a serious Linklater fix. 

It’s 2014 and enter Linklater’s latest offering ‘Boyhood’ – an unrelated film, but arguably, if we’re judging his total film-making output, it’s the best of the lot.

Much has and will be said of the undoubted logistical headache that Boyhood must have been to accomplish, filming the same key characters over a twelve year period between 2002 and 2014, tracking young Mason Jr and his family’s development over time. Heaven only knows how many constellations needed to align to make this film possible. It’s a gargantuan feat but there’s never any sense of anything being forced or contrived in Boyhood, instead the film flows effortlessly over this time period and whisks us up in its warmth, its sense of humanity and wonder taking us along on an incredible ride.

Ethan Hawke, so briefly, I’m ashamed to admit, a toe curling annoyance to me, is as fantastic as ever, superbly playing Mason’s divorced, largely absent, fun loving but ultimately genuine-of-heart father, whilst Patricia Arquette is equally impressive as Mason’s mother; her personal life a struggle, yet a stable and loving parent to her two children amidst the family’s trials and tribulations.

Boyhood is an astonishing, beautiful effort, resonating on a deep and at times profound level. A truly unique ‘slice of life’ masterpiece.

The one problem I have with Boyhood, is that it ended and I’m now in that familiar old position of having to figure out how I’m going to cope with this latest, Linklater-shaped film void in my life.

Absolutely (what I sincerely hope won’t be) a once in a lifetime, joyous cinematic event.

Wonderful.

FILM REVIEW: Jimmy’s Hall

There will be many better equipped than myself to speak knowledgeably of the politics and struggles of Ireland in the early part of the 20th century. This and the power and influence of the Roman Catholic Church very much form the backdrop to Ken Loach’s most recent, excellent offering, ‘Jimmy’s Hall.’

Based on a true story, a small, rural town is offered the chance to recapture its former spirit and social heart and soul when favourite son Jimmy Gralton returns from some years away in New York City, coming home to his mother, the woman he loved and to a town that has not forgotten the man and ‘legend’ that he was and has remained in the minds of many, before he left.

Initially reticent, but under enthusiastic pressure from the locals that a decade earlier had helped Jimmy build a community hall in which they could read, sing and dance freely, out of sight of the oppressive, overbearing nannying of a disapproving church, Jimmy agrees to be the catalyst once again to enable the people to re-live former glories by re-opening the hall and thus begins the struggle between the highly influential Church and although now slightly muted, the very much indefatigable spirit of the town folk.

In true Ken Loach style, the characters are superbly well formed, very real and difficult not to take to our hearts. Jim Norton (Bishop Brennan of Father Ted fame to many) in particular is superbly well cast as Father Sheridan but in this instance, his rather draconian and dogmatic persona is anything but ‘boot up the arse’ material, instead he’s very much a figure commanding begrudging local respect, holding much influence over the town and its proceedings.

Injustices, moral victories, moments of great joy, farce and I must admit, more than a few moments when it ‘got a little dusty’ in the cinema, all blend together to make Jimmy’s Hall an excellent film and a true highlight of 2014.

I genuinely loved this; you’d need a heart of stone not to.

Once again, thank you to Greenwich PictureHouse for yet another excellent, members’, free screening.

FILM REVIEW: BLUE RUIN

A reluctant, blundering vigilante hobo with tunnel vision; driven by fear and with a score to settle… that’s Blue Ruin.

It’s a gripping thriller and real edge of the seat, heart in the mouth stuff, but that’s as much to do with Dwight (the film’s main character) and his own ineptitude when it comes to the killer crunch, as it is to do with the relentless, ‘eye for an eye’ premise of the plot.

A trained assassin Dwight is not.

Jeremy Saulnier’s direction is superb, so much so that Dwight’s fears are genuinely palpable and consequently they very much become our fears too.

What would we do if plunged into this very same, no-win scenario? Would we flee and hide or face up to things with a steely determination to seek vengeance, all the while scared out of our tiny minds?

There’s really no option in Dwight’s mind and certainly no going back, as an increasingly messy trail of carnage is left in his wake.

Blue Ruin is fairly Tarantino-esque in some ways; wickedly dark, sometimes brutal,  but with the tongue always firmly in cheek.

It’s a bloody mess, but it’s bloody good!

 

FILM REVIEW: CALVARY

John Michael McDonagh’s ‘Calvary’ is a tip of the hat to ‘Father Ted’ and maybe just a little nod of the head to the weird and wonderful ‘League of Gentlemen’ (Aiden Gillen’s character  even having a passing resemblance to Reece Shearsmith). Overridingly though, it’s a darkly comic whodunit that examines the apparently decreasing role and relevance of the Catholic church in today’s society, along the way.

The Catholic priest has often been treated with a degree of derision throughout the history of the motion picture. One conjures up images of the old Hollywood, drunken Irish buffoon, swigging from his hip flask, wittering away to anyone that will listen, but in Father James Lavelle (portrayed wonderfully by Brendan Gleeson) we see a very different kind of priest, still much derided and in this case held accountable for all of the historic wrong-doings of the Catholic church, but a man of integrity and a heart-felt belief in what is right and good; a man whose parish unfortunately for him, is a truly representative microcosm of a very troubled society’s ills and ‘sins.’

With the clock ticking down to Father Lavelle’s own personal D-day, we scrutinise a rather bizarre array of odd local characters to identify a would-be killer, each with their own troubles and each with a sneering disdain for the church for one reason or another, yet each with an underlying, deep-rooted need for the compassion and healing that perhaps only spirituality in some form, can provide; more maybe than they realise?

Set along the rugged and beautiful, wind-swept coastline of rural Ireland, Calvary is a story of coming to terms with our issues, acceptance and more importantly forgiveness and the fact that, whilst perhaps organised, rule and fear-driven religion is an outdated concept today, many of its sympathetic and poignant teachings remain as relevant as they ever were and ever will be.

Amen to that.