3061055-poster-p-1-ricky-gervais-is-out-of-office-in-the-first-trailer-for-david-brent
Film Reviews

David Brent: Life On The Road

For the sake of some readers I should begin by pointing out that Ricky Gervais’ well-meaning but nightmarish middle manager David Brent was the forerunner for Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, with Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s brilliant sitcom The Office running from 2001-2003 before subsequently being remade in the US (the two characters briefly and excruciatingly crossed swords at the beginning of one episode of the American version). Here, 13 years after the UK show ended, we have a ‘further adventures of Brent’ story that finds the protagonist attempting to jack in his current job as a sales rep in order to pursue his dream of being a rock n’roll star, though in typical Gervais style the film is packed with failure and disillusionment, ending on the kind of bittersweet note that helped to make The Office so popular with audiences in the first place.

Life On The Road was written and directed by Gervais, and it’s noticable that former co-writer Merchant is not involved in any way, while none of the members of the original cast – which included Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis and Ralph Ineson – have returned for this outing. I wouldn’t suggest for one minute that Gervais has undervalued their contribution to the original series, but their absence is sorely missed, with too much weight being placed on the Brent character (and thus Gervais himself) to provide the audience with laughs as a result. And yet this awful man – with his ability to embarrass himself, draw the disdain of others, conjure up a faux pas or blurt out an offensive comment seemingly out of nowhere – remains one of the funniest and well-drawn sitcom characters in recent memory, and thus there are scenes here that are very amusing indeed, particularly those set within the office of his new employer Lavichem. However there are also entire periods that are 10 or 15 minutes long where jokes fail to land and the audience’s silence is deafening, while Ben Bailey Smith (aka rapper Doc Brown) as Brent’s on-stage sidekick is the only main cast member called upon to raise a few extra chuckles. The burden on Gervais eventually begins to show.

The idea of a band touring the less-glamorous-than-pretty-much-anywhere highways and byways of England is milked for all it’s worth, with near-empty venues, gigs that are just a handful of miles away from the previous night’s concert and anodyne, identikit business hotels providing a suitably naff backdrop. There is some fun to be had with the songs – sometimes offensive, often inappropriate, always cringeworthy – but the on-the-road construct swiftly runs out of steam, and even with a running time around the 90 minute mark the film eventually feels like a bit of a slog, with only a few secondary characters of note (and even one or two of those, such as Mandeep Dhillon’s receptionist, feel rote and familiar). Still, the writer/director/star does at least put a lot of effort into his favourite trick of raising the audience’s discomfort to barely-tolerable levels, and it’s interesting to see how far he’s willing to go in terms of pushing Brent’s inherent tragedy to the limit here. I also admire Gervais’ decision to try something a little bit different with his character, and when all is said and done I laughed more during the first act of David Brent: Life On The Road than I have during most other recent comedies that I’ve seen (caveat: I haven’t seen many). Ultimately, though, it’s wildly inconsistent in terms of when the laughs arrive, and it’s yet another case of an excellent TV comedy show being ill-suited to the feature length treatment and thus failing to make a successful transition to the big screen.

Directed by: Ricky Gervais.
Written by: Ricky Gervais.
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith, Tom Basden, Jo Hartley, Andrew Brooke, Tom Bennett, Mandeep Dhillon.
Cinematography: Remi Adefarasin.
Editing: Gary Dollner.
Music:
Ricky Gervais, Andy Burrows, Ben Bailey Smith.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
88 minutes.
Year:
2016.

fenty-5447c1c63edce
Film Reviews

Recent Viewing #3

Bande De Filles (Girlhood) (Sciamma, 2015): My second viewing of this excellent French film, which was one of my favourites of 2015, and it’s just as good this time round. A wonderful coming-of-age story dealing with femininity, appearances, bonding, crime, sisterhood, prospects and the different kinds of threats that are posed by some men within the banlieues of Paris. Funny at times, very moving at others, and directed with verve and confidence by Céline Sciamma.

The Mechanic (West, 2011): Bi-annual fix of The Stath, and The Mechanic is every bit as preposterous (and oddly entertaining) as his other films, with a slight amount of extra class added by Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland. I think my favourite thing about it is that Jason Statham’s hitman’s thing is to listen to classical music on vinyl, and he methodically polishes the records before the stylus hits the groove like some kind of fucking weirdo, which is supposed to let the audience know how thorough he is. It’s a remake of the Michael Winner/Charles Bronson flick from the 1970’s, which isn’t particularly great but it’s certainly superior to this.

last-man-on-the-moon-1The Last Man On The Moon (Craig, 2016): Going up into space and walking on the moon. What a trip. Can you imagine? Gene Cernan was the last person to do so, over 40 years ago, and this well-made documentary by Mark Craig examines his life and career as a pilot with the US Navy and as an astronaut with NASA. It’s insightful, and if you’ve got a soft spot for incredible feats of achievement and the wonder of exploration – which you should have, really – there’s a lot to enjoy here. The film contains some fascinating archive footage, tearjerking passages and plenty of considered reflections by Cernan himself, who acknowledges that his fantastic career has come at a price (he feels there have been times when his family have been neglected). He seems like a humble guy, and I like the fact that his first steps on the moon were not accompanied by a (subsequently iconic) rehearsed line like Neil Armstrong’s “It’s one small step for man…”, but instead a rather surprised exclamation of “Oh my golly! Unbelievable!”

Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life And Time Of Tim Hetherington (Junger, 2013): Photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington was killed in 2011 while reporting on the front line in Misrata, Libya, during the country’s civil war; the explosion that took Hetherington’s life also claimed that of photographer Chris Hondros and severely wounded another, Guy Martin. This documentary – made by Hetherington’s co-director on the Oscar-nominated Restrepo, Sebastian Junger – is a fitting portrait of the man which largely concentrates on his work in Liberia, Libya and Afghanistan. It offers insight into war, the desire and bravery of those who strive to document it, and it details Hetherington’s warm, compassionate and friendly personality. A sad loss.

BBjESvx.imgMad Max (Miller, 1979): George Miller’s low budget exploitation film/road movie is understandably a little rough around the edges – part of the charm for many people – but every time I’ve watched it I’ve been left frustrated by its shortcomings. Some of the editing makes the story a little incoherent – perhaps unsurprising, given that the original editor, Tony Patterson, had to leave the production before it was completed – while additionally the dialogue is often cringe-inducing and the acting throughout leaves a lot to be desired. Still, it’s a cheap B-movie, and the performances are at least entertainingly enthusiastic; you’re thrown into this post-apocalyptic landscape without much in the way of an explanation as to why it has deviated from our own recognisable status quo, but it’s fascinatingly sparse and filled with odd moments and odder characters, and the actors certainly do their bit in creating a sense of society descending into anarchy and chaos. Miller’s flair for filming car chases is also obvious in this initial chapter; we even see stuntmen leaping onto moving vehicles with the use of pole vaults, a trick that he would reprise in later Mad Max installments. The film hasn’t aged well, but if you enjoy looking at burning rubber, shots of chrome vehicle parts, crashes, leather and the like it’ll hold your interest, and the film’s more gruesome elements are fun. (Whisper it: I kind of wish I’d rewatched David Michôd’s Mad Max homage The Rover, instead, but at least this’ll lead me on to seeing Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior again.)

The Propaganda Game (Longoria, 2015): An interesting documentary about life (or the imitation of life) in North Korea, made by a Spanish filmmaker and, rather weirdly, featuring a fellow Spaniard who has denounced western imperialism and capitalism and has pledged allegiance to Kim Jong-un, effectively becoming a kind of high-profile cheerleader for the Workers’ Party and its ideology. There are some attempts to find answers to all our obvious, long-held questions about the country, but predictably director Álvaro Longoria is never left alone while he’s filming in the country and interview subjects tow the line professionally or look incredibly nervous, possibly because of the presence of watching or translating party stooges. Much of what the filmmaker sees and is shown – and in turn what we see – is staged, presumably, though some of it is so well done it’s hard to know how much of it precisely is smoke and mirrors; for example a Christian church service looks normal enough, but Longoria guesses that it’s fake because the singing by the congregation is note-perfect. There’s an interesting parallel drawn between the propaganda of the Workers’ Party and the propaganda about North Korea that exists within western media, and the film also forces you to question how readily and easily you believe the tabloid-style headlines and TV reports about the country that many of us in the west tend to see. Well-balanced and often fascinating.

SuffragetteSuffragette (Gavron, 2015): Sarah Gavron’s film is a well-intended and long overdue dramatisation of the women’s suffrage movement within the UK, and it’s a movie that by and large seems to handle the weight of expectation placed upon it, as well as the need to do justice to those who campaigned for the right to vote (particularly Emily Davison, who gave her life for the cause by running in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby). A classy cast has been assembled, with Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Meryl Streep and Ben Whishaw all providing support to star Carey Mulligan, who anchors the film with a strong performance as a politicised working class washer woman, wife and mother; Mulligan is very good (as always), as are the cast generally, though as suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst Streep just seems to be carrying on from where she left off in The Iron Lady (in which she played Margaret Thatcher). The scenes of police and prison worker brutality are quite heavy, and the scenes of protest and action taken by the suffragettes ring true, but sadly the film also has several flaws. First, how on earth does Brendan Gleeson’s character know in advance where every single protest or act of civil disobedience is going to take place, for example, unless he’s operating with the help of Ye Olde GCHQ? Secondly, the incesseant camera shake is needlessly distracting. And thirdly, considering this is such an important political story in terms of the UK’s recent history, the film’s actually very light on high-level politics (come on, audiences aren’t that scared of a little Houses-of-Parliament discourse). That all said, I thought the decision to show the relationships that various female characters endure with the men they live with and work with was a good one, and it’s a decent watch, when all is said and done, with plenty of attention to period detail.

James White (Mond, 2015): Intense indie by Josh Mond about a young guy whose life goes off the rails as he deals with his father’s death and his mother’s cancer. It’s depressing, as that synopsis suggests, and I dare say any cynics out there who have seen their share of indie dramas will be rolling their eyes, but this is heartfelt, intelligently-scripted and Christopher Abbott and Cynthia Nixon are both excellent in the two main roles. A very promising debut by Mond, who previously produced Martha Marcy May Marlene, and a fine showcase for Abbott, who goes from bruised vulnerability and compassion to coiled-spring aggression in a believable and smooth manner.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (Miller, 1981): The best entry in the Mad Max franchise, and another slice of Ozsploitation that takes the successful elements of the first film – the campness of the villains, the steampunk/dieselpunk look (before that was a thing), car chases, boggle-eyed supporting actors, stunts, schlock, silly humour – and ramps it all up tenfold. It also makes full use of a coherent (and simple) story, which is a bonus after the messy first act of the original, while simply reducing the hero’s personality to badass loner was a good move, and a clever way of linking back to the events of Mad Max. Obviously it isn’t intended to be taken seriously – the chief bad guy wears a hockey mask and a studded leather mankini, after all – and if you’re in the right frame of mind this is a lot of fun, right down to the long, thrilling multi-vehicle chase at the end, in which director George Miller finds time for sporadic moments of humour (there’s slapstick when the gunner on Max’s truck sets his own hands on fire, and there’s lots of exagerrated, barbaric yawping and quipping from the antagonist gang members). It’s the closest of the original trilogy in spirit to Miller’s more recent offering Mad Max: Fury Road, though a far better and more engaging movie for my money; its just a shame that Miller failed to develop the Furiosa-style character here (Warrior Woman, as played by Virginia Hey), who is killed off during the final act. But at least that wrong was eventually set right.

dope-voiceDope (Famuyiwa, 2015): Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope is at its best when its three leads – playing a trio of 90’s hip-hop-obsessed, pop culture-savvy geeks – are together on screen and trading lines; it’s a little less successful as a drug-dealing caper, but it certainly maintains a feeling of freshness and a strong, freewheeling sense of style throughout. It’s unusual to see a ghetto setting for a coming-of-age high school film, although for all its gang-related violence and threats this is still recognisable first and foremost as one of those films, with all the usual familiar scenes and characters: the misfits, the encounter with a bully by the lockers, the college application, the main character’s disastrous attempts at losing his virginity and the senior prom as a backdrop for the ending. Yet if you take it as a ghetto crime movie it’s also a very different kind of film to other crime-related films that we’ve seen over the years, particularly those that are also set in LA, simply because of the mix of types of people featured in the story. There’s a great soundtrack too, if you’re into the golden age of hip-hop.

tickled-review-spicypulp
Film Reviews

Tickled

Tickled is a strange, Louis Theroux-style documentary (but feature-length, obviously) that came about after the New Zealand journalist David Farrier – who actually looks like Theroux, coincidentally – reported on a series of ‘competitive endurance tickling’ videos he found on the internet. Was this a sport people were taking seriously, or simply part of a harmless fetish scene involving consenting adult males? The story got a fair amount of attention at the time, but shortly thereafter Farrier was on the receiving end of extreme, homophobic insults from the company behind the videos – Jane O’Brien Media – as well as separate, hostile cease-and-desist communications from their lawyers, which only served to further his interest in the makers of the videos and the participants. The film mostly details subsequent trips to America made by Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve, during which they uncover a bizarre story involving abuse, bullying, identity theft, fraud, deception, thinly-veiled death threats and general insidious behaviour. It’s a technically-straightforward investigative documentary that relies on its fascinating story and the growing disbelief of the filmmakers for forward propulsion, though there’s occasional doorstepping too, which is something I never grow tired of so long as it’s applied to people who deserve it. I found it pretty gripping, and it also makes some salient points about the ease with which poor people can be exploited by the rich.

Directed by: Dylan Reeve, David Farrier.
Starring: David Farrier.
Cinematography: Dominic Fryer.
Editing: Simon Coldrick.
Music:
Rodi Kirkcaldy, Florian Zwietnig.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
92 minutes.
Year:
2016.

Wiener-Dog-Movie-1
Film Reviews

Wiener-Dog

It’ll surprise no-one who has caught any of his previous features, but Todd Solondz’s latest Wiener-Dog is a pitch-black comedy that’s shot through with a strong sense of misanthropy, lashings of loneliness, rather negative depictions of family life and cutting takedowns of young, self-centred creative types. It harks back to his debut feature Welcome To The Dollhouse, which also featured a character named Dawn Wiener (despite being killed off in an earlier film she’s alive here and played by Greta Gerwig), while some of the themes and structure occasionally bring to mind his sophomore effort Happiness, though in truth this is a different kind of beast than those two earlier films: it’s a portmanteau of four distinct stories, all strange and amusing in their own way, and all tentatively linked together by a brown daschund (I’m fairly certain it’s the same dog in the first two tales, though whether it is supposed to be in the second two isn’t abundantly clear, as Solondz dispenses with any obvious connecting narrative).

The first tale stars Tracy Letts and Julie Delpy as a couple in a loveless marriage who live in one of those modern, airy houses that are only ever owned by couples who are in loveless marriages. Their only child Remi (Keaton Michael Cooke) is recovering from cancer, and so as a treat the father buys Remi a dog, which the boy quickly names ‘Wiener-Dog’ before subsequently developing a bond with his new best friend. The parents, however, have little time for the pet and fail to hide their indifference, quickly getting it spayed and locking it in a small cage until it has been housebroken. The father’s stern, repeated cries of ‘heel, motherfucker, heel!’ don’t seem to work and through various conversations the mother reveals herself to be uncaring, unsympathetic and an Islamophobe, among other things. Poor Remi, and poor Wiener-Dog.

Richard-ToddSolondzsExquisiteImperfectWeiner-Dog-1200

Keaton Michael Cooke in Wiener-Dog

The themes of isolation and uncaring relatives bleed into the second tale, which sees Gerwig and Kieran Culkin playing former classmates who bump into one another in a general store before hooking up for a road trip. She quits her job as a vet’s assistant and steals a daschund that’s about to be put down – very possibly the same pooch as the one in the first story – while he plays a former school bully who we see taking heroin before paying a visit to his brother, to whom he lies and reassures by saying that he is now clean. The dog, by now, has been renamed Doody. The death of a parent looms over the story, but this is actually the most positive, upbeat quarter of the film, even if it does involve a random, Jarmuschian trio of homesick Mexican mariachi musicians.

The humour in these first two pieces is very dark, and it’s apparent early on that Wiener-Dog is the kind of film that most cinemagoers will hate. Not just dislike … but hate. It’s occasionally offensive, sometimes disgusting, often uncomfortable and full of stitled conversations and awkward character behaviour, but I like Solondz’s bleak sense of humour a lot and thoroughly enjoyed both of these vignettes. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next, around the mid-way point of the film, but I’ll refrain from spoiling that; suffice it to say it’s the best intermission I’ve seen in a long time, and thankfully with regard to such enforced breaks it’s entirely free of the kind of overblown ‘I’m the keeper of the cinematic flame’ style proclamations that have been favoured by one Quentin Tarantino of late. Instead it’s playful, and stoopid, and it put a big smile on my face.

The two later stories are sadder but also, oddly, funnier. In a self-referential move by Solondz, Danny DeVito plays a lonely, weary, downbeat New York film lecturer named Dave Schmertz – another wiener-dog owner – who once wrote a successful screenplay but is now routinely mocked by his students and returning alumni for being behind the times and for teaching the same thing over and over again (his teaching mantra ‘What if? Then what?’ becomes an irresistible coda during the bizarre final few minutes of the story). Solondz himself has taught screenwriting and directing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts since 2009, and one wonders just how much of his experience has made its way into this film; whatever the amount, the interviews and meetings Schmerz holds with students and potential students are hilarious, and I love the idea that earnest young film school undergraduates have been going into mind-numbing detail when pitching their superhero stories to Solondz in real life.

mov_ellenburstyn_2532-

Ellen Burstyn in Wiener-Dog

Finally, Ellen Burstyn is on terrific form as an elderly grandmother who is visited by her granddaughter (Zosia Mamet) and her granddaughter’s conceptual artist boyfriend Fantasy (Michael Shaw). Burstyn’s character also owns a daschund, and if it’s the same one we’ve seen previously it has now been renamed ‘Cancer’, which – the elderly lady suggests – just seemed to fit as a name. (It also links the film back to the first story.) As with the previous part of the film it seems that millennials are drawing Solondz’s ire here, though the granddaughter does command some sympathy when we begin to realise just how awful her boyfriend is, and eventually the story takes a strange turn as it begins to focus on the grandmother’s negative character traits. And thus you realise that Solondz’s film is not only about people dealing with death, or the near possibility of death in some way or another, but also the way in which people will one day reflect on their lives and behaviour: their lies, their grudges, their decisions, their regrets.

Near the end of this final segment there is an uncomfortable shot that may make you laugh or may provoke you into feeling disgust, and perhaps even anger towards the filmmaker; certainly given the length of the shot Solondz is trying to elicit one of the two responses from viewers. The absurdity of it made me giggle – in a cinema where few other people were laughing at all – and it also reminded me of an earlier scene, in which for an entire minute a camera slowly pans over a ludicrously long pile of doggy diahorrea on the street, while the mournful, haunting and beautiful Claire de Lune plays on the soundtrack. And I think that’s the only way I can possibly recommend the film; I really liked it, but you have to buy into Solondz’s idea of humour and his jaundiced, poisonous worldview, or it’ll be a very long hour-and-a-half. Wiener-Dog is wilfully difficult and self-indulgent, and its downbeat, defeatist nature makes it the absolute antithesis of this current (or any) anodyne blockbuster season, but it’s great fun if you can get on board.

Directed by: Todd Solondz.
Written by: Todd Solondz.
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Kieran Culkin, Greta Gerwig, Julie Delpy, Danny DeVito, Tracy Letts, Zosia Mamet, Keaton Michael Cooke, Sharon Washington, Michael Shaw.
Cinematography: Edward Lachman.
Editing: Kevin Messman.
Music:
James Lavino, Nathan Larson, Devendra Banhart.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
88 minutes.
Year:
2016.

1280_blake_lively_the_shallows_movie_still
Film Reviews

The Shallows

I initially dismissed Jaume Collett-Serra’s shark vs woman survival thriller The Shallows as simple, slightly entertaining, disposable B-movie nonsense. Which it definitely is, but flippant comments like that do the director a disservice, as Collett-Serra certainly displays a knack for staging tense sequences above and below water, for the most part. His film only includes one main character, a surfer/medical student named Nancy (played by Blake Lively), and the action is mostly limited to a small, barely-known bay on one of Mexico’s coasts. There’s some back story and a handful of ancillary characters but Nancy’s the only human on screen for most of the film, bonding with an injured seagull, performing gruesome operations on the injuries she sustains and fending off the dedicated attacks of a rather nasty Great White. It’s a short, easy, punchy watch, although it does get a little too silly towards the end: for a while I thought that Collett-Serra’s trick was not showing the shark in full, but eventually he does, and bizarrely it seems to be a lot bigger than the one that menaces Nancy (and various apparently dispensible locals) earlier in the film. I ended up laughing during a scene in which Nancy must negotiate her way through a smack of jellyfish, nearly cheered when the seagull went surfing and rubbed my eyes in mock disbelief at the ‘final battle’, which takes Belief to Beggartown for a weekend break in a five star hotel. There are other, more problematic elements, such as the naff way that the film tries to incorporate text messaging and social media more generally, while Nancy’s back story is tedious and full of clichés, but it’s not really worth over-thinking in all honesty. There’s a place for this kind of stripped-back, intense and simple movie in the multiplex, and though the scope here is far narrower than That Famous Shark Film, The Shallows is better than the majority of tiresomely-knowing but ham-fisted Jaws rip-offs out there. That said, it’s a shame that the seagull doesn’t make a flying, crapping comeback during the epilogue.

Directed by: Jaume Collett-Serra.
Written by: Anthony Jaswinski.
Starring: Blake Lively, Angelo José Lozano, José Manuel Trujillo Salas, Óscar Jaenada.
Cinematography: Flavio Labiano.
Editing: Joel Negron.
Music:
Marco Beltrami.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
86 minutes.
Year:
2016.

summertime-1600x900-c-default
Film Reviews

La Belle Saison (Summertime)

Izïa Higelin and Cécile de France are both very good as a pair of lovers in this early 1970’s-set French romance, which has a strong theme of female empowerment running through the story, as well as a fresh take on that age-old dilemma about living life in the city or life in the countryside. Higelin plays Delphine, the daughter of farmers in the Limousin region, who we initially find in a secret relationship with another woman (secret because the woman in question is about to marry a man, because of conservative attitudes to lesbianism in rural France at the time, and because Delphine has not yet told her parents about her sexuality). When Delphine is subsequently dumped she decides to leave the countryside behind and moves to Paris. It’s here, by chance, that she meets Carole (de France), a prominent activist in the city’s women’s liberation movement; in fact Delphine actually rescues Carole when a stunt – a group of women run along a street slapping the backsides of random men – turns into a fairly ugly scene. Delphine is inspired by the politics and spirit of those involved in the movement and is also attracted to Carole; the feeling is mutual and soon enough the pair enter into a relationship.

Catherine Corsini’s film attempts to highlight some of the differences between urban and rural life at the time, though thanks to one scene showing a public anti-abortion meeting it’s not as if Paris is solely portrayed here as an ultra-forward-thinking, progressive city; the countryside is, however, shown to be conservative by comparison. At one point Delphine chooses to give up her life in the French capital and returns home to help out on the farm when her father becomes ill, and Carole follows her to the countryside, happily helping out on the farm at first before gradually growing more and more frustrated by the newly-clandestine nature of their relationship; Delphine’s mother (Noémie Lvovsky) does not know that her daughter is gay, and there’s a suggestion in the story that Delphine feels she won’t be taken seriously by other local farmers in the event of her sexuality being made public, despite the fact that she can clearly run a farm on her own. And so the principal question is whether they will survive as a couple, with one drawn to the city and one controlled ultimately by a sense of familial duty, with one determined to be open about her sexuality and the other hesitant. Simultaneously, Carole realises that she doesn’t belong on the farm, but the lifestyle is in Delphine’s blood, and part of her wants to stay at home despite having to hide her love, deal with gossip-mongering male farmers and fend off the misguided attention of childhood friend Antoine (Kévin Azaïs, impressive here after a good turn in last year’s Les Combattants, aka Love At First Fight).

belle-saison-kevin-azaïs

Kévin Azaïs in Summertime

There’s a lightness of touch throughout from the director, who films the more intimate scenes between the two women in a tender, straightforward fashion while also drawing on the bucolic setting to create a viewing experience that is often restful and unhurried. Simply watching Carole and Delphine strolling around together in golden patches of light or working on the farm – lifting bales of hay, driving tractors, etc. – becomes quite pleasant in and of itself, though there is a point of course at which the drama must take over. It does so in a mostly satisfactory fashion, building to a tearjerker ending that long feels inevitable, with Corsini and co-writer Laurette Polmanss using the rather clichéd but still-powerful setting of a train station at a crucial juncture. There are strong performances by Higelin – a musician who has only recently started acting – and de France, and in their scenes together they share an easy and believable chemistry. Somewhat pleasingly the film also incorporates a rather positive and affirmative coda that – pure speculation here, I admit – a male writer or director might not think to include, and unlike some epilogues it feels wholly necessary with regard to the two characters and the way in which their personal and public lives are to be perceived by the viewer.

Directed by: Catherine Corsini.
Written by: Catherine Corsini, Laurette Polmanss.
Starring: Izïa Higelin, Cécile de France, Noémie Lvovsky, Kévin Azaïs.
Cinematography: Jeanne Lapoirie.
Editing: Frédéric Baillehaiche.
Music:
Grégoire Hetzel.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
105.
Year:
2016.

 

KNU-02566r-1501x1000
Film Reviews

Keanu

In this action thriller spoof Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele – hitherto best known for their Comedy Central sketch show Key and Peele – play a couple of mild-mannered ‘ordinary’ guys who become embroiled in gang-related crime. This happens because a drug dealer named Cheddar (Method Man) steals the cute kitten (the titular Keanu) that turned up at the door of recently-dumped stoner Rell (Peele) and … whatever; the point is two vaguely-nerdy friends aren’t gangsters but they must walk the walk and talk the talk in order to infiltrate Cheddar’s crew and get the cat back.

Keanu is smarter than the average comedy – though otherwise it shares the same limited technical ambition that has recently blighted the genre – and I’m led to believe it’s much funnier than many other recent movies with similar fish-out-of-water concepts, such as the Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart vehicle Get Hard (which I haven’t seen and probably never will see). Writers Peele and Alex Rubens play around with racial stereotyping and identity politics in an arch and witty fashion, they incorporate warm homages to a variety of different well-known movies and there are some good jokes relating to Key’s character’s love of George Michael, though the whole thing starts to run out of steam 30 or 40 minutes from the end. Keanu‘s first hour is entertaining, though, helped along by the main duo’s chemistry and some game supporting performances (including cameos by Keanu Reeves and Anna Faris, both playing versions of themselves).

Directed by: Peter Atencio.
Written by: Jordan Peele, Alex Rubens.
Starring: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Method Man, Tiffany Haddish, Will Forte, Luis Guzmán.
Cinematography: Jas Shelton.
Editing: Nicholas Monsour.
Music:
Steve Jablonsky, Nathan Whitehad.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
100.
Year:
2016.