Noah

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Marking the first of few belated reviews that will be hitting the page soon is Aronofsky’s Biblical epic, Noah. The films received some varied reviews, and I did approach slightly apprehensively. Though I’m a huge fan of Aronofsky, the sword-and-sandal historical epic starring Russell Crowe has had more than its fair share of duds, but boring casting aside I entered with an open mind and came out pleased with what had been produced.

Telling the famous story was never going to be an easy task, not least because of the minuscule length of its source material. Obstacle one would be to stretch this short story into a two-hour screen epic. What’s been added is a battle between two groups of humans, one led by Noah and including some giant rock monsters formed by angels and the other headed by Ray Winstone and a load a sinful heathens against the destruction of the entire planet. It is, as you’d expect, absurd and slightly mad but it manages to pull it off. The characters are very well drawn particularly Noah himself who is not shown as a holier than thou know-it-all but a troubled man battling internally with what he believes he must to for his God and what he feels is right for his family. He is far from perfect and as the plot bears on it becomes more and more apparent that he may, in fact, not be the hero his family once believed him to be. He’s held in place though by his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) who provides the films standout performance in a challenging role. Emma Watson also performs as would be expected and the rest of the cast, though not brilliant, just about hold things together. I found though that what gives Noah is real quality is the pacing and build of tension which is kept throughout its run time. The fight scenes are given a sense of urgency from Mansell’s score which is repetitive but highly effective.

When every other blockbuster is a superhero movie and the ones that aren’t a sci-fi it makes for a nice change to have something Biblical and Aronofsky does a good job of keeping the action alive while honouring one of history’s oldest stories and injecting it with a style not many other directors would be capable of. While Aronofsky purist will be pining for a more artistic affair this delivers on the levels you would expect of something on this scale.

Marmozets

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Been yonks since I did a band plug and quite a while since I wrote anything about music on here at all. Plenty of potential stuff to write about but nothing that’s quite captured me as much as this little band, Marmozets. Hailing from Yorkshire they deal in math rock, emo, and post-hardcore with an ear for a catchy chorus. Fronted by vocalist Becca McIntyre with a debut album due soon I think they’re ready to set the rock world alight for the first time in ages.

With two EP’s to their name so far and a handful of singles these guys have already shown a great diversity in their abilities. The first EP, Passive Aggressive shows a real pop sensibility with, dare I say it, hints of Paramore in their choruses Becca’s vocals sound so similar to Hayley Williams but she pushes it one step further with a scream that would put a lot of metal bands to shame. They show a real ability to experiment and throw everything they’ve got at us in a barrage of news and overall great musicianship. Their math rock influences shine through on a lot of tracks too, Onemanwolfpack has sections reminiscent of Rolo Tomassi and EP closer The Perfect Beverage at times sounds like The Fall of Troy. But never far away is this sense of mainstream rock and roll, I often pick up an aura of early Biffy Clyro and hence the potential for Marmozets to break out of a niche and perhaps one day headline arenas like the Biff. Their second EP, Vexed, is a lot heavier overall the title track is an absolute screamer. But again the collection is littered with catchiness and the final track, Arrive Alive, will have you repeating the chorus over and over in your head. With their latest singles we get a taste of what to expect from their debut LP, with a more polished sound the band have retained their heaviness along with the infective choruses that’ll get you singing along.

These guys are the most exciting British rock band I’ve come across in years and their record looks set not to disappoint check out their EP’s now, both of which you can get free, and let’s help transform this group into superstars.

Muppets Most Wanted

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2011’s reboot of The Muppets was exactly what the furry troupe needed with Jason Segel sentimental yet warmly funny script and Brett Mckenzie (of Flight of the Conchords) trademark comedy song writing we were treated to a movie which stood up to the original series and in some aspects surpassed them. It was a box office smash and now being a Disney property a sequel was inevitability. This time round Segel’s no longer on board but with a replacement human lead in the form of Ricky Gervais and more original songs from Mckenzie this crime caper adventure still held promise.

Muppets Most Wanted begins exactly where The Muppets left off, it literally begins with the ‘The End’ firework that closed the first movie and we immediately found ourselves treated to our first musical number, ‘We’re Doing a Sequel’ and from here on the laughs come thick and fast. The plot sees Gervais’ Dominic Badguy assuming control of The Muppets and offering to take them on a world tour. Little do they know Badguy is not all kosher and is in fact in cahoots with the most wanted criminal in the world and Kermit doppelganger Constantine. Together they’ve hatched a plan to switch places with Kermit seeing the friendly frog sent to stay in Gulag while Badguy and Constantine find a way to the crown jewels framing The Muppets as they go. Hot on their trail though are Sam the American Eagle and French police office Jean Paul Napoleon (Ty Burrell) who provide us with perhaps the best laughs of the film most of which come from the ridiculous stereotypes exemplified by Burrell’s delightfully over-the-top Frnechman. Similar amounts of humour are to be found in the Gulag scenes as Kermit is entailed to teach inmates, who include the likes of Danny Trejo and Ray Liotta, how to perform a Broadway musical. Though the laughs don’t stop this film does suffer from a lack of heart, that sentimentality that Segel managed to inject into part one is missing here and by the films overlong climax this does become quite apparent and unfortunately for me the last ten to fifteen minutes don’t manage to keep the momentum going.

Overall though this is a sequel that on a comedy aspect is perhaps even better than the first part, however, its lack of heart means that as a while this isn’t quite a complete piece of work. Definitely worth a watch though for some light entertainment with good jokes and some great songs.

Starred Up

starred-up_1109This week I got gifted to a free preview screening of this new prison drama starring Jack O’Connell. Eric (O’Connell) is a young offender with a real violence issue who is transferred for the first time to adult prison. He is prematurely transferred as the term ‘starred up’ means he has caused too much trouble for the juvenile prison to contain him. Things don’t go well to begin with at the new prison and then he runs into his father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), who is himself very quick to anger and has caused Eric some real emotional trauma in the past by being absent (presumably behind bars). An anger management counsellor, Oliver (Rupert Friend), tries to take Eric under his wing and begins to make real progress but Neville doesn’t like to think that someone is doing a better job with his son than he is and what follows is a gripping, gritty and important prison drama for our times.

In all the reviews I’ve read for the film so far the acting has been the main source of praise, and it’s hard to argue with that. O’Connell’s troubled youngster is so believable its hard to separate the actor from the character. A perfect example of the kind of kid that society has given up on. Mendelsohn is also brilliant, his Neville is short on brains and an obvious pointer to why Eric is the way he is, he’s made into a fully fleshed human being by Mendelsohn and is exactly the kind of character you imagine would exist in jail. The writing deserves commendation as well creating a simple plot that remains gripping throughout and really manages to gain an emotional attachment with the audience, it is only let down by an abrupt ending that seems a bit out of place and far-fetched, it’s as though they previously thought the ending didn’t have enough punch and ended up rushing an over dramatic set piece finish. That said it’s not enough to make you view the film as a lesser piece of work, this is one of the most complete British drama’s you will find at the cinema this year.

You’d be forgiven for thinking Starred Up would be a cheaply written, youth oriented prison drama for the Kidulthood generation but in reality this is a gripping, realistic portrayal that brings forward some important issues about our society. One of the very few great British dramas around, go and see it!

True Detective – Season 1

HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary FukunagaHBO’s latest offering brough us Matthew Mconaughey and Woody Harrelson as two homicide detectives involved in a dark case. With the initial murder taking place back in 1995 the show flits between then and now. Mconaughey’s Rust Cohle and Harrelson’s Marty Hart are first time partners on the original case but in the modern day Rust has gone off the rails and is a chain-smoking alcoholic, and the pair haven spoken for years. Being interviewed separately about the case they believed to have been solved seventeen years ago but another body has been found. All eight episodes of the season are written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga giving the series an overall style and feel that many shows can’t manage as a collaborative medium.

It’s true that there are a lot of detective shows out there, in all different shapes and forms television has always been obsessed with murder investigations and dirty cops. So the question is why should True Detective be the one you watch? Well, where to begin. The most staggering thing about this series is the quality of the writing. It’s a very dialogue heavy show, which may not suit everyone, but this provides an excellent basis for character development and it doesn’t take long before you see these two A-List movie stars as their characters. Pizzolatto’s scripts are deliciously dark with very little in the way of happiness but he has a real knack for creating flawed protagonists that are still likeable if, at times, questionably immoral. As the tension of the investigation builds so does the action, which is handled ridiculously well by Fukunaga, you may have seen around that episode four (perhaps the greatest hour hour of television you will see for a long, long time) features a six-minute unbroken tracking shot during an undercover mission where, to put it bluntly, shit hits the fan making the show every bit as exciting and cool as any blockbuster movie you’ll go and see. And of course, none of this greatness could have been achieved without a cast to match and Mconaughey and Harrelson deliver some of the best performances of both their careers. Mcounaghey, of late, has become the most exciting actor around and his turn here is probably equal to that of his Oscar winning portrayal in Dallas Buyers Club. Harrelson is just as good, neither of the two ever steal the attention and instead manage to create this very real volatile relationship with each other.

Television is improving at such an astonishing rate that we will soon never be without top quality shows like this. True Detective shows us just how far TV drama has come in recent years and brings with it some of the best stuff you will see on your screens this year. let’s hope they don’t ruin it with a lacklustre second season because this is damn near perfection.

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

grand-budapest-hotel-filmWes Anderson for some time now has been one of the biggest indie directors around. With a slight dip in form occurring with 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, both of which are enjoyable but lacking a certain heart, Anderson seems to have rediscovered himself following on from his animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. So in 2014 he returns with The Grand Budapest Hotel, a sprawling crime caper with a cast bigger than one of those terrible ‘New Years Eve’ type movies. Starring Ralph Fiennes as the spectacularly posh/camp owner of the Hotel, M. Gustave, a character who has always had a special relationship with his older lady visitors is gifted a priceless painting by one of his closest visitors when she is murdered. This doesn’t go down particularly well with her sons though and this begins a manhunt for Gustave with an aim to frame him for the murder.

This is perhaps Anderson’s most precise work, known for his meticulous style The Grand Budapest takes this a new level, at least in live action. It’s so perfectly framed with every little detail designed to be just so the film often feels like an animation in the same vein as Fantastic Mr Fox. And here the script really suits the style, the script and the aesthetic merge together to create what could well be Anderson’s best realised comedic universe yet. The casting is flawless too, Fiennes’ performance is inspired as the rather bizarre but inifinitely likeable Gustave and other highlights come from his lobby boy, newcomer, Tony Revolori who is Gustave’s protege and best friend. Willem Dafoe as Jopling, is a psychopathic son of the murdered Madame D. and with very few lines he brings probably the most laughs of anyone. The cast is so large, though, and all of them perform so well that I can’t mention tham all as much as I would like. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a bit slow to kick things off and it does spend slightly too long setting the scene but when events do start picking up it is well worth the wait and as it builds to a climax the visuals become more and more impressive in equal measure to the humour. This is a prime example of an auteur confident, accomplished and at the top of his game.

This may not be a film for people who aren’t familiar with Anderson but for those who are this is certainly one of his best. And a prime example of his unique style. Although I wouldn’t go as far as this is his best film this continues a blinding run of form for the writer-director and is up there with his best works.