Movie reviews – The Upcoming Culture, trends, fashion from London and beyond | The Upcoming Fri, 24 Nov 2017 15:49:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Antiporno | Movie review Thu, 23 Nov 2017 21:53:27 +0000 Antiporno: the name itself is a shocking declaration, a manifesto of grotesque and extravagant proportions. This is not a porno; this is an artistic expression. This is not a porno; this is a liberation, this is an experiment, this is a finger to the system! Part of Nikkatsu Corporation’s relaunch of its vintage Roman Porno collection, Sion Sono’s feminist art/softcore porn film takes the viewer through a dramatic, erotic ride with endless twists and turns that’ll leave them disgusted with the fact that they’re slightly turned on by all of it. It’s shocking and it’s bizarre, but it’s provocative. It’s deviant but deliciously, and most importantly, purposefully so.

This exploratory, visceral take on a Roman Porno follows the rules of the niche genre: it’s shot in less than a week, comes in under 80 minutes, and has at least one nude or sex scene every ten minutes. These very particular rules help us make sense of this whirlwind of a movie that’s filled with obscenities and extravagance at every turn. Perhaps it’s best not to focus too heavily on the plot considering it periodically gets turned on its head and takes a new direction, backtracks, and starts over at an almost breakneck pace that’s nearly impossible to keep tabs on. At rise, we are introduced to an eccentric young artist, Kyoko (Ami Tomite), who takes great joy in torturing and humiliating her submissive assistant, Noriko (Mariko Tsutsui), until an offstage director yells “cut!” and a new story, that of actors shooting a porno, unfolds. As Kyoko oscillates seamlessly through worlds and relives moments of sexual discoveries from her past, it becomes unclear which world is the reality and which is the play, but it almost doesn’t matter. This film is a statement, not a story.

While adhering to the rules of the genre, Sono makes a feminist exploration of it. He uses depictions of extremely taboo sexuality involving everything from incest to rape fantasies to sadomasochism as a means to free the women in this movie by playing out the extremes. When Kyoko peeps on her parents having sex at night she is then confused at their anger when she has sex on camera for a porn film. She’s left with a same sense of shame and arrives at the virgin-whore paradox that faces every woman. In this way, Antiporno reclaims women’s sexual freedom. Perhaps the most poignant moment comes when Kyoko auditions for the porno and says, “My nakedness is not smutty, make it smutty. my body is not porn, make it porn”.

Sono asserts, sex in and of itself is normal but we’ve made it taboo. Women are not free, although we all like to pretend they are, to be extravagant with their sexuality. Antiporno is obscenely extravagant in every way: from the lofty, poetic dialogue to the over-the-top acting, to the downright indecent subject matter. It’s borderline self-indulgent but heck, sometimes you need to be to make your point and Sono certainly makes his. Antiporno walks the line of smut and art, porn and sex, and releases women from the binary of the two.

Zoe Tamara

Antiporno is released in selected cinemas on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for Antiporno here:

Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge | Movie review Thu, 23 Nov 2017 12:07:11 +0000 Not all historical events of significance are worthy of dramatisation. Indeed, if someone was there and had a vested interest in the outcome, then what transpires might be suitably interesting. Making the scientific exploits of Marie Curie into engaging cinema is problematic, which is why the eye roll-inducingly titled Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge attempts to paint a portrait of Marie the woman, as well as Marie the pioneering scientist. It’s an admirable attempt, and while there are moments of interest, the end result is disappointingly flat, leaving a sense of indifference to the subject herself. This flatness is even more exasperating given the richness of the physicist’s life.

The film achieves a mood of nobility, largely due to the efforts of Karolina Gruszka as Curie. Her Marie alternates between earnestness and stoicism, and it’s a hard role to play. The complexities of her scientific work are internalised, and it’s difficult to make this work on screen. Director Marie Noëlle attempts to enliven proceedings with a number of visual flourishes, namely enigmatic camera angles and the deliberate softening of colours in key sequences. While these touches are undeniably beautiful to look at, they feel as though they were intended for an entirely different movie. The film’s ambitions are lofty, but unfocused.

Though well-meaning, Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge seems almost aware of its own intended worthiness. This creates a challenge of sorts in the audience, posing a question as to whether the characters and events depicted are as profound (and indeed worthy) as they seem to think they are. This is not the case, and it’s as though the feature attempts to inject a sense of passion into events that feel rather dispassionate to an observer. While the film is demonstrably elevated by Karolina Gruszka’s dignified portrayal, Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge manages to make an inspirational life seem rather uninspired indeed.

Oliver Johnston

Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge is released in selected cinemas on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge here:

Starvecrow | Movie review Wed, 22 Nov 2017 15:18:07 +0000 Starvecrow, an exercise in hyper-realism, reveals the homogenisation of privacy and publicity by technology and social media. It immerses the viewer, and masterfully convinces them of its reality by erasing all traces of fiction. The entire picture uses “stolen footage” (obtained by the psychopathic main character, Ben) from smartphones and handheld cameras, shot in first person, often with the actors-cum-cameramen filming themselves as well. Scenes are largely improvised and sit alongside footage of the actors’ actual lives, who all keep their real names and use no makeup, costumes or sets. Consequently, the viewer not only forgets that they are simply watching actors, but is also given the illusion of being physically present at, and even directly involved in, the events happening on screen. Furthermore, the lack of a clearly defined plot allows the interactions between the characters (firstly Ben and his girlfriend Jess, then a group of young friends) to be emphasised. Instead of the plot driving the film and providing the context for such interactions, a story gradually emerges from them: the tale of the minutiae of broken human relationships, studied in close up. What marks this movie out from the crowd, however, is the absence of a selecting principle: everything seems to be recorded, perhaps a comment on how social media is now used.

This comprehensiveness, however, is not innocent: it gradually exposes the abusive potential in close relationships between friends and family members; isolation and despair in the face of technologically afforded connectedness; and how people willingly destroy their own privacy in an attempt to feel that what they do has importance and meaning. These themes are all tied together by the underlying darkness in human beings and how a happy and wholesome public image can so often conceal depths of depravity. This is skilfully expressed through a powerful shift of focus from that “public image” – described and characterised as “sharable” footage – towards the beginning of the film, to a juxtaposition of those same shots with scenes of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. For example, a character called Butchy from the young group is alternatingly shown laughing happily in a pub with friends, and molesting a drunkenly unconscious girl at a party. And yet, because the more violent footage is not self-indulgent, and is reinforced by an excellent original soundtrack (Noel Watson), it does not undermine Starvecrow’s sense of convincing realism, and the darkness that emerges is very disturbing.

Ed Edwards

Starvecrow is released in selected cinemas on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for Starvecrow here:


The Star | Movie review Wed, 22 Nov 2017 11:58:51 +0000 The Star, directed by debutant Timothy Reckart, aims to cash in on the imminent Christmas fervour with a nativity story told through the lens of Bo, the humble mill donkey from Nazareth. Our anthropomorphic adventurer becomes ensnared in the story of the birth of Jesus and, together with a host of other animals, follows Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem.

Our hero Bo, voiced by Steven Yeun of Walking Dead fame, finds himself in a rut at the mill he is forced to work in, but a series of serendipitous events played out alongside his trusty best pal Dave the dove (Keegan-Michael Key) land him in the care of Mary, with whom he is destined for incident.

The Star is, as expected, laced with Christian sentiment; the majority of the soundtrack is inspired by gospel and hymns, with allegorical elements spliced into the storyline at every opportunity. Characters are seen praying on more than one occasion, and those prayers are invariably answered.

It’s a joyous film, celebrating the first Christmas with trademark Hollywood panache, addressing this much-visited tale in a fun and charming manner. Often this approach can border on the mawkish, unsurprisingly given that it often feels like a church Sunday school production with a $20 million budget.

The interactions between the animals offer a platform for entertaining dialogue and prove the most fruitful space for the actors to gel. There is, for example, a tangible bromance between Bo and Dave, while the camel trio Deborah (Oprah Winfrey), Cyrus (Tyler Perry) and Felix (Tracy Morgan) have an undeniable chemistry evident in every scene they grace.

Disappointingly, a strong cast fails to pack much punch, limited by a script lacking in most departments; the comedic talents of Tracy Morgan and Key are particularly wasted. A cynic may suggest the film, similar to the vast majority of major animation releases, has been produced for the guaranteed financial prosperity, offering the audience a commercial piece, rather than an artistic one.

Deborah the camel cannily predicts that people are going to “remember this night”, they did indeed. It’s questionable, however, how long this film will stick in the memory.

Jake Cudsi

The Star is released nationwide on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for The Star here:

Battle of the Sexes | Movie review Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:51:42 +0000 At the turn of the 1970s, women’s tennis was beginning to experience a revolution in the game like never before. A group of nine of the worlds top female players came together in protest against the United States Lawn Tennis Association and their guidelines and restrictions for women’s prize money. To rebel against the inequality in pay between the men and women’s game, this group, including the likes of Billie Jean King, Kirsty Pigeon and Margaret Court, formed a new tour, labelled the Virginia Slims Circuit. With the formation of this new travelling tournament came an increase in tensions between the USLTA and public opinion, leading inevitably to the battle of the sexes and one Mr Bobby Riggs.

In Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and her group of rebellious female tennis players decide to stand up to the harsh acts of sexism and inequality from Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), Chairman of the USLTA. As the newly formed women’s tour progresses, American former Wimbledon Champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is drawn by his desire to prove that men are simply better players than women and when coupled with his dangerous yet comic gambling addiction, believes that a match between himself and Billie Jean King is a fantastic opportunity to make a large sum of money. Fighting her own personal battles, King is struggling to keep her grasp on the top spot in women’s tennis, with distractions from a new sexual partner and her feminist drive for equality. In a match that would define the future of the sport, King and Riggs battle their own personal issues, whilst also competing for a greater cause.

As opposed to other sporting pictures, Battle of the Sexes has an immense and intricate focus on the character and the people over the tennis itself. We learn about Billie Jean King’s values as a person within the opening scenes of the film, portrayed excellently by Oscar-winner Emma Stone, but it is the message she wishes to convey that drives her being and motives throughout the picture. The build up to the match takes up a majority of the movie, and directors Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris prefer to look at the players’ journeys to the magic day. Steve Carell is wildly entertaining as the serial hustler Bobby Riggs, using his comic timing and character’s back story to win over a few hearts before his chauvinist act is put on.

With moments of extreme sexism that would not pass in any form of setting in the 21st century, Battle of the Sexes is a display of power from female players, along with sexual confusion and a moral sense of justification. It could be said that the picture has slightly romanticised the true events that took place in 1973 in order to make it a feature-length film, but none the less the movie is a very pleasant reenactment of the events prior to one of the greatest tennis matches in history, with strong supporting performances from the likes of Andrea Riseborough as King’s lover Marilyn Barnett and Austin Stowell as Larry King, the devoted husband of the tennis superstar, who actually received a very raw deal once the events of the day were over.

Guy Lambert

Battle of the Sexes is released nationwide on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for Battle of the Sexes here:

Manifesto | Movie review Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:00:55 +0000 “Arthouse” is a simplistic term used to describe a film that chooses to drift, if only a little, from the mainstream. It can be a mainstream story with mainstream characters, but employing an unconventional visual style would be enough for the arthouse stamp. Artist/director Julian Rosefeldt’s latest project, literally transferred from his art exhibit, is the Hollywood mogul’s nightmare of what “arthouse” means.

Through the multifarious presence(s) of Cate Blanchett, we are guided through a surreal history of artist manifestos – from Marx and Engels to Jim Jarmusch. Blanchett performs 13 characters and scenarios, all with monologues quoting the words of these writers and artists.

The cinema is where movies, of any sort, belong – even video art, mostly seen within the last corridor of labyrinthine museums. However, despite Rosefeldt modifying Manifesto as a movie for the big screen, the image of a museum never leaves. The film has no narrative thread (aside from the chronological order of the quoted manifestos) and although the characters are vivid and entertaining, they are little more than well-performed megaphones.

Museum-goers will likely adore the words spoken, recognising every line from their coffee-table tomes. For the blameless ignoramus, the picture is a befuddling tsunami of confusion. It’s like being the dumb guest at an intellectual dinner party, fake-laughing at jokes that take weeks to decipher. However, this doesn’t mean the film’s intolerable. Christoph Krauss’s overwhelming visuals and Blanchett’s beautiful performances never leave the viewer in frustrated boredom. They’re happy to float through this weird and wonderful journey. 

Manifesto is nectar for Fine Arts students, and baffling for the rest of society. This will likely be a harrowing experience for art sceptics. But it is fun to delve into these turning points in art history, and Blanchett deserves 13 Oscars for her 13 performances. It feels like swimming against an artistic current, with no risk of drowning.

Euan Franklin

Manifesto is released nationwide on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for Manifesto here:

Jane | Movie review Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:00:46 +0000 How much can human behaviours be related to animals? Numerous studies have been done and theories reformulated over the years in order to answer this question. Chimpanzees are the most immediate that can be associated with man and Jane Goodall was the first to get so close to them to report on their social and family interactions. The new documentary the National Geographic has just produced, though, is not simply animal focused. Collating and editing 90 minutes out of more than 100 hours of unused footage by filmmaker Hugo van Lawick – discovered in the institute’s archive in 2014 – director Brett Morgen tells the touching and powerful story of the beginning and development of Goodall’s project, the challenges as well as the beauty of her discoveries, strictly interconnected with her personal life.

Purity and the sheer pleasure of exploration are the protagonists, guiding and prompting the audience. Despite the grainy quality and the temporal distance from the actual shooting, the clips fit perfectly one after the other, brilliantly edited, joined together by the narrative and reflections of today’s Jane.

Sent to Gombe in the 1960s by paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, Goodall gradually made herself accepted by the group of chimpanzees, to get very close observations of the animals. With no scientific degree as “university was not an option” because of her family’s resources, Goodall was indeed chosen for her fresh mind and spirit of inquisitiveness, not constrained by academic definitions and technical studies, but free to observe and simply associate her findings.

The more Jane blended with nature, the more she learnt about herself, as the audience discovers the woman behind the expert. Within such a habitat, the research went on, with ever more relevant results. But also the primatologist’s life continued, from the initial difficulties of being accepted by the scientific community – being a woman, and without any scientific knowledge – to her marriage and the arrival of her son, Grub, to the foundation of the Roots & Shoots programme.

The footage is occasionally mixed with animations on letters and graphics, as well as extra archive material of National Geographic and Goodall’s public appearances. Credit must be given especially to composer Philip Glass, whose outstanding score animates the whole documentary with remarkable energy – quiet when the images take over, vibrant to drive the tempo of the moment. Such a perfect soundtrack intensifies the wonder and the desire of exploration.

Cristiana Ferrauti

Jane is released nationwide on 24th November 2017.

 Watch the trailer for Jane here:

Suburbicon | Movie review Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:00:26 +0000 Famed Hollywood actor and director George Clooney’s new film, Suburbicon, is a surreal, dark and funny production, which is what one would expect from a Coen brothers script.

There are two stories at play here; one, the true tale of the Myers, an African American family who move into the white Suburbicon neighbourhood, and the other, a tale of fraud, deceit and murder. Clooney makes good use of tropes found in films set in suburbia, such as The Stepford Wives and Pleasantville, though there is nothing pleasant about the goings on in this seemingly idyllic town; lurking close beneath the surface is rampant racial hatred and the deadly greed for money.

In the first few opening scenes, racial tensions are rife, as we see the Myers family moving in, with their white neighbours exclaiming, “We don’t want them here”. The Myers boy and Gardner’s (Matt Damon) son, Nicky, (Noah Jupe) are dressed similarly, showing the divide even more. Granted, the Myers are not portrayed with any real depth, as many have argued, but according to Damon and Clooney that is intentional.

Gardner Lodge is the typical 1950s family man, though an evil lurks within his personality, while Julianne Moore plays sisters Margaret and Rose. Suspicions begin to rise as insurance claims are made soon after Rose’s death, particularly by chief investigator Bud Cooper (briefly but thrillingly played by Oscar Isaac). Moore and Damon depict their roles of creepy suburbanites well, but the film lacks the quality that would make it an excellent one, as it fails to offer anything new, but is a rehash of dark fraud comedies that have come and gone in previous years. Although the intricate production detail and theatrical score by Alexandre Desplat contribute to creating an atmosphere of heightened drama and emotion in the viewer, Suburbicon does not offer much else in terms of originality.

The role of Nicky is played particularly well by Jupe, as he portrays an intelligent young child, caught up in the dangerous games of adults. The solely innocent characters seem to be the children, Nicky’s uncle and the Myers, who are just trying to live peaceably with their violent and racist white counterparts; a particularly challenging scene to watch is when Mrs Myers visits the supermarket, only to be told the prices of the items have exponentially increased. These kinds of scenes play out to hold a mirror to today’s society, and show that though a lot has changed, it can sometimes feel that not much has progressed at all.

There are commendable elements to the movie, but the way Clooney attempts to combine serious themes of racism and prejudice with comical ones blurs the film’s objectives, rendering it less intriguing than it sets out to be.

Selina Begum

Suburbicon is released nationwide on 24th November 2017. 

Watch the trailer for Suburbicon here:

Beach Rats | Movie review Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:00:23 +0000 Living out our lives online perhaps means that we all nurse the contradictions in our personalities in sharper contrast than before. We have the freedom to present a version of ourselves online that is paradoxical to how we may behave in daily life. Beach Rats is a lament on this divided identity, from the perspective of Frankie who is attempting to reconcile with his sexuality. 

Directed by Eliza Hittman, Beach Rats creeps through its protagonist’s story. He lives in Brooklyn, his father has terminal cancer, he spends his time getting high at the beach with his three best friends (occasionally using Oxycontin borrowed from dad), he also might be gay – he isn’t yet sure what he likes.

In the small hours of the night, Frankie seeks for connection and intimacy in the same disembodied way as many – online. Hiding himself in his basement, only partially lit by the light of his computer screen, he trawls video chatrooms. In these shots, the cinematography by Helene Louvart and her masterful use of 16mm film is the narrator. The beautiful cinematography does so much of the work in this feature. As the narrative is more visual than vocal, Beach Rats is haunted by a silence: the abundance and secrecy of all which cannot be articulated. 

Watching Frankie fall into the dangers that disproportionately affect young gay men – depression, drug use, dangerous sexual behaviours – is painful, but this movie does not demand our engagement. Much of the empathy for the character’s frustration and sense of yearning comes from the viewer’s own itch to be gripped by something.

For all of the beautifully shot lucid sequences of Frankie’s angst, this film is perhaps a little too existential in its outlook. The plot doesn’t lack ongoing developments and denouements but the script tends to fall a little flat, or the viewer is held at such a distance from the action that the characters become blurry figures, their words falling on deaf ears.

Beach Rats possesses a lot of beauty in unexpected places. It deals with complex themes, and is at its best when it resists the temptation to simplify them. It finds humour in the tragic, or love amongst degradation, and at these moments it is poignant and challenging. This is an important and singular tale, and where it holds off judgement on any of its characters – including Frankie’s thuggish friends – it is a contemplative piece on the nuances of sexuality and masculinity.

Miranda Slade

Beach Rats is released nationwide on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for Beach Rats here:

Lost in Paris | Movie review Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:00:22 +0000 If anyone is nostalgic for the golden age of physical comedy, where logic simply doesn’t exist and a blissful ignorance is what they’re after, Lost in Paris is a perfect fit. In the fourth feature by directors and married couple Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel, this independent comedy stays true to their signature slapstick style in defiance of the harsh world of modern cinema.

Gordon and Abel, performers at heart who only began dabbling in full-length features in the past decade, present audiences with a film reminiscent of the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Fred Karno, Buster Keaton, and other classics of the genre. Chock-full of meticulous pas de deux, cheesy step-dance interludes, and other markers of a studied slapstick motif, Lost in Paris is only one of a few movies in recent years that succeeds in encompassing a now obsolete method of filmmaking.  

The story begins in snowy Canada, where Fiona (Gordon), a seemingly naïve librarian, receives a letter from her aunt, Martha (Emmanuelle Riva, Amour), who moved to Paris 30 years before. She is now “only” 88 years old and pleads for Fiona’s help to escape the throngs of nurses who are attempting to relocate her to a senior home. Unaware of when the letter was sent, Fiona then packs her inappropriately large camping bag topped with a high-reaching Canadian flag, and embarks on a journey to Paris to rescue her aunt.

As expected, nothing goes well for Fiona after her arrival, and a series of irrational events stunts her mission with every step. Along the way, she catches the attention of a charming (yet clearly a bit mad) homeless man named Dom (Abel). After finding her bag, he begins to follow her around like a flea. A batty woman reluctant to give up her freedom, Martha weaves and dodges her way through the city, narrowly missing Fiona and Dom until the last few minutes of the film.

One notable aspect is Emmanuelle Riva’s performance, as it was one of her last before sadly passing away last January. The BAFTA Award-winning actress brings a level of class and experience to her role as Martha, without which the picture may have lacked a particular spark.

The film slightly overstays its visit as the dance numbers run a tad too long, an intimate dream sequence leaves viewers a bit awkward, and the push for blatantly classic slapstick is somewhat obvious. For aficionados of the genre, however, it may very well be just what they’re seeking. 

Lost in Paris lacks the depth or meaning that audiences typically desire, however the delightful visual aesthetics and playful intentions maintain its value as a welcome break from our age of cinematic violence and gloomy storylines.

Kari Megeed

Lost in Paris is released in selected cinemas on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for Lost in Paris here: