Victoria

Year: 2016
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Starring: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau
Written by Sarah Buddery

A film with a so-called “gimmick” will always intrigue me, and with Alejandro G. Iñárritu bringing “one take cinema” very much into the mainstream, it is a technique which seems to be increasing in popularity. Hearing about ‘Victoria’, a German film which was entirely filmed in one take, meant it was really high up on my list of films to check out. However, with a very limited cinema release last year, I have only just managed to get around to watching it at home.

The one spoiler I think it is key to know before watching this film, is that it is filmed in one take. Other than that, it is best to go in completely blind, so I will absolutely keep this review spoiler-free. This film is anything but a gimmick, and whilst the fact it was shot in one continuous take is undeniably impressive, it never becomes so prominent that it takes you away from the narrative. ‘Victoria’ is mind-blowingly compelling, and from the pulsating, possibly seizure-inducing nightclub opening, to the somber and subdued closing, you will find yourself completely lost in it right from the off, quickly forgetting this “gimmick”.

Whilst easy to forget, it is absolutely something which needs to be appreciated. This technique creates a startling sense of realism throughout. We spend two and a bit hours with the same characters, the events unfolding in real-time, with real drama, and very real emotion. It is simply astounding to think about how this film was created, and credit has to go to the amazing cast who hold the whole thing together. Laia Costa, who plays the titular character is particularly excellent; playing a young Spanish girl in Berlin, it is very easy for the audience to identify with her sense of isolation when all others around her are speaking a different language. In case you’re put off by the fact this could be considered a “foreign language” film, it is worth noting that it is a mixture of English and German which is spoken throughout.

The amazing crew have to be applauded for this film as well, and it is no mistake that the cameraman is credited before the director. It is so effortlessly made, and where you might think it would look scrappy or amateurish, it instead looks incredibly polished and beautiful. The fact that we’re constantly in the thick of the action never comes at the expense of the framing or composition of the shots, and it takes immense skill to pull this all off in one take.

This film is really special, there’s no denying it. It is an extraordinarily unique piece of filmmaking, and one which will hopefully be revered for years to come for just how well it is able to pull off this technique. I’m not sure it is an experience which I would want to repeat, but it is absolutely one that everyone needs to have – be sure to check this one out.

Sarah’s rating: 9.0 out of 10
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Central Intelligence

Year: 2016
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Jason Bateman
Written by Dalton Brown

“I’m going into this with little-to-no expectations”, I thought to myself. “How bad can it be?” I said. I mean, Kevin Hart annoys me greatly but I think Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can be entertainingly bad…if given the freedom to do so. So how was ‘Central Intelligence’ exactly? Was it good? Was it bad? The answer is…it was what I expected, and a little more.

Let me start by stating – emphasising if you will – my very strong disdain towards Kevin Hart. He’s obnoxious, and not even in the funny way. I don’t like his attitude and I don’t like him. However, I thought he was pretty solid alongside Will Ferrell in ‘Get Hard’, but I think that’s because he was given the restraint he so desperately needed. This is what I was hoping to see in ‘Central Intelligence’ and, luckily, he was restrained. I mean, he’s still Kevin Hart doing what Kevin Hart does – being loud and pretending he’s saying something funny – but he wasn’t as obnoxious as usual; he was bearable.

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber – known for, most notably, ‘Dodgeball’ (and also ‘We’re The Millers’) – ‘Central Intelligence’ is an action-comedy. Sometimes these two genres blend together nicely – just watch ’21 Jump Street’ and ’22 Jump Street’, you’ll see what I mean – and then there are other times when these two genres should never come into contact with one another; like ‘Ride Along’ and/or ‘The Heat’ for example. Now, I would probably place ‘Central Intelligence’ somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, which isn’t a bad result, all things considered.

This is an action-comedy that’s more focused on being “badass” rather than being actually funny. That’s not to say you won’t laugh, just don’t expect to laugh out loud much. There are funny parts sure, but I found myself subtly chuckling rather than actually laughing. This is sort of where the film lost me though; it tried so hard to appeal to a wide demographic, but stumbled over itself upon doing so. I’m not saying the film is bad, per se, I’m just saying it has a lot of things going for it and it only touches upon, I’d say, about 25% of those things. There’s jokes that don’t go very far and some of the subplots could have been explored better, but hey, that’s not enough to break the movie.

The movie does end up being broken though, regardless, and the real self-destruct moment comes towards the end of the film. The end is long and drawn out, but that’s not the problem entirely. No, the problem is how anti-climactic the conclusion is. The movie does a great a job at building tension, and then, within a fraction of a millisecond, all tension disappears. Thankfully, this is at, or near, the end. Still, I was left feeling incredibly underwhelmed.

Ending aside, I was pleasantly surprised with ‘Central Intelligence’. Dwayne Johnson seemed like he was having fun for once and this really resonated with me; I found that it actually made me have fun too. The chemistry between Johnson and Hart was pretty good as well; not great, but it’s passable. You know, that’s the word I’d use to describe this whole thing actually – “passable”. It ended up being a nice surprise, and it’s not a terrible film by any means (lord knows we’ve had worse this year). I think I’d even go as far as to recommend it to others, just.

Dalton’s rating: 5.0 out of 10

Inception

Year: 2010
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe
Written by Noah Jackson

As far as cerebral, intelligent, and actually fun thrillers go, this one has got to be somewhere on that top 10 list. The ultimate exercise in original storytelling and creatively twisting genre tropes on their heads; ‘Inception’ clears the field for competition.

Released in 2010, this sci-fi thriller focuses on a group of thieves known as “extractors” – people who infiltrate a person’s mind while they are asleep, and steal the secrets of the unconscious subject. The leader of this group, Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), is on the run from governments and powerful corporations alike, until he gets an offer that will send him home. However, the job is near impossible – to plant an idea in rather than stealing one.

I understand there is a rarity in big-budget filmmaking for trying to incorporate realism into fantastical and epic stories, but what I think makes this movie so special is that it abides by a science. The science of physics and chemistry, and the components of dream psychology present in the film, all have roots in reality, which some action movies decide to throw out of the window in favour of bigger explosions. In this instance, the dedication to science just makes the epic, physics-defying fights all the more spectacular to look at. ‘Inception’ still has all these badass, fun, and explosive elements to the film, but it’s not thrown at the audience, nor forced down their throats. It has the strength to be able to rely on its script and the characters’ interactions with one another, and not just lean solely on the visuals, which are amazing, or its gunfights, also great.

The acting in this film perfectly services the story. It’s not too flashy, not too drab, but the cast has enough individual talent – enough so that I would call it a powerhouse of sorts – that letting each actor flow through their scenes works beautifully. Since none of the cast really has a flaw in their performance, the meticulous craftsmanship involved in simply building the fictional world that they exist in is enough of a backstory. Then, when the film does overload on exposition, it’s told in an interesting manner that doesn’t make the viewer feel like they’re attending a lecture, but rather learning, piece by piece. Although some scenes really do overload on explanation, it’s not a flaw in the story, but rather just the pacing. That’s not to say that the pacing is bad, per se, but it could be improved in some sections.

This brings me to my next point, which is the complexity of the story. I’ve seen this film at least 15 times since its initial release, and around viewing 5 or 6, I wasn’t confused by anything anymore, even whilst still discovering new things about the world and its machinations. I actually find ‘Inception’ to be a pretty linear story, but in the way that certain plot points are revealed, this film requires constant attention. If you aren’t enjoying ‘Inception’ because of its difficult story, I advise you to view as linearly as possible and pay lots of attention; the dots will connect themselves. However, if one can understand it the first time around, and seemingly grasp all the different ideas thrown about in the story, then you deserve a pat on the back, because this isn’t the easiest of films.

Aside from story and acting, the surrounding technical aspects are astonishing. The visual effects in this movie are still great 6 years after release, and the beautiful cinematography captures everything about this environment that makes it stunning. The score that accompanies the film is my favorite of all of Hans Zimmer’s work; it’s poignant, energizing, emotional, spellbinding, and above all, pleasant to listen to. The editing is consistent and fits the tone, and the dialogue actually matches with the character’s lips – which I’ve started to realise is a more common error than I previously thought. To put it simply, this film is a technical marvel.

I remember seeing this movie around July 2010, and this film set the movie-going population ablaze, having everyone in amazement. I am really glad this movie exists, and that it comes from none other than the incredible Christopher Nolan. He is one of the best working directors today, and I do not think this movie could’ve been executed better by anyone else if they tried. Let this movie never be sequel-ed or remade, please. It’s a golden treasure in this modern film world, and it should be a lesson to all aspiring filmmakers. If anyone hasn’t seen this yet, take this review as a call to action to watch what should be a classic film.

Noah’s rating: 10 out of 10

Money Monster

Year: 2016
Director: Jodie Foster
Starring: George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Julia Roberts
Written by Fiona Underhill

I like George Clooney a lot – one of the highlights of the year so far for me has been ‘Hail, Caesar!’ and when I heard he was re-teaming with his ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ co-star, Julia Roberts (who he had really good chemistry with) in a film directed by Jodie Foster, I definitely wanted to check it out. However, despite these three huge Hollywood names, it is the relative newcomer, Brit Jack O’Connell, who absolutely steals the show.

‘Money Monster’ is the latest in a long line of recent films addressing the global financial crisis – ‘Margin Call’, ‘The Big Short’, ’99 Homes’ – to name but a few. I think it is right and proper that the film world addresses the real, contemporary issues of the day; as much as I enjoy indulging in superhero fantasies as well. The titular Money Monster is the name of a glitzy TV show hosted by Lee Gates (George Clooney), in which he jazzes up dull financial talk with excruciating hip-hop dance numbers, props and costumes. This TV show has such influence that if Lee tells you to buy or sell stock, he can actually affect the market, with a “Money Monster Spike”. Lee is the typical Clooney type – the lovable rogue – divorced three times, with a kid he never sees. He never eats alone, especially on a Friday night, unlike the director of the show, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), who we are supposed to buy as the dowdy, sensible type. She has become fed up with the Clooney schtick and is taking a job “across the road”, presumably at a rival network.

The film opens just as there has been a major crash at a huge company called IBIS, in which $800 million has been wiped out due to a technical “glitch”. Delivery boy Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) has invested his entire inheritance in this company because of a tip from Lee Gates on Money Monster and is now understandably disgruntled. So, live on air, he takes Lee hostage, forcing him to wear a bomb vest. Kyle’s endgame is not completely cut-and-dry. More than one person (including Lee) offers to reimburse him for his loss, but Kyle says that he wants answers, personally, from IBIS CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West).

The on-screen stand-off is played out in real-time and is suitably tense. This is entirely down to Jack O’Connell’s performance as a desperate man, hemmed into a corner and into a situation that he hasn’t entirely thought through. O’Connell has had an interesting early career, starting with excellent Brit flicks ‘Starred Up’ and ’71’. It is interesting that his two major forays into Hollywood so far have involved him being directed by Angelina Jolie (Unbroken) and now, Jodie Foster. He acts Clooney and Roberts off the screen, completely stealing the show with a mesmerising performance.

The less successful aspects of the film are the sub-plots surrounding the main stand-off on the Money Monster set. While “directing” the hostage situation on-screen, Patty is simultaneously launching an investigation into IBIS, which involves a coder in Seoul, hackers in Iceland, a miner’s strike in South Africa and the company’s Communications Officer, who just so happens to be Camby’s mistress. They realise that Camby has been lying about the glitch and arrange a show-down across town, which involves Lee and Kyle moving through the streets of New York, surrounded by crowds taking selfies. Tonally, this film is all over the shop; it tries to tread the more familiar Clooney-Roberts flirty rom-com path at times and there is even a plot device involving a producer and erectile dysfunction cream. This is all bizarre when juxtaposed with the character of Kyle, who is in a believably desperate situation, shared by other victims of financial corruption.

I guess that this film ultimately lets down this character and this plot, by wrapping it up with glossy Hollywood stars and veering into ridiculous plot-twists. There was more than one moment that made me cringe and it is ultimately the writing that is at fault. Clooney and Roberts are forced into well-worn character clichés and anything that takes place outside of the hostage situation in the Money Monster studio just doesn’t work for me. This film is worth checking out for one thing and one thing alone: Jack O’Connell. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Fiona’s rating: 6.5 out of 10

The People vs O.J. Simpson

Year: 2016
Creator(s): Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Starring: Sterling K. Brown, Kenneth Choi, Christian Clemenson, Cuba Gooding Jr, Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, John Travolta
Written by Fiona Underhill

I wasn’t even going to watch this series – my friends saw the first couple of episodes before I did and I wasn’t that bothered or interested. I’d heard a little bit about this “trashy” American mini-series on social media as well and didn’t hold particularly high hopes. However two things intrigued me: for one, it was on the BBC – not usually known for its American imports. Secondly, the casting – once I heard Sarah Paulson was in it, I was sold.

Casting is, without doubt, one of the main strengths of this show. Much has been made of John Travolta’s bizarrely-mannered and elaborate-eyebrowed portrayal of one of Simpson’s lawyers, Robert Shapiro. However, the more you hear or read about the real-life counterparts to each “character”, the more you realise that they really were THAT shallow or THAT over-the- top. David Schwimmer plays Robert Kardashian (yes – father of those Kardashians) incredibly sympathetically, as he is torn between his love, friendship and admiration of OJ, and the fact that he is patently guilty. Courtney B. Vance is perfect as Johnnie Cochran – a civil rights activist who spins the entire case on its “race card”. Nathan Lane, Rob Morrow and Evan Handler round out the defence team – each one gloriously be-wigged and each one desperate for the limelight, only concerned for their post-trial reputations.

On the side of the prosecution, you have Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden (it was important for the government to have a black man on their side against OJ) and Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark. I have been slightly obsessed with Paulson since she was in my favourite TV series of all time – ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ – and she is, without doubt, the emotional centre of this programme. Clark is an ambitious and tough career woman, working all the hours God sends to try to ensure justice for the Brown and Goldman families. She is also the mother of two young boys and going through a divorce, and there are times when the stresses of child-care issues nearly break her (something I can absolutely empathise with). She is also put under intense media scrutiny because of the trial (something the defence lawyers actively court) – including the publication of nude photos and a bizarre obsession with her hair-style. There is even a scene (which really happened) of her buying tampons in a supermarket and the check-out guy joking “Uh-oh, I guess the defence are in for one hell of a week, huh?!”

If there is perhaps one “bum-note” in the casting, it may be Cuba Gooding Jr, as OJ Simpson himself. He just does not have the physical, commanding presence that OJ had in real life; OJ was well over six feet tall, 200 pounds and still very fit at the time of the murders. Having the very small and slight Gooding Jr struggle to try on the extra-large gloves in the courtroom adds even more farce to this low-point in American justice.

The high-point for me was Episode 6, which is simply entitled ‘Marcia, Marcia, Marcia’ and I don’t mind admitting that I wept through most of it. Another strength of the TV series (which isn’t present in the book by Jeffrey Toobin) is the relationship between Clark and Darden. Although it is fraught at times (it is Darden who makes the crucial error to tell OJ to try on the glove), it is also tender, touching, flirtatious and you are absolutely willing them to get together. You definitely get the sense that Clark would not have made it through the trial without the support of Darden.

Something else that the TV series (and the 460 page book, which I rattled through) does so well is make a thrilling, plot-twisting drama that absolutely hooks you and leaves you desperate to see the next episode. This is no mean feat, when we all know the outcome of the trial. There has been criticism of it being “sensationalist” or “trashy”, but that is missing the point. The trial itself and the man himself were sensationalist and trashy. In an age before 24-hour rolling news, smart-phones and social media, the world was glued to this televised courtroom “drama” as it happened. It was very easy for the audience to forget that two real young people had been horrifically and violently murdered (and in Nicole’s case, after years of domestic abuse). By making Clark the emotional centre, as she crusades for justice for these victims, based on over-whelming DNA evidence (a relatively new science at the time), this programme does try to bring you back to this travesty.

I would highly recommend these 10 hours of extraordinary TV. If you were to “binge-watch” it, I guarantee, you would race through it. It includes some of the best acting I have seen this year, which deserves to be award-winning, and it is absolutely gripping. Do not let anyone persuade you that this is “trash TV” – it was OJ Simpson, the man, who was trash, along with the parasitic lawyers who saw their chance for their fifteen minutes of fame.

Fiona’s rating: 9.5 out of 10

The Nice Guys

Year: 2016
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe
Written by Andrew Garrison

The first trailer for ‘The Nice Guys’ excited me in a unique way. Sure, I got excited for ‘Captain America: Civil War’, but I knew that would be an action-packed, CGI loaded blockbuster; the kind of film which is certainly entertaining to watch, but films like that are now a dime a dozen – though ‘Civil War’ certainly was among the better films of its kind. ‘The Nice Guys’ however looked different. It seemed to pay homage to the gritty, buddy cop movies of the late seventies through early nineties – films like ‘Beverly Hills Cop’, ‘Midnight Run’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’. I wanted a film that would add to that special vein of crime-comedies. Director Shane Black has always tried to be different with his films and take things in clever directions, that sometimes were off-putting, and this was no exception. ‘The Nice Guys’ was one of my more anticipated films of 2016 and it did not disappoint

‘The Nice Guys’ is about a private eye (Ryan Gosling) and a hired goon with dreams of being a private eye (Russell Crowe), who team up to try and solve a mysterious murder/suicide and a missing persons case. But as you may have guessed, things turn out far more complicated than they bargained for.

This film was quite excellent and unique, so I have very few negatives to speak of. That said, child actors are always a stumbling block for me. On occasion, you get a great one, and there are a few good ones out there right now. Many of them however come off awkward, or worse, they do nothing to enhance a movie. I found Angourie Rice as Holly March to be very awkward. I suppose it works because she is at that awkward pre-teen, on the verge of being a teen, stage. I didn’t like her at first, but she did grow on me, and whilst she was certainly not terrible, I just found her too awkward to enjoy her role.

The only other thing was I wanted this film to be funnier. Don’t get me wrong, it is funny in many areas. I chuckled often, but never really any deep laughter. There were no fits of laughter from me and maybe I expected too much from the film. So I tell you to expect humour, but go in with modest expectations on that front.

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe work well together. I love when two talented people unite to make a brilliant duo and these guys played well off one another. They weren’t complete opposites personality-wise, but they certainly had different ways of doing business and a lot of the best humour came from these two trying to solve this case together. Ryan Gosling nailed his character as Holland March. Some of his one-liners are delivered with such perfection, they will likely stand out in the hearts and minds of this movie’s fanbase for years to come. Russell Crowe played his more familiar tough guy role very well. I liked that his character had some depth that we don’t always see and it made the film all the better because of these conflicts.

The action sequences and script in this film were gritty and grimy; a perfect way to pay homage to past crime films. Things weren’t clean cut and perfectly choreographed. They were chaotic, bloody, and unapologetic. This movie really does a great job in taking you back to the late 1970’s/early 1980’s. The political and social issues of the time were very relevant. The music, television shows, cars, and clothing all very fitting. Even the language in this film felt dated, but in a good way – words and slang that are considered taboo in today’s culture are tossed about freely, whilst other phrases and words, which have come to be more accepted in today’s world, are quite vile in this one. This film paints a very bleak picture of the world these people live in and unfortunately it was very accurate. Thankfully, this film has a consistent pace of quality humour to get you past these dire times and actually enjoy the film. This movie can make you think about our world, but it doesn’t beat you with it. It merely tosses that ball out there, and you can catch it or watch it fly by.

In the end, ‘The Nice Guys’ gave me exactly what I wanted – a unique film that feels out of place in these times, and thank goodness for that. It has the action and violence you’d come to expect in a crime film, but it also fills it in with great humour and interesting, fleshed out characters. This film doesn’t hold back and definitely pays homage to great classics which have come before, and better still, it may have created a new one.

If you want a film that is truly one of a kind in today’s cinema landscape, this is that kind of film. It harks back to a more down to earth filmmaking style, with a sharp sense of humour. One of the more gritty and violent comedies out there, but not to an excessive point. If you like a hard, R-rated crime comedy, go and watch ‘The Nice Guys’.

Andrew’s rating: 8.4 out of 10

Green Room

Year: 2016
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Anton Yelchin
Written by Patrick Alexander and Noah Jackson

Somewhere between psychotic and iconic; somewhere between “I want it” and “I’ve got it”; somewhere between being sober and being lifted; somewhere between indie-punk-rock tour and withdrawn neo-Nazi grunge cults; that’s where you’ll find ‘Green Room’, red laces and all. The film dubbed by Quentin Tarantino as, “the most sensational and out of the blue film I’ve ever seen”, is a must see for anybody who’s into high-class chaos, vicious violence, terribly angry punk rock, not sleeping at night, or even the alluring Imogen Poots. ‘Green Room’ isn’t so much a horror film as it is a world-class, ecstasy-induced, thrill-fest set in the grungiest of territories, one in which we all can hope to never find ourselves…unless you’re into that kind of thing?

Starring Charlie Bartlett, Maeby Fünke, and Professor X…er I mean, Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, and Patrick Stewart, alongside Poots, Callum Turner, and not-the-footballer Joe Cole, ‘Green Room’ lives up to its billing with quality acting amidst the rampant bedlam. As Yelchin, Turner, Shawkat and Cole – whilst snagging the only gig their ambitious screamo band can find – come into a tiff with the local club owner and his angsty clientele, they find themselves clawing to make amends in any way possible. To be clear, by local club I mean, local to the supremely segregated, wooded neo-Nazi den of psychopaths far out from society, but close enough for the local State Rangers to pop in every once in awhile for a timely bribe.

So just how good is ‘Green Room’? Well it turns out Noah Jackson and Patrick Alexander are both huge fanatics after one viewing, so here’s their shared opinions. Let’s get started with the basics – the immediate reaction as the credits began to roll on ‘Green Room’. This is a film which starts off rather slow but by the end, had Noah rushing home to clean himself. According to Patrick, ‘Green Room’ is definitely one of those films which will have you texting everybody you know and postimg all over social media instantly after it ends trying to vent and hash out what the eff you just watched. Because you feel dirty, like you just watched German hentai porn in front of your grandmother for 95 minutes, but also you kind of feel mentally abused as it catches you so off-guard and hits so hard. After the opening 15 minute crawl, with no warning, no concern for pace or the viewer’s heart rates, it takes off at a dead sprint for 80 minutes full of lunacy, terror, really aggressive punk rock, hardcore neo-Nazi hate, and lots of violence.

The last movie that was as fast as this was probably ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, but it wasn’t necessarily as unexpected. But there’s another difference, which is our protagonist’s motives. In other action movies, the protagonist has at least a smidgen of an idea of what the hell he is trying to accomplish, for example ‘Die Hard’. But in Saulnier’s films, he has stated that he writes his leads as “inept protagonists” – and while this concept worked for something like ‘Blue Ruin’, a film in which the lead is on a bloody revenge path with no real plan – something about ‘Green Room’ suggested that the characters were written to be oblivious of their imminent danger, rather than painting it like the characters made a natural decision to insert themselves into that position.

For Noah, this was a bit of a misstep, but Patrick wonders whether this may be more of an indictment as to the dichotomy of ‘Green Room’ between being a thriller and a horror picture.  Saulnier seemed to get caught up using elements of both, but with a complete view of the film you realise it leans more towards a thriller. However, going into it, many will be expecting a horror film, where the characters are usually less aware of what they’re getting into. So with that lens, it made sense.

In terms of tones and themes, the director’s commentary argues how color schemes aren’t really a large portion of his filmmaking, yet the color green runs through a lot of the scenery in this film. It’s everywhere except the place that the characters spend the most time. And Noah’s interpretation would be that as green is naturally the main colour, the hatred and predisposition for horror is also natural in humanity, as seen in the fact that groups like neo-Nazis exist. On a more basic level, there is a really gross tone of suspense. The green room is of course where bands or acts chill out pre-show to get ready, but in this instance it’s not your typical green room. There’s no relaxation going on in there, no hanging out and having a good time. For Patrick, this contrast is huge – in that the setting betrays its own name.

Flaws are few and far between in this film. As Patrick always says in his reviews, the best films are the ones you don’t expect. ‘Green Room’ was really unexpected all around. Patrick, however, found that the film has no shame with gore and racial hate, which can both be really dicey topics to cover. Yet, ‘Green Room’ does both with – class isn’t the right word – but perhaps respect. The one big plot flaw I saw revolves around the police scene. Look, I’ve been arrested and cops NEVER go about things the way they did in the film, especially in this case. What kind of cops don’t sense the suspicion in the air at a secluded Aryan Brotherhood punk rock club? Not to mention the amount of incredibly stupid decisions made by the main characters. Some of the decisions come out of nowhere.

Patrick Stewart plays the coolest character in the story because while he isn’t necessarily dominative on screen, one can never tell what he is really thinking, despite the instructions and reasons he gives his cronies. It’s a brilliant performance that had me on edge for a solid 70 minutes straight. He plays it so close to the vest that you can never get his objective. Does he really only want to kill the Ain’t Rights (the band)? Or is he willing to negotiate? Is he trying to hide his lair under the club? What are his motives? You never know for sure.

For Noah, the decision in choosing to watch a film is heavily based on a director’s repertoire and experience, meaning that new directors who create legitimate movies really are something special. Yet, sometimes if a newer director casts incredible actors, it seems that an aspect of the job is done for them. From a guy like indie director Jeremy Saulnier, whose credits include the cult films ‘Murder Party’ and ‘Blue Ruin’, it’s rather surprising to behold his capabilities with top tier actors like Stewart, Poots, and Yelchin. Saulnier is becoming a very exciting director; he’s an edgy director, who hasn’t gone mainstream yet, so we must enjoy that whilst we still can. The likes of Yelchin, Poots, Shawkat, and Stewart are talented actors, who perhaps make up for some of Saulnier’s eccentricities, but truth be told you could’ve casted this film with a bunch of nobodies and it would have been just as awesome. Those brand-name actors helped thrust ‘Green Room’ into a more marketable tier, but Saulnier’s writing absolutely blows you away.

Something Saulnier noted, in an interview with Vox about his “little punk rock war movie,” is that he didn’t want to go heavy on character backstory and recalling past traumas. Saulnier chose to trust his actors to perform physically and have a natural charisma that made the characters feel like the viewer is with them. And that would help the audience “get” who those characters were at their core while filling in the gaps with the viewer’s own imagination. In having no backstory, that makes the characters feel more like stock characters and not like people, which inevitably makes them less relatable. Nonetheless, it worked in terms of pacing because the movie would’ve been a drag with any backstory scenes before the carnage begins. That’s why it worked; if they had gone back in time, the foot comes off the gas pedal and ‘Green Room’ possibly loses its insane momentum. It truly was an adrenaline rush.

Overall, the film was a solid surprise that really has you on the edge of your seat. ‘Green Room’ is an experience of its own. It’s a must-see for any horror, suspense, or thriller fan. The acting was good, the story premise was an original twist, and the overall technical aspects didn’t have any glaring flaws. ‘Green Room’ will definitely fit somewhere into many people’s top movies of 2016 lists.

Patrick and Noah’s rating: 9.0 out of 10

The Night Manager [S1]

Year: 2016
Creator(s): Susanne Bier, John le Carré, David Farr
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman
Written by Fiona Underhill

‘The Night Manager’ is one of the glossiest, most glamorous and gargantuan-budgeted TV dramas the Beeb has ever produced and has recently been launched with a fanfare on AMC in the US. It is the perfect British export – leading British acting talent, exotic locations and an examination of how upper-class British education, money and power corrupts.

Based on the novel by John le Carre (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), it is the story of the worst man in the world – arms dealer Richard ‘Dicky’ Roper (Hugh Laurie), the fringe intelligence officer Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) who has dedicated her career to bringing him to justice and the eponymous hotel “Night Manager” Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) who she drafts in to aid her.

Several major changes have been made successfully from the source material – it has been updated from its early 90’s setting to the Arab Spring of 2011, which also makes best use of the adaptation’s locations – Cairo, Turkey and Tunisia (a change from the Caribbean in the novel). Colman’s character was created specifically for her – a change from Leonard Burr in the book – to a heavily pregnant woman, which really works, especially in the exciting denouement. Roper’s girlfriend Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) has also changed substantially from the book – from a silly, British upper-class convent school girl to a New York model with a child she is hiding from Roper. This addition definitely makes the character more sympathetic and Pine’s attraction to her makes more sense in the TV series.

Something else writer David Farr and director Susanne Bier have done with the TV adaptation is substantially upped the Bond factor – the title sequence alone has every Bond trope possible thrown into it and they even have Pine ordering a vodka martini at one stage. Hiddleston has been groomed within an inch of his life into a Bond-esque antihero – sharp suited, prone to suddenly becoming topless and turning to violence at the drop of a hat. Pine is much more aggressive in the series (he does not murder anyone in the book), which shows the influence of Bourne as well as Bond. Hiddleston is playing “the observer” character again (like in his recent film High-Rise) – he is an enigma, being torn in two directions between avenging angel Burr and the corrupting influence of Roper.

Episode Four is by far the strongest of the series. Roper’s close aide and advisor Major ‘Corky’ Corkaran (played with aplomb by Tom Hollander) is being pushed aside in favour of the new young buck (Pine), leading to a fabulous meltdown in a restaurant over a lobster salad – the absolute highlight of the series for me. This episode also includes the much-hyped sex scene and a bravura turn from Colman – delivering a monologue on Burr’s motivations for doggedly pursuing Roper, dating back to a devastating School Sports Day.

‘The Night Manager’ is totally over-the-top and melodramatic – laughably so at times – but hugely enjoyable and entertaining; so much so that  I really looked forward to it each week. Laurie’s portrayal of Roper would not be out-of-place in a ‘Bit of Fry and Laurie’ sketch. However, it makes for perfect Sunday night viewing, as a sumptuous bit of fluff to envelope yourself in.

Fiona’s rating: 7.0 out of 10

Follow The Money [S1]

Year: 2016
Creator(s): Jeppe Gjervig Gram, Jannik Tai Mosholt, Anders Frithiof August
Starring: Natalie Madueño, Thomas Bo Larsen, Nikojal Lie Kaas, Esben Smed Jensen
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

Hot on the heels of our write up on Nordic Noir’s superb Scandinavian series ‘Trapped’, we were offered the opportunity to check out another, rather different show. Of course, I jumped at the chance. After all, Scandinavian crime-dramas are building one hell of a reputation, and ‘Follow The Money’ certainly doesn’t let the side down. Whilst subtitled television isn’t for everyone, I genuinely think that even your average Joe on the sofa would find it hard not to binge-watch this one.

‘Follow The Money’ (or Bedrag for any Scandinavian natives out there) revolves around a Danish energy company called Energreen and their fraudulent dealings, but it’s far more complicated than that, as we simultaneously follow three sides of this twisted story of deceit. At the head of the company is Alexander Sødergren (Nikojal Lie Kaas), a man who is seemingly very good at getting people to like him, and equally as good at getting people to do his dirty work. When he plucks Claudia Moreno (Natalie Madueño) from the legal department at Energreen and offers her the high life, she shows no hesitation in doing his bidding to cheat the stock market. On the other side of the coin, we have perennial Scandi-series actor Thomas Bo Larsen as detective Mads Justesen, who joins up with the Fraud Squad, intent on nailing Energreen and its corrupt executives. And finally, we meet Nicky (Esben Smed Jensen), a young mechanic whose petty crimes land him in the middle of the whole mess.

Now, I know I may have made that all sound rather tricky to take on board, and admittedly, early on in the series I was a little bewildered by all the different stories. However, by episode 4 or 5, you’ll be well and truly hooked, believe me. The key to this, for me, was the authenticity of the show. The acting really doesn’t feel like acting at all, and of course, we all know the idea of a fraudulent big-money business isn’t too far-fetched. ‘Follow The Money’ is a real 21st Century crime story of greed, deception and power, with a little bit of murder along the way.

natalie madueno

The ensemble cast all perform to perfection, so much so that it’s tough to pick a standout but I have to give special praise to Natalie Madueño (pictured above) whose transformation throughout the series from a timid legal assistant to a ruthless big-shot is one of incredible authenticity. By the end of the series I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for her or call the police myself. Opposite her, Nikojal Lie Kaas is instantly detestable, which I guess should be commended. Kaas successfully portrays two sides to his character – the charmer with friends in high places, and the sleazy criminal that we love to hate. Conversely, Thomas Bo Larsen – who is brilliant as always – is exactly the hero that this show needs, and along with Thomas Hwan, the pair strike up a bromance that really gives the viewer someone to root for.

Aesthetically speaking, ‘Follow The Money’ isn’t exactly laden with stunning shots and beautiful landscapes, opting instead for close ups and intense still shots which allow the viewer to scrutinise each character. The musical accompaniment, composed by Tobias Wilner, is outstanding and reminded me a lot of the work of my favourite composer at the moment Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario, Prisoners); high praise indeed.

Mads/Alf

‘Follow The Money’ isn’t the typical Scandinavian whodunit that we’ve become accustomed to. This is more of a “how-catch-em” (I’m good at making up phrases, I know), where the writers have clearly gone through a lengthy and very intensive process to develop the story in such a way that we’re just waiting for the cat to get the rat, urging old moggy on. We know the rats are dirty, they know they’re dirty, but it’s all about proving it and the team behind ‘Follow The Money’ have shown great delicacy in setting up this narrative. Luckily, this means that there’s none of the “who’s this guy again?” moments that might come with a murder mystery – which is especially helpful considering the foreign language aspect. 

For hardened Nordic viewers, this is a breath of fresh air, something a little different to usual yet just as addictive. For any Nordic novices however, I reckon this to be an ideal series to ease you into the subtitled world of Scandinavia. And just to make it even easier, ‘Follow The Money’ is now available on DVD here in the UK. 

Jakob’s rating: 7.6 out of 10

The Godfather

Year: 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

Of all the films I haven’t seen, when I quietly tell people I haven’t seen ‘The Godfather’ I am met with shrieks of bewilderment and shock. Last week, I decided to end this once and for all; I had a Saturday evening all to myself, the living room television wasn’t booked up by people wanting to watch sports or soaps and I was in the mood to be blown away harder than a rival gang member who had pissed off the Corleone’s. Yeah, that’s an in-joke for people who’ve seen the film, I’m one of you now.

The story here centres around the aforementioned Corleone family, a powerful Sicilian Mafia headed by Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). I’m not going to say too much here at all, because the story is the key to just how brilliant ‘The Godfather’ is, but basically all sorts of shit kicks off, lots of guns are fired and plenty of people die. It’s a story which peaks and troughs like a beautiful classical symphony – from brutal, all-guns-blazing war on the streets, to dialogue-laden, intense meetings, and the whole thing is incredibly riveting.

The iconic figurehead, Don Vito Corleone is portrayed to perfection by the legendary Marlon Brando. Every minute action or word is methodically carried out by Brando, from a scratch of the cheek to “an offer they can’t refuse”, this is a chilling and captivating performance and I now understand exactly why the Godfather himself has become such a monument of cinematic history. Across a wide range of supporting roles, the standout is by far and away Al Pacino – as Michael Corleone – heir to a throne he doesn’t particularly want. The character development for Michael is truly phenomenal; credit to excellent writing and a beautifully executed, transformative performance from Mr Pacino.

Ranked at number 2 in the IMDb top 250 (closely followed by ‘The Godfather Part II’ in third place), I’ve always put off watching this film because I was almost afraid of how good it would (or should) be. I knew that ‘The Godfather’ was almost definitely going to be a life-changing film and that I would love it, but with that came some pressure – on both the film to live up to expectations, and on myself to love it as much as everyone else. Lo and behold, expectations were met and I was thoroughly blown away. Visually speaking, ‘The Godfather’ is at times rather dated, not least in terms of blood and gunfire, but as I mentioned before, this is all about the story, and what a story it is. The level of authenticity, depth of the characters and sheer poetry of some of the dialogue turns a simple Mafia movie into a true masterpiece.

Francis Ford Coppola has been getting praise for over 40 years now for this film, and I doubt there’s much left for me to say that hasn’t already been said. Regardless, the praise has to keep on coming and this film should be used as a benchmark for what filmmaking is truly all about; storytelling. ‘The Godfather’ has entered my top 20 films instantly, with the potential to rise for sure upon a rewatch (or six). There are so many layers to the story and so much to absorb and enjoy that I will definitely be watching ‘The Godfather’ again, and soon too. This is, and always will be, the definitive crime-drama. Enter, ‘The Godfather Part II’.

Jakob’s rating: 9.4 out of 10

City Of God

Year: 2002
Director(s): Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firminho, Phellipe Haagensen
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

I’ve had this film on my watchlist for a very long time; I even owned the DVD and never watched it. Foolish of me really, to ignore a film ranked at number 21 in the IMDb top 250. Perhaps, like a lot of people, I was deterred by the subtitles, but since the inception of our World Cinema Club, I’ve been far more determined to discover foreign cinema with an open-mind. And wouldn’t you know it, ‘City Of God’ is a real gem of world cinema, and truth be told, you forget all about the subtitles after a while.

Set in a violent neighbourhood in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, ‘City Of God’ tells the stories of two young boys who adapt to their surroundings very differently. Based on a true story, this is told through the eyes of Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), a boy who has always steered clear of the criminal path many of his peers decided to take. His older brother and his accomplices took that path, and didn’t make it back alive, so Rocket dedicates himself to becoming a photographer and finding a lady friend. On the other side of the spectrum is L’il Dice, known as L’il Ze (Leandro Firmino) once he becomes the criminal overlord of the slums. The two young men come into contact in many ways, with bloody, disastrous consequences, but who will walk away alive?

I’m finding it difficult to comment on the acting performances on display, but only because until this very moment I didn’t even take into consideration that anyone was “acting”, so authentic are the performances. As our protagonist, Alexandre Rodrigues is very much what you would call a “normal” young man, in that he simply wants to lead a mildly successful life, be happy and live past his early 20s. He produces a very likeable and humble character, who has your full support pretty much from the start. On the other hand, L’il Ze is a truly detestable character, portrayed with such menace by Leandro Firmino. He is desperate for power and money, unpredictable in his ways and a young man with very little sense or rationale. In the middle of these two is Benny (played by Phellipe Haagensen) the most likeable and amiable hoodlum in the slums, the man who keeps the peace on more than one occasion, and a character who you’ll find yourself urging to escape the criminal life.

‘City Of God’ is an immensely powerful film, and one which – to the best of my limited knowledge – is scarily accurate of life in the slums of Brazil. The mobster feel of the criminal gangs of Rio de Janeiro portrayed here reminded me very much of a Martin Scorsese film; like ‘Goodfellas’ with subtitles. The film mixes a brilliant balance of emotion and drama, with all-out violence and bloodshed, expertly pushing the pace along by jumping between two intense storytelling techniques. Like I said previously, the subtitles become the norm very quickly (as they do in most films), but you’ll find that every aspect of this film will engross you and as a viewer you genuinely do forget you’re watching a film rather than a documentary. 

Just like a Scorsese movie, you see the characters grow and mutate and you get a real sense of just how delicately balanced their fate is. This is a story which intimately explores the challenges facing young men in Brazil, simultaneously capable of exploring the issue on a grand scale whilst scrutinising the exact choices and emotions of just one boy; now, that’s a special kind of filmmaking. Not content with simply delivering a deep and intense narrative, ‘City Of God’ utilises the rich landscapes of Rio de Janeiro and paints a picture of beauty amongst the chaos. 

My only criticism would be that the film is a little slow for the first 20 minutes, but after that you’re totally gripped and invested. The first act perhaps tries to incorporate too many characters and storylines, much in the way a Quentin Tarantino movie does so well, but once the narrative closes in and gains some focus, you’ve got a thrilling, intertwining journey that Quentin would be proud of. And, unlike ‘Goodfellas’, which I felt tailed off towards the end, ‘City Of God’ gets stronger and stronger as the film progresses.

I’m going to make this really easy for you now; ‘City Of God’ is available on Netflix at the moment. So, no more excuses, forget about the subtitles and just watch a true modern classic of not only world cinema, but cinema as a whole. This is riveting, powerful and intense beyond belief, in the best possible way.

Jakob’s rating: 8.6 out of 10

The Iceman

Year: 2012
Director: Ariel Vromen
Starring: Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, James Franco, Winona Ryder
Written by Rhys Wortham

In the United States, it’s not uncommon to see a gangster movie made every few years. They are usually in high demand and it’s kind of an oddity that people seem to continually watch them despite how deplorable the people in the film behave. For me, I watch them because of the psychology behind it, and the possibility of some good action scenes. Sure, it’s the usual, boring, masochistic ideas that wind up getting a lot of people killed, both in fiction and non-fiction, but whatever. There are always people to relate to in these movies. It seems many are just normal people caught up in very terrible situation; I guess it’s like witnessing a beautiful train wreck in motion. Unfortunately, ‘The Iceman’ is a stalled-out train going only a few miles an hour.

‘The Iceman’ is about the life and times of Richard Leonard Kuklinski, one of the USA’s most notorious contract killers and a suspected serial-killer. He claims to have killed upwards of 100 people, both contract killings and some just for fun. The thing that irks me about this movie the most is that they rarely, if at all, mention that he killed for sport; it tried to paint a hitman as a family man. This approach worked with ‘Leon: The Professional’, because Leon showed his humanity, mercy and love time and time again. Kuklinski showed nothing other than his desire to “work” as he called it in the movie. It also tried to make it look like he only had some mild anger issues and was the usual “strong silent type” left over from the 1950s. Sure, he was killing someone every other scene, but it isn’t like they weren’t bad people already, so there was no reason to object. During one particular murder, I literally caught myself saying, “Good. I’m glad he’s dead”. With such a lack of empathy for both the main character, and the overall information given in the movie, it’s difficult to give a damn about anyone caught up in all this. So, why did I even continue to watch?

The only thing that kinda saves the movie is the acting and the visuals. The shots are varied and capture intense scenes effectively. All around the acting was very good, although I don’t see this being much of a stretch for Michael Shannon. He mostly went around and looked angry half the time and barely had any dialogue. Winona Ryder’s role was instantly forgettable; it’s more than obvious that she was only interested in Shannon’s character for the money involved. I love Ryder’s acting 90% of the time, but this role was just terrible and it’s all due to the character she was playing. Chris Evans was alright as a sleazy contract killer, but it seemed like he needed to personalize the character more. Ray Liotta too, was back as the usual mob boss, but he fits the role well as we all know, so I don’t have any complaints about him. The only notable performances were David Schwimmer and James Franco, who both played roles they wouldn’t normally be cast for.

For me, ‘The Iceman’ was totally forgettable. None of the characters were notable or likeable, or even detestable in that special kind of way that makes us feel something at least; all were either severely flawed or excessively greedy. The subplots quickly came and went with little-to-no impact on the main character, or his family. This, despite the visuals, was probably one of the most boring mafia movies I’ve ever seen. Within the first few minutes I could tell that most or all of these people were terrible and not much changed throughout the course of the film. I’d skip this film if you are looking for a mobster movie. If you want a romanticised version of one of the USA’s most infamous contract killers, then sure watch this. But I did warn you.

Rhys’ rating: 3.0 out of 10