Movie Review – Frank

Frank (2014)
Written by Jon Ronson & Peter Straughan
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson

When given an actor like Michael Fassbender, a man with a handsome leading actor face and square jaw, the last thing you would think to do is put him under a paper mache head for ¾ of your movie. In doing this though the filmmakers give Fassbender some freedoms he might not be afforded in more traditional roles in films that call on him to be a smoldering lover or a dashing hero. The character of Frank is a cipher, created by comedian and musician Chris Sievey. Sievey used Frank as a way to express the strangeness and absurdity he might have felt too nervous about showcasing with his face revealed. The film Frank, very different from the real world Frank, is a mentally ill man who is unable to see himself as a valuable person and hides in this mask, which he sees as the ideal form of a face.

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Movie Review – Mr. Turner

Mr. Turner (2014)
Written & Directed by Mike Leigh

I loved Mr. Turner! We’re in an age of the most cookie cutter formulaic biopic. Look at films like Bohemian Rhapsody, which follows a rigorous plot structure that doesn’t provide insight into its central figure. It’s not a new problem; it’s just so prevalent. Mr. Turner has no interest in exploring the early years of the English painter J.M.W. Turner, there’s no scene which shows him picking up a paintbrush for the first time as if guided by a divine hand. When we meet the main character, he’s in the last 25 years of his life, past a broken marriage where he doesn’t claim his two daughters, and whose only human connections are with his manager/father and an occasional tryst with his psoriasis riddled maid Hannah. This is not a pretty story but an honest one.

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Movie Review – The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant (2013)
Written & Directed by Clio Barnard

In a rundown northern England city, young teenagers Arbor and Swifty consistently find ways to get trouble whether it’s getting into fights at school or cursing out a parent. They cross a new line when they start stealing copper wire from local utilities and sell it to scrap dealer Kitten. Swifty finds himself drawn to the horses and Kitten owns and the scrap dealer can see the young man’s skill with the animals. Arbor feels the distance growing between him and Swifty, with the latter moving towards a better future than the deeply emotionally trouble Arbor seems capable of having.

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Movie Review – Weekend

Weekend (2011)
Written & Directed by Andrew Haigh

Russell lives in a small apartment in Nottingham, England keeping to himself and occasionally venturing out into the suburbs to visit his lifelong friend Jamie. One Friday night, on his way home from a house party at Jamie’s, Russell makes a stop at a gay club to see if there are any men he’s interested in hooking up with. He brings Glen home and begins a weekend that will quietly reshape his life and his feelings about his sexuality. Glen is very militant about being gay, studying to be an artist and wanting to make confrontational work about gay experiences, particularly surrounding sex. Russell is fully confident that he is gay but still uncomfortable being gay in a public sphere. His friend Jamie is supportive, but something else is holding Russell back. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, Russell and Glen talk, argue and have sex all while challenging the other about their ideas. By the end of this weekend, neither man will be the same.

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Movie Review – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Written by Bridget O’Conner & Peter Straughan
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

In 1973, Control (John Hurt), the head of British intelligence sends Agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) to Hungary to speak with a general claiming a desire to defect to the West. Prideaux is shot when things go bad, and Control is forced to step down. Retiring alongside him is George Smiley (Gary Oldman), his longtime right-hand man. Shortly after Control passes away and Smiley’s wife leaves him (again). The twilight years appear to be a dark road ahead. Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) is a spy for the agency who has now gone AWOL and communicated with the prime minister’s office that there is a mole for the Soviets within the Circus (the nickname for intelligence). Smiley is pulled out of retirement to run a black ops investigation into the very leadership of Britain’s intelligence service, sussing out if the new head (Toby Jones) or his lieutenants are using their position to funnel sensitive information to the enemy. The deep Smiley goes the more he realizes that he’s lost himself in a world of paranoia and mistrust.

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Movie Review – Another Year

Another Year (2010)
Written & Directed by Mike Leigh

Tom and Gerrie (yes, that is their names) are a couple nearing retirement. He’s a geological engineer, and she’s a counselor, but both of them have a great passion for nature and working in their garden allotment. Over the course of a single year, we follow them as they spend time with friends and family. We’re introduced to Mary, a receptionist at the health center where Gerri works. Mary is divorced, and her last meaningful relationship turned out to be with a married man. Tom’s childhood friend Ken is overweight and eats & drinks non-stop. Ken complains about how he’s being aged out of his position at work and that he hadn’t stopped to realize he was old now. Tom and Gerrie’s son Joe is in his thirties and still single which becomes a point of conversation during many dinners. There’s no mystery or deep conflict here; this is just life played out over another year.

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Movie Review – Four Lions

Four Lions (2010)
Written by Chris Morris, Sam Bain, Jesse Armstrong, & Simon Blackwell
Directed by Chris Morris

Nine years after the events of 9/11, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq raging on, as ISIS was growing in power, four radicalized British Muslims want in on the jihad. They aspire to be suicide bombers but want to do it legit so that they end up as kick-ass martyrs. Two of the men, Omar and Waj, fly to Pakistan to train with al-Qaeda but end up using a rocket launcher the wrong way round and blow up part of the training camp. Meanwhile, Anglo convert to Islam Barry recruits Hassan, a young Arabic rapper who wants to create a “jihad of the mind.” When Omar returns the group devolves into arguments about what exactly to bomb: a mosque and pretend they were Jews, a pharmacy because they sell birth control or some as to be determined target.

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