About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: Beautiful Creatures

Alden Ehrenreich is a sensitive soul who longs to leave his small South Carolina town. He likes to read and hopes to escape to university. Then along comes mysterious new girl Alice Englert, who is mocked and/or shunned by the bible-bashing locals because of rumours about her family’s extracurricular activities. But Ehrenreich is smitten, and eventually wears down the young girl’s snarky exterior. They can’t help but fall in love with one another. Unfortunately, her reclusive uncle (Jeremy Irons) forbids their relationship. You see, they aren’t human, but immortals with special powers, and with Englert’s impending 16th birthday, the time will come for her to be claimed by either the light or dark side. Or something like that, there’s other reasons for keeping them apart which are only gradually revealed. Meanwhile, religious zealous Emma Thompson is rallying the small-minded local Charlie Churchies to run Irons and his family out of town. But she isn’t quite what she seems. She seems a teeny bit possessed. Emmy Rossum has a high ol’ time as Englert’s vampy cousin come to visit for the happy occasion (She has already embraced the ‘dark side’), with Margo Martindale, Eileen Atkins, and Kyle Gallner as other relatives. Viola Davis plays the local librarian, who being black, is naturally a voodoo priestess and seer. Yep. That’s not racially insensitive casting of an Oscar winner at all. She also serves as Ehrenreich’s housekeeper on the side! (Geez, why not just call her Prissy while you’re at it?).


Yet another film based on a Young Adult series of novels, this 2013 film from miscast writer/director Richard LaGravenese (director of “Freedom Writers”, screenwriter of “The Fisher King”, “The Horse Whisperer”, and “The Bridges of Madison County”) is certainly on the same level of quality as “Twilight”. That’s not a compliment, the film is absolutely terrible. Southern Gothic for Twihards, all this one has going for it is Jeremy Irons enjoying himself, and a hot as hell Emmy Rossum playing the only character worth a damn. The scenery would be absolutely freaking amazing if DOP Philippe Rousselot (“Sherlock Holmes”) weren’t ordered to follow the Summit Entertainment mantra of ‘All Blue, All of the Time’. It’s set in the South, but it’s blue all the time, and no one has a tan. What is it, the South of London? Gimme a break. It has been really poorly shot, it’s way too dark, and the filmmaker resorts to thunder and lightning in lieu of real Southern Gothic atmosphere and flavour. I wasn’t buying it. Where is the sweltering Southern Gothic heat for cryin’ out loud? I kept waiting for Tyrion Lannister to walk on and proclaim ‘Winter is Coming’. On the rare occasion Rousselot is afforded the right to film more than one colour and a little bit of light, the scenery is excellent. The rest? Murky as hell, and about the only thing convincingly Southern Gothic about the whole film is an eye-patch sporting Pruitt Taylor Vince playing a high school teacher.


There’s one particularly head-scratching moment early on when the prissy Christian teen bitch complains that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a banned book and she shouldn’t, as a Christian, have to read it. Her best friend is African-American. What, outside of the African-American issues in the film could possibly offend a small-minded bible-basher? It surely isn’t just because it features a rape, no it’s because it involves rape and racial issues presumably, and as such it’s a stupid, stupid mistake by someone either at the screenwriting level, the casting level, or the novel itself. Oopsy.


Lead actor Alden Ehrenreich is horrendously miscast as the supposed Robert Pattinson of this potential franchise. He comes across like a creepy pervert, when he’s supposed to be oh so deep and thoughtful. How do I know that? Because we’re given obvious short-hand- he reads Kurt Vonnegut. Oooh, he’s a thinker! No, he’s the kinda guy you cast on a teen TV drama as a date rapist or that creepy town outcast who spends most of his days in his basement torturing rats or something (When he’s not getting slammed into lockers at school, that is). Aussie-born actress Alice Englert isn’t any better as this franchise’s Kristen Stewart by way of “Juno”. She’s introduced with such a sarcastic “Juno” cliché that she immediately grates. Her dialogue sounds way too inorganic, and the actress isn’t good enough to get around it. In fact, as horribly mannered as Ehrenreich is, Englert (daughter of Jane Campion, apparently) is amateurish. Worse still, after about 10 minutes, the snark goes AWOL and Englert just becomes boring and generic. What the hell? They are seriously annoying lead actors and terribly tedious characters. And the whole film revolves around them, which causes many, many problems. For instance, even if an immortal would fall for a mortal, it wouldn’t be this dorky, creepy Gomer Pyle mortal, that’s for sure.


More interesting are Jeremy Irons and the highly underrated Emmy Rossum. Neither gives a convincing performance, mind you. I mean, would you believe Jeremy Irons as a Southerner? Of course not, but what was Herbert Marshall doing in “The Little Foxes”? Good work, that’s what he was doing, never mind the accent. Irons doesn’t exactly do good work (he’s pretty close to it, though), but he’s the only one here who knows this is shit, and decides to have some fun with it whilst not disgracing himself. BTW, what’s with those insanely gaudy interiors to Irons’ house? They’re incredibly out of place with everything else. Even with shorter hair, Emmy Rossum is positively ravishing, and although she’s been given an impossible assignment with her ridiculous role, she definitely has vampish sex appeal in spades here.


But that’s it for niceties, I’m afraid. Emma Thompson is a wonderful actress, everyone knows that. However, she loses an immense amount of credibility here, completely ridiculous and miscast. How bad and ridiculously hammy is she? At one point, she remarks ‘Well slap my ass and call me Sally’. Wow. By far her worst performance to date, she’s so embarrassingly bad that at first I didn’t realise that her character was inhabited someone (or something) else, because Thompson’s performance is ridiculous from the outset, continues to be ridiculous, and ends ridiculously. What in the hell was she thinking? Viola Davis, meanwhile looks like she thinks she’s well above this. She’s right, but she also agreed to make the movie, so what’s your friggin’ problem, woman? Don’t sign on to a piece of crap in the first place, OK? Meanwhile, if you can’t see how this ‘curse’ resolves itself, then I hope you enjoyed your first movie. Might I suggest something not from a Young Adult book series for your next viewing?


This film is so very, very stupid. It seems like it’s not meant to be funny, but it’s incredibly laughable. It’s also incredibly plagiaristic of “Twilight” (despite having the opposite view of religion to that Mormon text masquerading as YA Fiction), and features some truly hoary old concepts. It’s your standard conservative town who shuns the outsider family who are believed to be some kind of pagans/ Satanists/Wiccans/Mormons, etc. This time they’re immortals. Or something. I’ve seen the film and I still don’t believe it was ever quite explained exactly what Irons and his family were. It’s really old stuff, really badly done, and with a typical “Twilight” lovers-who-can-never-be thing tacked on for monetary purposes. Emma Thompson should be truly ashamed of herself here. Not as bad as “The Host”, but still really bad. Read “To Kill a Mockingbird” instead. Hell, the movie’s pretty good too.


Rating: D

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett stars as Jasmine, who despite claiming to be broke, flies first class from New York to San Francisco to stay with her working class adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Ginger’s current squeeze Bobby Cannavale isn’t too happy about this living arrangement, and the snooty Jasmine certainly doesn’t approve of the rather boorish, but well-meaning mechanic. She also looked down on Ginger’s previous handyman hubby, Augie (Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay, boorish and not terribly well-meaning), and seems all-round ungrateful to be put up for a while by her sister. We learn through flashbacks that Jasmine was married to a scheming and outrageously womanising con-man venture capitalist (Alec Baldwin). Her current living arrangements with Ginger are a result of that situation completely blowing up, and Baldwin committing suicide (Augie, by the way, also got screwed over by Baldwin). Now Jasmine is starting all over again from the bottom, and for someone used to an affluent lifestyle, let alone someone who thumbs her nose at anyone below that social class, it’s not going to be easy. So when a rich diplomat walks into Jasmine’s life, she doesn’t exactly give him a detailed description of her current financial situation.

Meanwhile, the past continues to haunt Jasmine, who has never quite put it behind her. She’s on meds and occasionally seems to talk to herself. Max Casella plays one of Cannavale’s buddies, and Louis CK plays a nice guy sound engineer who may be a better choice for Ginger than Cannavale.


Y’know, just once I’d like to see Woody Allen fuck with us and use a Comic Sans font over the credits. Am I the only one?


One of the more popular films writer-director Woody Allen (whose best films are “Annie Hall”, “Manhattan”, and “Deconstructing Harry”) has made in recent years, this 2013 film looked to me like it was going to be a neurotic chore. The ads made it look like it was going to be a lot of Cate Blanchett and the hideous English actress Sally Hawkins yelling at each other in shrill histrionics for two hours. Thankfully, that’s hardly the case at all. In fact it’s a really solid film, very well-written and acted by everyone, even by Hawkins, who is at least palatable in this.


It’s also the least misogynistic film Woody has made in a long time, the men are mostly pigs or losers. There’s also no real Woody surrogate in this one, so if that’s something which grates on you, there’s no need to worry about that. In fact, the title character played by an Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett is one of the best-written of Woody’s career. Ostensibly a self-absorbed socialite on a downward turn (something Blanchett could play in her sleep), she’s a bit more than meets the eye, which helps keep the audience from frankly detesting her. I mean, this is a woman who claims to have no money, yet she still flies first class. One must keep up appearances, I suppose…even when you supposedly don’t have the money to do even appear affluent. She’s a self-absorbed, ungrateful and dismissive snob, but you can’t quite get around to hating her, even when she single-handedly fucks up a good thing through her stubborn refusal to admit her shortcomings. She’s on meds and clearly troubled, but no mere one-dimensional neurotic Woody substitute, either. That would be unendurable. She’s been wonderfully well-written by Allen, and perfectly acted by Blanchett, even if she likely earned this Best Actress Oscar predominantly because Gwyneth Paltrow stole her first one that she really deserved in 1998.


But as I say, there’s more to Jasmine, only slowly revealed in the film. She’s clearly a troubled woman barely keeping it together, despite her snooty upper-class artifice, and whether she’s likeable or not, most of the men in the film are no better, possibly even worse. So Allen’s not getting all of his misogynistic jollies out of this one character. Allen has given the versatile Blanchett one helluva showcase and the actress doesn’t disappoint. It’s an excellent performance. Some have said that Jasmine is basically Blanche DuBois in Woody’s reworking of “A Streetcar Named Desire” (a role Blanchett played on stage in 2009), but I think that’s far too simplistic. Yes, there’s elements of that in the film, but the Stanley character has clearly been split in two and neither of those two have much to do with Jasmine/Blanche, so the resemblance is mostly lost on me. It may not be entirely original, but it’s no remake of “Streetcar”.


The rest of the cast are an interesting bunch, too, if not quite on Blanchett’s performance level. As I’ve said, I loathe Sally Hawkins, she seems to play every character as a whiny, cockney, lower-class irritant. Here transplanted to the US, she plays the American version of her usual persona and it’s surprisingly a lot less irritating. I’m not sure if that ultimately says more about my tastes or about Hawkins, but I certainly can’t say she’s miscast or bad in the role here. Alec Baldwin is only seen in flashbacks (that, although not telegraphed, aren’t confusing either), but as was the case in “To Rome with Love”, he’s in fine form as an unscrupulous bastard. ***** SPOILER WARNING ***** Meanwhile, it’s kinda interesting that Peter Sarsgaard essentially plays the only semi ‘nice’ guy in the film or at least the right socioeconomic match for Jasmine’s accustomed way of living, and because she is dishonest with him, she messes up her one chance at potential happiness (and back up the social ladder) with him all on her own. And Woody doesn’t let her fall softly, either. ***** END SPOILER WARNING ***** Don’t get me wrong, the characters played by Bobby Cannavale, Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay, Max Casella, and especially Louis CK aren’t one-dimensional, hissable villains, not at all. In fact, CK has a laidback, quite likeable quality to him (at least until we learn more about him), even if I’ve never found the guy remotely funny. It was nice of Woody to throw veteran foul-mouthed stand-up comedian Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay a bone here, and he’s actually perfectly cast as a boorish lout, but one who may have good reasons for not liking Jasmine. He’s not the first name you’d associate with a Woody Allen film, but he fits in and is a good match for Hawkins. They both scream ‘trailer trash’. The only problem with Bobby Cannavale’s performance here is that it seems to be the same well-meaning oaf that he plays every single damn time. Well-cast and a good performance, but you’ve seen him to it plenty of times before. It was a nice surprise to see former “Doogie Howser MD” co-star Max Casella in this, and playing a well-meaning moron whom Jasmine has unsubtle contempt for, he seems to be channelling Joe Pesci playing Super Mario. Look at the film and tell me I’m wrong!


The film has been quite nicely, and thankfully steadily shot by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (who did great work on “The Road” and appalling work on the “Fright Night” remake) as well, and it’s interesting to find that Jasmine has fled New York for San Francisco, as New York used to be Allen’s city of choice. This is actually, at the end of the day a very sad and bitter film, though with occasional moments of dark comedy. The ending in particular is quite sad. You may not like Jasmine by the end of the film any more than you did at the start, but you’ll likely understand and pity her.


It’s a solid and interesting film from the uneven Allen, one of his better ones in recent times for sure (certainly better than “Midnight in Paris” and “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”), and a great showcase for Cate Blanchett.


Rating: B-

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: The Box

Set in 1976, husband and wife James Marsden and Cameron Diaz (who have a young son) find a peculiar box on their doorstep. It has a red button on it, and a message saying that someone will visit them by the end of the day. That someone turns out to be avuncular, but horrendously scarred Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), who tells them that they can become rich by pushing the red button. However, he tells them that by doing so, someone they don’t know will die. They cannot investigate Mr. Steward or his employer, nor can they tell anyone about this. At first, they dismiss this as a hoax or at least nonsense, the button doesn’t appear to be connected to anything, the box is entirely empty. Meanwhile, Diaz (a teacher) and Marsden (who works for NASA) both experience serious setbacks at work. Seemingly on a whim, and without consulting Marsden, Diaz pushes the button. And so their nightmare begins. Celia Weston plays Diaz’s mother, James Rebhorn plays Marsden’s superior at NASA, and Jennifer Rush plays a creepy mystery woman I can’t even begin to tell you about.


Well, the good news here is that the third film from director Richard Kelly is a vast improvement over his previous film, “Southland Tales”. But since “Southland Tales” is one of the worst films of the last decade, and this 2009 film from the writer/director is still well below his startling debut “Donnie Darko”, let’s not bring out the champagne and party whistles yet. It’s not a very good film at all. Based on a Richard Matheson (“The Incredible Shrinking Man”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “Cold Sweat”, “Twilight Zone: The Movie”) short story, one gets the feeling watching the film that the story ought not have been stretched to feature film length. Practically nothing of consequence happens for the film’s first hour as a result, and it’s unsurprising that they made a “Twilight Zone” episode out of the story. That’s where it belongs. Stretching things to feature length and drawing it all out (I hear the original story really only had one act) only makes one aware of how silly it all is. It’s a pretty stupid plot when you think about it, and sadly, you get a lot of time to think about it. I mean, what I don’t get is this: They can either press the button or not. They’re worried that pressing it will cause someone to die, but don’t believe that’s even possible given the button isn’t connected to anything anyway. So wouldn’t it be better to not push it? If it’s not real, then why even bother pressing it? Because there’d be no story, that’s why.


And that’s the problem. Although I’ve read much to the contrary on IMDb message boards, I just didn’t see the sense in pushing the button, and didn’t believe anyone would. The monetary value is far outweighed by the negatives as far as I can tell, that’s if you believe that the button even works. So when they did push it, I felt it was merely because there’d be no movie without doing so. That’s not enough to interest me, I’m afraid, but those who might consider such a thing may be intrigued by the film. However, even then I honestly don’t believe that this particular couple would have pushed the button, knowing what we know about them. They are otherwise a nice, likeable couple- the best thing the film has going for it- and cash-strapped or not, I just didn’t believe they were the type to do it. The fact that Diaz really only does it on a whim pretty much confirms that Kelly even knows there isn’t enough reason for them to do it. If he wanted us to accept the idea, we needed more scenes with the couple financially struggling. As is, they only seemed at worst to be at the beginning of some hard financial times, not nearly enough to start considering being accessories to murder (Or would pushing the button make them murderers?). I mean, Marsden might not be accepted for astronaut training, but he still works for NASA, right? That’s gotta be some decent pay, surely.


Some will be glad that this is a less dense plot than Kelly’s previous films (I was able to follow “Donnie Darko” well enough on first viewing, but “Southland Tales” is impenetrable and just plain terrible), but I was rather disappointed with the story, which seems more like mediocre M. Night Shyamalan material (“Lady in the Water”, for instance) than someone who gave us the mind-bending “Donnie Darko”. At first you keep on watching because (although one twist is obvious from the get-go), you’ll have no idea where the fuck it’s all really going or what the purpose for it all is. However, once it starts to get there, you’ll wish it didn’t bother. It boils down to a morality film, something in between “Needful Things” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (but as directed by David Lynch or David Cronenberg, say, or maybe even Roman Polanski on a bad day). I’m fine with classic sci-fi and morality tales individually, but the combo of both here is underwhelming. Having these characters basically teaching people a lesson in morality seems awfully small for who and what the characters in question are. You keep expecting a grander scheme to be unveiled, but it never arrives. Nope, this really is all they have, and you’ll be rolling your eyes. These characters could’ve made for a much more interesting and thought-provoking film than what is really a stock-standard story about morals, ethics, actions, and consequences. Yes, it worked in “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, but that was an exception.


The performances are a mixed bag, with Frank Langella and whatever the fuck is wrong with his face standing out. He’s immediately unsettling, but with just a hint of Sidney Blackmer-esque avuncular quality to him. In fact, there’s a touch of Polanski to the film as a whole, actually. I’m not normally a James Marsden fan, but he’s likeable here and relatively convincing, he has a bit of a JFK/RFK look to him that suggests the 50s more than the mid-70s, but nonetheless he’s fine. Less convincing is Cameron Diaz, who attempts a Southern accent. Someone should’ve put a stop to it, accents aren’t her thing, and unfortunately it’s Diaz herself who seems to put a stop to it about 80% of the time. Whoops. She looks a lot less weathered and haggard here than she has in other films of the last five years or so, but is nonetheless not very convincing in the role. In a smaller role, James Rebhorn working for NASA immediately makes one question the validity of the moon landing. That guy’s not trustworthy in anything. Celia Weston is also impressive in a few scenes as Diaz’s mother.


One of the film’s best assets is the excellent cinematography by Steven Poster (“Blood Beach”, “The Boy Who Could Fly”), with particularly unsettling, Kubrick-esque shot composition. A major debit comes in the form of the horrendously overstated music score by (amazingly) three composers; Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, and Owen Pallett (otherwise known as something called Arcade Fire. I’m old, OK?) It’s the worst, most irritating Bernard Herrmann imitation you’ve ever heard and helps drag the film down further.


It’s not a boring film, just pretentious and ultimately disappointing. It’s a well-shot and interesting failure, but a failure nonetheless. You’ll keep watching, but you won’t come away from it satisfied in the least. 


Rating: C

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Déjà vu

*****SPOILER WARNING***** Whilst much of the information contained in this review is revealed fairly early in the film (and in every review of the film), you might wish to save this review for when you’ve finished watching it. In the meantime, if you’ve seen the trailer, just look at my score and then decide if you want to see it (I hope you do see it, by the way). Filmed in post-Katrina New Orleans (everyone else mentions it in their review, so who am I to buck the trend?) ATF agent Denzel Washington (who investigated the Oklahoma City bombing, another detail everyone else seems to mention- what can I say, I’m a sheep!) looks into the explosion of a ferry that has killed several hundred people. He is particularly fascinated in a deceased young woman (charismatic then-newcomer Paula Patton) who was seemingly in the area at the time, and is somehow connected to the bombing. Val Kilmer (who used to be the skinny Batman, right?) is an FBI man so impressed with Washington that when he takes over the investigation, he sees an opportunity to use Washington’s experience and intuition. And here’s where it all gets a little nutty. You see, Kilmer and his crew of brainiacs have acquired new surveillance technology that Kilmer initially explains as a digital composite of satellite images from four days previously (you have to wait four days before you get today’s images, in other words. Or so I gather. Brain hurts, me so sleepy!), and from any angle necessary (but never rewinding to watch something again). The truth is, however, even more fantastical, though at times Denzel seems more fascinated by this dead woman, becoming obsessed with her, despite knowing that she will die (Or already has. Whatever. Head Hurts). Jim Caviezel plays the domestic wacko (Jesus as a terrorist? Um, OK then...), Bruce Greenwood an FBI bigwig, and Matt Craven is Washington’s ill-fated partner (What is it with Craven getting bumped off early in a film, it happens a LOT!).


Surprisingly fascinating, even more surprisingly intelligent 2006 re-teaming of director Tony Scott (the enjoyable “Enemy of the State”, the shamefully dishonest exploitation flick “Man on Fire” with Denzel) and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, exceeded my expectations by creating an interesting and plausible (within the realms of a futuristic thriller, that is. The technology may not yet be available, but it’s not too far removed from the widely-used Google Earth actually, a quality the film shares with “Minority Report”, among other ideas) time travel story, perhaps the best of its kind since 1985’s “Back to the Future”. It may not have flawless logic but time and care has been taken to make things work as well as possible. Look at the footage of Patton, and then watch Scott account for Denzel somehow being there too. It’s smart. I’m not entirely certain that the ending holds up, but I do understand why the filmmakers think it does.


It starts off a little shaky (despite the always sturdy Washington), but once Kilmer (looking a little chubby, actually and presumably only on hand to be able to say he’s worked with Denzel) and his techie crew (including a well-cast and really quite funny Adam Goldberg) show up to point the film in another direction, it’s compelling stuff. Intelligent screenplay by Bill Marsilili and Terry Rossio (the latter being one of the scribes of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films), it should be noted, however, that diehard Bruckheimer fans need not be worried. There’s a helluva action sequence that puts a new spin on the old freeway chase scene. It’s truly the most inventive chase scene I have ever seen, though there’s not too many other action moments in the film. It’s thankfully not as shaky or masturbatory as other Scott films, this one’s got some nifty camerawork and is a helluva crisp-looking film.


Absolutely not for people who hate sci-fi, even though this isn’t exactly in that genre, which is what separates it from “Minority Report”. Both films are excellent and well worth seeing, despite sharing thematic and story elements. This film is definitely more of an investigation/mystery flick with elements of sci-fi. The crime and main characters are interesting enough (Patton does so much with so little, a masterstroke in casting), but the technological twists and turns come to take what is an enjoyable terrorist thriller and turn it into something really unique and fascinating.


I think this is one of the more underrated films of the mid-00s, and just a fun, fascinating ride with a human element more successfully done than in many other time-travel films (I didn’t buy “The Time Traveller’s Wife” in the slightest).


Rating: B

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: 24 Hour Party People

Steve Coogan stars as Tony Wilson, a Granada TV presenter who went on to form Factory Records, and from 1976 to 1992 helped put British New Wave music on the map (Manchester, specifically), through bands such as Joy Division, the subsequent New Order, and the Happy Mondays, whilst not making all that much money himself out of it. It’s all about the bands and the music, you see. Wilson also co-owned a dance club called The Hacienda, which seemed to give birth to the rave movement/culture, but didn’t turn much profit because everyone was scoring Ecstasy instead of going to the bar for a drink. Before all that, though, Wilson (who is a bit of a selfish prick, as played by Coogan) would host a music TV show called “So It Goes”, for more discerning music lovers eager to see bands who don’t normally get mainstream media coverage. Paddy Considine plays Wilson’s chief business partner, Rob Brydon and Simon Pegg play journalists, Sean Harris plays troubled Joy Division front man Ian Curtis, and Andy Serkis is a hairy, temperamental sound engineer.


I love music (Rock, hard rock, heavy metal, and 70s R&B predominantly, the occasional bit of disco), and being born in 1980 and having a brother three years older, obviously I grew up enjoying a lot of 80s music. I still do, but I also love music from earlier than that period. But the British New Wave scene never was my bag really (nor the Punk movement that preceded it), so spending two hours with Michael Winterbottom (“9 Songs”, “The Killer Inside Me”, “The Trip”), Steve Coogan, and a bunch of bands I either don’t much like or haven’t heard of, didn’t sound like my cup of tea, really. Having seen the film, I actually rather enjoyed it.


Taken as a slice of life, a period of time in music from a particular place, it’s done in enjoyably irreverent fashion, and I wouldn’t call the Frank Cottrell Boyce (“The Railway Man”, the long-running UK soap “Coronation Street”) screenplay lacking in substance, just lacking in character depth. But since that’s not what it’s really aiming for, it doesn’t matter much, and never bores you. It gives you a feel for the time and place and the music, and that’s all it’s really trying to do. It’s certainly more convincing and substantial than the similar “CBGB” from 2013. In fact, the only issue I really have with the film is that the titles design at the beginning is almost entirely unreadable. Nice going, geniuses.


Is the irreverent approach (or post-modern, if you have your head up your arse) especially to my liking? Perhaps not, but I nonetheless applaud Winterbottom for having the guts to try something a little different, and it certainly plays to Steve Coogan’s strengths as an actor. The thing with Steve Coogan is that all of his characters are largely the same, and seem to be slightly different versions of himself. That’s fine, not all actors can or need to disappear into a role, so long as he keeps finding characters that allow him to give this kind of performance. It does make you wonder how much of an arsehole he is in real life, though. TV presenter and Factory Records owner Tony Wilson is certainly a good fit for Coogan. I’m not sure if he plays the role accurately (not knowing much about the guy), but his is nonetheless in his element as a very Alan Partridge-esque character. The film offers Coogan several to-camera bits that are rather cute, though they take some getting used to. He also gets one subtle but very strong dramatic moment reacting to a certain death ‘in the family’ so to speak.


Sean Harris is the other actor you’ll remember here, played the seriously troubled and sadly short-lived Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis. He doesn’t look much like Curtis, but sings rather well, and from watching Harris you can believe that this guy wasn’t long for this world, and wasn’t right in the head (In fact, in every film I’ve seen Harris in, he seems out of his freaking gourd). This guy has already checked out when we meet him, he clearly doesn’t want to live anymore. Andy Serkis (who later effectively played pre-Punk musician Ian Drury in the interesting “Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll”) doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time, but as the seriously crazy Martin Hannett, the unstable sound engineer he’s crazy fun. I do wish that Simon Pegg and the talented Rob Brydon were given more screen time here, but those are minor quibbles.


If you’re a fan of any of the bands depicted in the film, then this is a no-brainer (And if you hate Simply Red and Mick Hucknall, you’ll find at least two moments hilarious). But even if you’re not, it’s still an interesting and important film. If you don’t like music at all, well you probably need to seek help for that, but perhaps you’ll appreciate the rather irreverent approach Winterbottom takes to the material here. 


Rating: B-