Green Room – Film Review

Green Room

A punk band fighting to become neither mainstream nor anonymous end a low-key tour with a last-minute gig at a club for neo-Nazis. As they arrive at the club they are hesitant and unsettled but decide to not back down, instead planning to simply play the gig, grab their money, and get out. Having successfully played the gig and grabbed the money one member of the band sees something he shouldn’t have and the final part of the plan, the getting out, becomes all the more important and all the less likely. Trapped in the club’s green room the band are up against a horde of violent skinheads, fighting dogs, and a ruthless leader in the shape of Patrick Stewart. What follows is ninety minutes of nerve shredding terror and bloody violence.

Jeremy Saulnier shot into the world’s consciousness last year with his second feature Blue Ruin. The film impressed with its grim story of revenge, stripped down aesthetic, and shockingly unpredictable narrative. Saulnier was flagged as a writer and director to keep you eye on and with Green Room you will be glad we all did. Green Room is a beautifully dark film that quickly ratchets up the tension and never ever lets you take a breath. Repeatedly what you considered to be core characters are brutally dispatched or critically maimed leaving you painfully aware that nobody is safe or guaranteed to make the final reel.

Green Room 2

Saulnier has assembled an eclectic and skilled cast consisting of his frequent collaborator Macon Blair alongside indie heavyweights such as Alia Shawkat and Mark Webber and more mainstream stars including Imogen Poots, Anton Yelchin and Patrick Stewart. No actor is given special treatment with Stewart dialing his performance down to a calm and collected simmering menace and with Blair far from sidelined as a strangely emotive skinhead. Despite varying degrees of experience both take to the stage with confidence and bring complexity to their characters. The film is an ensemble piece with good characterisation on both sides of the barricaded door. When someone dies you know who they were and so each death matters.

And there are plenty of deaths. And blood. And gore. Green Room is at its heart a horror film and is most importantly deeply terrifying. The threat on hand is not a spooky ghost or a chainsaw wielding maniac but relatively intelligent human beings who simply wouldn’t hesitate to cut, maul, or (as a last resort) shoot you if it got you out of the way. What makes Green Room a success us that the film is, within the realms of horror, so scarily plausible and plays on the fear that if someone wants to do you harm there’s very little you can do to stop it.

As a horror film Green Room is near perfect. It is without frills and fuss with no extraneous details or distractions. The premise is simple; a group of people are trapped where they do not want to be and must get past scary men to escape. The joy of the film is in its execution. An execution that holds nothing back and constantly surprises and horrifies. I gasped, I groaned, and I hid my face.

I loved it.

Green Room is out in the UK on 13th May 2016.

The Look of Love – Film Review

The Look of Love

A few weeks ago I navigated the urban maze of Soho in London to reach the Soho Screening Rooms and watch The Look of Love. The film opens on Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) driving in a car with his granddaughter through the urban maze of Soho in London. As they drive Raymond points out the various properties he owns and explains that he bought them all for his daughter, Debbie (Imogen Poots), who has recently died from a drug overdose. Raymond then sits down to watch an old interview featuring his daughter and himself as we flashback to the start of his career…

Paul Raymond was once Britain’s richest man, his money coming from the aforementioned properties and a lucrative history in strip clubs, sex comedies, and what some would call pornographic magazines. In The Look of Love we follow Raymond’s career as he profits from displays of flesh in numerous forms, end his adulterous marriage with Jean Raymond (Anna Friel) and takes up with showgirl Amber (Tamsin Egerton) to indulge in a life of sex, drugs, and an apartment designed by Ringo Starr.

The Look of Love - Addison, Poots, & Coogan

The Look of Love has been blessed with an amazing cast largely filled with comic actors in not so comic roles. Steve Coogan nearly completely banishes Alan Partridge from your mind as he is transformed into a blonde Lothario and Chris Addison’s performance as the drug happy editor Tony Power is worth the ticket price alone. Other smaller roles are filled by the likes of Miles Jupp, Sarah Solemani, David Walliams, Simon Bird, Matt Lucas, and Stephen Fry. Heck we even get the marvellous James Lance who is never in enough films. Tamsin Egerton makes the most of her first proper leading role and is more ballsy than brave as she plays the character most often seen unclothed and with the most depth.

Director Michael Winterbottom is not one to shy away from onscreen nudity and sure enough we are presented with a plethora of scantily clad young women on stage, in swimming pools, and cavorting in Raymond’s bedroom which features sun lamps and a retractable roof. The nudity is not presented in an overly exploitative manner but is simply present in as great a quantity as it was in Raymond’s real life. For a film filled with sex and nudity there isn’t too much to titillate here for better or worse. With some exceptions perhaps…

The Look of Love - Tamsin Egerton

That said there isn’t a huge deal of depth to be found either. Events from Raymond’s life are paraded in front of us with unquestionably fine acting and direction but somehow the essence of the man escapes us. The film is solidly made; if you kick it, it won’t fall down, but look inside and it is mostly empty. By the end of the film I knew a lot about what Raymond had done but had no insight into why he had done it. Why did he love Amber above all the other women who passed through his bed? Why did he love his daughter so much yet dismiss his sons? Why did Jean put up with his philandering? The Look of Love is an enjoyable film and provides the winning combination of a perfect cast and all that nudity but it doesn’t uncover anything revealing about Paul Raymond as a character.

For a film about a man who pushed the boundaries in his time there are surprisingly few boundaries pushed onscreen. And this is from the director that brought graphic sex to the multiplex. There were moments where I could feel Winterbottom censoring himself as he shied away from fully exploiting the world of Paul Raymond. The last thing this film needed was tasteful nudity. While it is ostensibly a good thing to not exploit sex and nudity this is a film about “The King of Soho” at the end of the day and I only needed to walk for 2 minutes from the screening room to see the neon clad impact of his life, something the film failed to capture.

A film worth seeing but probably just the once, The Look of Love is in UK cinemas on 26th April 2013.

A Late Quartet – Film Review

A Late Quartet

More often than not I don’t get a chance to see a film before its release. Hard to believe though it may be, not all film distributors have yet to discover the wonder that is Mild Concern. For some films we are invited to a press/radio/niche blogger screening and for a few films like A Late Quartet this screening takes place months before the theatrical release. I saw A Late Quartet back in the haze that was 13th January 2013 and as such am relying on my notes to get me through writing this review. Below, in their entirety, are the notes in question:

So much endless talking! Slightly tedious. Just how long was it!?

Thanks for your help Past-Tim. Now allow me to extrapolate…

A Late Quartet - Christopher Walken

A Late Quartet is a drama centred around a string quartet approaching the 25th anniversary of their performing as a group. One member of the group discovers he has Parkinson’s and the group begins to unravel as old rivalries and fresh lust bubbles to the surface. The quartet comprises of Catherine Keener (my favourite actor ever), Philip Seymour Hoffman (my favourite actor ever), Christopher Walken (my favourite actor ever), and Mark Ivanir (sorry, who?) so there is a fine pedigree of comedy-drama character actors on display (along with some guy called Mark). Unfortunately the film doesn’t match the quality you would expect from this cast and instead we are left with a dry predictable drama with no sense of humour.

Hoffman and Keener play a married couple with a (crucially of legal age) daughter and Hoffman is having a predictable affair with a woman who you can’t help but feel should be totally out of his league. Keener and Egg Anne Ivanir are former lovers and there is the predictable tension this brings. You’ll never guess what happens when Ivanir’s brooding bachelor is asked to give music lessons to Keener’s attractive daughter played by Imogen Poots. Sure enough, a predictable and pretty bland affair begins.

A Late Quartet - Imogen Poots

The acting, as you would expect, is top-notch but the actors have little to get their teeth into. The numerous scenes in which they play their instruments are completely convincing to a musical dunce like me but the drama surrounding it just fell flat. Past-Tim was right; it is just endless talking, and to answer his question the running time is 105 minutes but it feels infinitely longer.

Walken is the film’s saving grace as a man losing the ability to play the music he loves and watching the quartet who should carry on his legacy allow petty rivalries to tear the group apart. Walken gives a tender performance and it is his story that pulled me through to the final scene without me doing my usual trick of falling asleep.

A truly mediocre drama that offers little relief from endless bitterness and infighting A Late Quartet is in UK cinemas from 5th April 2013.

London Shorts – LFF Review

how much for my brother

Rounding off our London Film Festival coverage are two (and a bit) shorts, all made with the support of Film London.

How Much For My Brother?

Enjoyably obnoxious 10-year-old Oscar (Joseph H. King) is sick of his younger brother Jacob (James Foster) ruining his life. Looking like a future candidate for the Young Conservatives, Oscar’s precocious as anything, and it’s evident that his parents don’t understand the burden he has to put up with as they dismiss his concerns while barely looking away from the TV. So Oscar takes matters into his own hands to rid himself of the six-year-old menace (who is adorable in his sun hat and Che Guevara t-shirt).

So far, so charming and while it does toy with slipping into saccharine the film plays with a darker side too. Writer and director Joe Tucker has created a fun and humorous story about brotherly love that had me double-take twice. Not bad for quarter of an hour’s watching.

Jimmy Will Play

jimmy will play

Masooma (Iqra Naz Rizwan) is a cash-strapped single mother whose son Jimmy (Rayaan Ali) desperately wants a new pair of boots ahead of football team trials. It’s a pantomime of a tale, the tropes familiar to anyone watching but the novelty comes from the way Masooma sets out to make money to afford the boots: a scheme that’s played out in an amusing, and wince-inducing montage.

Mawaan Rizwan has made a pleasant film with a strong sense of place, and Masooma evokes real sympathy but really, if Jimmy is so passionate about football, you feel he could make do with less expensive footwear when their meals consist of margarine and sugar.

Rule Number Three

rule number three

Due to some technical issues, I only managed to see about three minutes of Rule Number Three, which was disappointing because what I did see, I was intrigued by. Nicholas Hoult and Imogen Poots are a couple communicating through their game of Scrabble. The first few minutes were funny and I got cut off at a cliffhanger, so if someone can let me know how the full 11 minutes plays out, that’d be great.