LFF Day 10 – Thelma | Downsizing | You Were Never Really Here | Let the Sunshine In

Thelma

Thelma (Eili Harboe) is living away from her devout Christian family for the first time to study biology at university. Isolated from her loved ones Thelma finds university to be a lonely place before she inserts herself into the life of the popular but welcoming Anja (Okay Kaya).

Anja and Thelma become close in ways that the latter isn’t prepare for. As Thelma begins to question her own identity she starts to suffer from seizures and experiences strange visions. Before too long an undercurrent of the supernatural has seeped into proceedings and Thelma can’t decide whether to be afraid or if others should be afraid of her.

Thelma is a striking film to look at and filled with nuanced performances but didn’t strike the right tone for me. An exciting blend of the supernatural and a character study but sadly lacking in the thrills I kept expecting to be around the next corner.

Downsizing

Alexander Payne’s Downsizing is a tricky film to review; I don’t know whether to review the film it sells itself as, or the film it actually is.

The film we are sold is a comedy starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who decide to fix all their troubles by being shrunk down to five inches tall so they can join a thriving community of small people. The idea here is that being small means you need fewer resources and create less waste; it’s the only way to save the planet! Oh, and your money is worth a thousand times more in the small economy. The idea is intriguing and executed well down to the smallest detail. We get to see the scepticism of those around the couple prior to the downsizing, and the small world and the procedure required to get there are convincingly realised.

So far so good! I wonder what the film will explore in this unique situation…

With the first act finished the film takes an alarming left turn. Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau are introduced as questionable racial stereotypes and a different plot is introduced that focuses less on the small world but on issues affecting the world we live in. My man bug bear really is that this plot could have been explored without the whole downsizing premise, and that a second film could have been made to make the most of that squandered opportunity.

The resulting film is amusing but very messy.

Downsizing is released in UK cinemas from 19th January 2018 and I cannot wait to hear what you make of it.

You Were Never Really Here

It is a tragedy that Lynne Ramsay hasn’t directed a film since 2011 and We Need to Talk About Kevin so her new film was met with a long queue of critics anxious to devour her latest. And boy was it worth the wait.

The always compelling Joaquin Phoenix stars as a weary gun-for-hire who will perform any task for a bundle of cash and who is plagued by traumas from his past. Phoenix is called upon to rescue a young girl from a sex trafficking ring and finds himself embroiled in a bigger conspiracy than he first realises.

What makes this film unique is that Phoenix’s character has no interest in unravelling the conspiracy or getting to the bottom of everything. He has a single focus; protecting a young girl from harm and inflicting violence on those who are to blame. Often armed only with a hammer Phoenix is a hulking bundle of sore muscle who is relentless in his pursuit.

If this sounds like Taken then forget that notion as what we have here is something without contrivance, extraneous details, or pulled punches. The violence her is unshowy and brutal. Brawl in Cell Block 99 may be more graphic but this film is much more visceral and harder to watch for it. We spend a lot of time in Phoenix’s head and see flashes of his past as they intermingle with unfolding plot. The results is a heady brew of cinematic gold.

Ramsay’s direction is perfection. Phoenix’s performance is sublime. Jonny Greenwood’s score is bone rattlingly good. An absolute trauma of a film.

Juliette Binoche

Claire Denis directs a showcase for actress Juliette Binoche as she plays a divorced artist searching for love and finding quantity rather than quality.

A witty film in which we watch Binoche work her way through a series of lovers that she finds unsuitable in a variety of ways, all the while declaring her love life to be over. The film is a fun examination of how we are often our own worst enemies and rarely know what we actually want unless it is the one this we cannot have.

Maybe I was too emotionally assaulted by the previous film but Let the Sunshine In failed to grab me in any deeper way. A fun but forgettable affair.

Girl Most Likely – Film Review

Girl Most Likely

The last time I guest reviewed a film for Mild Concern, it was Cabin In The Woods and all the review said was “Holy Shit”. Similarly, this time I could have submitted a review for Girl Most Likely that just said “Darren Criss is hot”, but I thought I’d try to use my words.

Girl Most Likely is a comedy that revolves around Imogene, a role that sees Kristen Wiig basically replicate her character from Bridesmaids. Imogene is recently single, even more recently unemployed, and the once-promising former playwright finds her life spiralling downwards and out of control. So obviously, like any normal person would, she fakes a suicide attempt to try and win back her dull socialite boyfriend. When her plan backfires she ends up on the psychiatric ward with doctors only willing to release her into the care of a family member. Enter her mother Zelda (Annette Bening) who drags an unwilling Imogene back to New Jersey and back to her childhood home.

The change in location introduces us to all of the movie’s entertaining characters. We meet lodger Lee (Darren Criss), a member of a 90s boy band tribute act who now rents Imogene’s old room, and her brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), whose sweet innocence and obsession with crabs leaves you hating Imogene a little bit for abandoning him with their mother in the first place. Lastly there’s Zelda’s boyfriend George Bousche (Matt Dillion) whose CIA agent sub-plot is so ridiculous it should be completely out of place but ends up being one of the highlights of the film.

Girl Most Likely 2

The problem with Girl Most Likely is that there’s no real problem with Girl Most Likely – it just doesn’t elicit much reaction of any kind. By the end of the 103 minutes of film, Imogene comes to some fairly predictable conclusions about home and family that we’ve all seen before.

It’s not all bad – the undeniably talented cast are all given moments to shine, and they take a middle of the road script and make it into something better than it probably should be. The evolution of Imogene’s relationship with Lee, from her initial dislike of him into something romantic, was well done and pleasingly independent of Imogene’s own character development. It wasn’t used as the resolution to all of her problems and that was refreshing to see.

If you’re a fan of Darren Criss and like the idea of him wearing eyeliner, singing Backstreet Boys songs and playing a character who is well out of high school for a change, then I’d definitely recommend seeing it. Everyone else? It’s a harmless way to pass a couple of hours, inoffensive but ultimately only okay.

At least one of those stars can be attributed to Darren’s hotness. Maybe two.

Girl Most Likely is in UK cinemas on 27th September 2013

2012 Golden Globes Nominations

With awards season truly hotting up we are treated with the nominations for the 2012 Golden Globe Awards. They’re an interesting bunch, a lot of the more challenging and/or smaller films have been passed by. The Los Angles Times has it spot on when they say that the nominations seem to recognise those works featuring the A-list actors, more accessible films and less dark dramas. No Tyrannosaur or Like Crazy to be found below.

What you will find is my gut reaction and my opinions for each category (apart from Best Original Song and Best Original Score as that is not my strong suit) whether you want it or not. Continue reading

Bridesmaids – Review

As Bridesmaids has been in cinemas for over a month now enough has been said about whether it is a chick flick, a female Hangover or just obscene and offensive. Bridesmaids is no chick flick, is better than The Hangover and only has one scene which descends into toilet humour. Other than that it is an above average comedy with some real laughs, plenty of heart and a few scenes that could be easily lost. The film earns bonus points for having Jon Hamm in a comedic role.

While the romance between Kristen Wiig and the adorable Chris O’Dowd is awfully sweet, it is pretty inconsequential to the main plot. What really grounds the film is the natural and easy friendship portrayed by Wiig and Maya Rudolph. Nothing seems forced between them as their years together in Saturday Night Live have given them plenty of time to form a genuine bond, one Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway can only dream of. The idea of meeting your childhood playmate’s new friends, and the hatred and jealousy that follows, is all too familiar. A friend of yours is not necessarily a friend of mine.

If nothing else, Bridesmaids is a showcase for the comedy wonder that is Kristen Wiig. Here’s hoping she’s the next Tina Fey or Amy Poehler and not the next Ana Gasteyer, whoever that is.

Paul – Review

Last November we were lucky enough to see an early cut of the new film Paul. We reviewed the film but within a day had received two take-down requests so did the decent thing and took the review down. At the time we were promised invites to a press screening of the film so that we could review it properly but as that has failed to materialise we’re going to republish our review. Bear in mind that we saw the unfinished film and all manner of things may have changed in the meantime.

Pegg and Frost play two friends who follow up a visit to Comic Con with a trip around America’s alien hotspots. Along the way they meet Paul, a foul-mouthed and brilliantly rendered alien voiced by Seth Rogan, who is on the run from the government. Along the way they pick up Kristin Wiig in the form of a crazy Christian and end up persued by her even crazier father. They are also chased by some rednecks with almost no consequence, it’s that kind of film.

On the whole Paul is great, very funny and lighthearted, and while the humour is normally broad and often relies on alien Paul saying or doing something rude never really resorts to pure toilet humour. In fact Seth Rogan as Paul was surprisingly funny and restrained.

The film felt like a more old fashioned comedy with the leads gradually gathering various people chasing them, a bit of romance between Wiig and Pegg, and of course the now standard bromance between Frost and Pegg.

The film’s main weaknesses lay in two of the characters who appear only briefly. Sigourney Weaver’s role was presented as a big reveal despite her having very little to do and featuring heavily in the production blogs. She did get one of the biggest laughs in the film though so who am I to complain?

Blythe Danner’s character was another that was all pay-off and no set up. The emotional resonance of the climax of her storyline fell a bit flat when we were only told her back-story in a quick bit of exposition rather than shown it properly.

Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio and Jason Bateman were all great as secret agents, and Jane Lynch’s small role as the waitress at a UFO themed cafe was a real highlight.

Paul does suffer from the lack of Edgar Wright, and is nothing compared to the Cornetto Trilogy, but a few unnecessary parts aside is a lot of harmless fun and Greg Mottola does a good job at directing. I’m willing to look past the bizarre bit of Christianity bashing that could genuinely offend some.

After the film we were asked to filled out a survey and I selected “Would definitely recommend” so do go and see Paul when it is released on 14th February 2011.

10 points if you spott Scott Pilgrim.