“If it bleeds, it leads.” Nightcrawler review

There’s no news like bad news for Jake Gylenhaal’s stylishly slimy anti-hero in Dan Gilroy’s noir thriller Nightcrawler.

Set during the after dark hours of LA’s criminal and concrete jungle, Nightcrawler is the story of sociopathic misfit Lou Bloom (Gylenhaal).

Turning in a career best performance as the film’s chilling protagonist, Gylenhaal, who actually chose to lose weight for the film, is almost unrecognisable as the gaunt and greasy Lou.

Happening upon a severe car accident late at night, Lou discovers the world of freelance videography.

“If it bleeds, it leads” says Bill Paxton’s seasoned cameraman Joe Loder, who’s first on the scene to capture the action.

Lou is instantly hooked.

Getting his hands on a basic camcorder and police scanner, Lou begins to venture into the LA night, lurking behind policeman and ambulance crews filming several violent crimes, car crashes and fires.

Selling his work to the highest bidder, Lou befriends ratings-thirsty news editor Nina (Rene Russo), who appreciates his graphic work and pays him well. He also employs intern Rick (Riz Ahmed), whom Lou exploits at every opportunity.

As the ratings increase so does Lou’s appetite, fuelling his insatiable need to make it to the top with no regards to who gets hurt in the process.

Debut director Dan Gilroy produces a dark and thrilling picture, using the backdrop of the eerie LA night time to create a sense of mysteriousness around every corner.

But of course, Nightcrawler’s centrepiece is the soulless Lou.

With his greased back hair and accidentally fashionable wardrobe, Gylenhaal’s eccentric Lou can be added to the list of infamous movie anti-heroes such as Fight Club’s Tyler Durden and American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman.

Although thrilling and suspenseful, Nightcrawler is dark comedy. Our psycho Lou finds finds his calling in life feeding explicit images of blood and guts news into TV sets. And we want it, apparently.

Shot in stunning noir-ish tones and gripping from beginning to end, Nightcrawler is fascinating, disturbing and executed to damn near perfection.

8/10

“Do not go gentle into that good night.” Interstellar review

Christopher Nolan is a big deal.

The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception director is probably the most celebrated filmmaker of recent times.

His steady rise to near immortality began in 2000 with the influential thriller Memento.

12 years later, The Dark Knight Rises brought to an end one of the greatest trilogies in modern cinema, grossing well over $1 billion worldwide.

Some have compared him to Spielberg; both producing smart blockbusters with box office smashing turnovers.

However, this comparison is more about their status as filmmakers – in that they can both pretty much do whatever the hell they like.

Enter Interstellar – Nolan’s latest and most ambitious film to date.

Starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, Interstellar explores the ideas of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne and his theories on wormholes and time travel.

If Inception’s dreams within dreams within dreams had your brain baffled then Interstellar will fry it, as there’s no hiding from its intellectual and sometimes overbearingly complex narrative.

Set in the near future, Earth’s food resources have been ravaged by disease and its climate has become harsh leading to frequent dust storms and a scarcity of food.

When corn farmer and ex-NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) stumbles upon NASA’s secret headquarters, he is told that unless humanity leaves Earth the human race will become extinct.

Discovering a wormhole orbiting Saturn, which is believed to be the work of extra-dimensional beings, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), reveal that potentially habitable worlds in a different galaxy can be reached by travelling through said wormhole thus, saving the human race from extinction.

Still with me?

Agreeing to pilot the Endurance Cooper leaves his family – and daughter Murphy (as in Murphy’s Law) behind, promising to return to her once the mission is complete.

At its foremost, Interstellar is awe-inspiring and almost overwhelming at times.

Its scale is incredible. As we follow the crew of the Endurance across the vastness of space it’s hard not to feel insignificant, sat in a multiplex theatre in your small town on our tiny planet.

Its pace is relentless and rather annoyingly (and on more than one occasion), the dialogue is difficult to follow. Concentration is crucial, as one lapse is enough to leave you scratching your head and wishing you were somewhere else… watching Batman, maybe.

Accompanied by the perfectly evocative tones of Hans Zimmer’s beautifully constructed soundtrack, Nolan produces some of the most stunning imagery seen in science fiction since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Black holes, alien landscapes and space paradoxes are a wonder to behold, all but enhanced in Nolan’s preferred IMAX format.

Acting wise, McConaughey’s rise to stratospheric stardom has been clear for all to see of late. Here the Dallas Buyers Club and Mud actor turns in yet another emotionally-hinged performance as pilot/father/leader Cooper. One scene in particular springs to mind, as he watches back years of video messages after landing on a planet that for every hour costs decades for those back on earth.

Hathaway adds another weighty performance in her role as Cooper’s sidekick Brand, and Nolan returnee Michael Caine plays scientific genius Professor Brand well enough.

Some noteworthy plot holes aside, Interstellar is a work of art.

There’s a feeling now that perhaps every new Nolan film will arrive with an expectation to outdo his previous.

If so, this will be hard to top.

Interstellar is many things; head-spinning, jaw-dropping and passionate, but above all else it’s an experience.

Go see it.

9/10

You can also read my review here – http://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/what-s-on/film/film-review-interstellar-1-6421954

“Wars aren’t going anywhere, Sir.” Fury review

In this gritty and brutal action drama from End of Watch director David Ayer, Fury follows the exploits of a battle weary Sherman tank crew during the Allies’ final push for the European Theatre in 1945.

In its starring role is Brad Pitt, who last had Hitler quaking in his boots in Quentin Tarantino’s absurdly enjoyable Inglorious Basterds.

Not too dissimilar from his previous incarnation, Pitt plays the battle-scarred and bullish tank commander Sergeant ‘Wardaddy’ who, along with his four-man crew, have been fighting since their campaign began in North Africa some time ago.

Outgunned and outmatched with the war nearing its end, Wardaddy and his men are forced to question their commitment when given a series of dangerous missions deep into enemy territory.

Fury is good at what it does; its loud, it looks good (though green and grey can take its toll before too long) and delivers some satisfying tank on tank action.

With the majority of screen time dedicated to the claustrophobic underbelly of the rumbling Sherman, writer/director David Ayer uses numerous close-ups and point of view shots to effectively portray both the complexities of tank warfare and the raw emotions of soldiers in combat.

But, it’s what Fury doesn’t do well that ultimately sends this slug of a war movie into disrepair.

It is overtly macho from the beginning – leaping through the air, Wardaddy unseats a German officer on horseback before plunging a knife deep into the soldier’s eye socket.

The macho mentality continues when Wardaddy takes it upon himself to turn group newcomer Norman (Logan Lerman), a boy who hasn’t fired his weapon since basic training and is literally repulsed by all things war-y, into a fearless war machine.

We’re meant to relate to Norman and experience the war through his eyes as he undergoes several rites of passage, including a scene where Wardaddy procures him a charming German girl.

And we do to some extent, even though Norman’s war is full of macho pretence and Hollywood romanticism.

In an attempt to be deep and meaningful, Fury’s narrative ends up being riddled with clichés and full of stereotypes.

The rest of Wardaddy’s unit are a bunch of all too familiar war movie types; the religious fanatic, ‘Bible’ played by the estranged Shia LeBeouf, the soldier of ethnicity, ‘Gordo’ (Michael Pena), and the obnoxious military grunt ‘Coon-Ass’ (John Bernthal).

The film’s climax is also off putting, feeling like the last level of a first-person shooter game.

Although well-acted and visually impressive, Fury’s all killer and no filler storyline burn a colossal hole in its rather ambitious shell.

Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers it ain’t, yet there’s just enough on show here to please war enthusiasts and popcorn eaters alike.

5/10

You can also read my review here – http://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/what-s-on/film/film-review-fury-1-6404324

“You two are the most fucked up people I’ve ever met.” Gone Girl review

David Fincher really doesn’t do nice.

With Se7en (1995), Fight Club (1999) Social Network (2010) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) in his back catalogue, Fincher’s latest feature, Gone Girl, is just as dark and equally as twisted as his previous works.

Heavily based on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling page-turner, Gone Girl is the tale of a modern marriage turned sour, the obsession with our perceived sense of self, and the perverse circus of our celebrity-obsessed, media-saturated culture.

On the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home to find his wife, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), has vanished.

Soon becoming embroiled in a murder investigation, Affleck’s brilliantly nonchalant Nick parades around police stations and press conferences with pomp, as well as swigging beer at his sister Margo’s (Carrie Coon), and excelling at being both a monumental arsehole and average nice guy all at the same time.

Following Affleck’s steady comeback and in his finest role since Argo (2012), Nick is effortlessly effortless, or in other words, he doesn’t give a shit.

But why doesn’t he? After all, his “Amazing Amy” is missing and presumed dead.

The answer lies in Gone Girl’s absorbingly clever narrative.

Fincher skilfully deploys two story threads.

The first follows the linear aftermath of Amy’s vanishing; the police procedure, the media circus, the pseudo-celebrity status of a missing person. At times it almost feels like a parody. But, this is Fincher’s style – playfully inhumane.

The second thread however, tells the (true?) story of Amy and Nick’s relationship from the carefree and lovey-dovey beginning.

“We’re so cute, I could punch us in the face” says Rosamund Pike’s strikingly blonde Amy, as she monologues from a series of diary entries.

We’re given her side of the story, Amy’s take on things, the voice of a victim. We want to believe her – but should we?

It’s a real star turn from the British-born actress who, like Affleck, has perhaps suffered in her career due to a mixed bag of previous films.

But, Pike grabs this one by the scruff of the neck and her performance is truly magnificent.

What keeps Gone Girl so fresh in terms of its label as a thriller is the way it progressively becomes less of a “whodunit” and more about the how and why.

Though the how is left for an unconventional but re-energising middle of the film plot twist, the why is as hugely apparent as Ben Affleck’s dimpled chin.

“That’s marriage” replies Amy (receiving biggest laugh of the film) after Nick explains that all they do is “cause each other pain.”

And being the “most fucked up people [defence attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) has] ever met,” perhaps the institution of marriage, it seems, is only for the mentally insane?

No, perhaps not.

But you’d certainly think twice about it after seeing Gone Girl, and see it you should.

8/10

You can also read my review here – http://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/what-s-on/film/film-review-gone-girl-1-6349212

“War has begun” Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review.

Andy Serkis’ Caesar is king as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rules this summer’s box office in this intelligent yet, stunningly action-packed sequel.

With an already confirmed third instalment to this Planet of the Apes origin, things are looking good for Twentieth Century Fox and director Matt Reeves, as this emotionally charged chapter in the Apes canon delivers everything from more marvellous ‘Mocapping’, to crazed gun wielding chimpanzees on horseback.

Set 10 years after their rebellion in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar’s growing group of super-smart primates have settled in the Red Woods, San Francisco, where things drew to a close last time out.

Unlike the thriving apes however, most of the world’s humans have been wiped out by the deadly simian flu teased at the end of Rise and elaborated on during the opening of Dawn.

From the start this sequel to the prequel of the reboot (confused?) is strikingly different in tone.
Where there was joy in Caesar’s triumphant and heroic rise in the first movie, despair looms large this time round and everything seems rather bleak.

Well, for the humans anyway.

Away from Caesar’s utopia, ‘genitically immune’ human survivors, living in the abandoned and overgrown streets of San Francisco, have almost run out of power and dare to cross his territory in order to fix the dam generator.

There’s no monkey business here, as Reeves immediately sharpens his focus to two significant power struggles.

This first tussle is expected.

The delicate relationship between human and ape threatens to implode more than once throughout Dawn, before breaking into all-out war, allowing the franchises’ much applauded CGI and stunt work to come to the fore.

Yet, it’s the struggle between two apes that dominate proceedings.

Toby Kebbell’s brilliant work as the ferocious and disturbingly violent Koba is hard to ignore, as he tangles with the might of a learned Caesar, putting the latter’s motto of “ape shall not kill ape” to the test.

Serkis’ alpha ape is once again sensational, as we marvel at the brilliance of motion capture as well as his undeniable acting prowess.

As emotionally hinged as the first movie was, Dawn takes things up a notch, leaving us hanging on every expression and word spoken (yes, spoken!) by the ever endearing apes.

The human characters however certainly take a back seat, with the most prominent of performances coming from Jason Clarke’s well-meaning Malcolm.

Gary Oldman’s confused role as the human leader Dreyfus is neither here nor there and, rather disappointingly, is shunned to very little screen time at all.

In this cluttered and clogged era of modern filmmaking sequels can often be wide of the mark but, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is absolutely spot on.

Expanding on the success of its predecessor, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ exciting mix of intelligent storytelling, stunning special effects and relentless action, bodes well for whatever the apes have in store for us next.

7/10

5 things guaranteed to happen at the World Cup…

With the World Cup about to kick off in Sao Paulo, Brazil, millions around the globe are cracking open a beer, donning their nation’s colours, and having to put up with Adrian Chiles’s awful presenting.

Often throwing up some unpredictable results and some irregular behaviour (from fans and players alike) you can always count on some things at the World Cup.

So, here are my 5 World Cup guarantees…

1.) Ridiculous haircuts

 

The World Cup consistently serves up some barmy barnets. Think Chris Waddle’s massive mullet at Italia ’90, Nigeria’s Taribo West’s green bunches, and Ronaldo’s unfinished buzz-cut in 2002.

However, first place goes to the Romanian team who all dyed their hair peroxide blonde at France ’98 after losing a bet. Classy.

 

2.) “That goal”

Maradona’s mazing run against England at Mexico ’86, Michael Owen’s sizzler vs Argentina at France ’98 or, Cambiasso’s stunning strike after a 24-pass-move bamboozled Serbia’s defence for Argentina at Germany ’06. Take your pick!

There’ll be plenty of brilliant goals in Brazil. 30-yard screamers, well-worked moves, spellbinding solo efforts, but only one will be remembered for years to come.

 

3.) Controversy, Controversy, Controversy

It’s inescapable.

But slightly less this time round, with FIFA’s introduction of goal-line technology.

Yet, in the past we’ve had the Hand of God, Graham Poll and his three yellow cards, Rivaldo’s ‘I-got-hit-by-the-ball-in-the-leg-so-I’ll-go-down-holding-my-face’ moment, Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany, and Zidane, almost causing the first human combustion via head-butt ever, during the World Cup final. 

We love it. And we want more. 

 

4.) A Star Is Born

Pele, Zico, Maradona, Linekar, Ronaldo…

One player will shine brighter than the rest in 2014. Will it be the home town hero Neymar? Or, perhaps the pace and power of Cristiano Ronaldo will dominate? Is it Messi’s moment to deliver on the grandest stage of them all?

No matter who it is, it will be someone.

 

5.) England lose on penalties

Sorry!

Bring it on! And come on England! 

Why I love the World Cup.

I love the World Cup.

From Michael Owen’s wonder goal against Argentina at France ’98, to Zidane’s insane head-butt during the final in Germany 2006, the World Cup is something special to me.

Being only five years old when Euro ’96 came to England, my first real memory of an International football tournament was the France ’98 World Cup.

Brazil had Ronaldo, France had Zidane, England had David Batty. All the stars were there.

Being on holiday for most of the tournament, and with my broken arm in a cast, the seaside was forgotten and the TV was my window to the world.

I still have so many vivid memories of that tournament…

Beckham’s flailing leg against Argentina, Bergkamp’s goal to knock them out in the next round, Scotland’s entire first XI caked in sun cream, and Ronaldo’s controversial involvement in the final for Brazil.

Since then, my affliction with the World Cup has grown and grown.

Every four years, for a month in June and July, football fever takes hold.

But the World Cup is not just for football fans.

There’s something for everybody admire.

The celebrations, the heartbreaks, a spirit of togetherness, it’s hard to ignore such a monumental event.

An event that is estimated to receive over one billion viewers for the opening match, more than five hundred thousand people descending on the country in the group stages and, despite concerns over the government’s organisation and infrastructure, involve 12 host cities accommodating 32 teams.

Brazil 2014 will showcase some of the best football on the planet.

Portugal’s Ronaldo, Argentina’s Messi and Brazil’s Neymar, will hopefully dazzle on the pitch along with the rest of the world’s greatest players and teams including World Cup holders Spain, a very talented German side, last time’s runners-up Holland, and dark horses Belgium.

And unlike in previous tournaments, England’s chances are firmly grounded in reality.

Perhaps for the first time in years, England and their fans may actually be able to enjoy the football produced by the Three Lions and come home from Brazil with their heads held high.

As well as the beautiful game, I have no doubts that Brazil 2014 will throw up some outrageous, hilarious and touching moments, from it’s opening in four days, to the final on July 13th.

If not, then there’s always Wimbledon.