Thursday, 27 August 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I saw this at a free preview screening courtesy of those nice people at Show Film First. Do go and see it - it will make you laugh ..... and cry.

Set in a Pittsburgh senior high school the central character is Greg who tells the story. He is gangly, lacking self respect and tries to fit in without being noticed. Hormones are coursing through his veins, relationships are a struggle and the route to individuation seems blocked by his parents at every turn. So, this is a coming of age movie and from the title it makes it clear that it also explores what makes relationships and life worthwhile in the face of impending death.

This film has a familiar plot and the narrative arc is easy to guess. A story like this with three teenagers in the lead could easily fall into usual pitfalls. This is a clever and thoughtful film which uses humour well. Many of the gags are visual and they come thick and fast - check out the dog's kahunas!

The film has many tender and poignant moments and always centres on the characters who grow and develop throughout the film. For many years Greg (Thomas Mann) has been making movies with his 'co-worker' Earl (RJ Cyler) which parody classic movies. This theme runs throughout the film and different titles come into play at different points of the story. This is cleverly done and contributes to making this a great movie.

The characters are interesting and engaging and the acting is very good - RJ Cyler could become the next Will Smith! Olivia Cooke plays Rachel who is the titular dying girl and delivers an amazingly nuanced and energised performance.

This is a generous film that will reward anyone who watches it. It won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and the Audience Award for U.S. Drama at the Sundance festival - a worthy winner which was snapped up for distribution by Fox Searchlight and I'm sure they'll make money on this one in both the cinema and through after sales. When it hits the cinemas please do go and see it - you won't be sorry. I'll give it 8/10.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

By the time a franchise gets to the fifth in the series, the challenge is always how to deliver something fresh and innovate within the constraints of a tightly defined style. The fact that the sixth film in the franchise is already in development indicates that M:I-RN was successful - at least to the satisfaction of the box office.

The difference with this one is that it starts with possibly its biggest stunt and what follows never quite takes you any higher. At 131 minutes it is a long film which probably has one too many locations in it as it struggles towards its conclusion. It is packed full of product placement too - I expected to see a disclaimer in the end credits "No BMW was harmed in the production of this motion picture"! Well - that's got all the negatives out of the way. What did it actually deliver?

M:I-RN certainly likes to globe-trot and presents Vienna, Casablanca and London, among others, with great artistic flair. Director Christopher McQuarrie frames each shot from angles that enhance the unravelling of the story. The action scenes - and there are lots of them - are delivered with amazing clarity and very creative camera work. Visually the film is stunning. The soundtrack is good too.

I won't spoil the plot for you. There is one - and it has a strong storyline that requires a high degree of brain power to keep up with. The goodies have to second and third guess the second and third guessing of the baddies and sometimes I found it hard to keep up! The conundrum always is, do you do something because that is what is being anticipated or do you not do it because the asking of the question is what has been anticipated!! The baddie is always several steps ahead and remains elusively out of reach as Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) work together and against each other to try and win the game of double and triple guessing.

There is much humour - usually provided by the character of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Alec Baldwin delivers a strong performance as the Director of the CIA. It is good to see Tom Hollander playing the Prime Minister with Simon McBurney playing his Head of MI6 Atlee. (Rev and the Archdeacon ride again! If you're unfamiliar with Rev click here.)

Rebecca Ferguson gives a very strong performance that will without doubt lead to greater things - but her accent kept slipping into some kind of generic eurospeak which is perhaps a product of living in Sweden for half her life. However, she was magnificent in the action scenes and managed to smoulder throughout the film without generating so much as a puff of smoke.

There is, predictably a lot of violence in this film - some of it a bit too graphic for my liking. I must be getting soft in my old age as it carries a 12A Certification in the UK for "moderate violence". The car and bike chases are exciting and the gadgetry that always seems to be readily available innovative and clever. This film is a worthy contributor to the franchise and the intellectual stretching offered by the plot very welcome. Because of its length, I'll only give it 7/10.