Month: June 2016

Good Vibrations (2014)

Terri Hooley made a name for himself during the 70s and 80s in Belfast. Whilst Northern Ireland was being splintered by sectarian violence, aka The Troubles, Hooley had become the Godfahter of Punk. And it all started with a desire to make Belfast a little more like Jamaica. As Hooley reasons, they’ve both got their problems, but at least Jamaica has reggae. He is a man unwilling to let life get him down. He boils down the Troubles as simply one day having lots of friends from different walks of life and then suddenly having lots of friends who were either Catholic or Protestant. His stubbornness not to get pick a side or to flee Belfast like others, made him a target for violence.

Directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburm (Cherrybomb), Good Vibrations follows Hooley, played by Richard Dormer, as he sets up his shop, Good Vibrations, and finds himself nurturing the underground punk scene, turning his business into record label of sorts.  Dormer plays Hooley with unbridled optimism. During his first experience of punk music, the camera allows us to linger on his cheer, laugh and boot stomp. This is a man falling in love with music all over again.

Whilst the film is all heart, it doesn’t hide away from the horrific violence on the streets. A rather potent scene sees Hooly and his bands experiencing a crash form euphoria as they return to Belfast after a weekend gigging. It’s sad, sobering and a reminder of what was happening at the time.

In terms of structure, Good Vibrations is your standard biopic. We witness him falling in love, struggling to make ends meet, having the disastrous first gig, discovering the Undertones and so on, but it never feels trite. Instead you become swept up it in all, relishing every moment of being in the company of Hooley and his gang of well meaning ne’er do wells.

Big Bad Wolves (2014)

Israeli Writing/Directing team, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, have provided in this, their second feature, a lavish buffet of dark treats that punctures the concept of machismo and questions whether the punishment can ever suitably fit the crime.

On a bright day in Israel, a Religious Education teacher is kidnapped by two men: one is the father of a recently murdered child and the other a dirty cop looking to solve a spate of similar atrocities. Hidden in the basement of a country cottage and believing themselves to have their man, they devise ways to torture a confession out of their hostage.

The subject matter is bleak, but Big Bad Wolves also manages to be perversely funny. Our torturers take time out from breaking fingers, so one can take a call from their abrasive and interfering mother. This constant switch and bait of the genre could easily derail everything. However, in the hands of Keshales and Paushado, it’s an act of plate spinning that really pays off. The film’s humour sharpens the nastiness before and after rather than providing a welcome reprieve.

Tight scripting, solid performances and a killer ending add up to a film that proves genre filmmaking isn’t limited to the US and Australia.

Stop Worrying,Your Childhood is Fine!

This memorial day weekend, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was compelled to defend himself after receiving several abusive messages on his Facebook page – ranging from being called a Nazi to threats to his cat. What were the reasons for this outpouring of anger?

In the cold embrace of the night, had Mr Gunn entered everybody’s home to leave something unsanitary in front of their fireplaces like a perverted Santa?

Perhaps the outpouring of such vitriol was decided as the best course of action because James Gunn, the director of Super, was in actuality a war criminal who slept upon the corpses of his enemies and used child slave labour.

Perhaps, on a lesser level, upon being asked for the time, Mr Gunn instinctively gave the wrong time ensuring hundreds, if not thousands of people were late for meetings, parties or trysts.

No, it was none these options. What happened, dear reader, was James Gunn had something to say about this whole Captain America business, wherein Marvel recently announced the 75-year-old superhero had been working for the bad guys all along.

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There are numerous opinion pieces out there about this, you don’t need me to hold your hand to find them. A lot of people are angry. That’s fine. Everyone is allowed to be angry about something. I myself feel the whole thing is a bit of a cheap gimmick. However, Gunn was suggesting that perhaps the histrionics were unnecessary.

‘If you’re a forty-year-old dude claiming a comics company ruined your childhood because of a plot twist,’ the director wrote. ‘You might consider that your childhood really wasn’t that great to begin with.’

And lo his call was heard across the globe and people decided they weren’t happy about being told to calm down. They cried, they hollered, they threatened to chop up his cat.

Meanwhile, Melissa McCarthy commented that those people who feel the new Ghostbusters was ruining their childhood were blowing things out of proportion. She was immediately put in her place by people one can only assume were keeping one eye on their GB Blu-ray lest it should burst into flames.

These are not isolated incidents and if you’re feeling brave enough, you could Google the response belched out into the world when Michael Bay announced the first Transformers film. The cries of ‘Michael Bay Raped My Childhood’ were both alarming and odious.

Now, let’s get some perspective here. Imagine the internet as a large lake. The fan vitriol regarding any franchise is the equivalent of a fish’s fart bubbling to the surface when stacked up against truly important matters. But for those people who dare to suggest that it’s anything other than that are being met with the intensity usually reserved for countries that commit genocide. Hell, people will use Change.org to create petitions to twist their childhood passion into something they alone want. See the one created earlier this year to get George Lucas back in the director’s chair because apparently the critically acclaimed Force Awakenswasn’t that good. Yeah, Force Awakens needs George ‘Revenge of the Sith’ Lucas to bring back some glory.

In 2013, The Guardian published an article, Rise of the New Geeks, that highlighted how things like comic books, superheroes and fantasy were now mainstream. Film companies were now interested in getting ‘geeks’ on their side as it meant more bums on seats. Shops from both ends of the financial spectrum offer goods emblazoned with Batman, Gandalf and Spider-man. Three years later and it’s hard to not think that ‘geeks’ rule the roost.

I remember the days before all that happened. When I was in high school, Doctor Who was still on permanent hiatus, I was laughed at for enjoyingThe Goon Show and the pinnacle of being cool was wearing Naf Naf jackets and watching Byker Grove. I love the fact that some of my favourite things are popular in the mainstream now, but the level of entitlement that has come with it is bordering on sickening.

Full disclosure, I hated the idea of Batman Vs Superman and the Evil Dead remake. However, I at least went out of my way to see both films and although I’ve changed my mind about one, I still think the other is a terrible idea. However, whilst I’m prone to a drunken argument with increasingly disinterested friends about the lack of virtues in that film, I would never dream of sending death threats to those who made it, or worst still those who loved it. The film didn’t work for me, but good on you for liking it.

However, a number of those who did like a certain film about an angry mummy’s boy fighting another mummy’s boy who could fly felt that they were entitled to lynch those who hated it. Namely: the critics. In what could only have a been a monumental act mental gymnastics, some felt that the film’s lukewarm reception was down to Disney paying for good reviews. Once that seed was planted, it spread across the internet and right now, you can go on social media and find numerous unsubstantiated ‘facts’ that Disney is bribing people to not like a film. Because, sure, that’s how big business works. My review ofBatman Vs Superman can be found here. If you ask nicely, I’ll show you pictures of my house in Malibu bought with my ill-gotten gains.

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And it doesn’t stop there. Look at the reviews for the new Ghostbusters toys on Amazon. One man is deliberately buying them so that he can give them one star reviews and cement his legacy as an utter self-opinionated idiot. When a nine-year-old child’s review for Age of Ultron ended up online, grown men tore him down, saying the film wasn’t made for him. That’s right, a film about adults in spandex punching robots wasn’t made with children in mind.

We have become so obsessed with our own childhoods, we are denying the right for anyone else to have their own unless it aligns with our expectations. Maybe in a sense, people are afraid of growing up, so cling desperately to their youthful obsessions because the world is a big and scary place. And in a way, that’s fine. I write as a 35-year-old man wearing Captain America pyjama pants. However, what I see happening time and time again, is this idea that childhood things should grow up with us. When the Doctor Whoepisode Let’s Kill Hitler was announced many moons ago, I stumbled across numerous requests from fans saying that Doctor Who was too childish and what was needed was an episode where The Doctor visits a concentration camp. Just let that settle in. How adult. How grown up. How paradoxically childish.

Our childhood is gone; it’s never coming back.It’s something we have to deal with. However, the spoilt entitlement we had as children appears to still be the main driving force behind the thinking of others. So what if Ghostbusters turns out to be a dud? So what if there’s four women in the lead? You know the worst thing that’s going to happen? A little girl is going to want to see a film that has characters she can relate to. They may even come out of the film that ‘ruined your childhood’ and want a proton pack, or – whisper it – may even want to watch YOUR Ghostbusters. Imagine that!

Your childhood isn’t being ruined. You’re doing fine. You will get through this. Now, get out of the  playhouse and let the other kids have a turn.

This articel was previously published on noonanjohnc.com.

Emperor (2013)

Based on a true story, General MacArthur – a wonderfully grisly and crinkled Tommy Lee Jones – is debating whether to charge Emperor Hirothio as a war criminal due to Pearl Harbour.  He puts Brigadier General Bonner Fellers – a tired and greying Matthew Fox – in charge of establishing his involvement.

There’s a complicated backstory to Hirothio’s reign during the Second World War, with historians still debating today as to how guilty he really was. So it’s a shame that Director Peter Webber (Girl with the Pearl Earring) packs such a weighty and true story into a lean 98 minutes and spends half that running time having Fellers reminiscing about a former Japanese lover. The film’s flashbacks bring nothing, except a reinforcement of Fellers’ niceness and detract from what should be the meat of the story.

It could be argued that the Emperor is merely an omnipotent spectre in a script where Feller is the sole focus, but Fox is so utterly un-engaging that it just seems a waste. This is particularly annoying as Jones is so good. When the gnarled MacArthur finally meets with the recently humbled Hirothio, you want to soak up the clash of cultures. However we’re given very little time to do so before we’re brushed outside with Feller. Emperor is a potentially engaging historical drama transformed into a Titanic-lite tale of love and loss.

Evil Dead (2013)

Sam Raimi’s 1981 The Evil Dead is, to some, the definitive cult classic. Its tale of kids being stalked in the woods by demons, whilst not perfect, has a place in many a horror-phile’s heart. It would be a foolhardy person to want to take on board a 21st Century remake. Cue Fede Álvarez, a first time director, who has been backed by Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell as executive producers.

Australia has had to wait a while for Evil Dead to get a release, and even now we’re only getting a limited one. So, is the Book of the Dead worth opening one more time?

Álvarez is obviously a massive fan of the original and has said as much in interviews. He laces the film with numerous nudges and winks to it through dialogue, sound effects and set pieces. The problem is that for a long time it just feels like a checklist of things fans would want to see. As such, it all starts to feel a bit samey; as if we’ve trundled through this corpse-strewn path before.

When the film does manage to throw off the shackles of familiarity towards the second half, it really finds its purchase and very rarely lets up. It becomes a cacophony of chaos and cartilage. Álvarez throws everything at the screen from nail guns to shotguns to blood to vomit in an effort to make us jump; which he succeeds on doing at several points. Once the screen becomes awash with a literal rain of blood, it’s extremely hard not to be swept up in the moment.

Evil Dead recalls a time when horror movies were less about getting you onto a cinema seat and more about making you jump out of it. It was a brave move to remake such a beloved film, but they just about pull it off.