Sunday 18 February 2018

Cinema: Fast and Furious 7

Cars, explostion and testosterone: Vin Diesel and Jason Statham in the pleasantly self-parodying Fast and Furious 7
Cars, explostion and testosterone: Vin Diesel and Jason Statham in the pleasantly self-parodying Fast and Furious 7
Teenage angst: Bianca A Santos, Mae Whitman and Skyler Samuels in 'The Duff'
Ester Martin Bersgmark
Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in While We're Young

Hilary A White, Padraic McKiernan and Aine O'Connor

Reviewed this week are Fast and Furious 7, While We're Young, Something Must Break, The Duff and The Water Diviner.

If you seek romance, emotional depth, plausibility, good dialogue, class acting or any kind of subtlety you are probably not reading this review. The clue is in the film title, especially the 7 part, we've been here before. This outing is more cars, explosions and testosterone, it's pleasantly self-parodying and has some truly incredibly choreographed set pieces. All with the added poignancy of being Paul Walker's last film, peppered with lines that would become tragically ironic about not dying in car crashes or having to attend any more friends' funerals.

Here the F&F stalwarts (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Cris "Ludacris" Bridges and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) are targeted by uber baddie Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham.) Meanwhile a super hacker, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) has been kidnapped by terrorists so, working with suave covert ops guy Petty (Kurt Russell) they all work together to kill a few birds with one stone, many cars, some super weapons, incredible stunts and wreak havoc all over the world.

Director James Wan takes some classic scenes, for example from The Italian Job and Thelma and Louise, and takes them that bit further. It's clever. The tribute to Walker, who died towards the end of filming, is surprisingly subtle and affecting. At 137 minutes it's too long but it is still way better than it has any right to be. There's not much in the way of bad language or sex, though there are some women-objectifying camera angles. It's pretty good of its type.


Now showing

Cert 12A

While We're Young

Cert 15A

LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy had a great line about “losing my edge” to the kids “coming up from behind”. It’s possibly why Murphy supplies the soundtrack to this superb comedy which prefaces itself with similar musings by Ibsen.

Yes, the theme of being usurped by fresher-faced generations is an age-old one but it takes Noah Baumbach (The Squid And The Whale, Frances Ha) to transpose it into the strata of Brooklyn hipsterdom. While We’re Young feels like the culmination of everything the writer-director has been trying to say in a career depicting intellectual snobs, flaky waifs and privileged emotional naifs. Look at Josh and Cornelia (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts), hapless and childless forty-somethings faffing about New York and growing continually disengaged with their baby-sprouting contemporaries.

Then Josh meets young hipster couple Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). Josh is enamoured with their can-do creative attitude and achingly cool tastes. Before you know it, the four are going to ayahuasca retreats. Question marks start to appear over the pair but are these symptoms of Josh’s wisdom or his insecurity?

Like much of Baumbach’s oeuvre, everyone is a bit crap, sometimes charmingly so, and the cast all negotiate that line between obstinate and endearing with aplomb. But his writing here is the most pointed and perceptive it’s ever been, able to speak to both the eye-rolling cynic and the idealist, alike.

A very clever film, but never too clever for its own good.


Now showing

Something Must Break

No cert

Something Must Break (NÅNTING MÅSTE GÅ SÖNDER) is another interesting example of the kinds of films and topics coming out of Sweden. Director and co-writer Ester Martin Bersgmark,  creates the story from hir* own transgender experience and a novel by co-writer Eli Levin.

Essentially a love story, it is at its most powerful a depiction of loneliness and isolation, a so often largely self-imposed inability to connect.

Sebastian (Saga Becker) dreams of becoming Ellie, a more powerful and female version of himself. His look is androgenous but not cross-dressing, tamed to straight maleness during his shifts in a warehouse. His lesbian housemate is his not always entirely stable source of stability but most of the time Sebastian struggles between wanting to belong and wanting to antagonise. In one such act of self-sabotage he reaches out for a less than likely looking candidate in a public toilet and gets a violent reaction. A random passer by intervenes to save Sebastian and together they flee.

Sebastian saves the bloody tissue from his saviour’s nose, another for his collection of mementoes. When they meet again his saviour, Andreas (Iggy Malmborg), is drunk and they embark on an evening full of romance even though Andreas is adamant that he isn’t gay.

A relationship develops nonetheless and although it makes both of them really happy they still manage to hit plenty of lows, almost all of them of their own making, each of them dealing with obstacles they create for themselves and by extension for each other.

Using mostly hand-held camera and set in the ugliest, greyest parts of Stockholm, Bersgmark subverts lots of traditional romance scenes, like the waterfall scene that is transposed to a sewer.  Every time that Sebastian is in a submissive and apparently exploited scenario it is something he has sought out, it’s always a response that he chooses to give. It’s a rich portrayal of self-sabotage and loneliness and how often we choose to feel pain rather than nothing. And that how, by the same token, we can choose to break old habits too.




The Duff

Cert 15A

Think back to your senior school days and try to remember the person in your gang who was, in terms of looks and popularity, the runt of the litter. This individual, according to Ari Sandel’s ebullient US highschool comedy, is the “duff” or “designated ugly fat friend”. If you can’t put a face to them then it was probably you. 

Such a premise lends itself well to the genre that gave us the likes of Mean Girls and Clueless – bratty spoilt students categorising the world into neat cliques in order to make it more manageable, and not giving a toss as to whose life they have to ruin in the process.

On the receiving end of such intimidation is Bianca (Mae Whitman), trying to keep up with her hotter and more popular besties Jess and Casey. At a party hosted by ferociously shallow uber-wagon Madison (Bella Thorne), Bianca is let in on a secret by jock neighbour Wes (Robbie Amell) – that she is Jess' and Casey’s duff.

Mortified by the revelation, Bianca takes the bull by the horns, promising to help Wes pass his exams if he helps make her over so she can win the heart of guitar-toting Toby. Complications are never far away, especially with arch nemesis Madison unhappy at all the time Bianca and ex-boyfriend Wes are spending together. 

You either get a kick out of these highschool-corridor capers or you don't. And yet for a film aimed squarely at the late-teen market, The Duff does many of the simple things well enough to entertain those for whom school is just a bad memory.

There is a confident pep to its cast that is impressive, particularly Whitman and 17-year-old pop starlet Thorne, each formidable screen presences with great comic timing. Josh Cagan's screwball screenplay is full of zest while Sandel clearly had his tongue in his cheek while stuck in the editing room.


Opens tomorrow

The Water Diviner

Cert 15A

Russell Crowe’s career bears testimony to an actor unafraid to take risks and the subject matter he’s chosen for his directorial debut suggests he isn’t about to start playing it any safer from behind the camera. Inspired by the epic bloodbath that was the battle of Gallipoli in 1915, Crowe caused a degree of Antipodean angst over the approach he adopted for this“anti-war” movie.

Crowe plays Joshua Connor, a humble Australian farmer who travels to Istanbul in the hope the he can retrieve the remains of the three sons he lost in the battle. It’s not an easy task as the British military are now in the control of the Gallipoli site and access is denied to civilians. Inside knowledge garnered from a local hotel owner, however, allows him to make the difficult journey to these infamous killing fields and, once there, fate starts to make its presence felt. It’s a needle- meet-haystack scenario but Crowe’s character is possessed of quasi-mystical powers and his persistence pays off in a manner that will stretch credulity for some but it’s never less than engrossing. The Water Diviner comes across like an attempt to recreate the epic retro feel of a Lawrence of Arabia and while it doesn’t fully succeed, it represents an accomplished directorial debut for Crowe. The narrative flirts with soapy melodrama at times but Crowe’s strong screen presence helps ensure that proceedings stay the right side of hokey.


Now showing

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