Saturday, 5 September 2015
Produced by Forest Whitaker, this teenage coming-of-age caper set in Inglewood, California involves the usual hood narrative trifecta of drugs, gangs, and crime while attempting to offer a playful alternative to black cultural stereotypes. Fantastical, and sometimes fun, if not quite convincing, Dope (2015) offers plenty of eye candy thanks to Rick Famuyiwa's energetic direction, Rachel Morrison's colourful widescreen lensing, and a cast including prominent models, rappers, and TV personalities. Supported by a single working mother (Kimberly Elise), high school nerd Malcolm's (Shameik Moore) American Dream is not to play basketball but to get into Harvard...More.
Perhaps this year's most important documentary, Cartel Land (2015) offers a too-close-for-comfort, ground-level look at vigilante groups who attempt to thwart murderous Mexican drug cartels on both sides of the US-Mexican border. Equally chilling and engrossing, this direct cinema Sundance winner also explores moral responsibility - or the increasingly murky guise thereof - in the absence of law and order, where the only clear issue is the seemingly unstoppable cycle of violence...More.
Viewers with qualms that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl may turn out to be merely another best-selling YA novel-to-film tearjerker will be surprised by the film’s insightful focus on a decidedly nonsexual boy-girl relationship.“If this was a touching, romantic love story,” says teenage protagonist Greg (Project X star Thomas Mann) in droll voiceover, “suddenly we'd be furiously making out with the fire of a thousand suns, but this isn’t...” Busy escaping the social hell that is high school with his best friend and “co-worker,” Earl (impressive newcomer RJ Cyler), Greg is unexpectedly forced by his mother to spend time with Rachel (Manchester-raised Olivia Cooke), a classmate diagnosed with cancer...More.
Friday, 28 August 2015
This visceral hip-hop biopic documenting NWA's meteoric rise to fame at times struggles to avoid stumbling into Hollywood cliché. Still, Straight Outta Compton (2015) proves as infectiously entertaining as it is educational thanks to F. Gary Gray's richly textured direction and a thumping soundtrack that confirms rap as the protest music of its time. Although gangster rap is now the stuff of legend, Straight Outta Compton reminds the viewer that for some it was - and still is - a way of life. The opening sequence reveals Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) stomping his way out of the grilled window of a dope house, after a police military tank, without warning, rams its way right through the front door...More.
Saturday, 22 August 2015
This stranger-than-fiction Sundance winner recalls Philip Larkin's This Be the Verse: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad..." Then again, Larkin probably didn't have parents as paranoid as Oscar Angulo who, with ex-hippie Susanne, raised their six sons and one daughter in near-isolated lockdown. LikeGrey Gardens, The Wolfpack (2015) blurs the traditional border between documentary filmmaker and subject, as director Crystelle Moselle captures the quotidian details of family dysfunction with intimacy, but also discretion. Sporting long hair and Sanskrit names, the Angulo brothers, aged 16-23, were forbidden by their father to leave their cramped public housing flat in Manhattan's Lower East Side...More.
Wednesday, 12 August 2015
Instead of delivering feel-good gamer nostalgia, Chris Columbus' big budget spectacle indulges in the worst kind of self-congratulatory 80s male egotism ad nauseam. Fuelled by a relentlessly upbeat soundtrack that covers Everybody Wants to Rule the World and We Will Rock You (twice), this clumsily reanimated, f/x-laden blockbuster adds up to little more than a send-up of retro gimmicks, cheesy celebrity cameos, and casual misogyny. After aliens mistake a NASA space probe's transmission of 'Galaga' for a declaration of intergalactic war, only Brenner (Adam Sandler, Happy Madison's favourite man-child), can save the planet from annihilation due to his unique set of hand-eye coordination skills...More.
Thursday, 6 August 2015
Opening with spectacular aerial shots of the labyrinthine Andalusian wetlands, where the raped and mutilated bodies of two local teenage girls are found, Marshland's (2014) plot twists prove as compelling, obscure, and ultimately treacherous as the terrain it features. True Detective fans will doubtless be struck by thematic similarities between the popular US TV series and Alberto Rodriguez's brooding, stylish neo-noir. But the film's meticulously researched, realistic focus on rural 1980s post-fascist Spain is all Rodriguez's own...More.