BFI Feature: Teenage characters we wanted to be

Myself and five other bloggers were invited to write about our favourite teenage film characters, to coincide with the BFI’s Teenage Kicks season.

I chose Sarah Bailey, the “natural witch” from The Craft. If you haven’t seen it, you can read about her and see what other awesome characters my fellow bloggers picked by following the link.


Aaron Paul and Kat Candler’s new film Hellion

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Kat Candler, creator of the brilliant short film Black Metal, has had her screenplay and full length feature Hellion picked up by a US distributor – Sundance Selects.

I’m doubly excited because the film stars Aaron Paul (from Breaking Bad, obviously) and Juliette Lewis, which will surely attract a huge audience.

Hellion concerns Jacob (Josh Wiggins), a 13-year-old boy obsessed with heavy metal and dirt bike racing, whose increasingly delinquent behaviour results in his younger brother Wes being relocated by Child Protective Services.

Bands appearing on the film’s soundtrack include Metallica, Slayer and The Sword. So what’s not to like?

Film Review: Her

Below is my review of Her for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

Director: Spike Jonze

The idea of falling in love with a computer operating system probably seems outrageous and ridiculous, but in Her, Spike Jonze does a pretty good job at showing how this could soon enter the realm of possibility.

Imagine; an artificially intelligent operating system, programmed to meet your every need, as well as possessing a friendly ‘personality’ and even an apparent consciousness. This is exactly what Joaquin Phoenix’s character Theodore experiences and through his heart-warming, delicate performance, encourages you to empathise with this extraordinary situation, even if you might not understand or accept it.

Scarlett Johansson’s performance as Samantha, the voice of the operating system, is also far deeper than one would expect from a computer. She manages to convey an entire individuality within that piece of software.

Although the complexity of adult relationships is depicted in an honest and refreshing way, it’s difficult not to get sucked into Theodore’s melancholic state and on occasion the film feels slow and empty. However, this reflects the character’s bouts of loneliness and serves in highlighting the joy Samantha brings him.  If anything, it’s a reminder to cherish the positive relationships we have with significant others.

The concept of falling head-over-heels for a computer is absurd. But as we continue to let our real lives merge with the virtual world, how long will it be until our dependence on technology slips into full on immersion? Even romantically – as it seems to be accepted in this projection of the not-too-distant future.

Personal Score: 4/5

Film Review: Carrie (2013)

A short version of my Carrie review, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Chloe Grace Moretz gives a wicked performance as vulnerable teen Carrie White in this modern adaptation of 1976’s iconic horror. The requirement for the classic to undergo a remake at all was debatable. But director Kimberly Peirce’s reworked portrayal of the tormented, high school outcast stands as relevant and as harrowing today.

Aside from the telekinetic abilities, this depiction of a young person being pushed beyond their limits may well be reminiscent of real life events. Much of the film’s effect relies on your empathy for Carrie as her abuse is the real horror here. This ultimately makes the bloody climax all the more intense and absorbing to experience.

It’s unlikely that this year’s offering will leave you disappointed, whether you’re a huge fan of the original Carrie movie or completely new to the story.

Personal Score: 3.5/5

Film Review: Powder Room

My review of Powder Room, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

Director: MJ Delaney

Men, if you’ve ever wondered why women take such a long time in the loo during a night out, then now’s your chance to observe all. Powder Room is a delightfully accurate portrayal of a typical night inside the ladies’ toilets of a London nightclub.

Director MJ Delaney’s début feature is an impressive adaptation of the stage play When Women Wee and depicts the chaos surrounding a group of young women during one night out. By casting an assembly of British acting talent, the film is propelled into excellence by way of their bold and varied performances.

Sheridan Smith takes the lead as likeable, down-to-earth Sam who finds herself torn between having fun with her three raucous best mates or suppressing herself and putting on a sophisticated front for her classier friend Michelle (and Michelle’s Parisian accomplice Jess). Delaney describes the character Sam as being “morally on the edge” due to her very questionable behaviour in succumbing to the pressure of Michelle and Jess’ higher expectations. Yet Smith’s heart-warming performance should just about keep you on this confused character’s side.

Expect puke, drugs, drama and uncompromising female representations. Thanks largely to heavy female participation both behind and in front of the camera, the film makes for a valuable and authentic perspective to be treasured, as well as an amusing portal into a women-only space.  Powder Room demonstrates how nothing is more effective in grounding human existence than the basic need to pee, regardless of personal concerns, successes or status.

Personal Score: 4/5

Film Review: Don Jon

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Expectations around sex and relationships are what is explored in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s bold first attempt at writing and directing. More specifically, Don Jon deals with society’s growing acceptance of hardcore porn, personified through Gordon-Levitt’s likeable lead character Jon.

Jon’s relationship with, or rather – addiction to, porn governs his journey. It’s established from the outset that the porn he consumes plays a significant part in his perception of the ‘ideal’, along with his well maintained body, car, pad, church, family and social life. Yet it emerges that his sexuality is so invested in the virtual world, that his actual real-life experiences are continually left wanting. Even with Barbara (Johansson), the apparent girl of his dreams, the sex doesn’t fulfil him the way he had hoped for.

There’s no doubt that Gordon-Levitt’s début will jar viewers into considering their own habits and modern methods of consumption, just as we see Jon undergo in the latter half to an unexpected and uplifting outcome.

Personal Score: 3/5

Film Review: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Below is my review of Bad Grandpa, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

Director: Jeff Tremaine

The arrival of another Dickhouse production was a welcome one I’m sure for thousands of Jackass fans. After all, with the movies seemingly wrapped up with Jackass 3D and 3.5 and the tragic passing of Ryan Dunn just over two years ago, where could the gang really go from here?

Well, Bad Grandpa is essentially an expansion of the Irving Zisman character from the Jackass movies. Usual ringleader Johnny Knoxville takes charge, fully made-up as the senior citizen and quite remarkably fools members of the American public into believing he is a dirty-minded and reckless 86-year-old.

Irving’s wife has just passed away and he now has the added responsibility of taking his 8-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) to live with his irresponsible father, due to the mother landing herself in jail… So, given these circumstances, expect a sequence of cringe-worthy and at times daringly outrageous public stunts and mishaps involving the public.

So far, so Jackass. Whilst certain antics are more controversial and wince-inducing than some of the tamer ones, the grandpa-grandson duo get plenty of huge laughs for their downright ridiculous behaviour throughout. Both Knoxville and Nicoll act well. Nicoll especially does himself proud as young Billy who, admirably, is just as fearless as he is convincing.

What’s refreshing is that unlike other reality-based, hidden camera features such as Borat or Bruno that blatantly attempt to make a fool out of the ‘real’ people involved, the creators of Bad Grandpa (like the other Jackass movies) never appear to have a malicious goal in their interaction with the American public.

The decision to include scenes with just the pair behaving in character was an interesting one but works well in warming the audience to Irving and Billy and their predicament. If you already dislike Jackass then this troublesome twosome and their crude humour isn’t going to win you over. But by embracing the silliness and inviting you into the perspectives of these two characters, Bad Grandpa is a harmless and surprisingly uplifting watch.

Personal Score: 2.5/5

Metalhead film at Toronto Film Festival

Here we have another metal-themed film that looks really interesting. Metalhead is the latest film from Icelandic writer and director Ragnar Bragason and was just included at the Toronto Film Festival.

According to a synopsis from the festival, Metalhead centres around young heroine Hera who, after her older brother’s accidental death, rebuilds herself in his image – as a heavy metal devotee and musician. What is implied in the trailer is that Hera rapidly becomes more rebellious and possibly destructive as a result of her brother’s tragic death.

I am particularly interested to see how Bragason portrays the ways in which Hera’s character deals with her grief and anger through the catharsis of heavy metal. Definitely one to look out for!

Film Review: This Is The End

Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogan

A group of comedy bros ripping on each other and playing out stereotyped versions of themselves during the sudden arrival of the apocalypse makes for some outrageous, and very daft, escapades in Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg’s This Is The End.

If you’re a fan of Rogan and co.’s boyish brand of humour and can get past the self-indulgence, then you’re sure to enjoy the film substantially; but I suspect not even half as much as the gang probably had making it.

Personal Score: 3/5

What can we expect from the Shining film?

It seems that the band Shining are going to capitalise on their notoriety in 2014 with a film release going by the same name. From what I can gather, the film’s creators are clearly going for the shock factor, much like the band’s main man himself.

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