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!

Q&A with Gary Stringer of Reef and StringerBessant

This Q&A is pulled from a little phone interview I conducted back in 2011 with Gary Stringer – frontman of the band Reef and currently StringerBessant.

It will always stick out in my mind because it was my first time interviewing somebody ‘famous’ and also because I forgot to press Record and had to phone him back post-interview and politely ask if he would be so kind as to do it again…

He was a cool guy – which was fortunate for me, really. I won’t be making that mistake again!

The transcript was published in a Bournemouth newspaper for whom I was completing work experience at the time. Reef were set to perform at a local music festival that summer.

After a string of successful shows after your band’s reformation in 2010, you’re playing again in Bournemouth this weekend. How do you feel about that?

Yeah I’m really glad we’re coming to Bournemouth. I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve played some really good gigs and they have always been well supported when we come to Bournemouth. So yeah I’m really stoked about it.

Did the reformation of Reef last year change the group dynamics in any way?

No, not really. We didn’t have much time to think about it as we were all concentrating on different things and when we finally got to rehearsals we suddenly realised that ‘Oh my god, this could be awful’.  But it was absolutely fine.

From the first show it was obvious that everybody had that fire in their belly that the group have always had. We have always felt comfortable with our performance and I think it has something to do with having that spring in your step and fire in your belly, and not just playing the songs like you’d hear them on a CD, but actually perform the songs for the audience that you’re playing in front of.

Ten years ago Reef played in Bournemouth in aid of Surfers Against Sewage. Are green or environmental issues something you feel strongly about?

Sure yeah, we’ve played a handful of gigs for these sort of things over the years. This year we’ve done a couple of gigs for Surfer’s Against Sewage. Previously we performed at Lusty Glaze and also played the Boardmasters which is supporting Surfers Against Sewage.

Who would you say are the majority of fans who flock to you gigs since Reef have reformed? Are they mostly fans from the nineties or more recent admirers?

I would think that there’s plenty of people who came first time around, so there will be plenty of thirty-somethings and yeah a few younger and older people as well.

During your time in Bournemouth, do you plan on checking out many of the other bands playing at Musicosity festival?

As of yet we don’t really know what our schedule is going to be like but I think we’re going to spend the night. So we’ll see what happens, but yeah it would be good to check out some of the other bands.

You’ve shared the stage with a number of big names but who would you say has been the biggest or best artist you’ve performed with?

Without a doubt it would have to be Paul Weller. He looked after us so well and when we were just starting. He treated us with a huge amount of respect and we walked away from it having learnt a lot about him and the way that he interacted with us was incredible. So yeah, top man.

Have you got any favourite memories from your musical career or any specific performances that stand out?

Yeah, well playing at Glastonbury has always been very special. I’m from Glastonbury so it was quite incredible and also just things that ten years ago we might have taken for granted, you know. We did a TV show in London and got on a private jet flying over to Denmark to play a show the same night. If you look at our schedule from 1997 it’s pretty incredible really, you know? We were doing Spain and then we’d be going to Norway, then be in Glasgow the next day, which probably would have meant flying through London.

It was just crazy, crazy times really. But yeah playing Glastonbury festival, especially the first time. I can remember turning up with my shorts on in the sun and had a really cool time, you know, and playing the festival that I had attended as a youngster, it was great.

What have you currently got planned for your acoustic project StringerBessant?

We’re gonna make another record, so we’re gonna work until the end of October. We’ve got UK shows lined up and we’re gonna go to New York for a week or so. Then we’ll probably call it quits and take a breather and then go write another record. 

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.

Hellfest is the Best Metal Festival Around

Unfortunately this will be the first time in five years that I will not be attending Hellfest Open Air; the most eclectic, well-organised and friendliest festival in the world (probably)! The French festival has become an annual tradition for thousands of metalheads and I’m sure that anyone who appreciates heavy music would agree that finding another festival that balances extremity with such a welcoming atmosphere would be a difficult task indeed.

Last year at Hellfest 2012

Some of my most cherished memories are from Hellfest. Here are just a few of my favourite things about it:

The Line-Up (Every time!)

A quality line-up is always guaranteed, with a diverse range in genre. Whether you favour black, death, hardcore or doom, it’s likely all tastes will be catered for.

I will never forget that classic thrash-Saturday back in 2011. With Municipal Waste playing, followed by Destruction, Sodom and Kreator. I was in Heaven… Or Hell?

The Vibe

I always say to my friends that being at Hellfest feels like ‘coming home’ in some respect. The fact that you’re surrounded by thousands of other people who are there for exactly the same reason you are – to worship heavy music – feels so pure and exciting. In my experience the crowds have always been extremely friendly. There really is a magical atmosphere and I hope it lasts for years to come.

The Location

Living in England means that a quick trip across the Channel on a ferry is no real hassle, in terms of making the trip to Clisson by car. Yet the fact that the festival is indeed foreign adds to the excitement factor, in that you feel like you’re exploring other lands!

Plus the long drive through French countryside isn’t exactly horrid. Especially when the sun is beaming through your window.

The gang at Hellfest 2010
The gang at Hellfest 2010

I hope that anybody travelling to Hellfest today has a fantastic time! No festival in England succeeds in creating the perfect mix of quality music, atmosphere and value for money quite like Hellfest does.

See you next year, maybe!

Spring Breakers Film Review for The F-Word

Harmony Korine’s film Spring Breakers completely knocked my socks off. It’s a fascinating and scarily accurate take on modern society, down to the dub-step and references to double-penetration.

First, here’s my long review for The F-Word, in which I argue that there’s more to SB than bikini-clad ‘hotties’ and explain why, contrary to the opinion of others, the film does not reinforce rape culture.

My second review, for Rock’n’Reel Reviews, summed up the film’s greatness nicely.


Personal Score: 5/5

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