Late Night (2019)

I had medium hopes of this, on the plus side; Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling. On the downside; almost no trailers at the cinema, almost no advertising at all to be honest, almost like the studios had no faith in it. So I thought it might be good, but I had worries I would be disappointed. Thankfully that’s not the case here, this is probably one of my favourite films of the year so far. It was incredibly funny and VERY heartwarming. That was actually the most annoying part, word of advice; don’t eat salty popcorn in a film where you’ll need to wipe your eyes, if anything it will just make it worse.

So why does this film work? Well, the main reason is the cast: Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling are both at the top of their game here. Kaling doubly so as it’s her script. She’s probably best known from her performances in The Office and The Mindy Project, but anybody who knows about the crew of those projects also knows that she wasn’t just a performer, she wrote a lot of them too, so she’s not exactly inexperienced when it comes to writing. This is her first attempt at a feature and it does kind of show. There are moments where it seems like she’s not used to having that much time, so a lot of plot points occur really quickly when in reality they could have been held off slightly more. This is definitely true when it comes to the relationships between some of the characters, characters become close slightly quicker than they need to, then because there’s still a lot of the film left, they’re pushed back, then they’re close again, and so on.

Mostly though…..this film works. It really works. When it bites it does so with the ferocity of a rabid goose (can geese even get rabies?). And the points it makes are still important and relevant ones to make. They’re not just walking around going “sexism is bad!”, they’re pointing out how institutions which have historically been full of white men do not respond well to people who don’t fit that mould and as such deem people who don’t as outsiders, which makes it harder for them to get work. It also has a lot to say about female sexuality, and how the media treats them as they age.

This is as good a time as any to mention my (very) minor quibble with this film; it doesn’t really feel like it takes place in this universe. There are moments where they could refer to real shows, but in the end, they go with fictional ones, it just kind of breaks the immersion ever so slightly. Like I said, that is a VERY minor quibble though. I loved this movie and would highly recommend it to almost everyone (except Keith). I won’t recommend it passionately, I won’t scream my love for this film from the rooftops like I do other films (Persepolis, Bogowie etc), but if someone says “I feel like going to the cinema, not sure what to see though, I might go see the new X-Men film”, I will recommend this film to them, because it’s great, and Dark Phoenix is f*cking terrible (spoilers for Thursday’s blog).

5 Best Films Dealing With Dark Subjects (A.K.A: How Films Help Us Cope)

Starting this Sunday I’ll be launching a new blog over here. Having two separate blogs dealing with similar content matter has meant I’ve been somewhat neglecting that one. As such I’ve decided to keep them completely different, all my reviews and end of year lists etc will be placed here, which begs the question, what do I do with the other one? The answer is simple: news. Every Sunday I’ll be posting a round up of the last weeks news. I picked probably the worst week to start with; Brock Turner, Orlando, and now Jo Cox, all news that broke this week, the same week I decide to start the news blog, now I’m not saying I’m to blame for all of it. So when the world seems to be turning to shit, who you’re going to call?

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No, not them. Never them.

On an individual level people turn towards music, most people have that one album they turn to in times of need (for me it’s I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning) but on a wide scale it’s films. It’s films that give us hope, that force us to stare into the abyss and envelop us. Films can effect us in a way other media can, music you can take in bitesized chunks whereas films you usually take it all at once. And unlike books everybody experiences it at the same pace, everyone is going through the same journey at the same time. So which films are the best at dealing with these kind of subjects? Well, these.

1. The Middle East – Persepolis

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Yeah, I know I mention this a lot. But it is very good. A bleak, yet still hilarious account of growing up in Iran during the most turbulent time in their recent history, made all the more depressing when you realize it’s all true. It’s one of those films that really makes you realize how awful it is over there, you realize exactly why hordes of people are attempting to escape, and how it was all kickstarted by British and US governments attempting to install a puppet dictator during the Second World War. That’s the great thing about being British, you look over the world, at Israel/Palestine, at Iran, at Ireland, and you can just sit their thinking “See that chaos? We did that”.

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Just one moment of many which is made better when you realize it happened.

2. The Holocaust – Life Is Beautiful

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I was torn between this and Schindler’s List. What won this one over is the fact that it doesn’t start awful, the holocaust elements don’t happen until about half way through the film. Before that it’s a somewhat silly Italian romcom, and I think that is kind of essential. The characters characterization is as a jokester, a clownish figure surrounded by horrific things. That’s what drives his character, it influences his relationship with his son, with the other inmates, and (spoilers) even his death. That’s why the first part is needed, we need to see the character in his natural environment, we need to establish his character. As such this film is, without a doubt, the best holocaust-based comedy of all time. Although the only competition is apparently awful and hasn’t been released.

3. World War 2 – Grave Of The Fireflies

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There are two types of people in this world, those who cry at this film, and those without a soul. Animated, and done by a company generally known for doing the kind of heartwarming fantasy tales that used to be the forte of Disney, only with more violence and raccoon testicles. The typical US attitude to nuclear power is it causes superpowers, Japan see’s it as either unleashing monsters or causing horrific events, it’s almost as though they have completely different views on nuclear warfare for some reason.

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Can’t imagine why.

This, alongside Barefoot Gen create a horrific narrative. One which focuses on the impact that war has on people. How much someone’s life can change and be impacted by somebody with no idea of what he’s done, somebody who never has to look into the eyes of the people he’s killed. This films is generally seen as an anti-war film in the US. Which is a bit weird, all this is doing is showing the effects, this is not anti-war, it’s just honest about what it entails. It could just as easily be seen as pro-war, you could argue that “we need this war to stop things like this happening”.

4. Heart Transplants – Bogowie

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Or, as it’s often called by me: “Fucking Bogowie! Holy shit!” Without a doubt the best film ever made about a ragtag group of misfit heart surgeons in 1980’s Russian-occupied Poland. This film is not just about surgery, it’s also about just living in that area at the time, how you could not get anything done without some form of bribery. You can really feel the frustration going through everyone involved. I knew this was based on a true story, but I didn’t realize how big the story was until the final moments, where it showed a picture from the aftermath.

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The above image (taken by photographer James Stanfield) was chosen as one of the best 100 photos ever published by National Geographic. The picture shocked the world, a doctor, carefully watching out for the patient, whilst another doctor sleeps in the corner. The patient, laying there, his life in the hands of equipment which is (let’s be honest) not fit for purpose. People were wondering if the patient will survive the week, yet he’s still alive today (sadly, unlike the doctor, the cigarette smoking former Minister Of Health Zbigniew Religa, who passed away from lung cancer in 2007). Look again at that picture, see the exhaustion on the doctors face, that’s there for good reason; the surgery itself took 23 hours, the doctor in the corner isn’t being lazy, he couldn’t physically stand anymore. It was physically and mentally demanding, as can be seen in this video (it’s in Polish, but worth watching purely for the footage of the surgery). Today, heart transplants save lives all over the world, and it’s thanks to doctors like Religa that that happened, but importantly, it’s also down to photographers like James Stanfield that we can truly get a glimpse at their dedication.

5. Terrorism – Four Lions

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A somewhat different one from all the others. This is the only one on the list which isn’t based on a true event, but it’s still important and relevant. This a film that managed to annoy everybody, the tabloids were annoyed because “it’s mocking dead terrorist victims” whereas terrorists were offended because they were made to look like idiots. The thing is, when you watch it, it’s actually not that offensive. The subject matter itself is the only offensive thing about it, there’s nothing in the film really that makes you thin “ok they’ve gone too far now”.  Basically, he made an inoffensive film about the most offensive subject matter, for some reason I really connect with that. This film does have one thing in common with the rest of these films though: they’re all films which I would consider to be among the best I’ve ever seen. This is one of only two films I’ve seen applauded mid-film (the other was the sublime In The Loop)

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So that’s our favourites. I think the lesson from this is this; it’s okay to talk about dark themes. You need something to shine a pinprick of light into the darkness. So bring on the darkness! Let me dive headfirst into oblivion so that I can burst out the other side with a new viewpoint on the world, so I can be permanently scarred and changed by what I’ve seen. Don’t get me wrong, being needlessly shocking or offensive is just lazy (seriously, fuck A Serbian Film, a film I’m lucky enough to have never seen) and pointless. But films that will shock you, and keep you entertained? That’s just the perfect mix. So I’ll end it there, if anybody needs me I’ll be swimming in a pool of nothingness.

Films Worth Seeing from 2015: The funny ones

Instead of a normal top ten list of the best films of 2015, here’s a list of film worth a watch from 2015, separated by genre and in now real order.

The Comedies (or the next best thing)

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A little seen but a very affectionate film that follows a witty but depressed cartoonist trying to be a single father and bounce back from his divorce. Now it doesn’t sound that different from your atypical rom-com shlock, but with a sensitive script that knows how to pluck your heartstrings to make you laugh and feel, and a surprisingly nuanced turn from Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the concords’ fame) and his chemistry with everyone he shares the screen with, People, Places, Things, becomes the movie equivalent of an awkward bear hug and a nice cup of coffee.

 

Mistress America

mistress_america_poster_midnight_marauder_2The second film this year from Indie director superstar Noah Baumbach, after his critically acclaimed While We’re Young, which was…okay. But he makes up for it here in this sharply funny and very earnest film about adult life, facing your limitations, and the fact that the people who act the happiest rarely really are. All as seen from the POV of an introverted university student as she gets to know her new manic pixy hipster step-sister. Again a bit of a plot-less film, but the shear energy Greta Gerwig brings to her role, and the zany dynamic she and every other character has, takes this film and its characters to a whole other level, and then turns the comedy around to look at the tragedy of it all. It’s possibly his best work since The Squid and the Wale.

The Big Short

the-big-short-movie-posters-001.jpg~original.jpgFrom the director of Anchorman of all people comes the other awesome investigative film of the year, and don’t believe the trailers, that is what this film is. Selling itself as some form of Ocean’s 11 but about the 2008 Credit Crunch, what this film actually turned out to be is a very in-depth and detailed look into all the fraud and corruption the Bank’s did to cause the financial crash. And it’s told from three different parties separately looking into it, each group led by an outstanding Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt. But the trailer didn’t completely lie; this is a comedy (if a thrilling emotional one), with most of the big laughs coming from an enjoyably

Picture1.pngsleazy Ryan Gosling who narrates the film while also having his own place in it, trying to explain to us the inner workings of stock broking, and introduces some ridiculous celebrity cameos. Surprisingly well directed, and masterfully written and acted, it has a few bums and clunks in its tone, but is much more than the fast and funny caper the trailer tried to sell it as.

The Voices

This being Troubled Production’s other producer’s favorite film of 2015, I’d8345_poster_iphone of felt bad if I didn’t mention it somewhere, but that’s far from the biggest reason it’s here. The Voices is a delightfully quirky black comedy from the director of Persepolis (because of course), led by a possibly career best Ryan Reynolds as a mentally ill serial killer who talks to his dog and cat. If that doesn’t sell it to you, nothing will. This film revels, revels, in its warped quirky darkness, and manages to be simultaneously, outlandishly funny, disturbingly dramatic, and just plain charmingly odd because of it. It’s a film with a bonafide destiny to be a cult classic, for the people who like their comedy, dark, violent, and silly. And with this, thevoices0002

Mississippi Grind, and a hopefully awesome Deadpool, let’s hope the underrated Mr Reynolds is back on the rise.

 

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

8c9eb37b259f536f6381af56983f06baThe oddest but most accurate description I’ve heard for this 70s set coming of age dramedy, is that it’s the spiritual sequel to Inside Out…now they don’t mean that the titular teenage girl has a bunch of voices in her head, but is instead referring to that it follows the growing development of a young soon to be woman. As Inside Out ends with Riley on the cusp of teenhood, The diary of a teenage Girl picks up a few years later with a fifteen year old girl’s sexual awakening (forgive me for using the word sexual in the same sentence as Inside Out), and that’s what the film is about in a nutshell; sex. It’s about the first time and the times after that, it’s about becoming comfortable with yours and other’s bodies; Picture2it’s about experimenting and working out what gets you off, and then finding the limits. And I have SUCH respect for this film, because it’s about a fifteen year old’s sexual awakening and it shows it. There are no cutaways or clever angles, you see all of her, and that adds such authenticity to her and her story; because the fact that the film doesn’t shy away from you, means you don’t shy away from it; through every sweet, funny, and emotional moment, on this journey to the end of innocence and the start of everything else.

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This is that special romantic comedy large_large_y7C1EQ9zxJ3mlaQeRztw3NVw41Pthat’s the perfect mix of cynicism and cheese ball romance, of those little moments and grand gestures. And is the best non-blockbuster/ Edgar Wright film Simon Pegg has ever done. Following a 30 something woman in a romantic rut, she ends up stealing someone else’s blind date, and going on an amazing date with them instead. Now with that set-up this could have easily turned into a basic liar revealed plot, but I’m happy to say it doesn’t (if it did would it be here), and instead goes off in much sweeter and funnier directions. It’s definitely one of the funniest films of the year, and the perfect date movie for people who hate date movies.

Sleeping with Other people

236272This is just funny. Yeah it’s sweet, raunchy, and romantically mature too at times, but mostly it’s just funny. Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie make a strong double act, playing two sex addicts who start a platonic friendship to try and help each-other deal with their relationship issues, and of course fall in love along the way. So it does get a bit too cliché at the end, but the journey there is so fun and so tastefully raunchy it’s still definitely worth a watch.

 

 

 

Me, and Earl, and the Dying girl

Along with The Big Short, and The me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girl-poster-olivia-cookeDiary of A Teenage Girl, this is the other film pushing the boundary for ‘comedy’ this year. Not because it isn’t funny, it’s filled to the brim with funny teen angst and witticisms, but it’s also about a girl dying of cancer, and this isn’t no Fault in Our Stars shit (I say actually liking that film), and stays far away from schmaltz, opting for a much bleaker and deadpan look at teen life and death, and has no quorum ramping up the seriousness and heart wrench when the time comes. Now it maybe too self-indulgent and referential for some people and it definitely reeks of 90’s teen dramedy at times, but past that I found a very earnest and true look at teen life on the outside and at dealing with death, that really captures the teenage voice.

Top 5

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Oh and Top 5 was pretty funny. Forgot about that one till I just came to post this.

Why We Love…Persepolis

When we first thought of this blog we wanted to write about more than film, we wanted to write about everything we loved; television, video games, music, all forms of media. Whilst we haven’t done this yet we will be for halloween. So with that in mind bare in mind how highly I rate this film when I say it’s one of the best things I own, not just film. If I had to take five forms of media with me on a desert island, well, then I’d take five books etc on how to survive in the wilderness, I’m not an idiot, but I would darn well regret not taking this.

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So, onto the actual story. This is hard-hitting, it’s the true story of a girl growing up in Iran against the backdrop of the Islamic Revolution, and it’s just as happy as it sounds. Although this is a really brutal story, one that encompasses all manner of horrible things: war, assassinations, rape, suicide, Austria. Yet it is genuinely laugh out loud funny too, because, whilst all these awful things are happening, she is still a teenager for a lot of it, so is still sarcastic and cynical.

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I could spend the rest of this review telling you how important this film (and the book, especially the book) are in understanding a lot of the problems that in the Middle East, I could tell you how this film important this film is, instead I’ll just tell you why this film is important to me on a personal level. I brought this film on a whim. I was walking around Woolworths (which really dates this story) one day between split shifts, I saw this DVD cover, the tagline: War. Revolution. Family. Punk Rock. All Part Of Growing Up. I was suitably intrigued and decided to buy it.

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It’s strange to think how close I came to not buying this, that I’m only aware of one of my favourite films, and one of my favourite graphic novels through impulse buying. There’s so much that could have stopped this happening, if I wasn’t in the right mix of bored and just-been-paid I wouldn’t have brought it. I sometimes wonder whether I would have got into this film any other way. Yes, the writer later directed a Ryan Reynolds film (which was amazing by the way) but despite how much of a fan I was of the film, I’m not sure whether I would have checked out the directors previous films. It does have a good cast, Sean Penn in particular is amazing, but I’m not sure whether that would have been enough to make me watch it. There’s always personal recommendation, but for some reason I’m not sure I would have reacted well to “animated Iranian film that’s really brutal and depressing”.

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I do love when stuff like that happens, when you take a chance and are rewarded. When you buy an album based purely on the album title and it turns out amazing.

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When you buy a book based on the title and it turns out hilarious.

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When you see a film purely because you have a cineworld card and it turns out to be one of the best you’ve seen all year.

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Admittedly it doesn’t work out all the time.

F*ck this film. Seriously
F*ck this film. Seriously

But when it does you feel superb. You have got into something on your own, something you can recommend to others, which will hopefully become someone’s new favourite film/book/album etc.

I wasn't kidding about it being brutal
I wasn’t kidding about it being brutal

As much as I hate to, I will have to end this on a downer note. The book is very important, it teaches so much about life and freedom that if I ran an educational programme I would make it compulsory. So what was the American reaction to a book that showcases the struggles of everyday Muslims, that details the western intervention that led to the modern troubles, and that portrays non-Christians in a sympathetic light? It became the second most challenged book in American schools in 2014. Congratulations American schools, you’re now on an equal footing with other bastions of freedom like Iran and Lebanon. I hope you’re f*cking proud of all your freedoms.

Watch if you like:

  • Grave Of The Fireflies. Also brutal, also brilliant.
  • The Voices