The Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things ★★★★★

‘It will take more sons. More daughters. I want to save them. I want to save your son.’

BOOT THE reboots. The Duffer Brothers have effortlessly created a programme that perfectly frames a golden era of television and music, evoking senses of wonder and nostalgia in every viewer.

Described as a love letter to beloved sci-fi’s such as ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Stranger Things is a new show that provides a refreshing break from the stream of modern reboots of past classics that we have so often seen in recent times. It is a show that sends us back to a time of 80s childhood – nostalgic for some viewers and eye opening for others. From the opening credits to the phenomenal soundtrack, this show is an opportunity for any person not lucky enough to have experienced the 80s to get a taste for it.

Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, we are introduced to four inquisitive (nerdy) boys and instantly the adult viewer is thrown back into their past. The boys’ prevailing, innocent imagination unintentionally merges into reality as one of them, 12 year old Will, on his way home from a marathon board game of Dungeons and Dragons, takes a detour past a government lab, is chased by a monstrous silhouette and disappears.

The scene is set in the first 8 minutes of this hit-show. His mother (Winona Ryder) refuses to believe that all is as it seems and is willfully haunted by Will. His friends embark on their own investigation, eventually running into yet another misfit, the supernatural Eleven (Millie Brown) who has escaped from the mysterious lab. The dishevelled but brilliant chief of police, Hopper (David Harbour), conducts his own official (leading to unofficial) investigation, haunted but driven by his past to find Will and reunite him with his family and friends. All the while, a monster stalks the woods, observing, stealing and feasting on Hawkins’ residents.

A simple storyline on the surface is entirely satisfying as the series progresses. The Duffer Brothers check every single box when creating a television show that catches a viewer, hook, line and sinker. It contains the perfect balance of humour, melancholy and outright terror, all combining to include the viewer in solving the puzzle of the show.

Winona Ryder makes a terrific return to the screen as the concerned yet fortuitous mother, determined to recover her son. Her natural progression through the emotions of a mother who has lost her child are astoundingly believable, making it impossible to not share in the grief she feels.

winona ryder

Michael Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) leads the group of 12 year olds in their search for their friend. The groups endearing approach to the investigation is what drives the nostalgia on screen, encouraging the viewers of the 80s to remember their childhood of riding around on choppers chasing make-belief investigations – only this time, the investigation is very real. Eleven (Millie Brown) delivers a performance as powerful as her telekinetic abilities, conveying such complex and intense emotions whilst scarcely speaking.

The show is made ever more nostalgic through the Duffer Brother’s evident and genuine longiness to credit their inspirations for their show. Recurring references to Stephen King and Steven Spielberg’s ET, Indiana Jones, and even Jaws are a constant reminder of the tone and feel that the Duffer Brothers seek to instill. It is a family-friendly, emotional television series that maintains a prolonged sense of suspense through a tightly written script and powerful scenes eventually leaving you fighting to hold back the tears.

Finally, from Moby to Joy Division, New Order to Toto, The Clash to Foreigner, Stranger Things is a show that is hinged on the incredible soundtrack. The Austin synth band S U R V I V E developed the creepy yet nostalgic score that has grabbed global attention, and the music that permeates throughout the show is being held as some of the best music in television to emerge since Twin Peaks.

Stranger Things is a triumphant success, putting on screen an original show that perfectly captures the retro feel of the eighties family-sci-fi and horror genre which has been lost somewhat in contemporary television and film. Stranger Things absorbs you and doesn’t let you out until all eight episodes of the season are watched. It has everything a television show should have and has set a precedent for all future reboots and throwbacks – Twin Peaks remake, take note.

The Duffer Brothers have truly established themselves, their show and their cast. We can’t wait for season 2.


Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant ★★★★★


‘Revenge is in God’s hands, not mine.’

GRIZZLY, gritty, gruesome…and utterly brilliant, Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant’ breaks both geographic and cinematic boundaries as we dive into the depths of the human spirit, uncovering an awesomely violent will to survive.

Based on Michael Punke’s 2002 book accounting the life of American fur trapper Hugh Glass, Iñárritu’s film is testament to a tightly written script, savagely beautiful set locations, merciless direction and impeccable acting.

The film perfectly balances a basic plot on the surface with complex cinematography and an underlying spiritual theme that pervades throughout. The simplistic nature of the plot actually functions as one that is both familiar and satisfying – a tale of revenge and retribution on two fronts. Firstly we have the Pawnee’s sub-plot following their attempts to rescue the chief’s daughter from the insidiousness of the Western fur trappers; a plot immediately established by the ferocity of an arrow fired and splitting into a fur trapper’s eye. The overwhelmingly violent theme is set. Secondly, we have Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he travels through fire, water and snow to chop the fingers off his betrayer (Tom Hardy) in what can be deemed one of the most immersive, sensory and brutal brawls to be depicted on the screen.

This is not a film for the faint of heart. Nor is it a film for those wanting a complex and intellectually stimulating plot. Instead this is a film that breaks cinematic boundaries through the lens. Natural lighting, 360 degree point-of-view shots circling the protagonists like a crow, foreboding more misfortune, betrayal and outright gore – Iñárritu’s film is one that creates a nauseatic effect leaving the audience physically and emotionally drained upon leaving. It strips down the film to the absolute basics, but then creates a film that will set a precedent for future cinema to follow. The beautiful and savage shots of the natural world fit into a global, current theme of environmentalism, reminding us of the incredible set we live on. The emotional turmoil that Hugh Glass goes through to avenge his murdered son reminds us just how much the human body and mind can endure. And the impeccable acting reminds us just how much Leo deserved that oscar.

This time there is no dialogue for DiCaprio to boastfully dominate – the film focuses on his face, his emotion and his scarily real pain. It was probably the first time both DiCaprio and Hugh Glass ate bison liver, slept in a dead horse, and swam in sub-zero degree waters. Each scene is made ever more intense by DiCaprio, playing upon a vulnerability that hasn’t been as obvious in his other characters. Cynics pose the question ‘did Leo deserve the oscar for this film, or was it just time that he won an oscar?’ To answer: both. DiCaprio has played many varied roles from the hero to the villain to the comedian – this film and this role provided him with an opportunity to fully showcase his acting ability and versatility with barely any dialogue, working with a basic plot and transforming it into a tense-ridden, thrilling narrative. It was his time to win an oscar.

The film had 12 oscar nominations and 3 wins including best director, best actor and best achievement in cinematography. Overall, this film had 150 award nominations. The Revenant is cinema at its finest, from the soundtrack to the cinematography to the direction to the acting.

The Revenant, if nothing else, demonstrates that cinema has not stagnated – it is constantly developing and evolving. Iñárritu’s work will go down in history as creating a new wave of film making.

Adam McKay unveils Oscar-tipped ‘The Big Short’ trailer

‘There’s some shady stuff going down.’

The director of films such as Anchorman and Step Brothers has turned his eye to finance, Wall Street and the housing crash of 2008. 

Watching this trailer posits the questions ‘what’s the difference between this and Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street?’ From the trailer alone, the two films look like they have been shot in the same way with the same comedic breaks, financial dramas, and the apparent glamorisation of bankers and strippers.

But, when you look at the writer and cast of McKay’s new film the glass shatters and its Oscar-winning potential presents itself. Written by Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Blind Side, Ryan Gosling marks his return to film following his directional debut Lost River, Brad Pitt stars alongside him joined by Steve Carrell, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei. Every single one of these actors have either won an oscar or been nominated.

The Big Short has a US release date of 11 December and is bound to be nominated at the next Academy Awards.

Check out the trailer below:

Asif Kapadia’s Amy ★★★★

‘This is someone trying to disappear.’

Amy does not simply present a fuller picture of the iconic Amy Winehouse. Rather, Asif Kapadia provides us with intimate access to the fragile girl behind the stardom whilst simultaneously offering a powerful insight into the destructive side of celebrity culture.

Kapadia’s documentary reaches far beyond the media’s portrayal of Winehouse; alongside public interviews and acceptance speeches we see personal home videos and studio rehearsals, and hear from those who were closest to her—including her notorious ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil. Kapadia skilfully pieces these materials together to coherently depict Winehouse’s story, documenting her promising beginnings to tragic ending. In doing so, Amy both presents and penetrates the media’s one-dimensional picture of Winehouse as a self-destructive addict, enabling a deeper understanding of her true identity by providing us with access to her from all angles.

Sitting through some low-quality archive footage and occasional generic panning shots of London which accompany interview clips is certainly worthwhile for the feeling of authenticity created by these limited resources. This sense of realism is key to Amy’s appeal and is complimented by the soundtrack which acts as a narrative voice. As a singer-songwriter, Winehouse’s lyrics follow her life events, thereby strengthening the film’s impact as a moving piece of cinema whilst deepening our understanding of the star herself. We are encouraged to consider Winehouse as a person rather than to regard her as a musical icon, as these lyrics are not only part of her songs, but also tell her story.

Kapadia’s factual style—similar to that found in his BAFTA award-winning documentary Senna—results in a poignant absence of drama. Winehouse’s lifestyle and tragic fate is not glamorised for the sake of a rock ‘n’ roll tone or to pay tribute to the infamous 27 Club. Instead, Winehouse is sombrely depicted as a victim of our celebrity-mad society and aggressive harassment by the paparazzi. Amy also underscores the disconcerting role played by the singer’s father, Mitch Winehouse, who told the filmmakers, ‘you should be ashamed of yourselves’ for portraying him as a forceful managerial figure. As a result, Kapadia asks us to reconsider our preconceptions of Winehouse’s death as self-inflicted, instead portraying it as a tragic consequence of the pressures which surrounded her.

However, it should not be overlooked that the accounts given by those closest to the singer are inevitably biased, resulting in a documentary which dubiously implies Winehouse’s helplessness and innocence—glossing over her culpability in deciding to turn to such a damaging escape route.

Nevertheless, Amy successfully depicts and celebrates Winehouse’s vibrant personal life and career. What’s more, the film’s poignancy guarantees a moving experience for the viewer; in the screening you could have heard a pin drop as the audience was gripped throughout, and many left with a tear in their eye.

If nothing else, this documentary will reignite an interest in Winehouse’s work and lead you to acknowledge the loss of a stunning musical talent.


Samuel Abrahams’ Offline Dating ★★★★

‘Nice lamp…Would you like to go on a date with me?’

In the space of 6 short minutes, Samuel Abrahams’ film beautifully captures the romantic intricacies attached to the old-school ways of dating, making us question whether dating technology has taken a large chunk out of traditional romance?

Offline Dating is an endearing, romantic and heartwarming short-film documenting the whimsical attempts of the protagonist Tom to ask a girl out on a date completely offline. The film attempts to topple the recently manifested view that asking a girl out in the middle of the street is ‘taboo’.

In fact, in an interview with Vimeo, Abrahams said that the film was an attempt to show “the difference between the ‘us’ we present online and the ‘us’ that exists in real life.” As Tom is rejected time and time again, started on by a boyfriend and lulled into exposing a sense of his endearing vulnerability, the optimism of Abrahams as a filmmaker shines through – it is not an attack of online dating, but more a plea for a return to the fun nuances associated with face to face interaction.

Not only is the concept of this film superb, but the way in which it is shot and edited should be a lesson to all prospective filmmakers. The observational point of view coupled with the fact that the camera is constantly moving, pulling in and out of focus but maintaining smooth tracking shots, creates beautifully shot sequences. During the 6 minute film, the camera compliments Tom’s charming efforts as it doesn’t force interaction with the people it is filming. Instead, Abrahams naturally captures the small gestures and heartwarming intimacies that all contribute to making this film authentic, funny and inspiring.

Although a film itself, Offline Dating demonstrates how these romantic stories don’t just happen in fictional films. This just might be the film that cultivates a returned wave of actual romantic gestures through real encounters…and a movement away from creepy GPS systems and misogynistic messages over a phone.

You can see the film below:

George Miller’s Mad Max ★★★★★

‘Hope is a mistake. If you don’t fix what’s broke, you’ll go insane.’

George Miller delivers a non-stop, spectacular action film transforming the wastelands of a commonly depicted post-apocalyptic world into an ironically colourful, intensely imaginative, V8 ‘valhalla’.

The low-budget franchise that made Miller’s name has well and truly been refueled and throttled forwards to brilliant results. Although this is a 120 minute car chase, literally becoming a non-stop action thrill ride, the film does address a wider audience than meathead, action junkies.

Portraying insanity on screen can be hit or miss – it is extremely easy to overkill the portrayal of insanity by being ridiculous. Some might say that a giant, high-speed car that functions as a moving bugle with both drummers and a mutant wielding an electric guitar-come-flamethrower occupying that vehicle is overdoing the ‘insane’. However, after the initial laughs in the cinema following the first sightings of this seemingly pointless guitarist, this feature of Immortan Joe’s army fuels and effectively enhances the insanity inherent in this film. It is also drives home Miller’s attempt to return us to our primal state in the wake of the apocalypse, bringing back the traditional methods of warfare (with slight vehicular modifications).

From the opening sequence, the speed of each shot intensifies the chaos and enhances the rush imparted from Max (Tom Hardy) to the audience as he attempts to escape the dictator, Immortan Joe, and his army of ‘Warrior Boys’. Max’s voice in this opening sequence is lost, and the audience is given access to the ghostly thoughts and voices that haunt Max. Coupled with the edited increase in speed during this foot chase, the audience is tactfully set with enough adrenaline to see out the 120 minutes; any longer would act as a definite disservice to Miller’s masterpiece.

Once Furiosa (Charlize Theron) hits the road in her war rig with the stolen ‘wives’, she is under hot pursuit by Immortan Joe, his sickly warrior boys and Max, acting as a blood donor to one of the warrior boys Nux (Nicholas Hoult). The speed of each shot maintains, and there is evidently less editing to artificially increase the speed due to the real cars used when filming. The continuous drumming of the V8 bugle becomes a medium to both incite insanity and war, and gradually it becomes synonymous with a heartbeat, racing to the pace of the film.

Hidden in all the explosions, sandstorms and fist-fights are serious messages, emphasising a common theme seen across TV and film recently –  the strength of women. Charlize Theron’s ‘Furiosa’ is a woman empowered by her desires of redemption and revenge; the ‘wives’ are fearless in the face of their kidnapper; and even the elderly women are seen blowing holes in warrior boys with sawn-off shotguns. Although the film occasionally confuses the moral seesaw of gender discussions, it is a film undeniably intent on giving women an equal sense of power to men.

Despite the post-apocalyptic film not being an original concept – a wasteland, a return to the primitive, and a constant fight for control of resources – Miller’s return to Mad Max beautifies this apocalypse, with colourful flares, vibrant explosions and vehicles so imaginative that they make us long for a “Top Gear – Mad Max Special” to be released.

Through all the carnage, the audience is left both with both a pounding headache and a burning desire to see a sequel of some form. The ability to keep a 120 minute car chase as interesting, emotive and crazy as Miller has achieved in this film is one that deserves applause. Mad Max is a film where the acting can be overlooked, leaving the visuals and general aesthetics of the film in the driving seat – and they deliver spectacularly.



Drenched in Drenge at Camden Electric Ballroom ★★★★


These were the only words spoken by lead singer Eoin Loveless. Static, uncharismatic yet utterly brilliant, the band formed by two bored countryside brothers demonstrated in Camden how their music more than compensates for the lack of ‘spectacle’ at their live gigs.

Camden Electric Ballroom played host to Drenge, a hard rock trio who have moved themselves from an early hard rock band with a niche fanbase, to a band that appeals to the mainstream (with a political edge). MP Tom Watson praised them back in 2013 in his resignation letter from the shadow cabinet, and as the general election was looming, Drenge’s music, intentionally or not, captured the angry, bored and restless youth culture of the UK.

Take that culture, put them in a dark room with loud speakers, and blast riot inciting songs like Running Wild or We Can Do What We Want – all of a sudden, rioting becomes acceptable with a mutual sense of “I am going to smash into you…but I don’t want to hurt you”. It is utterly brilliant.

In this way, Drenge are more of a service; they don’t need the bravado of over-exuberance on stage as they seem to find their own personal solace in creating music. Instead, their live performance allows the audience to, quite literally, express themselves (most often in a mosh pit).

I see at as a perversion of the traditional gig; a return to the old-fashioned, pre-Elvis method of performance (i.e. very little charisma, movement or general attention to physical entertainment on-stage), yet a dramatic change of the previously passive audience. At the Electric Ballroom, I witnessed every audience member harness the energy of Drenge’s headbanging songs and express it in an explosion of flailing limbs and complete disregard for human safety.

Drenge’s new album Undertow is accessible, nostalgic and completely focussed on the actual music. They have reinvigorated grunge, appealing to an audience from sweaty, emo teenagers to politically disgruntled grandads, all of whom were happily and caringly smashing into each other to the complete apathy of the band.




Mumford and Sons’ Believe ★★★

I don’t even know if I believe…everything you’re trying to say to me’

GIMMICKY, LOST, and full of predictable, cliched lyrics, it is not a great start to the Mumford and Sons new album.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a Mumford and Sons fan. Take a trip down memory lane and our ears are blessed by the seemingly revolutionary sounds (in the UK at least) of a take on American folk music; banjos, pianos, guitars, cellos, violins allowing for the band to play with iconic musical stars such as Arcade Fire, Beirut, Johnny Flynn and the Vaccines. Famed for their trademark songs containing soft acoustic beginnings that crescendo into an explosion of wonderfully collaborated acoustic sounds, their newest song ‘Believe’ shows a deviation away from their norm…and what a disappointment.

There is a risk for an artist to become a one-trick pony if they don’t experiment with other genres. But what if that pony’s trick is so magnificent that people love watching it over and over again, like listening to Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ on repeat, or watching any Liam Neeson film – they are good at what they do and people enjoy them consistently. Artists establish themselves based on their mastery over a specific and focussed genre. Mumford and Sons’ charm was created through their mastery of folk, Marcus’s unique voice and the very fact that electricity did not feature in their songs.

‘Believe’ strips Mumford and Sons of their previous appeal. Indeed, the surge of artists and bands who have donned a ‘no-electric’ approach to their music might have spurred Mumford and Sons to adopt the electric guitars and relatively synthesised voice in a bid to differentiate themselves; however, the band had produced two very good albums with just raw instruments and vocals, and are famed for it – why change? I am not anti-electric and I feel, when done well, it sounds great – the likes of Radiohead, Dire Straits and Led Zeppelin (the artists who inspired Mumford and Sons new sound) all create inspirational music based on the electric guitar. However, this first song of the (former?) folk band hasn’t hit point, either lyrically or musically.

The band have said that they were always leading towards an electronic approach; but Mumford and Sons are going to need a hidden gem in the Wilder Mind album in order to prove that they can make the genre work for them.

A band established and famed for folk music taking a turn to electronic is a massive risk. This first song hasn’t worked well for them, but with an entire album still to come, lets hope the originality, charm and intricacies of the former Mumford and Sons can come into the fore.


Neighbourhood Noise guide to Field Day

(header and feature photo courtesy of Carolina Faruolo) 

I KNOW we are still in February, and whilst we don’t like to wish away our time, the sun is beginning to peek through here at the Neighbourhood Noise HQ and we can’t help but get a little excited for what is promising to be a musically magical Summer 2015, kicking off with London Field Day Festival.

Field Day 2015 tickets have been released and the line-up is the best yet. Amongst the clutter of UK festivals, Field Day is set to be the haut monde’s favourite. It’s the weekend in the summer where everyone who lives in Hackney and the surrounding E8 neighborhoods descend on Victoria Park – if you’re from these parts of London, then make sure to buy a ticket to Field Day, if not for the line up, then for avoiding a massive case of FOMO when you smell other’s sweet ciders, see the splash of colour on the streets outside, the cycling dj’s on London Fields, and the incredible music erupting from Victoria Park.  If you’re from outside of this hipster membrane, the charm of Victoria Park and the incredible talent gracing it will certainly draw you in.

The first day of the weekend doesn’t hold back. Caribou, Ben Klock, Kindness, not to mention FKA Twigs are to name a few that are playing on Saturday 6th June. These are serious acts. Caribou stormed last year (see our Pitchfork Paris review) and is headlining Saturday; Brit nominee FKA Twigs is also performing and judging from her recent performance at the Roundhouse, she is one seductive R&B act that we are extremely excited for. Along with the coolness of Kindness and the sisterly London trio Jagaara, what we are most looking forward to are Berghain residents Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock. These two are reigning the techno scene and if you haven’t been fortunate enough to experience their set at the Berghain (what with the inverted and sporadic entry requirements of this Berlin powerhouse) then you are in for a rare electro treat here.

***Caution*** –  deciding whether to party on through the night with the many DJ’s playing after Saturday’s daytime line-up, not to mention the surrounding after parties, is at your discretion and fully advised…if you can hack doing it all again the next day…

For, Sunday 7th June, Field Day’s line-up is looking just as good, if not better than the day before. Usually, the Sunday has been a bit of a ‘take it or leave it day’, and although Sunday has always been the more chilled day of the festival, being on form this year for the 70’s inspired Allah-Las would be recommended. We’ve been desperate to see them live for two years and to much avail we have not been so fortunate. Hearing they were playing at Field Day though has got us revved up for the Sunday with ‘Worship The Sun’ being one of our favourite albums of last year. It’s sun driven, hazy, dream-like style has progressed even further in this album; although still preferring their first self-titled album ‘Allah-Las’, the second album does not disappoint, and to see this live, slightly hung-over, on a music high and, hopefully, with the heat of the sun beating down, this sounds like an ideal way to spend our Sunday.

Field Day has always had some sort of musical legend grace their Sunday stage and this year it is none other than the singer, poet, artist and style icon Patti Smith. This remarkably talented and inspirational lady has been on our all time list of artists to see and thanks to the genius programming, Field Day is fulfilling one of our dream gigs. From listening to her music, mimicking her style, reading her memoir at least once a year “Just Kids”, words can’t describe how momentous it will be for us and every local artist to see her live. This is a woman who hung out with Janis Joplin, co-wrote with Bruce Springsteen and received musical advice from Jimi Hendrix. She lived in the artistry hustle of New York experiencing the beat, hipster life that us artists now aspire to. She is literate, informed and passionate about her craft and the message she delivers and she will be showcasing this all on our very own doorstep.

Step down please we have a winner. Neighbourhood Noise’s Field Day 2015 coverage begins now.


Anticipation: 9/10

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