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.

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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.

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight Trailer

Quentin Tarantino releases his new trailer for The Hateful Eight – incredible cast, punchy one liners and a sneak preview of Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack – excited would be a severe understatement. Lets hope Tarantino’s epic helps facilitate the Western genre’s return to its former, classic glory. 

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.

 

 

Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper ★★★

‘I just want to get the bad guys, but if i can’t see them I can’t shoot them.’

BRADLEY COOPER delivers a spectacular performance in this suspenseful contemporary account of war; however, it is difficult to assimilate this film in a black and white sort of way – good or bad. Ironically, that is how Eastwood presents war – good guys and bad guys with nothing in the middle. A simplistic, blindly patriotic interpretation of an extremely complicated subject matter combined with a gross alteration of the truth, this film undoes its achievements in terms of cinematic spectacle through the annoying yet inevitable presence of political and moral concerns.

Much akin to the famous ‘shutting your butt down’ interview with Quentin Tarantino, to what extent is a director held accountable for the possible political and moral implications their film has in the real world? With movies such as The Interview causing worldwide uproar and panic, Quentin Tarantino and all other directors must surely understand the empowered position they hold in delivering messages through their art form. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper has invited a whole host of questions regarding the position and the responsibilities of a director in the wider society.

Ultimately, American Sniper delivers a message that the patriotic American is good, and the hateful, evil Muslim is bad. It is a film that instills hatred, propagates the US army, and hails a former navy SEAL as a hero due to his hatred being so strong that he supposedly killed more than 255 people during his career. In his book, Chris Kyle, the protagonist of the film, described killing as ‘fun’, and something that he really enjoyed. He also did not hold back from expressing his severe hatred of Iraqis, calling them ‘savages’. Of course, the film wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if Clint Eastwood’s Chris Kyle was like the real man; in fact, it is almost futile to mention that this film is based on a true story as the film is so far removed from the truth. For this reason, although some impact might be lost, thinking the film as entirely a work of fiction might allow a cinema goer to enjoy the film more, without any moral and political crises.

American Sniper opens with a tense moral dilemma, which most of us have already seen in the heart pounding trailer. Shoot the kid or not. I am pretty sure that every time that trailer has been played, an overwhelming silence fills the room, as each person listens intently to the heartbeat, the heavy breathing and the few words spoken over comms. That feeling of suspense is present throughout American Sniper, heightened by a tremendous performance by Bradley Cooper. Although it is hard to ignore the political sentiments and moral ambiguities in the film, Eastwood really does bring the horrors of war home. It is an exploration of Chris Kyle’s extremely troubled mind and how to deal with it, veterans being a topic of expertise for Eastwood as seen in Flags of our Fathers. Eastwood documents Kyle’s life from wanting to be a cowboy, to witnessing 9/11 on television, to joining the SEALS and becoming ‘The Legend’.

This film oozes patriotism; it might as well just be a 2 hour show of bugles sounding against an American flag which is swaying in the wind in slow motion. Nominated for 6 oscars, including best picture, this film is far more controversial, provocative and egotistic than Fox News…in fact, Fox News probably have this film listed as one of their favourites.

Taken as a stand alone movie, without politics, American Sniper is a decent, edge of the seat war film (that still blows smoke up the arse of the US). Take the film within its political context and it is a misguided form of propaganda to further create a dichotomy between east and west, and which, intentionally or otherwise, will instill more hate and racism in our own countries. In fact, this hate and racism has already erupted in response to this film.

An exciting, suspenseful war movie whilst watching that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth upon reflection.

 

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar ★★★

‘We used to look up at the sky and wonder our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.’

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN TACKLES A WIDE ARRAY OF PROBLEMS THAT FACE HUMANITY, but the only thing he achieves is a good looking film. Convoluted, complicated and contrived, this film solely succeeds in the visuals and soundtrack…but nothing else.

This is Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious film to date. It is a lecture attempting to teach grand concepts in the guise of science through a fictionary plot. No green screens were used, and everything was ‘real’ demonstrating the visionary prowess and directional expertise inherent within Nolan. The only other film that could rival this transformative space odyssey is Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Nolan tackles love, time, impending apocalypse, space, space travel, artificial intelligence, the fifth dimension, the fourth dimension, the third dimension..all of the dimensions, and although I commend his efforts in exploring all of these concepts in a three hour film, I also condemn them. As a film, exploring so many larger than life topics successfully and succinctly is near impossible without becoming utterly convoluted and ultimately disinteresting.

The film presents a near to death Earth, where school curriculums have been changed in an attempt to cultivate a new generation of farmers and survivors to further the lifespan of the world. Interstellar presents a middle-aged widowed man and his relationship with his daughter, where paternal love drives all decisions and defies all science and time. Matthew McConaughey is, as expected, exceptional in his role. Jessica Chastain encapsulates the strong female figure – a figure common in all of Nolan’s films – as she works across galaxies with her father. Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway further cement the father-daughter dynamic that is integral to the film, acting as the last remaining NASA members fighting to help the world find an alternative habitable location somewhere in space. The relationships in this film are all believable, the actors are all exceptional – but this is a film that will not win an oscar for acting, nor is it a film to propagate the careers of individual actors. Actors chose to do a Nolan film due to the inevitable revolutionary methods of filming that Nolan uses. He constantly pushes the boundaries on realist films, exploring concepts that often perplex (and haunt) contemporary audiences.

However, as with the vast majority of Nolan’s films, the script is poor. In fact, the script acts in direct opposition to the fine acting and visuals. It takes away from the film to such an extent that the cinema was drawn to laughter at points. If you have to spend each scene explaining (or teaching) a scientific concept that even Steven Hawking cannot understand, the everyday audience member is going to become baffled, and its going to feel more like a Physics lesson than an entertaining film. A poor, predictable and cliched script, the film is instantly fighting an uphill battle, and visuals alone cannot win that. Nolan has taken his ideas too big to the point of being inconceivable (not unbelievable). Nolan makes a film that is intended to be believable, but due to the inconceivable and, ultimately, inaccessible nature of the ideas attached to the film, it is extremely difficult for an audience member to connect.

The difference between Inception and Interstellar is that Inception was able to foster a previously unheard of concept – dream sharing. It wasn’t something that people thought of often in their day to day lives; and in the deep dark suspicious world of global corporate companies, people love to think that these sorts of advanced military shenanigans take place – it feeds back to make Batman an even more accessible creation. Interstellar takes an idea that almost everybody has pondered (high or otherwise) – the ability to defy space and time – but executes the idea in such a convoluted way that it becomes extremely removed from the audience. I was only able to appreciate the film’s aesthetics; the grand concepts were sketchy and the script was weak consequenting in a severe detachment from Nolan’s space odyssey.

Nolan has created a revolutionary film yet again. But he has taken too big a step this time which has invited a whole host of criticism and flaws in the film. Interstellar looks amazing, sounds amazing (thanks to Hans, Nolan’s go to man with music); but, ultimately, it fails to deliver due to a pretty dire script.

The difficulty with starting a directional career so well with films such as Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight Trilogy is that ideas have to be bigger each time. You can’t go much bigger (or complicated) than Nolan’s Interstellar, but this time it hasn’t worked. Perhaps Nolan’s limits have been reached.

neighbourhood noise have heard rumours of a Nolan directed Indiana Jones to be in stall next – as usually big Christopher Nolan fans, lets hope that, if these rumours are true, he is able to deliver!

 

 

David Michôd’s The Rover ★★★★

‘Australia. Ten years after the collapse.’

BROODY, MYSTERIOUS, DETACHED AND TORTURED, Guy Pearce steals the show, battling nature, humanity…and even a dwarf in David Michôd’s successful post-apocalyptic film, The Rover.

Australia is transformed into a resource rich third world country that illustrates the very real problem of the widening inequality gap prevalent in our society today. In this way, Michôd’s terrifyingly accessible film creates a blurred line between fiction and documentary – a docu-fictionary film, visualising the outcome of contemporary society’s inaction to some of our biggest problems: global warming, inequality and the slow breakdown of social order. Opening the film with “Australia. Ten years after the collapse”, Michôd presents a world fallen apart (although it is unspecified as to whether this is a global collapse, or just the collapse of one nation). Regardless, The Rover maintains a melancholic tone throughout all aspects of the film, from the plot to the characters to the drained landscape.

After an unseen violent altercation between a group of so-called criminals, branded villains for the rest of the film, and the so-called local authorities (also branded villains in the film), Robert Pattinson’s character, Reynolds, is abandoned by his brother and the other criminals with a bullet in his gut. Destruction continues in the opening sequence in a nonchalant kind of way, normalising violence and disorder in this wasteland; Guy Pearce is slumped over a bar by a window as the bandits’ car crashes across the view. Undisturbed to the outside wreckage, Pearce’s clear withdrawal from humanity creates an ironically funny scene, but one that causes concern when you realise what you are laughing at…a world that lacks the ability to actually care. Pearce hears a smash, drags his weathered and tormented body outside and witnesses his car being stolen. So begins the film, and the depressingly simple yet excellently executed plot of a man trying to reclaim his car in a post-apocalyptic society. The story is the gradually unfolding relationship between Erik and Reynolds to the point where you can almost categorise it as friendship – the simplicity of the plot is poignantly countered by the complexity of this relationship.

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Michôd’s film owes much of its success to the acting masterclass provided by both Pearce and Pattinson. The vulnerability of Pattinson compared to the violent cynicism of Pearce expertly compliment one another, creating a dichotomous relationship similar to that of Lenny and George from Of Mice and Men. Pattinson is a product of the “collapse” who has been protected all of his life, hence his moving innocent portrayal. In contrast, Pearce pines for a lost world, where he reveals to a member of the authority that the breakdown of social order caused the breakdown humanity – a beautiful take on the root cause of Michôd’s physically and economically degraded country. Pearce’s character carries a weight of sin around with him: his neck hangs, his shoulders hunched and his body holds decades worth of tension – Pearce creates a character who is the definition weathered as he begrudgingly lives in an uninhabitable world.

The lack of dialogue, the 10 minute long takes and the ominous droning drag of the soundtrack vividly convey the oppressive heat of the landscape. Humanity is drying out, desperate under the intense sun. Michôd creates highly suspenseful scenes whilst maintaining a realistic sense of lethargy emphasising the sweltering heat. The lack of dialogue adds to the mysticism and monstrosity of Pearce’s character who has become accustomed to the heat and violence of the country. He is reduced to an animalistic state, constantly empathising with dogs over humans, as he wanders the desert heading towards nowhere.

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Michôd’s film is a successful vision of an attainable yet undesirable future. Although some of the scenes do drag on, the acting commands the undivided attention of the audience. Both Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson steal the show with their brilliant, gritty, Blakean performances in which innocence is corrupted or guided by experience in order to begrudgingly survive in a decaying country. Whether it is corruption or guidance is left to the audience.

neighbourhood noise are extremely excited for Michôd’s next feature – it has a lot to live up to.