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.

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ★★★★

‘This was the last move in a master plan. A plan long in the making.’

PETER JACKSON delivers his final stroke as Bilbo, Thorin and the dwarf company encounter dragons, elves, orcs, and every single nasty being we have previously seen on Middle Earth. This is an epic close to a truly immersive world.

The first two films of The Hobbit trilogy firmly established these films as fundamentally different to The Lord of the Rings. The films appeal to a predominantly younger audience hence the obvious and frequent use of slapstick humour, the clear CGI created monsters and ghouls and Martin Freeman, a socially awkward actor who manages to provide comic relief during any emotional scene. Nonetheless, Peter Jackson has elongated (severely) Middle Earth’s life span and he has done this to great effect, holding on to the formidable battle scenes, the emotional interjections delivering an aesopian message, and the heart pounding speeches that we have now come to associate with Middle Earth.

Although an 8 and a half hour trilogy that takes longer to watch than to read the actual book demonstrates how Jackson might have got carried away with his Middle Earth love affair, ultimately who cares? Middle Earth is iconic, immersive and utterly brilliant when brought to life by Jackson.

Martin freeman unfortunately doesn’t deliver in this film, being unconvincing and awkward during particularly emotional moments of the film; however, luckily he is propagated by good direction, the breathtaking set, and other big-name previous Lord of the Rings cast members such as a more wise, chiselled, blue-eyed (he is brown-eyed in The Lord of the Rings) yet younger Legolas, played by Orlando Bloom. Thorin played by Richard Armitage rallies his band of dwarvish men with a coarse voice and a big fucking sword in a performance worthy of a Dwarf king. And guest appearances contribute to the comedic effect, consequently rendering this trilogy as one not eyeing up any oscar or award, but being content in delivering another film about a hobbit who has walked really far…and back again.

Ultimately, this film sets out to satisfy a longing audience. Tears, laughs, anger and non-stop action, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the best of the three. No doubt, you will all go and see it.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. ★★★★★

‘That was pure wild animal craziness!’

NEIGHBOURHOOD NOISE takes you back to 2010 in our version of #tbt….although we didn’t watch this film on a thursday, and although it is far from a new release, neighbourhood noise are recalling films that have changed the industry for better or for worse. We start with Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’.

With the London Film Festival looming, I see it as apt to look back to the film that opened the 53rd London Film Festival all those years ago. Fantastic Mr. Fox was a bold entry into the stop-motion animation world by Wes Anderson. Stop-motion films do notoriously average at the box office, are infamously difficult and stressful to create and generally take the worst and most laborious elements of live and stop-motion in order to produce a film. However, the end product is the apotheosis of pure art rendering the previous concerns as somewhat irrelevant. Fantastic Mr. Fox beautifully used stop-motion to pay homage to a timely classic.

Like the book, this is a film that can be easily enjoyed over and over again. Anderson’s precise yet humorously quirky take on the novel creates an Ocean’s Eleven coolness about it (abetted by George Clooney who voices the insecure yet arrogant fox). The familiar Anderson cast all play a role in this film from Owen Wilson as an apathetic sports coach, to Bill Murray..as a badger, enabling Anderson to have a stamp of ownership over his adaptation through his casting choice. Furthermore, much a tune to a recent jaguar ad, all of the villains in this film are British, aesthetically displeasing characters; all of the heroes are american; and then there is a safa…who must have been cast for some reason. The more times you watch the film, the more the accents become a prominent part, causing the audience to question Anderson’s motives. Not only that, but the soundtrack, containing a substantial amount of ‘The Beach Boys’, adds to an altogether brilliant portrayal of a childhood classic with multiple, timeless themes intertwined throughout the film.

With movies such as the The Boxtrolls being released this month, stop-motion animation appears to have become more and more popular, but the stresses of this film making technique are not sugar coated. It is hard, it is stressful, and it is not very financially rewarding. At the end of the day, however, stop-motion animation creates an enduring beauty that is the epitome of art-in-motion as seen with Fantastic Mr. Fox. That achievement of enduring beauty is what film is all about.

1st watch 7/10

2nd watch 8/10 (ages like a fine wine)

Joe Guglielmino’s Strange Rumblings in Shangri-La ★★★★

Jean-Claude Van Damme levels of cool as the film takes surfing to Iceland.

Jean-Claude Van Damme levels of cool as the film takes surfing to Iceland.

James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon discovers and describes Shangri-La as a fictional paradise; a search for the apotheosis of utopian existence in our world. It is both within and without, being an island located outside of the known world, yet within it at the same time. The very title of this self-proclaimed psychedelic surf experience is one that mystifies, confuses yet entices the spectator, as it enticed us at neighbourhood noise. The supernatural, mystic nature that surrounded the film’s release were transposed to Victoria Park for the evening in an attempt to capture the worldly experiences that the surfers and crew from Globe encountered. The cryptic directions given online to actually find the film only contributed to this mysticism: ‘The Pagoda, Victoria Park’. It doesn’t help if you naively don’t know what a Pagoda is and are then thrown into an enormous park on the outskirts of London. It also doesn’t help when every other person in the park have no idea what a Pagoda is. Regardless, we eventually stumbled upon the infamous Pagoda in Victoria Park, and when realising that it is a tiered tower building often found in historic East Asia and quite a remarkable landscape in the park, an overwhelming sense of embarrassment waved over us. With our new found knowledge, Strange Rumblings in Shangri-La was beginning to make even more sense. Tiki huts, a free colourful food stand serving indian street food and a free bar set within a culturally aware tent all surrounded the Pagoda, embracing the many different cultures that Globe and the surfers experienced on their travels; an intimate touch to share their encounters with a unknowing audience. Upon arriving, we instantly knew this would be more than just an ordinary premiere of a film – this was to be an experience. A belly dancer allured people out of their comfort zones to join her in her dance and rewarded them with an ominous key; this key unlocked a locker containing Globe surf boards, skate boards and goodie boxes – before the film even began, the event celebrated the way in which surfing is accompanied with a gross appreciation of varying cultures. Four free cobras in, we took our seats on the cushions and rugs provided, and under a reddening sky, the 16mm film began to roll. Globe’s use of 16mm film gave the film an incredibly authentic edge. As the surfers travelled the world from Iceland to Mozambique, each location was captured through long surf scenes accompanied by an inspiring soundtrack. The shots, the surf and the 16mm cameras were the focus of the film as the three combined to create a beautifully poetic representation of an extreme sport. The psychedelic nature of the film was captured in the opening scene where the focus of the film was made apparent: the beauties of surfing. Some of the world’s best surfers were captured in this authentic film leaving the audience’s jaws dropped throughout. The soundtrack in conjunction with the 16mm film created a supernatural feel to the extreme sport, enhancing the poetical and artistic nature of surfing. The surfers travelled the world in search for the perfect wave – the Shangri-La of surfing. Although there was only a slight documentation of the actual travels, the way in which the director uses intermittent shots to capture an aspect of the country’s culture whilst shooting the surfers in action creates a photo montage effect demonstrating the power of film and photography. The focus of the film was to illustrate the artistic effects of 16mm film and how that contributes to the psychedelic surf experiences that the film encourages. The whole experience of this premiere was inspiring; the beauty of surfing as a sport was undeniably present and the coming together of man and nature through film, music and sport demonstrates how the film is the epitome of artistic and sporting talent. Globe proved that Shangri-La can be achieved through creative and interactive art.