Song for Marion (2013, Film Review)

•March 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp in 'Song for Marion'.

In his directorial debut Paul Andrew Williams gave us an impressive, gritty and bleak crime film, London to Brighton – a film shot in just 19 days on a budget of £19,000. In his latest work he goes on the complete other end of the spectrum to deliver us a heart-warming comedy-drama, Song for Marion. When looking at its exterior, most would easily jump to labelling it a sentimental film which it’s one motive is to get you blubbering. It certainly succeeds in getting you to shed tears, but this is through the film’s well developed relationships between the characters, especially that of Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) and Arthur (Terence Stamp). Marion is terminally ill and is cared for by her grumpy husband, Arthur – he reluctantly helps fulfil her wishes to attend local OAP choir sessions headed by a young music teacher, Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton). But of course as Marion’s health begins to fade, Arthur finds himself becoming more and more desperate about the inevitable prospect of being alone without his beloved wife. This prompts him to become more involved in the choir’s sessions, which builds up to the group’s entry into a national choir competition – a beat very much in the vein of the 1996 film, Brassed Off.

The on-screen chemistry between Redgrave and Stamp is heart-wrenching; it’s hard to fight back those tears as the two comfort one another during Marion’s final months. But it’s when Arthur finally confesses to Marion that he’s scared about being without her that I finally let the tears subside – it’s just beautiful stuff. Redgrave’s singing performance of True Colours and Stamp’s final belting delivery of Goodnight My Darling will also leave you and the theatre audience in a quiver of snivels. But on the side there is very funny and touching moments with the choir themselves which mix in well to not make you an emotional wreck for the majority of the film. Christopher Eccleston is effective on the sidelines as Arthur and Marion’s son who struggles to bond with his stone-walled father. I felt Eccleston was slightly underused, but nonetheless enjoyable in the scenes he had; meanwhile Arterton is sweet and caring as Elizabeth, who tries hard to break down Arthur’s cold exterior in order to get him involved with the choir.

This is a splendid British picture – Paul Andrew Williams proves here that he can tackle pretty much any genre, and if you take a look at his other genre films, you’ll see that the man certainly has the knack – He’s done horror, crime and now a beautiful British comedy-drama. The performances are splendid, the comedic and teary moments are balanced perfectly – but ultimately what makes the film work is that it doesn’t try to break you down into an emotional wreck, it merely presents its characters in situations; bonding, caring and helping one another through the tough times. This is the kind of British film we need more of – you’ll be walking out of the cinema with a warm smile on your face.

★★★★✰

Written by Tom Foster
Song for Marion is out now in UK Cinemas!
You can read more of Tom’s reviews at: www.trashnoirreviews.wordpress.com

Looper (2012, Film Review)

•February 2, 2013 • 2 Comments

Believe it or not, ‘Looper’ is a story about loops. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Joe Simmons, an assassin who has his targets sent back through time by the mob so that he can kill them. Yes that’s right, in the future its so difficult to get away with murder the mob use time travel to kill people. Life seems good for Joe, but as it turns out the mob have to close the loops created by the assassins. This means that every assassin will eventually have to kill their future selves to close the loop. Of course when Joe’s future self (played by Bruce Willis) is sent back, he escapes. With Younger Joe and a very angry mob on his tail, Old Joe sets out to change his own and younger self’s future.

My very small issue with the film lies within the concept. This is a time travel film and it relies on the audience not reading into the logic of time travel. For example, there are surely much better uses for a time travel machine other than using it to kill individual people. To the film’s credit though it refuses to get tied down trying to explain how time travel works and just creates more issues. In fact Joe’s future self flat out won’t explain it because “I could be sat here all day making diagrams out of straws”, clearly a joke about other films that go into depth trying to explain the trope.

Other than this minor issue, the film is very enjoyable. The film paints a bleak vision of the future, where major cities are rife with poverty and crime. This sci fi environment mirrors our own world making the film feel accessible but intriguing for fans of the genre. However, certain environments and props give a distinctly western feel to the film. For example some characters wield old fashioned revolvers and possess a cowboy like presence in the film. These two distinct genres succeed in giving the film its own unique style. While its not completely original it contributes to the overall experience.

The film can be extremely brutal and shocking, more than earning its age 15 rating. This keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times, making stand offs between characters even more nail biting. Whats most effective is the presentation of Young Joe and Old Joe. While they are the main characters, its never clear who the hero of the story is. They both do some dark and brutal things throughout the film and I found myself constantly switching sides between the two. You never quite know who should be the rightful victor of the film and in the end its quite shocking how the story is resolved. Even for the more eagle eyed viewers, you may not see the ending coming.

The action is fast and brutal, with both Willis and Levitt talking part. Characters get shot, beaten up and thrown around throughout but the violence never loses its shock value. However one of the most effective scenes doesn’t actually show much gore or direct violence, it only suggests extremely disgusting and inhuman torture to a certain character. I personally felt quite sick when I figured out what was happening on screen and that had a much bigger impact than directly seeing what happened. I won’t spoil it, but look out for the character Seth. While this may sound like a straight up action film, its not. The film explores numerous themes that are relevant today, such issues such as single parents, moral ambiguity and fate.  This is perfectly balanced with all the mainstream conventions so it makes it a film a large diverse audience can enjoy.

‘Looper’ is a fantastic and intriguing science fiction film. It has a great setting, strong characters and a tense  climatic plot. This is very much a contender for one of the best films of the year. I wasn’t expecting what ‘Looper’ turned out to be, but I loved every second. Do not miss this film.

Written by Pearce Brannigan
Looper is out now on DVD and Blu-ray!
You can read more of Pearce’s reviews at: www.pearcevsfilm.blogspot.co.uk

Quartet (Film Review, 2013)

•January 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

quartet-film-cast

Dustin Hoffman makes his début directorship in The Quartet and with the quite frankly, astonishing cast, it’s easy to see why it was nominated for a Golden Globe. It also earned Dustin Hoffman a Hollywood Breakthrough Award in Directing at the Hollywood Film Festival along with an Audience Choice Award at the Chicago Film Festival.

Many viewers will probably find the storyline a bit dull; a 4-piece opera singing group who all end up in a care home for retired musicians who come into some difficulties regarding their annual celebration of Verdi’s birthday. Well, my answer to you is that you need to look at it deeper. I’m not pretending this is a highly arduous storyline, but it is a story of relationships, aging and ultimately friendship.

The cast is truly spectacular, the varying behaviours of the characters and the way the actors bounce off each other makes you really understand their emotions. You really feel the love that Reggie (Tom Courtenay) had and indeed still has for Jean (Maggie Smith) and understand the anger he has for her after the breakdown of their short lived marriage. But to lighten the mood we get given Wilf (Billy Connolly) with his outrageous, crude and impolite behaviour and Cissy (Pauline Collins) who suffers from Alzheimer’s – but it is shown as both serious and comedic. Sheridan Smith who plays the resident Dr Lucy Cogan is on fine form with her appropriate humour and her serious behaviour. And finally, not forgetting the majestic Michael Gambon who plays Cedric (specifically pronounced CEEE-dric), a bitter old man who used to be a stage director back in the day. I think one of my favourite things about this movie is the fact that some old musicians actually got to be extras, it just shows how capable the elderly are even though we, as a society seem to dismiss their abilities once they reach a certain age.

I am really hoping this film does terrifically well because it is the first film since The King’s Speech that has received any proper recognition in major cinemas as a British film. It was produced by the British companies: BBC Films, Headline Pictures and Finola Dwyer Productions alongside German company DCM Productions. The fact that this has virtually no America influence (only Dustin Hoffman as a Director) is such a breath of fresh air and I hope people will go and support the British film industry at it’s best.

Written by Jennifer Dontenville

Why hello there…

•January 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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