The Lone Ranger - Review




Directed by Gore Verbinski

Starring Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp and Tom Wilkinson 

Aged Comanche Tonto (Depp) relates his days with John Reid (Hammer) and how the sole survivor of a massacre of Texas Rangers by the notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish (Fichtner) and his gang became the masked man bringing justice in the Old West. Corrupt railroad men, stampeding buffalo and a comedy horse all play their parts.

After years of 'production problems', changing writers and ballooning budgets, all I can say is that I welcomed this movie with a wide grin and am so happy that The Lone Ranger has eventually rode onto our screens because it was certainly worth the wait. What I love about the film is that it is so well crafted - it feels glossy and expensive but unlike the Man of Steel blockbuster, this film is still full of heart and human emotion. The Lone Ranger is the ultimate feel good movie of the summer with a stellar cast and soundtrack to boot. 

The action sequences atop of numerous moving trains are breath taking, gripping and extremely well choreographed. Far too often movies are padded out with unoriginal action sequences and reliance on green screen. Whereas Bruckheimer and Verbinski bravely took the logistical challenge of making an authentic set out on location in the scorching hot desert heat. It leads to more legitimate acting when the actors are genuinely in the elements against the weather instead of an air conditioned studio in California. This is partly where the spiralling cost would have come from but it was certainly worth it in my opinion at least; and I just hope it doesn't deter other big film makers from filming as much as possible for real. The Lone Ranger is a pleasure to look at - stunning vistas and immersive close ups that really bring the beauty and grit of the wild west to life. 

Armie Hammer exudes an aura on and off screen that screams leading man. He is a joy to watch; enthusiastic and full on but in a way that is never too much. Surprisingly comedic, John Reid keeps energy high and his relationship with Tonto is both funny and sincere all at the same time. Johnny Depp is hilarious and truly did flesh out and embody Tonto with great depth and originality. The casting of Harry Treadaway as Butch Cavendish's right-hand-man was inspired. If anyone could play a crazed villain with a penchant for crossing-dressing legitimately - it's him. 

I definitely agree with Depp and Hammer, who were recently quoted defending the movie by stating that the reviewers had made their mind up about this film before they even stepped foot in the movie theatre. They knew it had cost a lot and they knew its production had been plagued by troubles so perhaps The Lone Ranger did look like it could be a John Carter-style flop. But it isn't and it's truly sad that people aren't going to see it. They don't tend to make real movies like this any more; real acting and real wholesome heart in a western genre. 

Rating: 8

"Sometimes it's good to just tune out and watch a hero. There's something for everyone!" - Armie Hammer

Starter For 10 - Guest Review




Directed by Tom Vaughan

Starring James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall and Alice Eve

Driven by his thirst for knowledge Brian Jackson (James McAvoy) stumbles through his first year at Bristol University. Whilst seeking his dream of appearing on University Challenge Brian falls for a fellow team mate Alice (Alice Eve). Hoping for romance, knowledge, success and trying not to become the wanker his childhood friends think he will become Brian embarks on his journey.
We all know there aren’t many intelligent painfully funny British comedies out there, about a boys’ search for wisdom. However this Sam Mendes’ Neal Street Productions holds all the qualities we have come to associate with Mendes. This adaptation of David Nicholls' best selling novel is full to the brim with well-groomed witty humour. If you’re thinking of About A Boy, ignore this. Cast your mind to The History Boys and add more élan.
Determined to make his deceased Dad proud Brian heads off Bristol University where he encounters many new life experiences, moving away from home, smoking his first spliff, falling head over heal for a girl, brawling with his best mate and repeatedly making school boy errors. These blunders continue from the first to the last minute - [SPOILER!] cheating in the final of University Challenge- ruining his childhood dream.
With the overwhelming 80s nostalgia booming from every soundtrack “Boys Don’t Cry- The Cure” there’s no chance of mistaking the backdrop of Thatcherism. Political views are prominent as ever as Brian gets swept up in every campaign from women’s rights to equality in order to befriend the doting Rebecca Ebstein (Rebecca Hall). Jumping at the chance to join the University Challenge Team, he meets his first love- Alice Harbinson- which is shortly lived. After making an unexpected encounter with her naked parents or as they see it trying to “seduce Mrs Harbinson”- their relationship quickly deteriorates. 
Round of applause for this outstanding cast, without these supporting roles the plot would just crumble. Who would think that Catherine Tate known for her comedy could bring a heart warming, sensitive side and of course dry humour to the film. Popping up throughout with her beloved “Mr Wippy”- Des (John Henshaw) really makes a splash from the first moment we meet him. You either love him or you hate him. Patrick Watts (Benedict Cumberbatch) plays the most convincing ostentatious captain- constantly supplying top class comical moments.
Let’s face it there aren’t many humorous intellectual films about today without being destroyed by cheap jokes- this films is an exception. At its centre Brian Jackson, youthful and enthusiastic, played by the gorgeous James McAvoy, delivers comedy in a dramatic sense on various levels. Your emotions will surge right through this film from start to finish. In contrast with the mixed feeling for Margaret Thatcher, James McAvoy is becoming one of the great actors of his generation- with Narnia and Shameless under his belt at this point- his undisputed reputation is growing.
Like most University memories this film is full of funny, embarrassing and life changing moments which will stay with you forever. It is top of its league for comedies this year. A definite must see.

Rating: 8
A big thank you to our guest reviewer Katie who was kind enough to contribute to the blog with this great review!

Kill Your Darlings - Teaser Trailer


If you have been following this blog for a while you may or may not have noticed how much of a raging Beat freak I am. Anything Ginsberg, Kerouac or Burroughs related and I am invested. Specifically I have been buzzing about Kill Your Darlings from pretty much its inception because as well as the story it had a stunning cast of Dane DeHaan, Daniel Radcliffe and Elizabeth Olsen. 

The teaser trailer is precisely that and seems to come to an abrupt end at thirty seconds however we do get some exciting shots. Dane DeHaan looks incredible as a cocky, young Lucien Carr who is shown getting up on a table in a library much to the shock of other students. Daniel Radcliffe's take on Ginsberg's voice sounds pretty fair to me and it's nice to see him back in round glasses! Michael C. Hall is briefly shown in his role as David Kammerer but little is alluded to his seedy role in the plot (based on Burroughs and Kerouac's novel And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks.) Columbia University looks spectacular and the wardrobe of the period feels en pointe. 

No word yet on the UK release date, but be sure that if and when the news breaks I will be all over it! Here are a few links to other posts on the topic of Kill Your Darlings from the past year or so. Given the fact I have waited an age for this teaser trailer I am not disappointed. Excuse me whilst I go and watch it another 10 times...

Kill Your Darlings Update

On The Road, Kill Your Darlings, Howl

Kill Your Darlings New Set Pictures

Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg

Lucien Carr 

Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr

Wasteland - Official Featurette

This Brit heist thriller is definitely one I am looking forward to, hoping it gets a wide release because the cast is full of bright young talent and this featurette looks promising. Check it out! What's interesting is that Luke Treadaway seems to have maintained the northern accent that he speaks with throughout the movie instead, whereas Iwan Rheon has reverted back to his Welsh accent having used a Yorkshire accent in the film too. Are we detecting the early stages of method acting in the eldest Treadaway twin? 

Fish Tank - Review




Directed by Andrea Arnold

Starring Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender and Harry Treadaway

After the first opening minutes of Fish Tank I candidly noted to my friend that "this is low-budget" and not in a fuzzy indie-art-house way. In a realistically bleak and brutal sort of way. I think, all too often, that I use modern cinema as a form of escapism - wanting to see plush interiors, iconic landscapes and inhumanely gorgeous actors. And that's all well and good sometimes - but it makes watching real life honest cinema a touch depressing by comparison to prefect big budget blockbusters.

Still, the truth portrayed by Fish Tank is indeed a strength although initially remarked as a weakness by our viewing party. It's a stark look at life in a London estate. Where London Town meets rural Essex countryside and the sea. Our story's protagonist is 15 year old Mia who lives in a rundown high rise flat with her mother and little sister. She's at her happiest drinking cider, playing truant from school and street dancing in an abandoned flat. As viewers, we are eased into this way of life until her mother's new boyfriend Connor (a topless Fassbender) arrives on the scene and seemingly mesmerises Mia. Connor takes the family on days out, gets rounds in at the pub and appears to have special affections for Mia as well as her mother. The tension created between the pair in a string of essentially innocent moments builds relentlessly until the third act.

Fish Tank all seems rather hopeless but there is enough faint optimism to make for a poignant ending. This is a film that lingers in the mind well after the credits roll - whether that's to do with the excellent character acting or the all round freshness of this type of movie, it's remarkably unhurried, the plot is not sign posted, the dialogue is sparse and infrequent. There is a genuine feel that you are aboard the car trips with normal silences and natural exchanges. And that's it, Fish Tank feels natural - it isn't fake, stilted, over acted or insincere. It's realistic and unfolds slowly like life but that means that at times, it's a little boring.

What I will say is that while I can praise the film for these aspects, I can also criticise precisely that. It's not exactly entertaining and it's a bit grim and slow paced quite frankly but is that because I am used to glossy fantastical and expensive movies? But it's certainly bold, unrestrained and a no holds barred portrait of a segment of Britain which cannot be ignored. I'm not so sure what to make of Fish Tank but I feel as though the director probably achieved everything they set out to do. And it's better than Ill Mannors and Wild Bill which sadly get a bit strained and bloated towards the end. Fish Tank, conversely, knows when to stop in its stripped back picture of one girl growing up in a very real setting.

Rating: 6

Disney's The Lone Ranger - UK Premiere

Sorry for the absence! Amateur Reviews are back with a post recounting the UK premiere of Disney's The Lone Ranger accompanied by copious photos from the event. Yesterday comprised of a 10 hour stake out of Leicester Square in London and eventually all the stars came out for a brilliant evening in the sun! 

The premiere really got under way at 5 o'clock with Silver the horse getting a ride down the white carpet, however Armie Hammer later remarked that he did not in fact "know that horse"! Still, it was great to see our very own Lone Ranger in front of our very eyes: 

Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!
As ever Alex Zane was on hand to interview all the big names, this time he had his very own Lone Ranger rocky stage in keeping with the aesthetics of the movie. The Odeon was decked out with Tonto and Lone Ranger posters and the barriers were covered with official film posters which fans were free to take home after the event.

The stage in early stages of preparation
Odeon Leicester Square

Alex Zane behind the mask!
The first star out on the carpet was Armie Hammer! The 6ft 5" actor was looking summery and dapper in a striking red suit accompanied by his wife Elizabeth Chambers. Although we did not manage to nab an autograph from The Lone Ranger himself, we took a few photos of him and saw how playful and enthusiastic he was with the fans.

The Lone Ranger: Armie Hammer 
Armie Hammer
Armie Hammer
Director Gore Verbinski and Ruth Wilson were next on the cowhide carpet. Ruth looked gorgeous in a dynamic dress with fluorescent green stilettos and Gore spent time getting to meet some of the fans.
Director Gore Verbinski
Ruth Wilson signing for fans
Harry Treadaway was next out of the car. The young actor spent some time signing although sadly we missed out on an autograph from him which was a true disappointment because Harry is a real gem of an actor - if you haven't already seen him in the movie Control, it is a real must-see. Tom Wilkinson was out on the carpet too and posed for pictures with a great many people.

The delightful Luke Treadaway
Tom Wilkinson; a living legend 
At around 5:30, the man of the hour turned up. Mr Johnny Depp arrived on the carpet to rapturous applause and looked like the true movie star that he is. After yesterday it is safe to say that Johnny Depp is one lovely gentleman! He stayed out on the carpet for hours ensuring that no one went home without an autograph. He was incredibly relaxed and at ease with fans. Johnny spoke to some people near us and had a very sincere and gracious manner about him; you got the impression that when he looked at you, he cared very much about all the fans who had stayed out all day (and night) to catch a glimpse of him. They certainly don't make 'em like that often; Christian Bale take note! 

Remarkable man; Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp's treasured signature!
Finally producer Jerry Bruckheimer made his way on to the carpet and was tremendously thorough at signing and posing for pictures too. One of the best and nicest producers currently working in Hollywood!

Jerry Bruckheimer's autograph
A bit close-range; sorry Jerry!
As ever at these premiere events there was a good array of other celebs who had turned out for the great occasion so it was a fabulous evening had by all. Hope you enjoyed this mammoth post, Amateur Reviews will follow up this post on August 9th with a review of Disney's The Lone Ranger!

To Rome With Love - Review




Directed by Woody Allen

Starring Penelope Cruz, Woody Allen and Alec Baldwin

Once more Woody Allen has hand picked an all star cast and selected a European city in order to draw on its essence and make a something of a personal statement. To Rome With Love is a compendium of converging stories about love, fame, infidelity and changing culture all set again the peaches and cream backdrop of Italy's capital city.

Cruz, Eisenberg and Allen are good but you can't help think they could be excellent if they were given more time to develop but suffer due to the sheer amount of content Allen is trying to fit into the film. Alec Baldwin is hilarious as young student Jesse Eisenberg's sage conscience and Baldwin's breaking of the fourth wall is eccentric and really works. If, like myself, you have never visited Rome, To Rome With Love is the dream portrayal of the beautiful city and has probably done wonders for the Italian Tourist Board. From start to finish the movie maintains a nostalgic glow and showcases what looks like the best of a phenomenal city. 

Given my love of Vicky Cristina Barcelona and more recently Midnight in Paris, I was looking forward to this movie. As a long time fan of Woody Allen I was expecting a certain amount a quirkiness, but this one definitely was! Certain story lines maintain a degree of realism and are inspired, but others are completely off the wall and slightly farcical; to put it bluntly it's hit and miss. 

Rating: 5

The Palace Beyond The Pines - Review




Starring Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes

Directed by Derek Cianfrance 

The Place Beyond The Pines is a story about the lives of two men that intertwine surrounding one moment of panic. Ryan Gosling plays motorcycle stunt rider Luke who decides to use his special skills to rob banks in order to support  his newly found family. The middle of the movie surrounds Bradley Cooper who plays a police hero who encounters corruption within the force and deals with his own family life. Eventually 15 years progress and the children of these two men (Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan) collide with one and other in an explosive fashion.  

This film was so nearly perfect and it started off perfect. Towards the end of the second act the movie fell away from perfection when it became slightly padded out and perhaps lost sight of the freshness that defined the opening hour. It's not that the film went bad by any means but it fell away from how good it had started. What's nice about the directorial skill is the fact that Cianfrance is unhurried in his approach and takes a long time to let the story unfold naturally and organically. There are a great many lovely moments that allow the characters to express elements of themselves through seemingly mundane and commonplace conversations. The sobering realism that starts off the film however becomes marginally lost towards the end of the second act when the story begins to relying too heavily on coincidence and potentially implausible twists of fate.

The action sequences of motorcycle getaways are thrilling and found myself literally on the edge of my seat. You get the impression from the beginning that these are real people, not superheroes, they are dispensable and fragile; so it was never clear who would survive to see the final credits. There are some truly skilful directorial aspects, the film opens with an incredible long take tracking shot of Ryan Gosling's back as he walks through the circus into the tent where he performs his stunts, as far as film openers go, it is the most memorable I have seen for a long time. The acting was sound and all participants were able to bring unexpected depth to the movie because even though a lot of our main characters were flawed you still found yourself caring and rooting for them as they were personable. 

Dane DeHaan is awesome as the son of Ryan Gosling. He's kind of similar to his Chronicle character Andrew Detmer but he's different in that Jason is nonchalant and not meek. Amateur Reviews have been following his films from the beginning and his performance in The Place Beyond The Pines confirms that his career will be nothing short of illustrious. 

Darker and more realistic there was no rose tinted perspective on things. The Place Beyond The Pines is a character study first and foremost - and then a thriller. It's study of our lives and how they can interlink and how one moment can affect the entire lives of many. Cianfrance did not disappoint.

Rating: 8

Sound Of My Voice - Review




Starring Brit Marling, Nicola Vicius and Peter Denham

Directed by Zal Batmanglij

Would-be documentary filmmaker Peter (Denham) and his girlfriend Lorna (Vicius) infiltrate the creepy Californian sect that’s grown around a young woman (Marling) who claims both to come from the future and to possess information vital to mankind’s survival.

This was a movie that I had been wanting to watch for a long time and as soon as I saw it on Sky I watched it immediately. I had heard about it off someone on youtube who had said it was their film of the year so I did a bit of reading up on it and watched as many trailers as I could but even that couldn't prepare me for how much I loved Sound Of My Voice. I relish a low budget independent cinema that is incredibly well acted, directed and  written and Sound Of My voice is all of these things wrapped up in a psychological sci-fi thriller. It has that charming low-fi independent feel yet it is far classier than some of mainstream cinema at the moment.

Interesting, gripping and tense - you get the impression that this cult is believable. As a viewer you are in the same position as our protagonists. You don't know where this basement is, you don't know whether to believe Maggie either. There are times when her story is plausible, times when common sense absolutely doubts what she is saying but at the back of your mind if she really is from our future how can you ignore her wisdom.

Immediately it reminded me of Martha Marcy May Marlene, which I loved, but I like this a touch better. They share a lot of paralells (cult subject matter and cliff hanger endings) and both are films you will want to talk about after, to debate and discuss which is something that really appeals to me.

Brit Marling is pretty creepy as the charismatic and mesmerising cult leader. There is a scene early on where she breaks the fourth wall to say that she is from 'our future' which is spectacularly eerie and chilling. From the point of view of an actress this is one of the meatiest roles I have seen for a long time, she's ambiguously manipulative and powerful despite the fact she allegedly cannot leave her sterile basement.

One of the strongest aspects of the movie can also be viewed as a draw back. The ending and key themes that are raised throughout are never resolved and are so undeveloped that you can't help but hope a trilogy was always in the writer's mind. There's the issue with the police woman, surely the level of her security technology would not be necessary to find an arsonist? Abigail and her hat, black lego and Narclepsy and the injection off her barely introduced father are never explained. Were the revelations about Peter's past fabricated or legitimate. It all rests upon faith - whether the cult members have faith in time travel actually being possible and if so, whether Maggie is what she says she is. This all alludes to a wider plot and the fact that there are so many loose ends is acceptable because we have been told that it is going to become a trilogy. Although many questions have been raised and unanswered, it's not unsatisfyng because you hope that eventually there will be an opportunity for it to be resolved and at best you have to trust in your interpretation. Sound Of My Voice does not placate the audience and try to impose heavy handed conclusions; subtlety is Batmanglij and Marling's ace.

Rating: 9

The Great Gatsby - Review




Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Joel Edgerton and Carey Mulligan

I had expected this film to either be mind blowing or awful. After watching it, I feel somewhat underwhelmed as The Great Gatsby is neither impressive nor disappointing; it's somewhere inbetween. Baz Luhrmann's vision brings Gatsby alive for the 6th time and has certainly stamped his creative visualisations all over it. However the razzmatazz feels like it's getting in the way of the story, even though said razzmatazz is the most enjoyable bit.

It's hard to review a film that's based on a book (especially one as highly regarded as this) because film should be reviewed in its own right, it seems wrong to judge a film by unfavourable comparisons to a book. With that said, the plot of The Great Gatsby is almost incidental to the success, and the same with the film. People love the twenties era, the music, decadence, clothes. The film is beautiful, fun to look at and I wanted to be there but it largely ignores the subtleties of the book (maybe because the themes can't be translated well onto film...) The Great Gatsby as a book embodies the Jazz Age of the twenties in such as way that makes it one of 'the great American novels' and that's why people only started to really love the book when the twenties had passed; because it is a great impression retrospectively of a lost Age. In this sense, the film stands up very well in comparison to the book.

The film is remarkably decadent and fun to watch. The cars, costumes and parties zing off the screen with a freshness and excitement that is reminiscent of the originality and newness of the twenties. The  hip-hop soundtrack was to us what Jazz was to them, modern and innovative. Jay-Z does work well with the film, it is non jarring and adds to the over all appreciation. 

It is an interesting method of narrative to place Nick in an asylum as a recovering alcoholic. It echoes Holden Caulfield's position in The Catcher In The Rye; however in the film version of The Great Gatsby, it doesn't work as well as it does in J.D Salinger's magnus opus. It seems that Tobey Maguire was either miscast of misdirected possessing too much of a childlike demeanour, as there is nothing wrong with him as an actor. Also, the prose that appeared as if written on the camera was heavy handed and gimmicky and almost detracted from the themes that were trying to  be conveyed. The main ideas of the book however were translated well. The Great Gatsby isn't a tragic love story, it speaks of the elusive American Dream, aspirations and illusions of youth and brutal social politics.

Carey Mulligan is notable as Daisy Buchanan - boring yet intriguing, hollow and ethereal; it is easy to see why Gatsby fell for her but equally easy to see her always being a weak and vacuous woman. Her husband, Tom Buchanan is played remarkably well by Joel Edgerton. One of the few scenes that is standout is the heated exchange between Tom and Gatsby in the Manhattan hotel room. It showed that when the actors were allowed space to breath, unencumbered by confetti cannons, they could truly enact the tension and apprehension as contained in the book. Ultimately, Leonardo Dicaprio was made to play Gatsby. This has been his most impressive portrayal for a very long time and it was easy to find yourself lost in the character and believing him to be someone real and not just Dicaprio putting on an act. The direction of the core actors is Lurhmann's greatest achievement. 

Rating 6.5

Cannes Film Festival - Coverage

Been loving the coverage coming from the Cannes Film Festival this past week and have collated some of my favourite pictures from some of the events. There looks to be some amazing films premiering this year so keep it locked for discussion on some of the buzz films that reviewers are getting excited about!

In Competition (Jury chair: Steven Spielberg)
Only God Forgives, dir Nicolas Winding Refn
Borgman, dir Alex Can Warmerdam
La Grande Bellezza, dir Paulo Sorrentino 
Behind the Candelabra, dir Steven Soderbergh
La Venus a la Fourrure, dir Roman Polanski
Nebraska, dir Alexander Payne
Jeune et Jolie, dir François Ozon
La Vie d'Adele, dir Abdellatif Kechiche
Wara No Tate, dir Takashi Miike
Soshite Chichi Ni Naru, dir Kore-Eda Hirokazu
Tian Zhu Ding, dir Jia Zhangke
Grisgris, dir Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
The Immigrant, dir James Gray
Heli, dir Amat Escalante 
Le Passe, dir Asghar Farhadi
Michael Kohlhaas, dir Arnaud Despallieres
Inside Llewyn Davis, dir Ethan and Joel Coen
Un Chateau en Italie, dir Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi
Un Certain Regard (Jury chair: Thomas Vinterberg)
The Bling Ring, dir Sofia Coppola
L'Inconnu Du La, dir Alain Guiraudie
Bends, dir Flora Lau
L'Image Manquante, dir Rithy Panh
La Jaula De Oro, dir Diego Quemada-Diez
Anonymous, dir Mohammad Rasoulof
Sarah Préfère La Course, dir Chloé Robichaud
Grand Central, dir Rebecca Zlotowski
Fruitvale Statio, dir Ryan Coogler
Les Salauds, dir Claire Denis
Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan, dir Lav Diaz
As I Lay Dying, dir James Franco
Miele, dir Valeria Golino
Omar, dir Hany Abu-Assad
Death March, dir Adolfo Alix Jr
Cinefondation (Jury chair: Jane Campion)
Special Screenings
Weekend Of A Champion, dir Roman Polanski 
Seduced And Abandoned, dir James Toback
Otdat Konci, dir Taisia Igumentseva
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, dir Stephen Frears
Stop The Pounding Heart, dir Robero Minervini
Midnight Screenings
Monsoon Shootout, dir Amit Kumar
Blind Detective, dir Johnnie To
Homage To Jerry Lewis
Max Rose, dir Daniel Noah
Out Of Competiton 
All Is Lost by J.C Chandor
Blood Ties by Guillaume Canet