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