Monday, January 26, 2015

LOCO Film Festival: SuperBob (2015)

SuperBob begins with a cacophony of news reports and overheard gossip about a meteorite heading towards the United Kingdom and striking into a man sat in a park in Peckham.  The news montage then recounts the swift recovery of the man and his emergence as an invulnerable, flying, and largely inept, superhero called SuperBob (Brett Goldstein).

Cut to six years later and Bob is stuck as a glorified secret weapon working in the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Defense filling in endless forms and appearing at public relations events.  He still lives in Peckham with his exasperated cleaner Doris (Natalia Tena), and spends his United Nations mandated day off (Tuesdays) singing in a local choir, doing oddjobs for the locals and staring at June (Laura Haddock), the girl of his dreams that works in the local library.

When tensions begin to grow between Bob’s boss in the MoD Theresa (Catherine Tate) and an American neoconservative Senator, she tries to organise a symbolic public handshake to smooth relations, but Bob has a far more important objective in his sights: a date with June…

Sunday, January 25, 2015

LOCO Film Festival: M.L.E (2015)

Everyone at some point has had to humiliate themselves in various degrees in order to earn a salary; especially it seems for people who have a creative ambition in a crowded market place.  The question is though, how far do you go to get the job of your dreams?  And how low do you ethically sink in order to keep the dream alive…?

Writer/Director Sarah Warren plays Julie Roberts (not that one), an aspiring young Canadian actress who has come to London to star in a b-movie horror called Vampire Mermaids Go To Heaven.  Before the production team can complete a script read through, the funding is pulled and she and her actor friend Camilla (Julie Sype) are left jobless.  To make things worse, on leaving the studio she knocks a woman called Bella (Jo Price) off of her bike with her car, but rather than being upset or suing her she offers Julie a job – to spy on her stepdaughter Joy (Deidre Garcia) and find out how she is spending her allowance.

Julie reluctantly accepts the offer in between acting auditions and nightmarish meetings with egomaniacal agents, who make her demeaning offers for everything except acting work.  Yet, amongst the creepy agents she does meet the initially confrontational but eventually charming Harry (Ryan Mercier) who takes her out on some dates and shares her taste for cake and video games.  Meanwhile she begins to discover more about Joy and Bella and gets sucked further and further into learning about a strange and outlandish cult…

Thursday, January 22, 2015

LOCO Film Festival: Lost In Karastan (2015)

Emil Forester (Matthew Macfadyen), a filmmaker living in London suffering from director’s block gets a phone call one day from Chulpan (Myanna Buring), a mysterious woman from the ‘autonomous republic of Karastan’ described late in the film as “a woman with many layers, each on a surface”.  She invites him to visit the country and attend the Palchuk Film Festival, where on arrival he meets the eccentric, and drunk, local celebrity Xan Butler (Noah Taylor).

Emil thinks that he is there to introduce his previous films, but instead Chulpan has arranged a meeting with the charismatic dictator President Abashiliev, who wants him to direct the inspiring epic story of Karastan’s national hero with the unpredictable Xan.  Uneasy about his obvious outsider status, Emil tries to understand the history and mythology of the country, but just feels more and more alienated… 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Film Review: American Sniper (2015)

On 1st May 2003, after only 21 days of ‘combat operations’, U.S. President George W. Bush stood on the USS Abraham Lincoln underneath a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner and gave a speech that contained the immortal line: “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”  By November 2011 when the last active American troops crossed the border into Kuwait, the war had cost $1 trillion dollars and led to an estimated 500,000 Iraqi ‘violent deaths’.  And there is one man who is arguably responsible for the most recorded instances of Iraqi deaths and has just been immortalized by cranky libertarian director Clint Eastwood

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was a rodeo cowboy from Texas who enlisted as a U.S. Navy Seal sniper after witnessing the 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi.  During his training he meets and marries Taya (Sienna Miller) before being deployed to Iraq shortly after witnessing the September 11th attacks on TV.  In his first of four tours of Iraq, he quickly earns the nickname The Legend after clocking up an inordinately high number of “confirmed kills”, including women and children who he sees targeting American troops.  By his later tours he has become so notorious to the Iraqi insurgents that he has a bounty placed on his head and he himself becomes the target of an expert Iraqi sniper, Mustafa (Sammy Sheik).

During his intervals back in Texas between deployments, Taya gives birth to their first child and Kyle becomes progressively more disturbed by reminders of what he has seen in Iraq – yet he refuses to confront his demons, which leads to a growing tension between the couple. 

Film Review: Wild (2015)

Wild begins with Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) resting at the top of a mountain she has just climbed struggling to take off her hiking boots.  Underneath she reveals her painful bloody feet and has to pull off her big toenail that is hanging loose.  The pain from this throws her backwards, which in turn knocks her shoe off of the edge and tauntingly rolls down the mountain.  The exasperated shock and despair then cuts to a flashback of how she got there…

Cheryl Strayed is a poetry student taking three months to undertake a 1,000-mile walk along the pacific west trail, which runs from the Mexican border up to Canada.  During her trip she reflects (through flashbacks) about her relationship with her mother (Laura Dern), her divorce from her husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski) whom she repeatedly cheated on, her drug use, as well as a number of empowering female role models she has read and identifies with – of which she leaves quotes of dotted along the trail. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Film Review: Foxcatcher (2015)

Sports movies inevitably seem to fall into one of two categories: Firstly there are the against-all-odds, David vs. Goliath, overcoming adversity (racism, disability, poverty etc.) hopeful narratives, then there are the grueling look-how-much-of-a-toll-this-obsessesion-with-success-and-fame-does-to-the-human-spirit types of tragic narratives.  Films like Cool Runnings, The Mighty Ducks or Jerry Maguire are firmly in the first camp, whereas Raging Bull, The Wrestler and Million Dollar Baby are in the second. 

Bennett Miller has directed one of each in recent years; the first was Moneyball – the against-all-odds true story of how the baseball team the Oakland A’s, led by general manager Billy Beane, used a system of math’s and statistics to revolutionise how to beat the richer teams.  His latest film Foxcatcher is firmly in the other camp of sports films.

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is an Olympic wrestler trying to prove himself and escape the shadow of his more successful brother David (Mark Ruffalo).  Stuck giving inspirational talks to school children and living alone with little money, he has to watch as his brother is in talks with wrestling associations for lucrative coaching deals.  This all changes however when Mark is contacted by the elusive and enigmatic philanthropist John Du Pont (Steve Carrell) who offers to coach and train him on his private Foxcatcher estate.

At first Mark is grateful for the opportunity as John takes him under his wing and builds his public persona on talking tours and public appearances, yet things begin to sour when David agrees to come to Foxcatcher and work alongside the jealous Du Pont… 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Film Review: The Theory Of Everything (2015)

In the middle of 2014, an American mathematician devised a (tongue-in-cheek) system of the ‘highlight’ data of Kindle users to see how far through readers got with a book before they gave up reading. His intention was to counteract the journalistic hype about must-read summer books and prove that regardless of hype some things are much more widely discussed than they are actually consumed. So what did he call this irreverent classification system?? It was named The Hawking Index: a reference to Stephen Hawkings, The Brief History Of Time – being widely recognized as “the most unread book of all time”. 

Yet regardless of what you might think about his popular introduction to the physics and mathematics of spacetime, I defy anyone to not want to finish James Marsh’s new biopic about the fascinating and somewhat tragic life of the legendary rock-star scientist Stephen Hawkings.

For all Hawkings’ fame and insanely impressive scientific achievements over the past decades, The Theory of Everything is mostly a simple story about a husband and wife who have to deal with a potentially insurmountable obstacle in their relationship…