Quick Hit: Young love, brotherhood, and the intense creation of music – you couldn’t ask for more.
I’ve always been a very unapologetic music lover. I may not have the same musical talents that some can boast, but I have passing skill with my voice and a desire to always learn more (unfortunately, I rarely give myself the time to learn more). The creation of music, particularly the lyrics, has always been a passion for me, because I love the ability to invoke emotion with the written word, and that translates well to music as well. Couple that with the fact that I have freckles, red hair, and blue eyes, and I was kind of meant to be a sucker for Sing Street from the get-go.
However, even taking myself out of it, Sing Street is a fantastic film that manages to show us some extremely wonderful creative process shots, as well as being a coming of age film. When combined with the love story and family dynamic, you can’t help but really enjoy it. Director John Carney tells a story that’s slightly autobiographical, or at least feels that way. We have our main character Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) as he is in that most unfortunate of periods – middle teenagedom. His parents are a mess, he has to switch to a Catholic school that is all rumpus and unfortunate principals, and he has nothing really that seems exciting. But once he sees Ralphina (Lucy Boynton), he forms a band to impress her, and give her a reason to see her again – the band’s first music video.
Plot conveniences aside, who hasn’t thought of writing a song for a young woman? In fact, there are tons of famous musicians that got into it simply because of songs they wrote for girls. But it’s here that the story really picks up. Conor teams with Eamon (Mark McKenna) and here he learns how to really write music, all while under the hippy-like guide of his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor). It’s some of these beautifully shot creations, most of which start with the simple line “Want to help me write a song?” capture the creative process in a way that I haven’t seen since the criminally underwatched August Rush.
There’s also an intense beauty to the way the different performances are filmed. Often done with a handheld camera, there is a feverish intensity to the way it is filmed. The camera pivots from the instruments to Cosmo (Conor’s new nickname given to him by Ralphina) to the other bandmates. It’s a giddy presentation of what it is to be in a band. The music they’re playing is also really good. Often indicative of whatever music they were listening to at the time, the music represents Cosmo’s growth as an artist, almost as much as his choice in clothing and hairstyle (and make-up does).
But to say that the movie is only focused on these performances is wrong. Outside of the love story, which I thought was a great example of the intensity and hopefulness one feels as a young teenage man, there is the beautiful relationship between Conor and Brendan. In one of the most angst ridden scenes, Brendan confesses that he felt like he was blazing a trail for Conor to follow. He wasn’t able to do it on his own, and he is frustrated with his lack of movement in life. This scene was as close to crying as I could have been without actually shedding tears. The brothers (the film itself is dedicated to brothers everywhere) present something that is rarely scene in movies – an older brother who believes in his younger brother, and longs for him to succeed in a way that he never could.
Overall, the music, especially the original songs, will have you bopping along for days afterward. I tremendously enjoyed this film, and hope that you will too. I’m giving it an “A+”, and say that is may have been one of my favorite movies I’ve watched this year.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Bloody horror fun, the whole ending killed (no pun intended) it for me.
What if you were suddenly forced to murder your office mates, or be killed yourself in a gruesome, James Bond villain type way when your head exploded from the inside? And not like the explosion of the bombs in Mission Impossible III, where your eye just goes a little crooked. I’m talking like… brains being pasted on the windows and walls explosion? That’s exactly what is presented to us in The Belko Experiment.
Starring John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane, Hush) as Mike Milch, Belko immediately gives us believability and an incredulous set up at the same time. To believe that all these young people left to go work at this country seems incredible, but then you think about the student loan crisis and consider you probably would too for the right amount of money. When everything starts to happen and the groups immediately fracture, you know that you can picture in your head the different people that you work with, and which side they’d end up on. It’s an extremely creative idea, and I give them a lot of credit for a fun execution of it.
The effects are spot on, and director Greg McLean never hesitates to focus on the action. We’re treated to some truly gruesome shots of people being killed by everyday objects before we eventually succumb to the fact that somehow there is a whole armory in the building.
At this point, Belko lost me a bit. I was a bit on the fence with it up to this point, but I was loving the ludicrousness of it – well that and John C. McGinley’s extremely excellent Wendell Dukes. He’s still the best part of the movie for me. But when we lose the fact that this was an experiment to see how far people will go – guns are impersonal for most people, and so it loses that gritty effect. Throw in an ending that seems ripped from an episode of Black Mirror and I wasn’t happy with it overall.
There are some other strong points though – I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack, which is filled with Spanish versions of popular hits (because they’re in Columbia). There are also some really good death montages, which is always a hit in a movie like this. The characterization is also good, if stereotypical, and most of the loose ends that you wonder “Why don’t characters just…” get tied of satisfactorily pretty early in the story.
Overall, it wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed getting to watch it, if only for the ideas that could have made it great. I’m giving it a big, fat, blood splatted “C”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Wonderfully acted, but a bit overlong, this film will be a crowd pleaser despite its heavy symbolism in today’s world.
Stop me if you’ve seen heard this before: A woman goes up against a chauvinistic pig who loves a media circus surrounding him. He turns the entire event into a spectacle, daring people to hate him and deliberating prodding people around him into conflict. No, I’m not talking about the 2016 election – I’m talking about the tennis event between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, the event which is the topic in today’s film – Battle of the Sexes.
It’s easy to see the parallels that have been drawn in this film – they’re made abundantly clear the more we move through the film. Without some truly impressive performances by Emma Stone, Steve Carrell and their supporting cast it would have been easy to dismiss this as a bunch of political noise. Instead, what you get is a beautifully rendered picture of two people who were struggling with what it meant to really be themselves.
Emma Stone does an Oscar-worthy job sinking into the character of Billie Jean. Shot in lots of intense close-up shots, particularly in the scenes with Marilyn (played by Andrea Riseborough), Stone’s emotions play across her face before being masked, only to slowly be let out again. It’s that realization and recognition of her true self that plays out on her face over and over throughout the film. Some of her best scenes may be the ones with the true villain of the film – Bill Pullman, full of his own schmarm and sexism playing Jack Kramer.
To Carrell’s credit, he matches this fairly well. At times he plays the character that most would recognize him (both him and Riggs) – a media clown who is full of energy and wants the spotlight. But I give the screenwriter Simon Beaufoy real credit here – he actually paints Riggs with a full canvas instead of just making him one color. There are some beautiful scenes that allow supporting actress Elizabeth Shue to shine as Rigg’s wife, and Carrell nails the emotional response to being an unapologetic addict.
The soundtrack is also worth listening to. Punctuated at times with pop songs of the era (Elton John’s Rocketman makes an uplifting scene even more so), the highlights are the soft tonal choices used during Marilyn and Billie Jean’s first and last scenes together. This, coupled with the two actress’s performances, truly highlight the range of emotions that are playing out here, in a love that was forbidden that shouldn’t be.
Battle plays out a bit too long, and the emotional stakes in the final titular game really don’t seem to be there. First, the ending is wildly known in the world. But when you consider the fact that the ending is also so extremely telegraphed throughout, there’s really nothing to excite you in the final match. I will hand it to the filmmakers for the historical accuracy of different points, and for ending on an emotional high note with Alan Cummings (who is always excellent and I never quite can remember his name).
This film will probably not contend for all the Oscars it was hoping for, but I would expect Stone to land a possible nomination for it. I’m giving Battle of the Sexes a “B+”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"