Review – ‘Goodnight Mommy’

The Telstar Film Review

Release date: 4 March 2016
Certification: 15
Running time: 99 min
Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Starring: Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz, Susanne Wuest

Unsettling from the opening moments, this Austrian psychological horror from directors Severin Fiala and Veronica Franz keeps its cards pretty close to its chest throughout. We are given an intriguing set-up as our way in; two boys living in a modern, remote lakeside house with their mother, who has just undergone significant cosmetic facial surgery. Goodnight Mommy is intentionally secretive, preferring to create an overwhelming feeling of dread through impeccable sound editing and subtle shifts in perspective.

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Review – ‘Hail Caesar!’

The Telstar Film Review

Release date: 4 March 2016
Certification:12A
Running time:106 min
Directors:Joel and Ethan Coen
Starrring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Alden Ehrenreich, Scarlet Johansson, Channing Tatum, Frances McDormand

The Glasgow Film Festival enters its twelfth year in impressive fashion, kicking things off at its opening night gala with the UK premiere of Hail, Caesar!, the latest slice of mad cap comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen. Following in the footsteps of The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014, and While We’re Young in last year, the festival once again opens with a laugh out loud comedy from a high profile indie director (or directors, in this instance). These opening acts have allowed the GFF to stand apart from the Edinburgh International Film festival –whose credo is to highlight Scottish cinema at their galas-  by offering crowd pleasing efforts with a certain amount of Hollywood star power attached.

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Review – ‘Zoolander 2’

The Telstar Film Review

Release date: 12 February 2016
Certification:12A
Running time:102 min
Director: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penelope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Benedict Cumberbatch.

It’s been 15 years since Ben Stiller strutted his stuff on the catwalk in the original Zoolander, a pleasantly reliable comedy which combined the worlds of blissfully ignorant male models, and international political conspiracies. He was so hot back then. Developing something of a cult following, Derek Zoolander became to Stiller what Ron Burgundy was to Will Ferrell; a lovable oddball we all wanted more of. Or so we thought. Well we asked for it, and a decade and a half later, the sequel arrives. And it’s bad. Like, really, really, ridiculously bad.

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High Hat Film Podcast/Episode 48/Six Rounds of Rocky

In what can only be seen as an ill-advised experiment, Michael and regular High Hatter Andrew Fenwick decide to sit down and watch all six Rocky films back to back (to back to back to back to back).

What begins as a lively chat about the series evolution from Oscar winning drama to over-the-top battles against cartoon villains, soon descends into incoherent ramblings and piss-poor Sylvester Stallone impressions.

All in all it makes for an interesting look at the films, the fights, and the taglines, of one of cinemas most notorious scrappers.

Click here to listen

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Coming Soon…Hail, Caesar!

A wee look at films to get excited about in 2016.

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Hedda Hopper (Tilda Swinton) and Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) are in a tight spot in Hail, Caesar, the latest offering from Joel and Ethan Coen.

Directed by:- Joel and Ethan Coen, the deadpan, creative geniuses behind Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O’Brother Where Art Thou, and No Country for Old Men.

Who’s in it:- A glut of talentincluding previous Coen collaborators George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson and Josh Brolin, as well as Channing Tatum (he’s so hot right now), Jonah Hill, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton and (perhaps most intriguingly) Dolph Lundgren. An embarrassment of riches!

What’s it about:- Set at the tail end of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannixa former private eye turned problem solver for one of the big studios. The film follows a day in the life of Mannix as he struggles to keep a variety of scandals out of the tabloids, not least the fact that world famous actor Baird Whitlock (Clooney) has been kidnapped while filming the studio’s next big epic; Hail, Caesar.

Reasons to be excited:- I’ll resist the urge to simply say it’s a new film from the Coen brothers (although, c’mon! What more reason do you need?!?). The two trailers that have been released show the Coens playing completely to their strengths; razor-sharp word play, an assortment of eccentric characters, and heavy leanings towards classic farce. We know from Barton Fink that the brothers can offer a scathingly satirical look at the Hollywood studio process, and The Big Lebowski proves they can do irrelevant investigative narratives. Combine the two and we should have something pretty special. And tell me that the combination of Ralph Fiennes- apparently channeling Monsieur Gustave from The Grand Budapest Hotel and the Coen’s tongue twisting dialogue is not a match made in heavenAlso, it’s a new film from the Coen brothers.

When’s it out:- 5th February in the US and Canada, 4th March in UK and Ireland. The film will also open this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, getting its UK Premiere at the opening night gala on 17th February.

hail clooney

Hail, Clooney! George plays the role of kidnapped Hollywood star, Baird Whitlock.

 

 

This week, I have mostly been watching…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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I wanted to give this one a good few weeks for the multiplexes to empty out a little and to let the hype machine die down before I took myself along. As someone with only a mild interest in the Star Wars universe (I was well into my 20’s when I first saw the original trilogy, I also think Revenge of the Sith is a totally decent film), my feelings weren’t going to be particularly hurt by a subpar outing.

That being said it was one of the most out and out enjoyable experiences I’ve had in the cinema in a long time. Yes, even with my limited knowledge of the series I spotted all the comparisons to the original film, but I’ll take a bit of deja vu over the trading sanctions and brooding teen romances which dragged down the prequels. Instead it followed a tried and tested formula- something to please the old fans as well as win over a whole new generation- while introducing a whole host of new characters and a new threat in the form of The First Order.

As you would expect from J.J. Abrams, the visuals are crisp, from desert planets littered with wreckages of past conflicts, to the breath-taking aerial dog fights. The trio of new heroes, Rey, Finn and Poe are well drawn out characters with genuine depth and something interesting to bring to proceedings, while Adam Driver as big baddie Kylo Ren sways between sinister psychopath and petulant child with a bloody big lightsaber, adding an intriguing layer to proceedings.

Like the original trilogy there are a fair share of flaws and plot holes, but The Force Awakens- as it was with New Hope, Empire, and Jedi- gets all the important parts so completely right, that the negatives don’t really seem to matter. The film completely works as pure entertainment cinema and has me eagerly awaiting the next instalments. Whether or not they can deliver now that its lumbered with the burden of expectation, is quite another matter.

 

Wild Tales

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A deliciously sinful portmanteau about the animalistic side of human nature. Featuring six individual narratives with no over-lapping characters, Damian Szifron weaves his stories together with the common thread being a study of violence, revenge, and general stupidity.

It is a rare breed; being able to be laugh out loud funny and deeply unsettling within the space of a single frame. Events escalate at a ludicrous rate, creating moments seeped in irony and rife with physical gags which harken back to the days of classic slapstick, while offering a terrifying look at the ever increasing barriers which separate us as a society.

Produced by Pedro Almodovar, it is unsurprising to see some of his favourites in here, and the cast as a whole walk this fine line between comedy and tragedy masterfully. Their delivery is so crisp, the deadpan translates over from the native Spanish remarkably well. Wild Tales works as both a satirical piece of social commentary, and wicked slice of escapism and wish fulfilment. Probably would have made my top 10 of the year, if only I’d seen it in time.

 

Mamma Mia

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Another date night choice from my other half, this one falls into the same category as Star Wars, an event film that plays to its strengths so thoroughly that conventional criticism goes out the window.

Basing a film around the hits of ABBA means that the musical side of things is already taken care of before the cameras even start to role. So perfectly catchy are the songs that they require just the most threadbare connection to the plot to make them work. All else that is required is a suitably sunkissed Mediterranean location, and a game cast of likable stars, and you’re home and dry.

Director Phyllida Lloyd fulfills her end of the bargain, as does her cast. Oscar favourite Meryl Streep proves she isn’t above a significantly large portion of cheese, and Amanda Seyfried hasn’t reached such charming levels since the film’s 2008 release. More importantly than any of that, the film contains what is fast becoming one of my favourite phenomenons of modern films; when musicals hire actors that don’t have a singing background and give them impossible songs for them to sing.

Step forward Pierce Brosnan, who launches himself full-pelt into a rendition of S.O.S with total and utter conviction, and next-to-no ability to pull it off. It’s wavery, it’s off-pitch and it is utterly glorious. He took a lot of stick for his singing when the film was first released, but I didn’t see Colin Firth or Stellan Skarsgard having the gumption to try something so ballsy.

The Intern

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Nancy Meyers remakes The Internship, the charmless comedy from 2013 featuring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as a couple of old fashion salesmen attempting to work at the youth oriented Google.

Well not really, but the pitch for The Intern is remarkably similar, with Robert De Niro filling the shoes of Vaughn and Wilson, as a 70 year old widower who comes out of retirement to work at an uber-trendy online clothes retailer. At first patronised as something of an office mascot, old Bobby soon starts winning over his co-workers with his old-school approach to business, simultaneously saving the floundering company (which looks to be doing pretty damn well in all honesty), as well as improve the lives of all he comes into contact with.

What begins as a plucky, fish-out-of-water comedy about an elderly company man trying to find his footing in an ever changing professional world, descends into near farce as De Niro’s magic touch expands ever further. By the time he has helped one co-worker with relationship problems, provided another with a place to live, broken into someone’s house to delete a nasty email and saved the rocky marriage of his boss (Anne Hathaway, a steady pair of hands, if never particularly tested by the material), you realise he is neither Wilson or Vaughn in The Internship, but rather a corporate Mary Poppins. There is seemingly no business dilemma or life problem he cannot fix with his unbreakable eye contact and firm handshake. It’s a wonder that he never breaks into song (although if he did I suspect it would be, much like Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia, utterly glorious).

Nancy Meyers’ name suggests a higher level of sophistication when compared to other mainstream American comedies. It means that her films are usually very watchable, if rarely classics. The Intern is very much familiar territory for her, as she looks at themes like the difficulties for women in the workplace, and the romantic relationships of elderly characters. These recognisable traits, along with reliable performances from the whole cast, make for a pleasant film, albeit one that lacks focus for the majority of the runtime and, at just over 2 hours, more than outstays its welcome. It does however, manage to create enough goodwill to just about get away with it.

Michael Clancy (@clancyhighhat)

Give us a follow on Twitter @highhatfilmpod

The Other Film of the Year:- The Pyramid Texts

Timbuktu is a masterful film, and a well deserved film of the year, but its place comes with an asterisk, as it must share the title of the High Hat Film of the Year with The Pyramid Texts, a remarkable offering from the Shammasian brothers.

Denied a spot on our Top 10 rundown due to not getting a full cinematic release in the UK in 2015, the film was a standout at last year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, and has been quietly doing the rounds at select screening across the country.

On paper the film shouldn’t work; the entire film takes place within the walls of a boxing gym, as James Cosmo delivers a 97 minute soliloquy on life, regret, responsibility, fear and, of course, boxing. The fact that it not only holds the attention for the runtime, but possesses such an emotional gut punch is testament to Geoff Thompson’s incredible script, and the performance from Cosmo, who is nothing short of a revelation.

There have been many films in recent years that have focused on a single character, from Castaway to Locke, 127 Hours to Buried, but while these films used additional cameos, expositional phone -calls and charismatic volleyballs to fill in the gaps, with The Pyramid Texts there is a just a man with a camera and overwhelming need to share his thoughts. A truly heart-breaking, captivating and mesmerising cinematic experience.

Click here to read my full, 5-star review of The Pyramid Texts for the Telstar Film Review