Month: January 2017

T2: Trainspotting (2017)

Danny Boyle has never made a sequel to one of his films, until T2: Trainspotting, adding a sequel twenty years after his cult hit of Trainspotting. Again, T2: Trainspotting treads the same ground that formed the basis of Trainspotting in adapting Irvine Welsh’s novels, but this time working Welsh’s novel Porno into the mix.

Trainspotting was a smash hit and achieved cult status, from the famous toilet scene and it’s pop culture references throughout it has become sacred ground and I was filled with a sense of trepidation as the sequel approached. I’ve always held Danny Boyle in high regard, but this feeling could not be shaken due to the enjoyment from his original 1996 film.

“So Mark, what you been up to.. for twenty years?”

landscape-1483457548-begbie-renton-t2-trainspotting

As Mark makes his way around Edinburgh to see his old friends and trying to avoid the notorious Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) he begins to realise their social situations haven’t changed, as Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) is still scheming to make money and Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still addicted to heroin, seemingly without a purpose.

Spud’s character goes on one of the better journeys in T2 as we see him still in the realms of being traumatically haunted by his addiction, but with the help of Mark he finds a new things to be addicted to, the way Mark turned his life around. As he becomes intertwined with Mark and Simon and sometimes Begbie, he begins to channel this new lease in life instead of being a background comic character. As Mark and Simon’s character stories took more of the central stage, Spud’s is the one to be watching.

T2 becomes interesting viewing, as it is a continuation of the characters that were made famous in the 1996 original, but instead of having it as a standalone sequel Boyle decided to have certain parts mirror Trainspotting. As Spud leaves the boxing gym, he sees the younger version of himself run past in a dazed surreal scene. Boyle chose to tease the original soundtrack too with a few, lingering notes, which bought forth the wanting of the song to kick in. Instead, Boyle chose to leave it, having that feeling remain.

A big draw to the original Trainspotting was the ability to successfully show the social world from the view of people living in it. Boyle effectively brought this into the 21st Century with Mark Renton again using the ‘Choose Life’ speech, but this time having a echoing relevance to the world in 2017. The continuation of the characters also filled us in with what’s happened in the previous 20 years for them, as the four receive an introduction before Mark enters their lives again, with their previous lifestyle affecting them one way or another.

2801newfilmpic

Whilst Boyle managed to perfectly incorporate the social backdrop of Edinburgh now vs the Edinburgh twenty years ago, I did feel let down by the story. This becomes the one element that left a bitter taste in my mouth upon leaving the cinema. I shan’t divulge too much due to spoilers, but I felt underwhelmed on a whole due to the story letting me down.

Although T2 is a sequel to Trainspotting, it seems as though Danny Boyle chose to try and keep them as separate entities, almost a ‘Past v Present’ scenario throughout T2. There are certain subtleties that indicate this use, including the group using their actual names (except for Spud, who remains haunted by his addiction that began twenty years ago) and their nostalgia trips they take Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkova) on in Simon’s flat.

T2 has managed to stay with me upon writing this 48 hours later. As I recount the characters, the comical gestures and the mirroring of Trainspotting, this all vastly outweighs an underwhelming story. It seems as though rather than focusing on the story, Danny Boyle focused on the characters and their situations twenty years down the line.

Boyle accompanied scenes with some beautiful visuals, of Mark and Simon celebrating a foosball goal and their hit of skag in Spud’s apartment. But also of Edinburgh, which wasn’t that focused on in Trainspotting. Although he is treading similar ground again, he is still working the camera fantastically throughout the film.

960x410_9cf78c9ec9b286d122e7fc07d38297ec

After discussions and lengthy thoughts about T2 it became a better film for me to enjoy, but I could not shake that feeling of it being underwhelming when I left the cinema. It’s ability to remain with me 48 hours later and still be ‘fresh’, is a testament to what Danny Boyle actually achieved with T2.

The enjoyment on the screen of the characters and their actions throughout the two hour-ish runtime was excellent and felt brilliantly familiar, almost as though we hadn’t been waiting twenty years for the sequel. I feel the story would have benefitted more with Spud and his arc being front and centre, but him niggling away in the background still worked excellently.

Regardless, Danny Boyle has still taken everyone on a visual adventure with T2 from the club scene, to the heroin sequence in Spud’s flat, it all worked perfectly and carried on hitting the right tones. Boyle’s ability to mirror the films, but have them remain as separate entities was a masterstroke and served it’s purpose. The thing that has stayed with me is the Choose Life speech but with the 21st Century spin, because it hit all the right notes. T2 if anything has made me feel nostalgic for the first one, but I have every faith that repeated viewings of T2 will only strengthen its message.

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

Dirty Grandpa seems to be a universally loathed film. From reviews to podcasts to word of mouth, it seemed as though Dirty Grandpa did not have an audience anywhere. Considering the success of Efron’s Bad Neighbours and Robert De Niro, you know being Robert De Niro it surely can’t be that bad. Right? Surely!

Efron and De Niro are collaborating with Dan Mazer, who is known for writing the Sasha Baron Cohen films like The Dictator, Borat and Brüno. Dan Mazer has tried his hand at directing before with I Give It A Year, which seemed to be something he wanted to replicate with Dirty Grandpa, thematically.

tumblr_nz47gl5pbf1uj9ivco1_1280

Robert De Niro doesn’t strike me as a comic actor in anyway, as I have always associated him with blood-pumping crime thrillers, like Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale and Casino. The only comedic thing I have seen De Niro star is the ‘Meet The’ franchise and even in that he stars as a stern-faced authoritative figure. Efron on the other hand has expanded into comic acting with his most recent one being Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.

I’m willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to actors branching out, as I despise typecasting, but not when it comes to Dirty Grandpa. What seems to be a familiar stance on all ‘racy’ comic films is the inclusion of crass and vulgar comedy somewhere in it, but not have all the comedy as crass and vulgar. Unfortunately Dirty Grandpa seems to have not have gotten that memo as within 15 minutes, we see Dick (De Niro) pleasuring himself quite openly as his grandson, Jason (Efron) walks in.

I don’t need to see that.

Jason is tasked with driving his Grandpa Dick down to Boca Raton in Florida, which was the vacation home for Dick and his late wife. Jason is cast much like the Robert De Niro character of Jack Byrnes in Meet the Parents in the sense that he is very uptight and seems to be very work-orientated. During their drive, it becomes apparent that Jason is very ‘under the thumb’ with his fiancée Meredith (Julianne Hough) and Dick expresses dissatisfaction in his relationship with Meredith on numerous occasions.

dirty-grandpa-trailer

As they drive down to Boca Raton, Jason with a whiskey in his hand as his grandpa seems to enjoy the idea of drink driving, Dick recites that they used to be closer when Jason was younger and begins to pluck away at his character. The once photographer-hopeful now turned corporate lawyer storyline begins to tread all-too familiar ground.

What comes as a surprise is that Dick is not really in bereavement, but rather in excitement as they bump into three college graduates. One was Jason’s classmate in photography, Shadia (Zoey Deutch) and the other being Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), who wants to sleep with Dick. (to complete a college trifecta or something along those lines). Unfortunately Plaza and Deutch don’t become memorable characters, other than the need for love interests in this film.

Over the course of its 100-minute runtime, I think I laughed roughly twice. And that wasn’t at any of the main characters, but rather Jason Mantzoukas’ Tan Pam, a Floridian drug dealer who is responsible for getting Jason and Dick in some sticky situations.

dirty_grandpa_sd3_758_426_81_s_c1

As I mentioned, majority of the comedy used throughout the film is off a crass or vulgar nature. It is often throwaway and quite frankly, not very memorable. When I watch a comedy, I expect to be able to laugh at something in the days after, but nothing of this sort came from Dirty Grandpa.

It feels as though Dan Mazer tried to save the film with this trickling of the story regarding Dick caring for Jason’s future and expressing that he should be following his dreams, not being a corporate lawyer for his father. But by the point Mazer introduced this, the film was too far-gone with the ‘comedy’.

I watched this film thinking surely it can’t be that bad considering all the less-than-positive reviews, but alas, I cannot argue in its favour. The film is just awful. The story doesn’t really work at all considering what transpires in the 100 minute runtime and just fails to land any comedic laughs, aside from the two delivered by Mantzoukas, but even those weren’t memorable. Dirty Grandpa offers nothing, but crass and vulgar comedy situated in the all too familiar spring break setting and I just cannot recommend Dirty Grandpa at all.

Das Boot (1981)

During the late seventies and early eighties, some of the greatest war movies were produced, including The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. Das Boot is commonly known for being a war epic, but that long war film in a submarine. Depending on which version you have seen, Das Boot can range from 150 minutes to 293 minutes.

I managed to find a version that fell in between. It was the director’s cut that stood at 209 minutes, which is still quite substantial for a films runtime. Set during the Second World War, Das Boot opens with quite a harrowing message stating that of the 40,000 men deployed on German U-Boats during the war, only 10,000 actually returned.

Many of the aforementioned films are taken from the viewpoint of Allied soldiers, which created some entertaining and memorable viewing. Wolfgang Petersen chose to spin it and have Das Boot centralised through Hitler’s soldiers being deployed to the North Atlantic. Their aim was to destroy the American convoys sent to aid Great Britain during the wartime effort.

As I mentioned, Petersen chose to open with the statement on the 10,000 men returning but immediately juxtaposes this against a lavish party scene involving all the fresh-faced sailors that are set to leave La Rochelle in the morning. This party scene begins familiarising the characters including Lt. Werner (Herbert Gronemeyer), the captain and chief engineer (Jurgen Prochnow and Klaus Wennemann, respectively) of the U-Boat, that departs in the morning.

This joyous occasion becomes infectious, as you begin to forget the ominous message that was displayed previously. As the Captain and his crew board the new U-96 submarine, Petersen really puts the use of claustrophobia as the crew sprint around the submarine to find their quarters and store their belongings, as they sail out to the North Atlantic Sea.

Wolfgang Petersen chose to have the communications between the U-Boats and their command post rather unreliable and visibly frustrating for the Captain and the Chief Engineer, especially as they begin to think they are floating aimlessly in the North Atlantic. In between the frustrating lack of communications and the gruelling weather the U-Boat has to manoeuvre through, they nearly crash into a friendly U-Boat commanded by the decorated drunk veteran Thomsen. (Otto Sander)

As time wears on, it becomes visible in the faces of the frustrating crew and especially the two leading men on the U-Boat. Their newly-grown facial hair and the darkening bags under their eyes become ever present over their meagre dinner conversations. As people push past the captain’s quarters, the cramped area of the submarine is really accentuated throughout, especially as the time wears on causing visible frustration.

As well as masterfully showing the claustrophobia that is throughout the submarine, he also manages to create a great deal of tense sequences throughout Das Boot. During the U-Boat’s misinformed travels in the North Atlantic, Allied destroyers constantly disrupt their operation, which signals the beginning of said tense affairs. As the captain peers over the water level, he notices the forthcoming destroyer and screams “Alarm! Alarm!” which sets the submarine in motion to dive in attempt to avoid the oncoming battleship.

Petersen continued this with the use of the Allied sonars trying to spot the U-Boat. As you hear the ping against the hull, the silence amongst the crew is quite deafening. Das Boot is one of the tensest affairs I have watched, as the submarine seems to become a magnet for misfortune. As they dive trying to escape the Allied war ships, they continually test the submarines diving level, but it’s the way Petersen uses the sounds as though the boat is tearing itself apart as it dives to further depths.

800x0-das_boot_18

With the help of the soldiers being characters that are likeable and understandably frustrated, you begin to want these soldiers to not meet the perilous fate that was defined in the opening seconds of Das Boot. Wolfgang Petersen’s ability to make the audience forget that these are actually Nazi soldiers really helped this along. Their gruelling adventures in the North Atlantic and tense sequences throughout really help the daunting runtime seem effortless. (Well, the runtime that I saw) 

Petersen manages to break up the tense sequences throughout as the Captain demands the Chief Engineer continually test the depth of the submarine, but also by having the soldiers seem unified in their own war effort. They celebrate the torpedo strikes, but also have a sing-song during the opening hour with ‘It’s A Long Road to Tipperary’.

As I mentioned, this film is from the viewpoint of Nazi soldiers of Hitler Germany, but this isn’t pushed at all throughout the film, which really helps Petersen’s film through the lengthy runtime. Das Boot is best viewed in it’s original language and is one of better films to be produced amongst some of the best war films around. The way Petersen bought together the characters throughout the film and had the claustrophobia looming large was very effective throughout, but the lasting image is the faces of the men as they hear the ping of the sonar. Das Boot is perhaps the tensest I’ve felt during a film, and it was great.

La La Land (2017)

After sweeping up at the Golden Globes and continuing it’s trend by sweeping up many BAFTA nominations La La Land looks to be hot property heading into the Oscars. Damien Chazelle first made everyone take notice of him with Whiplash back in 2014, and this was a love affection with jazz music.

Enter stage left La La Land and Chazelle’s love affair with jazz continues, albeit in a very different way. As you probably guessed, the film is set in the Southern Californian area of Hollywood, and Chazelle makes his statement by opening in a nod to old cinema ‘Filmed in Cinemascope’. He follows the old style opening credits with a big musical number as everyone in gridlocked traffic begins to spontaneously sing and dance on a sunny winters day.

Trapped in this traffic jam is the aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who cross paths as Sebastian angrily lambasts her for not moving in the bumper-to-bumper traffic. As the opening takes place, I thought the film stumbled and faltered fearing it was going to fall prey to another story about an out-of-work actress in Hollywood.

lala-land

Luckily those fears were subdued when the jazz aficionado Sebastian told his own story. Sebastian’s sister invades his space and mentions that he needs to pay his bills and unpack the boxes that are lying around his apartment. At this point Chazelle seems to signpost that our two heroes are big on chasing their own dreams, as Sebastian relays the message that his unpacked boxes are for his own jazz club that he will eventually open.

At Sebastian and Mia cross paths further, my earlier worries seemed to have melted away at this point as it became a joy to watch Stone and Gosling on screen, at first seeming to loathe each other, but then quite quickly falling for each other. But it’s how they fall for each other, in their perfectly choreographed dances in the moonlight (thanks to Mandy Moore) or whether it’s them bouncing off each other as their chemistry lights up the screen.

Their chemistry is a testament to Mia and Sebastian’s passion in their respective fields. Sebastian’s passion for jazz leaps off the screen as he takes Mia on a whirlwind tour of appreciating jazz. Whilst Mia professes her love for acting thanks to grandmother, as she takes Sebastian on a tour around the studio where she works as a barista, pointing out the window from Casablanca. Both characters become impassioned about the other’s craft and push each other to new heights.

la-la-land-trailer2

My troubles going into this film lay with the musical elements in La La Land, but what happened was a toe-tapping symphony infused with jazz music and the singing of Stone and Gosling, which was really impressive and made the film more enjoyable. But what accompanied these musical numbers was some beautifully crafted sets and scenery, especially when Ryan Gosling sings his first rendition of ‘City of Stars’ on a pier in Los Angeles, with a beautiful horizon as the backdrop.

Chazelle also effectively manages to fill the screen with bold reds, greens, blues and yellows whilst managing to not be in your face with those colours. They remain subtly placed throughout the 120+ minute runtime, but manages to remain effective for La La Land, especially during the musical numbers in the film.

Chazelle’s manages to effectively make the modern-age melt away, as Mia and Sebastian dance around Los Angeles in a colourful ode to cinema of old. Chazelle’s device to break up these moments with a modern take was utterly fantastic such as the phone ringing during ‘A Lovely Night’. But these moments work throughout La La Land as we become invested in the colourful landscape and wonderful characters that are people we can root for: the dreamers.

Although Chazelle’s loving ode to cinema of yesteryear and love of jazz music left me filled with angst in the opening ten minutes, I am so glad those feelings drifted off into the Los Angeles air thanks to the gorgeous setting and the fantastic casting choice of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. His infusion of the musical element throughout La La Land was really effective, but was really capitalised on with the subtle nuances of the jazz-infused score.

La La Land simply put, was an absolute delight to watch unfold on screen. The story doesn’t end up being all rosy for our love-struck heroes, but rather has their relationship tested throughout the seasons, which worked superbly for the story. But what really held La La Land together was the casting of Stone and Gosling as their chemistry really works throughout the 120+ runtime. Their perfectly choreographed scenes throughout the film worked, as they dance through the hills of Hollywood and thus become characters one can truly be invested in. This is an absolute delight of a film, and it’s clear to see the buzz that surrounds it and of course the understandable cleaning of house come awards season.

Morgan (2016)

After working on some of his father’s projects like The Martian and Exodus: Gods and Kings, Luke Scott has attempted to make his own mark on the filmmaking world with Morgan. In the run up to the films release, Morgan made some noise but then slipped and fell by the wayside.

Morgan had themes of a Sci-Fi Thriller throughout the marketing and it’s clear why, as the subject matter involves the creation of a genetic being. However, Luke Scott chose not to open with the beings creation, but rather an event referred to as ‘The Incident’. During ‘The Incident’ the genetic being, Morgan, stabs one of the doctors that is caring for it in the eye.

After this opening scene, Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) arrives at the complex under instruction from Corporate to assess the situation, and decide whether it is a viable option to terminate Morgan. Kate Mara delivers an incredible performance as Lee Weathers in Morgan as the emotionless and quite frankly stern risk assessor from Corporate. Although she has this hard exterior, there is more than meets the eyes with Lee Weathers.


This cold, less-than-impressed persona exhibited by Mara effectively builds tension as she meets with everyone that cares for Morgan. What is interesting is Luke Scott builds a certain family feel in the build up to meeting Morgan as everyone speaks for how amazing and excellent she is, even Dr. Grieff. (who got stabbed in the eye by the child)

As Weathers meets the doctors in the compound played by the likes of Toby Jones, Rose Leslie and Michael Yare, she builds tension with everyone she interacts with as they tiptoe around ‘The Incident’. They continually refer to Morgan as ‘she’ and ‘her’ and Weathers coldly and abruptly states that Morgan is an ‘It’.

However, this all changes when the film effectively ups the ante with Paul Giamatti’s analytical character interviewing Morgan for the psych-evaluation. The tension that Giamatti’s Dr Alan Shapiro creates is just beautiful as he badgers the sweet, innocent-looking Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy).


Luke Scott seems to have mastered the mix between having the right amount of tension for the right period of screen time for the characters involved. As he effectively builds this tension, he displays a masterful eye in the sense of giving just enough time in a scene for whomever.

Scott effectively manages to capture the family feel from Amy Menser (Rose Leslie) and her colleagues toward Morgan and their care for her. This counteracts the cold, callous nature of Lee Weathers and her subtle movements including the touching of Dr. Grieff’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) hand, which seemed unnatural for everyone involved.


He has also managed to create what is an intriguing plot throughout Morgan. Although there could’ve been more focus on different segments in the story, it was a largely enjoyable story that was bought to life. I have always found films that have artificial life as their subject matter interesting, especially in terms of the purpose of creation. Something that is never really explored in Morgan which I think would’ve have ripened the story more.

What seems to be the focus throughout the film is the caging of Morgan and whether this was the ‘right’ thing to do. As the film picks up its pace, Luke Scott previews the growing up of Morgan with the aide of Amy, which makes for interesting viewing as we see snapshots of Morgan discovering the world. Scott has a talent like his father for creating a beautiful landscape as they both explore the compounds wooded borders. 

That being said, the narrative arc kept the film interesting for it’s runtime of 92 minutes. Although it quickly descended into a slasher-esque flick, the film kept itself interesting through the narrative between Lee Weathers and her discovering of Morgan. As mentioned above, the story could’ve focused on different areas, but it seems as though Scott chose to opt for more action in these areas instead.

As the steely-faced Kate Mara takes control of the situation in the first half of the film, it’s clear that Morgan was certainly carried by it’s cast. Due to the story not progressing until Dr. Shapiro’s meeting with Morgan, it certainly scuffs it feet, making the rather short runtime feel longer. Apart from a few plot issues (that I cannot speak of, due to them being linked with potential spoilers) Morgan was a largely enjoyable film, and a very impressive directorial debut from Luke Scott.

If You Liked This, You May Like: Ex Machina

Whilst Luke Scott’s directorial debut was a fun and enjoyable watch, Alex Garland’s directorial debut was a stunning piece of filmmaking. He also toyed with the idea of artificial intelligence and created some of the tensest scenes in recent memory. Having an incredible cast and brilliant narrative Ex Machina would be a perfect film to be teamed up with Morgan.