Slow West

16 year old Scottish boy Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) decides to travel to Colorado in 19th century America to look for his love, Rose Ross (Caren Pistorious). We pick up the journey shortly after he arrives on the East Coast and realise right away how out of his depth he is. As he gets caught up in a battle between a couple of groups of men, bounty hunter Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) fortunately comes to his rescue and Jay gives him all of his money to offer him protection along his journey.

And their journey is stylish, occasionally brutal, occasionally funny and always interesting. There are lots of diversions and incidences en-route and it has a very compelling relationship between Jay and Silas at it’s core, with particularly fine performances from Kodi Smit-McPhe and the always great Michael Fassbender.

It’s described as a western, but for all the occasionally violent moments it’s not got the macho feel of a typical western, it’s much more playful and bizarre than the typical film of ponderous posturing and it’s visually a joy. It’s also a snappy 84 minutes.

It’s an enjoyable and confident film and particularly promising as hopefully the first of many films from first time director John Maclean.

4 on 5

Info
Director: John Maclean
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhe, Caren Pistorious, Ben Mendleson
UK Release: 26 June 2015

Trainwreck

Rising comedy star from New York Amy Schumer stars in this comedy which she wrote and Judd Apatow directed. (Not sure which of these people is “the guy who brought you Bridesmaids” which was a film directed by Paul Feig and written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, but there you go!)

It starts off with a flashback to the young Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) and her sister Kim (Brie Larson) being told by their Dad that he and their Mum are separating. He tells them monogamy is completely unrealistic and it’s a lesson that Amy takes to heart. Cut to 20-odd years later and Amy is playing the field and partying hard, despite currently having a boyfriend Steven (John Cena). Steven is a bit of a naive beefcake, and actually a very amusing character as his attempts to look tough often result in very funny Freudian slips. In contrast, Kim has ignored her Dad’s words and is settling down and making a family.

Amy works at a lads mag and is sent to interview sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) for an article. They enjoy each other’s company and the main focus of the film is set.

It starts off refreshingly funny and a little different feeling, there are some very funny characters and situations despite some awkward exchanges on race, but it slots into a surprisingly well trodden path before too long. Some of the supporting characters are good (Leabron James is one) but other famous athlete and sports-commentator cameos are completely lost on a non-US viewer and feel awkwardly shoe-horned in, as do some of the plot developments.

Overall, funny in places but patchy. A disappointingly standard rom-com with the funny scenes not quite interwoven into a good film.

3 on 5

Info
Director: Judd Apatow
UK Release: 14th August 2015
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, John Cena, Vanessa Bayer, Mike Birbiglia, Ezra Miller, Tilda Swinton, LeBron James

Philomena

Philomena uses as it’s influence the story of an Irish woman called Philomena Lee (here played by Judi Dench) who grew up in the isolated world of an Irish nun’s home (or convent) and had her young boy taken from her. 50 years later she can no longer keep it quiet and gets her daughter involved in trying to locate him. Journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is one of the people they ask to get involved.

The first thing you notice is that it takes a little while to get used to Judi dench’s Irish accent! Once you settle in though, the two characters do have a nice rapport and an odd-couple relationship throughout and the film is an amusing, gentle watch most of the time.

The faux home-video footage which intersperses the story is a bit silly and it does fall flat shortly after the almost expected trip to America. I loved the reference to ‘The Great Fire’ in the convent and this is pretty damning of the Catholic Church / convents / nuns homes, but sympathetic to Philomena and her faith.

3 on 5

Info
Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark , Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford UK release: 1st November 2013

Monsters

Monsters

A film which seems to have received an incredible amount of praise or at least expectation, it is a romantic drama film against the backdrop of an alien-infected area of Northern Mexico. Many people will be expecting an action/horror flick (understandably given the title perhaps!) and will probably be very disappointed. In fact, most people will probably be at least a bit disappointed, because although the film is visually and aurally impressive and creates a quite convincing landscape, it is seriously flawed when it comes to the characters, script and plot setups.

There are two main characters, one is a rude and grumpy photographer called Andrew and the other is Samantha, a bankrolled daughter of a rich father. Their relationship is initially hostile, but a series of ridiculous decisions and situations means they end up spending a long time together and etc etc. Unfortunately you don’t sympathise with either character at all in the film and with a sparse plot the characters and script had to be good. Lines like “You know, it’s different looking at America from the outside – in” almost make you wince.

Unfortunately a lot of people seem amazed by the small budget and homemade-manner of the creation of the special effects and appear to be letting that cloud their judgement of the film. I suspect that the reviews will be less favourable a while down the line.

Not a good film, but one that certainly shows a lot of potential down the road for first-time director Gareth Edwards.

2 on 5

Info:

Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Whitney Able, Scoot McNairy
UK Release: 4th December 2010

Zombieland

Zombieland Poster

A lighthearted slasher-comedy zombie flick starring Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg as unlikely companions in a post-apocalyptic US zombieland. The zombies in question are somewhere between standard ones and 28 Days Later ones. Jesse’s character has survived by adhering to a rigid set of rules and is on his way to Colombus, Ohio, to see if his parents are still alive. Woody’s character is more of a wandering zombie smasher, deperately searching for Twinkies (a type of cake I think).

The film has an accomplished visual style with some nice graphical touches as the rules are presented on screen occasionally and also has enough laughs, plot turns and comedy gore to keep you amused. It also has a fantastic cameo from Bill Murray.

The plot machinations to get the film to the big final set-piece scene are very clunky, but it doesn’t really spoil the enjoyment of the film which on the whole is an enjoyable 80 minute romp.

3 on 5

Info:
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray
UK Release: 7 October 2009