WATCHED & RATED // Fast Girls

It only makes sense that with the Olympics coming to London this year that there is a film that marks the significance of this to London. And Fast Girls is one of the mainstream films that celebrate this. I had the chance to view Fast Girls at the BBC Radio 1 & 1 Xtra Hackney Academy, which was bustling with teenagers at 2pm. Which I find strange, as I’m pretty sure they are meant to be in school or college. The screening was hosted by Trevor Nelson and was followed by a Q&A with some of the cast and director Regan Hall.

Fast Girls lead character Shania Andrews is played by Being Human’s Lenora Crichlow. We see Shania, a feisty girl from the wrong side of town, qualify to be in the GB team to compete in the World Athletic Championships. Although she hasn’t got the support of her family behind her what she does have is Brian, a shopkeeper by day, her coach by night. Brian pushes her to take her chances at winning a gold medal in the Championships. When Shania starts training with the GB relay team she discovers she has an issue with working in a team. During the Q&A session Clarke did emphasise that this is the main theme they tried push out in the film. I would say, ‘isn’t it obvious to anybody that there will be situations where you will have to overcome difference with people you work with for the common gain of the team’. But I did then consider that this is a positive message for the teenage audiences that Fast Girls target.

Shania’s antagonist is not only herself but also rich girl Lisa temple, played by Lilly James (Wrath of the Titans). Lisa and Shania can’t seem to find common ground in the beginning. Firstly they are fiercely competitive over performance, as in who is the faster athlete. But then Shania finds that she has a jealous streak over the friendship Physiotherapist Carl (Bradley James) has with Lisa, because she has developed a crush on him.

Now I have broken it down, doesn’t it sound a bit fluffy? Fast girls has potential, but fails to deliver a strong punch. There are so many plot threads initiated, but never explored too deeply. We know she doesn’t have a mother, the coach can’t commit to helping her further, she has a crush on Carl, she hates working in a team; but what we don’t know is WHY. None of the issues including the rivalry with Lisa are explored beneath the surface, and this only left me feeling detached from the characters. And to add to it, Fast Girls was unquestionably a film that you know from the get-go that the Protagonist will come out on top. It does not leave much room for anticipation and guesswork by the audience.

Filmmaker/ Actor Noel Clarke (Kiddulthood, 54321, Dr Who) was commissioned to co-write this script. So admittedly I was expecting it to be a bit sloppy, conventional, not challenging any themes, only highlighting them, like in his past work. So although I can’t say in Fast Girls he challenged many themes, what Clarke did well was make the themes universal and resonate with people from various socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. It wasn’t just about the estate kids hustle, but instead about how we all hustle in our own little world.

I think Fast Girls install a sense of pride and anticipation in younger audiences, as they will be less cynical about the validity of the events taking place. During the last scene the screening was roaring with applause for the outcome, which somehow swept me up with it along the way. Maybe even a teardrop tried to rise from my eyes (it was probably a tear to represent my sadness about the second-rate films being pushed out to mainstream audiences).

Despite Fast Girls not being one of the most provocative films I have watched, I do feel that that was never the intention. It is a light-hearted drama, which intends to come across as a feel good film aimed at the youth. So I think it is fine to let it be that. But if you are looking for more thought-provoking films relating to the Olympics don’t miss out on the films being screened within the Fun and Games strand at the East End Film Festival. The festival takes place from 3rd – 8th July across various locations in East London, the home of the games. I will be there of course, so come join me in indulging in film after film, after film, and then some.

DS RATED: 6/10

Here are some snapshots of the Q&A Sessions and the trailer.

 

Fast Girls 
Production Year: 2012
Countries: UK
Cert: 12A
Runtime: 91 mins
Director: Regan Hall

WATCHED & RATED // Match Point

With Woody Allen you kind of know what you’re getting out of him, well in his recent work anyway; can’t say I have watched much of his earlier films. You know you’re being delivered a satire with various degrees of humour, à la Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona and You’ll Meet a Tall Dark StrangerSo I’m quite surprised that Allen has included Match Point in his six top favourite films of his own work (Source: imdb). Personally I feel Match Point is a very clumsy film, from the dialogue to the acting to the structure. It’s as if he had this amazing idea for the outcome of the film and the rest was just… filler.

Match Point is a Romantic Drama with a tinge of thriller, featuring Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Chris Wilton, a former tennis pro (Meyers) falls for a femme-fatal type, Nola Rice (Johansson) who happens to be dating his friend and soon-to-be brother-in-law Tom (Matthew Goode). He is groomed by his girlfriend’s (Tom’s sister Chloe) wealthy upper-middle class family and in due course marries her. Unluckily for Chris after his nuptials Tom, his now brother-in-law breaks-up with Nola, leaving him to pursue her, which then leads to a seedy affair. Nola is taking their relationship serious and insists Chris tells his wife the truth. Chris is in two minds and deals with the matter unexpectedly with a shotgun.

During the first hour of the film I couldn’t help cringing at the mechanical dialogue and the attempt to satire the upper-middle class, especially because I felt the actors weren’t acting and they conveniently felt right in their element. The beginning of the film weirdly felt as though a romance might strike up between Chris and Tom (Matthew Goode), his then client. Between Meyers lip pout-age, plus a soft feminine tone of voice, and Goode’s grooming him into his family circle, I really started to wonder what this is I’m watching. I wasn’t sure if it was bad acting, deplorably stereotypical characters, or the attempt to push this whole poor man in a rich world scenario that made two-thirds of the film blasé. And to add to it I truly believed that Nola Rice played by Johansson was a plausible character, which meant that Johansson was doing a good job and in fact better than all the other actors, including Meyers.  Now that I didn’t expect.

But as I said the film does take turn into a more sinister and more satirical direction; what I think Allen initially intended for this film. The protagonist that we emphasise with because of his boring marriage blah blah blah… turns into the cold-hearted antagonizer that uses a shotgun to end his problems.

In the end Match Point makes sense, well only if you a willing forgive the continuous errors. But the real issue is that audiences could easily lose interest in the forbidden love affair story that takes over two-thirds of the film, and switch off before the juicy humourous bit that comes in during the last 30 minutes.

Let’s just hope Allen can redeem himself (in my eyes of course) with his latest offering To Rome with Love. It does look funny and the casting is pretty amazing.

The trailer kind of reflects the awkwardness of the film.

Enjoy!

Rated: 6/10

Match Point 
Release Year: 2005
Countries: UK, Rest of the World
Cert: 12A
Runtime: 124 mins
Director: Woody Allen

WATCHED & RATED: The Lucky One

I don’t know about other film enthusiasts but I like to watch a range of films including outright cheesy chick flicks that ‘real’ film lovers tend to snub. Even though many chick flicks are ridiculous my film choices are based on my mood, and when I decided to see The Lucky One I was in the mood to be fed romantic lies and perve on Zac Efron. The Lucky One is another Nicholas Sparks adaptation (writer of The Notebook and A Walk to Remember). So those of you that have seen either will know that although very cliché and squirmy, they can be quite moving and be any ‘serious’ film enthusiasts guilty pleasure.

The Lucky One is a story about Logan (Efron), a Marine that returns from Iraq by the skin of his teeth back to the states. After an attack he stumbles upon a picture of a woman, which he admires for a second and then his unit is attacked at that moment. He continues to survive many attacks after this, which leads him to believe that this picture is his lucky charm, so when he heads back to the states he searches for the woman to thank her. Cheesy right? Well he does find her, ends up working for her and withholds the truth about why he came to see her in the first place. Taylor Shilling plays Beth, the woman in the picture. She is a fun-loving mother, granddaughter and divorcee. The romance between the two is inevitable from the moment he found the picture, because it was obvious that there wouldn’t be any shocking twist. All the sneaky looks, reluctant flirting, and Logan bonding with her kid, was a recipe for a romantic bore fest. The pathetic part of me could not help but crack a helpless smile at all sweet shiny parts of the growth of love and overcoming obstacles like a pointless ex-husband. The other part was screaming out “Why are you watching this hollywood manufactured myth?” But to be honest you just got to get it out of your system. It was like an itch that needed scratching. Unfortunately it was for longer than necessary and it has left me wounded.

I feel bad saying this, but Zac Efron’s melting eyes could not even make this into a provoking film. His two-dimensional acting did not up the credibility of this romantic story, like how Ryan Gosling’s stoicism did in the Notebook or Mandy Moore’s super good girl act did in A Walk to Remember. Efron getting into character consisted of his straightened stance like a marine type, and the broody look on his face when things get serious. And that was where it began and ended. A bit disappointed as I feel he could do better. I really liked him in 17 Again and Me and Orson Welles.

The Lucky One is a sweet film, sugar-coated with fast romance and lies that a handsome marine with no friends or a life post war will come knocking on your door and immerse himself in your life . It’s one of those films that you keep say to yourself ‘Really?’ or sarcastically  ‘Sure’, well only if you’ve not been totally hypnotised by Zac Efron’s smouldering eyes. Or maybe I’m just being cynical.

DS RATED: 5.5/10

The Lucky One 
Release Year: 2012
Countries: US, Rest of the World
Cert: 12A
Runtime: 101 mins
Director: Scott Hicks

WATCHED & RATED: Super 8

Super 8 has been on my list of ‘must see’s’ for sometime, mainly because the log-line states it is about a bunch of amateur film-making kids that discover something unexpected. So I knew that I could relate to this being an amateur film-maker and all. In addition to this Steven Spielberg’s name was attached to the film, so even as a producer you can expect Super 8 to be a film that sticks. Little did I know the kids film-making ambitions was just a starting point for the film to go into familiar territory that we have seen in various Spielberg films. Super 8 is a mystery adventure set in a 1970’s Ohio amidst a suburban backdrop and follows a group of friends on what seemed like an innocent quest to shoot a film on a super 8 camera. This quest soon turns into a roller-coaster of discovery and survival. It begins with a catastrophic train crash on the location they were shooting at and it follows with unexplained disappearances of electrical goods, metal, and people.

Writer/Director JJ Abrams has successfully paid homage to Spielberg classics like E.T. and Close Encounters which allows the audience to empathise with the extra terrestrial threat. And what Abrams also does is follow every formula in good Screenwriting handbooks. This is evident in every piece of dialogue and  relationship, which appears to have been created meticulously to ensure Super 8 will be a blockbuster, as they say. And although not every review of Super 8 has been of immense praise, I feel that Abrams demonstrated that a tried formula can work in the best conditions. Key to the success of Super 8 was to have a cast that don’t already have a genre that they feature in continuously; so this allowed audiences to discover who these kids were and grow to love them. Lead protagonist Joe Lamb ( Joel Courtney) is a sweet prepubescent kid that breaks into manhood by the end of the film. His character transforms from a grieving submissive wallflower to a hero fueled by love.  This love being for the curious Alice played by Elle Fanning, Dakota’s little sis. Elle Fanning’s role was key to bringing out a lot of the emotion in the film and this she did well.

There are various interwoven plots going on within this film, but because they are fairly typical and  not focused on too deeply it makes it easy for audiences to follow. Super 8 is still a ‘must see’, but do not expect it to reveal anything  new or challenge any stereotypes. It is purely funny and gripping and nothing more than that.

DS RATED: 8/10

Super 8 
Production Year: 2011
Countries: US, Rest of the World
Cert: 12A
Runtime: 112 mins
Director: JJ Abrams
 

WATCHED & RATED: The Black Dahlia

It’s official, The Black Dahlia is going on ‘the most baffling film’ list. I had to switch to full focus mode, but still it didn’t help. I spent the majority of the film trying to piece together puzzles from previous scenes, that I was even missing important information from the current scene. The Black Dahlia is a crime/ mystery/ drama, so it is understandable that there will be things audiences will be left in the dark about till the end. My issue with the film was that the pace was unnecessarily fast,  that you missed vital clues. When I say the pace was fast it is not to imply that it cut from scene to scene every second, but the dialogue consisted of a lot of ‘Film Noir’ style parables and riddles, that honestly took a while to figure out. Even when all was revealed at the end I was still baffled as to why certain scenes where in the film.

My reason for actually watching The Black Dahlia was a bit shallow. Not being a huge fan of crime drama’s my only incentive to watch was Josh Hartnett, but he couldn’t even save this sinking ship. It’s not so easy to sum up The Black Dahlia in a few words, because there are a few stories going on within the film and they are all very vague. It initially appears to be about the friendship formed by former rivals Dwight ‘Bucky’ Bleichert (Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart). They start off in the boxing ring in which we see Bucky KO’d by Lee, but by the next scene the LA Police officers are happily playing partners on the chase for this Black Dahlia, or are they? As I said it is all a bit vague and unrealistic. But what is certain is there is a love triangle that is formed between Bucky, Lee and Lee’s Wife Kay, which is played by none other than Hollywood’s number one on-screen harlot. Yes you guessed it, Scarlett Johansson. I actually like Scarlett Johansson, but I pray she stops going for roles that she is playing an adulteress, the other woman or the forbidden woman. People do say you become what you act out enough. The love triangle could have enabled more substance within the film, but even how that played out was pathetic. The union of Bucky and Kay came immediately after some tragic news.***Spoiler Alert*** You guessed it, Lee was killed and they mourn by having a romping session and setting up home together. All very dramatic and not an inch realistic.

To sum up this was a poor attempt at emulating  Film Noir crime dramas. It lacked the ability of allowing the audience connect and empathise with the main protagonist. Bucky was far from a strong character, which I believe they were trying to show. But there was nothing appealing about his persona at all. It was also not successful at being a intense thriller. The scenes that were supposed to enhance this aspect of the film just left me almost laughing. Throwing a few crows around and pictures that resembled ‘the Batman Joker’ only added to this film becoming a parody of 1940’s crime/thriller drama. Even if I thought I could watch it again and make sense of it, I really wouldn’t have the energy to.

DS RATED: 4.5/10

 

The Black Dahlia
Production Year: 2006
Countries: USA, Rest of the World
Cert: 15
Runtime: 121 mins
Director: Brian De Palma

WATCHED & RATED: COCO AVANT CHANEL

Just finished watching Coco before Chanel. My expectations of the film completely is the opposite of my experience of the film. I was hooked from the very first scene when Poor Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel (Audrey Tautou) and sister Adrienne (Marie Gillain) was dropped off at the orphanage by their father, never to see his face again. It was at that point I suspected this is a tear-jerker. This film subtly incorporates fashion into the subtext of the story, I know you say’ obviously!’ But on the surface it was much more than that. It was a tale about setting yourself apart from the rest. Coco Chanel was not born to a rich French aristocrat family, so access to money and opportunity was rare. Also in France in that period what was even more rare was to see a woman working, let alone having a career. Essentially this a rags to riches story. But her success came at a cost, and that being love.

As the film progresses so does her sense of style. When I saw her tailored menswear inspired outfits I realised that me and Madamoiselle Chanel are even more a like than I first thought. Her style is so chic and elegant, without those frivolities that are supposed to enhance femininity. And no it is not the tomboy look, in fact her loose fitting outfits without the framing of a corset essentially symbolises freedom and stepping away from societal conventions.

The stylish apparel in this film is not the only imagery to celebrate. The cinematography stays true to the style of the film and to Chanel. The clean soft lighting adds a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’; No actually I mean grace to Coco Before Chanel. What makes me more proud of Coco Before Chanel is that it was written and directed by Anne Fontaine. She shows that given the topic of fashion to delve with, women don’t always get carried away, and yes that means you Sex and the City. She brought out the drama in this tale that is so much bigger than fashion.

DS RATED: 8/10

Here are some of my favourite looks from the film. Not that there were many. But it only goes to prove that true taste is priceless and is an innate quality that a few hold.


Coco Before Chanel
Production Year: 2009
Countries: France, Rest of the World
Cert (UK): 12A
Runtime: 105 mins
Director: Anne Fontaine
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