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
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CANNES 2012 // Moonrise Kingdom Opens The Festival

Yesterday The Artist star Bérénice Bejo opened the 65th Cannes Film Festival with the screening of Wes Anderson Moonrise Kingdom. Her speech was followed by a rendition of Elton John’s Candle in the Wind by The Gossip lead singer Beth Ditto. This was to pay tribute to Marilyn Monroe (above) which features on this year poster.

Moonrise Kingdom has been selected for the Competition category. Written and directed by Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom is a coming of age tale that will appeal to all generations. It focuses on the love story of two 12 year olds that make a pact to runaway into the wilderness together, as the ultimate expression of their love. This New England town is turned upside down trying to find them during a vicious storm. This quirky tale has had everyone buzzing over the twittersphere, but I suspect people are just excited because it is the opening of Cannes.

With the likes of Edward Norton, Tilda Swindon, Bruce Willis amongst other high profile names featured, I guess there are high expectations for this film.

Wes Anderson’s works include The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr Fox and many more. So I have no doubt Anderson will deliver adventure, mystery and a lot of laughs.

Below is the trailer for your viewing pleasure.

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
 

FESTIVAL DE CANNES – TRAILER OF THE DAY: Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty is not a innocent remake of the Disney classic, instead it is a dark erotic tale and quite frankly disturbing. Now I know you’ve heard of cases where girls going into striping/ prostitution to fund their university education, well Lucy played by Emily Browning applies for a role as a Sleeping Beauty. Being a Sleeping Beauty involves voluntary sedation and then permitting men to have sex with you whilst remaining unconscious. This is working for Lucy until her curiosity gets the better of her. She then takes a dangerous turn when she tries to film what happens whilst she is a Sleeping Beauty.

The story I feel will play on the psychological issues the character endures, geering it towards audiences of films like  Black Swan. I don’t know how global it will become as it explores sex quite explicitly and is the primary focus of the film. But this will all depend on the graphic nature of the scenes and how disconcerting they will be, especially if it brings ideas of sexual abuse to mind.

This directorial début by Julia Leigh seems quite intriguing; and I am especially curious about how it will do in cinemas worldwide.

Sleeping Beauty
Production year: 2010
Countries: Australia
Cert: TBA
Runtime: 104 mins
Director: Julia Leigh

FESTIVAL DE CANNES – TRAILER OF THE DAY: Melancholia

This I predict will be a big one this year. Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland combined together will deliver a story laden with melancholy as well as drenched with action. Perfect for another end of the world depictions.

Justine (Dunst) is marrying Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) at the home of her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law John (Keifer Sutherland). During this it comes to light that Melancholia, a planet hidden by the Sun, has been discovered and is heading straight for the earth. Melancholia is branded a Sci-fi Thriller, so I’m not entirely sure what will become of the characters and whether any aliens are involved. The trailer doesn’t give to much away, which leaves me intrigued as to the what the drama will be all about.

Melancholia is in the Competition category at Cannes and is set to be released in the UK in September 2011. So keep you eyes peeled for this one.

Melancholia
Production year: 2011
Countries: Sweden, Rest of the world
Cert: TBA
Runtime: 130 mins
Director: Lars Von Trier

FESTIVAL DE CANNES – TRAILER OF THE DAY: Restless

Restless is another film all about love, but nothing like those fluffy chick flicks infected with pristine model like actors, like Ashton Kutcher. The story centers on the friendship and love built up between Annabel Cotton played by Alice in Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska (The Gwyneth Paltrow look-alike) and Enoch Brae (Henry Hooper). The two misfits in their own right find a special bond through their unique experience of the world around them. The premise of the film is much like A Walk to Remember featuring Mandy Moore, minus the trophy boy and high school melodrama,  but in that she is diagnosed with a terminal illness that she and everyone around her has to come to terms with. Enoch on the other hand can not blame his differences on a terminal illness. He meets Annabel at one of the funerals he has crashed and has an best friend named Hiroshi, who is a ghost. Ok…

The trailer kind of gives away the whole story, but I am hoping the portrayal of the characters will enable Restless to be a high flyer. Restless has been selected for the the Un Certain Regard catergory, which celebrates the younger generation of film-makers.

Restless
Production Year: 2010
Countries: USA, Rest of the World
Cert: TBA
Runtime: 91 mins
Director: Gus Van Sant

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
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