Our Editor’s never been a great one for technology and internet has got him into all sorts of difficulties whether it be unsolicited emails from Russian princesses wanting to marry him if he could only send them money for their air fare (‘…and she’d be here too if she hadn’t missed her flight’- Ed) or African dignitaries in exile wanting to send him money if he could send his bank details (‘…. yes and I’m expecting $10m to arrive from the Bank of Nigeria anyday now!’ – Ed).
But in ‘Friend Request’ it’s facebook and Laura ( Alycia Debnam-Carey) a popular and friendly student who, out of sympathy, accepts, yes you’ve guessed it, a friend request (‘good title for a film’ – Ed) from Marina (Liesl Ahlers) who has no friends on her facebook account. Frankly the fact that Marina mopes about looking like a whey faced female Gollum in a hoodie should have been explanation enough as to why she is friendless.
Starting with a college tutor announcing to his class the shock suicide of Marina the film then flashbacks to how the pair made friends before it all goes very wrong over a party invite prompting the suicide who films her own suicide and then somehow takes over Laura’s facebook account and shares it with all and sundry from beyond the grave. With two spectacularly inept cops running the investigation Laura finds herself unable to close her account whilst her closest friends are dispatched in grim fashion which are all somehow caught on film and shared. Inevitably Laura’s facebook friends soon start to unfriend her and she carries out her own investigation into Marina .
German Director Simon Verhoeven (unfortunately no relation to Paul) in this his Hollywood directorial debut has written what is initially something not too dissimilar from recent release’ The Gift’ before plunging into full on horror territory. Problem is even though ‘SCREAM’ all the way back in 1996 pointed out the rules of horror films and subtly subverted them whereas ‘Friend Request’ embraces them wholeheartedly and sticks with them, clichés and all. Its one saving grace is that are some very good shock scares here and a sound track that subtly features internet buffering noise as a precursor to imminent carnage.
With something of a uniformly bland cast including the obligatory fat funny friend, the jock boyfriend, etc this is ultimately a by the book Saturday night shocker punctuated by some excellent shocks.
The trouble with naming a film after bank holidays is that they never sound particularly thrilling or action packed. Who in their right mind is going to see (affecting movie voiceover man voice)……………’ Bruce Willis is a cop……on the edge in….’Easter Monday’’ or even ‘…..In a bad world….only one man can save them…Jason Statham in……’August Bank Holiday Weekend’’. This weeks new release ‘Bastille Day’ is a bit better, though only just, with its only set back being the French.
Having had its release delayed due to the recent Paris terrorist atrocities the film is Idris Elba’s first proper lead in an action film with cockney geezer Idris playing a loose canon CIA agent in Paris pursuing a pickpocket (Richard Madden) who having unwittingly stolen a bag with a bomb in it dumps it just before it goes off and in the process becomes suspect No1. This is one of those buddy films where the mismatched pair, forced together by circumstance, soon realise who the real villain is, in this case a grumpy Gallic firearms team and a corrupt politician, and go about taking them down.
Director James Watkins whose previous films include the excellent, ‘Eden Lake’ and the box office smash, ‘The Woman in Black’ turns his hand here to action and has put together some decent sequences – a rooftop foot chase, a brawl in the back of a speeding van and a cracking little scene where the pickpocket slyly causes bedlam in a bar which are all deftly handled. With a script that is about as credible as a 70’s Bond film it can also be seen as something of a Bond audition for ice cool Idris too who is a one man wrecking ball sustaining no injuries until the very end. It’s a pacy enough film but it all feels a little Bourne –lite though it does include one of this year’s best unintentionally funny lines, ‘Send out the hashtags!’
JANE GOT A GUN
What could this film possibly be about? Many of the more astute critics have spotted that this is about a woman called Jane. And she’s got a gun. Albeit this is a little bit over simplified and there is far more to it than that but it’s actually the much troubled production history of the film that is frankly more intriguing than the plot.
The script was on Hollywood’s black list of great scripts that were looking to be made and NataliePortman’s production company duly picked it up with director Lynne Ramsey at the helm and Michael Fassbender and Jude Law all went swimmingly until the first day of shooting when Ramsey failed to turn up for work and production was thrown into turmoil. Fassbender had already left prior to filming and Jude Law followed suit as he’d only taken the project as he wanted to work with Ramsey. So with legal action flying back and fore between producer Scott Stindorff and Ramsey a replacement director, Gavin O Connor, was flown in and shooting resumed. With all the legal wrangling however it’s been sitting on the shelf for almost three years and in all honesty the production story is more interesting than the one onscreen as it follows Portman as Jane whose husband has been badly injured by a pair of law ignoring brothers . Knowing that the bastard brothers are looking for her husband and herself to finish them off she asks an ex boyfriend, still pining after her ,to help her survive.
Joel Egerton as well as co starring helped write the script and the linear narrative is broken up with flashbacks explaining Portman and her ex-boyfriends relationship and what happened to her first born child which motivates her actions.
Some years ago we had a few feminist westerns such as ‘Bad Girls’ & ‘The Quick and the Dead’ and this ploughs much the same furrow as those with women and children treated terribly in the wild, wild west and attempts to justify their revenge. However it all gets a little bit dull until the inevitable climatic showdown where it becomes something of a home invasion western with a female lead. It’s not that this is a bad film despite its problems just nothing much more than the title. It does what it says on the tin and that’s about it really.
LOUDER THAN BOMBS
Louder than bombs
Apart from having Amanda Holden as a judge of other people’s abilities on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ what could be more inappropriate as a title in these times of terrorism than calling your film, ‘Louder than Bombs’. Not much of a surprise really when director Joachim Trier is related to enfant terrible Lars von Trier director of such controversial films as, ‘The Idiots’, ‘AntiChrist’ and ‘Nymphomaiac Vol 1 & 2 (just how disappointed was the Editor when he went to see that last film!)
This is not really the sort of audience baiting type film you might expect from such a pedigree and starts with Jesse Eisenberg (not wholly convincing as a professor) with his wife and their new born child. Leaving the room to get a drink he bumps into an old girlfriend and they discuss why they’re in the hospital with him not telling her the truth about why he’s there. It’s emblematic of the film that this is a film about secrets within a family as he eventually goes to stay with his father ( Gabriel Byrne)recently widowed by the death of his famous war photographer wife (Isabelle Huppert)in a car accident. Eisenberg’s younger brother Conrad (David Druid) brilliantly played in a typically quirky manner has his own issues about his parents and it’s against this fractious back ground that each try to come to term with their memories of her and deal with other.
It would be easy to dismiss this as a mystically enigmatic American art house soap opera which to a certain extent it is but beside the main story each of the main characters has their own complex and fragile story strand which ties in with the overall theme where ultimately they all must unite or fall.
At times it feels like a John Hughes teen angst movie trying to address adolescent isolation but each characters has a secret from each other and for the audience it’s a constant query as to what actually happened to Huppert’s character when a journalist writes a retrospective of her life but with her widow knowing that something will be revealed in the piece, of which his youngest son is unaware, he constantly procrastinates as to when to tell him until it all too late. It’s a scene of bittersweet irony as his Conrad reads the newspaper with the article in a shop against a wall stocked with bags of lifesaver sweets.
Melancholy but overlong it’s a decent American arthouse film shot with an objective eye by a Danish director.
Don Cheadle’s directorial debut about jazz musician Miles Davis………cue ‘The Fast Show’ catchphrase…..mmmm nice!