Tag Archives: quickie

Quickie: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

When his father, a World War II SS officer, is promoted to oversee the events at Auschwitz, 8 year old Bruno befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy on the other side of the concentration camp fence.

Shmuel and Bruno

Based on the 2006 John Boyne novel of the same name, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas deals with a subject that has been covered in films countless times, The Holocaust, but does so from a different angle. This is a child’s perspective, and a German child at that. Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is completely oblivious to the horror going on around him, perhaps symbolic of many Germans during the war. Through a child’s innocence, the terrors of Auschwitz seem even greater; each and every detail seeming that more grotesque leading up to the frankly chilling climax.

However, a major downfall of the film is the fact that it’s in English. The filmmakers may have had good reason to make it in English, but it’s a film that is desperate to be made in the characters’ mother tongue. The English accents of the German characters make it doubly confusing when you consider it’s the British that the Germans are fighting against. It detracts from the story somewhat and may confuse slightly younger viewers.

Once you’re over that hurdle, there’s an interesting story but one that suffers from a slightly poor script, particularly in regards to Bruno and Shmuel’s relationship. Considering that’s the crux of the story, there isn’t much progression in their friendship over the shortish runtime, which could have given so much more. Despite that, it’s an interesting take on a WWII story; as viewers with historical knowledge of the situation, we always know more than Bruno, which turns out to be both a blessing and a tragedy.

Words: Chris Thomson

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Quickie: Chronicle

ChronicleA group of three high school students discover a mysterious hole in the ground which, when they enter, gives them super powers. Over the course of the film, their powers develop, getting stronger and more varied, but as they do so, they struggle to cope with their new abilities.

With comic book adaptations meaning that superhero films are now an all too common sight in cinemas, Chronicle could easily just get swept away beneath an already saturated tide. However, this isn’t a superhero film at all, but more a realistic (or as realistic as you can get with such subject matter) examination of what might happen should some pretty regular kids with real problems suddenly have extraordinary abilities thrust upon them.

Chronicle is filmed in a shaky-cam, found footage style that has become rather popular over the last few years, with films such as Cloverfield basing their entire filming format around it. It works well enough in Chronicle but, as is often the case, it can become a little disorientating when things get a little more frantic. It also feels, at times, a little unnatural for people to be carrying cameras round at all times – almost a case of shoehorning this into the plot to continue the shaky-cam style throughout.

The three male leads are solid, with Andrew’s (Dane DeHaan) story taking more of a centre stage. With a rather modest run time, this does mean that the other two protagonists, and Steve’s (Michael B Jordan) in particular, feel a little underdeveloped. Despite this, Chronicle offers a decent big screen debut for director Josh Trank and is enjoyable and different enough to distinguish itself from more run of the mill films of a similar ilk.

Words: Chris Thomson

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Quickie: Bronson

BronsonNotoriously known as Britain’s most dangerous criminal, Charles Bronson is the ideal candidate for a biopic. Bronson tells us the madman/misunderstood fellow’s story from when he was a child getting in fights at school right through his tumultuous prison life, detailing some of the more famous incidents, although often with some alterations and embellishments.

Told from the perspective of the man himself, we are privy to his various attacks on prison guards, his time in a mental institution and his penchant for getting into fights while completely starkers. However, the film is interspersed with narration told from a stage with Bronson dolled up in makeup (has Bronson’s life become a stageshow?), and certain parts are a little more theatrical than is probably true. This works well enough but may leave those expecting a straight up biopic a little confused.

Tom Hardy is superb as Bronson and many may be surprised by his varied acting range. From psychotic madman to troubled soul to bombastic showman, Hardy shows immense versatility not always seen in his films.

Bronson has been hailed by some as the modern generation’s A Clockwork Orange but such hyperbolic statements should not be taken too seriously. There are parallels between the two films, namely the healthy doses of the old ultraviolence and the exuberant yet dangerous nature of the protagonist, but Bronson lacks the disturbing social commentary of A Clockwork Orange, rather focusing on a single man’s misunderstood twisted troubled mind. That’s not a criticism, just an important distinction between the two films. A Clockwork Orange appalled and upset, but there is little in Bronson that will do the same once the initial shock value wears off, which it does a little too quickly.

Words: Chris Thomson

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Quickie: Rampart

'Date Rape' Dave BrownDuring the fallout of the Rampart corruption scandal in the late 1990s, veteran police office Dave Brown is caught on camera viciously beating on a suspect. His life then spirals out of control as he tries his best to keep it all together.

Dave Brown is somewhat of a twisted fellow; he lives with his two exes who happen to be sisters and both of whom he has children with, he reportedly murdered a supposed serial date rapist, and he isn’t shy about whose bed he happens to fall into. To be honest, it’s hard to feel any kind of sympathy or empathy with Brown and as such, it’s sometimes difficult to care about what happens to him. There’s much more to his past (and his present) that we’re not shown and there are suggestions that his two exes aren’t the only members of the household he has ‘been close’ to. Again, this doesn’t sit well with a protagonist the film seems to want us to identify with.

Having said that, Woody Harrelson is excellent as usual. He worked with director Oren Moverman on The Messenger and it’s clear the two work well together. Moverman, on the other hand, does the film no favours with his constant use of over-the-top and disorientating camera techniques. Used in moderation they can be effective but the overuse is a little distracting. One particular scene featuring Harrelson, Sigourney Weaver and Steve Buscemi could have brilliant but the constantly revolving camera succeeds in only detracting from the dialogue.

Rampart isn’t a bad film, it’s just one that doesn’t really do anything new or go anywhere particularly interesting. However, the performances are generally solid, particularly from Harrelson who appears in every scene, but outside of that the film will unlikely stick in the memory.

Words: Chris Thomson

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New Feature: The Quickie

Quickie - for when time is shortI’m introducing a new feature to the blog – the Quickie. This isn’t some big flashy thing, but simply scaled down reviews. I was finding that my reviews were taking a little while to write and some were coming in at around the 800-1000 word mark. The Quickie will be no longer than 300 words (hopefully) and will detail my overriding feelings of the film rather than going into the finer details.

This won’t happen for all films, but just for those that either I don’t feel merit a full review, I don’t have time to write a full review for, or for films I’ve left it a little to long to write a full review for and can’t actually remember everything about it. I will still, of course, continue with full reviews, but this will give a bit of a change of pace. This has been riffed a little from ClaratsiMovieBlog and his ‘Turbo Reviews’ but it was something that I was considering beforehand; I thought I’d give a little name check where it’s due anyway.

The first Quickie, Rampart, is up now to read.

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