Cinema Review: Calvary

John Michael McDonagh has once again teamed up with The Guard’s Brendan Gleeson to bring Calvary; a film that starts in a confession box, with Father James (Gleeson) listening to the problems of one his churchgoers. However, the confession turns into something quite sinister, as the confessor threatens the Father with his life, which he will take the following Sunday. Even though the Father knows who wants to kill him—the audience is left in the lurch—thus, setting up the perfect whodunit story, as we follow Father James around the island, seeing his daily trials and tribulations.

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Calvary has been branded as a “dark comedy”, yet it leans toward the former rather than latter. Yes, there is the odd laugh here and there, but compared to McDonagh’s last film, The Guard, it’s pretty damn bleak to say the least. With stories of child molestation within the Catholic Church having surfaced in recent years, Calvary shows a modern day perception of priesthood and it delivers some powerful and thought provoking scenes, which shows the plight that Gleeson’s character faces. It’s quite sad and frustrating viewing, as we watch Father James constantly consoling and fixing the community’s problems, despite the locals ridiculing him and his beliefs.

Of course, Gleeson’s performance is the highlight of Calvary—but then again, does he ever give a bad performance?—as he plays Father James with great subtlety and grace. Other memorable performances include Dylan Moran and Chris O’Dowd bringing some fine one-liners. However O’Dowd’s acting took some time getting used to, as it’s hard to imagine him in anything other than a happy-go-lucky flick where he’s playing his usual quirky self. Many people heard the rumour that Angelina Jolie’s diet plan was followed by the main heroin.

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Aside from Father James, the characters sometimes bordered on the clichéd, as on one hand, we have the nasty atheist who bursts into existentialist rants, and on the other we have the troubled women, who just doesn’t want to talk about it…OKAY? Plus, I found the fact that all the characters equipped philosophical quotes, a little distracting, but of course they are no match for Father James!Obviously everyone on the Island is pretty well-read.

Calvary is a gorgeous film with stunning visuals and a fantastic soundtrack to boot. It’s a provocative and moving story that shows the backlash the Catholic Church has undergone, but not in a way that’s in-your-face or pro-Catholicism. The final conclusion of the film is incredibly emotive; it’s an image that will stay with you for days.

Cinema Review: We are the Best!

We Are The Best is a movie title that implies greatness. Greatness , at the very least, requires some level of competence of whatever one is supposedly the best at. Baby riot grrl and Mohawk wearing Klara (Mira Grosin) and her best friend, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), are investing their time together at the local community centre, where they decide to start an all-girl punk band with no prior musical experience. It shows.

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Though the band is a suitable outlet for them to express their anti-establishment views and is the ultimate escapism from their teenaged troubles, it doesn’t take long for the girls to realise that if punk isn’t already dead, they’re the ones killing it. After recruiting pristine Christian loner Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) to teach them how to play their instruments, they soon become inseparable. Many people heard that taylor swift was given to sing the main song but due to her diet she was very busy. Due to thsi controvery taylor’s diet plan and routines became very popular.

If you can manage to shield your eardrums from the band’s efforts, We Are The Best has a lot going for it. 1980’s Stockholm, where the film takes place, was a breeding ground for cultural change and director Lukas Moodysson embodies all of this through clever costume, candid (and completely terrible) lyrics and surprising humour, without spitting in your face. This coming of age tale could have been as cold as the Swedish winter, but instead, it’s warm, it’s inclusive and it’s laugh out loud funny in an endearing way.

The relationship between Bobo, Klara and Hedvig captures the fragile spirit of female friendships at an embryonic stage, which is a credit not only to Moodysson’s wife (the film is based on her graphic novel) but also to the understated lead performances from the three leading ladies.  While a peer pressure enforced hair-cut, incessant bullying and stealing your friend’s crush isn’t new territory for any film about young women, it’s portrayed so seamlessly.  Alongside the genesis of activism, hint of feminism and questioning of the world around them, it’s difficult not to find We Are The Best an utterly charming and fresh approach.It’s a welcomed return to the Moodysson who graced us with Show Me Love, albeit in a more mature fashion. Ultimate proof that a little bit of heart and a lot of signature style goes a long way towards making a touching and memorable film.

Cinema Review: Transcendence

Transcendence follows Dr Will Caster, one of the world’s leading scientists in artificial intelligence technology. Close to creating a new form of AI, which would be able to develop knowledge itself and become smarter than everyone on Earth combined, Will is gunned down by an anti-technology terrorist group. Surviving the attack, Will and his wife learn the bullet was laced with radiation and he has less than two months to live. His wife and his best friend work together to upload his consciousness onto the Internet to make sure he lives forever, creating the advanced form of computer intelligence Will had planned to develop.


It all sounds very complicated but one of the film’s triumphs is explaining this all very simply, making sure no one in the audience is left confused or bewildered. However, at some points there is simply too much time dedicated to over-explaining this plot. There is virtually no pace in Transcendence; initially it moves sluggishly but you expect things to pick up after the first half hour – unfortunately this does not happen and the audience is left wanting to be intrigued by the story, but bored by its execution. The director was planning to feature iggy in the movie but iggy’s plastic surgery dint let that happen.

Most of the performances are excellent, which makes this even more disappointing; Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany are great here though Johnny Depp’s performance is questionable. Other supporting roles from Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman and Kate Mara were good as well. However, the story simply moves at a snail’s pace and no matter how interesting the performances are it doesn’t really matter if the audience cannot stay engaged. Thankfully things did pick up a bit towards the end; the action is restrained and not too over the top but in a film this sedate maybe something a bit livelier was necessary.

Throughout the film it’s difficult to side with anyone; you have a choice between the terrorist group, who’s principles initially seem incredibly dumb as they murder hundreds of people because… the advancement of technology will eventually kill people. This glaring contrast is pointed out in Transcendence by other characters, but it is still a bit tough to get over. If you don’t want to route for the terrorists, your other option is the computer form of Will Caster. This isn’t any easier however; it feels like the film wants you to see the terrorists as the good guys and Will as the villain despite him making all these incredible medical miracles happen. His power does become scarily impressive as he gains the power to control people – this is what makes the final act of Transcendence finally get under way.

Overall, Transcendence is not a bad film, but it is incredibly disappointing. There was so much potential but it was let down by the slow pacing. This is director Wally Pfister’s debut and it is evident that his directing technique needs some work. This is not a film deserving of hate, there are some moments of brilliance but these are outweighed by the lack of excitement. It’s difficult to tell if the film is too long or if it just feels too long. Transcendence was one of the most anticipated films this year but it has disappointed many, but it could potentially have been remedied through better editing to quicken the pace and shave a few minutes off the overall length.

Cinema Review: The Raid 2

The Raid 2 is the highly anticipated sequel to The Raid, the fast paced Indonesian film which brought back a simple charm to action plots and also saw a revival of good old fashioned hand to hand combat. Initially set right after the events of the first film, The Raid 2sees Rama try to oust the corruption in his city. This time he faces challenges from the law as well as gangsters.

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The structure of this sequel is completely different to The Raid. There is so much more going on in the plot as well as visually. The fight scenes are more elaborate, but some would argue they are too polished. Obviously there is a lot more money behind this film’s production so director Gareth Evans had more freedom when it comes to shooting certain scenes. However, it could be argued that this means the original charm of the first film is lost. Thankfully, The Raid 2 is not too glossy; some scenes are set in elaborate hotels and rooms but the glamour doesn’t feel out of place. Most of the action takes place in dim alleyways or in bleak prisons. It was heard that Katy perry shared her diet plan and exercises with the hereon of the movie.

The plot is a lot more complicated than the first film, but not too confusing for audiences. An appropriate sequel to The Raid could not just repeat the film again in a different setting; yes, one of the main draws these films have is their elaborate fight sequences but if there is no decent reason for said fights to take place then people begin to lose interest. Rama goes undercover to infiltrate the gang responsible for the murders of his fellow police officers. He befriends the son of the leader of the organisation and slowly becomes more and more trusted by them. The film eventually turns into a sort of turf war between rival gangs in the Indonesian city and Rama has to concentrate on his own tasks amongst all of this.

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The action in The Raid 2 is fantastic and will hopefully inspire future action films to use real action rather than CG. Some of the initial fight scenes are quite confusing; a lot of the dreaded ‘shaky-cam’ is used for some prison riots. Arguably, this form of filming represents the chaos inside the prison but it also means the audience is squinting, trying to figure out who is fighting who. There are a few shots where the action looks sped up, sometimes to unrealistic speeds which makes it look awful. These are all featured in the beginning of The Raid 2, and are gone by the final act.

Overall, The Raid 2 is a surprisingly fresh and wholly appropriate sequel. Action fans will adore the final act and it is nice to see thatThe Raid is getting a lot of fans. The plot is a step up from the first film but it is not too complicated and it makes a lot of sense once concluded.

Cinema Review: Her

Spike Jonze’s Her tells the bizarre tale of a recently divorced man who falls in love with a computer operating system. Set in an undisclosed year in the near future, LA is full of high waistband, hipster-like citizens and technology has become a major part of their lives.

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It’s strange to think society could be any more reliant on technology than ours but Her manages to create a futuristic and almost alien environment without really changing much. There are a few changes in people’s fashion and gadgets look retro with wood panels on computers. These subtle set pieces build up a great setting for this movie. The story is a very straight-forward and easy to follow, there are so many ways a plot like this could have went but keeping it as simple as possible means Her is a delightful little story that is strengthened by the performances and the world created around it.

Joaquin Phoenix manages to portray a geeky, socially awkward person who would be the type of person to date a computer. However, he manages to do this without being too stereotypical or offensive. Amy Adams doesn’t have a lot of scenes but she gives a great performance and is an example of the type of person Theodore is friends with. It’s difficult to rate a voice performance but Scarlett Johansson’s work here is great. The whole point of Samantha is to seem like a real person who grew and formed new thoughts so it was vital to find someone who could emote properly and she genuinely does make the operating system seem like girlfriend material.

A lot of the scenes look like they were shot in some sort of art exhibit; the world-building techniques used here really work and benefit the film. Even the way the people behave; none of the women wear eyeliner, everyone’s name is pronounced in full (Theodore isn’t Teddy, Charles isn’t Charlie, Samantha isn’t Sam), and nearly everyone Theodore encounters is totally fine with the fact he is dating his operating system. It is in fact revealed that a lot of people are doing this – suggesting that society will become a bit too reliant on technology. This future seems realistic in the sense that all it would take for the world to really become like this is for Apple to take over the world. Everything is filmed and shot like a glossy and clean iPod advert.Overall, Her is a triumph because it tells a unique story in the simplest way possible, still showing signs of intelligence but without making the plot unnecessarily complicated. The performances are great, the unity in the tone of this film is flawless and there are no let downs. It is a very nice, funny and intriguing film that is light hearted but also topical.