Monthly Archives: January 2017

Review – T2 TRAINSPOTTING

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Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Cert: 18 Running Time: 117 mins
Release Date: 27th January 2017

The original Trainspotting was a visceral thumping heartbeat of a film, with breakout performances and a soundtrack that defined the times. Even the marketing was standout, from the black and white character driven art with its shot of neon orange introducing its bunch of losers, misfits and psychos.  It was never a film that screamed for a sequel, a carbon-copy cash-in that would see them all return for another slice of devilment. The film didn’t need it. Yet there is something powerful in experiencing it now after a twenty year gap in the story, inviting a heady hit of nostalgia that completely pays off.

As before the story circles Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) as he returns to Edinburgh for a short trip home from the Netherlands. Feeling reflective after a minor health scare, he  decides to track down his old pals. Unlike Mark, Spud (Ewen Bremner) never managed to get off the heroin and it has for 20 years sucked everything good from his life like a vampire. He lives in tower block squalor estranged from his wife Gail (Shirley Henderson) and their teenage son. Unemployed and unemployable, he goes from one hit to the next.

Sickboy/Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) on the other hand has a thriving enterprise in blackmail – a honey trap with hooker girlfriend Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkova) extorting money from well-to-do pillars of society who enjoy a bit of kink on the side. Simon himself is a slave to it, using the money to fuel a cocaine addiction and living in a general spiral he can’t escape, running his Aunt’s pub down the docks. It’s an empty shell and so is he.

And then there’s Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Unchanged, he’s still a ball of angry testosterone, ready to go batshit crazy on someone for looking sideways at him. He’s spent the last 20 years in prison and seeing a chance at escape he finds himself back in his old hunting ground and on the trail of the returned Renton, who ran off with his cash two decades earlier.

Based on Irvine Welsh’s 2002 novel ‘Porno’, writer John Hodge has again proved himself a masterful adapter of his work. It’s a provocative, funny, weird, violent odyssey of a script that deftly juggles moments of poignancy and hilarity, laying the foundation for great performances, all set to the beat of director Danny Boyle’s incredible vision. Yes, it is another slice of Edinburgh devilment, but it stabs deep beyond the instant gratification of a good joke and crawls under the skin of each one of them.  Boyle deliberately teases the audience with glimpses from the first film and a haunting of notes from the first soundtrack used sparingly and to great effect.

McGregor, Lee Miller, Bremner and Carlyle are all terrific, while Nedyalkova shines in a role given more light and shade than perhaps other writers would have afforded. And then there’s that speech. It’s almost a parody at  first. Veronica asks Mark what the ‘Choose Life’ slogan means and so begins an updated rant from McGregor that is scarily precise, a dose of nostalgia bang up to the date.

If you liked the first film, you’ll love this one. As Empire magazine put it all those years ago – “Trainspotting is here and its toe-curlingly good”. So’s the sequel. See it immediately.

Time waits for no man.

5/5

Review – A MONSTER CALLS

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Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Cert: 12A Running Time: 112 mins
Release Date: January 1st 2017

It’s not often I’m left speechless by a film – tears running down my face, so quick that they’re on my neck before I can catch them. A Monster Calls struck something in me that makes an objective review impossible. It offered not only an incredible and moving cinema experience but it forced me to look at it through the prism of my own grief at the loss of my mother, also from cancer. It hit a nerve, head on, making no apologies and offering no anaesthetic. For some grief is a sudden thing, a baseball bat to the gut. For others, when death is preordained, it arrives early to burrow under your skin, leaving you defenceless against what’s to come.

It’s this grief that’s examined here, as 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) deals with his mum’s (Felicity Jones) terminal illness. Feeling lost and helpless, he is visited by a monster – a giant yew tree (voiced by Liam Neeson) brought to life from the local cemetery. The monster offers to tell Conor three stories, (beautifully rendered by illustrator Jim Kay), giving the boy a momentary escape from the devastation not helped by an absent father (Toby Kebell), a distant grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and the local bullies.

Given the emotional nature of the story, it never once manipulates its audience, never once lies to you – it only tells the truth and in that darkness – in not veering towards the saccharine – it becomes something profound and in a way life changing. Director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible) and writer Patrick Ness work in perfect synchronicity – Bayona completely getting what Ness was going for and capturing it with a magical touch, a perfect mix of fantasy and reality. Had another writer taken Ness’ 2011 novel (based on an original idea by Siobhan Dowd), it may have lost some of the darkness. With Ness’ pen it retains all its bite, humour and heart.

Neeson’s performance as the monster is staggering. His voice and the power of his words are stunning, his movements perfectly captured in CGI. Lewis MacDougall is heart wrenching as Conor and Felicity Jones heart breaking as the mother who knows she is leaving her son forever. In speaking about death and grief, A Monster Calls reaches deep into you, healing with its honesty. To grieve is to be human, to love, to laugh, to cry. While its normal to suppress grief, push the pain down, A Monster Calls allows it to bubble to the surface and leaves it respectfully with the audience to process as they will.

Regardless of how personally bound to the story you may be, it is a powerful watch and those just looking for a thought provoking, imaginative and entertaining (for it is) spectacle could do no better for it is as sure a perfect film as has come along in some time. In a word, astounding.

5/5