Showing posts with label film review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film review. Show all posts

6 March 2015

Film Review - Mina Walking (2015)

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Mina Walking is the feature film debut from Yosef Baraki, originally from Afghanistan but now residing in Canada. The film, exploring the life of a young Afghan girl, had it’s world premiere at the Berlinale as part of it’s Generation selection.

The film focuses on seven days in the life of Mina (Farzana Nawabi), an impulsive twelve-year-old who, in order to care for her senile grandfather, and drug-addled father, must take to streets selling cheap trinkets and neglect her education. We follow her as she struggles to emancipate her father from the local, smooth-talking, drug dealer, and attempts to secretly attend school. 

Shot in a semi-documentary style, the camera always stays with Mina as she walks the busy streets, effectively reflecting the chaotic nature of the city, and her life. Shooting her from above during the hectic market scenes emphasises this message. Although a practical solution to avoid too much unwanted attention, it serves to highlight the turbulent nature of the location by viewing Mina’s interactions on a larger scale. We can see that the wider world surrounding her is just as chaotic as her immediate one.

The natural feel is not accidental. Baraki wants to put us in Mina’s shoes and feel her life. Of course the way of shooting emphasises this, but so does the free-flowing rhythm of the dialogue. The amateur actors were given a treatment rather than a full script to work from, leaving much of the dialogue superbly improvised. This makes 12-year-old Farzana Nawabi’s performance even more impressive.

The young actor improvises effortlessly in the potentially difficult market scenes with the general public, and never misses a beat. Her portrayal of Mina is incredibly natural, and completely engaging. She manages to play both feisty and vulnerable in equal measure, leaving no doubt that the audience is on her side, right from the very beginning.

Mina Walking is clearly a personal project for Yosef Baraki, with him wanting to highlight the troubles that young Afghans face as they try to live their lives in the shadow of the Taliban. Nawabi’s natural performance, combined with the active camera, and free-flowing dialogue makes it feel like we are really getting a slice of Afghan culture and some of the situations young Afghans face. Mina Walking is a thoroughly enthralling and engaging film with an important story.


Hannah Newton

18 March 2013

GFF 2013: John Dies at the End Review

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When I hear cult-auteur Don Coscarelli is working on a new film I get pretty excited, I read a synopsis and my excitement grows, Angus Scrimm (the Tall Man!) signs on for a cameo and I find out the film is based on a book reputed to be “unfilmable”. I swoon in my soul.

What you’ll notice first is that Coscarelli hasn’t sabotaged his aesthetic in taking his closest step into the main stream; the general look of the film and its cast, which includes the fantastic Paul Giamatti, may scare away some seasoned fans of that garage-feel of his early films. Don’t fret however, there’s plenty of his usual nonsense crammed in John Dies at the End to make up for that.

If there was a genre called fucking with the future, or unravelling the universe, then John Dies would definitely be a perfect example; it aint time travel and it aint really anything else. You just have to see it and try to let it happen. Essentially it’s the story of a new street drug that pushes the boundaries of human physics, and how two friends are dragged into a mess of alien invasion through the drug, but it’s so much more. It’s like a more elaborate Phantasm on acid.

John Dies flaunts Coscarelli’s signature black humour (see Bubba ho-Tep), those tooling-up sequences he deploys in all his films, a general feel of badass at more than a few points, and enough weird to do you the year. However, the film frequently threatens to be too bizarre for its own good and that will distance some viewers, at points it stretches patience especially in the last twenty minutes where any idea of acceptable narrative seems to boil off and leave a multi-coloured, fantastical, and wholly silly residue. If you consider this amidst the context then sure it pulls off. Time travel, supernatural encounters, aliens, and drugs, it’s difficult to criticise a film for being silly when there’s so much going on.

Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes hold their own throughout as Dave and John respectively, a pair of Coscarelli heroes if ever there was. Giamatti is great, as a wry and doubtful journalist, Doug Jones (he plays all your nightmares in del Toro films) pops up as an alien, and Clancy Brown plays an egocentric exorcist. Special mention goes to Glynn Turman as the cynical old-school detective caught up in something he doesn’t understand. Three guesses as to who I sympathise with most.

Earlier I mentioned context: that’s an important word when you consider Coscarelli’s CV. Don’t question his world too deeply, you won’t get answers, don’t pull a ridiculous face when things get crazy, because I promise it will get weirder. Sit back and watch, enjoy, savour every stupid moment courtesy of a sharp script and a director obviously having the time of his life.

The embodiment of the “Marmite Film”, John Dies at the End will polarise audiences and perhaps even Coscarelli fans. It is entirely unforgiving in its embracement of the bizarre, silly at times, hilarious at others, conceptually intriguing, and above all entertaining. Miss it if you dare.

Scott Clark


Rating: 18
Release Date: 22nd March 2013 (UK)
Directed By

15 March 2013

GFF 2013 - Welcome to the Punch Review

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When he introduced his second feature film, writer/director Eran Creevey commented that Welcome to the Punch was an old fashioned kind of Friday night fun. Though Creevey’s film is indeed visually impressive and slick as Hell, it’s not the action-romp the review snips keep heralding.
                Starting off with a well-executed Dark Knight/Heat heist-turned-chase, the film promises a killer rollercoaster for the audience, a gang of suited criminals carry their payload out of an uber-modern office type space, jump on the back of some motorbikes and speed off into the night with James McAvoy’s hot-headed detective in pursuit. It’s a stellar opening, capturing the potential for London as a metropolis just as suited to cinema as San Fran or Chicago, but without forgetting that it’s not. Unfortunately the rest of the film seems to dwindle itself away on a murky plot, too focused on the politics behind the whole affair rather than truly letting the flow lose itself in spontaneity.
 Though you’ll feel short-changed on action sequences, Creevey is obviously comfortable with them.  There’s a great pace to his action, a streamlined but dangerous quality to the shootouts, which actually makes them believable. It’s incredible how often violence in films can seem so slight (The Dark Knight Rises?)  so it’s a pleasure to watch some well-choreographed ferocity. Saying that, there is one –albeit hilarious- iffy scene of style-over-substance; a shoot-out at one of the robbers granny’s place. You might not see anything as funny as Peter Mullan holding a gun to an old woman’s head this year, but Creevey should have drew the line at slow-mo.

Strong is on top form, every bit the professional criminal and Peter Mullan steals scenes with much needed humour. You can’t help but think this is Strong and Mullan’s show, but Mullan doesn’t get the screen time he deserves. Same could be said for David Morrissey who appears as police chief, a thin character for such a great actor, though he gets to prove his worth by the end. Not to say there’s any issues with McAvoy, but a bizarre move to glorify every step he takes and every word he says ends up making many of his scenes seem melodramatic. That’s not particularly attractive for an action movie.
What’s infuriating about the film is that it regains that action perfection, presented in the opening, for its grand finale, leaving us all thinking why there was so much grey space of political confusion, plotting, and McAvoy sucking gunk out of his manky knee.   Better balance would have left the overall feel of the film in healthier stead. Still, the cinematography is stunning throughout and technically well-conceived (if a little too…blue), and there’s plenty of merit to Creevey’s second feature.

 Although there’s plenty of issues in pace and plot, Welcome to the Punch has the right idea. Good action, great cast, but falls short on being that all-out Friday night fun you might be looking for.

Scott Clark


Release Date: 15th March 2013 (UK)
Directed By