Archives for Emma Whitney

Film Review: Straight Outta Compton

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 15.19.06Directed by F. Gary Gray

Starring O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell

It’s taken America by storm, netting around $60M in its opening weekend, and it’s already doing the same here. Straight Outta Compton is being talked about as a surprise Oscar contender; I’d be surprised if it didn’t make the shortlist. Set in the late 80s and early 90s, the film details the origins and the explosiveness of gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A, hammering home the uncomfortable truth that almost 30 years later, we’re still talking about the same issues.

Director F. Gary Gray gave himself a plethora of tasks with this release; he not only had to do right by Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dr Dre, Ice Cube and DJ Yella themselves, not to mention their legions of fans, but he had to make sure that the voice he gives through his work to the city of Compton, and the wider African-American community, is justified. That so many people who were there themselves during N.W.A’s infancy – and the Rodney King riots – approve of Gray’s portrayal, proves he has done this difficult, compelling and important story justice.


Film Review: Inside Out

Inside-Out-Official-PosterDirected by Pete Docter, Ronaldo del Carmen

Starring Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black

Hype. You can’t get away from it in our rolling-news obsessed, celebrity driven culture. You certainly can’t get away from it whenever the latest Disney-Pixar animation is released. In fact, if you think about it too much, it’ll just lead to anger. It’s a no-win situation; if the film is great, you’re expecting it to be so; if not, well, that’s another trip ruined.It’s enough to drive anyone to sadness.

In fact, if you consider it too much, you’d never take a trip to the cinema again, you’d be so laden with fear. Will this film really be as jaw-droppingly awesome as I’ve heard it is? Even worse, if you tell all your colleagues, family and mates how dope the movie is, only to be unpleasantly surprised, the looks of disgust on their faces will say it all. It’s a complicated lark, this film viewing business. So I’ll cut to the chase, and put this convoluted metaphor out of its misery; Inside Out is worth the hype, every single last obnoxious drop of it.


Film Review: Magic MIke XXL

magic-mike-01-435Directed by Gregory Jacobs

Starring: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer

They say never go back, don’t they? Never retread old ground. But you see, I quite enjoyed Magic Mike the first time around, and so did a hell of a lot of other people. 167 million one dollar bills isn’t bad, as takings for stripper movies go. A sequel was inevitable. That said, the initial reviews about Magic Mike XXL I’d heard weren’t that impressive, so I wasn’t expecting great things from this movie. How wrong I was.

Whereas last time around, the plot centred on Channing Tatum’s eponymous character mentoring a green Adam (Alex Pettyfer), plus falling in love with said Adam’s sister (a disapproving Cody Horn), in XXL, Mike has long left the world of male entertainers behind, to contentedly run his own bespoke furniture business. Of course, any movie with Tatum in it would probably fare well at the box office, even if it was just two hours of recycled-driftwood dining table deliveries. Nevertheless, the interest is piqued when Mike decides to rejoin Xquisite Nightclub’s Kings of Tampa for ‘one last ride’ at the Strippers’ Convention in Myrtle Beach.


DVD Review: Still Alice

51Pfez41QUL._SY300_Directed by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart

Imagine settling down to watch a DVD with your loved ones. The popcorn’s on the table, the pizza’s in the oven and everyone you care about is assembled in the living room, watching the movie with you. Bliss. Except, you can’t remember what this film is about. And you can’t remember the name of that actress, who was in, oh, what’s that show? So you turn around to ask your partner next to you what she’s called. And you realise – you don’t know who they are. Or who anyone in the room is. Or, in fact, what room you’re in at all.



DVD Review: Paddington

51FPBHZMA4L._SY300_Directed by Paul King

Starring Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins

Buried deep within a lot of childhoods, there lies a bear, a duffel coat and a predilection for marmalade. Generations of children have grown up with the tale of a stranger from ‘darkest’ Peru, who just so happens to be a bear, and who just so happens to be in need of a home, when he is found by the Brown family at Paddington Station. Paddington the film, therefore, had rather large red wellington boots to fill; in an age where nostalgia is king, this movie needed to remain faithful to people’s memories, yet simultaneously modern enough to capture the interest of a whole new set of little – and not-so-little – ones.

Luckily, Paul King’s sumptuous film does just that. Co-wrote and directed by King, best known for his work on The Mighty Boosh, Paddington may be lacking in the surrealism department but it is certainly overflowing when it comes to laughs, gorgeous cinematography and just the right amount of tweeness. We see our eponymous hero leave his Aunt and Uncle in Peru and wind up in London, where he meets our modern-day every-family, the Browns. Dad Henry, ably played by the ever-exasperated Hugh Bonneville, is of course dubious; whimsical Mum Mary (the perfect Sally Hawkins) is enchanted; whilst children Judy and Jonathan, (the fantastic Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin) are deliciously teenaged and refreshingly normal respectively. Paddington finds a temporary home with this odd little family, and chaos soon ensues; Mr Brown is desperate to find a certain Montgomery Clyde, an explorer who visited Paddington’s family in Peru, and who promised to look after them if they ever ventured to England. Thankfully for the plot, he may or may not exist.


DVD Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition

hobbit2dDirected by Peter Jackson

Starring:  Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

Box Set contains:  3D Extended Edition, Blu-ray Extended Edition, Digital Extended Edition, Special Feature Discs

It’s almost that time of year again, folks. Yep, the nights are drawing in, small skeletons and ghouls will have knocked on your door, pestering you for E numbers, and the great big festival of materialism – I mean, peace and goodwill – is just around the corner. Which can only mean one thing; we’re due another visit to Middle Earth, fast. Those of you who cannot wait until mid-December to rejoin Bilbo’s quest can satiate your thirst for dwarves, adventure and miniature burglars by investing in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition on 3D and common/garden Blu-ray. The cool kids all have 3D TVs these days, do keep up. Even if you’ve only just transferred from VHS to Digital Versatile Disc, invest in this box set anyway. £20 doesn’t buy much these days, but when it can buy you a rip-snorting film in three mediums, nine hours of special features and 25 minutes of never-before-seen footage, it does seem a bit of a no-brainer, even if you’re a Hobbit-hating Nazgûl.  In my opinion, this extended edition represents one of the best value for money box sets ever.



Film Review: The Internet’s Own Boy

MV5BMjgwOTgwNjQ5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzk1NTQ2MTE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Directed by Brian Knappenberger

If the name Aaron Swartz doesn’t mean much to you, watch The Internet’s Own Boy. Brian Knappenberger’s intense, through-provoking documentary might make your brain melt with its subject matter, but you’ll be grateful nevertheless. Assange, Snowdon and Manning have taken all the headlines recently, but The Internet’s Own Boy suggests Swartz’s legacy could well be more powerful.

Like all good documentaries, Knappenberger’s film tells a compelling yet tragic story well. Fitting into the political tech-thriller niche made popular by Hollywood releases The Social Network and The Fifth Estate, The Internet’s Own Boy traces the life of Swartz from precocious toddler and schoolboy computer whizz to rebellious hacktivist. Of We Are Legion and Not Your Average Travel Guide fame, Knappenberger successfully mixes slick graphics, candid interviews and poignant archive footage in order to tell Swartz’s tale. It’s easy to watch films like this and get carried away with the impassioned pronouncements made, not to mention the stirring soundtrack and haunting home video clips. Yet The Internet’s Own Boy reminds you of what Swartz himself would have said – always question, always think, always ask why.



DVD Review: Ilo Ilo

018633 (1)Directed by: Anthony Chen

Starring: Angeli Bayani, Koh Jia Ler, Yeo Yann Yann, Chen Tian Wen

The Asian economic struggles of the late 90s form an intriguing backdrop to Anthony Chen’s intense, clever study of a typical middle-class Singaporean family, and the effect their new maid has on their lives. Filipino Terry, a meek yet resilient Angeli Bayani, moves in with the stressed, aspirational and fractured Lim family, and immediately struggles to form a bond with her primary charge, young son Jiale (the excellent debutant Koh Jia Ler). The financial tumults of 1997 are a lingering presence from the off, as we see a heavily pregnant Hwee Leng (Yeo Yann Yann) type redundancy letters in her admin job, and a despairing Teck (Chen Tian Wen) come up with increasingly desperate ways in which to keep his family afloat.

What is most striking about the Lims is their relative lack of wealth; true, Mrs Lim may not have much time to make Jiale’s favourite fish soup, or finish the washing, but together with the family’s tiny flat (Terry is forced to share a bedroom with a mutinous Jiale) and clapped-out car, the signs of money troubles are there from the off. The hiring of a maid seems less than prudent, but Ilo Ilo’s world is one of keeping up with the Joneses, whatever the consequences. Everyone is an outsider, and Jiale’s disruptive behaviour at school epitomises this; both colleagues and classmates turn into enemies as the crisis takes it toll. Deviation from a scripted path of success cannot be countenanced, so it’s no wonder that Jiale walks a fine line between education and expulsion every day, whilst his parents endure a bickering, bitter marriage. What Terry adds to the mix is a fresh set of eyes, an opinion fashioned by its own set of problems. Whether she hails from the Ilo Ilo Filipino region of the title is never explicitly stated, but her guilt at leaving her family back home is; more than anything, it is this that changes the relationship between Terry and her new son-by-proxy.


DVD Review: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

mandela-long-walk-to-freedom-dvd-cover-86Directed by Justin Chadwick

Starring: Idris Elba & Naomie Harris

Available on DVD & Blu-Ray now

It’s an uncanny thing, timing. Perhaps it was inevitable that Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom should have premiered in London last year on the very night that Madiba himself passed away; it was certainly fitting that the DVD and Blu-ray of the film was released almost exactly 20 years to the day since those first democratic elections in South Africa.


DVD Review: Kiss the Water

KTWDirected by Eric Steel

Available on DVD now

I’m a sucker for documentaries, I admit, and I usually like mine weird. Kiss the Water was, however, almost too strange even for me; an ethereal fairy-tale of a film that shifts from talking heads to animation to archive footage in the blink of an eye. Directed and produced by Eric Steel of The Bridge fame, Kiss the Water is a film like few others; part tribute to Megan Boyd, one of the greatest artificial fly makers of all time. Part meditation on fishing, and part mysterious treatise on life itself, this odd little gem sticks in the mind for long afterwards, and like the best of fish flies, stubbornly refuses to dislodge itself.