Month: September 2015

Brooklyn (2015)

Written for RAF News Sept 2015

Adapted from Colm Tóibín’s novel, this period drama set in 1952 follows Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) a young Irish wallflower in search of a life with better prospects across the pond, finding not only a job but first love. 


Leaving behind her sister and mother in their rural hometown that couldn’t promise her a future, Eilis heads for Brooklyn, the Irish home away from home, but not even a job and night classes can quell her homesickness.

A traditional Irish score carries Eilis’ thoughts of home, and so too does an event for which she volunteers, offering food to the older generation of Irish immigrants in Brooklyn, the forgotten souls who built the tunnels and bridges. In one particularly striking moment, a man stands and sings in Gallic, a powerful and piercing performance that resonates with all, nonemoreso than Eilis.

Although there is romantic nostalgia anchored in Ireland, it is painted in earthy tones, in brown and beige, where New York’s excitement is met with a smattering of vibrant colours. It is only when Eilis finds the attention of humble Italian-American Tony (Emory Cohen), that she is pulled in by the allure of the city – finding comfort in her new home and confidence that her life is coming together. 

That is until she is called back home following tragic news, discovering that her situation has changed and that there might be a future back in Ireland after all: a job and a charming young suitor played by Domnhall Gleeson.

The camera seems to be in love with Saoirse’s portrait, her detached gaze caught in constant close-up throughout the film, offering a poignant insight into the struggle of finding herself and where she belongs. Eilis is straight-faced for the most part, shining with innocence even after being dolled up by the ‘awful gossip mongers’ of her boardhouse.

The supporting cast provide colour and comedy, none moreso than Julie Walters who steals the show as the maam of Eilis’ boarding house, with a few gloriously written lines, delivered effortlessly.

Brooklyn is a charming love story that doesn’t sensationalise. A simple and effective story that feels honest and is all the more powerful for it.

Tech Noir

After watching Lee Hardcastle’s latest music video for a second time, the song that it accompanied had effectively crawled inside my brain and buried itself deep within my subconscious. Think I might need a RyGo style headstomp to relieve me of this earworm because as it stands I’m listening to it a few times a day.

Beginning with an apocalyptic voiceover from horror legend John Carpenter, I was reminded of the director’s own fondness for synth music and how it played a crucial role in establishing the tone of his films. There is a simplicity to the structure which is built on throughout, adding layers and emotional depth – building suspense and paranoia.

Ennio Morricone’s score for The Thing creeps and induces anxiety in a much subtler way than Halloween, but there is a prominent style connecting both. My favourite theme of Carpenter’s though has to be Assault on Precinct 13. It has stayed with me from the first time I saw it when I was a youngun.

Considering Carps to have a link this retro synthwave music, I remember seeing that he is linked to Hardcastle too – offering him praise for his tribute to The Thing in ‘Thingu’: a comical and thoroughly detailed homage that utilises its own practical effects.

The claymation style and VHS theme of the music video lends a perfect aesthetic to the music, especially when lit with electric pink. The band responsible for the addictive noises are Gunship: formed from the non-Busted members of Fightstar, they released their debut album this year and have a few videos already that each provide their own visual style that mirrors the 80s nostalgia prevalent in the music.

Not particularly a fan of this genre, I cannot explain how this one track, the chorus alone, has commandeered my consciousness. That being said I am a big fan of the Drive score and soundtrack (analysed against themes of the film here) which appears to embody the same space.

Well anyways, here is a playlist that dances between some synthy tracks and some not-so that I’m listening to currently:

Barely Lethal (2015)

Written for RAF News Sept 2015

High school is hard going – even for a special agent.

Prescott is an institution that takes in young girls and turns them into badasses. Agent 83 (Hailee Steinfeld) is a natural but longs to have a normal life, and so whilst pursuing target Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba) she fakes her own death and enrols in an exchange program at a new school with a new family. But how much of 83’s training help her in the social minefield of high-school?

In preparation 83 gathers intel in the form of Mean Girls, Clueless, Bring it On etc. so when a group of cheerleaders offer her a seat on her first day, she declines defensively weary of it being a trap – ‘I thought we were nice?’ the girl exclaims to her gang with complete incredulity.

From 83’s research it would seem that she will avoid the pitfalls of the teen-movie but instead she falls for each one in sequence, chasing the vapid heartthrob over the endearing geek, and duped into becoming the school mascot for his attention. The selective intelligence of 83 shows that the film wants to have its cake and eat it, no sooner referencing a tired cliche than employing one without irony.

The best comedic performances come from the single parents, played by Rachael Harris and Rob Huebel, but they are just background colour to the romance between their kids, which is far less interesting. Samuel L Jackson plays head of the spy school Hardman in a role that he could act in his sleep, and Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner stars as rival agent 84.

There is something of Grosse Point Blank in the premise, especially the last act, but it is softened for a younger audience and closer to the sensibilities of Spy Kids. Unfortunately for those who have watched the same films as 83, Barely Lethal is predictable and though it tries to be edgy and offers the occasional action scene, it is safe and forgettable for the most part.