THE RIOT CLUB REVIEW

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Such a riot! Tragically not. Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening, leading to . . .

A mediocre class satire that had so much potential to be so much more.

To be honest, the concept should have stayed as a play. The adaptation fails to carry itself on the big screen. If not for the prolific British cast attached to this, I don’t think it would have been done at all.

The only actor that will survive this poor affair will be Sam Claflin (Love, Rosie) who was deliciously revolting. His character Alistair Ryle was a perfect panto villain. Camp and vile. It is a shame however that he was very much a stereotype. A snobby toff that “hates poor people”. As if we needed to cement the stereotype further with that. I can’t believe that was actually written in the script.

Max Irons (The Host) played the lead as well as he could but he was terribly bland up until the final 20 minutes in which he finally had a little bit of meat from the script to chew on and do a bit of acting. He was able to share some chemistry with Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) but it’s all so predictable.

BUT Irons was always going to finish second to the rest of the cast comprising of young future British prospects; Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Ben Schnetzer (Pride) and Sam Reid (Belle).

It does not help that the tone is all over the place. Riding off the Made in Chelsea vibe, the opening act was farcical and terribly OTT as we are given a brief history about the founder of the infamous club, Lord Riot. A genius and a . . . TOTAL LEGEND.

I could feel my hopes for this film fading in an instant. However, the club members did provide enough tomfoolery for a silly but watchable half hour. The initiation sequence had a demented Dead Poets Society feel and I really hoped it was going to keep heading in that direction dealing with the class and society issues within the confines of the school.

The club’s initial introduction and candidate hunt was quite funny. Sam Reid’s overtly flamboyant Hugo chasing after Irons’ Miles for his own intentions. The boozing and sleeping around felt like a mash of Skins meets Made in Chelsea.

However, the tone gets a little bit serious when the club unite to dine. The dinner sequence was a perfect platform to stage a cross-examination of the upper class but it took so long to get going. As tempers rise and more booze and drugs are ingested at the dinner table, things finally begin to bubble up.

There are some tense moments but it’s tough to do a commentary when all the characters are merely stereotypes. It made a change that it wasn’t a piece on hoodies peddling drugs and committing crimes on a council estate but rich spoilt brats poking fun at the working class is just fuel for fire.

I can respect what the writer was trying to say but the characters and the aftermath are exaggerated so theatrically that I can’t take them seriously. I mean at one point the lads are picking at the 10 fowl main course because one bird is missing. Terrible.

They were nothing more than the seven posh dwarves; Dopey, Sleazy, Shouty and Crackhead. The tension soon subsides and leads to complete and utter chaos with relentless destruction (an elongated five minute Extreme Makeover sequence that was beyond overkill) and a predictable twist.

Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey) played the waitress as well as she could but it was a wasted role. Anyone could have played her. She merely scowled and had the odd jibe back at the posh plebs.

The alluring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) had the easiest cameo going. Her character was nothing more than a catalyst to fuel the tempers of horny, drug induced toffs in the form of a misled escort.

My quip besides playing on the mainstream red band papers and hyping up stereotypes was that there wasn’t enough story for me. The idea of them discussing their views during a dinner had potential. BUT it’s goes from nothing to everything.

It was too slow, the characters were un-relatable and it ended oh so predictably and lazily with the usual commentary that the rich get away with anything, apparently. Hardly a spoiler. After the dinner incident, I thought there was potential for a suspenseful stand off as the gang begin to give each other up. BUT it’s wrapped up within minutes so flatly and easily. Disappointing.

I predict a riot for people heading towards the door.

2/5

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PRIDE REVIEW

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A film that should have taken more pride in it’s story and cast. Solidly acted, well written but a case of hype helping an easygoing biopic that seemed to hinder as it reached it’s conclusion.

To be honest, I think it may be a sign of the time. Despite it’s subject matter appearing “controversial”, it seems to be showing that we are very much past that era. The fact that nowadays a film like this can be viewed and received positively says it all. I know I wasn’t around during that period and I can certainly empathize. But I’ll never really know what these groups truly went through. Director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford capture that perfectly and there are endearing moments as the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group suffer the scrutiny of the miners as they try and show their genuine support.

An attempt to publicise their beliefs soon becomes so much more once they meet the mining community and realise that despite conflicting sexualities, the groups very much share something in common and unite in a time of desperation, anger and torment. My main issue is that the film deals with it far too lightly and for it’s all hype, I wasn’t really laughing that much nor did I shed a tear.

At times, the story felt like it was going through the motions. It’s tough to stick to a true story without exaggerating certain facts to make a little more drama. However, I feel maybe a little more could have been exaggerated to justify the 120 minute length. When I saw the trailer, I expected an OTT, feel-good laugh a minute British dramedy. It certainly ends uplifting and brings the odd chuckle but most of them are revealed in the heavily flogged trailers. If you’re lucky then the jokes will certainly be fresh to you.

One thing I will definitely commend is the cast of British talent at Warchus and Beresford’s disposal. It was a surprise to see ol’ McNulty from The Wire in drag. Dominic West plays the role perfectly, balancing it with the right level of camp and heart. Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton are, to be expected, superb taking roles with completely different temperaments. Nighy’s deadpan but gentle Cliff to Staunton’s domineering outspoken chairman Hefina. Paddy Considine played Dai brilliantly. A complete change from his more introverted and volatile roles (Dead Man Shoes being a personal favourite).

The film also gave opportunities for up and coming actors. Ben Schnetzer was fantastic as group leader Mark. He is one to watch and has made a huge transformation from his supporting role in the highly enjoyable The Book Thief. He certainly carries the group in their time of peril and indeed the film. Jessica Gunning’s performance as the ambitious Sian was also worth noting. She has been around on the UK TV circuit for a while now and was most memorable for her small role in Great Night Out. She certainly proved that she can take a bigger role and deliver just as much gusto.

Menna Trussler was superb and in scene stealing form as the gullible and naïve Gwen. A loveable sweetheart whose intentions are in the right place, even if they may have come out the wrong way. “Where are my gays? I’ve missed them”, as well as her bizarre questions that she wanted rectifying after hearing from a friend down the market. She certainly delivered the one liners. Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) was finally able to make an impression once his character was allowed to open up. A meeting with his mothers after years of being shunned seemed like a missed opportunity that was dealt with far too easily and quickly for my liking. Faye Marsay (Fresh Meat) was very good as Steph, the only lesbian in the group.

Joseph Gilgun played the role incredibly straight faced, which made a change after his role as Rudy in Misfits. However, you really wanted him to have some of that eccentricity as his character is hardly memorable. Liz White (or Annie from Life on Mars) played the role of Dai’s supporting wife as well as she could but is somehow pushed into the background.

With respect to the miners, Warchus and Beresford do not portray them as oafish or as naïve as you first anticipated from the trailers. Beresford has established an array of well rounded characters that stand out and are easily relatable to. At Pride’s heart it is still a story of two groups of people that were being shunned and downtrodden by the public, the papers and the government (most importantly). The AIDS propaganda campaign. The red band coverage of the miners’ strike. It was a surprise to believe that the majority of the events did happen and as the credits appeared over each character explaining what happened after this unifying moment, there were some surprisingly revelations which did hit home.

The soundtrack was brilliant and really ignited that nostalgia for the 80s. Well acted, well written, bit long at the tooth but . . .

For all the hype, the best British film of the year? En par with The Full Monty, Brassed Off and Billy Elliott? A film that will stand time and be remembered in the future. Not to me, I’m afraid pet.

3.5/5 Still one of the better ones but for it’s all hype, falls short for me and could have been more. Worth a gander most definitely.

THE BOOK THIEF REVIEW

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An endearing and heartfelt drama. Brilliantly written, nicely shot and well acted.

Against the backdrop of the impending Second World War, a young orphan Liesel Nieminger (Sophie Nelisse) finds solace in stealing books as well as hiding a Jewish refugee, Max (Ben Schnetzer) who is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.

I’ve never read Markus Zusak’s best selling novel BUT certainly want to now after watching this. A brilliant narration from Roger Allam (V for Vendetta) accompanied a sobering and dark opening sequence as Liesel met her foster parents for the first time; the instantly loveable and easygoing Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and stern and frumpy Rosa (Emily Watson). It allowed for an easygoing first act as she adjusted to her new home and made friends with the eager Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch). BUT also enemies with the delightfully unpleasant bully Franz Deutscher (Levin Liam).

The film subtly built up to the impending war. It was an interesting transition as it soon took a toll on the community. At 131 minutes, there were parts where the film did dip BUT it was still riveting and beautiful to watch. Once Max (a fantastic debut from Schnetzer – Pride) entered the mix, the film branched out and made for an endearing, suspenseful and engaging war drama.

Nelisee is a good little actress and carries the film well. She is definitely going to be one to watch for the future. It’s always important that these dramas have characters you can root for and care about. The supporting cast were perfect. Rush and Watson were fantastic as her sparring foster parents. Liersch and Nelisse had great chemistry as the childhood companions desperate to keep hold of their friendship as the war takes those around them.

It’s always tough to make a war drama after so many fantastic examples. It’s important to remember that this is an experience of the Nazi regime under Hitler through the eyes of a little German girl. If you’re expecting a gritty, explosive war flick you will be left disappointed. However, the film builds up to an unexpected, harrowing and tear jerking finale as the war breaks apart the idyllic Heaven Street. All aided with the a beautifully Oscar nominated score from none other than the great John Williams (Jaws/Harry Potter/Star Wars)

My main qualm with the film was that it breezes over crucial turning points in Hitler’s regime. We all know some aspect of the man’s madness. BUT we’re also NOT history buffs. We’re all aware of the horrendous treatment of the Jews BUT may not necessarily know the Night of the Long Knives. The overlong pace may test some. The first hour may have been a little schmaltzy BUT it still delivered a harrowing finale. The only problem was that it felt a little abrupt and left too many questions about certain protagonists. There could have been a little more time spent on explaining and been better for it without spoiling anything.

However, I still went in, NOT sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. Definitely one of the better films.

3.5/5