MR TURNER REVIEW

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Well, this didn’t turn me into a fan but a stand out performance from Spall certainly kept me going.

Mike Leigh takes his paintbrush to the canvas to paint the last 25 years of the great, if eccentric J.M.W (Joseph Mallard William) Turner.

I loved Leigh’s earlier efforts; Life is Sweet, Vera Drake and Another Year. However, I still found them a little overhyped. Good examinations of family, class and society but a little long at the tooth.

From the elongated if haunting opening sequence, I knew what I was in for. One of Turner’s most famous works slowly materialising and consuming the screen.

This is followed by a slow burning but beautifully captured picturesque pastoral Dutch countryside sequence as we watch Turner paint a windmill.

A wonderfully shot but slow burning examination of one man’s genius. The cinematography by Dick Pope has been commended and rightly so. A feast for the eyes.

I was not familiar with the works of Mr Turner. Firstly, I’m not a big art lover. But watching the process that he took in mastering his craft was an interesting process.

But with such genius, comes many flaws. At first, I was frowning at Spall’s delivery. Reduced to grunting and grimacing for the first part of the film. I wasn’t sure whether I liked the man.

A social outcast if ever there was one. Loved by a housekeeper (Dorothy Atkinson) he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually. He isolates a family he fathered out of wedlock with a scene stealing turn, by regular Leigh stalwart, Ruth Sheen as Sarah Danby.

He virtually denies their existence and doesn’t even ask of their welfare. To be honest, there wasn’t enough of Sheen or enough conflict for me. Leigh paints a rounded portrayal of Turner, capturing him at his best (or most eccentric) and his worst; he actually had himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm.

His relationship with his father (Paul Jesson) was done well and it added a little humanity to this strangely alien painter; completely out of touch with etiquette. Painting a picture of an aristocrat and openly spitting on the canvas to provide a better finish.

Jesson and Spall were a great pairing. I rate Timothy Spall quite highly and despite the character, I couldn’t stop watching him. A sterling performance.

The props and detail were perfect. I’m not an art lover but some of the paintings were outstanding. The Victorian dialect was a little undecipherable at first but you soon get the gist. It helped that I had studied Victorian literature back in sixth form (Oohh err). Didn’t expect to have to remember that.

I didn’t realise that Turner was both celebrated and reviled by the public and royalty. The open mockery regarding his final works was incredibly harsh. People made plays questioning that he had lost his sight if he thought he could regard such a painting as art.

When Turner does get painting and shares his views of his work, you don’t see a cantankerous recluse with questionable morals, you see a genius with an eye for detail.

An interesting scene in which at the Royal Academy of Arts, Turner appears to ruin another member’s work by smearing a red spot in the middle of the ocean. However, once Turner finishes, you notice that he has painted a buoy.

One relationship I felt was also captured quite well was between Turner and the seaside landlady, Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey). Bailey and Spall had great chemistry and I felt for the pair. I didn’t approve of the fact that they had to live incognito in Chelsea.

Look at me. Didn’t approve. I’m more Victorian than I thought. A sign of the times.

The 150 minute pace was debatable. I felt that parts dragged and that the film meandered along the waves Turner painted.

At its best, a beautifully shot travel diary as a renowned painter travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy and visits brothels.

At its worst, a meandering pretentious if rounded biopic on an eccentric Victorian womaniser. The cast do their best BUT with the people Leigh had at his fingertips, I just wish more was made out of them.

Renowned TV actors reduced to bitty ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ cameos; James Fleet (Vicar of Dibley), Karl Johnson, Ruby Bentall (both Lark Rise to Candleford) and Lee Ingleby (Inspector George Gently).

This really is an acquired taste. Very much like the works of Mr Turner. If you’re an avid fan of Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall and the artist Mr Turner, then this is for you.

But for newcomers of any of the above, this may not be the best starter.

3/5

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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

PLASTIC REVIEW

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Surprisingly watchable and entertaining. Hardly original or groundbreaking. Pretty much a darker Hustled up Hollyoaks hybrid but with a likeable and talented young British cast, I can think of worst ways to kill 90-odd minutes.

I went in expecting the worst and was relieved. A watchable easygoing crime caper, even if the end result is predictably the same. Ed Speelers has finally found a project to show off his talents after a number of misfires; Eragon and ITV’s Echo Beach. Playing the charismatic lead Sam, desperate to make a quick buck, he leads a rag tag team of chosen criminals who inevitably end up messing with the wrong people. In all fairness, the first 20 minutes zipped along quite nicely with the little fraudsters starting off as little Del Boys, fobbing off stolen merch to stereotypical posh toffs at uni. Stereotypical if hilarious riffs on the Made in Chelsea numpties.

The team of grifters get a passion for plastic. Stealing credit card information and data to buy a lot of expensive jewellery and  harvest a lot of wonga. The ease in which the team obtain their data is scarily realistic; perfectly demonstrated in a petrol station sequence in which cameras are positioned perfectly to catch pins and fake machines. A crime that does need to stop as the world goes DPA crazy. The “subtle” social commentary on the fact that students who are studying their degrees or have achieved them are probably not going to get a job in that field is a harsh reality that I can relate to. But resorting to corporate espionage and card crime, meh, I’ll stick to blogging. The lazy jibes about the economic crisis wasn’t necessary. We’re all stuck in it. Been there. Can’t afford the t-shirt. Felt like a mere excuse to help justify the cockney rebels’ cause.

However, the team soon rip off the wrong man, the ever reliable slithery Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula/Wanted). Not enough of him to be honest but he manages to make a mark. Hardly Brick Top from Snatch but impressionable none the same. He gives them a deadline of two weeks to pay up a £2 million “compensation” fee, leading to one massive, crazy, can’t-believe-it-but-apparently-a-true-story, con. Will Poulter (We’re the Millers/Son of Rambo) was arguably overshadowed. And for some reason, the lad had not grown up enough to carry the conviction his character craved. In one scene, the gruff gangster worked, the other he seemed more like he was doing one of his performances in School of Comedy. He delivers some of the more comical one liners. I mentioned overshadowed as one culprit in particular steals every scene and that goes to old Theon Lovejoy (prefer that comparison to sibling of Lily Allen) Alfie Allen.

Allen has always been able to play the shady, slick faced shithead but he does it so well and delivers yet again as the volatile Yatesey. A necessary, if untrustworthy, evil. A ticking timebomb waiting to explode. The beautiful eye candy, I mean, Emma Rigby (Hollyoaks) doing her best to be nothing more than a stocky love interest. I couldn’t believe that Graham McTavish (Dwalin from The Hobbit franchise) was in this, playing the ridiculous OTT and gullible mark to perfection, lapping up every minute.  It was great to see Ashley Chin (Starred Up) and Robbie Gee (speaking of Snatch) in somewhat limited roles. But talented enough to stand out. And Malese Jow. I only ever remember her from that Nickelodeon show Unfabulous. Wow. Stunning. But perverted comments aside, she plays the supporting role well. Sebastian De Souza (Skins/The Borgias) was originally quite a funny character and you did feel for him as he is rewarded the more irritating gigs but his character soon gets quite annoying and luckily subsides into the background. Shame.

As Sam says at the start of the film, “it’s not how it started but how it ends. How you got there”. And that’s a little bit of the problem, the start was highly watchable and once the con gets going, the plot holes start appearing and once the crazy Mission Impossible costume work comes into it, well it all gets a little silly. There were missed opportunities; most notably in Sam’s recruiting techniques. Intriguing at first, it soon didn’t surmount to anything by the end, without spoiling too much. And when I say, silly. The strange overuse of slow motion by the end of the film was irritating. I mean, a tense build up to an inevitable shoot out sequence borders on parody by the end, with people being shot left right and centre, then popping back up like they have been re-spawned in a game of Call of Duty.

Arguably this could have been a TV movie but in comparison to the bigger budgeted and supposedly more talented counterparts that have been released this year, this fares reasonably well. More so for me as a movie aficionado after an atrocious April of one star cinematic car crashes. Enough to stay afloat. At this moment, I’m looking for films that are watchable and this one falls into it. If you’re expecting Lock, Stock then you will be disappointed. I’m glad that this didn’t try to be, it’s better for it at that sense. But maybe a little of that ambition would have helped it fare a bit better and all. It’s 3 (just) out of 5 for me!

Currently ranks #86 out of 170!