Spree – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton and Joshua Ovalle
Directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko
Written by and Eugene Kotlyarenko Gene McHugh
Length: 93mins

One of a handful of films in recent years to take a look at the online “influencer” status which many celebrities have attained, ‘Spree’ takes us into the mind of Uber-style driver Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery) as he tries a wide variety of methods to grow his following, until devising his ultimate plan which he only refers to as “The Lesson”. 

As a depiction of the current state of the Internet, ‘Spree’ is pleasantly accurate. The way in which the film’s characters engage with their audience feels both modern and exciting, drawing the audience into the story in much the same way as they would if they were scrolling their own favourite celebrities Instagram or twitter page. The editing remains fast-paced and smooth throughout, further enforcing the realistic presentation of how audiences interact with social media these days. Of course, a couple years down the line we could be looking back at ‘Spree’ and commenting on how dated it looks, but with how quickly the internet grows and changes, I’d be surprised if any film managed to accurately depict both a modern aesthetic and a timeless image.

Joe Keery stars as an unhinged driver who will do anything to achieve online fame, and pulls off the role in both an exciting and engaging way. Unfortunately, the script provides little in the way of character development, and as a result it becomes difficult to take the more sincere or extreme elements of the story too seriously. It’s clear that ‘Spree’ is aiming to work as a social commentary on the current status of social media, but due to the lack of development in Keery and all other cast member’s characters, it’s hard to engage with the film on any level other than simply entertainment, which is ironic given that it’s working so hard to show that the entertainment which audiences crave from their favourite content creators is what’s causing this toxic environment.

Throughout the film there are frequent scenes which take place in the car of the main character, as well as exterior shots as Keery travels through Los Angeles. As the film is able to acknowledge the cameras on display due to them being a key element of the narrative, any scenes which took place in the vehicle felt like they were really well done, which is not something often achieved when it comes to filming in cars. ‘Spree’ doesn’t hold back when it comes to showing specific details of any scene, and as a result these moments can become both thrilling and tense.

Overall, I’d recommend ‘Spree’ as a great evening’s watch where you can either choose to engage with the film on a deeper level, or simply enjoy it as exciting entertainment. Hopefully in the near future, more and more people will be able to have film nights with their friends, and I think ‘Spree’ would be a great choice for such an occasion.

Twist – Review

Rating: 12 Cast: Rafferty Law, Sophie Simnett, Rita Ora, Franz Drameh, Michael Caine and Lena Headey Directed by Martin Owen Written by John Wrathall and Sally Collett Length: 90mins

Martin Owen combines a contemporary setting with classic characters in his most recent release, Twist. Based on the personalities created by Charles Dickens in his famous novel, Owen looks to bring a fresh burst of life to the story of Oliver Twist. Whilst considered a ‘modern take’ on the well loved classic, all that really flows from the original are the character names and similarities in the day to day habits of London criminal gangs…

Twist was advertised as a fast-paced heist movie and with the well known names of Michael Caine and Lena Headey involved, I was pretty excited for this film. It has the components to be brilliant, fusing nostalgia from the classic Oliver Twist with a modern outlook and setting. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t hit the mark. The plot is severely lacking; it’s quite an average heist plan that’s without proper consideration or motivation that is broken up by random little character ‘moments’ that don’t serve the story.

While there are some nice moments in the film, the performances aren’t particularly strong. Headey and Caine are fine, they do a solid job with what they were given, Rafferty Law (son of Jude Law) was quite flat throughout who likely didn’t give his best performance due to the thinness of the material. Sophie Simnett who plays Red (AKA Nancy) is the standout. She gives the strongest performance and helps the audience to stick with the plot that is only 90 minutes long but at times feels like it’s dragging. It feels a bit harsh to critique the actors in this film as the material is just so dull, and the casting was a bizarre mix; again, probably due to the peculiarity of the script requirements. It feels like they weren’t fully committed to a direction for this film so panicked and threw a bit of everything in there.

Visually this film is quite nice. They love a good free running montage but if you don’t mind that, the film makers were quite creative with how they shot a lot of the film and generally it looks nice. Unfortunately though, Twist is a film that knows exactly what it wants to be, but hasn’t a clue how to get there. It’s one of those frustrating movies that everyone knows could have been excellent, but didn’t fulfil expectations. It’s an okay watch if you just want to pop something short on in the background, but it’s certainly nothing groundbreaking.

Soul – Review

Rating: PG
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, Phylicia Rashād, Daveed Diggs, Richard Ayoade and Graham Norton
Directed by Pete Docter
Written by Pete Docter, Kemp Powers and Mike Jones
Length: 101mins

The name ‘Pixar’ is enough to bring nostalgia to most people these days, and seems to remain one of the few studios who consistently deliver heart-warming, entertaining and unique stories to the big screen. Unfortunately, ‘Soul’ has been enjoyed by most on a smaller screen this past year, but it doesn’t fail to deliver exactly what you’d hope for, as well as a little more.

The story of Joe Gardner, a middle school Jazz teacher in New York who never feels that he fully accomplished his dreams of being a professional musician, ‘Soul’ draws on themes of loss, love and aspiration. Although the films which Pixar make are definitely not just for children, it’s undeniable that the younger demographic make up a large portion of the audience. As a result, when it comes to dealing with a subject as heavy as loss or death, a filmmaker must be especially creative – to not only bring a vision of life after death to the screen, but to also do it in a way which considers how a child may perceive it and be affected by it. Despite this, ‘Soul’ creates a beautiful and intriguing perception of what this change means to so many people, and uses it to tell their story in a fresh and exciting way.

It’s no secret that Pixar are one of the greatest animation studios working today, with perhaps only Studio Ghibli to rival them. There were multiple times throughout the film when I found myself struggling to believe that some of the visuals – in particular the backgrounds of some scenes – were animated, and not instead just using real footage. Pixar has consistently worked to improve the quality of their visuals since their creation, walking a fine line between remaining true to the wonder which animation can provide, and allowing a greater amount of realism to influence their films. However, ‘Soul’ also demonstrates some of the most abstract use of animation I’ve seen from the studio, and showing signs of inspiration from other brilliant animators such as Don Hertzfeldt, incorporates darker and less familiar visuals when depicting darker moments in the ‘You Seminar’ – a place somewhere after life, and a little before the “great beyond”.

Trent Reznor and Atticuss Ross have once again proved themselves to be competent and exciting composers who are able to adapt themselves not only to the themes which a film carries, but also to the audience who’ll be hearing their score. A far stretch from the lighter sounds of Michael Giacchino’s ‘Up’ soundtrack, or the work of Randy Newman for ‘Toy Story’, the darker and more electronic sounds which Reznor and Ross bring to ‘Soul’ feels like an exploration into new territory for Pixar, whilst also being a great soundtrack which works perfectly with the narrative and themes which the film explores.

Whilst I might not consider ‘Soul’ to be amongst Pixar’s best works, it definitely ranks highly in their filmography, and shows that they’re a studio who are still able to create interesting and exciting work. I’d highly recommend ‘Soul’ to anyone of any age, and if you get the chance to give it a watch, you definitely should.

Blithe Spirit – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann, Emilia Fox, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Judi Dench Directed by Edward Hall. Written by Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft. Based on the play by Noel Coward. Length: 95mins

In the latest film adaption of Noel Cowards play Edward Hall brings the famous comedy to life in an explosion of colour and famous faces. The story follows Charles Condomine, a writer struggling with writers block who hires a spiritualist medium to hold a seance in the hope to inspire his writing. When Madame Arcati accidentally summons the spirit of Charles’ deceased first wife, we are presented with an increasingly complex love triangle between himself, his first love and his current wife of 5 years.

As a play, Blithe Spirit (which was first seen in 1941 in the West End) proved to be a phenomenon. It drew massive audiences and created a long-run record for a non-musical stage play in the West End at the time and was soon presented all across America. In 1945 the story found it’s way to the big screen with Rex Harrison starring as Charles Condomine. In theory, this fresh take should have been able to use the pull of a genius original text with a decent budget, big names and advanced technology to reignite laughter across the masses in one of the more difficult years in recent times. In reality, the film missed it’s cinema release and headed straight to streaming services which, in hindsight, I think was probably best for this film as it totally missed the mark. 

It’s an aesthetically pleasing production. The location, sets, costume and colour palette all bring a real vibrancy and help lift the elements that some might struggle to get behind, creating it’s vintage feel while keeping the energy high, though you could argue that these aspects were in place as more of a distraction from the underwhelming story. With a cast of such big names you would only expect the highest quality performances. Unfortunately the approach to the film feels very much like a basic attempt at ‘bringing the play to life’ which just didn’t work for me. While the actors all give solid performances it is very dramatised and a bit silly.

I would give this adaption a miss, the play however, I would go to see. It takes truly brilliant writers to adapt such classic writing that is, arguably, timeless and rejuvenate it for a modern audience. In this situation they should have just left it alone. While it’s short run time feels perfect for an easy afternoon watch, the jarring nature of the script means that at times it feels stretched. The plot is altered slightly but offers no new perspective, focus or meaning. It’s just a film for the sake of it that included most of the comedy in it’s trailer.