Licorice Pizza – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie and Skyler Gisondo
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Length: 134mins

If Quentin Tarantino has set a precedent of highly established directors creating fun and stylised films about the period they grew up in with ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’, then Paul Thomas Anderson has just released a great addition to the collection. Like George Lucas’s ‘American Graffiti’ and Richard Linklater’s ‘Dazed and Confused’ before them, everything’s cool in these films – it’s just teenagers running around, having a good time and getting into trouble. Set in 1970’s L.A, ‘Licorice Pizza’ follows fifteen-year-old Gary Valentine, a successful child star, as he grows up hoping the girl he’s in love with might be won over by his charm, whilst also somehow seeming to get involved in just about everything that was going on in the valley at the time.

Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim are brilliant as the two lead characters. Despite it being the feature debut for the both of them, their chemistry onscreen is effortlessly engaging. Whether they’re arguing about pinball machines or making up over water beds, the constant highs and lows of their relationship is central to the story of ‘Licorice Pizza’, and captures everything that’s exciting about being young in a beautiful place like San Fernando.

Looking back through his filmography, it’s hard to argue that Paul Thomas Anderson is anything less than a modern master of filmmaking. His style is unique, but adapts with each new story he tells, whether that be the early twentieth century oil industry, or the trappings of dressmaking in Britain. ‘Licorice Pizza’, although arguably less direct in its storytelling, doesn’t disappoint. Scenes pass by effortlessly as a result of Anderson’s excellent direction, hailing back to the films which established his career like ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Magnolia’, where the camera moves with grace, whilst capturing everything around it. When the kids are excited about some new business venture or plan they’re about to lay into action, so is the camera, moving with a degree of its own energy that you can’t help but be drawn in by.

There are some absolutely brilliant moments within the film. Bradley Cooper lights up every scene he’s in, not only because of the blindingly white outfit he’s wearing, but also from the energy and intensity he dedicates to every small detail. Benny Safdie’s role as a candidate for the local mayoral position brings a great level of sincerity to the film, showing that not everything is bright and cheerful in the world of the characters. Although the narrative is fairly loose, jumping from one moment to another with little explanation, the choice to play the film out in this way works as a reflection of the energetic and impulsive way in which Valentine’s mind functions. Furthermore, it reinforces the idea that this is a nostalgic film for Anderson, reflecting on the times in which he grew up with a great amount of fondness, which, like a memory, is thought back on like a patchwork – some things are more vivid and others aren’t.

‘Licorice Pizza’ is exactly the kind of fun and relaxing film that could do really well at the cinema these days. It looks beautiful, the characters are engaging, and it transports you back to the feeling of excitement you had when you were a kid and the summer holidays were in full swing, even if that wasn’t in the 1970’s L.A. It’s not without its flaws, but as a fun trip out to the cinema, you can’t fault it.

Tick, Tick…BOOM!  – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens and Joshua Henry. Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda Written by Steven Levenson (screenplay by) and Jonathan Larson (based on the musical by) Length: 115mins

Tick, Tick…BOOM is a heartfelt tribute to Broadway talent Jonathan Larson, played here by Andrew Garfield. A show written by Larson himself to tell his story and express his struggle, adapted by screenwriter Steven Levenson from Larson’s autobiographical piece that came just before Rent to tell the story of his first major musical project: a wildly ambitious futurist fantasy called Superbia that almost no one seemed to get. In short; it’s a musical about making a musical based on an autobiographical one man show…

This film is explicitly theatrical, going back and forth between Larson’s story and his one-man show of him telling that same story. This will undoubtedly not be to everyones taste, however I feel like this film was created for a certain audience; then if others enjoy it then its a bonus. It’s a true love letter to musicals and the artists that create them, with a wider scope of anyone who is grinding for a career in the arts. Tick, Tick…Boom throws its audience into the Larson’s ordeal of the quarter-life crisis, the first glimmers of approaching mortality and the realisation that options are closing down, something that particularly afflicts those approaching their 30s in the creative arts who don’t seem to be making it. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda saw Rent on his 17th birthday, he saw that musicals could be about every day people in places and situations that he understood..two years later he started writing his tony award winning show‘In The Heights’. It’s a really great to see a director take on a movie about someone who directly impacted his life – Larson was the composer who inspired his own creative awakening. Miranda, who also starred as Larson in a theatrical performance of this, directs the film with a deep understanding of the passion, struggle, and ebullience of an artist committed to an art form that requires a lot of money and a lot of other people to be brought to life.

Some people will be frustrated by Larson’s sense of his own importance and neglect of those around him. But theatre kids of all ages will appreciate that it’s not his own importance he’s excited by, so much as the importance of the stories he wants to tell, even if they are not yet awards worthy.

This film is really stylised which fits perfectly with the somewhat chaotic narrative and you can see how much heart has been put into it’s creation. As stated earlier I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but it’s an opportunity to get a glimpse of struggle demonstrated on this particular path of life. Had this film been based around another subject matter, I probably wouldn’t have connected to it to the same degree, but for what it is, I think it’s brilliant.

Jonathan Larson died at 35, just before the opening night of Rent, an almost unbearable metaphor for the backstage heartbreak of musical theatre. This film helps remember him and his creativity in a beautiful way. 

Active Spectator Film Awards 2020/2021

This it is! Time for the winners! Have a look through the post to see who came out victorious in each category at this year’s glamorous Active Spectator Awards!

Best Picture:

  • Another Round
  • Power of the Dog
  • King Richard
  • Minari

(Dune, The Father)

Best Lead Actress:

  • Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)
  • Kristen Stewart (Spencer)
  • Jennifer Hudson (Respect)
  • Jodie Comer (The Last Duel)

(Frances McDormand – Nomadland)

Best Lead Actor:

  • Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
  • Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog)
  • Will Smith (King Richard)

(Mads Mikkelsen – Another Round, Steven Yeun – Minari)

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Olivia Cooke (Sound of Metal)
  • Youn Tuh-jung (Minari)
  • Olivia Colman (The Father)
  • Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard)

(Rebecca Ferguson – Dune, Gaby Hoffman – C’mon C’mon)

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Vikesh Bhai (Limbo)
  • Benicio Del Toro (The French Dispatch)
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog)
  • Jon Bernthal (King Richard)

(Lakeith Stanfield – Judas and the Black Messiah)

Best Director:

  • Chloe Zhao (Nomadland)
  • Kelly Reichardt (First Cow)
  • Denis Villenevue (Dune)
  • Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)

(Ben Sharrock – Limbo, Steven Spielberg – West Side Story)

Best Cinematography:

  • Joshua James Richards (Nomadland)
  • Greig Fraser (Dune)
  • Claire Mathon (Spencer)
  • Ari Wegner (The Power of the Dog)

(Andrew Droz Palermo – The Green Knight, Janusz Kaminski – West Side Story)

Best Original Score:

  • Hans Zimmer (Dune)
  • Jonny Greenwood (Spencer)
  • Jonny Greenwood (The Power of the Dog)
  • Jeymes Samuel (The Harder They Fall)

Extra Categories


  • Dune
  • Spiderman: No Way Home
  • Power of the Dog
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Cruella

Based On a True Story:

  • King Richard
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Respect
  • The Last Duel
  • The Dig


  • Spiderman: No Way Home
  • A Quiet Place: Part II
  • Dune
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Get Back


  • Spiderman: No Way Home
  • Cruella
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife