“American Honey”

From the opening scene, until the closing credits, “American Honey” follows the character of ‘Star,’ portrayed in her film debut by Sasha Lane. She is someone who, the viewer will come to learn, is a mixture of naivety and self-assuredness; a young girl who often speaks her mind, and is not afraid to take dangerous risks. When first seen, she is digging through a dumpster for food, aided by her two younger siblings, before they attempt to hitchhike back to their house. A white van, which is filled with teenagers and people in their early twenties, attracts Star’s curiosity as it passes her by. She decides to follow the passengers of the van into a store, and that is where she first meets the confident, engaging, and occasionally hot tempered, Jake, played by BAFTA winner, Shia LaBeouf (Fury). Jake sports a braided rat tail, piercings, and a multitude of tattoos. After a brief conversation, Jake offers Star the opportunity to join his group of young revelers, but she doesn’t accept. He lets her know what motel he is staying at for the evening, in case she changes her mind.

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When Star arrives home with her siblings, after her step-father orders her to make dinner, and attempts to engage her in extremely, inappropriate behavior, she decides to make her move. Packing up her younger brother and sister, she locates her seemingly absentee mother, while the woman is country-line dancing. After a short conversation, where Star lets her mother know that she’s taking off for a job in Kansas City, and that the kids can’t stay with their step-father, she excuses herself to go to the restroom, and runs away. The next morning, Star is shown sleeping in the parking lot of the motel, next to the white van. She is awakened by the sound of its passengers, as they arrive to embark on the next stop of their cross country, money making business.

What Jake and his fellow travelers do is sell magazine subscriptions door to door. The business is a legitimate one; the customers will receive the magazines they subscribe to. The means by which Jake and the sales team go about soliciting customers to buy their product, however, is not on the up and up. If Jake encounters someone who is wealthy, he pretends he is trying to earn money for a college scholarship. If he comes across someone, who he deems is religious, his pitch changes to that of a man who is attempting to raise money for a church project. Whatever he, and the members of the sales team need to say, will be said, in an effort to sell as many magazines as possible. The tight-knit team, while not much is given on their individual back stories, is comprised of impoverished young people from various parts of America, who wanted to escape where they came from. While riding in the van, and during their off hours, they spend their time drinking, smoking weed, and singing along to  music.

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Jake is the top earner, but the day to day operations of the business are run by Krystal, a role acted by Golden Globe nominee, Riley Keough (The Girlfriend Experience). In addition to setting the daily assignments, sending out the members of her team in pairs, in the different neighborhoods that the group targets, she sets the rules. Krystal insists that the guys and girls on her sales team sleep in separate motel rooms, and frowns on romance between members of the team because she feels it is bad for business. Those who break her rules, or who she perceives are trying to get one over on her, are threatened with being left behind with nothing. In addition to earning commission, there is an added incentive to not finishing as one of the bottom two people on her sales team. Those who do, have to physically fight it out for Krystal’s entertainment at the end of each week.

Star is paired with Jake. She at first objects to his methods; she doesn’t like the fact that he is lying to customers in order to get sales. As time passes, however, and the more she feels that Krystal might abandon her for lack of sales, she begins to take greater risks to her own safety, in order to sell. For example, she takes off in the open top convertible of  three men, who are all wearing blue jeans, white button down shirts, and white cowboy hats, and proceeds to go to one of the men’s houses, where liquor is being poured liberally, and the men state they are willing to offer her four hundred dollars for magazines if she keeps drinking with them. Furthermore, on several occasions, even though it is a clear cut violation of Krystal’s rules, Star and Jake give in to their lust for one another; while no proclamations of love are spoken between the two characters, as time passes, the relationship transcends to more of care and concern, even though Jake has to remain guarded for his own self preservation.

Will Star tire of the nomadic life and leave the sales team to pursue some individual dreams she has for herself? Do Jake and Star leave together and start a new life? What about the other members of the sales team? How long can they keep traveling America’s highways selling magazines door to door? What will happen to them when the business disbands? Those expecting a clear cut resolution will be disappointed because the film, in essence, lets the viewer project what they believe the future will hold for all involved.

“American Honey” premiered in France on May 15, 2016 at the Cannes Film Festival. The drama was written and directed by Oscar winner, Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank).  While I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, I did find one fault with the film, for its subject matter, its runtime, which is approximately 163 minutes, was just too lengthy. Leaving that aside, “American Honey” is a compelling and poignant portrait of disenfranchised youth.

 

 

 

 

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“Don’t Breathe”

The intense, suspenseful, and well-executed film “Don’t Breathe, directed by Fede Alvarez (The Evil Dead) and written for the screen by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, opens with a house being robbed. Alex (Dylan Minnette), Money (Daniel Zovatto), and Money’s girlfriend Rocky (Jane Levy), are young criminals looking to make enough money from fencing stolen goods to escape the impoverished environs of Detroit, Michigan. The three gain access to the homes they steal from via Alex. His father works for an alarm company, and has the keys and codes to the different properties the business provides security for. The problem facing all three of the youths, especially Rocky, who lives with her low class mother (Katia Bokor), and her mother’s unemployed boyfriend (Sergej Onopko), is that the money they are making is not enough, nor are they making it quickly enough. Rocky has an added incentive for wanting to leave Detroit; it’s her kid sister Diddy (Emma Bercovici), who she wants to remove from the toxic environment they live in, and relocate to California.

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Not long after the film begins, Money comes across an on-line story about an army veteran, portrayed by Stephan Lang (Avatar), who was awarded a settlement of $300,000 in a wrongful death suit, from the family of a girl who hit and killed his daughter. The house he lives in is in a neighborhood where he is seemingly the last resident. Alex, Money, and Rocky, monitor the man’s house, and with the exception of walking his Rottweiler, he never leaves his home. Additionally, the three find out that, the man is blind due to a war injury. This, the trio feels, will make their task of stealing his money, an even easier job to pull off than first anticipated; they have no idea how wrong their line of thinking is.

 Despite his lack of vision, the man comes across as intimidating, and proves himself to be downright deadly. The youths have invaded his terrain, an old house that he knows every inch of, and seems to have prepared in advance against outsiders seeking to do him harm. Once the trio enters the house, the film keeps a consistent, steady pace of suspense. As a viewer who has watched countless horror and thriller films, I was anticipating the overused jump scares I far too often see in these types of films; while a few scares, especially involving the dog, could be construed as being along those lines, the majority of the film stayed away from it.  Instead, buildup and anticipation are not only relied on, but succeed. Furthermore, during what turned out to be an excellent scene that takes place in complete darkness in a basement, I was waiting for what I felt would be the inevitable shaky camera work; I was pleasantly surprised that the film was devoid of such a gimmick. I feel to get into more plot points and things that transpire in the remainder of the film, would be doing a disservice to those of you who’ve not yet seen it and would like to watch it.

“Don’t Breathe” premiered on March 12, 2016 at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The movie which has a runtime of 88 minutes, is comprised of the genres of crime, horror and thriller. Credit must be given to Cinematographer Pedro Luque, and the music composed by Roque Baño, for helping to advance the narrative in a very effective manner. The film, while at times, both brutal and gory, is nevertheless, a well made home invasion movie that kept me guessing until the final twist reveal toward the end. Moreover, until the credits rolled, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to one of the characters, which is something, as a lover of film, I can definitely appreciate.

 

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“For the Love of Spock”

There are millions of people throughout the world who are fans of one or more of the various incarnations of creator Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek universe. Populating that universe are a myriad of different characters that have appeared on the television series “Star Trek” – “Star Trek: The Next Generation” – ” Deep Space Nine” – ” Voyager,” and “Enterprise;” a sixth Star Trek television series, “Discovery,is set to air in 2017.  A few of those beloved characters include, but are not limited to: Captain Kirk (William Shatner) –  Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) – Data (Brent Spiner) – Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) Q (John de Lancie) – and my personal favorite, the half-human and half-Vulcan, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy). The entertaining and informative documentary “For the Love of Spock” premiered on April 16, 2016 at the Tribeca Film Festival; it later had its theatrical release on September 9, 2016. The documentary’s release date was purposely chosen to coincide with Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary on September 8, 2016; the day the first ever Trek episode, “The Man Trap, aired on NBC television.

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“For the Love of Spock” was directed by Leonard Nimoy’s son Adam, who has primarily worked as a television director. The project was started before Leonard Nimoy passed away on February 27, 2015 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he had been fighting for two years. Prior to his death, Nimoy worked with Adam as a collaborator on the documentary, which was originally meant to serve as an exploration of the legacy of the Spock character, and his place in popular culture. While a good portion of the film’s 111 minute duration does focus on the career accomplishments of Leonard Nimoy, especially his work on Star Trek, it does veer off into more personal subject matter, including an emotionally infused, handwritten letter, which Nimoy wrote to Adam in 1973, attempting to explain to his son why he might come across to him as reticent at times.

During the film, Adam Nimoy explores the tempestuous relationship that he had with his father for many of his formative years, and well into adulthood, before they reconciled. After his father’s career took off, especially his popularity as Mr. Spock, the Nimoy family benefited financially. Conversely, when Leonard Nimoy was home, for brief interludes of time between filming and public appearances, he had a difficult time relaxing and getting out of character. In addition to Nimoy’s fans who were always seeking autographs and pictures, a number of people showed up at the Nimoy’s home wanting to talk with the actor in person. Nimoy, who had no idea that the Star Trek series would fundamentally change his life, had to eventually get an unlisted telephone number. This was something Nimoy had never thought of prior to Star Trek, even though he had appeared in films, on television series, and in the theater numerous times before.

Throughout the documentary, Adam Nimoy uses clips from all parts of Leonard Nimoy’s career. In addition to his work on Star Trek, there are clips from other television series such as “Mission Impossible” and films like the 1978 re-make of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” directed by Philip Kaufman. There is a part regarding Nimoy’s turn as the character of Arthur Goldman, in a stage production of Oscar nominee Robert Shaw’s (A Man for All Seasons) “The Man in the Glass Booth.” In addition, included in the documentary is a small portion of the silly music video for “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins,” a song from Leonard Nimoy’s album “Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy” which was released in 1968. Nimoy’s other passions, such as flying and photography are also mentioned.

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Throughout the film, commentary is provided by, amongst others: William Shatner, J.J. Abrams, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, and George Takei. For those who are casual fans of Star Trek, or are new to the universe, who have never delved into behind the scenes aspects of Spock’s character, information is imparted to the viewer regarding how Leonard Nimoy came up with the idea for the Vulcan hand gesture, which is always accompanied by the saying “live long and prosper.” Additionally, the origin of the Vulcan neck pinch, which renders anyone who Spock applies it to unconscious, is also discussed. Further topics include how getting the right looking prosthetic, pointy ears, that have become synonymous with the Spock character, happened virtually right before filming for the series was about to commence. There is a great deal of information contained within “For the Love of Spock,” which is currently streaming on Netflix, that I haven’t even touched on. In my opinion, this is the sort of film that can be enjoyed by Star Trek fans, and non Star Trek fans alike, due to the very full and interesting life Leonard Nimoy lived.

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“Imperium”

Daniel Radcliffe (Swiss Army Man) is known the world over for bringing to life the iconic boy wizard, Harry Potter, from the pages of author J.K. Rowling’s best selling series. In the film “Imperium” he trades in his good guy persona, for that of a vile, white supremacist – sort of. Radcliffe’s character, Nate Foster, is an idealistic and intelligent F.B.I. agent, who, at the start of the film, has worked primarily as an analyst. Foster expresses an interest in proving himself in the field. After demonstrating some good interrogation skills, he is tasked by his immediate superior, Angela Zamparo, played by Golden Globe winner Toni Collette (United States of Tara), to go undercover. The mission Foster is given is to infiltrate the workings of a dangerous white power organization. The objective is not to merely capture the bigots who follow the verbal venom spewed by their leadership, but to ingratiate himself to those in charge, in order to find out if large scale acts of domestic terrorism are being planned. One of the people, Zamparo wants Foster to get close to is Dallas Wolf (Tracy Letts), a radical, hatemonger who has his own radio show that caters to the ultra fringe elements of society. (As an aside: Imperium was inspired by the real life undercover work of F.B.I. agent, Michael German).

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The work is perilous; any slip up on Foster’s part can cost him his life, with people who won’t think twice about executing a traitor. After shaving his head, and committing a plausible back-story to memory, Foster sets out to make contact. Radcliffe’s character soon learns that his presence makes certain members of the movement suspicious as to his true intentions, especially Roy (Seth Numrich). When he first meets Foster, he notices that he is wearing blue jeans. Roy proceeds to ask Nate the idiotic question as to why he would wear a pair of Jew jeans – Levi’s Jeans. Furthermore, from the start, Foster learns that while all members of white power organizations are united by hate, there are different levels of outward or behind the scenes activism and militancy amongst the different factions. For instance, while the stereotypical skinhead characters are present throughout the duration of the movie, so too, are people who would never, based upon outward appearances, be thought of as belonging to such a movement. For example, Sam Trammell’s (True Blood) character, Gerry Conway, has a full head of hair, dresses normally, and is devoid of swastika tattoos. He is the sort of person you might see sitting with his family having dinner in a restaurant, or pass on the street while out walking, and not think twice about him.

Throughout the film Foster has to navigate the fine line between maintaining his cover, while not immersing himself so deep in Neo-Nazi ideology that he forgets his own moral compass. That, in and of itself, is not an easy task, and is brought into play several times throughout the film. Several examples include, Foster being seen by his African-American friend while marching in a parade during a white-power rally, or attempting to defuse a situation where an interracial couple is put in deadly peril.

Will Foster be able to fool the different factions of the white supremacists into believing he is one of them until his task is complete? What major act of domestic terrorism if any is being planned?  If Radcliffe’s character is exposed for being an undercover agent, will he be tortured, or killed outright?  Does Foster have to cross the line in order to preserve his cover? The answers to those questions and more will be learned by the end of the film’s 109 minute runtime.

“Imperium, based on Mark German’s story, marks the feature debut for writer and director Daniel Ragussis (Haber). The film was released on the internet, followed by limited release in August of 2016 before premiering on the festival circuit on September 9, 2016 at the Deauville Film Festival in France. The film boasts a solid performance by Radcliffe, and a few well placed moments of tension. “Imperium, which comprises the genres of crime, drama, and thriller, will most likely appeal to Radcliffe’s fan base, who have seen him continue to evolve in a positive way as an actor since Harry Potter. Additionally, it should appeal to  those of you who enjoy stories of individuals who risk it all to make the world a safer place.

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“I Am Your Father – Documentary About Darth Vader Actor David Prowse”

One evening, while eating dinner, Toni Bestard and Marcos Cabota, two fanatical, Star Wars fans from Spain, who also happen to be filmmakers, formulated a plan. They came to a mutual determination that despite their deep love for everything that pertains to a galaxy far, far, away, something about the third of the original films in the trilogy, “Return of the Jedi, directed by Richard Marquand, didn’t sit right with them. They were disappointed that actor David Prowse, whose physically imposing presence was used as the body of iconic villain, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones provided the Sith Lord’s voice), was not used when it came time to take Vader’s helmet and mask off. Instead of seeing Proswe’s face, Marquand opted to use actor Sebastian Shaw (The Spy in Black). The two decided that evening that, for their next project, they would make a documentary about Prowse. A short time later, Bestard and Cabota travelled to London to meet with Prowse. Wanting to turn a slight into a positive, the filmmakers set out to not only make a documentary about the actor, but to get him to agree to reshoot the scene he never got to be in. (As an aside: Prowse won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship for three consecutive years starting in 1962. Additionally, he represented England in weightlifting at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, which were held in Perth, Australia).

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At first Prowse was hesitant to take part in the reshoot. He had no interest in catching the ire of Lucasfilm Ltd, or getting Bestard, Cabota, and the crew that worked for them in trouble. The filmmakers assured Prowse that as much as they wanted to, the scene would never be shown to the general public. They let Prowse know that they didn’t have the money to fight Lucasfilm Ltd  if, and more than likely when, they would be sued for copyright violation.

One of the more interesting stories, that was discussed from various points-of-view, was that Prowse had allegedly leaked to a journalist at the Daily Mail newspaper in 1977, the then, secret information, that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. As the film proves, the rumors turned out to be false. The filmmakers went to the original reporter, who stated point blank, that Prowse never said anything to him.

For those unfamiliar with David Prowse, the documentary talks about his other career highlights. In addition to appearing in the three films that comprise the original Star Wars trilogy: Episode IV: A New Hope –  Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, as of the writing of this post, Prowse has sixty-nine credits to his name. Prowse’s more notable roles include the Hammer horror films “The Horror of Frankenstein” and “Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.” He worked with BAFTA winning director, Stanley Kubrick in the film “A Clockwork Orange,” as well as having appeared in two episodes of the long running British science-fiction television series “Doctor Who.” Prowse also spent fourteen years portraying a character called the Green Cross Code Man, in a series of road safety informational films produced by the UK Department of the Environment that were shown on television between 1975 and 1990. Additionally, he visited schools as the character, in order to help teach children the importance of road safety. In 2014, Prowse revised his role as the Green Cross Code Man for two short films. This time the safety campaign was aimed at adults, and the dangers of using cell phones and other electronic devices, instead of paying attention to traffic. (As an aside: Prowse originally auditioned for the part of Superman in the 1978 film of the same name, directed by Richard Donner. While he didn’t get the role, he was hired to work as Christopher Reeve’s personal trainer).

“I am Your Father” premiered on October 10, 2015 at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain. Those providing commentary throughout the duration of the film’s 83 minutes includes, amongst others: actor Kenny Baker, who played the beloved droid R2-D2 in the first six “Star Wars” films, as well the Star Wars holiday television special, and also appeared as R2-D2 on “The Muppet Show;” Jeremy Bulloch, who portrayed Boba Fett, the bounty hunting thorn in Harrison Ford’s character Han Solo’s side, until Fett met a very unflattering end; former competitive bodybuilder, and television’s Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno; as well as two time Academy Award nominee, producer and assistant director, Gary Kurtz (Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back). In closing, while those who don’t have an affinity for Star Wars might find some of what is discussed to be of interest, the documentary will appeal particularly to those of you, who can’t get enough of the universe George Lucas created.

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“The Witch”

“So much has been made of the authenticity…and of course that’s important to me, but authenticity for the sake of authenticity doesn’t really matter. To understand why the witch archetype was important and interesting and powerful—and how was I going to make that scary and alive again—we had to go back in time to the early modern period when the witch was a reality. And the only way I was going to do that, I decided, was by having it be insanely accurate.”

                                                          Dave Eggers

The impressive and tension filled debut film “The Witch, written and directed by Dave Eggers, centers on the struggles and supernatural incidents that happen to a Puritan family in New England in 1630. The opening of the film finds the family having been brought in front of a tribunal. The reason for this, the patriarch of the family, has a staunch difference of opinion regarding how the members of the community are adhering to religious doctrine; he finds it to be lax. Unwilling to change his mindset, he and his family are ordered by the Governor (Julian Richings) to leave the relative safety of the community, and venture out on their own.

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The family consists of the parents, William, a stubborn and prideful farmer played by Ralph Ineson (Game of Thrones), and his emotionally, fragile wife, Katherine, who is portrayed by BAFTA winner, Kate Dickie  (Red Road). The couple’s youngest child is the baby, Samuel (Axtun Henry Dube & Athan Conrad Dube); their oldest son is the pre-teen, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw). In addition, there are the mischievous twins, Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), as well as the couple’s oldest child, and the main protagonist of the film, the misunderstood, Thomasin. The part of Thomasin is acted in a very effective manner by Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan). Even though she is on the cusp of  becoming a full grown woman, her role in life, for all intents and purposes, is marginalized; a byproduct of the time period. She is expected to fervently pray, help raise her siblings, and work tirelessly at her chores. She can count on being married off in the near future, and begin bearing her own children soon thereafter.

The majority of the film’s 92 minute duration is confined to one isolated location – the family’s cabin and farm – which is situated on the edge of a foreboding woods. An incident involving Thomasin, is the catalyst, which propels the film from the everyday mundane of the family’s existence, into the eerie occurrences that transpire during the remainder of the movie. While playing a game of peek-a-boo near the edge of the woods, Thomasin shuts her eyes for what amounts to no more than a second. When she opens them, Samuel has vanished, leaving her with no indication of who or what might have taken him. The viewer soon learns he has been taken by an elderly lady. From this one incident, and throughout the film, Thomasin will be the family’s scapegoat for all their ills. In between not sleeping, wanting William to take the family back to the community they’ve left, and reciting countless prayers for her missing child, Katherine lashes out at her daughter. Additionally, her twin siblings accuse her of having made a deal with the devil, after she facetiously told them she had, when she was angry with them. If anyone is keeping company with the devil, it would appear to be the twins, who enjoy spending time with Black Phillip, a creepy looking goat. William doesn’t chastise Thomasin to the same degree Katharine does, but he also offers her little in the way of comfort; opting instead to chop what appears to be an endless supply of firewood. The only member of the family who is seemingly on her side is Caleb. His hormones, however, are starting to awaken certain desires within his mind and body, and, due to the fact that there is no one around for miles, except his family, he appears to be developing an unnatural attraction for Thomasin.

The barren land, which is unable to produce sustainable crops for the family to eat, William’s inability to hunt sizeable game, and Samuel’s disappearance, are not immediately attributed to a witch who lives and dwells in the woods. The reason for the hesitancy, especially on William’s part, to accept that a witch is the cause of the family’s misfortune, is that people during the time period the film takes place, absolutely believed in the validity of the existence of such a being, and the witches power to cause harm. If a witch is the cause of the family’s problems, William knows that he, his wife, and his children are in grave danger. As the film progresses it becomes clear that the witch, while tormenting the entire family, is focusing its energy on Thomasin. The questions is: Is the family’s eldest daughter being targeted because the witch wants to do her a special sort of harm, or does she want to free Thomasin from the oppressive life she is currently living and seems destined to continue to have to endure?

Will William decide he has made a serious error in judgment? Does he ask the members of the community to have mercy on his family and allow them to rejoin the community? Is Samuel ever found? Do other members of the family get abducted by the witch, or worse, die at her hands? Will Thomasin be seduced by the power of the witch or will she opt to side with her family despite their mistreatment of her? I wouldn’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t yet the seen the film, and want to, by answering those questions. Suffice it to say, all of the answers and more will be provided by the film’s conclusion.

“The Witch” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2015. Robert Eggers won the Directing Award at the festival, and the movie was also nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.  The score by Mark Korven (The Border) works perfectly with what is transpiring on screen. Credit must also be given to cinematographer, Jarin Blaschke (Fray), who frames the film in a style that mirrors the desperation and isolation that the family is going through. The film is not going to appeal to everyone. Eggers opted to focus on atmosphere, mood and dread, as opposed to jump scares and gore. Furthermore, Eggers took much of the dialogue of the film straight from historical accounts. For those of you who like the genres of horror and mystery, especially when a less is more approach is taken, you will more than likely find the film to be thought-provoking and entertaining.

 

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“Sing Street – A Gem From Ireland”

Set in Dublin, Ireland in 1985, “Sing Street” is a coming of age film which comprises the genres of comedy, drama, music and romance. At the start of the movie, the life of the main protagonist of the film, fifteen year old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), seemingly changes overnight. Conor’s parents Robert and Penny, who are played by BAFTA nominee Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black), are struggling financially, and are on the cusp of separating. In order to help alleviate their burden, Conor’s parents make the decision to take him out of private school. He will now be attending the Synge Street Boys School run by the Christian Brothers. Conor soon learns that his new classmates are a bit more of the rough and tumble variety, and the oppressive headmaster, Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley), doesn’t have a high tolerance for much of anything. For example, the school has a policy, in which students are only permitted to wear black dress shoes. Conor, not knowing the rule in advance, purchased a different color, and doesn’t have the money to buy a new pair of shoes. Baxter instructs Connor to remove his shoes before leaving his office, and proceeds to have him walk around in his socks for the entire school day, including outside, where puddles have formed from the rain. Adding insult to injury, Connor is almost immediately harassed and assaulted by the school bully, Barry (Ian Kenny).

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All, as it turns out, is not somber for Conor. While standing outside the entrance to the school, across the street, he spots a teenage girl smoking a cigarette. He feels an instant attraction to the mysterious girl with the hoop earrings and teased up hair. Her name is Raphina (Lucy Boynton). The viewer will learn that she has aspirations of moving to London to become a model. At the start of the film, the sixteen year old is living at a home for girls because her father has been killed in an accident, and her mother is frequently in-and-out of mental institutions. Not knowing a thing about her, Conor is determined to win Raphina over. He crosses the street, and musters up the courage to ask her if she will be in his band’s music video, in which he is the singer. After a bit of back and forth banter, during which Raphina makes Conor sing a small portion of the song “Take On Me” by the band A-ha, she writes down her phone number in his book. It would seem that things are improving for Conor. The main problem he has after his conversation with Raphina, is, that in actuality, he’s not part of a band.

Conor sets out with his new school friend, the diminutive, Darren (Ben Carolan), who appoints himself manager of the non-existent band, to get the needed members. The first person they go to, to inquire if he is interested, is the rabbit loving, Eamon (Mark McKenna), who turns out to be the perfect choice. Eamon, whose father is in a cover band, has learned to play a variety of musical instruments, which he has easy access to in his house. Furthermore, he likes to write songs, so it doesn’t take much convincing to get him to join. Provided he doesn’t give up his Saturday job stocking shelves, a non-negotiable as far as his mother (Marcella Plunkett) is concerned, the band can practice at his house. Rounding out the rest of the members of the band is the keyboard player Ngig (Percy Chamburuka), the bass player Larry (Conor Hamilton) and the drummer Garry (Karl Rice). At first, the group which names themselves “Sing Street, mimic the sounds of bands they collectively admire, for instance Duran Duran and The Cure. As the film progresses, however, and Conor and Eamon work on original songs, the sound of the band changes to become more their own distinct style. Conor manages to follow through on his plans to have Raphina star in his band’s music video. The day of the video shoot, the five band members are dressed in an eclectic assortment of garb, which includes the bassist Larry, outfitted as a cowboy replete with a pair of prop vampire fangs. After Raphina applies makeup to their faces, the video for the band’s original song “The Riddle of the Model” is shot by Darren on a large VHS camera.

While Connor’s sister Ann (Kelly Thornton), who the viewer learns is studying to be an architect, doesn’t get much screen time; his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) does. Brendan is a college dropout, who for the most part stays home, smokes hash, listens to music, and contemplates what might have been if he hadn’t given up on his dreams. He is a music aficionado, who has a large LP collection, certain records of which, he has Conor listen to, in order to help his younger brother expand his musical horizons. He also critiques the  band’s first music video, and while he thinks it’s pretty bad, he sees the potential for them to get better. Additionally, he advises that Raphina remain the model for all future videos they shoot. Brendan sees in Conor someone who has raw talent, that molded in the right way, could take his younger brother to heights he could never reach; not the least of which means leaving Ireland for London, and beyond.

How far will Conor and his band be able to pursue their musical ambitions? Will Raphina leave for London to achieve her dream of becoming a model? Will she stay because she has wound up falling in love with Conor? What will happen to Brendon? Does he wind up joining Conor, and chasing his own musical dreams? All of those questions and more will be answered by the conclusion of the film’s 106 minute runtime.

“Sing Street” was written and directed by John Carney (Begin Again).  The film premiered on January 24, 2016 at the Sundance Film Festival. I had read a number of wonderful reviews of the film, so when I learned that it had recently been made available for streaming on Netflix, I sat down to watch it a few nights ago. In addition to the cast members, who were all spot on, the soundtrack drives the movie forward at a brisk pace. The character of Conor makes for an identifiable protagonist, especially for anyone who can remember what it was like to be a teenager, and have dreams that never seemed unobtainable, no matter how grandiose. In general, at its center, “Sing Street” is a movie with a great deal of heart, that should appeal to a diverse group of film viewers.

 

 

 

 

 

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