Social Sheffield Film Editor, Natasha Edgington, picks the top three films screening in Sheffield, Mon. 25 – Sun. 1 Oct. 2017
1. – Mother! (2017) – – – (18) (Showing at Cineworld, Odeon, Showroom, The Light, Vue)
[Genre: Drama/Thriller. Dir: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson. Language: English]
The unexpected guest causes unease amongst even the most composed introvert out there, and yet Darren Aronofsky uses social inconveniences to near-suffocate the senses with latest release mother! From his early work with deranged math thriller Pi, addiction piece Requiem for a Dream, to his critically-acclaimed duality study Black Swan, Aronofsky’s vision has always been bold and highly cerebral. mother! is all of those things; it’s an intense, intrusive and wholly stressful experience that will put casual filmgoers to the test, but that’s the point. Married couple Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem (all characters remain unnamed) reside in a grand octagonal-shaped Victorian house that Lawrence has just finished restoring with her own hands. With children still looming on the horizon, Lawrence has gifted her husband a complete recreation of his creaky childhood home, which perished in a fire some years past. When a knock at the door presents doctor Ed Harris in search of a room for the night, Bardem – a poet battling through a persistent stint of writer’s block – ushers in the new source of stimulation, neglecting his wife’s consent. The strange visitor welcomes more parasitic arrivals to the home, steadily defiling Lawrence’s privacy and forcing her to the brink of claustrophobic breakdown. If there ever was a definition of cacophony caught on film, mother! is the perfect example. Aronofsky takes almost sadistic pleasure in bombarding viewers with disruptions throughout, but it’s these invasions that charge its climate of berserk frustration. The film explores a sea of themes which shouldn’t be disregarded by Aronofsky’s foolish decision to explain the plot since its release. The psychothriller reveals the dark sides of introversion and extroversion, creative plagiarism and entitlement. While audiences may need to adjust to the intense close-ups of cinematographer Matthew Libatique, his voyeuristic and over-the-shoulder camerawork is incredibly immersive. Amplifying the dizzying atmosphere are recurrent motifs, such as geometric patterns and jangly, glass-shattering sound design, which intuitively indicates the lapse of rhythm and order. With the strong significance of setting, it’s hard not to recall Roman Polanski’s ‘Apartment Trilogy’ (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant) here, but there’s also a Jacob’s Ladder nightmarishness to it too. A delightfully disorientating allegory laden with anxiety, mother! is Aronofsky’s best – and most divisive – work in recent years. Not for the faint of heart.
See the trailer: mother! (2017)
2. – Black Sabbath: The End of the End (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld (8:30pm), Curzon (9:15pm), Odeon (8pm), Showroom (8:30pm), The Light (8:00pm) on Thursday 28 September)
[Genre: Music Documentary. Dir: Dick Carruthers. Starring: Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi. Language: English]
Heavy metal legends Black Sabbath bid fans farewell with Black Sabbath: The End of the End, a documentary chronicling their final hometown concert and everlasting legacy. Music documentary filmmaker Dick Carruthers orchestrates an all-access tour of the Brummy ensemble, whose 50-year journey winds to a chaotic close with their sold-out show at the former 16000-seat NEC arena. The film splits between on-stage footage of the band’s 81st date of their final world tour, and incisive off-stage glimpses into their enduring camaraderie. Fans who missed the boat with their farewell tour will be duly catered for here, Carruthers capturing performances of the band’s genre-defining bangers from “Iron Man” to “War Pigs”. Backstage, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne fondly recall their epic journey together and the many hilarious anecdotes that ensued. From the early days of playing blues nights at The Crown pub on Station Street, to the group’s tentative relationship with drummer Bill Ward, there’s a whole breadth of Sabbath mythos explored to satiate diehard fans. A suitably raucous and nostalgic celebration of the masters of heavy metal, Black Sabbath: The End of the End leaves us wondering – is it really the end? Only time will tell.
See the trailer: Black Sabbath: The End of the End (2017)
3. – Princess Mononoke (1997) – – – (PG) (Showing at Film Unit on Sunday 1 October. 3:30pm showing will be English-dubbed & 7:30pm subbed)
[Genre: Anime. Dir: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida. Language: English/Japanese]
Within Studio Ghibli’s collection of imaginative tales lies their visceral eco-fable Princess Mononoke, heralded by many an anime masterpiece and rightly so. The resonating legend opens with Nago, a worm-infested boar demon, charging its way towards a small rural village. Prince Ashitaka slays the demon, yet becomes infected with its curse, a pulsing wound on his arm. After his fate is read by the village seer, Ashitaka embarks on a pilgrimage to find the root source of his affliction. On his journey he discovers a ruinous war raging between artillery magnate Lady Eboshi and the dwellers of the forest; bears, boars, chimps and wolves who serve the elusive Forest Spirit. They despise the humans, for their homeland has been desecrated and destroyed in the name of social progression. Wolf-back warrior Princess Mononoke fights against her race for the animals, resentful for her abandonment as a child. Assuming the role of godly mediator, Ashitaka must achieve harmony between humankind and nature before it’s too late. An environmental allegory of biblical proportions, Princess Mononoke is classical storytelling at its finest and transcends any era. Director Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t hold any punches and serves his cautionary tale with more brutality than any other of Studio Ghibli’s releases. The narrative maintains a perfect balance of good and evil throughout, portraying the needs of both humankind and nature with the emotional complexities life warrants. The threat of extinction extends much farther than the endangered species of the forest, relating as much to the ancient tribes dwindling through ignorance and modernity. A majestic saga enriched with Japanese folklore and stunning symbolism, Princess Mononoke remains utterly timeless.
See the trailer: Princess Mononoke (1997)
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Baby Driver (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Vue)
[Genre: Action/Crime. Dir: Edgar Wright. Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Eiza González, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm. Language: English ]
From the writer-director behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz comes Edgar Wright’s latest release Baby Driver. Ansel Elgort leads the tune-pumping carnage as getaway driver Baby, whose mixtape playing masks his droning tinnitus problem. Fast-footed Baby is one of the sharpest drivers around, and is currently working off his debt for criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey). Despite facilitating bank heists and hold-ups, Baby has a charming innocence ill-equipped for his criminal tendencies. When he meets diner waitress Debora (Lily James), the pair are drawn to one another through their shared passion for music. In his attempt to start anew, Baby agrees to one final job for Doc, a local post office heist with the potential to reap millions. Wright has once again devised another unconventional action-comedy with Baby Driver. The director has achieved a refreshing approach to the heist genre, whilst also honouring classics such as Michael Mann’s Heat. Music is integral to the momentum of the story, cleverly choreographing action to the rhythm of each track. Though his earlier films are typically spoof genre pieces, Baby Driver is more serious in tone. Rampant action courses through the film from start to finish, featuring some intense and viscerally violent moments. The character-driven plot allows Wright the room to explore the protagonist’s backstory, making it his most emotionally complex release so far. The film boasts a solid supporting cast from Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm, and an excellent central performance from Elgort. Wright’s distinctive brand of filmmaking makes Baby Driver an adrenaline-fuelled joyride worth hitching on to.
See the trailer: Baby Driver (2017)
Borg vs McEnroe (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, Curzon, Showroom)
[Genre: Drama/Biography. Dir: Janus Metz Pedersen. Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Sverrir Gudnason, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny. Language: English/Swedish/French]
There’s something particularly compelling about sports rivalry on film, and Janus Metz Pedersen hurls us amidst the tennis court feuds of Borg vs McEnroe. Danish director Pedersen injects the slow nature of the sport with vigour and delivers a well-balanced depiction of the psychological profiles of the titular opponents. Inspired by real events, Borg vs McEnroe chronicles the days leading up to the climactic 1980 Wimbledon final. Pedersen effectively discerns the titular polar opposites by journeying into their upbringings to reveal attributes that have only been further amplified by the competitive sport. Widely considered one of the greatest players of the sport to date, steely Swede Björn Borg (played as an adult by Sverrir Gudnason) is shown as a youth barely containing his simmering fury. Young spoilt New Yorker John McEnroe (played as an adult by Shia LaBeouf) is a controlled and naïve beginner, who honours his idol Borg by adopting his signature sweatband. Through their chosen coaches, Borg under the guidance of Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgård) and McEnroe his father (Ian Blackman), the rivals gradually mould into the fire and ice personas that defined their iconic duel. Pedersen has made an excellent job with Borg vs McEnroe, a brilliantly-crafted and intriguing sports narrative that serves far beyond the game itself. The screenplay explores key aspects in competition; humiliation and endurance, discipline and sacrifice. Expert casting choices ensure it’s a believable watch for fans of the sport, and allows some clever duality between LaBeouf’s real life persona and his role in the film. While motorsports have been the hot topic in recent years, Borg vs. McEnroe has just given tennis its most incisive cinematic depiction thus far.
See the trailer: Borg vs McEnroe (2017)
Detroit (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, The Light)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Kathryn Bigelow. Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Hannah Murray. Language: English]
American filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) returns with latest socio-political docudrama Detroit. Bigelow’s sprawling saga chronicles the racially-charged uprising of 1967, a period in the city’s history that feels alarmingly relevant today. Amongst the many tumultuous events during the 5-day riots, The Algiers motel incident garnered significant press coverage, and understandably so. It’s this particular story that Bigelow and former journalist cum scriptwriter Mark Boal seek to portray with Detroit. The film opens with a sequence depicting the Great Migration of African-Americans in 1916, the movement which would fan the flames of disenfranchisement in largely black communities. Working chronologically from 1967, Detroit kicks off with the police raid on an unlicensed drinking establishment that would become the impetus to the chaos. The botched club raid sparks mass rioting and looting, with the citizen’s allegiances torn between authority and race. As conflict wreaks havoc into the third day, many seek refuge in The Algiers motel, including the group The Dramatics, whose concert has been cancelled. The predominantly black guests of the motel attempt to pass the time and socialise with each other in their rooms. However, when a small joke between friends results in Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell) firing his starter pistol, the authorities believe a sniper lay in their midst. The razor-sharp tension in the air throngs the National Guard, Michigan State Police and Detroit Police forces into the building with devastating results. Detroit will prove a difficult watch for many viewers, particularly in its harsh second act that features some deeply unsettling torture scenes. Detroit serves as a stark and harrowing reminder that fundamental facets of society have experienced little progression since the events of 1967. However, to comprehensively tackle this weighty moment in American history, Bigelow would require far more than the 143-minute runtime. This lack of time means vital chapters in the timeline are either omitted entirely or glossed over, and fail to provide sufficient context for those unfamiliar with the incidents. Detroit showcases some fantastic performances from its huge cast, including John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Imperial Dreams) as a security guard conflicted by his loyalties and Will Poulter (The Revenant, Son of Rambow) as the inherently racist tyrant fuelling the brutality. A powerful and gut-wrenching dramatisation of historical events, Detroit will leave viewers contemplating the barbaric tendencies of humankind.
See the trailer: Detroit (2017)
Dunkirk (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at Cineworld, The Light, Odeon, Vue)
[Genre: War Drama/Historical. Dir: Christopher Dunkirk. Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles. Language: English]
Christopher Nolan made his directorial debut in 2000 and went on to become one of the most successful directors of the century. His latest release, gargantuan war epic Dunkirk, marks an exceptional milestone in his career and unveils a craftsman really coming into his own. The ambitious creation is presented in a triptych of separate stories, spread across three locations. Seven months into World War II, Hitler’s Wehrmacht army have surrounded the Calais stronghold and overpowered the French port of Boulogne. Caught within the Nazi’s trap, the 400,000 Allied troops have nowhere to turn, marooned on the barren beaches of Dunkirk. Young and visibly startled from the horrors of war, Private Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) heads to the shore through the shower of propaganda leaflets and hurtling gunfire. As he wanders across the vast expanse of stranded souls, Tommy encounters a private by the name of Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) burying a fallen soldier. After they brace against another assault by the German Stukas, the pair seize the stretcher of a wounded soldier and head for the only rescue ship in sight. Elsewhere, civilian captain Dawson (Mark Rylance) charts a brave expedition to the titular beach, after his boat is enlisted as an evacuation vessel. Also commandeering the runtime are white-knuckle sequences of RAF Spitfire pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) defending ships against Hitler’s Luftwaffe bombers. Little can be said about the plot of Dunkirk without revealing too much, although its narrative simplicity is one of its greatest assets. For Dunkirk doesn’t suffer the complexities of the director’s previous works, the attributes that have long confused – and divided – fans and filmgoers alike. Nolan takes the reins of his uninhibited freedom in the film industry and creates one of the most immersive depictions of war for some time. Dunkirk is all about the experience of being in war, and the film achieves just that by the dizzying sound design alone. Hans Zimmer provides a suitably droning soundtrack, which proves a welcome departure from the all too familiar sounds of his earlier collaborations with the director. Instead, he charges the scenes with momentum, blending together clock-ticking, shredding strings and jarring diegetic effects. The restrained use of dialogue is duly effective here, relying on the beautifully realistic performances and Nolan’s sure-handed direction to do the storytelling. What makes Dunkirk so special is that quietly powerful moments are respected as just that, quiet. The camera never dwells on a scene for too long, refusing to succumb to the overt sentimentality of Hollywood storytelling. Fans of Nolan will be prepared for his trademark narrative structure, though it fits in well with the subject matter. The filmmaker cleverly plays with time to weave together the three storylines, forming a powerful conclusion. A visceral and unsettling assault on the senses, Dunkirk shines as one of Nolan’s most impressive spectacles thus far.
See the trailer: Dunkirk (2017)
Gifted (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at The Light)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Marc Webb. Starring: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer. Language: English]
American filmmaker Marc Webb departs from his superhero foray and returns with heartfelt indie drama Gifted. Starting out as a music videographer, the director is most known for his feature debut 500 Days of Summer. Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a motorboat repairman living in a Florida trailer park with his 7-year-old niece Mary. Frank has been a guardian to Mary since his mathematician sister’s suicide, and values Mary’s happiness, security and upbringing above all else. Mary is exceptionally bright for her age, having been home schooled so far by Frank, with whom she has formed an inseparable bond. Afraid of squandering her intellectual potential, Frank enrols Mary at a public school, much to her dismay. When Mary starts to correct her teachers and solve complex equations, it dawns on them that they have a prodigy in their midst. As the education system becomes involved, Mary’s future hangs in the outcome of an impersonal court case. It is a delight to see Webb revert back to small-scale humanist dramas after his The Amazing Spider-Man duo. Although the story may seem similar to other genius narratives such as Little Man Tate and Good Will Hunting, Gifted still manages to put forth a tender and important debate on nature vs. nurture. Tom Flynn’s somewhat sentimental screenplay delves into abandonment, perception and the power of familial support. The performances truly elevate the film from its made-for-TV counterparts. Mckenna Grace is absolutely astonishing as Mary, exuding a raw naturalism in her performance. The film also finds Chris Evans in a role he rarely receives, allowing him a welcome reprieve from the Marvel blockbusters he is most known for. Webb renders a moving and life-affirming experience with Gifted, highlighting the moral and ethical challenges of childrearing.
See the trailer: Gifted (2017)
Neruda (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at Film Unit on Friday 29 September at 7:30pm)
[Genre: Biography/Drama. Dir: Pablo Larraín. Starring: Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Mercedes Morán, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba. Language: Spanish/French]
Chilean director Pablo Larraín returns to the silver screen for the second time in four months, with another well-handled contemporary biopic Neruda. The film catalogues a particularly eventful period in the life of Pablo Neruda, Chile’s illustrious poet and politician, whose prose has touched the souls of many over the past century. Beginning in 1948, the film greets the poet-diplomat (Luis Gnecco) during his precarious run as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party. Having initially backed the election of President Videla (Alfredo Castro), Pablo’s confidence is betrayed when Communism is outlawed and the authorities start to suppress trade unionists and strikers. Facing an imminent prison sentence for impeachment, the poet goes on the run with wife Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán), as they attempt to survive without their affluent status. Tasked with the arrest of the silver-penned fugitive, police inspector Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) becomes embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse, which chimes with the poet’s genuine affinity for the detective genre. Larraín’s enthralling dramatisation of Pablo’s life is told through the narration of both Óscar and the poet, building
on the director’s use of stylised voiceovers from previous release Jackie. The approach he takes to address his subject matters is quite remarkable and deserves the utmost respect. With Neruda Larraín manages to capture all facets of Pablo’s being, pleasant or not, resulting in a probable yet intriguing depiction. The dynamic between the film’s conflicting leads carefully explores both sides of the ideological fence, never quite reaching a conclusive stance on the events. The wonderfully lucid screenplay by Guillermo Calderón is a balanced culmination of reality and fantasy, deftly reshaping events for narrative fluidity to suit the filmmaker’s vision. Neruda is a magnificent and emboldening character study, illuminated by Larraín’s inventive and introspective technique.
See the trailer: Neruda (2016)
Wind River (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, Odeon)
[Genre: Crime Drama/Mystery. Dir: Taylor Sheridan. Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Kelsey Asbille, Graham Greene, Julia Jones. Language: English]
Actor turned screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has been thriving behind the scenes for the past few years and now hops into the director’s chair for a second time with murder mystery Wind River. Having worked alongside Denis Villeneuve on the script for Sicario and David Mackenzie on Hell or High Water, Sheridan fuses together his directorial vision and skillful knack for storytelling with gripping results. As U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Remmer) treks the snow-blanketed wilderness of Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation in search of a mountain lion predator, he uncovers the frozen body of Indian teenager Natalie. His discovery harkens painful memories for Cory, whose teenage daughter was raped and murdered three years prior. Vowing to deliver the justice he was unable to do for his daughter, Cory reports the body to local sheriff Ben (Graham Greene), who enlists FBI rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to lead the investigation. As the team trudge deeper into their investigation, the desolate and unforgiving territory grows harsher with each development. Considering this is Sheridan’s first ‘real’ directorial effort, Wind River marks a strong and respectable debut. The stark Wyoming landscape is as essential to the story as the characters that drive it, permeating the atmosphere with disquieting isolation. Sheridan’s sure-handed direction and well-written screenplay ensures the film is engaging throughout, bolstered by his decision to live on an Indian reservation to carry out research. Billowing the tension and quivering the heartstrings is another exceptional score by music dream team Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Exploring the abandonment of Native American communities and the disparities that sadly persist, Wind River provides plenty to mull over long after the credits roll.
See the trailer: Wind River (2017)
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