DVD & Digital

DVD review: It Chapter Two

 After bringing Stephen King’s acclaimed novel to the big screen in 2017, director Andy Muschietti returns to finish what he started. Taking place 27 years after the first instalment, evil Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is terrorising the town of Derry again. Staying true to the oath they made as kids, Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), and the rest of the Losers’ club reunite to bring down the clown once and for all.

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Filth


Scripts have been scrunched up and chucked away from previous efforts to adapt Irvine Welsh’s ‘Filth’, all supposedly unbefitting of the desired quality and charm. That was, until writer and director Jon S. Baird pitched up with as much passion for the novel as Danny Boyle and John Hodge had for Trainspotting when they developed it for the big screen nearly twenty years ago. Baird’s interpretation is both loyal to the book yet takes Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson’s tragic journey in a fresh, but strange new direction. Bruce (James McAvoy) has his beady eye on a promotion in the force and will stop at nothing to put himself in pole position ahead of his competitors. When a Japanese student is killed in one of Edinburgh’s most grimy underpasses, he is placed in charge of the murder investigation, but his deep psychological issues soon begin to scupper his plans as his state of mind spirals wildly out of control.

Handpicking elements from the novel, we are thrust into various subplots straight from the off, from colleague mind games to wicked prank calls to his friend Bladesey’s wife, and the narrative quickly becomes as incoherent as the protagonist’s control obsessed lifestyle. Bruce is a nasty piece of work: a racist, homophobic, alcoholic, drug-addicted, misogynistic mess, yet his story is not without moments of empathy. Welsh’s dark humour is smeared all over the reel, his trademark sick wit is forever present, and the sense of setting is perfect, capturing the festive season in Scotland’s capital very aptly, so much so that you can almost feel the chill as Robbo roams the grey cobbled streets of the Old Town. Most impressive is how Baird handled the complexities of (Bruce’s inner trauma tapeworm, which appears on paper as a bold intrusion streaking through the page, but is cinematically transformed into trippy doctor visits displaying a great understanding of the storytelling tool). This surreal gloss clogs the arteries of the film increasingly throughout, providing a gruelling, yet at times terribly funny, depiction of a man’s physical and mental decline.

With a host of characters squeezed into the running time, some giving no more than brief cameos, the majority of the all star cast weren’t given much of an opportunity to stand out and be noticed. Eddie Marsan again flaunts his admirable versatility as the nervous bumbling Clifford Blades, known affectionately as Brother Blades to Bruce. Shirley Henderson is also a lot of fun as his feisty missus Bunty. Other notable turns come from Jim Broadbent as Dr. Rossi and Jamie Bell as young cocaine snorting police officer Ray Lennox whose character was the key to Welsh’s spin-off Crime. This would also be intriguing to see on the big screen, allowing time for the character to unfold a little more. Despite an acclaimed supporting ensemble, nobody comes close to the show stopping James McAvoy’s in what is the performance of his career in a role he was born to play.

McAvoy epitomises Bruce, encapsulating the sheer weight of the character and all the layers involved. Physically, he is pasty and bloated having gained weight for the role. His unkempt face sports ginger fuzz and his hair is smeared back in as much grease as it takes to deep fry a Mars Bar. In the past, rooting back to his Shameless days, I’ve always found McAvoy likeable but unobtrusive, never in a part that offers that little extra and slaps you across the face. As Bruce Robertson, he slaps you, trips you up and kicks you until you cry, before spitting at you when you’re down. I cannot imagine anyone else doing a better job. Not only is to utterly repulsive, he also manages to achieve an air of mercy and understanding that I believe would be unthinkable from most other actors out there today.

Where Trainspotting gave us a grubby little junkie pocket of the mid-nineties with its iconic soundtrack, and Boyle’s product placement, ‘Filth’ on the other hand is timeless. It is a dirty portrait of a man desperately trying to rebuild his life and put his sinister past behind him. This is ever relevant in any time period, and is a magnificent piece of work, due to the hard hitting script expected of any Irvine Welsh variation, and a remarkable James McAvoy acting masterclass. Outlandish themes aplenty, Baird carries them off with ease, given this is only his second feature film, tackling the tough subject matter with aplomb. Fifteen years after the book was first published, this is a story well worth digging up again, but you will be scraping the filth from under your finger nails for a long long time.

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Trance


Nobody can fault Danny Boyle’s ambition. He took Irvine Welsh’s beloved drug fuelled novel Trainspotting and created a cult classic, he put the true story of an adventurer stuck between a rock and a hard place on-screen brilliantly with 127 Hours and last year he orchestrated the Olympic opening ceremony showing what he can do away from the big screen. Now he is back in the director’s chair with ‘Trance’, a heist thriller starring James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson but where in the past his risks have paid off and then some, making him one of the most respected filmmakers of his generation, his latest effort falls short, disappointingly appearing more of a muddled mess than a marvel masterpiece.
  The premise of the plot is fantastic on paper; an art auctioneer with a gambling addiction is complicit in the theft of Francisco Goya’s Witches in the Air, but when he is knocked out by gang leader Franck and can’t remember where he hid the painting, hypnotist Elizabeth Lamb is called upon to assist Simon in accessing his memory to retrieve the stolen artwork. The films begins well, with the opening sequence heist scene carried off effortlessly, generating excitement very early on. Artistically, this is a film to be admired, boasting bold, but stylish visuals and there are exhilarating moments throughout, improved by an uncomfortably mesmerising soundtrack, but this just isn’t enough. The complexity of the narrative becomes increasingly untidy, and the characters have little to no depth, becoming nothing more than pawns in an increasingly frustrating clutter. Obvious comparisons can be made with Christopher Nolan’s dreamy Inception but where putting that puzzle together was confusing, it was undoubtedly fun whereas Trance is a jigsaw that would make you want to flip the table before picking up all the pieces and putting them firmly back in the box.
  James McAvoy shows promise in the lead role, but seems restricted, drowning in a series of sub plots that don’t really go anywhere. I did, however, enjoy the internal monologue segment, reminiscent of Ewan McGregor who provided the iconic ‘choose life’ speech in Boyle’s most impressive work. Vincent Cassel is weak as the villainous gang boss, and his team of goons are no better, none of them given their own identity. As a group of so-called ‘baddies’, I think there’s probably been Power Rangers’ foes’ that have been taken more seriously. With the male leads failing to cause much of a stir, it is left to Rosario Dawson to raise the bar, delivering the goods in a challenging role that develops at an uncontrollable pace, which she manages to maintain control of, holding it together to give a mature performance that steals the film, also earning some unexpected sex symbol status in suspenseful X-rated segments, handled expertly by Boyle’s stylistic direction.
  ‘Trance’ is not without its strong points, but with a back catalogue as glittering as Boyle’s, this will ultimately be seen as a letdown, not matching his past successes in any way shape or form. With the anticipation and intriguing foundations, it should have offered so much more though I feel we can let him off with one slip-up, as he has earned the right to be experimental. If nothing else, he has shown that his imagination is still as inventive as ever, which can only be a positive thing, even if the execution this time is way off the mark.


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