Review: Dad’s Army

How_similar_are_the_new_Dad_s_Army_cast_to_the_TV_originals_

DIR: Oliver Parker • WRI:Hamish McColl • PRO: Damian Jones • DOP: Christopher Ross • ED: Guy Bensley • DES: Simon Bowles • MUS: Charlie Mole • CAST: Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Mark Gatiss

Dad’s Army is a light-hearted comedy based on the sitcom of the same name from the 60s and 70s, and features an all-star cast, including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, and Blake Harrison, all of whom have proven time and time again that they can easily handle comedic acting. It’s just unfortunate that their considerable talents can’t make up for the weak, toothless, and above all unfunny script provided by Hamish McColl.

Gone is the subtlety, the nuance, the class-warfare jokes, the wit of the original show, instead replaced by pointless innuendos and a plot that demands every single character act like a fool in order for it to make sense.

To the plot. It’s 1944. The Nazis are looking for information on Britain’s upcoming invasion plans, so they’ve sent in agent Cobra (Catherine-Zeta Jones, who tells them her name is Rose Winters) to uncover the plans, or something. I’m not really sure why she was sent there, but then again neither is the film, so it all balances out. Later on, characters try to credibly state that if the information she has manages to find its way to the Nazis, they could lose the war.

Now the original show had its fair share of slapstick comedy, as well, as wit and charm, and while those last two can be quite difficult to capture properly, slapstick is usually easy enough to make funny. It’s just too bad that the slapstick here is completely uninspired, often falling into the cliché territories of characters hitting their heads or falling out of windows, or flashing their genitalia at German soldiers. O.K. that last one isn’t cliché, but believe me when I say, this film executes it pretty poorly, so it still isn’t able to make you laugh, which is a pretty big failing in a comedy.

Now, that isn’t to say this film is completely terrible. The cast all do well, Gambon, Nighy, Jones, and Harrison all do their best with the sub-standard script, and did make me chuckle begrudgingly a few times, and Zeta-Jones does extremely well as the wily femme fatale, using her good looks and charm to get the information she needs from the oafish men of the town.

Also, on the plus side the cinematography is done well, and D.O.P. Christopher Ross deserves a lot of credit for how good this film looks, with its bright colours, brilliant shot composition, and breath-taking use of the English Countryside in order to immerse us more in this small seaside town.

But really, though, these positive aspects are in a small minority when you examine this film as a whole. As well as the problems mentioned above, the whole plot feels completely inconsequential, there are no real character arcs, and you never get the feeling that anything’s really at stake.

Ultimately Dad’s Army is a “comedy” which fails so spectacularly to amuse that it would embarrass even Adam Sandler.

Darren Beattie

PG
99 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Dad’s Army is released 5th February 2016

Dad’s Army – Official Website

 

 

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Review: By Our Selves

ByOurSelves2

DIR: Andrew Kötting • PRO: Edward Fletcher, Andrew Kötting • DOP: Nick Gordon Smith  • ED: Andrew Kötting, Cliff West • MUS: Jem Finer • CAST: Toby Jones, Freddie Jones, Alan Moore, Iain Sinclair

 

British filmmaker and artist Andrew Kötting’s twenty-five year idiosyncratic career has seen him become one of the most creative visionaries in contemporary cinema, exemplified by such films as Gallivant and This Filthy Earth. Through aesthetically challenging, absurdist innovation and pensively surreal, hybrid composition, which places the landscape at the pulse of his visual and structural ingenuity, the filmmaker synchronically delves into the soul of English national identity with creative structural flair across an amalgam of digital platforms, to explore concepts of origins, community, home and individuality.

Based on psychogeographer Ian Sinclair’s book, ‘Edge of the Orison’, Kötting’s latest piece from his distinctive canon takes little-known, paranoid schizophrenic nature poet, John Clare as his subject, whose powerful celebration of the rural English landscape has seen a recent resurgence of interest in his work, situating him as one of the most significant English poets of the nineteenth century. Taking Clare’s punishing four-day, eighty-mile journey on foot from Epping Forest to Northborough as its loose narrative framework and delving into the psyche of the tortured poet through a sonic mélange of musical vocalizations, By Our Selves is a vividly hypnotic odyssey of multisensory, audio-visual and semantic virtuosity.

Opening the narrative and steering the psychic reflections of the eccentric poet, the recurrent refrain, ‘John Clare was a minor nature poet who went mad’ becomes the only recognisable soundscape throughout the narrative in which to root the audience into some semblance of orientation and structure, before Kötting embarks on a heightened audio-visual maelstrom of sound, image, verse and language. Having escaped from a mental asylum in 1841 to undertake the journey in search of his true love, Mary Joyce, an unvoiced Toby Jones as the wandering elegist, undertakes the same pilgrimage, to which Kötting’s surreal soundscape becomes the narrative’s principal component to interpret the delusion and confusion driving Clare’s mental and physical odyssey.

Plucked from the depths of Clare’s febrile mind and which Kötting presents as an alternative sensory means of seeing and hearing his frenzied poetic effusions; musings, hysterics, hallucinations and lyrical narrations emanate from the rambling extracts of journals, poems, letters and medical prognoses amidst the deafening din of traffic jams, whirling wind farms, whooshing straw bears and wistful wails of Mary Joyce, to create a series of unsettling jolts, which produce their own internal narrative and sonorous logic, through a visually staggering and visionary structured enquiry.

As is customary in both Clare’s and Kötting’s oeuvres, it is a dissection of the English landscape and its relationship to the text, image and space that is at the heart of By Our Selves rather than a categorical reenactment of Clare’s most infamous peregrination. Anchoring the sonic-visual hotchpotch, as Toby Jones traipses, his father, Freddie Jones, as the elder Clare, vocalizes the poet’s own locutions and tortured inner monologue, which has a serenity and rationality to its chaotic, meditative, stream of consciousness amidst the rural landscapes and which dissipates into a more frenzied panic as they lumber through contemporary cityscapes, underpinning the symbiotic relationship between poetry, nature and insanity.

Kötting’s gnomic mish mash of audio-visual experimentation is a deeply evocative sensory exploration that fuses the past and the present, the dramatized and the experimental and the simulated and the real, through a physical investigation into the mindscape and headtalk of a brilliant, yet tortured poet. While Kötting’s piece invites his audience to view and explore the anomalous poet through a uniquely different way of seeing and hearing and despite its overwhelming audio-visual aberrations and esoteric, yet erudite musings, there is a lucidity and coherency in both Kötting and Clare’s work that seems to gel into some sort of peculiar rationality, marking both eccentrics out as two of the greatest visionaries of their generation. As there has been a recent piqued interest in the work of Clare, to those unfamiliar with the bewitchingly detailed dialect that emanates from his idiosyncratic opus or his acute observations as a fervent social and environmental commentator, Andrew Kötting’s rivetingly, outlandish portrait of John Clare is the perfect place to start.

Dee O’Donoghue

 

80 minutes
By Our Selves is released 2nd October 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Review: Berberian Sound Studio

Stop, children, what's that sound?

 

Stop, children, what's that sound?

DIR/WRI: Peter Strickland • PRO: Mary Burke, Keith Griffiths • DOP: Nicholas D. Knowland • ED: Chris Dickens • DES: Jennifer Kernke • CAST: Toby Jones, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Susanna Cappellaro, Cosimo Fusco

English director Peter Strickland is quickly making quite a name for himself. After his menacing gothic debut feature Katalin Varga (2009) Strickland now gives us the fantastically creepy Berberian Sound Studio.

Set in the 1970s, an English sound mixer, Gilderoy, has travelled to Italy to apply his aural magic to a new Italian giallo film in post-production, The Equestrian Vortex – a sleazy genre of sadistic exploitation. Upon arrival he finds himself entangled in a world beyond his comfort zone that hammers his mental state into some sort of reverbed smoothie.

Gilderoy is employed for his skill with the sounds he makes that bring aural life to the abject carnage that occurs on screen. So we hear The Equestrian Vortex in all its gory glory – from the slashing of melons, to the drops of water in hot oil; all expertly used to match the grizzly, sadistic scenes on screen. Scenes we never actually see. The only sight of The Equestrian Vortex we see is the beautifully reconstructed opening titles of the film that perfectly recreate those of so many ’70s giallo films – an attack of cacophonous shrill bursts stereovomiting over dripping blood and screaming skulls.

It all proves too much for poor Gilderoy. And there’s nowhere to go now but down.

Toby Young is a delight as the mousy Gilderoy, who writes letters home to his mother concerning the cathedral of chaffinches nesting outside his bedroom at his rural English home – in direct contrast to the claustrophobic, sense-spearing surroundings he now finds himself in. Gilderoy shuffles around the studio in fearmusement constantly being badgered by his fiery Italian smarm-mongering producer and a finagling director, alongside a bizarre bevvy of characters – including the wonderful 2 Massimos and a coven of scream queens, taking in all the oddities of sleazy Italian horror – where else would the viewer be treated to a ‘dangerously aroused goblin’.

Strickland’s camera fetishizes the analogue recording equipment to heighten the writhing tension and hotpoke the audience into the ensuing Lynchian-like nightmare that Gilderoy cannot wake from. A nightmare that becomes a maze of mental malice as Gilderoy slowly dissolves psychologically into a world of demented headbanging torture.

Though some may have problems with the puzzling artifice of the film’s latter stages – it’s refreshing to not be spoon-fed a resolution and instead revel in the visceral experience which reflects the entire film’s sense of mischievous malevolence.

Best film I’ve heard this year, that’s for sure.

Here’s hoping The Equestrian Vortex rears its noxious noggin as an extra on the DVD.

Steven Galvin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
92 mins

Berberian Sound Studio is released on 31st August 2012

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