Brian Welsh’s debut feature Beats is a fantastic examination of friendship and the universal, cultural appeal of music that brings people from all backgrounds together.
Johnno and Spanner and two long term friends brought together by their shared love of electronic dance music. Spanner comes from a broken home with an abusive older brother and Johnno’s parents want to leave the town, disapproving of their friendship. When Spanner learns of a huge illegal rave, he sees it as an opportunity of one final blow out for him and Johnno, this being the entire culmination of their friendship.
The film is sensitive towards youth in general, so many tend to depict teenagers growing up in working class areas as deviants and while the boys partake in certain irreverent behaviour they’re never portrayed badly, each character has a reason for their behaviour and the characterisation is a testament of the script and careful handling of the subject matter
The film itself is in brilliant, crisp black and white capturing the essence of the 90s amongst the backdrop of the industrial Scottish landscape. Welsh also takes a fair amount of directorial risks which really pay off, especially through a psychedelic scene depicting the shared joy of the rave and experience that puts you into the mind of all the characters, feeling like a shared experience.
A film that will be nostalgic for many and effectively communicates the power of friendship Beats finds an uplifting message in bleak circumstances.
7. Dragged Across Concrete
S. Craig Zahler isn’t known for his subtlety. His first two films “Bone Tomahawk” and “Brawl in cell block 99” were acknowledged for their brutalist violence and Dragged across concrete is no exception. The film was met with some controversy due to the casting of Mel Gibson (fair enough) and some accusations of right-wing themes throughout.
The film follows two police detectives who end up suspended after a video of them using excessive force goes viral. They feel they have no options to turn to so end up descending into the criminal underworld to support their families.
Whichever way you look at it, dragged across concrete is a very entertaining, gritty drama that benefits from its slow burn. Zahler’s brutal, bleak imagery matches the tone of the film terrifically and his audacity involving the switching between certain characters points of views is a risk that really pays off at times. The film has an intelligence running underneath the violent surface and some really impressive twists and turns, especially towards the end. The film never empathises with the hardened cops, which justifies their questionable views and allows a character who’s less involved to reap the rewards towards the end.
It’s definitely not for everyone but if you can handle the guts and gore, it can be a thrilling, compelling and original police drama.
8. Missing Link
Laika’s always been known for beautiful stop-motion animation and while Missing Link is lower key than their mega successes “Coraline” or “Kubo and the two strings” it’s still an incredibly impressive, entertaining and sweet venture.
Missing Link follows a sasquatch named Mr. Link (or Susan) as he tires of living in solitude, wanting to join his own kind in Shangri-La he enlists the help of adventurer Sir Lionel Frost to guide him through his perilous and complex journey as they make their way to the outer reaches of the world.
As expected, the film looks amazing, the ice bridge scene itself is breath-taking comprising of almost 200 shots for nearly 6 minutes of action. You can’t help but fawn over the talent and precision of certain scenes, Laika appears to be the type of animation that’s willing to take creative risks instead of the easy way out, choreographing ridiculously impressive visual treats for their audience.
The story itself is fairly well trodden and simplistic but it’s told with a real sense of heart and the way the film is made levels the narrative up in a way a simple CGI fest would fail to deliver. It also conjures up a fair few laughs, and Zac Galifianakis is always a brilliant choice for comedies, an excelling at voicing Susan the sasquatch.
A film that’s charming and wonderous it’s an incredibly skilful animation that’ll leave you grinning from ear to ear.
9. Ready or Not
An inventive and funny horror, Ready or not delivers a high voltage of terror while maintaining a silly and riotous tone which adds up to a very fun time at the movies.
The story follows Grace, who marries the man of her dreams at his family’s fancy mansion estate home. However, she’s thrust into a family “game” played every time someone marries meaning at midnight, she must hide from her husband’s family as they hunt her down with various weapons attempting to kill her. She soon finds ways of turning the table on her relatives as she tries to survive the night.
It’s the type of clever concept horror that’s carried out with a brilliant sense of fun and really works. At just 95 minutes it breezes past, keeping the audience easily entertained throughout. There’s always a sense of tension in the air as Grace navigates her way around the creepy old house. The members of the family are very well characterised, all with their own little quirks and strange delivery of dialogue making them seem unhinged even before we realise the danger Grace will find herself in.
It boasts a really satisfying, funny ending which is rare with a lot of horrors and Samantha Weaving delivers an incredible performance knowing when to dial up the rage and tone herself down when crippled by understandable fear.
It’s great fun with a great message about the social elite and will do nothing else if not entertain you.
Colette is the passion project from writer director Wash Westmoreland concerning his late partner Richard Glazier who was also his usual writing and directing partner, they had been trying to make Colette for years and penned the screenplay along with Rebecca Lenkiewicz, completing the project sadly after Glazier passed away.
The biopic follows Colette, a French writer. After marrying a successful, charismatic writer known simply as “Willy”. He loses his artistic mojo and convinces Colette to ghost-write for him, the book becomes a phenomenal success and Colette struggles to receive creative ownership due to the terrible gender politics of the time and Willy’s gaslighting, domineering ways. This drives her to fight and overcome the social constraints she has been forever bound to.
Colette is lifted above the standard biopic through brilliant performances and chemistry from Knightley and West. Knightley is great in just about everything and really excels as the strong-willed Colette finding that balance between being crestfallen as a result of the circumstances and fighting for what she thinks is right. West makes Willy likeable despite his awful and selfish persona making the audience susceptible to his charms just as Colette is in the film, knowing what he does is wrong but finding it hard to truly feel distain towards him.
The period detail is strong with everything looking exactly as it should, and the script exudes witty dialogue and embedded themes. Westmoreland directs sensitively, perhaps as a love letter to Colette and his husband.
A step above the usual biopic, Colette will surprise you with its entertainment value and is worth a watch even for those sceptical of period dramas.