Film Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

Writer-directors Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz’s feature debut The Peanut Butter Falcon is an offbeat and very endearing tale.

When Zak escapes from his care home, he encounters Tyler, a small time crook. The pair set out on a less than straightforward journey south…

Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a road movie with an odd couple as its central protagonists. The juxtaposition of these two characters functions well. Tyler’s predominant drive seems to be self-interest, whilst Zak’s ambition is to get to the wrestling school. As so with road movies, it is the metaphorical journey that is pivotal.

As the narrative progresses, the friendship between Zak and Tyler develops in a charming manner. Dialogue between the pair is often amusing, and sometimes heartfelt. Nilson and Schwartz have crafted characters that viewers will really care about. The film relays background detail distinctly, leaving room for characters to grow whilst showing how they got to this point. 

The film is overt in its reference to Mark Twain; the author’s influence on the filmmakers is abundantly clear. The travelling along the river, and the friendship between an unlikely pair make the film feel like a homage to Twain. 

The narrative is littered with humorous incidences along the way as the pair make their way to their destination. The addition of Eleanor just before final third does change the dynamic. However, her presence enhances the camaraderie, rather than distracting from it. 

The soundtrack feels in keeping with the setting, whilst photography captures the beauty and wildness of the landscape. The Peanut Butter Falcon delivers good performances from Shia Labeouf, Zack Gottsagen, and Dakota Johnson. John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, and Thomas Haden Church are cast in some wonderful minor roles. The appearance of former wrestlers is a nice touch. 

The Peanut Butter Falcon is both heartwarming and humorous. A charming debut from Nilson and Schwartz. 

The Peanut Butter Falcon is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019. 

Film Review: Suspiria

Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria is a sway which builds to a cacophony. It is quite the cinematic experience.

American student Susie Bannion travels to Berlin to audition at a famous dance company. But not everything is quite what it seems, with Susie taking the room of a girl who was seeing a psychotherapist about her delusions…

After the success of Call Me By Your Name, director Luca Guadagnino’s latest project is an interesting one. A remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 Giallo classic Suspiria, it certainly piques the interest. This is heightened by the choice of cast and the addition of music by Thom Yorke.

The film itself projects itself as a fever dream. And in a sense it is. Guadagnino creates a picture with a mesmeric quality. Suspiria feels restrained at times, which makes the more frenzied sequences even more startling. The narrative is divided into six acts, with the descent into delirium increasing as the film progresses. 

The introduction of Patricia talking to the psychiatrist works well. It sets the scene nicely, giving audience an insight into what is going on at the dance school as well as the socio-political climate of the time. A theme running along the duration is the Lufthansa hijacking crisis. It gives a sense of the upheaval at the time. The decision to set the film in 1977 (not just as a homage to the original) is smart. Witchcraft is perhaps an allegory then for liberation in a time of restriction.

The film relies on an understated fear rather than going for the jugular. The macabre is uneasy rather than horrifying here. There is gore to be had; Suspiria dishes this out in spades, but restricts it to a handful of sequences. Guadagnino’s film has the hallmarks of body horror. It differs in a number of ways from the original; these changes are welcome in distinguishing the film. The different kind of agency given to Susie, for example, is a nice touch.

Dakota Johnson delivers a good performance as Susie. Tilda Swinton is as bewitching as ever, and Mia Goth provides solid support. Art direction, special effects, and choreography are all superb. Yorke’s score works well overall. The addition of song in the climactic scene seems a bit jarring, but this is presumably what Guadagnino was aiming for.

Suspiria distinguishes itself enough from the original, whilst retaining the essence of the story. It is hard not to get caught up in the film’s turbulent rhythm.

Suspiria is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

Previews: The Boss Trailer, A Monster Calls and More!

A plethora of trailers in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the first The Boss trailer, A Monster Calls, Zoolander 2 and more…

The Boss Trailer

Melissa McCarthy plays a successful businesswoman who falls foul of the law in this first The Boss trailer. McCarthy’s latest vehicle is a comedy with seemingly a similar tone to her last few films. The actress is on a roll, so it will be interesting to see how this film does. The Boss is out in cinemas on 26th February 2016.

A Monster Calls Trailer

Liam Neeson unmistakable tones narrate this teaser trailer for A Monster Calls. The film is based on the critically acclaimed novel, and also stars Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver. A Monster Calls is about a 12-year-old boy who attempts to deal with his mother’s illness and the bullying of his classmates. The film is set for release in October 2016.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens TV Spot

Here is the second US TV spot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Most of it is footage that has been seen before, but it is an exciting little preview of the film. Director J.J. Abrams has been careful not to reveal to much about the actual plot of the film, despite the various trailers and clips that have been released. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out on 17th December 2015.

Concussion Trailer

It is strange to hear Will Smith doing an accent. Smith stars as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a sports-related brain trauma, in a pro American football player. Concussion will hit the big screen on 12th February 2016.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War Trailer

A follow-up to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, The Huntsman: Winter’s War tells the story of Queen Ravenna and her connection with the huntsman long before Snow White. Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth return, and are joined by Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain. The film certainly looks appealing; time will tell whether it will eschew the pitfalls of its predecessor. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is set for release on 22nd April 2016.

How To Be Single Trailer

How To Be Single is a new comedy about being single in New York. The film stars Rebel Wilson and Dakota Johnson as single friends navigating life in the city. Also starring Leslie Mann and Alison Brie, How To Be Single will be released in time for Valentine’s Day on 12th February 2016.

Zoolander 2 Trailer

Zoolander 2 looks like it will be as silly and funny as its predecessor. The film reunites Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell, and introduces Penelope Cruz and a very different-looking Benedict Cumberbatch. Zoolander 2 struts its way on to the big screen on 12th February 2016.

Film Review: A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash

Ralph Fiennes steals the show in Luca Guadagnino’s intriguing A Bigger Splash. The film amuses whilst keeping viewers on their toes.

Rockstar Marianne is hiding out in Italy with her filmmaker boyfriend, trying to rest her voice. The couple’s quiet vacation is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of an old friend and his daughter…

A Bigger Splash is beautifully shot, well scripted with a wholly fitting soundtrack. The narrative works well to pull viewers in. The relationship dynamics become clearer as film progresses, but Harry and the initial set up are enough to initially reel the audience in. The background to the characters’ relationships is revealed through well scripted exposition and a handful of brief flashbacks. These are inserted at thoughtful intervals, with the director crafting the film to keep viewers engaged.

The initial set up of A Bigger Splash leaves plenty of room of movement. It is not clear the direction the film will take; the first third offers a number of possible avenues. The eventual progression is in keeping with the tone and style of the film.

There are some great shots in A Bigger Splash, particularly the dancing sequence. The colours seem almost exaggerated to exemplify hues. The setting is beautiful, yet reveals a quiet claustrophobia which is perfect for the climax of the film.

Casting in A Bigger Splash is excellent. From the moment he enters the scene, Ralph Fiennes is larger than life in a way that is believable and charismatic. Tilda Swinton is entirely believable as the rock star on throat rest. Dakota Johnson looks the part, in a role that does not stretch.

The pacing and subject matter of A Bigger Splash may not equal mass appeal, but it is a worthwhile film for those willing to take a punt.

A Bigger Splash is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2015.