Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Magic Mike XXL

Directed by: Gregory Jacobs

Produced by: Reid Carolin
Gregory Jacobs
Channing Tatum
Nick Wechsler

Screenplay by: Reid Carolin

Based on: Characters by Reid Carolin

Starring: Channing Tatum
Matt Bomer
Joe Manganiello
Kevin Nash
Adam Rodriguez
Gabriel Iglesias
Amber Heard
Donald Glover
Andie MacDowell
Jada Pinkett Smith

Cinematography by: Steven Soderbergh

Editing by: Steven Soderbergh

Studio: Iron Horse Entertainment

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date(s): July 1, 2015 (United States)
July 3, 2015 (United States)

Running time: 115 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $14.8 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $117, 813, 057

I'm on fire baby! It's like on more concoctions than Rainer Werner Fassbinder in his day, and yet the only drugs to enter my system are caffeine and tobacco. Booyeah! I guess I just wanna ride this horse while I'm still on it because, not to take away from the reviewing side of things, this is just practice for what's to come. I've hinted at it previously, but I'll get to telling you when I feel like it, because the time is not right. It's coming, but not right now. So, now, for all the latest and greatest as regards to the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for review is Magic Mike XXL, the follow-up to Steven Soderberg's surprise hit 2012 film. The biggest surprise of that film, notwithstanding the highly profitable grossing of $167 million off of it's $7 million, was that it was, as me and Daniel Kelly both agreed, far more potent a drama than we expected. We went in thinking this was going to a fun and occasionally outrageous comedy in the world of male stripping, but I in particular was taken by how poignant and strong the film was from that standpoint. Indeed, I went so far as to compare Channing Tatum to Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, his performance as Mike Lane winning him (quite deservedly) the Kevin Spacey Award for Best Male Actor in a Leading Role from yours truly. Three years after the events of Magic Mike, Mike Lane (Tatum) is running his own furniture business, when he receives a call from his old buddy Tarzan (Kevin Nash) informing him that Dallas is gone. Believing his former boss has died, Mike drives to a hotel to discover his friends having a pool party, and that Dallas in fact had bailed on them to start a new show, but that the remaining Kings Of Tampa plan to end their careers on a high note by going on the road to a stripping convention in Myrtle Beach. After initially declining, Mike hears one of his old stripping tunes while at work, to which he dances, and reinvigorated, decides to join the rest of the gang on their trip.

To start with the good, I do have to once again compliment Channing Tatum. Granted, it's not a performance that ranks up there with that in the previous film or the hilarity he found in Greg Jenko in the Jump Street films, but he is a consummate professional. Just to watch the way this guy moves, making a simple wordless scene involving woodworking into a highly expressive emotional breakout is something to behold. Despite his being an actor of his times, he still brings something of that brooding quality that you'd see in Brando or James Dean, and as such there's a real classiness to him. I would love it if he sank his teeth into the lead role of a big awards contender because he just has that proverbial 'it' factor. Also good in their lesser capacities in this film are Kevin Nash, who continues to impress in his part as Tarzan, Jada Pinkett Smith at the best I've seen her in a long time as Rome, the owner of a strip club and a charismatic emcee. Finally on this front, Joe Manganiello's impromptu striptease in a gas station to the Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way is a genuinely hysterical bit of work that had me bowled over in stitches at the sheer outrageousness and ridiculousness of it. Moments like this are where the film is at it's best. Although Steven Soderbergh is no longer at the helm, it is still very much the same crew involved, with Gregory Jacobs taking both producing and directorial duties, while Soderbergh retains his status as director of photography and editor. As DP, Soderbergh has the right understanding of how to frame the various actors, hiding their negatives and accentuating the positives. To use an example, anyone who knows Kevin Nash from his wrestling days knows he was a slow, methodical plodding giant in his prime twenty years ago, but Soderbergh works around his and others' limitations. In the case of Tatum, there are a lot of long takes, and it's clear that they just let him go and do his thing. This is best exemplified in the final dance performance/medley, with each of the characters doing their own piece, and it is an at times incredibly sensory experience just to watch. Knowing those who you are working with, and what they are good at and what they are not can be very helpful to a DP. The last thing I'd like to say is that considering how chaotic the whole outcome of the production could have been and the fact that it is, however good, a relatively perfunctory sequel, Gregory Jacobs does a good job of keeping everything together. It has problems (more of which in a jiffy), but Jacobs manages to ensure that it still remains funny, relatively engaging and entertaining.

Now, to get to the bad. Admittedly, I did not see Magic Mike as a movie designed for a sequel, nor do I consider this film's existence necessary. As I said, it's much of the same crew back on board, including screenwriter-producer Reid Carolin. I'm not going single him out because frankly I feel that everyone involved should have had a bit more self-awareness, as opposed to trying to milk this story dry, but Reid Carolin's screenplay lacks the depth, edge and three-dimensional qualities which made the last film so loveable. I mean, we've got Amber Heard here, who I like very much, in one of those nothing roles that does nothing for her talents, which is a shame really because it's the first time I've seen her since The Rum Diary. Instead, Magic Mike XXL is pieced together not with story or characters who have a legitimate arc that they follow but rather more like a series of sketches. Another of the problems that come with this structure is that some of these 'sketches' as I call them go on way too long, adding to a running time that could be considerably chopped. In that regard, especially given his efficiency as an artist, Soderbergh as an editor should have submitted a respectable cut between ninety and one-hundred minutes, because there's whole scenes that could have been excised. The momentum and pace built up by the excitement of certain sequences is just brought to a grinding halt at times by these scenes, and as such the film has a very stop-start feeling about it.

Magic Mike XXL, or Magic Mike Lite, as it would be more appropriately titled, is a problematic film, with a choppy screenplay that consists of sketches rather than story, and should have been edited with a great deal more efficiency. However, call me overly generous, but my overall feeling's for the film are largely positive. Channing Tatum is forever a consummate pro and has that 'it' factor that so few possess, and a number of the rest of the cast, specifically Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash and Jada Pinkett Smith are also good. The movie is also well-shot, Soderbergh quite clearly working around the abilities of his performers and making a good looking picture to boot. As director, Gregory Jacobs does a good job of reigning things in and getting out of what could have been real messy at least a somewhat engaging, funny and entertaining movie. I think they have suitably squeezed everything they can out of Magic Mike now!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Good

P.S. Hello to Elizabeth Banks

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Furious 7

Directed by: James Wan

Produced by: Neal H. Moritz
Vin Diesel
Michael Fottrell

Screenplay by: Chris Morgan

Based on: Characters created by Gary Scott Thompson

Starring: Vin Diesel
Paul Walker
Dwayne Johnson
Michelle Rodriguez
Tyrese Gibson
Chris Bridges
Jordana Brewster
Djimon Hounsou
Kurt Russell
Jason Statham

Music by: Brian Tyler

Cinematography by: Stephen F. Windon
Marc Spicer

Editing by: Christian Wagner
Leigh Folsim Boyd
Dylan Highsmith
Kirk M. Morri

Studio(s): Original Film
One Race Films
Media Right Capital
China Film

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Release date(s): April 1, 2015 (TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Premiere)
April 3, 2015 (United States and United Kingdom)

Running time: 137 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $190 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $1, 511, 726, 205

Yeah, okay, I'm on a bit of a mad spree right now. See this is what happens when I push a button. Mad things happen and I just have fire coming out of my fingertips. See? Anywho, for those of you who missed them, I posted articles on Top 10 Movies Hipsters Tried To Ruin (But As With Everything In Life, Failed Miserably In The Process) (a title to match that of the full one of Dr. Strangelove) and a review for Child 44. Check 'em out. See what you make of it. Anywho, with guaranteed reviews on the way for Magic Mike XXL, Southpaw, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Jurassic World, Terminator Genisys and The Lazarus Effect, be sure to keep your eyes posted!

So up under the knife here is Furious 7 (or Fast 7, or Fast & Furious 7, or whatever the hell they're calling these films). We all know the preface to this latest release in the franchise, but I feel it's necessary to recap and give my five dimes. During a Thanksgiving production break while shooting the film, longtime franchise player Paul Walker died in a single vehicle accident on November 30, 2013, causing Universal to put production on hold indefinitely. Walker was never the best of actors, but he was certainly beloved by fans of the franchise and it's cast and crew, who lost not only a colleague, but a close personal friend. Within weeks of Universal putting the film on hold, Vin Diesel announced that filming would resume in April and would be released in April of 2015. In Walker's place, stand-ins including his brothers Caleb and Cody were used, and in scenes requiring his face, CGI techniques similar to those used in the place of Oliver Reed in Gladiator in order to simulate his appearance. So, Furious 7 was finished, essentially as a tribute to Paul Walker, and fans flocked to cinemas in homage to their fallen hero. The Fast & Furious franchise has always done good box-office, and has steadily been earning more as each instalment goes by (Fast & Furious 6 earned $789 million worldwide), but Furious 7 grossed ridiculous numbers, earning over $1.5 billion worldwide, and currently stands as the fifth highest-grossing film of all time. I think that just shows the outpouring of love that this series has developed over the years, especially in recent years as they've decided to eschew the well-worn niche of street racing and make the action surrounding the films more based upon heists. So, plot goes that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Bryan O'Connor (Paul Walker) and the rest of their team have returned to the United States, having received amnesty for their past crimes in Fast & Furious 6, until Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a rogue special forces assassin seeking to avenge his comatose younger brother, kills one of their crew and them all in danger once again. Got it good?

Starting off with the good, the thing that I have most enjoyed about the recent instalments in this franchise is that they have shifted the focus away from being specifically 'car' movies and are more heist-based caper movies. This is a formula that produces a near-infinite amount of possibilities, both in terms of storyline and a rotating ensemble cast, and Furious 7 is no different. Alongside Diesel, Walker, Dwayne Johnson and the usual bunch, here we've got Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey. The key thing as well is that each of these performers, even if, like Jaa and Rousey's minor roles, they are implemented well into the overall fold. The Stath makes for a legitimately menacing villain and Russell is a welcome addition as the leader of a covert ops team. As such, there is a stronger group dynamic in this one film than Sylvester Stallone ever achieved over the course of his three Expendables pictures. As I highlighted previously in my review for the previous film, I love how they've totally embraced the ridiculousness and absurdity, just going all out for the stunts and wanton destruction. If you are an action stunt fetishist then this is totally your thing; you've got chaotic car chases in a variety of locations such as Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi, insanely destructive fight scenes (basically any time there's a clash involving Diesel, Johnson and/or The Stath, there's at least as much carnage as a fight from Dragonball Z), you name it, they've got it. Fast & Furious 6 won my Vic Armstrong Award for Best Stunt Work in 2013, and Furious 7 is certainly in the running for it. The film also contain much of the same crew 'behind the scenes,' as it were, so it has a trademark flourish to the cinematography and it is generally a well-paced and edited picture. The key new addition comes in the director's chair, with horror director James Wan taking over the mantle after longtime series helmsman Justin Lin, who directed the last four films, left due to Universal putting pressure on him for an accelerated schedule to make a sequel following the last film, which would have meant Lin would have to begin pre-production on Furious 7 during post-production of Fast & Furious 6. Despite this change in lineup and the long shadow of Paul Walker lingering over the proceedings, Wan delivers an assured, confident film which shows that the man has talents that extend outside the horror genre. There are so many tangibles involved, not just with big-budget filmmaking as a whole, but this production in particular, that could have seen things go awry, but he and the rest of them nailed it. While I didn't find it as outright entertaining as Fast & Furious 6, I do have to say that there is a fair amount of emotional oomph to the film, which feels surprisingly hefty and legitimate whenever they do decide to sit down and get serious. You feel that the warmth, love and camaraderie this group carries is something special, and is a fitting tribute to Paul Walker.

Now we get to the tricky bit. I know that the fans of this franchise (of which I can include myself) are absolutely devoted, and are going to be extra sensitive when it comes to people critiquing this particular film. I'm never one to compromise myself with regards to my opinions, so don't say I didn't give you advance notice. I like these films. Indeed, they've gotten better as the years have gone. However, it doesn't change the fact that we are still yet to get a truly great Fast And The Furious film. Just gonna put that out there, and when it comes to Furious 7, I'll tell you why. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Do I find it a loving tribute to Paul Walker? Yes. Can I remember an iota of the actual plot of the film itself? No. While the stunts and the emotional connection might be there, there needs to some fire, some electricity, to kickstart the heart of the central story. A lot of the time, when 'story' comes into play, we get a little soliloquy from Vin Diesel about "family," and also, I do have to ask, how many times are this group going to be brought out of retirement? Yeah, I get it, they're reluctant heroes, but two movies in a row I've seen them leaving behind beautiful tropical beaches and a variety of exotic locales to blow shit up. I manage to enjoy the films despite every sense coming through my pores telling me otherwise, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm a guy who wants a story to follow, and unfortunately, story is secondary here as it usually is in the rest of the franchise. Don't get me wrong, it's a largely positive response to the film, but I have to be measured here folks. Oh, and while I like the See You Again song and it's usage, I'm still tetchy about Brian Tyler's music.

In short, while I do feel that story as a whole is secondary here, as it is in the rest of the franchise, I still found myself having a good time with Furious 7. The ensemble cast carries a group dynamic that I'm sure Stallone wishes he could replicate for his Expendables films, the wide variety of stunts involving car chases and fist fights are of a consistently high standard, and the crew carried over from previous instalments carry over to give the picture it's stylistic flourishes and pacing. James Wan is a welcome addition to the franchise, overseeing with assurance and confidence the film's many tangibles, ensuring that the long shadow of Paul Walker does not become a dark one, and that, with this loving tribute to a lost comrade, the future is still very bright for this franchise.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Alright (still got the bug!)

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Child 44

Directed by: Daniel Espinosa

Produced by: Ridley Scott
Michael Schaefer
Greg Shapiro

Screenplay by: Richard Price

Based on: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Starring: Tom Hardy
Gary Oldman
Noomi Rapace
Joel Kinnaman
Paddy Considine
Vincent Cassel
Jason Clarke

Music by: Jon Ekstrand

Cinematography by: Philippe Rousselot

Edited by: Dylan Tichenor

Studio(s): Summit Entertainment
Worldview Entertainment
Scott Free Productions

Distributed by: Lionsgate

Release date: April 17, 2015 (United Kingdom)
April 17, 2015 (United States, limited)

Running time: 137 minutes

Country(s): United States
United Kingdom
Czech Republic

Language: English

Production budget: $50 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $3, 324, 330

It's been seven months since I've written a review for a film, so on this one you'll have to excuse me if I seem relatively rusty. Work has been very busy, and as such I had to take a significantly longer period of time off than what I'm used to. I've always said though, I want to keep at this reviewing shebang for at least ten years before I decide to ride off into the sunset, so by my count you've still got at least two more years of my ass. Despite my inactivity on the blogosphere, I won't say much about what I've been doing in my absence, but I'll just let you know that I have been busy in a number of other departments. I'll deliver the good news when the time is ready. Anywho, for all the latest and greatest as regards the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for review is Child 44. Now, admittedly, I haven't seen many movies this year, but now that I've finally jumped onto the whole subscription-based streaming service shebang (yes, I actually have Netflix now), it means I can do a lot of catching up and still go to the cinema on a semi-regular basis, despite my various work schedules, projects and distractions. Child 44 was one of these films. Based on Tom Rob Smith's 2008 novel of the same name, it boasts an ensemble cast of international stars including Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, Jason Clarke, Vincent Cassel, Charles Dance, and the weight of having Ridley Scott's clout behind it as a producer. So, all fingers were pointing at a potentially strong film, but the film was critically derided and tanked at the box-office upon release, earning only $3.3 million off of it's $50 million budget. However, I saw the film before I knew all these details, and I have followed next to nothing when it comes to film reviews this year, so I had an open mind going in. The story is set during Stalin's rule in the Soviet Union in the 1950s, with war hero turned Ministry of State Security (MGB) agent Leo Davidov (Hardy) uncovering a strange series of brutal child murders. However, because Soviet doctrine states that only capitalism creates serial, and the MGB leadership refuses to acknowledge the deaths as murders. Meanwhile, as his partner's son is murdered by the serial killer, his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) is accused of being disloyal to the state. Leo stands by his wife, refusing to support the accusation, possibly manufactured by Vasili Nikitin (Joel Kinnaman), a ruthlessly ambitious and amoral MGB agent, and he is disgraced and forced to take a lower militia position in the town of Volsk. After more child murders are discovered in Volsk, Leo and Raisa convince his new commander General Nesterov (Gary Oldman) to help them, and their investigations reveal that the killer has claimed at least forty-four victims. Got it? Good!

Now that we have that insane level of basil exposition out of the way (going over the plot again is always one of my least favourite parts of a review, especially given a lot of people aren't interested in such tedious points), let's get down to business. To start off with the good, that is a star-studded line up of a cast, and I'd be denying if I didn't say that there were some good performances. Tom Hardy, although being saddled with a rather nondescript protagonist, brings suitable presence and weight to the character of Leo. Although it's clearly not one of his best roles, it's easy to see why he's taking over the world in 2015, what with Mad Max: Fury Road, Legend and the upcoming The Revenant all under his belt. As always, Gary Oldman is watchable onscreen, but then again Oldman could make watching paint dry watchable. Vincent Cassel shares a number of the film's best onscreen dialogues with Tom Hardy, in particular the scene when Leo has to tell his friend that his son's death was an 'accident.' Finally, Paddy Considine shows once again his range of talents in a part that in a lesser man's hands could have turned out negatively. None of these performances frankly are what you could call 'great,' but they are relatively noteworthy. The best thing Child 44 has going for it in fact is it's production value. $50 million is not a small sum, but it is all up there onscreen. The film's onscreen world is a believable depiction of the Soviet Union in the 1950s. The team on production design did a terrific job in making locations in the Czech Republic and Croatia match that of the time depicted onscreen. Also, the costume and make-up/hair departments have quite clearly spent a lot of time researching and attempting to replicate the actual period look. This is all captured rather well by cinematographer Philippe Rousselot. Now, while it has been argued (understandably perhaps) that the film looks ugly, I disagree in that what Rousselot has done with the colour palette is go for authenticity, and as far as I'm concerned, if the world looks ugly because it's meant to, then that's okay with me.

So, I must say, I didn't feel as negatively about Child 44 as some people did. However, it is still only a decent movie at best, and I'll tell you why. For starters, as far as plot's concerned it's a sprawling, over-convoluted mess of a picture. Just for comparison's sake (perhaps an unfair one, sure), I watched The Godfather again last night. The Godfather is one of those labyrinthine epics which justifies it's length and sprawling nature because Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo spent so much time fleshing out that world from the ground up, developing with three-dimensional characters and making decisions about what direction they go which make perfect sense. In the case of Child 44, now while I haven't read the book, screenwriter Richard Price does not fully flesh out the central characters never mind the supporting ones, and as such I am just not going to fully engaged in the many subplots involved here if I can't even get involved in the central one. Either spend more time in building up the characters so we can believe in them or get rid of some of the subplots, because it has about two or three too many. Also in that regard, while I generally like and admire his work as an editor, I think that Dylan Tichenor should have been on this film's case like the plague, eliminating unnecessary details with a fine tooth-comb. Taking twenty or thirty minutes out of Child 44 might not have helped it make any more sense, but at least it would have been much more tolerable than it's gluttonous 137-minute running time. I can't really say much about Jon Ekstrand's score because I don't remember it, but that probably equates in my memory to 'generic, murder-by-numbers etc.,' usual Dude rhetoric on these matters. Finally, although it must have been a daunting job to try and keep all of these elements under control, I feel that Daniel Espinosa's direction lacks focus and true authorial intent.

Well, there you have it, in quick time as well, I've managed to bang out my first review for a movie from 2015 (at long last!). Child 44 is by no means as bad a movie as many are cracking it up to be. It has some good performances from Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Vincent Cassel and Paddy Considine, a well-crafted and believable period mise-en-scene and cinematography that helps accentuate the legitimacy of that setting. However, it is a sprawling mess with too many subplots, undeveloped characters, less choppy editing than I care for considering it's gluttonous running time and lacking the focus to take it in the right direction it needs to go.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Buzzing (now that the festival season's over, I can get back to not just reviewing but writing as a whole. I love it!)

P.S. Child 44 receiving limited release in the United States shows how much Lionsgate gave up on what could have potentially been a tent-pole film if marked properly. Hard property to market, mind...

The Thin White Dude's Lisztomania Vol. 1 - Top 10 Movies Hipsters Tried To Ruin (But As With Everything In Life, Failed Miserably In The Process)

Just to make things clear from the get go, I despise the hipster mentality and elements of it's subculture, and because I'm bored, have a day off work and don't feel like writing anything of any real significance, let me assure you that this is going to be a completely biased article. These people who I feel to be cultural parasites are in the line of fire today as I shoot from the hip.

The hipster, with their skinny jeans, plaid/flannel shirts, rolling tobacco, stupid haircuts with resplendent and overly-groomed facial hair, are often used as a go-to label for people to insult others, but what is a hipster? As I mentioned already, I have a pretty certain idea of what a hipster is, so here you have it: to me, the hipster (and the subculture as a whole) is a reaction to all of the stuff that is being more or less force-fed to us in contemporary society. Before, people could just choose to listen to their CDs instead of the hits in the charts on the radio, could rent a video instead of watching television, or if all else failed just read a damn book. With the advent of social media, the continuing prominence of the Internet (today, largely ubiquitous) and the absolute bombardment of advertising, these things are nigh-on unavoidable. As such, people are rightfully and righteously pissed off, and this negative effects tend to have to two different kinds of spawn; on the one hand, you get genuine 'trend-setters,' if you will, people who don't actively fit or class themselves as part of any subculture, who live against the fold of contemporary society not out of active choice but because that's who they are; on the other hand, you've got the hipster, the aberration, the diametrical opposite of what a true trend-setter is, people who actively choose to go against the fold because it's considered 'alternative.'

When I was about fourteen or fifteen, I don't know how or when exactly, but at some point in my life something clicked and I had the same reaction to everything around me as those two types of individuals I outline above. The good little Catholic altar boy began to question, and when I didn't get the answers I was seeking, I was pissed off, angry, full of angst at the lack of love and romance in my life. I grew my hair out, got political, read books like a machine and since I've left school sported a beard for a lot of the past five years. Music wise, I got into metal and punk primarily, the patron saints of my youth being the likes of Nirvana, Metallica, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and David Bowie. Now, while at the time it was dismissed by my elders as a "phase," the good people around me generally acknowledge that this hairy degenerate cinephile is who I am. Call me pompous, but the fact that into adulthood I continue to live in this, my own natural way, legitimises, in fact, the legitimacy of my character. I could have went the hipster way of gradual assimilation into society, sitting in my early-thirties having dinner parties and making light of the follies of my youth. For me, these were character-forming years that made me who I am today, a "real human being," to quote a phrase. Hipsters are a spit in the face of people who strive for authenticity in the often confusing, at times terrifying postmodern landscape of the information age. "Hipsterism fetishizes the authentic" and then "regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity." To actively try to live against the vein is to fall like sheep into a different but in fact rather similar fold to the unreality of popular culture.

The message: just be yourselves, for god's sake!

Well, that went on for a bit! I detest falseness, so you'll have excuse me and indulge the occasional high-fallutin' rhetoric that has preceded and will continue throughout this list. I have a little bit of an informal criteria that these films have to tick in order to make it:

  • Alternative - perhaps the key to the hipster's heart, the fact that there are other, more popular options to be had, but regardless of quality, they adopt the less popular films.
  • Irony - a knowing, cheeky humour that plays in references, self-referentiality which differs from what something appears to be on the surface
  • Quirk - involving characters or humour that borders on eccentricity, outside of the ordinary
  • Cool - no standard definition, but a stand-out, unique artistic style and traits
  • Darling - a director or actor who has been accepted as an "auteur" or "indie" in some way, shape or form ("Hollywood need not apply. Tom Cruise may be a great actor, but he's in way too many popular movies." - A Hipster)
  • Genre - gits into traditional genre confines, but does something different within those confines
  • Closet Romantics - appeals to the idea that despite the protagonist most of the time being outsiders of some sort, ultimately they are looking melancholy star-gazers looking for love
  • Transgression - features themes or content that most people will never do in their own lifetime
  • Awards (or lack thereof) - the fact that the Academy Awards et al fail to acknowledge their beloved, which will no doubt in retrospect be viewed as a mistake ("Pan's Labyrinth didn't even win Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, it lost to a conventional German drama movie which I haven't even seen" - A Hipster. "That 'German drama movie' you haven't seen, The Lives Of Others, happens to be the better movie. If you haven't seen it, you're not in the discussion, so shut up you baboon!" - Me) 
  • Score/Soundtrack - featuring either use of non-original songs from different periods or an unconventional score.  
  • Nostalgia/Retro - the final and a major feature of the hipster movie complex: a harkening back towards a different time period, made all the more bizarre especially given that most hipsters will not have actually grown up during that period
Top 10 (in alphabetical order)

1. The Big Lebowski - 

A terrific way to start this list. When the Coen brothers burst onto the scene with films such as Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink, they were rightly accepted with open arms for their irreverent sense of humour and defiance of genre conventions. However, when after the universal acceptance of Fargo their follow-up The Big Lebowski disappointed at the box-office and got mixed reviews, the hipsters had their movie. Fargo and their later No Country For Old Men were way too widely praised, and Lebowski ticks just about everything hipster box: there's irony, eccentric characters, the Coens unique style, the darling(s) in Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro et al, the bucking of the traditional whodunnit, following the exploits of a layabout stoner with a penchant for bowling and White Russians (Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice owes alot to this film, I think), plus the soundtrack, featuring Bob Dylan, Captain Beefheart, Elvis Costello, Nina Simon and The Gypsy Kings' cover of The Eagles' Hotel California. It even has it's own religion (Dudeism) and film festival (Lebowski Fest)! 

Now, while it may have all the hipster demon's ingredients, don't let that fool you, because this is an outrageously humorous and fun comedy that is a pleasure to watch every time. Jeff Bridges is terrific as The Dude, as is John Goodman as Walter, and there's a whole litany of brilliant characters who may only have one or two scenes, but provide a whole lot of laughs. Hipsters begone, The Big Lebowski is ours!

2. City Of God -

Even at a fairly young age (and as a budding cinephile), I remember when City Of God came out and the attention it received. It's a kinetic firecracker of contemporary cinema, and one of the finest films to come out since the turn of the century. However, the fact is is that it is, for all of it's 'world cinema' (a term I detest) qualities, a rather accessible film. Labelled upon release as "the Brazilian Goodfellas," it's an episodic crime saga spanning two decades and has a score/soundtrack which features both the driving drumbeats of Antonio Pinto and Ed Cortes and songs such as Carl Douglas' Kung Fu Fighting. It became massively popular at home (the highest-grossing film in 2003 in Brazil) and abroad, bagging four Academy Award nominations. Unfortunately, for all it's brilliance, City Of God has become one of those populist 'world cinema' pictures that hipsters regularly cite as a go-to film when espousing their worldly knowledge in international cultures. Try to engage in a dialogue about French filmmaker Marcel Camus' excellent 1959 picture Black Orpheus and their brains will implode!

City Of God transcends this with the immediacy with which it addresses it's subject matter. For all of the more stylish qualities in the editing and music, there's something that feels so truthful in the layered portrayal of life in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro. The dialogue is conversational and often outrageously funny, the characters and story full of depth and poignancy. At times, it's also staggering in the abrupt brutality of its violence. 

3. A Clockwork Orange -

From the opening titles, shot and initial narration in the first scene of the film, I fell in love with A Clockwork Orange. For a long time, it was my favourite film, and I'd still include it in my top ten, maybe top five of all-time. However, that beginning also sees the hallmarks of a hipster film. I mean, come on; you've got that twisted Warholian production design, Wendy Carlo's synthesised perversion of classical music and, of course, the sociopathic delinquent protagonist Alex (played to charming perfection by Malcolm McDowell), who revels in the heinous acts of rape and ultraviolence he denigrates his victims with. Also, with thematic content concerning free will and thought control, thy hipster can read into this as a metaphor for his existential struggle to live in a world concerned at oppressing his 'individuality.'

Beware though, because A Clockwork Orange's moral messages transcend such simple readings, positing that the viewer ask more than just the base surface questions. Amidst all of this, you have a director at the peak of his powers (yes, this is Stanley Kubrick's best film) who despite letting his characters go wild in this mad little ditty, exhibits the directorial intent of a true master. 

4. Drive -

Ah, yes. If ever there was a great movie which hipsters tried to ruin, this is it. The great contemporary hipster movie, when Drive came out in 2011 I was very positive about, and considered it among the best films of the year. Upon release though, hipsters flocked to this movie. Featuring Ryan Gosling (perhaps this generation's epitome of 'indie darling') in the central part of a stuntman moonlighting as a getaway driver, it boasts a retro soundtrack with tracks which have become cult classics in their own right (the amount of DJ/electronic gigs I've worked were Nightcall was on the PA immediately before a group or artist came on is countless) and fitting in with this whole eighties-electronica/synth revival thing going on (among which I have to say there are some artists I listen to). Also, the visual style of the film, which director Nic Winding Refn puts down to his colour-blindness, starts out with it's contrasting palette, and there's a lot of Gosling and Carey Mulligan's Irene looking long into the abyss while ethereal pulsating dream/synth-pop waifs sing about real human beings and being under a spell. Melancholy, melancholy, melancholy. 

However, despite these things being attached, Drive is an excellent film. I watched it again recently and it reminded me of just distinctive the picture is how even near a half-decade after it's release it still feels fresh and stands out from the pack. It's a genre-inflected, neon-lit fairy tale, and while the fickle hipsters may have adopted it as one of their own (you want fickle, just look at their negative reactions to Only God Forgives. Oh I'm sorry, were you expecting Drive 2?), but I still love it.

5. Edward Scissorhands -

Ah yes, Tim Burton, one of the resident hipster go-to filmmakers when it comes to them discoursing with their beginner's guide of cine-literacy how much they love the movies. As far as his whole oeuvre, I find his work to be at times rather patchy, lacking objective self-awareness as far as quality control, and while I admire his distinctive qualities, I don't think he's up there with the very best of filmmakers. This film has Burton's and the hipster film's trademarks: fronted by an indie darling in Johnny Depp, full of starkly juxtaposed sets, middle-American suburbia clashing with the gothic design's of the mansion on the hill and the thematic content involving an isolated loner who is rejected from society purely on the basis of his looks. 

Despite this things in the hipster's favour, Edward Scissorhands breaks out from because of the sincerity with which it is executed. It's a beautifully told fairy tale of people coming-of-age, romance, heartbreak and adventure. Johnny Depp, for all of his charisma, has never been better here, channelling a tremendous amount of sympathy in a role that is largely silent, and you get the sense that there is something legitimate here. After the tremendous box-office success of Batman, Tim Burton could have done anything, but he chose something small, yet close to home. He put his heart and soul into the picture and twenty-five years on it's his best film to date.

6. Let The Right One In -

Let's make on thing perfectly clear: however much they may deny it, hipsters love vampires. They're moody, broody and occasionally a wee bit melancholy. So why aren't they jumping on the Twilight bandwagon, eh? Maybe it's too commercial, it's too mainstream, maybe it just lacks the rich emotional complexity that it so valiantly strives for. Enter Let The Right One In. Released in it's home country of Sweden in Autumn 2008, the same season Twilight fever was abound, and over the course of the next year, 'the Swedish vampire film,' as it became known in film circles before most had even seen it, a reputation was cultivated around it. This was the movie that really delved into the thick of things, twisted and bending the genre on it's head, that wasn't a PG-13 picture and wasn't pulling any punches, and most importantly, was a viable alternative to the inescapable juggernaut of Twilight. So of course hipsters flocked...

... and hipsters were subsequently spurned. The film, adapted by Tomas Alfredson and John Ajvide Lindqvist (one of my favourite writers) from the latter's novel of the same name, is indeed a movie that turns the genre on it's head, but at the same what many don't understand is that it also embraces much of the tropes involved with the vampire mythos. Furthermore, it's an elegantly crafted piece of work and beautifully acted by Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, whose relationship as Oscar and Eli is the crux of this picture. What really separates this from the pack is the sincerity with which the whole thing is done. This is not part of some grand design to do something different. Ajvide Lindqvist, as he does with much of his literature, firmly entrenches these fantastical elements in the real world, making them feel familiar and genuine.

7. Mulholland Drive -

Another resident hipster filmmaker, Mr. David Lynch. It's not exactly anything new to say that David Lynch has a very unique approach to many aspects of filmmaking, from sound design to lighting to set decorating to soundtracks, right down to dense and occasionally complicated stories. Mulholland Drive is perhaps both the go-to example when suggesting a beginner's guide to Lynch (although my choice'd be Blue Velvet). Given that the film is such a hotbed of discussion, one can quite easy imagine a litter of hipsters with overly-groomed facial hair sitting in a coffee shop (how very meta, discussing Lynch in a coffee shop, oh ho ho!) musing over the picture that none them really quite understand or have any conclusive answer for because most of them can't think for themselves. That's an image I want out of my head right about now.

What does it for me with this film is that for all of it's rich complexity and food for thought (and don't get me wrong, it is, and I also have my conclusions as to what it's all about), it's a film that is primarily, for me, a sensory experience. You see, you hear and more or less feel the tapestry of this picture as it drifts along, floating as though in the unconscious world of dreams. Everything about this film, the startling imagery and sound design, often working as separate parts in a cohesive units, the strangely powerful performances by Naomi Watts and Laura Harring, the many pieces in the great big puzzle of Lynchian wonder, all adds up to a big, rather paradoxical question-mark. It's about how you interpret that question mark which will see the blue box open and unveil the true answer.

8. Pulp Fiction -

Perhaps the ultimate hipster movie, Pulp Fiction ticks just about every box on the hipster list: it's alternative, ironic, quirky, stylish, directed by an indie darling filmmaker hot off of his first picture, full of stars, both cult and classic, does some very transgressive things inside standard genre trappings, has the closet romantics looking for the meaning of life, a retro feel, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes (the hipster's film festival, even though it's as commercial as Hollywood), has an eclectic soundtrack and is full of nods and references to pop culture and film lore, giving hipsters the opportunity to spew insider knowledge about films they've never even seen. Long, fucking, sentence!

What saves Pulp Fiction though is that, although I ride on Quentin Tarantino and his recent work a lot, it's easy to forget that at one time he was one of the most fascinating, bold and audacious filmmakers around. Reservoir Dogs was a real eye-opener that made you go, "this guy's got class," and then Pulp Fiction came along like a firecracker had been launched under the table of a mildly influential politician at an evening gala. Although every young writer-director now tries to write and direct like Tarantino, when he first did it nobody was making movies like this. Nothing compare to this film, not even Tarantino himself, who has been endlessly repeating the formula for twenty years since in his films, most of which could do with being an hour shorter and have none of the density or rich tapestry to be found in this film. However much I rag on him, I'll never deny him the masterpiece that is Pulp Fiction.

9. Shaun Of The Dead -

Why is Shaun Of The Dead a hipster movie? After all, isn't it quite a popular film, and Lord knows, hipsters hate popular films? Well, it's a genre film, but that mish-mash of horror-comedy so it isn't explicitly one or the other, it has a throwback learning towards nostalgia and (most importantly) there is a strong sense of ironic, tongue-in-cheek humour, schooling the wannabe genre enthusiasts in referential tidbits to horror films that they might not ever end up bothering their arses to see.

Shaun Of The Dead defies such a label though because it is one of the few horror-comedies (alongside the likes of The Bride Of Frankenstein, An American Werewolf In London and Re-Animator) which manages to be simultaneously hilarious and legitimately scary. Looking back on Shaun Of The Dead, it's actually quite startling that they don't hold back on the violence and dare to match the levels of brutality of found in the likes of George A. Romero's Dead films or Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters (and that's saying something). Finally, over and above it's status as a comedic homage to the zombie film genre, it's also in itself one of the finest entries into that genre period. 

10. Waking Life -

I love Richard Linklater, but man do hipsters flock to his pictures. There's a bevy of films in his oeuvre that I could have selected, from Slacker to Dazed And Confused to the Before trilogy, but in this case I've decided to go with Waking Life. I was first introduced to this film by a good friend a number of years ago and was mesmerised, but clearly also were the hipsters. Why, you say? Well, everything about the picture screams alternative, from the uniquely stylised rotoscoping to some of the legitimately transgressive topic matter, which also gives the hipster a crash course in philosophy for them to pontificate about later on, and the fact it's the brainchild of Linklater, a bonafide indie darling.

Waking Life, despite this, is an intelligent, thought-provoking film. The terrific thing about Linklater's episodic collection of philosophical ideas is that they are just that, ideas. We are not supposed to take them as gospel (for some of the ideas posed directly contradict others in the picture), but instead form our own conclusions for them. It's a starter point. Furthermore, between these ideas and the rotoscoping, it's a cerebral experience that defies traditional narrative logic, floating fluidly between dreams and reality, blurring both of their lines into one individual piece. In a rich body of work which includes the aforementioned films, A Scanner Darkly, Bernie and the widely-acclaimed Boyhood, Waking Life remains one of his most accomplished films.

Well, there you have it! You can't half tell I've been writing this article in bits and bobs over the past few months. I can assure though that I am back for the time being and I hope to banging out some material this week, so, for all the latest and greatest as regards the movies, keep your eyes posted!