Greetings my cherished readers. I must start this post with an apology once more, I at times do really suck at blogging (plus, The Alderney Cinema is lacking on the new, unseen release front). But rest assured, now that most of my summer madness is out of the way, I shall get back to occupying my time hitting a keyboard in the hope that some of you do actually pay heed to what I have to say concerning all things cinematic and celluloid. First off on my blog come-back is a quick round up of three films I saw a couple of months back, so allow me to share my thoughts and enter the discourse surrounding Jersey Boys, The Fault in Our Stars, and The Two Faces of January. 

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Jersey Boys 

Jersey Boys is not a musical property I have had much affinity with. I know much of the story, and I am an admirer of the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but the musical stage adaptation of the story of the band’s rise to stardom and the conflicts between them was perhaps not the first Broadway musical I would have liked to have seen committed to the big screen. While that may be the case, Jersey Boys is a picture worthy of your attention. For starters, a new film from Clint Eastwood is never something to take lightly. The last few directorial efforts from Mr. Eastwood have been, for lack of a better word, sub-par. The spiritual tones of Hereafter delved quickly into sickly sentimentality, while J. Edgar was only worthwhile for DiCaprio’s performance, which itself got lost amid a dull and unfocused screenplay. I’m happy to report that Jersey Boys stands as Eastwood’s most spirited and easily likable feature for quite sometime. But while the singing pops and the style sizzles, there is still something distinctly lacking from Eastwood’s 33rd directorial feature that stop it short from standing with the 84 year old’s best. Expertly recreating the 50’s period, Eastwood assures that every shot within this feature is candy for the eye, but aside from the first giddy hour, the film quickly falls into tedious bio-pic cliches, never allowing for an emotional engagement in what ends up being a rather heartless and rushed story of the Four Seasons and their backstage drama. The performers do their best to engage, and are clearly in their element when performing the band’s famous numbers, lending the film some memorable moments, while Christopher Walken enlivens nearly every scene he is in. There is plenty to recommend in this Eastwood joint, but I imagine that many fans of the Broadway musical may be left wanting by this well-realized but poorly paced account of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. 3/5 

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 The Fault in Our Stars 

In the build up to the release of this, the adaptation of John Green’s bestselling novel of the same name, I conveyed little interest in seeing this teen cancer dramedy. Solely for one reason, the trailers were quite terrible, portraying the film as a emotionally manipulative sob-fest with seemingly little personality. Thankfully, the witty and, at times, dryly dark tone of Green’s prose has made its way to the screen, allowing for The Fault in Our Stars to engage, entertain, and yes, emotionally manipulate. But in a good way. Shailene Woodley plays Hazel, a teenage cancer patient who willingly accepts that one day she will die, and not after having lived a full life. But when she meets cancer survivor Augustus Waters (Ansel Egort), she finds herself pursuing new ventures. One: Tracking down the author of her favourite book, An Imperial Affliction, in Amsterdam. Two: Falling in love. Josh Boone’s adaptation doesn’t aim to have much creative flair visually, but allows his young stars to light up the screen. Woodley and Egort are utterly charming as the teenage lovers battling through issues of morality, swathing through existentialist crises,  pondering the afterlife, all the while still trying to be a teenager. The screenplay (courtesy of The Spectacular Now and 500 Days of Summer scribes) is well-balanced and a thoughtfully judged adaptation of Green’s prose. As I stressed before, the screenplay retains the surprisingly dark wit that helps much of the sentimentality to wash over you. That being said, the film is (unavoidably) at times pressing in how determined it appears to be in making its audience shed their body weight in tears. This will prove far too much for some, and I would not discredit anybody as viewing this film as emotionally exploitative to the point of being alienating. But it is the charm of both the film’s stars and its screenplay that ultimately win out, allowing you to feel as though you are willingly falling for these characters, rather than being forced to share in every moment of pain and sadness. 4/5  

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 The Two Faces of January 

A film I had been trying to track down for quite some time, yet it always managed to escape me. IT seemed fate played a hand though, as the first film showing at the Alderney Cinema upon my return in July was indeed Hossein Amini’s The Two Faces of January. Set in 1962, a young American tour guide/ scam artist in Greece called Rydal (Oscar Isaac) becomes intrigued by an American couple he encounters one summer’s day, Chester and Colette MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen & Kirsten Dunst). But they are also not what they seem, as Rydal soon becomes embroiled in their life of deceit and murder. The Two Faces of January brings with it a high level of pedigree. Although this may be Amini’s first directorial effort, he was responsible for the screenplay of 2011’s Drive, and here he is adapting from Patricia Highsmith novel, the author of the likes of similarly taut and tense thrillers like The Talented Mr. Ripley. And that cast goes without saying. Thankfully, the film does live up to its impressive pedigree, Amini creating the sort of thriller that have been quite a rarity since the 1960’s. From the sun-soaked, sweltering cinematography, to the impeccable fashions (all which deteriorate as our characters become more and more desperate), the film oozes style, with the equally eye-catching cast blending into the aesthetic with ease and grace. The plotting is suitably intriguing as it develops, and particularly excels with the devotion it gives to Rydal’s relationship between both Chester and Colette. Unfortunately the climax becomes somewhat heavy handed in its symbolism, and arguably chooses to focus on the least interesting pairing of the central triangle. However, despite the ending falling short of the expertly crafted first and second act, Yet I cannot stress enough how refreshing it is to see this style of thriller still being produced in modern cinema (granted, it is once in a blue moon). Just when it seems it hard to find any European based thriller that doesn’t contain terribly jagged action-editing, and Eurotrash rent-a-villains with little psychological complexity, here comes a film that is stylish, captivating, and refreshingly old-fashioned all at once. 4/5 

 

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