David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) – Film Review

Title: David Brent: Life on the Road

Cast: Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith, Tom Basden, Jo Hartley, Mandeep Dhillon

Director: Ricky Gervais

Genres: Comedy, British Sit-Com, Comedy, Mockumentary

Rating: 3/5


I’m not the biggest television watcher. I usually find things on Netflix, or on iPlayer catchup. But when it comes to actual sitting-down-television watching, it’s not really my thing. However, there is one thing that I love, and would happily sit down to watch, and that is good British comedy. Harking back to The Two Ronnies, Open david-brent-lor-main-posterAll Hours, Only Fools and Horses and Steptoe and Son, British situation comedys (sitcoms) will guarantee to put a smile on my face, and provide an easy and funny watching experience.

But there is one series that I have watched time after time again, and that is the 2001-2003 BBC mockumentary series, The Office. Following a fictional paper merchants, and the day-to-day life of its employees, The Office has a host of lovable and hilarious characters. But, to me, there is one standout character. And that is the irritating manager, David Brent.

Ricky Gervais’ character of the hapless, hilarious and dreadfully un-PC office manager garnered legions of fans, who tuned in weekly to see his antics, and after The Office finished its run, fans were left with a hole in their lives.

However, when it was announced that Gervais would bring his character back to life in a feature length film, there were mixed reactions. However, after seeing it last week, I was pleased to say that the film felt fresh, but with all the charm of The Office.

Over ten years have passed since we last left David Brent. And now, the middle-aged and largely friendless rep has decided that he wants one last hurrah into the music world, and re-visit the music world of his youth. Bringing back his old (with none of the original members) band, Foregone Conclusion, Brent finances an ill-fated tour around the South East, and lives out his dream of pop stardom.

Overall, I’d say this film was a light-hearted, laugh out loud journey. It was never meant to be serious, nor did David Brent necessarily have to change as a character. He was always going to have this vein of being un-PC, yet in this film we do see more of a sensitive side to Brent. His dealings with mental health issue, loneliness and romance were always brushed off in a typical funny manner, yet felt very personal if you explore it.

For me, the songs were the funniest parts, as the lyrics were so offensive that they couldn’t work in any other scenario other than with David Brent. The humour was often light, off-handed comments that almost make you double take, and the storyline was quite sweet in the way that Brent never stopped believing or dreaming.

What I was very happy about is the fact that the jokes were all fresh material, and it wasn’t a compilation from the series. Unfortunately, as I stated in my Absolutely Fabulous review, this happened in that film, and felt very disappointing.

The David Brent movie isn’t meant to be hard-hitting movie, and may not appeal to fans of the show who found David Brent irritating, but I found it funny and lighthearted.

The film is out now.life-on-the-road

 

 

 

The Danish Girl (2016) – Film Review

Title: The Danish Girl

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Matthias Schoenaerts, Amber Heard, and Sebastian Kochs

Director: Tom Hooper

Genre: Biography, Drama, Costume Drama, LGBTQIA Film, Historical Drama

Rating: 4/5


In the last couple of years, the LGBTQIA community have had some of their most positive media representation yet. With hit television shows, the-danish-girl-eddie-redmaynemovies, television presenters, media stars and political triumphs under their belt, it seems that the world has finally seemed to turn a corner in acceptance and love of a group of people that was so badly treated and downtrodden for decades.

And through all this, the transgender community has gone from strength to strength with people such as  Laverne Cox, Ian Harvie and Caitlyn Jenner highlighting the issues that so many have pushed under the carpet, and giving all the silent masses a voice in which to be heard by.

But before all this, there was a single woman. A figure of great significance, and a figure that, until now, has only been known by few. And that was Lili Elbe. Artist’s muse, haunting beauty, and born under the name Einar Wegener, Elbe was one of the pioneers of gender reassignment surgery, and remains a cultural icon to the transgender community today. And now, in 2016, Lili’s tale has come to life in a decadent film, directed by the acclaimed Tom Hooper and starring Academy Award -winning Eddie Redmayne and Golden Globe nominee Alicia Vikander.

At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Einar and Gerda Wegener. Depicted as a bohemian and happily married couple living in Copenhagen in the early 1900s, the couple both worked as artists, but originally at different levels of success. Whilst Einar was highly successful in his paintings of bleak landscapes, Gerda was struggling to get people to notice her portraits. And it is one of these portrait sittings where Einar’s life seems to have a revolutionary and remarkable turning point. When the Wegener’s mutual friend, a beautiful ballet dancer a711955211nd socialite Ulla (portrayed by Amber Heard) fails to turn up for her sitting, Gerda persuades Einar to step in and wear stockings and ballet shoes to give Gerda a point of reference. It is then the audience notices that Einar changes. It’s both a visible and emotional realisation for Einar, and maybe one he had never experienced before.

And following this turning point, the audience witnesses the blossoming of Lili through Einar, and how, despite initially Lili becomes a welcome muse for Gerda, the transition of Einar-to-Lili fully becomes a source of tension and ultimately a breakdown of marriage between the Wegener’s.The rest of the film then shows Lili deciding to go ahead with the pioneering surgery. And it is then we witness one of the most perfectly spoken lines of script in the film. Whilst speaking to her doctor, Lili says in a nervous manner, ‘I believe I am a woman’, and Gerda follows up, in a calm and assured voice ‘I believe it too’. To me, this acknowledgement of Gerda’s is one of the most positive reactions. In agreeing with Lili, Gerda shuts the door on Einar, and lets Lili become the woman she always wanted to be. And it was really one of those catch-in-the-throat moments that makes you fall further in love with Gerda.

The acting in this film is superb in my opinion. I realise there has been strife over the fact that Hooper did cast a cisgender man to play a transgender role, as well as blatant historical inaccuracies, but to me, I felt Redmayne played the part of Lili and Einar equally well.

In Einar, we saw a sensitive, caring husband whose struggles with his true self are shown to be both heart-wrenching and completely painful at time, and with Lili we see a shy and initially retiring woman who does rise from the ashes, and just wants to live her life as the woman she can has danishgirl1-xlargefinally become. What I did love about Redmayne’s performance was the obvious soul searching he does as Einar to become Lili. He spends a lot of time perfecting how he thinks a woman should move, how she sits and gestures with her hands, and also just how to be, subconsciously. There is pain when there needs to be, and there is also glee and realisation. And, as Golden Globe and Oscar season approaches, I would not be surprised if we see nominations and awards left right and centre.

But for me, it was Vikander who brought the house down. Before this, I hadn’t seen Vikander in much. But in this film she blew me away. She plays the feisty Gerda in such a dazzling manner. She’s flirty, outrageous, daring and loving at the beginning of the film, and as she watches her husband disappear and Lili to come to prominance, we see her lose some of her old self and seem to grow up in a way. She shows grief, dismay and anger for ‘the loss’ of Einar, but then support and resilience in living and supporting Lili. Without realising it, she even helps Einar make Lili the woman she wants to be, as in a touching montage, she is shown how a woman should walk, what clothes to wear and how to move. Vikander’s Gerda was always there as a pillar of support, and we do feel sympathy for her marriage breakdown, but also admiration for her strength.

The movie was also decadent in its filming and taste. With beautiful costuming, backdrop, visual effects and filming, the film is typical of Hooper’s lush and almost costume drama-y touch. But sometimes it felt as though the backdrops did distract from the actual action.

But all in all, I was thoroughly impressed with this film. Yes, sometimes it did feel slightly costume drama, and unlike Hopper’s brilliant The King’s Speech, there was moments when the drama did fall slightly short. But Redmayne’s acting, along with the force-to-be-reckoned-with Vikander more than made up for it. All in all, a movie to see.

But what do you think? What were your thoughts on a cisgender man playing such an iconic transgender role? Does Vikander deserve an Academy Award? Let me know in the comments.

The Danish Girl is out now.

28 Days Later (2002) – Film Review

Title: 28 Days Later (2002)

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, and Christopher Eccleston.

Director: Danny Boyle

Genres: Zombie, Post-Apocalyptic, Horror, Zombie Horror, Drama, British Cinema

Rating: 5/5


There has always been competition between British and American cinema and TV. Whether it be action, thrillers, chick-flick, or horror, both nations have brought key actors to the forefront of the public eye, and have given us, as viewers, a smorgasbord of excellent films and stars to watch. And with the ‘zombie’ genre, this has been a particular category that both the American and British cinema have cracked. After George A. Romero’s 1968 movie, Night of the Living Dead, we have been swamped with excellent television shows such as The Walking Dead and movies such as World War Zbut it is Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later which has been credited as reinvigorating the zombie genre of films in the early 2000s, and showing that Britain can create zombies which are both terrifying, and fast.

The familiar scenario of the breakdown of society, following the outbreak of the contagious zombie virus and decimating the population of the world is a strong backdrop to this film. However, unlike other zombie films, these zombies are more human in a sense. They run incredibly fast, and have the ability to climb and accomplish more human-esque tasks, such as overcoming obstacles to get to their prey, which is something that zombies have never been able to do in the past. Also, unlike other zombie films, there is a reason for the infection. A man-made virus known as Rage is shown to be tested on
apes in the first five minutes, and then being accidentally released, therefore fleshing out the story. This ‘Rage’ does exactly what it says on the bottle, as it sends the infected into an extreme and perpetual state of extreme anger. This makes them become ever deadlier, and more determined.

We follow the protagonist, Jim, as he wakes from a coma in a deserted hospital in the midst of London and begins to search for survivors and answers. Along the way, he finds a motley crew of survivors and travels to what seems like a sanctuary, a survivor camp set up in a manor house and fortified by the army. However, all does not appear to be a sweet and proper as it first set out to be. With the struggle for power being the key for survival, Jim finds himself thrust into a civil war with those he thought he could trust.

As discussed, along the way Jim finds a band of survivors. And each of them is unique, lovable and different, and yes, some of them have tragic outcomes, but what I find makes this film so good is the quality of the acting, as well as the tension that just oozes out. Compared to traditional slow-moving zombies, Boyle’s are more ‘jump-scary’, as due to their speed, they can just appear, and it makes a chase scene incredibly tense. With a brilliant cast of actors – Irish star Cillian Murphy playing the lead, and Christopher Eccleston as the army major – this film does tug at the heartstrings in different ways. With Boyle’s direction, and Alex Garland’s screenplay (author of The Beach), this film certainly knows how to make an impact. Some of the most haunting scenes in the film show usual busy areas of London, such as Piccadilly Circus, completely deserted, and Murphy as being the only figure. And with the soundtrack, there is a eclectic mixture of tracks, such as Granddaddy’s A.M. 180, which adds to the surrealness of the film, and oddly fits in with the whole end-of-the-world feel.

All in all, this film definitely brought life to the zombie genre. To me, it did pave the way for new zombie enthusiasts, such as myself and it did put a high British standard into the zombie genre.

So what do you think? Please comment below if you have any opinions on the zombie genre, or any suggestions for new reviews!

This film is out on DVD to watch, but please remember that it is rated an 18/R.

So, if you enjoyed:

  • The Walking Dead
  • World War Z
  • Trainspotting (Another Danny Boyle film)

I think you’ll enjoy this!

Links:

Buy the DVD (Amazon)