Review: Alfresco Disco – Buoyancy

alfresco buoyancy

After the success of last year’s Buoyancy boat party, Bristol party collective Alfresco Disco once again transported their gleeful approach to the good ship Balmoral.

Setting off from the Cumberland Basin docks, we charted a course up through the River Avon with a 400 strong crew of revellers basking in the sun and sea breeze. As always with an Alfresco party, the crowd were dressed to impress. Unsurprisingly, a strong nautical theme was prevalent – going by headwear, the Balmoral may be the most heavily captained ship ever to take to water.

The Alfresco residents kept the upper deck heaving as Tom Hodgson, Luke Turner, Justin Gettings, Frankie Mann and Justin Credible took turns on the decks. A relaxed, Balearic vibe was explored to begin with, before the tunes took a left turn into luscious disco. Below deck, things were slightly darker both visually and in terms of the soundtrack. The second room, aka the cabin bar, sent forth stormy house and techno, reflecting the rising winds outside in a sonic turn of pathetic fallacy.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that if you put a load of people on a boat and get them wasted two things will happen; boys will piss over the side and everyone will get wildly excited about bridges. With each bridge we passed, the cheering became louder, reaching a euphoric pitch by the time we crossed under the Severn Bridge, much to the bemusement of those on nearby vessels. Although we were sadly missing the unfortunate tourist that accidentally found himself aboard the Balmoral last year (under the impression he was going on a pleasant cruise around the harbour), we could get our own tourist fix from the below board souvenir shop, where postcards and magnets were flying off the shelves at the same velocity as tinnies of Red Stripe.

After several hours of sailing and dancing, the first part of the voyage came to an end as the boat pulled in to Clevedon Pier. Piling on the party buses, the crowd were transported to out-of-town venue Factory Studios where the Alfresco gang hosted an afterparty with more DJs and a BBQ. But having been swept away with naval excitement and three sheets, at this point it was time for me to abandon ship early.

Originally published online for Crack Magazine

Review: Alfresco Disco – Rave of the Decade Part 2

Alfresco disco rave 2

If you’re going to throw a party and call it the ‘Rave of the Decade’, you’d better be ready to deliver. If you’re going to smash it out of the park and then a year later throw ‘Rave of the Decade: Part 2’… you’d better be ready to vault the bar you’ve already raised.

Alfresco Disco’s parties are inspired by the free rave 90s culture, with Rave of the Decade Part 2 explicitly referencing “the early Sunrise parties that changed everything”. That’s all well and good but when you’re boarding a bus at 2pm on a murky grey Saturday afternoon, you might need a little time to warm up.

Decked out in our finest ‘nineties’ gear – or the approximation of it that comes from a quick Google and a few lost hours on glowmania.co.uk – we pile on the assembled fleet of buses. Events immediately turn raucous and the Alfresco monitors have their work cut out, especially when the drive (billed as a 20 minute journey) takes more like an hour due to heavy traffic. Excitement builds to the extent that our top deck treat passing drivers to a round of mooning in order to let off some good-natured energy.

Eventually we pull into what appears to be a large farmyard and are greeted with the sight of a big wheel and a barn full of revellers who look to be getting proceedings well under way. Further exploration reveals that two large barns form Rooms 1 and 2, with a hidden ‘chill out room’ over the way full of comfy air seats playing host to a 7 hour set from TRI3E. Despite the double whammy of Dirtytalk residents in Room 1 and Stamp the Wax in Room 2 I can’t resist the lure of the rides where, full disclosure, I spend a lot of time and most of my money as the day progresses.

By now the Alfresco Disco DJs are heating things up in both rooms, and as the light begins to fade outside we start to feel more illicit. The treats keep on coming with both Marshall Jefferson and Luke Solomon on the decks in Room 1 before DJ Die closes down Room 2 with an old school hardcore set, bringing things to a glow stick waving, whistle blowing, foot stomping conclusion.

Piling back on the buses with significantly less energy than the inward journey, everyone is shattered but content. A rave of the decade (part 2) was promised, and for the second time in as many years, that’s what Alfresco delivered.

Originally posted online for Crack Magazine

Review: Midnight Special

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

2/10
Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher

Midnight Special is a film for people that like questions. Not questions with  answers, but just…questions. Streams of unanswered, possibly unanswerable, questions. The basic layout is: Roy (Shannon) goes on the run with his son, Alton (Lieberher), who has superpowers (What superpowers? Never mind). They need to get to a certain place at a certain time (Why? Doesn’t matter). Lucas (Edgerton) and Sarah (Dunst) are along for the ride. Then some weird guys from the creepy “Ranch” they used to live on (What? We’ll explain later. Not.) and also the FBI are after them. Cue high-speed chase, dramatic shootout, near-disaster/recovery, and emotional climax followed by paradoxically sad yet uplifting ending.

Midnight Special feels like a film that had a lot of potential, once, a long time ago, when a stoned guy came up with it in a basement. Now it’s gone through the Hollywood machine and come out a discoherent, punctured, grasping mess. I mean, I thought Joel Edgerton was pretty good. They gave Bill Camp’s electrician/henchman character a couple of decent lines. The relationship between Alton and Roy has its moments. Apart from these few redeeming features, Midnight Special is just a black hole of time and money.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

Review: Hail, Caesar!

hail caesar

7/10
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson

George Clooney a drugged up Roman soldier? Scarlett Johansson a lairy mermaid? Channing Tatum tap dancing in a tight, white, sailor boy outfit? The latest Coen Brothers’ takes audiences on a joyous, star-filled romp through the Golden Age of Hollywood. Part brilliant celebration, part gleeful mockery and highly self-referential, Hail, Caesar! keeps things light and is at its’ core a love poem to the bizarre absurdities of the film industry. Josh Brolins’ Eddie Mannix is the eye of the storm as head fixer for Capitol Pictures, fictional studio previously seen in the Coens’ Barton Fink (the real Eddie Mannix was a fixer for MGM). We move through a day in his life battling a stream of crises; pregnant starlets, risqué photoshoots, kidnapped actors and a load of secret Communist screenwriters abound.

But none of these are really the focus of the film as it meanders casually through the dream factory, sometimes pausing for a mere glance and other times settling in to watch the show. The most memorable scenes are those that seem side fare; a religious focus group, McDormands’ comically dark turn as editor C.C. Calhoun, and a wickedly painful elocution exercise between Ehrenreichs’ excellent Hobie Doyle and Fiennes’ Laurence Laurents (in another illustration of Fiennes as surprise comic powerhouse, following on from last month’s A Bigger Splash). It can become frustrating that these discursions are left incomplete, but nevertheless Hail Caesar! is eminently, giddily watchable. Perhaps my mate summarised it best when as the credits rolled and the lights came up she turned to me and said, “well, that was nice and weird”.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

Review: A Bigger Splash

a bigger splash 2

9/10
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson

Dream with me for a second. You and your superstar girlfriend are chilling on a remote Italian island, hiding out while she convalesces from throat surgery. Eating great food, having great sex, lying by the pool naked. You’re nailing life. Then her ex (who’s also your old boss) turns up replete with a barely veiled ulterior motive: to win her back, of course. Oh and he’s bought his smoking hot/antagonistically provocative daughter with him, who promptly starts hitting on you. The dream has become a nightmare. This is hell.

Luca Guadagnino’s loose remake of Jacques Deray’s 1969 Italian-French drama ‘La Piscine’ is a beautiful film, a film of opposites; dreamlike yet dark, amusing yet disquieting, delicate yet jarring. The high-calibre cast deliver to expectation but it is Ralph Fiennes as Harry, bearded, half-dressed and pulsating to Rolling Stones ‘Emotional Rescue’ on a rooftop with wild abandon that proves the indelible takeaway scene. With a glorious soundtrack and astutely nuanced script, Guadagnino’s only misstep is some awkwardly inserted background noise concerning Tunisian refugees, which can at least be taken as an vague attempt to draw attention to a difficult political situation. The film takes its name from a famous Hockney painting, about which Guadagnino commented a “beautiful lightness carried so much depth”. If his aim was to emulate this concord, he undoubtedly succeeded.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

Film Review: The Hateful Eight

hatefuleight

6/10
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth

Quentin Tarantino has never been one to make things easy for himself. If anyone thought the backlash and boycotts caused by 110 uses of ‘the n-word’ in Django Unchained was enough to change that, The Hateful Eight proves them wrong. Though littered throughout with the same offender, this time it’s the frequent and graphic violence inflicted upon the sole female lead, (Daisy Domergue played to termagant perfection by Jennifer Jason Leigh) that have forced the director and key actors to speak out against accusations of misogyny. Tarantino explains, somewhat paradoxically, that it would have been anti-feminist not to beat the shit out of Daisy given the behaviour of the male cast towards each other.

Grizzled bounty hunter John Ruth (Russell) is heading for Red Rock to trade in captive Domergue when an abrupt blizzard forces him to ‘Minnie’s Haberdashery’ for an overnight stay, unexpected travel companions and extant cabin occupiers included. But – wait – all is not as it seems, and over three hours a convoluted tale unfolds as the occupants threaten, exhort and mercilessly butcher each other. Shot on 70mm, and featuring an original, Oscar nominated score by Ennio Morricone, it is worth going to see for these features alone. Lower your expectations and steel your stomachs; it may not be his best work, but it is a bloody good story.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

Film Review: Brooklyn

brooklyn

8/10
Director: John Crowley
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters

We open in Enniscorthy, Ireland, where Eilis Lacey (Ronan) is ‘away to America’, a journey orchestrated by sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) enabling Eilis to do what she cannot and escape the limiting prospects of their hometown. Lonely and bewildered, Eilis struggles at first but with the comically dubious assistance of landlady Miss Kehoe (Walters on top matriarchal form) and her fellow boarders, she adapts. Then – as always -she meets a boy; Tony Fiorello is sweetly earnest and entirely besotted, and a tender courtship unfurls between them. When a tragic turn of events brings her back to Enniscorthy and a better version of everything she left, she is forced to choose between the life she always hoped she would have and the life she has created.

Adapted from Colm Tóibíns 2009 novel of the same name, Brooklyn was one of the biggest deals ever to emerge from Sundance, premiering a relative unheard of and emerging with a $9 million distribution deal. Ronans’ performance is captivating, bringing a complexity and depth to Eilis that the film could have sunk without, and the romance between her and Tony is solidly authentic yet impossibly fragile. Striking chords as both a coming-of-age story and an émigré journey, exploration of the relationship between sense of self and sense of place is where Brooklyn really hits home.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

Film Review: Suffragette

suffragette

8/10
Director: Sarah Gavron
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Meryl Streep

Rather than focus on figurehead of the suffragette movement Emmeline Pankhurst (seen only in a disappointingly brief cameo from Streep), director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) and writer Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) chose instead to follow Maud Watts (Mulligan), a fictional lower-class laundry worker. Although initially reluctant, Maud is drawn into the epicentre of the suffragette movement, her fervour bolstered by steady germination of the notion that “there’s another way of living this life.”.

Suffragette has turned up the volume on conversations about the enduring imbalances of gender equality, wage gaps and workplace discrimination, but that’s not all. Uproar was caused by a Time Out shoot featuring the (white, privileged) lead actresses wearing t-shirts bearing famous Pankhurst quote “ I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” and criticised for racial insensitivity, connotations to the American confederacy, and presenting slavery as a ‘choice’, leading to widespread condemnation of the film for ignoring the contribution ethnic women made to the movement. Then, the London premiere was delayed when members of Sisters Uncut staged a ‘die-in’ to draw attention to government cuts affecting domestic abuse services, their message: two women a week die from domestic abuse, and “dead women can’t vote”. Suffragette is a good, if flawed, film but moreover deserves applause for reminding us all how far we have come, and how much further we have to go.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

Film Review: Irrational Man

irrational man

6/10
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley

Abe Lucas (Phoenix) is a maudlin, alcoholic, borderline-nihilist philosophy professor newly appointed to a Rhode Island college. Preceded by tales of notoriety and philandering, his arrival on campus incites the attention of two rather disparate love interests; married Science professor Rita (Posey) and ingenuous student Jill (Stone). Distracted by his depressive cynicism, Lucas does little more than concede to their attentions until overhearing a chance diner-booth conversation. In a swift diametric to earlier narrative musings, he decides that he has one clear purpose, the achievement of which will give his life a rich depth of meaning previously lacking, and begins to plot a murder.

Although Phoenix and Stone undoubtedly deliver, Posey is the standout performance as Rita, throwing herself at Abe with an impressive mix of confidence, candour and desperation (“you’re not going to send me back out into the rain without sleeping with me, are you?”). Darius Khondiji’s luminous cinematography and the repeated cadence of jazz track ‘The In Crowd’ (Ramsey Lewis Trio) offer a sunny contrast to the darker events unfolding onscreen. For fans of Allen’s extensive back catalogue it is an entertaining watch, although certain elements may seem so familiar as to become predictable. Eventually, Allen (now 79 and you expect, considering his own mortality more than ever before, an issue that he claims has troubled him since age 5) leaves us with the bleak thought that despite our intentions – bad or good – there is nothing any of us can do to escape the seemingly random hand of fate.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

Film Review: Magic Mike XXL

magic mike

2/10
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Cast: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, Joe Manganiello

In the follow-up to 2012 runaway hit ‘Magic Mike’, we join the remaining Kings of Tampa on a ramshackle roadtrip, with the eventual destination of a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. They convince retired Mike (Tatum) to join them as they engage in a series of bizarre and desultory adventures enroute. The success of Magic Mike was due to a few simple factors: it was fun, it was silly, it was fast-paced, and most importantly, it unashamedly and unreservedly objectified men in the way that women are so often objectified. All the sequel needed to do was stick to this formula, but they wanted to go bigger and better, and ended up with a hot mess.

No one is seeing this film for the storyline, no one is expecting emotional depth, and absolutely no one, ever, wants to watch a male stripper have an existential crisis over their life choices. All the audience wants is abs, abs, and more abs, with a few close-ups of Tatum staring into their eyes like he is going to do bad things to them and they’re going to love it. While the films ambition of ‘equal opportunity objectification’ and focus on the female gaze – a counter to the male gaze theory posited by British feminist Laura Mulvey – is to be encouraged, you may as well save your money, stay home, and watch the trailer on repeat as that’s got most of the good shit in anyway.

Originally published in Crack Magazine