Spotlight // Pulp Fiction

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One film, three stories, a million quotable lines. Pulp Fiction is cult cinema personified.

Despite a hugely successful career, if there’s one film that Quentin Tarantino cannot escape, it’s Pulp Fiction. His 1994 opus magnum frequents more “Best Film” lists than the rest of his filmography put together. Over 20 years later, it is still one of the most popular films ever and never ceases to be discussed or admired.

Originally imagined as a sequel to Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction was inspired by the serial nature of old horror films where several plots converged and often ended in a bloodbath. In this case mob enforcers Jules Winfield and Vince Vega find themselves held up in a diner by two opportunists, while their boss attempts to fix a boxing match using a ringer with a change of heart.

The incredibly violent script struggled to find a financier until it fell into Harvey Weinstein’s lap, who loved it so much it became the first film Miramax funded independently. Boasting several of cinema’s most treasured monologues and a briefcase aglow with mystery, the story itself was simple but Weinstein enjoyed the quirkiness in the nonlinear story and black humour. His faith paid off and it enjoyed great acclaim, oddly so for a film containing so much sexual violence, heavy drug use and racism.

Credited with revitalising the career of John Travolta, Pulp Fiction garnered him an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of the greasy haired Vincent. Conversely Bruce Willis’ signing on required a significantly smaller pay check than he was used to. Which worked out just fine when he netted a percentage of the $214m gross and it took the Palm D’or at Cannes in 1994.

Littered with famous faces including Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken and Uma Thurman in her most iconic performance, it’s little surprise the film was so successful. Of course no Tarantino film is complete without a role for the man himself too, in this case Jules’ famously anxious friend Jimmie.

A landmark film that affirmed Tarantino’s status as an artistic force to be reckoned with, Pulp Fiction showcased what would become his signature tropes. Black humour, pop culture references by the dozen, anachronistic music, ensemble casts and extended dialogue. It’s a film so influential it’s genuinely hard to find someone who hasn’t seen it.

£4/5 gets you entry to our pub quiz beforehand and a free bag of popcorn to enjoy along with the film. Fetch Z’s chopper keys and meet us down in Knoxville for this classic.

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Review // Song to Song

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A group of intertwined people cavort in the Austin music scene battling vices, heartbreak and derailment along the way.

BV (Gosling) and Faye (Mara) are songwriters working with music tycoon Cooke, (Fassbender) a man of great means but a penchant for control of anyone he crosses paths with (Portman). Their trials and tribulations under the Texas sun show the darker side of stardom and the sacrifices that must be made to succeed in the music world.

With four of today’s biggest stars in a web of artistic and sexual aegis, Song to Song has a hell of a lot of chemistry. But one must first indulge Terrence Malick’s many signature tropes to enjoy it. The film’s basic premise, the quest for success, is fleshed out by his typically existential dialogue and oddly beautiful camerawork. The performances themselves are as we’ve come to expect from some of Hollywood’s greatest assets; convincingly tragic. With Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling shining in particular.

The soundtrack regularly varies from New Orleans bounce to Saint Saens. A jarring combination that much like the opening 10 minutes of the film, takes a long time to settle. While they’re modern musicians, EDM still feels very out of place when consistently juxtaposed with recognisable classical music, when interludes from the likes of Patti Smith & Lykke Li offer a far more refined musical break.

Despite the cyclical tour-based storyline, the film ticks along nicely and the cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki is absolutely breathtaking. This is their fifth collaboration and there’s no doubt that they’ve crafted some of the most beautiful films of the last 20 years. However, their “show but don’t tell” style filmmaking has recently left audiences lacking and could definitely be argued for this venture too.

Occasionally distracted but always beautiful. Song to Song takes influence from films like Mulholland Drive and more recently La La Land, asking the age-old question. Is the suffering worth the art?

Review // Baby Driver

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 11.23.48.pngAbsurd yet touching, Edgar Wright’s petrolhead caper pays off in spades.

Atlanta’s finest getaway driver, Baby (Elgort) is indebted to a kingpin who has coerced him since he was a child. Using an iPod to drown out tinnitus, he’s man of few words with an unfortunate past. After falling for a waitress with dreams of hitting the open road together, Baby finds that getting out of crime is hard when it’s all you’ve known.

Edgar Wright, the man behind the acclaimed “cornetto trilogy” might’ve seemed an odd choice to helm a crime thriller set in Georgia, but his clever script crafted around its soundtrack is a perfect fit. Ansel Elgort is fantastic as the enigmatic Baby, but the supporting cast of Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Lily James and Jon Hamm all show up on top form too. Even the appearances from Flea and the ATL twins work out well and offer more than just ticking boxes.

Unlike most driver films, the cars in Baby Driver are almost irrelevant. Wright and co have chosen to focus on dialogue, music and visuals. Finding so much colour in the concrete metropolis of Atlanta is quite an achievement and the many nods and cameos suggest that Wright has done his homework on the city. The film is a combination of great writing, music supervision and a sharp cinematic eye.

The quirk of using an iPod should feel very dated, but it doesn’t. By featuring music that barely scratches the 21st century, the soundtrack skips this pitfall and is just one of the ways music is woven into the fabric of the film. From the choreographed opening to the closing credits, it’s 2 hours of seamless action orchestration, including some poignant moments, despite what the macho marketing might suggest. The combination of screaming tires and soul music works because the film never takes itself too seriously. Accordingly, there’s a lot of humour, mostly wisecracking, but the jokes add to the film. No surprises considering this is the team who brought you Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Edgar Wright’s direction feels grounded and realistic, despite the very Hollywood nature of the plot. Baby Driver is a significant film for a lot of reasons, perhaps most importantly its survival to be made as was originally intended. While the story itself is hardly original, the presentation is unconventional and must’ve seemed pretty risky on paper to producers. Thankfully this vision was maintained, because there’s never been a film like it and you absolutely shouldn’t miss it.