AMY (2015)


This is an incredible documentary film about an amazingly talented young woman whose life is cut tragically short by excess, abuse and celebrity.

Asif Kapadia does it again. This time round I have a deeper connection to the subject. Amy’s first album ‘Frank’ really made a huge impression on me, being a jazz fan and hearing whip smart, incredibly personal lyrics sung with the skill and talent of one blessed with a voice well beyond her years. With Kapadia’s other feature documentary, Senna, my interest in the subject was minimal but boy does he know how to get you emotionally involved. I loved Senna and equally I loved Amy. Let’s not forget Kapadia’s feature film debt The Warrior, which if you haven’t seen is definitely worth a look and is NOT a documentary.

The tragedy here unfolds before our eyes as we are (unfortunately?) privileged to witness early home videos showing the trajectory of this brightly burning candle and it is very sad. This film moved me a great deal and sat with me for a long time afterwards. The way the press hounded her and tried as hard as they could to get her to snap was criminal and it hits home how it is so easy to judge and have an opinion about a celebrity as though they are creatures in a zoo, somehow different than the rest of us and what Kapadia does brilliantly is allow the humanity to shine out of his subject.

The use of voice-overs without seeing the interviewees is brilliant, it allows the viewer to focus wholly on Amy, this is not about them, they were merely players in the show, the star was Amy and it is she who shines the brightest. Seeing her insecurities and getting a deeper understanding of this force of nature builds empathy in the viewer. On the one hand she is a scared little girl and on the other a mighty diva who isn’t shy of airing her opinions. This is the human condition, we are all contradictions who sometimes lash out with the same hand we caress our loved ones with.

Amy is a cautionary tale about fame and celebrity, and the importance of having true friends around you when the madness is in full swing. Sometimes the flame of life burns so brightly that it is extinguished sooner as it burns out, Amy joined the 27 Club along with Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

A tragedy, but at least the music is still out there.

A must watch.





DOPE (2015)


“I’m in the mood, can’t bring me down”.

Was this film made for me? I think someone, somewhere must have had me in mind when making this because I couldn’t have been more excited when watching this brilliant film about these geekz ‘n the hood.

Clever script, great acting, priceless comic moments, an outstanding soundtrack; finger-snappingly awesome.

This was, without a doubt, one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year, an uplifting, coming of age in the hood film that doesn’t shy away from the harshness of the streets but never gets overwhelmed by it. There is so much heart here, one can not help but be charmed.

Shameik Moore plays our hero Malcolm and brings a quiet confidence to the role, he is, for sure, one to look out for. Tony Revolori plays one of his friends, Jib and Kiersey Clemons plays the other, Diggy (“I will slap the shit out of you”) completing the triangle. The chemistry between the three works brilliantly. They are the geekz in a band, ‘Awreeoh’ with their music written and produced by Pharrell Williams and their tunes are phat and phunky, reminiscent of The Neptunes. The rest of the soundtrack is just bomb; Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Digital Underground, Naughty By Nature, Public Enemy, Onyx and many more make this BY FAR, the hippest soundtrack we’ve heard for a minute.

The script is tight, clever and on point (only one tiny plot confusion with a text that didn’t quite fuse, maybe this was down to the edit) but otherwise from the start to the finish the writing is on the money. Written and directed with skill by Rick Famuyiwa this is a film that should be up for a best comedy award somewhere. Funny, whip-smart and hip; it’s a breath of fresh air.

Support comes from Rakim Mayers (the New York rapper A$ap Rocky) as the gangster, Dom making his acting debut and bringing a charisma that shows strong on-screen presence. Zoe Kravitz is beautiful and real as Nakia, Malcolm’s crush. Quincy Brown (Puff Daddy’s kid) is Jaleel, the wannabe gangster, Chanel Iman as his seductive sister, Lily (a nice use of her name that comes to represent a certain substance and creating a bunch of very funny memes-“People on Lily be like….”). The very funny Blake Anderson (Workaholics) given a witty, hilarious exchange about the ‘N’ word “ Whaddup my N-Word?”.

Special mentions go to De’Aundre Bonds as Stacey, the school’s security, Rick Fox as Councilman Blackmon, Josh Meyer as the DEA tech, and a very funny, tense exchange with rapper Kap G playing Fidel X, Forest Whittaker plays the narrator (he is also one of the producers on the film) and finally the great Roger Guenver-Smith as Austin Jacoby. The cast is killing it.

Bitcoins, deep web, Harvard, molly, 90’s hip hop, slippery slopes and social media.

Dope is dope. I watched it twice in less than a week, which is unusual and testament to the entertaining value of this quality film. Check it out.