Based on the off-Broadway play by Stephen Karam (who also provides the screenplay), Speech & Debate concerns a trio of troubled teenagers who are all struggling to find their places in life, and most urgently, their school. Held back from expressing themselves by the repressive, hypocritical dictates of their school heirarchy, the trio – played by Liam James, Sarah Steele and Austin P. McKenzie – decide to resurrect the school debate club, and by doing so, attempt to challenge and overcome the rigid strictures they encounter on a daily basis. Steele was in the original stage production, and from the trailer it looks as if she’ll steal the movie – that last excerpt is a killer – but the rest of the cast appear on form as well, and if the use of Mika’s We Are Golden is anything to go by, then the movie’s likely to have a killer soundtrack as well. It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent teen-themed movie; maybe Speech & Debate will be the movie to rekindle our appreciation for them.
For her follow up to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), writer/director Ana Lily Amarpour changes locations from the Iranian ghost town Bad City, to a Texas wasteland inhabited – not by vampires – but by cannibals. Amarpour has a distinct, vivid visual style (as can be seen in the trailer), and she isn’t afraid to depict violence in all its hideous glory, but she’s just as interested in ideas and the development of her characters as she is any bloodshed. The presence of Jason Momoa will no doubt attract a number of fans looking forward to another movie he’s in this year (Braven – obviously), but with the likes of Jim Carrey, Giovanni Ribisi and Keanu Reeves on board, the chances that Amarpour’s odd love story set against an equally odd backdrop will cement her growing reputation as an indie movie maker to watch out for.
And so it’s Noomi Rapace’s turn to kick ass and take names later as a modern day action heroine in Michael Apted’s by-the-numbers Unlocked. Twists and turns and betrayals every five minutes appear to be the order of the day, and the casting of John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Orlando Bloom, and Michael Douglas in lead roles is a strong nod to the level of credibility the movie is aiming for. But despite all this, Unlocked could still turn out to be quite respectful in its ambitions, and worth more of your time than you’d expect. Director Apted isn’t exactly inexperienced, and he certainly doesn’t need to make a generic action movie any more than he needs to, but his presence behind the camera is encouraging, and though the trailer doesn’t have the “wow” factor it needs to stand out from the crowd, it could still surprise us all… possibly.