Spike Island (2015)
Critic Consensus: Spike Island has energy and visual style to spare; unfortunately, they're lost within the movie's clichéd story and choppy direction.
Emilia Clarke (GAME OF THRONES) and Elliott Tittensor (SHAMELESS) star in this coming of age story about a wannabe rock band in Manchester who hatch a plan to hand-deliver their demo tape to their idols, The Stone Roses, at the band's impending gig at Spike Island. But when their tickets fail to materialize, the gang embarks on a road trip to the concert and is forced to take extreme measures to sneak their way in! Along the way, friendships are tested and their futures are shaped -- together or apart. Featuring Rob James-Collier (DOWNTON ABBEY), Lesley Manville (MALEFICENT), and Kaya Scodelario (THE MAZE RUNNER).(C) Level 33 … More
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Critic Reviews for Spike Island
Though the story is drawn in broad strokes and overloaded with melodrama, director Mat Whitecross' exuberant feature understands the communal joy and personal necessity of rock 'n' roll.
The film has an engagingly zippy and colorful visual style, evoking the splashy Summer of Love motifs around the Roses, with allusions to their music videos and paint-splattered, Jackson Pollock-esque sleeve artwork.
[The Stone Roses'] debut long player is one of the few rock albums that might justly be assessed all killer, no filler; Whitecross and Coghill's sincerely intended love letter to the era, not so much.
Taking its cue from the sort of pandering nostalgia that usually gets peddled to Baby Boomers, Mat Whitecross' irritating Spike Island follows a teenage gang of the Stone Roses' superfans in 1990 Manchester.
Audience Reviews for Spike Island
In 1990, Tits (Tittensor) is a young man living in a working class area of Manchester known as "The Red Bricks". He spends his days drifting idly through school while his evenings alternate between visiting his dying father in hospital and practicing with his band. Along with his gang of mates, Tits is obsessed with The Stone Roses, a band who, for a very short time, were a huge phenomenon in the UK. The band are due to play what is being billed as "their ultimate gig", an outdoor concert held at the title location. Tits and his mates are desperate to attend, hoping to pass their demo tape to the band, but tickets are impossible to come by and fate seems to be conspiring against the lads.
Should you decide to count the number of great films made on the subject of music, you'll likely end up with a few free fingers. The exceptions, Robert Altman's 'Nashville', Milos Forman's 'Amadeus', Hal Ashby's 'Bound For Glory', concern themselves with the musicians, rather than the music itself. The closest a film-maker has come to expressing the swell of emotion one feels when exposed to great music, outside of classic Hollywood musicals, is Bertrand Tavernier's 'Round Midnight'. Tavernier never allows his protagonist, played by Francois Cluzet, to tell us through dialogue why he's obsessed with Dexter Gordon's jazzman, instead it's written all over his face. The creators of 'Spike Island' employ no such nuance. Their protagonists constantly scream and shout their love of The Stone Roses, but they never quite convince us.
If you're not a fan of the band in question, (personally I find their cult status baffling), Whitecross' film contains little to hold your attention. It's a soap opera affair, with each of the young protagonists struggling with their own cliched subplots. The father who wants his son to take over the family business against his will, the young man who can't express his feelings for the girl of his dreams, the teen stuck with an abusive father. For the most part, the cast, Clarke in particular, fail to sell themselves as working class Mancunians and the result is a film that feels like one of those "Yoof" dramas UK TV channels love to pump out, crossed with an episode of 'The Monkees'.
Every year, Hollywood's major studios use the annual summer movie season to bring audiences its biggest cinematic offerings. However, if reactions to many of the prequels, sequels, reboots, and spinoffs being churned out in recent years is any indication, those studios do not and have not had much to offer audiences in the way of anything original. Thankfully the independent studios out there have clearly picked up the slack from their more well-known counterparts. They have done so in quite impressive fashion, too. Movies such as Butter (2011-The Weinstein Company), The Decoy Bride (2011-IFC Films), Shanghai Calling (2012-Anchor Bay Entertainment), My Uncle Rafael (2012-World Entertainment Connections), Life's A Breeze (2013-Magnolia Pictures), The Voices (2014-Lionsgate), A Bet's A Bet (2014-Cinedigm), and so many others have proven time and again in recent years just how much the independent movie industry has to offer audiences. Now independent studio Level 33 Entertainment has strengthened that argument even more with the U.S. release of Spike Island this past May. Spike Island is a powerful coming of age story that centers on a group of five young men trying to get their band's demo tape to their favorite band, The Stone Roses. The display of the boys' personal growth throughout the movie will at times move viewers to smile and laugh, and at other times cry. That ability to so easily keep audiences engaged and in turn move them so much says plenty of the writing behind this movie. It in turn makes the writing the key element to note of the movie's success. Writer Chris Coghill's script makes for plenty of reason for audiences to check out Spike Island. It is not, however, the only reason that audiences will appreciate this movie. The movie's casting plays a dual role in its success. That dual role includes the very fact that the movie's cast is in fact made up of actual teens instead of older actors trying unsuccessfully to portray teens, and the its members' collective talents. Last but hardly least of note that makes the home release of Spike Island surprisingly interesting is its bonus material. The standard behind-the-scenes/Making of featurette is there. The standard cast interviews are interesting. That's given. But most interesting to note of the bonus material are the "Shadowcaster Studio Session" and "Zippy Drumming" footage. Both of these elements show that the movie's young cast members did in fact perform rather than pretend as if they were playing in a music video. This is a rarity when it comes to movies involving actors performing to that extent. So, it is nice to see and hear this approach used here. It is through this element as well as through the movie's script, and casting that Spike Island proves in the end to more proof of the importance and value of the independent movie industry especially considering the current state of the mainstream movie industry.
Level 33 Entertainment's new drama Spike Island is one of the best movies that the independent studio has released to date. It is another example of the increasing validity of the independent movie industry and its equally growing importance when compared to that of Hollywood's major studios today. It proves this primarily through its script, which was crafted by screenwriter Chris Coghill. The script presents a story that centers on a group of young musicians living in Manchester, England that have dreams of being superstars. And their way of trying to hit it big is by going to see their favorite band, The Stone Roses, at an upcoming performance at Spike Island. Now it goes without saying that this is not the first time that any writer has ever used such a plot for a movie or even episode of a television program. However, Coghill did more than just make what would have otherwise been another stale, trite comedy. Rather he incorporated a much more dramatic element into the story to make it a work that will move audiences just as much as it will entertain them. The element in question is a balance of the boys' sense of self-importance and the reality of their naivety. At no point does Coghill try to go over the top with this balance. Instead he makes certain to make them one hundred percent relatable to his viewers. This includes the attention paid to the boys' having to balance the trials and tribulations of their personal lives with the happenings of their own intersecting lives as a "band." Such a realistic plot and equally realistic portrayal of the story's characters through the movie's script make Spike Island's script quite the impressive work and a solid foundation on which the rest of the movie's elements rest. The second of those elements in question is its casting, speaking of the story's characters.
Chris Coghill's work on the script for Spike Island is exceptionally impressive to say the very least. Thanks to his creativity he has taken in his script a rather standard coming of age story and made it into a work that stands out from so many other works within that genre. For all that the script does for Spike Island it is just one of the movie's positives worth noting. The movie's casting does just as much for its success as its script. Its casting actually proves in not but two ways why it is so important to the movie. The central way in which it proves so important to the movie is the very fact that the cast is actually a group of teens. Casting director Jane Ripley is to be commended for paying attention to Coghill's script and making sure to make the cast not only the proper age for the story but was talented, too. It would have been so easy for Ripley to take the easy road and bring in a group of older actors and have them play younger characters as far too many studios do. Thankfully she opted to not take that route. Being that she took the high road and actually brought in a group of teens to fill out the story's roles, it made the story that much more believable. The collective talents of the cast in their roles took that believability and stepped it up even more. It is clear in watching this movie just how seriously the cast took its roles. Just as it would have been so easy for Ripley to take the easy road in casting the roles, it would have been just as easy for the cast to take the easy road and play up the teen stereotypes. But not one member of the cast did that. The result of that serious approach is a group of performances that is entirely believable and that audiences will in turn want to watch. It is yet another reason that audiences will agree that Spike Island is one of this year's best new independent movies.
The work of writer Chris Coghill and that of Spike Island's cast (and of casting director Jane Ripley in having chosen the movie's cast) are both equally important to the success of this surprisingly entertaining and deeply touching story. While both elements play their own important part in the movie's success and enjoyment, there is still one more element to note in that success and enjoyment. That final element is the movie's bonus material. The standard "making of" featurette is there. And it goes without saying that getting to hear from the movie's cast and crew adds its own extra insight into the movie. But most interesting to note of the bonus material are the "Shadowcaster Studio Session" and "Zippy Drumming" footage. Both of these bonuses go to show that the movie's young cast actually was performing in the given segments. They weren't just performing to some pre-recorded work as if they were in a music video. That is made especially clear as audiences get to see Zippy (Jordan Murphy) handling drumming duties. Murphy really holds his own, too as he performs. This is so important to note because so few movies that include musical numbers actually feature their casts performing the music. Being that this movie's cast did in fact perform its given parts makes suspension of disbelief that much easier. It also serves to once again prove the importance of bonus materials in a movie. It shows that bonus material can make an otherwise forgettable movie into something worth the occasional watch, a good movie into an even better movie and a great movie into something even greater. In the case of this movie, these two bonuses come together with the work of the movie's script and that of its cast (and casting director) to make it one of this year's great independent movies. And in all honesty, they make it potentially one of this year's best movies considering the lackluster offerings by Hollywood's major studios so far this year.
Spike Island may not be one of the biggest movies to be released this year, being an indie flick. But in comparison to the offerings from Hollywood's "Power Five" studios, it can be said that it is both one of this year's best new independent movies and even one of the year's best and most original movies overall. Its script takes a relatively oft-used plot element and expands on it to make a story that will keep audiences engaged from beginning to end, moving them quite deeply along the way. Thanks to casting director Jane Ripley and that of the movie's cast, suspension of disbelief becomes quite easy. The bonus material included in the movie's home release makes that suspension of disbelief all the easier as audiences see that the cast isn't just performing to a pre-recorded track in the performance scenes. Rather the cast is proven to actually be performing itself. That is rare both in the mainstream movie world and that of independent releases. All three elements combined, they prove wholly why Spike Island is one of this year's best new independent movies and potentially one of the best new domestic releases overall. Spike Island is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Level 33 Entertainment is available online now at:
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