Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Happy Galentines!


To accompany BFI's new season, Girlfriends, which is exploring female centric friendships, featuring some excellent films which I will be covering over at VultureHound with the help of Park Circus and BFI too, I thought I'd write an interlude.

Great friendships have been portrayed on screen, whether it be the genre breaking 'Thelma and Louise' or the comedic mess of 'Bridesmaids', or the weird outsiders like Enid and Rebecca, as well those that have been toxic such as in 'Heathers'. But looking over my collection, I can name a handful that are about female friendships and a maybe a dozen more that explore a friendships.

In the name of Galentine's Day (thank you Lesley Knope) I wanted to discuss three films about friendship featuring women.


Nadine Labaki's feature debut was one that I bought on a whim. Reading a few reviews and intrigued by the story and setting, I bought a copy and was delighfully bold over. Centred around a group of friends who work in and frequent a salon on Beruit. These women trust and love each for who they are. They don't expect or ask for anything more. Supporting each other in difficult times, offering comfort when things in their life don't go according to plan. The characters featured in the film are also of various ages, showing what it feel like for a women as she ages as well as challenging what is expected of her, subtling showing what or who makes them happy. Beautifully filmed with a script that is never over dramatic and sensitive to certain subjects, there aren't many films out there like this.

Mistress America

Co-written by Greta Gerwig, now Oscar nominated director for her film, 'Lady Bird', 'Mistress America' is about an unexpected friendship between two women who find out their parents are getting married. Lonely student Tracey meets her soon to be step sister Brooke, who is a fast talking, fast moving New Yorker who knows where all the best places are to eat, meet people and enojy culture, while trying to open a restaurant. From the minute these two meet they connect and genuinely have a great time together. Brooke seems selfcentred but really does care about Tracey and as the latter is a shy writer, Brooke bring out the best in her but at the cost of their whirlwind friendship. This was one my favourite film of 2015 and I was absolutely devastated that there is still no DVD release for the film in the UK. Luckily I was saved by Netflix so I could relive the highs and lows of this genius unstated gem.

We Are the Best

Technically, the leads of this Swedish film from Lukas Moodysson based on the graphic novel 'Never Goodnight' by his wife, Coco, aren't quite yet women, they are 13 years old. But they still learn about friendship and what's important. Outsiders Bobo and Klara, love punk muisc, have punk hairstyles and despite not being able to play instruments, decide to start a band. They forcefully bring naive Hedvig, a talented guitarist, into the fold, as she doesn't have any other friends due to her strict Christian upbringing. But the two punks soon change this, by cutting her hair and writing songs together and the duo become a trio. This is more the beginnings of lifelong friendships being moulded and has a sense of nostalgia. The trailer for the film actually says, this is for anyone who is 13 years old and for those who remember being 13 years old. The three teens have a true friendship founded on wanting to start a band and isn't that how many bands are formed anyway? An upbeat and fun fueled example of female friendships that is relatable even if you don't like punk.

There are many friendships out there featured in films so I hope you all have a fantastic Galentines day by watching one or two or three of them!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Romance

 In Your Eyes
 The lost Joss Weadon (writer) film as I refer to it as due to the film not get any cinematic or DVD release over here (that I know of). It finally appeared on Netflix and never left (thankfully). When fragile sheltered housewife Rebecca in New Hampshire and trying to go straight on parole convict Dylan in New Mexico realise they have a connection, over time they fall in love with each other but have to deal with the physical long distance between them. Being able to hear each other and see what the other sees, as well as feel each other's emotions, their intimate relationship is like no other. Slightly sci-fi but mainly romantic, it's all about that last desparate dash to the freight train. 

The Lobster
Continuing the mini theme within the them, another slightly sci-fi society where everyone must be in a couple or they are rounded up and sent to The Hotel where they must find a partner in 45 days otherwise they will be turned into an animal of their choice. Romance, be it forced and based on a characteristic, is in the air as the singles try to find someone. David is the single we follow throughout as he tricks and fails in finding a partner, he escapes to the woods to be with The Loners where he meets the Short Sighted woman. As both difficulty with sight, they fall in love and plan to run away, but with any odd story, things do not run smoothly. I loved the weird matter of fact-ness about how things are conducted in this strange monotone society. Terrifying concept but with some beautiful moments.

It's All About Love
Rounding up with a sci-fi/thriller story about an estranged couple, still in love with each other, find each other again amidst an epidemic where people are dropping dead from broken hearts. In this version of the future, the planet has cooled, causing snow storms in July and we now have the ability to clone people. When John finds out his wife, famous figure skater, Elena has been cloned by her family so they can make money off her after she quits, they go on the run to escape her being killed off. Its more romantic that it sounds, with Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes as husband and wife, there are some great shots. 

Don't forget to check out where it all started over at
Wandering Through the Shelves

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Art + Film

Art is always difficult to define, defend and sometimes understand. I'm not a 'fan' of modern art, I simply don't appreciate it or believe that it is worth anything. But modern art is itself difficult to define. I like going to exhibitions but these are usually of an artist, illustrator or designer I admire. I prefer the world of Etsy and craft fairs when looking for something new. Yet, there is an artist I found through comic books back in 2008.

While looking through the shelves of my local comic shop, I came across Fables. It's exquisite cover depicting various fairytale characters crammed onto a subway train with a pleasing design and colour palette, it caught my eye. The story of course got my attention and within a week I was back buying the next two volumes, ending in me having bought all the volumes I could get my hands on and reading up to date by the end of that Summer. But the artwork was what started it all.

James Jean, a Taiwanesse American artist and a New York City's School of Visual Arts graduate, has recently had the spotlight on him and his work after designing and creating film posters for 'Mother!', 'The Shape of Water' and 'Blade Runner 2049'. He also designed a poster for 'Blade Runner', pictured below.

Jean's artwork is both epic and subtle across his work whether it is designs for Prada, comic book covers for DC Comics and Vertigo comics, installations or temporary tattoos.

The artwork for these films gives hope that the art of film posters will return. No more cheap looking photoshopped images of people standing next to each other with the title below.

Jean's style lends itself to other worldly images that match perfectly with fantastical characters and places unknown. Science Fiction and fairytale surrealism are his realm, which can also been seen in his artwork. Fables will always a special place in my comic book heart and his visionary artwork is partly the reason. I'm hoping that the 'buzz' around these films this and the artwork will produce new poster art and be used in the mainstream.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Blind Spot: Murder By Death

Having lapsed pretty bad last year (still a few more to do) I've taken a different approach to how I will do these Blind Spot posts.

Murder by Death may seem like an odd choice as it may not be viewed as a typical classic. But for a murder mystery fan, this is an absolute delight right down to the hilarious DVD cover which features a very large picture of Peter Falk despite being an ensemble character film.

Neil Simon's Murder by Death features Truman Capote as a mysterious eccentric multi-millionaire who invites five of the most famous detectives to a 'murder and dinner' evening at his mansion in the middle of an eery forest. The detectives are tole that their reputatons are at stake when Twain tells them that someone will be murdered and they won't be able to solve the case. With a blind butler and a cook who is a deaf mute as the only servants in the house, as well as the distrust between the guests, strange things continue throughout the evening.

Very much like all murder mystery adaptations, the cast features a host of well known faces. Each taking on spoof version of the original characters, complete with a sidekick, exaggerations of their characteristics and how they deduce clues and observations. Peter Sellers is Sidney Wang, continuing the whitewashing of the original Charlie Chan, made famous in the 1930s-40s films. David Niven and Maggie Smith are delightfully cast as Dick and Dora Charleston, a parody of Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammet's Thin Man series. James Coco is the 'Belgie' Milo Perrier, an over the top parady of Agatha Christie's Poirot. Jessica Marbles, a parody of Christie's Miss Marples is played by Elsa Lanchester and finally, Peter Falk is Sam Diamond, paroding another Dashiell Hammett character, Sam Spade. With an added Alec Guinness as the blind butler, Jamessir Bensonmum.

The cast is superbly played straight faced and with a matter of fact attitude, the laughs are not over the top nor under sold. Sometimes the lines are so subtley brilliant, the humour very dry, that its tempting to wish this was on the stage rather than the screen, especially with all the technical jokes. Pointing out that the weather is just an effect, hinting at theatricals and the doorbell that makes a screaming sound being a quirk that is treated as something that is acceptable. These off the wall details are what make the film that extra bit amusing.

There is a deleted scene that apparently features Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watspn appear at the end and solve the case, which would have be amazing but was scrapped. Its amsuing to think that the greatest detective was cut out because the other detectives felt upstaged.

A comedy like this would be hard to come by in this age of toilet humour being more important that clever writing and actors being absorbed into their characters. A subtle comedy such as this would not be made and not just because of the Charlie Chan/Sidney Wang element. Appreciation for detective stories may seem like its at an all time boom but because there are SO many crime stories its difficult to sift through and find the gems. Thinking who would be the equivalent if this was written and made today, reimaginings of these characters would jump to mind.

An overlooked and not talked about enough gem of a comedy with witty and amsuing writing, I hope that others out there who appreciate detectives' stereotypical whodunnit tropes will watch or rewatch this film.

To find out how it all started, head over to The Matinee and to see what's happening now, check out Returning Videotapes who is the new host of the Blind Spot Series.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Story Within a Story

Bad Education
One of if not my favourite Pedro Almodovar film about two boys, Enrique and Ignacio, who meet while at boarding school and fall in love, but are separted by the priest who sexually abuses Ignacio. As adults they meet again, Enrique a film director and 'Ignacio' an actor. The latter offer the former a short story he wrote asking if this would be his next project, giving him the role. 'The Visit' is the story within the story as it is about their time at school and fictional account of when they are adults. There are flashbacks and reveals in this melodramatic low key thriller that I don't wish to spoil for anyone who hasn't seen it.

The Fall
Although Tarsem has the reputation for quality of substance, this film, I think is both beautifully shot around the globe but has a heartfelt story, part improvised it seems at times by the young actress at the centre. In a hospital in LA 1915, young Alexandria meets and befriends bedridden stuntman, Roy who tells her stories. In between his storytelling he asks her to questions, eventually getting her to bring him more pills. The story within the story is about five characters and their journey across to hunt down the villain who has wronged them all in some way. Its one of the most beautifully shot films I've ever seen, from the costumes to locations, the design is amazing.

This is an odd one. With rather a big name cast, at the time, this British film is part science fiction, part tragedy. We follow four characters, a man recently jilted at the alter, an artist who films her suicide attempts as part of her art degree, a man church warden looking for his son and masked vigilante searching for his enemy. The first three characters' stories take place in London as we know it and the last in a steampunk futuristic place, Meanwhile City, where everyone is part of some sort of religion. The vigilante's story is within the story, as eventually all the characters collide in a heartbreaking moment.

Don't forget to check out where it all started over at
Wandering Through the Shelves

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Remember That Show...Rome

Hey, remember that show that was about the transition of Ancient Rome from Republic to Empire but wasn't really about this, but was really about the rise and fall of Julius Caeser then rise of Ocatvian, his 'nephew' BUT really its about two Roman soliders named Lucius and Titus? No? I'm sure you do. It featured classic elements of all HBO shows, gratuitous sex and violence and was filmed at the famius (as well as other locations) Cinecitta studios in Italy. The show featured many great British actors and was a platform for new (again British) and rising talents.

I'm not actually sure why I was so hooked on this show. When it aired I was in my last year at school, GCSEs were behind me (almost) and I was planning my escape to college to study something interesting, film. I did watch a hell of a lot of TV, shows I wonder how I got away with watching, my parents said nothing. I think I watched the first series with them (super awkward). Again, none of my friends watched this show, I say that because this happened all the time. They watch Hollyoaks and Eastenders and reality TV and I watched violent delights from BBC and HBO.

The show started with the rise of Julius Caeser, ending the first season with his famous murder. Unlike Shakespeare's play, Mark Anthony did not make an eloquent speech, as he is portrayed as a hideous bute, a clever one though. Ocatavian, Caesar's blank faced, very clever, intimidating nephew is a teenager in the first season, but by the second season, he is a man and even more calculating, with cold eyes and a nasty manner. His mother, Atia of the Julii, lover of Mark Anthony and herself a terrible person is someone you do not cross. His sister, Ocatavia is probably the only 'nice' one in the family, used as a barganing chip by them and ruined by their decisions, floats through the story until she falls in love with a general in Octavain's army. This is where is all becomes a little melodramatic.

The show, although based on real people in history, does detour from fact (of course it does, its TV) and introduces new 'characters' those who wouldn't have been written about. The main two (who are actually based on a real soldiers of the same names, they were mentioned briefly in connection to Julius Caesar) are Lucius Vorenous, a Roman officer and Titus Pullo, soldier in the legion who have an epic bromance across the two seasons, from joining forces on a mission to starting their own brothel to separating, one to Egypt with Mark Anthony, the other to stay in Rome with Octavian.

The two seasons manage to cover quite a bit of history, including Mark Anthony and Cleopatra's famous affair that would be their downfall. Season two ends in a victorious parade with the lovers dead bodies paraded around the city and Octavian taking 'his place' in history. This show should have had more series but was cancelled due to the overwhelming budget. Despite the fact that the writers knew of this and had most character's stories are 'tied up', the last episode is still bittersweet. There were still more stories to tell.

I'm sure its out there to stream somewhere in its entirety, but for me, its time to say farewell to the show on DVD that I rewatched surprisngly quite a few times back in Uni.

Monday, 29 January 2018

January Watch List

Logan Lucky
Like all directors who announce their retirement, they usually get started on a new project, Logan Lucky was that film for Steven Soderbergh. With a great ensemble cast of delightful characters (except for Seth MacFarlane with his awful 'British' accent) and an entertaining heist for the right reasons story, it was always going to be a winner. Not excatly like other heist films, certain members if this 'crew' are either already in prison or have to go to prison first in order the plan to go ahead. Its favourite device of mine that a film keeps you guessing the whole way through. The serious comedic characters of both Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are understated, even Daniel Craig's explosives expert isn't over the top (though the trailers and other reviews would have it that way). A fun film I could happily watch on repeat, just like Ocean's Eleven. 4/5

My full review of this story about a 13 year old girl who learns she is going blind and rebels against her mother can be read over at VultureHound.  3/5

Miss Sloane
Jessica Chastain is always at the forefront of conversations about female characters and women in film and TV, always asking challenging as why there are so few of both. She started her own production company, like other high profile actresses to change this. But when I first saw the trailers for this film, I thought this was completely off what she was trying to achieve. However, Miss Sloane may be a stone cold bitch at times, damn good at her job always and carefully chooses those around her, she also knows the 'game' (lobbying) so well she can predict everything. But only she knows everything so its actually edge of your seat storytelling. There are also other great female characters in the film, but Chastain really does steal the film. 4/5

This was definitely a 'wait until its on Netflix/Amazon' kind of film and finally the moment arrived. Despite being scared of anything slightly horror like when I was younger, I did actaully read a few Goosebumps stories and I did watch some less scary episodes of the TV show back in the day too. Having R.L. Stine as the grumpy next door neighbour was amusing (and I do quite like Jack Black) to the 'new kid in town' who makes friends with his daughter. The story about the books coming to life with all the horrors running through town destroying everything was also entertaining, but the twist to one of the characters was really disappointing and rather ruined the ending of the film, but with Jillian Bell playing a small but hilarious role, sort of balanced the film out. Not sure where the sequel could go though, if there was one. 3/5

Power Rangers

I rolled my eyes when this was announced and when it was released BUT was pleased to hear that this 90s childhood memory (they've been a few disappointments, looking at you Ninja Turtles) was not completely terrible. In all honesty, I reallyed enjoyed this 'reboot' of the mighty morphing power rangers, with five random (literally) teenagers who happen to be at the spot where the previous rangers team crash landed thousands of years ago. They touch the stones and BOOM they have superpowers but they aren't superheroes, they are power rangers, there's a difference. Elizabeth Banks, obviously having lots of fun in the villain role, half plays for laughs (demanding gold) and half terrifying everyone (eating and demanding gold). This plays out as an origin story but also as reintro to how the rangers work. All the teens makes an impression and even though at times, a little over dramatic, they still pull through, as a team. Another reason why I enjoyed this so much, not realising until after, there was no 'love' story between the rangers, all platonic friendships, which was SO refreshing. 3/5

Early Man
I love Aardman animation. The previous stop motion animated features were superb, brilliantly executed with humour and emotion that only they could muster. Early Man is a well made film BUT less cinematic than Aardman's other work. Dug, his best friend Hognob (a warthog) and their docile tribe live a peaceful life in their valley, but when Bronze age settlers run they out to the 'badlands' so they can mine ore, Dug challenges the intruders. Not to a fight but to a football game, who wins, keeps the valley. That's it really. This was the disappointing fact about the film, it was all about football really and as I do not care for sports, this was amusing as there are some visual jokes as well as just the whole setting being comical, but I had hoped it was about something else. I think what Early Man was missing was a connection was everyone could enjoy. Chicken Run and Curse of he Were-Rabbit worked so well not only because they were both very British but they both parodied a well know film or genre. Early Man relies of the audience liking and caring about....(sigh) football. 3/5