Thursday, 28 July 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: First World War

This week made me realise how little films about or set during World War I.  I had to scrape together the films I have seen and they are all quite recent ones. I'm not a big watcher of war films in general and I never linger long at the War Film shelves in shops. There are a few films that might have to go on my Blind Spot list for next year maybe...

Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks.

War Horse
I think everyone has seen this film or seen the famous stage show. I wasn't lucky enought to witness the brilliant puppetry in the West End and instead opted for the cinema where I could sit in the dark and hold back the emotions watching a tale of one horse and his strong bond with his first owner. The stories are beautifully told in each segment as the horse is birn on a farm in England, taken by the army, then sent into a death charge. From there he is taken to France then is worked hard in the German army and is finally returned to British where he is eventually reunited with his original owner. Not only does this film illustrate how terrible the war was but it shows different characters and ways of life.

Testament of Youth
This was a film I could never see again, mostly because it was just so sad. Based the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain who lost her brother, her fiancé and close friends all to the war. She volunteered as a nurse, tending to British and German soliders and later contiuned to campaign against war. It's beautifully shot but its too much for me.

This was me, clutching at straws. First World War horror film about a squad of British soliders who find a German trench which seems to be takne by some demonic presence. Lots of Brits in this, names at the time were not well known, now, they are everywhere. It's horrible and I don't like it, I think I sat looking elsewhere during this film. I really can't take horror.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

July Watch List

Apart from The Secret Lives of Pets, this has been the month of women! All, apart from the mentioned has female leads. This is rare to see.

The Neon Demon
Director Nicolas Winding Refn has said that he made this film for the 16 year old girl inside him which I thought at first was a little over the top but after watching it, I can see that she was screaming to get out. Being a teenage girl scary, which is what Diablo Cody's Jennifer's Body was portraying and these depictions of horror actually do reflect internal conflict in a teens eyes. Well, we've all been there right? I walked out of the cinema wondering if I had seen a masterpiece or the strangest experiment on film. I decided it was the former as there was something about this story about 16 year old Jesse who arrives in LA and slowly makes her way up the ladder of the notorious fashion industry. On the fashion part, there's nothing new here to mention, we all know its bad and won't change but its how its done. A trio of women, two models and make up artist who appear from time to time, either to tear Jesse down or take care of her. It is beautifully filmed, every shot is deliciously put together, they will be future art cards on my wall no doubt. And the soundtrack is mesmerizing, setting every scene with an ominous tone throughout. There are couple of small scenes I wasn't keen on, only because they could be interpreted several way without conclusion, that was a bit much, but other than that, I was in awe. I hope NWF's inner 16 years old girl finds peace now. 4/5

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
I watched a few episodes of the sitcom and sort of knew what was happening but in away, I'm actually glad that I walked into this film not knowing much more than Eddie and Patsy are best friends and they are insane. Eddie tries to sign Kate Moss as a client for her PR firm while at one of Patsy's big fashion show parties but accidentally knocks her into the Thames. It is presumed that Kate Moss is dead and Eddie will soon be charged with murder so along with Patsy they go on the run. Amongst the on point comedy, there is still time to comment on how older women are treated in the media and in the south of France. Looking past all the crazy capers, this films is about two deluded friends who are trying escape. A highlight is after a car chase and Eddie and Patsy crash straight into a pool and are slowly sinking. While Eddie gives her version of a heartfelt apology farewell, Patsy is casually smoking a cigarette and chimes in a few times. Its the strangest scene but could not have been pulled off by any other duo. It might not be the best film ever but its funny and enjoyable, plus its a film to championed. A British film, written by women, directed by a woman and starring a cast of great women, that's a rare and brilliant thing. 4/5

What can I say about this film that hasn't already been covered or said by my fellow bloggers? I loved this film. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it felt like a Ghostbusters film. Not a reboot or 'the female version', it was true Ghostbusters film. The cast were beyond brilliant too and it was obvious from the these ladies had chemistry and that's what made them such an entertaining watch. All except Melissa McCarthy are SNL alumni showing off comedic talent, as well as McCarthy. Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon stealing the show, were fantastic. All defined characters, including Chris Hemsworth's handsome but very stupid Kevin. The cameos, some expected, some surprising were just the cherry on the ghost filled cake. While there were respectful nods to the previous films, the film and the cast got to address the internet trolls making fun of them, which I though was nice touch. With news that the action figured have sold better than expected, its an all round hit. If you haven't seen it, there is no need to summerise the story, just go see it and have fun. 4/5

The Secret Lives of Pets
When the first trailer were released I was really excited, I love dogs and the dogs in this film were adorable. In fact most of the pets were. Max, a Jack Russell terrier, lives a perfect life with his owner, Katie until she brings home a rescue dog, Duke, a Newfoundland. They don't get along to the point that Duke tries to get rid of Max but causes them to both get caught without collars and sent to the pound. Max's friends band together to find them while Max and Duke get caught up with Snowball, a tyrannical white rabbit who wants revenge on humans. All the animals are brilliant and few stand outs, Chloe, the very fat tabby cat who really doesn't care about much, the film is great fun but nothing amazing. I think the idea would have been a great premise for a TV series, as the animals could lots of crazy adventures and the big screen didn't let them run to far with it. 3/5

Finding Dory
I might be being mean here with my overall rating but for me Pixar were the great animators that didn't need to make sequels to successful films. Although I loved both 2 & 3 Toy Story films AND Monsters University, Finding Nemo, for me, didn't warrant a sequel. I don't mention Cars as its all a pile of crap. I'm not keen on the Incredibles sequel either, the first film stood out by itself and was brilliant. Back to Dory. She was a great character in Finding Nemo and I can she had her own story to tell but I was skeptical when the teaser trailer was released. The story about her finding her parents and meeting lots of great characters along the way sounds great but its something we've seen before. Having Marlon and Nemo along for the ride didn't seem necessary. Dory making new friends was great though. Her bond with the grumpy octopus, Hank, was an excellent paring and not to mention how superb it was to see an octopus with so many skills. The other small characters all made an impression and most if not all were happy and enthusiastic, having Hank there as the naysayer took the place of Marlon. The story did tug at the heart strings with Dory remembering her family and how patient they were with her memory issues. Overall I thought the film was beautiful, you can escape the epic-ness of Pixar films but the story, no matter how touching it was, felt like something we've seen before and it didn't help that 'finding Nemo' was referenced too. For the first time ever on the Watch List, a half rating goes to Finding Dory. 3.5/5

I had hoped to catch this film at the cinema but it was only for a week! Luckily I didn't have to wait too long for the DVD, Written and directed by Lucile Emina Hadzihalilovic, the film is set on a small remote island that only seems to be inhabited by young boys and alien looking women. The woman act as the boys' carers, parading as their mothers. They swim everyday and are given odd looking grey sludge as food and ink like medicine to drink. One boy who is unlike the others, likes to draw and as his curiosity grows, we are given a little more insight into this bubble like existence. Beautifully shot but disturbing to watch, the film slowly evolves into what is now known as body horror as the boy finds out what really happens at the clinic. By the end I was very uncomfortable but I still had lots of questions I wanted answered. I'll have to be left in suspense over this, even after reading all the reviews I could find. 3/5

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Blind Spot Series: Gaslight

I've got into the unfortunate habit of watching films at 9:30pm or later on nights where I actually have to wake up at 6am the next day. The films I have been seeing aren't exactly an easy watch either. They are usually atmospheric and have a dark twist to them. My Blind Spot pick for this month was no different.

I had been told about Gaslight by a friend of mine who loves old films, I loved the sound of the story and find a restored copy of it to watch. I kept it for months until it was time to pick my Blind Spot films.
Gaslight is based on the 1938 play by British playwright Patrick Hamilton, this film adaptation was released in 1940 which makes it the original. There is another version of Gaslight which was made in 1944 with Ingrid Bergman but THIS is the classic that had me blindsided.

The expression ‘being gaslighted’ actually comes from this story about a cruel husband who is purposefully making his wife slowly go mad in order to keep his suspicious past buried.
Set in Victorian London, the story begins with a vicious murder of an elderly woman. The murderer then proceeds to frantically search for something, pulling out drawers, ripping up furniture, making a mess. After the discovery of the body, the house is cleared and left vacant for years.

One day, a married couple. Paul and Bella Mallen, move into the house but the top two floors are boarded up apparently due to the lady of the house and her nerves. One day after Church, a former detective recognises Paul Mallen. He had worked on the murder case years before and starts to suspect foul play. He befriends Bella while walking through the park one day which angers Paul. He has been taking and hiding objects around the house, blaming Bella, accusing her of being mad. He has also cut her off from her family, keeping her letter and has even started lusting after the maid, who is only too happy to play along. Paul disappears every evening, under the pretence that he goes for a walk but in fact he has been entering the house next door which is connected to the upstairs of his house. Bella hears footsteps and the gaslight dims down, but by now she believes she is losing her mind. The former detective has conducted own enquiries and is convinced that Paul Mallen is in fact Louis Bauer who was suspected of killing his aunt for the family rubies. Together with Bella and her cousin who has come looking for her, they set a trap for Paul and get the evidence they need to convict him.

The story is far more dramatic but it is played out in a very British way which I love to see. Directed by Thorold Dickinson, who was Britain’s first university professor of film as well as a director, this restored gem was beautifully filmed. Although on an obvious set, the eeriness of the house, the looming dread and the flickering of the gaslight feels like it was mean to be watched late at night.
Bella Mallen is played by Diana Wynyard who is actually quite irritating most of the time, drifting in and out of an unsettling staring competition with the wall opposite her. But in doing so she manages to convey the slowly disturbed wife. Anton Walbrook as Paul Mallen/Louis Bauer takes great delight as the sadistic husband, obsessed with finding his treasure and mentally torturing his wife.

Gaslight has an ‘inbetween’ feeling, being set in the Victorian age and released on the cusp of the 40s. A delicate balance of great storytelling and some sensitive subjects, that cannot be fully explored or shown. A film like this is of its time, it couldn't be remade today, it wouldn't transcend and I wouldn't want it to.

To see where it all started and for an excellent insight to film, have a look at The Matinee and have a look HERE for more Blind Spot posts from other bloggers.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Why We Need Female Leads

I may be trying to cover more than I should here….

A few weeks ago in the Huffington Post, an article was posted up with the headline; One Photo Shows Why We Needed An All-Female ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot and there was photo of Kristen Wiig talking with a group of young girls dressed as Ghostbusters.

We all know by now that the Ghostbusters reboot has received a huge tidal wave of internet troll abuse not to mention the heinous attacks on Twitter on the amazing Leslie Jones, but the filmmakers and the cast had the last laugh. The film has been well received and no childhoods were ruined in the process as some idiotic people claimed. The photo proves that. These girls in the photo and all the young girls who watch the film will hopefully be inspired that they can be whoever they want to be.

Young girls aren't just given the same old role models to look up to, they have a choice, they won't get told that they like 'boy films', as they are just films, no gender separation needed.

I was brought up, along many others on films like Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Back to the Future, heck even Lord of the Rings, which is (collectively) one of my favourite films BUT even in my twenties, given the chance to see female lead characters on screen is something I didn’t think would happen, not the way things were going. I thought the dream of great female characters was going to continue to be a niche thing, no matter what Cate Blanchett said when she won her Oscar. It’s my go to speech when I want to make a point of how important that speech actually was, people DO want to see films about women/starring women.

While watching films like The Hunger Games, Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I didn’t think twice that all the leads were female. I just thought what great characters and how much I enjoyed the films. Of course I was over joyed about Rey being the Jedi over other male characters, but apart from that, gender did not cross my mind. This is why I was surprised at the back lash from people complaining, actually complaining that the leads were female! It’s absurd and several different kinds of wrong that people saw fit to complain about this.

Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars getting the main brunt of these complaints, it seems that people couldn’t bear to see women in great roles where they weren’t just the side characters and more than a few lines to say. The battering down on female roles is a prime reason why we need MORE female roles that aren’t conscious, they just feel natural. Then more young girls, like the one in the photograph, can see their heroes or heroines on the big screen.

Strong Female Characters

What defines a strong female character? To me, a strong female character is someone is front and centre. She is determined in her goal and isn’t swayed or controlled by a man. She isn’t just in an action film, she could be in a comedy or thriller or anything she chooses. She isn’t an ‘ice queen’ and she isn’t ‘quirky’ and she is not always ‘romantically inclined’. She is described by more than her appearance and her age is not relevant. She has a personality and is not a one dimensional character. She doesn’t necessarily have to be the hero, she could be the villain. She is more than her job, more than the people that surround her. She has an actual name. She is a strong female character.

Reading the above back (not out loud) I think I’m asking a bit too much. But hopefully I’m clear in what I mean. A ‘strong female character’ is NOT only, someone in an action film who can beat up an entire warehouse of people without breaking a sweat. This description of a female character has been used too long to hide the fact that she may be strong but she’s the only female around. I think I’m also guilty in using this description in the wrong way, but I will stop from now on and only use this when its right.


The misconception that about ‘she-boots’ is that they are not a progression as women should be given new stories and their own franchises and so on. Honestly, I think the fact that potential film reboots have been given their own gender specific nickname is the bad thing here. Why aren’t they just called reboots? Why does there have to be name calling? Why is there a need to point out that the leads are female?

So called ‘she-boots’ aren’t the long-time solution to the gender inequality in Hollywood but they are a start. The news that there was an Ocean’s Eleven-esque heist film with an all-female cast going into production sent another uproar through the ranks. I had always thought that the Ocean’s Eleven was a film where it really didn’t matter if the cast was male or female and now that a similar film was underway, I couldn’t believe it. But when further news was released that Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock (excellent cast so far) was cast and one was Danny Ocean’s sister, I was less enthusiastic. However, never to turn down what otherwise looks to be (with more actresses cast) an excellent film.

 Over on Hitchcock’s World, he’s written a post about a number of possible re-boots with all female casts. For me this illustrated that re-boots are not the ultimate answer, even though I loved his idea for Die Hard, I would watch that film. I think what is needed, is more stories, films that feature women in the lead roles and more importantly, new material. What with actresses banding together to start production companies and more women directing and writing, hopefully we will be other the ‘she-boot’ hysteria and moans from the negatives out there.

And one last thought….

In A World…

 Actress and writer Lake Bell’s debut feature, In A World… tackled the world voice over artists, in particular the famous worlds used in countless trailers, ‘In a world…’. This industry is dominated by men. The main part of the film is competition to be the voice over artist to immortalize those three little words in a new big blockbuster franchise which happens to feature a cast of women. Bell’s character is competing against her father, who is well renowned in the business and belittles her whenever he gets the chance. He doesn’t see her as competition at all. Ultimately she is picked, but she is told she was not the best person for the job, but was chosen for the greater meaning of having a woman in that role. The funny thing about this is the executive who delivers this truth is played by Geena Davis, who is known for championing women.

I found this a mixed message, unsure whether to take it as the industry is like this, blunt. Or it could be taken that, the only way for things to change is for people in a position of power to change things themselves. Somehow, this might not be the best approach to the industry run by men. Everyone wants to feel that they deserve the opportunities that they are given and aren’t given a place because, a token is needed or diversity numbers must be met. However I still believe equal opportunity should be given. 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Another Way To Enjoy Stories

A while back I was taking a break from films and TV, mostly because all my shows had ended and there was a lull. I took to the internet remembering I had seen adaptations of classic stories plastered all over the internet. Now, seeking something new to watch I delved into the world of web series. I know I'm late this party but I'm glad I turned up.
The first series I was hooked on was an adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. This series seems to have been the stepping stone to other success stories of adapting classic literature into modernised versions which centre around a main character keeping a video diary. Sometimes it works very well, especially in the case of The Lizzie Bennet diaries which is actually award winning had has spawned several spin offs of small characters and a Lydia Bennet diary than was released alongside Lizzie's. The characters even had Twitter accounts with photos and all. A very clever strategy.

Each series starts with 2-3 minutes episodes and sometimes extends to 8-10 minutes episodes which moves the strory along or stays within the boundaries of having an online diary where 'the viewers' cans end in questions for the characters.

As someone who loves twists on classic literature (when its done right) I couldn't resist. As I said I was completely hooked on the Lizzie Bennett Diaries. Transfered to an American setting (as mosto of these series are), Lizzie Bennet, a grad student, decides to set up a video diary online with her friend Charlotte Lu and from there we get to meet her sisters, Jane and Lydia. Many characters are talked about for many episodes before we get to see them as obviously, how do you include certain characters to a video diary. It's done well and I really enjoyed, I even revisit it from time to time. I'm not the only one who loved it, there are Tumblr blogs and Pinterest boards to prove how well loved it is.

Naturally, after TLD I devoured the award winning, Emma Approved, a modernised version of Jane Austen's Emma, which for me, is an easier story to adapt. Emma Woodhouse is a lifestyle coach and event planner and of course a matchmaker. She runs her business with her friend Alex Knightly. All the other characters make an appearence in some way or another and its cleverly worked in. But what makes this show so addictive to watch is the chemistry between Emma and Knightly, they are a brilliant pair. The premise, or the reason why they are all talking to the camera seems a bit too thin at first but after a few episodes it doesn't matter. Also Caroline Lee turns up for a TLD crossover.

After these two series, I went looking for more. I came across some interesting sounding series based on Mansfield Park, Much Ado About Nothing, Frankenstein Little Women but nothing grabbed me. But then, after watching the films on Youtube, I watched Green Gables Fables. I watched both series in a few days and while it wasn't the same quality as the Austen adaptations, I really enjoyed it. Modernising the tale of a red headed orphan who is adopted by a middle aged couple who actually wanted a boy to help round the farm, is not a stretch.

I had seen the trailer for The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy so many times but I waited until all of series 2 was up to watch it all over a few days. I loved how everything fitted together and it all weirdly made sense, including Tinkerbell is serves as camera for most of Peter's parts. Tink is not out of place as she is accepted everyone. The second series lost it's spark a bit even though a group of great actors were added to the cast list. The cameras being in place at Hook's office seems uncomfortable and stays that way. Saying this, there was cliffhanger at the end and I want to know what happens. With the good news a third series is happening, now its just waiting.

There are some lists out there with suggestions of what series are the best, like this one, which is where I picked up GGF but there are lots out there waiting to be discovered or crowd funded. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Afternoon Movie: The River Wild

Unlike the other films I've chosen for this feature, this isn't exactly all fun and games with a sweet heartfelt message at the end. This was a film that I watched numerous amount of times when I was younger. This was really my introduction to Meryl Streep and to some extent why I always thought Kevin Bacon was a 'bad guy'. This was before John C Reilly became a 'big deal' and was not long after Jurassic Park so Joseph Mazzello is still young and annoying. I remember my Mum liking this film because she always wanted to go whitewater rafting. On the surface its about marriage than needs some TLC. But water rafting and escaped criminals help bring a family closer together. It's of course. The River Wild.

Gail (Meryl Streep) and Tom (David Strathairn) are having some problems, mostly because Tom is a workaholic and doesn't spend much time with his family. Gail, who is a water rafting expert, decides to take the children on a water rafting holiday in Idaho along one of the infamous rivers. Leaving her young daughter with her parents, Gail and son, Roarke are about to set off when Tom shows up to join them. Along the way they meet a couple of guys, Wade and Terry (Kevin Bacon and John C Reilly), also heading down the river, they seem friendly at first. But upon meeting them again for second time, Gail becomes suspicious. It turns out that the men are criminals and are trying to escape down river. They become violent and take the family hostage, forcing Gail to take them down the restricted routes.

What follows is a pretty intense family thriller that might not be suitable for all ages but its a 12a so any with parents or over this age can enjoy the film. Its a thriller that is exciting as well as terrifying.

The fact the film was shot between Montana, Oregon and parts of the Colorado River means there are some beautiful views to stare at as well wish you were on the river too. With an excellent guide of course as those waters can be very dangerous.

Looking back on the film, it seems like an odd bunch to throw together, especially when you look at where the cast is now. Streep is obviously on top form as always, Strathairn was/is on Bourne duty. Reilly is now focusing more on comedy and Bacon, well, he does adverts for EE and of course he's in a TV show too.

My memories of this film are watching it over and over usually on a sunny afternoon in the school holidays wishing I could be on a raft. I must have seen this film when I was really young as when I was 11 years old I went on an adventure holiday with my school and we went rafting. It was in Devon so it wasn't anything like the film but I did mention it to people and no one knew what I was talking about. Years later when I mentioned this film, it got a laugh, so at least it was acknowledged.

It may be an odd pick for an afternoon film but it gets your mind out into the open and the refreshing river and adds suspense into the water too.

Friday, 15 July 2016

I Can't Believe I Saw It At The Cinema

I never got to see Titanic until it was released on VHS. I was too young to see it in the cinema but I remember the craze that surrounded it. I remember people saying they saw it 12 times and thinking that was absurd. But I think the total number of times people saw it in the cinema has hit the roof. My Dad took my sister to see it but I had to stay at home. When it was released on VHS my friend had a copy of it but we weren't allowed to watch certain parts so my friend and I hid behind the sofa. I didn't even get to the end before my parents picked me up. I got to see the entire film when my parents bought our own copy and I was blown away. I thought it was brilliant but sad. I think there was too much of a hype but its still a good film. But haters gonna hate right? So instead of Titanic, I saw an array of 'other' films that had the PG certificate.

An Ideal Husband
Let me refresh your memory. Back in 1999 I was 10 years old going on 11 depending when this film was released and my friend and her family were going to the cinema. I think I was at their house when this was decided. We all piled in the car and dashed to the cinema just in time to find out the film they wanted to see had already started. The only other film on at the time of our arrival was, An Ideal Husband. Bit of an odd one to take your children to even if it was a PG. Based on the Oscar Wilde play, Rupert Everett is Lord Goring, a philanderer who is asked by his friend to speak to Lady Cheveley who claims to have evidence of a crime, therefore ruining his reputation. It was entertaining enough except I didn't really know what was happening. Watching the film years later, I appreciated the story and even got the humour. 

The Mummy
Remember the trailer I saw before My Favourite Martian? Well, I got to see it in the end and it scared the s*** out of me! I was scared easily by things, I put it down to my wild imagination, meaning I always imagine the worst. I had nightmares about this film for years. I'm not joking. After some failures at the box office, Universal studio wanted to revisit the successful monster movie franchises from 1930s and so The Mummy was put into production. It was actually a surprise hit. British Eqyptologist Evelyn living in Cairo is given an unusual box and map leading to Hamunaptra. She strikes a deal with American Adventurer Rick, who can lead the way but the expedition encounters far more than they bargained for. I watched the sequel with no issues and didn't bother with the last installment. But I'm still scared of the first one. I think its the combination of the scarab beetles and the 'killing' of the American group. 

Lost In Space
DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!There seems to be a trend. I happened to see a few films that were based on an old TV series (My Favourite Martian, Charlie's Angels...). The reason why my family went to see Lost in Space was for three reasons, it was a PG and there wasn't much to choose from, it was about space and my sister had a massive crush on Matt Le Blanc. I think we saw it twice. That's what little choice there was. In the future Earth is dying, as per usual, so a nominated scientist, Robinson, and his family must venture into space to the next habitable planet and start to colonize. But the evil Dr Smith, Gary Oldman taking a break from worthwhile films, sabotages the ship and thus they are all lost in space. Not much happens in the film apart from the planet they crash land on which turns out to have a massive time hop thing going on and they encounter future Will Robinson. There's a terrible bit with spiders and mutations but other than that I really enjoyed it back then. We even had it on video!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Check the Gate: Thelma & Louise

Thelma and Louise was the start of something. It was and is an important film for women. Back in 1991, the film was hailed as a landmark of feminist film and now, 25 years later it is as relevant as powerful as it was then. But, sadly the movement the film promised never came to fruition. But things are moving and feminism in in film becoming more of a talking point. After the film, both Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis became activists for women in film and countless women across Hollywood and the world have spoken out. It's not as fast I had hoped but change will happen and I hope to be a part of it all the way.

The film was screened as part of Check the Gate, a celebration of celluloid. It is a season of 35mm print films being screened at one of my favourite cinemas, The Prince Charles Cinema. Know for its varied and brilliant programming that includes new(ish) releases as well as special events, sing-a-longs, classic double bills and special focus seasons such as #ChecktheGate. The PCC is hosting this season in collaboration with Park Circus who work with cinemas, film festivals and events to bring back films to the big screen. After perusing their catalogue I think my eyes were watering at how many greats films they have.

Presenting the film was The Bechdel Test Fest, an organisation made up of a small team who are passionate about cinema and after finding them through Twitter, I was very excited about the message they were putting out about celebrating women in film and women who love film. I also became obsessed with their fantastic zine, 'Girls Gotta Eat' so much so that I passed on a copy to friends to share the film goodness.

Directed by Ridley Scott and written by Callie Khouri, Thelma and Louise is about two women who go on a road trip but after a terrible event, they end up on the run. Thelma (Geena Davis), an unhappy housewife with domineering and unkind husband wants a break from her dull life. Louise, an independent woman who works as a waitress wants to get away for the weekend to teach her boyfriend a lesson. But after Thelma is assaulted and nearly raped, Louise comes to her aid holding a gun. But after the rapist goads her with insults, Louise pulls the trigger. This is the beginning of a chain of events that changes everything but these two women know how the world works and nothing will stop them, not even the Grand Canyon.

After the screening there were Lightening Talks, which is a regular feature from The Bechdel Test Fest. Four speakers were invited and they all brought a different perspective to the table. Film critic Kate Muir talked about how important the was when it was first released and how she finally got to meet Geena Davis and Susan Sarnadon. Laura Snapes, who writes for various publications had never seen the movie before and expressed that while she enjoyed the film she couldn't help but feel sad that nothing happened after the film's release. The hope that things would change for women in film is still there. The last two speakers were two thirds of the co-founders of the Reel Good Film Club, Maria Cabrera and Grace Barber-Plentie who didn't like the film. Their reason was that the film was 'full of white people' and that as far as they got as they didn't really elaborate but just kept repeating the same thing. I thought this was a shame as a different point of view would have been great to hear. Unfortunately the great event ended in shouting and throw away comments that weren't thought through. A film audience who are passionate can be a dangerous thing.

I really hope that another event is organised, a discussion panel maybe so that everyone's views can be heard and given the proper time to explore the reasons why people like the film and why they don't.

Having only seen Thelma and Louise once before a few years ago, I was kicking myself then for not watching it sooner. Seeing the film on the film screen in 35mm, with all its little technical imperfections was a dream.

The influence of Thelma and Louise is strong with most generations appreciating how things were in Hollywood in 1991 and that a film with two female leads who go their own way was and is staple in feminist films. But the starry eyed younger film generations might not see this as what it is, a film about women in a world of men, which is how my friend (also a film fanatic) described it. I fear that those in their teen years or early twenties might not enjoy this film for what it represents, which is a shame. Understanding the film for what I think it is, a film about two best friends who hit the road and don't look back.

Thursday Movie Picks: Female Ensemble

I had some really good picks for this but darn it I've gone and used them for other themes. There really should be more films with female ensemble and after the backlash of Ghostbusters has calmed down perhaps. In fact Ghostbusters would have been an excellent pick for this week...

In fact, so far its been a very female film month. All the films I've seen at the cinema so far have featured female leads and even written and directed by women, so this week's theme is 'very on the nose'.

Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Honestly cannot remember picking this before and if I have, my apologies. I love Pedro Almodovar, he makes great movies and they are about women. His first international success, WOTVOANB is about Pepa, a voice over actress who has just been left by her lover. In the midst of her own personal problems, she has to console her friend who had been having a fling with a terrorist, her lover's son and his finace drop by to see her apartment and her lover's ex adds to the drama. There are a few men in the film, but this really belongs to the women of the title who are all on the verge. A pure black comedy of brilliance.

Now and Then
Called the female 'Stand By Me' by few but I remember the film as, for a brief few years, the film where Christina Ricci was tall. I loved this film when I was younger because the clothes, the tree house dream, the mini bike trip and of course the friendship. Each girl is very different yet they are a group of friends that, even after years apart, they act like no time has passed. Roberta, Samantha, Teeny and Chrissy, reunite near Chrissy's due date. They reminisce about one particular Summer when they all grew up following the events of a seance in a grave yard. Great feel good then bad then good again film.

Made in Dagenham
Originally called 'We Want Sex' after the mishap with the banner when the women of Ford Dagenham were protesting at Parliament. I wish they kept that name but no the production was forced to change. Based on the real story of the Ford Sewing Machinists strike in 1968 that led the way to the Equal Pay Act in 1970. A fantastic cast of women and great characters you love to watch. Not so sure about it being a musical but the film was better than I thought it would be.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Romeo & Juliet - Live Theatre

As much as I love the theatre, I don’t get to go very often. Tickets are phenomenally expensive if you want decent seats and sometimes, there just isn’t enough room for both legs. I’ve sat in my fair share of uncomfortable theatres, with obscured views and cramped seating as well as the sudden vertigo from the upper and grand circle views. But, for the first time I got to experience the thrill of live theatre from the comfort of a cinema.

Screening West End plays, operas, ballets and even art exhibitions isn’t a new fad that has just started, this has been happening for quite a few years. In fact I bought my Dad tickets for an Opera to be screened at the fancy Odeon cinema where you can eat and drink in a cinema fitting 25 people in large comfortable seats. It was a Christmas present and I just couldn’t afford tickets for the actual show but he was delighted with what he saw. I had meant to see a few shows being screened that I had missed but just never got round to going. But now that these events are so readily available I was able to see a production I was looking forward to.

The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company are currently performing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at Garrick Theatre in London and I really wanted to go as not only were Richard Madden and Lily James in the leads but veteran theatre actor, Derek Jacobi, was playing Mercutio. I looked to the theatre first and simply could not afford tickets so instead my friend and I went to the Bloomsbury Curzon. After a few seat moves and mu blindness getting us better ones, we got to see a fantastic production. 

After a few odd and awkward films featuring teenagers talking about love and Shakespeare, we were treated to a interesting account as to why the older Derek Jacobi was cast as Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio. An inspired reason involving Oscar Wilde towards to end of his life, spending a evening drinking with younger companions, gave clarity before the play had begun. We, the cinema audience, were also treated to watching the play in black and white, which felt as if this was exactly how all audiences were meant to experience the story.

Set in 1950s Italy, with homage to films such as La Dolce Vita, it was simple, elegant and almost pitch perfect. My friend and I did not enjoy Benvolio’s speech. It nearly ruined some scenes. It didn’t feel like he knew what he was saying just that he has to memorise the lines. But apart from this, the play was brilliant. Especially Derek Jacobi who stole every scene he was in. After seeing his interpretation, I can’t imagine Mercutio in any other way.

After seeing Richard Madden and Lily James in Cinderella, I found out about Romeo and Juliet. They are a brilliant pairing with excellent chemistry, they encapsulated the characters and delivered every line to the point I think the audience were holding their breath not wanting to miss a moment. Madden had actually injured himself a few days before and had gone through physio to make sure he was on stage for the cinema screening day around the UK, so an extra well done to him for performing.

Although Romeo and Juliet is not my favourite Shakespeare play, that is held by the more comedic plays, but this was one of my favourite interpretations I have seen. The experience has also persuaded me to seek out other shows coming to the cinema and possibly even try something outside my comfort zone.  Theatre in the comfort of a cinema – I think it’s here to stay.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Single Location Movies

There are more films with stand alone locations than I realised. Most are adapted from plays but there are a few like Reservoir Dogs, that are original. I didn't pick the Tarantino classic, not this time, that is saved for another theme.

Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks.

I'm not sure where this movie went outside the UK but I remember way back when I saw a trailer and footage for it at Movie-Con at the BFI (amazing event by the way). It seemed like it was going to be huge but turned into a dark indie that had a short release. Set in an alternative present where half the population is infected with a desease, 8 candidates are placed in a room under the impression this part of a job interview process for a company that has found a cure. But it turns into a psychological test and it's really good. The poster was misleading as was the trailer but the actual shows you can do so much with very little.

One of my favourite Hitchcock films and also happens to be one a few films by the Master of Suspense that is set in one location. Several British and American civilians, service members and merchant Mariners are left stranded in a lifeboat after their ship and a U-boat sink each other in combat. The group pull a German survivor from the water and they have decide what to do. There are power shifts, suspenseful moments and murder all on one lifeboat in the ocean. The cast are brilliant and keep you involved the whole way through.

The Hole
Looking at this film now, it seems like a really random cast thrown together and literally thrown in a hole. But back in 2001, it wouldn't seem odd to see Thora Birch along side Keira Knightly and Lawrence Fox. But Desmond Harrington is an odd pick anyway. This is another physiological thriller with conflicting stories. Teenagers (not believable) at a boarding school decide to have fun by skipping a school field trip and spending time in a bunker in the woods BUT when they are locked in no one is having fun. Pretty good for its time but now it's maybe not so.