Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Blind Spot: Bagdad Cafe


This may be seen as using another post to pad this one out BUT before I was given the chance to review the 30th Anniversary edition of Bagdad Cafe, I had been waiting for the opportunity ever since I read Ruby Tandoh's piece in Filmme Fatales issue no8. An excellent zine may I add. I think this does deserve to be in my blind spot list as its not a film I'd accidentally stumble upon but it has the air of 'classic' about it. Its about friendship, the importance of magic and of course, coffee.That hauntingly beautiful song will follow me down any road I walk now.

Full review can be found over at VultureHound HERE.

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, 9 August 2018

Season of the Witch


I’ve never heard this song, or maybe I’ve heard a cover of it in the credits of season 4 of True Blood. I actually really liked the first two seasons of True Blood, stuck with it during season 3, as Alcide was a werewolf worth sticking around for. Season 4 was where I faltered or rather the series faltered which was disappointing as it featured witches. I had hoped that this would be an exploration into witchcraft as well as the series’ own spin on the this area of supernatural beings, but it wasn’t. Even the ever amazing Irish actress Fiona Shaw couldn’t save the season as the head of a coven who is eventually possessed by a witch from the past seeking revenge. This was a lost opportunity in eyes. I stopped watching True Blood after a few episodes in to season 5, it had lost its bite.


Witches have not been favoured in film, music, literature and anything really... unless you count Sabrina the Teenage Witch and oh gad, Harry Potter and friends. I should say now, I’m not a huge Potter fans. Sorry but not sorry. It’s not a requirement of a British film lover who also likes fantasy and science fiction to ‘like’ Harry Potter. I appreciate the films and the books in other ways but I don’t own the films or even the books anymore (1-5 were my sisters and my dad bought and read the others). The studio tour on the other hand was immense and THAT I did enjoy. I own the Marauder’s Map, yes, but its an amazing work of art. So, there will not be mention of J.K Rowling’s saga. Although I loved Winnie the Witch and devoured all the 'Worst Witch' books, there isn't mention of them either, both classics if you ask me.


I did and do love Sabrina the Teenage Witch, that 90s TV sitcom styled show about a girl who finds out she is half witch and goes to live with her eccentric aunts. That, I could watch again, and I did, when I bough the entire series box set. The magic in that was a mix of goofy kid’s show stuff and pretty dark and dismal such as, being turned into a candle of wax for breaking a rule or turning to stone if your true love leaves you. This was dark for anyone to experience let alone a teen girl. This lighter side to witchcraft, as I mentioned, came with rules that at times Sabrina broke. The amazing spell book she was gifted held spells, need to know info and warnings of magic being misused. As a predominantly kid’s show, it obviously didn’t delve deep into mythology and very little history. One episode I thought was brilliantly executed was where Sabrina went on a class trip to Salem where everyone is given a secret identity, one of which is a ‘witch’. Anyone is allowed to be accused of being a witch because for some reason that’s a fun thing to do? Sabrina is picked on by the mean girl and is even put on trial. She wins and is proved not to be a witch BUT at the end when she finally looks at her identity it is revealed that she had the ‘witch’ card all along. You can’t escape your true identity.

Witchcraft has always been at the back of mind, as well elements of other explanations, might be why I love sci-fi so much. Star signs was something I followed when I was younger then as a teenager I bought my first pack of Tarot cards, ones of which I picked carefully. I tried to learn the meanings behind the cards but it became a novelty when I found out every ‘emo’ owned a pack. I was intrigued by the history and what each card meant rather than being considered to be ‘just like everyone else’.  I brought them into school once where everyone got excited and started ‘playing’ with them. Someone suggested I use them to read people’s future at the next charity week, but my head of year promptly shut this down and told me not to bring them again. I should add, this was a catholic Covent school (hideous place).



Although, my knowledge of the cards decreased, witches and witch craft was still something I was fascinated with. When American Horror Story: Coven started, I was ecstatic. Even though it was the least favoured (until Freak Show started), I loved it, despite some problematic parts to it. A house full of witches, actual spells of all kinds, dark and light, Stevie Nicks singing ‘Seven Wonders’, a fantastic old fashioned demonstration of what the seven wonders where, all amazing and yes it was still scary to watch in some parts. When you mix in axe murdering ghosts, voodoo queens and horrific racism, its a series I can watch repeatedly.


My refreshed interest in witches came about when a favourite London based film collective, The Final Girls, presented two short documentaries about witches, specifically in the 70s, at the start of the year during the London Short Film Festival. I wrote a post about this screening at the time, but it stayed with me. Witchcraft holds a world of the weird and wonderful as well as the potential scary elements. Witches in film have usually been placed as the villain which to me, is a tired trope, plus, if its outright horror like the 2015 film ‘The Witch’ I can’t watch. But, I’m still absorbed into the story. All the fairytale witches are evil and cruel, some of them even with cannibal tendencies, which is an easy out. The person with magical powers is always going to be the ‘evil’ one. This might be fear of the unknown, people fear what they can’t explain. Curiosity of witchcraft is far more interesting to depict. I should also mention The Final Girls' previous witch-y themed film, The Love Witch, which they toured the country with.  I loved this film but I won't gush on about it in this post as I have already in another.


After going to Somerset House’s free exhibition, Tear it Up, about independent publishing and magazines in the UK, I discovered Sabat magazine, which focused over 4 issues, on witchcraft, the spiritual and supernatural. This beautifully printed magazine had me at the first page. Exploring the myth behind the culture renewal of the occult and witches in a contemporary fashion, Sabat is full of beautiful art, interviews and articles around the idea of Witches. My renewed interest in Tarot cards came from the exquisite hand crafted Tarot cards Sabat has on offer and from The Night Circus (which I can reading right now) as well as the secrets that that story holds.

@sabatmagazine

 

 @AHSFX

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Body Switch



Your Name
 A country girl, Mitsuha and city boy, Taki (a little bit like the song) wake up in each other's bodies. They get to know each through notes and messages and make changes in each other's lives. When Taki tries to find Mitsuha and her town but it is revealed that the comet that passed over the sky split in two. The smaller part crashing to Earth and destroying Mitsuha's town, 3 years previously. A sci-fi romance spin with body swapping. It is also the 4th highest grossing Japanese film of all time. With a fantastic soundtrack and amazing animation, this story stuck with me long after I saw it.

Girls Lost
Three teenage girls plant a special flower whose nectar turns them temporarily into boys. They enjoy the freedom that comes with being a boy, but when one of them becomes too attached to their male persona, their friendship is tested. In all honesty, I haven't seen all of the film, but now its waiting patiently on my shelf to be watched, no escape. The story was intriguing and it also reminded me of that episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch where she turns into a boy to get to know Harvey better. Yes, I love Sabrina, such a great show....

Day Watch
Following on from Night Watch, an epically amazing film, taken from the pages of The Night Watch saga by Sergei Lukyanenko, the sequel, Day Watch was not based on the second book of the series, but actually the latter part of The Night Watch book. Confused? No matter. The body switching in the film occurs when Light Other Anton needs to be hidden from the Dark Others as he has been covering up his son's (Dark Other) crimes against humans. He is body swapped with his old partner, Olga, who was punished to be an owl for decades, but that was in the first film. Anyway they are swapped for sometime in the film. An amusing sequence where it cuts between them as Light Other Svetlana can see the real Anton through his disguise.

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

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Edinburgh Film Festival: The Return of the Hero



I hadn’t realised just how rare a period costume comedy was until writer and  director Laurent Tirard introduced his film at EIFF last month. He said that you don’t see many films of this genre and I struggled to think of examples. Apart from the genre being surprisingly unusual, Tirard said he was influenced by Jane Austen’s work and that he wanted to adapt one of her novels but seeing as they have each been adapted countless times, he said he had to write his own. I booked a ticket for this film last minute and it turned out to be one of my favourites of the festival.

Feckless Captain Neuville declares his love for Pauline, who comes from a very wealthy family and asks her to marry him. He is then immediately called to war, but promises to write. Pauline’s older sister Elisabeth doesn’t believe him for a second. After months of no word from him, she decides to write as the Captain to ease her sister’s suffering. But the letters become far bigger than she anticipated, she creates a fantastical heroic tale of the Captain’s fictional adventures and eventual supposed death. Her sister happily marries someone else, has children and the town remembers their ‘hero’ and life moves on. Until one day, the Captain returns, but he has been stripped of his rank, penniless and living like vagrant. His sudden return causes problems for Elisabeth so strikes a deal with the coward who deserted the army. But instead, the ‘hero’ returns, playing the part that Elisabeth has created for him. 

Jean Dujardin is the Captain is so utterly perfect in the role as a charming con man. Melanie Laurent is equally brilliant as the stubborn and independent Elisabeth and the two actors have such great chemistry. The pure comedy in the film is pitch perfect, from ridiculous situations to romantic comedy territory that is actually delightful to follow. There is also something uniquely spectacular about the costumes and the locations, with a story about lies and cowardice being played on this grand looking scale. 

Another aspect of the film which I appreciate being a more than a device but an actual part of the character of Elisabeth was about her writing. Elisabeth is vexed by the Captain’s return because it would expose her lies but also because she is the true author to his stories which he takes delight in reenacting for his eager ignorant audience. Her desire to be discovered as the talented writer she is becomes more important to be revealed than the fact she lied. Her frustration that she cannot do everything she wants to do, even though she chooses not to marry, she can’t be the writer she wants to be because its not possible for a woman, is an important part of Elisabeth just as much as her sense of honour and the truth. 


I’m really hoping that the film gets a general release in the UK as I think as Austen is always a winning in formula, the story and essence of the film would be very much appreciated. Fingers crossed!



Friday, 27 July 2018

The Dude Abides

The Dude has abided for 20 gutterballing, White Russian drinking, pot smoking years. The Coen Brothers' cult film celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year and I'm not the only one celebrating.

Tonight, there is a screening of The Big Lebowski, part of Cinema Rediscovered and I will be introducing the film. Very nervous but also super excited. I though to go along with the film, I'd bring a mini zine I'd made (also thanks to my Dad who trimmed the edges and stapled them together) for those who wanted something to take home with them. I added in a word search as I thought why not? Plus I was inspired by Hannah Woodhead's Laura Dern zine.

I'll have more to write about this weekend as I will also be catching some other films I haven't seen before which I'm very much looking forward to.

Here's a look at the zine:




 

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

June/July Watch List


Slightly preempting this month but releasing the watch list early-ish, but I'm guessing the films I see later will ge included next month.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

I completely forgot about this Star Wars story. In my head I thought I'd written about it. I think, in some ways, I didn't want to write about this film, just enjoy it. I'll say this first, this film, wasn't needed, but it was fun to watch. Seeing young Han, played perfectly by Alden Ehrenreich (love this guy), scrabble around for survival the escape to become a pilot for the Empire, then to meet his best friend for life Chewie was something I didn't know I wanted to see. Han and Chewie best buds scenes were the highlight, apart from Lando in all his caped glory. From the war, to the heist with those epic trains, to being caught up in a gang war, to the beyond creepy Crimson Dawn and the all the crazy bits inbetween (slave riot is another highlight), Solo was a great story that fits neatly into the saga, even though it doesn't actually answer anything, but brings more questions about the extended universe, the last few minutes for example. 4/5

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

What can I say about Jurassic World that hasn't been said already? As sequels go, its as expected. It isn't necessarily 'bigger' but it does try to be bolder. The dinosaurs are in peril, as the island they inhabit is about to explode as it is discovered that there is an active volcano beneath the island. Funny how this was wasn't checked out when the theme park was built on it. Actually, there are quite a few of these moments that happen so often, it doesn't matter. The film is ridiculous but I love it. Dinosaurs are awesome and as the plot just gets sillier, the more enjoyable it becomes. From terrible names for new dinosaurs to steretyped new characters to the number one thing to never do in a Jurassic Park/World film, bringing dinosaurs to the mainland, it never ends well. Anyhoo, the dinos are in danger of being killed off, our favourite couple (no longer a couple at this point) Claire and Raptor whisperer Owen try to save them when an obvious shady deal is struct with a shady company, owned by a guy who used to know Hammond and his shady assistant. Dr. Henry Wu is also back and gives a few 'I'm an artist' speeches before being knocked out and dragged into the next film. Blue is also back, in videos of her as a baby dino, which are adorable I have to say, and as an injured adult. The evolution of the Velociraptors from villain to friend over the entire franchise is something you wouldn't have expected. An added bonus was a scene with our favourite Chaos Theorist who insists that we should let the dinos die otherwise we'll end up in their world. Life finds a way. 3/5

Ocean's 8 
I've always said that Ocean's Eleven could have had an entire female cast and the dialogue would not have needed to change. Then last year it was announced that there would be an Ocean's film, featuring all women, well, I was half happy, half confused. On the one hand having a cast a really great women who are just effortlessly cool was fantastic news, but the fact that it was part of a 'franchise' and not a brand new story with no ties to the male orientated trio of films, was disappointing. Debbie Ocean is released from prison, similiar to how her brother Danny was in the remake, Ocean's Eleven. She and her partner in crime Lou put together a team of women, each bringing their own skills to the table, to execute a heist at the famed Met Gala. At first it was annoying they were stealing jewellery BUT the heist is actually quite thrilling and the plan is perfect. The only thing that bugged me in the end was that the film didn't up the stakes. There was no real peril for the ladies, plus James Cordon was no needed. I did enjoy the fact that none of the woman had to resort to seducing anyone and didn't use their sexuality to complete the heist as so many spy or crime thriller often do. It was clean cut and as I said earlier, effortlessly cool. 4/5

Four Film Noirs
A while ago, I bought a boxest of four films; The Dark Mirror, Secret Beyond the Door, Force of Evil and The Big Combo. All reviewed on Vulturehound HERE.

Tokyo Tribe
Having missed this Hip Hop musical about gangs in Tokyo, based the mang series, at LFF a couple of years back, I saw it on sale, like I do, in my favourite Fopp. Watched it on a whim and within minutes I hated it. Some of the music introducing the gangs was good and set design of the entire film is actually amazing but the constant threat of rape of the all the women in the film (only one main character who is a woman too) was too much. Maybe it's my own fault for not reading more about the film to understand what it was about or maybe I should go the hint from Hip Hop (like a sexist Hip Hop video but feature length). Either way, I really did not like this film. If you're curious, by all means seek it out for yourselves, you may enjoy it. 1/5

Set It Up
 A surprise hit from Netflix original films, meaning, I thought this was better than expected. Two PAs in work themselves to the bone for little to no pay off for their highly strung and careless bosses decide to set them up to make their own lives easier. But over time, the question of sacrificing their own freedom (and happiness) at the cost of lying to someone comes into question, also the PAs themselves start to fall for each other. Even though I'm not a 'sports fan', I can appreciate that the two main female characters are sports writers. Lucy Liu is the successful owner of an online sports journalism empire and she's fantastic. For me, I think its just great to see Lui in a film again. Her relationship with her PA Harper is better than that of Charlie's with his venture capitalist boss Rick, who moans about his ex-wife and takes little to no interest in his kid's life. The guys are out for themselves but Harper, no matter how badly treated she is, still respects Kirsten and her work. Its slightly messed but in the end it all works out better as Harper is encouraged to write by Kirsten. I actually worked as a PA for two terrible months, it takes a patient and special kind of person to do that job. 3/5

Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
This was watched on a whim as I never watched the first Ninja Turtle film. I hate Michael Bay and I'm not a huge fan of Megan Fox, but after what she said about Bay and her treatment, I have more respect for her now. Those feelings aside, a live action version of Ninja Tutrles didn't sound great on paper or in trailers BUT the sequel was a fun silly frolic where 80% of the characters from the TV animated series were motion captured. With Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady appearing in this jam packed film, I couldn't resist. It was just like the cartoon I watched as a kid, except there was some emotional brother drama between the turtles which was just annoying to sit through. 3/5

The Search for John Gissing
Full review of this 'lost' Alan Rickman starring film from 2001 is over on Vulturehound. 2/5

The Miseducation of Cameron Post 
My thoughts on this film will be posted up on Vulturehound next month nearer the the UK release date. I'll link back here then. 4/5

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Edinburgh Film Festival: Dead in a Week


I've said before (I think) that I'm a sucker for a hitman story. So when I see Aneurin Barnard is in a new film AND it has Tom Wilkinson playing said hitman, I'm going to make sure I see it.

Suicidal writer William had tried to end his life numerous times but can't catch a break. He meets hitman Leslie on a bridge one night who offers to do the deed for him. As Leslie is trying to fill his quota and struggling to do so, he has taken to assisting suicides instead of 'proper' contracts, to the disapproval of his boss. William has a week window where Leslie will try to kill him in the cheapest possible way, bullet to the head. But in that same week, William has interest in his book about his falied suicide attempts from a publisher and asks to hold of the deal, but Leslie is a desparate man and a contract is a contract to him. 

A comedy about a hitman who is getting to old for his job he loves and suicidal writer who writes about his failed attempts is an odd sell, but for the better part, it works. The film has a very British feel about it and has jokes such as the Europeans are taking over the hitman market and the dellusional heroic death where everyone claps after William saves a child in a way seems like British humour to me.


The film has a simple story with complicated characters that flesh out the plot, not going over the top in any direction which, with a subject, let alone a comedy haevily featuring suicide, is needed. Heartfelt moments are well balanced with comedic ones. Wilkinson's very matter of fact and annoyance when he accidentally kills the wrong person going after William is perfect, as well as his wife Penny played by Marion Bailey, presenting with a scrap book of all his 'best hits', is nicely placed in the middle of the quiet chaos. 

With a great cast of characters and actors, a hitman comedy about suicide is an unexpected bright light amongst the gritty despressing British film landscape.