Sunday, 9 December 2018

What do you want? You want the moon?

 Unpopular opinion; 'It's A Wonderful Life' is a lie. It's not a wonderful life.

Took me years to see it and when I did, I found myself angry and frustrated for poor old George. All he ever wanted was to leave Bedford Falls but he never did anything he wanted. What's so wonderful about that?

From this, you might be thinking I'm some kind of Scrooge or to you youngsters, a Grinch. Well I'm not a big fan of the Grinch either but that's another post. I actually really love Christmas. I used to have my own traditions when I was a kid and enforced some when I got older but Christmas this year will be very different which is sad but all things change. I'm still keeping my Christmas spirit though. Putting up the tree (soon), wrapping the presents and watching all my Christmas films. 'It's a Wonderful Life' is NOT included.

I always saw Frank Capra's classic as a beacon of hope and Christmas cheer and that's how it was sold to me. Of course as I got older, still never having seen it, I read that George, our hero, goes through a 'Christmas Carol' type deal but just with the future part, where he sees what lives would be like if he hadn't been born. The fact that George was about to kill himself by jumping off a bridge only having to jump in anyway to save an old man, his guardian angel, puts a downer on the whole story. George is pushed to his limit when he steps up to that bridge, having had to miss out on countless chances to escape his hometown, where I'm sure he would be far happier. He is always making sacrifices and always 'doing the right thing' for everyone else, its no surprise he ends up on that bridge. He's meant to be saving his town, friends and family from the evil Mr Potter but how has it come to be George's problem? The visit to 'Pottersville' just mounts more pressure on George than ever. Seeing that yes he may have saved people, or changed people's lives, but I still can'y shake the fact that it is all at the expence of George's real happiness. What I would have liked to see is what if George HAD got to live his dream, what would have his life been like?

I suppose if there had been anything different, there wouldn't have been a film, right? George's plight just doesn't sit well with me, which is why I can't happily watch the film. I want to George to travel the world with Mary and have a life outside Bedford Falls, but I know what will happen when I play the film, the same un-wonderful life. Give me a Christmas film where everything does work out fine in the end.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Tales From the Screen Age...

First with excitement and then with eager anticipation I watched the first trailer of 'Mortal Engines', an adaptaion of a book I loved when I was younger, back in 2003. I had always said the book had cinematic potential and now we can see it in cinemas this week!

The concept art was beautifully spot on but the trailer worried me. In fact each trailer release I doubted that this was going to be the story I loved. And yes I know, 'you shouldn't compare the book to the film' but readers will always do that. The fact that Peter Jackson was on board gave me hope,  but he didn't direct it. Ignore the marketing that makes it seem like he did, he didn't. But despite that, I was still keen to see it. I'll be writing a full review over at VultureHound which will be up soon. But until then, HERE are my thoughts about the possible new franchise to try and dominate the cinema.

Side note, having seen the film, I am actually spurred on to read the next book in the series.



Wednesday, 28 November 2018

No One Puts Olivia in the Corner

As I queued at 8:15 am on a breezy October morning, I wasn't entirely sure what I was in for. I knew it was about a heist and there was a political element to the story and there were four awesome women at the center of it all. As I was handed a copy of the book the film was based on, I started to get more excited. It wasn't what I had expected, it was far better.
When renowned thief Harry Rawlings is killed in a robbery gone wrong along with three of his partners, their widows are left behind with varying problems of their own. After Veronica Rawling is threatened by crime boss Jamal Manning, who's money Harry was stealing. Knowing that each of the wives will eventually be targeted, Veronica enlists, now single mother and small business owner Linda and Alice, who's has turned to escorting to support herself. Bringing in Belle, the four women plan a heist from what Harry left behind.

Based on the 80s British TV series of the same name, written by crime writer Lynda La Plante, the premise of four widows who's criminal husbands are killed in a job gone wrong, so decide to take over the final job themselves is gripping enough without the add cast power and the keen eye of Steve McQueen. It's a thriller that seems familiar, with the politics, corruption and betrayl making up the background. The real story is about these four women who are capable of more than they give themselves credit for. When these women are threatened, they don't cower in a corner, they take a stand and fight back. And its glorious.

It's esay to see how the story would play out in a TV series. With a multitide of characters to explore, politician Jack Mulligan and his strained relationship with his father and his desire to do something else, the Manning brothers who are crime bosses but want to do some good in their community and even the lesser seen characters such as the wife who wasn't involved with the heist, Amanda but even though there was quite a few players in the game, McQueen along with Gillian Flynn who co-wrote the screenplay, manage to condense several plot lines into a streamlined high stakes thriller.

With four lead roles for women, all bringing something different to the heist table, they all had characters that were more than the 'wife' role. Viola Davis obviously stands out and not just because she and her dog Olivia are an amazing duo just them, but she bring command and realisations to the group all the while masking her real pain over the loss of her husband. As out of all the couples, they seemed the happiest and strongest. And one last thing about the dog, Olivia, is a Westie, a west highland terrier, my favourite breed of dog. She is adorable and I'm so glad of all the screen time she has.

No one puts Olivia in the corner.

McQueen's version of 'Widows' offer more than a straightforward heist film. There are dirty politics and family struggles being played out, alongside some cchilling scenes from the chamleon that is  Daniel Kaluuya who is Manning's younger more violent brother. The film is a cold hard look at crime and how no one cares about your grief, not when there's money on the line.


Monday, 26 November 2018

She Wants Revenge

She Wants Revenge, those words spark a sense of rebellion in you. Either the story or the filmmaker will be something outside of the box. Unofficially the ‘horror’ strand of the festival, the selection of films varied from traditional horror to new ways of the presenting the genre.

‘V’ broke the fourth wall with a young vampire who relates her story, in her own words, not letting on everything about her past. Taking the vampire genre and giving it a new blood, a new character and a different voice. ‘Baggage’ explored what it means to literally carry your past problems, friendships, relationships with you. Choreographed brilliantly by the two lead actresses who are attached to each other throughout the film. The idea that we are our own worst enemy was touched upon in ‘Bit’ about a dancer who finds out she failed an audition she battles herself as she dances in a mirror against a darker vicious version of herself. ‘The Other Side with Valerie Hope’ might not be a horror we’ve seen before, about a medium who finds herself in a difficult situation and her ‘gifts’ are put to the test. With a vert charismatic lead, the story does border the line of dark comedy with a very satisfying end.

New and social media makes an impact on us all, as we are fed perfected images from advertisements and other media, #EatPretty is fantastically pieced together using a technology used in beauty advertising, its grips and pulls you in with voiceovers from actors, seemingly innocent, a darker meaning lies beneath the perfect surface. The amazingly shot ‘Veiled’ explores the mythology of Jinn, using cleverly devised special effects and inspired by writings in the Quran about these creatures or beings that live in parallel with us. ‘The Old Woman Who Hid Her Fear Under the Stairs’ falls back to more traditional horror or dark fairytale with the only dialogue from a video about how to capture and trap your physical fear. It’s a cleverly devised story and as an audience vert quick to believe you can indeed keep your fear under the stairs. ‘The Blue Door’ which has no dialogue, is one the best horrors I’ve seen. Building suspense with quiet and an ever moving door that really does creep the hell out of me and everyone in the audience. The set itself felt like a character, created from old used film and TV sets, it was such a simple story but it had the best reaction from the audience. Ending on the perfectly named ‘Catcalls’ which sent shivers down my spine. Two girls take revenge on a pervert in ways you would never have guessed. Apparently based on a true story, I am really dying to know the real story!

After watching nine stories from women who are all talented storytellers, I was a bit shaken (horror has that effect on me) and also very excited to see more films from these filmmakers. Underwire is truly inspiring and I can’t wait for next year’s fest.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Not Tonight Josephine

Everyone knows the film, even if they haven’t seen it. The iconic film about two down on their luck musicians who accidentally witness a mob killing go on the run dressed as women and join an all women’s jazz band. They meet sweet, slightly naive and ever so romantic Sugar who becomes best friends with one and falls in love with the other who tricks her into thinking he’s a millionaire. Labelled a romantic comedy but the screwball ethics of plot twist this the film little more than romance and comedy combined. Especially with the side mafia storyline which has a life all of its own. At times, it could be seen as two films in one and as they cross over that’s where you find ‘Some Like it Hot’.

It’s easy to forget that ‘Some Like It Hot’ was made in 1959, entering the 60s where the films changed, the mood changed, the people changed but ‘Some Like It Hot’ stands out from the crowd in more ways than two actors dressed in drag to escape the mafia. It’s also sometimes easy to forget that the film is set in the 1920s, despite the raid on the speakeasy at the start. We become absorbed into Joe and Gerry’s world and their struggle as musicians and later their life on the run.

Shot in black and white, giving the films slight film noir tone, especially where the speak easy and mafia are concerned. Marilyn Monroe actually had a contract that her films had to be in colour but as the Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis’ make up made them look terrible in colour, she agreed to the black and white film. Which is thankful, as if if you’ve seen any posters or photos from the film in colour you can see the guys’ make up really needed some toning down. The atmospheric tone and colour of the film gives it the edge, making the film feel like two stories colliding dramatically and sometimes violently. The first 15 minutes, we have a car chase, gunfire and look at life in Chicago during prohibition. Once we enter the funeral parlour (hint hint to Secret Cinema) and the world of jazz and dancing girls while the wink wink coffee is served, we finally meet the real protagonists of the film. The film noir is interrupted while the comedy takes for a sort while, until the garage massacre where the two stories crossover. Not meeting again until Florida where another violent crime is witnessed. During the scene where the Italian Opera enthusiasts are celebrating, there is sense of what was happening while Daphne and Josephine were getting to know their band mates and Sugar. This cleverly woven double bill works so perfectly as both stories continue to act like their in different stories. The magic of cinema isn’t broken once, not even at the end where nothing really is resolved. Ending on a joke and step towards the future.

As the film contains a few themes that would have raised the eyebrows of the Hays Code, the film was in fact what helped break down the ridiculous censorship rules. The film dares to be different and doesn’t care about ethics. If the film were made now, of course there would be outage BUT the film allows itself not only to commit to suggestive acts but actually calls themselves out on it. The only loose end, Sugar.

Sugar is the sweet and ‘not vert bright’ gal. She’s talented, beautiful and terribly modern. She knows all the mistakes she makes will hurt her in the end but she’s determined to live life to the fullest. But the one thing I can’t let go, why does she run after the guys at the end. She’s heartbroken but suddenly she forgives Joe for tricking her, using her, lying to her, all in a matter of minutes. I know its a film and I know it ties up the ending but it just doesn’t sit right. Sugar deserves better. But then again, so does Gerry/Daphne.

The duo at the center of the film are a perfect team. With their personalities shown within minutes of them being introduced and talking for a few lines of dialogue. Joe is the player, smooth talker at times and the one who makes bad decisions. Gerry is the practical thinker, the personality and the one who actually comes up the idea to dress in drag, he’s up for almost anything. Jack Lemmon at the time was not a big star, but he is the one who stands out from all three leads. Barely changing his voice, he morphs from Gerry to Daphne with ease and hilarity, he steals the show in every scene.

Thanks to Park Circus, this brilliant comedy is back in the cinema. Having only ever seen it on TV or DVD, the film is amazing on the big screen. It’s a rare treat to see one of your favourite films of all time in such splendour. From the witty and delicious dialogue to the wonderful cast, Billy Wilder’s masterpiece is one that will never age.

Find out about the film's re-release at BFI and where the 4K restoration will be screened HERE.

All pictures courtesy of Park Circus 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Museum

Russian Ark
 Known for being shot in a single 96 minute Steadicam sequence, director Alexander Sokurov's 'masterpiece' took four attempts to complete. With over 2,000 actors involved and 3 orchestras and filmed entirely in the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum, this film indeed is a cinematic achievement. A narrator and supposed ghost joins another traveller, a French diplomat and together they travel through 33 rooms, depicting moments from history. It's a marvel of a film but I have to admit, I felt quite lost and only enjoyed moments of it. However, it did make me want to see the palace for myself.
The Square
This film about an art museum curator who's life starts to unravel when his wallet and phone are stolen and demands them back. At the same time a new installation is opening and a marketing strategy he is over seeing goes horribly wrong. The film is satrical and critical of many things surrounding the art world, with scenes and events in the film inspired by director and writer Ruben Östlund's real life. Everyone talks about the performance artist scene BUT the film is much more than that.

Museum (Museo)
As one of the films I saw at the London Film Festival this year, despite starring Gael Garcia Bernal, my reason for going to see it, it was one of the films that made the least impact on me. Two students, wanting to do 'something' with their dull lives, decide to steal priceless Mayan artefacts from the prestigious National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. As thrillers go, the heist part of the film is smooth and is actually successful, its what happens when they try to sell the stolen goods. With everyone in Mexico on high alert for the theives, the items are literally priceless with no respectable dealer wanting to touch them and no other fence to move them on. Juan, the more ambitious of the two, becomes more and more desparate, not wanting his plan to be for nothing. While Benjamin, the one who wanted to quite before they started, is too afraid to continue until he finally comes through when its too late. Not knowing the real story, made the drama more exciting/stressful but never really understanding why the two guys did what they did was just frustrating. In the end, it felt that it was all for nothing.

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

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Way Out West

If, like me, you've seen Fivel Goes West, the sequel to the much loved An American Tail, you will of course have that song that everyone sings at the start of the film. You know the one. Everyone decides to leave New York and travel west to make their fortune. It's a great song. It is also an excellent way to begin writing about the Coen brothers' latest film, their anthology film of tales set out the west.

This was one of the films at the London Film Festival I had to make sure I bought a ticket for, I was NOT going to miss this. Standing inches away from the brothers on the red carpet before I walked it myself and settling in for the UK premiere. It was worth seeing on the big screen. Some films feel cinematic and thats what the Coens can do, create stories that need to be seen in a cinema. So, it is a shame that the film is going to Netflix, a phrase I find myself saying all too often. But at least this may encourage more people to see it as it ore available.

Anyway, happy trails folks, I hope you all get to see this fantastic 6 tales in 1. 

You can read my full review of the film over at VultureHound HERE