Thursday, 15 March 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Childhood Favourites

We all watched and loved Disney right? And a bit of Warner Bros, Don Bluth films too and of course my childhood film memories include frequent viewings of Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Back to the Future. I wanted to include a couple of wild cards but I'll go with the films I remember watching the most, aside from the obvious.

A Night at the Opera
This may be a strange film to pick for childhood BUT as an avid Marx Brothers fan from a young age. This is actually a family favourite as well as fond film from childhood and is also one of my favourite films of all time. Groucho, Chico and Harpo find themselves travelling across the ocean, supposedly from Italy, to New York so that their friend Ricardo can perform at the opera. Harpo is the beatdown assistant to the current lead singer of the opera company, Chico just seems like some guy who drifts in and Groucho is a wise ass business manager to a wealthy older woman. So far so Marx Bros, but the classic scenes, jokes and even the music just make this film so darn good. One of the most hilarious scenes sees more and more people crammed into a tiny room on a ship which is preluded by a dinner order so confusing, I don't know how the actor playing the waiter kept a straight face. Funnyily enough, I was going to name my blog after a line from the film...wonder if everyone who was have enjoyed it...

Herge's Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun
I'm a huge Tintin fan so this had to be included. Not confusing the title with 90s TV series that animated all of Tintin's adventures, this feature film version combines The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun into one adventure where Tintin, Captain Haddock and Snowy travel to Peru to find where Professor Calculus has been taken as well as investigating a curse that has driven 7 scienetists, experts and explorers into comas. The animation still looks amazing to me and the 2D animation looks as if it was lifted from the comics. We had this and Explorers on the Moon (another combi of two stories) on VHS and I wore it out. I was over the moon when I found a weird three film boxset that included this gem. No luck on the Moon film though.

The Empire Strikes Back
Obviously Star Wars was going to make it into the picks this week. This was the most watched out of the originals. This was also the first Star Wars film I ever saw so hold a place in my film heart. Usually the middle film isn't always the winner but with new planets, new places, new faces, new creatures, first appearence of Yoda and that iconic freezing of Han Solo scene oh and the big 'twist' that only very few people knew about, the moment that has been paraodied to death, so many great lines but my personal favourite "Laugh it up fuzzball!"

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

Monday, 12 March 2018

Poisonin', Ropin' & Shootin'

Everyone knows the song, but it was only last year that I first saw the film. As soon as the music starts up and the one and only Dolly Parton's voice subtly plays against the sequence of women getting up and going to work you already feel like its going to be a great but tough day.

On the surface, '9 to 5' is a comedy, possibly more in the screwball comedy arena, which is about three women who have to deal with a hideous boss. They hate him but, as they all need their job, they are limited in power. That is, until they day that one of them accidentally lives out a fantasy and almost kills the man. Simmering just below the surface there are voices of three women, who become fast friends, who aren't going to take the treatment anymore and make changes that improve the whole office staff's lives.

Three very different and independant women taking on a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot is a fantasy come true for many people who have had a boss that bad or one that is just plain awful. Violet, Doralee and Judy play out the fantasty as just that, each with their way of getting revenge on Mr Hart Jr. By shooting him, tying him in rope after objectifying him and finally poisoning him in a fairytale dream. Watching all three scenarios come true in some way or other is deliciously satisfying and even more so when they string him up as a prisoner in his own home. The sting of how things really are in the workplace, regardless of the time, some things are still painfully relatable to today's work place. After all the women's efforts to improve the work place they are congratulated but not to theor faces, instead a selfish idiotic man, their boss, is given the credit and told the equal pay things will be squashed. The film even manages to get political about equal pay and good for Colin Higgins (also director) and Patricia Resnick for including this in the film.

For laughter and look back what everyone wore to work, '9 to 5' is an overlooked brilliant film.

Thanks to Park Circus, '9 to 5' is being screened as part of BFI's Girlfriends season. You can catch a screening of the film Sunday 18th March at 5:45pm. Check out other great films being screening in the season HERE.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Just One Day

The Breakfast Club
I'm actually not a huge fan of this John Hughes treasured film. Shock! Horror! I like his other films, even though this is one of the most loved, paradied, talked about, written about etc. Five teenagers are forced to attend Saturday detention, each symbolies a highschool stereotype (which is listed right at the end), "But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal." They all argue, bond, share emotions and have an awkward dance montage throughout the day, while the Assistant Principal appears every now and then to check up on them. Its a great title and the poster is iconic, but for me, it just ok. Maybe I need to watch this again. 

Empire Records
Moving into the 90s (more my style), the staff (mainly teenagers and students) of an indie record store get ready for 'Rex Manning Day', where a rather washed up singer is signing his latest record. They all have their own issues to deal with, as well as trying to save the store from being taken over a chain. Featuring some of the finest young actors of the 90s before they became veeeery big stars of the small screen and big. I love this film which is odd as I'm not a huge music fan. I'm also a huge fan of High Fidelity. There's something about a record store set films I guess. The store itself is superb! Its a production designers dream. Also, as it only has one setting, this would have been the prime film to be turned into a musical right?

Ending on the mid 2000s with a film I used to really love but have now started to really hate as I get older. The film that launched Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse careers and just, well gave Michael Cera a boost to, well, moving on. Three outcast friends try to change their lives before college by saying they would supply alcohol for a party. The night gets slightly out of control and things don't go the way they planned. There are some great scenes, mostly including the two useless cops that befriend McLovin'. Also the whole McLovin' thing. But there are also so many 'dick' jokes that I just don't find funny.

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

Jungle Red

When a film is named 'The Women' you'd expect a certain type of story and possibly stereotypical characters. Although when the film was released in 1939, the poster carried the tagline 'It's all about men', it isn't all about nasty two faced behaviour. The characters do also show genuine compassion for one another. But the main themes of the film is meant to be about friendship but how women try to 'take down' other women, usually involving men, is also a huge part of the story. Forgive me if this sounds bitter but I haven't gotten to the best part of what makes 'The Women' so delightfully brilliant.

The comedy craeted from these characters is simply divine. With genuine laugh out loud moments, if unfortunate as the comedic moments are from someone else's demise. Looking back at some scenes, you can't help but think the behaviour of these women is reflection on what women are like. Seeing a spiteful character get her comeuppance, is amusingly satisfying. At the same time, watching a character complain about her husband to the point of divorce the melt into the phone when she calls to tell the good news (she's pregnant) is the same feeling. Being able to switch emotions at the drop of a hat feels like something only a woman (on screen) can do, making you want to cheer and laugh at the same time.

Written by Clare Boothe Luce in 1936, screenwritters Anita Loos and Jane Murfin adapted it for film, following in suit of the title, the film famously only features women, whether it is the main cast or background artist, only women are on screen. Cleverly picking a location that (at the time) only women would be seen, a salon providing everything a woman desires to keep fit, refreshed and not to mention, beautiful. The opening sequence is women talking, snippets of conversations taken out of context and finally stopping on a manicurist putting 'jungle red' nail polish on Slyvia, an unbeliavle cutting Rosalind Russell who enjoy every minute of the role. When Slyvia is told a rumour about her 'dear' friend Mary Haines (Norma Shearer), that her husband is having an affair with a perfumer counter girl (Joan Crawford), she smiles with glee and immediatly calls a friend to share the gossip. From here, marriages are ruined, friendships strengthened, friendships ended, spite and malice exchanged, a very amuisng fight, an exquiste fashion show and the feeling that things will be alright in the end.

Having been written by a woman, adapted by a woman, I wonder if it would have been different if it had been directed by a woman. In the 2008 adaptation, characters are slightly altered by the bare bones are still there. But as Diane English wrote and directed, characters are seen to develop make positive changes and there is far less gossip exchanged. Gossiping is always seen as something women do and that hammered home in director George Cukor's film. But I suppose we can only wonder.

The casting in the film is a stroke of genius. Every woman sinks their teeth into the part they have, even Joan Fontaine's meek and naive Peggy Day who's husband is jealous she has a little bit more money that he does. With dignity and grace Norma Shearer centers the main plot as Mary Haines, who is blissfully happy one minute and devastated the next. She stands by her principles and pride throughout, waiting for silly off screen husband to come to his senses. Rosaline Russell is the anti Girl Friday as the main cause for spreading gossip like poison. Her comedic waspish remarks don't stop, not even in the fact of ruin and an embarassing divorce. Joan Crawford plays the part of the perfumer counter sales girl as if she was born for the part. I can't help but wonder if this was literally how Hollywood saw her; a husband stealing arrogant snake. The image followed her throughout her career and personal life.

With a cast so brilliant in their comedic timings and naturalistic delivery of some of the more caustic and cutting lines, 'The Women' is perfect to seek out in celebration of International Women's Day or any other day in fact.

Thanks to Park Circus, 'The Women' is being screened as part of BFI's Girlfriends season. You can catch a screening of the film Saturday 17 March 2018 at 3pm. Check out other great films being screening in the season HERE.



Monday, 5 March 2018

February Watch List


The Shape of Water
This wonderful fantasty fairytale like period drama with a science fiction edge was one of the best films at LFF 2017 and will most likely be one of the best films this year. My review is over on VultureHound which you can read HERE. 5/5

Meant to be the anti Rom-Com, the idea of seeing nine couples at the end then at the start is an concept that sounds fascinating on paper but on a micro budget, even with great British talent, it falls short of funny and more bitter and sad. My review is over on VultureHound and can be read HERE. 2/5


An entire documentary discussing and analyzing the shower sequence in Hitchcock’s Psycho seems like overkill at first, but listening to the insights of directors, writers, actors, editors and scholars, there is far more to this documentary that meets the unblinking eye.

Released in 1960, Hitchcock’s Psycho, based on the novel by Robert Bloch, was a step away from his previous thrillers. It broke barriers with its characters, story and inspired countless homages and is considered a prelude to the slasher film genres of the 70s and 80s. Hitchcock wanted to shock his audience, give them something new to talk about and cause uproar. Through just one scene, the Master of Suspense choreographed the infamous shower scene where a mystery killer murders his lead character.

Cutting between interviews, archive footage and reenactments of ‘Psycho’, the scene is dissected and discussed in great detail, speculating why choices were made, if these were for cinematic or story purpose. The admiration that those being interviewed have for Hitchcock and his stylized murder is surprisingly enthralling. Drawn in by the blood hitting the bathtub, the quick deeps cuts, Mrs Bates in shadow and the Janet Leigh’s terrified last look as the camera zooms into her eye, every inch of the three minute scene is analyzed.

Hitchcock achieved his purpose of scaring his audience to the point of screaming with fright. The combination of the violent death and music so unbelievably perfect, anyone who hears it automatically feels the hairs on the back their neck stand on end. With just seventy-eight shots, fifty-two cuts, and a scene that inspired an entire film for other filmmakers to theorize was something that Hitchcock would never have fathomed. ‘Psycho’ will always be treasured as a classic horror and one of Hitchcock’s best films, as both box office sensation and art house film, it is a film which reveals secrets as well keeping them, only making the film more infamous. 4/5

Band Aid
Having waited for feels like months to see Zoe Lester's directorial debut which she also wrote, co-produced and starred in, I hyped myself up for it watching the trailer, clips and music videos quite frequently, but the film delivered on its comedic and tragic moments in equal measures. About a married couple both grieving in different ways after a miscarriage, they continue their age old arguments until they decide to sing about their fights. Finding a new release in creativity, they slowly mend and confront their issues. The songs and scenes are perfectly executed, as Zoe Lester and Adam Pally make an excellent on screen couple. Another refreshing portrayal of the couple is that in no way do they flirt or consider an affair with anyone else, which is usually the way these stories about a marriage go. It's fun, sad and honest which is not seen in quite a few films of this genre. 4/5

Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig has had quite a bit negativity thrown her way in the past, saying she plays the same role in all her films. She gained recognition for 'Frances Ha' and 'Mistress America', co-writing and acting in both and with the semi-autobiographical Lady Bird, I feel that this is Gerwig's time to show what she can really do. Set in 2002, Christine, insisting she is called Lady Bird, lives in Sacremento but dreams of moving to New York. In her last year at school before college, she explores acting, falls for two very different boys, lies about her life, fights with her mother and goes behind her back to apply for colleage on the East Coast. On the surface the story is simple but underneath an indepth look at a character, a teenage girl with so much determination and hope, that I personally find easy to relate to. Even though I'm not American and I didn't experience every exactly how it happens in the film, I felt at ease with the characters, enjoying the effortless flow of time and especially the pains of going to a Catholic all girls secondary school. That s**t never leaves you. 5/5

The Square
Art in all its hideous glory. The winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, The Square is a hilarious look at the everyday and observations in what is art. I reviewed this for VultureHound so hopefully the post will go up just before the film's release in the UK. 5/5

Black Panther
This isn't just the next installment in the Marvel (ever expanding) Universe, its groundbreaking on so many levels. Picking up soon after the events of Civil War, now King of Wakanda, the secret super advanced country in Africa, T'Challa mourns his father and begins to take his place and fulfil his role as Black Panther. With an intro into how Wakanda was formed and the arrival of vibranium, crashing to Earth, sets the audience up for look at and celebration of African culture as well as a great story. After the celebrations and intro to the main city, the story turns to revenge, red herrings and the confusing return of a CIA agent (could have been someone else right?). The revenge story starts out strong but rather goes off road with a somewhat one dimenstional villain BUT the amazing cast more than make up for this. As much as I enjoy watching Chadwick Boseman fighting his way through the story, its the women of the film who are the real weapon of choice and reason to watch the film. The warrior women serving as T'Challa's bodyguards, Nakia; a spy and multi talented fighter and T'Challa's sister, Shuri, who is technologygenius. All these characters are inspirational and don't feel like an add-on, much like many of the other female characters in the MCU. 4/5

Sunday, 4 March 2018

She Makes Movies

It's high time I showed a little more appreciation for the women behind behind the camera. With the Oscars just a few days away, I wanted to shine a light on Greta Gerwig.

As I was trying finish my watch list, I tried to write a short paragraph conveying my love for Gerwig's Lady Bird and I found I had a bit more than a few words to say.

As part of the Mumblecore film movement, she appeared in several films and co-wrote Hannah Takes the Stairs and Nights and Weekends, in which she also co-directed as well. Gerwig has been critized for 'playing the same role' in the past but after a few mainstream film roles in Greenberg, Arthur and No Strings Attached, she started to take on more interesting characters.

For me, Frances Ha was a turning point. A dancer trying to get by after her best friend moves in with her boyfriend. Each chapter of the film explores her state of mind mirrored in where she is living at that point in time. Anyone in their 20s trying to figure out what they are doing with their life can understand and relate to the film. I admired the bizarre 'Damsels in Distress' about a clique at a college who run the suicide prevention centre, using the medium of dance to help people. For all its flaws, Lola Versus was even a stand out character for Gerwig. A step up from the mumblecore films but still embedded in that universe. Mistress America, my favourite film of 2015, was further proof, for me, that Gerwig was no a one trick pony. Sharing writing duties with partner Baumbach again after Frances Ha. Centered around two women who are about to become step sisters who meet in New York when one of them starts college there.

When you think of Gerwig, you think of two things, struggling artist and New York. These are two things others would associate with Woody Allen BUT if justice is served (hurry up justice), this will no longer be the case. It was strange to find out Gerwig hails from the Sacremento when her heart seems to be in New York. This is obvious is her directorial debut, Lady Bird, which is semi-autobiographical and effortlessly peiced together.

For Gerwig to win the Best Director award at the Oscars would be phenomenal, especially as she is only the fifth woman EVER to be nominated for this award. But my personal feelings on the film politics of Hollywood and awards are that they don't need it, but sometimes it matters. She is my favourite to win because not only would this be a triumphant win for women in film, I also believe she deserves it for writing and directing a perfectly formed film.

Good luck Greta!



Thursday, 1 March 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Oscar Nominated Movies that should have Won

Mad Max Fury Road-Best Picture 2015
The brilliant epic return of Mad Max with a feminist twist that (for me) was not over blown and so perfectly excecuted. A road trip of violent, blood drenched proportions is considered a 'blockbuster' and it is rare that a film like this (science fiction-ish) is nominated fot Best Picture, Director anda cting awards. The film did win 6 awards but not the 'big' prize which I feel it desereved. Imperator Furiosa and the wives are a group of women fighting for freedom and hope, with Max along for the ride, it is a blockbuster on production scale, but there is more to this film than budget costs.

Walk the Line-Joaquin Phoenix-Best Actor 2005
It was tough choice back in 2005, with all the actors in the giving great performances. For me it was always between Heath Ledger and Phoenix but it was only when I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance in 'Capote' years later that I understood why he won. Saying this, I still feel tha Phoenix should have won for his amazing performance as Johnny Cash, songs and all. 'Walk the Line' is still one of favourite soundtracks. I fear that Phoenix, as an actor nominated quite a few times for awards, he will end up winning for the wrong thing. But its comforting to know Phoenix couldn't care, he doesn't act for awards. 

Song of the Sea -Best Animated Film 2014
As one of the more recent categories, only implemented in 2001, most of the nominations are Disney and Pixar. In 2009, 'The Secret of Knells' was nominated, made by Irish animation company, Cartoon Saloon. They were beat by 'Up', which I think is actually rather overated. Cartoon Saloon was nominated again in 2014 with 'Song of the Sea', which is unbelieveably beautifully animated in 2D. The story too is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, celebrating an animation that isn't in America. 'Big Hero 6' won that year and although I warmed up to the film, I still don't think it deserved the award that year. Cartoon Saloon are up for the awards again this year with the absolutely exquist 'The Breadwinner' which SHOULD win. But as Disney/Pixar is also I nominated, I fear once again, a brilliant original production company will be painfully over looked.

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