Thursday, 20 September 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Farm


Animal Farm
Based on the George Orwell novella of the same name, this story about farm animals revolting against their human owner, running him off his land and home, the animals establish order, only to be overthrown by a dictator who makes their lives near impossible. The famouse line 'All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others' starts off as a rule (the first part) that the animals live by but as the pigs start to take over the farm, moving into the farmhouse, dressing in human clothes, the latter part is added. The freedom the animals hoped for decends into a chaos, with executions, banishments and the sad death of Boxer. Unlike the novella, the film has a slightly brighter end, I'm guessing this is due to the fact animation was seen as something for children to watch BUT the animated film although brilliant, its violent and grim. Maybe not something for the children to watch.

Dark River
 Based on the novel 'Trespass' by Rose Tremain, sheep shearer Alice returns to the farm where she grew up after her father dies. She was told that she would inherit his tenancy but ends up in a legal battle with her brother who also stands to inherit. Having not seen each other in years, the siblings find it difficult to live with each other, with secrets from the past, the reason why Alice left years before and the relationship they had with their father clouding over any future the have. Its depressing to watch, a slow build up to the grim ending, plus the 'secret' why she left? Well, that revealed in the first 15 minutes and hangs over the rest of the film like a dead sheep.

God's Own Country
Continuing the British farm films, ending on a positive note too, God's Own Country is a beautifully made film. Johnny lives day to day working on his family's farm and getting drunk in the local pub and engaging in rough casual sex. As the farm needs extra help during lambing season, Johnny's dad hires Gheorghe, a Romanian migrant worker. Johnny is at first hostile towards Gheorghe but eventually two become intimate. Having not experienced a loving relationship before, Gheorghe shows Johnny how to be tender, breaking down his emotional barriers. A brilliantly written love story that doesn't feel run of the mill.

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

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Edinburgh Film Festival: Terminal


When a film looks and feels stylishly superb, right down to the key chain a character has, the dialogue should be perfectly matched, however, there are a few liberties to take. If its a film noir, certain elements to the story and the characters that inhabit this world need to be checked off. Is there a femme fatale? Check. Is there mystery or two? Check. Is there a MacGuffin? Check. Is the atmosphere dark, full of mist and in an obscure location? Check. Are there criminals involved? Check. Is there an odd obsession with Alice in Wonderland? Well, that last one of the list is unique to Terminal and at times is overbearing.

Set in a city with no proper name, referred to as the precinct, characters meet at The End of the Line cafe at the station terminal. A strange waitress serves tea, coffee and sticky buns and offers advice to a man who wants to kills himself and gets involved with a couple of low level hitmen. The two stories take place side by side but its unclear which happened first. The two hitmen are on a job from the mysterious 'top dog' hoping to take over his legacy and his work. They are sent round in circles where the waitress keeps appearing, eventually they are holed up in a flat for two weeks, waiting for the phone to ring. All is over seen by the oddly places station master, who also seems to be conveniently just where you need him. Everything comes full circle with the truth eventually revealed in a very theatrical way, meant for the audience but its clear the waitress is enjoying herself very much.

Writer and director Vaughn Stein obviously loves film noir, very much. He even said it as the Q&A after the screening. But sometimes when you love something so much you need to take a step back and look at what you’ve done. Is it what you wanted or is it all the cliches you could possibly go for thrown into one?

I don't think its fair to rip into the film with a piano wire but there were several elements I found so jarring. Bad accents, accents that just didn't suit characters, dialogue that sounded like it had been taken from student film, the overuse of Alice in Wonderland references, the really jarring accents, all these things, overshadowned what I think Stein was trying to do. The story, bare bones, was actually really well thought out, twists and turns to shady nightclubs, stuffy flats and a old futuristic looking security room, all these parts of the film were brilliantly executed. BUT the dialogue needed a good edit. I really admired the look and style of the film, the gritty 'precinct' and creepy atmospheric train station were amazing to look at, kudos to the locations and production design teams. The star of the show was most definitely Margot Robbie is a role she created herself, she was clearly having lots of fun, its just a shame she went full on femme 'obvious' fatale.

This was the first film I booked for EIFF as I was keen to see this bizarre looking film noir with neon lights and dark tunnels. I really hoped I'd love it but I fear I was expecting too much. I'd been keen to see what Vaughn Stein does next though, maybe looking at what went wrong here and making something new? We'll wait and see.

Monday, 17 September 2018

August/September Watch List


Ant-Man and The Wasp
With the memories of Infinity War still fresh in our mind, this Marvel film takes a minor detour with comedic characters and a scattered background story for the villains. The first Ant Man film was more of a heist where as this sequal is a rescue operation. Saving Pym's wife who has been missing in the Quantum realm for decades, now (apparently) is the time to fetch her back. As Scott is still under house arrest following the events after Civil War, the comedic timing is ramped up, as well as the emotional family connections. Its a fun fast paced ride to the happy conclusion BUT the mid credits scene literally takes all that away. 3/5

Skate Kitchen
Full review over on My Film Club which can be read HERE. 5/5

To All the Boys I've Loved Before
 Of all the Netflix (original) films out there, this is the one that I watched twice. Its a romantice teen drama and sometimes these seem like they are overcrowding the streaming service BUT this felt a little different. A shy girl who writes secret letters to her crushes, has a close relationship with her sisters and has more to offer than a soppy tale about unrequited love. She teams up with her past crush, Peter so it isn't awkward between her friend (also past crush) Josh who recently broke up with her sister, to make Peter's ex-girlfriend want him back. Its complicated but it doesn't have to be. In thinking she's pretending, Lara Jean, actually falls for Peter who has fallen for her long before realisations are shared. You could untangle this and say it was all rather pointless and a quick conversation with an old friend could have fixed everything BUT then you wouldn't have this adorable film to enjoy. 4/5

The Meg 
After a billionaire funds a deep sea research lab, they dive into the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the ocean, believing that the trench is far deeper that realised. The diving team breach the trench but they encounter an ancient giant shark, Megalodon, allowing it to swim through the barrier. The scientists then, with the help of Jason Statham, capture or kill the shark. In Empire magazine this month there was an article about the art of the 'big dumb movie' and of course 'The Meg' should have been just that BUT alas, the film was trying too hard to be 'clever'. Although I did laugh at some awkward attempts at trying be rom-com, I wasn't as entertained as I had hoped. I think I might read the book instead. 2/5

The Awful Truth
A screwball comedy about a married couple who are cheating on each other so decide to divorce as they can't trust the other but then become jealous of each other when they try to move on, stop me if you've heard this one before. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play the hopless couple who are still in love with each other to perfection. Its very silly in places but you'd expect that from a 30s screwball. Its not as good as others but scenes where people keeping hiding the bedroom and the final scenes in the cabin are very amusing. 3/5

Public Schooled 
 I missed the screening of the film at EIFF so luckily its on Netflix so I didn't miss out. Socially awkward Liam has been home schooled by his overprotective mother, Claire, and is about to take his SATs early so he can go to Cambridge University as they both planned. But when he sees a pretty girl with one leg, Liam decides to enroll at public school for the remainder of the semester. Claire believes he is rebelling and teaches him different ways to rebel, getting it out of his system. Its sweet in places and Judy Greer is just brilliant, its fun film that doesn't have nice neatly tied up ending but rather chooses the realistic path with a bit of hope sprinkled in. 3/5

BlackkKlansman
The first African American police officer of the Colorado Springs department infiltrates the local Klu Klux Klan chapter, based on a true story is a story I am very much intrigued by. With the help of a caucasian officer, the two men go under cover, in person and on the phone. It seems wrong to only sum up this film is a few sentances apart from saying how brilliantly the film is constructed, with John David Washington as Ron Stallworth giving a performance not of anger but a true detective making this more than a great story. Everyone has talked about the ending which shows the current state of America, showing how things haven't really changed, which is a better note to end the film on as the story, the case had a successful ending. 4/5

Crazy Rich Asians
Correct me if I'm wrong about this not passing the Bechdel Test.

Moving on, I loved this film! Fair enough, I did see it at a preview with the cast of the film. This film is not only groundbreaking and hoping this will help change things for the better but the story and characters are also well put together. Rachel is a college professor, she isn't struggling in life or have bad relationships with friends or family, she is well grounded and in love with Nick. Nick, who is very much in love with Rachel, wants her to meet her family in Singapore. Nick had kept it secret that he comes from a literally crazy rich family and also, literally throws Rachel into the whole crazy rich life. Its a baptism by fire as Rcahel meets family, deals with jealous ex-girlfriends and Nick's overbearing mother who claims she wants the best for her son but doesn't see that Rachel is that. Its essentially a rom-com but with a hell of lot of pizazz! There are of course stand outs of the film, Awkwafina steals every scene she is in as Rachel's friend Goh Peik Lin, she was also hilarious at the preview too. Gemma Chan is also so subtly brilliant, conveying a heartbreak amidst such happiness. I really hope this film continues to be a huge success in the UK as it was in the US. More films like this please! 4/5

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Three Women


If you haven’t the series and don’t want to know anything about the story, you have been warned, spoilers ahead.

SPOILER ALERT!

When there is a murder mystery to be solved at the heart of a character story and everyone just assumes it’s a man from the get go, you automatically know it’ll be a woman as the main assailant. But what Sharp Objects cleverly does is divert the viewers’ attention to make you doubt this ‘murder mystery’ rule. The distraction comes in the form of characters that are bold and beautiful. The story becomes about the characters that inhabit the story making you forget the reason for the whole series. They are damaged, full of secrets that will have you guessing until the end, they are in pain but hope for a better life. They want answers of their own but they have to suffer to get them. The characters that inhabit the world of ‘Sharp Objects’ are all internal, emotional or physical anguish. 


Unlike other ‘murder mystery’ stories, there is no comforting resolution. There is closure, for the main character and for the case itself but not in the conventional sense. The case is closed as the murderer is caught and captured but a sudden and devastating twisted reveal is shown at the very end of the last episode. For those who didn’t read the book, this comes as a shocking surprise in the way the real killer is shown in jittering and violent camera shots. The show has had its disturbing elements but nothing is more disturbing than the end scene and the mid credits scene. The viewer is left with a bad taste in their mouth, at least, I was. 


The series has been compared to books by V. C. Andrews, maybe for its melodramatic family dynamics and the focus of a wealthy family with disturbing secrets. The show’s fuel is secrets, some we never really see the full picture of either. Past events are hinted at, sentences interrupted, glances across a room, hazy flashbacks where we the viewers are left to decide what really happened. These moments and scenes aren’t really part of the main narrative, they are there as background information so we can understand the town and Camille’s past, piecing together why she acts the way she is. One of the main reasons is her mother, Adora. Overbearing, uncaring, selfish and arrogant, but softly spoken and manipulative, Adora likes to believe she is higher and more important than anyone else because she is wealthy and in her mind, is regale and deserves to be admired. Her treatment of Camille is hostile but because she is quiet and cunning, she doesn’t immediately come across as terrible person, creating an illusion that she is reasonable. Amma, Camille’s half sister is an enigma throughout the story. She seems assured of herself, claiming she can get boys and girls to do what she wants, confidently starting arguments and flirting with older men. She is also vulnerable, being scared of her mother at the same time craving attention. From each episode Amma’s unstable persona is at first confusing but later starts to become disturbing. The town’s people say, there is something off with those Preaker girls and there is. Camille being at the center of the story is more obvious about her pain and dysfunctions. She drinks and hides evidence; she is suffering from long seated trauma, yet no one can determine how to help her. She is scarred, inside and outside but again, she doesn’t get the help she needs. Only her friend and editor want to help. Her return to her hometown of Wind Gap is meant to be her chance for closure as well as to get a story about the murders. At the end of the last episode it feels that she is finally able to achieve both a satisfying close to her past and continue her life, living with Amma but the cruel twist at the end doesn’t bode well for Camille. It seems that she’ll never be at peace. 


Throughout the story, hints at the secrets and past turmoil are shown but there is a constant feeling of unease, even at the end when the case is closed. The feeling of dread never goes away. There is a dizzying sick feeling when Adora is revealed to have poisoned Camille’s younger sister and actually the cause of her death. The suspicion that Adora may actually also be responsible for the two murders is pushed to the side while Camille and Amma fight for their lives as they are spoon fed poison every hour. This is Adora’s way of showing affection, keeping her daughters close and weak so she can ‘take care’ of them. But when the sisters are rescued, Adora is arrested; the continued feeling of dread never goes away. For me, this was because I didn’t think Adora killed the two other girls, Ann and Natalie but distracted by Camille moving on with her life I didn’t seem to care. Adora had always appeared as odd and cold, it was good to see a villain caught. But when Camille finds the teeth of the wind Gap victims in Amma’s creepy dollhouse, the cold sweat of dread crept back. Amma is confirmed as the murderer, along with the assistance of her roller skating friends, in quick violent cuts. It’s disturbing but yet it’s a brilliant way to end the slow burner of series. It’s a murder mystery I won’t let go of in a hurry, hence why I’m writing about it weeks after its finished.

Having not watch that many shows on TV lately (I’ve been stuck to Netflix for months), ‘Sharp Objects’ had my attention, right down to the teeth tiled floor in that hideous dollhouse. My guess is that, it’ll be a while before a story like this has me hooked for a while.


@SharpObjects_Tv
@HBO_UK

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Thursday Movie Picks - Good Remakes



This week's theme was suggested by Mettel Ray.

The Birdcage 
Based on 'La Cage aux Folles' made in 1978 which was based on the play of the same name. 'La Cage aux Folles' was also made into a musical, which I was lucky to see some years back. A comedy about a gay couple who own a drag club in Florida who have to hide who they are when their son's girlfriend's very conservitive parents come to dinner. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are perfect as Armand and Albert.

Contraband
A remake of the Icelandic film 'Reykjavík-Rotterdam' about an ex-smuggler who agrees to help his brother-in-law settle a debt to a drug dealer. From its generic looking action drama trailer, the film, which has an impressive cast, was really thrilling. With twists and turns and some really creeping acting from Ben Foster, the film was far better than it looked. 

Far From the Madding Crowd 
Not really a remake as it is an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel of the same name BUT it did have comparisons to the 1967 version, as I wrote about HERE - I've included it as a remake for this week. Bathsheba Everdeen unexpecditly inherits a farm and becomes an independant woman. Unfortunately most like to define the story by her interactions with three different men, Troy the feckless soldier, William Boldwood, older neighbour and Gabriel Oak, the strong and silent farmer who has supported and known her before her fortune. It's no doubt a romantic drama but it is also about woman making her way in the world. Also, for me, its about Matthias Schoenaerts who plays Oak.


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

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Saturn's Return

As with all my life advice, I would turn to 30 Rock (there are so many gems in there) but for the past few weeks inbetween starting several posts and articles and trying to catch up with Mr Sunshine, I rewatched Parks and Recreation.

Parks & Rec is a hilarious show that I still laugh at no matter how many times I watch it. But by watching it all the way through (skipping season 1 - which I find too awkward to watch) I picked up on a few nuggets of wisdom. In season 7, April realises she doesn't actually like working for the National Park Service, its not something she is passionate about. She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, career wise. Then, the wise Donna Meagle, tells her calmly, Saturn's Return.

April (questioning her career choices, to Donna): Donna, what do I do? If working around corpses isn’t right for me, then nothing is. I feel totally lost. Donna: Saturn’s return. April: What? Donna: Saturn’s orbit around the sun takes roughly 29 years. And when it gets back to where it was when you were born, lots of turmoil, self-discovery. When I was your age, I got banned from every river boat in Germany.

This past week I was suddenly hit with a sense of 'what the hell do I do now'. To be honest, I knew it was coming. I recently left a job I hated to my core, to the point my health deteriorated. The people were nice enough and the company was decent, but the job was awful. After my two weeks notice, I was left with that feeling of dread. I always that two weeks off, away from the world of work and then you panic. Its been true throughout my working life so I knew the panic stage was coming. BUT then I happened to watch Season 7, Episode 2 and I had a different perspective.

My own Saturn's Return is happening and I think its been happening all year. With so many up and down moments, a rollercoaster doesn't describe it all. I'm looking to more moments like this but I also know that everything will even out again. So, if like me, you're going through a similar 'ride' or if you've been through this and are safely at the other end, take care, as it will all be ok. Especially as Donna Meagle knows what she's talking about, she's the co-inventor of 'Treat Yo Self'.


Thursday, 6 September 2018

Thursday Film Picks: The New Kid at School



Never Been Kissed
Insecure Josie gets the chance to become a reporter but has to go undercover as a teenager at high school. She reverts back to her loser loner geek teenage self at first but in changing the way she looks she finds her way into the 'cool' crowd, after her brother also enrolls trying to relive his own school glory days. She's the new girl but its more of a flashback horror as she was bullied to tears all the time. This is more of a second chance story but for the sake of the theme, Josie is the new girl at school even though she's 25 and actually a reporter. 

Tomboy
Céline Sciamma's second feature film about 10 year old tomboy Laure who's family moves to a new town and she passes herself off as a boy. She becomes close to another girl and is accepted into the local group of boys, but her family don't know she's is pretending to be a boy. I have't seen the whole film (someone deleted it off the TV drive so I only saw the beginning) but what I saw, just like her first feature, Water Lillies, Sciamma has a talent for telling intimate emotional stories exploring identity. I really need to see the rest!!!

Daydream Nation
As a big fan of Kat Dennings (wish she was in more and I'm so glad Two Broke Girls ended, that was annoying) this straight to DVD in the UK was something I had to watch. Caroline moves to a small town with her father sometime after her mother dies. She make enemies of the other girls quite quickly who are jealous of city girl persona and starts an affair with a teacher. After the affair ends badly due to the teacher who is self absorbed and still hung up on his ex-girlfriend, Caroline begins a proper more meaningful relationship with peer Thurston who had fallen for her when she first arrived. The film is oddlt put together, mixed with dream like sequences and flashbacks as well as voiceover from Caroline. There is also a murder mystery in the background of the main characters' stories which comes to a weird end with the climax of the film. Its odd but I love it.

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