Thursday 28 January 2016

Fandom Fridays: Late TV Series Discoveries

 After seeing seasons 1-4 on Netflix, I watched them all, I was addicted to it. I then watched season 5 on and off as it wasn't so easily available and I didn't really enjoy it. Season 4 had a great end. I first watched, I think 2 episodes back in Uni after my friend introduced it to me. I loved it but she only had it on blu-ray and those weren't as popular as they are now, so I couldn't watch the show. But 4 years later I did, better late than never right? I actually recently rewatched the show (not S5, still not great) its just as brilliant as it was when I first watched Olivia, Peter, Walter and Astrid solve their first case.                                                                                                                            

I've read about the show and it referenced so much, as rule breaking, before its time and of course 'the Moonlighting curse' concerning lead characters. Having done my research before delving deeper into the Blue Moon Detective Agency, I looked into this so-called curse. Turns out, everyone raved about seasons 1-3 but by 4 things had changed due to Cybil Sheperd being pregnant and Bruce Willis becoming a big star and making Die Hard. The whole point of the show was the two leads, David and Maddie, but in season 4, apparently they are barely in the same scenes, plus a few weird story choices that don't make sense. Season 5 is a little better but lost the spark. I actually stopped at season 3 because the show was just beyond amazing and hilarious. I might pick up again but part of me doesn't want to ruin the memories.

Another show that I saw on Netflix and thought, what not. Plus my sister and brother in law were watching it and said it was good. In turn I advised they watch Moonlighting - which was a hit. I'm a sucker for detective stories so this looked appealing. Its dark, gritty and in some cases quite terrifying, especially in one episode when a murder takes place in my home town, its brief but it hit me. Idris Elba is of course absolutely brilliant and I can see why the show has been such a success. The long awaited 4th series turned out to be a two part special, but I'm biding my time with this one.

As someone who likes to think they're into sci-fi, comics, fantasy and all that or at least who like to embrace it all, its pretty bad at how late into the game I was with Joss Weadon's Firefly. I saw Serenity first at Uni when my friend (same Fringe watcher) screened it at the film club. I loved it, but I did feel like I was missing some back story. I bought the series on sale a few years later I think and loved it. I finally understood certain quotes, gifs, references around the internetsphere and why it was so sad that a certain character died in Serenity. It is immensly annoying at how amazing another series could be instead of the one film and some comics. Alas, we really will never know 'what if'.

I was three seasons late into watching the anthology series. I thought it was odd that the creator of Glee also made this. A friend at Uni (not the Fringe watcher) kept going on about the first series, but being someone who isn't into horror I wasn't interested. But, again, Netflix offered the first two series on a plate. I devoured the first season, Murder House, scared, shocked and delighted at the same time. I know that the second season, Asylum is everyone's favourite but the last three episodes are so disappointing it didn't win me over. I loved Coven, mostly because it wasn't a terrifying as the last two. I then had to wait for Freak Show and later Hotel, just like everyone else. I still love the idea and the separate stories that all intertwine and can't wait for next year as well as the cousin American Crime Story.

January Watch List

The Danish Girl
I can't seem to put my finger on it. It might have been the lack of explanation or the feelings left unsaid or it might have been, unfortunately, the fact that I am irritated by Eddie Redmayne's grin throughout the film. The film was good, but I was left wanting and actually quite upset. A groundbreaking true story about Lily Elbe, one of the first transgender women, would be expected to be handled with care and it was, to the point that it might break. The married life of Einar Wegener and Gerda, both artists, seems very picturesque and two leads have chemistry. But as Einar becomes Lily, the strain on each others' life is there. Having read more about the lives of both Gerda and Lily, the film, based on a book of the same name, seemed to have changed or cut out quite a bit of both Gerda's and Lily's journey. The film condenses the transition period and extends their conventional married life together. Knowing what I know now and thinking over the film again, I'm not too sure of it greatness. I was irritated beyond belief by Redmayne but Alicia Vikander saves the day by being brilliant and holding all the emotional scenes and feelings in check. There have been complaints that this film is more about Gerda than Lily and in truth it is. But I think that is down to Vikander just stealing the scenes as she is far more interesting and varied. 3/5

The Hateful Eight
After the leaking of the coverted script, I thought it was the end for Tarantino's would be Western. Thank goodness he went ahead and filmed it anyway. The excitement was not knowing the full story about the story. Eight strangers, well actually 9, in a room while a blizzard prevents them from leaving and tension compells them to stay. Split into 6 chapters and an narrator at random intervals, the story goes like this; John Ruth is taking murderer Daisy Domergue to Red Rock. They encounter Major Marquis Warren and Chris Mannix, suppose Sheriff of Red Rock on the way to a lodge to wait out the storm approcahing. At said lodge, they meet 4 others waiting out the storm. When people start dying, suspicions falls to the fact someone is in league with Domergue. The film felt like it was a play, the set up, the structure and the length. With so many action films out there and basic stories, watching this Tarantino construction, filled with words, atmospheric score and some brilliant actors, it was just what I wanted to see. 4/5

The Assassin
The film created a buzz of appreciation and had a gala screening at the BFI festival, I almost bought tickets for the film but I was getting way over budget. Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien the film is based on 19th Century Martial Arts story 'Nie Yinniang' which is an important story and part of Wuxia fiction. Wuxia was mention quite frequently in the handout at the BFI where I saw the film. The story and film are about a young girl, Yinniang, who was trained by a nun to fight and kill. But when Yinniang refuses to kill a man in front of his son, the nun and master send her home to assassinate her cousin, now important government official, who she was once meant to marry. The scenary and cinematography is amazingly beautiful but the story moves slow, with often no dialogue to fill the space where it is needed. I'm glad I read the handout as it mentioned Hou Hsiao-hsie's techniques and that this is not a typical martial arts film, the fight sequences are under a minute long and are not the focus. I prepared myself for something slow but not to the point where nothing was happening. Exposition was given a little way into the film but even that wasn't enough. For a film named 'The Assassin', it seemed misleading. If there were little martial arts happening and nearly no dialogue, I had hoped we'd find out more about Yinniang but there wasn't that either. So, beautiful to look, interesting story but not much else. But I was intrigued about the directors other films. 3/5

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Adapted from Movies of a Different Language

I was all set to pick The Birdcage but then I stopped and thought there are many films out there to pick, I'll choose some odd ones. Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks. 

Part of a trio of films that were originally made by Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, Steve Buscemi's remake was the first to be released. I had the privilage to go the UK premiere and to a masterclass with Buscemi, I was in heaven. I even got up the nerve to ask a question (big deal for me). It was the first time I went to the BFI festival in 2006, this year will be my 10th year attending. The film is about a disgruntled political journalist who is told by his editor to interview a soap actress. I enjoyed the film, it was like watching play and it's Steve Buscemi directing and starring, two pluses.

Wild Target
I was going to pick another French to English adaptation but decided to go with this black comedy adaptation of 'Cible émouvante'. Good story, mediocre outcome. Usually I enjoy a good hitman film but there was something a bit too wishy-washy about this film. The story itself about a brilliant hitman who doesn't finish a job becuase he basically falls in love with his target and takes on an apprentice. The favourites of British acting talent are on display and are quite good but don't really lift the story off the ground.
This was meant to be one of my first original vs remake posts but I couldn't find the Icelandic film, 'Reykjavík-Rotterdam' for ages. But now I know where to seek it out, that post may still be out there. I'm not usually one for the typical Mark Wahlberg action films but this felt a little different. Plus it was £2.99 with any purchase at HMV one day. Ex-smuggler Chris, now family man with own security business is dragged back into the world he thought he left when his brother-in-law is forced to throw away drugs he was smuggling when his frieghter is inspected. The mobster is charge threatens Chris' family unless he is paid back the money lost. Chris decides to raise the money by running contraband.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Airplane Movies

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

I'm So Excited
After a string of brilliant serious, melodramatic and sometimes disturbing films, Pedro Almodovar went to back to comedy with some of the campest characters yet. Three male flight attendants performing 'I'm So Excited' is a definite highlight. After a issue with the plan is discovered mid flight, forcing the plane to stay in the air, the staff decide to put the passengers to sleep to avoid panic but without enough to knock the first class passengers out as well, the flight attendants think of other ways to entertain the passengers and themselves. It's bizarre and wonderful. It was refreshing to watch a comedy after The Skin I Live In.

Air Force One
This one couldn't be ignored. The US President is in danger on his famous plan, it has been hijacked by a British actor with a Russian accent. The President will not negotiate with terroists and yet he hold the safety of this crew, staff and family in his hands. Straightforward drama involving the White House but not at the White House soit has the edge.

Con Air
Another great 90's action film, this time its Nicolas Cage as a good guy who killed a drunk man while defending his wife, ends up in prison. Eight years later he is being transported home for release on a plane with notorious criminals, but he ends up in the middle of their escape plan. I never understood why there were so dew guards on board. I was late to the Con Air show but I loved it. Featuring John Cusack in sandles and my favourite Steve Buscemi as a creepy serial killer, who is actually calm as a cucumber throughout.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Blind Spot - The Innocents

Having read about the story and almost having seen the film a few years ago at the BFI, I stopped myself as I have never really enjoyed horror or spooky stories. Even though some thrillers can be quite terrifying. I pushed myself to see Crimson Peak last year but ghost stories really do get to me. Based on Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, my first film this year is The Innocents.

Before I watched the film, late late at night I should add, I watched the original US trailer. It echos what's in this poster, after a few clips it kept repeating 'do they ever return to possess the living?'. Saying this over and over rather gave the game away. I knew I was in for a ghost story and any story featuring children AND ghosts always seems even more disturbing.

Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is engaged as a governess by an unfeeling wealthy bachelor who is the legal guardian of his neice and nephew. They live at his country estate where he rarely visits. Miss Giddens is put in sole charge of the children as the uncle does not want to be bothered with them.

Miss Giddens arrives and is at first excited to be in such a beautiful setting and is enchanted by Flora (Pamela Franklin) and later Miles (Martin Stephens) when he is expelled from school for disturbing behaviour. Miss Giddens asks the housekeeper, Mrs Grose, about the previous governess, Miss Jessel who committed suicide soon after the accidental death of her lover, Quint, the previous gardner. It seems that the two children were very close the deceased lovers and in fact may still have influence over them. Midd Giddens after a series of odd events becomes convinced that the ghosts of the dead lovers have possessed the children and becomes determined to save them.

The small cast is, I feel, part of the film and why the ghost story setting works. The large country house with a few people to inhabit it sets the scene and narrows down any foul play or suspicous pranks. The children are brilliantly cast, a mixture of innocence, hauty attitude and unsettling. Its no suprise that Martin Stephens was also cast as a creepy alien in 'The Village of the Damned'. The use of the ghosts are also not over used so when they do appear it is a shock.

Directed by Jack Clayton and co-written by Truman Capote, the story has echos of doubt and fear of the unknown. The unusual and irrational conclusion from Miss Giddens for the children's behaviour and the uneasy feeling throughout the house is Miss Giddens herself trying to understand the unknown. She has led a sheltered simply life so far and becomng a governess in the countryside with just two children for company would have and should have been simple too. But in a way, she needed this disturbing experience to break out of her shell. Unfortunately the ending doesn't conclude what happens next just a result which is both successful and tragic.

The elements of successful ghost story doesn't include blood, gore and moving objects. Modern ghost stories are full of these traits and they lose the essence. The Innocents uses suggestion, location and sounds working to a far greater effect. I was unnerved several times, especially the first time Miss Giddens sees Quint's ghost in a reflection of a window, devices such as these create a brilliant atmosphere. Another aspect of the film that I can't forget is the use of light. The hauting image of Kerr as she ascends the stair while holding a candelabra is superb. All that is needed is the candelabra, creepy laughter and the darkness and a ghost story scene is complete.

Now that I've seen it, I will still have nightmares and be wary of children standing in empty grand gardens and I think I'll double look at reflections in windows but I can also admire the brilliant look and story of The Innocents. This British film ticks all the right boxes as a ghost story that doesn't show its age. It will still be creepy for years to come.

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. 

Thursday 14 January 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Post-Apocalyptic World (Not Apocalyptic)

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

A marvelous French film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, before Amelie. Set in post apocalyptic France where there is a food shortage and grain is the new currancy, a butcher (and landlord) supplies meat to the occupants of the apartment building he lives in. Luring in victims through job ads. What's a little more disturbing is the tenants know where the meat comes from. Things change though when a circus performer arrives and makes an impression on everyone, especially the butcher's lonely daughter. This the is film, for those who do not know, with the famous squeaky bed scene, pure brilliance went into that. 

Noted as one of the biggest flops in box office and cinema history. I used to watch this all the time when I was younger. Upon reflections I see its flaws and how ridiculous it is, for instance, where did all those cigarettes come from? Why does he have gils? From an evolutionary standing, this 'waterworld' would have existed for decades in order for that to happen to his ears. Looking beyond this, searching for dry land/new home vibe, its an ok film. Kevin Costner should have know though, you mess with water, prepare to be broke. 

No not the mediocre musical, the strange animated film about 9 little creations who were made to fight the machines and bring back life to the world. The trailer doesn't really fully explain what it is happening and even in the film, its not quite clear how 9 small creations, made and given life by a scientist who was also responsible for creating a deadly self aware machine that brought about the destruction of humans, can solve anything. Each little creation represents a part of the scientist's soul and they all have their important role to play.

Sunday 10 January 2016

At Their Most Beautiful

*This post is for those who love and appreciate Wes Anderson's films. My apologies for those who are not so familiar with his work. But if you have seen at least two of the films, I think you will enjoy this post. Also please be aware that there are SPOILERS for those who have not seen the films.*

 There are plenty of articles out there professing their love for Wes Anderson's films. There are beautiful books devoted to his films. There are numerous amounts of crafters interpretting the characters and props from the films, turning them into amazing things. I even own a beautifully crafted brooch of Steve Zissou which was a present. I have posters and artwork alike too. There is no doubt that Wes Anderson's films have a certain pleasing look and appeal. Beyond the production design, costumes, hair and make up, there are the stories that are equally beautiful. I've picked 8 scenes from his films to illustrate how beautiful his films can be on a large scale and in one small moment. The only film I could select from was Bottle Rocket. I couldn't find a satisfying moment from it and I'm still on the fence about the film anyway.

Most of the moments I picked will stir up an emotion, they did for me. Music plays a large part in most of them.Story, character and music truely sets the scene. I have added links to the scenes too.

Here are 8 times Wes Anderson's film were just beautifully perfect or perfectly beautiful, depends which way you see it.


As with all the films, there are plenty of scenes to pick from, these four scenes put together are the 'payback' segment of the relationship between Max Fischer and Mr Blume. Max feels he has been betrayed by Blume after the latter persues a romantic relationship with Rosemary Cross, a teacher at Max's school. The exchanges of 'revenge' are harsh. Where Blume acts petty, Max's aim is to cause harm. The beauty in these moments are helped by the soundtrack and the slow motion. These two are friends and they know each other too well.

The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson likes to use slow motion as it does have the desired affect. As we have met all the Tenenbaums by now, we haven't seen them together. We already know Richie is in love with Margot and its from this short musical interlude that we gather she feels the same way. It's the way she looks at him. Once again, brilliant soundtrack.

The Life Aquatic

Steve Zissou is a complicated and at time obsurd character. He is unclear about what he wants and we meet him at first while he is grieving, but he is not be allowed to grieve. At this point, he has lost his best friend, had his film shot down, half his crew have deserted him, his son has died and he wants revenge. But in this moment he lets it all go, as if seeing the Jaguar Shark has brought him closure.

The Darjeeling Limited

Throughout the film, the relationship between the brothers is strained and trapped in close quarters together brings out truths and realisations none of them want to hear. The brothers know each other too well, more than they care to admit. They don't start growing as a family or as individuals until they reach the village after the tragedy. The flashback explains how each of them cope and is starting point to their demises until the start of the film. They have shown affection to each other but in this scene as Francis, the eldest and most 'together' of them all, takes off his bandages. He reveals scars from an accident he skimmed over earlier trying to down play what happened. The brothers stop and look, Francis says 'I guess I still have some more healing to do', perfectly illustrating each of the brothers.

My second moment of beauty is the last scene as the brothers, mirroring the opening scene, dash for a train. They have been carting their father's bags around and literally and metaphorically throw away the baggage weighing them down.

Fantastic Mr Fox

Anderson's first animation, a stop motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox. The story, the original story is there, with added Anderson layers which are beautiful created. I cannot imagine this film any other way. Throughout the film, Mr Fox, knows he's fantastic and likes to point this out to everyone. He has flaws and makes plenty of mistakes. He admits these and apologises, but its in this odd, brief and excellently executed moment that we see him as showing fear and accepting it. The exchange between fox and wolf doesn't need words, its beautiful.

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom, the most instagram-able film of them all. Everything in this film is beautiful, especially the central characters, Sam and Suzy, both troubled, misunderstood kids who find each other, run away, survive and against the odds are happy together. I chose the exchange of letters scene because he goes a little deeper into their connection, something all the adults missed. Their shared secrets and bonded over letters, something that is missed if the story were set now rather than in the 60s. A beautiful story and I love the use of letters.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
This was the most difficult film to pick just one moment. The story of Gustave H, which is told by Zero who is telling his own story which is then told by The Writer, sounds convoluted, but it all ties together in the end. A brilliant caper, murder mystery, prison break, journey, love story is dark, very funny and ultimately quite a sad tale. It is most definitely a peak in Anderson's career. The beautiful moment in the film, for me, is the end train scene, where Zero, Agatha and Gustave H are enjoying a drink but with the outbreak of war just around the corner, a voice brings the world crashing down. The quote below, about Gustave H is so well put, this is in place of a visual moment.

"To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it, but I will say: He certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace!"

Thursday 7 January 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Downstairs people

 I loved the theme for this week, but went completely blank when trying to pick films, apart from Gosford Park. There must be plenty out there that I've forgotten. Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks. 

Gosford Park
I didn't like this film at first, mostly because I had a bunch of know-it-all 'adults' telling I knew nothing about film and they happened to like this film at the time. I managed to see it in my own time and I loved it. A brilliant upstairs downstairs set at a country house with such a great group of actors playing wealthy folk and servants in the 1930s. Plus, there's a murder. What else could I ask for from the great Robert Altman.

The Servent
I found this uncomfortable, mostly because Dirk Bogarde does unpleasant so well. Bogarde is the servant who eventually takes over the household from British aristocrat James Fox, switching the roles of 'master' and 'servant'. It's disturbing to see how easily Bogarde manipulates Fox.

The Help
This made me cry. I can't lie about that. Its a very sad in places, emotional throughout, with moments of triumph. The black women of Jackson and how they impact the lives and take care of the prominent white families in the town.

Monday 4 January 2016

Blind Spot Series 2016

This year I took part in The Matinee's brilliant BLIND SPOT series. I chose 12 films that are considered classics or that I considered to be classics and watch one each month. Or that is what I was meant to do, but I missed 2 month for one reason or another and had to cram 3 films into December. I have actually watched them all but alas, I failed a little, I didn't get the last post in before 2016 so there will be a few posts for both this year and last year appearing this month

This year I have prepped. I have bought a couple of films on DVD already and queued a few on Netflix too. I already plan to watch one film next December. From the list, you can probably guess which one.

I've tried to keep the list balanced, but I've ended up with quite a few films made in the same era. There are 4 British, 1 Russian, 1 German, 1 French and 5 American films. Only one animation and only one documentary. Sort of balanced. The films are:

Russian Ark
Peeping Tom
Forbidden Planet
It’s a Wonderful Life
Local Hero
Grey Gardens
The Lives of Others
The Odd Couple
The Innocents
The Triplets of Belleville
Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I should be posting each month and hopefully, if I can get my act together quick enough, you'll find a link on The Matinee's page too. Check out his picks this year too, as well as the other bloggers involved (link at the top).