Thursday 27 October 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Halloween Edition - Epidemic/Pandemic/Outbreak

It took me quite a while to think of films that fit this theme. There are some that aren't considered horror and I picked it BUT I thought it was such a horror-ible film that it counts. See what I did there?

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

28 Days Later
The film that reached across the land and made everyone not want to visit England, at least for a while. For me, it was one of the first films I saw where the horror was or could be on my doorstep. The terror was in the UK. The shot of Cillian Murphy wandering around a deserted London is a fantastic shot and is really a shock as London is always busy. The outbreak of virus (not zombies), the rage virius to be exact turns everyone crazy. Four then three people make their way to the countryside, a less populated area and a hope a for a way off the damn island. This film also shows that people are horrific too, not just the virus, but its not like we didn't know this.

The Happening
Oh Shyamalan. What happened buddy? With not twist but an awkward reveal, this film played out slowly and painfully. A couple who seem to have marital issues but don't really end up fleeing the city after mass suicdes keep happening only to end up in the middle of the death zone, a field, as it is the trees and plants that are against us! Ridiculous.  Yet distressing.

Planet Terror 
Robert Rodriguez is a master at creating a grindhouse feel. Together with Tarantino, they brought back to the cinema and it was brilliant. The concept was missed on some but enjoyed by others. I got see it with Edgar Wright presenting as he has a trailer in between the films (Don't). There is plenty of gore, guts, flesh, doctors and a machine gun leg to pore over in this film. After the military, who have been exposed to some weird disgusting gas make a shady deal and expose it to an whole country, anyone who touches the gas turns into the melty man and tears others apart, a few survivors with lots of guns try to make it to Mexico.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Blind Spot Series: Grey Gardens

Grey Gardens first came to my attention when HBO made a one off film about Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie, named Big Edie and Little Edie. Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore were the mother and daughter who haunted the East Hampton mansion, Grey Gardens. I started to watch part of the film but stopped as I wanted to see the original documentary that became a cult film and brought the world to the place where time stood still.
Edie and her mother Edith are the stars of the show and each unique in their own way. They go about their daily routine, their habits, their home while talking about the past, regrets and music and the many arguments as mothers and daughter do. They always reconcile and continue onwards.
The Maysles brothers capture every detail of the Bouvier Beales, who in turn don’t shy away from the camera. Their ease with their surroundings, a dilapidated house that should have been torn down, is a reflection of their spirit. They won’t give up on life and will live it on their terms.
For years they were living in poverty and squalor, with no running water even, until their house the media’s attention and their relative, Jackie O, came to the rescue and helped clear out the 1000 bags of rubbish and start the restoration, bring Grey Gardens back to the real world. 
Little Edie is the driving force throughout the film. Long legged and prancing around the house and garden, her unique way of speaking and take on life is fascinating to watch. At age 56 during the time of the film, she looks fantastic. It’s such a shame that she spent most of her adult life cooped up with her mother missing many things. She talks about missing life in New York and many events in the past and her regret that she was there but underneath, she seems scared to leave. Always disappearing at the end of shots saying she has to check on her mother and the cats, Edie seems lost. She even says that when she sees herself she sees a little girl, Big Edie agreeing.
It’s not surprise that Edie became an unusual fashion icon after the release of the film. Having been a model when she was younger, she knows how to style herself. Calling her outfits her ‘costumes’ she carefully picks out each outfit to suit the day.

Throughout the film, although Big and Little Edie have a few laughs, singing songs, remembering the past, there is an obvious hint of sadness surrounding them. Almost reclusive, their barely interact with others. Brooke, their gardener and Jerry, their handyman are the few that saw them daily. Little Edie constantly says how she wants to leave but can’t. Her repetition saying that she doesn’t want to stay another Winter is almost heart breaking. She wants to leave but can’t.
It’s beautifully filmed and encapsulates a relationship between a mother and a daughter as well as the strange and wonderful world of Grey Gardens, a documentary like no other I’ve seen.
To see where it all started and for an excellent insight to film, have a look at The Matinee HERE - Blind Spot posts go up every month.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

October Watch List

It's been a very busy month of films, mostly because of the festival but I have managed to watch a few new and old faces.

The Dressmaker

Kate Winslet in my opinion looks amazing in everything. But put her in exquisite couture from 1950s against a background of a small town in the Australian outback and you make her look magnificent. As you tell, I really love Kate Winslet. She is Tilly Dunage who returns home to take care of her mother, Mad Molly who has basically been neglected by the town. Try was accused of killing the school bully when she was a child. She was taken away and since then has become a well travelled and very talented dressmaker. While she tries to unravel what happened that day she killed that boy, a whole load of tragedies unfold, ultimately testing Tilly to her last nerve. I really enjoyed this film more than I thought. 3/5

BFI London Film Festival

As you know I went to the festival this month and all (but one) of the films are listed and reviewed on the FESTIVAL page.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

This film got its own separate post and the review is on Vulturehound.

The Girl on the Train

(I actually wrote out somethng better but my damn phone crashed and lost several posts)

It seems that any film or book featuring a woman and a murder/mystery has the sticker 'just like Gone Girl' slapped on it. This is not like Gone Girl. Rachel is an alcoholic with a few past tragedies to cope with. Everyday she watches from the train, what she believes to be the perfect couple. But when the wife of the couple goes missing, she goes in search of the truth, finding more than she expected. Emily Blunt is very good in her role as a distraught drunken women who has lost everything and is trying to piece back together. The story held my attention, even if the characters were quite stereotypical and it is quite predictable, it was still compelling to watch. Not the greatest of thrillers but worth seeing if you enjoy the genre (and I do). Those who have read the book know what to expect. 3/5

Sunday 23 October 2016

Better, Scarier, Brainier, Funnier

 In honour of Halloween I have a post from a while ago but it seemed more relevant now. 

At the start of the month I went to a screening of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. It was a special screening, got a goodie bag and got sit in the screening room at Warner Bros. 

The full post can be read on Vulturehound HERE.

I first saw Gremlins back in Uni, which seems to be how quite a few of my stories begin, as it is beloved by one my friends. I think there were quite a few people in the room who I think we invited to watch movies and eat pizza or something. I was kinda bored during the first half of the film and don't remember much. Then I fell asleep. I woke up at the end just as the credits were rolling and that familiar music came on. I'm not too sure but I think people were annoyed that I fell asleep but I can't be certain. Anyway, I never re-watched it as I had no desire to. In a fight over what is better, Gremlins or Ghostbusters, I am obvious a champion of Ghostbusters. I grew up with the gang so it makes sense.

But later on in Uni, my same Gremlins obsessed friend suggested that we watched Gremlins 2 as it’s better than the first because it doesn’t take itself seriously AND it makes fun of the first one. I really enjoyed this one. It was crazy, ridiculous fun and has some seriously messed up moments, girl gremlin anyone? I think I’m going to add this to my Halloween watching collection, along with Frankenweenie, Coraline and Corpse Bride. 

Thursday 20 October 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Halloween Edition - Science Fiction Horror

Science fiction horror can be more distressing more me than your regular horror. Plenty of of gore, isolation and messing with things that should not be messed with. Science horror, in a way is still possible but luckily the films I picked are beyond any thought of becoming real. I hope.

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

Event Horizon
I actually don't remember much from this film except being terrified, oh and Sam Neil was there too. It had an interesting, typical 90s cast but it was also a box office bomb. All I remember is that there is a crew that are sent to find another ship and they find everyone dead then they all die in horrible way, mostly because of Sam Neil. I live in fear of having to see this film again.

The Cabin in the Woods
It took me a while to work up to seeing this film. I do like Joss Weadon but horror is not my thing. My friends convinced me to see it ensuring that I won't be scared as you know its not real (if you've seen it you know what I mean). This is true but its still scary as there are other people in control and that's always terrifying. If it wasn't for Fran Kranz I wouldn't have seen this.

Another odd choice from me. I think this was TV and I was on my own (never a good idea) and it was at night. The idea about a scientist couple creating a human hybrid and using dangerous animals to create it, sure that sounds like a swell idea. I think there are a couple of disgusting moments, particularly when Adrian Brody has weird sex with the creature as she has matured and then when the creature changes sex and rapes Sarah Polley. She later finds out shes pregnant and keeps the baby, for science reasons. So disgusting.

Monday 17 October 2016

BFI London Film Festival - Your Name

Being unfamiliar with Makoto Shinkai’s work, it was interesting to hear from him, as he was present at the screening that his previous films have all been sad but this was different as it was happy. He wanted people to be happy so in a way, he was giving us all an assurance that we wouldn’t be disappointed. Your Name is doing amazingly well in Japan, set to be the fifth highest grossing Japanese film in Japan, which is also encouraging.

There may also be some SPOILERS but not major ones. But just warn you.

 Taki, who lives in Tokyo and works as a waiter after school swaps lives with Mitsuha, who lives in a rural town, Itomori, and learns Kumihimo from her Grandmother and continues her duties as Miko, shrine maiden. The swaps begin when a comet passes by, creating amazing views in the sky. But the swaps, although confusing at first, Taki and Mitsuha think they are just dreams. Realising what is happening, they start to work together, trying not to disrupt their lives. They soon start to feel closer to one another and gradually fall in love. But when Taki tries to find Itomori, he discovers that the town was destroyed 3 years previously. He then has to find a way to reach Mitsuha in the past to warn her.

Part body swap, part dreamscape, part time travel, this story takes the best elements of the genres and themes and binds them all together to create a beautifully animated story with characters you really hope find each other again, specially as they go through so much to finally be together. 

The story then turn to science fiction and time travel possibilities mixed with myths and legends, basically, it’s a mixture of quite a few things but watching it on screen, everything makes sense. There is the initially lead up to feelings being realized, they are teenagers after all, living very different lives. Through being each other they learn things about their homes, family and friends and grow closer this way. At first they hate each other and ruin things but soon they learn how the swaps work. The first shock or twist is when Taki realizes the time differences and that he may have lost Mitsuha forever.

There are a few sequences in the film where it feels like a music video, particularly the intro. Some things are repeated others are solely for this music interlude, which breaks up the tension towards the end and is an excellent way to ease you into Shinkai’s world.

It’s a fantastical film that marks the first time an animation film was in the official competition category and it definitely deserves the place and honour.

Reflections on The Festival

I don't usually do round ups of the festival on the blog. I may mention it on Twitter or Facebook but this time I thought I'd add this in.

Ten films, all so very different in story, genre and characters from UK, Canada, France, Italy, Norway, US and Japan.

Of all the films, my pick of the festival is a tie, the crazy obsurd comedy, Mindhorn and the beyond creepy and atmospheric, I Am Not a Serial Killer.

There were so many films I wanted to see and narrowing it down it just 10 films was difficult. Last year I learnt that more is better and watching more than one film in a day is better. But my friend Foxo wins, as she saw four films in a day!! That's impressive. I aim to to this next year. I learnt from this year that I need to take holiday to go as I'm pretty much broken and exhausted. Plus I need the time to write.

Can't wait for next year!

BFI London Film Festival - Heal the Living

Having admired Katell Quillévéré’s Love Like Poison, I wanted to see what the director would bring to the festival. A story about organ donating, how one tragedy can become another’s miracle. This was one of the saddest films I saw at the festival as no matter what happens, someone will always be hurt or left feeling empty.

Simon, a keen surfer is left brain dead after an car accident and his parents are left with the decision whether to have his organs donated. Claire is a middle-aged musician with heart disease and two sons who dote on her. But she hasn’t told her now ex-girlfriend of her illness.

The stories of the characters are all connected through the accident and affect not only the families of Simon and Claire but the doctors and nurses attending the surgeries. They are all given an introduction as well as thought out characteristics, showing that many people can be affected, negatively or positively from one incident.

There are some amazing stand out sequences in the film that keep the peace and tone. There are no out bursts, everything is treated with dignity and a sense of calmness that all begins with the Simon and his friends going early morning surfing. The camera goes through the water, through the waves, which look terrifying but at the same time, the sound of waves, which appears throughout, makes everything seem that things will be ok. The other scene, which I found quite difficult, was the heart surgery. Removing the heart and being placed in another body. It’s in depth and very clear, you can see every vain, every tube, every crease in the heart itself. 

A different feel from Love Like Poison but the delicate way the film progresses, you can tell this was made by the same hand.

BFI London Film Festival - Two Lovers and a Bear

Two lovers and bear walk into a bar with an octopus...

I believe the film earns its title/name from this bizarre joke or the joke was made up for the film, either way the joke is odd but funny and in some way irrelevant to the story.

 Roman (Dane DeHaan) and Lucy (Tatiana Maslany) are lovers. They live in a town in North Canada. They depend on each other as support, company and for warmth. Both have their own past demon that haunts them, having suffered abuse when they were younger, while they are separated, they fall, but together they are stronger. After an argument that almost tears them apart, they can’t be without the other so decide to head South together on their snowmobiles into the unknown. 

Kim Nguyen's film, described as a 'passionate story of a tortured romance' takes place in one of the coldest places on Earth. The filming took place in Canada and in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, which felt like familiar ground after watching Fortitude. A frozen town where two lovers have a passionate affair, both damaged from past experiences. Ghosts of the past seem to reappear, as they are unable to let them go. The cold and harrowing surroundings seem to be the polar opposite to the two lovers who at time seem to burn to bright and too quickly. 

The bear of the title is one that seems to be following Roman as a spirit and guidance but doesn’t appear enough to be as helpful as a Jiminy Cricket type character. While others see the bears as a threat, to Roman, it’s just a bear as he can speak to them. This fact is brought up a few times and casually combed over. There is not explanation along with this gift of his and in some ways its not needed. The fact he can means that the only threat out there in the wilderness to the lovers is their imaginations and past traumas. 

 At a few points in the story, I wasn’t sure where it was going but once the film ended, with the inevitable and tragic last scene, I understood what the film meant as whole. It is a passionate love story where the characters give each other hope and salvation and the bear, well, he was along for the journey.

Sunday 16 October 2016

BFI London Film Festival - The Autopsy of Jane Doe

I booked this by mistake. I saw directors name, André Øvredal, and got excited so I booked it. I read a little about it and liked the idea, thinking it's a thriller. I was very wrong.

I watched a trailer, read more about it and realised too late the film was a horror film. As time grew closer to watch the film I was more anxious. The venue was changed too and we were offered a refund and this felt like a sign. But seeing as I had been looking forward to seeing the film before I knew I had to just sucks it up and go. It was raining and dark, quite fitting as there is a storm supposedly raging outside in the film. The cinema was dimly lit and quite eerie. André Øvredal was there and seemed quite excited about showing it and that it was a horror, quite different was his previous work, Troll Hunter.

A father and son who are the local town's coroner, morgue and crematorium are working late one night when a body of a young woman is brought in, a Jane Doe. Throughout the autopsy, the two men discover annomelies with the body. The first being she has no marks on her, only internally. As time passes they realise there is other forces at work.

Described as a thriller but really a horror. The opening sequence sets up the film, dead bodies covered in blood, no sign of entry but signs of those inside trying to escape. Then there is Jane Doe half buried no harm on her but clearly a dead body. From there the familiar tropes of horror genre films begin. Brian Cox and Emilie Hirsch are the coroners and really the cast of the film. They make a good team and believable family. Apparently Hirsch studied with a coroner in LA before the film and said it was the worst experience.

With a very small cast, the fear element is ramped up to the maximum. Not only are they doing the autopsy but they are trying fight off the dead and escape. There are jumps, scares and a few bad lines but these are expected in a horror. The concept of the story is actually quite brilliant but the way it goes there could only have been a couple of explanations. The chosen one was good and worked for the story. Even though I was pretty much sitting right down my seat, I'm glad I watched it.

After the film  André Øvredal stayed for a Q&A. When asked he did say the writer was keen to write more about Jane Doe and that is a chance for sequels. So a new horror franchise could be born and I actually witnessed it.

Thursday 13 October 2016

BFI London Film Festival - I am Not a Serial Killer

I was pretty damn excited to see this film, mostly because its Christopher Lloyd and seeing him on screen at anytime is a treat. I was also intrigued to see Max Records as I hadn't seen him since Where the Wild Things Are (and the small part in Brothers Bloom). I wanted to see what the kid who made me cry was up to. Both these actors did not disappoint.

After watching this film, tucked down in my seat, my scarf up to my nose, I was on the edge for most of the time. In a small town, a killer stalks the streets at night and and diagnosed sociopath John Cleaver decides to find out who it is. I won't say anything further as my full review is in Vulturehound, which can be found HERE.

The film is based on Dan Wells' book of the same name and I am patiently waiting for my copy to arrive so I can dive into the story from a different angle.

I'm only half way, but I am loving this festival. Just wish I could have seen more. So far Mindhorn is winning best of the fest but I Am Not a Serial Killer is very very close.

Thursday Movie Picks: Creature/Monster Features

This theme I struggled with as I'm not entirely sure what counts as a 'creature'.

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

Black Sheep

No werewolves right? There was nothing about were-sheep. A Weird horror comedy from New Zealand that I actually saw in the cinema for my friend's birthday. We saw it as there was nothing else on but it wasn't too bad. After a weird couple of accidents in his youth, Henry returns to home to his family's sheep farm. Henry has a phobia of sheep. Elsewhere, some activists release a mutant sheep by accident, but its too late. The sheep wreck havoc throughout the peaceful New Zealand countryside and Henry is forced to face his fear.

Lake Placid

I watched this film years ago, by accident. This always happens, late night, mistake a film for something else end up terrified. A gigantic saltwater crocodile has been attacking people on Black Lake so crack team; Brigit Fonda, Bill Pullman and Oliver Platt go to investigate. Basically Betty White has been feeding it for years even after it killed her husband. So, who's the real villain of this story?
 This could be in the sci-fi category too but Godzilla is technically a creature and he sure does feature. Ancient reptile appears from the depths to save us all from the other hideous creature and as they fight, cities are destroyed and its beautiful to watch.

Sunday 9 October 2016

BFI London Film Festival - Mindhorn

Moving quite swiftly on with the festival, this time it was a world premiere of a British comedy, Mindhorn. From the collective mind of Julian Barratt and Simon Franaby so you know it will be hilarious, which it was.

Every year at the festival, at some point I get to walk on the red carpet, sometimes by accident, sometimes in purpose, sometimes its nothing to do with my film, it just happens to be at the same venue. This time, I was surprised but I was with my friend Foxo and we enjoyed it for all of 30 seconds becfore were asked three times what we were doing and that we needed to go inside then hustled off the carpet indoors. We also had the delightful row X seats, which turned out not to be too bad.

The enjoyable an amusing intro from Barratt and Farnaby was treat, as was director Sean Foley introducing the film as well as the rest of the cast.

My complete review of the film is on Vulturehound and can be found HERE.

BFI London Film Festival - Ovarian Psycos

I went into this film without reading anything  (apart from the fest programme) and this was on purpose. I'm thankful I did. A documentary about an inspiring group of women in Eastside LA who are taking back the streets and their homes through bicycle rides through the city. They are the Ovarian Psycos

Directed by Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-La Valle, the film was made over two years. Following the beginnings of the groups ambitions and rallying new recruits, to how they can help and support their community as well as each other. Made up of women from the Eastside LA area, Boyle Heights, the women meet every month for the Luna Ride. The group, now more of an organisation, has attracted attention in both positive and negative ways. The positive being what the group represents to each other and to other women seeking to take part. The Ovas in the film, both past and present all say the same thing, they wanted to be apart of the group because of the support they gave each other and the cycling aspect. 

The film also focuses in on three members of the brigade, Xela, the founder of the group who is a single mother with a broken childhood. She is also an activist and hip hop artist who is trying to do what's best for her daughter and for the group. Andi, a street artist who makes gender bending toys and who rises up in the group to help take charge. Then there is Evie, a new recruit who feels she has found her home with the group and by being part of it finds she has confidence in life.

Beyond this sense of 'together we're stronger' there also comes the political factor. A segment of the film goes a little deeper in erasing parts of history and how women of colour issues and movements have been pushed aside for other people's agendas.  Historian Maylei Blackwell talks about the Chicano Power movement in 1960s which puts some context on the political side of what the Ovas want to achieve.

Seeing the women band together on their night bike rides isn't intimidating as some people in the film expressed, it was empowering. The negative views about the group has come from men, unfortunately, and the older generation. The complaints that if men were to form a cycling group, they'd be called a 'gang' and that the Ovarian Psycos were excluding people from joining. For me, I think the point of the organisation went over theor heads. Women seeking a group to be apart of is not excluding men for the sake of excluding them, there are plenty of organisations and groups of men where can do what they want and are not persecuted for not allowing others to join, so why are the Ovas being attacked?? It really made me angry.

BFI London Film Festival - Fiore

A rare moment, a love story amongst the other thrillers, oddballs and the more serious variety. But it's a love story set in prison or as director Claudio Giovannesi says, the obstacle to the love story.
Daphane, a teenager sent to a juvenile detention centre for robbery, finds it difficult and finds way to lash out. These encounters brings her in contact with Josh, an inmate in the male wing of the prison. A friendship blossoms through secret notes, talks through bars and looks through each others windows. But with strict rules stopping these two as well as their own problems, love is harder to hold on to.

Made with s mixture of professional actors and new comers, those who are even criminals, the result is realistic and beautiful portrayed. 

A simple story at heart, but just like other love stories, there are complications that come with the genre. Daphane has her father, a recent ex-con, but he can't help her beyond the rare visit. Her friend in prison is released early and the boy she's become closer to is be let out in a few months. The film's focus is on Daphane as she appears in nearly every frame but her arrest and life outside seems distant compared to her friendship with Josh.  He himself shares his problems with her almost straight away and she, claiming to be bored, offers to help. 

Even though the word 'love' is never exchanged, it's pretty clear that these two are in love. Small gestures and the endless looks speak louder than words can. This story has its tragedies, minor to do outsider but shattering to those affected, but there is a hope at the end that these two will have the freedom to be with each other. It's refreshing to see and as I haven't seen an Italian movie in ages, I throughly enjoyed the story.

Friday 7 October 2016

BFI London Film Festival - Pyromaniac

 I know you can be overwhelmed and you can be underwhelmed but can you be whelmed?
That's how I felt after Pyromaniac. For a film that was placed in the 'Thrill' section of the festival programme I expected bit more of a thrill to go along with the story. 

Based on true events, Dag (Trond Nilssen), not long returned from military service is living back in his secluded hometown, Finsland. His father is the fire chief and he has helped to put out fires since he was 10 years old but he is encouraged to find another job. Dag has an obsession with setting fires and starts setting fires in wooded areas, then graduates to abandoned houses. The arson attacks attracts the eye of the local detective as well as the suspicion of Dag’s parents. But there is something about Dag that he can’t stop.

 The film begins with a terrifying scenario, an elderly couple are home at night when an arsonist breaks and pours gasoline through a window. The house is soon consumed by flames and in a quiet and elegant scene, the couple casually leave their house behind and watch the destruction.
Flashback to 3 weeks earlier and we meet Dag. From the start of the film, you know exactly who the arsonist is and as the film continues, Dag’s fires become more drastic and at times, desperate but despite the change in fires and how aggressive they are, the feelings in the town rarely changes but merely adjusts. After two fires people are suspicious and the local detective guesses who is at fault pretty quickly but does nothing to investigate. Subtle words are exchanged but things don't stop. Dag himself goes through terrifying changes that aren’t addressed head on. His feelings are expressed in how he handles and sets his next fire. Outwardly, he seems cool and calm while on duty and comes across too passionate for others. While alone, he grows paler, sweating with pain, anger or loneliness, it’s not clear as we never delve deeper in why he keeps doing this. It is mentioned a few times that he is very intelligent and that he was always a clever person so maybe that’s it. Clever beyond anyone else in the town, he is bored and struggles to connect with others. There are shades of doubt and maybe even a split personality as Dag acts angry when he realises there were people inside of the houses he burned. He lives two lives almost. But there is something about the end scenes where this theory is thrown out of the window.

 Despite the lack of reason or character development, the film is amazingly constructed. I couldn’t help but think, how did they get permission to burn all these buildings and trees. It was fascinating to watch the fires on screen and I joined Dag is being mesmerised by the flames. Fire is a spectacle and having the subject of the film a self-proclaimed pyromaniac is an interesting story. I just wish there was a reason behind it.