Monday 30 April 2018

New Zealand: Hobbiton

Part of the reason I wanted to go to New Zealand was so I could see the real Middle Earth. Going to Hobbiton and Weta were major priorities.


Luckily my family lived a (approx) 45 minute drive away from Hobbiton so we didn't have to wait too long before we were on the tour! Our tour guide (from Scotland) joined us on the short coach ride through the Alexander sheep farm that stretches 1,250 acres. Off the bus and through the hedges, Hobbiton opens out to the marvelous view which matches the opening shots of Hobbiton in the films. It was like stepping into the film. Each Hobbit hole had its own personality, even hinting at who lived inside. The props for the original LOTR films was not made out of material built to last, but after fans of the film came looking, the idea to build a lasting set came about with the filming of the Hobbit films.

Along the tour, our guide asked trivia questions and if you got it right, you got an extra drink in The Green Dragon pub at the end.

The tour goes up and around the valley, going past Bag End and sloping towards the bridge to get to the mill and pubs across the river. There are great views of all the hobbit holes from across the river too.

A magical place indeed. Life long dream achieved that day.

Thursday 26 April 2018

TMP Television Edition: Failed to get a Second Season

The Middleman
Oh Middleman. This show was struggling from the start. This was a show based on a comicbook series before it was 'a thing' and suffered the painful blow of getting cut short. The Middleman comics, although released in 2005 have a 60s feel about them as does the show at times.  Struggling artist Wendy Watson is recruited by a secret agnecy that fights evil forces, usually of the sci-fi variety after she unwittingly becomes involves in a case. The Middleman takes her on as his apprentice and the two go on fun and weird adventures together. A bit like a Doctor Who set up except The Middleman is a human, its the a shame the show never got to continue or even get a whole series, especially as Matt Keeslar and Natalie Morales had great chemistry. Keeslar seems to have disappeared but at least Morales has been seen in a few things. Alas Middleman, you could have great if ABC invested more time and money in you and hadn't cancelled you like they do with everything!

From the writers of the epic shows comedy shows 'Smack the Pony' and 'Green Wing' (one of my favourite shows of all time) comes a show...very much like both of them but set in a University. The show was compared to Green Wing by critics aaaand they're not wrong. Campus is similar but with some really off the wall scenes and characters, as well as rather offensive jokes. But inspite of this, I do love the show and I really hate that there is only precious 6 episodes!!! I think the only issue I have with the show is that the cast of characters are great BUT a University is huge so the chances that some of these characters even know each other is highly unlikely. Oh well. Aother comedy bites the dust.

Good Girls Revolt
The demise of Good Girls Revolt is a sad and frustrating one, mostly because Amazon just killed the show and produced tons of graphs and posts and stories as to why it had to go. Also, its known that the head of Amazon Video (at the time) had said no other shows featuring main female cast saying 'its too female centric'. Ok that was about another show but if that was the attitude you can see how the show died. The show was inspired by the book of the same name by Lynn Povichand real events. Following a group of young women who are researchers for News of the Week magazine. Each are paired with a male journalist but none are given the opportunity to write an article. The show shows the girls, all from different backgrounds, eventually working together to fight for justice. As a show that shows women supporting each other and fighting for their rights, it is empowering and it really f***ing annoys me that it was cancelled. It had a following too but no, Amazon must have its male dominated shows first. Ugh!

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

Thursday 19 April 2018

Straight Outta New Zealand

As I’m in New Zealand over April, so thought I’d put the spotlight on three filmmakers I admire who happen to hale from the country I'm visiting.

Taika Waititi, the director that everyone has been talking about in the last few years after a succession  of hits. 'What We Do in Shadows' brought vampires back to the light in the form of a mockumentary about three vampire roommates living in Wellington. 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople', my favourite film of 2016 about a troubled teenage boy and his foster uncle who are a tragedy and misunderstanding end up on the run in the bush with the authorities in pursuit. Finally, the film that the Marvel Universe needed to reboot within the God of Thunder, 'Thor: Ragnarok' was a hilarious edition to the stream of movies and stood out from the rest. Waititi’s unique style, deadpan humour and natural dare to be different filmmaking is what makes him a great writer and director.

Jane Campion obviously needs to be brought to the spotlight, especially with the sequel to the fantastic thriller mystery, Top of the Lake aired on TV last year. Continuing the dark side of the first series, Top of the Lake: China Girl delves deeper into lead character, traumatised detective Robin, who investigates the seedy disturbing ring of illegal surrogates and prostitution after a young girl’s body is found in a suitcase washed up on the beach in Sydney. While the show is brilliant TV, I wish Campion would come back to the big screen. After revisiting ‘In the Cut’ at a screening and Q&A with the director herself, her interpretation of the novel of the same name is a murder mystery erotic thriller that is pieced together sometimes as a stream of consciousness from Franny’s, played by Meg Ryan, point of view.

If I’m talking about New Zealand filmmakers, I have to talk about Peter Jackson, director of the greatest trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Not familiar with Jackson’s previous films before 2001, but I have made sure that Heavenly Creatures is in my Blind Spot list this year. I’ve seen some of his other films since LOTR and enjoyed The Hobbit film but nothing truly compares to his ‘stand the test of time’ adaptations. Every time I see the films, a pilgrimage every year, my breath is taken away.

Thursday 12 April 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies about Movies

Sometimes silence is golden...

F.W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ has issues with production but what ‘Shadow of the Vampire’ poses is that the star of the film, Max Schreck, really is a vampire and John Malkovich’s Murnau will do anything to make sure his masterpiece is made, even if it means sacrificing a few cast and crew. Willem Dafoe is creepy as hell as the actor/vampire, not quite hamming it up but keeping up the mystery until the climatic last scenes. It’s brilliantly atmospheric and fascinating to seeing the world of silent filmmaking.

The unlikely awards favourite, a silent film made in 2011, but its so fantastically created, its difficult not to like this somewhat typical story but made in a unique fashion. Add in a wonderful dog and two great actors that Hollywood hadn’t seen before and its a hit. Jean Dujardin, a comic actor who made his name in spy spoof films in France, is a huge film star but with the age of sound encroaching, his star soon fades, while a new kid fresh faced Peppy played by Berenice Bejo, rises with each new film she makes. A rags to riches alongside a riches to rags/love story, with only a couple of lines of dialogue in sound in the whole film, that really does put so much more into perspective, the film is a perfect movie about movies.

Who doesn’t know or love this film? With one of the famous scenes in cinematic history as well as some of the best songs and great musical all round, Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor (my favourite of the trio, he sings my favourite song in the film), really are superb. Another pick (spot the theme?) about silent films and the age of talkies, the studio decides to turn ‘The Royal Rascal’ into the musical ‘The Duelling Cavalier’ but they need a leading lady who can sing. It stands the test of time, no matter when its set, when it was made, the music is timeless.

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

Monday 9 April 2018

This Did Not Go The Way I Planned - The Last Jedi


If you haven't guessed, there will be spoilers in this post about The Last Jedi. You have been warmed. 

I’ve kept quiet since December about my thoughts on The Last Jedi, mostly because I was getting fed up with the negativity surrounding it and how the ‘fan boys’ out think they run the show. When a petition was started to claim that the film would not be part of the Star Wars cannon was when it became ridiculous. How pathetic do you have to be to start that? When all this died down, I started watching all the fantastic video essays about the mythology behind the Star Wars stories and how the characters are moulded. There is a pattern to everything BUT I must stress this isn’t Battlestar Galactica, everything has not happened before and will not happen again, as proved by The Last Jedi, the film that was needed but not everyone wanted. I had left this post off for so long it would have been irrelevant but with the release of the film on DVD/Blu-ray I can lay it all out.

From beginning to end, I loved the film. I understand there are flaws and parts that look like they had planned more to happen there, the casino planet for one, but for reason or another, things changed. The rebels’ scenes were troublesome because at one point, I thought this was all Poe’s fault but on second thought it wasn’t, just some of it was. 


The opening scene was epic and actually quite devastating and Poe should have listened to Leia, obviously. As Poe wasn’t given much time to shine in TFA, this was his chance to, well, do more but unfortunately he came across as  an arrogant pilot who wanted to be a hero. The only thing I’d say he did right was ask for Admiral Holdo to keep everyone in the loop otherwise he, Rose and Finn wouldn’t have gone ahead with their, er, plan. But you could say, without these mistakes there would be no film, WRONG. There would still have been a battle between the First Order and the rebels, but I’m hoping there is a big reason why things went they were meant to such as Rose and Finn meeting those kids, one of which has Jedi abilities and them meeting DJ and he isn’t just some arsehole who ratted them out and he has a bigger role to play. My current theory is that he is connected Rey....its just a theory. 

Rose was a nice addition to the mix, but she could have been a great addition. It felt that Rose was an add on and there to point out that there are others suffering in the galaxy and to talk about those horse/lama like creatures. She was also there to give hope to Finn and possibly to add more confusion into the mix. Her little adventure with Finn was fun to watch and new characters are usually great ideas. Just hope she has more purpose in the next film. Finn was on top form as usual, with a great wake up moment walking around in a leaking bag. His friendship (or more) with Poe seemed solid and he still is important in terms of hope for the rebellion and all. His weird clingy-ness towards Rey needs to be toned down though as Rey clearly is not into him like that. She has bigger things to worry about.

The image of Princess Leia using the force to float back to the ship will forever be burned into my retinas. The moment she was blown out the ship, along with other named characters we all thought that was it. This is how things were changed. WRONG. Even though Carrie Fisher is gone, doesn’t mean Leia has to go too. Bringing her back, keeping her alive is now JJ Abrams problem. But it was nice to keep one original (apart from Chewie) for the final film in the new trilogy.  Her handing over the mantle to Laura Dern (Laura frickin Dern people!!) was meant to be a passing of the torch but alas we didn’t get to keep the purple haired Admiral, but at least she got one of THE best death scenes in the Star Wars universe. Going out at light speed and taking out a huge enemy ship at the same time. It’s what dreams are made of. If your dream is to that that is. 

Luke, Rey and Ben

I know Luke is where most fans had a problem but I’m confused as to why. Did everyone really think that Luke after years away from everyone he was just going to be the same wide-eyed kid from Tatooine? Of course he wasn’t. Things aren’t the same in the galaxy as they used to be. People also change and it is realistic that Luke wanted nothing to do with being a Jedi after he failed and tried to kill his own nephew. There will always be the question though, did Ben turn to dark because of this betrayal or was he already turned? I think Ben never really turned, he was and still is torn between dark and light and that’s his real struggle. Luke refusing to help Rey, wasn’t cool. He could have helped a bit more than yell at her saying she went straight to the dark. Trying to redeem him at the end with one last Jedi trick was humorous and made a bigger statement about the Star Wars universe, this is not going to go the way we all planned. It’s a new trilogy for a reason, not everything begins and ends with the Skywalkers. Besides Ben is a Solo. 

Getting to my favourite part of this post and thankfully the characters that everyone seemed to like, the literal balance in the force, Rey and Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo. It’s good that his real named is being used far more now. Everything about these characters and their scenes were sheer perfection. Just wish they had had more time together. I watched several, not even kidding, several video essays (superb by the way) about the relationship between these two characters. Ben isn’t entirely Dark and Rey is not fully Light which what makes them an dynamic duo. I liked that when they are apart they are still together through their force bond which Snoke, worst villain’s name in history, took credit for but didn’t really do much as the connection was already there. As well at them slowly getting to know each other, leading up to the touching of hands, Rey still needed and had time to discover herself. What Rey saw and what Ben saw, is most likely the same but as they both still think there is only Dark or Light they won’t see this. But the fact that Rey’s parents were no one... I still don’t believe that (still sticking to me DJ theory here) but Ben isn’t lying either, he just doesn’t know who they are. The scene where they finally meet in person, and have that talk in the lift is prelude of things to come and don’t mean in the next scene. The fact that Ben kills his mental abuser only when Rey is being tortured shows he will pretty much do almost anything for Rey. They’re fight scene is one of the best scenes in the film and hold the most hope for what will happen in the next film. From the looks they share, to the thigh grab from Rey to the look of pain on Ben’s face when he asks Rey to join him. They both want to do what’s right and both have a point. Ben is right, leave the past behind, but Rey is also right, The First Order is not the way to go forward. Later on when he sees Rey through the bond, there is pain in both their eyes, not just Ben. They are the literal balance in the force that is their destiny. 

I’ll close this post with hope, that’s what Star Wars is all about, that the next film doesn’t just comb over the actions of The Last Jedi but actually follows on from it with care. There might not be Porgs but I am waiting, patiently for a short spin off of the Caretakers from Ach-To where they take revenge on Rey for continuously trashing their huts and island. 

Thursday 5 April 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Underground

I wasn't sure what was meant by this week's theme so I've got a little off book. Like most cities with underground trains, such as in London, we call the tube, 'the underground'. Following on from this, I've picked 3 great scenes that take place on the underground.

Passport to Pimlico
Classic Ealing Comedy about the residents of an area in Pimlico that discover they are in fact residents of the ancient Duchy of Burgundy so use this as a way to avoid the post war rationing. The scene on the underground is where the residents flag down those entering their area and ask to stamp their passports. The funniest bit is when a magician is asked if he is carrying any livestock and he lets loose pigeons from his suitcase.

Sliding Doors
The com-rom where the term 'sliding doors storyline' was coined. The moment Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) misses the tube and also catches the tube, changes everything in her lives. It was all that child on the stair's fault.

This whole sequence mesmerizes me, mostly beacuse I don't know how they did this. These stations are busy all the time. Shooting the scene at a few stations, including Bond (Daniel Craig) jumping on a District line train to Wimbledon (used to work there) but just before sliding down that long ass escalator at Angel which is only on the Northern line. As a Londoner, watching big blockbuster films where characters use the tube but get it all wrong (looking at you Thor in Dark World, that is NOT how you get to Greenwich from where you were) can be slightly annoying.

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

Monday 2 April 2018

She Makes Movies

Following on the BFI season Girlfriends, I wanted to talk about two directors and their work that stood out for me. I have written at length about the sesaon which can be read on VultureHound HERE.

Katt Shea wrote and directed 'Poison Ivy' which starred Drew Barrymore as a mysterious teen taken in by social outcast friend Slyvie. Ivy worms her way into the family, seducing Slyvie's father and befriending her sickly mother. A (slightly) erotic thriller with an uneasy feeling throughout, doesn't leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, but actually makes you wish Katt Shea had continued to make more films. The film wasn't a box offic hit but became a somewhat cult hit on video, spawning cheap sequels. Shea made other film but none that elevated her. She has a style and looking at the films she made after 'Poison Ivy', she became pigeon holed in what she made. Her last few credits as director included the sequel, Carrie: The Rage and TV film, Sanctuary.

Another director I wanted to talk about it is Lesli Linka Glatter, director of a favourite film of mine in my younger years, 'Now and Then'. Glatter is a successful director working mainly in TV, having made only two feature films (not including a TV movies). The nostalgia film about friendships and the events over one summer was released in 1995. This features was followed by 'The Proposition' in 1998, both films recieved negative reviews.

Negative reviews seem to plague female directors far more than their male peers. It seems such a  waste of talent that women like Glatter and Shea aren't given the platform to make more films. Who cares about the bad reviewews, both 'Poison Ivy' and 'Now and Then' have cult status (more the former than the latter, but I love the latter) but its a shame that its takes years for films to be appreciated by an audience wanting to celebrate women's work and not by everyone at the time of release.