Saturday 31 August 2019

Watch List: July/August

This Summer has been an odd one. Usually filled with films galore but due to a job move that was located away from the centre of the city meant I missed out on quite a few big and small films that I would have pushed myself to see, most notably, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Transit and Hail Satan? although I'm still hoping to catch that one. But in a switch, I have been lucky to watch a couple of films I wouldn't have necessarily have got to see. But now that LFF is gearing up, I will hopefully get back in the swing of things and back to the cinema. Apart from EIFF and Cinema Rediscovered these are the films I've got to see over the Summer:

Toy Story 4
 With the epic and I will say it, iconic Toy Story 3 to follow, this latest from Pixar, going back to where it all began, in Andy's room, seems like a very odd choice. The Toy Story shorts have been really fun and amusing BUT a feature wasn't really warrented. There were a few loose ends to tie up but those could have been explained away in a short to be honest, but instead, we get a feature long epilogue of a journey we all staryed in 1995. As someone who 'there from the start' I've literally grown up with Toy Story which is why the third film hit home the hardest, this was more of a chance to give the toy's themselves closure on their story, in particular, Woody. Feeling out of place, not being played with much anymore, Woody tries to do his duty another way, by protecting a toy Bonnie literally made out of junk. Bringing in a story about the philosophy of existance feels a little late in the game but Forky is superb and actually makes sense within the whole Toy Story world. Its by far not the best, but with great gags, great central plot and we get to see how menaning a couple of fairground stuffed toys can be, proving not all toys are pure of thought (and its hilarious), its classic Pixar making the right choice to close this chapter for good. 4/5

The Lion King
Another month, another Disney remake that NO ONE asked for. These are meant to be live action but The Lion King is not. Kudos to the animators BUT this was nearly exactly the same as the original except none of the animals had any expressions. That goodness for the voice actors who inject a little bit of pizazz into the story, mostly Billy Eichner as Timon and Seth Rogan as Pumba. But on the whole, not great but I'm also not surprised. 2/5

Love and Bananas
An amazing documentary that a friend and fellow writer asked me to review and I'm so glad I said yes. Full review is HERE. 4/5

Pain & Glory
Pedro Almodovar is back and he's back not with a vengence or comedy or thriller but a story very close to his heart, or at least it feels that way. Full review is over at Vulturehound HERE. 4/5

Bel Canto
An overlooked thriller adaptation of the best selling novel of the same name, deserved better. My full review is over at Vulturehound HERE. 3/5

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This film was met with an outcry of disgust at the festivals as well as the upmost praise. This means, Tarrantino hasn't changed. As the director that every film student claims is their favourite director, Tarrantino not has the most brand sounding name, he creates spectacles. Wanting to know why everyone loved or hated it, I was curious but proceeded with caution as I knew thw Manson family would feature and that Sharon Tate was in it. However by the end of the film came, myself and the rest of the audience (I could feel it) all held out breath for the horrible tasteless moment on screen but it never happened. Intead we were entertained with a very funny scene, but that's all I'll say. Following around Rick Dalton, once a famous TV star, as he acts in the odd TV episode for other shows after making a few films, he's always accompanied by his stunt double/best friend/personal assistant, Cliff Booth. Alongside this homage to old cinema and the end of the 60s, Tarrantino teases us with Sharon Tate and what shes' getting up to. With so many ways to read into this maze of a film, I'll spare you the long version, this feels a bit over indulgent and too long over all but these qualms aside, the film is epic and my gad DiCaprio is brilliant in this film. Funny when needed in places and that ending is a what makes this a fantasty, a dream that Tarrantino had a created. We were also NOT subjected to a Tarrantino cameo so there's another plus. But I could have done without the dirty hippy girl's dirty feet on the widescreen. 4/5

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Love & Bananas

We can sometimes be blinded by the wonders in the world, especially if we’re on holiday. We want to experience things that we wouldn’t anywhere else. This would involve seeing views, visiting landmarks and interacting with the animals of that exotic place. We don’t stop to think if it is right, we just want to say we’ve been there and done that. Ashley Bell’s film not only opens up our eyes to truth but also doesn’t hold back. From the brutal and uncompromising beginning to the hopeful end that things can change for the better. 

The hard hitting exposition introduces us to the cruelty inflicted upon Asian elephants who work in entertainment and in trekking camps. The animals go through brutal bloody abuse in what is known as ‘the crush box’, literally breaking their spirit and beating them into submission. As well as this more than rude awakening, we are introduced to Through icon graphics we are given the context to why we need elephants and how endangered the Asian elephants are, leading us into conservationist Lek Chailert and her story. Lek’s family owned a trekking camp and subsequently disowned her for revealing the truth of the animal abuse to the press and the world. Lek’s mission has been to care and rescue as many elephants and safely bring them to her elephant sanctuary and others like hers.

The story of the film, after the much needed and devastating informative beginning, Bell returns to Thailand to be part of a rescue. Rather than a covert operation, the trekking camp owner has agreed not only to let one of his elephants be rescued, but has agreed to the filming as well. Noi Na is a 70-year-old elephant who wear her years of abuse, mapped out all over her body. Getting this elephant across Thailand, in 48 hours, proves to be far more dangerous than anticipated. 

Bell’s documentary not only shares the amazing work of Lek and the lives of her rescued elephants but it also informs without feeling like the audience is being preached at. The story naturally unfolds gently and isn’t given the soft-focus treatment thankfully, making sure every moment, not matter how honest is not orchestrated for the sake of the film. One particular moment, amongst the tears and hope post rescue, is when one of the elephants at the sanctuary wants attention and chases one of the cameramen, wanting a close up. The painfully truth at the start is what makes us sit-up and take notice of the plight of the Asian elephant, Lek and her work as well as the rescue gives us the heart of what changes are possible. It was also pleasing to see that after the happy ending we all hoped for, is a message from Bell herself, asking us to make a difference by not going to these shows where elephants are kept or go to the trekking camps, this is now a difference can be made. 

A brilliant documentary, full of emotion and passion at all the right moments, its hard not to fall in love with these animals. 

To find out more about the film and where you can watch it, head over to the film’s website.

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Murder Mysteries To Sooth The Soul

Over the past couple weeks, I've felt the sudden need and urge to watch old Poirot episodes. A few years back I recieved one of the greatest gifts, the entire Poirot (David Suchet, naturally) collection. This was quite a while before his final episodes so sadly those are not included. BUT I have the all the rest and one day I am going to sit down and watch them from the start. I mostly rewatch the episodes in the second volume as these have two of my favourites ('Death on the Nile' and 'Mystery on the Blue Train'). I started to make my way through all the favourites and even though I know who the murderer is, there is some sort of pleasure from watching these afternoon dramas that can be quite brutal and macabre. There's something about the murder mystery genre that has been seen as more of an older person's TV BUT I disagree. A murder mystery has to have the right suspects, the unexpected amount of actual murders, be suspensful and very entertaining. If its a period piece as well, all the better. If a murder mystery is set in modern day and isn't given the Sunday afternoon cosy crime stamp, its called crime drama. *Eye roll* Its a murder mystery no matter the year its set.

I'd like to bring a few shows to your attention. In the last few weeks I've not only managed to get through and then collapse through Stranger Things 3, Dear White People season 3, GLOW season 3 AND Mindhunter season 2 (I've watched quite a lot of TV) but I have also consumed three very different detective/murder mystery TV shows from Spain, Germany and Finland.

High Seas

Sisters Eva and Carolina board the luxury cruise ship sailing from Spain to Brazil, where Carolina will marry owner of the ship, Fernando. Having recently lost their father, the sisters are thrown into a mystery involving his death when they agree to help a mysterious woman stowaway on the ship. But when the woman goes missing on the voyage's first night, Eva and crewmember Nicolás witness a woman scream and fall from the ship, the plot literally thickens as various plot points are pulled together to solve the mystery.

I'd been wanting a period murder mystery thriller with multiple characters, some with secrets, others with clues and all very dramatic. Of course with a cast of characters this vast there were storylines bound to get lost BUT every piece of the grand puzzle was either solved or resolved, except for a couple of minor things that I believe will come up in the show's second season.


Hailing from Germany, this mostly about the murder and less on the mystery series was inspired by both the novel 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' and the 2006 film of the same name. Taking place in modern day the show cuts between the investigation and the past when where the main characters knew each other from their school days. All the characters in the show are terrible people in one form or other, except for one but even he has flaws and lacks good judgment. The lead detective is no better, having an affair with her married superior, whinning at him to be with her even though its clear he won't leave his family. You start you loose sympathy and begin to really dislike and much later distrust her actions. With equal parts frustrating and entertaining, with the characters as terrible adults and as teens who practically create a cult based on the novel 'Perfume'. Its a twisted and you will hate everyone BUT its a show that needs no follow up, plus the hunt for the main killer is fascinating.

Dead Wind

Firstly, the title is off putting but look past it, the original Finnish title is better as its just the detective's name and become immersed in the world of air turbines, past trama and of course, murder. Slightly complicated to explain but here goes. After the body of social affairs consultant Anna Bergdahlis found on the site where a massive construction is going to happen, an investigation into the woman's life, family, her affair and her job is turned over, leaving no stone unturned, even going into her past which it seems she tried to forget. Detective Sofia Karppi is a classic flawed detective, she drinks but not to excess, her flaw is that she doesn't take great care of her son and step daughter having moved them back from Germany after the death of her husband. She's still not quite over the shock but is determined to close this case. Teamed up with rookie detective Sakari Nurmi from the financial crimes unit, he is very different from her. Clashing at first but soon have each others' backs. So far so typical BUT there is something so refreshing that had me hooked to this show. The suspects and other characters that dip in and out of the story are also compelling to watch as well as annoying as hell Karppi (don't worry she's amazing really). Luckily, the show is getting a second series which means more Karppi but no idea about Nurmi. Fingers crossed the dynamic duo will be reunited.

Monday 19 August 2019

Better on the page...

There are those comics that shouldn’t ever be adapted for the screen, big or small. Although due to the episodic nature of comics, they would work well as a TV series. One of stories from the pages of a stand alone comic or graphic novel would and could taken to the screen BUT there is always the question, should it be adapted?

There are a selection of comics I believe should never be adapted for TV or film and I really hope that these never happen, mainly because they’re weird or I know how the story would play out and ultimately ruined. Comics have used as the end point to shows after they’ve been cancelled or the fans have wanted more after a natural end. The stories and characters work well within their domain of ink and paper, lets not drag them out to make a buck or two.


This is the epic space opera which has become a huge hit. Possibly too big to go unoticed by Hollywood and the TV land executives. Boasting a large cast of characters set in a space world where there are many species of everything you could ever think of off, with artwork to go with it. There are also heartbreaking deaths, violent escapes and sexual ones too. With a ‘star crossed lovers’ theme at the heart and a never ending war between two races, ‘horns’ and ‘wings’ and everyone else picking sides. Alana, from the technologically advanced planet Landfall, the largest planet, meets Marko, from Wreath, Landfall’s moon, who people can use magic, they meet while he is prisoner and fall in love. Escaping the planet and essentially going on the run after Alana gives birth to Hazel, who is also the story’s narrator. Pursued by hitmen, royalty and other beings, they carve out a family and life together. Add in monsters, hitmen (called freelancers in this world), superhero soap operas, an infamous book able to tear down the establishment and robot royalty, the stories told in saga do indeed make a saga.

Compared to the likes of ‘Star Wars’, ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’, there isn’t anything you can quite compare it to. Probably its been such a hit - its refreshingly original yet feels inspired but a thousand science fiction stories. This would of course be difficult to create if the TV/Filmmakers would stay true to the style of images of the comic. There is a possibility the comic could work if animated but a live action version would be impossible to capture.

Sex Criminals

For those who don’t know, this isn’t what it sounds like. Something I say to everyone who hasn’t read the comic. It’s about sex. But its also about love, friendship, bank robberies and saving a library. Suzie, a librarian, meets Jon, and actor working at a bank, at a party. They hit it off and sleep together which is when they discover that they both have the power to freeze time when they orgasm. They each already knew they had this power but finding each other is the moment where the story begins. As their relationship becomes more intimate, they decide to rob banks to save Suzie’s library from being shut down. Along the way they discover others with the same ability but different quirks. But really its about a guy and girl just trying to figure themselves out.

This would obviously be an issue for film, TV might be able to get this on screens but to be honest, its just too weird for TV. I think quite a bit would be changed and not for the better and I think it just works better in comic form. That’s my personal view. There may be others out there dying for this kind of freaky show. As it does get kinda freaky.


Described as a cross between Arthur Conan Doyle, Rupert Bear and Tarantino meant that I would obviously love this series og graphic novels following Detective Inspector Archie LeBrock of Scotland Yard (a badger built like a brick shithouse) and his loyal partner on the force, Detective Ratzi (a rat).

The characters of this universe are mostly anthropomorphic animals although humans who appear, they are treated as the underclass and are referred to as 'doughfaces'. Also in this world, the history is very different. France are the main 'evil empire' after Britain lost the war with Napoleon and invaded the country, murdering the British Royal Family. Britain was then ruled over for 180 years until the revolution and fight for independance, 23 years before the start of the first book. LeBrock having been on the front lines of the fight. Paris is the largest city in the world and is known as 'Grandville' which is where most of the stories take place. Each follows a theme of some sort; conspiracy, terroism, science fiction, religion and gangsters with a wide range of characters, some modelled after real historic people as well as nods to animated and comic book characters and homages to certain works of art. Its a feast for the eyes and fascinating to read. But with all these details on the page, there is a very good chance all this would be lost on the screen. Even if this was an animated series, the charm and bloody origianlity might not transend well and I have a feeling would not be as popular with a TV audience. 



For those who know and love this comic created by Bill Willingham, you are no doubt aware of the development hell the adaptation has been through. Fables, first appeared in 2002 and has since spanned 150 issues, spin off series Jack of Fables, Cinderella and Fairest oh and The Literals (if you count it as a spin off, it was part of The Great Fables Crossover), stand alone graphic novels; 1001 Nights of Snowfall, Werewolves of the Heartland and Fairest in the Land, stand alone novel; Peter & Max: A Fables Novel, a Tell-Tale game, also adapted into a comic; The Wolf Among Us and finally, the short lived sequel which arrived 2 years after the main series ended; Everafter: From the Pages of Fables. As you can see, Fables wasn't just a comic series, its a universe. 

The story (the original story) begins with 'Legends in Exile' a would be murder mystery story, that introduces us to Fabletown, where characters from fairytales, fables, poems, nursery rhymes and children's literature live in secret having been exiled from their homelands, decades before by the 'big evil' adversary. The lucky ones to esacpe live their lives among the mundys - that's us - while they are immortal. The Fables who are unlucky enough to not pass for human or can't afford a glamour from the witches and sorcerers, live up state at 'The Farm'. They have their own government of sorts, with King Cole as the very lazy mayor and the hard working deputy mayor, Snow White. The Sheriff is none other than Bigby Wolf aka the Big Bad Wolf who was excused of his crimes in the Homelands. Both Snow White and Bigby, in the first arc, go in search of the would be murderer of Rose Red, Snow's twin sister. From the second arc, Fables takes a giant leap forward with its stories, even killing off main characters, starting a revolution at the farm and delving deeper into the history. 

Around the time of 'Once Upon a Time's announcement, there were rumours that this was actually going to be a 'Fables' TV show BUT then that didn't happen and a mediocre TV was made instead. I watched bits of the first three seasons in the hope it would get better buuuuut it didn't. Then, a few years later, there was rumour about the comic being adapted into a film, which was a huge mistake, but then that never came to anything. But seeing all the new shows in the last few years, all the comic adaptations, my thinking is sooner or later, they'll turn to Fables. Maybe once the Marvel/DC wells have run dry? Although technically, Fables is from the DC side, being a Vertigo comic. I really hope that if it ever made, its made for TV as there is just too many details that can't be cut out for it to work as a film, but I bet every comic book fans says that about their favourite comic. I'm very precious about Fables as it was the series that actually got me interested and invested in the comic book world, I just want it done right if it has to be done.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Small Screen, BIg Wave


The age of superheroes dawned us not with the release of ‘X-Men’ and ‘Spiderman’ in the early 2000s but with the beginning of the master Marvel plan in 2007 with ‘Iron Man’. As I wasn’t reading comics (apart from Tintin and Oor Wullie) back then and only looking longingly at my local comic book shop when I was intimidated by the ‘what are you doing here?’ stare, these superheroes and by extension comic book films were all new to me. I had been completely enthralled by ‘Sin City’ in 2005 and sort out the original graphic novels, where I learnt just how graphic a comic styled book could be. Of course, the fact that the movies were turning towards to comics and graphic novels for stories was no new trend BUT the fact that we, the audience, are regularly fed our yearly superhero films has changed the landscape of film and now, TV as well.

Comics lend themselves to television structure that it always felt wrong that such characters and their blockbuster like stories were confined to limited timed films and their sequels and not given the time to develop and grow, like they do on the page. But the TV execs were paying attention. Seeing the opportunity to adapt more stories and characters for the small screen presented the opportunity to expand the comic universes. The CW has run with this idea with the likes of ‘Arrow’ and ‘The Flash’ and ABC with ‘Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D’ and Netflix too even had a slice of the Marvel pie before the announcement of the juggernaut (no I’m not referencing the mutant) Disney creating their own streaming service which meant shutting down shows on other platforms, although ‘Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D’ will bow out with their seventh and final season. But both Netflix and Amazon Prime have opted to venture further into the comics world and go for the more ‘adult’ themed comics or as they say on the trade paperbacks, ‘For Mature Readers’.

From Marvel to DC to Vertigo to Image to Dark Horse, the adaptations are endless. With hits like ‘Preacher’, ‘The Umbrella Academy’ and the newly minted ‘The Boys’, not only is the demand for comic adaptations out there, the desire for grittier and more graphic shows needs to be met. The latter two shows that came out this year, both renewed for second seasons have generally pleased the fandom and gain more followers. Both source materials could be considered as little to unknown in the grand scheme of things but with their superhero genre slapped on them, this attracts those who love the blockbuster films but also want to see their favourites for longer than a film. They also happen to be about superheroes. There is no escaping this genre which has become arguably in its own right. Actually, escape can be found in the Archie comics adaptations such as the eternal teen haven, ‘Riverdale’ and its spin off ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’. But both have gone darker, especially the latter.

The shows will keep coming and it may or may not feel like overkill but if shows such as ‘The Walking Dead’ and keep on walking for multiple seasons and news shows such as ‘Y: The Last Man’ and the legendary ‘Sandman’ have been slated to be made, at least we’re in for a variety of weird and wonderful stories to look forward to. BUT there will come a time when, just like me and comics, there’s just too many to keep up with.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Before The Re-reboot Over Shadows It All

As I said, before the re-reboot directed by Elizabeth Banks eclipses the McG offerings from the 2000s, I thought it was time to talk about 'Charlie's Angels' in all its problematic glory. As much as I love the film adaptation (and sequel) of the TV classic about three women who work for a private detective agency backed by an annoymous billionaire, there are so many problems with it and I;m not just talking about the fact that these women always have to dress in overtly 'sexy' outfits. So, I made a zine.

If you want a closer look and are able to get to Deptford, London, you'll be in luck as its the South London Zine Festival going on until 11th August. Zines from all over will be on display with some copies available to buy. If you're not able to get to London and want to grab a copy, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Now, in Alex's words (played by Lucy Lui) - 'Get off the babysitter. Daddys home.' In other words, time to go.

There was so much dialogue in those films that never made sense.

Monday 5 August 2019

Edinburgh Film Festival: How to Fake a War

Better late than never.

For a film that was funded by Ireland and Georgia and is considered to be predominantly be a European film or Irish and Georgian film, it really does feel, look and act very British. From the dark humour to the casting to how the plot rolls out, its hard to ignore the British-ness that other films have taken time and effort over.

Kate is a PR manager for rockstar Harry Hope and is in need of good publicity for him. When war breaks out between Georgia and Uzbek, she immediately takes action and starts to set up a peace concert in Hope’s name. The media machine gets rolling and the fans are excited, word spreads but then, disaster, the two warring countries declare peace So, Kate and her team, plus her little sister, keen to get involved, go to Georgia to create fake news to generate interest again and claim that the war is still happening. Of course, things do not go according to plan.

Making a film about a fake war as a PR stunt to further someone’s career is bleak and has the danger to be taken as poor taste. But luckily the film is in safe comedic hands. It is bleak at times because its about war but it is made of the blackest darkest comedy and the winning result is actually funny. Just because its a comedy doesn’t mean there aren’t deaths and moments where you questions yourself for laughing. Having Katherine Parkinson yell ‘We’re BRITISH WOMEN’ is one of the best moments in the film as it pretty much sums up how Brits are. We want our opinion heard and we want to make sure everyone knows where we’re from, like it is an exception to a rule. When the peace between countries is called off due to the successful fake news being generated and the war continues, Kate and her team literally end up in the crossfire and separated. Kate and her sister Peggy (Lily Newmark) end up on their own long way to the boarder and the to freedom after they are captured for being the leader of the resistance, the chaos and turmoil let alone confusion she and her team have caused is finally looked at in perspective. Her need to do a good job and go to any lengths to make her client happy caused a war. It’s dark but its funny that it all happened. 

The downside to the story is the side plot about Kate and her sister Peggy and some home truths, Eastenders style, are revealed. It doesn’t add anything to the film as a whole and on its own, no one really cares, not even the characters who it effects as the end of the day. It instead makes the plot stutter along until it is finally swept away with the big meeting at the border.

The hope that this film could find an audience is slim due its dark comedic nature and it would need to be released with care, just in case any world events may make seem, again, in poor taste. But I am positive it will find a worthy audience that would make their dark hearts laugh.