Wednesday 25 September 2019

Where Are The Originals?

In a world of remakes, sequels and franchises, we look to the rare originals out there, breaking through.

There has been so many remakes in recent years as well as sequels and franchises consisting of numerous films that feels as if there is barely any room out there for the original things to break through. I was reading this week about 'Us' and 'The Farewell' which have been two original films that broke through to the top ten US box office while the rest of the films were the usual, more of the same films. The fact that there was only two to be named was rather disheartening despite knowing full well that cinema has been in a time of turmoil of years. This isn't a dig at streaming services, as that is a whole other issue to be discussed on another post. But the steady decline of cinema attendance cannot all be blamed upon the fact that there are other ways to watch films. In my opinion, as someone who goes quite frequently to the cinema, the decline of cinema audiences is due to the cost of tickets and the lack of originality.

The cost of a cinema ticket is insane. When I was a teenager it was £5 to see a film or approximately that much, compares to now where its three times that. The fact that cinema is so expensive does put many people off. Sometimes a film is judged on whether its worth the trip and waiting for the DVD release or worse, for it become available on a streaming service seems to be the choice more and more. I know there are some people out there who illegally download films - honestly just don't as this does affect the industry, those annyoing adverts are right. Its a never endiny circle of saying its too expensive but then downloading a terrible copy of the film 'for free' just adds to the cinemas charging more money. Aside from the cost, cinema is lacking and has been ever since we entered the age of the superhero film, now a genre in its own right. I'd like to point out that I do like superhero films and I do watch and like Marvel/Disney films but they are dominating the cinema screen space.

Original stories are craved but are rarely given and when original films are given a fanfare, they are hailed by critics but audiences simply do not care. The the average audience member will see the latest blockbuster/studio offering and that's about it. Adaptations are used as a safe bet, with a built in audience who may be interested in seeing that book they read made into a film BUT even this sometimes frustrating to watch as the same books are adapted with little to no difference from the versions before. Adaptations fall between original and remake and are loved or hated, anything in between and you'd be lying to yourself.

As cinema continues to decline, the way of the world as it keeps going, there may not be any cinemas to go to anymore bit I doubt this will be for a long time, there is still hope it will become a niche things to do so there will be a market for films. As for stories and how original they are, there isn't a clear cut answer except maybe shaming the studios into realising smaller more intimate films matter. But as the whole industry runs on money, it'll be far interesting to see how this plays out when there isn't enough money to make an films.

Saturday 21 September 2019

Little Monsters - BFI London Film Festival

Just when you thought that zombies were dead and buried, we get Jim Jarmusch’s take on the genre earlier this year, but he’s always behind and ahead of the curve, but now we get, Lupita Nyongo’s defending a class of 6-year olds against a farm’s worth of zombies in Australia might I add. This is definitely not something I expected to see but hoped to at a film festival.

After breaking up with his girlfriend and getting nowhere with his no existent band, selfish loser Dave end up on his sister’s sofa being a bad influence on his 5-year-old nephew Felix. But when he meets Felix’s sunny, charming school teacher, Miss Caroline, he decides to volunteer to be a chaperone on the class trip to a local petting zoo. Unfortunately, some zombies, being kept at the local USA military facility next to the zoo, have got loose and proceed to wreak havoc, forcing Dave to step up and Miss Caroline to defend the children at any cost.

Falling into the genre that was first coined by ‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Little Monsters’ is a RomComZom (romantic comedy with zombies) and although it is rather light on the romantic part (thankfully as this can sometimes slow down the film), the comedy and zombie action is in full swing. With any new zombie film there is a pressure to find a new angle and writer-director Abe Forsythe has definitely found it. Having a class of 5-year olds along with their teacher and one of the kid’s uncles along for the ride in fighting off the hordes of the undead at a petting zoo was a stroke of genius. Adding the absurd coincidence that a US military site, operating in Australia, is down the road where zombies are being kept for unknown reasons was also a very humourous and stereotypical move storytelling wise but it adds to the fun and ridiculous tone of the whole film.

In any other romantic comedy, hapless selfish Dave would try numerous ways to impress Miss Caroline after being smitten with her at first glance. He’d probably get his nephew to help out too, dressing him up in his Darth Vader outfit again no doubt seeing as he does this at the start of the film too. But having zombies come in and ruin not only a school trip but speeds up the bonding time between the adults so zombies can be very useful after all. Lupita Nyongo is literally perfect as the sunny, yellow dress wearing positive caring Miss Caroline. She isn’t all smiles and playing the ukulele either, showing her tough side as she threatens a children’s TV presenter and takes down a zombie or two. Aside from the romantic element of the film, the relationship between Dave (Alexander England) and Felix his nephew is at first hilarious, considering the things he says to and in front of this 5 year old, but the heart-warming bond of trust just makes you believe Dave can change for the better and maybe pay attention to Felix more, especially as he already knows how to drive a tractor!

If there was a weak element to the film, its unfortunately Josh Gaad’s Mr Giggles the popular children’s TV show presenter who just so happens to be doing a tour of Australia. He serves as the antagonist, a supposedly nice person who shows his true colours in a crisis but half of what he says feels out of place and his confessions of his past choices ends up being an empty hole in the story. But overall, he does literally serve a purpose to the film.

A fun addition the genre that no one evert thought would become a staple in cult/horror cinema, ‘Little Monsters’ is exactly what it says on the poster. With a few jump scares and gore galore, it’s a comedy with zombies that just happen to be there. 


Friday 20 September 2019

Underwire: Her Dark Materials

I don't know how I end up going to see the short programme that has the horror genre shorts or as close to that genre. I think it's the title. 'Her Dark Materials' is a very enticing title for the programme. But I'm getting at appreciating this genre, plus, I was lucky to have a great audience that were vocal enough so that my stifled yelps wouldn't be heard.

A mixture of a simplistic, quick fire, comedic, experimental and twisted selection of films, some with briliantly gory special effects and imagines that lingered in the mind long after you left the cinema.

Perfectly titled, this selection usually draws in a crowd to match the enthusiasm from the filmmakers. Noticed that the line up included a film school's rather experimental offering, 'Dark Leaves' with imagines of teenage desire, lust that quickly turned to danger and murder. It stood out from the rest with its less than polished style, with unusual camera angles and disturbing soundtrack. The programme started off with a few shorter shorts, such as 'Cubicle' about a woman who overhears some smore than suspicious noises. Under 5 minutes and got quite a reaction from the audience with its close quarters shots and jump scares. 'Retch' was also one hell of a gore fest where a woman violently transforms into some sort of creature right in front of a shocked friend. The special effect and the hair and make up were something to marvel at. 'Changeling' was a disturbing twist on the folklore about creatures swapping babies for changelings, but here we see a new mother plagued by an oozing blackish brown goo that follows her everywhere.

The longer shorts were saved up for later in the programme, such as the rather harrowing but non more important ' White Girl' about said girl who stalks the street looking for rage and anger to be let loose. This included a very graphic and effective scene where a dead body's organ's are removed. The finale, 'Knock at the Door' earned cheers and laughter from the audience and little nod to stranger danger. A suspicious 'neighbourhood watch' representative gets far more than he was looking for when he's invited in by a kind old lady and her adorable dog Buster. Over the top and deadpan keeping you entertained and very much creeped out at the same time. But this is what I've come to expect at a horror genre Underwire programme as well as marvel at the talented filmmkers, some of which joined in for a quick Q & A at the end.

A collection worth keeping and as always, never a disappointment. Here's to the next 10 years of the festivals!

Monday 16 September 2019

Rage Against the (Writing) Machine(?)

As I said, I need to weigh in on this.

I can see quite a few of my fellow critics/film writers/whatever they like to be referred to as commenting back, calmly and rationally to various filmmakers moaning and complaining about critics. From what has been thrown around the internet and mainly 'film Twitter' is that filmmakers don't like negative reviews of their films. They've worked for months, years, crafting their work only to be shot down and their work torn apart by a critic with a few sentances. Fair enough. Critics have pointed out they don't set out to write these kind of reviews, others have said they don't serve the audience, also, fair enough.

Although I haven't made a feature film, I've made a few short films, written and directed. Making a film can be the hardest thing in the world to make, even if you've got a great crew, great cast and great story, or at least you feel like you do, its still daunting. You're not performing it all yourself but you invest time and energy to something that has, at least with short films you fund yourself, very littel chance of being noticed or even appreciated. Putting your work out into the world and hoping for any feedback at all is terrifying. The fear of rejection and a negative response will always be at the front of a filmmakers mind BUT any response is better than no response. You don't make the film so that maybe one or two people will see it, you make a film because you want people to see it. If a critic sees it and decides to write about it, great! With any type of art, an artist makes their art for it to be seen which means they really need to be prepared for both negative and positives responses, no matter how much work and effort they've put in to it. Plus, people will go see a film, even if it has bad reviews, sometimes out of curisoity or because they simply want to. The film is an indie/low budget and a critic reviews/writes about the film, its publicity either way.

As a critic, especially those who aren't attached to a well known publication, they will be in the same situation as the filmmaker. They hope their work gets noticed and even though it might not be worked on for months, a good critic will take time over their writing. Commenting a piece of work is more than a couple of minutes hack job. Filmmakers have said that critics needs them than the other way around which is incorrect. If there were no critics, films would be forgotten about the second they left cinemas. Although critics have usually be portrayed in films as evil, bitter, spiteful people, critics love films or why would they dedicate their to watch so many and spend more time writing about them? Does the filmmaker ever consider this? I agree that the critic is there is serve the audience but they are also there to document the film itself, whether they believe it is bad or good. Reviews are the critic's opinion which makes an honest review even more important. Critics are also NOT filmmakers who never 'made it'. Critics understand film just as much as filmmakers do.

The artist and the critic should be friends. The film industry is made up of many parts and shouldn't be at each others throats belittling each other. We all love film, whether we make them or write about them. That's my opinion.

Thursday 12 September 2019

If You Go Down to the Woods Today...

Say one things about M Night Shyamalan, he was on a roll in 2004. He'd already had three successful films (yes I mean Signs!) and could have gone anywhere. He'd given us a ghost redemption thriller horror story, with not to mention of THE twists in film, an unconventional superhero story (before he ruined it) and an existential crisis with an alien invasion story, then he gave us a story about a village in the woods that WASN'T a cult. I can understand why there were those disappointed in the film because they were expecting a 'twist' but if you think about it, what was the 'twist' in 'Signs' or 'Unbreakable'? The film also gave us Shyamalan, who insists on cameo-ing in his films, the best cameo. The real beauty is realising why he appears the way he does. But before we get too far into the weird and wonderful world of Shyamalan pre 'the Lady in the Water', I'll stop there.

To celebrate the underrated should be classic, I made a zine, obviously. I also wrote about the film for its 15th anniversary which should hopefully be posted on Vulturehound soon, so no link yet. But he's a sneak peak at the zine instead:

Tuesday 10 September 2019

" I just wanted to write real characters that felt authentic"

 Last week I got to interview one of my all time heroes, Jessica Hynes.

She is known for her comedic roles and writing but for her directing feature film debut, 'The Fight' is very different to what you'd expect, but still masterful.

My review of 'The Fight' from LFF last year can be read HERE - the film is out to own in the UK this week.

My interview with Jessica Hynes can be read over at Vulturehound HERE.

Try and watch her film whether its rented online or bough in a shop, just go and watch it.



Just like in 'Logan's Run', at the age of 30 I have to run around a weird tropical looking film set in terrible 60s futuristic costumes and vaoid being killed as every one who is 30 must be killed for...reasons. I've not see the whole film but that's how it goes.

To coincide with Empire magazine celebrating 30 years with 30 different covers I half debated naming my favourite films from each year BUT to be honest when I was 6 years old I think I just liked watching Disney films and loved seeing Toy Story on the big screen and then 5 years later watched Bean: The Movie 3 times at the new multiplex that opened because there wasn’t much on. So instead of lording it over this post with my favourite films from the last 30 years*, instead I’ll just write.

The milestone birthdays are usually when you hit a new decade, but prior to that, its usually when you become legally allowed to do something. These milestone birthdays have either gone terribly wrong or have had a delayed reaction. My 16th birthday was celebrated two months later (sort of) with an ill advised house party while my parents were away and my sister out for the evening. Of course it went really bad. But I also managed to have a good time and nothing seriously went wrong apart from a group of us being trapped in the living room when the door handle broken in the morning. There was another house party the following year which was terrible but enough of that. No more house parties until Uni. My 18th birthday was a small affair just my sister and an old friend who was 2 months older than me, everyone else was too young so we went up to KOKO in Camden and had great time but that was one of my first experiences getting the night bus home - this was before Uber kids and before I could afford a taxi - before the night tube too. My sister and I ended up stranded in Brentford for a while but otherwise my 18th went off without a hitch. My 21st was terrible. It involved being very ill the whole summer and a misunderstanding with an absolute arsehole, but enough said about that the better. The following year I wanted to avoid my birthday all together it was that bad, so my sister and I went to Berlin at hideously early am in the morning on my birthday - perfect! Now, as 30 is technically seen as the next big milestone, I wanted to mark to occasion in more ways than one.

Looking back, everything changed when I was 15. I decided to stop caring what people thought of me. I listened to the music I liked and fully leaned into the ‘I’m obsessed with film’ thing. I mention this age as there are a few things that have come back again since that time. I discovered The Futureheads when I was 15. I heard their first self titled album and was completely absorbed. Saw them live several times over the years and now, not only have they released their latest album, Powers, they are also doing a tour celebrating their first album - 15 year anniversary. ‘Hounds of Love’ was everything to me at the time and every time I hear that song I’m 15 again, at the front row of the first gig of theirs I went to. And yes I know its a Kate Bush cover but I still love their version. A favourite album. Give me Man Ray!

Another element that has returned is Tarot. I bought my first deck of Tarot cards from a random shop in Covent Garden - shop since closed - and started to learn how to do readings. I left it for years until late last year I found my way back. My parents’ Christmas gift was a Tarot workshop earlier this year and I’ve not looked back since. I’ve done readings for friends and family and recently gone back to complete the workshop (major and minor cards were split) and I’m eager to do more readings (shout if you want a reading from me). Tarot is very slowly becoming a bigger part of me and I can’t exactly explain it. I don’t need an alter or sanctioned place for the cards. I don’t think I’m that sort of reader. But it something to look to and work from. 

Film has changed over the years for me. I had hoped to make a short film before I hit 30 and I did, even if it didn’t go the way I had hoped, at least its finished and I can stare at it on my shelf. I keep saying that I don’t want to make another film BUT a tiny part of me wants to create again. Writing is not off the table BUT I’d need to be in the right head space and right now is not the right time. 

A while ago I wrote about Saturn’s Return and being in a state of flux, connected to the fact that it takes 29 years for Saturn to orbit the sun which means in the years between 29-31 you’re in a state of constant change. As I am still going through so much change, I can tell you this is real. Too real. I may not be getting banned from every river boat in Germany like Donna from Parks and Rec but I am going through career turmoil as well as other things. 

As I turn 30, I’m still orbiting. 

*Couldn’t resist! As this blog turns 10 next year, here’s a preview
Favourite films since 2011:
2011 - Drive
2012 - Rust & Bone
2013 - From Up on Poppy Hill
2014 - The Double/Guardians of the Galaxy
2015 - Mistress America
2016 - Hunt for the Wilderpeople
2017 - Call Me By Your Name
2018 - Skate Kitchen
2019 - ?