Thursday, 30 July 2020

Watch List: July





EuroVision

In all honesty, I am not the biggest Will Ferrell fan but I do love Eurovision so I thought, what's to lose watching a comedy written by an American who doesn't really understand the European singing contest as, yes, it is, very European. Despite Australia literally buying its way into a contest it has no place in. Euro, it’s in the title of the contest. For a Netflix original, the quality is very good as those originals tend you have a certain aesthetic now. Icelandic singing duo, Fire Saga have big dreams of representing Iceland at Eurovison and despite their home town not being the biggest fans and through a series of strange events, they make it to the promised land, Scotland as that is where the contest is being held. On their way to stardom, humiliation and triumph they both realise that they had the wrong priorities. The music is amazing, the costumes and supporting cast are also very entertaining and amusing, even Pierce Brosnan’s very dodgy accent is entertaining. If you love Euroviosn, you’ll love this and if you don’t, you will be the end. Even though there are some liberties taken such as, Iceland being bankrupt, that is very untrue and the contest would never be held in Scotland as they are part of the UK and its VERY unlikely that the UK will ever win again AND the semi-finals are not televised. I had to get that out as that bothered me.  4/5


Paradise Hills

A fantastical science fiction story about classes, beauty, oppression and deception all wrapped up in a very extravagantly visual film. Everything about this film is visually intriguing or disturbing, in particular the carousel horse ‘therapy’ sessions and the opening wedding scene. There is so much detail that it was actually quite difficult to hone in on one genre this film could be and on ways prepares you for the knife twist even though you may suspect it. Set in a futuristic society where the upper classes send their disobedient young women to be taught how to act. However, there is something more sinister on the island, ruled over by a striking and again, disturbing being played by Milla Jovovich. The style is so bizarre and, in some ways, misleading in terms of narrative, it reminds me of Tarsem’s films (which I loved). As director Alice Waddington’s previous work is a short film, I’m hoping we see more of her work. 3/5


The Beach House

Full review can be read HERE. 3/5

The Old Guard

My post about the film can be read HERE. 3/5

Mission Impossible: Fallout

Ethan Hunt is at it again and ‘it’ I mean taking on another impossible mission and going against his boss again too. Seeing how brilliantly executed Rogue Nation was, I was eagerly awaiting to see what happening next. But I was very disappointed. The plot is only created when Ethan makes a mistake that could have been avoided and then from there, the story, along with new and old characters, very weak and only as entertaining as it is to watch Henry Cavill in fight scenes, which is usually entertaining but this time, even Cavill couldn’t save the MI crew. 2/5


Desperados

Just when you needed a fun ridiculous rom-com, Netflix provides. This time round, the story is the same old same old. Down on her luck Westly (best name for a girl) is without a job, behind on bills and all she really wants is a boyfriend. She meets a ‘perfect guy’ but instead of being herself, she holds back her personality, don’t try this at home girls and believes she’s happy. But the real story begins when she thinks she’s been ghosted by the perfect guy so sends him a horrible email (don’t know why email – that’s just odd) but it turns out he didn’t ghost her, he was in an accident, in Mexico. So she drags her two friends to Mexico to delete the email. That’s it, that’s the premise. The two friends get a fair share of story but its dull, one wants a kid, the other wants sex, the end. It is funny and silly and you can get carried away with it but it’s nothing ground-breaking. The script is not worthy of the cast’s talent either. 2/5


Come As You Are

My full review is over at Vulturehound and can be read HERE. 4/5

Black Rainbow

A gem from the cusp of the 90s about a spiritual medium who can communicate with the dead but things take a disturbing turn when she starts predicting deaths. Having worked as a medium for years, a gift inherited by her mother, Martha travels the country with her alcoholic father from town to town connecting people with loved ones. She spends her nights at engagements and days hooking up with random strangers, including the very eager sceptic journalist looking for a story. Not quite a murder mystery or crime thriller but a spiritual thriller where ghosts don’t appear but their presence is felt. Sounds more like buzz words but the character of Martha is fascinating, a true dark horse that never really reveals how she does what she does, her powers go beyond speaking to the dead and maybe even time. 3/5


How to Build a Girl

My post about the film can be read HERE. 3/5

The Truth

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s first non-Japanese language film is not quite a story about living in the shadow of a successful parent but more about coming to terms with the emotions that one builds up over time. The bitterness and painful memories cloud over the true intentions someone is trying to convey. Screenwriter Lumir arrives back in France with her daughter and husband to visit her very famous actress mother, Fabienne. They are distant yet close with each other, the daughter still not able to forgive her mother for neglecting her all those years and her mother not caring about being a bad mother only being a good actress. All set against the release of a Fabienne’s memoir which is full of lies and the set of her latest role. Its wonderful mother daughter relationship story that flows with anger and resentment as well as an emotional bond that won’t break. With two fantastic leads, Catherine Deneuve and Juilette Binoche, the film is a delight. 3/5


Monday, 27 July 2020

How to Build a Girl



When celebrated feminist writer Caitlin Moran wrote ‘How to Build a Girl’ her fictionalised true story, there was little doubt that this best seller would become an appealing film as well. Starring Beanie Feldstein as Johanna, a teenager who wants to be a writer from a working-class family living on an estate on Wolverhampton and directed by Coky Giedroy, script written by Moran herself, here was a hit in the making. Of course, no one expects the COVID-19, which meant the film getting picked up by Amazon and straight onto a streaming service. You have to wonder; how great this would have been to see in a cinema.


 

‘How to Build a Girl’ catapults us straight into Johanna’s world. She’s just a normal teenager until her brother convinces her to apply to be a rock critic for a weekly national paper. After a few stumble blocks (she reviews the ‘Annie’ soundtrack trying to get the writing gig) and a complete personal make over, she transforms herself into Dolly Wilde and her career takes off.


 

Taking her new life in her stride, she makes friends with bands and charms her colleagues, even getting close to a famous singer, John Kite, who she does fall in love with, it’s inevitable, she is 16. At first she wants to expand and stretch her writing to include features, she wants to grow but her eagerness to appease and becomes famous overtakes this progress. Her behaviour getting erratic, so much so her laid family step in. But Dolly is force to be reckoned with. The fact that she can hide behind this new persona is her way of thinking she can do anything she wants, forgetting who she is leaving in her wake. Drinking and possible drug taking aren’t focus here. Sex is included but is not the main aim of Johanna’s game or rather Dolly’s, it is not priority but a perk of her new self and adventure. Coming of age is, in my opinion an overused description for whenever a teenager goes through ‘an experience’ signifying that they have grown up.


 

It’s been 20 years since Coky Giedroyc has directed a feature film and oh how I wish she’d made more films. The 20-year gap is insane, even if it has been filled with plenty of TV work, I just can’t believe is that long a gap, Coky Giedroyc has an eye for understated dramatics which matches the energy of this story so well. The film is set in the early 90s and just like that decade, you are aware of the time period but not left feeling like you’ve had an unwanted nostalgia trip which can be the case for some period films.


 

Giedroyc, Feldstein and Moran are a trio at work here, creating an enjoyable film with life lessons, familiar dilemmas and comedic moments of bliss and the best part is that yes, it is a story about a girl breaking into the male dominated music world. Its frustratingly believable and exactly what I wanted to see. So rare it is that there’s story featuring a female character where she’s trying to get into an industry where it isn’t about fashion, beauty or something to do with motherhood or childcare, THIS is kind of story should be seen more and normalised.


Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Come As You Are



Its rare to find a film featuring three main characters who happen to be disabled, this element aludes films, frequently in independent and never in blockbusters or Hollywood films. But 'Come As you Are' which is based on real life experineces and is in fact the third film inspired by those events, been so welcome on the cinematic scene.

My film review is over at Vulturehound and can be read in full HERE.


Monday, 20 July 2020

We need to talk about 'The Old Guard'


We need to talk about 'The Old Guard'.


 

When it first appeared in the 'coming soon' section on Netflix I saw that Charlize Theron and Matthias Schoenaerts were in an action film and automatically added it to my watch list. However, when I finally saw the film, there was something that didn't sit quite right with me. It's rare that I watch a film with no prior knowledge or reading up on it. I saw the trailer and nothing else so I knew what to expect in terms of the genre but no details. My first impressions are very different to my opinion now. The Old Guard is both like any other action film in the genre and something entirely new.


 

SPOILERS WARNING


 

Imagine the disappointment of watching yet another American action film and the villains, the antagonists are British. This is probably the most annoying stereotype (aside those left over for female characters) in the modern genre book.


 

The actual plot of the film is over taken by the fascinating nature of this group of immortal warriors who have been working together for decades, centuries even. A longer intro to each member of the guard would have be beneficial, maybe with flashbacks? But instead we jump right into the story. The Old Guard in modern day are a special ops team for hire working various high-profile covert missions, but they are gunned down by the CIA in an attempt to reveal their real nature. Then, while in hiding, they have a vision of a new member, Nile, a US Marine who they must find. No sooner do they pick her up and begin initiating her into her new life, the real plot takes shape. An evil tech genius what the immortals to use as guinea pigs for a new drug to battle alzheimer's disease but really he just wants to pick them apart, constantly saying they could cure the world. Of course, the guard won’t go willingly.


 

 

The mythology and history behind the characters is fascinating and most likely explored differently in the comic books, but here on film, the visual and imagination take over. The attention to detail and the loyalty to the source material is very much unlike any other comic book adaption out there. Some changes that come with bringing a comic to the screen make sense in that things won’t translate well from the page but some are pointlessly changed, however ‘The Old Guard’ only seems to have change a few things, but the biggest being Andy losing her ability to heal again. It makes sense within the story and gives a decent explanation for Nile’s appearance and excuse for Andy to realise her humanity again. Realise instead of discover as she has doesn’t need to find it again, she just needs to realise why she is the way she is.


 




Discovering that the film was a comic book adaptation and that it was a very faithful one, changed the perspective of the film. It was not a stereotypical action film, as everything that happens, how the characters are presented, this is all part of the story and not a genre check list, which makes it’s more difficult to be satisfied with the way Nile and Andy are portrayed, especially Andy. She is the leader, but she’s the leader of a group consisting of all men and she herself blends into this all-male group. Her haircut, her clothes, her stance are all very masculine. If this wasn’t an action film, this wouldn’t feel like such an issue but because it is, it feels as if Andy is only accepted into this group because she exudes masculine qualities. Who do the women in action films always have to be this way? Having Nile join the group, she is just like Andy, except new to the whole immortal life, but she also exudes masculine qualities, but only once she’s joined the group. The fact that these are who and what the characters are like in the comic, there is praise for the accuracy and staying true to the original natures but I can’t help but think that ALL action films follow this trait in female characters, even the ones who wear dresses and high heels while they fight. The idea that a woman must be masculine to fit into the genre norm is something that really needs to change. But we must take solace in the fact that two of the main characters in this action film are women and even better, neither is involved in a side romance plot with a man. That’s progress.


 

Refreshing representation that is an integral part of the film is the love story between guard members Joe and Nicky, Yusuf Al-Kaysani, a Muslim warrior and Nicol√≥ di Genova, a former Crusader. They are the heart of the group and something to hope for. Joe’s speech in response to their captors asking if Nicky is his boyfriend is over the top and out of the blue but is one of the best moments in the film as even Nicky looks stunned by this declaration of love. Having a gay couple as two of the central and main characters in an action film is a huge leap and it’s about time too.


 

Upon a second look at the film, there is far more to celebrate than worry about in terms of tired genre tropes, this is a step in the right direction as well as the director herself, Gina Prince-Bythewood, lets hope we see more films from her. The only part of the film that I really think could be reworked was that darn soundtrack. Amazing fight scenes, terrible music choices.


 

 

 

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Let's Play!

Park Circus are doing what they do best, celebrating classic films. This month their attention has been on films that embody the theme of 'play'.


When we think of ‘playful’ cinematic films, what could be more playful than two desperate out of work musicians, Joe and Gerald, who witness a mob killing and got on the run disguised as women. Of course, Billy Wilder’s classic comedy is much more than the premise. With fun, fast laughs and jazz, real hot, the fact that Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are dressed as their counterparts Josephine and Daphne is only the surface.


 Men dressing up as women has been a comedic play in many a film, but what sets this film apart is the details ranging from the stereotypes such as the perverted old millionaire who sets his sights on Daphne or the mobsters who hide their weapons in interesting places to the ridiculous, involving ice being dropped, causing an emergency stop of the train. In fact, one the most playful elements of the film is when Joe dresses up as a man again, but this time, he’s an emotionally stunted millionaire, in an attempt to seduce Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), singer of the all-girl jazz band. It’s strange to think a man dressed up as a woman but dresses up as a man is the oddest delight in the film’s narrative.


Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the film stands the test of time through its comedic timing, performances (especially Lemmon) and heart, whether its broken, beating or bruised. Despite being a film ‘of its time’ it can still be watched through a modern lens with appreciation, because, well, ‘nobody’s perfect’. 


For a more in depth look at 'Some Like it Hot' have a read of what I wrote HERE.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

The Beach House


As with all things, they must evolve, especially in film when a genre becomes predictable and over used with the same old elements appearing in each film. The horror genre, over the last decade has branched out, taking in new material, influences and merging with other genres. Science fiction is the companion to horror, fear of the known and unknown go hand in hand creating numerous opportunities to get creative and that exactly what writer and director Jeffrey A. Brown has done.

 

Young couple Emily and Randal, escape to a beach house, for a romantic weekend but are surprised to find Mitch & Jane, friends of Randal’s father also taking advantage of the picturesque setting. The four guests have dinner together and later decide to partake in some edibles. With effects of the drugs and the strange mist in the air, things take a dark turn. Things are not what they seem in the morning. With the mist returning and the beach house becoming a more hostile environment, a weekend by the sea maybe wasn’t such a great idea.



As far as an ominous presence goes, the ocean looks and feels like an idyllic view but as the film progresses, this shimmering inviting blue mass is a deadly trap. With the mist appearing slowly each time the situation changes for the characters, the impending doom is that much more terrifying. A remote location, beautiful view and intruders unknown all screams; horror story. But the weird blue lights, the strange mist and etherical and dusky colour palette, says, science fiction. A clever and twisting feeling as body horror elements creep into the narrative, involving a knife and foot, you know what you’re going to see next but you’re never fully sure what’s going to appear.



As a slow paced at first thriller, then morphs into the spectacle by the end, there are some horror fans out there who will want the pace to quicken. Leaving too much room for situations to linger, patience is needed for a film like this which doesn’t really get moving until nearly an hour in, which is quite a bit to ask when it’s a 90-minute film. The build-up to the climax of the film can be forgiven for being exposition but when this doesn’t really matter, its shame the story does lose momentum.

 

A welcome addition to a genre just beginning to make traction, ‘The Beach House’ could definitely be the low-key companion to ‘Color Out of Space’, especially with the somewhat Lovecraft-esque setting and bizarre nature of the whole film. They’ll be more stories like this to tell, let’s just hope the elements that make up this genre don’t go stale.


The Beach House is now available on Shudder.