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Showing posts from August, 2016

What Am I Reading?

I recently went on a bit of a splurge and bought a few books on film that. They have made great holiday and weekend reading, and each went about the topic of film and cinema in really different and interesting ways.

Filmish: Comic Book Essay on Film Theory by Edward Ross

I hadn’t actually heard of this before I saw it in one of Manchester’s quirky Northern Quarter shops, and bought it on a bit of a whim. I couldn’t put it down for the rest of that day though. Edward Ross is a comic book artist, writer and illustrator. All of those skills come together in a fascinating and brilliant-looking journey through the history and themes of cinema. Ross uses comic style illustrations of popular films to tell the story of cinema from its birth to present day via themes such as power, ideology, technology, time and the body. The role a platform as powerful as cinema has to play in culture is impossible to ignore, and that is made crystal clear here. I found this really accessible, insightful a…

The BFG (2016)

When the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s big screen adaptation of one of our favourite ever children stories was released, I promised I would take my sister, Suzie, to watch it. It became a dangling carrot for her as she worked through her A Level exams and last weekend we finally got round to watching it. We’ve always loved Roald Dahl’s books, and we would watch the novel’s 1989 adaptation (with David Jason voicing the BFG) every time we went over to stay at our grandparent’s at summer.  If you weren't aware, it tells the story of an orphan called Sophie who becomes friends with The BFG, or 'Big Friendly Giant,' who takes her to Giant Country.
The best way of describing this latest adaptation of The BFG is that it felt like a big warm hug. It somehow managed to be both familiar and original. Care’s been taken to respect what made the book and its character’s great, and the casting could not have been more perfect. The film’s been in production for so long that Robin Wi…

Brooklyn (2015)

Telling the story of one woman’s immigration to America from Ireland, Brooklyn received Best Picture, Actress and Adapted Screenplay Academy Award nominations, and a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival. Eilis manages to build contrasting lives in two countries, epitomised by the different men she meets and finds her torn between the two. During awards season we had a running joke that the success of John Crowley’s film was actually down to his namesake, my girlfriend’s dad. I missed the chance to see this when it was initially released but was pleased when I spotted is as I scrawled through Netflix one evening.
Although the core story to Brooklyn wasn’t massively original, it was told brilliantly well. Right down from its direction and casual pacing to the acting from Saoirse Ronan and her stellar supporting cast. Surrounded by people such as Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson, it would have been easy for her to slip in to the background. Fo…

The Shallows (2016)

Anthony Jaswinski’s screenplay for The Shallows was featured on 2014’s Blacklist, a list of the most well received, but unmade scripts of the year. Blake Lively plays the main role in Jaume Collet-Serra’s survival horror about Nancy Adams, a surfer left injured and stranded 200 yards from the shore. To make things worse, there is a large, hungry shark circling the small group of rocks she’s managed to scramble to.

The premise (‘127 Hours’, but with a shark) is really simple, but it’s not just that which puts a new twist on the shark movie genre (is that a genre?... lets just go with it). This isn’t a monster that’s got the taste for human flesh for no reason (it’s drawn to the area by a dead whale body). Even the finale, as well as being really satisfying, is definitely original. Blake Lively is really likeable, brings humour when needed. Her character has a backstory that doesn’t feel tacked on, and actually adds weight to those scenes where she is fighting for her life. Spendi…

Moneyball (2011)

Directed by Bennett Miller, and written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball is based on the Michael Lewis’ book of the same name (2003). Both tell the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of Oakland Athletics baseball team, and played here by Brad Pitt (munching his way through the film like he’s back in Ocean’s Eleven). In 2002 he had the supposedly impossible task of making the team competitive on a shoestring budget after having had their best players pinched by their richer competition.

As with many sports, the analysis of players in baseball was largely archaic, and focussed on scout opinion and little else. When some teams have over five times the budget available for wages and fees, Beane needed a way to close the gap. It wouldn’t be as simple as replacing players like for like. Even if there were players available good enough to directly replace the impact made by those he lost, then he would never be able to afford them. Its then that he met his futu…

Suicide Squad (2016)

The next instalment in the DC universe is the much anticipated Suicide Squad. Although superhero movies don’t usually do it for me, I really enjoyed writer/director David Ayer’s Training Day (2001), Harsh Times (2005), and End of Watch (2012). I knew nothing of the source material, but found the idea interesting, and was also intrigued to see what Jared Leto would do with the Joker role. The film is based on the DC comic series about a group of antihero supervillains acting as covert government assets for high-risk missions. Here, Viola Davis’ government official gathers the group for the first time as the film’s villain, Enchantress, begins to wreak havoc on ‘Midway City.’ Since it’s release Suicide Squad has had to withstand a wave of criticism. I wanted to form my own opinion though and did my best approach it with an open mind. It didn’t help.
I went in to this expecting a focus on the contrasting personalities in the squad and the relationships between each of the film’s ta…

The Invitation (2015)

The psychological thriller/horror is written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, and directed by Karyn Kusama. It stars Logan Marshall-Green as Will, Tammy Blanchard as Eden, and Game of Thrones’ Joe Allen look-a-like Michiel Huisman as David. Will and his girlfriend are invited along with other old friends to the house of his ex-wife and her new husband (Eden and David). Nobody has seen each other for two years since the death of Will and Eden’s son when they were together. As the reasons behind the sudden invite are revealed, and the behaviour of their hosts grows increasingly stranger, Will becomes more and more suspicious of the couple’s motives for having everyone over.


The Invitation is a film that grabbed my imagination when I first came across the trailer. It looked really creepy, character motives were really vague and unnerving, I could watch it on Netflix, and it had that guy from Game of Thrones in it. It also really reminded me of The Gift (2015), a brilliant psychologica…

9 Best Film Trailers

I always like to make sure I’m sat in my seat at the cinema in time for the trailers.  It’s partly because I hate awkwardly shifting past people in the dark as the movie’s starting, but I’ve always thought the trailers are part of the whole experience.  It wouldn’t feel right without them but the art of a trailer is a very tricky one.  It’s a real balancing act to get people excited enough to come back and buy a ticket without spoiling the whole plot.  Terminator Genisys (2015) trailer gave away the film’s big twist.  The trailer for the kid’s animation, The Secret Life of Pets (2016) had all of the best bits in it, leaving little else for those that went to watch the whole thing.  It’s a real tightrope.  Here are the trailers that walked it perfectly and left a real impression on me when I first saw them.
9. Wolf of Wall Street (2013) If ever a trailer told you exactly what to expect from a film, it would be this.  Lots of women, drugs, shouting in suits, excess, and Matthew McConaughe…

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Written by Scotty himself (Simon Pegg) and Doug Jung, Star Trek Beyond is the first of the revamped series not to be helmed by JJ Abrams. Fast & Furious director Justin Lin directs this time, and it’s fair to say the trailers for this were pretty rubbish, painting it to be nothing more than one elaborate action scene after another… or Fast & Furious in space (at least the poster campaign was superb). Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto et al reprise their roles, this time joined by Sofia Boutella and Idris Elba.

Following an attack on the ship, the majority of the story plays out with the Enterprises’ crew split up and divided from each other on the planet Altamid. I enjoyed this as it forced entertaining interactions between characters that we hadn’t seen in such prolonged close proximity. Where this works the best is with Spock and Karl Urban’s grizzly Bones. I always thought Urban had taken a back seat in the previous two instalments, making way for The Kirk & Spock Show but he…

My Best Films of 2016 So Far - 6 month Review

Now that we’re half way through the year (okay, okay, so this is a month late.. soz), here is a list of some of my favourite 2016 films so far. To keep it simple, this is January – June, and not Oscar years. And if your fave isn’t here, let’s stay friends and just assume I didn’t catch it when it came out <3

9. 10 Cloverfield Lane

Anyone expecting a monster movie much like it’s (sort of) predecessor will be pretty disappointed. Anyone after an extremely tense, claustrophobic mystery about trust and survival are going to be in for one hell of a ride. John Goodman looks like he gives good hugs. Shame he’s terrifying here.
8. Spotlight

Fascinating insight in to the process of a journalistic investigation. The scale and severity of the sex abuse scandal that the Boston Globe unearthed is gut wrenching, and paired with some fantastic performances right round the whole cast.
7. Zootropolis

Not only is this a great feel good kids comedy with brilliant animation and voice work, but this is …

The Best of Hans Zimmer

I was reading Empire magazine one day and saw a one page ad for a Hans Zimmer tour. I was struggling for inspiration for something to do for Charlotte’s upcoming birthday, and as we’re both big fans of his (and Christopher Nolan) it just seemed too perfect. As Manchester dates hadn’t been announced at that point I booked tickets in Birmingham. It’s the city Charlotte went to university at, so we turned it in to a bit of a nostalgia break with a spa day and escape run thrown in for good measure. The chance to see the master, Hans Zimmer, with a 70 strong orchestra in tow was the main event though, and we were not disappointed.

Film scores can play a huge role in their success. Who can imagine the James Bond series without its signature riff woven throughout it? Would the Star Wars opening rolling text have worked quite as well without the John William’s score blasting out alongside it? Steven Spielberg even admitted that the first ever summer blockbuster, Jaws, wouldn’t have been…