Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2018

Super-Blue Moon

You have probably heard the expression once in a blue moon referring to a rare event, but what is a blue moon? There are actually multiple meanings. The moon occasionally appears to take on a bluish tinge, this is caused by smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere. The particles have to be a very particular size and are only caused by erupting volcanoes and forest fires. This isn’t actually a blue moon.  There are also two astronomical definitions, one of which will happen tonight: the second full moon in a month.  As the “Blue Moon” is appearing on the last day of January, February will be a Black Moon, having no Full Moon in calendar month.  The Moon travels in an elliptical orbit and is in its closest point to The earth, this is known as a supermoon will appear around 7% larger and 15% brighter than average .  

In celebration of the lunar event, here is a reminder of my favorite werewolf movies:

ONE – An American Werewolf in London (1981): The advances in CGI mean that modern horror movies are better and more realistic than old ones that look cheep and outdated; well actually NO! An American Werewolf in London is more than thirty years old and still has the best man to werewolf transformation. The movie has moments that are scary, funny and sexy, it really is the ultimate comedy horror, the word classic is an overused but when talking about this movie, it just seems insignificant.

TWO – Ginger Snaps (2000): With all the wolf effects you need a big budget to make a good werewolf movie, again NO! With budgetary constraints comes artistic invention, $4million would barely pay the coffee budget on the Lord of the Rings movies but that’s what Ginger Snaps cost to make. Fantastically developed characters full of teen angst, the film is more gritty, earthy and visceral than the pithy ironic style of most horror movies of the time. With themes of alienation, despair and transformation the entire film is a metaphor for teenage in particular puberty.

THREE – The Company of Wolves (1984): With Red Riding Hood, two Snow White movies and the TV show Once Upon a Time there is a real desire to update fairytales, it has never been done better than the Little Red Riding Hood inspired The Company of Wolves. It was also a bit of a game changer for werewolf movies, until this time, werewolves were portrayed as viscous beasts whilst vampires were symbols of sex and sexuality, but this sumptuous horror fantasy movie oozes sexual metaphors. Loosely based on Angela Carter short story of the same name, the meaning of the film is left perfectly ambiguous and open to interpretation but is filled with themes of fear and desire and has an undercurrent of sexuality and loss of innocence.

FOUR – Dog Soldiers (2002): Soldiers on a training mission gone wrong in the Scottish highlands sounds like a rip-off of Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort, in a way it is but writer/director Neil Marshall (who went on to make The Descent) isn’t afraid to borrow from the best, later scenes are equal parts Night of the Living Dead and The Evil Dead with the end being pure The Howling with a British spin. As is often the case film makers are at there most inventive whist constrained by a limited budget, this film is no exception making great use of their none CGI monsters. Again for budgetary reasons the werewolves spend a lot of time where they traditionally belong, in the shadows. The final victory of the film is the perfect blend of horror and comedy, something that is hard to get right.

FIVE – The Howling (1981): Made by Gremlins director Joe Dante The Howling is a great early 80’s horror that dispenses with many of the conventions of the genre. The film plays out like a conspiracy thriller and in the sprit of All the President’s Men and The Parallax View the main character is a journalist. A film of the same era as An American Werewolf in London, The Howling is less comical and more satirical but also in the conspiracy thriller style it is actually a little subversive, the wolf effects aren’t as good and look a little dated but aren’t bad.

Honourable mentions:

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001): Not an honourable mention because it isn’t as good as others on the list, but because it ultimately isn’t really a werewolf movie. loosely based on a real-life Beast of Gévaudan. A series of killings in France in the 18th century that caught the attention King Louis XV who sent professional wolf-hunters to solve kill the wolves responsible.

Underworld (2003): Amazingly this film is fifteen years old.  To be honest, it is not a great movie, but the first of this werewolf V vampire franchise is a real guilty pleasure for me. Making the most of its relatively small budget underworld is a hugely stylish movie. It looks fantastic and you have to admire the actors involved for playing such a silly movie so seriously.  Bill Nighy seems to have been around for ever, this is actually the first film I remember seeing him in.  Had they known it was going to become a franchise, they probably wouldn’t have killed his and Michael Sheen’s character in the first film!

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

bafta rising star

BAFTA will be handing out its annual film awards on Sunday 18th of February.  This year’s best film nominations consist of: Dunkirk, three films that were not released in the UK until after they were nominated (Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri), and a film that I hear is very good, but most mainstream cinema chains neglected to show (Call Me By your Name).  There is nothing you or I can do about the peculiarities of BAFTA nominations, or UK cinema scheduling, but there is one award we can impact upon:  The Rising Star Award.

As always, it is a strong list, each of the nominees would make a worthy winner, here are a list of the nominees along with their most significant recent movie:

DANIEL KALUUYA – Get OutGet Out

FLORENCE PUGH  Lady MacbethLady MacBeth

JOSH O’CONNOR – God’s Own CountryJOSH O_CONNOR

TESSA THOMPSON – Thor: Ragnarok TESSA THOMPSON

TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET – Call Me By Your NameTIMOTHÉE CHALAMET

My vote went to Florence Pugh but I could easily have gone for one of the other three that I have seen (Call Me By Your Name).  Florence Pugh has already won the Fandango Award (shared with the writer and director of Lady Macbeth), the rising star category of my awards.  Lady Macbeth was also my movie of the month back in May last year.

You can vote HERE

bafta rising star 2018

 

Read Full Post »

Two hundred years ago this month, at the age of just twenty, Mary Shelley published one a novel that still resonates in the cinema of today.  At last count, there are around 120 film and television adoptions of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. 

The origin of the novel came eighteen months earlier when Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was in  Switzerland with her lover and future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley visiting Lord Byron at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva.  Known as the “Year Without a Summer”, 1816 was particularly cold and wet due to the so called volcanic winter following the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia.  Having read all the ghost stories the villa’s library had to offer the group decided to write their own.  History suggests Mary’s was the best.   Originally not a commercial success, the novel found early success on stage, then in the twentieth century on film.  Often referred to as the original adaptation, James Whale’s seminal Frankenstein (1931), was not the first. The first film adaptation, Frankenstein (1910) came from Edison Studios in the silent era and was written and directed by J. Searle Dawley  This was followed by Life Without Soul (1921), written by Jesse J. Goldburg, and directed by Joseph W. Smiley.  There was also the Italian version, the Italian Il Mostro di Frankenstein (“The Monster of Frankenstein”), no known prints of this film remain. 320px-Frankenstein_1818_edition_title_page

I am not sure when I first saw a Frankenstein movie, but have always been aware of Frankenstein or to be more precise, his monster.  But to many people, Frankenstein is the monster not the monsters creator, who is actually called Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein.  An easy mistake to make as the creator is the real monster, but I am getting ahead of myself.  The monster, or at least the Boris Karloff, Universal version of him is probably the most recognisable and iconic character in movie history.  When did I first see him?  Probably a clip on TV.  The first, I really remember is one of two things: cardboard Halloween masks given out by the ice-cream man, or the Frankenstein’s monster alike, Herman Munster who seemed to always be on TV in the 80’s. Herman Munster

Then at the age of around ten or eleven I saw Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) (shown in a double bill on channel 4 with  Dracula: Prince of Darkness 1966). I soon watched many more Hammer movies including their first Frankenstein, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) with Christopher Lee as the monster.  These are probably the best of the Hammer Frankenstein movies, and significant in the series.  Made off the back the Universal Monster Movies that were experiencing a renaissance on TV on both sides of the Atlantic, the 1957 film was the first significant adaptation in years.  Without the use iconic look, the rights to which were owned by Universal Hammer had to be creative.  Taking the board strokes the source material but telling its own story, with a subtext of a fear of science, this is after all a film made a decade after WWII and in the early days of the cold war. Directed with style by Terence Fisher and perfectly performed by Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  Like Shelley’s novel, the movie was poorly received by critics but loved by audiences proving to be commercial success and a springboard to the Hammer movies of the next decade and a half. frankenstein-created-woman1

A few years later I saw the aforementioned James Whale, Universal movies.  Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) starring Colin Clive as Frankenstein, and Boris Karloff as the monster.  One of the few films where the sequel is better than the original, but like The Godfather, or Mad Max, it doesn’t matter, as they are both brilliant.  Great art often comes from the obscure places.  Universal were haemorrhaging money.  Dracula, essentially a filmed play starring Bela Lugosi, made a lot of money so they decided to fast-track further horror/monster movies.  They hired James Whale, two pictures into a five movie contract (His previous credits were a couple of world war one movies, one of which starred future Henry (changed from Victor) Frankenstein, Colin Clive.  He was also one of the unaccredited directors on Howard Hughes’ Hell’s Angels). Whale elevates the movie above Dracula’s stage origin by both expanding the canvas and through cinematic flair.  Influenced by German Expressionism, the film set a template for future horror.  It also helps that both Whale and Karloff, individually and collectively understood that the monster wasn’t really the monster of the story. frankenstein

Then I read Mary Shelley’s original novel and became obsessed with Frankenstein and its many adaptations.  They include Young Frankenstein (1974).  Not to be misunderstood, Young Frankenstein (1974) is actually among the best Frankenstein movies.  Written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder; Directed by Brooks and starring Wilder, it both tells Shelley’s story, understands the themes, and most importantly, it is devastatingly funny.  Utilising original props and set dressing from the 1931 movie, it also looks like a Frankenstein movie. young frankenstein

The total opposite to the Hammer version, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) received good reviews but was less popular with audiences; Audiences who had grown up with various film versions but were less familiar with the original novel, audiences who expected the monster to be a monster.  Kenneth Branagh directs with swagger and style and is ok in the lead but Robert De Niro wasn’t the best choice of monster.  It is a film well worth revisiting. mary shelley's frankenstein

The adaptations are still coming thick and fast, here are a few from the current decade:

  • 2011: The BBC broadcast a live production from Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds; billed as Frankenstein’s Wedding.
  • 2011: The National Theatre produced a version by Nick Dear and directed by Danny Boyle. Actors Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternated the roles of Frankenstein and the monster.  The play was broadcast live to cinemas worldwide.
  • 2014: Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the Monster were both recurring characters in the (excelled) TV horror series Penny Dreadful.
  • 2014: I, Frankenstein: Frankenstein’s monster joins an age old battle between and Gargoyles.  A truly terrible film.
  • 2015: Frankenstein: a modern-day adaptation told from the monster’s point of view.
  • 2015: Victor Frankenstein:  Victorian set drama told from Igor’s perspective.
  • 2016: Frankenstein: A full length ballet performed by The Royal Ballet and simulcasts worldwide.
  • 2019: Bride of Frankenstein: The second film in the “Dark Universe” with Javier Bardem as the monster was due out next year, but is currently in turnaround.

If you are interested in Frankenstein, but don’t know where to start, I would recommend either the 1931 movie or Mary Shelley’s original novel.  Don’t wait for the next adaptation, it is unlikely to live up to either of these.  And finally for those who are wondering, the title of the article comes from a line that appeared in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and not a line spoken by Russell Crowe in the trailer for The Mummy (2017). bride of frankenstein 1935

Read Full Post »

Dom 5There is a little academy you may have heard of who plan to announce the nominees for their film awards this week, I think they call them the Oscars.  Before that we have the Seventh Annual Groovers Movie Awards.  As ever all categories, eligibility and winners are decided by me:

Best Movie: Blade Runner 2049: Blade Runner (1982) didn’t need a sequel,  not only is this movie a worthy sequel, but it continues the story that enhances rather than diminishes the original, continuing, even expanding on the themes.  As you would expect from director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins, it looks amazing.  A love it or hate it type film; like the original, it may have underperformed at the box-office, it will find its audience in time. Blade+Runner+2049-1

Best Director: Chan-wook Park for The Handmaiden.  A labyrinthine tale that never loses its focus and always holds the audience’s attention.  Based on Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith, this adaptation sees the setting change from Victorian England to Japanese occupied Korea, making the most of the setting, the film looks amazing.  Possibly Park’s best movie since Oldboy. Chan-wook Park for The Handmaiden

Best Actor/Actress: Casey Affleck won the academy award for Manchester by the Sea, a result I certainly wouldn’t argue with.  Jessica Chastain gave to fantastic performances in Miss Sloane and Molly’s Game. Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain

Best Dialogue: Aaron Sorkin (writer/director) Molly’s Game.  In his directorial debut, Sorkin is helped by his actors: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner who makes his machine gun dialogue sound amazing. 'Molly's Game' New York Premiere

Best Editing: Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss (editors) Edgar Wright (writer/director), Julian Slater (sound designer), for Baby Driver.  I have always been an advocate of the idea that the best editing is invisible.  Baby Drive breaks this rule with very conspicuous editing; there are long takes, single take tracking shots, quick cuts all done in time with the music.  It could have been a disaster, it’s actually a masterpiece.   Baby Driver

Best Comedy: The Death of StalinArmando Iannucci made an interesting choice with his cast using a mix of British and American accents in this story of the power struggle in the days that followed the titular death of Stalin. Farce and satire in equal parts, with a really dark undercurrent, the risk pays off, it is brilliant and hilarious.The-Death-of-Staling-Banner-Poster

Special Award: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.  This special award is for making interesting movie choices.  A decade ago Stewart and Pattinson became two of the biggest stars in the world thanks to the Twilight movies.  Choosing to work with directors including: James Gray, David Cronenberg, Olivier Assayas, Kelly Reichardt and Woody Allen.  They have continued making interesting and extremely good movie:  Stewart worked with Olivier Assayas for a second time with Personal Shopper, while Pattinson made Good Time with The Safdie Brothers. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson

Fandango Award: William Oldroyd, Alice Birch, and Florence Pugh – Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. It gives its name to this award for the best breakout film-makers of the year:  William Oldroyd, Alice Birch, and Florence Pugh are director, writer and star of Lady Macbeth respectively.   The captivating movie is the first feature for Oldroyd and Birch, and the first starring role for  Pugh.William Oldroyd Alice Birch Florence Pugh

Dom 5

Read Full Post »

In my last post relating to 2017 before The Seventh Annual Groovers Movie Awards, here are my favourite things from the year: 

Film

Blade Runner 2049Blade Runner 2049: I am getting predictable; two years ago Sicario missed out on my top movie of the year by the smallest margin to Mad Max.  Last year Arrival took the top spot. Back in 2013, Prisoners made my top ten.  It is therefore no surprise that a Denis Villeneuve tops the tree again.  What is a surprise, is that my favourite film of the year, is one I didn’t want to be made. As a lover of the original Blade Runner I just didn’t want them to mess it up.  Far from it, the film is both excellent in its own right, and takes the original movie and its concepts in an interesting direction.

Album

Life Love Flesh BloodLife Love Flesh Blood: Imelda May: Best known as for her rockabilly music, the Irish singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist released her debut album in back in 2003.  After splitting from her husband, who was also her creative partner and collaborator on previous recordings, she decided to take a different direction.  Produced by T Bone Burnett and guided by Bono, the album crosses several genres but the standout tracks are the more blues based ballads Call Me, Black Tears, Should’ve Been You.

Book

La Belle SauvageThe Book of Dust volume one La Belle Sauvage: Phillip Pullman: Back in 2003 the BBC’s Big Read began the search for the nation’s best-loved novel, Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy was voted number three in the poll.  This was the first I had heard of the books, as soon as I heard they had been ceremonially burned I decided they were worth reading, they are amazing.  After a long wait La Belle Sauvage, the first volume in the companion series The Book of Dust was released.  It was worth the wait!

TV Showtwin peaks

Twin Peaks: A quarter of a century after it originally aired Twin Peaks returned to our screens.  It could have gone so wrong, but this is David Lynch, Why did I ever have a moment of doubt.  With a combination of the original and a new cast , new and old stories it was some of the best TV of the year with one mind-bending episode in particular standing out.

 

Gig

franz ferdinandFranz Ferdinand: I didn’t go to many gigs last year, but one act stands out.  I have a couple of Franz Ferdinand albums but have never been a big fan, however, there live act is really great.  The last act before the headliners (Elbow) on the Sunday night of the Victorious Festival, Portsmouth, Franz Ferdinand but on a memorable show.

Live PerformanceMatthew Bourne_s The Red Shoes

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes: Twenty years after I first saw the (and loved) the Pressburger and Powell classic The Red Shoes I saw Matthew Bourne’s adaptation.  A ballet based on a film about ballet is a daring choice, to score it with film music by Bernard Herrmann was is an inspired one.

Read Full Post »

  1. Twin Peaks: This could have gone so wrong.  Revisiting a TV show from quarter of a century ago with a combination of the original and a new cast.  The results were amazing, with one mind-bending episode in particular standing out.  Why did I ever doubt David Lynch.Twin Peaks
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale: I read Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian satire back in the early 90’s and loved it.  There was a film version in 1990 that wasn’t bad.  Why is this version so good? Is it because it is frighteningly relevant today, because Elisabeth Moss is so good in the lead role, or that its just really well written well made television? Probably all three!The Handmaid's Tale
  3. Mindhunter: You could call it Manhunter/Silence of the Lambs Year 0.  Set in the mid/late 1970’s and telling the story of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit in the early days of criminal psychology and profiling.  It’s a very talky show, so don’t expect lots of action, but if that’s your thing you will love it.Mindhunter
  4. Godless: A seven part mini-series set in the American west in the 1880’s.  While it contains all the archetypes of the genre you would expect, and yet it feels strangely authentic.  A well constructed piece with flashbacks to tell back stories dropped in at just the right moment, it is more like a seven hour movie than a TV show.  The cast are all fantastic.Godless
  5. American Gods: Based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name.  The conflict between the old gods of mythology and the new gods of the modern consumer age told from the point of view of a mortal man.  Blending mythology and pop culture in a visually stunning way often trippy to a trippy effect.  You don’t always who what is going on but it kind of all pulls together in the end.American Gods
  6. Alias Grace: The second Margaret Atwood adaptation on the list, this time written for the screen by Sarah Polley.  Based on a fictionalized version of a murder in 19th-century Canada.  The story of female oppression feels sadly relevant today, but also works as a historical drama.Alias Grace
  7. Game of Thrones: The first returning show on the list (unless you count Twin Peaks), the penultimate series gives exactly what you expect of the show to date.  Taken on its own merits it would be higher up the list, as it is, it loses a few places for reasons of familiarity.Game of Thrones
  8. Taboo: A strange and dark tale that seems a little bold for prime time BBC.  What started out looking like a strange otherworldly tale quickly settled into a far darker tale; one of commerce, and a (real life) multinational corporation trying to survive at any cost to the society around it.  Tom Hardy is excellent as ever.Taboo
  9. Peaky Blinders: Steven Knight, also responsible for Taboo, returns with a fourth season of his Birmingham based organised crime/ gang series.  It was hard to see after the last season what there was left to say.  The new storyline is excellent as are the new characters but the standout is still Helen McCrory.Peaky Blinders
  10. Star Trek Discovery: Discovery has done the impossible, it is everything you expect from Star Trek, and nothing live Star Trek as you expect it.  The boldest move is to make a character other then the captain the shows lead character.  Sonequa Martin-Green is excellent in the lead, Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca is the most interesting character.Lethe

Also recommended:

Glow, The Punisher, Stranger Things, Preacher, 13 Reasons Why, Into the Badlands

Shows That have seen recommended to me, but I haven’t seen yet:

Big Little Lies, The Good Place, Legion, Feud, The Deuce

Read Full Post »

three billboards outside ebbing missouri posterTen years ago playwright Martin McDonagh turned his hand to screenwriting and directing with In Bruges.  A bold and memorable début that blends very dark humour with even darker drama.  Following a “difficult second album”, Seven Psychopaths (2012) he is back with what is by far his best movie to date: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Several months after the brutal death of her daughter a grieving mother rents three billboards and posts a message challenging the chief of police to solve the crime. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

The first thing you will notice about the film is the fantastic cast led by Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson who are all on something approaching career best form, but the real star is the script.  The dialogue is nothing short of hilarious, but the drama is dark, far darker than In Bruges.  The story doesn’t always go in where you will expect it to, and the characters don’t always act as they would in many other films.  It helps that the characters are not simply good or bad, heroes and villains, they are fully drawn and realised, three dimensional people.  People who make poor decisions and do stupid things.  But they are also people capable of change, and not in a “Hollywood Character Arc” sort of way. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

All this is topped off by a fantastic score by Coen Brothers regular Carter Burwell and a few well placed songs, most notably Joan Baez’s cover of The Band’s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.  It is a handsomely shot and edited film without being flash or showy.

Expect it to be in contention for Oscars: It is probably a front runner for Best Picture and best actress, but also deserves recognition for screenplay and both the supporting actors with Rockwell edging Harrelson.

The darkest, but also the funniest dram I have seen in a very long time is quite probably the masterpiece from a supremely talented director who has found his stride.  I am looking forward to see what he comes up with next.   

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is set for general release in the UK on 12th January 2018

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »