Month: July 2016

FRANK

Film & TV, Nostalgia Review, Uncategorized July 31, 2016

Originally published and still available on Post-Modern Sleaze (29/07/16).

There is a moment, at about 12 minutes in, when Don (Scoot McNairy) looks into Domhnall Gleeson‘s eyes and states, “Look, Jon, you’re just gonna have to go with this”, and it’s true, he does. We all do. For FRANK – Lenny Abrahamson‘s ode to near mythical British musician and comedian, Chris Sievey, and his alias, Frank Sidebottom – is a film whose story you are better off accepting then attempting to deconstruct, later.

Penned by Jon Ronson, it is the semi-autobiographical tale of how – aged 20 and the entertainments officer for the Polytechnic of Central London’s student union – he answered a phone call that went a bit like:

Man: “So Frank’s playing tonight and our keyboard player can’t make it and so we’re going to have to cancel unless you know any keyboard players,”

Jon: “I play keyboards,”

Man: “Well you’re in!”

Jon: “But I don’t know any of your songs,”

Man: “Wait a minute… Can you play C, F and G?” [1]

If you have seen the film, you should be privy on this sounding familiar, for this pivotal bit of discourse spurs the start of a more fictional string of events. Here we meet the Soronprfbs, the cinematic equivalent to The Freshies. They are a bunch who take themselves and their art quite seriously; there’s Don (McNairy) the manager (of sorts), and Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who takes severe umbrage at the prospect of inexperienced newbie Jon (Gleeson) joining the troupe on a permanent basis. Guitarist Baroque (Francois Civil) and drummer Nana (Carla Azar) only converse in French.

Oh, and there’s Frank (Michael Fassbender) of course, the singular oddity that – somehow – is the glue that holds the Soronprfbs together. Whilst the film is carried by Gleeson’s naivety (his character is insufferably – yet relatably -#starryeyed), Frank is the real focal point; he persists in wearing a papier maché head 24/7 and none of his band members have seen him without. What would be a cumbersome grievance to many a lesser actor only serves to enhance Fassbender’s skill, for despite only showing his face for approximately ten minutes in the entire film, he manages to convey a full gamut of emotions ranging from ecstatic to frustrated by only using his voice and body language, yet it is in his character’s complex portrayal of mental health that he truly shines.

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X-MEN: Apocalypse

Film & TV, Latest Reviews July 26, 2016

Originally published and still available on Post-Modern Sleaze (29/05/16).

The team take on the original mutant in this overstuffed and overblown third instalment to the prequel series. ★★☆☆☆

By the time Jean Grey declares that “The third one is always the worst” about half way through X-MEN: Apocalypse, it is the final confirmation that what you are watching is, for all intents and purposes, exactly what you didn’t want to see.

Carrying on with the tradition of recent years, X-MEN Apocalypse begins one decade on from 2014’s Days Of Future Past. This is the 1980’s, and it feels it; aesthetically a little tacky or – if you prefer – style over substance. Apocalypse tries to be the full-throttle summer blockbuster that you so fondly recall from your childhood – which is fine, if executed correctly, and as unfortunate as it is to state, there is much about this film that falls short of the high bar set by its recent predecessors in the franchise.

One has to wonder what director Bryan Singer was thinking when he chose Apocalypse as the main antagonist following Days Of Future Past. The conflict in the latter film was largely devoid of a full-scale Big Bad assault. It was an internal affair, with the mutants uniting in the future timeline to rectify their failings in the past, ultimately to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating President Nixon (this was the 70s, guys) and adding fuel to the fire of Dr. Bolivar Trask’s (Peter Dinklage) anti-mutant defence programme: The Sentinels.

This was an intelligent plot and more complex than your average superhero film. The same cannot be said here, so much so that the world and characters in Apocalypse may as well exist in an entirely alternate universe to that of First Class (2011) and Days Of Future Past. This may as well apply to the director too, for despite being at the helm of both Days Of Future Past and Apocalypse, at no point does it feel like Bryan Singer is responsible for both. He commits considerable gaffes to his previous work in the franchise such as abandoning interesting plot threads (read: Mystique posing as William Stryker and fishing Wolverine out of the river) that were left hanging from the previous film completely.

Continue reading on Post-Modern Sleaze.

Watch the Throne: Game Of Thrones – “The Winds Of Winter” (Season 6 Episode 10)

Film & TV, Latest Reviews, Watch The Throne July 25, 2016

Originally published on Post-Modern Sleaze and still available in full (14/07/16).

“Wow!” is the first this that sprang to mind after watching the final episode of season 6. The second was “It was perfect.” It was paid into fan speculation and theory, surprised us and even underwhelmed us. The narratives of all the main players in this series were rounded up neatly (in this super-long episode!) as we feel the chill of the winds of winter.

We open at Kingslanding, and everyone is tense on the morning of the trials of Cersei and Loras Tyrell. Remember, previously, that King Tommen had abolished the right to a trial-by-combat under the instruction of the High Sparrow. This is a trial by the Gods, and we all know how fair that is. Loras (Finn Jones) goes first, overlooked by a court packed with people including Kevan Lannister, his father – Mace Tyrell – and his sister, Margaery (Natalie Dormer). He doesn’t hold out for long, confessing to sins such as homosexuality and laying with traitor Renly Baratheon. He swears to serve the Seven, denouncing his titles and right to sire children, a fact the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) is quick to solidify by having the Seven Pointed Star carved into his forehead.

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Did Gender Alter the Tone of the ‘Alien’ Series: Narrative Implications of Femininity.

Film & TV, Opinion July 24, 2016

Originally published for Bitch Flicks’ June 2016 theme of “Ladies of the 1980s” and still available in full (28/06/16).

When Ridley Scott cast Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Alien, he created The First: The First Action Heroine; The First Female in a Science Fiction Film That Did Not Have To Be Rescued or Was Not Brunch for a Swamp Monster. Such titles may as well be monikers attached to her name. Ripley was important, and still is, her legacy living on in many an action heroine that followed: Buffy (the Vampire Slayer), The Bride (Kill Bill), G.I Jane, Trinity (The Matrix), Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road) and Sarah Connor’s transformation in Terminator 2.

It is science fiction fact however, that Ellen Ripley should not have been “Ellen Ripley” at all. Dan O’Bannon’s original script for Alien stated: “The crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men and women.”  In the climate of the time, it is wholly plausible that Ripley was intended to be a male, as despite the script’s stated gender ambiguity, the original name for the character was still “Martin Roby.” So far so standard for horror and sci-fi, for the genres had always been male-dominated whether it be characters on-screen or in literature or those who create them. After all, it was not until the New Wave of sci-fi that women began to truly stake their claim on the genre, birthing feminist science fiction and writers such as Margaret Atwood, Joanna Russ, Marge Piercy, Ursula K. LeGuin and the singular entity that is Octavia Butler — C.L. Moore and Leigh Brackett being exceptions in the “Golden Age,” and Brackett went on to contribute to the screenplay of The Empire Strikes Back.

O’Bannon once stated that:

“I don’t see it as that revolutionary to cast a female as the lead in an action picture,” said O’Bannon. “It didn’t boggle me then, and it doesn’t boggle me now. My conception from scratch was that this would be a co-ed crew. I thought there was no reason you had to adhere to the convention of the all-male crew anymore. 

After all, Star Trek had already had a mixed gender crew for years, and Ridley Scott had a similar reaction when the prospect of making the character female was pitched to him (“I just said, ‘That’s a good idea.”’).

Read the rest of the article on Bitch Flicks!

or

Read my previous Bitch Flicks post: “Why Black Widow is the “Realest” Superheroine of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Yes, Even After All Those Tropes)”!