Category: Film & TV

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.

Continue reading!

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.

Continue reading here!

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)”!

THE REVENANT

Film & TV, Latest Reviews June 27, 2016

Originally published and still available on Post-Modern Sleaze (20/06/16).

Leonardo DiCaprio embarks on a quest for survival through harsh terrain in this artfully vengeful Oscar-winning masterpiece. ★★★★★

When a film begins to trailer a good two months prior to its release date, the viewer is left to assume one of two things; The First: that said film has a really big budget to recoup or – Second: that this film is being plugged, shamelessly, for Oscar season. Occasionally, both are true and, even less often, they actually turn out to be worth the hype.

From the first viewing of the tense, adrenaline fuelled trailer, it was apparent that The Revenant was one such film (it cost $135 million), and as seems to be perquisite these days, we are treated to approximately 90% of the plot in the promo alone. Native American attacks, bear mailings and live burials are no spoiler. Set in hostile US territory circa 1823 and based on real life events, The Revenant follows the tale of intrepid explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the events following his being severely injured during the aforementioned bear attack. The remaining members of the pelt-hunting crew drag him along for as far as they dare before Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) and co push onwards for help, leaving Glass with his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), naive youth Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) and poacher John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), whose outlook is as harsh and unrelenting as the terrain.

We all know what happens next, thanks to that over-revealing trailer; Fitzgerald thinks it kinder to snuff Glass and be gone, much to the distress of Hawk, who Fitzgerald murders whilst Glass looks on and buries him in a shallow grave. It’s quick, shocking and tense, and it is the start of our intrepid chase across the wilderness. For a film that is nigh on two and a half hours long, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu – he of Birdman (2014) fame, for which he won multiple Academy Awards in 2015 – creates a pace and ambience that drives the inhabitants of this world onwards in a quest to escape the peril and solitude. It is a testament to DiCaprio’s earnest performance as Glass that, despite being the sole entity onscreen for the majority of the film, he conveys more emotion via his eyes and body language than many an actor struggles to do with their voice. He (and the rest of the cast and crew, for that matter) is certainly put through the ringer; clambering in and out of frozen rivers, sleeping in animal carcasses, chowing down on raw bison liver (DiCaprio is vegetarian) and the constant threat of hypothermia were no doubt contributory factors that saw the actor finally being awarded an Oscar for Best Actor.

Continue reading at Post-Modern Sleaze.

Watch The Throne: Game Of Thrones – “Battle Of The Bastards” (Season 6 Episode 9)

Film & TV, Latest Reviews, Watch The Throne June 27, 2016

Originally published and still available on Post-Modern Sleaze (21/06/16).

BRR! BRR! You know the drill: spoiler time once again, and a couple of biggies this episode. Some bigger than Drogon.

Going against this season’s tradition of starting every episode up t’North, we find ourselves in Meereen which, at the end of the last episode, was being firebombed by the Master’s fleet of ships. Understandably, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is not impressed; sure it’s been a while since she was spirited away, but it was barely any time in the grand scheme of things. It even served her well, as she acquired an army of Dothraki (read: every tribe) in the process. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) actually looks sheepish as he answers to his queen on the how’s and why’s of the city being bombarded. Together with Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), the pair state their claims: that the Masters broke their agreement with Tyrion and, in attacking Meereen, they are being treacherous. Daenerys frees Rhaegal and Viserion from their prison – the pair are noticeably smaller than Drogon – and together the three destroy the Master’s army (all, somehow, without burning their fleet of ships. Convenient, right?).

Read the full post here!

Watch The Throne: Game Of Thrones – “No-One” (Season 6 Episode 8)

Film & TV, Latest Reviews, Watch The Throne June 27, 2016

Originally published and still available on Post-Modern Sleaze (15/06/16).

Spoiler-bound, but no fear! This was a (relatively) quiet episode.

This week is Arya’s week, which I’m rather glad about. Her entire story has been on the back burner since last season, when she arrived in Braavos and opted to spend her days being bashed with sticks. So far this season, she has learnt some valuable lessons, such as not victimising others for personal gain, humility and perseverance. She definitely missed the memo on obedience, but this is Arya Stark. We have always loved the rebel in her.

Read the rest of the post here!

Watch The Throne: Game Of Thrones – “The Broken Man” (Season 6 Episode 7)

Film & TV, Latest Reviews, Watch The Throne June 27, 2016

Originally published and still available on Post-Modern Sleaze (10/06/16).

Spoiler spoiler everywhere, be wise or you’ll be in for a scare!

What’s that coming over the hill, chop-chop-chopping wood as he goes? It’s not… can it be… The Hound!? It’s a bold first shot for this week’s episode (can you believe that we’re on week seven already!? Where is the time going?), but depending on how much of a social media denizen you are, you may or may not have already seen some compromising theories pertaining to such over the peat week or two. I’ll link the Cleganebowl theory HERE should you be as much of a speculative and nosy and self-spoiling obsessive as I.

Read the rest of the post!

Watch The Throne: Game Of Thrones – ‘Blood Of My Blood’ (Season 6 Episode 6)

Film & TV, Latest Reviews, Watch The Throne June 7, 2016

Originally published and still available on Post-Modern Sleaze (06/06/16).

Spoilers if you are lagging behind: beware. Or if you’ve given up on a spoiler-free existence, come right on through!

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Why Black Widow Is the “Realest” Superheroine of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Yes, Even After All Those Tropes)

Film & TV, Opinion May 27, 2016

Originally published for Bitch Flicks’ May 2016 theme of “Superheroines” and still available in full (26/05/16).

Black Widow: the original female Avenger. Actually, up until recently, she was the only female Avenger. Scarlett Johansson had her work cut out in carrying the unspoken burden of representing women everywhere in one of the highest profile, highest-grossing franchises to ever exist onscreen.

To date, her character has only ever been written by and directed by men. It is apparent that the linchpins of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are very male skewed, with the only woman currently having contributed to screenplays being Guardians of the Galaxy’s Nicole Perlman, who is returning for Captain Marvel alongside recent recruit Meg LeFauve. Perlman herself stated that writing Captain Marvel has been a far more stressful project than Guardians of the Galaxy ever was, and that she and LeFauve will catch themselves saying:

“‘Wait a minute, what are we saying [here] about women in power?’ Then we have to say, ‘Why are we getting so hung up on that? We should just tell the best story and build the best character.’”

As nice – and preferable – as that would be, it simply is not possible currently. Every woman onscreen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a minority compared to the sheer amount of male characters and therefore automatically complicit in representing every woman, everywhere, all at once.

Read the piece in full over at Bitch Flicks!