Tag: film

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.

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.

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!

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

Film & TV, Latest Reviews May 26, 2016

Originally published and still available on Post-Modern Sleaze (13/05/16).

The third Captain America instalment sees The Avengers confront international politics, their moral ethos – and each other. ★★★★☆

Come 2016 and one would presume that the world would be completely Marvelled out. It’s been eight years since Iron Man, the first instalment of in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and since then we have been met with a barrage of establishing films (Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger and the aforementioned Iron Man and its sequel), secondary progression (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, culminating with Ant-Man) and the upscaled, end-of-the-world menageries also known as The Avengers and Age Of Ultron.

At a quick count, that’s 12 films in seven years. That’s an unprecedented amount for a wider integrated franchise. That’s a lot for any series. Luckily – for viewers and the company alike – Marvel are savvy to the worldwide superhero fatigue, and in entering “Phase 3 ” they are looking to deconstruct the alliance that they took so long to painfully establish. As such, Captain America: Civil War immediately takes a different tone to all of the aforementioned films. There is no hypothetical “big bad” in the conventional sense, and for the most part it is a refreshing departure that pays off, and in the lack of a full-scale “big bad” assault, all of the Avengers’ pent-up energy is spent inflicting it on each other.

It is the last of these fate-of-the-world initiatives that sparks the main dilemma: following their triumph (or consequential travesty, depending on whether or not you were situated on or under the floating town of Sokovia) in Age Of Ultron and after the full-throttle opening sequence in Africa results in a large amount of collateral damage, the United Nations intend to clamp down on the superhero team thanks to their disregard for accidental civilian death. They are presented with the Sokovia Accords whereby, in complying, the Avengers would only be legally allowed to act should a UN panel vote in favour of action.

It is ironic, with their main initiative being to save the world and everyone in it etc, but nevertheless, from the human perspective, who would want a bunch of strange super-able vigilantes acting as they see fit and claiming it to be in the benefit of the human world? Who is to say if, or when, those superheroes would turn on those they intend to help? Why should they get to wreak untold havoc in their quest to aid the world, without any regard for the consequences?

Continue reading over at Post-Modern Sleaze.

HIGH-RISE

Film & TV, Latest Reviews May 3, 2016

Originally published and still available on Post-Modern Sleaze (02/05/16).

Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G Ballard’s iconic urban dystopia is a visual onslaught that chills and bedazzles. 

J.G Ballard once remarked in an interview that “In a completely sane world, madness is the only freedom”[1]and in an overwhelmingly invasive, capitalist, post-9/11 world it can be gleaned that the iconic science fiction novelist was not far off.

Since his death in 2009, society has fostered a new and unprecedented level of narcissism in a social media world where we, as users, are bombarded with a constant barrage of useless useful information and subsequently struggle to find our place within it. Austerity in capitalist nations sees the average Joe pretend and parade that he has when he has-not, whilst consumerism amongst the Jones’ has spiraled into the superfluous.

In its entitlement and consumerism it almost seems apt then that, nigh on 40 years since the novel was published and the film rights were bought, High Rise should be released now. Ben Wheatley takes obvious relish in the unveiling of this 70s imbued alternate reality, and it is heartening that so much of Ballard’s tone has translated onscreen; after all, not much can compare with the iconic opening of “Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.” Reflection doesn’t quite cover it, however, for as soon as Laing (Tom Hiddleston) steps over the threshold we are complicit in every fragment of the hierarchy, tension and debauchery as the web of this highly intensified microcosm begins to unravel.

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