Monday, 6 December 2010

Frank Capra - You can't take it with you

I always shied away from watching IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE because everyone said it was too schmaltzy. So the first Frank Capra film I've ever watched, therefore, is YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU - a warm, fun version of Romeo and Juliet where a non-materialist eccentric family is conjoined with a banking dynasty through the love of their children.

I must say - it's brilliant. I now have a major crush on the sleepy-voiced young James Stewart. The eccentricities of the family are adorable, genuinely subversive and stand the test of time.

The wit and farce in this movie are sublime - maybe not entirely modern, but well-crafted and had me in stitches more times than when I watched DUE DATE - which, to be fair, I also enjoyed.

This movie dragged its heels a bit when Capra felt he needed to say something about the collapse of Wall Street and the Great Depression. The social comment was already there in the comedy premise, and leaving out the bankers' collapse could have knocked at least 15 minutes off a two hour movie that didn't need the padding.

Having said that, at the time of release the bits that felt slow and messy to me would have felt cathartic to the audience. So get hot, Mister Capra - you're a good egg!

Friday, 3 December 2010

WRITE CHRISTMAS - Callling all film bloggers

Are you a LAMB member? When you enter, say you're a LAMB member and include your blog's url - we will link to your blog from your entry. Happy Christmas to LAMB xxx

Looking for a creative project over the festive season? Film website are excited to announce the launch of “Write Christmas”; a yuletide writing competition with a once in a lifetime first prize. Read on for more details…

The concept of Write Christmas is simple – to write a film review of the greatest Christmas film never made. With Hollywood churning out the same old Christmas tat every year it’s difficult to see how we’ll ever get a truly brilliant NEW Christmas story on our screens. Best For Film are looking for fantastic writers to review the NEXT greatest, most ridiculous, potentially iconic Christmas film – the fact that it doesn’t actually exist yet is merely a quibble.

First Prize:
- A real-life A1 poster of your made-up movie as imagined by OTM Entertain, the world-famous design team that brought you the posters for The Hurt Locker, In The Loop, Splice and The Losers. Blimey!
- One hundred pounds to spend as you deem fit
- Publication on
Two runners up will receive:
- fifty pounds each
- Publication on

The competition will be judged by our panel of experts:
LARUSHKA IVAN-ZADEH – Film editor of The Metro (3.5 million readers every weekday)
EMMA KENNEDY – actress (Notes on a Scandal), author, film critic for the Danny Baker show
CLEOLINDA JONES – parody film critic, author, blogger (Movies In Fifteen Minutes)

You have until the 24th December to enter, by emailing your glorious review to, with “Write Christmas” in the subject line.
Interested? Learn more about the judging details on the official website –

So, from a sombre review of Tim Burton’s unmade fantasy “Twas the Cheekbone before Christmas” to a brilliant write-up of Michael Bay’s imaginary classic “When Santa Exploded” – Best For Film wants to read the review of the best Christmas film we’ll never get to see. You’ve got until the 24th to get scribbling – the same deadline as Santa? How could it be any other way…

Attached are some promo images - for more information or more pictures, please contact Natasha Hodgson at

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Films coming out in 2011

I can't believe it. My last post was in... September. Wow. Time flies when you're doing too much work to be having fun!

Anyway, this caught my eye - the top 20 films coming out in 2011. I've been excited by Sucker Punch for a little while...

EDIT: What was I thinking? Sucker Punch. Oh dear.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rain has kept me away from the blog and in the confines of the pub / living room sofa. That does mean I've been watching lots of films, though!

I thoroughly enjoyed the Swedish original of GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. I read the book and quite liked it - thrillers aren't my thing, but I appreciated it was well-written and complex. And I'm a huge fan of Scandinavian fiction (Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow) and film (KINGDOM, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN). Scandinavian stuff seems to have this wonderful slow yet gripping pacing. And everything is so dour, with a doleful, mournful beauty.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO was yet another example of marvellous Scandinavian cinema. Sweden is beautiful. The actors look like real people. The pacing had a fantastically slow build.

The controversial scenes - most of them involving Lisbeth's violent reactions to authority, and the scene where she is sexually exploited - and her glorious revenge - were beautifully realised and handled.

Also, this was a great example of a film that knows the difference between films and books. It left out plot and some characterisation. It speeded up events, and treated the detective process a little differently. The end result? I barely noticed the difference, because it left out the RIGHT things, and tightened the characters. It felt like a film that didn't have to rush because it had given itself room to move.

A big thumbs up from me!

I did have about three people in the video rental shop warn me it was a foreign film, though. With subtitles.

It's okay, folks. I LOVE subtitles! And in a film with spread-out pacing like this, you actually get the time to read them :)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Black Swan trailer (by the creator of Requiem For A Dream)

Oh, I love this man. Watch this Black Swan trailer and find out why unless you've seen his work already.

My lovely work colleague wrote the article and I think she is quite right. With Darren Aaronofsky it is indeed about the "beautiful visuals, haunting storylines and dark morality".

What would make the perfect private cinema?

Okay, I would like...

A big round stone hut. At the back of a big garden.

A sign in front of the hut with those black letters you re-assemble to say the name of the film. You have to climb up a small ladder to update the sign.

A small tree-lined avenue lit with fairy lights to reach it.

Red carpet? You betcha! Only on premiere nights though :)

Missmatched bucket seats and sofa so people can drag them where they need them

Usherette with a tray of snacks. Essential. She must shine a light in the face of people talking once the film has started. Talking is allowed during trailers so long as you keep your voice down - not everyone thinks you're funny.

No ads. NO ADS!

All films come with a short pre-feature to build antication

Occasional film festivals and all-nighters

Okay, what would your perfect home cinema experience be?

Frightfest 2010

Frightfest 2010 is an annual London horror film festival. It started really small but now it shows films in Leicester Square - this is where all the UK premieres happen and it's a bit of a film landmark in London.

I love Frightfest because even though it's a really small and perfectly-formed film festival, it's still managed to get away with hosting the UK premieres of Scary Movie (what a silly film!), Pitch Black (Vince Diesel almost seems to be able to act) and Audition (Japanese, slow build, terrifying). It’s also premiered Donnie Darko, Dark Water. Insomnia, One Hour Photo, My Little Eye, Battle Royal, Jeepers Creepers, Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Devil’s Backbone, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Cabin Fever, House of a 1000 Corpses, Bellboy, Switchblade Romance, Old Boy, Land of the Dead, 2001 Maniacs, Night Watch, Seed, Eden Lake, Freakdog, Wolf Creek, Autopsy and Martyrs.

This year, everyone is talking about MONSTERS, one of the Frightfest 2010 premieres. It's a sci-fi fable about the quarantining of Mexico due to a crashed NASA space probe full of alien organisms...

Low-budget movies show if a writer or director is really good because it's harder to paper over the cracks in the talent with bundles of money.

The director of MONSTERS did all the special effects on his laptop - and people are saying this horror film is amazing! The new JJ Abrams maybe? Perhaps the success of MONSTERS will mean the studios let Gareth Edwards do CLOVERFIELD 3? Who knows :)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Role Models - DVD review

Man cannot live by high culture alone. I like to laugh. Do you like to laugh? Oh, please say you do! I think it's allowed, isn't it? I'm fairly sure I'm allowed to deeply enjoy a comedy gem as much as I'm allowed to savour, say, a biopic of Truman Capote. If I wasn't allowed, I would probably have to start a movie-viewing revolution. I LIKE TO LAUGH, DAMMIT!

Sometimes a mainstream comedy movie comes along that is so well-scripted, engaging and witty that you find yourself recommending it to people, buying the DVD and pushing it into their hands, and refusing to talk to them until they come back with a headful of quotes that you can croon at each other in sing-song.

Sometimes you don't even know the people you're recommending the movie to. Sometimes they're coffee baristas and strangers on trains, puzzled by your altruistic attempts to push a DVD into their bag with your sticky little hands. Sometimes they're cops. Sometimes they're judges. Sometimes they're... you know, cell buddies.

Well, I haven't gone that far. Yet. But I'm definitely recommending this movie to YOU. Because it is funny. Yes, funny!

Oh, I do like a funny movie!

Role Models came out in 2008. It's a miss-matched buddy comedy about two good friends grinding along as soft drink reps. Wild behaviour caused by an emotional break-up leads to Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) being forced to enrol in a child mentor programme to stay out of jail. Sturdy Wings, is a child mentor scheme commandeered by an eccentric played by Jane Lynch (who essentially reprises her glorious performance as sports coach Sue Sylvester in GLEE. Although I think GLEE came after ROLE MODELS).

The children that Danny and Wheeler have been lumped with are a foul-mouthed firecracker (whose mother is training him to be a Proud Little Black Man) and an introverted virgin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse from KICK-ASS) who retains his sanity by waving a rubber sword at live roleplay events where the social politics are fictional yet fierce.

Will Danny and Wheeler resolve their status as no-hopers? Will they bond with their delinquent charges? Will everyone learn something about themselves by the end of the movie? Yes. Probably. But I'm not here to provide plot spoilers. It's not what happens in life, it's how you get there.

In terms of sharp script and engagement, ROLE MODELS is up there with MEAN GIRLS. And we all know what a wonderful job Tina Fey did with that!

So go on. Let me press a virtual copy of ROLE MODELS into your hands. Was the DVD cover a bit sticky? Sorry about that. It's just that I'm so excited.

And let me know what you thought of it. Perhaps we can croon at each other with quotes from our favourite moments...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Guillermo Del Toro - The Fairytale Man

When I think of Guillermo del Toro, I think of fairytales. Rather dark fairytales, but that's an oxymoron - I can't think of any fairytale that isn't.

Del Toro is renowned for juggling blockbusters with more personal projects, managing to get the moolah from one set of films and the critical acclaim from all things.

But I'm not here to talk about Del Toro's standing in the industry. If you've heard of him (and I'm sure you have) then his standing is assured.

I'm here to talk about fairytales.

No matter how much budget is splashed, the unnerving props and sets in Guillermo Del Toro's movies always look childlike and home-made. The dimensions are awry. The masks look like masks, like caricatures of masks. Everything feels like an old-fashioned prop, not like CGI. There is no 'slick' in a Guillermo Del Toro movie. There are curling tendrils, distorting faces, streaks of greasepaint, curling clawhands straight out of an SFX workshop - you can almost smell the glue holding them together.

Much as I enjoy them both, I'd go so far as to suggest that Guillermo Del Toro is James Cameron's opposite. Two brothers: One light, one dark.

But this hokery-pokery is absolutely what I love about a Guillermo Del Toro film. Fairytales are about primal fears and desires. And I like my primal served up primal, with a slab of primal on the side and a tall glass of primal to wash it down with.

Children's drawings are primal. They're also scratchy and curly and unpolished. Artist Arthur Rackham's fairies are delicately malevolent, odd little pills to swallow. The childlike in me wants mess and chaos and clutter and confusion. I want to FEEL my way through a darkly primal film, not be led there by a smooth neon arrow.

Pan's Labyrinth, or Hellboy: Creative artifice, clunky clockwork gadgetry, skittering little insects and robots... It doesn't look real. It looks like a dream you are willing to suspend disbelief for. That means you're willing to walk into a dream. How powerful is that?

I love the way that Del Torro's work reminds me fantastical silent movies by directors like Max Castle. Has he got a new way of seeing things? Or just a very, very old one?

I'd say he's got a dark, fairytale, old-fashioned approach to how he makes films look and feel.

That's why I'm intrigued to hear that Guillermo del Toro will be directing THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS.

For those who've not heard of this tale, it's a Chthulhu yarn by H.P.Lovecraft - a horror writer from the early 20th century who created fabulous monsters - ancient gods whose morals we couldn't fathom, whose dimensions and geometries our eyes couldn't understand.

When I think of Pan's Labyrinth, I'd say Del Toro will be perfectly suited, with his theatrical clutter and old-fashioned workings, to bringing impossible geometries to the big screen.

Especially since I hear MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS will be released in 3D...

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Interviewing cast of THE TORMENT - and meeting FRODO'S MUM?!

I've been invited to the movie premiere of indpendent horror movie THE TORMENT next friday.

I'm also looking forward to interviewing the cast!

The premiere will be held in London's Prince Charles cinema. Nestling alongside London's Odeon, Empire and Vue flagship behemoths, the Prince Charles is well-known for its tireless support of independent cinema.

THE TORMENT belongs to the shaky-handcam school of cinematography. References to BLAIR WITCH, REC and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY are inevitable, as the plot follows our hero who tries to escape possession by fleeing from one friend's house to another - though the demonic force in question is attached to him, not the house.


EDIT: Have now interviewed the cast. Only a small dictophone but they passed it around like a talking stick and the interview turned into wonderful chat and silliness about the best secret recipes out there for making SFX blood.

Also, pop fact: One actress had a starring role in Doctor Who and the other actress has passed a couple of auditions now for The Hobbit and is truly in with a chance of being Frodo's mum! PS The staff at the Hobbit auditions seemed to take it as read that Peter Jackson was back on the case as director. Oh, hurrah!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Trajan is the movie font!

I ask you for one brief moment to consider movies from another angle - the design angle.

Did you know that one font gets used over and over for movie titles?

The font's name is TRAJAN. Speak of it in hushed tones...

So many elements in a movie are designed to manipulate the viewer in the most delicious ways...

Sound. The howling of violins in PSYCHO.
Colour. The prevalence of green clothing and props in THE MATRIX.
Immersive 3D: The swooping into vertigo-inducing drops in AVATAR.

So why not fonts?

TRAJAN was designed to epitomise the feeling of a Roman Epic Movie. Then it just symbolised Epic Movie. Finally, as the hilarious video shows, it just meant Movie...

Food for thought, that even a font could make a difference to how you feel about a film!

Monday, 26 July 2010

UK Film Council scrapped

A while back I wrote an article about how there were so many great British movies in the last decade that managed to tick all the boxes: Plot, acting, cinematography, box office.

That could all be set to change because the UK Film Council is being scrapped by the Government. Dagnabbit.

I think this could spell really bad news for the British Film Industry. It's not impossible to consistently make great films without funding - but the money and the backing does really help.

Britain has seen so many great directors crop up in the last few years. Some of my favourites are:

Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire)
Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent)
Duncan Jones (Moon)
Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Sherlock Holmes)

These guys all cut their teeth on small projects where they did their best with the funding they had.

There'll still be a dribble of funding for British films from the National Lottery and the like... but with the UK Film Council to be disbanded, I worry that the sunshine days for up and coming Brit film-makers will be over.

It was a nice day until I heard this news. Now it is a sad day.

Please sign this Save the UK Film Council petition if you feel sad too.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Haiku Movie Reviews - Bladerunner and Bill & Ted

I think I might just have invented something - movie review haikus. They do say it's harder to write less than it is to write more. Maybe this will sharpen my film critic skills.

There are a million rules to haiku and many of them contradict each other; I've gone for a 3 line haiku with 5, then 7, then 5 syllables per line.

My two haikus below (BLADERUNNER and BILL AND TED) are beyond terrible. I'm honestly very sorry.


If you comment with your own haiku, I'll be delighted to add it to the list with a link back to your blog. Anything to take the onus off mine...


Dude, if you can't chill
you'll never hang with old dead
greek guys. Excellent!


Old grey kippled world.
Small men take on industry.
Yes... but are they men?

Friday, 23 July 2010

I do like a good knees-up. It's the Carnival of Cinema...

Come one and all... you are welcome to revel in the Carnival of Cinema from the nice folk at Good News Film Reviews.

Everyone is talking about INCEPTION, Nolan's latest yarn. But it's not all about Hollywood. They also cover ROAD MOVIE, the NORMAN K. COLLINS documentary and other good things.

Even TWILIGHT ECLIPSE gets a mention, which is great, because it's nice to see such an underexposed movie get a little affection :)

SUCKERPUNCH movie posters... Upcoming film from the director of WATCHMEN

Is the world ready for what Zack Snyder describes as "Alice in Wonderland with machine guns"?

Well, yes. In fact the world has been waiting a while in the cold and tapping its feet. But never fear, a down and dirty version of Wonderland is almost here... SUCKERPUNCH is due release in cinemas in March 2011.

The pic above shows 2 of the 6 SUCKERPUNCH gals - Babydoll and Amber. See the full set of 6 Suckerpunch movie posters for the film characters - it's looking very pretty indeed.

Now we all know... just because a film looks pretty and ticks the genre boxes, that doesn't mean it will necessarily deliver.

But I have to admit... as an old comics fan who read the original, I really did like Snyder's adaptation of WATCHMEN. And I am tentatively looking forward to to SUCKERPUNCH - at least I know it will be in good hands.

Plus, look at the visual references. Steampunk? Check. Lolita Goth japanese babydoll fashion? Check. Victoriana? Check. Old-fashioned fifties vision of The Future? Check.

Oh, and the plot?

Envision a mental hospital in the 1950s. Baby Doll, a mental patient there, seeks to escape her evil stepfather and impending lobotomy. So she retreats into the dark and visceral world of the imagination...


New Ghibli film - Borrower Arrietty

A Studio Ghibli production is timeless. If you don't like the consistently high quality output from the Ghibli studios, then there's a chance you might actually be a typically Studio Ghibli villain - namely a slightly crotchety antagonist with obvious flaws but redeeming qualities. J'accuse!

In spite of my quirky taste in cinema, I don't automatically love all that is anime - nor do I rush around saying everything is kawaii all the time - but I have never been able to resist the vision and worldview of Ghibli animator/director Hayao Miyazaki.

A film-loving friend of mine described watching a Studio Ghibli film as 'going to film church'. Such films have... transcendent qualities. They're not about making you feel good. They're about making you feel... uplifted. Taken out of your humdrum worldview and offered a glimpse of a bigger, better, wider world.

A studio Ghibli film appeals to our childlike sensibilities, not our childish ones.

Certain elements repeat themselves in a Miyazaki film. Watch 'Spirited Away', 'My neighbour Totoro', 'Kiki's Delivery Service' and 'Castle in the Sky' and all his other efforts and you'll see the same themes again and again: A shinto-influenced love of and respect for nature. A need for the child to be the main protagonist, with no parents to help them. Villains who shift morally, meaning that nobody is out and out evil, they are a lost soul needing change.

And of course, the feminism. Ghibli films tend to feature independent young girls on a mission. However, a Japanese friend assured me that the films were not quite as feminist to a Japanese eye. Little boys are trained for success from birth, and cannot be expected to play and be free in the same way as a little girl - so it's in part a cultural imperative that the independent young children at the centre of whimsical and freewheeling Ghibli films are actually female. In fact, my Japanese friend asserts that it is actually the Ghibli films that feature free-thinking, spirited and independent little BOYS that are the ones addressing gender issues. Interesting.

So now we have the latest offering from Studio Ghibli, and you can view the film trailer here: Borrower Arriety.

It's a Victorian-styled creation based on the classic Borrowers books. Arietty is a miniature girl who survives by borrowing from the house she and her family live in. All goes well until Arietty is discovered...

I've not seen Borrower Arietty, but I'm sure it will feature beautiful animation, characters who progress and engage the emotions, a paean to the natural world, surreal visions and a feeling of looking through the mirror glass like Alice.

I think it's about time for me to go back to Film Church...

If you've already seen the film, or are looking forward to it - or even if you think Studio Ghibli is hugely overrated - I'd be interested to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The female werewolf in films - Once bitten, twice shy

Ooh, I wrote about lady werewolves and the lack of them in films yesterday. Hurrah.

Man, it felt good to namecheck Dog Soldiers and Ginger Snaps!

Twilight Peaks - part 1

Haha! Catch it before it's pulled?

Twilight Peaks

In this YouTube twinkling gem, Twilight is re-edited to be more like TV show Twin Peaks, including being re-scored with the Badalamenti music. Traces of the original Twilight score survived, but only just.

Twin Peaks has dated pretty well. I think Twilight benefits from the makeover, to be honest. If Twin Peaks was wish fulfilment the way Twilight was, I for one wouldn't be too keen to blow out the candles on the birthday cake.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

I love the smell of diligence in the morning

Or rather, afternoon. But diligence smells sweet at any time of day and I'm glad I finally got this blog up and rocking.

Why did I set it up? Well, I have a vested interest.

I work for the wonderfully acid-tongued UK film reviews and news site, Best For Film. They will soon be looking to take on guest posts. Good.

I'm also the editor of Mookychick, a rather brilliant site for alternative girls and women. It covers all the essentials of life - movies, girl gaming, alternative style, quixotic thought, a little bitta feminism and, of course, how to genuinely try to survive an earthquake.

Team Mook is always looking to make new friends and get new content from lovely people with something to say (what do you mean you haven't read our submission guidelines? Scurry over there as fast as you can!)

Mookychick is always up for guest posts. It's always up for lovingly pimping our guest bloggers with full bios and links to their blog/site and such. Anything other than would be rude.

As a result - well - I got a blog. My first one in years. How else will I be able to speak to you all?

Actually - thinking about it - it would be much classier if my first post was entirely in lorem ipsum.
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