Reboots – Good or Bad?

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Which is your Pennywise?

Definition- ‘something, especially a series of films or television programmes, that has been restarted or revived.’ (lexico.com)

It isn’t a new thing; this remake business. It’s been going on since the beginning of the movie industry’s success. It is an industry that has always ruthlessly utilised anything it can. It’s like an unstable, mammoth beast that constantly needs feeding, whether on new produce or the scraps from others, doesn’t matter – just keep feeding the beast!

The well-known musical, Singin’ in the Rain although a new movie actually used songs from earlier films. They jujjed them up for a new audience and set them to dance scenes. Make ’em Laugh is also a complete rip-off of the earlier Be a Clown.

So what films are you probably going to see remade in the near future?

Ace Ventura – Morgan Creek Productions are definitely looking into it.

Akira – in the works for a live-action version.

Alien Nations – series of new movies is in the planning stages at 20th Century Fox.

An American Werewolf in London – Max Landis, John Landis’ son penning remake.

Big Trouble in Little China – Kurt Russell has given his blessing.

The Birds – supposed to be overseen by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes company.

Candyman – a Jordan Peele project in development for 20 years.

Charlie’s Angels – reboot is in the works from Elizabeth Banks of Pitch Perfect 2.

Childs Play – reboot directed by Norwegian film-maker Lars Klevberg.

Clue – Hasbro and 20th Century Fox.

Death Wish, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Don’t Look Now, Fantastic Voyage, Flash Gordon and more! The remakes go on and on and on……Personally, remaking Don’t Look Now is the biggest offence.

(denofgeek.com/uk/movies/remakes)

Chances are, you’ve already watched; and enjoyed, remakes of earlier films:

The Thing – 1951, as The Thing From Another Planet, 1982, 2011

It – Bill Skarsgard taking on the role of Pennywise originally played by Tim Curry.

Conan The Barbarian – Jason Momoa in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role.

Dumbo – The 1941 animation turned into CGI/live-action combo.

A Star Is Born – has been remade 3 times, the latest with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

A Christmas Carol – more than a dozen versions have been remade from 1901 to the present day.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – originally made in 1920, remade in 2005.

(theweek.co.uk/99568/the-29-most-remade-movies-of-all-time)

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The Thing 1951
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John Carpenter’s The Thing 1982

Undoubtedly, there are remakes that have been successful, both in terms of profit and audience appreciation. La Cage Aux Folles, was a 1978 French movie based on a 1973 play, it was remade by Mike Nichols as The Birdcage; starring Robin Williams. Cape Fear was originally created in 1962 with Robert Mitchum in the role of Max Cady; a wonderful edgy performance. It was later remade in 1991 with Robert De Niro playing a truly terrifying Cady – Mitchum appeared in a cameo as the Lieutenant.

The 1982 remake of The Thing with Kurt Russell, was enjoyed by audiences who had previously seen the black and white version – who wouldn’t want to see some coloured gore?

Some film makers see an opportunity to recreate something that was a personal favourite, or a classic story they enjoy, and to make their own version with updated visuals. How many film versions of the various Shakespeare plays exist?!

Compare the lush visual quality of Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula with those early Hammer Horror films. I grew up with Hammer Horror, and have a fond sense of ownership of those early films, and for someone to remake one feels like sacrilege. Coppola’s version did allow for the titular character to be abroad in daylight – as was in the original novel, and the costumes were undoubtedly gorgeous, however, the casting seemed very much intentionally geared to bringing the audience in; after all, Anthony Hopkins had the year before completed the hugely successful, Silence of The Lambs – and brought some of Hannibal Lecter with him – the scene in which he meets Mina Harker, he sniffs her!

Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman portraying Dracula.

So is it all about the money? Have the studios really run out of creative ideas?

Mention of a remake of The Princess Bride or Battlestar Galactica, for example, has caused great consternation amongst fans of the originals.

What about the screenwriters who are desperate for a break into the industry, to get their story ‘heard’, to be given a chance? There are thousands of writers across the globe, with fantastic concepts and stories, why are they not being given the chance to make their words into a visual feast?

One might argue that some film makers approach the craft with an artistic bent. They may, for instance, want to pay homage to an earlier director, or writer. They may enjoy creating parodies. But the bottom line for making movies is, let’s be honest, to make money. And if a movie or show was successful for the last generations, why wouldn’t it work for the next?

Many are pointing the finger of blame at Hollywood. Well given that it is the largest and most prominent film industry in the world, who can blame them?!

Me. There are films being made across the world, by all sorts of producers and indie companies. You have to make some effort to seek them out, sure, but they do exist. For instance, how many of you reading this are from English speaking countries? I’m primarily thinking UK and USA here. How many films have you ever watched? How many films do you have in your home? How many of those films are NOT in your own language? I would bet the vast majority of English speakers will stick with their own language when viewing for entertainment.

By profits garnered, the largest industries are to be found in –

USA and Canada

China

India

UK

Japan

English language films make the most, but there is nothing to stop English speaking people from seeking out foreign language films. In the age of the internet, much entertainment is at our fingertips. Think of the success; in the UK at least, of the Scandi/Nordic Noir films and TV shows. I devoured all the shows that hit our TV screens – The Killing, The Bridge, Bordertown, Wallander etc.

I hear people say things like, “But I don’t like reading subtitles.” Waah, waah! Make some effort. Don’t sit like a cabbage on a beanbag and allow a drip feed of sanitised, candied mulch to pass through your eyeballs to brain bypassing your critical centre – which is probably so underused in people by now that we don’t even consider we might be being fooled into believing a thing is good when it is shite! Wake up. Make choices. Choose NOT to go to the cinema to see a remake/reboot. Choose NOT to watch a TV show that was around in the 50’s and is a quick, easy option for the studios.

There are a whole shit load of TV shows also currently in the planning stages of reboots/remakes.

In America there is in the pipeline – Bewitched, The Jetsons, Alf, Daria and Rugrats! In the UK there will be a Christmas return to Gavin and Stacey, possibly a season 6 of the incredibly successful Line of Duty, Poldark: series 5, End of the Fucking World: series 2 and the long awaited Taboo with Tom Hardy. But there is a slight dissimilarity between the American and British reboots – the British TV industry is tagging new stuff onto the end of previous shows; making new series, but the American industry is actually re-making old stuff.

Why?

The American market also has a tendency to take British shows and recreate them in their own image. Almost as though they are using the British market almost as a testing ground to see what is popular with audiences – this does irk many Brits and they feel as though the British TV industry is ‘selling off’ what belongs here; national pride kicks in slowly here. On the other hand, the so-called Snowflake generation, seem to adore these dilute American versions. They have grown up with a media swamped with American influence and it isn’t unusual to them, (true Brits quite often find the humour lacking and infantilised). A very quick scan of lists shows over 100 British shows that have been remade for American audiences.

It does seem as though we are reaching a tipping point. Sure, it might be fun to see Christina Ricci’s version of Wednesday Addams, or de Niro’s Max Cady. It also allows for makers to recreate scenes that may not have been publicly acceptable in past times. However, enough is enough the people are saying. Some things, favourite films and shows, should remain sacred and left alone. People will speak out when they aren’t happy, and my, unquantifiable and non-quantitative, research has shown that the prime country for audience dissatisfaction with it’s film industry is America.

The largest, most profitable industry in the world is failing it’s customers. Hollywood, you seriously need to get your act together (no pun intended). You are a money grubbing, money grabbing, egotistic, inflated, sugar-coated, bloated corpse with little regard for the art of film anymore. The whole industry is a cesspit of greed – who the fuck needs $425,000 – $1,000,000 per episode? (The Big Bang Theory gang!) Yes, we may love these shows, and the characters, but seriously folks – YOU’RE NOT THAT IMPORTANT!

The truth is, reboots/remakes are commercially successful, so that means you’re all guilty of making it the way it is!

People, you need to stop watching stuff that hasn’t been newly written, that isn’t original. In the world of literature, there are literally thousands of new books being published weekly. NEW BOOKS, not rewrites, not copies, new. Give writers a chance. New screenwriters must be desperate, DESPERATE, for work, because no-one is hiring them, because studio executives don’t want to take a chance, because they want to pump out the same old tripe to line their pockets.

I suggest you write to producers, film makers, film studios. Tell them you demand something new. Tell them to get off their fat, padded arses and go looking for new talent. Stop watching the remakes.

Studios, STOP IT! Just stop taking the easy option, stop thinking with your wallets. Make something new and interesting. Put out the call for new writers. Advertise for scripts. Trawl through social media and see what’s trending and maybe you’ll pick up a shiny new talent with fantastic ideas – stop playing it safe.

“So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!Howard Beale in Network

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Peter Finch in Network (1976)

Film Review – I Think We’re Alone Now

Official Movie Poster

Genre: Drama/Sci-fi

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning

Released: 21 January 2018

Director: Reed Morano

Production: Automatik Entertainment, Exhibit Entertainment et al.

**SPOILER ALERT**

Synopsis

Del is alone in the world. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in his small, empty town, content in his solitude and the utopia he’s methodically created for himself — until he is discovered by Grace, an interloper whose history and motives are obscure. And to make matters worse, she wants to stay.

Google. https://g.co/kgs/sCh7zM

I watched this on Netflix (UK)

I came to know Peter Dinklage’s work, as so many other have, through Game of Thrones. Then I saw him in Death At A Funeral and Elf, both roles which I thoroughly enjoyed him in. I hadn’t heard of I Think We’re Alone Now; just found it whilst surfing through Netflix.

After watching, I looked up a couple of reviews; they weren’t very positive, and I wondered what critics were expecting when they saw Dinklage was starring in a post-apocalyptic drama. I went in with no expectations.

**SPOILERS**

It’s post-apocalypse America and Del is alone in a small town; believing himself the last man alive after some unspecified event that has caused everyone to die – quite quickly it seems, and some months prior to these events. Del has settled into a routine in the library where he works, still collecting and cataloguing books, as well as cleaning up the deceased and their homes. We see a man who has respect for the dead – or do we? – who quietly enters homes, tidies up, empties fridges of their rotten contents, disinfects around, and then wraps the bodies he finds and takes them on his truck to be buried outside of town.

Del in the homes of the dead

It appears to be a peaceful existence; even in his solitude. He lives in the library and maintains a routine of cooking, eating, washing (he even brushes his teeth), fishing, maintaining the library (for whom?), and burying the dead. It’s a semblance of normalcy, we understand that this is how a man alone can stay sane.

Then Grace arrives. She is young, brash and upsets the routine that Del has built. When Grace accompanies Del on one of his ‘corpse clean-ups’, she watches how he dumps the bodies in the ground and tells him that her father was a preacher, that when she passed bodies on her way here she held her breath. They begin a routine of silence and breath-holding from then on.

Grace

We know next to nothing about Del’s and Grace’s previous lives, only what they choose reveal to each other. Del seems self-contained and content in contrast to Grace’s head-banging restlessness, and I think that’s how it should be; we are watching them through each other’s eyes. However, a tiny glimpse into Del’s previous existence comes in the poignant reply to when Grace asks if Del ever gets lonely, he replies, “You know what? I’ll tell you when I felt lonely. I felt lonely when it was me and 1,600 other people in this town. I was pretty fucking lonely.”

The main oddity is when Grace is sorting her hair looking in a mirror – she has a recent scar on the back of her neck.

And then Grace’s parents turn up. Del, unhappy at the initial intrusion, now exhibits signs of agitation. Grace had told him there was no-one else alive. Grace had told him her parents were dead – Grace lied. Her father finds Del, in his quiet solitude, in the library, and tells him he should join them out on the West Coast, they have doctors who are doing things with the human mind, cutting edge stuff, the loneliness of being outside ‘the fold’. They whisk Grace off,; but not before Grace desperately tell him these people are not really her parents, and Del is alone again.

Peter Dinklage as Del

Predictably, Grace has touched a part of Del that remembers/needs human contact. He sets out to find/rescue her. There is no-one as he drives for days across the country. He swaps his vehicle at each road blockage; where bodies lie desiccating inside cars, in dust-blown towns, until he finally drives over a rise and sees the lights of a large town. Stunned, he locates the house (Grace’s ‘father’ wrote it inside one of the library books) and Grace, who is wired up to some monitor device, filled with tubes and stuff, which Del releases her from.

Downstairs, they are met by the ‘father’, who does little to stop them, but tells Del that in the same way Del is keeping his town clean, they are doing the same here – but with the citizens! “They don’t have to remember what happened before. They don’t have to live in the past. There’s no before. There’s only from now on. Isn’t that beautiful? To not have to remember anything?”

It’s kind of creepy; as is he, so it’s a delight when Grace kills him. As Del and Grace drive off, we get a Stepford Wives moment – slo-mo citizens going about their beautiful lives, in beautiful sunshine; jogging, gardening, drinking beer on the lawn, smiling and content.

I know some people felt cheated that this film turned out to NOT be a last man in the world scenario. But we have seen lots of post-apocalypse stuff, and lots of man/woman alone against the odds and I think this film makes us adjust our attitude to togetherness – it’s not about survival after a disaster, its about connectedness and that, now cliché quote of John Donne’s, ‘No man is an island’. Despite Del thinking he can cope, and has made a lovely little routine, and thinks he is happy – he isn’t really, and Grace reminds him that man cannot live alone.

There were a couple of aspects of the film that didn’t quite ring true for me, but nothing that disrupted the narrative. The dialogue is quite sparse, only the ‘father’ has a chunk of dialogue, and by the time he arrives, I felt settled into Del and Grace’s routine and wanted him to go away. In fact, at the beginning, I did feel like Del when he and Grace went ‘shopping’ in the supermarket, and she asked him what he missed the most, and he replied ‘Quiet.’ He had become so used to his isolation that he was reclusive – and I could relate to that.

Is there an underlying meaning in I Think We’re Alone Now? I think so. It isn’t an action film, there isn’t much dialogue – it’s contemplative. And not only are we being asked to contemplate isolation; initially, but the sharing of our lives with others; even another who is not necessarily, or initially compatible. Grace and Del are dealing with loss in very different ways; he through routine and solitude, she through having her memory wiped. There is a wide gap in their ages, but a little romance does blossom, which is also the reality that bites when Del decides to save her.

The ending, I feel, is almost portrayed like an invitation to join ‘the fold’. You could; like so many people do, choose the easy option and live a life of ‘apparent’ bliss, have a house, a car, a job, hobbies, friendly neighbours, sunshine and lollipops. The film’s ending is the most brightly lit section – throughout it has been blue-tinted greys and dark shadows. Now, as they leave what I presume is meant to be California, we get clear blue skies, palm trees, colourful bicycles and clothing; perfect America? All intensified with an eerie score of suggested discordance. It begins to ‘wind up’ in tension as Del slows the car – is he wishing he could join them? Is life too hard to go on back up North? Does he imagine it would be easier to be one of the herd? His thoughts are interrupted by Grace and the single pronouncement of his name, and they’re moving again. The music rises in pitch and blossoms into a beautiful conclusion as they drive off.

You can take the red pill or the blue pill. Live in a David Lynch-like world of white picket fences and lies – or get on with reality. Utopia is what we make it.

Lonely Days For Del

I’m giving I Think We’re Alone Now

4 stars

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is little-star.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is little-star.jpg

Film Review: The Foreigner

The Foreigner coverGenre: Action Thriller 

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan

Based on: The Chinaman, 1992 novel by Stephen Leather 

Release Date: 30 Sept. 2017

Director: Martin CampbellProduction Company: Huayi Brothers

Synopsis

A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers’ identities.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1615160/

I watched this on Netflix UK.

Jackie Chan, star of Martial Arts movies such as Project A (1983), Police Story (1985) and Armour of God I and II, stars as Quan Ngoc Minh; a Chinese single parent, living in England with his only daughter.  Pierce Brosnan, former James Bond, is Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Liam Hennessy, a former IRA member who is publicly open about his past but now in his later years, is keen to keep the peace accord in place. In the opening, Quan’s young teenage daughter is killed in a terrorist bomb attack – the quiet man sets out on a vendetta to find his daughter’s killers.


I have been watching Jackie Chan movies since the early 80s, and am very familiar with his fast-paced action style, his well-publicised injuries during filming, his comedic roles and Buster Keatonesque scenarios. So this was a bit of a mental adjustment. Chan is now 63 years old and although he cannot do the ridiculous acrobatics he performed in his earlier films, he can still move with astonishing speed – when he needs to. I was totally impressed with his physical stamina; and this film does have some pretty harsh fight scenes. He is mostly pitted against men who are twenty to thirty years his junior and is tripped, thrown and felled to a degree you wonder how his ageing body can take it.

However, what affected me most was his very moving performance as a deeply distraught father who simply wants the names of his child’s murderers. He drifts like a ghost, stands in his daughters bedroom and stares, he shuffles like an old man. When his offer to pay the police for the names of the bombers is refused, he decides to take matters into his own hands. And here; along with the First Minister, we discover Quan’s history. It is both tragic and fearsome – the Minister and his men are tested repeatedly by this quiet foreigner who wants, not only justice, but revenge.

The film is interesting for its pitting two older men against one another; neither are completely innocent; both have violent pasts. There is a resilience one could call stubbornness in both men. Both have their own moral codes that one could say have become rigid. There are thrilling fight scenes, but not so many – this is mature martial arts – when Chan is knocked flat on his back on a rooftop my ageing bones empathised. This is also the first time I have ever seen Chan cry.

It’s an oddity too. The bad guys are Irish, or more precisely, the IRA. The IRA ceasefire was called about 20 years ago, so to someone who grew up in England during The Troubles, with Irish parents, it seems dated. Plus, there are moments in the film in which some characters refer to Chan’s character as ‘the Chinaman’ – I couldn’t decide if it was racist, a hint that Brits and Irish are racist, a nod to the original novel title, or lazy updating of terms. Some of Hennessy’s henchmen can come across as a little too predictable, too generic and the theme could said to be dated – but – I did enjoy it; if enjoy is the right word to use for such a dark, troubled and sad film.

I give The Foreigner – 

4 stars

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Blade Runner: 2049

Film Review Blade Runner 2049
K and Joi

I just got back from the cinema having watched, in awe, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to the 1982 original.

It is 2 hours 43 minutes long, which is great for viewers like me who want to be immersed in another persons creation. And speaking of creations, what are these ‘new’ Blade Runners and Replicants like? What does it mean to be human? What is it that makes you human; a soul? Why is it important to know these things – or is it?

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Blade Runner: 2049, retains the Noir elements of the original

I cannot do the film justice. If you’re interested in reading a good review before you go to see it – and I do recommend you go and see it, especially if you were/are a fan of the original by Ridley Scott – read this review by Mark Kermode (my go-to guy for film critiques) –

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/08/blade-runner-2049-review-a-future-classic

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Muted colours, rain and massive advertising in Blade Runner: 2049, allowing the audience to ‘feel’ a connection to the original

I came away feeling nostalgic, melancholic, and delighted. A hard thing to do in today’s world of pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap movies. Blade Runner: 2049 is beautifully made, it’s visuals, auditory and story-line are in keeping with the original, and if Philip K Dick had been around to appreciate the first adaptation of his story, ‘Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?’, I am sure he would give this one his thumbs up too.

Much of the film is visually bleak, the weather, the landscapes, the city, but it is a very human film I feel, about the nature of love and being. I believe this will be a classic of the future.

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Ryan Gosling as K, following in the footsteps of Deckard

I will let you into a little secret – I almost cried…

Mother! A Point Of View

*There will be spoilers, stop at the red message if you don’t want to know more*

Last night, hubby and I went to see Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, Mother! I had ‘ummed’ and ‘aahd’ about going to see if for a while; based on feedback from people I know and their usual tastes in films, I was not convinced. The I read a brief review by WordPress blogger, Misfit Vinagaroon and that made my mind up.

I had not read any other reviews of the film, had seen a single, brief trailer and was led to believe that it is a ‘psychological horror’.

Briefly, and basically, Mother! Is about a husband and wife who live in a beautiful yet isolated house. Their existence, if not happy, has equilibrium. This is upset with the arrival of a stranger then his wife, and from this point on the couple have their lives turned upside down by a succession of ‘visitors’. Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence give wonderful performances; as do Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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Mother! Movie Poster

*****SPOILERS*****

So, what’s my take on this movie? Did I enjoy it? Would I recommend it?

*****SPOILERS*****

So what is it all about? (in my opinion). Stop reading now if you don’t want your point of view ruined…

*****SPOILERS FINAL ALERT*****

If you are a creative type, and know your Biblical references, you will get this film pretty quickly.

The film is shown from the perspective of “The Woman”, Lawrence, who is in the process of repairing their home, decorating, plastering, painting; everything.

Bardem and Lawrence remain without names throughout the film – as does everyone. Lawrence’s character is easier to fathom – she represents Mother Earth, nature –  Gaia if you like; she is part of the house, she listens to the house; she even feels it’s pain. Bardem, “The Man”, I think represents creativity, he is a poet yet is experiencing writer’s block at the time we first meet them. Bardem could also be all that mankind represents materially – or he could be an aspect of God – I said he was more complicated!

The opening scene is the placing of a glass-like, rock onto a stand and a destroyed house ‘repairing’, a woman wakes up in bed and calls for her husband.

The man and woman who arrive (Harris and Pfeiffer) are “Adam and Eve”. He is ill, perhaps dying, and the house begins to display signs of this illness; as felt by Lawrence’s character. Eve brings disharmony, chaos, irritation. When the sons arrived on the scene, this was when it clicked with me – “Cain and Abel” – Cain slays his brother in a fight in the living room; with “The Woman” watching on in helpless horror – what are they doing to her home? The World??

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Harris and Pfeiffer

“The Man” welcomed them into their home, he invited them to stay; he even allows them to bring others when they have a funeral for their dead son.

As the film progresses we see how impotent “The Woman” is, she can only look on and plead and beg for people to stop intruding on her private space. “The Man” will not turn anyone away, despite the friction and the damage caused between himself and his wife, and their property – he keeps saying, “But where else will they go?”or “They have nowhere to go.”

Then despite all expectation, “The Woman” falls pregnant, ( I was not and still am not sure about this part of their relationship, why couldn’t “The Man” have sex with his wife previously?) And suddenly, “The Man” can write again, joy for both of them; he writes the most beautiful poem that makes her cry. His publisher turns up, fans of his writing turn up – and never leave!

Throughout the latter part of “The Woman’s” pregnancy, the film appears to race through time. The house becomes crowded with people coming to see the poet, to adore him and his work. We see people taking advantage of “The Woman’s” home (and you do feel it is her home – even though she is repairing it for her husband), they enter her bedroom, they eat their food, they steal things and break things.

There are groups of people putting up pictures of the poet in his honour, there are people chanting in another room, there are religious cults popping up all over the house.

It rushes through some awful scenes of protesters and police, it becomes a war-zone, people are herded behind barbed wire; incarcerated, executed. “The Woman”, by this point very heavily pregnant, seeks to leave her home with a little bag packed. She gets caught up in the ‘affairs of man’; we see a team of men digging away in her kitchen with pickaxes and shovels. And at each change, she feels the heart of the house shrivel, harden; die a little. Her birth pains start and at each wrack of agony, all about her shakes and blurs – (earthquakes)

“The Man” finally comes to her aid, ushering into a room where she gives birth to – you guessed it, a baby boy. For days she is trapped with him; she wants to leave, he wants to hold the baby; she won’t let him, and here is what I felt was the crux of the matter. He goes to take his child and when she refuses he says, “I am the Father.” and she retorts, “And I am the Mother!” (Hence the exclamation mark in the title.)

Finally, exhausted, she sleeps, then awakens to discover baby boy gone, door open, and “The Man” presenting his son to the people. The crowd are ecstatic, Mother is terrified and chases her baby through the tight crowds as we see his little form passed overhead throughout the house – until the inevitable happens. Baby boy dead, Mother inconsolable, a new religion emerges – Christianity – and everyone eats little bits of the dead child.

“The Woman”, after being beaten and abused escapes and makes her way to the basement, opens the fuel tank of the burner and sets fire to it all. The House – ‘The World’, “The Woman”, “The Man” and “Mankind” go up in smoke.

But then there is a twist.

The next scene has “The Man”; unharmed, carrying the burnt, barely alive “Woman”. He asks for her help, he wants one more chance, he thinks he can make it right this time, but she has nothing to offer him – but her ‘heart’, which he removes from her body in the form of a crystal we saw placed on a stand in the beginning – and the destroyed house ‘repairing’. A woman awakes in bed and calls for her husband…The End.

I really enjoyed this film, I love the symbolism, and if you go to see it expecting a horror film, then you will be disappointed. I have never before watched something where everyone, literally every cast member is a symbol for someone or something else. Mother is an allegorical piece, much like religious paintings from the Middle Ages.

I would recommend it to people who enjoy heavy symbolism in their movies, people who like to think about what they watched, rather than be spoon-fed. Creatives will recognise themselves – I did; the selfish, self-obsessive nature of creativity. I could actually go on for ever about what Aronofsky did or did not mean when making this film, what message is he trying to convey? I think we need to take care of the world, it’s our only home (for now), is one message for sure.

The camera work can be a bit dizzying, lots of tight close-ups, hand held and following Lawrence around made me feel motion sick at the beginning, so if you like your multi-cam, tripod mounted mid shots, this might be awkward for you visually.

But yes, go and see it, I’d love to know what others thought, and whether my take on it makes any sense to other viewers.

Thank you for reading.

“If I knew you were coming I’d have set fire to the place.”

Film Noir

I love Film Noir. As a child, I spent many a summer’s day ensconced in a darkened room watching old movies in the middle of the day – a time when very few watched TV in those days – and the ‘unpopular’ stuff was shown; old black and white films, public information films, or in some instances, a potters wheel! (Yes kids, British TV had a black and white film of a lump of clay, and we watched it!)

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Murder My Sweet

Film Noir is an extension of the Gangster film; Gangster films had been seen less on the screen and returned as this genre; re-categorised by critics. However, most of their appeal came after they were made, not the time they were made. The main influence came from France around pre- WWII. French critics coined the phrase ‘Film Noir’, Black Film; seen as crime, mystery’s, melodramas. Beginning with a small group of films such as : “The Killers”, 1946 and “Double Indemnity”, 1944.
As time progressed more films fell under the heading Film Noir; it is a flexible category.

From the late 1970s onwards saw a Neo Noir revival, with Noirish elements: “Body Heat”, 1981 and “Basic Instinct”, 1992 and the animated “Sin City”, 2005.

But for this essay, I’m focusing only on the older style.
In 1940s America everything was in short supply; film, batteries, even writers, so the film makers looked to pulp fiction for new ideas.
Many of the films were made by European émigrés; escaping from Nazi German oppression. In a time of darkness created by Hitler, film makers, technicians and writers on the run from Europe, brought their style with them. There wouldn’t have been Film Noir without WWII. There was an influx of immigrants to America and they brought ‘German Expressionism’ a style with skewed angles and dark style. The Nazi figures were transformed into gangsters in the films. In the 60s and 70s – people started to see them as Art films, not just popular money makers. “Big Heat”, 1953, by Fritz Lange is now regarded as an Artistic Film Noir.

What makes a Gangster film a Noir film?
There are strong psychological themes present, women of character, complicated plot lines. It is a world mostly devoid of children. Unhappy worlds, dark, urban more so than gangster films, the characters are trapped by their environment. Described by one critic as a “Dark American place with a fancy name”. Noir films were not the property of one studio, it had it’s own rules. Though the films are black and white, the characters are often groping around in a fog, things are not black and white in decision making, European music add to the tension; threat, danger. For an American audience in this period, this was all pretty dark stuff.

Who populates these films?
Everyone is bent, men women, and coppers: the heroine is a predator even when the victim, often a blonde, a femme fatale, desirable, sexy, untrustworthy, and slutty. The hero is her lunch and usually knows it. Women get their power through sexuality. Robert Mitchum in “Out of The Past”, 1947, is a typical Noir hero. The hero often has been to war, has some psychosis, they are hapless. Bogart’s characters often cannot connect, even when they are in love. Men and women in Noir never reach the daylight in their lives. Real men get to show their softer side with these women, without appearing weak. Men were manipulated, women were dodgy and manipulative. Many well known actors and actresses emerged in this period, Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, to name a few. Women emerge in their own right post war, reflecting the social changes. Men were damaged by wartime experiences; Post traumatic Stress Disorder; in the film “Blue Dahlia”, 1946, the ‘hero’ is a harmless guy, returned from war, everyone likes him, but he’s a serial killer. There is often a simmering tension between the hero and female, we watch a verbal tennis match going on between them, sometimes they might never even get that first kiss. The best example of this witty, sultry banter can be most often seen between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart (who became a couple off screen too); full of euphemism and innuendo.

What does it look like?
Dark! Mostly urban. Cigarettes, rainy streets, shadows, lipstick, guns. There is little or no sunlight in these films; lighting carves up the scene and the faces with chiaroscuro. Shadows are tall and menacing to enhance the atmosphere. Many cinematographers had been filming in the war effort and brought back with them elements of that, in the mid 1950s they began to make the films more realistic.

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The Blue Dahlia

Why do we like them?
The audience appeal lies in that the films mostly take place in an ordinary environment; previous films such as Westerns took themselves off to deserts and canyons; not places the audience regularly inhabited so had less to relate to. But in Noir, the people have adventures; we see their unhappiness so we feel better; one could reflect that, at least my life isn’t that bad. Male viewers see quiet men, strong men who can take care of themselves, when required, who yet fall for the charms of the femme fatale. Female viewers were suddenly exposed to female characters who could often stand up for themselves; not the helpless little wifey this one. There was a kind of glamour portrayed in the dialogue, the male/female relationships and clothing.

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Little Caesar 1931

What should I watch if I have never seen Film Noir?
Out of the Past 1947/ Sweet Smell of Success 1957/ Double Indemnity 1944/ The Big Sleep 1946/The Maltese Falcon 1941/ Sunset Boulevard 1950/ Murder my Sweet 1944/Gun Crazy 1950/ T-Men 1948/ Touch of Evil 1958/ Stranger on the Third Floor 1940/ Sweet Smell of Success 1957/ Gilda 1946/ Kiss Me deadly 1955.

Famous Lines.
Noir is also famous for its dialogue and snappy lines. Much dialogue, especially in Philip Marlowe films (Raymond Chandler author) is really funny – but ain’t nobody laughing. Here’s a few you might like to use!

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Bogart and Bacall perfect power play.

 

Keep on riding me and they’re going to be picking iron out of your liver.” Wilmer Cook in The Maltese Falcon.

“Okay Marlowe,” I said to myself, ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough—like putting your pants on.” Philip Marlowe in Murder My Sweet.

You know what he’ll do when he comes back? Beat my teeth out, then kick me in the stomach for mumbling.” Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep.

Johnny: “Doesn’t it bother you at all that you’re married?”
Gilda: “What I want to know is, does it bother you?” Johnny and Gilda in Gilda.

“With my brains and your looks, we could go places.” Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

“I wouldn’t give you the skin off a grape.” Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death.

Well, you’re about as romantic as a pair of handcuffs.” Debby Marsh in The Big Heat.

All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up.” Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep

 

And now…. We have Nordic Noir – the name given to the new literature, TV and film we see more and more now with programmes like “The Killing”, from Denmark and Sweden.
You might also like “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”, the Film Noir parody starring Steve Martin, which you could class as Comedy Noir, I suppose, if such a thing exists!

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Steve Martin is Rigby Reardon in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

“To say goodbye is to die a little.” ― Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
So I will say, adieu until next time.

*Title from The Killers.

*Books: “Public Enemy: Public Heroes” by Jonathan Mumby

Desert Island Flicks

Desert Island Discs is a British radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was first broadcast in 1942. The concept is, that each week a guest; someone famous or is a person of note, called a ‘castaway’ during the programme, is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island, whilst discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices.

I decided to run my own ‘Desert Island’, but with movies.

As an avid film viewer, I have found this quite a challenge. I have seen plenty of movies that I really liked, but would I want to be stranded on a Desert Island to watch them over and over again? Which films bear repeated viewing? Which films have enough content, appeal or personal resonance that one could stand to watch over and over again?

I am sure that should I return to this in, say a year, I would alter my selection somewhat, but for today, these are my eight ‘recordings’:-

  1. The Good The Bad and The Ugly

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Hey Blondie!

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.

Director: Sergio Leone.

Genre: Spaghetti Western (so called because this genre of Westerns was produced by Italians).

Released: 1966.

Why watch it: Fantastic film shots of landscapes and close ups; especially in the final showdown. Terrific action and storyline – 3 gunslingers are after buried gold. Fortune swings back and forth between the characters, when one has the upper hand, he makes sure he gets the most out of the other one. The soundtrack is brilliant too, I always ‘sing’ along!!

Favourite line: “Who the hell is that? One bastard goes in, and another comes out.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09-GbpOd9T4

 

  1. Amelie (aka; The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain)

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Amelie’s discovery is a life-changing moment

Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz,

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Released: 2001

Why watch it: Romance without the ‘yuck!’ factor. Whimsical, delightful, extremely touching in parts. The way Amelie takes ‘revenge’ on unpleasant people. And the music; it still stirs my emotions. Keep an eye on the garden gnome!

Favourite line: “Narrator: Amélie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many people are having an orgasm right now?”[scenes of various orgasms taking place] Amélie: Fifteen.”

 

  1. The Fearless Vampire Killers (Dance of The Vampires)

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Stars: Roman Polanski, Jack MacGowran, Alfie Bass,

Director: Roman Polanski

Genre: Comedy Horror

Released: 1967

Why watch it: Definitely not your usual vampire film. A truly successful blend of horror and comedy, with beautifully shot scenes. Professor Abronsius and his young assistant, Alfred, are on the hunt for vampires, across snowy landscapes ‘deep in the heart of Transylvania’ to a remote castle. The physical moments with no dialogue are beautifully choreographed.

Favourite line: “…like a little birdy alighting on a branch…then, let an angel pass. Shall we allow an angel to pass?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=you86-CKNtI

 

  1. Radio Days

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Joe’s new teacher is a delight!

Stars: Danny Aiello, Mia Farrow, Seth Green

Director: Woody Allen

Genre: Comedy

Released: 1987

Why watch it: Jewish screen family life at its best; a view of the world through a young boys eyes and the medium of radio; stories within stories and the effects on the listeners. The scene with the two burglars is brilliant.

Favourite line: “No. Have it your way. The Pacific is greater.”

 

  1. Pirates

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Head or tail? Of the rat dinner…

Stars: Walter Matthau, Cris Campion

Director: Roman Polanski

Genre: Adventure Comedy

Released: 1986

Why watch it: Polanski actually had the ship built for the movie! Matthau, I think, is at his very best in this little known/shown film. Captain Reds lust for gold knows no bounds, and the whole film is a series of ploys to get particular pieces of gold – in particular, a Spanish throne. All the characters are wonderfully portrayed, pirates, naval officers, priests – the game of ‘Dead Man’s Nag’ is both hilarious and brutal.

Favourite line: “Well Padre. I once had a mind to eat the Frog.”

 

  1. Wild at Heart

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Stars: Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe

Director: David Lynch

Genre: Thriller/Romance/Indie

Released: 1990

Why watch it: For its bizarre mixture of raging violence, dream scenes, illusions to Elvis Presley and The Wizard of Oz – true Lynchian oddness wrapped in what initially appears a ‘regular’ thriller. There are some truly disturbing characters in this film – be warned!

Favourite line: “This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf0rKQkvh2c

 

  1. Leon

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Just keep walking, don’t look back…

Stars: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman

Director: Luc Besson

Genre: Thriller

Released: 1994

Why watch it: For one of the most beautiful relationships shown on screen. The 12 year old Mathilda finds herself in the ‘care’ of Leon, a hitman; but who is the child? This is at times, an extremely touching film, how does a man who kills for a living take care of a child? Scenes with his little potted plant reveal that Leon is not heartless, or a cold-blooded killer, there is something else in this taciturn man. Portman is absolutely excellent as Mathilda, the orphaned girl who grows up fast.

Favourite line: “The rifle is the first weapon you learn how to use, because it lets you keep your distance from the client. The closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client. The knife, for example, is the last thing you learn.”

 

  1. Spirited Away

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Stars: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Genre: Anime fantasy

Released: 2001

Why watch it: Miyazakis’s first anime is arguably his finest. A feast for the eyes, with a beautiful plot reminiscent of a good old style fairy tale. Follow Chihiro into the magical town where spirits take baths and give gold to the greedy.

Favourite line: “There must be some mistake! None of these pigs are my parents!”

*

These are all films I own on DVD, I have watched many times and will watch again. I could have chosen pretty much any Allen or Polanski film; I have been a huge fan since early teens. Same with David Lynch although I don’t fancy being stuck for too long on a desert island with some of his characters or scenes in my head!

What would you take if you could only choose 8 movies? Have you seen any of the one’s on my list?

Who Wants To Save The World?

 

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NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to protect Earth from alien harm!!

Apparently, NASA is currently looking for a Planetary Protection Officer to defend planet Earth from the threat of invading alien life!! True.

This is actually real government job! But before you get all excited, here’s what it’s really about – NASA needs a scientist to help fight alien life —but it is microscopic! The Planetary Protection Officer will be in charge of keeping our space exploration equipment free of contamination; from  earth microbes and also microscopic organisms from outer space that may be attached to returning equipment.

Oh, so a ‘cleaner’ then?

It got me thinking about what use I would be in a world that REALLY needed a Planetary Protection Officer. I have been a fan of science fiction stories for as long as I can remember.

I had comics and annuals of The Fantastic Four when I was a little kid. I grew up on a diet of Star Trek and Doctor Who. I love films like Contact (Jodie Foster) and Netflix series like The Expanse. And I suppose like many of us do, I place myself in the role of one of the characters; not always the MC, main character, when watching – it’s what makes us root for them.

I never wanted to be Captain Kirk, or Lieutenant Spock, strangely, I most aligned myself with Khan Noonien Singh.  Khan was a genetically engineered human from the late 20th century. He only wanted a place of his own – he was a major player in the Eugenics Wars, tried to take over The Enterprise – but was left, stranded on a planet that was toxic, his true love died and Khan blamed Kirk for the rest of his life. I know, I know, not entirely a nice chap, but I couldn’t help feel sorry for him.

“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? Well…it is very cold in space!”

~ Khan to Captain Kirk


Later we had the redoubtable Captain Jean-Luc Picard and then Captain Kathryn Janeway. It took me a while to like Janeway, but when I did, I committed fully – but I never wanted to be her. I don’t think I am Captain material; even in my wildest fantasies. But was he, Khan, born bad or made that way?!

I think most of us fantasise the ‘if I could be…’ scenario when we watch films or read books. Super hero films being the most obvious. How many times have you had or overheard the ‘nerd’ conversation – “So, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?”

I haven’t got a clue – or didn’t have until I watched Heroes. Remember that one?

It was about ordinary people around the world discovering that they have super powers. Their lives intertwine as they work together to prevent a catastrophic future; who can forget ‘Save the Cheerleader, Save the World’? All the characters had a single superpower – except the evil guy whose ability was stealing everyone else’s – Sylar, played by Zachary Quinto, who late went on to be Spock! There was another character, Peter Petrelli who was a Paramedic, he was able to absorb other people’s abilities after touching them, albeit for a short while. So my chosen power is the ability to absorb powers from others (by Peter or Sylar’s methods! See! It’s Khan all over again!)

Among the Superhero canon, my all-time favourite was Batman. Who actually has no super powers, but was a billionaire highly trained physically and with ‘all the best toys’. Recently, my decades old devotion to the batty one has shifted – I still love him, still want to be him, but there’s a ‘new kid’ on the block for me – Deadpool. He is witty, tough, unpredictable, indestructible! Who wouldn’t want this? Oh, his face is a mess, like scary Halloween night in an abattoir mess, so he has to wear the mask. Would he ever work for NASA? I don’t think so. Would he ever fight to save the world from aliens, sure, if there was something in it for him I suppose. That something is his girlfriend, Deadpool after all, is a romantic; a scary, loopy, kick-ass romantic, but a romantic none the less. I think that’s what would drive him to save mankind.

But what about the ordinary folk, I hear you say, what about those who have no ‘special abilities’ and want to help save planet Earth from those pesky space invaders? I.E: YOU and ME? What sort of people will we need? Thinkers?  Muscle?  Builders? Carers? I know we need them all, but for the sake of my stupid argument, and in keeping with stories; there is only ever 1 hero, who will it be?

Some ideas for ‘ordinary’ people  – (other defenders of Earth are available)

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock

Lyra Belacqua – His Dark Materials

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

James Bond – James Bond

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rupert Giles – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Frodo Baggins – The Lord of the Rings

Peter Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy

Rincewind the Wizaard [sic] – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

Evelyn  ‘Evie’ Carnahan – The Mummy

I am surprised to see not one but 2 librarians in there, plus a librarians assistant (Rincewind, he never mastered wizardry and so helps out The Librarian – an orangutan)

 

‘I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am… I am a librarian.’

~Evie Carnahan, The Mummy

 

Forget the words of Bonnie Tyler – “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night” or Tina Turner – “We don’t need another hero,”

Let the ‘little people’ be the hero’s (Good grief, I sound like something from Team America!)

Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a hero? How about the protector of mankind? If you had to choose a non superhero to be our Planetary Protection Officer  who or what would you be?! And why?

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No pressure!

 

Film Review: Baby Driver

Written, Directed and Produced by Edgar Wright

**Spoilers**

I like to think I’m fairly familiar with the work of Edgar Wright, I first watched his work in the TV series Spaced which he directed in 2001, and just fell for his quirky, cross-cutting style. The opening scene of Spaced is excellent; the two sets of dialogue between Tim and Daisy I think has yet to be beat.

EW Spaced 2001

Other films include, (as writer, director or producer), Attack the Block, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim versus The World and The Worlds End.

Anyway, to Baby Driver.

This is essentially a romance story – boy meets girl, boy tries to get out of debt with criminals, boy does one last job…

Does he get the girl? Watch the film!

There is good balance of action, dialogue and drama; often directors today get so excited by new toys/technology, that they fill the screen with eye-watering action top to bottom, left to right, continuously; to the detriment of any plot there may have been. Wright tells us a story, which is how it should be, after all, movies are just another form of storytelling, and he tells it well, through the driving, through the lines;

Buddy: Is she a good girl? You love her?

Baby: Yes, I do.

Buddy: That’s too bad.

 

Wright has excellent timing, not only with his trademark cuts of visuals and hyper sound effects, but just when you begin to wonder if the whole film will consist of Baby dancing down the street for his coffee, he, Wright, cuts to a new rhythm, and that’s what the film has running through it – rhythm. It is excellently choreographed from start to finish; people walking, dancing, talking, counting money, placing items down on tables, cars whizzing past trucks, every last element is perfect.

Ansel Elgort (The Divergent series) is the titular Baby; he appears at turns vulnerable, cool and collected, and incredibly sweet; especially in his scenes with Debora, played by Lily James (Downton Abbey)

EW baby and debora

Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) plays Doc, the brains and organiser behind each job.  Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained) is Bats, and he is; he claims the monopoly on the one with ‘mental problems’.  Jon Hamm and Eiza González are deliciously deadly as Buddy and Darling, a couple with ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ tattoos on their necks, they stand side-by-side like Mexican anti-heroes in a Robert Rodriguez movie.

EW Baby Driver 2

Cranked up to the max; the car chases combined with the playlist that is always playing in Baby’s ear-buds, are as balletic as any performance of Swan Lake. I imagine Wright designed and planned the furiously fast and dizzying manoeuvres as ‘car-dance’ deliberately.

Baby’s playlist –

1. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—“Bellbottoms”
2. Bob & Earl—“Harlem Shuffle”
3. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers—“Egyptian Reggae”
4. Googie Rene—“Smokey Joe’s La La”
5. The Beach Boys—“Let’s Go Away For Awhile”
6. Carla Thomas—“B-A-B-Y”
7. Kashmere Stage Band—“Kashmere”
8. Dave Brubeck—“Unsquare Dance”
9. The Damned—“Neat Neat Neat”
10. The Commodores—“Easy (Single Version)“
11. T. Rex—“Debora”
12. Beck—“Debra”
13. Incredible Bongo Band—“Bongolia”
14. The Detroit Emeralds—“Baby Let Me Take You (in My Arms)“
15. Alexis Korner—“Early In The Morning”
16. David McCallum—“The Edge”
17. Martha and the Vandellas—“Nowhere To Run”
18. The Button Down Brass—“Tequila”
19. Sam & Dave—“When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”
20. Brenda Holloway—“Every Little Bit Hurts”
21. Blur—“Intermission”
22. Focus—“Hocus Pocus (Original Single Version)“
23. Golden Earring—“Radar Love (1973 Single Edit)“
24. Barry White—“Never, Never Gone Give Ya Up”
25. Young MC—“Know How”
26. Queen—“Brighton Rock”
27. Sky Ferreira—“Easy”
28. Simon & Garfunkel—“Baby Driver”
29. Kid Koala—“Was He Slow (Credit Roll Version)”
30. Danger Mouse (featuring Run The Jewels and Big Boi)—“Chase Me”

 

Baby even halts a job – mid getaway – until he’s found Golden Earring’s Radar Love, before flooring a ’86 purple Chevy Caprice. Baby remains cool at all times; given his age compared to his ‘colleagues’, it’s a pretty impressive performance he puts on for them; whilst his ‘crew’ shout and panic around him to get driving, Baby won’t be pushed till he finds the right tunes.

Is Baby scared? Hell yeah, he’s got his old foster dad, Joseph, back home (CJ Jones), from whom Baby has learnt sign-language and lip reading, and he wants to keep him safe. There is an incredibly touching moment near the end when Baby is taking Joseph to safety, I admit I nearly cried – Baby’s not a bad guy really, he just got in with the wrong crowd. And inevitably, his new love Debora becomes a target in the bid to squeeze more out of Baby, whether a job or simply pain.

I take my hat off to the stunt drivers; way too many to name, but what a fantastic job!!

NB: Don’t sit too close to the screen – like we did – it’ll make your head spin as fast as the cars – my eyes were seriously challenged.

 

 

 

Wonder Women – thank you Patty Jenkins

 

Spoilers *** Spoilers*** Spoilers

 

If you have not yet seen this film, you may want to give this whole article a miss.

 

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“Wonder Woman” is yet another origin story, but so what? I’ve had to sit through decades of testosterone to get to this point.

I enjoyed that the movie took it’s time to introduce the warriors of Themyscira; a lush city-state and island nation (Somewhere hidden in the Aegean according to some sources). Where we learn that Diana is not unique in her abilities; we get a real sense of where she is from, that although she is semi-divine, Diana is very much an Amazonian, and those women ALL kick ass. For me, that was one of the wonderful things about the Wonder Woman movie, they were all wonder women.

I felt that the story contained a good balance of action and drama. There is nothing worse than sitting for an hour or two, being bombarded with scene after scene of fast-paced-look-we-got-multiple-cameras scenario and bellowing sound – this, I think, is the film-makers version of an extended guitar solo played by an unaware man-child. ‘Wanking off’, a muso friend of mine used to say. I think there are loads of directors who have become over excited by the CGI and ‘exciting’ bits.

Maybe it has something to do with the director of this Wonder Woman being female? Maybe she just enjoys a good story? Maybe she is just a little more grown-up in the emotional department? Whatever the reason, it works.

I have to admit, I was also rather apprehensive about going to see this film. I love the comic book/super hero genre (see my earlier post on Female Super Heroes) But I grew up with that garish 1970’s WW, and have seen  very few women lead in an action film. (Yes, I know you’re going to name a couple. People always do, but balance it out against ALL the films you’ve ever seen – then go away)

I think directors and producers have become lazy when making this genre, after all they have a ready and willing audience who will go and view it whether its shite or not. Now, thousands of women, like me, of my age, must have been waiting for this film. Where ARE all the female comic/superheroes??? So again, a ready and willing – if cautious and cynical-by-now audience was waiting for this film. Thought’s that passed through my mind in the build-up and trailer overload included – ‘I bet it’ll be overly moralistic’. ‘If she’s showing her cleavage…’. ‘It’ll be something for the boys really’. And finally, ‘I bet it’s shit.’

I went with my 19 year old daughter – so a broad age range to cater to – I’m 52. We both enjoyed it (apart from the sound of crisp/sweetie/nacho crunching dolts that surrounded us) It was not shit. It was not ‘for the boys’ and I almost wept to see women, actual women not youngsters, playing seriously physical roles. The fight scene on the beach is truly astonishing and deeply sad. For no matter how fast you run, or strong you are – bullet beats bow every time.

Antiope 2.gif

 

Let’s just take a look at those women –

Ages and Nationality

Robin Wright, plays Antiope – or should I say General Antiope! She trains and leads what could be termed, the militia of the Amazonian. She is hard as nails, can fight with fists, sword, and bow (in fact, she doesn’t even need a bow!!!)  And get this, best of all, Robin Wright is 51 years of age – I am just gonna have to say that again – FIFTY ONE people.

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Gal Gadot, plays Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta. Diana wants to be a warrior from very early childhood. She does not know, and we the audience learn as she does, that she is not quite like every other Amazonian (in fact, at the end of the film, Diana still does not know the full extent of her origins and abilities) Diana works hard; she strives for perfection and to impress the General; her Aunt. Gal Gadot is 32 years of age, not a ‘slip of a girl’. And best of all, she is NOT American!! Gadot is Israeli and I thank director, Patty Jenkins for making this decision.

stop looking at me,
Not distracted by a pretty face, Diana that is.

 

Connie Nielson, plays Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons and Diana’s mother. She is regal, cool with a restrained passion. She is engaging as a loving mother and ruler, and you can feel her anger and pain as her only child makes the decision to leave their island home to head off with a man, to save the world of men.  Can you imagine the homecoming?! (I think I’m gonna cry) Two best of all’s; Connie Nielson is also 51 years old!  And she also is NOT American, she is Danish.

 

And some of the others –

Elena Anaya, plays Doctor Poison. She is Spanish and aged 41 years.

Lucy Davis, plays Etta Candy.  English and aged 44 years.

Lisa Loven Kongsli, plays Menalippe. Norwegian and is aged 37 years.

 

For me, a fantastic multi-cultural selection of women who are not girls.

 

That costume –

Some of you might remember that awful, hideous outfit that poor Linda Carter had to wear in the 1970s TV series of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman Linda Carter
EW! No, really, ew!

But take a look at what Queen Hippolyta originally gave her daughter to wear in the earliest comics –

Gal Gadot’s costume seems to have had the current trend for ‘dark costumes’ applied to it. The semiotics are not lost on film buffs and media students – still the red, white and blue are evident for all to see.

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I have to be honest; I have an issue with American and how it perceives itself as the ‘policeman of the world’. It feels as though it foists its ideals on the rest of us.  Most of the superhero costumes bear the colours or imagery, or both, of the ‘good ‘ole US of A’. Except Batman (huh, never realised before, maybe THAT’S why he is my favourite) I balk at the way many costumes imply an association with a country and it’s values/governmental policies.  Captain America being most guilty of this – however, he is called Captain America.

And yes, I know other countries use red, white and blue as their flag colours – but we all know, don’t we, that ‘they’ mean America.

Another thing.  Superhero females, at least in comic art, are invariably ‘sexy’. They have the tightest fitting clothes in the history of clothes manufacturing. They have more curves than an Italian mountain road. Their breasts could act as twin dirigibles. Women have railed against this for so long, we’re hoarse.                                                                        In Wonder Woman 2017, Gadot’s costume has had the colours toned down,  and although we still see bare legs, arms and shoulder, it is not sexy (I guess some men would argue against that, but it isn’t out-and-out-here-it -is –for- the –male- viewers sexy)But that’s it. No cleavage in sight. Curves are mostly concealed. The Amazon ‘uniform’ is more reminiscent of the Spartans. Look at Hellenic period armour; the bare arms and legs, the leather ‘flaps’, the moulded breastplate. It is practical and believable, whilst remaining true to the original design.

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The physicality of this new Wonder Woman made evident in this lasso scene.

 

Sex –

There isn’t any. HALLELUJAH!

99.9999% of films have a romance. Dull, dull, dull. Men and women can and do have relationships without becoming sexually or romantically entangled. And yes, there is a suggestion of Diana and Steve being ‘interested’, but this is clearly more him fancying her. Diana is here to do a job, she is focused and love isn’t getting in the way. She may have grown up in a glorious paradise inhabited only by females, but she is not ignorant of how sex works, and even suggests that men have become irrelevant and unnecessary except for procreation.  Steve’s mental squirming is soon forgotten when they get to the nub of who is doing what in the war. Thank goodness.

 

The Men –

I suppose I should say something; I wasn’t going to write anything about the male stars at all. There’s enough information about ‘the great white male’ (as Grayson Perry puts it) without me adding.

So a quick nod to Chris Pine, Danny Huston and David Thewlis – the ‘good guy’, the ‘bad guy’ and the ‘badder guy’ in that order. Pine was great, Huston good, but, as much as I love Thewlis, he simply seemed wrong for the role of Ares.

 

Was it a great film? No, it was good; possibly in the Top 3 of this genre of films. Again down to lazy directors relying on a ready and willing audience, most of whom have become so desperate that there discerning monitor seems to have broken.

The storyline was simple, but that works as it is almost an ‘intro’ to Wonder Woman and her world. However, I did guess who was who quite easily.

It’s beautifully shot with the holiday brochure scenes of Themyscira; where you can almost smell the aroma of blossoms on the warm breeze, contrasting with the misery of brown and grey of London and the battlefront.

But I do believe this film will be talked about for years to come. When Sigourney Weaver first appeared as Ripley in Alien, a generation of women cheered and said ‘At last!”

Now I believe we are doing it again.

It is 2017 people.

50% of the world population is female.

Wonder Woman is the first female-led superhero film since 2005, when Jennifer Garner played the lead role in Elektra.

And finally. Thank you Patty Jenkins.