The Disappearance – DVD & Blu-Ray – Review

I have a question for all you mystery writers out there: Just how complex do you go? Are you a plodding writing, carving out an average and supposedly predictable crime novel until you smack your audience in the face with a mind-blowing twist? Or is your tale just as winding in the beginning as it is crooked at the end? How to you shock and expose your audience’s fears?

Whatever you do, don’t do what The Disappearance did by throwing one twist at you every ten seconds?

French television series The Disappearance. The series revolves around the sudden disappearance of Lea – a promising straight A-student who goes missing after attending Lyon’s Festival of Music. Inspector Molina leaves no stone unturned trying to find her as Lea’s deepest and darkest secrets are revealed as well as the guilt of everyone around her.

If you’ve seen one mystery drama nowadays, you’ve seen them all. Sexy, driven, and rambunctious detectives go on the hunt for someone who went “poof” into thin air and everyone they interview has some shade of guilt (the apology book from E.L. James) or involvement with the case or is bonking someone (which helps their alibi.) The Disappearance captures every single thriller series trope at the moment and exhausts them. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched a bucket load of these series but The Disappearance just didn’t live up to the majesty of The Killing or Broadchurch. Once you’ve seen one wide-eyed gaping protagonist and one gurning antagonist, you’ve seen them all and this show just barely punches above average.

The biggest problem with The Disappearance is that it wanted to be shocking. It wanted to throw people to the further edge of their seat before they plummeted to the floor. In some cases, this works fantastically well, but The Disappearance didn’t have the provocative and original story to match and the mislaying of twists felt forced or unreal which juxtaposed against the realistic setting and characters. You’ll be left reeling from all the threads you have to join up and even when something knots it for you, it can leave you understandably frustrated.

However, The Disappearance can hold your attention more than I’m giving it credit for and that’s because it truly developed its characters. Beyond the frightful situations that they are in, they really fleshed out those involved. The whole essence was the frivolity, the fun, and the French elements of this show that caught a happy medium between the shocking and the silly. The human nature of it all allowed The Disappearance to pull itself out of the convolution it had muddled itself in. In that way, the series was enjoyable – good, even.

While it may not make too many waves over The Chanel, The Disappearance is a gallant effort from France and as we are still yearning for Broadchurch series three, this will certainly whet your appetite.


A Poem is a Naked Person – Review

Looking back at the past with a wispy eyed nostalgia may have people living in a dreamlike yesteryear, especially when it comes to music. From Queen to The Who, Led Zeppelin to Janice Choplin, the seventies is one such year that provokes the most earnest of music fans to wail and scream; “That’s the best year for tunes.”

Arguably, the seventies was the best decade (apart from a few wars here or there) and artistically, the melodies created were damn near perfection. So much so that I bet your parents still talk about it, don’t they? (Jeez, god, Dad, just shut up and let me listen to Fall Out Boy.)

Anyway, filmmakers still try to capture that essence of the seventies including the recent Shane Black hysterical comedy noir The Nice Guys. But the best way to tell the story of the music and the seventies is to see a documentary, filmed at the time, about a popular musician of said time. That perfect movie would be A Poem is A Naked Person.

Filmed by the late Les Blank who died before the film was released and therefore we’ve waited nearly thirty years for its release is an intricate, delicate, and joyous film that lets us into the world of Russell. The film follows his tour and takes a look at his like in and around his recording studio in northeast Oklahoma, interviewing friends and family of the star.

At this time in our lives, we are used to a touring movie. If someone wants to earn a few couple of bucks on a sell-out tour and their expensive merchandise then they’ll record said tour and charge their fans cinema tickets to see it (or have fans who couldn’t afford the concert prices actually see the music somewhat live.) Regardless of the reason, nearly every artist with a sniff of fame has had these movies made about them and the practise is somewhat tiring. Every so often a movie comes along that is a beautiful vignette of an artist and A Poem is a Naked Person is an honouring of Russell in every way possible.

Blank’s work now is imbued with classical filmmaking aesthetics that help enhance the cinematic portrait of Russell on the big screen. The camera is not trying to catch spectacle shows and larger than life personalities, it’s a friend and an ally with Russell, nesting into his home and work and trying to translate that to the big screen. Blank works to move the audience with the musicians work and life which is spectacularly done here. It’s soothing, graceful, open, and intimate, allowing you to relive the world of Russell and the seventies era that enveloped him.

Though A Poem is a Naked Person suffers from the tedium practically all documentaries suffer from, the illuminating Russell is caught unequivocally on the big screen here. It is a honest and sublime film: An intimate portrayal of a wonderful musician, this film became something of a cult phenomenon owing to its late release and now we all get to see it.


Kubo and the Two Strings – Brand New Trailer!

Laika are one of the most important animation studios around. I mean, a whole company dedicated to stop-motion animation and crafting usual, brilliant, and phenomenal pieces of work? We’re sold. We love them so much! So we’re excited for Kubo and the Two Strings!

The plot follows Kubo, a kind boy from a simple Japanese town, as he goes on a quest to save his family from a vengeful demon (which Kubo accidentally released – oops). Teamed with Monkey and Beetle, Kubo must fight gods and monsters in order to fulfil his destiny. Armed with only his magic two-stringed shamisen, I have to wonder – will Kubo be a real guitar hero? We’ll have to wait till summer to find out.

With the voices of Charlize Theron, Matthew McCanaughey, and Ralph Fiennes, this looks like a stellar piece of terrific animation, set to dazzle the adults and children alike.


The Birth of a Nation – Brand New Trailer!

There are movies out there which you need to see. Ones that you’ve heard whispered about after festivals, productions that you get excited about from seeing the title, and films that cannot come soon enough. These are the backbone of our industry, leaving us breathless in anticipation at the fruitful bounty we’re about to receive.

The Birth of a Nation is one such film.

The Birth of a Nation follows the true story of Nat Turner (writer/director Nate Parker), a slave and preacher in Southampton, Virginia.

After reaching an agreement with his owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), who is in the crux of a personal financial crisis, Nat agrees to use his preaching to subdue unruly slaves – resulting in his witnessing countless acts of violence (as well as being targeted himself). In the wake of these atrocities, he arises to lead a rebellion of slaves against their oppressors.

Nate Parker’s riveting film which has scored an abundance of critical acclaim has a brand new trailer and UK release date. Though we have to wait until next year to see it that’s a road that we are willing to take.

What do you think?


East End Film Festival 2016 – Award Winners

East End Film Festival has been and gone this year, much to the sadness of everyone involved. Because the film festival is one of the best and certainly serves the film population the finest in cinematic meals. From local independent films the around the world documentaries, the East End Film Festival is one of the best festivals around at the moment and knowing that it has finished it’s run fills you with some sort of sorrow.

But moving on from being glum, it’s time to celebrate the winners of this year’s East End Film Festival which, in a spectacular year, sees four women win the coveted award. Picked by the jury which included Tolga Karaçelik (Best Feature award recipient in 2015 for Ivy), film writer and producer Kaleem Aftab, Bangladeshi filmmaker Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, American actor Ron Perlman, and Sarah Gavron, the stand out film of the year included Leyla Bouzid’s As I Open My Eyes (A Peine J’Ouvre Les Yeux.) The film revolved around the Arab Sing and an 18 year old woman named Farah who wants to sing in a band! A poignant look at counterculture in a conservative society, this is an evocative piece.

Best Documentary went to Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami for Sonita, revolving around arranged marage and a young Afghan who yearns to be a rap star. The jury were picked by Bob & Roberta Smith, critically acclaimed filmmaker Katharine Round, writer-director Mark Donne (Rime of the Modern Mariner EEFF 2010 and The UK Gold EEFF2013), and punk legend Bruno Wizard.

The Accession Award went to Adult Life Skills and director Rachel Tunnard whose film, based on her short Emotional Fusebox, has earned critical acclaim. The Best UK Short has The Third Dad by Theresa Moerman that looks at memory and self-discovery.

What did you think of this year’s program?

Looking Back…Tarzan (1999)

There are books out there that have constant adaptations. The re-workings of classical characters from books beloved throughout the generations have become somewhat wanting. Between the thousandth version of Romeo & Juliet or that Frankenstein reboot we never wanted, the exhaustion of literary figures has finally hit a peak. The same can be said for Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan.

And the wailing muscle bound man whose friends are literally apes has yet another conception on the big screen with David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan and many will want to look back on the loin-clothed lovers cinematic adventures. But the best one has to be Disney’s version of the tale. Yeah, I said it.

Tarzan follows the same tale as before: A family are shipwrecked on an island and unfortunately the parents of a young child die and leave the baby to the will of a jungle. Or a gorilla named Karla who has recently lost her own cub. As the two bond, Tarzan grows with the gorillas, never quite fitting in to the family or gaining the approval of leader Kurchak. The arrival of a group of explorers sets a wavy of interest and mistrust into the pack. Tarzan can’t help but feel drawn to the humans, after all, there are strangers just like him…But is the growing concern valid? Is there darkness within the explorers that could put the whole jungle at risk?

The story is simple, unaltered, and peppered with humour enough to rattle adults and children alike with copious amounts of laughter. Yet this being Disney, it never loses the heart of the story. The animation, vivid in greenery, is enhanced by the earnest, jovial, and wondered voices of Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, BRIAN BLESSED, and Rosie O’Donnell, each adding their personalities to the narrative and helping each character bloom. Balancing the inner conflict of Tarzan’s yearning for acceptance and the jolly adventures he and his creature friends get up gift an enchanting portrayal of Burrough’s work. You’ll laugh and cry, feeling a torrade of emotions cultivate and blossom inside you.

The biggest triumph in Tarzan is arguably the visceral, embellished, and excitable soundtrack crafted by everyone’s favourite singer (that we’d hate to admit) Phill Collins. Between the score and his jaunty pop-hits, it’s hard not to be swept up in the crescendo of tunes. There are plenty of tracks here that immortalise this fantastic animation. The spectacular stand out tracks are “You’ll Be In My Heart” as Karla sings to her baby human son Tarzan that highlights the resolve of a grieving mother and her tenderness to care for another’s child as her own. It’ll give you goosebumps just speaking about it. The other – “Strangers Like Me” – is a rambunctious rolling drumbeat of curiosity and belonging as Tarzan earns knowledge of humanity away from the jungle. Just these two songs along represent the themes and semantics that energetic bounce throughout Tarzan.

With generated computerised backdrops and characters fleshed out greatly, Tarzan is a captivating and swinging Disney piece that helped rejuvenate the studio during a nineties slump. Of course, it can never levitate to the true masterpieces of Disney classics yet it has a defining place within the history of the studios. And, if anything, you’ll wish to cast off the humdrums of modern life and go live in a jungle with a tall, buff, and mesmerising man…