Looking Back…Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)

There has been a constant fascination with science fiction. Since man started to charter the stars and wonder beyond our wildest imagination, pen put to paper has always created some grand ideas. When movies came into our lives, it wasn’t long before there were aliens, spaceships and more. Writers and directors were always coming with mad ideas of the future and how easy it will be to charter space. Loads of films have fantasy worlds, pushing the boundaries of what we can expect from the generations that will precede us. It used to be a happy image, one of hope and intellect, advancement and pride.

That is until someone thought, “maybe the future won’t be all that great, sure we’ll have lots of technology and awesome things but we are all going to miserable and it’s going to decay somewhat.”  And that seems to be the way ever since, producing a sorry state of affairs with each science fiction movie.

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Ahead of its time it seems, and certainly gaining a lot of criticism was this, Blade Runner. Luckily, we all seem to have changed our minds.

Blade Runner is based on Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Set in the dystopian future of 2019, human have developed highly advanced robots called replicants. Unfortunately, their use on Earth is banned and they have mostly been sent to work with off-world colonies doing menial labour. When three replicants escape, coming to Earth to seek an advancement in their technology, it is up to Rick Deckard to seek them out and stop them. Starring Harrison Ford and Daryl Hannah, this movie was universally loathed in its 1982 release but has gained high acclaim since.

Blade Runner is a combination of beautiful film techniques, genres and an astute understanding of human emotions. Directed by Ridley Scott, this movie is an incredibly personal piece and the director used personal traumatic experiences in order to deliver a human portrayal of a technological world. Blade Runner could have been a clinical world, but alongside Dick’s imagination, Scott has draped this future with a realistic misery. Using imagery, robots and the paranoia of corporations, Scott has utilised the emotional internal plight alongside the shallow external shell of dystopia to create a vivid and shocking science fiction movie.

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That is, if you watch the movie the way Scott would have wanted it. As it has been mentioned on Cracked, when Hollywood got their mitts on it, they added so much that it was detrimental to the films ending. Seeing them drive off into an idyllic landscape with a sweeping narration actually hinders all that went before it. Crushing the dark atmospheric that had been set up before hand, this ending is a vapid and soulless ending that feels more like a madman’s rambling than have actual meaning. If you catch the director’s cut or indeed the final cut, you will see how it was intended be; a cliff hanger movie that hints at Deckard being a replicant and an unweary future for a runaway android.

Still haunting now, Blade Runner has defined the original critics on release and become a legendary film, now earning back what was previously lost. It is iconic for many reasons including a spectacular speech by Rutger Hauer’s villainous Roy (because Hauer is genius at delivering heart pounding moments.)  Breathtaking, brilliant and beyond beautiful, Blade Runner is a testament on putting soul into a machine.

Blade Runner (The Final Cut) hits Picturehouses this evening! 
Watch it at The Ritzy! 

Pecking Order – Review

If there is a story, there is a documentary. There is a beauty in that. People tend to think of the format as something sacred for debutantes, celebrities, and ginormous events springing up in human history.

But time and time again, the filmmakers have proven that even the tales of our family and friends would make riveting materials for a film. I mean, the best documentary of the year, and I will happily fight you on this, was Kedi; a movie that philosophically tackled stray cats in Istanbul.

So a movie about chickens and their farmers may seem on paper to be dull eggscapade in documentary filmmaking but is genuinely filled with joy and glee.

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Pecking Order, pause for spectacular film name, revolves around New Zealand chicken farmers entering the NZ National Championship to see which hen rules the roost. But it isn’t the feathered few that steal the show, its their owners. From the rebel to the old hand, Pecking Order is an intimate yet intriguing look at farmers and their flock. Joining members such as the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam, and Pigeon Club, this is is a fun and simply engaging documentary that isn’t going to ruffle any feathers.

Director Slavko Martinov brings together a whole heap of different people who delight on the screen. The variations of people who are cooped up thanks to their passion with chickens makes a stirring compliation of all things joyous. From Sarah who is connects with the fowl on a spiritual conversational to the young Rhys just getting into the world, there are facets of the human spirit dancing happily on the screen with those of a more bird-like disposition. There’s stocism and eccentricity that you’d expect from a competition, bringing a wide-range of people into the mix.

I mean, what more do you want out of your film? Car chases, explosisions, murder mysteries…..art?! No the best thing about cinema, and something that Martinov does really well here, is bringing you people in all of their glory. This wondrous, purr, and bloody fantastic folk who just love their birds and want to showcase them off to the world. Mix that with enlightening look at how these competitions work and what it takes to actually make a great chicken, this is a beaking mad yet absolutely stunning documentary.

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This is certainly one film that hatches with brilliance and exuberance. The characters, the chickens, and the competition all come together to provide a light-hearted and breezy film that has depth and heart.

It’s not fowl, and certainly a clucking good time.

……….It’s really hard to stop with the chicken puns.

Pecking Order is in cinemas now! 

Ritzy Shorts: Prano Bailey-Bond & ‘Nasty’ Interview!

by Robert Makin.

Ahead of our special shorts night with International Review, and Ritzy Cinema, we’re featuring the directors and their short films.

Today we’re talking about Nasty; a film revolving around VHS video nasties and a 12 year old boy looking for his father.  To celebrate the screening, we spoke with director and writer Prano Bailey-Bond

How did you first get involved with the project?

I was sitting on a plane reading an article about the censorship of Hammer Horror films back in the day, and I had this idea for a feature, so I discussed the idea with my writer/co-writer Anthony Fletcher and we started to develop ideas, and essentially Nasty was a short idea that came from the feature idea. Both explore the early 80’s video nasty era. I fell in love with the short idea and so the ball began to roll…

What was it that drew you to the story?

Nasty  is quite a personal story – it’s kind of a love letter to horror and to VHS. It’s about the bonds that we form with one another through films. I’m also really drawn to the social hysteria surrounding video nasties and our fears of new technology – the whole thing totally fascinates me.

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You showed me very early draft of the script many years ago, although the tone and themes have pretty much stayed the same, the structure of the finished film is drastically different. It’s far more ambiguous and experimental. Can you tell me how the script developed into the final film? What changes were necessary and why?

I have to admit that when people ask me about the writing process on this, it feels like such a long time ago, and we did transform the script over the many drafts we did, so it’s a bit of a blur how exactly that happened. This is the reason I keep a writing diary now! I remember there was a draft of Nasty  where Doug basically murdered his parents and I had a really strange, defensive reaction to that draft and it changed quite dramatically after that. Perhaps it’s because during the writing process I get quite attached to my characters, and so what might start out as a script with a really bleak ending slowly gets infused with the characters getting what they want after all, but as in Nasty – there’s usually a hefty price to pay!

What was the greatest challenge and the greatest benefits of filming on both digital and film?

Nasty was shot entirely on 16mm and 8mm film, but my background as a director had always been on digital prior to this. The greatest challenge was definitely on set – not being able to see a really clear picture on the monitor of what you’re going to get in post. With digital setups you can see every minute detail on the monitor, but with film it’s more like a representation, and when you turnover on the camera there’s a flicker, which I found incredibly frustrating as I couldn’t always see the detail of the actor’s performance, so this affected how I positioned myself on set during takes, in order to see both the shot on screen and the actor in the room. What I learned through this is that I really trust my DOP Annika Summerson, who is incredibly talented and I have worked with a great deal. But the benefits of shooting on film greatly outweighed my initial teething problems on set. I remember getting the rushes back and it was at that point that I knew shooting on film had been the right decision – I kind of fell in love with the format at that point, despite the frustrations I’d felt during the shoot. The results were stunning, and perfect for our 80’s period setting too. I feel like film has a timelessness. When I see a film from the past shot on film, compared to digital, it just holds its quality so well. Saying that – I do love digital too, and I think you always have to choose the format that will best suit the requirements of your shoot and your story.
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You really seemed to have captured that creepy early eighties VHS atmosphere, both in tone and visuals. Can you explain a little bit about the cinematography and the shooting process? Was there any specific techniques you used in attempting to recreate the foreboding weirdness of VHS era horror?

I think maybe foreboding weirdness is what I’m always striving for, so in Nasty I’ve fused that with the VHS-horror vibe. Shooting on film definitely helped, because so many of the films Nasty references were shot on film.. But it’s really everything on screen, from the cinematography to the costume, production design, sound design, colour grade, effects etc – every element is playing its part in making the tone and the era come to life. What I love about directing films is that I get to kind of orchestrate all these different elements, and to work closely with really talented people who can bring their own ideas into the mix within their department – it’s my job to inspire my crew and then to balance everything to make it work on screen. In terms of the cinematography, the film transitions from grey British suburbia, which has quite a cold colour palette, to the lurid, vibrant colours of video nasties. This colour transition is representative of Doug’s journey into the video nasty world. The film also moves from 16×9 aspect ratio to 4×3 – so there are lots of little techniques like this used visually, but also sound plays a huge part too, moving from the stiff, controlled ‘real’ world into the wild, technological, synth world of 80’s horror. In terms of tone, I wanted to recreate the feeling I had as a kid when I watched horror films – that feeling where you’re frightened of going up to bed after watching a horror, as if upstairs has turned into another, unrecognisable world. It’s such a scary and exhilarating feeling that any horror fan will know and love. So I was really trying to find ways to communicate that feeling. The VHS distortion and texture was also an important element for me in reference to the era and the format – and I worked closely with some very talented people at Framestore to get that right.

Looking Back…Young Frankenstein (1974)

Does anyone else ever have a fear of going back to watch old comedies and not enjoying them? Let me explain; I’m 19, so the comedy that I’ve grown up with is what we’ll call “Apatow-influenced”. In other words, raunchy comedies frequently centred on average looking men navigating awkward and uncomfortable lives with lots of swearing, sex, and the same group of actors bunched together every time. You know, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride etc. all of those guys coming together to smoke weed. While Judd Apatow is perhaps the defining contributor to this style of comedy, he’s not the only person to do it, and it’s debatable that he started the trend.

That’s not to say that these films aren’t funny, but they’re a far cry from comedy of the 70s and before, and that’s the comedy that I’ve become accustomed to, which is why I’m often willing to forgive most Seth Rogen vehicles.  So when it comes to watching a classic comedy, I’m always scared that the humour is going to appear as dated or just go straight over my head. It’s mostly the fact that I’ve never enjoyed Monty Python that’s put me in this mindset, but despite approaching it with caution, I was blown away by just how funny Young Frankenstein was.

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Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is a scientist trying to escape the shadow of his infamous grandfather, but is soon swayed to his ancestor’s insanity when he inherits his grandfather’s castle, and discovers the secret to re-animating human bodies.

Young Frankenstein is a comedic masterpiece; just an absolute laugh riot and never lets up, and understands it’s source material so well. This is a parody film, and where nowadays with stuck with rubbish like Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, Meet the Spartans etc., that simply churn out cheap, unfunny gags to exploit the popularity of the year’s biggest films, Young Frankenstein has a deep appreciation for what it’s mocking. It understands every trope it plays on, and while the film is funny on it’s own, it’s definitely enriched by having an understanding yourself of what it’s based on. Not too long after seeing this, I would go on to watch the first four Universal Frankenstein  films, and I’d finish everyone now understanding a joke in Young Frankenstein better. The best parody by far the is scene with the blind hermit, ripped straight from Bride of Frankenstein, which is utter genius.

A huge part of what makes this film is the cast; the late Gene Wilder is here at his absolute best. Over the top, excited, and with impeccable comedic timing, he absolutely lights up the screen and solidifies himself as a comedy legend. Peter Boyle’s interpretation of the Monster is a perfect play on infamous beast, and Marty Feldman as bug eyed Igor is the perfect sidekick to Wilder’s lead. Beyond that, it’s the sheer insanity of the film’s humour, the quick wit and clever puns, and all the horror cliches. It all works so well, from it’s recurring jokes that never fail (“Frau Blucher!”), it’s slapstick gags, and it’s clear abandonment of normality make it one of the absolute best comedies of all time.

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If you can make it to a screening, make it an absolute priority. If you can’t, then it’s available on Netflix UK for your home viewing pleasure. Just make sure you get round to this masterpiece.

Young Frankenstein hits cinemas this evening! 

Unpopped Kernels: Tale of Tales (2016)

A long time ago before a mustachioed man named Walt Disney cultivated a saccrine sweet and colourful world, fairy-tales used to be dark as sin. Crafted as lessons to frighten naughty children and keep them out of harm’s way, the ebb of blackness flowing through the magic and mysterious worlds saw princesses kidnapped, mermaids torn apart, Queen’s dancing to death, and eyes pecked out by birds.


We’re so used to seeing the flourishes of the Disney Company and the peers it subsequently inspired that we believe that fantasy and innocence go hand in hand. Adult spliced whimsies, however, can find a rich and plentiful home in the genre.

With mainstream fantasy movies having dried up into sequels or over-stretched books, filmmaker Matteo Garrone has reinvigorated the genre with the beating heart of a sea monster in his utterly majestic Tale of Tales.

Intertwining three different stories, adapted from Neapolitan poet and courtier Giambattista Basile, Tale of Tales (Il Racconto Dei Racconti) revolves around a jealous mother who’d commit heinous acts for her son, a kidnapped Princess and her flea obsessed father, and a King trying to woo an old woman he believes to be a beautiful and gifted singer. The film takes us to a fantastical kingdom where love, betrayal, jealousy, and dark magic run rampant with alluring and provocative images.

Starring Salma Hayak, Toby Jones, Shirley Henderson, and Vincent Cassel, what makes Tale of Tales one of the best films of last year?

Garrone has masterfully and sublimely worked the tales without overbearing them. Weaving the plots into a golden thread of enchanting story-telling, Garrone bewitches the audience seemingly without effort. Each tale is brimming with complex themes and emotions pulsating throughout. The main theme that trickles like a spewing fountain from a tree root is the idea of love and connection. Each tale looks at what pulls us towards one another and how that bond can be severed by envy, abandon, and lunacy. As bizarre as the intertwining tales are, they are finessed with utmost respect and these bonds. You will wane towards the characters thanks to each of their performers, both old and new alike, who, mirroring the stories themselves, never over-power one another.

What Tale of Tales delivers by the flesh is redolent imagery, picturesque scenes, and wildly imaginative creatures. If Guillermo del Toro were too tackle a period saga with Tarsem Singh, this will no doubt be the product. Though, even as those words dance upon the screen, I can assure you that this comparison doesn’t convey the truly magnificence Garrone has concocted for you. From costumes to make up, cinematography (credit to Peter Suschitzky whose use of natural pallets really invigorates this mystical kingdom,) to locations, Garrone spends every second of the film treating your eyes to a world of splendour and wonder whilst feeding your soul full-bodied hilarity and gloom.

With such evocative images that capture the essence of Baroque black wit and sumptuous performances by the cast, Tale of Tales is a profoundly original fantasy romp that engages you with the plentiful narrative and the images alike. Though there are moments where the movie puffs out it’s shimmering and colourful chest in lieu of an impeccably gripping story, these seconds of vanity roll into a glorious depiction of the visceral underbelly that we’ll merrily feast upon.

Tale of Tales is uniquely beautiful; the opulent score by Alexandre Desplat, the surging images, and the undeniably brilliant acting embroil this drama with wit and magic unlike anything seen.

Tale of Tales is available on Netflix! 

Dream Journal (Short) – BFI Film Festival Review

I don’t need an entire article to review Dream Journal. I only need seven words: What the FUCK did I just watch?

Dream Journal is a three minute short film and part of Channel 4’s Random Acts, random being the operative word here. The short describes itself as amateur 3D animation and computer generated niche erotica.Throughout the film’s runtime, we follow a head placed on top of a pair of legs as he moves through several different dreamscapes, each more insane than the last.

It’s hard to pick a favourite scene out of the several that are shown, you may enjoy the knife-fingered blob demon turn a man into a puppet, or you might enjoy the girl in a gingham dress with a second face for an anus that spews white liquid… or you might like none of them and find yourself running off to join your local monastery or convent to never have to think about sex and erotica again.

Despite the mental horrors that are sure to arrive with the coming night, there is a curious compulsion to keep watching until the bitter end (a compulsion that is definitely helped by the film being only three minutes long.) The animation is simplistic, and there isan almost sub-conscious hypnotic force that seeps out of your screen and forces you to discover the next deranged act in this theatre of the absurd and obscene.

You can’t un-see what is placed before you. Instead, it has trapped you. You are now its slave, and you will do whatever the Dream Journal wishes. There is no escape, but don’t worry, we’re all free in some special way. The only problem is finding out just which way that is so we may find salvation in our nightmare existence.

Dream Journal plays as part of BFI London Film Festival
See it in Strange Worlds Shorts Programme