Beetlejuice – 30 Years On…

In film lore, you can say Candyman five times in a mirror to summon the murderous vengeful spirt. You can say Bloody Mary five times and spin around to summon a wicked banshee. Or you can forget all the spooky crap, say Beetlejuice three times and call the funniest, most unruly ghost the underworld ever produced.

Beetlejuice is the 1988 supernatural comedy directed by Tim Burton starring Michael Keaton like you have never seen him before. An overzealous, over-sexed, suit wearing maniac who unleashes his own brand of haunting on the living world. The weird and quirky film is a must for all Burton fans and is one of his greatest on screen accomplishments with a witty script, superb cast, and some of the most memorable set pieces stop-motion and puppetry every produced.

There's going to be a Beetlejuice musical on Broadway...

When Barbara and Adam Maitland (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) decide to spend vacation at home they expect a peaceful two weeks together. Unfortunately, for them, their car ends up in a river after an accident. On returning home, the pair soon realise they did not survive the crash and are now in the world of the deceased. Hanging around their human home, it is soon sold to a couple of New York yuppies the Deetz (Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones). To rid them of their unwanted guests, the Maitland’s call on a wayward ghost Betelgeuse (pronounced Beetlejuice) to perform a living exorcism. But Beetlejuice (Keaton) has eyes on the couple’s young daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) and sets about unleashing the dead on the living.

After the success of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Burton was sent a number of scripts for his next project. Unhappy at their lack of creativity, he was eventually handed an early script for Beetlejuice. After a few rewrites and adding his own brand of weird the film became the cult classic we know today. Beetlejuice possess (excuse the pun) a story and premise so bizarre it could have been written by Burton himself. Yet this is why it was such a perfect project for him.

For a story that deals with death this is a strangely uplifting tale. Death is just another stage that needs to be worked out and handled but the couple are together and can make new friends. Death is almost humorous in the way it is portrayed here. The dead man with the shark attached to his leg or the man burnt alive who is still smoking a cigarette all mock this next stage of being.

Like so much of Burton’s work the film contrasts the world of the living and the world of the dead. Also another Burton signature is that the underworld is portrayed as more alive and vibrant than the real world. The living world is bland and lifeless while the land of the dead is full of exotic characters and colourful settings.

For this film, Burton drew on his animation background of stop-motion to create the films weird selection of creatures. From the inhabitants of the undead waiting room to the sand worm that awaits the Maitland’s if they leave their human home. The film may not compared to the range of CGI used in blockbusters of today yet the film has a unique and classic look. Many will think of the works of Ray Harryhausen when watching these creatures inhabit the screen (a clear idol of Burton’s).

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For today’s audiences Michael Keaton is remembered for his role as Batman (also Burton films) and his recent star turn in Birdman. Yet the great actor began his career as a famed comedic performer. His later casting as The Dark Knight was met with disapproval and uproar from audiences until the film’s successful release. Despite how he may be seen today Keaton was and is a brilliant comedy talent. With razor sharp wit, charm and perfect timing, he is a humorous force in the little time he spends on screen. His stripped suit is an iconic image and seeing at least one Beetlejuice per Halloween is inevitable.

The film was also a breakout role for the young Winona Ryder as Lydia. Playing the young, unusual Goth girl become synonymous with Ryder in her early career yet her talent soon broke away from these restraints.

Catherine O’Hara, who would later go on to voice Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas and Mrs Frankenstein in Frankenweenie, here stands out as Delia Deetz. A frantic, image obsessed neurotic step-mother whose disbelief in the ghosts in her house drives much of the films humour.

A quintessential Burtonesque film containing his striking visuals, quirky characters and making the afterlife not a bad place to spend eternity.


Happy 30th Anniversary Beetlejuice! 

Mirai – Review

From the story to the animation, of latest film from Japanese director, writer Mamoru Hosoda there is no doubt about it – Mirai will win your heart over. There is nothing quite like waiting for your next dose of magic in the beautifully distinctive form of Anime, and once again this simplistic, yet poignant tale hit’s the spot satisfying your every need (minus the infamous Miyazaki, of course).

It’s hard to swallow that not even one of Hayao Miyazaki’s works of wonder has ever been lucky enough to grace the presence of the prestigious film festival Cannes. Imagine getting that call and being the first Japanese animation to be screened there – one can only dream. Mirai deservingly makes the cut and hopefully paves the way for the likes of more to be recognised in such a tight knit industry.

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Any Ghibli fan is sure to love this one! It’s truly astonishing what can be done with such a humble concept that every older sibling goes through, one way or another. When younger sister Mirai darkens toddler Kun’s door, it would seem that his life as he knows it, is completely over, well it seems to be for his little man. Fed up of being ignored, not getting his own way and Mirai’s cries he luckily stumbles into a magical garden granting him the power to travel through time and meet his distant relatives from all walks of life.  With guidance from is older, yet younger sister from the future this becomes a history lesson of sorts in order to teach those young children to appreciate what they have and where they come from. A lesson most of us are accustomed to, with a profound sense of reality and tangibility told through innovative ideas.

With familiar tropes of his previous work, The Girl who Leapt Through Time; Hosoda brings magic and an escapism that is only achievable through such imagery and scope. Gorgeously animated with a dreamy pastel colour palette, juxtaposed to the bold, fiery tints of orange and black during the most important lesson of all Kun endures throughout the narrative. Whilst consumed with fantasy, the world we enter is full of realistic representations of nature. As we are watching snow falling through the eyes of our main character; the fluffy white droplets resemble that Christmassy feeling sending tingles of magic through your limbs and an urge for a Toffee-Nut Latte. Kun’s toddler tantrums and screaming outbursts are scarily accurate, with gesticulating purpose and facial expressions one would only expect from the wonder that is animation.

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With only a touch of lingering too long back in time; Mirai has an enchantingly touching message at its heart with bundles of laughter along the way. Spiritual aspects, delicately infused with the modern world and human trifles bring four year old Kun and his baby sister together.


Mirai hits selected theatres from 2nd November, 2018

Nightmare Before Christmas – Jack’s Mid-Life Crisis

Christmas movies change when you grow-up. When you are younger, you are immersed in all the glorious festivities. The bright lights, the colours, the mysteries of Father Christmas, and generous gifts from loved ones. It’s all about the children and the spirit of the holidays that they keep alive in unbridled innocence. When you are that age, it’s magical and mystifying as are the films that promote it.

As you grow older and, spoiler alert, find out that Santa isn’t real and reindeer cannot fly, you view the holidays in a completely different way. Though the love felt around this time is stronger (because it isn’t based on an artificial, superficial bond over gifts,) that enchantment wanes. The stress of buying presents, the sweat over cooking Christmas dinner, and trying to appease all family members at once grows weary on your sleepy eyes. Watching these films, you start to appreciate Clark Griswold’s wide-eyed mania in National Lampoons, the cynicism of the adults in Miracle on 34th Street, and complete understanding of Emma Thompson locking herself away to cry.

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The realisation that I had grown beyond my Christmas exuberance years was when the true-meaning of Nightmare Before Christmas was unveiled. Jack Skellington, the hero that we know and love, is straight up having the most bonkers mid-life crisis imaginable. And I can completely relate to it.

For those who haven’t seen Henry Selick’s stop-motion festive raucous, the film revolves around Holiday Towns of Old where sects of creatures bring their spirits to the real world. Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloween town. One year, despite throwing “the best Halloween yet,” Jack is feeling hollow with his life and feels an emptiness that praise and fame cannot quite fill. When he comes across a mysterious tree with a door shaped like Christmas, he winds up finding joy and wonder! Could this be everything that he ever wanted?

Skellington is for sure having a mid-life crisis – he even has a bald head to prove it. There are a lot of jokes in media when it comes to hitting a rut in your late thirties and forties (though one suspects that Jack is a lot older than that.) The usual cliche is the flabby-gutted man (I’d like to point out that whilst a mid-life crisis can certainly happen to women, in media it is portrayed mostly by men,) stares around at his dead-end job, his content but dull family, and has a panic. This isn’t what he signed up when he was KICKING ASS in his teens and early twenties. He had all these dreams and aspirations that unfortunately conceded when he had a family to raise and got caught up selling stocks or whatever middle-aged people do for work. To combat the urge of wholeness he ditches the family for a younger model, gets shiny car, and races off into to the sunset.

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That’s one example and is often the man who has everything who begins to wonder: “Do I have everything?” After hitting the limit of his success, seeing no room to grow, they find themselves hollow with bitterness as content replaces excitement. Consistently good is not a challenge and it irks them into leaping into another career path or chasing after some crazed notion that usually sees them wind up in a worse position than before. This is the exact storyline of a Nightmare Before Christmas. The titular holiday is actually a shiny red car that Jack things will make him alive again. Pretending to be Father Christmas is the sudden career change that goes against his every fibre because he is bored of being this beacon of Halloween world. And like everyone who gets some spark of genius, he goes with full obsession on this Yuletide aesthetic to the point where the creepy population of his town even begin to worry about him. Imagine having a faceless clown tap you on the shoulder like: “Hey dude, your being a bit weird, are you alright?”

What’s warming is that we’ve all been there;  hitting the wall of monotony in a career that we actually kind of love.Heck, even singers and actors often have to take breaks because singing the same song repeatedly is like throwing their sexy assed bodies against a wall repeatedly. We’ve all lost inspiration and mistaken it for unhappiness. Which is exactly what happens to Jack. He completely loses it, despite better judgements telling him that he is fine or that straight up trying to be a bony Father Christmas is both an aesthetically and emotionally bad choice. But like all in the midst of a middle-aged breakdown, Jack doesn’t listen until it blows up in his face. Literally.

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After, Skellington realises his mistake but also gains a new appreciation for the world that he inhabits. He grows and uses his experience to craft. Now I’m not saying cheating on your wife or spending savings on a car you’ll eventually re-sell is a good idea. What I am saying, however, is that these experiences – especially around Christmas time, are normal. Loneliness, tedium, and a lack of will happens to all of us, no matter how happy or complete we recognise our life to be. But it’s just another puzzle for us to solve and as long as you don’t, you know, feed people to the villain of a place called HALLOWEEN TOWN, then, little buddy, I think you are doing alright.


Merry Christmas Everyone! 

Sicario 2: Soldado – Review

There are films out there that beg for a sequel. One’s that need a continuation of the story. Whilst we may be in an age of yawn-worthy, unnecessary sequels that go on and on and on, sometimes there are tales we need more of. Star Wars, Toy Story, The Godfather (1 and 2 and then stop,) these are famed examples of trilogies and movies where we wanted more, got more, and it was everything. So yes, there are movies out there that beg for a sequel.

Sicario 2: Soldado is not one of those films. In fact. it doesn’t need a sequel so badly that even saying the title (one of it’s many ones, anyway) Sicario 2 seems wrong within our mouths, stumbling over our tongues or fingers as we type because the two shouldn’t be there. This sentiment flows throughout a film that is hollow and scares of engagement.

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Soldado
 (which is it’s proper name now) is a continuation of Mexio drug cartel saga that is sadly remiss of Emily Blunt, Denis Villeneuve, Roger Deakins’ and the late phenomenal Johan Johannsson . The film focuses on Josh Brolin’s Matt Graver, a CIA operative who is sent on a seedy mission after a terrorist attack on Kansas City. Assuming that the Mexican drug cartel are smuggling criminals in, Graver is assigned to start a war between the two gangs.  Bringing in Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro,) they plan to kidnap a drug lords’ daugther in order to do so. However, it as disasterous consequences.

Directed by Stefano Sollima (famed for his work on TV series Gommorah,)  Soldado is vapid and uninteresting. Though it looks entirely stunning, with incredible visuals as tensions simmer in the heat but it is garishly holllow. The initial storyline is poorly explained that as you are bounced along this convoluted US plan, you feel yourself further away from the point of it all. It echoes dully and without much poignancy. There are exactly two moments of deep, raw  emotion, including a scene with a deaf man (whose acting is incomparable.) However, even one of these scenes is wasted a couple of moments.

Del Toro is phenomenal as always. His work as Gillick, a character constantly straddling his own laws in order to get justice adds this unpredictable quality to the sequel as well as some moments of gr  It’s good to see the whole ofJosh Brolin’s face and even his stoic Graver get’s to dig a little bit deeper into this character. Newcomer Isabela Moner holds her own as Isabella Reyes, the kidnapped girl, who is put through hell (which, on that note, really highlights how poorly Taylor Sheridan writes women and that’s becoming more apparent with each new script.) The young actress can convey all this trauma and hold her own against two heavy-weighted actors.

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If Soldado was a meal, it’d be a takeaway. For a little bit, it’s satisfying but it just leaves you feeling  empty  and hungry for something else. Something with more meat. Something that has bite, and flesh, and  hits you in the bit of your stomacch. Something like….Sicario. 

Yes, sadly, the original film out-strips the sequel. In fact, the sequel certainly feels somewhat disjointed from the original. Linked in character, story, and name, the layered original continues to be an impeccable taut thriller whilst this is an empty one.


Sicario 2: Soldado is available on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

The Guilty – Review

No self-respecting film reviewer should say too much about the police thriller, The Guilty. How then can I encourage you to see it?

I can point to the compelling central performance by Jakob Cedergren as Asger Holm, a Copenhagen police officer restricted to desk duty following the fatal shooting of a suspect. Cedergren is on screen throughout – literally – and he commands your attention and, very importantly, your sympathy for the 85 minutes of the film’s running time.

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I can commend the daring of director Gustav Möller in restricting the action to a single location. In some films, this can stretch credibility, for example, in Buried in which a civilian truck driver in Iraq (Ryan Reynolds) is entombed with his cell phone, or Locke, in which the titular character (Tom Hardy) juggles multiple crises over the phone whilst driving to London. In The Guilty, it feels less of a stunt, mainly because it is the route by which Asger makes at least one terrible mistake.

I can enthuse about the suspenseful plot that puts you in Asger’s shoes throughout whilst vividly suggesting the horror that he has to deal with on a moment-by-moment basis.

I can flag up the dark humour that erupts from the other incidents that Asger has to deal with as he takes calls from some less than sympathetic victims of crime and circumstance. Danish humour tends to be on the droll side; Danes are plain speakers.

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So you might have seen films like The Call in which Halle Berry plays a 911 operator who is telephoned by a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) kidnapped by a serial killer – it was Berry’s biggest solo hit in the last decade. The Guilty, which also puts an operator in the centre of a situation, is more honest. It certainly realises the potential of its idea, unlike Phone Booth in which an obnoxious public relations guy (Colin Farrell) takes an anonymous call from a sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) who manipulates him throughout – director Joel Schumacher couldn’t save the film from becoming ridiculous. I should also mention Cellular in which another kidnap victim (this time played by Kim Basinger) rings a complete stranger (Chris Evans) and has to convince him that she has been snatched; Jason Statham was on villain duty for that one.

You don’t need stars to make a telephone-based thriller exciting and morally complex. Möller proves it. OK, it is in Danish with English subtitles – if that puts you off, I cannot help you. For the rest of us, it is the thriller of the year.


The Guilty is out in cinmeas Thursday 25!