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The End of the F***ing World – The Weekend Binge

The End of the F***ing World is one of those shows that bounce around your peripherals. Like you see it advertised everywhere, you are intrigued by the premise, and the amazing title, as well as the lead actors but there is something that is telling you to watch it later and catch it another time. (Heck, I even have a friend who helped cast this show and you’d really think that’d push me into a viewing, but still unto the back-burner it went.) There is always something holding you back.

With this show, that thing holding you back was pure stupidity because The End of the F***ing World is spectacular.

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Based on a graphic novel of the same name by Charles S. Forsman , the show stars Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther as two rogue teenagers, Alyssa and James,  who wind up running away from their respective families. However, Alyssa is a loud-mouthed and rambunctious girl who kicks off with only the slightest provocation whilst James believes himself to be a psychopath who is willing to kill Alyssa when he finds the most opportune moments. That being said, they make an unlikely pairing  in this hilarious and dark comedy.

Not to be too hyperbolic but The End of the F***ing World hits every single note and does it so bloody brilliantly. It’s a shame that the title is censored because the “fucking” is needed for emphasis. It is fucking fantastic. It’s a show that has everything: amazing acting, a winding story-line, the blackest of wit, and gorgeous cinematography. Created by Jonathan Entwistle and Charlie Covell, with direction by Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tchemiak, the show is in-sync, providing a captivating story-line and characters that are hysterical and endearing to watch.

It’s not just about the comedy either, there are a lot of teenage issues lurking underneath as the pairs flight means they have to combat against a terrifying adult world. The themes of identity and discovering who you are thanks to the mad-hap world around you and the company of a soul who gets you play a major part. Leading to some emotive revelations, The End of the F***king World is awash with depth character pieces that populate their increasingly dangerous journey.

Barden and Lawther are terrific together. The latter made her breakthrough in the great The Lobster whilst Lawther has appeared in The Imitation Game, X+Y, and Black Mirror’s Shut Up and Dance. The pair have used this experience to develop these interesting characters that flit between two extreme versions of teenagers. Lawther layers his supposed “psychopath” with such brilliant qualities that his awkward lack of worldly understanding becomes winsome. Alyssa is a hard egg to love, and she’ll tell you that herself, but Barden takes her from one note  to an exciting lead star who is trying desperately to belong. Their chemistry is brilliant and they are completely watchable together.

A modern day Bonnie and Clyde with great allusions to True Romance, The End of the F***ing World is a compulsive watch. I’m telling you, I put one on episode  before going to bed last night and wound up at three a’ clock in the morning thriving with excitement and jealousy. That’s because it is one of the best developed shows on television with two incredible leads, a stunning storyline, and absolutely absurd dark comedy. Make sure you f***ing watch it.

The End of the F***king World  is available on All4 & Netflix

First Man – Review

Damian Chazelle, at the age of 34, has directed four featured films. The unspoken but still brilliant Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, the tension-drive jazz-based drama Whiplash, the musical epic La La Land, and this latest feature – First Man. The director has wowed with most, if not all, of his movies – particularly with La La Land which helped earn him a Best Director gong (as well as five minutes of Best Picture glory.)

The celebrated musical seemed impossible to follow up. And yet, merely years later, Chazelle excellently made movie and yet here we are with First Man.

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The film serves as a biographical film revolving around Neil Armstrong’s life as astronaut before he made that legendary first step on the moon. Deciding the focus on Armstrong’s personal life and how it impacts his professional, the movie looks at the sad death of his two-year old daughter Karen and how that impacted him and his wife Janet years and years after. Following the tragic event, test pilot Armstrong applies to Project Gemini and is accepted into the NASA Astronaut programme. As the space race ramps up and more tragedies happen as a result, Armstrong is propelled forward as the man who could change history.

Chazelle deftly handles an American icon by stripping away any legendary status that he has and getting to the bare bones of why a man would want to take on such a huge undertaking. The movie is a game of two halves; an intimate portrait of a man struggling to cope with his losses and feeling pushed further into loneliness and the epic journey he takes to resolve that. Chazelle directs this well. The first half of the film may feel somewhat formulaic whilst also being necessary and important, the second space odyssey is transcendent. As the ship, propel’s Armstrong into the history books, Chazelle is attentive to centre the fous on this one man’s journey. It’s almost as if the first part of first man serves as fuel for the finale to truly land. As you are awash with imagery and homages, grand and purposeful, the weight of his life on earth hits him and the audience. First Man acts like a waiting game – an ultimate build of story until the glorious finale. As Neil and Janet are reunited in a wordless moment, only then is your emotional journey complete. That is how Chazelle’s commanding direction truly works – like the climatic and repellent drumming of an embittered student or a simple look of goodbye across a smoky jazz club, Chazelle may start simple here but he ends triumphantly.

Linus Sandgren’s gritty cinematography transforms whilst in space too. Choosing the highlight the blues and greens of a NASA-led world, Sandgren then brings to life the wide landscape of the moon in some beautiful planetary sequences using solitary blacks and dusty greys in an exquisite looking scene.

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Chazelle trusts Ryan Gosling again as lead character. Gosling has had a string of movies that tackle loneliness and is one of the few actors who can show how someone feels with minutia facial movements. Gosling is near silent in Chazelle’s work and yet conveys so much that even behind a reflective visor, the intense flurry of emotions is felt.

Gosling is paired opposite Claire Foy (whose accent may have far too much moxy for a wife having to reminder her husband constantly about the affects of his work.) Foy is a ferocious addition as wife Janet who is poised as the only person who understands her husband, including himself, rather than the nagging shrew she could’ve been portrayed as. Foy is excellent here.

Justin Hurwitz, who worked with Chazelle on both Whiplash and La La Land, scooping up two Academy Awards for the latter, crafts an utterly breath-taking score here. Choosing to emulate classic Hollywood space romps such as Star Trek and The Day The Earth Stood Still, more so than grander modern space epics, Hurtwiz’ unforgettable pieces are untimely . Peppered throughout, Hurtwitz experiments with sounds and instruments such as the Theremin. Immense and iconic, the ripples of emotion that Hurwitz conducts echoes Armstrong’s emotional landscape.

A particular highlight is the astonishing sequence to The Landing. The poetic music is probably one of the best movie music pieces of all time, enhancing the moment in which Apollo 11 finally touches down upon the moon – an opus of notes and feelings that encapsulate such an iconic moment.

The more one ruminates on First Man, the more it is clear that it may be a masterpiece – another filmmaking success for Chazelle who uses every weapon in his arsenal to craft an impeccable story. Including parts of the social impact of the moon-landing as well as the grief of losing an astronaut in many of the tests, Chazelle layers the film gloriously and makes it a great film to unpack over and over again.

If you’d asked me a couple of months ago, which were the heavy-weight contenders during award season, I would’ve gravitated towards a battle between A Star Is Born and First Man. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s not as though First Man is bereft of praise and adulation, but Chazelle’s work here is unparalleled, going to poignant places that no man has ever been before.

First Man is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now



Yesterday – Brand New Trailer!

Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle and celebrated screenwriter Richard Curtis together for an amazing new Working Title comedy?

Yes, we’re sold. We’re 100% sold. Throw in Lily James and Himesh Patel and we’re through the roof excited.

Yesterday revolves around a world where everyone has forgotten the Beatles and a young

This looks to be a brilliant comedy with a lot of fun and, of course, great music. What do you think?

Yesterday is out 28 June 

Aladdin – Brand New Trailer!

Disney’s live action remakes have become tiring. We’re so tired. And done. Stop this now.

The latest venture, coming out in May, is Guy Ritchies Aladdin.

The film revolves around a street urchin who finds a lamp that grants him three wishes.

With a very, very, very, blue Will Smith, this looks like Disney has gone one step too far. What do you think?


Aladdin is out May

Isn’t It Romantic – Brand New Trailer!

Rebel Wilson has been a much celebrated comedic actress, wowing us in films such as How to Be Single and Pitch Perfect.

Now she leads her own romantic comedy with Isn’t it Romantic. 

The film revolves around a young woman who hates romantic comedies only to be hit on the head and find herself transported to one.

We’re in. There’s a skewering of PG-13 romantic comedies, dance numbers, and Liam Hemsworth in a towel. Wilson looks brilliant here. What do you think?


Isn’t It Romantic hits Netflix on the 28th February! 

Crazy Rich Asians – Review

by Ren Zelen

Having spent twelve years of my life in Hong Kong and Singapore and having heard the buzz around Crazy Rich Asians, I was ready to see the film. If the reaction of the audience at the preview is anything to go by the film is a crowd pleaser. The predominantly Asian audience greeted the cast members present for an introduction and Q&A with hoots of joy and were clearly predisposed to enjoying a story about Asian cultural concerns, their enthusiasm whetted by the overwhelming success the film has enjoyed in the US.

I myself generally don’t frequent rom-coms, and it was reassuring to see that nothing much appears to have changed regarding that genre. The ‘Cinderella’ story of a handsome ‘Prince Charming’ who falls madly in love with an ‘everywoman’ and sweeps her off her feet to marry her into his wealthy, aristocratic family is…ahem…’a tale as old as time’, and in view of recent events, not entirely improbable (1.9 billion people tuned in to watch the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle).

The difference here is that the tale takes place entirely amongst the Chinese Asian community, none of whom actually live in what used to be called ‘Mainland China’ (not sure if Shanghai, being the most cosmopolitan Chinese city, has ever quite counted in that description either).
However, it’s really pretty clear that Crazy Rich Asians isn’t really meant to be a film about fantasy romance or Chinese culture as such, but about ‘bananas’ (‘yellow on the outside, white on the inside’ – their nick-name for the Chinese born and brought up in the West) clashing with the old values of ‘mother China’ that the more traditional Chinese families residing in Asia continue to hold dear.

Rather than a film which hopes to explode cultural preconceptions and stereotypes, Crazy Rich Asians exploits and satirizes them. It starts off having fun with the notion of the ‘old-school British’ being snobby and racist, and then switches to present day New York, where our heroine Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is an (impossibly young) Professor of Economics…of course she is…(not much of an ‘everywoman’ after all).
In contemporary Chinese culture, to be worthy of a favoured ‘prince’, she must have more than beauty and an auspiciously shaped nose – she has to be an academic high-achiever. We find that all the influential wives in Crazy Rich Asians have had an exceptional academic education – and Rachel has too, in spades (there’s a pun there if you’ve seen the film).

However, her expertise is impressive in in a particularly Chinese way – she uses her knowledge of economics and maths to elucidate on…game strategy! It’s the first indication that the film will be dealing with 3 great tenets of Chinese society – Family, money and gambling!

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Rachel’s long-time boyfriend is a historian named Nick Young (Henry Golding – half British and half Malaysian). Rachel accompanies Nick to Singapore for his best friend Colin’s (Chris Pang) wedding, and it’s there that Rachel first finds out that Nick is actually the eldest son of the oldest, wealthiest and haughtiest family in Singapore, heir to a real-estate dynasty. He might as well be an actual ‘prince’.

Nick has kept his heritage a secret and has done nothing to prepare Rachel for life in the gaudy, gilded arena of Singaporean-Chinese high-society. She may be a seasoned New Yorker, but here she is a babe in the woods – and the socialite wolves can sniff out a hapless victim. Luckily, Rachel has an old college buddy, the nouveau-riche Singaporean, Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina), to advise her.

Despite her academic achievements, Rachel has been raised by an immigrant single-mother (Kheng Hua Tan) in New York, so these privileged, spoiled and ultra-rich socialites see her as a mere gold-digger who has somehow bagged their most eligible bachelor from under their noses. However, Rachel’s biggest hurdle is Nick’s glamourous, scrupulously well-mannered but coldly formidable mother, Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh).

Crazy Rich Asians is amusingly conscious of its fantasy elements. It offers a world filled with obscene spending sprees, outrageous ostentation, designer dresses, opulent banquets and baubles, where if you have to ask the price of anything, you shouldn’t even be there. It makes gentle fun of the over-the-top displays of wealth, but not too much, after all, its also inspirational.

This film is also a great travel advertisement for the city-state of Singapore. I admit to being biased, having lived there and having much affection for the place and the Singaporean people. However, it’s not quite the city that the film shows us – it’s certainly gorgeous, friendly and futuristic, but it’s also conservative, hardworking, straight-laced and regulatory, and there is barely a passing reference to any of the males in the film having done their compulsory national service! It is not ‘Vegas’ – it is a marvellous mix of Asian cultures and foods, history and science-fiction, and it is distinctly ‘family friendly’.

Singaporean travelogue aside, the most important thing about Crazy Rich Asians is its English-speaking Asian cast. I’ve seen many films about Asians in their native languages, but few about the Asian diaspora. It’s been 25 years since a Hollywood studio has funded a film set in the present-day which features an entirely Asian, Asian-American, Asian-British cast – the last example being The Joy Luck Club (1993). Last year, only four out of the hundred top-grossing films featured an Asian protagonist.

Hollywood is undoubtedly watching the success of the film in order to gauge whether it should green light more Asian-centric projects. The reception for Crazy Rich Asians in the US might indicate there is a huge audience out there, and the universal appeal of this gentle, romantic, silly, sometimes cynical, rags-to-riches fantasy, makes it likely to do well in the international market too.

Crazy Rich Asians is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!