Border – Review

Fairy-tales.. They have seeped throughout time and history. Chattered imagination has been whispered in bed-time stories and campfire horrors. For centuries with been spooked by spectres, haunted by horrors, and frightened by fantasies.

In Scandinavia, adults and children have been particularly terrified by their own particular historical creatures. Creatures which Ali Abbasi has spun into a glorious modern yarn.

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Border revolves around Tina, a woman who has an “ugly” facial structure, who works for the Swedish Border Agency that screens people coming off ships. Tina has a special ability at sniffing out people’s guilt and shame. Living off the grid in a woodland area and with dog-breeder Roland, she spends her time walking the forests nearby or caring for her ailing father. When she comes across a man, Vore, who she can’t sniff out and looks like her, she becomes drawn to him. It becomes apparent that he might be uncover secrets about who she is and the pair become closer…

Border is a subversive and mysterious drama that unravels in a glorious manner. Iranian director Abbasi, whose work includes the much acclaimed Shelley, implements an intriguing modern fairy-tale. The film is an enchantment in some scenes, ghoulish in others, but utterly captivating from start to finish. The film works greatly with these tonal shifts. Offering up some impeccable sequences, including one frivolous and endearing frolic through the sun-streaked trees, the film can be a romantic story one second then horror to ponder the next.

There is also an undercurrent of social commentary here. When the film digs deeper into how we treat those who are different and especially those we deem as “ugly.” The film asks you to shift your perception through graphic sexual scenes or simply Tina being. It also gender-bends throughout and it’s non-conforming ideals make it a magnificent watch.

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The whole of the film wouldn’t work if it weren’t for Eva Melander as Tina. My god is she breath-taking here. Though unrecognisable due to her prominent prosthetics, this doesn’t sop her convey earnest and intimate emotions. Tina is a sympathetic character but doesn’t require pity. She is determined, strong, with an upstanding set of morals whilst also being vulnerable, sweet, and funny. As this film is all about her becoming, Melander beautifully develops Tina and makes a truly cinematic heroine.

Opposite her is Eero Milonoff as Vore. The pair have an instant chemistry with one another the minute they meet but Milonoff keeps his character as mysterious as possible, revealing bit by bit. Though this is Melander’s film, Milonoff is also as expressive and great as Vore, balancing between love interest and possible villain, the actor is unexpectedly alluring.

Border is a brooding film that will stay with you long after watching. That may be because of the graphic sequences and detail, but it’s also because of the soulfulness . The mood and tone matched with some gorgeous imagery are truly affecting, haunting even. There’s also a soulful and mournful message about nature and finding who you are, against the backdrop of an isolating and brutal society. Blending fantasy with social commentary, Border is a riveting and redolent affair.


Border is out 8th March

World Book Day: Best Films About Books

Who hasn’t grown up without books in their lives? Not filmmakers, anyway, as Hollywood has been plunging into old texts and pulling out blockbuster movies or series. In fact, it has become the staple of movie makers these days, especially with an abundance of young adult fiction getting translated into young adult movies to please the young adult audiences everywhere. Almost weekly a book becomes a film. But what about films that revolve around books; the core plot point pivoting around the pages, the stories and the characters you usually find locked up in libraries.

Films like these:

The Pagemaster  (1994)

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In nineties land, you’d think that this movie would be an instant success. It had all the right arts to make it a success; Macaulay Culkin, Whoopi Goldberg and the fail safe live action and cartoon combination. But on first release it bombed, hard. Nevertheless, thanks to repeats on television and video sales, it has become one of childhood’s much loved movies. It centres on a boy named Richard who is bored with life. In an upcoming storm, he finds shelter in a library. But a freak accident causes him to get washed into illustrations and is sent into the colourful world of fiction. Along the way, he meets Romance, Adventure and Horror, genres of books set to help him on his quest. This is a lovely little movie that heralds a lot of the great classic books, translating them well for children.

 

The NeverEnding Story (1986)

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NeverEnding Story was one of the most fantastical movies that caught wild imagination within the bustling dreams of children everywhere. The film revolves around Bastian, a shy child who is suddenly immersed into the Fantasty world of Fantasia which is plagued by The Nothing. With trusted Atreyu trying to stop the devastation, Bastian finds he is crucial to the unfolding events.  True, it had marvellously cheesy moments (Moonchild. For Christ Sake. Moonchild.) but, nevertheless, the story about escaping within a book to escape the bullies or the world around you resonates with any child and fully grown adults how found solace within the written word. But let’s not mention Artax, shall we?

 

The Princess Bride (1987)

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Possibly one of the most quotable films of all time that has acquired a large fan-base that still adores this movie now. The Princess Bride is meta as hell, a book about a book that is quite self-aware (although, not as self-aware as The Never Ending Story, moonchild). Told by Columbo’s Peter Falk to his grandson in present day eighties, it tells the medieval tale of stable boy Wesley and his love Buttercup. When Wesley disappears, murdered by the dreaded Pirate Roberts, the masked crusader comes to battle his wits against obstacles for Buttercup. It’s fairy tale with gusto, hilarity and wit. This cult classic is a treat. Altogether now; “my name is Inigo Montoya..”

 

Stranger Than Fiction (2003)

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One of the very few Will Ferrell films where he doesn’t play overdone, obnoxious and dislikeable characters, Stranger Than Fictionsees him take the quirky indie route. He stars as Harold Crick, a pretty average guy who finds one day, a voice has started to narrate his life. Feeling dismayed, he is told that he may be a character in a book and he needs to find out the ending before it is too late. Endearingly enough, this movie deals with an interesting and fun twist on the romance fare that asks writers; if you met the character of the book you’re writing, what would you do to them? It also has the best romantic scene where a baker receives a lovely array of ‘flours’ for a gift.

 

The Evil Dead

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I feel like I shouldn’t even been making you read this as we talk about that damned book in Sam Raimi’s masterpiece horror movie The Evil Dead. Frankly, I am a little bit scared writing about it. Because the insane events that happen in the middle of the forest that fateful night all come about due to some stupid teenagers and Ash Campbell reading from the evil Necronomicon Ex Mortis. The book itself is like the Devil’s personal spell book that sees demons and hell raised on Earth, causing a lot of messed up nonsense to happen to the those meddling kids (yes, that was a Scooby Doo reference about The Evil Dead.) Proof that any book with a long Latin title shouldn’t be read, The Evil Dead is one of those films that anti-reading advocators will lap up.


Happy World Book Day!
What do you think? 

Captain Marvel – Review

We’ve been heavily anticipating Captain Marvel since they announced the hero’s involvement in The Avengers series. When we saw her insignia flash on Nick Fury’s pager as he faded to dust, we were fully prepared to dive into a whole new superhero origin story. Now she’s here and she is burning bright in every sense of the world.

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Set in 1995, Captain Marvel revolves around Kree soldier in training Vers, who is part of an elite Starforce on the planet Hala and has no memory beyond her six years on the planet. The alien-race of Kree are fighting a war against shape-shifting Skrull army. When Vers is taken hostage, the Skrulls unlock memories from her life before. Throw a daring escape, Vers is sent to Earth alongside a handful of Skrulls. To stop the alien-race invading Earth, Vers pairs up with SHIELD agent Nick Fury and may unlock the very secrets to her being…Could she be Carol Danvers?

Captain Marvel is a pretty good thrill ride. However, unlike Black Panthers new take on a solo outing (where he has been an established character, working on his own separate family issues,) this is an origin outing and therefore suffers from trying to establish a character already part of a grand-scale story.  The film lacks any connection during the beginning which means you aren’t completely invested in Carol “Vers” Danvers. It isn’t until she is jettisoned to Earth and she meets Fury that she opens up and becomes a more intriguing character with serious stakes in the mission.

Brie Larson is always brilliant – and here is no different – but Carol is an amnesiac hero from start to beginning and the grandeur elements of the story engulf the character, losing her from time to time. Whilst Larson does get to the heart of Carol, and she is the bright, smiley spirit within the film, Captain Marvel overwhelms her with on-the-nose empowering messages and nineties nostalgia. This is best exampled when a big fight sequence is set to No Doubt’s I’m Just A Girl. Yes, it’s enjoyable, but also oddly jarring too. It’s great to have a female-led superhero film from Marvel but it’s not good to sound off about it every five minutes.

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This may sound like a negative review. It’s true that Captain Marvel is flawed but it isn’t more flawed than say Captain America: The First Avenger or Doctor Strange’s opening act. It hits every Marvel checkbox from the witty-lines to a somewhat weak enemy.

Positively, Captain Marvel is a lot of fun. From bombastic battles and Carol unlocking her powers  to Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson’s BFF relationship, Captain Marvel delivers a lot of super-charged energy. Ben Mendolsohn is a terrific supporting character who has, perhaps, a better arc than our leading character whilst Lashana Lynch anchors the film with more emotion. The soundtrack is brilliant too – making anyone millennial cheer.

Captain Marvel is good – great when you consider that it has a cat called Goose which at one point gets called a Flerken – but it’s not as strong as some movies that have come before it.


Captain Marvel is out Friday 8th March 

Ray and Liz – Review

First features always have smatterings of something deeply personal. Desiree Akhavan explored her New York life in Appropriate Behaviour whilst  Bo Burhnam injected his own sense of self into Eighth Grade. Filmmakers always input their souls into their films but for a first feature, it always seems more poignant – closer to the director’s reality.

For Richard Billingham, his debut Ray & Liz truly puts a picture of his life on the big screen in a complex, brooding, and utterly beautiful way.

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Ray & Liz is based onon a video artwork of photographer Billingham, as well as a book collection called Ray’s a Laugh. Billingham puts his own experiences of life in Birmingham on the big screen. The film starts off with an aged alcoholic Ray stumbling around his own flat, drinking home-brew and chain-smoking. At different times, Ray looks back at his life with the volatile Liz, their children Richard and Jason, and the world of 1970s Birmingham.

Ray & Liz is such an impacting slice of British life. The film is so detailed in its craft and really awakens this authentic period setting. . As director Richard Billingham brings the stories of his own life onto the big screen, it feels so much as though we’ve stepped into this picturesque world. As exquisite as it maybe in cinematography, and shots, Billingham imbues the background with a lot of background. It’s so distinct and detailed in the drab dirtiness of near-poverty that one familiar with that life would practically be able to smell the cheap hairspray or damp.

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Billingham deals with his own life story in such an intimate way. His tragic ode to his family doesn’t feel embittered or angered. Instead, this bleak depiction of his childhood, scattered with odd humour, has an ingrained empathy for his neglectful parents. Played by the impressive Ella Smith and the formidable Justin Salinger , their selfish and scheming behaviour is tangible throughout. The caustic manner in the way they are lends itself to the gloomy and problematic way of life for them and their children. Yet Billingham is wary to not put blame on his parents. Instead, through snippets about his uncle or brother or even himself, the director shows that this is just life as it was. Or, even, life as it is for people maligned to the outskirts of society.

Actually, this is a story about people who are society; folk scraping by on dole and redundancy money, frittering way the pennies for alcohol or begging others it by hounding and hassling. As their children attempt to find warmth in other homes, the titular pair scrounge for cigarettes on the underpass or walk their bunnies in the park without really questioning where their children have been. The films impoverished family are gloriously realised on the big screen; in all their scathing sorrow.

The earnestness on display in Billingham’s Ray & Liz is impacting. An ever-lasting ode to family life that bears it’s bruises and scars for all to see. An intimate display of despair that moves with a spirit and a soul, this poignant cinematic poetry is definitely one to see.


Ray and Liz is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

6 Drool-Worthy Pancake Scenes

We’re delivering some whooping platefuls of floury, sugary lemony treats. That’s right, despite technically being a religious holiday to show the  true spirit of sacrifice, we are more excited about round treats. In our addled states as human beings, we took  Shrove Tuesday to scoff as much as you can before staving off sweets for forty days
 (ha ha ha – no).

So for Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day or whatever excuse you need to devour  floury sugary goodness tonight, let’s celebrate with looking at the best pancake scenes in cinema.

Honourable Mentions:  Michael Douglas’ breakfast heist in Falling Down

Elf (2003)

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Elf quickly came into our hearts and launched Will Ferrell into superstardom alongside his Anchorman role. The film is now part of our Christmas diet as we munch away on the sugary sweet scenes verse the sardonic society of modern day New York.  The story revolves around a human baby brought up in Santa’s Workshop by a group of squeaky voiced elves. Unfortunately, when Buddy grows up to be an adult, he no longer fits in with all that he knows – figuratively and metaphorically – he finds his real dad. So technically no pancakes are involved in Buddy’s meal but there is syrup which is a pancakes best friend. Buddy puts them it on everything. EVERYTHING. From pancakes to spaghetti, syrup is Buddy’s go to sickly sweet condiment.

And ours too Buddy. Ours too.

Practical Magic (1998)

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Pancakes and witches- we have such a soft spot for this nineties spell-binding movie. Starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, the film revolves around two sisters who happen to be witches. Trying to cover up a crime they’ve committed, Kidman’s Gillian concocts a syrup to drive away a handsome sheriff investigating the crime. He also has eyes for Sally and can flip pancakes just like she’d wished for as a child. Soon her children start to realise that he may be the perfect man for their mother – can they stop Gillian’s magical sauce? A sweet scene with cactus shaped pancakes!

Matilda (1996)

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This is a scene long before our beloved bookwork hero discovers she has powers; a fact that makes it all the better. She is roughly about five in this scene but is often abandoned by her family and left to fend for herself (because her family are pretty much the worst.) With that hanging over her, Matilda learnt to take care of herself very quickly and one of the things she learnt was how to make pancakes. Nom. With an epic soundtrack that always delightfully appears in nineties movies (Send Me On My way by Rusted Foot), Matilda makes some scrumdiddliumptious snacks for herself all while reading the newspaper and feeding her brain with knowledge.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

In this undated handout image courtesy Miramax and provided by the Library of Congress , Vincent, played by John Travolta, left, dismisses Jules’, played by Samuel L. Jackson, plan to "walk the earth," in a scene from the 1994 Quentin Tarrantino film, "Pulp Fiction." The library is inducting 25 films, including "Pulp Fiction," into the National Film Registry to be preserved for their cultural, historical or cinematic significance. (AP Photo/Library of Congress, Courtesy of Miramax)

Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar Winning screenplay for this movie sees a bend in time for the gangs in Los Angeles. Revolving mainly around Jules and Vincent, this broken narrative flits through deaths only to bring them back again. However, in this iconic scene, after blowing the brains off an informant (accidentally, I might add) the pair rest up in a Diner Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of bacon, while munching on pancakes and eggs, the conversation between them soon turns philosophical (as is in Tarantino-land) However, Pumpkin and Honey from before seize the restaurant causing and epic final stand-off.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Cult classic from the Coen Brothers is a wonderful masterpiece that has set off it’s own religion in parts of the globe. Centring on Jeff Bridges’ character The Dude, it is a case of mistaken identity that disrupts his laid back lifestyle of weed, white Russians and bowling. The main villains of the show are German nihilists lead by Peter Stormare. Believing The Dude to be a millionaire whose wife they have kidnapped, they rest after destroying his home and blackmailing the real rich guy (with the severed toe of his wife). Only, as they order famous Lingonberry pancakes, a camera pans down on the only woman there to find that she is actually the one without her baby toe. Dig in, guys!

Uncle Buck (1990)

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If  you think pancakes in movies then this is probably the scene that is going to jump into your head. John Candy stars as the titular character, a gambling man who is called up to the big boy leagues when his brother asks him to babysit his kids. And boy, does he make a mess out of it. But when it comes to pancakes, it’s a different story. Much different from the previous scene where MacCaulay Culkin innocent exclaims “he’s cooking garbage!” Uncle Buck finally puts on his adult breeches to deliver a birthday for Miles that is unlike any other. And what better way to celebrate than with a massive doze of pancakes. And by massive, we mean Buck makes bigger than your child sized pancakes drizzled in ice cream, chocolate sauce and more.

 


Happy Pancake Day!

Possum – Review

Matthew Holness has been a big staple of British comedy for years. His work in the celebrated c cult TV show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace has made him legendary.

With that said, his comedy has always been tinged with darkness. Now he has dove straight into a murky and terrifying world with his directorial feature film debut Possum.

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Starring Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong, Possum is the delightful tale about a disgraced children’s ventriloquist. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say delightful? I meant deeply, deeply, disturbing. After Phillip is shunned for an unknown controversy, he is forced to go back to his home, now a derelict and warped place. In it houses Morris, a grim and terrifying figure from Phillip’s childhood. In a brown bag lives a puppet named Possum and as childhood secrets start to come to the surface, as does Possum. Can Phillip escape the horrors that lay in front of him?

This gripping horror story plays like a demented fairy-tale and is perhaps this year’s most unsettling film. Possum is an intimately discomforting movie that’ll have you shuffling in your seat, looking for some sort of escape. Relying on shadows and the sheer horrific look of Possum, Holness’ gripping film will have your toes curling with every second up until the finale which is by far some of the year’s most profoundly horrifying sequences to ever grace the big screen.

Sean Harris is a particularly spectacular actor here and has a way of balancing a battered innocence with the stature of a possible antagonist. As we’ll never know the reason behind Phillip’s return home that murky past lingers and makes him an unreliable hero to follow. Yet broiling underneath his looming character is a man who lost his childhood and as he is battered with horrific memories, this innocence comes to the foreground. It’s a nuanced and spectacular performance by Harris.

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Alun Armstrong is terrific as Morris. His character has no discernible likeness about him as he scoffs food and smokes fags in a pit of a home. Morris’ exact relation to Phillip is unknown but you can see he has taunted and ridiculed the young man for years. Armstrong makes perturbs and inhibits this monstrous role like the greedy Stromboli of Pinocchio – playing the strings to a revolting conclusion.

Possum plays with creepiness at every corner, particularly in set design and location. Abandoned army barracks, swamp lands that stretch beyond your eye, and a forest of But really, it’s Phillip’s childhood home that has been left to rot that sends the shivers. It’s not even the brown and peeling wallpaper or the smoke stains on the wall – years of muck and neglect caking bygone patterns of yesteryear. It’s the surreal layout of a large house that holds it’s secrets firmly behind closed doors. A perfect playground for Possum and Phillip’s undoing.

Possum may play fast and loose with our sleeping patterns but it also has a mournful soul. It’s an intricate, if albeit terrifying, portrayal of abuse that has warped a mind. Possum is one of the most uncomfortable and nightmarish films of 2018.


Possum is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Talking Movies and Making Them Too