Monday, 20 October 2014

London Film Festival Day 6: White God Interview and Serena Screening with Jennifer Lawrence




On Monday, I got out of work, realised I’d lost my memory stick and that I would have to rewrite all my questions for White God director Kornel Mundruczo and writer Kata Weber again. The interview was at the Mayfair Hotel which was disgustingly posh and I got half an hour to sit down face to face with the talent. This was huge for me as 1. I’d never done a face to face interview and 2. I absolutely love this film.

I tried my best not to gush at them both and had way too many questions to get through in the allotted time but it went well. I figured I should take 30 questions just in case they give really short answers! The interview will be up at Starburst Magazine when White God gets its UK release. I urge you to go see it! Here is my review for Starburst Magazine.

Then I hung around for a screening of Serena. If all the tickets don’t get sold out for the public screenings in the evenings, then they dish them out to press if they want them. While I was sitting around waiting for the screening to start, there was a lot of security around and a whole big area of the cinema had been cordoned off for a ‘private party’. Somebody on Twitter had already told me that there was a rumour that star of Serena Jennifer Lawrence would be in attendance and lo and behold as the lights went down for the film, Lawrence and director Susanne Bier showed up to briefly introduce the film. 


Lawrence had to jet off back to LA but Bier and Toby Jones hung around afterwards for a QnA session after the film. 

Here is the trailer for Serena and my review:




Starburst Magazine: Hunger Games Mockingjay Preview and Reviews

In the latest issue of Starburst Magazine, I have written a preview of Mockingjay Part 1 detailing everything we know about the upcoming blockbuster. I also have a review of The Equalizer and Kidnapped in there if you fancy picking up a copy from here or WHSmiths or HMV or many other places. Or you can subscribe here and never miss an issue!


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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Game Of Thrones: 10 Characters That Must Not Bite The Dust in Season 5

Game of Thrones fans will be well aware that author George R.R. Martin has absolutely no qualms about killing off everyone’s favourite characters. Just as you're getting attached to someone; down comes a heavy handed sword, or out pops a random character to deliver an unexpected knife to the guts. After watching a few episodes of the first season, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Game of Thrones was going to be the story of the heroic protagonist Ned Stark. Wrong – we should have known that Sean Bean, who played Ned, is notorious for dying in everything he appears in, regardless of how optimistic the audience might be about his chances.

Fans then witnessed the infamous events of the Red Wedding in season 3, and most recently had to suffer through the eye gouging fatality of another much beloved character in season 4. Now it’s time to start signing petitions, and doing whatever is necessary to stop George R.R. Martin and HBO from stabbing, slicing, hanging or decapitating any of these top 10 characters… before it’s too late! Game of Thrones fans may be suckers for punishment but, please, just leave these characters alone for a little while longer.

There will be no book spoilers here, but there is mention of many events that have occurred in season 4.This is just a simple but heartfelt plea that none of these characters, who are still currently alive in the TV show, are destined for destruction anytime soon.

10. Grey Worm

Formerly just another unnamed member of the Unsullied, Grey Worm is now a free man and leader of Daenerys' army. The Unsullied have lived terrible lives as slaves; they have been castrated, trained to kill without mercy and obey their masters unquestioningly. They are disciplined beyond any normal army and have been conditioned to see themselves as equal members in a terrifying mass of soldiers.

However, after Mother of Dragons Daenerys granted their freedom, Grey Worm rose up to become their leader. He, like his Unsullied brothers, is completely dedicated to the woman who freed him and prepared to die for her. Far more interestingly though, Grey Worm is also showing signs of getting a few sensations in the downstairs department. After catching a good eyeful of Daenerys' translator Missandei while she was bathing, it looks like there could potentially be a doomed love story about to catch fire. However, it will need time to simmer before Grey Worm (or Missandei) can be killed off.
Besides, it would be a great shame for Grey Worm to leave this mortal coil before we get to see him lead his army of Unsullied into a real battle alongside Daenerys' dragons. Bring on the war!


9. Jorah Mormont

Recently outed as a former traitor, Mormont was last seen being banished from Daenerys' side. He is now heading off on paths unknown and his destiny is uncertain. However, we all know how much he loves his Queen really, and how truly and deeply sorry he is for his former treachery. So, can we just give him another chance already? The fact Daenerys couldn't execute him for his past transgressions suggests she still has a soft spot for her closest adviser and confidante. Though there might be a pretty sizeable age gap between the pair, seeing them back together would be a romantic reunion to cherish.

Mormont has been there for his Khaleesi since the very first episodes. Their separation four seasons into the show comes as something of a blow to fans, especially those looking for a love story in amongst all the war, rape, murder and incest. Instead of killing off Mormont, wouldn't it be great to see him return to aid Daenarys when she most needs him? Perhaps he could ride in like a knight in shining armour and show her that he never stopped loving her. Or is that far too cheesy for Game of Thrones fans?

8. Stannis Baratheon

Stannis is always lurking in the background of the show, but he is about to become a far more prominent character as the story continues. Since losing his two brothers, Stannis has been the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. However, this claim has been consistently thwarted by the scheming Lannisters, most botably Tyrion and Tywin during the Battle Of Blackwater. Stannis must be burning with rage, so it's no surprise that he's hooked up with the Lord of Light, and R’hllor’s emissary Melisandre.

Stannis may have been responsible for the death of his seemingly far nicer brother Renly but in all fairness, Stannis is the older of the brothers and did have the most right to rule Westeros after Robert died. However, Stannis is not the most pleasant and charming character, and his dealings with the terrifying Lady Melisandre and her fiery sacrificial offerings are definitely dubious. On the other hand, Stannis could also be the best man for the job of uniting the Lannister’s enemies and seeing them run out of King's Landing. He was also pretty epic at the Blackwater and it would be good to see him donning armour and kicking ass once again.


7. Cersei Lannister


It can't all be good guys on this list and Cersei is neither good, nor a guy. However, she is one of the most watchable and fascinating characters left on the show. After the death of her son Joffrey at the Purple Wedding (and more recently her father Tywin), Cersei is now the really evil centre of King's Landing. With her constant scheming and her fierce protectiveness as a mother, Cersei is a force of nature to be reckoned with.

Cersei may be incestuous, insidious and morally repugnant but she is also played with relish by Lena Headey and a joy to watch. There was a worry that once Jaime, her lover and brother, returned to King's Landing that Cersei would soften and become boring in double-quick time. Hell no! Not this Lannister vixen. Finding Jaime a bit too armless, she is now the queen of put downs and comebacks, and the best villain Game of Thrones currently has to offer. Cersei is the meanest Lannister left in King's Landing and everybody knows it; a character we all love to loathe.


6. Syrio Forel

Bit of a cheat here perhaps. Syrio, Arya's sword/dance instructor from the first season, may already be dead as far as fans know. Last seen defending Arya at King’s Landing, if anyone could fight his way out of a corner when highly outnumbered, it would be Syrio. The man who taught Arya everything she knows about using that trusty Needle of hers, Syrio was a brilliant teacher and fighter. It would be a great shame if he did die at the hands of the Lannister men who came to take Arya away. His teachings still inspire Arya and she continues to benefit everyday.

More to the point, as much as it has been fun watching Arya wander around the countryside with The Hound episode after episode, it would be much more fun to see Arya hook up with Syrio. She could take some more sword fighting lessons and learn to take bloody vengeance on all those who have wronged her and her rapidly diminishing family. Please let Syrio still be alive and hiding out somewhere safe, just waiting to be brought back into action. After all, in the words of Syrio: ‘There is only one thing we say to death: not today!’


5. Petyr Baelish

As much as everyone hates this big pimping and manipulative scumbag, played with sly glee by Aidan Gillen, Littlefinger is emerging as one of the most volatile characters in the entire game of thrones. Nothing would surprise me less than Baelish winning the Iron Throne after everyone around him has killed each other off and he becomes the last man standing. He’ll be the one hiding in the shadows and orchestrating the entire massacre.

Let's not forget that this is also the man who engineered the murder of that little terror King Joffrey. He is now sheltering poor, innocent Sansa Stark while most of the rest of her family have been brutally dispatched. What is most exciting about Littlefinger though, is that he is so completely unreadable. He is capable of doing anything to save his own skin. He is deceitful, dangerous and one of the key players to watch out for going forward.


4. Brienne Of Tarth

Brittle, brave and ugly Brienne put up with endless taunts and quips from Jaime Lannister during their time together. However, she is the woman who slowly brought out the humanity in Jaime, a man who started the show by screwing his own sister and pushing a kid from a castle window. She may not be much to look at, and her loyalty may make her a little one-dimensional, but Brienne is the kind of character you cannot help but root for.

Whereas so many of the female characters in Game of Thrones are victims or evil villains (hello, Cersei), Brienne is loyal, noble and nobody's victim. Now she has a mission to find Sansa, but she seems to have been worryingly sidelined from the central action. Sansa does not seem to need rescuing so Brienne's journey with Pod doesn't have much urgency, which is bad news for all those who want to see Brienne back in the middle of the action. She is going to be a fascinating character in the future due to her divided loyalties, feeling bound to both the Starks and Jaime Lannister. Who will she choose to side with when the game of thrones turns into all out war? Will she survive long enough for us to find out?


3. Jon Snow

The bastard son of Winterfell and Ned Stark's flesh and blood. Jon Snow is the man who volunteered to take the black and become a man of the Night's Watch instead of sitting at cosy Winterfell. Now that Robb is dead and Bran is broken, Jon Snow is the real son of Stark to watch out for. He may be caught up in protecting the wall from wildlings but he is also the only brother of the Night's Watch to have lived with the free folk for any time. He is a man who belongs nowhere, but he is also a natural leader; brave and loyal to his friends and destined for greatness.

Jon Snow has recently lost his fiery red-haired wildling girlfriend Ygritte, but she has left him with a taste for the dark side of the wall and the fruits that the real North has to offer. More to the point, Jon still has Ghost, his snow white direwolf. Wouldn't it be great to see Ghost taking on white walkers on one side and Daenerys and her dragons on the other when it all comes to an eventual showdown? Yeah, thought so.


2. Arya Stark

It would have been easy to simply fill this list with the remaining Stark children. After all, who wants to see House Stark suffer any more after the deaths of Ned, Catelyn and Robb? However, Sansa is only just becoming interesting, Bran is nominally safe in the cave of the three-eyed raven, and Rickon seems to have utterly disappeared. Arya, on the other hand, has been an absolute gem since we first met her. A tomboy who cares more for fighting than pretty dresses, she knew Joffrey for what he was from the second she met him. She has also survived on her own against all the odds, since escaping King's Landing.

She is also one of the most dangerous and damaged individuals in the show. And no wonder – she witnessed her father's beheading and just keeps turning up too late to be reunited with her family members, as they all bite the dust one after the other. Poor Arya. All the while she is getting older, tougher and wiser and keeping that list of those she wants to take revenge on in her head. Please don't let Arya die before she can tick some more names off that hit list.


1. Tyrion Lannister

No surprise here, as everyone's favourite Lannister and Game of Thrones character was always destined for the top of this list. Tyrion is the most interesting, witty and wonderful character caught up in this whole messy game of thrones. He is also currently the character most at risk of losing his head. With a fantastic performance from Peter Dinklage and brilliant writing from author Martin and the HBO show's team, Tyrion has kept the wit and warmth from the books that makes him so special. He was a coward who showed his true bravery at the battle of Blackwater. He is the son of a father who never wanted him, and who everyone blames for the death of his mother. He is an underdog who is used to being kicked but is still smarter than all those around him.

Tyrion Lannister must not die. Not yet. Kill anyone else but not this little man with the big mouth. Now he has been saved from execution by his brother, he is going to be the most wanted man in all of Westeros (and beyond). Can Tyrion survive season five? You wouldn’t bet against him, but this is Game Of Thrones we’re talking about.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

London Film Festival Day 5: Kung Fu Jungle, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night



With a mighty hangover after my birthday celebrations, I got up to London for my second day of films. First up was Teddy Chen’s Kung Fu Jungle starring martial arts supremo Donnie Yen and a wealth of cameos from Hong Kong action cinema’s finest. 

Here’s the trailer and my review at Starburst Magazine:


Next up, was one of the biggest and best surprises of the festival so far: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night from Iran but co-produced by Frodo himself Mr Elijah Wood. I hadn’t been expecting much from this devoutly arty black and white vampire movie but it was gorgeous and surprisingly cool.

Here’s the trailer and my review at Starburst Magazine:


That trailer doesn't reveal much but trust me, this film is well worth a watch!

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Serena Review from London Film Festival

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper sure must love working together. After Silver Linings and American Hustle, they are back for another helping of each other in Susanne Bier's depressing Depression-era drama Serena.

It's 1929 in the Smoky Mountains and Cooper plays George Pemberton, a man with a thriving timbre empire who falls in love with the beautiful Serena played by Jennifer Lawrence. The pair are married almost as soon as they meet and while George has to try and stop the local sheriff from turning the forestry rich land into a national park, his wife is easily settling in to the remote lifestyle. George isn't below stooping to bribery (and worse) in order to ensure he can keep cutting down the trees but his past is about to come back to haunt him with a bastard offspring and Serena's own inability to have children complicating matters.


Susanne Bier made the stunning film In a Better World which was Oscar nominated, subtle and unforgettable. Since then she has slipped into Hollywood slop with Love is All You Need and Serena continues her sudden slide into disappointment. When it starts, it looks as though JLaw might be returning to her Winter's Bone roots. The landscapes are lovingly filmed and the production design takes you back to the era convincingly.

But the problems with Serena are mostly with the script, characters and editing. It feels butchered, like someone has taken an axe to it and hacked it to pieces. Cooper and Lawrence meet, have sex a few times in a swift montage and are married. We are told Serena's back story briefly by one character and then she fills in a few more details herself later. It's all tell and no show and neither Cooper or Lawrence manage to create completely convincing characters. Despite Serena's tragic past, it is incredibly difficulty to muster even a shred of sympathy for either character.


The Pembertons are bastards, pure and simple. Selfish, conniving and greedy; you want them to fail. The supporting characters have the potential to be more interesting but are never given any time to develop. What is more, Serena reeks of misogyny. Lawrence may start off as an equal partner to her husband but she is soon deemed worthless by him if she cannot bear children. Perhaps that says more about George than it does about the (anti)heroine but Serena comes across as a spiteful Lady Macbeth style creature with few redeeming features.

Serena looks great but its choppy narrative has purely unlikeable characters that never fully convince despite solid performances from Lawrence and Cooper. Rhys Ifans and Toby Jones offer decent support but maybe its time Cooper and Lawrence had a break from each other.

On the plus side, Jennifer Lawrence turned up at the screening so it was cool to see her in the flesh, because you know... she's KATNISS!!! She even (jokingly?) asked us not to tweet about the film if we didn't like it. Sorry Jennifer, but at least we'll always have The Hunger Games!


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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

London Film Festival Day 2: A Hard Day, White God, 71, El Nino

Why am I starting my daily London Film Festival diaries on day 2 you may ask? What happened to day 1, Wednesday 8th October? Well after getting up at ridiculous o’clock to take my dog for a walk in the pitch black of an Autumn morning, I got to Bracknell train station to find that National Rail are basically wallet rapists.

After purchasing a ticket, I discovered that I’d bought a still unreasonably priced ‘any permitted’ ticket. So £25 ain’t good enough for that time in the morning apparently. I was then informed that I had to pay for a full price £32 ticket if I wanted to get into London before 9am. Frankly I felt shafted and a severe stab of sympathy for those who have to travel to London every day just to get to work. National Rail are truly bending the good working people of this country over and having their merry way with them. 

Ho hum, I got over it eventually. So I missed out on seeing The Imitation Game with Benedict Slumberpatch and Ikea Knightley and also didn’t get to attend the press conference afterwards. I can live with that. As I had to get back for my (paid) day job in the afternoon, I wouldn’t have got round to seeing anything else on Wednesday. So I told National Rail to stick their £32 ticket, got a refund on my useless £25 ticket and went home, to the delight of my puppy.

But Thursday is another day. Moan over. It’s a day when I don’t have other work commitments and can stay in London as long as I like. I’m still determined to not let National Rail have non-consensual sex with my wallet every day so I decided to skip the morning screening of Men, Women and Children starring Adam Sandler and directed by Jason Reitman. It’s a shame as I’m very interested in seeing it. But not interested enough to let National Rail rob me of £32. Sorry, moan really over now.
So  on Thursday I had lined up: A Hard Day, White God, ’71 and El Nino. My reviews will be up at Starburst Magazine as soon as possible and I will update this post with links when that happens. For now, here are the trailers:

A Hard Day: Korean corrupt cop thriller in which a detective is involved in a hit and run while being investigated by internal affairs.


White God: A teen girl is forced to give her  up her beloved dog. As she descends into rebellion, her mutt Hagen go through hell at the hands of humans before taking his bloody revenge.

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’71: A British soldier in Belfast 1971 gets separated from his regiment and has to survive a night in the divided city, stuck between warring factions.

El Nino: In the Gibraltar Straits, two young men become involved in drug dealing between Morocco and Europe. The obsessive cop on their tail is closing in as their business grows into the big time.


I’ve already seen White God at Cannes and I have an interview lined up with the director Kornel Mundruczo and writer Kata Weber on Monday. This was one of my two favourite films at Cannes 2014 and I can’t wait to talk to these two about the movie.

Also Jack O'Connell and 71 director Yann Demange turned up to introduce the film which was cool.

Day 3 of the festival is a day I have to work at the day job unfortunately and on Saturday I’m celebrating my wife’s 30th birthday (and my birthday) so my next update will be on day 5 of the festival, Sunday 12th October where I intend to see at least Kung Fu Jungle and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Stay tuned for more and please check out my reviews so far atStarburst Magazine.

I’m also going to try and do a short video diary each day from the festival:

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

21 Years Trailer: Celebrating Richard Linklater

Alright, alright, alright... looked what just popped up on my Twitter feed yesterday. I had no idea that there was a documentary being made about director Richard Linklater's career so far from Slacker to Boyhood.

The trailer has got a wealth of stars who have appeared in his films from Billy Bob Thornton through Keanu Reeves and Jack Black all the way back to Wooderson himself Mr Matthew McConaughey. Like director Jay Duplass says, Linklater is one of the most interesting and varied directors working in film at the moment, particularly with his 12 year experiment Boyhood having just been released to great critical acclaim this year.

Check out the trailer below and then click on Linklater's filmography to ensure you haven't missed any of his films. If you haven't seen Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy and Waking Life, those are my recommendations for where to start.



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The Maze Runner Review



Tired of the girls in YA adaptations having all the fun; why not try The Maze Runner? Though Katniss may still wear the crown for the most kickass protagonist in recent memory, it’s a testament to how far science fiction has come that The Maze Runner feels currently refreshing for having a cast of mostly male teens fighting and fending for themselves in a dangerous future world.

Teen Thomas awakes to find himself being lifted into the Glade, a beautiful green open space surround by the giant grey stone walls of an impassable maze. With no memory of who he is or how he got into the lift, he is immediately encircled by the group of wild boys who populate the Glade. There is friendly leader Alby, big brute Gally, scrawny second in command Newt and a younger fat kid named Chuck to name a few. The ‘Gladers’ have made a peaceful and stable community for themselves under the leadership of Alby but Thomas’ entrance stirs things up between the boys, particularly as Thomas begins to break the rules and heads into the maze without permission.


The Maze Runner is full of terminology invented for its mysterious dystopian set up. The Lord of the Flies like tribe of boys are divided into groups with only the ‘runners’ being allowed to into the maze to try and map it and find a way out. In the maze, they meet partly mechanical arachnid creatures known as The ‘Grievers’ who send the boys mad if they are unlucky enough to be stung. Until Thomas arrives, no one has survived a night in the maze as the doors close each night, giving runners only a limited time to spend exploring the maze each day. 

It’s a set up that wears its influences on its sleeves. There is plenty of Lord of the Flies, a little splash of The Beach, and a central premise highly reminiscent of The Cube. Not only that, but this film version of James Dashner’s book looks like it owes a debt to more than a few video games in its occasionally computer generated Doom-style aesthetic. However despite its derivativeness, The Maze Runner feels fresh enough (particularly no doubt to its younger target audience) to maintain attention. Wes Balls’ direction and the screenplay and score zip along so that the film moves at such a stunning pace, that even at nearly two hours, it never allows time for ennui to set in, or for audiences to pick at the exposition heavy plot.


The mystery at the heart of this maze may not add up to much but The Maze Runner has action aplenty. It is amazing how exciting the good old fashioned sight of running can still be, even if occasionally the characters are clearly surrounded by digital effects. The performances are solid with Will Poulter particularly showing his range when compared to his performance in recent comedy We’re the Millers and Dylan O’Brien making a decent hero, even if the character of Thomas isn’t that interesting. 

The Maze Runner sprints along, finding a way through its myriad of influences to become something breezily entertaining, if not totally satisfying by the time it reaches its end.