Wednesday, 31 October 2012

I Love That Blog Post #15 HALLOWEEN SPECIAL!

Check out how film bloggers have been celebrating Halloween with these awesome posts!


The 10 Most F**ked Up Movies courtesy of On Page and Screen 


Ok this isn’t horror related but Chris at Movies and Songs 365 has posted his top 100 movies of all time


A great list of horror recommendations from On Page and Screen


Cinematic Corner has visual parallels between Alien and Prometheus


Cinematic Paradox has been dipping toes in horror all month, culminating in an awesome top 10 and a look at one of my faves Texas Chain Saw


The Droid You’re Looking For ranks the classic slasher icons


Keith has 5 Phenomenal horror movies


Front Room Cinema has a poll on what movie monster you would most want to be turned into.  GO VOTE!


And So It Begins has a fantastic top 10 horror films with a great choice at number one


And I Love That Film has just broken the 12,000 hits in one month mark so thanks to everyone for dropping by!  And thanks to Halloween for making more people watch horror movies!

What is 'The Scariest Film Ever Made'?

To wrap up Filmoria's 10 Days of Halloween, find out what the Filmoria team feel are the scariest movies ever.

See if your scariest film is on our list!  It's a very interesting selection of films with many classics represented and a few unexpected ones.  There's more that I would love to see on the list but many of my own personal favourites are here.  My entry is on The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a film that freaked me out beyond belief when I first saw it on TV!  Particularly the final few scenes.  Terrifying stuff!

Here are some choice quotes but what films are they referring to?

'If you want your horror with a happy ending, then forget it.'

'I leave unsettled and fearful of the familiar'

'It is the terrifying ending that will leave you scared to go near a TV'

 'There is one film that continues to strike fear in my heart'

'The horrors that are happening largely off screen makes this one to keep you up at night'

'Imagine having to stay awake to survive. Imagine seeing your friends killed one by one and knowing you’re next. Imagine having nightmares so horrendous your hair turns grey'

'The frantic camerawork flies back and forth with so much energy that his manic incarnations literally jump off the screen'

'What scares me now is how it represents the true randomness of evil'

'The writing, directing, acting, and especially Philip Glass’ haunting score all work together to bring this horrifying tale to terrifying life'

'Terrifying audiences with his mutilation of the human body'

'I have only seen the original cinematic ending and it chilled me so much I have not even considered watching the sequels that followed.'

So what is the film that gives you the worst nightmares?  What made you cower from the screen, cover your eyes, run away, cry, scream or switch off the TV?  And what do you think of the Filmoria teams selection?

Best of British: My Brother the Devil Review

My Brother the Devil is an extremely moving and powerful British film from writer/director Sally El Hosaini, starring James Floyd and Fady Elsayed, as well as someone I don't see nearly enough of in film, La Haine's Saïd Taghmaoui.

Read my full review of My Brother the Devil at Filmoria here.

Sometimes it sucks being a film critic and having to see films that you think are rubbishYou have to write why you don't like a film, knowing full well that others may love it.  Also you know that countless people have put in huge amount of hours and hard work in bringing the film to the screen.  That sucks.

Other times it is the greatest job in the world.  You get to say why you loved a film and share a positive review which you hope will be read by many and will encourage them to see the film.  That is the case with My Brother the Devil.  I love this film but know that it will be fighting for position in multiplexes with blockbuster behemoths like Skyfall.  That is why I am very glad to be doing my bit to spread the word on this great film.

And it gives me great pleasure that one of the stars of My Brother the Devil, James Floyd is extremely active on Twitter and has come across some of my writing about the film, tweeting:

Thx 2 4 giving an Amazing review! *powerful performances nearing perfection* *endlessly complex* *purely entertaining*

He also retweeted this from me straight after I saw it: is likely to be 1 of the best British films of the year. Disturbing reactions from some ppl in the screening with me tho!

It really was disturbing how some people reacted in the screening I was in.  To say more would be to ruin one of the biggest surprises in the film.  Unfortunately there are still some disgustingly immature, prejudiced people on the planet!  And I hope more of them sit through this film.

Every month I am doing a piece at Boolean Flix to help spread the word on British films that are coming to a cinema near you.  This month I took a look at My Brother the Devil, Sightseers and Great Expectations among others.  Read my best of British film for November over at Boolean Flix.  Is this poster one of the greatest ever produced?

In other news, it looks like before the end of the day, I Love That Film might break the 12,000 hits in one month mark so thanks very much to everyone who pops by!  I Love That Film loves you!

Anyone seen My Brother the Devil?  What did you think?  If you haven't seen it, check out the trailer below.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Margin Call DVD Review

Margin Call stars an ensemble of outstanding acting talent including Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore and is an impressive directorial debut from director J.C. Chandor.  MARGIN CALL is available on DVD & Blu-ray from 12th November.

To read my full review of Margin Call, head to Filmoria.

It explores both the villainy and the humanity behind the 2008 financial crisis.  It is set over mostly over one night and this strengthens the script and gives it a sense of urgency, confining the drama to the claustrophobic offices of the firm.  It may not have the grandstanding, scenery chomping of Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin and Michael Douglas in past films about bankers, bosses and businessmen but it does have complex characters with clear motivations, more mundane than evil.

Margin Call is Wall Street for a new generation crippled by irresponsible acts of capitalist greed and a must-see for anyone who wants to find out how the money men made critical mistakes but managed to save themselves with barely a scratch. I highly recommend it.  Full review here.

I Love That Blog Post #14

Cherish these blog posts:

I Luv Cinema takes a deserved look at overlooked early Tom Hanks film The Burbs

Loads of movie bloggers helped out by giving their favourite office scenes in movies here

Flixchatter has five intriguing sounding documentaries playing at the Twin Cities Film Fest

Cinematic Paradox turns three!  If you don’t already know this blog, get over there and change that right now!

Cinematic Paradox AGAIN with some hilarious edited posters of films with their titles changed

Very interesting piece on what Bond learned from Batman at The Movie Blog

Horror special of I Love That Blog Post coming soon!

World Cinema: Social and Political Context

Another one for my students, this is an example of an answer for Section A of the A2 Film Studies examSection A covers world cinema and there is a focus on urban stories and how they deal with issues of power, poverty and conflict.  The films looked at are City of God, La Haine and Tsotsi.

Do you think it is necessary to locate world cinema films within their social and political contexts in order to appreciate them fully?

World cinema films often deal with important and serious social issues.  They are frequently more realistic and socially and politically relevant to the countries in which they are produced.  Knowledge of the context in which the films are produced can help audiences to appreciate the films in a fuller and more rewarding way.  City of God, La Haine and Tsotsi all feature narratives that revolve around issues of power, poverty and conflict and accurately represent the specific elements of the countries that they are from.

Film making traditions: American Independent Cinema and The history of Brazilian cinema

City of God and La Haine are both influenced by past films in cinematic history.  City of God comes from a tradition of Brazilian and Latin American cinema that has often been revolutionary and uses a documentary style.  The founders of Third Cinema wanted film to be a revolutionary medium with the power to make the poor people of developing countries realise how exploited they are and that they should do something to improve their situations.  Cinema Novo of Brazil was a movement that followed this by aiming to reveal oppression to the oppressed people.  City of God is interesting because although it might have aspects of documentary style such as handheld cameras, it is far more like a Hollywood film in terms of traditional generic conventions such as having a single hero (Rocket) who can escape the favelas through a career in photography.  Though it shows the hardships and tragic circumstances of the favelas, it does not overly agitate viewers or encourage them to be revolutionary.  It suggests that one man can exploit his access to the favelas to help him escape a life of poverty and crime, not that society can be changed through collective action.


La Haine on the other hand is useful to consider in the context of American independent cinema.  The director Matthieu Kassovitz was inspired by the early works of Martin Scorsese such as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver.  Also ‘hood’ films like New Jack City feed into the hip-hop inspired culture and music of the film.  Knowledge of the references to Taxi Driver particularly with Vinz pretending to shoot at the mirror, but also the long flowing tracking shots enhance appreciation of the film and help the audience to position La Haine as auteur cinema.  Like so many American ‘hood’ movies it deals with young men struggling to leave the hood but being forced into cycles of escalating violence.

White middle class filmmakers, production, distribution and exploitation

Both films are made by white middle class filmmakers who have gone on to work in American cinema.  Kassovitz comes from a family with a background in film and the directors of City of God, Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund received funding for the film from Brazils biggest TV and commercials companies.  This has led some to accuse the films of being exploitative of the people they represent.  The elite in society make films about people in poverty and screen these films to audiences at international film festivals.  They then make huge profits that do not benefit the people of the favelas and les banlieues.  Similarly Tsotsi is made by white South African Gavin Hood who has also gone on to work in Hollywood on X-Men: Origins: Wolverine.  In this context, the films could be seen as helping to perpetuate some negative images of people in poverty and keeping the elite in power by making them profit.  The films could be seen as exploitation by the rich and some theorists have referred to the increasing trend for film and TV about favelas as ‘slumsploitation’.   

However some would also argue that these films give underrepresented people in the media a voice and serious issues such as poverty and crime can be brought to the attention of wide audiences.  There are also many positive representations of these marginalised people and the films do not appear to hold hegemonic values.  La Haine for example was viewed by France’s cabinet at a special screening.  This was to help those in power to see what it is like for those in poverty who are rioting on the streets at night and to help change their attitudes and policies.

Real life stories

It is important to note that two of the films are based on true stories.  City of God is based on a book written by a real inhabitant of the favelas who really did become a successful photographer.  Many of the characters in the film are based on real people such as Knockout Ned and the real Ned is shown talking in the credits of the film.  Similarly, La Haine uses real footage of the riots in the opening credits and was inspired by the murder of youth while in police custody.  Tsotsi is also based on a book and features a story of a thug in a township but this is not based on a factual person.  City of God and La Haine gain much of their power from the knowledge that they are based on real stories of violence, prejudice, corruption and brutality.  Despite their entertaining use of genre conventions, they are about real stories and are therefore informed by their social and political context.

Social and political issues: racism, emasculation, exclusion, police corruption and brutality

All of the world cinema films studied deal with social and political issues in their narratives.  They all represent racist societies where ethnic groups are marginalised and excluded from the elite and even the middle class.  The youths in La Haine are from diverse backgrounds and are targeted by police and skinheads for their ethnicities.  In City of God, the favela dwellers are mostly black, the descendants of slaves brought over from Africa by colonialism.  Tsotsi shows the racial and economic divide between those with power and wealth in South Africa and those without in the townships of Soweto. 

The films also deal with the emasculation of modern males who no longer feel like they are ‘real’ men.  Since feminism and the increase of women in the workplace, more and more men are unemployed and are less often the providers for their families.  These unemployed and angry young men are aggressive towards women like the youths are in the art gallery scene in La Haine and Lil Ze is towards Ned’s girlfriend.  Tsotsi becomes more feminine as he takes care of a baby he has stolen.  All these men are struggling to maintain a sense of masculinity in the modern world. 

Police corruption and brutality are also dealt with in City of God showing the shooting of an innocent young man and the selling of guns to gangs by the police.  The youths in La Haine are tortured and the whole film revolves around the death of a youth in custody and was even inspired by a similar real event.  These social issues are highly relevant to the films stories and an awareness of their reality adds to the power of the narratives.

Genre and escapism

On the other hand, these films work as entertaining examples of genre cinema.  They can be enjoyed as escapism for people from other countries with very little or even no knowledge of the social and political contexts.  The favelas and les banlieues are depressing but to an extent interesting and vaguely exotic locations and the inclusion of gangster film iconography makes the films appealing to a mass audience.  The guns, drugs, rise and fall of evil villains like Lil Ze and redemptive character arcs of protagonists such as Tsotsi and Vinz all make these films accessible and enjoyable without awareness of the social and political context.  Also the films offer some of this context within their screenplays and have scenes that inform and educate the audience about the contexts.  For example City of God does refer to the corruption of police and La Haine even uses real footage of riots to show the reality of the story it tells.  However this reference to real-life context is less prominent than the engaging and exciting stories that are told and without knowledge of the reality of the situations, some viewers may be less moved by the films.

Overall I would suggest that knowledge of the social and political context is vital for a full appreciation of the films studied.  It makes audiences fully realise the based in reality elements of the films and the hardships and prejudice that real people are facing around the world.  Enjoying the films for their generic conventions such as guns, drugs and violence is too simplistic and finding out about the contexts that have produced these films will allow for viewers to engage in a more active and therefore more rewarding viewing experience.

More A2 exam answers:

Is Fight Club a film about power and control rather than liberation?

Analysing La Haine

World Cinema: Distinctive Visual Features

World Cinema: Social and Political Context

WJEC A2 Film Studies Exam Practice Section B

A2 Film Studies Exam Practice Section B


Monday, 29 October 2012

Lionsgate UK Horrothon

On Saturday I was invited to a one day horror film festival at the Soho Screening Rooms in London.  It was all part of an elaborate plan for Lionsgate UK to promote the upcoming release of Silent Hill: Revelation.  Unfortunately I've got precisely zero interest in that film so am not the best person to help them with promotion.  They showed us a couple of clips between the film screenings.  It looks like more of the same to me.  Strange creepy monster things tormenting a girl in some weird alternative reality.  And this time it's got Sean Bean in it.

I guess fans of the first film and fans of the game will be interested.  I'm not sure many other people will be queuing up for this one.  I got a Silent Hill t-shirt and poster and some The Cabin in the Woods goodies like a keyring to take away so that was nice too.

The programme of films was extensive.  They had three running at one time and I'd seen a lot of them.  I sat through four films between 10am and 5pm.

To start with I had the choice of Blair Witch or Jeepers Creepers.  I went for Jeepers Creepers as I'd just watched Blair Witch for this post last week.  Jeepers Creepers is so frustrating.  There is so much to like about it; the opening stuff with the truck, Justin Long, the old-school vibe and the tantalising early glimpses of the monster.  It then gets farcical and can be quite amusing but overall it's a bit boring, a bit too silly and definitely flounders in the final police station climax.

Then it was straight into Sam Raimi's return to horror with Drag Me To Hell.  This was fun but far from vintage Raimi.  He still knows how to bring the gross-out moments, wild bits of cinematography and the script revels in the suffering of the heroine played by Alison Lohman.  Strangely this turned out to be a Justin Long double bill so I was pleased to be rid of him by the end.

After a ten minute break for lunch, it was into The Cabin in the Woods.  I chose this over The Possession which I hadn't seen but thought was old.  Turns out it's a new film so I wish I'd gone for that.  Nothing against The Cabin in the Woods, I've just seen it already and reviewed it here.  Great film, one of the best of the year.  Really fun, funny and clever.  See it if you haven't already!

Starting to tire of the darkness now, I headed into the final film of the day.  Out of the three choices, the only one I hadn't seen was My Bloody Valentine 3D.  There was a good reason I hadn't watched it.  It didn't look very good.  And it wasn't very good.  It's notable for having one of the longest and most gratuitous nude scenes ever!  The 3D is rubbish and the killer isn't anywhere near as cool as the great slashers.  It did manage to spring a last minute surprise as to the identity of the killer though!

So four horror films in one day!  Not bad for the price of a train ticket!

In other news, Saw is my must-see horror movie of the day over at Filmoria. Check out other must-see horror movies here from Carrie to Scream to Evil Dead!

Thanks to Lionsgate UK.  It was a fun day out.  A whole day of horror!  It doesn't get much better than that.  Silent Hill: Revelation is out Wednesday 31st October.  The trailer is below.  Will you be seeing it?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Total Film Letter in the 200th Edition

After recently getting a letter into Empire magazine, this month I saw a letter published in my other favourite movie magazine, Total Film.  This is exceptionally exciting for me as it was the 200th edition of the magazine that I first bought issue number 4 while I was over in England on holiday.  I used to live in Australia and at the time I bought issue 4 with Donnie Brasco stuff and Mr Freeze on the cover because we had a long car journey visiting my sister in Wales.

Then when I moved back to England years later, I picked up Total Film again from issue 28 which had The Faculty stuff on the cover.  Since then I've never missed a copy.  So to get my first letter in is very exciting for me.

It's a shame that I had to lie.  Please don't judge me but I thought my story needed a little embellishment to give it more entertainment value and a bit of a punch line.  So the letter is all about movie locations I have visited.  All the stuff about the locations I visited while in LA is true.  However that was back in 2007 and not my honeymoon.  But I thought it would be more amusing if I said it was my honeymoon.  So that's what I did.  I feel a little ashamed but not too much.  It turns out lying does pay because I got in the magazine!  Winning!

Then again fate is chuckling at me.  As soon as I saw the letter, I was like 'sweet what DVD are they going to send me for getting in the magazine?'  Men in Black 3.  Somewhere the Gods are definitely laughing at me.  Maybe lying doesn't pay after all.

Anyway congratulations to Total Film on their 200th edition!  Keep up the great work!  I hope they can one day forgive my deceit.

The Blair Witch Project and Top 10 Found Footage Horror

Day 6 of Filmoria's 10 Days of Halloween saw me getting all emotional about my own personal horror passion.  I'm going to come right out and say it before we go any further.  I kind of love found footage horror movies.  Not all of them but when they get it right, I really do love the techniques, the immediacy and the identification they create.

That's why I chose to write about The Blair Witch Project as another of my Halloween must-see movies.  It's the film that introduced me and many others to the found footage trend and since then I've begun a PhD thesis on found footage horror.  I try to see every example but that is becoming increasingly difficult with the sheer amount that get released every year.  Blame the success of Paranormal Activity for really bringing back the trend recently.

Anyway as much as people hate the found footage fad, I think there are some absolutely fantastic examples which is why over at Filmoria I decided to share my top 10 (plus a few more worth catching).

Back in July I defended found footage from its critics over at Boolean Flix which you can read here.

Yesterday at Filmoria I argued The Blair Witch Project is a must-see Halloween movie.

And is that isn't enough shaky-cam action and you want to find some other examples that you may or may not have heard of, then please check out my top 10 found footage horror movies over at Filmoria.

Poor Heather
In other horror-ific news, I spent the day yesterday at the Lionsgate UK horrorthon in London.  In order to promote the upcoming Silent Hill sequel, they were screening loads of their back catalogue at the Soho Screening Rooms.  I sat and watched four horror films back to back between 10am and 5pm.  Starting with Jeepers Creepers and ending with the pretty bloody awful My Bloody Valentine 3D.  In between I checked out Drag Me to Hell and The Cabin in the Woods (again) and we were treated to some frankly bizarre clips from Silent Hill: Revelation.  Spending a whole day in a darkened theatre watching horror was pretty much a perfect day for me.  The quality of the movies wasn't the best but they were all entertaining enough to stop me falling asleep!  I also got a The Cabin in the Woods keyring and Silent Hill poster so thanks to Lionsgate UK for a fun day!

Forget Christmas, Halloween is definitely this horror fans favourite time of the year!

What do you think of found footage?  I'm always curious to hear people's reactions to the sub-genre so whether you love it or hate it, please check out the articles above and let me know your thoughts!

Friday, 26 October 2012

28 Days Later: The Music and why it's a Must-See Movie

A while ago, I was asked by Jessy at the Filmoria team to contribute a bit of writing on my favourite use of music in horror.  I wanted to avoid all the obvious choices like The Exorcist or Psycho and dabbled with the idea of doing Texas Chainsaw, A Nightmare on Elm Street and some others.  But after re-watching Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, I decided it had to be the use of John Murphy's In the House, In a Heartbeat at the climax of that film.

So today I would like to offer you a look at two more pieces I have written for Filmoria's 10 Days of Halloween.  The first is my argument for 28 Days Later being a must-see horror movie.  If you haven't seen this British nightmare, then really you must!  It introduced us to running zombies, possibly the best horror creation ever.  The 'Infected' are rage-fuelled, blood spewing psycho monsters that are absolutely terrifying.

Check out why I think 28 Days Later is a must-see movie at Filmoria here.

Then I take a closer look at the music used in the climactic scene as all hell break loose.  It is one of my favourite scenes in horror cinema and the music is the perfect complement to the frighteningly visceral visuals.  Other contributors to the most effective music in horror feature chose films like Gremlins and even Halloween 3 to discuss. 

Check out the most effective music in horror feature at Filmoria here.

Here's the scene I'm banging on about:

Anyone out there not like this film?  What's your favourite horror movie music?

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Interview with Hello Quo Director Alan G. Parker

Before the premiere of Hello Quo  in London’s Leicester Square, I got the oppotunity to interview director Alan G. Parker.  With the release of the 50-year-spanning rock documentary on DVD and Blu-ray on 29th October, I sat down with the director of Who Killed Nancy? and Monty Python: Almost the Truth - Lawyer's Cut to discuss his most recent film.

We discussed the Spinal Tap similiarities, the rumours of a reunion tour for the original members of Status Quo and the challenge of fitting 50 years of rock history into a feature length documentary.  Parker also mentioned his next project which promises to be another definitive look at an international rock band.

I got to spend 20 minutes chatting with the director and found him to be a really interesting guy with a great love of music.  His visible tattoos and big frame but thoughtful tone make him appear the right guy for the job of making rock-docs.  I even hear he has a tattoo of Sid Vicious on his arm.

The premiere was on Monday night and as I conducted the interview the fans were arriving and the barricades were being erected.  I hear the band were around for a photoshoot but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to see them in person.  I recently reviewed Hello Quo for Filmoria and you can read it here.

I also asked Alan G. Parker about his favourite rock-docs and he mentioned the Metallica one Some Kind of Monster which I must see.  It's been on my Lovefilm list for ages but is one they have yet to send my way.

You can read the full interview with Hello Quo director Alan G. Parker at Filmoria here.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Sexy New Spanish Django Unchained Poster

Yesterday we got a new trailer.  Today there's a new Spanish poster for Quentin Tarantino's upcoming Django Unchained.  The main cast are here and it's something of a departure from the bold red and black previously released UK poster.

Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio all feature on the poster with Leo's villain being all menacing in the background of the scorching red blood splattered sun.

The Western iconography is to the fore with costumes and guns on display.  It's Django's shades that keep the cool factor.

The release date is set for 18 January 2013 in the UK so expect much more in the way of marketing materials before we finally get to see the film.

Read more on the new poster over at Filmoria.

The trailers just keep getting better and better for the film with this latest offering more of a glimpse at Leo as the big bad villain and a bit more of the funky music, funny dialogue and potential for bloody violence.

Evil Dead Remake Looks Sick

Check out the brand new red-band trailer for the Evil Dead remake.  Anyone who has seen the original film will know why it is hailed as a video nasty classic but personally I find it a little too cheap and nasty.  The sequel on the other hand is a comedy horror masterpiece.  So it is with a little regret and shame that I have to admit that this is a remake that I actually don't mind at all.

While these glossy horror remakes from the likes of Platinum Dunes usually make me nauseous with their smoking hot cast of teens that look as if they are airbrushed in every shot, this trailer is so bloody nasty that the slightly sexy looking cast can be forgiven. 

Be warned this is extremely violent, brutal stuff and for fans of extreme horror, looks like a bloody fun night at the cinema.  Who said Cabin in the Woods was the final word in horror movies?

What do you reckon?  A remake worth getting excited for or what?

More horror posts: Creepy Kids, Scream and Saw

Filmoria's 10 days of Halloween continues with the publishing of the feature 10 Movies with Killer Kids.  I contributed the entry on Macauley Culkin in The Good Son.  Any excuse to watch that film again and I'm there.  I was only twelve when this film came out and I loved Home Alone so much that I was determined to see the return of Culkin.  Unfortunately I had to wait for it to be released on video but I wasn't disappointed.  Culkin swears, smokes and turns seriously psychotic.  And sweet little future hobbit Elijah Wood has to put up with Culkin gradually becoming more and more threatening to all around him.

It's a great thriller and I highly recommend it.  The rest of the feature is written by Filmoria's Lesley Coffin and features a range of really creepy kids from films like The Omen to Children of the Corn.  You can check out the 10 Movies with Killer Kids at Filmoria here.

Also published today is the first of Filmoria's must-see horror movies from Amanda.  This time it's Wes Craven's classic post-modern slasher with smarts Scream.

Finally for today, the first of two articles I have written this week on Saw.  For this one I wrote a slightly personal and vaguely academic review of the film that started the biggest horror franchise of the new millenium.  Check out my review of Saw at Static Mass Empororium now.

What are your favourite creepy kids from horror movies?

What do you like better, Saw or Scream?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

DVD Review – Hello Quo @Filmoria

Hello Quo is the 50 years in the making story of British rock legends Status Quo.  It delves into their humble beginnings and climaxes with (possibly not very) heartfelt hugging reunions. Director Alan G. Parker, who I was lucky enough to interview yesterday ahead of the film's Leicester Square premiere last night, has managed to persuade a huge range of recognizable faces to appear in his documentary including Brian May and  Sir Cliff Richard.

All the hits are here with amazing access to all the members, past and present, and fans will no doubt revel in the tales of Top of the Pops performances, drug fuelled recording sessions, charity work, and where are they now details.  The aging rockers make for great raconteurs and the Spinal Tap similarities will have you giggling frequently.

There is something for everyone in this exhaustive rock-doc and fans and casual viewers are likely to be amply entertained equally.

Check out the full Hello Quo review over at Filmoria now and be sure to check out my interview with director Alan G. Parker tomorrow.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Filmoria's 10 Days of Halloween

You got to love this time of year.  The days might be getting shorter.  The shops might be getting be ready for Christmas already.  And worst of it all, it's getting colder and wetter (unless you are reading this from the southern hemisphere).  But on the other hand it's the run-up to Halloween and every film blogger is getting into the spirit by talking horror, horror and more horror!

So Filmoria are going all evil and scary over the next 10 days and it's given me all the excuse I need to watch as much horror as possible.  Some new, some old but all scary as a dark night in the woods all alone with only a masked psycho with a huge machete to keep you company!  Now that's what I'm taking about.

So over the next 10 days, look out for the following:

Today I review the not very scary but pretty damn funny London based comedy horror Cockneys vs Zombies.

On Tuesday, there's a killer kids feature that includes that loveable Macauley Culkin in an even more sadistic role than he had in Home Alone.

On Saturday, I take a look at the top 10 best films in found footage horror.  And yes there really are some great examples of the technique being used out there.  Trust me.  I'll also be taking a closer look at The Blair Witch Project as another must-see horror movie.

Finally on Halloween, the Filmoria team come together for another epic horror feature to argue over which film deserves the title of the scariest horror film ever made

There's going to be loads more over the 10 days and I'll also be doing a special Halloween I LOVE THAT BLOG POST where I'll be sharing the best of the horror-related stuff that I've read between now and Halloween.

So if you're not a horror fan, grab the pillows and hide under the sheets but if you love a good scary movie, then join Filmoria in celebrating the wonderful world of the malicious, the macabre and the downright terrifying!

Blu-Ray Review – Cockneys vs Zombies

What do you get when you cross lovable Londoners from the East End with undead hordes shuffling, mumbling and biting their way into human flesh?  Cockneys vs Zombies of course.

Forget the frankly crushing disappointment of previous cinematic smack downs like Freddy vs Jason and Alien vs Predator, this low budget British gem brings much lower expectations and manages to easily exceed them.

Ever wanted to see Alan Ford (that right nutty bastard from Guy Ritchie's Snatch) calling zombies 'FACKIN MUGS!' Well this is the film to see it in.  It's got zombie, cockneys, pensioners, laughs but not many scares and some highly inventive gore and deaths.  It's even got ex-Bond girl and Avenger Honor Blackman in a supporting role.

If you liked British comedy Shaun of the Dead, I urge you to give this horror comedy a try.  It might not have the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost double act but it's still original and a lot of fun.

To kick off Filmoria's 10 days of Halloween, I wrote a review of the Blu-Ray of Cockneys vs Zombies which you can read here.

Anyone seen it?  What did you think?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

DVD Review – King of Devil’s Island @Filmoria

Fancy a bit of Scandinavian prison drama?  King of Devil's Island stars Stellan Skarsgard surrounded by a hugely talented young cast and it's out on DVD, Blu-ray and available on digital download from 29th October.

Based on the true story of a prisoner insurrection at the real-life Bastoy island prison for boys, it's a beautiful and bleak film with some brilliant performances and I highly recommend it in my 4 star review over at Filmoria.

Following in the footsteps of other great films about juvenile delinquents like The 400 Blows, Sleepers and Scum, this is another great entry into the youth prison film.  It might have much of the familiarity of other prison films but the characters and performances are so strong as to make this well worth a look.

From the cinematography to the score, this is an incredibly well made film and it's great to see Skarsgard taking a break from blockbuster stardom to deliver a chilly performance in a  powerful and gripping smaller film.

Head to Filmoria to read the full review of King of Devil's Island now.

Have you already seen King of Devil's Island?  What did you think?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Feminist Analysis of Terminator 1 and 2

 Here's a look at the first two Terminator films taking a feminist approach.  This is for my BTEC Film Studies students who are currently writing up their own feminist analysis of science fiction films which I hope they will then turn into a blog post just like this!  It follows from yesterday's genre analysis of The Terminator.  Enjoy reading and please leave any feedback if you have anything to say about what has been written here.  After reading this, you may also find it interesting to read David Jackson's piece on why he thinks James Cameron is misandrist

The icon returns... as the good guy!
Feminism is a movement that began in the early 20th Century with the purpose of creating equal rights for women.  At this point, women were not allowed to vote and had very little opportunities for employment or even control over their own bodies.  Women were virtually possessions for their husbands and domestic violence was even more common than it still worryingly is today.  Feminists argued for women’s right to vote and for equal rights with men in the workplace and in the home.  They were advocates for methods of birth control becoming available so women could take more control of their own bodies.

Feminist film theory is important because films are such a popular and influential medium.  Feminist theorists are particularly concerned with the role of women in films and how they are represented.  They analyse films from a feminist perspective, looking specifically at the development and empowerment of women in narratives, the relationship between female characters, the male gaze and the idea of containment of women.

In The Terminator, Sarah Connor is firstly represented as a stereotypical damsel in distress figure.  She is the princess that needs to be rescued from the evil villain by a heroic male figure.  Kyle Reese is a soldier sent back from the future to protect Sarah from the Terminator.  Sarah is represented as a weak woman and she is employed as a waitress but finds it difficult as she is disrespected by the customers.  When the Terminator finds Sarah she is scared and feeling hunted as a strange man has been following and watching her.  This turns out to be Reese who than saves her by shooting at the Terminator.  Sarah is dragged around by Reese who continually saves her from death.  He is the character with knowledge in the story and he has to repeatedly tell Sarah what is going on.

Man strong, woman weak
As the story progresses, Sarah learns how to defend herself a bit more.  The male character teaches her to make bombs and how to use weapons.  Sarah is dependent on the knowledge and skill of the male character.  By the end Sarah has become the final girl, like in many slasher films as her protector has died trying to save her.  Even before his death, Sarah has become stronger and when Reese is injured she is the one that encourages him to keep going.  Finally when Reese dies, after injuring the Terminator, Sarah must fight back and gain her independence.  She crushes the Terminator despite her injury.

Literally contained
In Terminator 2, Sarah has been institutionalised because figures of patriarchal authority such as the police and doctors believe she is crazy. This is an example of containment.  Sarah is now a strong, independent woman and she has been locked up in a mental institution for it.  Sarah is first shown as strong and in control of her body and surroundings.  She has turned her cell into a makeshift gym so that she can do chin ups.  She is watched by a team of doctors like a dangerous caged animal.  She is resourceful and intelligent and almost escapes the hospital without any help.  When the Terminator arrives with her son, she is briefly relegated again to the damsel in distress role.

Tooled up
However throughout the film, Sarah is tough, good with typical masculine weaponry such as guns and determined.  Increasingly she becomes more dependent on the Terminator as he is stronger and virtually indestructible.  In the final scene where Sarah confronts the villain, it is the ‘male’ Terminator who must finish the job when Sarah runs out of bullets.  Therefore Sarah’s position in the film becomes less prominent as the male characters become increasingly important.  On a few occasions she is actually a hindrance to the mission and has to be told to calm down and remain focused by her ten year old son.

Feminists would find the representation of women in the film to be progressive in the lack of a male gaze set up in the films.  The idea of the male gaze suggests that women are often objectified and sexualised by male screenwriters and directors.  Women are often filmed to emphasise their attractiveness to the male audience and the viewer is often positioned to look at women as if they are a male character staring at the woman’s body.  Sarah Connor is never a sex object, although in the first film there is a sex scene where her bare breasts are visible.  However for the most part, especially in the second film, Sarah is not dressed in sexualised clothes and the camera does not linger on her body or her appearance.

The male gaze
On the other hand, in Transformers and the sequel, Mikaela Banes is played by Megan Fox and is constantly dressed in revealing clothes such as short skirts and tight tops.  Though she is quite a strong character who displays knowledge of car mechanics and gets to fight alongside the heroes in the final battle, she is also objectified as she leans over a car and then a motorbike in the sequel.  The camera tilts up her body showing us the reaction of the male character as he looks at her.  The audience is invited to identify with the male hero as he enjoys the look of the female character.

The Fox
The notion of containment is also central to feminist film theory.  Often strong female characters have to be contained by the men who write and direct Hollywood films.  Even though Thelma and Louise for example try to break free of social norms, they have to kill themselves at the end of the film in a last act of defiance.  Similarly strong women are often contained by the patriarchal idea that they must be mothers.  In films from Kill Bill to Aliens to Terminator 2, the female heroes of the story are strong because they are protective of their offspring or because they take the role of a surrogate mother.  Sarah Connor is only important because she gives birth to the leader of the human resistance in the films.  Her role as mother is the most important thing about her.  She is fighting to protect her son John Connor so that he can grow up to save the human race in the future.  Her caring nature as a mother figure also means that she fails in an assassination attempt later in the film.  When a child pleads with her to not kill his father, Sarah breaks down and cannot continue in her actions.  Again, she is saved by the male characters that come to help her.

Mummy you're so badass.
This is a common way for screenwriters to assert patriarchal ideology over strong female characters.  Sarah Connor is also literally contained at the start of Terminator 2 because she has tried to fight the system and figures of authority have deemed her insane.  She is even licked by a male nurse as a reminder to the audience that she is a woman and therefore vulnerable and targeted by men.  However it is only with the help of male characters that she can break free of this containment.

Kicking ass for kids.
From looking at the Terminator films, it is clear that feminism has had an effect on the narratives and ideology of many Hollywood films.  Science fiction of the 1950s did not have tough female characters as heroes and the damsel in distress was a far more common character type.  Women were much more likely to scream and run and be the victim of the villain whereas Sarah Connor shows resourcefulness, intelligence and some independence and strength.  Many female heroes are still objectified such as in Tomb Raider and Resident Evil but there are more progressive roles for women in action, horror, and science fiction cinema than there used to be.

Can I get a hug?