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Ramblings of a film-loving fool

Film & TV Connoisseur

The above title is irresponsibly inaccurate. What we have here are the vacant ramblings of a film-loving fool. Specifically, in regards to the wondrous world of cinema and our now ever so popular version of home cinemas such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer, etc…

It has come to my attention that my life has got to the point where I find myself sitting in the darkened cinema room, my popcorn in hand, slushy in its holder, hoping and praying not to be disappointed. I love the cinema. In fact, I beyond love the cinema, I reckon I could go as far to say I adore it. The cinema is such a spectacle/event.

You drive to the designated chosen cinema. I, personally, argue how I want a small popcorn, yet the person behind the counter ends up using the killer line of: ‘It’s only 20p more for a large combo meal.’ This makes no sense. I have just had my dinner, sure the popcorn will be devoured before the adverts finish, but I would like a small taster of popcorn, kind sir/madam. To which I insist they half fill the popcorn box as one of my little bug bears is the suicidal popcorn pieces at the top that jump off to their death from the box, just not to be consumed by me, and I end up reinacting a Hansel and Gretel film.

I find myself avoiding going to the cinema with other people (minus my husband of course, who is possibly more opinionated than me) in the fear of being late or having this ridiculous wave of want come over me to ensure everyone has a great time. The last ‘family’ trip the cinema consisted of my parents, little brother, husband  and me going off to see Fantastic Beast’s and Where to Find Them… It was a truly stressful trip.

But, enough of that. Back to cinema! Popcorn! Movies!

Over the past year or so there have been very few films which have made me sit back in my chair, pull a face of approval and say wow. After watching a film I typically look at its rating to see if other people agree with me or not. I find this infuriating when I find a film that has very little style or substance gets over an 8.0 on Imdb or Rotten Tomatoes when in my eyes it is truly terrible, and I have no one but my eager husband to listen to me rant. Which is why I have turned to this new outlet… To praise and disgrace the film world that I love so much.

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#8 – Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet, dir. Victor Fresco, 2017

I had my doubts from the image displayed and the brief description as to what this series would be like, especially as one of its leading characters is played by Drew Barrymore. I’m pleased to say I was pleasantly surprised! This Netflix orginal was in fact rather funny. It’s been a while since I’ve laughed out loud at a series but this one combined the crude and ridiculous to create something quite comedic. I enjoyed the fact that the whole family was involved which lead to this being a good easy watch, with each episode only being being between 25-30 minutes long.

The series is set in a suburban neighbourhood and we follow the Hammond family as they attempt to adjust to a ‘new change’ in their ordinary, Realtor lives. The storyline is a little unoriginal but through the use of sarcastic comedy it gives it that edge. There are elements that are reminiscent of other crime/undead series which have clearly been an influence but to keep from ruining the storyline I won’t mention specifics. 

#7 – Dexter

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Dexter, dir. James Manos Jr & John Dahl, 2006-2013

Dexter is a cleverly crafted, twisted and some-what witty series that quite frankly, I cannot stop raving about! The series can be found on Netflix, and at the moment, we are currently on season 6 of 8, participating in an enjoyable binge-watching session.

Throughout each of the series Dexter Morgan pursues a multitude of personal conflicts as he tries to balance leading a normal life with a not so normal hobby. This is no ordinary crime TV show. As a blood splatter analyst for Miami Metro Police, Dexter uncovers an awful past and tries to come to terms with his inner ‘dark passenger.’ We soon learn why he is so good at his job… Dexter is a serial killer himself.

Dexter is no ordinary killer, he is equipped with a set of codes which he lives by. This itself raises conflict in the viewer, is it justified what he does? His character is so appealing that you can’t help but be on his side. Narration adds a comedic value to the series, offering the viewer an upper hand above the characters by Dexter’s side. This sparks so much tension through scenes where you get to the point where you believe that he will get caught. Each season follows Dexter’s battle with himself and we see the character develop over time, bringing to light questions of his code and those around him as he attempts to lead a ‘normal’ life. The story lines within Dexter are truly gripping and never cease to amaze and shock you.

The casting is great, not only do we follow Dexter, but also the whole homicide department with all their quirks, leading to some strong sub-plots for the series. However, I will not be forgiven if I do not mention Debra. The most annoying, self absorbed sister one could ever encounter. As soon as she steps on screen you cannot help but sigh and groan. Who knew that a woman could turn a situation round on herself so quickly? Sure, she highlights how Dexter is unemotional through her ridiculously over-dramatic, teary eyed face. How can someone be so emotional yet so manly at the same time is beyond me. Not one episode goes by where she doesn’t tear up or turn even the worse situations around on herself. If you can get through this monstrosity of a woman, then yes this is the most clever and twisted series I’ve seen in a while! And, minus the aggravating sister, is a very enjoyable and tense TV program that I thoroughly enjoy a binge session of.

#6 – Dirty Dancing

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Dirty Dancing, dir. Emile Ardolino, 1987

I recognise that this is not a new film. But, this year celebrates the 30th Anniversary of its release, and to celebrate my love for this film I dragged my husband to see it on the big screen on February 14th. Our new ritual is apparently going to the cinema around Valentines day, last year it was to see Deadpool (best date ever) and this year, boycotting Fifty Shades Darker, I leapt at this huge chance to view one of my favourites at the cinema.

There are many factors that make this film hit my top ten list. I can’t help but fall in love with the soundtrack and character progression over and over again each time I view it. I can’t help but love the costume of Baby (Jennifer Grey) throughout Dirty Dancing. It is textbook how through the film she progresses from shy baggy clothed girl to strong, brave woman that is reiterated through her dance. A film of family, love, naivety, status and growing up possesses the screen. Good old Johnny Castle played by Patrick Swayze is the one Baby falls for, leading to her awakening… both sexually and worldly. Looking at it now-a- days I am a little concerned about the age gap, but I’d rather not think too much about it at risk of ruining it for myself.

The social context of this film is brilliant, adding that extra layer. Based in the sixties, the underground dance scene highlights the changing times. The camp owner, Max Kellerman, even reiterates this at the end of the film, stating that dance have moved on from the foxtrot, which is true. This film highlights the beginnings of a new dance and music movement. It’s surprising at how different it is to see a film on the big screen opposed to DVD form at home. The dance sequences are even more sexual as they dissect the body, capturing body parts. The pre-sex scene between Johnny and Baby highlights how less is definitely more. The camera captures body parts and the music and dim lighting cast a very erotic atmosphere.

Dirty Dancing hits all the right buttons. The music is incredible, the story one with complexities, and some rather brilliant choreography that you can’t help but enjoy. Definitely worth the watch on the big screen to affect your feels.

#5 – The Founder

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The Founder, dir John Lee Hancock, 2017

Due to the wonders of Parks & Recreation I have become a full blown fan of Nick Offerman and was undoubtedly excited to see him take on a serious role with this new film The Founder. Michael Keaton stars alongside the McDonald brothers: Dick and Mac (Nick & John Lynch) which was a match-made cast.

What begins as a tale of inspiring entrepreneurship and persistence turns into the tragedy of business and overthrowing two brothers dreams. As a viewer we cannot help but admire salesman Roy (Keaton) who is undoubtedly a clever businessman… what he wants, he damn gets. Mac and Dick battle with this hot-headed, persistent salesman which ultimately leads to their demise. You would think the plot would revolve around these two brothers who created McDonalds! But no, even they are pushed out of the screen to let Roy, “The Founder,” take the credit of such a revolutionary business of the fifties.

You feel the excitement of this new Franchise ‘McDonalds’ through the excellent casting, music and directing. The film may have been a little lacking toward the end, but all in all I found it an enjoyable drama that was quick paced with many comedic elements. In all honesty, I was pessimistic through the fact this was essentially a film about the food chain McDonald’s, but, through some great directing from John Lee Hancock the film captured more than just a franchised restaurant. It highlighted how supreme the notion of food in 30 seconds was! The Founder also highlights the difference to now. What began as a family run business full of hard graft and passion transforms into the corporate business that we now know today.

#4 – Trainspotting 2

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Trainspotting 2, dir. Danny Boyle, 2017

As I sat in the perfect cinema row, the perfect cinema seat (the novelty of watching a film half ten at night) a sense of anticipation coursed through my body and hope that this sequel would not be a flop. It’s been a while since I’ve had this feeling of excitement over a new release, I think it helps when all components of an evening come together.

 

I was not disappointed.

A homage to the original, T2 seeps with nostalgia as it highlights current affairs contrasting to 20 years ago. Throughout, we are reminded of the original Trainspotting by brilliant Danny Boyle, brimming with memories and captured youth. We see our favourites reappear on screen and get sucked back into their progression, or lack thereof.

The film has a feeling of closure, which is reiterated through the opening song of T1 that is played in the ending scene of T2, that could not be seen with the previous film. Despite a shaky start due to its slightly different filming style, it delves us back into the world of Mark Renton, Bigbie, Spud and Sick Boy. Glimpses of the past constantly remind us that 20 years have passed as we see a battle of friendship, forgiveness and moving on. There is no doubt that this film has moved with the times with subtle comments of todays society that can be seen with the CCTV snippets and the alteration of club life as seen in Bigbie’s eyes.

It is a shame the women of Trainspotting did not play a greater part and explored further, yet reminders did remain. Cleverly costumed Diane appears on screen as a lawyer, suited in an outfit that is very reminiscent of her old school uniform. We see these men stuck in the past, reliving old memories and finding closure from the ‘opportunity’ that led to ‘betrayal’ of Mark.

The love of montage is ever present in this film and clashes of past and present are represented on screen in this way. What could have been a bold and innovative film becomes a homage to the old and can only be seen as that, not a new entity itself. All in all, we do still fall in love with the characters of screen due to the wit and charm being captured and despite the film being lacking in places, it was certainly pleasing to both eyes and ears.

#3 – The Crown

The Crown, dir. Peter Morgan, 2016

Netflix is the new age of home cinema. Some pretty incredible series have cropped up over the past few months and I am definitely one for a binge series session.
The Crown, depicts our current Queens life. My ignorance was definitely highlighted as the series began and new ‘patriotic’ feelings emerged as the series pulls on the heart and mind. There are currently three series that start just after WW2 and end in the sixties. We follow Queen Elizabeth’s growth from princess to queen with guest appearances from Winston Churchill and others alike.

The depiction this series creates that sets it apart from the run of the mill period drama are its spot on casting and fantastic screenplay. We delve into the lives of the Royals and see the impacts of Elizabeth becoming queen on the whole family, for better or for worst.

Claire Foy, Matt Smith and John Lithgow steal the show within the series having captured the pure essence of their characters. The balance of creating a powerful and emotive that keeps you hooked has been cleverly crafted and I, for one,  am definitely excited for the next few chapters ahead.

#2 – La La Land

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La La Land, dir. Damien Cazelle, 2017

As I sit and stare at the screen before me I contemplate how on earth La La Land has gained so much recognition to it leading to more than just a couple Oscar Nominations. If I dwell too hard I’m afraid my face will forever be etched in a ‘wtf’ form, therefore I will begin attempting to understand this alien possibility.

Damien Chazelle has been high up on my praise list due to the wonders of Whiplash, which is why it is unfortunate that this film has been a product of pure style and no substance. I have to admit, it began promising! Bold use of primary colours were sprayed over the screen, a huge choreography and upbeat music number opened the stage preparing us for an extravaganza of applause. To which quickly fell short to a polite clap, if you’re lucky, by the end.

If I begin with positives I can definitely assure you that the mise-en-scene was definitely on point. Colourful backdrops and wondrous settings were a homage to Hollywood classics. I cannot deny that the music in places was brilliant, if not repetitive… a technique perhaps to brainwash us into loving jazz? There was some catchy piano music which, if you removed the clashing singing, was poetic. After witnessing an interview on the Graham Norton Show, BBC I had high hopes to be wowed by the piano music that Gosling taught himself on set! This could be praised if this ‘incredible jazz pianist’ played more than one tune the entire way through…

I would typically like to summarize the plot of a film as a helping hand to the reader, yet I am unsure as to what it was. Sure it swings in the whereabouts of: girl meets boy, both have dreams, both try achieve dreams, ect. but from this amazing Original Musical I would have hoped for a little more depth? What was lacking in Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) was perhaps chemistry and a character background that makes us hope and yearn for these two to succeed. Rather than being left with watching two strangers have copious montage sequences with little substance or emotion. I have a feeling what let Stone down was that her audition scenes mirrored her acting throughout the rest of the film which ruined that cinematic layer for me.

Perhaps I am being harsh… but is this film really deserving of fourteen Oscar Nominations when the main protagonists have little chemistry, there is little story line and the best moment was 3/4 of the way in with a ‘what if’ sequence that showed the entire film in 5 minutes.

 

#1 – Hacksaw Ridge

Hackshaw Ridge, dir. Mel Gibson, 2016

To begin this blogging adventure I thought we would begin with a film that is so gritty and honest it left me speechless.

My eyes have recently being revealed to the wonders of TV series such as Band of Brothers, The Pacific and films like Fury that have led to me being awakened with a new love for the war genre that are based on true events. Despite a reserved view of Hacksaw Ridge as its directing ensemble goes to Mel Gibson, I was actually very surprised at how much of a great job he did. The story follows an uneducated man whose faith leads him to join the army as a medic. His values are brought into question as he refuses to bare arms, not even in training.

The scripting was crafted beautifully in regards to some brilliant lines by Garfield, however the only little niggle that could be seen in the plot structure is the timeline of events in the first half of the film, which in places, was a little patchy. But, this is where all praise begins for Andrew Garfield, who plays the character of real-life hero Desmond T. Doss. To what seemed like an unusual casting at the start blended into something spectacular. An element of Forest Gump could be seen in his accent, yet after the interview clip at the end of the film with Desmond himself, it washes all these negativities away. Mr Garfield creates an incredible performance throughout the film which mirrors its powerful message of hope and faith.

Visually, Hacksaw Ridge blends the components of the war genre perfectly. Mel Gibson made a wise choice to avoid stereotypically slow-mo sequences  (apart from the once) in order to craft some hard hitting battle scenes. The notion of ‘less is more’ definitely worked in Gibson’s favour. The absence of music throughout these scenes left you with a haunting sound of gun shots and cries, reiterating a sense of chaos and honesty of war. There was no holding back in sudden death, which through the darkness of chaos highlighted how quick a life can be taken from a gun shot. The imminence of death hung over the screen, causing tension and discomfort for the viewer. This makes the film so gritty and honest that you can’t help but praise Gibson on his representation of events.

 

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