Cool Things on the Internet #1

Welcome to my new series of cool things I have recently found/seen/read on the internet. I don’t suppose we need anymore introduction than that, do we? Continue reading Cool Things on the Internet #1

The Breaker Upperers

A little New Zealand banger this week and what a joy it is too. If it had been fifteen minutes long and just consisted of the last scene, I still would have been delighted with it. Continue reading The Breaker Upperers

Oscars 2019 – Thoughts, Hopes & Dreams

I’m quite sure the world is waiting with baited breath to hear what I have to say about this year’s Oscars and who I think should win. So as is traditional, here are my hopes vs. what will probably happen. Continue reading Oscars 2019 – Thoughts, Hopes & Dreams

If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

A woman in Harlem embraces her pregnancy while she and her family struggle to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime.

Starring: KiKi Layne • Stephan James • Regina King • Brian Tyree Henry • Dave Franco

TW: Sexual Assault

Honestly, if Beale Street could talk I don’t think it would because it would be too busy snoozing in the middle row of the theater, next to a teenage boy cracking his knuckles.

This movie is sooooooo boring. Aggressively boring in fact and I couldn’t wait for it to end. With a run time of almost 2 hours, I felt every single minute. Luckily my viewing partner was on the same page so I didn’t feel quite so bad when I didn’t like it at all (not that that normally matters).

Are the critics and people who loved this so much talking about the same film? I am so disappointed. Barry Jenkins is, of course, the director behind 2016’s masterpiece Moonlight so to say I went it with high hopes is an understatement. I even packed a wad of tissues expecting to sniffle my way through.

Well, I didn’t tear up once and that, my friends, is a bad sign. I can’t sit through an episode of Hollyoaks without bawling but as the end credits played, I was dry eyed with my heart of stone firmly intact.

Credit: Annapurna Pictures

*Minor spoilers*

I suppose I should go into the things I did like, which will be easy because it’s a short list featuring just two words: Regina King. Thank God for her because without I probably would have walked out. If I’m being extra generous, the story-line – of a black man falsely accused of sexual assault – is also interesting in its own right. Had this focused more on the crime element of the story, I think I would have been way more engaged. There’s a segment in which Sharon Rivers (Tish’s mum) travels to South America to speak to the victim which is very good.

I can’t say this isn’t an important movie, it’s the kind of movie I want to see and it has a lot to say about society – and similar neighbourhoods and black communities across the US. It makes you think about all the innocent men who go to their death just because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time – and only because of the colour of their skin. It’s sickening and this is just one story in a pool of thousands.

I just wish it was better. Based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, it focuses on the love between Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), childhood sweethearts with their whole lives ahead of them. When Fonny is wrongly accused of a brutal sexual assault, Tish and their families are forced to do everything they can to prove his innocence. Which is made all the more vital when Tish discovers she’s pregnant with Fonny’s baby.

The film takes us back and forth on the timeline of their relationship, giving us a glimpse of two kids at play in the tub together – to the conception of their adult relationship (then their baby) – to present day – and right back again. That’s not hard to follow and I like how the film looks, I suppose. Some of the lighting is gorgeous and the soundtrack is nice too.

No shade to any of the performances either. In addition to the skill of Ms King, newcomer Layne does okay. Tish just isn’t that exciting and there are times she irritates me with her doe-eyed innocence. Tish’s fiery sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris) is great too.

There’s also some interesting support in the shape of the mighty Brian Tyree Henry, Diego Luna and even Dave Franco.

Stephan James’ Fonny isn’t a character I particularly care for. There are times he takes his frustrations out on Tish and although I get what they represent, I didn’t like it. And there’s a lot of meaningful eye contact which I could do without. Talking of which – the extended ‘cherry popping’ scene was unnecessary and a little awkward.

Dance your way into a better movie, guys

So you could say this was not a hit with me at all. I don’t regret seeing it but I have no emotional attachment to the central characters at all. I’m not surprised it didn’t appear as a Best Picture nominee this year, although Regina King has been rightly recognised for Supporting Actress.

⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Plant Life

I’ve been thinking of going vegetarian for a while now. I love a good burger obviously or a nice hearty stew but I can’t deny that I’ve started to feel guilty about meat consumption and it feels like a habit most of the time. I’ve always been a meat and two veg kind of girl and I’d like to change that.

In my head I thought I’d just quit meat right now and that would be that but if I’m going to do this, I want to do it properly. So I’ve been looking online at the easiest ways to do it. The general consensus seems to be to start making changes slowly which isn’t as dramatic as I’d imagined but it is sensible. And I’m nothing if not sensible.

On my hunt I found this little checklist by Zen Habits and thought I would use it at the heart of this post. I don’t know anything about vitamin supplements or meat substitutes really but I’ll see what I can find on the old web and through speaking to vege friends.

Have good reasons…

I do feel guilty about animal cruelty and the damage we are doing to the planet by trying to sustain fields of livestock just for food. According to Peta, meat-eating is listed as the second-biggest environmental hazard facing the Earth. A fact I’ve ignored on purpose for many years.

Read up…

I don’t know of any specific resources but I’m sure they’re easy to find online. Any recommendations are welcome, obviously!

Find good recipes…

This will probably be the most challenging part, given my aversion to cooking. However, Quorn and meat substitutes seems to be so good these days I’m looking forward to a little experimentation.

Try one recipe a week…

See above. I’m really craving a massive meat-free spag bol – look I told you, I’m not a fancy person, okay?

Substitutions…

I only know about Quorn and Linda McCartney but I’m sure there are bajillions of options out there now. I know M&S have an impressive plant based selection, so I’ll keep an eye out.

Start with red meat…

This should be the easiest bit to be honest. Goodbye bacon and burgers.

Then the other meats…

I think fish might be the hardest for me but it’s going to happen, I swear.

Consider dairy & eggs…

Hm. We’ll see how far we get. Baby steps and all that… Jazzzzzz.

~

Joking aside though, I think it’s better to do something small to start than do nothing at all – and fortunately, Glynn’s been thinking along the same lines. So we’re doing it together.

We might not become vegan straight away or even at all but we can start here and see where it leads us, right? I mean the intention is there, surely that counts for most of it.

Are you vegetarian? Was it a hard change to make?

Whip It

Both Jill and I have been surprised by how lack-luster our choices have been so far this Feminist February, so I wanted to go for something I knew would be guaranteed fun. How can it not be with this cast? Plus, although I don’t always appreciate Ellen Page in her movies, I like her politics in the real world – so I chose this also because of that. Plus DREW BARRYMORE.

*Minor spoilers*

Whip It (2009)

Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a teenage misfit in the small town of Bodeen, Texas. Pushed into local pageant life by her former-beauty queen mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), she is expected to conform to certain ladylike ideals. When she rocks up to one of the competitions with blue hair, Brooke is suitably disappointed.

Bliss’ heart just isn’t really in it, you know? She feels stifled by small town life. Luckily she has a cool best friend in the shape of Pash (Alia Shawkat), who is all too willing to be roped into side adventures. The pair also work together at The Oink Joint where the specialty is something called “the Squealer”.

“This little piggy went to Austin, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy joined the derby…”

During a shopping trip with Brooke to Austin, Bliss sees a couple of derby girls handing out flyers. Under the guise of going to see a football game, she and Pash go back to Austin on their own to witness the derby for themselves. During the show the Holy Rollers defeat the Hurl Scouts and Bliss falls in love with the sport.

After the show she meets Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) who persuades her to come to the next team try out. Lying about her age, she does and – lo! – discovers she has natural agility on the rink. Unfortunately her skill also catches the attention of mean girl Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) who’s naturally threatened by this new kid on the block (I feel you girl). She also meets wannabe rock star Oliver (Landon Pigg) who quickly, and predictably becomes her love interest.

“What do you think of my big helmet?”

Bliss is forced to lie again when she tells Oliver she lives with roommates in Bodeen. The two quickly become an adorable couple but Bliss, now with the stage name Babe Ruthless, is heading for a fall. And exactly how long can she keep up this double life anyway?

Her parents think she’s signed up for extra SAT classes while Oliver thinks she’s an upwardly mobile badass of the world, something’s got to give, right? Well, when Maven gets her mitts on the truth, she has just the leverage to get Ruthless out of her life and off the team for good.

This is a lovely coming of age movie with a dream cast. Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut is based on the novel Derby Girl by Shauna Cross. She also plays Smashley Simpson and is the most accident prone of the group. Support includes Eve as Rosa Sparks, Ari Graynor as Eva Destruction and Zoë Bell as Bloody Holly.

I’m supposed to buy you shoes from a… a head shop? Does that really strike you as responsible parenting? ~ Brooke Cavendar

My face every time I remember Juliette Lewis is a Scientologist

I really like this movie, which I have seen before. I was really happy to revisit it and I think what I enjoy most about it is the mother/daughter element. While Brooke projects her own issues onto her daughter, despite her obvious reluctance to be part of the pageant scene, it’s hard to watch. And when Brooke lashes out and disses the derby girls, despite their kindness towards Bliss, she’s lashing out at a different way to be a woman, one she just doesn’t understand.

This film does not rely on men, all the men are secondary, even Oliver who fucks up as soon as he goes on tour. He doesn’t break Bliss nor does he feature again once she’s burnt his jacket and told him she’s not going to be the girl hanging about waiting for him at home.

Scream if you love Drew Barrymore

The derby girls are fucking great. While Maven is outwardly hostile she eventually gets over herself enough to admit why Babe sticks in her craw so much. But everybody else is welcoming and supportive, sticking two fingers up at the notion that women should always be competing. Sure, they are on the rink but beyond that, it’s a different take on a real and loving family.

This is wonderful sisters doing it for themselves stuff, it’s about following a dream, even if it’s just a dream for now. It’s about getting smashed in the face multiple times and getting back up. It’s about understanding your own needs and going out there and nourishing them. And it’s about looking fucking cool in knee pads.

I’m inspired to be more me when I think about it, even at this ripe age and although my answers probably won’t be found on the end of a pair of skates, it’s nice to know there might be something out there for me too.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my derby girl think of this one? Would she trip it violently or be on hand to patch it up, no questions asked? Find out here.

“I really liked you in Too Young To Die…”

Climax

Climax (2018)

*Minor spoilers*

TW: Violence, pregnancy, suicide.

Gaspar Noé and I share a complicated relationship. I just love to hate him and all because of the terrible, over-sexed Love (my review of it here). I always feel like he’s done more than just that to warrant this reaction but he really hasn’t.

Irreversible (2002) is not a bad film, however brutal and difficult it is to stomach and those, until this morning, were the only Noé films I had seen. 

And now there’s Climax.

I bloody loved it!

It still sports all the classic Noé trademarks: the hyper-real dialogue, the not very likeable characters, the rapid descent in madness and Hell – but it’s brilliant. I’ve rented it on Amazon Prime and I’m tempted to go back for another watch because honestly, I was gripped from the get go.

I don’t want to give anything away because – and I say this a lot within my ‘reviews’ – I went in with little to no knowledge of the plot. My lovely friend Matt and I listen to a podcast called Evolution of Horror and during their 2018 horror movie review, the host Mike Mucher and guest discussed their favourite movies of the year. Climax was one of them.

All I remember about it is that they compared it to Suspiria (2018) and coined the term Dance Horror, a sub-genre I am very much here for.

In 1996, 20 French urban dancers gather in an abandoned dance school (familiar?) for a three-day rehearsal before they embark on a tour of the US. In high spirits and gagging for a party to celebrate their hard work, the collective enjoy a night swilling sangria and getting crazy. As there are so many characters it does get quite challenging to keep up with who’s who and more importantly, who’s banging who. As you’d expect, all those writhing nubile bodies need somewhere to connect and so there’s a whole lot of coupling going on.

David (Romain Guillermic) is with group leader Selva (Sofia Boutella) but boasts that he’s fucked every other woman in the troupe on the side. One of dancers ‘jokes’ that he must be riddled with STDs. He’s literally the worst (a classic Noé fuck boi) and the way he talks about women makes me look forward to all he’s got coming to him.

Gazelle (Giselle Palmer) has been dating Omar (Adrien Sissoko) for nine months, much to the disgust of her older brother who maintains that just ‘cos he can have his dick sucked any time he likes, it doesn’t mean she gets to suck any. (This is just a slice of the kind of conversation you can expect from the group, it’s coarse, misogynistic AF and rife with double standard).

We also have Emmanuelle (Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull), a single mum with her son Tito in tow, secretly pregnant dancer Lou (Souheila Yacoub) who has no clue who the father is and young Riley (Lakdhar Dridi), who’s determined to get his cherry popped tonight, preferably by David.

Psyche (Thea Carla Schott) and her lover Ivana (Sharleen Temple) are a couple on the rocks while Daddy (Kiddy Smile) watches over the flock, a grinning teddy bear on the decks. There are many other side characters and nobody here is all that relateable or nice. However, I did feel small mounts of sympathy when things get real quickly. Even David warrants some later on, however fleeting.

Climax works beautifully. It descends into horror and chaos quickly, after a very healthy intro. In fact, the actual opening title sequence starts around halfway through the film (while the closing credits appear at the beginning, and the title card at the very end). The dance sequences are enjoyable and much more accessible that the artistic moves of Suspiria. There’s a lot of Vogue-ing going on and all those limbs! These kids can contort in ways I never knew possible.

Later these shapes and movements will come back to haunt us as grotesque background pieces. Again, without giving too much away, shit kicks off and the troupe quickly begins to unravel. Former alliances crumble as distrust grows and pack mentality wins out. People are punished for imagined crimes (horribly) while others are pressured into taking their own action.

As the horror escalates we follow Selva and friends through the gateway to twenty personal nightmares. Things become disorientated, camera angles turn on their head. The use of colour is very effective, and reminiscent of a lot of Noé’s work – and just adds to the feeling of control slipping through our fingers, even as viewer.

Each room in the school becomes it’s own grimy vignette and you don’t know what’s coming next, what you’re walking into. And the sound – the screams and the yelling as they echo around the building – they hint at unimaginable horror.

I can imagine that anyone going into this with the expectation of traditional horror might be disappointed. I’ve read a few reviews that suggest that apart from some clever camera work not all that much happens. I disagree and the more I think about it the more I love it. It might not follow the rules of your average slasher nor submit to a supernatural narrative but that in some ways makes it worse. The dark side of human nature is terrifying and in this claustrophobic setting, with the lights off and the doors locked – what could be worse than losing control of all your senses?

I wouldn’t say I’m a newly converted Gaspar Noé fan but I suppose I’ll be open to what he does next. I still don’t think I’ll ever be ready for Enter the Void (2009) though.

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

 

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

I knew I wouldn’t get on well with this. The trailer failed to get my juices flowing and I didn’t think I’d be able to get past the CGI’d central character, Alita (Rosa Salazar). In fact, Alita was the least distracting thing about the film and I have healthy respect for the way she’s animated.

Glynn really wanted to see and enjoy this, so with no expectation (on my part), we took Date Night to the Odeon. While this film wasn’t my favourite – and actually made me scoff a few times because it was so awkward – I enjoyed some of the spectacle. Everything is CGI’d to the hilt and it’s an impressive world built from scratch.

The year is 2563 and a world war know as “The Fall” has left the Earth devastated. We find ourselves in Iron City which is nothing more really than a massive junk yard. Times are tough here and it’s made all the more difficult by the looming sky city of Zalem, which is placed directly over Iron City.

The poor (fiscally and physically) residents of IC are overshadowed by the obscene wealth of Zalem every day of their lives. Some long to beg, steal or borrow their way up there by any means necessary. One day, cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson (Christoph Waltz) is scavenging an actual junk yard when he finds the healthy head and brain of a female cyborg. He brings her home, gives her a body and a heart – and names her “Alita”.

Alita quickly adapts to her new life but she has little recollection of where she came from. For all intents and purposes, she’s just a normal teenage girl who happens to be a cyborg. When she meets Hugo (Keean Johnson), he opens up her world view all the more. But Alita isn’t just a normal teenage girl and it soon becomes apparent that whatever she is, she’s a warrior. She has incredible survival instincts and is an expert in an ancient martial art.

This comes in handy when she finds out Dyson is moonlighting as a Hunter-Warrior (bounty hunter) and she gets to help him take down some lowly criminals.

Alas, this puts Alita on everyone’s map and not in a good way as she upsets the order of things, pissing off not only the criminal underworld but also the Hunter-Warrior community. All this runs alongside the national spectacle of Motorball, an all-consuming sport that everyone seems to love. Obviously she’s a natural at that too.

And there’s a helluva a lot more to it than that. The film looks good if you don’t mind suspending your disbelief for two hours. The action is satisfying too but it just doesn’t have much of a soul. When it comes down to it, Alita is the best character in it and I think it’s because of her enthusiasm. Both Mahershala Ali (as gang boss Vector) and Jennifer Connelly (as Dyson’s ex-wife Chiren) are wasted. Waltz seems to phone it in. Ed Skrein‘s shady Hunter-Warrior Zapan is horrible –  and the central teen romance is cringe-worthy AF.

While Alita has every right to the ordinary aspects of life, I could have done without the YA romance. Hugo is as terrible as Zapan and I didn’t care for him at all. But you know, as I type this I realise there’s more to like than dislike so maybe you’ll like it more than I did. It’s not a total disaster after all, just not my cup of tea.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

My Bloody VALENTINE

I hate Valentine’s Day with a passion. Honestly can we do away with it, please? It makes me so mad because I end up questioning the validity of my own relationship just because I haven’t had 100 long stemmed roses and a 7 foot teddy bear delivered to my workplace. We do cards but that’s about it and that’s fine.

However. This year The Basses are going on a little London trip – in fact I need to be ready in the next 90 minutes. This wasn’t planned for Valentine’s but happens to coincide with Cupid’s birthday so why not, eh?

We’re seeing Neneh Cherry at Camden Roundhouse and are planning a lovely leisurely mooch around Camden. First stop Amy Winehouse’s statue then the market, food and graffiti (if I can find any). I cannot wait. We’re staying over tonight and it will be nice just to get away and enjoy our own company.

Because we’re away today, it means I’ll have to forgo the annual viewing of my two favourite (trashy) anti-valentine’s movies. Don’t worry though, I’ll be catching up on the weekend and I’ve shared them below because I’m nothing if not a giver.

Valentine (2001)

Uh, hello? This movie stars some of the biggest early noughties stars of the moment. Well, Denise Richards, David Boreanaz and Katherine Heigl (remember them?). It’s pure garbage but it’s my kind of garbage and I simply adore it. I actually revisited it recently as Netflix has just added it but I think I might go back again for the lols.

Our antagonist is a cupid-mask wearing, knife-wielding maniac exacting bloody revenge on the women who rejected him back in adolescence (or is he?). One by one a group of mean girls are dispatched from this world in imaginative and brutal ways. Personally I’m a big fan of Denise Richards’ death scene (*spoiler*), an example of careless words coming back to haunt you. There’s so much to love here and the aesthetic is very appealing.

Of course this is murder by numbers but it’s all belly tops and bitches, and I’ll always be here for it. Be nice to nerds, girls – that’s my take home. Also, *some* men are entitled whiners, so maybe scratch that and do you, boo.

My Bloody Valentine (2009)

It’s been a while for this one (I don’t think I actually did it last year) so I’m looking forward to my revisit. A remake of the 1981 movie of the same name, MBV: Reloaded focuses on a small mining town terrorised by a serial killer with a pickaxe.

When Tom (Jensen Ackles) returns (from sea? I don’t know) to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine’s night massacre, he finds himself suspected of committing the murders. AWKWARD.

He has, it should be said, just inherited the town mine previously owned by his father. The mine is the scene of a tragic 1997 accident – and the catalyst for the Valentine’s massacre the following year – so you just know no good can come of it.

As with many traditional slasher movies, there is a lot of illicit shagging and characters who are literally the worst so when they’re taken down one by one by a killer in a gas mask, you can’t help but cheer.

“Be Mine 4 Ever”

I find the mine setting quite novel and the mounting evidence against Tom (is he guilty or not?) is satisfying. And what better way than spending time with morally ambigious yet attractive young people?

How are you spending your Valentine’s? ♥