Film, Reviews


downloadAccording to the man himself, a director has to make three westerns before he can call himself a western director. Quentin Tarantino is one step closer to realising his own rule with The Hateful Eight, set in the same universe as 2013’s Django Unchained. At one point it seemed unlikely that the film would see the light of day after a highly publicised set leak, but it is here and it is pretty glorious.

The Hateful Eight has a relatively simple premise – bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is bringing Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock to hang, when he encounters fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and Chris Mannex (Walton Goggins), who is claiming to be the new Sheriff of Red Rock. They stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery to wait out a blizzard, where they find former Civil War General Sandford Smithers (Bruce Dern), hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), drifter Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and Bob (Demian Bichir), who has been left in charge of the premises. Thus the stage is set as the hateful eight are stuck inside Minnie’s for the duration of the blizzard.

One thing is sure of all Tarantino films, and that is that you will either love them or hate them. The guy has a distinctive style that makes it immediately obvious that you are watching a Tarantino movie, such as tight dialogue and over-the-top violence, and it is all here for fans to savour and non-Tarantinoites to scoff at. The dialogue is fantastic, with a number of laugh out loud one liners littered throughout. Jackson gets the majority of the great lines, and his Major Marquis allows the actor to be at the top of his game.

The Hateful Eight doesn’t reach the heady heights of Tarantino’s best, but it is also a far cry from his worst. Enjoyable throughout it’s excessive runtime, a cinematic play bolstered by excellent dialogue and a cast on top of their game, The Hateful Eight is a film not to be missed by Tarantino fans.

Film, List


My top five pieces of dialogue from January’s cinema offerings. 

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The most tedious month of the year is finally over. I’ve been pretty active in my cinema-going this month and have managed to see a total of ten different films, ranging from the average to the awards-worthy. Here are my five favourite quotes that have stuck with me most from this months viewing…

“That’s the thing with old people. You can push them down the stairs and pretend it was an accident, but you can’t just shoot ’em”

– Kurt Russell’s bounty hunter John Ruth says it like it is in The Hateful Eight

“He’s so transparent in his self interest that I kinda respect him” 

– Mark Buam (Steve Carrell) assesses sleazy banker Jared Venett (Ryan Gosling) in The Big Short

“Are you four?”

– Steve Carrell gives everyone Michael Scott flashbacks in The Big Short

“They knew and they let it happen….It coulda been you, it coulda been me, it coulda been any of us!” 

– Mark Ruffalo shows why he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his turn as journalist Michael Rezendes in Spotlight

“Such tremendous effort…for such modest returns” 

– Michael Caine gives his best performance in years as a retired composer in Youth

What are your top quotes for the month? Let me know in the comments section!

List, Television


The 5 US sitcoms you should be watching right now.

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5. Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt

rawIt won’t be to everyone’s taste, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a fantastic Netflix sitcom that stands out from the majority of other shows due to its premise. Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (AKA the minds behind the brilliant 30 Rock, which ran from 2006 to 2013), the show begins with 29 year old Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) being rescued from a bunker where she has spent 15 years in captivity after Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) led her and three other women to believe that they had survived the end of the world. Becoming known as one of the “Indiana mole women”, Kimmy decides to break free and start a new life in New York City, despite not knowing much about the 21st century world.

The fact that Fey and Carlock have taken a decidedly dark premise and made it into something as bright and cheerful as this show is a credit to them, but even moreso to Kemper for making the character of Kimmy so endearingly likable – she feels like an extension of her role as Erin in NBC’s The Office, which can only be a good thing. The cast is brilliant in that it moves away from the typical group of friends who met in high school/college hanging out and instead presents an eclectic range of people who appeared in each others lives randomly, from Kimmy’s broadway yearning roomate Titus (Tituss Burgess) or eccentric landlady Lillian (Carol Kane), to the ever hilarious Jane Krakowski as a wealthy Manhattanite.

Whilst the show could perhaps become a little grating, there is no denying that it is totally unique and hilariously funny – something which has seen Netflix renew it for a third season before the second has even begun streaming (season 2 is set to make an appearance on the 15th of April), and the fact that it was nominated for a total of seven Emmy awards. If you haven’t already seen it, what are you waiting for – all 13 episodes of season 1 are available on Netflix right now!

4. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

tumblr_ndwxelm1Cg1qdt9vko1_400Another show that is an acquired taste, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a cult hit that has been broadcast on US network FX, then sister channel FXX, since 2005 (it is available to stream on Netflix for those of us in the UK). Now in it’s 11th season and renewed for a 12th, the sitcom was developed by Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton, who both star as members of the ‘gang’ that the plot revolves around.

Described as “Seinfeld on crack”, the show takes the typical ‘group of friends hanging out’ trope and flips it beyond recognition. Revolving around the exploits of a group of people who own a bar – Mac (Rob McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and his twin sister Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and from season 2 onwards the twins ‘father’ Frank (Danny DeVito) – the show is about as far removed from Friends (1994-2004) as you can get.

It would be a stretch to describe the gang as friends – co-dependent alcoholics, sure, but friends is probably too light a term. The show really hit its stride with the inclusion of DeVito from the second season, and there is no issue safe from the shows satirical gaze. Taboo topics are the norm – it’s almost like a live-action South Park (1997-) at times – meaning that the show is not one for the easily offended.

The comedy is derived from the fact that the characters are all hugely self centered and damaged in their own ways – from Charlie’s anger issues and glue sniffing to Dennis’ increasingly obvious sociopathic tendencies – and it is amazing that they can continue to come up with such inventive ideas after over a decade. In season 7 episode The Gang Gets Trapped, Dennis perfectly sums up the shows premise in one of this trademark rants:

“We immediately escalate everything to a ten…somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone’s on the gas, nobody’s on the brakes, nobody’s thinking, everyone’s just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another. Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve broken into somebody’s house – and the homeowner is home.”  

If you like your comedy jet black and packed with too many pop culture references to count, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the show for you.

3. Broad City

746b285916fc5f9e55c0b334e38d7a39Broad City is a show that, since it began airing on Comedy Central in 2014, has drawn endless comparison to Lena Dunham’s Girls (2012-). Whilst both tell the story of women in their twenties living in New York City, the two shows are in fact very different beasts – each with their own distinct strengths.

Starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jackson as fictionalised versions of themselves, Broad City began life as a web-series before being picked up by Comedy Central. It is due to begin its third season, with the second in particular garnering critical acclaim. Glazer and Jackson met whilst taking classes at the famous Upright Citizens Brigade, and no other than Amy Poehler took notice of the web incarnation of the show, now serving as an executive producer on the series.

First and foremost, Broad City is hilarious. Charting the exploits of self-centred, work-allergic stoner Ilana and wannabe illustrator Abbi as they get themselves into all sorts of weird but strangely relatable situations is a mine of comedy potential , and the duos writing is consistently strong. The cast is rounded out by some eccentric supporting players, including Ilana’s lover Lincoln (Hannibal Burgess) and Abbi’s roomate’s oddball boyfriend Bevers (John Gemberling).

Broad City also manages to be progressive at the same time as funny – usually the best sort of progressive, really. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, the show was described as “sneak attack feminism” and Jackson was quoted as saying:

“If you watch one of out episodes there’s not a big message, but if you watch all of them, I think, they’re empowering to women.” 

And she’s right. Watch one episode of Broad City and you will be treated to some real comedy gold – a favourite of mine includes Ilana trying to track down a TV remote she lost months ago in order to cancel a subscription – but if you watch the entire series, you will be treated to a show where women do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want (and they don’t answer to anyone – man or woman). Roll on season 3!

2. Brooklyn Nine Nine

130d218593d8b917c20a9dc277f87818Brooklyn Nine Nine is without a doubt one of the best sitcoms around at the moment. Currently airing its third season on Fox in the US (catch it on E4 in the UK) and featuring an eclectic ensemble cast, the show has received critical acclaim since it began airing in 2013.

Essentially a fusion of two arguably tired genres – the cop show and the sitcom – Brooklyn Nine Nine has taken the best from both concepts and created something fresh and hilarious. With an ensemble cast that includes Andy Samberg, Chelsea Peretti, Terry Crews and Andre Braugher, the show manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of modern sitcoms and uses the police precinct setting to generate totally different storylines.

The show hit the ground running and it has only been up from there, with season three shaking up the status quo and showing that creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur aren’t afraid to mix up the dynamics. Goor and Schur are known for their work on the equally acclaimed Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) and Schur also worked on the US version of The Office (2005-2013), so there is no doubt that the pair know what they are doing when it comes to hilarious sitcoms.

The writing is fast paced and hilarious, and the workplace setting means that, much like the success of Parks and Recreation and The Office, personal lives do not factor in so much as to be overbearing. There is plenty of workplace action, and the characters all have totally different backgrounds, with the contrasts and relationships between them driving the comedy.

There’s been no word yet on a fourth season renewal, but Fox would be deluded to cancel a show that has been so well received and seems to only be getting better with time – expect to be seeing plenty from the Nine Nine in years to come.

1. New Girl

giphyWhilst the rest of the shows on this list are great because they generally invert or avoid sitcom tropes and stereotypes, New Girl is included because it not only embraces them but pulls them off well. The Fox show began airing in 2011 and is now in it’s fifth season. Originally based around the Zooey Deschanel as Jess, a teacher in her early thirties who moves into a loft with three men – Nick (Jake Johnson), Shmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) – after a messy break-up, showrunner Elizabeth Merriweather soon saw the potential in her cast and established New Girl as an ensemble that also included Jess’ best friend CeCe (Hannah Simone).

The tropes are all there – the will they/won’t they couple (two actually – but recent events have established an imminent Ross and Rachel/Monica and Chandler situation), the group of friends hanging out, the bromance etc, but when it’s done this well, they don’t seem so tired (look to The Big Bang Theory for a modern example of when the tropes don’t work). Unlike most of the entries on this list, New Girl is the sort of show that has the universal appeal of Friends – it’s a simple concept made great by a brilliant cast – special mention to Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield in particular.

One thing that does set the show apart is that when we first meet the characters they are already in their early thirties – most sitcoms begin with young fresh faced twenty-somethings – meaning they have already lived a lot. This provides a whole new take on comedy – these are characters who are falling in love, but not for the first time, and they are moving up in the career ladder rather than starting out on the bottom rung. Whilst only a small deviation from the classic sitcom set-up, when paired with the fantastic writing it’s enough to set the show apart from the rest.

New Girl is available in the UK on Netflix (seasons 1-3) and on E4.

What are your favourite US sitcoms currently airing? Let me know in the comments section!

#52FilmsByWomen, Film, Reviews


(2003) Sofia Coppola

35-leanI have begun my #52FilmsByWomen journey with Sofia Coppola’s smash-hit Lost in Translation. It’s a film that has long featured on my mental ‘must-watch’ list due to the fact that it starred the ever-excellent Bill Murray and has a pretty revered status amongst, well, everyone. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, daughter of Hollywood director Francis Ford who first made a name for herself with The Virgin Suicides (1999), my expectations were pretty high. The film was nominated for a total of four Oscars, of which Coppola won for Best Original Screenplay and became only the third woman ever (!) to be nominated for Best Director. Upon watching I think it’s clear the film would have had a real shot at taking home all four nominations had 2003 not been the year that Lord of the Rings: Return of the King stormed the Academy and took home statuettes for all 11 of it’s nominations.

58-boothMade on a budget of just $4 million, the film tells the story of Bob Harris (Bill Murray), an ageing actor who is in Tokyo filming a whisky commercial for the tidy sum of $2 million, and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a recent philosophy graduate who is staying in the city whilst her husband (Giovanni Ribisi) is shooting on location. The pair, who are staying in the same hotel, form a bond over their mutual sense of isolation and sense of dissatisfaction with life. It’s an endearingly simple concept that transcends time, age, social class or any other distinguishing barrier – feeling alone is something that we all experience at one time or another.

Murray and a then 19 year old Johansson are perfectly cast as the central duo – Coppola reportedly said that she would never have made the film without Murray on board and that she wrote the part with him in mind. This is clear from the start – Murray brings just enough of his trademark sarcasm and aloofness to the role and is almost solely responsible for the comedic elements. Meanwhile, Johansson is mature far beyond her years and perfectly encapsulates that feeling of lacking direction. In an interview with Time in 2003, Coppola said:

“I liked that idea of juxtaposing a midlife crisis with that time in your early 20’s when you’re, like, what should I do with my life” 

16-in-crowdIt’s this idea that makes the film stand out – the two points in life actually have a lot in common with each other, from recklessness to feelings of dissatisfaction and confusion, and gelling them together proves to be much more effective than a narrative about two people of the same age would be. Coppola was inspired by Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s relationship in The Big Sleep, and I know that with the film she intended to present a romance, but I personally perceived it as being much more grounded in friendship and empathy, with the characters finding refuge in each other from their own sense of loneliness.

Lost in Translation is rich with potential readings, and analysis of the film vary with interpretations including criticism of modernity, an example of ‘post-romantic’ cinema and a critique of the concept of monogamy. Whichever way you look at it, the sense of isolation and being ‘lost’ is the central theme of the entire film, and every creative decision points towards enforcing the idea. Setting the film in Tokyo gives the immediate sense of the characters being ‘lost’ in an alien culture. The film proved to be generally unpopular with Japanese critics, many of whom remarked that the film offered a negative portrayal of Japanese culture, but I think the point was not to accurately present the culture but instead to portray the way in which US tourists perceive and deal with the culture. Some have even gone so far as to argue that the film is actually a comment on the unwillingness of US tourists to engage with different cultures, but I’m not sure that is the case so much as it is using the location as a literal depiction of the characters prevalent feelings of being misplaced.

15-lunchCoppola shows significant insight into cultural differences, and in some instances she adopts a ‘turning of the tables’, best shown in the dryly hilarious commercial shooting scene. We see the Japanese crew place their perceptions of the West on Murray, asking him to channel the likes of Roger Moore’s James Bond – I see this as a pretty funny way of showing how Western cinema has been pushing its views on Eastern culture for decades.

I’m also a big fan of Anna Faris, who plays out the stereotype of a bubbly American film star, a significant contrast to the more thoughtful Charlotte. Coppola uses contrast constantly through eastern and western cultural differences, age and in this case personality, all creating the feelings of isolation that are so keenly felt by Bob and Charlotte.

As fantastic as the script and the acting was, my favourite thing about the film is without a doubt the stunning visuals. The cinematography is beautiful, with shadow and reflection being constantly used to again enforce the sense of isolation. The Park Hyatt Tokyo Hotel, where the film was shot on location, is engaging in it’s simplicity and modernity – the fact that they were only aloud to film in the middle of the night or in hallways/communal locations proving to be a benefit.

17-photoshootLost in Translation is a great film. It’s the sort of film you can watch repeatedly and, depending on your mood, come away with a different interpretation every time. It’s a film that was both thought provoking and wonderful to look at, and one that has made me really excited about continuing on my #52FilmsByWomen journey.

Find out more about #52FilmsByWomen here.

All images courtesy of FilmGrab.


Film, Reviews


Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell team up for the second time in Sean Anders’ comedy.

daddys-home-movie-2015-reviewsWill Ferrell is nothing if not consistent – whilst he has been the star of some of the most hilarious comedies of the 21st century, even his lesser efforts are sure to make you laugh. He’s a funny guy, and he can be counted on to make funny films – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? It will therefore as a surprise to no-one that Daddy’s Home is funny. Ferrell first teamed up with Mark Wahlberg for action comedy The Other Guys in 2010, and they have proven their comedic chemistry again here in a film about everyman Brad (Will Ferrell), who is married to Sara (Linda Cardellini) and step-father to her two kids. Brad wants nothing more than for the kids to call him Dad, and he seems to be making progress in that direction until Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), the kids’ biological father, shows up. Cue a step-father v Dad stand-off where everyone involved learns a lesson or two.

Sean Anders is in the directors chair, with his previous credits including Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) and writing gigs on We’re The Millers (2013) and Dumb and Dumber To (2014). He doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but the film is clearly in capable hands. His camera work on the more physical scenes is strong, but he does little to elevate Daddy’s Home above typical Friday-night movie fare.

daddyshome-mv-4Brian Burns’ screenplay (which is loosely based on his own experiences as a step-father), breaks no new ground and the plot is as predictable as the trailer makes it out to be. The film is largely propped up by the aforementioned chemistry between its leading men. The juxtaposition of over-earnest and by-the-book Brad and the wild and unpredictable Dusty is a trope in itself (“It’s a story as old as time” remarks Dusty in an amusingly self-aware moment), but that doesn’t stop it from being funny to watch them attempt to one-up each other.

The cast is rounded out by some hilarious supporting players, most notably Griff (Hannibal Buress), the handyman who becomes friends with Dusty and Leo (Thomas Haden Church), Brad’s over-sharing boss. Buress and Haden Church’s dry humour acts as an effective balance to the more over-the-top and slapstick elements of the central duo, keeping it from becoming overpowering. A cameo from John Cena is also expertly executed, getting one of the biggest laughs of the film.

The kids (played by Scarlett Esteves and Owen Vaccaro) are nowhere near as insufferable as the children that populate many a comedy (the kids in last years Vacation, albeit older, immediately spring to mind). It’s also worth noting that the film is the epitome of a boy’s club, with Cardellini given little to do other than to stand around and shake her head at the men, but if anything that’s more of a reflection on the wider problems about women in comedy.

daddyshome-mv-6The product placement is so hilariously blatant that it deserves special mention – from Ford cars to numerous types of beer, the film cannot be accused subtlety in either its storytelling or shafting of products, but it’ll at least give you something else to laugh about. Whilst critics have been mixed in their opinions, the film has been a smash-hit financially and is close to hitting the $200 million mark in domestic grosses, which makes it Ferrell’s second largest non-animated opening. All in all, it’s nothing new and you will be hard pressed to remember it in a month’s time, but Daddy’s Home is still well worth a watch based on Ferrell and Wahlberg’s comedic duo alone.





Film, List


The top five teen movies of the 1980’s (AKA films made by John Hughes) 

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The 1980’s looked like a great time to be alive – despite only being born in the middle of the 90’s, I have always had a soft spot for the decade that came before, and this is largely down to the fact that 1980’s films are THE BEST.

Seriously, films made in the 1980’s are generally amazing, unique and definitely not the sort of thing that would get made today. Even though they were made before I was even born, I find characters in these movies to be much more relatable than most of what I see on screen today (spending my early teens wishing to be Hilary Duff did not make me Hilary Duff). One of the crown jewels of the film industry in this era was the teen movie genre, which had its very own brat pack and was helmed by the likes of John Hughes (how a grown man had such a keen insight into the inner psych of teens is a mystery).  This was a decade that graced the world with everything from Wall Street (1987) to Ghostbusters (1984), but I maintain that teen movies from the 1980’s cannot be beaten. This is not a takedown of Mean Girls (2004) or any other post-80’s teen movie, but instead a testament to the era where Molly Ringwald knew what was up.

Trying to compile just five of the best teen movies from the 1980’s proved to be a hugely difficult task, but here it is for you to enjoy – let me know if you agree in the comments section!

Honourable mention….

Heathers (1988)

Director: Michael Lehmann

Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannon Doherty, Lisanne Falke, Kim Walker

heathers01_zps9cb90f94I’m just putting this out there – Heathers is one of my favourite movies of all time. The jet black satire that put Winona Ryder on the map is, in my opinion, one of the most hilarious and incredibly ahead of it’s time films to emerge from the 1980’s, and the likes of Jawbreaker (1999) and Mean Girls outright wouldn’t exist without it. The film tells the story of Veronica (Winona Ryder), a teenager who is part of the school’s most popular clique, populated by three girls named Heather (Shannon Doherty, Lisanne Falke and Kim Walker – plastics eat your heart out). Resenting the high school jungle, Veronica becomes involved with the mysterious new guy J.D (Christian Slater channeling a young Jack Nicholson, it’s all in the eyebrows), who has some pretty interesting ideas on how to deal with high school. The film is satire at its very best, with spectacular dialogue (“Dear diary, my teen angst bullshit now has a body count”) and truly fantastic central performances, Heathers is not a film for the easily offended, but it perfectly sums up some of the more ridiculous aspects of high school culture in a way that still feels relevant today. The only reason it didn’t make the official top five is because it is a satirical depiction of pretty much all the teen movies that were made in the 1980’s, and should thus be judged as a thoroughly different (but equally excellent) beast.

5. Weird Science (1985)

Director: John Hughes

Starring: Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Kelly LeBrock

weird-scienceThere is apparently a remake of Weird Science in the works, and if this is true it should be stopped immediately because it is one of those concepts that worked in the 1980’s but is actually sort of weird and outdated and there should be no attempts to redo it. Got it, Universal? A lot of films from the 1980’s have this air of nostalgia and innocence around them that allow them to pull of some pretty creepy concepts (Back to the Future, anyone?), and Weird Science falls into that category. The film tells the story of Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), two nerds who create the perfect woman (Kelly LeBrock) on a computer. It really shouldn’t work, but with Hughes writing and direction and Hall and Mitchell-Smith’s adorable performances it does. It’s hardly going to change your life, but Weird Science is a cult classic that makes perfect Friday night Netflix viewing – watch out for an extremely baby faced Robert Downey Jnr. playing bully Ian.

4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Director: John Hughes

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, Alan Ruck, Jennifer Grey

36_ferris_buellers_day_offWhere to begin really – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is pretty much the embodiment of everything that is so great about 1980’s films – and mainly it’s a whole lot of fun. Chicago teen Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) decides that he fancies a day off school and constructs an increasingly elaborate scheme to remain undetected, getting his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) along for the ride. They spend the day getting up to all sorts of shenanigans, from visiting art galleries and restaurants to being part of a parade, all whilst Ferris’ sister (Jennifer Grey) and Student Dean (Jeffery Jones) try to catch him out. What makes the film so great is that it explores some interesting themes whilst still being a fun caper – Ferris may be the fourth wall breaking character of the title, but the film is really about the emotional journey of Cameron. Let’s face it – more people (meaning me) identify with Cameron than Ferris, and his realisation that he has to learn to stand up for himself in order to be happy is something that a lot of teens have to deal with, so it’s nice that John Hughes was around to give a helping hand and prove that strong messages can come in fun packages.

3. The Breakfast Club (1985)

Director: John Hughes

Starring: Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emelio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Allison Sheedy

bender_fist“…In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” Back in 1985 John Hughes made his masterpiece with The Breakfast Club, a film that so perfectly embodies everything he was about as a maker of teen movies and a film that anyone can identify with anyone – and thus, the brat pack was born. Five teenagers are stuck together in the school library for an all-day Saturday detention. All from their own cliques, it seems like they have nothing in common, yet over the space of the day they transcend their respective stereotypes to become THE BREAKFAST CLUB, all while Simple Minds play in the background – it really doesn’t get much more 1980’s than that. Parodied so often, it can be easy to forget how great The Breakfast Club is (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all), and no matter whether you consider yourself to be the athlete (not so much) or the basket case (getting warmer), you’ll find something to love in Hughes’ film.

2. Pretty in Pink (1986)

Director: Howard Deutch

Starring: Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, Andrew McCarthy

Pretty-in-Pink-pretty-in-pink-21215372-500-281I know what you’re thinking, a film on this list NOT made by John Hughes?! But panic not, he wrote Pretty in Pink, so of course his stamp is all over it (thank god). Andie (Molly Ringwald) is a working class girl who has a crush on rich boy Blane (Andrew McCarthy, of course you’re rich when you’re called Blane). Throw into the mix her adoring best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) and Blane’s dickhead friends Benny (Kate Vernon) and Steff (James Spader), along with Andie’s unemployed father (Harry Dean Stanton) and boss/mother figure Iona (Annie Potts) and you have a recipe for some class-A high school d-r-a-m-a. It’s another Hughes classic, and Ringwald is as good a role model as there is with her refusal to change for anyone – us gals can take a lot away from her performance, and even if you don’t agree with the ending (it was actually changed due to the original ending – which arguably makes a lot more sense – didn’t go down well with test audiences) chances are you’ll still go all gooey when Andie gets the guy.

1. St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

Director: Joel Schumacher (pre-ruining everyone’s lives with Batman and Robin in the 1990s)

Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Emelio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, Allison Sheedy, Demi Moore, Mare Winningham

St. Elmo's Fire characters, Kevin and JulesHere it is – my number one 1980’s teen movie. Many may disagree, but I love St Elmo’s Fire for a multitude of reasons, and an undying affection for young Rob Lowe is only one of them (equally strong affection for Andrew McCarthy makes two). Telling the story of seven college graduates navigating that tricky period between graduation and starting your real life, the film gets a lot of stick. I feel this is partly due to the fact that after the travesty that was Batman and Robin (1997), Joel Schumacher and his work have a very dark cloud over them. The thing is, much like all 1980’s teen movies, I don’t think its a film that needs to be taken all that seriously. Sure, Demi Moore totally overreacts about losing her job – but as someone who is on the cusp of entering her early twenties I feel pretty sure that my self-absorbed self would probably have a similar reaction – it’s called being young. It’s a coming of age tale that is just so quintessentially 80’s that to hate it isn’t something I can fathom – granted Emelio Estevez’s storyline is a tad creepy and Andie MacDowell is nothing short of awful, but who says it had to be perfect – there are faults with all of the films on this list, but that doesn’t stop me loving and steadfastly defending each and every one.


Film, Reviews


Adam “Anchorman” McKay goes semi-straight with his comedy-drama about the 2007/08 financial crisis. 

the-big-names-in-the-big-short-reveal-a-rebellious-cast-on-and-off-the-screen-747010The Big Short is a pretty hard sell. In fact, if it wasn’t helmed by beloved comedy director Adam McKay and didn’t feature such a star studded ensemble, it probably wouldn’t sell at all. Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Michael Lewis, the film is about the 2007/08 financial crisis and, more specifically, the guys that bet against the banks.  The financial crisis ruined the lives of literally millions of people, so why would anyone want to see a film about guys who essentially got rich off of the greed and stupidity of the bankers who created the mess? Like I said, it’s a hard sell…

However, the film is worth seeing for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, it is a complete and utter takedown of Wall Street and everyone involved in the sorry mess – McKay is, perhaps surprisingly, quite political and insists that most of his work is told from a leftist slant, with anti-corporate ideas running throughout. In a recent interview with Vulture he said:

Anchorman was clearly, like, what the fuck happened to the television media, what a joke it’s become. Talladega Nights was about this weird stubborn pride that was showing up in America, kind of the corporate takeover of Southern pride. Stepbrothers was about how consumerism turns grown-ups into little kids.” 

thebigshort-mv-14Sure, some of it may be a stretch, but the ideas are no doubt there. The financial crisis in all its intricacies is something that is so ridiculous and awful that maybe all we can do is laugh, and that’s the route McKay has gone down with The Big Short – a comic satire that tries to explain what the hell actually happened.

The aforementioned star-studded cast includes Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Brad Pitt as men who all in some capacity see what others don’t – that the US housing market is built on a bubble which, as bubbles tend to do, is going to burst. It’s a credit to McKay and co-writer Charles Randolph that they have written a script where the men who got rich off the disaster come off as the good guys. Everyone involved gives a good performance, but there isn’t much by the way of character development. Carrell perhaps comes closest, playing Mark Baum – a man traumatised by the death of his brother who believes everything is a conspiracy – but even he finishes up much the way he started. John Margaro and Finn Wittrock also hold their own as two young investors who cash in on the crisis, realising in the process just how broken the system really is.

The-Big-Short-24The film is heavy-handed with its themes (seriously, you won’t meet a banker in The Big Short who isn’t a total prick) and will leave you suitably outraged by the time the credits roll, but it suffers from constant tonal shifting. McKay’s comedic roots are clear, but it feels like he should have either committed to all out satire or something more rooted in drama – either could have worked, but the switching between the two can be jarring. McKay and Randolph have however tried to make the dry as a bone financial jargon that is necessary to the plot as accessible as possible, with Ryan Gosling’s Jared Vennett providing informative voiceover alongside various celebrity cameos (including the likes of Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie) to explain the concepts. Whether or not you think these work will come entirely down to personal preference – some will find them laugh out loud hilarious, whilst others will see them as a cheap gimmick that takes you out of the film (I fall somewhere inbetween).

maxresdefaultThe Big Short’s real strength lies in the editing – Hank Corwin’s quickfire approach allows the film to build up rapid momentum and he would be fully deserving of taking home the Best Editing Oscar next month. Visually the film is far more interesting than the subject matter should allow it to be, and Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography and McKay’s direction should be celebrated – who’d have thought that one of the pioneers of dick jokes would be a real contender for the Best Director Oscar?

Perhaps not as scathing as it could have been, The Big Short is still an interesting take on the madness that was the biggest financial crisis since 1929 and is well worth a watch.


Film, Reviews


The best Rocky film since Rocky.

Creed05188.dngBack in 1976, a struggling actor named Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in a film about a struggling boxer named Rocky Balboa, and thus a legend was born. Fast forward 40 years and it is time to pass the mantle along with Creed, a sequel/spin-off which brings the Rocky legacy to a new generation. It was a risky move – Stallone brought the franchise to a suitable conclusion a decade ago with a sixth film, Rocky Balboa (2006) after increasingly diminishing returns – but Creed strikes the perfect balance between old and new.

Co-written and directed by Ryan Coogler, who’s debut Fruitvale Station (2013) won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and starring rising star Michael B Jordan (who also led Fruitvale Station) as Adonis Creed, the illegitimate son of late Heavyweight Champion Apollo. Adonis ‘Donny’ is raised by Apollo’s widow (Phylicia Rashad) in LA but makes his way to Philadelphia to pursue boxing and ask Rocky to be his trainer. Donny must then learn to deal with the legacy of his name as he takes on current Heavyweight Champion Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew – a real-life boxer) in a once in a lifetime showdown.

Creed10521.dngThe plot could have been generic, but Coogler and Aaron Covington have written the characters with obvious love for the franchise, but also a desire to take things in a new direction. The Rocky we see in this film is not the legend of the past – his beloved wife and best friend have both passed away, he is all but estranged from his son, his own health is flailing and he has turned his back on boxing. Whilst Donny is at the centre, the films theme of living with a name also branches out to the Italian Stallion, who is human and vulnerable. With such an action-orientated career, it is easy to forget that Stallone can act, but Coogler has drawn out the best from the actor, who delivers a Golden Globe winning performance that packs a real emotional punch.

Michael B Jordan also looks and acts the part as Donny, a young man struggling to come out from under the shadow of a father he never knew. Whilst it would be a stretch to say that Donny has a particularly memorable personality, Jordan hits all the right notes in terms of the characters anger and insecurities. The father-son bond that emerges between Balboa and Creed is the beating heart of the entire film, and it likely to bring a lump to the throat of even the franchises toughest fans.

Creed29156.dngAnother thing Coogler has got resoundingly right is Bianca (Tessa Thompson), Donny’s neighbor and eventual girlfriend. Bianca, a singer with progressive hearing loss, is a character in her own right and has dreams and ambitions just as strong and important as Donny’s, something which is extremely rare to see in a sports/boxing movie, where women are generally just one-note love interests (see Rachel McAdam’s character in last years Southpaw for a recent example). Thompson is brilliant as the character, finding and settling on the area where strength and vulnerability meet.

Whilst Creed is a film that thrives on its characters, they are not the only strong element. All the ingredients for a classic Rocky film are present, from a great score from Fruitvale Station’s composer Ludwig Goransson, who has channeled 1970s influences and Bill Conti’s iconic original score to create something new, to not one but multiple training montages (the last of which is literally breathtaking). We also get to see those ‘Rocky’ steps as a final reminder that this is a film that knows and loves its roots.

CRD207_000035.tifThe visuals are also great, particularly the fight scenes. One early fight is filmed in one continuous take, whilst the camera is rarely static. The obligatory final fight is an exhilarating watch that’ll have you on the edge of your seat throughout, and it is clear why boxing is regarded as one of the most cinematic sports, you feel every blow and the Coogler mixes intense long takes with sharp hits to create something that is a real experience to watch.

Creed is not a film to be missed – be you a steadfast and loyal fan of the franchise or a newcomer, it is everything that a boxing film should be and more, with fully realised characters, intense action and just the right amount of nostalgia, Coogler has delivered a knockout.





I’ve written a post over on the Caledonian Women’s blog about the lack of female directors in Hollywood, which you can check out here. When I was researching it I found out about the #52FilmsByWomen campaign, which invites everyone to watch one film per week that has been directed by a woman. I have signed up, and you should too! You can find out all about it here. I will keep you updated on my progress – the first film I have lined up is Serena (2014), which was directed by Susanne Bier and stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

Film, List, Opinion


The lowdown on five Hollywood remakes that could be coming your way…

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Hollywood isn’t really a place for original concepts anymore – pretty much any big moneymaker is a remake, reboot or a re-imagining of some description. This can come across as anything from greedy to pointless, and it can really make us cinema-goers quite cynical, but that’s a whole other can of worms. The fact is, there are so many remakes being talked about all the time that it’s hard to know which ones will even see the light of day (getting a movie onto the big screen is a very long and complicated process), but here are five remakes which are in development that you might not know about…


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Is it happening?: Good question – the It remake was announced way back in 2009, and it has been a rocky road ever since. The project began life at Warner Bros before being moved over to subsidiary company New Line. Headway seemed to be being made when Cary Fukunaga, the man behind the critically acclaimed first season of True Detective (2014) signed on to direct and the surprising decision to cast young British actor Will Poulter in the iconic role of Pennywise the clown – made famous by Tim Curry – was made. The film was firmly in pre-production, with Fukunaga working on a script alongside Chase Palmer, but was dropped into development hell again when Fukanaga pulled out last year citing studio tampering. Mama (2013) director Andy Muschietti has since been attached to a project, and a new script is reportedly in the works, but it is unclear if or when the film will see the light of day.

Will it be good?: Stephen King adaptions tend to be a bit of a mixed bag – for every The Shining (1980) you’ve got a Bag of Bones (2011) – so this one could go either way. Such a troubled pre-production could have a knock on impact on the final product, and it is hard to predict how it will turn out until the major players are fully confirmed. That said, Poulter has proven his credibility in a range of genres from comedy in We’re the Millers (2013) to drama in The Revenant (2016), so there is no reason that he can’t pull off Pennywise in spite of the inevitable endless comparisons to Curry’s performance.


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Is it happening?: A remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic The Birds has been in talks for years, but developments last year suggest that it might finally be happening. Screencrush reported that Michael Bay is set to produce the film via his production company Platinum Dunes, whilst Dutch director Diederick Van Roojen is currently attached to direct. Platinum Dunes will produce the film with Mandalay and Universal. Whilst this seems like real moves towards the film finally getting made, there is still a long way to go – back in 2007 Naomi Watts was in talks to star with Martin Campbell of Casino Royale (2006) fame in the directors chair, but by 2009 the project had stalled.

Will it be good?: Bay’s production company has been behind numerous horror remakes over the years, from The Amityville Horror to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it would seem that even Hitchcock’s classics aren’t safe. Many horror fans consider The Birds untouchable, and the decision to remake it is one that is unlikely to go down well. Pair this with the fact that it would be being produced by the guy who is responsible for the Transformers franchise and who has a penchant for blowing things up in his movies, and the chances of the remake being any good are decidedly low. On the plus side, Bay isn’t in the directors chair, and Van Roojen may surprise us all by not allowing him to stamp his identity all over the place, but it is probably for the best if this particular remake remains deep in development hell.


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Is it happening?: It certainly looks like it – details are still pretty thin on the ground, but last September The Guardian reported that Elizabeth Banks has signed on to produce and direct a Charlie’s Angels reboot based on the original 1970’s TV series starring Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. Banks is also set to produce the film alongside her husband and production partner Max Handelman, whilst Evan Spiliotopoulos is said to be writing the script, suggesting that the pieces are slowly falling together to make this remake a real possibility.

Will it be good?: There’s every chance it could be. Banks is a hot property in Hollywood right now, making her directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2 to Box Office success last summer, as well as acting in The Lego Movie (2014) and The Hunger Games franchise (2012-15). The original series was based on three women who face institutional sexism in the police force and go to work for the titular Charlie where their skills are put to better use, a premise that still (depressingly) holds real credence. The  Charlie’s Angels film in 2000 starring Lucy Lui, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore was successful enough to spawn a sequel in 2003, proving the the concept also has financial potential. Writer Spiliotopoulos is mostly known for penning a vast array of Disney’s DOV sequels, but he also has credits on the upcoming The Huntsman Winter’s War and the live action Beauty and the Beast, so there’s no reason he can’t pull it off.


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Is it happening?: It’s still early days, but it looks like it. The idea for a THIRD remake of the original 1937 film of the same name has been in the pipeline since 2011, when it was reported that Clint Eastwood was set to direct with Beyonce Knowles as the female lead previously played by Janet Ganor, Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand. Negotiations with Beyonce fell through in 2012 and it looked like the project was being put on the back-burner by Warner Bros until last year when it was announced that Bradley Cooper is interested in the project as his directorial debut. As it stands, Cooper has quashed any Beyonce related rumours and looks set to direct, star and co-produce the film.

Will it be good?: It has potential. Cooper is one of Hollywood’s most sought after leading men, so whilst it is almost a given that he will be great in front of the camera, it will be interesting to see what he can achieve in the director’s chair. A strong female lead is an absolute must – will he perhaps try to entice his frequent co-star and friend Jennifer Lawrence into the role? Other than that, it’s hard to know at such an early stage with so few details – will the film be a period or contemporary piece? The story – about a woman who becomes famous as her lover’s career flounders – is universal and could be applied to the modern generation in an interesting way given the right script.


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Is it happening?: It certainly is. Sony announced plans last year to remake 1996 cult classic The Craft with Leigh Janiak writing and directing. Doug Wick, one of the producers of the original, is on board to co-produce alongside Lucy Fisher, and whilst a cast has yet to be announced the ball seems to be well and truly rolling on the project.

Will it be good?: Again, information is still hard to come by at this stage, but all the indicators point towards the film being in safe hands with Janiak, who is a rising star in the horror genre after her directorial debut Honeymoon in 2014. The female centric original was a supernatural teen film with endless cult appeal, and it seems only right that a rising female director take the helm on the remake. On the downside, it is only ten years since the original came out, and there are a lot of questions about the need for a remake so quickly, if at all.

What remakes are you worried or excited about? Let me know in the comments section: