Tuesday, 18 October 2016


stigmata follows frankie page (patricia arquette), a young woman enjoying her free and single life in pittsburgh when she is assaulted by nightmarish visions and mysterious wounds on her wrists. a scientist from the vatican, andrew kiernan (gabriel byrne), is tasked with establishing whether frankie has a genuine case of stigmata or something else. what neither of them realise is that frankie’s affliction is linked to a secret that has the potential to tear the catholic church apart.

the structure of stigmata mirrors the exorcist in so much as the victim, frankie, first subjects herself to a barrage of medical tests before seeking help from the church. the story then becomes a battle between byrne's troubled priest and the entity possessing frankie, and though she is more mobile than linda blair we are still never too far from a bed. however, there is much more to stigmata than a reboot of a controversial classic.

although the film tries to focus on andrew's story (as in he is the character with the most defined arc - a priest who must recover his lost faith in order to save the woman he loves) i think frankie is the most interesting thing about it, and it's her character who raises the most questions. firstly, and perhaps most importantly, why her? there is a plot reason to explain why frankie is targeted, in that her mother sends her a rosary as a souvenir unaware that it had been torn from the hands of a dead priest, but what is the narrative reason? much is made of frankie’s lifestyle – the opening titles show her partying with friends, having sex, drinking, smoking and while she doesn’t get to have sex again (despite spending most of the film in bed) cigarettes and alcohol are recurring visual indicators that this is more than basic character background. ultimately, it’s hard not to watch this film without thinking that frankie is being punished for her chosen lifestyle. so the next question is, does the film concur with this punishment or is it a comment on how our society punishes independent women?

two other recurring ideas play into this. one is pregnancy, which frankie initially thinks is the cause of her problems. it’s not explicit but it is implied that this is something she wants, which undermines her seemingly carefree existence. the second is a cancer parallel that is suggested visually when frankie starts to wear a bandana to cover the wounds on her head, as well as by the constant close-ups of cigarettes being lit and extinguished. both ideas have the same implication – there is a deadline; a time limit and at 23 frankie is apparently coming to the end of her allotted free time. again, whether this is a problematic depiction of a young female character or a depressing comment on the way society keeps its women down is really up to the viewer (i'm still undecided, in case you were wondering).

the true plot of stigmata is difficult to go into without giving it away, and there is a neat if predictable twist in the story towards the end. what struck me watching it now are the parallels between possession, demonic or otherwise, and having your social media account hacked. stay with me here, but at a certain point frankie, who appears to look like herself, begins to speak with the voice of another. i’ve had my twitter account hacked a couple of times in the past and the effect is kind of the same – it’s my picture on the profile but not my words. of course, i am slightly obsessed with online profiles right now so i’m obviously bringing my own baggage to this (check out my most recent video for proof) but it’s also really interesting to see how a film from 1999 can be relevant to social and technical developments that didn’t exist when it was made. behind the victimisation of a woman who was doing just fine on her own, this is a film about messages and interpretation – ideas which are more important now than they ever were.

overall i think stigmata is a really interesting film – much more interesting than it was given credit for when it was released. on top of that, arquette and byrne are both great in it and there’s some nostalgia to be enjoyed from the 90s visual style and soundtrack. the blu-ray comes with some fascinating extras including a documentary from the time and an alternate ending that actually makes frankie’s journey seem so much worse in comparison to the original cut. definitely a film worth seeing and an interesting one to revisit if you’ve already seen it because for me there was certainly more to talk about than i remembered.

stigmata is available now from eureka entertainment on blu-ray for the first time in the uk in a dual format edition

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

ghostbusters soundtrack

i'm not going to explain what this movie is again, you can read my review or click here to read about why it's such a big deal. yes, i have dedicated three blog posts to this movie because it's that fucking important.

anyway, now you're all to to speed here's my review of the soundtrack.

theodore shapiro is a composer with an impressive list of credits. starting out with now legendary indie movies, like girlfight and wet hot american summer, he has moved on to score some of the biggest films of the last ten years, like tropic thunder, spy and zoolander 2. while he primarily composes for comedies he does have some more eclectic titles in his back-catalogue like trumbo (excellent film, btw) and jennifer's body. in many ways he's the perfect composer for a movie like ghostbusters with its mix of comedy, action and horror. it's a movie that needs a composer who can easily move between genres.

except shapiro doesn't really move between genres, and that's what makes this score so great. i love how serious the score is; how it really plays up the big epic moments and for the most part feels more like the score for a marvel movie than an action-comedy. listening to the score in isolation you would have no idea that this is the soundtrack to a comedy at all, and probably only a vague idea that there might be a horror element. what i love about this is that it's a choice. tonally, the film itself leans more towards the comedy side than the action or the horror, and yet shapiro excludes almost any hint that this is a comedy from the score. because to do so would undermine the story, and in turn would undermine the importance of this film. (read my two previous posts on this if you need to understand why it's important)

shapiro also does a nice job at incorporating the classic ghostbusters theme. in the film the original theme is played over the opening titles then faded out so quickly it's like they were almost embarrassed to embrace it. of course it returns later with a dubious, modernised cover version but it always feels a little box-ticking and forced. the way shapiro uses it is much more appropriate and he actually manages to make it sound kind of triumphant in tracks like 'battle of times square'. there are also some really standout tracks on the soundtrack, like 'behemoth' which has shades of verdi's requiem, and the suitably grand 'the fourth cataclysm'.

overall this is a bold, almost aggressively epic score that makes a very clear statement - this film needs to be taken seriously, which is perfect because that's exactly what the film is about.

the ghostbusters original motion picture score is available now digitally and on cd

Friday, 22 July 2016


someone caught a pokemon in the office today and everyone got very excited about it.  except they didn't catch a pokemon, did they, because there wasn't actually one there.  except there is a photo of it right there on the fucking photocopier and it's almost like a vortex opened up above my crappy office and two planes of existence met.

so this isn't a review of pokemon go because i can't unsee the body snatchers meme that's going around and also every time someone says pokemon i just hear my boyfriend from when i was thirteen saying 'poke ya mum'.  so i'll review ghostbusters instead.

when melissa mccarthy, playing abby, quotes an internet critic as saying, "ain't no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts," the reality of the internet criticism that the 2016 ghostbusters actors face briefly touches the reality that the 2016 ghostbusters characters are up against in the film.  this creates the paradox of the characters being the 'real' ghostbusters, and the actors merely pretending.  it's paul feig's way of reminding us that reality isn't about truth, it's the layers we are willing to accept overlaid on truth that create reality.  it's his way of reminding us that this film is fucking important.

(if you don't get why this is fucking important, i explained it all in a previous post)

ghostbusters is that great modern tradition, a reboot, of a much-loved 80s classic kids movie about four men who pretty much accidentally become a ghost-hunting force that ends up saving new york from a giant evil marshmallow.  this new film opens on a scene in a kind of disney-fied historical house with a guide telling a spooky story to the visitors when a candlestick falls from a dresser.  after the visitors have gone, we can see this for what it really is - a trick.  but what follows leads him to erin gilbert, an eminent physicist who is trying to hide her paranormal-dabbling past from her bosses at the university. in desperation she hunts out her old friend abby, who continues to pursue proof that ghosts exist with the help of her engineer side-kick jillian holtzmann.  with their careers riding on it they team up with amateur historian patty, who kits them out with some boiler suits and a hearse, and before long they've got an office/lab, a rather familiar logo, and a pretty but hopeless receptionist. and they are going to need it all and some luck besides, to save new york from the threat of an ancient evil being summoned by an embittered bell boy.

except of course, what it's really about is what is real, what do we accept as real, and what do we do when our understanding of reality is challenged?  there are countless references to the original film which seems to neither exist as reality nor as a movie in the world of ghostbusters 2016, yet it is a reality we as an audience bring to the cinema with us.  the reality kevin the receptionist occupies appears to be different from our own.  when two characters are possessed by an evil ghost, what is real takes on another dimension.  feig again is telling us to examine and critique our own reality; that in this escapism, what we can't escape is the framework of references ingrained in us all.  fuck, it's a story about invisible entities embittered that their voices aren't heard; about an audience being tricked into thinking they are seeing the real thing, the establishment desperately trying to maintain the status quo, until the climax happens and the ghostbusters do their thing, but the hauntings can't be unseen, they are there in the public consciousness.  let me spell it out for you - it's a bit like casting four women as the heroes in a summer blockbuster.

plot-wise, i'll be honest, it is a little thin, but i'll refer you back to the giant evil marshmallow. there were also a few moments, notably a pretty long moment at the metal concert, which felt a bit awkward.  feig is definitely at his most confident working with just one or two actors and while his four ghostbusters are a dream-team of comedic talent they also have real acting chops and it would have been nice to see the material stretch them a little further.  for the first twenty minutes or so, all the jokes were pretty self-consciously 'woman jokes', but let's give them a break, no one has ever made a film about four women doing something other than getting married so it was always going to take them a while to warm up.  once they got ghostbusting, i actually laughed out loud (i never laugh out loud) on more than one occasion, and i wasn't the only one.  i especially liked the 'sad, lonely women who read 'eat, pray, love' and ran with it.'

and ten-year-old me fucking loved holtzmann (kate mckinnon).  she's like the manic pixie dream girl who got pissed off with fixing up the adorable hopeless men and became a supercharged pixie goddess mechanic.  i saw a link to some internet ramblings on 'the truth about her sexuality' and i don't fucking care.  actually i really liked that the movie didn't give any of the ghostbusters private lives at all. and that they were dressed, all the way through.  i mean, four women wearing boiler suits, just because that's what the script demands.  it's amazing, and sad that it passes for groundbreaking, but it does. there were lots of moments like this, positive 'this is incredible' moments that also stood out because they should have been so ordinary.  the film passed the reverse bechdel test so easily (two male characters, with names, talking to each other, about something other than a woman) that it made me really fucking angry all over again that this is all but impossible for so many blockbusters when applied to women.

ghostbusters is by no means a perfect film, and people wanting to find flaws will definitely find them.  but people wanting to watch a fun kids film about ghosts invading new york stopped by a team of unlikely supreheroes will not be disappointed.  and by watching it, you might just change the world a little bit too.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

sitc awards...

so last week summer in the city, the annual uk youtuber mega-gathering, announced they would be holding an awards ceremony as part of this years event. if you want the full story, teneighty reported it here.

i didn't think all that much of it until a couple of people on twitter mentioned that they'd voted for me in the 'breakthrough' category. and then i had an idea.

what i'm about to ask for is incredibly cheeky, borderline arrogant and in all honestly, will probably fail. but what the fuck, i'm going to do it anyway.

i've been uploading videos to my youtube channel for about ten months now. i actually started not long after attending summer in the city last year. the description of the breakthrough award is 'awarding an online creator for whom 2016 was the start of something big!' well, my channel may not be huge in youtube terms but it's been huge for me. i've made a bunch of new friends, i've gained way more confidence that i had before and i'm making stuff. i love the making stuff part, maybe a little too much which is why it takes me so long.

i'll be the first to admit i have something of a love/hate relationship with the youtube community. i feel like the clash between commerce vs. art is happening on youtube more than anywhere else right now. i also feel like the youtube i fell in love with; the youtube that made me want to make videos in the first place, doesn't really exist anymore. at the same time, as i reach the end of my first year on there i feel more connected to that community than ever before. but let's be honest, i swear too much and i've been quite aggressively rude about youtube culture in my videos so i'm hardly going to be nominated for an award anytime soon.

unless you guys help.

the fact is, i don't have all that many subscribers, i am a #smallyoutuber despite my best efforts to make my channel bigger. but i do have some solid support on twitter. i think with enough of a push i could make it onto that nominations list. maybe this isn't the right way to go about things, maybe i shouldn't be lobbying for votes, but fuck it, if there's even a small chance i could be on that list i'm going to have to fight for it. i've checked out who others have voted for in this category and most of them would probably only have to tweet about it once to win by a landslide. there are guys with 100k subs going for it, and that's why i'm going to have to be a little more persistent. or annoying, depending on how you look at it.

that's why i hope you'll get behind me, because if i can do this there's hope for anyone starting out on youtube. let's make that breakthrough award a true breakthrough. let's give them something different.

if you're still with me, here are the haps.

the nominations are open until july 27th, so we have exactly one week to pull this off.

nominations are open to fans, which basically means anyone. you don't appear to have to be attending summer in the city to put in your nominations. you do need to sign up for an account on their website but it's pretty straightforward.

to sign up for an account you just need your name, e-mail address and password. it doesn't say whether they add you to their mailing list when you register, but even if they do they don't send out emails all that often and it will be easy to unsubscribe if you're not interested.

you then need to vote for each category in turn. if you don't have any thoughts on a particular category there's a button to skip to the next one.

the breakthrough category is the last one, that's where you put 'paz vs stuff''

if you could also mention on twitter that you voted for me with #sitcawards2016 that would also be incredible. hopefully we'll pick up a few extra votes that way.

so like i said, i appreciate this is an incredibly big ask, i'm sure you all had better things to do with your time than read this but this is incredibly important to me and i am eternally grateful for your support.

and finally apologies in advance if my tweeting incessantly about this becomes rather annoying after a while, but it's only for a week, then normal service shall be resumed.

thank you!

Friday, 15 July 2016

queen of earth

queen of earth follows troubled artist catherine (elisabeth moss) who moves to her best friend virginia's (katherine waterston) lake house to recover from losing her father and breaking up with her boyfriend. however, being in a place with so many memories seems to accelerate catherine's disintegration rather than giving her space to heal. but ignore this synopsis, because the only way to enjoy this film is to go with it and see what it does to you.

it's difficult to write about queen of earth without making comparisons to films like repulsion or lets scare jessica to death as it has a similar atmosphere and comparable intent. this is a film that aims to get inside the head of someone who is losing their mind. it is a horror film in so much as it depicts something horrible in a way that is terrifying, but at the same time shows much more restraint than those other films. catherine's madness comes on so gradually that it's not clear what's really happening or what the film is even about until it's too late both for her and the audience. when catherine realises the full extent of her condition we share the shock and the horror of that moment and that's what makes this film work.

queen of earth is not an easy film to watch at times. it has a kind of broken structure, where scenes from different parts of the timeline are shuffled so that we often don't know how much time has passed or whether we're seeing something from the present or the past. the film hangs on title cards indicating days of the week to give us some sense of consistency, but even these become meaningless by the end. and yet this is all part of director alex ross perry's plan to bring the audience into catherine's head. the occasional time jumps or unnannounced flashbacks make the viewer feel as disorientated as catherine herself must feel.

what really makes this work are the two central performances. elisabeth moss is fantastic as catherine, giving her a humanity that keeps us hoping for the best even when we know the worst is happening behind her eyes. she portrays her breakdown with that same restraint that the story requires and this makes it feel all the more real. there is also a brilliant performance by katherine waterston as cateherine's best friend, virginia. waterston plays katherins as cold and distant for most of the film, but when she realises and accepts what's happening to her friend her reaction is truly heartbreaking. patrick fugit also does a great job as an antagonistic neighbour.

as much as this is a film about paranoia and madness, and as much as there are easy comparisons here to horror movies and psychological thrillers, ultimately this is a story about friendship; it's about the things we take for granted in a friendship, and the things we don't realise we need until it's too late. it's about two women dealing with life, and the madness, when it comes, is the type of madness we can all relate to. with queen of earth, alex ross perry has made a film that starts to get under your skin from the opening titles and will stay with you for days afterwards.

queen of earth is available now on dual format (blu-ray and dvd) from eureka entertainment.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


suture is a hitchcockian thriller with a brilliantly surreal edge that spins a complex plot around identical twin brothers vincent (michael harris) and clay (dennis haysbert). after reuniting at their father's funeral vincent invites clay to stay with him only to have him killed moments later via a remote car bomb. vincent's plan was to switch identities with clay so that the police, who suspect him of murdering his father, will drop their investigation. the problem is, clay survives the explosion, but due to a severe case of amnesia he now thinks he is vincent.
while the plot may sound convoluted it's really only there so the filmmakers have something to hang their ideas on and directors scott mcgehee and david siegel have plenty of ideas. this is a film about identity and about what our identity and sense of self is made up of. it opens with a question worthy of a phd thesis - is our identity set; are we always the same person underneath? or can we change our identity?

clay is killed in the explosion and the man who wakes up in hospital is lead to believe he is vincent. he has vincent's friends, lives in his house and does all the things vincent used to do. except somewhere in there is clay. as we find out more and more about vincent it becomes clear he isn't a particularly pleasant character, whereas clay's kind heart and calm disposition endear him to everyone he meets, and yet they never suspect him of being anyone other than vincent. this dichotomy between the vincent that was and the vincent that is brings up all kinds of interesting ideas. how much is our identity defined by our standing in society? how much is it defined by how much money we have or where we live or our ethnicity? mcgehee and siegel clearly want us to be asking these questions because they highlight that last one in particular by casting a black actor, dennis haysbert, as clay. vincent and clay make it clear in their early dialogue that they are physically identical and everyone in the film world sees them as such, but other than being the same height they couldn't look more different. it's a move that could have come across as gimmicky or overly pretentious, but instead it highlights everything that's interesting about that central conflict over the importance of identity.

at the same time, suture works as an effective thriller. the whole time clay is piecing his life back together as vincent whilst trying to make sense of his memories of clay, the police are closing in. david graf, perhaps most recognisable as tackleberry from the police academy movies, puts in a very understated performance as the detective on vincent's trail that has a real authenticity to it. the tension in the story comes from wanting clay to figure out what happened to him before graf's character does and it's played with perfect pacing. however, the real standout performance of the film comes from dennis haysbert who brings a humanity and believability to clay that really carries us through a sometimes complex and surreal story.

suture looks amazing too and the blu-ray really makes the most of the the stunning black-and-white photography. if that weren't enough there's a fantastic making-of documentary on the disc in which mcgehee and siegel discuss how they had to make the film for almost nothing because they refused to change the central conceit of identical twins being played by a black actor and white actor. overall, suture is a fascinating, innovative film with so many layers and ideas to the story it will keep you thinking about it for a long time after the credits roll.

suture is available now from arrow video on dual format blu-ray and dvd

the neon demon - soundtrack

the neon demon is the latest film from nicholas winding refn, possibly the coolest director working right now (until ana lily amirpour finishes her next movie). famous for his bold visuals, striking colour palettes and surreal reimaginings of classic movie genres, the neon demon is his first horror movie. with the los angeles fashion industry as a backdrop, the film takes on the hollywood dream and repaints it as a neon-drenched nightmare.

for the sountrack, refn once again turned to regular collaborator cliff martinez. while martinez has had a long career working on now legendary movies like sex, lies and videotape, narc and traffic, his score for drive is one of the most bold, standout movie scores of the few decades. martinez worked with refn again on only god forgives and produced another memorable and effective score, particularly the track, 'wanna fight' that plays under the climactic fight scene. there is something about the audacity of martinez's scores that goes really well with refn's striking visuals so it's no surprise that the two would work together again on the neon demon.

for the neon demon score martinez creates an electronic soundscape that is both thrilling and full of dread at the same time. there are echoes of john carpenter here, if carpenter had ever been remixed by nine inch nails era trent reznor, and at times it also reminded me of the tangerine dream scores for movies like manhunter and sorceror.  i also couldn't help thinking of the disasterpiece score for it follows, although in that case i'm not entirely sure the score suited the films visuals as well as this score does. despite it's influences, the neon demon score is classic martinez and manages to feel both slightly retro and ultra contemporary at the same time.

the title track that opens the album really sums up everything that's great about the score, building from a creepy opening to an electronic dirge and all the while conveying a sense of something unsettling beneath the surface. i also liked the more atmospheric tracks like 'ruby at the morgue' and 'i would never say you're fat', and the super-creepy all-out horror tracks like 'something's in my room'. some of the tracks also have an ethereal, other-worldly quality to them, like 'runway' or 'jesse sneaks into her room'.

with the neon demon soundtrack martinez once again proves that he is one of the most relevant and interesting composers working in cinema right now and it's no surprise that he's also crossed over into videogames. if you enjoyed martinez's work on drive and only god forgives you will definitely like this, and yet it's also different enough to ensure it feels fresh. i hope refn and martinez contine to collaborate and look forward to seeing/hearing what they do next.

the neon demon - original motion picture sountrack is available now both digitally and on cd from milan records, and will be released on vinyl on july 8th

Thursday, 30 June 2016

enemy mine

enemy mine takes place in a war-torn future in which a human fighter pilot crash lands on an alien world where his only companion is the enemy pilot he shot down. initially hostile, the two men are forced to rely on each other for survival when they realise the biggest threat to their existence is actually their new found home.

as a narrative enemy mine is hugely impressive in scale if perhaps a little too ambitious at times. while the initial set-up of two warriors on opposite sides of a galactic war finding themselves stranded together is a good one, the premise is dealt with fairly quickly. the two men actually come to terms with their predicament within the first twenty minutes and the film then relies on unearned sentimentality to carry us through a rushed first half. then again, it kind of has to in order to leave room for the craziness of the second half, and that's really where the issue lies. this is two stories. one is straightforward; it's hell in pacific in space, mixed with a little robinson crusoe, or even robinson crusoe on mars. the other is a little more complicated and aims to use to this small story of two enemies who become friends as a route to solving the problem of the galactic war itself. while i would have preferred to spend more time on the first story, the second half is certainly unexpected and allows us to see much more of the world than we first expect to see.

what really stands out in enemy mine is the production design. the alien world resembles every fantasy/sci-fi inspired seventies album cover ever, with brightly coloured skies, bizarre plant life and strange rock formations in every wide shot. the hostile nature of the environment is also effectively established, with regular meteor showers and snowstorms making it feel like nowhere is safe. then there is the local wildlife which consists of small, turtle-like creatures and large predators that hide in the dirt and seek out their prey with spiked tentacles. while the creature effects themselves are a bit dated the design work is great and it's always fantastic to see a good old practical creature effect at work.

the best effect work however is on the make-up for louis gosset jr.s character, jeriba. as well as the suitably alien design, parts of jeriba's head seem to breath independently giving the flesh a living quality and making it seem much less like a guy in a mask. speaking of that guy, gosset jr.s performance is incredible considering the discomfort the appliance must have caused. he makes jeriba seem warm and gives him a humanity at odds with his appearance. the combination of gosset jr.s performance and the incredible make-up effects make jeriba one of the most compelling alien characters ever seen on film.

as jeriba's human companion a young dennis quiad puts in a nice performance too, although often has to compete for screen time with a beard that is probably the least convincing effect in the whole film. that said, his relationship with jeriba feels genuine, particularly in the more tender moments when the film isn't afraid to become more like a love-story than a war drama. this is certainly something the filmmakers embrace with jeriba taking on more feminine traits (including, spolier, becoming pregnant) as their relationship develops.

another highlight is brion james turning up to play that character he always used to play in movies, the one that's always brion james. you know, this guy.

despite it's contrivances and overlong running time, there is something really interesting about enemy mine, both in the progressive nature of the relationship it presents and the use of a vast new world to tell a relatively small story. like the best science-fiction movies it focuses on ideas rather than plot, similar to films like silent running, solaris or more recently, moon. if you haven't seen it in a while it's worth revisiting, especially on blu-ray where the bright colour palette really stands out, and if you haven't seen it then it's a great alternative to the epic space operas that are currently coming back into style.

enemy mine is available now on blu-ray from eureka entertainment

Friday, 10 June 2016

the ghostbusters problem

i can tell you now, i’m going to see the new ghostbusters movie. i’m actually pretty fucking excited about it.

some internet critics are, apparently, not going to see it. you must understand that they aren’t not going because they aren’t feminists. you can tell this is a problematic argument from the number of negatives in that sentence.

i want to see it, apparently, because i am a feminist; twitter has pointed this out to me several times, which tells me something really sad – that despite arguments to the contrary, they perceive a film about four women doing something other than planning a wedding to be feminist. and for feminists. and equally, therefore, not for them. why is this important? why the fuck does it matter that i'm excited about a film that hasn't been released yet while the majority of people are very vocal about how much they are most certainly not excited? because this is ghettoising women and media about women; it’s following our long tradition of excising women from popular culture. what really makes me sad is that i’m not at all surprised – has the bechdel test taught us nothing?

recently, on the same day as i was tweeting about not judging the ghostbusters film before you’ve seen it, i read a news story about one of the girls captured in 2014 by boko haram who was found, with her baby, in the forest in nigeria. and someone on twitter said words to the effect of, 'we don’t need feminism in first world countries, only third world countries.' and i was sitting there thinking, how can some people not see that it’s all part of the same thing?

for you and i to get along here reader, we’re going to need to get a few things straight. we are not assigning a more important/less important hierarchy here. i’m not interested in ranking the severity or seriousness of an infinite number of instances of prejudice and discrimination. what i’m saying is it’s all worth caring about. it all matters. it’s all connected.

i listened to this american life #586 the same week as all this was going on.  it's the episode called ‘who do you think you are?’ and it pretty quickly became apparent that the first story was about fgm. female genital mutilation. i hope you already knew that. it was really hard to keep listening as the journalist talked about the tarp on the living room floor when she was 7, the necklace she was given, her first visit to a gynaecologist. so here’s the thing: does this girl need feminism? does it matter what country she lives in? what religion? if this happened in ethiopia, does she need it? how about the u.s.? (it happened in neither) does her brother need feminism? the gynaecologist?  the clergy that the family claimed to be pleasing by doing it, although they publicly condemned it as illegal?

i kept listening. i kept listening because we need to hear this. we, as people, need to accept that this is reality. it doesn’t matter if this is the reality for one woman or several million women. we all need feminism because this still happens in the world, and it doesn’t matter if that is on my doorstep or 10,000 miles away. it might as well have been my living room.

we all need feminism because i was reading an article about kurdish women in the armed forces fighting i,s. simon ross valentine is writing a book about the peshmerga. this is what he had to say about lt. colonel nahida ahmad rashid:

“Although feminine, possessing a warm demeanor and an affable sense of humor, she is every bit a commander: a disciplined and decisive leader.” 

Dailysignal.com 18/5/16

apparently, in 2016, women still need an ‘although’ before we can acknowledge their leadership skills.

we all need feminism because i have never seen four women in a blockbuster movie together. and if you aren’t excited about that happening, regardless of what has been rebooted or what you think about the trailer, then i will personally spread the tarp on your living room floor. not in an ‘i’m going to cut you’ kind of way, but to show you that it’s all one thing. that we mutilate the image of women that is projected, across the world, to create a gender that is nothing to do with any real people. that we disfigure and rob them of their power. that we circumcise their education and castrate their aspirations, whether that’s for a ghostbusting career or experiencing an orgasm. it isn’t a coincidence or an accident that women are subjected to genital mutilation in some countries and all but invisible in the centre of mainstream culture in another, that this is happening to THE SAME FUCKING GENDER. we all need feminism because we all need gender equity and it hasn’t happened yet, anywhere. and no, i’m not going to add that men suffer too or that they will benefit from equity as much as women. because you shouldn’t need to know that in order to care.

that's why i'm excited about seeing ghostbusters, and whether you care about the film or not we should all be celebrating the fact that it exists.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

x-men: apocalypse

so my brother jack (seen here rambling about horror movies) has started insisting we see every superhero movie together like it's some kind of tradition now, even the ones i'm really not that interested in. like x-men: apocalypse. 

i've never been an x-men fan. i object to the name, which seems more ridiculous given they have more women than most other superhero teams. i never thought any of them were that interesting, i mean shooting lasers out of your eyes and having claws just seem like really dull powers to me. but most of all i hate how much fucking whining they do. yeah, i get that it's a metaphor for minorities but when you scratch the surface it's a really confused metaphor in which the minorities spend most of the time fighting each other over stupid stuff and then complaining about it. i mean, i guess you could say that in their differing approaches xavier is martin luther king and magneto is malcolm x and that makes a kind of sense, but mostly i just see 'i can shoot lasers out of my eyes #fml'

my prejudices aside, i actually really enjoyed this film. there was some shit i didn't like, mostly everything that happened after the halfway point, but i'm not going to dwell on that because no doubt everyone else will. here's what i liked.

the film opens with this huge, epic scene in egypt with this fucking amazing john  ottman track that to me was channelling christopher young's hellraiser score. that's what hooked me in. i don't really know who apocalypse is in the comics (my closest guess is marvel's darkseid?), nor do i give a fuck, but i can tell you who he reminded me of. he reminded me of pinhead in the hellraiser movies. there was something about the way oscar isaac plays the character that says so much with very limited movements and dialogue. he decapitates some dudes without a second thought and clearly enjoys prolonging the suffering of others. i seriously half-expected him to start shooting chains with fucking hooks on the end at one point, he was that dark and that fucked-up. i thought he was the best bad guy i've seen in a superhero movie for a while, at least for half the film. then i think they ran out of ideas for what to do with him and he sits on a rock for like an hour until the x-men turn up to punch him with lasers.

magneto was my second favourite thing. actually no, michael fassbender as magneto, because to be honest the storyline they give him in this movie is fucking ridiculous but he pulls it off. that's the sign of a great actor - someone who can take some rather contrived situations and make you feel the emotion of the moment anyway. there's a point where this almost felt like they'd taken the script from that magneto solo movie that never happened and tried to cram it into this movie instead, and yet fassbender owns it.

i also really liked the nuclear weapon montage, mostly because of ottman fucking with beethoven on the score, but also because it was a really fucked up moment and the last point in the film where apocalypse feels like a guy who knows what he wants.

and the quicksilver part was cool, but then evan peters always was my favourite thing about american horror story.

i wish they'd given the women more to do. i mean it's cool that there are so many women in the film and they're all involved somehow, but to be honest storm and psylocke are wasted, mystique is seriously sidelined and moira mactaggert is just kind of there, mostly for no reason. i liked sophie turner's jean grey though, she played her with a level of awkwardness that almost seems unintentional at first but is actually perfect for the character.

i think what i liked is that there is weird shit in this film. batman v superman was a mess, albeit an interesting mess, and civil war was kind of too perfect and therefore not at all interesting. x-men apocalypse sits somewhere in between the two, with moments of genius undermined by moments of incredible stupidity, and yet it was the stupid moments i liked the best because it felt like if nothing else, it's a film that takes some risks.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

captain america: civil war

so i wasn't going to write about this one at first because i really liked it and i didn't have a particularly interesting take on it or anything say so i thought i'd let it go. i mean, it's not like people are waiting to hear what i think of it before they go and see it. at the same time i don't want to be one of those bloggers who only reviews the shit they didn't like, even if my dislike does take the form of somewhat strained political analogies. so in the interests of celebrating something great here's what i thought of captain america: civil war.

i'm not going to rehash the plot because ... trailers, but it's safe to say that the disagreement between iron man and captain america is a hundred times more complicated than the forced dispute in that other movie that we all saw. what makes it work and subsequently what makes the whole film work is that both characters are right and wrong at the same time. it's a complicated issue, and if superheroes are going to start punching each other then their reasons need to have a certain level of complexity to be believable.

with batman and superman it was two good guys who want the same thing getting into a fight because ... reasons. go read my review, i explained it better than the film did. here, the government want the avengers to submit to rules because otherwise stuff blows up and people die, and half the avengers don't want to do that because rules suck. there is a bad guy who tries to manipulate the situation, but what i loved (and this may be a spoiler) is that ultimately he's inconsequential. i mean, i know who the character is and i'm sure he'll come back with a cool mask and shit but in this film he's just a guy causing trouble because he was pissed off, he saw a weakness and he exploited it. despite the fact that this is a film about superheroes, the motivations of everyone in the film make sense and feel real.

i often refer to the fact that superhero movies are really for kids and trying to force them into an adult world causes problems. i will always maintain that nolan did it most effectively with his batman movies as i argue rather effectively here -

but what civil war did is remind me that when i was a kid i was always arguing the opposite point of view - i was arguing that these were grown-up stories that just happened to be accessible to kids. like they did with winter soldier, the russo brothers have taken the most over-the-top, ridiculous characters and placed them neatly into a serious political thriller. with a ridiculous over-the-top fight in the middle. the fight at the airport does, to be fair, feel like it's from a completely different film because it's so tonally different to the rest of it. that said, it works so well on its own that it kind of doesn't matter. it's a very well crafted scene in which everyone is given something to do, the action is clear, the dialogue is entertaining but at the same time there are serious consequences. it's not a scene from a serious political thriller, but it's a fucking cool scene so who cares. and spiderman is cool. i fucking hate spiderman, he was always my least favourite character, and yet here i am admitting that spiderman is cool so this movie must be doing something right.

my concerns about the civil war being mostly a boys fight with a token woman on each side were mostly valid and i'm not sure the film even passes the bechdel test. however, what is nice is that as well as black widow and scarlet witch we also get sharon carter and references to her grandmother, all of which make it clear that this is a world in which women do stuff. they are not mothers and girlfriends, and scarlet witch is even presented as being the most powerful of all of them, even if that's not really followed through in the action. black widow isn't given too much to do and looks like she spends way too much time on her hair before work in the mornings, but that said she also has a couple of cool character moments. she remains by far the most interesting and complex character in the marvel cinematic universe and badly needs her own movie.

my only other issue is that two major plot points are to do with the deaths of characters' parents. it's handled way better than it was in batman v superman but seriously, can no one think of any better reasons for superheroes to be fucked up?

that said, there is so much that this film gets right and that's what i want to focus on. to tell this story with so many characters and to make it feel real and human as well as complex and yet easy to follow was kind of an impossible task, but they really have pulled it off. i think that's worth celebrating, and if you haven't seen it you should definitely check it out. there is something very rewarding about watching filmmakers and actors take a thousand ill-fitting jigsaw pieces and assemble them into a satisfying whole, and that's exactly why captain america: civil war is a success.

Friday, 22 April 2016

the zero boys

the zero boys follows a group of 'weekend warriors' - three young men who like to spend their free time shooting guns in simulated combat scenarios to impress their non-participating girlfriends. however, the zero boys soon have an opportunity to put their skills to the test in real life when a weekend retreat turns into violent conflict with the local crazies.

the central concept of zero boys is actually pretty cool. yes, this is a film about six young people deciding to stay the night in an abandoned cabin in the woods only to be picked off one by one by machete wielding killers. even in 1986 this idea must have been starting to feel old, and now, after scream de-constructed the slasher and cabin in the woods de-constructed it even further, watching a movie with that particular setup can be tough going. however, the fact that our protagonists are wannabe war heroes and are going into this armed to the teeth does put a different spin on things.

pacing in a slasher film is one of those things that's really tough to get right (i have begun to realise this having just started writing one myself). start the kills to early and we don't know enough about the characters to care, start too late and we're bored by the time it kicks off. personally i think the latter approach can work brilliantly if the characters are well-written and we are made to care about them. the best recent example of this was in the norwegian movie cold prey, which doesn't add anything to the genre in terms of originality but the characters are so interesting and likeable that we want them to survive, which adds a huge amount to the tension. the zero boys attempts a similar approach with the violence not really starting until around forty-five minutes in, but unfortunately the characterisation isn't there to justify spending so much time with these guys. the three men are basically the same character - they even look the same. the women are only more diverse in that one of them has a plaster cast on her leg, otherwise they are pretty much indistinguishable. the only story we have to hang onto is that kelli maroney's character has been forced to go on the trip because the lead guy daniel hirsch's character won her in a contest. she goes along reluctantly, and that's the only real drama we have for the first half of the film.

that said, kelli maroney is the only one in the cast who really stands out and actually for a slasher film blonde her character is pretty interesting. she mentions studying anthropology at one point and later on there is a moment where she and the other girls change into army gear, which made a nice change from the way women are usually treated in slasher movies. also, both times the bad guys are bested it's down to the women in the group and overall the men are portrayed as being pretty pathetic. in that respect perhaps the zero boys is a more forward-thinking slasher film than it first appears, although i'm not sure carol clover would approve.

i did wonder if there was some hidden anti-war message here too because the zero boys does bear some similarities to the far superior walter hill movie southern comfort (if you haven't seen southern comfort first of all fuck you, and second of all what are you doing still reading this? go watch that film right now and don't you dare show your face around here until you're finished. then we can talk). ultimately, for all their training and preparedness the heavily armed zero boys fare pretty badly against two hicks with a machete and a crossbow.

one element that works really well is the idea that the bad guys are making snuff films and when the heroes first discover the camera set-up it's actually quite disturbing. unfortunately when the killers do eventually reveal themselves they are kind of disappointing, and mostly look like guys from the crew, like kane hodder and gunnar hansen pulled out at the last minute so they pulled in a couple of grips to take their place. there is, however, a brilliant shot of one of them at the end of the film that's so great it actually feels like it's from another movie. hard to describe without spoiling it, but trust me the final shot is amazing.

for a film we've all seen a thousand times before the zero boys actually has some really unique ideas and a few nice moments to make it stand out. unfortunately the main characters really let it down and the film feels incredibly slow-moving at times as a result. that said, it's certainly an interesting watch and you will want to watch the extras afterwards just to figure out what everyone on the crew was thinking.

arrow video release the zero boys on dvd and blu-ray on 25th april 2016