Week 18

It’s that time again kids, this weeks Watched, Read & Listened To List.

This week I watched and read quite a bit of stuff….highlight of the week is a Tv show I discovered on Netflix called Danger 5. For those of you who don’t know about it, it is a show like a real-life remake of Thunderbirds…if Thunderbirds was created by the same people who done Team AmericaGarth Marenghi’s Darkplace. It is one of the best Tv shows that I have seen in a very, very long time!!


Soundtrack of the week this week is Steven Price’s score for last years critically acclaimed Gravity. I remember listening to this for the first time in the cinema, and it was such a huge sound! A huge sound for such a minimalist score that is, and I for one it got the critics attention as many great minimalist score usually slip by unnoticed behind the film itself which is a shame. Take the initial track for example Above Earth, and listen to it through headphones or really good speakers….throughly evoking work.


On with the list…

All caps, bold: MOVIE
All caps: TV SERIES
All italics: Book
Quotation marks: “Play”
Italics, Quotation marks: “Short Story

ENTOURAGE (4)
ENTOURAGE
AQUARIUS
JAY AND SILENT BOB: STRIKE BACK
DAWN OF THE DEAD
FOXCATCHER
VEEP (2)
BO BURNHAM : WHAT
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (4)
DANGER 5 (4)
NICK OFFERMAN : AMERICAN HAM
FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD
IT FOLLOWS

Till next  week…

“That’s some bad hat, Harry.” – Brody,  Jaws
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Scene 18 – It Follows

First and foremost before we begin with this or last weeks blog rather, I would like to apologise for it’s lateness. *For dramatic effect you should read the next line as Nick Offerman*… This is due to the fact that I was in Edinburgh…drinking scotch, so really I don’t have to apologise. But I will be making up for it with two updates, this one and my regular one…but now lets fly through a really fast synopsis to kick this off…


Here we go, So after Jay (Maika Monroe) and her boyfriend have ‘the sex’, he tells her that he has passed a curse onto her and now something will begin to follow her. And when it catches up with her, it will kill her. Sure enough, she begins to experience an inescapable feeling that someone, or something, is after her…*cue creepy music*


It Follows is a subtly creepy, yet beautifully composed shocker, featuring moments of which will haunt you along with the template quote of filler. It blurs the line between sex and death, tapping into some very dark and primal fears such as abandonment, betrayal of loved ones, social ostracism. Most obviously it mines that very specific fear of being pursued so relentlessly by something unknowable, harmful and without-reasoning; that unshakable fear that someone or something is creeping up behind you, getting closer and closer, until you can’t resist the urge and must turn and look…it took me back to when you were younger and watch a horror movie in a friends that you really shouldn’t have, before commencing the one step forward – two steps back walk home.


The atmosphere of dread is evident from the beginning as a panicky opening scene immediately pulls us into the story and forcibly submerges us, breathless with tension, until a shock climax of horrifyingly grotesque imagery reveals what happens when the follower catches up to the followed. The fact that we never see what the girl is running from, only that she is terrified enough to run helplessly, half-dressed past her own father on the way to her car in an attempt to escape ‘something’ just adds to emotion of the scene, with the full panning camera clearly and dramatically shows that there isn’t anything behind her. Adding to the odd, ominous feeling throughout is the fact that much of the action takes place in daylight hours, and in places you would expect to find relative safety when being followed by someone or something unknown; buildings bustling with people, bland suburban streets …. saying that there are a few scenes when Jay is being followed where she runs off to an abandoned park by herself to try escape, which as we all know is from ‘How to stay alive when a creepy creep is following you’ manual is a complete no no…but hey, I’m just being picky. It’s this mix of mundane and otherworldly that imbues It Follows with much of its effectiveness.


Many horror films feature unsettling subtext regarding sexuality and sexual angst…this is the perfect time to revisit practically every 80’s slasher movie. So the core premise of It Follows is just another strand from the 80’s subtext, this time that act of ‘the sex’ instigates untold terror when a curse is passed between lovers…and when you think about it It Follows is a far better movie title then ‘The Curse of the STD’…which sounds like an over 18 episode of Scooby Doo. David Robert Mitchell’s script carefully lingers on the moral implications of the situation as Jay agonises over whether or not she can bring herself to pass on the curse to someone else. Her boyfriend assures her she’ll have no problems doing so as she’s ‘so pretty’…is that a compliment?


Underpinning the fairy tale aspects is the almost complete absence of parental figures; Jay’s alcoholic mother is momentarily glimpsed around the house, but she is never shown to engage with her daughters. It isn’t necessarily an unloving relationship they have…it’s just how things are. Jay and her sister seem protective of her, they discuss how telling her about certain things is not an option, she just couldn’t handle it….suggesting that there is a lot more going on then we are told. Her father is only depicted as a figure in a long-ago taken photo suggests that his absence, though we aren’t told why and that may be the reason for their mother’s alcoholism. The entire film is peppered with these little subtleties, making for a rich and immersive experience. The fractured family unit speaks of how the younger generation of today has had to grow up fast and learn to survive with little guidance or instruction, with peers substituting for absent parent figures.


Before it’s torn apart and rendered utterly terrifying, writer/director David Robert Mitchell creates a world instantly familiar in its reassuring mundanity, peopled by normal characters. A strange sadness, perhaps a lamentation of lost childhood, wafts throughout, as adolescent characters face unimaginable horrors just beyond, but oftentimes within their cosy, tree-lined suburban environs, as they emerge into adulthood and experience firsthand its myriad dangers and traumas. There’s something about the autumn that speaks of the melancholy of years spent in beige-tinted suburbia, longing for life to begin and stuff to happen….I’m still waiting!


Mitchell creates a subtle mythology around the ‘otherworldly stalker.’ In an effort to catch up to them, the follower takes on the guise of people its victims know and love, but we never find out what it is, where it came from or even how it came to being. For all we know, it’s an ageless, timeless thing that has just always been following marked individuals across the globe…scary thought. We glimpse it in various forms, some genuinely unsettling  but the most terrifying thing about it is its sole intention: to violently destroy whoever it is following. Its purposeful, measured pace ratchets up the tension as Mitchell utilises wide angled shots – again reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Halloween – to suggest the presence of something lurking in the shadowy periphery of the screen, watching. Wraith-like camerawork enhances tension by gliding back and forth between the different viewpoints, or perceptions if you will, of characters, and there’s an uneasy quietness to the composition of many shots. Danger isn’t announced…it is gradually suggested.


As genuinely terrifying as it is, It Follows is also a film brimming with moments of exquisite, un-selfconscious beauty. As mentioned, there are strong visual echoes of John Carpenter’s Halloween, with its quiet, suburban setting resplendent with the  shades of autumn, and of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, with its ethereal, oddly dreamy atmosphere and frequently sun-dappled cinematography. Even the night scenes are lit with a familiar and oddly comforting orange glow of street lights. When things turn horrific and start to encroach upon this setting, the unsettling impact is undeniable. There is frequently striking imagery such as the girl sitting alone on a beach lit by her car headlights….don’t worry it happen with the first ten minutes.  The highly atmospheric score comes courtesy of Disasterpiece (Rich Vreeland) and segues between airy, Tangerine Dream-esque sounds, with beautiful yet stark electronic drones which chill the back of the neck, and full-on panicked intensity.

It Follows has a deathly delivery, and is a great representation of a modern horror.

Week 17

It’s that time again kids, this weeks Watched, Read & Listened To List.

This week I watched and read quite a bit of stuff….highlight of the week has actually turned into highlights of the week. Finally got around to watching Max Mad: Fury Road….and if you haven’t seen it…do! It channels the essence of the original movies, with the practical effects and it really delivers. Tom Hardy was stuck in Bane mode for the first two acts…but Charlize Theron holds the helm. I also got to see Jurassic World…and what can I say…I may have cried when within the first 15 mins. The only thing I hated about the movie was the last 15 mins or so..it was like they had been writing the the script for the last 10 years and a half an hour before the deadline they scribbled down the 15 minute ending….but it is still worth seeing over and over again..


Soundtrack of the week this week has to the return of Jurassic Park by the legendary John Williams….I don’t think this need an explanation, only the part where I listen to the soundtrack while following the musical score…That probably need some explaining…but you won’t get it.


On with the list…


All caps, bold: MOVIE
All caps: TV SERIES
All italics: Book
Quotation marks: “Play”
Italics, Quotation marks: “Short Story

JURASSIC PARK – THE LOST WORLD

JURASSIC PARK III

GAME OF THRONES

JOHN WICK

EX-MACHINA

BLACK MIRROR

THE ENGLISH TEACHER

UTOPIA (2)

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

HANNIBAL

THE SOUTH BANK SHOW : G.R.R MARTIN

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

THE UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SMITH

THE STAG

DAREDEVIL

JURASSIC WORLD

ENTOURAGE (14)

“One should try everything he can in his career, expect folk dancing and incest” – Sir Christopher Lee, RIP…

Scene 17 – The Wicker Man

This weeks blog changed last-minute with the sad news that the legendary Christopher Lee had passed away. So as a small tribute I decided dedicate this movie to one of my favourite Christopher Lee movies, which when going back to revisit his work…is pretty hard to pick. So after I spent a few moments persuading myself not to watch The Lord of The Rings for the millionth time, eventually landing back at the iconic film that is The Wicker Man. This decision may not be a surprise to most people, but it really took a lot to pick this movie. It is of course an amazing film, but Christopher Lee had so many amazing films! He is credited to 278 films, doing on average 3 to 4 movies per year in his heyday…and not only is that prolific, but there is also a lot of quality to go with this quantity over his 69 year career within the industry.


So lets delve back to a decade that was a hotbed of experimental, ground-breaking and now classic horror films, the 1970’s. The Exorcist was the first of the genre ever to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was sweeping America like a psycho-chainsaw-wielding plague. This era also saw Dario Argento creating giallo – gore films like Suspiria, pushing the boundaries of movie gore. FUN FACT : Giallo is the Italian word for yellow, which was also conveniently the colour of the pages of the Italian paperback crime thrillers on which the horror film sub-genre were based…I know right?!!…I should get out more….


Moving to England, film-maker Robin Hardy took this flourishing sub-genre and added an English twist, coming up with the idea to insert Pagan rituals into a small island community resulting in the classic film The Wicker Man. The synopsis goes as follows…Police officer Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) is called to the island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a little girl. Upon arriving he is introduced to various members of the community who explain that they aren’t Christian but rather follow old Pagan rituals. Disturbed, but not perturbed unlike these cowboys of police men we have today,  Howie continues his investigation, uncovering facts that lead to a potentially startling discovery regarding Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) and ‘the wicker man.’


The slow reveal of the truth behind the Island’s ritualistic religion is one of The Wicker Man’s greatest strengths. Not content with using typically English and recognisable imagery like Old English pubs, Punch and Judy or the Maypole, it subverts and adds levels of tension and fear quite brilliantly throughout. This overwhelming English feel is transferred across to the cast that includes classic British actors like Edward Woodward and Russell Waters, all held together Christopher Lees in possibly his best ever performance. All these elements combine presenting the audience with a view of 1970’s Britain, with their quintessential – British reactions adding a very sinister and eery element to the film. This level of realism, both in terms of religious doctrine and true human expression is one of the contributing factors to The Wicker Man’s success and long-lasting influence. Its sort of the same conversation that people are having today with practical effects Vs CGI…but I digress.


One of my favourite scenes or exchanges of dialogue rather is at Howie’s shock of the lack of Christianity or understanding of Jesus Christ to Lord Summerisle’s retort “Himself the son of a virgin, impregnated, I believe, by a ghost…” As is it’s designed.. to make the audience feel uncomfortable, it left me feeling anxious, which isn’t easy if you have read my other blogs and my perception of horror movies….and still does to this day, about a decade after I saw it first…which is essence of a truly great horror film.


Horror films are now one of the most obviously formulaic film genres, with great horrors subverting these conventions or toying with preconceptions. The Wicker Man not only stands tall as one of the most original and unassuming horrors of the 1970s, but stands the test of time as one of the most chilling and fascinating horror films of all time. This is only solidified by the truly ground-breaking performance of Christopher Lee. And that is one of the great things about film….even though they are gone, and it really is a huge tragedy, his legacy, his truly amazing gift and talent is caught and lives on in his 278 films, and I for one shall continue to watch and admire his work.

RIP Sir Christopher Lee, 1922 – 2015

Week 16

This week there isn’t that much of a Watched, Read & Listened To List this week kids… as I have been swamped

I did get a chance to start Simon Pegg’s auto biography which I have been trying to do for quite a while  which is a great thing. But hopefully I can get back to full steam next week.


On with the list…


All caps, bold: MOVIE
All caps: TV SERIES
All italics: Book
Quotation marks: “Play”
Italics, Quotation marks: “Short Story

GAME OF THRONES

BLACK BOOKS (12)

LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS

WATCHMEN

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

VEEP (2)

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

GET HARD

JOHN WICK

Nerd Do Well, Simon Pegg (p.1 – p.61)


“None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with ME!”

S

Scene 16 – Watchmen

This weeks movies we delve into the comic universe that is Watchmen. Personally speaking Watchmen, along with a lot of Frank Milller’s work grabbed my attention. This was mainly due to the roughness or the characters, worlds, and plots etc etc…just check out the Batman: The Killing Joke, written by nine time Eisner Award winner for best writer, Alan Moore….who also wrote Watchmen.

Firstly, a little bit about the graphic novel itself. In the mid-1980s, revered comic-book writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons got together to collaborate on a graphic novel called Watchmen, which became an instant phenomenon with comic book fans; selling in the millions, inspiring countless imitators and establishing the graphic novel as a legitimate literary form.…wining the first Eisner Award.  So almost as soon as it was published, movie studios lined up with their chequebooks out, only to shuffle quietly away once they had actually read the thing.  It was a vast, meta-textual post-modern story about a group of ‘damaged’ people pretending to be superheroes, set in an alternative 1984 universe, where Nixon is still president…which is scary enough as is,  and nuclear war looms on the horizon. The book was deemed ‘unfilmable’ for over twenty years by movie exec’s. That was, until Zack Snyder took the reins, having proved he could handle this sort of material with his frame-by-frame adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300….but lets not mention his later ‘I’ll take the reins’ movie..Man of Steel…but lets never talk about that!


Snyder delivers a beautifully opening montage credit sequence that sets out the breathtaking visual scheme and establishes an alternate historical context, while also showing the brutal murder of The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a retired super hero…in one of my favourite opening sequences, that relays and depicts comic books panels through film so well. The story picks up with a cursory police investigation that goes nowhere, so it falls on Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), a masked vigilante and our gravel-voiced narrator, to find out who killed his former colleague. Having reconnected with his now-outlawed crime-fighting group, Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman) and the only true ‘super-powered’ hero, the atomically-mutated Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup). Rorschach uncovers a vast conspiracy to kill off all the remaining superheroes in an effort to provoke a nuclear war.


Snyder’s take on the book runs a lengthy two hours and forty minutes,  but accurately follows the complicated contours of the source novel it has to be said,  gracefully portraying the mechanisms that builds its multi-layered philosophical core.…ie, keeping the mad comic book nerds happy. Watchmen the movie is  visually dazzling…quite the mouthful. Snyder uses Gibbons’ original panels as a storyboard and somehow connects the narrative as accurately as graphic novel to motion picture has been, having seeing a series of disastrous adaptations with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen being as low as it got. Between these poor adaptations and Moore general perception of the film industry, Moore now refuses to take a screen credits and wants no involvement in the scripts. Gibbons is a supremely talented artist but Moore is the storytelling genius and Watchmen is probably his masterpiece.


One thing that does bother me with this whole fascination or trend of turning comic book/graphic novels into movies is the transparence between the written work and the scripts…Artistic liberties, is what some people call it.  I feel the same about these ‘based of a true story’ movies…how much is actually based? He had the same colour jumper…I think that counts. It leads to instances like Christopher Nolan’s staggeringly successful Dark Knight , which offered a simple binary relationship between order and chaos, good and evil, while Watchmen presents a vast spectrum of moral positions and character perspectives….and kinda goes under the radar. Watchmen asks ‘why people want to be heroes in the first place?’, ‘what drives ordinary men and women to fight crime?’ and ‘whether or not they are suited to the task of delivering justice?’ It doesn’t sugar coat the fact that they are human,  exploring both their good and bad sides, their altered-egos, their private and public lives. We see their memories and dreams. The third act does counter all this being based primarily on Mars, and containing far to much of Dr. Manhattan…if you know what I mean.

The novel is constructed like a Tamagotchi, a recurring symbol, delicately establishing and expanding ones-self into seeing the world in numerous different ways, and in turn helping them to figure themselves out….ok well not a Tamagotchi, but it my world that ranks pretty high. This is the ultimate self goal in every self-help book and isn’t really possible in cinema, which unfolds at a set rate, twenty-four frames a second, and abhors eternally parallel narratives. You cannot flick back through the pages of a movie if you miss something or fail to make a connection. You have to get it the first time…unless you rematch and so on.

Snyder’s version grinds through the gears of the story as he directs slow-motion fight scenes combined with intellectual tussles. He stages the major incidents of the book with a perfectionist eye for detail, guided by his own fanboy reverence and a team of special-effects imagineers. And I think it is his fanboy-isim that is the glue for his page for page graphic-storyboard, that’s inventive and attractive, that comes together in a satisfyingly-nerdy way. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the novel, as is the brilliance of Alan Moore’s writing, which transfers seamlessly to film, all you need is one nerdy fanboy and a few hundred-million dollars.


To conclude, Watchmen is a noir-influenced crime drama, set in a fascinating alternative history of America. At its core is the value of heroism portrayed in a blood-soaked giallo-horror. It is as close an adaptation of the original novel as it could possibly be, which to any fanboy or comic book fan is all that can be asked for, depicting a sense of existential malaise and a fear of the future. Having made minor adjustments to the ending…minor as in Christopher Nolan’s Batman has only and man dressed in a suit, a cave and an old butler; you can tell wants to punch the head of Christian Bale in, in common with the original novels. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Batman movies, it’s that personal quarrel I have with ‘Artistic liberties’ that I mentioned earlier. Anyway, so in order to maintain some sense of realism, Snyder makes what some may say mistake, myself included, of allowing his anti-heroes take on some of the characteristics of the supermen the original story is attempting to subvert. Regardless, Watchmen is for fans of the novel; an essential film, to others; a brave, bold and beautiful comic sci-fi.

Week 15

It’s that time again kids, this weeks Watched, Read & Listened To List.

This week I watched and read quite a bit of stuff….highlight of the week is a tie between starting the second season of Utopia and this weeks review John Wick. If you haven’t seen either I urge you to do so! I have talked about the first season of Utopia in an earlier highlight of my Watched, Read & Listened To List.


Soundtrack of the week this week is Joe Hisaishi’s masterpiece for the 2004 Studio Ghibli movie Howl’s Moving Castle. Truly masterful stuff from Hisasihi again, who really knows how to play on the heart-strings.


On with the list…


All caps, bold: MOVIE
All caps: TV SERIES
All italics: Book
Quotation marks: “Play”
Italics, Quotation marks: “Short Story


ENTOURAGE (36)

CALIFORNICATION

MOVIE 43

HAPPY GILMORE

STEP UP 5

THE FOLLOWING

HOME

GOING CLEAR 

UTOPIA (2)

JOHN WICK

THE DUFF

THE WEST WING (2)

BASEketball


… As Mr. Sloan always says, there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in pie. And there’s an “i” in meat pie. Meat is the anagram of team…  actually I don’t know what he’s talking about…

till next time.

S