Hounds of Love (2016)

Hounds of Love (2016)

"I realised that the good stories were affecting the organs of my body in various ways, and the really good ones were stimulating more than one organ. An effective story grabs your gut, tightens your throat, makes your heart race and your lungs pump, brings tears to your eyes or an explosion of laughter to your lips."

– Christopher Vogler, The Writer's Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers, Third Edition.

I've recently started reading Vogler's The Writer's Journey and I couldn't have started it at a better time. While I sat in the cinema, Hounds of Love rolling, I couldn't stop myself from gnawing my fingernails. My breath was uneven and my heart didn't cease from pounding. During the torment, the passage above burst into my head and I finally understood what Vogler was getting at.


Image from The Hollywood Reporter

Hounds of Love is an independent film from Australia's own Ben Young. It tells the story of young Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) who is abducted by Evelyn (Emma Booth) and her partner John (Stephen Curry). With the fight to survive coursing through Vicki's veins, she attempts to escape by getting inside her captor's heads.

Hounds of Love is definitely a horror – the scariest aspect being that Vicki's ordeal could happen to anyone. It was this aspect alone that left my boyfriend shell-shocked, ashamed to be a man, and left him only able to mutter, "What a lovely film…"

However, I lacked this response. I felt drained, of course, but held great respect for Young. Hounds of Love is a chilling tale that expertly shows both sides of the coin: victim and predator. In many ways, Evelyn was just as much of a victim as Vicki. In the news, in the real world, this character would be held as a witch – an evil woman – but Hounds of Love shows how damaged and broken these individuals are. John even showed signs of weakness in his everyday life while being bullied. Of course what these characters do is disgusting, but very rarely are we able to see their side. This is an aspect I truly admire.


Imagine from Variety

Furthermore, the cinematography was simply stunning. The recurring slow motion, panning shots continued to mesmerise me throughout. The eerie effect it created was utterly perfect for the atmosphere the film aimed for.

Plus the acting was simply Oscar worthy.

However, the story didn't unfold the way I expected. From the summary I read on IMDb, I thought there would be more of a focus on Vicki's sly behaviour to successfully "drive a wedge" between her captors. Therefore I thought Vicki would secretly flirt with John, spouting lies in order to win his affection, while also whispering to Evelyn about her failing relationship. Yet, this was not the focus of the tale. Personally, I felt the focus was on women: more specifically motherhood. I admire this road Young took with the script. His portrayal of woman in film was refreshing as so many men struggle to create realistic female characters.

Overall, "enjoy" isn't the word I would use to describe my feelings towards Hounds of Love but I truly admire it. Like I said to my boyfriend as we left cold and shaking from the Glasgow Film Theatre, "I have never wanted anything more than for Vicki to escape that damn house."


Image from HeyUGuys

Make sure to follow me on Twitter (@popcorncrunch) to always keep updated with my reviews! Thanks for reading!

Baby Driver (2017)

Baby Driver (2017)

If you like music, car chases and guns, you will like Baby Driver.

Image from The Telegraph

Edgar Wright must have been unable to shake the idea of his 2002 music video for Mint Royale’s Blue Song as Baby Driver shares much in common with it. However, Noel Fielding was replaced with Baby – a young man with a rocky past. Baby suffered from a car accident as a child which resulted in a constant ringing in his ears, hence why he listens to music every waking hour. Due to past mistakes, Baby has a debt to repay to crime boss Doc, but even when his debt is cleared he is unable to escape.
Baby Driver is a film I would describe as a Saturday-night-popcorn-munching film. It doesn’t take a lot of thought, it’s fast paced and exciting, and there’s a lot of things blowing up.

I have to admit, I didn’t have high hopes for Baby Driver – even after reading so many raving reviews. As soon as I saw the trailer, I groaned. Ansel Elgort doesn’t have a résumé that impresses me and a film about a get-away driver sounded, well, boring. However, my prejudice was squashed. Elgort was able to break out of the “teen movie” stereotype – even impressing me with his performance – and Wright awed me with good old fashioned car chases and action.

However, I’m not left jumping with joy. Yes, Baby Driver was fun, exciting, exhilarating and touching, but I continue to feel as if something was missing. After days of pondering, I think I’ve finally got it.

Image from Teaser Trailer

I’m not certain if it was Wright’s intention, but I found myself constantly questioning whether Baby actually had a hearing impairment. From the way the character was acting and, judging the small pieces of information we were given about Baby’s past, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had two very capable, fully functioning ears.

Why do I think this? The flashbacks. These segments show the audience how Baby got his first iPod, how he already loved music due to his mother, and how Baby would listen to music while his parents fought. I believe it is a great possibility that Baby simply listens to music because that is how he was taught to cope with stressful situations; his music is his comfort blanket.

Why does this matter? you may be screaming. So what, right? It doesn’t affect the story in any way, does it? We still get to listen to awesome music throughout every scene, what does it matter if he doesn’t have a hearing impairment? Well, I personally found it difficult to trust Baby’s character due to my suspicions. I feel if Baby had come clean to his love interest, Debora (Lily James), then the story would have been enriched so much more. Plus, I would have found the love story to be far more compelling if such a bombshell had landed, as I personally found it difficult to understand why Debora agreed to run away with Baby – I mean surely she should be running away from a criminal? But hey, maybe I’m not romantic enough to understand.

Overall, Baby Driver is the perfect film to see if you want to get away from the world for a few hours – and even better if it’s a birthday treat (thank you boyfriend!). Fantastic action accompanied by brilliant music, what more can you ask for?

Thanks for reading my review but make sure you follow me on Twitter (@popcorncrunch) to catch every update! 

Image from The Fanboy Factor

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Make way, make way, the Disney freak is here.

After conflicting schedules from myself, my mother and my grandmother, we finally had a date. It was Beauty and the Beast time.

Belle, the funny girl, that Belle, is a favourite of my grandmother and I. So when I first heard they were remaking it, I was excited, then sceptical, then angry, then just worried.

Disney never disappoints. Well, in my opinion anyway. Every remake I have seen has been a pleasant surprise. (Excluding Jungle Book. I didn’t even review that one). No one has asked for the remakes, but I’m happy with what is created. Plus, I can’t fault the ploy for easy money.

So, the tale as old as time. Did it get a five out of five rating? Well… no. Much to my mother and grandmother’s disgust, I was able to fathom a bit of criticism.

Firstly, did they really have to auto tune Emma Watson so heavily?

Watson was the perfect person to cast. Utterly perfect. What she did for the character and the new angle brought to the story was something that inspired me. THIS is how you do a feminist remake Ghostbusters! She invents, she reads, she’s intelligent, she’s brave: what a perfect princess for young girls to see on screen. If I was a parent I would be perfectly content taking my children to see Emma Watson in action.

But why auto tune her?

Like a friend superbly said, “If they’re going to auto tune her that much, they may as well do what they did in old films and just dub her.” After seeing a nod to Singing in the Rain within the movie, I had to agree. The perfect sound from Watson’s lips was incredibly distracting, and even though there were talking candlesticks, magic mirrors and beasts, it was still the most unrealistic thing in the film.

Furthermore, and it pains me to write this, but the script didn’t always flow. It hurts me to say as Stephen Chbosky was one of two to write the screenplay (the other being Evan Spilotopoulos). This point made my mother scowl the most and I have to admit I scowled at myself after seeing Chbosky in the credits. I simply felt like the merge of the original screenplay with the new dialogue didn’t always gel. 

The last problem I had was Belle’s backstory. Belle is one of my favourite princesses, and while I did wonder about her mother, I just assumed is what the usual Disney excuse: she died. And *spoiler alert* she died. What a shock, eh? I understand the writers must have wanted something to bring the Beast and Belle closer, but I felt the execution on this subject was poorly done. I was perfectly content knowing Belle was like her mother, now understanding this is where Belle gets her different personality, but in all honesty, I didn’t really care what had happened to her…

… Will I be turned into a Beast now? Or maybe a toilet brush?

But, overall, it was an enjoyable film. The set design and costumes were stunning and kept the magical, cartoonish vibe throughout. Plus, the cleverly animated furniture wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be. And that scene when they turn back into household objects, their faces fading away, Mrs Potts crying out for Chip? Too far Disney – too far! 

But we have to talk about the world famous ballroom dance scene. The scene that would make or break the film. I have to admit, it brought goosebumps to my skin, made tear bubble in my eye, and my nose started sniffing. I found the traditional dancing to be a fantastic new twist to this beautiful scene and overall worked well.

The remake even offered answers and fixed plot holes that Disney obsessed YouTubers have been raving about since the start of the internet. Furthermore, I felt Belle’s relationship with the Beast was far more natural and relaxed – so stop calling it Stockholm Syndrome! Moreover, the new songs (which I’m inclined to say are in the stage show) perfectly fit into the remake and, like my mother fantastically put it, “It makes the remake different enough so you don’t constantly compare the old and the new.”

See! I did like it, mum! You proud?

However, I feel it important to address some controversy surrounding Beauty and the Beast. Firstly, Emma Watson’s waist.

Look at that fat waist.

Look at that waist that is smaller than her shoulders and a beautifully healthy size to show young children.

Utterly disgusting.

Furthermore, LeFou. Was he homosexual or was he heterosexual? Does a simple dance shared between two men make a character gay?

Well, in my opinion, LeFou was perfect. His character was far more morally diverse than his original debut and made himself to be the funniest character in the film. Is it obvious he’s gay? Not exactly, but it is evident he’s incredibly camp. In the last few scenes we see him accidentally dance with a man and they both look happily surprised. The character to whom he ends up with is a man who previously appeared in a dress and looked very happy with himself. Personally, I found LeFou’s sexuality perfectly portrayed throughout the film. What I feel many people forget is that homosexual characters don’t need to shout it from the rooftops, they don’t need to kiss every same sex person around and they don’t need to be stereotyped. What people forget is that Beauty and the Beast is ultimately Belle’s story – not LeFou’s. If the title was LeFou and the Beast then maybe I would understand the disappointment but I was perfectly content in the character portrayed.

Overall, Beauty and the Beast is a must see if you are a Disney lover like myself. Although the original and remake have its differences, each holds its own positives and negatives. I personally find the greatest achievement is Watson’s new feminist Belle. It fits perfectly with the story and I look forward to more headstrong females in Disney films. 

If you liked this review make sure to give it a like and follow me on Twitter (@popcorncrunch) to keep up to date with my cinematic adventures! 

Raw

Raw

Do not see this film if you are squeamish.

There you go: review finished. Done, dusted, on to my next one!

I joke. I genuinely can’t think of a better film to get my reviews rolling again. After a break due to uni commitments, I’m back with the review of Raw. And my goodness, what a film to start with.


Firstly, do not be discouraged due to subtitles. I know of many individuals who refuse to watch foreign films simply because of this. And to this I say – stop! Some of the best films I have seen are in a different language. When you’re immersed in a story, you shouldn’t care what language a film was filmed in. So stop boycotting foreign films and witness the magic!

However, Raw is probably not the best start. Like I stated before, do not watch this film if you are squeamish. I have never sat in a room full of so many squirming people before. It is not an easy watch.

For those who are not aware of the Cannes Film Festival winner, Raw tells the story of Justine (Garance Marillier) who is in the process of beginning university. She hopes to become a vet and joins the veterinary university her parents and sister both attended. She is naturally a vegetarian and has strong beliefs that animals are equally important as humans. 

What could go wrong you ask?

After a wonderfully gruesome initiation, Justine begins to crave meat. Kebab meat? Check. Raw meat from her freezer? Check. And it doesn’t stop there…


Truth be told, I can’t tell if I liked Raw. I’m incredibly proud of myself for making it through the film without vomiting or passing out, but I’m not sure if I can say I “enjoyed” it. To be honest, I wasn’t going to see Raw until I met a friend on the train who had witnessed the gore for themselves. They spoke with such awe in their voice that I knew I had to see it for myself. She told me, “it’s one of those films that stays with you after you’ve seen it.” And I have to completely agree. There hasn’t been a night since watching Raw that I haven’t laid awake in bed, thinking, pondering, and blinking away gruesome flashbacks.

Writer and director Julia Ducournau did a fantastic job creating a realistic horror story. As usual in many horrors, the main character is annoying and different. I found myself sighing at Justine (but not at Marillier’s acting – she was phenomenal). Yet Justine’s struggle was far more engaging than the usual horror cliques which makes Raw a breath of fresh air. The carnivorous nature of the film could have followed the example of zombie horrors. It could have went overboard with gore. But Ducournau managed to portray a simply haunting film without using any gimmicks. Justine wasn’t over dramatised or simplified, her character remained complex and fascinating. It truly is nothing like anything I’ve seen before.


Furthermore, the score was perfect for the film. Just a few seconds in and I was already on edge. It instantly set up the atmosphere and made me regret attending the film. Moreover, the short film that made an appearance before the main event was an unbelievably unnerving piece of art. I can’t imagine a better film to set up the audience for what they are about to see.

Overall, I can’t say too much about Raw because, honestly, I don’t know how I feel. I’m in awe with the art of story telling, the cinematic beauty, and acting, but when it comes down to the big question: “Would you watch it again” I’d have to say: no. 

A girl can only squirm so much.

Moonlight

Moonlight

After the Oscar debacle, I knew I had to see Moonlight. I mean, it’s obvious that I loved La La Land from my review, but I’m so unbelievably glad that Moonlight stole the title of Best Picture. It was much more deserving.

And no, this is not the case simply because the film has an all black cast. It is not the case simply because it is a LGBTQ+ film. It is not for any political reason whatsoever. The film was just damn good.


Moonlight is split into three chapters: Little, Chiron and Black. Each chapter features the main character, Chiron (nicknamed Little and Black), at a different stage in his life. Three different actors appeared in each chapter: Alex R. Hibbert played Little, Ashton Sanders as Chiron and Trevante Rhodes played Black. However, what I find most compelling is (according to IMDb) no actor was allowed to see another actor perform. I told my boyfriend when leaving the cinema that I was impressed how each actor could replicate the same attitude and mannerisms, but this apparently is not the case. Each actor was allowed to show the character in a way they imagined him to be, and this resulted in something beautiful and, what I had thought, was completely planned. 

Furthermore, in some cases, editing can be sticky and jarring if a story is laid out like this one. I felt Barry Jenkins was able to deal with these changes effortlessly and no aspect of the film was compromised.

The acting also blew me away. There is a particularly heartbreaking scene from Hibbert when he asks what a “faggot” is. This scene was so raw and beautifully performed that I truly hope the young man keeps acting for years to come.


But it wasn’t just Hibbert that touched my heart. Like I said before, each actor was able to capture exactly what the character needed. Support actors and actresses were also stunning – especially Naomie Harris. I personally believe she should have just won Best Actress regardless of the fact she’s not a starring role. She’s much better than plateauing Emma Stone.

Overall, Moonlight was a touching story about masculinity and sexuality. During one scene I found myself cringing and wriggling uncomfortably in my seat. I took a moment to ask myself why. Why was this film confusing me? Then, I realised.

Moonlight shows no stereotype of homosexuality. In so many different medias we are greeted with flamboyant, camp, feminine and physically weak gay men. The romances we are usually faced with are relationships featuring a couple much like a heterosexual couple: one very camp whereas the other is more masculine. The constant question is asked, “Who’s the man in the relationship? Who’s the girl?” It took me a moment but I realised the reason I was having trouble digesting what I was watching was because I simply wasn’t used to seeing this kind of portrayal. These men were tough, strong and incredibly masculine. This was the root of so many problems for our character and I felt myself struggle to understand along with him. 


So, no, this film didn’t win simply because the 2016 Oscars was too white. It won because it is moving, the cinematography is beautiful and the acting is above and beyond whatever La La Land could throw at you.

There, I said it.

Mad to be Normal: Glasgow Film Festival 2017, Closing Gala

Mad to be Normal: Glasgow Film Festival 2017, Closing Gala

It was the 9th of January.

A grey, crisp morning sat outside my front window. But I was not paying attention. My phone screen had my eyes glued to it. My father tried to make early morning chit-chat. He received none in return.

Refresh refresh refresh.

Sweat was forming on my forehead but there was no time to wipe it off. I barked orders at my father to join in my quest. On my iPad I kept constant contact with my friend as we were both in this together. If we both fail, it’s all over.

Then, the worst happened.

SOLD OUT.

My heart sunk to my stomach. I looked up at my ceiling with betrayal, curse words forming at my lips, my father trying to comfort me, but it wasn’t enough. I had failed.

Then, I got the message from my friend.

I GOT THE TICKETS!

And with that, we were on our way to see Mad to Be Normal – the closing gala of Glasgow Film Festival 2017 – on the 26th of February.


We were nearly late but we made it.

The red carpet was laid out in front of the GFT’s entrance. Giddy young girls flashed their phones and squealed as David Tennant took pictures with them. I saw the back of his head. It was enough to quench my inner fangirl. 

Once into the GFT (through the side entrance) we were given a free drink: a whiskey cocktail in a small plastic bottle. I had a sip but took the rest home with me. I wasn’t going to turn down something free.

Then, on each seat, there sat a bag of popcorn. After paying £15 per ticket, I was feeling a bit better about the price.

Sadly the only cinema we could get tickets for was Cinema 2. However the GFT had a camera in Cinema 1 (where all the stars of the movie sat along with various other VIPs) so live footage was relayed to us. We were successfully kept in the loop and I couldn’t fault the organisers for that.

However, don’t ask me to clap for ScotRail. Are you kidding?

After a few thank-yous, a short speech from director Robert Mullan, and a hyper speel from David Tennant that made me fall in love with him even more, the movie began.


Instantly I wasn’t impressed. The titles seemed tacky and unprofessional to me. It only got worse when text appeared on the screen to tell me, “the sixties.” I initially thought this was because the time period would constantly change during the film but no other titles appeared stating a time period change. Furthermore, why have a title telling the audience where a particular scene is set? Just show them! It’s in Glasgow? Show a Glasgow landmark. They’re now in New York? Show something constantly associated with New York! That’s the beauty of film; you don’t need to tell the audience anything – just show them.

Furthermore, I felt the editing and transitions between scenes was sticky. I believe it was to show the mental state of the characters involved but seeing the screen fade to black only to quickly jump to another scene made the film feel amateur. Yet I did like the merging of archive footage with the film. Usually I hate this creative choice but for this film it worked perfectly and I wish they had used it more.

Putting the editing aside, I don’t have much to complain about this film. I mean, who can fault David Tennant? My boyfriend pointed out that while his initial introduction to the character was highly believable, it seemed like his commitment to the character fizzled out very quickly. This was possibly because footage of R D Laing is limited and the footage that is easy to find is from interviews where he stutters and takes long breaths.


However, after doing some research on the famous psychiatrist, I found an article the BBC wrote from Dr Laing’s son’s point of view. Adrian Laing was not impressed with Mad to Be Normal and even goes as far to state that he “doesn’t recognise” his father. After looking into R D Laing for myself, I discovered that his love interest, Angie (Elisabeth Moss) and colleague/good friend, Paul (Adam Paul Harvey) in the movie actually do not exist. History paints quite a different picture which I find highly disappointing. I would rather be told of the truth – or, at most, a highly exaggerated version of the truth.

Yet, I fail to find someone who can nail emotional scenes like Tennant. No one can make me cringe less than him during scenes that could easily turn into a cliche or hard to watch. He can easily break my heart with one voice break. Even if that’s not how it really happened.

“I helped bring you into this world, I’ll help you out of it.” 

Tears. I felt the script was very believable. It had the right mix of drama and comedy to keep me interested. But, seriously, what is it with people laughing at swearing? Is it a millennial thing to not be phased by a f-bomb anymore? 
Overall, I don’t have much to say. I can’t say I adored the film, and I wasn’t blown away, but I also didn’t hate it and would watch it again. I was mostly intrigued. There is no doubting that Dr Laing is a fascinating man. The way that the film was pitched to me, I expected more detail to be told of his studies into LSD and the film would revolve around this. However, it mostly focused on Dr Laing himself and how he dealt with controversy, family and work. After finding out that this is apparently incorrect, it only makes me more intrigued.


Maybe this was the purpose of the film, maybe it was not. Overall, I believe if you have the power to portray someone’s life on screen you should do it as accurately as possible in order to honour them. For example: Hacksaw Ridge

Although the film itself was interesting and compelling to watch, I have to admit it lost a lot of respect from me when I realised characters I sympathised with were merely fictional. My main advice? Take this Ronnie Laing as a character and not as a historical figure. 

Manchester By The Sea (2016)

Manchester By The Sea (2016)

After agreeing with my boyfriend that we would not buy each other Valentine’s Day presents, you can imagine my guilt when I open the boot of his car to find a bouquet of roses. So, a trip to the cinema was due.

I knew nothing of this film. I hadn’t seen a single trailer, read a single review or heard any of my classmates talk about it. I had no expectations (apart from award winning acting from Casey Affleck) so I was diving straight into the deep end completely blind.

From a filmmaking point of view – I’m impressed. I felt the overall story was realistic, written perfectly to convey this realism, and the characters held up this theme expertly. 

The theme of the film was grief and loss. Affleck’s character Lee is forced to return to his home town to take care of his nephew. This town holds many demons for him and the film revolves around exposing his past. Sometimes I feel the theme of a film can be debated but during Kenneth Lonergan’s script it seemed obvious. He handed the delicate subject with ease and not once did I cringe at forced and unrealistic dialogue.


I feel this is what I admired most about Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea. During the usual scenes you see in melodramas, the dialogue can get samey, cringey and ultimately boring – we see and hear it too much. “I’m sorry for your loss” – etc. However, what Lonergan does to get around this is mute the scene and replace it with dramatic music. The emotional plinks from the piano tell the audience everything they need to know without patronising them with simple dialogue. I personally found this extremely refreshing.

Yet, don’t get me wrong, the dialogue that we do hear is fantastically written too. The relationship between Lee and Lucas Hedges’ character Patrick is beautifully touching to watch. Their characters are so real and raw that I can’t help but soak up the acting and atmosphere. I am willing to make the claim that these are the best formed characters in cinema I have seen this year – and probably last year too. I’m so unbelievably happy that Affleck nicked the title of best actor from Ryan Gosling because he truly and utterly deserves it.


However, taking out all of the technical critiques, taking my filmmaking head off for a moment, I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with Manchester By The Sea. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for a drama and wanted more of an escapist film like action but I left the cinema wishing I had rather stayed in.

After sitting on this review for nearly a week now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the film was just too real for me. Although I can admire things and understand creative decisions, I’m only human and I want a happy ending. I understand why the film ended the way it did but it just wasn’t what I wanted to see. I wanted growth from the characters, a sense that things have changed, some closure that Lee was okay. But I was left feeling empty. I wanted something more.

Furthermore, I feel a film as instantly failed if you are aware of time passing when watching it. More than once I shifted in my seat, uncomfortable, bottom falling asleep, and wondering how long I had been stuck in the dark. Even my boyfriend admitted there was no need for it to be over 2 hours long.


Overall, I feel this is a film I would love to study in my uni class as I would have so much to say, but, inevitably, I would not watch it again for pure enjoyment. Sometimes life doesn’t have a happy ending but I would at least like to pretend.

So maybe next Valentine’s Day I’ll just make sure I get my boyfriend something.