Meet John Doe (Film) Review

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Straight into my review today, as I’m in no mood to fuck about. (My idols are dead and my enemies are in power). Jill chose this old school number for our final film in December, part of a mixed up month, if we’re honest. I wouldn’t want it any other way though.

Hang on a sec, just getting another Baileys. Right, let us begin.

*Spoilers*

Meet John Doe (1941)

Director: Frank Capra
Stars: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck

IMDB Synopsis:

A man needing money agrees to impersonate a nonexistent person who said he’d be committing suicide as a protest, and a political movement begins.

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“Who’s hat do ya like best, boss?”

My Review

Feisty Ann Mitchell (Stanwyck) is royally fucked off when she’s laid off from her job at a newspaper. Her boss tells her she has to file one last story before clearing her desk and she’s not having it. On her way out of the building, she pens a letter to the paper from a “John Doe”, threatening to commit suicide on Christmas Eve in protest of society’s ills. (Considering the same letter if next year is anything like this one, tbh).

Well, she doesn’t anticipate quite the reaction this letter gets on publication. The paper’s readers are in uproar, while the its main rival news outlet is suspicious of the source of this letter and starts to investigate, which forces editor Henry (James Gleason) to hire Ann back. First port of call is to make it all seem real and they audition a slew of potential John Does to carry the sentiment of the Ann’s words to the masses.

In wanders homeless hottie John Willoughby (Cooper), a former baseball player with a dodgy arm. He’s just down on his luck enough to get on board Ann’s crazy scheme and see this farce through.

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“There’s a massive type here in ‘country’ and I’m tempted to keep it in.”

So, Ann pens some articles for John Doe, driving home the points made in the original letter, and the new John Doe is compensated heavily for his troubles. Along for the ride is his tramp friend, The Colonel (Walter Brennan), who has a bee in his bonnet about people who take money from other people or something, I wasn’t really paying attention.

Ann writes an awesome speech for Doe to deliver, which he does after turning down an offer from the rival paper to admit it’s all a hoax. Doe does the job he’s been paid to do but gets a conscience about it and runs away with The Colonel to a small town where he’s spotted. Here he learns about the ‘John Doe Club’. He also finds out that his words have inspired a lot of people and have become something of a grass-roots movement. Which is kind of cool obviously. Their slogan is “Be a better neighbour.” (WOAH, really?).

It all gets political from here, when it becomes clear that the editor of the paper has his own agenda, which Doe is unwittingly helping him along with. A new speech is written by Ann which has Doe endorsing the editor D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold) and his political ideas. Oopsy.

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“The Mickey Mouse look is very in this season.”

This might not be so bad if a) he knew about this manipulation, b) Ann hadn’t written the speech and c) he hadn’t started believing his own hype (and the hype of the ‘John Doe Club’). FYI, and *spoiler alert*, our friend Doe is madly in love with Ann and quite close to proposing.

When he finds out about the betrayal, he’s none too pleased and threatens to go to the planned rally (where the new speech was due to be presented) to spill all. He disowns Norton (and Ann) and rushes to the rally to expose the whole charade. Unfortch, Norton gets there first and outs Doe as a fraud. Like any good fat cat, he pretends he knew nothing about the farce and blames it on his newspaper staff.

Now, we’re heading to the ending which I don’t want to give away entirely. All you need to know is that the premise of the original letter comes back to haunt Doe, who heads to the roof of City Hall on Christmas Eve… will his angry and now despondent followers ever forgive him? Will he jump? Will the love he feels for Ann change anything, especially as she pretty much fucking loves him too?

Find out for yourselves, must I do everything?

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The original concept art for the Matrix was very low key 

My Thoughts

This is strangely relevant when you think about the state of the world today and although the themes aren’t strictly identical, there are parallels to be drawn.

I got bored quite quickly as this didn’t quite have the punch of the usual noir we adore, but Ann Mitchell is still a feisty mare with a wardrobe tdf. Cooper, too is easy on the eye. When I think about Cooper, I think about how Tony Soprano holds him up as his hero, the strong, silent type and that comes across in his onscreen persona. He’s beautiful but very serious.

Other than those points, it was okay. Quite forgettable, though.

My Rating

3/5. Shrug. Maybe a modern-day remake would excite me more.

Did Jillian love this? Is it the antidote to all society’s ills or is it whacker than the world’s media? Find out here

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“There was a young man from Nantucket, whose dick was so long he could suck it…”
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Blue Jay (Film) Review

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I had a One That Got Away for years. In my more retrospective moments, I would think about what had happened to him, and what life would have been like if we had acted on our desires and gotten it on (We both had partners, alas. Mine was a raging fuck head).

Luckily for me, fate decided to throw me a bone and we found each other again (thank you Facebook). Now I spend my days with the One Who Came Back and I couldn’t be happier. I think what I’m trying to get at is, sometimes love and happiness has everything to do with timing, and had we got together back then, I doubt we would have what we have now, which is Heaven in two and a half rooms (thank you Chicago).

This film is about love and loss and closure and second chances and very bad rapping onto cassettes. It’s not film noir, nor is it a Christmas movie. It is hopeful and sentimental though, with a leading lady you can’t take your eyes off, so I think this pick more than holds up the ideals of this month’s theme.

*Spoilers*

Blue Jay (2016)

Director: Alex Lehmann (Written by Mark Duplass)
Stars: Sarah Paulson, Mark Duplass

IMDB Synopsis:

Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts reflect on their shared past.

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“This hat just really makes me happy, what of it?”

My Review

Jim (Duplass) and Amanda (Paulson) were childhood sweethearts. As with many relationships of this ilk (I never had one), the couple eventually grew up, grew apart and moved on with their lives separately. A chance meeting in a supermarket in their hometown, however, brings the former lovers back together and churns up all sorts of historic emotion.

Amanda, it seems, has it all together. She’s happily married now with two step sons and an idyllic life. Jim, not so much. He’s having a hard time as he explains to Amanda, once the initial awkwardness of their meeting has subsided. He’s just lost his mum and is between jobs and places. He’s considering moving back to their tiny Californian hometown, maybe moving into his Mum’s house once he’s renovated it.

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This woman is criminally hot

The two stop for coffee, which leads to a mini-walk down memory lane. Which leads to something much deeper – a wistful look back at the memorabilia of their old life together. At songs they loved, long discarded love letters and recorded tapes containing all their desires and dreams, a hint at what could have been and what they let go of.

When Amanda opens up about her own woes and reveals her doubts about life, it evens the playing field a little, though who’s keeping count? The question here seems to be: Are the wounds of this lost love deeper than they (and we) originally thought? Can Jim and Amanda simply go back to their lives now or is there more to be said between them?

This might be the shortest review I’ve ever posted in the Collab series but that’s because I’m being respectful of the movie. I want you to watch it.

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Too cute

My Thoughts

To say this is an action packed thrill-fest would be a blatant untruth. It’s beautiful looking and very much a ‘talking’ movie with nuanced performances from two of the most current and talented actors around.

Duplass is the King of Mumblecore let us not forget and wasn’t about to crack open anything out of the ordinary for this tale. That’s not a criticism, this is Duplass at his best. The dialogue is intimate and sweet, both characters are lovely. I can’t tell you how you’ll feel about them but I flip-flopped between wanting closure for them and wanting them (Amanda) to risk it all to get back together.

What does become apparent as the film progresses is that the grown up life the lovers pictured for themselves (as teenagers they loved to pretend to be old marrieds with kids in college) became too real, too quickly and neither were ready.

Love is hard, isn’t it? It’s difficult to still love somebody but know you have to walk away. Is there ever a good enough reason to give up on the one you’re in love with? I used to think the answer was no, but sometimes you have to put other things ahead of that, even yourself.

Sometimes you make mistakes, or the wrong decision. Sometimes you say things that can never be taken back, or fail to act in the only moment that matters.

Is it too late? In the end I feel like we’re left to make up our own minds about what happens next and I still don’t know what’s best for them. I just know what I want.

Ps. The last thing I saw Duplass in was Creep (for the second time), and I thought I might never be able to watch him in anything ever again. I was wrong, he’s adorable.

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This is how I look at beards too

My Rating: 4.5/5. Dreamy. Sad though and it might make you think about past relationships (this is not a problem for me as I haven’t got any really great ones to ruminate upon, just car crashes). It will most likely also make you really want to be best friends with the smiliest woman on the planet, Ms Paulson. Seriously, she’s perfect.

What did Wifey think? Did she think it was as whack as Amanda’s white girl rhymes, or as lustrous as Jim’s beard? Find out here. ❤

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Film) Review

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A Christmas B-movie? Where do I sign? Surely the only thing better than that would be a Christmas Shark Movie?

I’m going to spare you the preamble this time around, just to say this was on Jill’s movie bucket list and I own it (for some reason) on DVD. To the movie!

*Spoilers ahead*

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Director: Nicholas Webster
Stars: John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck

IMDB Synopsis:

The Martians kidnap Santa Claus because there is nobody on Mars to give their children presents.

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Just your average Friday night

My Review

Where to start with this one? I’m not sure what I just watched. The most notable thing I can mention is that one of the Martian children, Girmar (Girl Martian, you see?) is played by Pia Zadora who played Beatnik Chick in John Water’s Hairspray (1988). Which is cool.

So. We first meet the Martians, parents Momar (Leila Martin) and Kimar (Hicks) who are worried about their Martian children. They have been doing what all good children do if they can get away with it and that’s rinsing too much TV. In this case it’s Earth TV and is therefore much more dangerous and progressive. Through this exercise it seems Girmar and Bomar (Chris Month) have been learning all about Santa (Call) via a channel called KID-TV.

Concerned about the low moods of their offspring, Momar and Kimar visit ancient sage Chochem (Carl Don – think Yoda but more shit), who tells them that the children of Mars are becoming distracted. There’s a bit about how Martian youths are brought up to not have individual thoughts but I wasn’t really taking it in. I do agree though, freedom of expression should be kept from children until the very last minute.

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Death by really shit robot

Anywho, Chochem says he’s seen this coming for a long time (dude is, like, 800 years old) and advises that the only way to deal with this issue is to let the kids have some fun. Wooooooo. The leaders decide they need to get their own Santa Claus figure to spread some cheer round Mars. Later, they cut out the middle man and resolve to kidnap the real Santa and bring him to their manor to entertain the children.

A plan is concocted that makes no sense whatsoever but two bratty children are kidnapped to lure out the real Santa (?) who they get their hands on relatively easily. Security is slack around the North Pole apparently. Santa himself is deeply annoying and deserves to be smothered along with the children, so it’s quite refreshing when one of the Martians, Voldar (Beck) decides to try and kill them all. (This is motivated by him being staunchly against the Santa plan and wanting to keep the Mars traditions alive and well). Voldar is identified as evil by his nefarious facial hair.

On Santa’s arrival, he is required to build a toy factory with the kids who have also been snatched from Earth 🌏 (no child labour laws on Mars, apparently) but it ends up being sabotaged by Evil ‘Tache and his henchmen, Stobo (Al Nesor) and Shim (Josip Elic).

In the excitement, Kimar’s assistant, Dropo (Bill McCutcheon) dresses like Santa and also gets kidnapped (they think he’s the real deal). Lots of  hostage situations litter this plot-line, I think Martians have a lot of issues to work through.

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Cheer up you little shits

Anyway, there’s an escape from the cave in which Dropo’s being held, the Earth kids get pally with the Martian kids, the Earth kids get homesick, Santa and Dropo save Christmas on Mars and then… well, will Santa ever get back to business on good old Earth, or does he risk disappointing the children of the world? You’ll see.

My Thoughts

God, this is some schmaltzy shit. It’s kitsch as fuck which is really the only thing it has going for it. You won’t give a damn about any of the characters, except maybe Mrs. Claus (Doris Rich) who isn’t supposed to be but is the comic relief for me. Momar is sweet and earnest as well, and genuinely gives a damn.

Voldar is probably the hottest Martian on the planet, which isn’t really saying much. The whole thing is instantly forgettable without much to say, other than that we should be greatful for what we have as some people don’t have as much. Which isn’t a bad Christmas message to be fair.

I think I watched this a long time ago and remembered it being a lot more enjoyable. It has its moments of darkness but overall it’s a very American film with a hard candy shell and not an awful lot going on in the centre. Does anyone want my DVD?

My Rating

2/5. Pretty bad. Watch Home Alone again instead.

What did Jill think of her pick? Was it just bonkers enough to keep her interested or is she plotting to have it kidnapped like literally every other character in this movie? Find out here

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STFU Santa

Sunset Boulevard (Film) Review

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Inspired by the pseudo-vintage vibe of our last pick, Jillian and I landed on the idea of another hybrid month. Don’t worry, this isn’t quite as wacky as Ewan McGregor Vs Pinhead month, though that was frankly inspired.

No, this is classy. This is old movies vs. Christmas movies, preferably combined. Okay, really it’s a very loose theme with no firm rules. We’ll watch what we want obviously, and I hope you enjoy the ride!

But now, to this majestic AF movie choice, which is so fabulous I almost can’t even.

Alright, Mr DeMille. I’m ready for my close up. ~ Norma Desmond

*Spoilers, yo*

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Directed: Billy Wilder
Stars: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson

IMDB Synopsis:

A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.

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Straight chillin’

My Review

Joe Gillis is a down on his luck hack screenwriter and unfortunately, he’s now also dead. We know this because he tells us. Yes, Joe narrates his own story (via flashback) and kindly fills us in on what happened the fateful night he lost his life in the swimming pool of Hollywood has-been, Norma Desmond.

Joe’s struggling with his career and also the repayments on his beloved car. One day, while trying to elude a pair of repo men, he drives into the grounds of Norma Desmond’s Hollywood mansion. Norma mistakes Joe for a funeral director and calls him in to deal with a very special situation indeed.

To say that Norma is a piece would be an understatement. She’s Hollyweird to be sure, ever so slightly deranged and as we learn early on via her first exchange with Joe, determined to claw her way back into the spotlight that has long dimmed in her face.

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She was a really big fan of Madonna’s Evita

On learning Joe’s true profession she swiftly moves him into the spare room so he can help her clean up her own script for a film she’s written about Salome. A film in which, naturally, she will be the star. Norma, you see, was once a silent movie star at the top of her game but has faded into obscurity as the need for dialogue on the Silverscreen has grown.

Norma’s never-ending cash flow doesn’t exactly encourage Joe to leave the mansion despite his initial reticence, and who can blame him?

It’s worth mentioning here that Norma also has a man butler called Max on lock down and he’s also rather a dominating force in Joe’s new life. Although reluctant at first, the money and the fact Max tells him about Norma’s fragile mental state, persuades Joe to stick around. At times he even seems sympathetic towards the deeply insecure actress.

When Norma ingeniously tricks Joe into attending a New Year’s Eve Ball for one, he realises he may well have bitten off more than he can chew. He’s also got a thing for his friend’s gal Betty, a script reader who has previously been critical of his work (without knowing it was his). While her fiancé is away she persuades Joe to work with her on a new project and he starts to sneak out of a night.

This is easy as Norma’s attention is focused elsewhere after receiving a call from Paramount Pictures. She jumps the gun, mistaking this call for enthusiasm over the Salome script. Really they want to borrow one of her grand vehicles.

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Eyebrows on fleek and he’s still not impressed

Cecil B. DeMille (played by himself) takes pity on the woman he’s worked with on several pictures and hasn’t the heart to rain on her parade just yet, so he lets her believe they’ll soon be working together. Norma is just so happy to be back in an adoring studio setting.

So Norma goes on thinking her comeback is in the can and throws herself into a brutal beauty regime that nearly broke my heart (and also gave me some tips). Joe continues to fall for Betty, Betty falls for Joe and oh, the tragedy! Let’s just say Norma is not one to go without a fight and has manipulative wiles to keep Joe on side. But will it be enough?

Well, we already know how it ends for Joe but what of Norma Desmond, the once-legendary silent movie star who could once say it all with her face? Will she get her moment in the sun again? What became of her previous husbands – and who the fuck is Max and why is he so protective of his mistress? Only one way to answer all these questions, eh?

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TFW literally every one of your selfies is perfect

My Thoughts

Fuck me sideways this is a great movie. Truly. I had never seen it before this weekend and I know that’s unforgivable. I am a regular user of “Ready for my close up”, though which almost makes it worse.

Norma Desmond, although technically the villainess of the piece, is a highly relatable character and I felt her so hard. Especially the beautifying montage which really did give me the feels. Ageing is a hard thing to come to terms with but imagine if you felt you only had your face as currency in this life? Her unrequited love for Joe is heart-wrenching too. Look I know she’s manipulative and harsh – and that crazed look! – but it’s all built on a foundation of deep insecurity and nobody is immune to a taste of that every now and again.

I wanted Norma to prevail and was rooting for her all the way. Joe was a heel, a user and an opportunist with no heart and no balls, and I hope he enjoyed his very last chlorine flavoured breath in that death pool, the swine.

Max was played with an intensity that really suited the movie and I relished his own personal tale as it unraveled. Can we also take a moment for Norma’s cigarette holder RING?! That’s the way to do it, Queen.

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A cigarette holding ring! YAAASSSS QUEEN!

Please do not be like me, if you haven’t met Norma Desmond yet, do me a favour and get on it immediately. You’ll not regret it at all.

My Rating

5,000,000/5. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

What did wifey think? Is she ready for her own close-up, or did the pictures get too small? Find out here.

Grand Piano (Film) Review

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As is so often the way, Sunday movie time came around this weekend and I wasn’t ready. Jill’s original movie choice wasn’t easily available to me so she had to pick an alternative. I’m kind of glad in a way because I’d never heard of this movie and, despite it tooting itself as a Spanish thriller, it’s kind of a no-brainer and was therefore, the ideal ‘I don’t have to think’ choice.

To the movie, which should be renamed “Is that Elijah Wood or Tobey Maguire, has anyone ever seen them in the same room?”. Or something to that effect but catchier.

*Spoilers*

Grand Piano (2013)

Director: Eugenio Mira
Stars: Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kelly Bishé, Tamsin Egerton

IMDB Synopsis:

A pianist with stage fright endures a performance under enemy eyes, who will shoot if a wrong note is played.

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The Penis

My Review

Elijah Wood’s (not Tobey Maguire’s) Tom Selznick is a crazy talented pianist who suffers horribly from stage fright. Returning to the public arena five years after publicly bodging a complex piece called “La Cinquette”, he is understandably racked with self-doubt and nerves. It doesn’t help that the world is beside themselves with glee at his return, nor that he is one half of a highly accomplished power couple, with his wife, Emma (Bishé).

Emma FYI is an award-winning actress with at least one camera permanently flashing in her face at all times, and has aspirations of also being a great singer (don’t hold your breath love, but we’ll come back to that). Needless to say, this night here is an important one for everybody involved, if only snivelling Tom can pull himself together. (Sorry, I’m not mocking anxiety at all, I’m a sufferer myself but must Tom be SUCH a wet blanket?). God.

Also present on Tom’s big night are Emma’s friends, Wayne and Ashley (Allen Leech and Tamsin Egerton), who aren’t exactly classical music types, or so you gather from the snarky conversation Emma and Tom have about them just before Tom arrives in the city. Yes, Tom and Emma seem like fucking snobs and this might affect your ability, as it did mine, to give a shit about them later on. But I jump the gun.

Significant information for your viewing pleasure is that the composer of the now infamous “La Cinquette”, the late Patrick Godureaux, was Tom’s mentor and the only person able to successfully play that funky tune. Something to do with the wide-spreading of the fingers and speed in which it is played. Godureaux is no stranger to his own media coverage, having garnered infamy post-humously when his great fortune went missing, and has never been found. Spooky!

So here’s Tom about to step back on stage, thanks to his wife’s relentless encouragement. Except – d’oh! – he’s forgotten his musical score! It’s okay though, as the usher finds him just in the nick of time and he’s free to begin. Joining him on stage is poor man’s Jeff Bridges, Norman Reisinger (Don McManus) who conducts the accompanying orchestra, as well as filling in an awful lot of blanks while Tom fucks about like a fart in a trance (again more later).

I feel like my dislike for Tom Selznick is coming through already and idgaf! Wood seems to have one expression which is: perpetually worried. Sort it out mate.

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Mildly worried

Shit kicks off as suggested in the synopsis above when Tom begins and finds a note written on his score. It tells him he’ll be shot if he fails to hit all the right notes. These little asides continue, and begin to threaten Emma’s well-being too. Emma herself is oblivious, sitting above the riff raff in a box with her co-stars from her latest film. She hasn’t even deigned to sit with her friends, the bitch. To drive the point home, the mystery shooter illustrates his position with a red lazer dot, which trains itself on Tom’s hands.

Tom does what every self-respecting worry wort would do in the same situation, which is to ignore instruction completely and run off stage (my kind of guy), never mind the music, yo. This took the thrill out of the premise for me as it quickly establishes that the mystery shooter won’t necessarily keep his word, and clearly needs something from Tom, so obvs won’t kill him yet.

I won’t go into each and every sceneario here but let me tell you that Tom soon gets the shooter’s voice in his ear and the movie gets a million times better from here as it allows us to savour the dulcet tones of someone this collab loves very much. You can guess from the cast list who but for now, oooh the mystery!

The shooter and Tom banter it out, or at least the shooter does as he’s much more interesting and charismatic. From the comfort of Tom’s ear canal, he needles, slags off Emma and directs Tom to do his bidding, all at the same time. This, of course, is just a very elaborate way to get him to play “La Cinquette” again, this time correctly. But why? (You’ll see).

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More worried

He also orchestrates (see what I did?) the murders of two secondary characters (both of which have been named already in this review), quite gruesomely and one of them is waved in front of Tom’s very eyes as incentive to carry on the game. These victims are uncouth anyway so fuck them, right? Right.

Bit by bit our shooter reveals his motive and in turn who he is, and it quickly becomes clear that this is a heist of a very complex nature. Something about a secret within the piano (which by the way BELONGED to the late, great Godureaux). Could it – gasp! – hold the key to Godureaux’s elusive fortune?

The shooter is not working alone, he also has Bill S. Preston on side, which frankly is always going to be a good idea. He looks pretty handsome to be honest, which is all I really thought throughout his scenes, even while he was committing heinous acts.

So, will Tom finally crack this musical piece and become the star he’s always had the potential to be AND please the shooter? Will Emma be shot in the head as promised for his disobedience? I’m going to wrap up here and say, yes this film is as nuts as it suggests. It is definitely entertaining and worth a watch. But will it stay with you after the credits roll? Probably not.

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Too annoying to be worried

I have to say that one of the plans Tom hatches to stall the shooter involves Emma doing a solo performance of ‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child’, which is as cringey as you can imagine. For a start, a) the song dates back to the era of slavery in the US and Emma is a wealthy white woman so… and b) she’s goddamn awful (and the actress is obviously lip synching badly, which makes the scene ten million times worse).

If I’d been the shooter I can assure you this would have been my moment, fuck the plan. But alas, no.

My Thoughts

At times this felt like it had its roots in hammer horror. If it had been a film set in the 1940’s starring Bette Davis and I don’t know, a young Anthony Perkins in the central roles, it might have been something really special. Instead it’s enjoyable hammy trash which I don’t hold against it one bit.

I’ve never been a Wood fan (although Maniac and Sin City saw him try to break type). He’s just too boyish and dull. The funnest characters were put down way too early, and although the premise of the movie and the eventual reveal itself were quite strong, it’s not executed it the best way. Unlike our friends Wayne and Ashley – *Cymbal crash!*

I’m not going to mention the actor playing the shooter himself other than to say I love his particular brand of mania, which puts me in mind of a slightly less enthusiastic Nic Cage. I think you would like this film if you liked Phone Booth (2002). In a way I’m disappointed that the shooter revealed himself at all. It might have been stronger had he just been a disembodied voice and a figure in the shadows, with an evil henchman to carry out the donkey work – which I suppose contradicts what I’ve just said about his performance. But still.

Well done, the shooter. Well done, Alex Winter. Well done, Tamsin Egerton (for calling out Emma and having good hair). And well done, the piano. Everyone else can fuck off.

Oh yes, and one MAJOR criticism: no Joan cameo.

My Rating

3/5. Slightly off key. Loolllllll.

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A double whammy of worriedness

What did my lovely wife think of this one? Did it hit a bum note or was it in perfect harmony with her soul? Find out here, obviously.

Appropriate Behaviour (Film) Review

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This movie has been on my Netflix list for a while and when better to bring it out that during Free for All month? Right? I won’t lie but the fact it was written and directed by a woman appealed, plus the same woman plays the central character. How very Lena Dunham/Phoebe Waller-Bridge of her.

No beating around the bush, let’s jump straight in.

*Spoilers!*

Appropriate Behaviour (2014)

Directed: Desiree Akhavan
Starring: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer

IMDB Synopsis: 

Shirin is struggling to become an ideal Persian daughter, politically correct bisexual and hip young Brooklynite but fails miserably in her attempt at all identities. Being without a cliché to hold onto can be a lonely experience.

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Chin, chin

My Review

Shirin (Akhavan) has just come out of a relationship with her girlfriend Maxine (Henderson). Despite her rage, she wants to win her back, against the advice of best pal, Crystal (Feiffer). You get the impression Shirin isn’t one to take other people’s advice, and dances to the beat of her own drum.

She comes up with a plan to make Maxine jealous through a series of dates, which vary in success, whilst juggling joblessness and homelessness as a result of the break up. To top this all off, Shirin has to face her wealthy Persian family who have high hopes for her career (which is non-existent despite her degree) and have no inkling about her personal life.

Things look up a little bit when Shirin moves in with some artsy housemates and scores a job making films with kids. Though the kids turn out to be younger than she expects (again, children are the worst) and she’s quite sure she’s not cut out for the task at hand.

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Hipstopia

Shirin is heartbroken and eager to bump into Maxine any chance she can get but goes on a series of dates that leave her making comparisons to her former relationship. We witness the couple in happier times (and then not) via the miracle of flashback, from the moment they meet to their furious break up. It’s quite close to the bone and an uncomfortable watch. Most of us have had that final conversation and it’s never easy.

Throughout this tale of heartache and ‘self-discovery’, Shirin must grapple with the ‘secret’ of her sexuality in the context of her traditional family and their values. Will she finally find the courage to come out as bi-sexual to her loved ones?

And when she finds out Maxine is dating her colleague, fellow teacher and hair model Tibet (Rosalie Lowe), will it give her the closure she needs to move on?

Only one way to find out, Mumblecore lovers!

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Their third wheel friend was a bit quiet but she wore good hats

My Thoughts

This review is rather threadbare but I don’t want that to be a comment on how I felt about it. It was an enjoyable ride with lots to like. Desiree is a clever writer with a sharp eye for character detail and she’s mesmerising to watch as Shirin, not least because she has such good bangs, and accessorises like a boss.

I like the central characters in this, Crystal is the perfect ally to have around, calling bullshit on surreal situations (the bra shop/amateur psychiatrists office – probably my favourite bit) and telling it like it is. Her snarkiness is a real plus point of the friendship and I want her in my life please.

Maxine too is cool despite the fact we’re probably not supposed to like her for breaking Shirin’s heart. In a scene together, Shirin asks why Maxine’s replacing her and Maxine simply says “I’m not replacing you” and leaves. It got me right in my feels, man. She has quiet strength and I can understand why anyone would have a hard time getting over her.

The secondary characters are fun too, I enjoy the housemates, follically blessed Tibet and the (badly) tattooed rebound guy Shirin takes to an event she knows Maxine will be at.

Comparisons could and I am sure have been made with the work of Dunham and her Mumblecore buds, and I can see why. This film fits nicely into that sub genre, with its hyper real talk and uber-realism but I guess it’s lazy just to tag it that way and move on. It’s actually better than a lot of its peers to be honest with the characters being significantly less awful.

Shirin is self-absorbed as we all are when we’re young but she’s in genuine pain and turmoil, and you just want her to get out of it one day and live her best life. Will she? You know the drill.

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I might love this woman a lot

My Rating

4/5. Nice. A very strong study on personal relationships and the crushing expectations of others. I love films like this.

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There’s no ‘U’ in Behavior

What did Jillian think and feel? Did she find in incredibly hard to keep up with the hipster lifestyle or is she one step away from moving in with some weird arty types? Find out here.

Excuse My French (Film) Review

enjoy-2Jill sold this week’s pick to me like this:

“There’s an Egyptian movie called Excuse My French that might be good? It’s about a boy moving to a new school in Egypt and being the only Christian there.

Don’t worry, it’s a comedy.”

Well, first of all, girl knows me so well, she’s already anticipating me turning my nose up at a seemingly ‘boring’ movie prospect (Jill’s choices are always way more socially conscious than mine. I like dance offs, alright?).

Secondly, she added that it might be nice to show some solidarity to the Muslims (Fuck Trump). And while I’m sure it takes more to be a useful ally than just watching a comedy from a couple of years ago, understanding has to start somewhere, in whatever format it takes to get through I suppose. And given the current climate, I think it’s important to step outside our comfort zones to experience different ways of life.

*Spoilers*

Excuse My French (2014)

Director: Amr Salama
Stars: Ahmed Dash, Ahmed Helmy, Kinda Allouch

My Review:

Hany (Dash) is twelve and lives a happy life with his parents. Dad is a banker, while his mother works at the opera house. There’s money from dad’s career and little from mum’s but it works just fine. Hany is a bright student, popular at school with a solid crew behind him and he loves his church.

One day, I’m sorry to say, Hany’s dad drops dead at the dinner table and Hany’s life is changed irrevocably. While Mum is devastated, Hany finds it difficult to show emotion, even when questioned about it by the object of his affection, Sarah. She tells him not to worry about not crying now, it will come.

Meanwhile, Hany and his mother must get on with their lives. The issue of money raises it’s ugly head and Hany understands that they can no longer afford the expensive private school he’s been attending so far. He asks everyone he knows about their educations, including his only friend outside school, in an attempt to gauge how bad state school is likely to be. (You’re going to have to forgive me here for the appalling lack of character/actor names as IMDB has kept it minimal)

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“Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?”

Soon Hany finds out for himself how ‘bad’ things can be. He’s not welcomed with open arms (as you’d expect, kids are mean) and it quickly becomes obvious who ‘the ones to avoid’ are. However, there’s some saving grace at the start, when everybody assumes he is Muslim. Now, this doesn’t exactly sit comfortably with Hany but he works out quickly that the few Christians that do attend the school are kept away in the dark, like mushrooms and that is not how he wishes to roll.

There’s a lot of bullying going on which has nothing to do with religion, lead by head bully, Aly (I think that’s his name). He’s a shit to be sure but doesn’t seem to discriminate when it comes to his victims. Hany’s a swot though to be fair and gets nominated Class President which causes some ructions and singles him out.

He finds some respite when a nice teacher called Miss Nelly comes to the school and shows him some kindness. She has a Christian name so Hany assumes she’s like him (this is later disproved). Miss Nelly encourages Hany’s scientific side and he wins a prize but something nasty happens to her and she leaves.

There’s a segment that causes me some confusion here. To explain, Miss Nelly is attacked by some older students. Hany overhears their plan to grab and ‘grope her’, and tells her to dress in more demure clothing but he doesn’t exactly warn her. With no context for his slut shaming comments, she tells him off for being rude.

Later the older boys are punished for what they’ve done to Miss Nelly. Then one of their big brothers, a gangster, comes to the school to seek revenge on the teacher that punished them. It’s very odd and uncomfortable – and nobody bats an eyelid. A way to illustrate just how things worked round these parts at this time?

Hany’s mother btw has forbidden Hany to, a) make friends and b) discuss religion with anybody. He does break the first rule when he makes a friend but when Hany gets beaten up by Aly and his mum comes storming into the school to confront the head teacher, he is outed as Christian. Oopsy.

This does not make things better for Hany but he’s made of stern stuff. There are some other developments including an attempt by Hany’s mother to emigrate them to Canada but in the end, they stay to face the music. Question is, will Hany ever truly fit in or will he become a second class citizen like the minority Christians at school?

Well, that’s for you find out, innit?

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We’ve all been there, right?

My Thoughts:

This was an okay way to spend a Sunday afternoon in bed (it was a long weekend of travelling for us, okay?). It was darker than I originally expected and that’s okay, I mean school is tough enough, without the topic of religion being thrown in the mix. It won’t hurt anybody to look at these issues in simplistic terms through the eyes of a kid.

The film might not change lives and is a bit of a mess but it’s presented in such a way that you can’t help feeling something. This time it’s the Christians that are treated as sub-standard, a change from the ‘western way’ in which Muslims are painted as the problem with all things, ever. Interesting to get this perspective.

That’s as political as I’m going, don’t worry. My copy of the film was terrible and the subtitles ran way too fast so I found it challenging to keep up but apart from that, it was amusing and touching in places.

The lead (Dash) was delightful and defiant as Hany, his mother (Allouch) has shades of Monica Belluci about her (a good thing) and I loved the bully, Aly more than I should have. He reminded me of Chris Lilley’s Jonah.

All in all, it took the serious topic of religion and still managed to be fun and warm. In fact, I don’t even feel like religion is the main subject matter in this, it’s more a study in bullying and facing up to that. Bullies are fucking dicks but the psychology of why they do the things they do is fascinating (though not really explored much here).

My Rating: 3/5. Okay. Thinking back on it for this post, it’s not as powerful or topical as it could have been but maybe you’ll enjoy it anyway.

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“You’ve got such good hair, man, I can’t even look at you.”

What did Jillian think? Would she beat the shit out of this movie for being one thing or would she rather learn about it’s differences and therefore become a more enlightened being? Find out here ❤