Timeline Redefine: “Oh my Gosh, I saw a pufferfish.”

The Cook Islands. Described by Lonely Planet as both remarkably remote and accessible. Both modern and traditional.

Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands. Even still, walking around the coastline would take less than a day.

A heartbreaking scene as I strode into camp was the magnitude of stray dogs that roam the island. I had a little internal cry before I decided to learn more. A quick conversation with a woman a coffee house, and I learned that the dogs are not so much strays but in fact, wanderers. They are not owned by anyone but more by everyone. You will rarely see a dog in a collar or a leash. Some are fed by the locals, others fend for themselves; sourcing coconuts or stepping into the streams to fish. The more I learned, the easier it was to see that Rarotonga is not filled with stray dogs but in fact, a well functioning canine community. And then I was happy again.

Three days on this mysterious island was not nearly enough. I got distracted on day one by the imminent beauty of Muri Lagoon and all of a sudden, my time was gone. And believe me, when you see it, you’ll understand why. My diving fins had never seen so much action. With a gentle current and crystal clear waters, the scenery of Muri appears to have been pulled straight from the movies. I felt as though I’d been cast in the Cook Islands’ latest travel advert.

As the title might suggest, I caught a glimpse of a pufferfish. A porcupine pufferfish to be exact. Now, this may seem like a menial experience, but speaking as someone who’s only viewing stemmed from nature documentaries and the occasional viewing of Finding Nemo, I was incredibly excited.

  • Befriended a crab in a supermarket. Check.
  • Ate the World’s greatest chicken burger. Check.
  • Experienced the magnificent cafe culture. Check.

In so little time and so little space, I experienced so much. And yet, at the very same time, I did very little. I could have travelled to Aitutaki and snorkelled the wreck of a cargo freighter or even explored the white beaches of the One Foot Island.

For such a small area, there is so much more to do. This is one to go back on the list.

Peace out!

 

Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie (2016)

friendly-critic

Title: My Scientology Movie (aka. Feature Length Proof that Tom Cruise is Crazy)

Release: October, 2016

We’ve all heard stories about the wacky notions implemented within the church of Scientology, but few of us really know the extent of how severe the stories of certain ex-members actually sound. Louis Theroux is back in spectacular fashion as he attempts to make sense of the practices taking place within L. Ron Hubbard’s secret organisation.

Instead of interviewing prominent members within the church (since he was repeatedly and impolitely refused), Theroux instead works with Mark Rathbun, a former senior church official (or embittered ex-member with a vendetta against the church) to cast actors in the roles of David Miscavige and the church’s most famous member, Tom Cruise.

Andrew Perez shines as the allegedly vicious and unforgiving dictator of the church, David Miscavige. He brings an intensity that is quite frankly, chilling. Under the guidance of Mark Rathbun, Perez recreates a truly terrifying image of the church’s leader.

Many times throughout the documentary, the film crew is followed by other, unidentified film crews. Whether they were all sent by the church remains somewhat of a mystery but Theroux’s reactions to what appear to be, military style workings within the society, are amusing and unsettling.

It is a public road.

– Louis Theroux

Despite not being granted interviews with any relevant members within the church of Scientology, Theroux still succeeds in creating a powerful documentary which explores the extremes that the church will go through to ‘defend itself’.

Verdict: You will be overwhelmed by the odd union of hysterical laughter and utter disbelief at an organisation so morally ambiguous, it begins to concern you.

Timeline Redefine: The City of Angels

You wouldn’t be wrong to assume that the City of Los Angeles is home to some of the friendliest people on Earth. As a cynical, weather obsessed Brit with a nervous but polite disposition, you can imagine the culture shock when I arrived was somewhat substantial.

The destination? Venice Beach, California. The objective? Fun.

La La Land (as it’s less commonly known) is colourful. The word ‘colourful’ encompasses everything the city has to offer. From the vibrant street artists to the luxurious coastline. From the star emblazoned path on Hollywood Boulevard to the rocky heights of Runyon. The enjoyment never seems to cease, as long as you know where to look.

The Calypso Tumblers. Catch them on the Boardwalk. Possibly the greatest, most diverse group of dancers my eyes have ever seen. Did you see that series of America’s got Talent? Neither did I but they were on it, so they must be pretty damn good. Dancing not your thing? No matter. There is such a variety of street artists lining the Boardwalk that there is literally something for everyone. The Dubstep Beat Boxer will give you flashbacks to that EDM concert you went to last month. Look around and you might find the skateboarding dog, which for me, seemed to tick all the right boxes.

The skate park is another highlight. Despite not being heavily fond of skateboards or in fact skating of any kind, I found watching the daring endeavours of the local talent almost therapeutic. Not to mention the slight satisfaction that came with watching the showoffs slip up; crashing and some might say burning. Of course, only slight satisfaction.

Los Angeles was full of surprises. Whether it was an impromptu swim with a seal on Venice Beach, or bumping in to Lori Petty at 7am after getting shockingly lost, my three days in LA were as magical as I had hoped. Ever since the day I first watched Jennifer Garner in Alias. There’s a little insight into my mind.

Peace out!

 

Suicide Squad (2016)

friendly-critic

I want to build a team of some very dangerous people, who I think can do some good.

– Amanda Waller

Title: Suicide Squad (aka. Boss: Starring Viola Davis.)

Release: August 2016

It was the most anticipated movie of the summer. How could it possibly live up to the hype? Forecasted as the epic launch of DC’s rejuvenated line of live action blockbusters and after the critical downfall of the likes of Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice, David Ayer and the crew of Suicide Squad had a colossal task ahead of them.

Though it was savagely dissected by critics mere days before being released to the general public, this didn’t stop the expendable band of misfits from smashing box office records on their opening weekend.

Will Smith takes the reigns as Floyd Lawton aka. Deadshot with a performance so morally ambiguous, it rivals the likes of Wade Wilson and Walter White. “Another textbook sociopath”. Smith’s illustration of Deadshot highlights the villain’s divide between his indifference over his profitable assassinations and the affection he has for his daughter.

Of course, it’s Margot Robbie’s portrayal of the psychiatrist-turned-psycho Harley Quinn, in Quinn’s live-action debut, that steals the show. Robbie manages to reincarnate the unhinged Clown Queen of Gotham City, yet still highlighting the character’s humanity. Her witty one-liners and vivacious physical comedy are likely to be remembered.

 

You know what they say about the crazy ones…

– Captain Boomerang

Don’t let the critical evaluations of this film deter you from buying a ticket. The accelerated plot may seem daunting but the thrilling action sequences, the convoluted characters and the respectful nodding gesture towards the comic books make this film a thoroughly enjoyable watch.

Verdict: Try not to over analyse and enjoyment shall be had. Plus, who’s excited to see those DVD extras? Huh?

 

Ghostbusters (2016)

friendly-critic

“Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.”

Title: Ghostbusters (aka. McKinnon and Jones take New York)

Release: July 2016

The reboot of the 80s classic settles for more than being ‘just fine’. Rebooting a timelessly classic franchise is not a quest to be taken lightly, yet Paul Feig embraced the opportunity like the gallant champion of movies he is.

We’re quickly introduced to a brand new team of brilliant scientists; the straight-laced Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), the paranormally driven Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and the bizarre Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), who also happens to be a total genius. By the good fortune of New York, our team of experts are assisted by the unapologetic Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) who may not have a PhD in EctoEngineering or Ghostonomics but certainly brings more than her fair share of genius to the table. Specifically, everything that makes the Ghostbusters, ghostbusters: transportation, four flashy jumpsuits and a whole bundle of spectre directed wit.

McKinnon’s Holtzmann, euphorically lost in the depths of her own wackiness, proves to be just as badass as the rest. That one scene, you know the one. Case closed. It’s a pleasure, nay privilege, to watch her character unfold onscreen. It’s been said before and I will reiterate; Ghostbusters will do for McKinnon what Bridesmaids did for McCarthy.

Jones’ Tolan proves to be the team’s most valuable asset however when it’s revealed  its her knowledge of New York’s extensive history that will save the city from Rowan North (Neil Casey) and his dastardly ghouls. Jones brings to life that one character most, if not all of us can relate to.

“Okay, room full of nightmares. Not going in there.”

– Patty Tolan

The film does an incredible job in addressing the film’s haters, integrating them into the movie in a comedic yet civilised way. “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.”, plucked straight from the entertaining scene in which our protagonists read the tactless comments beneath the footage of their spooky apparition.

Verdict: Don’t let the ‘unparalleled insight’ of the online haters, (with their comments about a movie they probably haven’t seen) sway you into missing a thoroughly enjoyable film.

Under the Skin: An In Depth Review

Under the Skin is a science fiction thriller following a mysterious woman, deftly brought to life by Scarlett Johannson, as she drives around Scotland seducing lonely men. It doesn’t sound like much, but the filmmaking behind this synopsis is really quite visionary.

Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer, the film’s writer and director creates a surreal and vibrant collection of images which conceals the truth regarding identity and motivation from the audience completely. Under the Skin is presented in an documentary style way allowing Glazer to tell a somewhat extraordinary story about the extra­-terrestrial with an abundance of piercing frequencies and uneasy camera shots.

The film’s plot and narration comes with a harsh and an astonishingly inhuman perspective of scenes containing fairly distressing images, that’s intent becomes clearer as the story progresses. These film shows death and abandonment from an unsentimental viewpoint and that just within the first thirty minutes. Many of the dramatic sequences are conveyed with minimal sensitivity resonating with Johansson’s character. The images come complete with odd noise reflective of the sci­-fi genre.

Though released as a Hollywood film with an well known actress such as Scarlett Johansson, the camera and the style commits much more closely to the conventions of an art house picture. The main character has no name. A choice that can be interpreted in many ways, giving most influence up to the audience. Why does she have no name? Are we not supposed to feel connected to our main character? Disassociating the audience with the character in this manner allows an omniscient perspective of the terrible and traumatic events occurring throughout the film.

The film delivers very little in terms of dialogue and even less in terms of explanation. Instead, lingering shots focus on the characters, their actions and expressions. It is because of this, the audience must construct and follow the narrative almost completely alone. It may be considered difficult to comprehend the story due to the evident lack of conversation. The film is equipped with a whispering beauty and haunting brilliance that brings Glazer’s view of the modern world into light through the most exquisite of circumstances.

Discomfort. Discomfort was key. The hard­hitting scenes, carried out in such a heartless manner caused the uneasy feeling in the viewers. It seemed that this discomfort made for a more dramatic development in both plot and character. Whilst at the beginning, it was near impossible to identify with Johansson’s callous on screen persona, the progression of the story brought to light human aspects of the character making her more relatable. The shift in emotion was gradual but sudden and dramatic all at once. It will no doubt be a film that will be analysed for many years to come while it continues to offer a powerful statement about the way beauty is perceived in today’s society. It’s unique. It’s visionary. It’s a quiet masterpiece.

Suffragette (2015)

It was a movement that paved the way for women everywhere.

Suffragette 2

Suffragette tells the tale of foot soldiers on the frontline of the early feminist movement, who were forced underground to endure a dangerous game in an attempt to secure a woman’s right to vote.

The story follows Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), a reluctant addition to the band of women known as the suffragettes and for the most part, a work of fiction. Maud’s journey from an anonymous working girl to a wanted anarchist within the Pankhurst’s ‘Women’s Social and Political Union’ is most certainly, a compelling one. From the adamance of “I’m not a suffragette” to the slow awakening of a purpose, a desire, a movement.

Meryl Streep makes a powerful cameo as Emily Pankhurst, a political activist and the pioneer of the British Suffragette movement. Though short and sweet, Streep captures a devotion and wholehearted allegiance to the role that makes a truly dynamic statement with each line of dialogue.

Mulligan’s performance, as always was exquisite. It carried the film through its twister of characters and plot devices. It should not, however, allow us to overlook the exceptional performances of the supporting cast. Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn, a suffragette with operations running behind the scenes of a chemist, proved to be telling and compassionate as she played a confidante role to Maud. Often scenes were stolen by Arthur Steed (Brenden Gleeson), a special forces police officer who launches his best attempts to keep Maud from life as a suffragette.

The Suffragette Movement was a story in deserving need of a revived, cinematic telling. Sarah Gavron has succeeded in her direction of a powerful, historical drama that not only depicts an important social tale but exceeds in demonstrating how much the world has truly changed.