Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie (2016)

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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)

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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)

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“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.

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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.

Rust and Bone (De Rouille et D’os): An In-Depth Review

Rust and Bone (2012) is a gritty, romantic drama about a struggling father, Ali, who moves to the south of France to live with his sister. Here he meets Stephanie, portrayed with blinding sensuality and emotional intelligence by Marion Cotillard, a name known by few and appreciated by fewer beyond the realm of film. It isn’t until Stephanie is involved in a tragic accident that the two grow closer, with Ali’s candid, no ­nonsense attitude towards life and their relationship carefully reprising her from a terminal depression.

The engaging and coherent storyline rises above general conventions, with a distinct tenacity, offering new intensity to the romance drama genre. The film most certainly strays from the customary conventions of romance. Alas, there are no wedding bells, no illustrious ride off into the sunset. There is no certainty regarding the basis of attraction between the characters, something that often defines a romantic film be it comedy or mutual interest. Rust and Bone is unlike any other, a film with less of a dreamlike synopsis and more tense spectacles that emulate reality. The drama genre outweighs the romantics with heavy hitting events and the rather aberrant nature of a ‘happy ending’.

When asked to think about romantic dramas, the plot is, more often than not, an obstacle that keeps two lovers apart such as a family disapproval, forbidden love or psychological restraints. Jacques Audiard, director of Rust and Bone takes an alternative path, where the obstacle that the characters must overcome, gradually draws them together as opposed to tearing them apart. It is this kind of deviation from exemplary conventions that makes this film both a compelling and dynamic watch. While you might expect a heartbreak in a romance film, Rust and Bone provides little of the sort. Instead you get the emotional turmoil of a sudden disability and the depths of depression that follow.

Audiard paints a vibrant picture of love as a powerful tool for healing, contradictory to your Hollywood blockbuster, which although proves ‘love conquers all’ in the end, has it’s characters face the discomfort and inevitable misery suffered without it’s presence. Vivid and believable characters in addition to the unconventional plot make the film what it is, remarkable.

Ali and Stephanie hardly have a traditional romance. Forget Romeo and Juliet. Unlike Hollywood romance, the drama is heavy allowing plenty of room for the desirable character developments. It’s fair to say the pair have a heartwarming relationship, but the story allows the director to embellish the character’s intelligence and growth throughout the film. Ali begins as a somewhat heartless person with little care for anyone but himself, shown through the subtle neglect of his son, Sam. The story and the relationship focuses less on love and passion and more on the character’s strengths and weaknesses as they fluctuate throughout the film.

Audiard directs a turbulent relationship in which he neatly avoids the melodramatic, making this is a film truly reflective of life itself.

Life Lessons

I’m turning twenty-one in the coming weeks. I know, someone get the violins. As life has given me the horror movie style jump scare into reality, I’ve begun to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

*Begin Reflection*

Be unique.

My Father’s Mother is… well… let’s just say there’s no question regarding where I inherited my ‘crazy’. I hear wacky stories about my Gran all the time. Just recently I went to visit. I got in the car, blissfully unaware I’d be sharing the backseat with a rocking horse. And not a small rocking horse at that. When I asked for an explanation, what I got was;

“I haven’t figured out what to call him yet but he keeps moving on the floor so he’s no good for the kids.”

What?! That’s what I had to work with. Like the refined conversationalist I am, I managed to navigate the discussion towards something completely different. My Gran is quite the unique specimen and I’ll share some of her antics (in list format of course).

  1. She once needed to determine the quality of an egg, so she threw it off the side of a boat. It sank.
  2. She once left me in a car without the handbrake on and I slowly rolled down the hill as I re-evaluated all my life decisions.
  3. One night, I asked for some light reading and she mistakenly left Homer’s ‘The Oddessy’ on my nightstand.

Do your own thing.

Prejudice is something that is far too common in today’s society. I travelled first class for only the second time in my life. I was returning to London after visiting my Mother in the country and I treated myself to a first class seat. Payday had just passed and I’d been working a lot. The carriage was filled with businessmen and older couples who sat with their laptops and classic novels. As I sat, earphones quietly playing some random crap probably, eagerly awaiting my first class promised sandwich, I overheard two women sat adjacent to me, commenting on my rather scuffed converse shoes. I’ll just say, the comments were less than nice. So, I did what any self-respecting human being would’ve done, I reached into my non-designer bag and pulled out my Uncanny Xmen issue #129 (first appearance of Kitty Pryde, in case anyone was wondering). I began reading and only took a brief pause to glance across to the two women and drop then a quick ‘yeah, that’s right’ smirk.

Be honest and own up to your mistakes.

My Grandma once told me a story;

I used to be a wages distributor for an office company.

One day I miscalculated by two pence and overpaid a gentleman employee. I confessed to my boss straight away who respected that fact I’d owned up to my mistake. He went on to tell me it was my responsibility to reclaim the two pence from the gentleman I’d overpaid. When I told my co-workers, they all had something to say about the man.

“He’s a piece of work” they’d say.

So, I went to the man’s office and explained the situation. I asked him to return the two pence he’d been overpaid.

“If I give you two jam jars, will that equate to the two pence I owe?”

“If I can sell them for a penny each, then yes.”

The man then demanded I leave. I didn’t want to kick up a fuss. Later that day, I was updating my boss on the developments when the doors of the office swung open. It ws the man and he yelled..

“Where’s the jam jar lady?”

I raised my hand and he sauntered over. He handed me the two pence and asked me out to lunch.”

The End.

In case there was any doubt, here is the nameless rocking horse who’s just ‘no good for the kids’;

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