Month: June 2017

Bit TV Review: Allo Allo! (1982 – 1992)

Every time I used to visit my Grandma; she would always have ‘Allo Allo! in the background playing. As I grew older, I almost forgot about this old comedy gem until one afternoon switching through the channels and finding it on BBC 2 as part of their ‘Afternoon Classics’ during weekdays.

Growing up I didn’t really understand the humour and I didn’t know why it was so popular. As an adult, I can begin to see some of the humour that they try to attempt. The format of the show is based around a simple, unappealing café owner Rene who tries to remain impartial to his surroundings; which is the Nazis occupying France during the Second World War. Rene becomes an incidental war hero and ladies’ man through being dragged into helping the resistance through various attempts and schemes to get home two British soldiers who are stuck in France. The majority of the series resolves around a similar format in which he reluctantly helps but becomes the hero.

One of the funniest things about the show is definitely the French and German accents that the mostly English cast do, of course it is exaggerated to comedic effect but successfully. Another key area of humour for ‘Allo Allo! is when the English guard undercover in France attempts to do his own French accent and the rest of the cast cannot understand him.The show is essentially making light of a horrible situation that happened in history, and the show lasted almost 10 years constantly on air and was incredibly popular. Whilst it may not be as popular as other wartime comedy Dad’s Army; it was a successful sitcom and rightly so. Even if the laugh track may tend to get annoying at times.

Bit Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

Tarantino’s eight film, (as he narcissistically numbers in the credits), The Hateful Eight in a nutshell is predictably Tarantino-esque and at most times in the film tedious. The script itself was initially overly hyped due to secrecy and the scandal of being leaked, the dramatic temporary hiatus from Tarantino due to this almost led to it not being made; perhaps this would have been best for everyone.

The plot of the film, which is mostly dragged out to almost three hours due over exaggerated and pretentious dialogue, centres around eight characters (plus the driver, so essentially nine) stuck in Minnie’s Haberdashery during a snow storm. These eight characters each have their own backstory and are not what they seem, it’s up to audience to decide if they are interesting or not; but the consensus is split. This film shouldn’t be called The Hateful Eight but actually the Furious Five as three of the eight characters are pointless and non-crucial to the film. Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Walter Goggins were simply in the film because Tarantino essentially wanted his friends in these parts. Goggins provides a little bit of humour, and of course Tarantino wanted a refined English gent and his typical rogue cowboy (Roth and Madsen respectively) but they were not essentially to the plot and the characters themselves seemed to be drab and non-engaging. Channing Tatum makes a not so secret ‘surprise’ appearance in the film but he fails to show anything spectacular. The actors aren’t to blame, they played these characters to the best of their abilities but it wasn’t enough to save them from the cardboard-ness the characters themselves. True, there is one scene in which Madsen is crucial but this could’ve easily been swapped by Demián Bichir or another character.

The rest of the so called Hateful Eight were in fact brilliant and attempted to redeem the film. Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell and Demián Bichir played their parts outstandingly and made the characters themselves engaging and an interesting addition. The legend himself Samuel L. Jackson was of course a breath of fresh air, and showed that despite being a blockbuster star that he is in fact an actor first and highlighted his variety of talent. Surprisingly, the best part and most incredibly performance of the film was in fact Jennifer Jason Leigh. Who would’ve thought that a racist, vile and disgusting thing of a human being Daisy Domergue would be the stand out performance in the entire film. Essentially, everything centres around her without even knowing it. It’s scary how treacherous and horrible her character is but she plays it so beautifully and wonderful. Jackson and Leigh are the definite talents that shine on screen.

Music is a crucial element to Tarantino’s films. He is known for ‘borrowing’ music and juxapositioning it with the scenes that unfold, he attempts to do this with The Hateful Eight at times but it’s not as effective as previously done by him. In The Hateful Eight, it is extremely disappointing, the music that he decides to juxtapose just does not work. Thankfully, the majority of music in the film was scored by Ennio Morricone who is of course brilliance itself. His original score (for once Tarantino does not ‘borrow’ music) is enchanting, from the opening music which sets the dark undertone to the beautiful commentary on the landscape. The praise and hype of his score is acceptable and definitely encouraged.

The Hateful Eight feels like he tried for hard for rewards and prestige. This sums his movies up essentially now as he is no longer the arthouse director that cinephiles and film lovers marvelled in owe at, whether Tarantino likes it or not; he is now a big director who has sold his soul to Hollywood. The praise and prestige put on this film is shocking because it essentially doesn’t grab audiences nor their attention throughout most of it.

Ultimately, the film is character driven. This isn’t usually a bad thing, but when not all the characters are interesting nor captivating. It’s unclear whether Tarantino was trying to honour the old Western movies or just do his own take, but Django Unchained was a superior take on the genre. This film is a hard film to watch, it takes almost an hour for the story to progress and the transitions themselves are not concise nor clear. The Hateful Eight isn’t the worst film, and the cinematography of the landscape is delightful, but it is a huge disappointment and sadly shows what can happen to promising indie directors when they are welcomed into Hollywood. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Tarantino’s movies, but The Hateful Eight seems too much of a studio movie for this once auteur.

 

 

TV Bit Review: GLOW (2017)

GLOW follows a group of young ladies, mostly aspiring actresses, who are cast as wannabe wrestlers attempting to give male wrestling a competition. The show debuts the entirety of its ten episodes on Netflix on the 23rd of June. It is led by Alison Brie, who plays Ruth Wilder, who is your typical struggling actress who yearns for a meaningful part. GLOW is based on the women’s wrestling show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, which integrated wrestling with colourful characters. It has powerful women, and provides a strong message for women, that they are badass!

GLOW has a variety of interesting and engaging characters, the cliche sleazebag b-movie  director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), the spoilt rich girl who rebels Melrose (Jackie Tohn) and the Indian-American girl Arthie (Sunita Mani) who seems to be constantly studying. Despite these stereotypes, as the show progresses the characters begin to develop more round personalities and we see every possible depiction of women in every shape and form. It has a variety of women from different backgrounds and different sizes. Once, the characters become more familiar, and the stereotypes begin to become more blurry. By episode five, I found myself enjoying the show a lot more and even Alison Brie begins to annoy me less. Full of great 80s moments, such as slow motion walks with power ballads, pop culture references and montages with badass music.

I was disappointed in the beginning half of series, but mainly because of Brie who I was looking forward to seeing her in her first solo role as a main character. I felt that she let down the whole show, as her character was neurotic, needy and annoying. Brie is going in a direction that seems a typecast of the same recycled role. Her character in GLOW is extremely similar to her character in Community and How to Be Single just to name a few. Once Brie finds her wrestling persona, she becomes an entertaining character and more likable. Other than Brie’s character in the beginning, which is bearable by the end of the show, I did enjoy the series. I expected more comedy than drama, but the drama and the serious moments surrounding the rest of the cast, including the newly single mother drama with Betty Gilpin’s character Debbie Eagan, did make the show more heartfelt. The trailer advertised more of an 80s comedy, but the comedic moments were hit and miss for me.

I love films and shows set in the 80s, because I’m a sucker for the music. I was highly disappointed with the beginning half of the show, but by the end I found myself hoping for more. If you choose to watch GLOW, be patient. It gets good, but it takes a few episodes to establish itself. GLOW begins a solo story about Alison Brie, but moves towards an ensemble which is where it finds its niche. I would’ve preferred it beginning as an ensemble but I would definitely love a second series.

 

 

 

 

Bit Analysis: Somers Town (2008)

Shane Meadows is a highly respected British director and praised for showing the true grittiness and accurate realism of England. His style has been compared to other respected British directors and seen as a modern day Ken Loach which is why his film Somers Town which was entirely funded by the Eurostar has made his fans sceptical. Fans first reaction would be that Meadows did in fact ‘sell out’ and simply made a feature length glorified advert. With the British economy in a recession, of course Meadows had to find a source of income to make films which obviously helps him keep his ‘dream’ job.

Surprisingly the whole Eurostar investment plan isn’t as sleazy as it seems. When Mother, a beyond trendy advertising company, lost the account to do Eurostar’s traditional adored adverts, they suggested that Eurostar do a legacy project which ultimately meant an independent film set in the area of their new station which led to them approaching Meadows. Meadows luckily had Eurostar’s blessing as his esteemed status as a director had guaranteed him ‘Creative Control’ which directors even in Hollywood longed for. Obviously Eurostar wanted his name on the project as the contract said that if Meadows put in a smiling train driver or had any interference, then he would definitely pull his name off the project.

Of course, people would be sceptical of the source of investment but the film is far from people’s expectations. The story is heart-warming whilst emotionally gripping at the same time.  Meadow’s favourite young formerly unknown, Thomas Turgoose, stars as Tomo, a charismatic English homeless boy, who befriends Marek, a lonely Polish son of an immigrant wonderfully portrayed by Piotr Jagiello. Unlike Meadow’s previous film This is England, the characters are unconsciously unaware of the racism surrounding their friendship which shows that sometimes even younger generations are smarter than the ignorant elders who they must ‘respect’. Arguably, the film is perhaps one of Meadow’s best films as it has raised more money than any of his others with a respectable figure and generally positive reviews.

Even top tough critic Mark Kermode enjoyed the film stating, “If you were cynical, you could say it’s playing the money. But I didn’t see that on the screen at all”. Like many others, he is saying that not only did he enjoy the film but that the advertising of Eurostar is barely noticeable and that the presence of Eurostar is blended into the story and doesn’t affect the integrity of Meadow’s work. The film is in no way a commercial film, Meadows sticks to his roots as an artistic director with a clear vision for his work. Meadow’s has the gift of creating characters that are loved by the audience and the critics, if anything Eurostar ‘sold out’ to Meadows to create one of his best films.

The ending pleases everyone in a sense depending on how you interpret it. The investors see the colour part as an accomplishment of how the ‘losers’ have become ‘winners’ by purchasing their Eurostar ticket ending the film with a feel good experience. Meadow’s fans can interpret the ending as a sad little dream that didn’t come true and the characters are actually still stuck in Somers Town and never see their beloved Maria. Clearly showing how he manipulated Eurostar to his own advantage and keeping everyone happy, which is why Meadows didn’t sell out but instead opened a door to a whole new world of UK film but must be handled with care.

 

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Classic Bit Review: Sanshiro Sugata Pt I (1943)

Akira Kurosawa’s debut picture, Sanshiro Sugata, debuted during the Second World War. Sanshiro Sugata was Kurosawa’s first feature film that was greenlit to shoot and did not have any immediate cuts to the script. Prior to even starting with the idea of Sanshiro Sugata, Kurosawa had written another script a few years’ prior and he had trouble with the Japanese film industry itself. By 1943, Kurosawa was established as a credible screenwriter and assistant director thereforeif he himself had trouble trying to find a script for his directorial debut, as the strict censorship due to the war  already affected his decisions as a filmmaker.

 Sanshiro Sugata is a combination of two different genres, jidaigeki and gendaigeki. Both genres are considered safe choices for filmmakers during this time as they promote nationalistic Japanese views and are anti-western films. Film censors in Japan during this time are more likely to accept films that promote Japanese ideals rather than Western morals, therefore a film that highlights Japan’s history would correct the influence from films that aren’t Japanese. Sanshiro Sugata follows a Japanese protagonist, with the same name, who already has strength and power butlearn to become patient, honourable and make sacrifices for the greater good. Sanshiro isn’t a rich man, and has flaws and traits that make an everyday character for the Japanese public. He begins as an everyday man who goes to a respectable Judo Dojo to learn to train to be the greatest, but upon joining they are suddenly defeated in battle by Gennosuke Higaki. Selfishly, he leaves his Dojo to follow the man. He eventually returns to the Dojo and the Dojo master reprimands him. 

Sanshiro (played by Susumu Fujita), who is determined to prove that he is honourable, jumps into a pond and only has a stake to keep him above the icy water. It’s during this time that he begins to transition into the character he needs to be. As he stares at a single pure blossom, he begins to realise that he has been selfish and there is more to life than becoming a champion. He finally leaves the pond, and begins his repentance and punishment. The film ends with Sanshiro finally battling Higaki, and he demands a battle to the death, but Sanshiro refuses to kill him and moves on.

The film features a lot of characteristics deemed desirable for people during the war to serve as propaganda. However, the film still features some of Kurosawa’s traits such as the use of weather and editing techniques such as cut on motion and wipes. Despite it being short, and the lighting is off in most of the exterior shots, the film is enjoyable and fun to watch. The loyalty and honour that Sanshiro develops feels deserved as the audience goes along with him, and the budding romance between Sanshiro and Sayo (Yukiko Todoroki) is subtle but adorable. 

The film was cut almost twenty minutes therefore it is safe to assume that the lost footage was part of Kurosawa’s creativity and hindered his work. Kurosawa had many restrictions before and after filming Sanshiro Sugata, but the film was a success and he was approached to do a propaganda film for the war effort, The Most Beautiful. If you like martial arts movies, or are a fan of Kurosawa, then definitely watch this as it’s a treat. 

Diana Dors: Britain’s Answer to Marilyn Monroe?

Diana Dors is not a name that you hear quite often, unless you divulge into Britain’s film industry from the 50s to the 60s. Marilyn Monroe, however is a name that almost everyone on the planet would know and even more so recognise. So, why do people know of Monroe and not Dors? Dors had a passion for acting, and even enrolled in Ranks “Charm School” in which he perfected her image and talent into an alternative to challenge Hollywood. 

Despite being a natural brunette, Dors dyed her hair blonde and started acting after the Second World War. Whilst she wanted to be known by her talent, her husband’s choice of roles and overall image projected of Dors led her roles to consist of mainly sex comedies, or simply comedies in which she plays the sexualised woman. During her time at LAMDA, she excelled herself and tried to challenge her acting style. Even auditioning for Powell/Pressburger’s Black Narcissus, she didn’t get the part as it went to Jean Simmons but this showed that she had mind-set and ambition to become a great actress. In regards to her comparison to Monroe which would hurt her career as many would only see her as a comparison to Monroe instead of an individual. The comparison itself hurt her career vastly, but there is an argued other factor into why Dors has been slightly forgotten by present day audiences.

One of the main reasons into why Dors is more compared to Monroe and not a distinguished actress by her own talent, is her taste in men. In her movies, she was often the victim of men in either a physical or psychological way and that resonated in her personal life as well. It’s renowned by the British media and people who knew Dors, that her husband and that he heavily influenced her choices and often hindered her career. After her tremendous part in Yield to the Night, in which she plays the role incredibly and is without a doubt highlighting her talent; she did go to the US and had the potential to make it big. Diana was offered a Hollywood contract but turned down the executives advances, showing that she either had internal integrity or the iron thumb of her husband Hamilton had a major stronghold on her. Despite the fact that She pre-dated Monroe as an actress in The Shop At Sly Corner, by 1955 Monroe was a star. From this point onwards Britain looked towards Dors as their own Monroe. Dors wowed audiences in Yield To The Night but never managed to get passed her roles as a blonde bombshell or femme fatale. She had a starring role in the US film The Unholy Wife but again finds herself in a similar role as the previous film as she again is a femme fatale type character who kills in a crime of passion and ultimately gets justice thrust upon her.

In David Miller’s Hammerhead in 1968, whilst Dors was still an actress and in a serious film; her role was minor and the part of a mistress. Her role in 1952 in Terrance Fisher’s The Last Page was a more serious and important role despite her being not the leading lady; it was a distinctive improvement from her later role in Hammerhead. Despite the fact her role was more significant in The Last Page, in both films she ultimately is a character that is easily killed off. In the US, The Last Page is called Man Bait instead and leads the audience to believe that she is cause of mayhem and that she is more of a sex object rather than an incidental accomplice. The tag line on the post states that “the cards are stacked against any man who falls for her kind” implying that she is a woman who just devours men for her own gain, when in actual fact she is more or less being used by men herself. Her manager makes advances to her, and her lover makes her blackmail her manager. It’s easier to observe that she herself is more a victim in this film, yet this film is more progress for her than Hammerhead.

Dors had a billing role by 1950 in Charles Crichton’s Dance Hole whilst Monroe still had small uncredited role in Right Cross. Yet, today people are more interested in the iconography on Monroe instead of Dors. Monroe is seen as an icon in society and is a figure many know. It can be concluded that there are many reasons into why Dors hasn’t reached that status, especially overseas. From her choice in men to her integrity, or even that Britain themselves didn’t have the system that Hollywood had. The rank system tried, but was not as effective. One thing is definitely for certain, that her lack of talent was definitely not a problem. Hopefully, there shall be a resurgence in today’s culture watching more British films and Dors, and many other great British talents shall be admired to the status they deserve.

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Classic Bit Review: I Live In Fear (1955)

Perhaps regarded as the worst Kurosawa film in his impressive catalogue, and also known as Record of a Living Being or 生きものの記録. The film follows the family patriarch, played by Toshiro Mifune, who suffers a mental breakdown post World War II and post Atomic Bombings. In efforts to save his family from the catastrophic effects of the bombs, he attempts to move his family, both his legitimate family and his mistress, to Brazil. However, his family take him to a family court in which Takashi Shimura plays the mediator who must decide if Mifune is really crazy or just being cautionary.

The film is not an enjoyable experience, it feels unpolished and not at all in line with Kurosawa’s style. The use of Mifune in makeup, and his acting as an older man is comedic but it doesn’t fit into the setting. He seems like a caricature in a dramatic piece. Perhaps with Shimura in this role, as he is a more mature and a better fit in the role. The film feels unfinished and almost rushed, this combined with the date of its release doesn’t give much for audiences. The film was released only ten years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and people hadn’t had a chance to properly grieve or even process the trauma of those events due to censorship from the US Occupation. The film was later praised for this, but it was a lost sentiment as the film didn’t eloquently present this emotion as much as it should.

The film was originally supposed to be a comedy, but due to the death of Kurosawa’s friend and collaborator, Fumio Hayasaka, it was changed to a drama. As a huge Kurosawa fan, I appreciate the message and sentiment but the film doesn’t reflect his genius or style. The most memorable part of the film is the pondering of whether or not the people who are pretending that they aren’t afraid are the crazy ones or perhaps the patriarch who openly proclaims his fears. Definitely watch if you are a Kurosawa fan, but be prepared.

Bit Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

A Wonder Woman movie is something that seemed impossible a few years ago. The era of female superheroes movies such as Elektra (2005) and Catwoman (2004) stumped the progression of female superhero movies. Wonder Women (2017), perhaps the most famous female superhero of all time only has had success in comics and animated movies, and the only live action adaption that was remotely successful was the TV series, of the same name, (1975 – 1979) starring Linda Carter. A failed pilot a few years ago, and a script by Joss Whedon seemed to be the closest that fans would get to a movie.
 
That was until Patty Jenkins had found the perfect Wonder Woman in Gal Gadot. The film which initially faced criticism before even being released from audience members both DC and Marvel fans. However, Wonder Woman is unlike any other DC film before it. The film has something for everyone, it has the historical aspect of the First World War for history buffs, the mythological and fantasy bits, the smart wit and power of females for feminist and female empowerment and the use of equal representation in the film to provide inspiration for everyone.
 
I was unsure of Gal Gadot’s casting when it was first announced as I believed Wonder Woman, Aka Diana of Themyscira, was supposed to be a more athletic and taller woman. However, after her cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) I was suddenly turned around and excited for the film. She is the perfect casting, beautiful, smart and bad-ass. Chris Pine plays Steve Trevor and he is just as incredible as her, making me question who is the best American Soldier named Steve, Chris Evans as Steve Rodgers (Captain America) and Steve Trevor. The ensemble are fantastic too, as the comic sidekicks are bad-ass in their own right, and the love and comradery from their group of misfits is heartwarming and shows that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, that in the end we are humans and should stand together.
 
I found myself wanting more as I finished, during the two hour run I was not bored once and found myself at a loss when it ended. I was devastated their wasn’t a post credit scene, but that just left me wanting more. I hope that their will be an extended director’s cut when the film is released. The main Wonder Woman theme by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is just perfect and encapsulates everything of Wonder Woman. I cannot wait for the sequel, and The Justice League movie and I hope this is a start for female superhero films. With Joss Whedon’s own Batgirl predicted to start pre-production soon it raises hope for fans of the comics and and a source of inspiration for young woman who want a role model in the form of a superhero. Now, let’s hope the Gotham Sirens is gonna happen. It’s time for a trio of hardcore and cool women from Gotham city to take over the screens. I think we’re overdue for a sultry Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn possible romance.

Bit Review: The Counselor (2013)

The Counselor tells the story of a man nicknamed The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) who gets in over his head with a drug deal. The film features many themes such as Death, Greed, Sex, Good vs Evil etc. The visuals of the film are stunning at times. The use of establishing shots to show the beautiful landscape of Mexico or the show the imagery of long highways. Scott also uses extreme close ups for his characters to highlight the tremendous talent in this film including everyone’s favourite ‘Michael Fassbender’. The audio was disappointing for me in this film. The music and the sound of films are usually the highlight for me, such as the outstanding soundtrack for Seven Psychopaths or even the audio for Inception. The sound was minimal and basic and not in an intriguing way but an awkward one, but the acting of a few individuals redeem this. Fassbender was his classic, talented self, and the focus on his face was outstanding.

 

I generally found the film exciting most of the time but I found it to personally drag at times. My favourite moment of this film was when Fassbender realises that he cannot change the past but must accept his fate. His facial acting is brilliant and the way he can change from one extreme to another, is why Fassbender is a rare gem in the movie business and truly an incredible actor. He is a chameleon and it’s a rare quality that makes him unique and stand out. This is a different step for Scott (aside from American Gangster) but an exciting and ambitious new take. I would recommend if you love Thriller films are if you liked Body of Lies or American Gangster. If you are a fan of Fassbender, then you definitely need to see this. His character has the vulnerability of Brandon from Shame, the wit from Bobby Sands in Hunger and a mixture of Fassbender himself.

 

I found myself disappointed with the direction of Penelope Cruz. Her role was a safe choice I believe, as she wasn’t anything spectacular and was definitely overshadowed. Scott only seemed to use Cruz as a way to boost his all-star cast. Cameron Diaz pushed her usual boundary for a great attempt but her fluctuation between accents is a little hard on the ears and cringe-worthy at times. Javier Bardem was outrageous but superb as ever. Whilst Brad Pitt shows he can act, albeit overshadowed by the master classes of Fassbender and Bardem. Breaking Bad fans will enjoy the cameo of Dean Norris (Hank Schrader) who ironically plays a guy buying drugs. The film has humour in it and heart, but if you aren’t a big thriller fan, then perhaps The Counselor isn’t for you. If you love great acting, and car porn then this film is for you.

 

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