Bit Reviews

Bit Review: Pet Sematary (1989)

Stephen King is undoubtedly one of the greatest horror writers living today. He has wrote classic horror stories such as The Shining and IT. Many of his books have been made into films, and with the recent release of the IT remake (2017), directed by Andy Muschietti, there seems to be a demand for more King adaptations. With 1922 (2017) and Gerald’s Game (2017) both being moderate successes, Andy Muschietti apparently has his sights set on a Pet Sematary remake. However, it would be ignorant to forget the Pet Sematary (1989) film directed by Mary Lambert, therefore I decided to rewatch one of my favourite King adaptations.

Pet Sematary follows the Creed family, which consists of Louis (Dale Midkiff), his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), and their children Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and Gage (Miko Hughes). The Creed family move to rural Ludlow, Maine as Louis is offered a better job. Their new house is in a secluded area that features a dangerous highway, a mysterious neighbour Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) and a Pet cemetery which has mystical powers. On Louis’ first day of work, his first patient, Victor Pascow, dies in a car crash but warns Louis of the cemetary and tells him to stay away. Louis doesn’t listen to Pascow and sets of the malevent forces of the cemetary which leads Louis to tragedy after tragedy.

Mary Lambert, who directed the film, previously had done a variety of music videos for Madonna, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston. Pet Sematary was her first big film, having only previously done an indie film called Siesta (1987). The acting in the film is very Soap Opera style, it is over the top at times and almost cringey. However, Fred Gwynne and Miko Hughes, Jud and Gage respectively, are the stand out performances. Hughes who plays Gage is perfect, as he plays both cute and creepy. The film is definitely entertaining despite the acting, and is a great film to watch for halloween. The sequel Pet Sematary II (1992) is cheesier, but will make a great double bill for a viewing if you fancy a movie night. The original song “Pet Sematary” by the rock band Ramones makes the credits seem even more badass. If Pet Sematary is remade, I just hope they keep the track for the film. If you need an entertaining movie, look no further than Pet Sematary. The film is full of shocks and moments that’ll make you gasp.

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Bit Review: Goodfellas (1990)

What makes Goodfellas (1990) such a good movie still today after 27 years? The casting of Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci? The excellent soundtrack chronicling the time and the place? The beautiful shots and the mise-en scene? The answer is everything. There is nothing about this movie that I do not love. I watched the film for the first time about 10 years ago, and it was my first Martin Scorsese movie and I’ve been fan since. I found the film recently on Amazon Prime, and it kick-started current addiction with Scorsese leading to a binge of some of his past movies such as The Departed (2006) and Casino (1995) to name a few.

This film tells the story of Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, and his rise and fall in the mob. It is based of a non-fiction book called Wiseguy by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi, who actually co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese himself. Scorsese cast Liotta in the part after he saw him in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (1986), in which Liotta plays an ex-convict obsessed with his ex wife. Liotta was fascinated by the book, Wiseguy, and campaigned for the film despite the studio wanting a more famous actor. Liotta obviously got the role, and even listened to FBI tapes of Hill just to get the character perfect. Co-starring in the film is Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci who both play friends of Hill who are in the mob life as well. According to Pesci, he stated that they were allowed to improvise, such as the scene in which Tommy’s mother has painted the image of the beard man with the dogs, therefore showing the skill and talent of the cast. Everyone in this film is beyond outstanding and without them, the film would be nothing.

The music is something I adore, as a good soundtrack is always needed. He only wanted music that would be heard during that time, which he does successfully as the music adds to the atmosphere and makes it more immersive. Scorsese is a master of his craft, and Goodfellas is a prime example of his talent. This film shows him at his best, and displays his traits such as the long use of tracking shots, freeze-frames, New York as more than a setting and his character driven stories. I must admit, some of his more recent films have perhaps not have been my favourites, as the last film I watched of his that I really loved was The Departed. His next project is called The Irishman and will be starring De Niro, Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino so I am beyond excited for this, and this could be another masterpiece for him.

The ending of Goodfellas just perfectly sums up the whole mob life, as it’s a reference to The Great Train Robbery (1903) directed by Edwin S. Porter and basically says that violence will always be there no matter what, and it is just as true back in 1903 then it was in 1990 with Goodfellas. Hill is always going to have the life of crime behind him and will always be looking behind him as someone will find him. The film gets better every time you watch it.

Classic Bit Review: Seven Samurai (1954)

Seven Samurai (1954), which is one of Kurosawa’s most recognisable films, and was a success in Japan and the West too as Seven Samurai made more money than any other film that year and won a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Kurosawa could finally make jidaigeki films with no barriers, and he began to have more freedom to make a variety of genre films that he couldn’t during the War and during the Occupation. The film follows seven rōnin as they defend a poor village from a group of bandits. His post-Occupation films no longer had direct American influence, as he went back to samurai films that reflected Japanese’s past whilst still making a critical statement about the present. Ironically, his films that he made during this time which reflect a modern, and a past version of Japan, were remade in America. The most noticeable examples were The Magnificent Seven (1960) and A Fistful of Dollars (1964), which were a remake of Seven Samurai and Yojimbo (1961) respectively. The relationship between Japan and the US were strained post-Occupation, as the relationship between the US and Japan during the Occupation seemed to be equal but comments made after the events highlighted how accurate this was. Kurosawa’s films, after the Occupation and until 1965, were Japanese based and chronicled problems in Japanese society and social inequality.

The film of course stars two of Kurosawa’s favourite actors, both Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura as part of the group of rōnin samurais. Ironically, the group of samurai were originally six, but Kurosawa found that the group were boring and needed a wildcard. Therefore, Mifune was recast as Kikuchiyo and was given the freedom to improvise his lines. The raw emotion of the villagers and the pure talent of the cast is admirable. The cast are a brilliant ensemble, but Mifune outshines everyone per usual with both his enigmatic and boyish ways. The film became Japan’s third highest-grossing film of 1954, and the film had stiff competition with films such as Godzilla being released during this time. The charm of the characters, and the brilliance of Kurosawa made the film an event and a landmark in cinema telling the story of a rambunctious group of men who band together to save a village despite the lack of reward.

The Seven Samurai was one of the first films to use the narrative of recruiting a group of heroes to defeat a common goal. Character traits featured in the film were modern, as they featured the reluctant hero in the form of Mifune and the romance between the young local girl and the youngest hero. The score is of course perfect. The lone beat of a drum during tense and decisive moments, such as deciding on what to do about the bandits, and the lone chord of the shamisen emphasises the anxiousness and tense moments. Composed by Fumio Hayasaka, a friend of Kurosawa who passed away during his film I Live in Fear (1955), and the score adds to this work of art. The hopeful music when the villagers are looking for their samurais, and the triumphant encouraging music of brass when the samurai are making their journey.

The sets are a force themselves. Kurosawa refused to shoot at the Toho Studios for most of the exterior scenes, and had a set constructed despite protests. He did this to make the film seem more authentic, and greatly so. The costumes, the acting and the set come together to make it credible and convincing. Kurosawa is the master of editing, he did the editing himself and sometimes even late at night during shooting. What else can I say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said. I unfortunately haven’t had the pleasure to see this film in the cinema or on any screen bigger than forty inches, but even with those limitations I am certain it is one of the greatest films ever made. Sure, The Seven Samurai isn’t my favourite film, or favourite Kurosawa film, but I know a masterpiece when I see one and it is a must see for humans in general. If you have never seen the film, you definitely need to educate yourself and sit down to watch this absolute classic.

 

 

Classic Bit Review: Cabaret (1972)

Despite its gap in time since its release, Cabaret (directed by Bob Fosse) still has historical
significance. Cabaret is a film based on the book series ‘The Berlin Stories‘ by Christopher Isherwood which follows the journey of Brian Roberts, a British academic, and his move to Berlin in which he meets the illustrious Sally Bowles at the boarding house he resides in during his stay. The film is about the relationship between these two contrasting figures and how this changes during different events, with the backdrop of the oblivious Cabaret ‘Kit-Kat Club’ and pre-WWII Germany.

 

One of the most interesting features Fosse uses in Cabaret is the juxtaposition between the ‘Kit Kat Club’ and the outside of the Berlin streets, and he uses these to show the different attitudes in people during the austere time of the beginning of the Nazism rise in Germany. The club satirises the Nazi party, whilst not realising the extent of their actions. Fosse’s unique use of the camera and the environment is flawless. The musical number ‘Two ladies’ performed by the enticing Emcee, played marvellously by Joel Grey by which he deservedly won an Academy Award for, uses various jump-cuts to change the shot to various long shots which track the characters. In Cabaret, Fosse also uses these cuts to jump to the audience’s reaction to the scene. After the three performers go under the bed sheet in a long shot, the camera dramatically jumps to different audience members to which they are all amused and entertained by this notion but the audience at home notice the change in the mood and shift in atmosphere. The increase in lighting switches to a dark blue colour which flashes maniacally as the music rises in tempo and the instruments are enhanced. This emphasises the unpredictability of the club, but mainly highlights that whilst the club may seem to be in a different ‘world’ to the streets of Berlin; the two are beginning to disturbingly overlap.

 

Judy Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli is a surprisingly gem of the film. Her acting as Sally Bowles is not only brilliant during the musical numbers and the comedic aspects but also in showing how fractured her character is in this even more fragmented city. Grey, previously mentioned, is a crucial part of the film playing a trickster/devil hybrid archetype in which guides Cabaret‘s narrative. His performance is breathtakingly disturbing that all you can do is watch in awe. Michael York was almost born to play the part of Roberts as he plays him so effortlessly whilst so effective. The whole cast from Minnelli to even the singing Hitler youth is as close to perfection as you’ll get in a film.

 

Cabaret is one of those films you initially dismiss due to its genre, but as you watch it you
immediately become entranced. As the audience, you are spellbound by the opening and left feeling satisfied and haunted during the final static long shot of the Nazi as the credits role. Compared to his directorial debut of Sweet Charity (1969); Cabaret is the ultimate predecessor for Fosse.

Bit Review: IT (2017)

It is the start of the Halloween season, and to kick it off, Stephen King’s IT (2017) directed by Andy Muschietti has been unleashed on the world. I saw the film last night at midnight, and barely slept since.If you don’t know the story already, it’s simple. A young boy named Georgie goes missing after been last seen near a drain pipe, and his brother,Bill, and his friends, called the Losers, go on a quest to find out what happens during their summer vacation thinking Bullies and family issues are the worst of their problems. They soon find themselves having horrific nightmares, and a lot more children disappearing. The Losers soon realise that something more sinister is taking the children, and the monsters name is Pennywise.
 
This newest IT film starring Bill Skarsgård as the infamous Pennywise is definitely scary. I am a huge Stephen King fan, and the old IT miniseries (1990) is one of my favourite adaptations. I watched the miniseries a few nights ago for a more refreshed comparison, and after watching the 2017 movie I conclude that they are both scary and brilliant in different ways.
 
The miniseries stars the legendary Tim Curry as Pennywise, is definitely more subtle and scary in a delicate and insinuated way. Pennywise is more of an enigma in the miniseries. In the 2017 movie, Pennywise starts off as an enigma but develops soon as a fully fledged monster. Skarsgård is scary as Pennywise. He is a tall, lanky and grotesque creature with a disturbing voice. The editing and CGI in the movie add to make him an even terrifying creature.
 
The kids are brilliant, as you’d expect. How could they not, with Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard and Jaeden Lieberher as they each add their own charm and wit to the characters. Richie, played by Wolfhard, and Eddie, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, are my favourites as Grazer is adorable and Wolfhard is just astonishing, and shows that he is a versatile actor who is gonna be a great adult actor in the future. Overall, I preferred the cast in the original miniseries but that’s my preference. The cast are still amazing, and all deserved their place in the film.
 
IT has definitely kicked my love of Halloween into overdrive, and I’ve started my binge of horror films to get myself into the season. A lot of people have questioned the film being set in the eighties and the film starting with the children rather than an adult’s recollection, but I feel that these don’t retract from the story or the film. Using the eighties in movies and film is a current trend, but it’s a trend that works as it brings a nostalgic feeling to most of the audience. I cannot wait for the second part, as the scene in which Barbara goes back to her old house as an adult is one of my favourite scenes in any movie. The only criticism I have is that I wish they didn’t make Georgie so damn cute. Believe the hype of IT, as it’s fun, scary and hooks you in.

Bit Review: The Artist (2011)

The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, and starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo as George Valentin and Peppy Miller respectively. The story follows the relationship between the two, one being an older silent movie star and the other being a young starlet on the verge of fame in the wake of the talkies. The film won five Academy awards, seven Baftas and won six César awards. It pays homage to a vast amount of silent movies and stars, the lead character of Valentin is strongly influenced by Douglas Fairbanks and the film is influenced by directors such as Hitchcock, Lang, Ford, Lubitsch, Murnau and Wilder.
 
The film starts with George Valentin at the top of his fame in the silent era of Hollywood. He had a huge house, fame and money and a gorgeous blonde wife. Peppy Miller is however just starting in her career, with her encounter with Valentin, she used the short lived fame to get an audition as an extra on his studio lot. From the charming first meet of the two at the beginning when she clumsily bumps into him, and Valentine shows what a funny and cool guy he is. During their second encounter, he becomes enamoured with her legs and they shared a small dance until she notices him. He saves her from being fired, and the two can barely get through their scenes without giggling or just being together. Soon, Valentin finds himself battling against the talkies and believes that silent films are still the future. Valentin evens states that “if that’s the future, you can keep it”. He ends up investing all of his money into a silent film and his loveless marriage finally ends. Whilst, Miller becomes a star who has transitioned from silent to talking pictures.
 
For a silent film to be made in the 21st century, it requires a huge amount of skill and manipulation. The film uses ingenious scenes such as where Valentin loses his voices and all you can hear are ambient sounds. The use of music is crucial to the film, and plays with the audience constantly to enact reactions and emotions. The score was composed by Ludovic Bource for which he won an Academy award. To act in a silent film typically means exaggerated movements to better understand the actors, however, that is not the case with The Artist. The actors are not over the top, and a lot is to be inferred by the audience which is clever but makes it easy to follow. The cast in my option were all brilliant, to act requires skill but to act in a silent film requires discipline and restraint.
 
It’s a gorgeous film, and despite the lack of colour I would say it’s mesmerising. I remember when this film came out, I rushed to see it at the cinema and I became obsessed with silent movies after that. I ended up watching a vast amount of German expressionism and a lot of Murnau. If you haven’t seen this film, you need too. It’s a wonderful homage to a beautiful time in cinema. Oh and there’s an adorable dog which will melt your heart, and I won’t spoil the end but the final scene is one of the best sequences I’ve seen in a long time.

Classic Bit Review: The General (1926)

Six years after The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, came The General. Whilst we are still in the era of silent cinema as the talkies were just a few years away, we have a change in film. Many American film companies had move to Hollywood due to various weather types that meant filming on location was no longer a huge concern, cheap real estate as the location was mainly for growing oranges and there wasn’t a union for labour workers until the 1930s.

 

The General, co-written by the star of the film Buster Keaton, in comparison to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is seen as more of a film with techniques used as it moves away from the mise-en scene been staged like a play. The camera is a technique of storytelling in The General opposed to just being a device used to record a story. The scene in which Keaton’s character is rejected by his love and sits on the train wheel which moves him like a rag doll is evidence of Keaton’s character techniques as the juxtaposition of the huge machine and this tiny body is comedy genius. The General features close ups, a note-worthy example is the scene in which Keaton’s character is under the table whilst trying to rescue his love, we first see a long shot of the table surrounded by the soldiers with the audience seeing Keaton’s feet, then cuts to a close up of Keaton’s face. The General also uses editing techniques, such as a match-on-action cut from a close up of Keaton’s face looking at a hole, to a point of view shot of the hole to see what he is looking at.

 

Could it be Keaton himself that had led critics to the emphasis on his talent? Whilst the techniques he uses in contrast to German films such as Faust (directed by F.W Murnau) are clearly more relatable to the majority modern films of today. The Scarlett Letter (directed by Victor Sjöström) was also released in 1926 and uses similar techniques to The General, suggesting that the praise of the film isn’t due simply to the techniques used but Keaton himself. The entire package of Keaton is mastery itself. The ongoing debate of who is better, Chaplin or Keaton, has been ongoing for decades and whilst Chaplin had the initial popularity and trademark character; Keaton also rivalled with his famous ‘Great Stone Face’. Both these performers were also directors and whilst the debate of the two is interesting, Chaplin and Keaton were both huge influences on film. Chaplin may have had the lead up until the revivals of Keaton’s films, upon the discovery; Keaton was given the praise he initially deserved. It’s clear that his techniques were great and helped set the standard for Hollywood, but Keaton’s persona of his characters and his imagery for his movies helps in defining him as a master of cinema.

 

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Bit Review: Atomic Blonde (2017)

Atomic Blonde (2017) directed by David Leitch, one of the uncredited directors of John Wick (2014), stars Charlize Theron and James McAvoy. Based on the graphic novel The Coldest City by author Antony Johnston and artist Sam Hart. This is the first solo venture for Leitch, and follows Theron as an undercover MI6 agent who is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to recover a list that features a double agent. The main agent that the MI6, and CIA, want to know the identity of the double agent named Satchel and assassinate them.

 

Atomic Blonde is sexy, cool and fun. It’s stylish and an excellent debut for Leitch. The story isn’t too hard to follow but it is a bit too complicated. The film is a great spy film, the action is slow at a few moments but the choreography fits the mood of the film. The character of Lorraine Broughton is badass, and hopefully will be put on the same pedestal as Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003), and Gina Carano in Haywire (2011). I know I’d love to dress up as her for Halloween. The camera work helps to show how badass Theron is during the action scenes. As David Edelstein from Vulture, says “It’s an audience member and a participant”, as it observes the drama but gets involved during intense fight scenes. What makes Lorraine Broughton such a brilliant character is that she isn’t sexualized, and the cinematography doesn’t focus on her in a creep voyeuristic way but shows her if she was Keanu Reeves in John Wick. Broughton’s sexuality is never mocked, and she is never treated less because she was a woman, showing that gender doesn’t mean a thing if you’re tough like Theron.

 

The cast are amazing. Sofia Boutella, Charlize Theron and James McAvoy are outstanding. Sofia Boutella is definite one of my favourites, I loved her in Star Trek: Beyond (2016), Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) and she was one of the only good things about The Mummy (2017). She is both beautiful and incredibly talented, and I cannot wait to see what she does in the future. I couldn’t talk about Atomic Blonde without discussing the soundtrack, which fits the film perfectly. From the sombre rendition of 99 Luftballoons to Under Pressure post fight sequences. The soundtrack uses a combination of 1980s songs and covers to add a contemporized feeling of the eighties.

 

Reasons to watch this film; the stylish cinematography, the soundtrack and the cool characters. To see Berlin during the Cold War is an amazing reason alone to watch this film. Don’t expect an enigmatic story, but expect a stylish and cool film that’ll stick in your head for days.

Bit TV Review: Misfits (2009 – 2013)

I had heard many people comment on Misfits, and especially how good it is. I had never seen it prior as it never seemed interesting to me. I decided to give it a go and watch the first ever episode on Demand 4, and ended up binging the first series. The show began with a group of young offenders doing community service, and I thought that it would be a show in which these young offenders realise their mistakes and become a part of society, and everyone lives happily ever after. However, the show was nothing like I expected. Basically, through a mysterious event our characters find themselves with superhuman powers, although they are not the only ones.

The show features around five young offenders: Nathan, Simon, Kelly, Curtis and Aisha. Each of these characters have different backgrounds and fit into different cliques but they don’t all come together because they work out their differences and become best friends. They witness something and cover it ultimately forming a secret pact. The first series is about how they cover up the incident and keeping it a secret. Whilst the plot sounds serious, the show itself is funny and full of emotional and heartfelt moments. I didn’t even plan on watching the first episode but ended up getting hooked and binge watching the first season.

The cast are excellent, all show both comedic and dramatic qualities. It is shot to an incredible standard, the editing and the music are both brilliant as well. It’s a show that is hard to explain why, but it is addictive. I binged the entire boxset, and found myself asking ‘Why is it being rebooted?’. The original is brilliant and doesn’t need a needless reboot, so watch the original whilst you can.

Bit Review: Drawn Together (2004 – 2007)

Today, animated comedies are limited to family sitcom formats meshed with random cutaways. Shows such as Family Guy and The Simpsons have adapted this type of format. However, Drawn Together is a show that attempts to subvert this typical format in every way. Years ago, I remember seeing the show Drawn Together on MTV but had only seen it once on late night TV. Lucky for me, it had come up on my Amazon Prime feed and I of course binged the first and second series.

The show itself is about eight different cartoon characters placed in a house, similar to a Big Brother format, and the show follows them and their tasks. The eight characters are all different parodies on cartoon characters in media, beginning with Captain Hero, a sociopathic, perverted, pansexual spoof of Superman. Toot Braunstein, a counterpart of Betty Boop who is seen as overweight and bipolar. Foxxy Love, a counterpart of Valerie Brown from Josie and The Pussycats, ghetto and more like a caricature of a black woman in the 70s. Princess Clara is a counterpart of any Disney princess, she’s extremely religious, racist and homophobic. Wooldoor Sackbar is a parody of both Spongebob and Stimpy, being an annoying cartoon who chameleon’s different jobs and types. Xandir, who starts off as the muscly, lack of clothes hero who wanted to save his girlfriend, similar to Zelda and Link, or Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. As the series progresses he realises he is gay and most of the jokes centre of jokes referencing this such as his lack of gag reflex due to bulimia. Ling-Ling’s counterpart is Pikachu from Pokemon, but a more psychopathic and aggressive version. His comedy is more based on Japanese stereotypes being mocked. The final cast member is Spanky Ham, an original character with no counterpart, but is a crass internet download.

The show is full of pop culture references and parodies, such as the constant appearance of cartoon characters such as Daphne from Scooby Doo and Speedy Gonzales from Looney Tunes. Donald Trump, and The Apprentice (US Version) is mocked as he is portrayed as a boy child. In the first episode, “Black Chick’s Tongue” is a musical parody of Disney Aladdin’s “A Whole New World”. It’s honestly not like any other animated comedy on TV, extremely adult even compared next to South Park, or Family Guy. It covers extremely sensitive topics and uses extreme stereotypes to highlight and satirise topics in society. The show isn’t afraid to openly mock topics that are considered taboo, such as racism and homophobia. Of course, now we have shows like Rick and Morty, but Drawn Together was outstanding. I believe the show is clever and funny, but can be crass at times which makes the show seem less intelligent that it is. The show only ended up being three seasons, as it was cancelled, but they did release a movie afterwards. It’s definitely an animated comedy that has a unique perspective, and an original take on the genre.

 

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