Monday, 20 August 2018

DISENCHANTMENT - podcast review out tomorrow

DVD Roundup: "Of course the wolf can fly" edition

With the craze for big dumb action movies seemingly in full swing, Rampage seems a perfect fit for the zeitgeist. Starring Dwayne Johnson, who is increasingly playing the same character over and over again (well, he does produce these movies too), we see muscles, mass destruction, and big massive animals mutated through dubious means. Not terrible by any means, perhaps on the right side of this big budget absurdity. Listen to our full review in the player below.

You remember the trailer, right? All that standard teen horror stuff and then those massive stupid Joker-style smiles. Maybe the most disappointing thing about Truth or Dare is that it is so blase, not trying to push the boundaries in anyway, and I've heard the ending is pretty maddening, leaving little impetus to see the film.

Now Beast sounds like an interesting film. The first feature length film from Michael Pearce, Beast tells the story of a young woman who gains the confidence to leave her restrictive life from a mysterious outsider, but when the outsider is accused of a string of murders, she goes all out to protect him. With Jeannette Catsoulis of The NYTimes describing it as a "feverish fairy tale riven with dark horrors and forbidden desires", I'm all in for this film.

Re-release of the week goes to John Palmer's 1972 Ciao! Manhatten. Starring infamous Andy Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick, who died a year before the films release, she basically plays herself and looks into her darkly glamorous life, partying and doing drugs, all the stuff that lead to her depression and eventual accidental overdose. The film has received a cult fan base, displaying a fascinating slice of life in 60s New York City and Warhol's factory, as well as an uncomfortable parallel to Sedgwick's real life troubles.

Sunday, 19 August 2018


80. “You need to keep your eyes open, and see what needs to be seen.”


More than “The Thick of It,” “Endeavour” and “Les Miserables,” I know Roger Allam’s voice from the radio sitcom “Cabin Pressure,” where his claret-like tones, as pilot Douglas Richardson, compete admirably alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephanie Cole and John Finnemore. So, to have a film, based on a novel by Stephen Fry, evocative of P.G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh, that aims to give you as much of Roger Allam’s voice as possible, I should be screaming from the rooftops about the greatest example of concentrated Englishness since Robinson’s Barley Water.

However, with how “The Hippopotamus” appeared to bypass my local cinemas to home video and streaming services, I entered the film, having come across it a good couple of years after hearing it was going to be made, wondering if I was expecting it to be better than it could turn out to be – it must have dropped off my radar for some reason. As it turned out, rather than keeping my eyes open, my watching this film became more a case of “How is a person supposed to investigate nothing in particular?”

The title “The Hippopotamus” comes from T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name, and Allam’s character, Ted Wallace, once a hell-raising critic, is often shown lounging, lightly sozzled, in a bath – he is a theatre critic whose poetic voice has diminished. The film appears to get most of this out of the way in about ten minutes flat, with Wallace heckling a play and getting fired by his editor, before he travels to the country house where the film’s story takes place. Wallace is sent there by his goddaughter, who he has not seen in years, and he is only asked to observe, and report back.

It might just be my not being a fan of mystery plots, but when you are watching someone who is working out what he is supposed to be investigating, you do start feeling a little unsatisfied. I do prefer Hitchcock-style suspense plots, but that relies on the audience being given information upfront. Until then, you are left with multiple larger-than-life characters, including an overlay camp playwright, a French socialite, and a godson that believes he possesses magical healing powers – this is believed and supported by most of the family, and is also why everyone is there, but this is found to be misplaced, coincidental, and more than a bit perverted, which comes too late for the goddaughter who thought her miracle cure from leukaemia could help her godfather's life.

I have not read the original novel of “The Hippopotamus,” although I feel I may get more out of it. Stephen Fry wrote it as an epistolary novel, made up of letters from Wallace to his goddaughter, and various poems he wrote before the inspiration ran out – the real miracle of the film is that the inspiration comes back. To have the letters replaced by Skype calls, including the Skype ring tone, feels like an expediency, and to have little evidence of the poetry is a shame. The stream of consciousness from Roger Allam’s voice is what compensates for the lack of letters, but while it is good to hear that voice provided by the square yard, it could be supplanted by Stephen Fry reading the audiobook instead. It just doesn’t feel like there is much to this film, but it makes for an attractive diversion.

Saturday, 18 August 2018


Luminous green seas, pink dancing fish legs, preposterous exaggerated expressions and infectiously upbeat music, Lu Over the Wall (Yoake Tsugeru Rū no Uta) is a childlike but bittersweet, simple but rewarding original outing from Masaaki Yuasa. Previously known for the likes of Mind Game and the excellent Devilman Crybaby, Yuasa's Lu is a much more innocent venture, looking at universal themes of growing up and friendship, but with the distinctive mind-bending animation style he has become known for.

In a quiet fishing town which everybody seems to want to escape, morose teen Kai finds small joy in uploading music to the internet, which leads him to kind of (begrudgingly) join his school mates band
SEIRÈN. The town is haunted by stories of the ningyo, a yokai similar to merfolk, and several peoples family members, including Kai's own grandfather, have found their loved ones lost to the ningyo. However, water-haired and pink-tailed ningyo Lu is attracted to the bands music, and soon enough starts dancing and singing. Kai and Lu strike up a friendship, but soon Lu becomes an internet sensation and the town is torn between capitalising on the ningyo or wanting to destroy them.

If you have not seen any of Yuasa's films before, then the deceptively simplistic, even somewhat sloppy design of his animation may seem strange, especially considering the painterly softness of Ghibli and the intense detail of Makoto Shinkai's work. However, it's simplicity allows for a potent array of expressions to be made, allowing for a fluidity that would seem clunky otherwise. Kai's first dive underwater with Lu delivers the kind of mind-bending excitement that Disney achieved with their iconic Pink Elephants, where as flashbacks look more akin to children's picture books, and the ludicrously fun dance scene in the middle of the film looks like something right out of Fleischer Studios. It's dazzling and outrageous, especially with its bold colour palette, but I say lean into it.

The story is also simplistic, and while there is a heavy dose of Miyazaki's Ponyo in this, the plot doesn't go off in any winding narrative roads, sticking pretty solidly to it's optimistic mood. I was however struck by its subtle message on returning to a small town after your big dreams fail, which is sometimes drowned out by the colours and music. It doesn't harangue you with this point, but it gives respect and dignity to these returning-home characters, leaving you with a more sanguine afterthought, especially considering the bittersweet ending for Kai and Lu.

Lu Over the Wall is refreshing in the same way singing badly at the top of your voice is refreshing; the brashness and solemn badness, hurting your chest and clearing your mind, exhaling with defiant foolishness kind of refreshing. Yuasa has not set out to impress your intellect but to excite your senses, and with that he has achieved.



Tuesday, 14 August 2018

THE MEG - podcast review out now

It's a big shark movie starring Jason Statham. If that sounds like fun to you, then you'll enjoy this film. The Meg, directed by Jon Turteltaub, sees a megalodon rise up from the hidden depths of the Mariana Trench to rampage the seas of China. Co-starring Bingbing Li, Ruby Rose, Rainn Wilson and Shuya Sophia Cai, The Meg is that big budget summer blockbuster that everyone loves. Well, except maybe Layla... Contains mild spoilers.

You can download this episode directly here.

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Intro and outro music by Leigh Spence of Dancing with the Gatekeepers and The Leigh Spence Moment.

Monday, 13 August 2018

THE MEG - podcast review out tomorrow

DVD Roundup: Too noisy edition

I'll be honest, when I first saw the trailer for A Quiet Place, I wasn't that impressed. The bit where the boy had a noisy toy, and yet the whole conceit of the film is to stay silent, seemed kind of silly to me. However, when the screenings started showing, and everyone was going on about the atmosphere the film created within the cinema - just the utter silence - I feel like we missed out on this one. How much of that atmosphere will be created in your living room is another issue, but one I'm looking forward to trying out.

Starring the late Anton Yelchin, as well as Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch, Thoroughbreds looks at two teens who, while they grew apart as youngsters, reconnect to hatch a wicked plan. While criticised for being a bit shallow, the plot sounds dastardly enough to be enjoyable, and you know there's going to be some decent acting.

Even though I can't get on with the Harry Potter movies, I think Daniel Radcliffe is a great actor and I'll happily watch anything he's in, but perhaps not Beast of Burden. For one, the plot sounds a bit trite and played-out, focusing on a drug mule caught between the cartel he works for, the DEA, and his wife, and plus the reviews haven't all been all great either.

Remember Angel Dust from the Deadpool? Well, Gina Carano headlines Scorched Earth, a post-apocalyptic movie about a bounty hunter going after a gang boss. So far, so standard. Sounds a bit like a B-movie, and if you like those kind of films you'll enjoy this. Being a former MMA fighter, you can at least expect Carano's fight scenes to look good.

a quiet place
beast of burden
scorched earth