Thursday, July 28, 2016

My first ever e-mail to the BBFC and Jonah Hill fangirling.

I saw this at London Bridge underground station today which I'm hella excited for. Miles Teller was in my no. 1 film of 2014, Whiplash, in which he possessed formidable screen presence, as well as engineering sweet chemistry with Shailene Woodley in 2013's underrated romance The Spectacular Now. And it also stars Jonah Hill, that rotund comedy sidekick who also excels at being a leading man who I never go on about!!! Hopefully he's in it for longer than 20 seconds as was the case in Hail, Caesar!

War Dogs is rated '15' by the BBFC, and given that it's from the director of The Hangover, I don't doubt it merits that rating. Do you know what doesn't deserve a 15? 

Onto today's main attraction...

As you know, I pretty much watch the BBFC's every move. I don't always agree with their decisions (2 Days, 1 Night and Doubt were both very soft 15s and Kick-Ass 2 was a very hard one), but most of the time when there's a contentious decision, I side with them (in the case of the Diary of a Teenage Girl controversy I was staunchly #TeamBBFC), as of yet, I haven't been motivated enough to get my ass into gear and email them over my minor disagreements.

Well, after watching that terribad So Young 2: Never Gone on Monday (which, unlike The Specatcular Now, most certainly did not boast strong chemistry between its leads), I was finally moved to email. That was just such an impossibly soft 15 that I couldn't let this one slide, regardless of the low quality of the film and the fact that barely anyone would be particularly bothered about the BBFC certificate of some corny Chinese romance. All I ask for is consistency. About Time, with 6 f-words and constant mentions of 'blowjobs' was a 12A. And this was a 15 because of some coy behaviour around kissing?!

Cue a rather pedantic and verbose email (not like me to be verbose, now is it? #ehehe).

As annoying AF as you might find my smug, bloated writing style, you can't argue that I make some valid points. The film in question should not have been a 15. There was no sex or sexual dialogue. I've seen worse PGs (Grease). The fact that I just shoehorned in references to two mediocre Leonardo DiCaprio films, among various titles, is just me showing off how many films I've seen.

The BBFC website say they'll take 10 working days to respond to emails. I sent this on Tuesday morning. It will genuinely make my day to receive an e-mail from them, given that, to me, the BBFC are basically Kings.

Watch this space!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Film review: SO YOUNG 2: NEVER GONE (Zhou Tuo Ru, 2016)

In her final, crucial years of secondary education, Su Yinjin (played by Liu Yifei)'s parents struggle to make ends meet in order to send her to a prestigious high school. On her first day, she is rubbed up the wrong way by the haughty Cheng Zheng (Kris Wu), a wealthy, handsome, high-achieving, sporty popular boy, but one with an ego to match. She finds his arrogance and cavalier manner with money insufferable, so of course the two are drawn to each other and have an on/off romance which dominates the ensuing years of their lives.

I haven't watched a Chinese film in the cinema for far too long considering I'm both Chinese and a movie buff, but unfortunately this was not a happy return to form. Never Gone was so heavy-handed and clunky that it makes Twilight look nuanced. The Pride and Prejudice-type story arc of hate gradually morphing into respect, before love, is one I never tire of (I loved Bridget Jones' Diary and romance is the warmest genre), but the execution here, via contrived plot machinations just stretched credibility too thin. For example, to expect us to believe that the two protagonists could go to separate Universities in different parts of China, and a good-looking boy who could have his pick of the girls, yet he continually and faithfully yearns for Su Yinjin throughout his time at Uni, is an implausible and downright irresponsible lie that cinema should not be peddling.

That is not the say the film was completely devoid of honesty. As time goes on, the couple find that that Lana Del Rey lyric, 'sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough, I don't know why', and life (and a dastard Mr. Wickham-type character) gets in the way of their being together, despite how hard they try to make it work. By conceding this and highlighting the role adversity plays in unsettling a loving relationship, the film retains some emotional truthfulness and poignancy, although this message was delivered much better in Blue is the Warmest Colour. The disappointment of seeing the two leads in this film separate isn't a fraction as heartbreaking as that between Adele and Emma in BITWC, because you're just not invested in this relationship. Truth be told, as the cracks were beginning to show in this couple’s relationship (and the film made sure you GOT DA MESSAGE because the score modulated oh-so-subtly from jovial to depressed), it just made me reminisce about the earth-shattering confrontation scene in Blue is the Warmest Colour, and wish I was watching that instead of this dud.

The fault for this lies with the cheesy, soapy script which tries to manipulate the audience’s feelings far too frequently and unsuccessfully. It breaks the first rule of screenwriting, which is that you should show things, rather than tell, clumsily shoe-horning items into preposterous lines of dialogue. Then there’s the lazy direction which relies too heavily on stylisation; in an early scene set in the high school, the way characters were introduced with a cartoonish name was lifted right out of Mean Girls/Easy A. Whenever the characters got into a heated debate, the director misguidedly employed slow-motion to try and emphasis the sense of despair, but instead, it just felt cheap and telenovela-like.

And finally, the poor acting. I haven't seen anything else from Wu and Liu before so I won't rush to denounce them as bad actors just yet. But their performances in Never Gone were certainly not good: both overacted horribly, employing contorted facial expressions to emote, in such a hammy manner it felt like something out of the Jennifer Lawrence School of Over-Acting. 

In fact, the BBFC draconically slapped a 15 certificate on this film (for which I will be writing an email of complaint, I've seen saucier PGs), predominantly because 'a woman initially rejects a man's advances before giving in' and kissing him. The fact that the BBFC construed these acts not as the frisson in a relationship, or the woman acting coy, but rather as a coercive act of sexual violence, tells you all you need to know about the stale chemistry between the stars in this clunker. Not one of the romance genre, or Chinese cinema's, finest hours.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Restaurant review: THE NARROW (Limehouse)

Situated just by the pier and boasting a gorgeous view, The Narrow is an ideal location for a Sunday roast (The Narrow does roasts every Sunday), a rewind pint (or six) with friends, or just to have a solitary drink by yourself by gathering your thoughts, looking over the pier.

As tempted as I was by the roast on the menu, I worried that it may be a bit heavy for a Summer's day, so instead, I ordered the fish and chips. It was sublime, even better than one I had over a year ago at Ramsgate. The batter was perfectly fried and the chips had all the flavour of my be loved McDonald's ones, yet also felt somehow, healthier (probably because they were more expensive so I just deluded myself into thinking that, but hey!). To top it all off was a healthy dollop of tartar sauce. I was also a big fan of the plethora of salt, vinegar and tomato ketchup on our table to go with the food. One takes this for granted, but when I went to Amsterdam, sauces cost an extra €1, so the fact that sauces are free in British restaurants is much appreciated!

To drink, I had a cider, a cocktail (delicious but overpriced) and the drink photographed above, better known as an Aperol Spritz. I ordered this because I've heard it's a traditional Italian drink, and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about, but I was sadly left wanting. The flavours didn't work for me and it was also too gassy.

I went to The Narrow pretty much immediately after it opened and thus, the waiters were very attentive to me with regards to the food order, as I was one of the few people in the bar/restaurant at that point. But on a Sunday, The Narrow fills up very quickly, and, unsurprisingly, as the number of clients go up, the waiters are a little more thinly stretched. But despite being overworked, the waiters serving me were polite and efficient throughout, never getting the order wrong and always giving service with a smile.

The food was worth what was charged, whereas the drinks were a little on the pricey side.  But just think of that as a surcharge for getting to have such an inspired view; on a sunny day, The Narrow's view can't be beat.

Grade: A-

Saturday, July 23, 2016

BBQ Time.

Last Tuesday and Friday, I attended two BBQs (the second was immediately after the Sports Day).  Thought I'd post the foodporn from the two events!

I erroneously thought those two pieces of butter at the bottom of the plate were cheese, haha. Oops! The beef in this burger was insane, Five Guys, who? Hidden under all the vegetables is also some tomato/salsa-type dip, which really gave the vegetables an extra kick.


The filling in this burger was chicken, and the pieces had been pre-sliced, so they fit into the gap easier. The salad was very healthy, but I would have liked to have seen more in the way of sauces to give it a bit of flavour.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Film review: WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2014)

Remember when I complained about how due to the restricted choice of films screened at Cineworld cinemas, despite watching 42 films on the Unlimited card last year, I saw a meagre 2 foreign films? Well, I’ve already seen half that number of foreign movies on my Odeon Limitless card, at Panton Street Odeon, where I saw When Marnie Was There.


Ever since she was young, 12-year-old Anna Sasaki has been an outsider. She doesn’t fit in with the children in her year at school, feels disconnected from her foster parents and her social awkwardness is compounded by a deleterious breathing problem, which rears its head when she feels upset or stressed.

Deciding the key to Anna’s breathing attacks, and hence, her timidity, is clean air, her foster mother Yoriko (whom Anna refers to as ‘Auntie’) sends her to spend the summer with Yoriko’s relatives, in a coastal town. A few days after arrival, Anna spots a blonde girl in the window of a seemingly deserted mansion across the shore. The enigmatic girl introduces herself as Marnie, and a bond is immediately formed between the two girls.

Based on British author Joan G. Robinson’s novel of the same title, writers Masashi Andō, Keiko Niwa and Hiromasa Yonebayashi altered the location in the original story from Norfolk to the Japanese town Hokkaido. Graciously, nothing has been lost in translation. The story is simple, but told cleanly and elegantly, and the themes of bereavement and isolation, tackled with immense sensitivity.

As she embarks on her personal journey, audience members will recognise elements of themselves in the protagonist Anna, who is crippled with self-doubt, feeling she had never been loved due to her parents and grandparents having died when she was a baby. But behind those fragile Anime eyes, still waters run deep. She’s surprisingly intense for her age. The question of whether or not Marnie truly exists, or is just a figment of Anna’s imagination is soon broached. But you get so lost in the budding friendship between the two girls that it is only of secondary importance.

From the outside, Marnie seems to have an enviable life, living in a huge house with extravagant parties thrown by her parents. But inwardly, the two girls are just as alone and unhappy as each other. It is because of this similarity that Anna lets down her walls around Marnie, and we come to learn why it is that she feels so badly about herself. It is sad that a 12-year-old could feel so bad about themselves, but this just makes her blossoming friendship with Marnie ever the more rewarding. Throughout When Marnie Was There, the two characters embrace quite a few times, and it is refreshing that a film can capture the innocence behind such a sweet act.

As with all Studio Ghibli films, the film is exquisitely rendered. One shot, which taps into audience’s doubt of whether Marnie is real or of Anna is Fight Clubing us, is cleverly done without being so over-stylistic as to detract from the story. Unlike recent Disney and Pixar movies, which, for better or for worse, always feature a message, When Marnie Was There concerns itself with straightforward, unpretentious storytelling. The film is entirely about Anna, Marnie and their connection, and if anything about their relationship spoke to me, it was in an organic way, rather than feeling corny or heavy-handed. And finally, although it is by all intents and purposes a harmless U-rated film, it is not just the title that evokes memories of Hitchcock: there is a distinctly suspenseful undertone running throughout.

When Marnie Was There doesn’t reach the imaginative, pulse-racing highs of Spirited Away or the heart-shattering pathos of Grave of the Fireflies, but it is a delightful experience all the same, one which doesn't allow itself to get bogged down in the sadness to celebrate some of the richnesses of life: friendship, family and the power of memories. The hand-drawn animation is beautiful; I lost count of the number of beautiful visuals in it. At the film’s big reveal, I sobbed with abandon. Crying can be cathartic sometimes!

When Marnie Was There is said to be Studio Ghibli’s final film, although whether this is true proves to be seen. I sincerely hope that’s not the case: no-one tells delivers moving story like Studio Ghibli.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Suicide Squad gets rated 15 by the BBFC!!!

Although I'm not a comic book aficionado, I've really enjoyed most of the cinematic adaptations of comic books, whether the plot has centred around superheros (Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy) or something darker (the Korean OldBoy. Not so much the Hollywood remake).

When I heard Suicide Squad was getting the movie treatment, I was excited for several reasons. Firstly, the premise: conventional 'baddies' being sent on a thankless mission that will probably result in death. Due to me being such a nice, well-adjusted person (😂), I often side with the bad guys in movies (case in point: Michael Madsen's sadistic lunatic in Reservoir Dogs and a certain blonde lady in Gone Girl who I never talk about are two of my favourite film characters). So the fact that Suicide Squad was revelling in the characters' villain status meant this was the perfect film for me!

Secondly, the devil may care, vigilante feel of the trailer made the film look bloody awesome. And finally, the casting of Margot Robbie, another blonde lady who I never talk about, (Naomi Lapaglia in Wolf of Wall Street is my pick for sexiest femme in a film, but that's a discussion for another day), as Harley Quinn!!!

However, trepidation crept in when I heard it got rated PG-13 by the MPAA. The whole premise of the movie is that these are villains using their villainous skills to save the world, and in doing so employing all manner of unorthodox methods (and by unorthodox I mean shady) and I struggled to see DC Comics' full adult vision with such a candyfloss, albeit, lucrative rating.

Furthermore, as someone who is all too familiar with having countless 12A films almost ruined for me due to boisterous kids in the crowd (watching Ghostbusters on Saturday a shining example of this, some of the eight year olds cheered every time they saw a ghost! Given that the film is called 'Ghostbusters', I don't think I need to highlight that it occurred. A lot.), I was not looking forward to sharing my viewing experience of Suicide Squad with kids. And having it bastardised by them.

Thankfully, I won't need to!!!! The BBFC have slapped a 15 certificate on Suicide Squad, and a 15 over here means only 15 year olds and above will be let in. If some baby-faced 13 year old tries it, they'll be ID'd, and promptly shown the door.

The 15 certificate was given for 'sustained threat, moderate violence'. Compare that to Deadpool, another 15-rated comic book adaptation released this year's BBFC short insight: 'strong language, strong bloody violence, strong sex references', and it's safe to say that Suicide Squad will sit at the lower end of a 15, particularly given that in the majority of cases, PG-13 aligns to a 12A over here.

But a 15 is a 15 is a 15, and it means I get to watch a talented ensemble cast (and Cara Delevingne. #IWentThere) kicking ass all over the place, without snot-nosed kids contaminating the audience!

Suicide Squad is released in the UK on August 5th.


(The level of nerdy will now escalate, you have been warned!)


For the film trivia collectors, of which, I am of course one (heck, it's the only round in Trivial Pursuit where I ever get any points!!), Suicide Squad being awarded a 15 by the BBFC and a PG-13 in the States might be the most high-profile case of the two film certification boards mismatching.

Whilst, as mentioned previously, most PG-13s get their equivalent here, the 12A, differences in opinion aren't uncommon. A few recent movies that got PG-13 in the States and a 15 here include the Blake Lively shark movie The Shallows, as well as Nerve, and Mustang.

In fact, most upper-end PG-13 rated horror movies receive 15 here, mainly due the the threat being judged to be too intense for a 12A-rated horror movie. It's interesting that 'sustained threat' was the defining factor for Suicide Squad's 15 rating.

Up until now, The Sixth Sense is probably the most 'famous' film I can think of that got 15 here and PG-13 in the States. But, as I said, horror movies getting different ratings in Britain and America are not that unusual.

I'm calling it: Suicide Squad is the most high-profile case of a disparity in ratings between the MPAA and the BBFC. But I love it. Not just because it means I avoid my biggest fear (whiny pests), but because it shows the BBFC are capable of independent thought, and don't just mirror their American counterparts robotically.

Finally, in Suicide Squad, the Joker features. Heath Ledger portrayed this character in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, with disturbing menace, so much so that he posthumously won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

He was so good, so convincingly scary, that it caused The Dark Knight to become the BBFC's most complained about film of all time: 364 expressions of dissatisfaction were filed, mainly from parents complaining about how frightened their kids had been by The Joker.

Although I never wrote in, this is a phenomena I saw firsthand: my entire family (me, my mum, my dad and my brother who was ten at the time) watched it at a Butlins cinema. During three scenes: the pencil scene, when Ledger held Maggie Gyllenhaal hostage, and Aaron Eckhart's burnt face, my brother was so afraid he hid his face in my arm to avert his gaze.

(This is now super-ironic because these days, I force my 18-year-old brother to watch films that I'm too chicken to alone with me, such as the Hollywood re-make of OldBoy. Although let's be real, the scariest thing about the remake was Sharlto Copley's acting. #IWentThereAgain.)

In Suicide Squad, the Joker will be portrayed by Jared Leto, who, like Ledger, has won an Academy Award for BSA (I thought Jonah Hill should have won that year, but, of course I'd say that as he played my Spirit Animal). From the trailer, his green hair, white face and bared decaying teeth indicate that he is no less sinister than Ledger's portrayal of the same character.

Given how much headache The Dark Knight caused the BBFC, I wonder if this played on their mind when they were eenie meenie minie mo'ing over that 12A vs 15 decision.