Sunday, July 31, 2016

My 10 Favourite Performances in an 18-Rated Movie.

I watched The Canyons this week, a Kickstarter-funded movie about the sexual jealousy and betrayal between a hedonistic movie producer and his glamorous girlfriend (Lindsay Lohan). The fact that the film was low-budget was apparent in the shoddy production value, lazy script and daytime TV-esque performances, but Lindsay Lohan was genuinely brilliant, even more so if you consider she had to deliver laughably bad lines and make them plausible. The high quality of her performance jarred with everything else about the film, which was extremely cheap and trashy, but at least it inspired me to do another list: favourite 18-rated performances.

Certain directors seem to be drawn to darker content than others, so it's no surprise that this list features multiple entries from films from three directors: two Fincher-directed performances (both fierce women who like a bit of revenge), two Quentin Tarantino-directed performances, and three Martin Scorsese directed-performances. But not the two seminal Robert de Niro turns (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) that you might expect to see.

Very honourable mentions: Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves, Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York, Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1  and Pulp Fiction, Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet (another spirit animal of mine. I jest. Or do I?), Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons, Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Colour, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Depahted, Dominique Swain in Lolita and Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street (heard he gets his penis out in a pool party scene or something).

10. Ray Liotta, Goodfellas
1990. director: Martin Scorsese. Rated 18 for strong violence.

09. Bel Powley, Diary of a Teenage Girl
2015. director: Marielle Heller. Rated 18 for strong sex.

08. Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
2011. director: David Fincher. Rated 18 for strong sexual violence and sex.

07. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street 
2013. director: Martin Scorsese. Rated 18 for very strong language, strong sex and hard drug use.

06. Sharon Stone, Casino
1995. director: Martin Scorsese. Rated 18 for strong violence. Not like a Scorsese film to have strong violence, now is it?

05. Mélanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
2009. director: Quentin Tarantino. Rated 18 for strong bloody violence.
I idolised her back in 2010, and I still idolise her now. Au revoir, Shoshanna!

04. Michael Madsen, Reservoir Dogs
1992. director: Quentin Tarantino. Rated 18 for strong bloody violence, torture, strong language & sex references 

03. Kevin Spacey, American Beauty
1999. director: Sam Mendes. Rated 18 for strong language, once very strong, strong sex, violence & drug use 
It's interesting I had Dominque Swain as Dolores 'Lolita' Haze in my honourable mentions list, for this film, one of my top 15 of all-time, has heavy Lolita overtones running throughout. Even Kevin Spacey's character's name, Lester Burnham, is an anagram of 'Humbert Learns'.

And the top two, which was an absolute no-brainer...

02. Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Colour
2013.  director: Abdellatif Kechiche. Rated 18 for strong sex and very strong language.

01. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
2014. director: David Fincher. Rated 18 for strong bloody violence and very strong language.
Surprise!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Film review: SHALLOW GRAVE (Danny Boyle, 1994)

I saw this title at the Prince Charles Cinema as part of their Summer celebrating 35 mm film. In a luxurious cinema with plush velvet curtains, there couldn't be a better way for movie buffs to spend their evening. The schedule runs until August 20th, so make sure you check out the itinerary! 

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The lesser known of Danny Boyle's Scotland-set 90s collaborations with Ewan McGregor, Shallow Grave tells the story of three housemates, the mischievous duo of a doctor, Juliet (Kerry Fox) and a reporter, Alex (Ewan McGregor), and the more by-the-book accountant David (Christopher Eccleston, as un-Doctor Who'ish as you could possibly imagine). They recruit a fourth housemate who, overnight, is found dead from a drug OD. He also happens to have left behind a suitcase full of money, and the housemates decide to dispose of his body and keep the cash for themselves.


A Kafkaesque nightmare ensues as they find themselves interrogated by probing police, targeted by an unsavoury pair of henchmen who want to know where the money went, and, as a result, the paranoia and distrust between the three escalates. David, in particular, undergoes a character transformation in their precarious circumstances, changing from a meek white collar worker to a ruthless Machiavelli with a penchant for using his hammer.

The tension is wonderfully accentuated by a sparse but effective score from Simon Boswell, with discordant piano keys mirroring the audience's growing sense of discomfort. Yet, at the same time, Shallow Grave also offers levity; when arguing over who should cut up the corps, Alex says to Juliet, 'you're a doctor, you kill people everyday!'.

As the three leads find themselves in increasingly dire straits, the bond between them is stretched thinner and thinner, which potentiates David's magnetic transition from mouse into man. McGregor and Fox are very good, but Eccleston is brilliant, those owl-like eyes peering up from his tortoiseshell glasses throughout, in a sinister, wicked, yet utterly enjoyable morality tale about dishonour among thieves. 

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.

4/10

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!

Tuesday
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.

Friday


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.

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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.

8/10

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.

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

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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.

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: ZOOTOPIA



I've been a long-time reader and admirer of Nathaniel's Hit Me With Your Best Shot series over at every film fan's Bible, The Film Experience, devouring all the entries from afar. The premise is simple: each week, a set movie is decided, and film bloggers present their favourite shot in the film, with their justification.

I thought I'd make like the protagonist Judy Hopps from this week's target, Zootopia, and take a step out of my comfort zone. Rather than just reading the articles, I thought I'd contribute with my entry, about my favourite scenes in Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush's fabulous Disney cartoon, which remains, at my time of writing, my favourite 2016 cinematic release.

Because I have a lot of feels about this masterwork, I'll list not one, but five scenes, in descending order, just so I get to ramble on about Zootopia for longer. ❤️

SPOILERS FOLLOW, so don't read if you haven't seen Zootopia yet!!

Five: pirate DVDs

The pirate DVD scene tickled me for many reasons, mainly because I love allusions to other movies, trivia and Easter eggs, and this scene contained them aplenty. The bootleg DVDs that the shady Duke Weaselton is trying to flog are all plays on Disney movies, past and present: Pig Hero 6 (Big Hero 6), Wrangled (Tangled), Wreck-It Rhino (Wreck-It Ralph), and three upcoming movies: Mewana (Moana), Giraffic (Gigantic) and Floatzen 2 (Frozen 2).

Personally, I could not get enough of the Frozen allusions in Zootopia, and howled when cynical Chief Bogo at the ZPD tells Judy to "let it go". The knowing film and pop culture references littered throughout Zootopia really were a welcome treat!

In fact, even Duke Weaselton's name is a play on a  character name from a previous Disney movie: the Duke of Weselton in Frozen. In a savvy bout of voice-casting, Alan Tudyk does the voice of both characters.

Four: now you're just milking it
Although Zootopia is Disney, and with Disney, I generally know to expect a reassuring outcome, I must admit they had me fooled briefly in this scene. The way Nick's fangs were bared and the malevolence in his green eyes, not to mention the apparent terror in Judy's eyes, made me think for a second he had genuinely turned wild and really was going to eat her.

But, fortunately, in a nod to the first scene of the film, where Judy as a child had put on a play extolling her well-intentioned but naive belief that any animal could be anything they wanted, the fox and the bunny were just acting. Our hero remained intact.

Three: Gideon's Redemption



This scene played well because of the resolution it offered something that had occurred at the start: in one of the film's few distressing scenes, child!Judy had been scratched by a school ground bully, a fox by the name of Gideon Grey. The way Gideon was drawn, clothed and voiced gave the impression he was an anthropomorphic version of the 'hillbilly' trope. Judy had felt the brunt of his claws because she had stepped in when her helpless friends had their tickets stolen by him. Gideon, having earlier been embarrassed publicly by Judy at the school play, obviously felt bad blood towards her, and decided to teach her a lesson.

In the scratching scene, the actual scratch was masked, but, as with another Disney movie Tangled, when the witch stabs Flynn below the screen, sometimes it's what you don't see that is even more haunting. Here, you just saw Gideon pounce at Judy, him swiping at something, and then two savage scratch marks. Surprisingly intense for Disney.

Fast forward 15 years, and Gideon has learnt the error of his ways. He's doing well for himself, as one of the top pastry chefs in the tri-burrows and even partners up with Judy's parents. He seeks out his one-time prey, explaining that he had 'a lot of self doubt, that manifested itself in unchecked rage and aggression', offering personally baked goodness as a peace offering.

I like this scene a lot, for two reasons. Firstly, it gives Judy some closure for a fairly traumatic experience that occurred at the start of the film. I felt better knowing she had received a genuine apology. And secondly, Gideon's seemingly simple ramblings about 'night howlers' offer our heroine, when she seems to be at pit bottom, a revelation that reignites her sleuth senses, just when she was all ready to give up on her dream of being a police officer. This story arc both propels the plot along, and accentuates the film's overarching message: that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and anyone, no matter what shape or size, can achieve anything.

Two: Don't Know When to Quit

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The aforementioned scratching scene did offer one ray of light: despite Judy getting wounded, she achieved what she came for: recovering her friends' tickets. This illustrates her resourcefulness and never-say-die spirit that may infuriate jaded co-workers, but makes her a tremendous heroine and a character female Disney fans can really look up to, regardless of species.

Judy's determination and grit in the face of man other characters who instantly judge her to be too small, too cute, too weak to be a police officer, carry her throughout the movie. Along with Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters, she represents my choice for #MovieCharacterGoalz of 2016.

One: Dumb Bunny
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2016 is the year of the Odd Couples solving mysteries. In The Nice Guys, Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe must put personality differences aside to investigate a missing actress. In Central Intelligence, big Dwayne Johnson and little Kevin Hart have to retrieve a USB stick. In Grimsby, sloppy Sacha Baron Cohen and slick Mark Strong have to team up to save the world. I could go on (I mean, Kevin Hart's been in two odd couple movies this year alone).

In each of these cases, I have enjoyed the chemistry in the duos, and the way the characters play off each other; how they go from hating to loving each other. But this dynamic works the best between Judy and Nick in Zootopia.

The two get off on a ropey start, when Nick cons Judy into paying for a giant ice lolly which he later repackages and sells to others for profit. Things get worse before they get better, when she, playing the cunning fox at his own game, entraps him into helping her on a case, which she is desperate to crack, to prove her worth as a bonafide cop.

Gradually, over the process of cracking the case, the two build a rapport. Then rapport turns to trust, as Nick confides in Judy about why it is that he's so crusty (the flashback sequence in which this occurs was even more upsetting than the scratching scene; I'm not ashamed to say I cried). But Judy, in all her well-intentioned loquaciousness, dubs predators as 'primitive savages' at a press conference,  in doing so, revealing some subconscious prejudices of her own. Their friendship is shattered as a result.

In this scene above, Judy begs for Nick's forgiveness.  Ginnifer Goodwin, who delivers some exceptional voice-acting in this movie, really shines in this scene, delivering a monologue embedded with regret, sorrow and pathos. Jason Bateman, equally as good, imbues Nick with good-natured cheekiness and playfulness.

I mentioned that Judy was a great role model for girls, and I think the fact that she isn't infallible, and committed this mistake, makes her more appeasing. Because like Judy, humans, too, are flawed. We all make mistakes, some of them colossal. Nick recognises this, and forgives her. But not before a bit of payback: recording her admitting that she 'really is just a dumb bunny'.

The shot above encapsulates everything about Judy and Nick's friendship that made Zootopia such a delightful movie. They bicker, they banter, but they've always got each others' backs. 🐺🐰

Monday, July 18, 2016

Outfit of the Day: Cowboy Chic.


Shirt: Hollister
Shorts: Oasis
Hoodie: GAP
Glasses: Twiggy for Aurora


Trainers: Adidas

It's possible I may play with my hair a bit too much. #DatNarcissism

Bonus photo: elegance in motion. Ahem.



I don't think the hottest cowboy of all time, aka Leonardo DiCaprio in The Quick and the Dead, needs to worry about a competitor to his title, haha

ohai!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Film review: THE NEON DEMON (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)

I gots my Odeon Limitless card!~~~~ Having shelled out £232 for a next-to-useless Cineworld Unlimited card for 2015-2016, I won't be suffering fools gladly in terms of movie cards, so if there are any glitches, I will definitely document them on my blog. I christened my Odeon card with Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon).



Jesse (Elle Fanning), a wide-eyed, virginal 16-year-old from small-town America, uproots to Los Angeles in the hope of becoming a model. Immediately, heads are turned by her. Ruthless modelling scout Christina Hendricks signs her up straight away, telling Jesse to fib about her age so she can get work. Make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone) develops a soft spot for Jesse, wanting to take her under her wing. And two competing models, both blonde and gazelle-limbed like Jesse, but lacking her youthful naiveté, Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee Kershaw) smell blood. Literally.

I was anything but a fan of Nicolas Winding Refn's 2011 snorefest, Drive, and alarm bells rang when the title credits evoked the neon lights and electro-soundtrack of said film, particularly as, in a distinctively masturbatory flourish, the director's initials were emblazened across the entire sequence. It was almost like NWR was staking a claim on his ponderous self-indulgence; owning it. And indeed, many of the scenes in The Neon Demon look like extended shoots for some quirky music video. A beautifully shot, meticulously-directed music video, but a music video nonetheless. Chief examples that come to mind are a red-hued scene in which Jesse goes on some kind of ego trip, kissing her reflection repeatedly, as well as the film's unsettling open sequence, when our pretty lead is shot with make-up blood applied convincingly around her neck.

NWR's licentious directing style would detract from a good story at the best of times. But The Neon Demon doesn't even boast that. It is a film that tries to do too much: both a Icarus-type tale of Jesse's vanity getting the better of her, mixed with some casual cannibalism amongst models and a whole flock of unsavoury characters, not least Jesse's motel-owner, a super-pervy Keanu Reeves. In trying to do too much, it doesn't succeed at any of its objectives, other than some cheap shocks. The dialogue between characters is implausible and downright laughable at times, and Jesse's sudden modulation from an innocent sweet girl to a malicious megalomaniac, is contrived, to say the least. You have to completely suspend your belief to get on with The Neon Demon; I lost count of the plot holes I encountered.

Fortunately, the actors aren't quite as immersed in their own egos as Jesse and NWR are. Elle Fanning, who impressed me very early on, in 2010's Somewhere, continues her hot streak here. She really does the best she can with an under-written character and tries to inject some humanity into Jesse. At the start of the film, she's an artless, naive kid who just wants to get some modelling gigs. By the
end, the audience finds her self-awareness at her beauty, and the power it brings her over everyone, insufferable. It is a testament to Fanning's charisma and screen presence that she can convey this personality transition so well.

One element that she is let down by, however, and again, this is an issue with the artificial script rather than her acting performance, is that Jesse repeatedly declares how gorgeous she is, and others echo this sentiment. Whilst Elle Fanning is indisputably a very attractive girl, with big blue eyes and rosebud lips, she isn't better looking than Mad Max's Abbey Lee Kershaw, or Dark Shadow's Bella Heathcote, two model-come-actresses who are truly supermodels in the full sense of the word, and got to where they are through graft and natural beauty unlike Kendull Jenner who got there through nepotism. This greatly underscores any supposed envy they're meant to feel for this bright new upstart. So when Sarah asks Jesse, in a voice full of genuine longing, 'how does it feel to walk into the room and know you're the Sunshine?', when Sarah looks like this (see below), the dialogue just doesn't ring true.


The MVP of The Neon Demon for me, was Jena Malone as Ruby, who's dedication to her role truly cannot be faulted. Unlike competitor models, Ruby doesn't thrive in Jesse's downfall, so when she looks out for her, you believe Ruby's compassion to be legitimate. But under the veneer of Ruby's friendliness, Malone tantalises with a hint of moral ambiguity. There is one scene in The Neon Demon (probably the main contributor to its well-earnt 18 certificate) wherein Ruby carries out an aberrant act, and I can think of countless actresses, less established than Malone, who would have told NWR to get stuffed. It was an aversive scene to watch; it must have been infinitely more difficult to film. But Jena Malone, as she does in all her roles, performs with both professionally and convincingly. I cannot give her enough kudos for that. If she can do wonders with such a shoddy script, just imagine what Malone could do with a semi-decent one.

Similarly, Lee and Heathcote aren't employed as just good-looking clothes-hangers in this film. They, too, have their share of unappetising acting work to do, tasks that you wouldn't ordinarily expect women this beautiful to have to do. The fact that they not only did them, but acted well (a rarity for former models in films; I still have nightmares when I think about Cara Delevingne's acting [if you can call it that] in Paper Towns), indicates to me that these two Venuses have promising film careers ahead.

And because it was so utterly nonsensical, The Neon Demon didn't prove to be quite the enjoyable trash I'd been hoping. The savage imagery was bad enough. But I could have made allowances for that if the film had carried some semblance of a script, which it didn't. But to the movie's credit, I found it a hell of a lot more arresting than Drive, and that was mainly due to the strong work from the film's three blondes, and especially Jena Malone. Give that girl a decent script, stat!!


5/10

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Star Trek mural, is it?


RESTAURANT REVIEW: The Savoy Grill (Strand)



For my birthday back in April, I treated myself to a meal at Gordon Ramsey’s The Savoy Grill. It was quite a pricey dining experience, but I’d heard that my personal heroes Marlon Brando and Marylin Monroe liked to frequent this place, and if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me. On a superficial level, The Savoy features a pretty classy clientele and I wanted to give my brand new Michael Kors handbag an outing, and you only turn 26 once!

My eye was immediately drawn to the Grills from the Wood Charcoal Oven, in the end opting for the Hereford beef sirloin steak, with a side of mashed potatoes and mixed lettuce and spring onion salad. I selected béarnaise as the sauce. It was all scrumptious – I completely abandoned by (already barely there) table manners and wolfed it down in less than ten minutes. Of all the steaks I've tasted in London, the one I had in The Savoy Grill is second only to Hawksmoor.

It wasn’t just the food that was good. Savoy Grill also featured an eye-watering drinks menu, with wines from Bordeaux, Rhone, Burgundy, Loire, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia and more. And there was a real range in prices, from £60 bottles of wine to £2000 ones. In the end, I ordered a bottle of Latinamerican red wine and it complemented my red meat dish perfectly.

At The Savoy Grill, the waiters were much more attentive than at your typical restaurant, taking the time to get to know you and talk you through the options on the menu to gauge the perfect dish for you. Were I ever to come back, I would quite fancy the lobster which I eyeballed on a few fellow diners' tables and looked immense.

As amazing as it was to feel Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX for my birthday, The Savoy Grill was too much of an extravagance to visit other than for very special occasions. Such was the decadence, in fact, that the washroom featured cotton towels instead of paper ones! Here’s an oblig mirror selfie I had to take because it’ll be a long time before I go to such a posh place!

Grade: A-


Told you the washrooms were posh!



RESTAURANT REVIEW: Andrew Edmunds (Soho)

The last time I dined in a European/British restaurant in Soho was in March, when, following a good first impression from 10 Greek Street, I went there again. The second time round, I had the massive beef dish to share, and as with the duck sharer, it was fantastic. As 10 Greek Street fared so well both times, I thought favourably of traditional, quaint-looking restaurants in Soho, and decided to sample the cuisine of Andrew Edmunds.

The whole dining experience did not disappoint. As with 10 Greek Street, the menu changes on a daily basis, and is written on blackboards on the walls. Once I deciphered the practically illegible handwriting (one of my few gripes with Andrew Edmunds), I opted for this deliciously soft cheese which was so light it almost melts in your mouth. It was absolutely delicious, and if, in the vicinity of £8, a little overpriced for what it was, just justify it to yourself by saying that you deserve a treat now and then!

This was the same logic I followed for the main, wherein I chose the scallop risotto. Here it is, and yes, it did taste as delicious as it looked:

Although the portion was a little on the miserly side (I could have easily devoured twice the amount that was offered to me, but I do concede that part of the art of tantalising a food blogger's taste buds is to ensure that they're left wanting more, so I would whine too much about that), but the flavour was wonderfully rich, and somehow, the chefs managed to make asparagus a sexy ingredient. That takes some doing. The blend of the rice and the fish were perfect, and unlike many a seafood dish I've had in London, I could tell that scallops were of high quality, rather than just leftover supermarket stock. (naming no names. Ahem).

Factor in a fine collection of wines (no Sainsbury's wine being flogged here), and all in all, Andrew Edmunds made for a thoroughly fulfilling Saturday evening post-concert dining experience. If the managers of the restaurant could find a way to digitise the daily menus, or, even simpler, employ someone other than that person who attended one calligraphy class they bought on Groupon and are desperate to exhibit the ‘skills’ they acquired in that seminar, and just up the portion sizes a tiny bit, then the place would be even better.

Grade: A-


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Second trip to 10 Greek Street



By far, one of the best dishes I've ever eaten in my entire life. I'm bumping 10 Greek Street's grade up from B+ to A.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Brief review of two Twinnings tea flavours.


The strawberry and mango tea was a little too pungent for my tastes (6/10), but the raspberry, strawberry & loganberry was more palatable (7.5/10). I particularly enjoyed the addition of that third ingredient - it gave the tea a moreish kick.

A pretty sick pizza.


The staple of this was just a margarita pizza, with greens and sweet-and-sour chicken bought separately and applied on. Tasted a dream, especially dipped in salsa sauce!