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Birthday parties are a tricky business. As an auto-pilot anxious type, I love them in theory but then suffer from crippling nerve rattles as the event arrives. I worry that no one will come, that they will come and it will be awkward, that no one will mingle, that the drinks will be too expensive, that the music won’t work, basically every scenario from a bit crummy to nightmare un-recoverable-from embarrassment. I got around this issue by having a joint party with some fellow May-babies for a few years and that helped take the pressure off. That birthday ship has now sailed, so last year I had a solo affair. Wow, could you tell I was a party rookie! I planned it on a Friday night; so everyone was tired from a tough work week and drop outs were rife. Then I didn’t have any dinner. Then I met everyone in a Mexican bar, didn’t eat ANY dinner, and accepted every shot of tequila my generous guests (and strangers) offered me. After probably an hour I was too drunk to stand up and ended the night at about midnight being forced, in a manner similar to how police put robbers in their cop car, into a taxi by Nick. It was such a waste! I had fun, but I could barely remember being there and then felt so horrific and sorry for myself the next day that even looking at cake or wrapping paper made me feel queasy.

Not this year! Surely being the grand old age of 29 is all about learning from your mistakes and this year I was determined to make it my best party ever. My birthday was also on a Saturday which is a precious, rare gift in itself! I was lucky enough to have my brother come to stay from Yorkshire (he hasn’t visited in 5 years!), my friend Manda visisted from Cheltenham (via Paris & Yorkshire) and my best friend & her husband train-ed over from Stoke. Before I even talk about the glorious theme, you’ll be relieved to hear that I stuck to 3 key rules to avoid birthday disaster:

  • Eat dinner: Prior to partying we stuffed our faces at the glorious Chicken Shop where they even put candles in a brownie and sang happy birthday to me!
  • Stick to one genre of drink: I only accepted Vodka, Lime & Soda’s all night. I didn’t veer from this one choice. It was both refreshing and merry making.
  • NO SHOTS FOR GOODNESS SAKE! (I might have had one tequila at Aces & Eights Saloon Bar at 1am to congratulate myself on not being too drunk)

Suzy & Sam

Wes Anderson is my second favourite director (David Lynch clinches #1, sure Wes would totes understand) and I’ve wanted to have a Wes Anderson theme party for a VERY long time but worried it would be slightly obscure. Then the exquisite Moonrise Kingdom came out in 2012 and I felt more confident that people might have heard of him and be up for the challenge. I knew instantly that I’d go as Suzy Bishop because she is a) my new fashion icon and b) I already had most of the clothes. The only thing I had to do was sew cuff/collars to a 60s vintage dress that was sitting unloved in my wardrobe, and I bought a special pair of green (real!) stag beetle earrings from this lovely lady on Etsy. Nick was a trooper and rather than go for someone cool and manly out of The Darjeeling Limited (his favourite) he agreed to wear a questionable fur hat and be the Sam to my Suzy. I bought a £4 khaki shirt from Primark and sewed some vintage scout badges all over it. I also sewed on a felt badger that is actually from a brooch Nick bought for me in the first week we met, when he was off galavanting at End of the Road festival and I was pining away. I think we did a pretty accurate job?

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I was so touched by the effort all my friends went to in order to make my birthday perfect. The costumes they cracked out must have taken days and weeks of preparation and so much thought and care. I got so choked up being stood in a room surrounded by my favourite people all dressed as characters I love so dearly. For the party I hired the upstairs of our absolute favourite local boozer; The Pineapple. If you live in London (or ever visit London) you have to visit this quaint little slice of Kentish Town brilliance. The pub is so kitsch, with pineapples adorning the inside, a conservatory room, tropical bird wallpaper and excellent ales / Thai food. I felt it was important I had a location that Wes himself would approve of; and the old fashioned lantern lamps, open fire, dusty couches and gaping windows were perfect. We also had a sweet little sound system set up, which my brother & Nick’s brother Phil happily took over with some impressive playlists. From the Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack to The Walkmen to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky over and over, there were a lot of drunken Eli-Cash swaying dance moves going on by last orders.

& Here’s a run down of the costumes in all their glory…

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Suzy Bishop (Moonrise Kingdom) & Dignan (Bottle Rocket)

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Richie & Margot Tenenbaum – Number 1 (The Royal Tenenbaums)

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Richie & Margot Tenenbaum – Number 2 (The Royal Tenenbaums)

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Team Tenenbaum

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Dudley (The Royal Tenenbaums)

Team Zissou

Team Zissou (The Life Aquatic)

Bird

Suzy Bishop in bird form “What kind of bird are you?” (Moonrise Kingdom)

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Sam Shakusky (Moonrise Kingdom) & Francis (The Darjeeling Limited)

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Richie Tenenbaum & Eli Cash (The Royal Tenenbaums)

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Max Fischer x 2 (Rushmore)

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Richie Tenenbaum (The Royal Tenenbaums) & Suzy Bishop (Moonrise Kingdom)

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Mr & Mrs Fox x 2 (Fantastic Mr. Fox)

It was only right that we gather together for an en masse Westastic group photo, and in-line with his cinematography movie-poster style, dead pan faces all round! Which on reflection makes it look like we were at the worst party ever.

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The best thing was the variety of films & characters my clever friends managed to cover. EVERY single Wes Anderson film was represented. After partying until we got booted out of The Pineapple, the hardcore Wes-dressed hit Aces & Eights Saloon Bar for some power ballads and amaretto sours. An unexpected amount of people came over throughout the course of the night yelling WES ANDERSON at us and it stirred up alot of excitement. It was surprising how many people recognised what the theme was, especially as by the post-midnight point various bits of costume had been lost/stolen/abandoned. I would love to relive the night over and over, and might just force everyone to dress like this every year. I like to think I’m the only person to ever have this theme for a party? Next time I’ll dress a Wes himself…

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When I received an invite to attend the premier of House Party of the Dead 6, I wondered what the evening would consist of. A quick clatter of keys into google and the words zombie movie, zombie burlesque, zombie make up and zombie rock bands jumped out at me and it was an easy sell. Armed with my (very wholesome, non gorey) friend Ross we stomped through the frosty streets of Camden to the Purple Turtle not too sure what lay aheady. I did however wear my Braaains! necklace in preperation.

[Poster by Paul McGrath]

Purple Turtle is one of those loveable sticky floored, grungey, dark venues; and probably the only place in London you can buy a round for under a fiver! Upon arrival I couldn’t see many of the undead amongst us. I then turned round from my waiting spot at the bar to come face to face with this…

[Photo c/o Chris Nathans]

The top floor of the venue was dedicated to a very talented make-up team, armed with the skills to give all attendees gaping neck wounds, bleeding eyes and oozing bites. All the best zombie traits! There was some brilliant music, a hot zombified burlesque dancer and then of course, the highlight… the movie.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film from start to finish. It ticked EVERY box of a classic B movie zombie stunner – grizzly gore, guts, frights, hot girls in their underwear and amongst the horror, ALOT of laughs. All jampacked into 15 minutes, which is not easily done. The characters were well scripted and well executed; all the acting was fantastic and the studenty house gave a unique and original base for the reaction to a zombie apocolypse. I was left wanting more, which is always a good thing. The production value looked up there with any famous Zombie flick (if not glossier actually!) and I have to applaud Andy and all the cast/crew involved. What a treat! It got my non-zombie heart a flutter! You can check the Teaser Trailer Here!

To give you some background on the film and how it even came to exist, I interviewed the charming braaaains (geddit!) behind the project, Andy Edwards.

Tell me a bit about you please Andy…
I’m not particularly interesting really. I’m a filmmaker from Birmingham, who’s now living in London and attempting to make it in the world of films. Until recently I was making films as more of a hobby around my day job – but I was made redundant from my day job a year or so ago so now I’m trying to use the fact I have much more free time on my hands to good use and really go for it. Obviously it also means I don’t have any money, but the role of impoverished, struggling filmmaker kind of suits me.

What is the history of the movie?
Houseparty of the Dead started off 3 years ago, with a short film shot in my flat in Kentish Town. It featured a bunch of my mates, was shot in an afternoon, and the zombies were made up with red paint, glue and cornflakes by my mate Rob Leese-Jones, who has since gone on to be co-producer on most of the shorts, and even directed part 4. It was only intended to be a one-off, but everyone enjoyed it so much that a sequel was pretty much demanded, and its grown from there. With each one I’ve tried to up the production values, and with part 6 we had professional actors & make-up, and over 50 zombie extras.

[Photos c/o Adrienne Cooper]

How did you cast HPOTD6?
Glad you appreciated the acting, as that was one of the things I was making a conscious effort to improve for this one. Until part 6, all of the actors had been friends or friends of friends. Some of whom were actors, or had some experience, but the majority weren’t. Everybody who’s been in one of my films has done an amazing job, but for this one I wanted to try and work with all professional actors. A few of the actors I knew, but most were recruited through a casting website, and we borrowed the basement of a pub for 2 days and did auditions. We had such a good response that we even had to do call-back auditions for the lead female roles to decide between some very talented actresses. It’s when you’re asking two attractive actresses to practice a kissing scene in an audition that you know you’ve picked the right career! As the roles were unpaid we had a few last minute changes of actors, but I couldn’t be happier with the cast that we got, and the decision to cast professionals really paid off.

As for extras – we’ve never had a shortage of willing volunteers to be zombified and create a zombie army – helped by the fact that we actively encourage them to get drunk during the shoot. This not only keeps them happy during what could be a long period of waiting around, but also aids their performances as zombies

What’s next for the movie?
There’s a few tweaks that need to be made, and then the movie will be available online, and also sent out to as many film festivals as will show it. We were also filmed during the making of the film, by a TV crew from Sky One for a reality TV show which should be airing some time in the new year. Who knows what they’ll make of us in the edit, but it should get us plenty of publicity at least! As for the Houseparty of the Dead as a “franchise”, the next step is a feature film. I’m currently writing the script, and we’re looking for funding.

What’s your alltime favourite zombie movie, other than HOTD6 ;]?
I’m a big fan of the 2 recent British movies, which of course revived the zombie genre in very different ways, 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. But for all-time favourites, it’s between Romero’s Dawn of the Dead or Zombie Flesh Eaters – mainly because a zombie fights a shark. And its a real shark.

Talk to me about your decision to make your zombies fast moving modern ones, over slow dumb lurchy Romero ones!
I’ve actually got both kinds in Houseparty of the Dead. Up until part 5, they were all the slow kind, but from part 5 onwards I’ve started introducing a few fast ones into the mix. Partly its for dramatic reasons – if you have a large number then its best to have them all slow, but singular zombies are scarier if they’re quicker. Also, to try and introduce some kind of logic to the zombie transformation process. In most zombie films, the time from bite to full infection is entirely arbitrary – it’s whatever has the most dramatic impact, whether that be an instant transformation or a slow 3 day process. In the HPOTD world, slow zombie bites infect you slowly, fast zombie bites can be much quicker.
Also, the two “breeds” hate each other – the final war will not be fought between humans and zombies, but fast zombies and slow zombies….

Thanks Andy for taking the time to answer my questions and all I can say is that I wish I was secretly sitting on wads of cash that I could hand over to help with the feature film, as I fully believe in the premise and production. Britain used to be a key player in the world of zombie movies in the wake of Plague Of The Zombies and we’ve seen a frutratingly slow return to this state in the last decade, but I think HPOTD could be just to ticket for a 2010’s zombie cinema invasion! Good luck guys!

To keep an eye on their progress and details on when the movie is online for viewing, join the Facebook Group and keep em peeled to the Official Website.

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I watched a great movie recently, so thought I’d share as it’s one that by DVD box alone you might pass over as a load of American teen angsty mush in which Michael Cera plays the exact same character he does in every movie ever! (Despite this massive flaw, I have to say he is still up there on my number one crushes list. Is that legal? Am I old enough to be anyone famous’ mum yet? Probably not, so probably ok…) 

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist takes place in the neon, bustling New York underground indie scene as Nick (recently dumped dorky bass player) meets Norah (insecure daughter of a mega music producer) and through a series of coincidences they end up spending a sleepless night hunting for their favourite obscure bands secret show.

If you like a lot of action in your movies… well, this is the anti-action movie. As in, well, NOTHING happens. But, don’t let that put you off! It’s quirky, it’s very sweet (without being saccharine Dear John nauseous) (I haven’t seen Dear John; but the movie poster was enough for me to make this judgement!) and it is so absolutely accurate in it’s portrayal of awkward blossoming teen romances. 

Nick and Norah bond over a love of epic mix tapes and we all know how much I support mixtapes! From there they have to battle a series of obstacles such as wailing drunk best friends, broken down vans, band mates’ practical jokes going wrong and bumping into evil exes. The acting and chemistry is spot-on because it will have you daydreaming about times when nothing mattered except what gig you were going to after college, whether the colour of nail varnish you were wearing was grungy enough and how to get your drunken friend home without arousing suspicious parents!

Also, at that age, dating is tough and I’m sure everyone has had one of those nights where you meet someone you think absolutely rocks your world and therefore do not want to leave, but run out of places to go and things to do as you still live with your parents, so end up wandering aimlessly just happy to be chatting and finding out 101 things you have in common. Ah! Young love, this movie will definitely warm your heart and make you gaze wistfully for a few days as you download your teen anthem tracks (hello Silverchair and Sublime for me!)

Oh and as the name alludes, the soundtrack is pretty A+ too!

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When it comes to this film, I was a complete idiot. I let my phobia of internet-order dolls (ew!) allow me to write it off as something that was probably, definitely,  not enjoy one bit. Add to this fact that until now Ryan Gosling had left me feeling a bit queasy (see: The Notebook) and it slid off the radar. Then my partner in Lovefilm crime added it to our list and it plopped onto my doormat and into the DVD player and WOW.

I think it is instantly in my top 10 films (don’t ask me for the other 9, or you will still be listening to me bleating on while your hair is slowly turning grey and skin wrinkling) so I just wanted to encourage you to get it on your amazon wishlist if you haven’t seen it yet.

The real miracle of this movie is how on earth do you make a film about a life-sized love doll, ordered from a shady internet sex site, into a life-affirming statement of promise and hope that all is good in the world?!  I think the answer is that the film is completely sincere, which is just so rare nowadays. The entire cast are incredibly believable and quickly you feel almost part of the community in the small mid-west American town – faced with the same questions and initial fears which slowly dissolve with the story as you get to know the character of Lars. It is definitely a film that haunts you long after the credits roll, pestering you to question your attitudes and judgements. Other amazing things about the movie are: Ryan Goslings wardobe! Hot! Ski jackets, cords, gaudy knitted jumpers and bad moustache are the best.

I don’t know if the director is perhaps a fan of this film, but the concept and scenario reminded me of Harvey the 1950s movie about an enchanting alcoholic Elwood, who believes he is accompanied though life by an invisible 6ft rabbit. I think Elwood is my idol, everyone could do with living life more like him (apart from the raging booze habit part…) This quote just about sums it up and always makes me smile.

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

(This is probably also in my top 10 movies,  fyi!)

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When Zombieland was released at the cinema, it seemed to come from nowhere. I saw a few glossy billboard posters and turned up my nose. I ADORE zombie movies, but I don’t really adore zombie movies that have glitzy Hollywood budgets and are part of a cyclical fad for the genre. I want my blood gunky and ketchupy, the tape flickery and scratched and the acting wooden. It all just looked a bit too trendy and so I retreated to behind my sofa to rewatch Plague of the Zombie for the thousandth time and grumble to myself!

Then the recommendations started. At first it was a few texts, then a few phonecalls and then it literally felt like I couldn’t wade through my day without someone demanding that I go see it immediately. I stubbornly (ok geekily, as I didnt want audience reaction to distract me from indulging in potentially brilliant proper zombie movie action) waited for it to come out on DVD and on Sunday I finally watched it with baited breath. And…………………………… I LIKED it. I actually really liked it.

My partner in film-watching crime announced 0.5 seconds in (before the opening credits had even rolled!)  “this is totally shit isn’t it, and actually, aren’t zombie shit. They aren’t even funny! All they do is run at things”. Rather than batter him to death with my dissertation (“Are zombie movies a resource for social commentary?“) and tell him the million flaws in his statement (like duh, they totally stagger… even if it’s a quick stagger)  I gritted my teeth and he was promptly asleep before 20 minutes had passed (great help he’d be in an actual zombie invasion!)  This was a good thing though, because it meant I could wallow in geeky zombie glory with a dorky grin on my face AND do an air-punch Bill Murray cameo happened. If I hadn’t already decided I liked the movie, that definitely cineched it. I BM.

There are lots of things that aren’t great about the movie. It has some really cheesey text that appears on the screen all the time, nothing ever gets explained, nothing actually that massive really happen and the reason for the zombie invasion is the lamest I have ever, ever heard (mad cow disease turned into mad human disease?! ?!) BUT all these head-bashingly annoying things actually become charming and by the end I was completely engrossed and had that I never want this movie to end feeling.

The cinematography is beautiful, every shot feels like it could be a print or a postcard. Relative unknown lead Jesse Eisenberg plays the Adam-Brody-in-The-OC/Michael-Cena-in-Every-Role-Ever geek lead in a genuinelly funny and charming way.

So to repeat the sentiment of pretty much everyone I spoke to last October, SEE THIS MOVIE! It’s subtle (well as subtle as gore spluttering zombies can evr be) and it’s quietly brilliant and you are guarenteed to chuckle at least once and squeal in horror at least once. What more could you ask for, really?

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