Tag Archives: Social

The Bling Ring – Elwood’s Take

Is it a sign of the current state of society that this is now the second film I’ve seen now based on a magazine article a trend which started with Pain and Gain and with this being the second. Still thankfully this is far from dumb film making, even if its subjects are far from the sharpest tools in the shed as director Sofia Coppola continues her on going obsession with celebrity in its various forms with her fifth film, which this time draws inspiration from the Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” about the titular Bling Ring; a group of celebrity obsessed teens who broke into the houses of celebrities, stealing cash, clothes and jewellery and whom over the course of their crime spree stole in excess of $3 million in cash and belongings.

Shooting from a stand-off perspective here Coppola chooses to play observer rather than making the audience part of the gang, more so as their criminal activities continue to spiral out of control. Needless to say its only a matter of time before the group begin to enjoy perhaps a little too much the faux celebrity lifestyle they have carved out for themselves from their burglaries or from selling on the items they choose to not keep for themselves. Still what sets this film apart from the numerous true life crime dramas is the brazen stupidity of the group in question, for these high schoolers don’t don disguises or balaclavas and frequently brag to their friends about their exploits while posting pictures of themselves posing with their ill gotten gains over Facebook, so that it’s only essentially a matter of time before the law catches up with them, with of course the big question of course being just how long it will take before they come unstuck .

Making up the group we have ring leader and wannabe fashionista Rebecca (Chang), whose choice of fashion school only seemingly stretches as far as where there girls off “The Hills” go. New kid at school and Rebecca’s chief partner in crime Marc (Broussard) wants a lifestyle brand, while the trio of Nicki (Watson), younger sister Emily (Rock) aswell as Nicki’s best friend and adopted sister Sam (Farmiga) are home-schooled in lessons torn from the self-help bestseller (And general universe botherer) “The Secret” by their new age mum (Leslie Mann), which perhaps along with their already spoiled and care-free lifestyle might explain their lust (like the rest of the group) for celebrity.

Despite sketching out the group members with quick strokes and minimal focus on detail, what Coppola surprisingly does here is essentially tell us everything we need to know about these essentially shallow individuals, without any unneeded padding or attempts at trying to figure out what makes them tick, especially when all this group cares about is what can be seen on the surface even more so when their aspirations are soon so focused on fueling their faux celebrity lifestyle, especially as their become increasingly lax with their criminal activities, while flashing their cash and generally hovering up coke. Like with Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers this is youth lived through excess and little much of a damn being given to the consequences of their actions, as they continue to fuel their own self-delusions.

Once more Coppola shows herself as a highly visual director, with each of the heists taking on their own style, from the single sustained wide shot of reality star Audrina Patridge’s home being raided as Marc and Rebecca work their way through it room by room. Elsewhere she takes a more voyeuristic trip around the rooms of Paris Hilton’s mansion which was actually shot on location, taking in the excess and trappings of wealth that the group so badly crave, as she shoots the scene like a criminally charged edition of Through The Key Hole. Elsewhere the crimes are followed via google earth and TMZ reports, while occasionally cutting away to an insight from one of the key players in this scheme often accompanied by them trying to place more of the blame on another group member, especially in the case of Nikki who frequently tries to play for the sympathy of the public, while trying to portray the image of a good girl lead astray, when the truth couldn’t be more different.

The cast assembled here while largely unknown with the exception of Watson and Chang, they still manage to give a highly believable performance as this group, while I would have to also at the same disagree with the exaggerated praise which Watson has received for her role here, which essentially just build on what she started with the irritating “Perks of Being A Wallflower” and as such see’s her once again trying to play against the Hermione role she has become so synonymous with, by exhibiting general low level bad girl behavior, while far from doing anything to stand above the rest of the cast with Chang for myself being by far the strongest player here, from the devious looks she flashes to Marc as she randomly breaks into cars, to steal left behind cash and jewellery, to her frequently cool demeanor as she attempts to escape to Vegas and pin the blame on her fellow group members.

The downside to the film though is that Coppola gets so caught up in the robberies and the downward spiral of the group, that when it comes to the sentencing it feels rather rushed, with no desire it would seem to focus on the aftermath of these events, outside of a brief catch up. Something which might be frustrating to some, especially when it leaves the focus of the film being kind of limited in scope, but nevertheless this is still another strong movie from Coppola even if it might not be her strongest work to date, it is still an engrossing watch while also providing an interesting statement on celebrity driven youth and the allure of the celebrity lifestyle.

After Hours #9 – Tigers Are Not Afraid

On this episode we discuss the directorial debut of Issa López which not only has seen her draw comparisons to the Guillermo del Toro but also his admiration aswell.

With her debut film she blends fairy tale fantasy against the harsh reality of the Mexican drug wars as a young girl called Estrella returns home to find her mother missing and persumed to have been  kidnapped by the local drugs cartel currently terrorising the city. Now joining  a group of orphaned street kids and empowered  with the gift of three wishes she joins them on their quest for  revenge.

Further Viewing

Pan’s Labyrinth
Devil’s Backbone
Krampus
Coreline
Sicaro
City of God

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare

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I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story


Is there a point were you outgrow boy bands? This is just one of several questions posed by director Jessica Leski in her debut film as she attempt to explore not only the appeal of boy bands but also what sparks such devotion in their fanbases. This she achieves by following four intergenerational women who all consider themselves to be obsessed fans of their chosen boy band.

First up we have Elif who s the youngest of the particpants and an obsessed One Direction fan to the point were she went viral when a video of her breaking down during the announcement of their concert DVD was posted online. Next we have Daria an obsessed Take That fan, we also have Sadia representing the fans of the Backstreet Boys and finally we have Susan who at 64 and still an obsessed Beatles fan even being one of horde of Beatles fans who descended on Southern Cross during their tour of Australia. Each of them bring something different to the table and as their stories unfold especially with what the bands mean to them and the effect they had on their lives.

Starting off with a charming feeling of innocence as each of the women talk about how they discovered their chosen boy band and what it was which sparked their interest which unsurprisingly stems from them finding one of the members cute accompanied by charming animated sequences playing out their fantasies with the members which range from Elif playing tag with Zayn to Sadia being taught how to swim by Nick. How they choose to celebrate their favourite boybands though is were the film really gets interesting especially for the likes of Daria and Sadia whose Xenial fandom antics have a fun nostalgic glow to them with Sadia talking about sending out a Backstreet Boys News letter using the family e-mail or Daria living out in sticks passing time at the weekend obsessionally learning the dance routines off a concert video incase she should ever be called up to stand in for one of the members. Compared to Elif who with the power of the internet can speak to her fellow Directoners all over the world to track their every movement to the point were they refer to them as “Their Boys”

At the other end of the spectrum Susan and her Beatles obsession provides another interesting angle to the film, especially when looking through her memorabilia collection and seeing how much of it is replicated over the years with band being swapped out for the latest chart topper. However while the boybands might be changed out over the decades Leski skips over the controversy that the bands suffered or how their break up instead choosing to present them in the same perfect light their fans view them in even though it does feel like a missed opportunity to see how Zayn leaving One Direction effected Elif and how Daria was effect by any of the major scandals which rocked her fanbase from Robbie Williams leaving, their controversial image change or her beloved Gary from Take That being caught up with his fellow members in an off shore banking scandal.

Thanks to choosing such fascinating and knowledgable subjects for her film Leski is able to avoid any use of voice over or cut aways to pop culture experts and psychologists and instead lets the quartet compile their stories in their own word soley even having Daria breakdown the boy band formula from what sort of roles the band members have to play and styling requirements which when laid out on the white board is actually kind of surprising to see how they all fall into the template she has just laid out.

Interestingly the film spends the last half hour of the film five years on from when Leski began following the woman and in doing so find many of them having entered into a phase of transition away from the boy band obsessions with a trip on the Backstreet boys cruise…..yes that is actually a thing and Leski has the footage to prove it! However for Sadia it’s almost a wake up call for their biggest fan as faced with a mirror vision of herself x1000 she realises that there is more for to achieve on her own including learning to swim. Elif also finding herself in a similar situation as with her parents refusing to let her pursue music at college also kills her love for One Direction to be replaced with a love for Jazz. Ultimately the documentary ends in a good place for all four of the participants though the same can’t be said for their fan status but despite this the documentary maintains the sweet tone which carries throughout the film as Leski clearly isn’t trying to judge any of the fans but more understand what drives their obsessions.

One of the great things about documentaries is the ability to take a subject and turn it into the most surprisingly engrossing experience and certainly Leski’s film does exactly that as for those of us who were never part of the boyband hysteria are given an insiders view while providing a sense of nostalgia for the devoted. Regardless of if your a boyband fan or not this is a facinating look at fandom in it’s purest form.

Rating: 4 / 5

Movies and Tea #23 -The Bling Ring

“The Bling Ring” saw Sofia Coppola drawing inspiration from the Vanity Fair article The Suspects Wore Louboutins here as Coppola joined the mini-trend of movies based of magazine articles alongside Michael Bay’s “Pain and Gain”. The film would also mark Coppola’s first experiment with shooting on digitial as she charts the crime spree of a group of teens who broke into and robbed the homes of thier favourite celebrities.

Norman from Flick Hunter joins us once again to the discuss the film aswell as question Emma Watson’s rumoured Oscar nod, reveal our favourite Coppola soundtracks aswell as a voicemail from The Vern (Cinema Recall Podcast )plus much more!!

Further Viewing

Spring Breakers
Marie Antoinette
The Fanatic
The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Mean Creek
Bully

Music on this episode

Sleigh Bells – Crown On The Ground
M.I.A. – Bad Girls
Aphex Twin – Anvil 14
Aphex Twin – jynweythek ylow
Death In Vegas – Girls
Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare

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Movies and Tea #22 – Somewhere

After the mixed reception to Marie Antoinette returned with Somewhere a film similar in style to Lost In Translation while also working memories of her own childhood growing up on her father’s sets as she here we follow Upcoming badboy Actor Johnny as he reconnects with his daughter Cleo and perhaps in turn finds what’s missing in his own life.

Further Viewing

Wonder Boys
Nowhere
The Rules of Attraction
Jersey Girl
Definitely Maybe
We Bought A Zoo

Music on this episode

Phoenix – Love Like A Sunset Part I
The Police – So Lonely
Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare

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Friday Film Club: The Rules of Attraction & Gen-X-Cops

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Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick – Gen-X Cops (1999)

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Coming off the success of Jackie Chan’s Who Am I?, Director Benny Chan’s next project where co-writes the script for this 1999’s action crime comedy film. Gen-X Cops primarily rides on the growing popularity of Nicholas Tse and two rising stars playing as his buddies, Stephen Fung and Sam Lee. Gen-X Cops tells the story of a looked-down upon cop played by Eric Tsang who is given a chance to put together his own secret undercover team to fight against organized crime calling them the “Generation-X Cops”. It leads to him taking a chance on the rebellious and disobedient cadets played by the three mentioned above. Linked up with the help with young tech genius played by Grace Yip, also a rising name at that time, the ragtag team takes on their first assignment to eliminate a bunch of criminals both with triad background lead by one of the first roles of Daniel Wu who team up with Akatora, played by Toru Nakamura, a Japanese leader, to steal explosives.

An action crime comedy that packed in quite a punch. There is some fairly dated technology used here but in terms of showing off the acting chops and as a starting point for a lot of familiar faces both in Hong Kong and international films and even Hollywood, it’s a very valid one. It helps that there are some experienced acting veterans on the team to tie together the pieces like Eric Tsang’s Inspector Chan and Francis Ng’s Lok. It’s fast-paced and the story is straight to the point. Sure, the acting from the young ones are raw and sometimes a bit overacted but it can’t be helped that a part of it was to reinforce the comedic elements here as well to help ease some of the tension. Not to mention the movie ended with a very short cameo from Jackie Chan. Gen-X Cops also sparked a much lesser sequel called Gen-Y Cops.

Elwood’s Pick – The Rules of Attraction (2002)

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Based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name which he has gone on record to state as being his favourite adaptation of his work, even over Mary Harron’s adaptation of American Psycho which has gone on to become a cult favourite since it’s release. Ellis love for the film no doubt thanks to how closely it follows the book as we follow four students Sean, Lauren, Paul and Victor attending the fictional Camden College over the course of year as their stories interwind with Sean, Lauren and Paul engaging in a doomed and clumsy love triangle while Victor engages in a whirlwind hedonistic tour of Europe. Of course being based on a Bret Easton Ellis story these intertwining tales are pepper with sex drugs and general bad behaviour only furthered by the various parties these characters attend such as the Wicker Man inspired “The Edge of the World Party” and the more self explanatory “Dress to get Screwed Party”.

Directed by Roger Avery whose work never seems to get the recognition it deserves despite also directing the fantastic thriller Killing Zoe which many people mistaken thought was a Quentin Tarantino film despite the fact he only served as producer, as highlighted here during Lauren’s opening conversation with a film student. At the same time he is responsible for writing much of the outline of Pulp Fiction’s “Gold Watch” segment aswell as the screenplay for Silent Hill arguably the greatest video game movie ever (after Mortal Kombat of course) giving one of the more fascinating filmographies to explore. Here though he brings a great visual style to the film from the long tracking shots of the parties, the rapid cut recap of Victor’s European vacation through to the much examined split screen sequence as the morning of Lauren and Sean are run parallel to each other culminating in their meeting. All of this visual flair captures the hedonistic nature of the campus were for these privileged kids its more about having a good time than actually going to class.

A fun piece of college satire served up in questionably taste this still remains a fun movie to discover while only added to by some great performances by the hip cast of indie favourites which includes a bad boy turn by a post Dawson Creek James Van Der Beek and the always effortlessly cool Shannyn Sossamon.

For more great 2000s movies make sure you check out the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon being hosted on Kim’s Blog Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Review

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Shopping (1994) – Kim’s Take

Shopping (1994)

Shopping 1994

Director (and writer): Paul W. S. Anderson

Cast: Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Sean Pertwee, Jonathan Pryce, Sean Bean

You’ve run out of options, no school, no job. Steal a car, smash a shop with a heavy car and reap the proceeds! This movie is about underground England. The causes, the benefits, and the result of a life of ‘crash and carry.’ – IMDB

Paul W. S. Anderson’s directorial debut started with some big names set in a rather ambitious setting of underground England. Its a social thriller which sees a not so famous Jude Law as a recently released from jail youth called Billy who goes back with a rebellious group of others who crash their cars into stores and steal whatever they want before leaving with their loot. There’s some hinted romance which is never explicit and the focus is mostly on the thrill of their acts as well as the impending dangers in their own world, and of course, the cops who are suspicious of Billy’s involvement.

Watching Shopping in the 21st century is quite the unique experience especially since we’re looking at this young cast who has each charted their different career paths. Looking at this filmography, Shopping was Jude Law’s first theatrical feature film whereas he has only done some TV and TV movies before this and bagging the main character role. Even then, its easy to see how Jude Law does have quite the talent as he takes Billy’s role and makes us believe in the destructive and extreme nature who constantly is looking for the next adrenaline rush. On the other hand, he is paired up with his partner in crime, Jo by Sadie Frost. I’ve never seen Sadie Frost before this role and have to wonder whether I’ve actually seen her in another other film, however, Jo is quite over the top as well however in this mish  mash of characters, her character is the one who turns out to be more grounded. It did take a little while to get accustomed to her character but she also is the one that we are meant to connect with the most as it does feel like a lot of the story is through her eyes and her perspective, even if we start off with Billy.  Its probably because Jo has much more development in her character arc than any of the other ones.

On the other hand, Tommy is the bad guy in their underground scene. Played by Sean Pertwee, its hard to disregard this character as it was also quite extreme in the small moments he had. However, its hard to fault Tommy and his ways especially when he was only trying to make a business out of their illegal ways. It is never a good idea to mess with someone’s livelihood no matter how much of an adrenaline rush it can be. Of course, it is what leads to the finale. Plus, somewhere before that, a cameo with Sean Bean where his role doesn’t end in demise. Talking about Sean Pertwee and the other threat to Billy and Jo (and their crew) which are the cops is where the movie falls short of what it could be despite its great premise and setting. The threats are never focused enough. It had a cool cinematography and fantastic setting and atmosphere for its different film locations and backdrops but yet, its heavy focus on just the over the top extremities for adrenaline rush made particularly the main character of Billy fall short of what it could be.

Shopping never quite reaches the viewing experience it could be. There was a great premise and lots of nice contrast and atmospheres and even scenes. However, its all disjointed and never seems to give enough to cheer for anyone or feel that it was ever going to end in a way that it wasn’t self-inflicted in some way whichever bad ending it was going to be. However, as much as Shopping fell short, it is still a cool debut for Paul W.S. Anderson. He shows his capability of creating cool shots and his eye for filmmaking and world-building. For that, its worth giving this one a go, plus, it shows off the talented Sean Pertwee and a young Jude Law as well.