Thursday, 5 May 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Androids/Cyborgs

Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks.

The master of all android/cyborg/robot films has to be Fritz Lang’s science fiction epic. I was lucky to study this in college for my A levels (16-18) as part of the Silent Film and German Expressionism module. I loved it, others hated it, those who wanted an easy A hated it. But, if they had opened their minds, these films were a breeze to write about. There is so much to this film, not to mention the beyond amazing sets, the lower world and upper world, the storm that robot Maria causes with the workers revolt and the decline of the machines. It has everything you could want. A mad scientist, a star-crossed love story, epic scenes, riots, ah what a brilliant film.

I know I should have seen WestWorld first, but that wasn’t only £3 in the Fopp bargain bin. I was intrigued by the upcoming TV series based on WestWorld too so I thought, why not? Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner are journalists who are invited to re-opening of the pleasure parks after the disaster at WestWorld. The robots are still the same and the parks are the same, except WestWorld is closed and FutureWorld takes its place. There is a bigger conspiracy though, the creators of the parks have made robot replicas of powerful and influential people and invited them to the park. Sinister. More like predictable. It wasn’t great and I admit, I fell asleep for some of it, I woke up at the end but knew what was happening.

This adorable little robot with a love of Hello Dolly, finding beauty in rubbish and has a bug as a best friend, stole the hearts of everyone. After humans have abandoned Earth, in the year 2807, a lone trash compactor android goes about his work. One day an advanced probe unit, EVE is deployed by a human ship to search for vegetation. From there the film becomes a beautifully animated and some-what dramatic love story as well as survival story. As well as being very cute, the film is also a massive comment on the environment and how we treat it as well as a stab at consumerism. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

When in Helsinki

A few weeks ago, my sister and I were in Finland. Part of out city breaks, I asked if Helsinki could be our next destination after we had already been to Brussels, Berlin and Budapest. We spent 4 nights in our adorable cosy Air BnB apartment and 4 days navigating around the vast city as well as visiting another city, Tampere, on a day trip. I don't usually write about travelling or non film related events, but I felt that the recent adventure was worth mentioning on here.

One thing I did note was the lack of Finnish film and TV being advertised around the city. In fact the adverts I saw the most were for Lidel. I saw two posters for two different Finnish films, all the others were British or American. The only films that I could see being shown at the cinemas were also all British and American. I saw no adverts for TV shows or anything. I found this odd. Even the Finnish Cinema Institute didn't offer anything new. We even went past the Orion Cinema, which had been recommended on a site but only English language films were on there. I was slightly disappointed by this but not long after setting foot in the city and walking around, it was clear that art was what the 

Finnish loved.

Moving on from this film related-ness, we stayed in a very cosy flat in Kallio, which was apparently known as the 'hipster' district, even though I couldn't see why it was. The flat had a cute little balcony and was decorated like an artist's paradise. Beautifully open windows, stuffed bookcases, comfy sofa and yes, unusual art on display. It was perfect for our base.

I learnt on this trip that my sister likes to eat, where as if I have a coffee every now and then, I can get by with 2 meals a day. But we ended up either not having breakfast or just having a coffee when I woke up. I did miss my breakfast very much. Food aside, as we had various problems, mostly my fault as I had less money than my sister, we managed to get by and try a few things, I got to try Roberts Coffee where I didn't have to panic about nuts. My nuts and peanuts allergy is always a problem wherever I go which means I am excluded frequently from trying new things. Edible things.

Like everyone on a city break we intended to set out early each day but never really did. We took a tram to the harbour and bought the best buy of our trip, a travel ticket that covered buses, metro and trams for three day€16.  We admired the big white church then wandered over to the Food Market Hall which had lots of of little tiny cafes to choose from as well as a few crafty shops and slightly more glamorous eateries. As it was safer and they had a delicious looking pastry on show with raspberries, we went to Finland's Starbucks, Robert's Coffee. My sister wolfed down a Finnish cinnamon roll while I enjoyed my signature coffee, soya vanilla latte. We then battled through so other fellow annoying tourists to board a ferry to Suomenlinna. 

  The island of Suomenlinna is just one of the many islands that are a short distance from the city. But Suomenlinna has a sea fortress which was built in 1748 and was used by the Swedish and Finnish armies. As well as admiring the wonderful houses of the local residents, we, of course, walked along the edge and out to the sea view or lake view. My sister kept reminding me that it could be a lake we were looking at. I think the views speak for themselves.

Back in the harbour we explored more of the streets near the square in search of food as well as taking the view of another impressive church, that I referred to as the Addams Family Cathedral. After  we had eaten, we agreed to buy out tickets for the train to Tampere so we weren't rushing. After a good 20 minutes dithering at the machines which we didn't want to except a cheaper journey wasn't available, we went  to the incredibly posh ticket area and spoke to the very helpful Olga who booked us on the cheap train. We had a quiet evening, just a beer at the brilliantly decorated library pub which was right by our flat.

Tampere was a pleasant train journey, even if it was 2 hours. I had planned a route to and from the Art Museum and Moominvalley and a cute little cafe/crafty vintage shop, Forget Me Not. Firstly, the Moomin exhibition was amazing! We weren't allowed to take photos, which was annoying. Beautifully drawings lined the walls and we had the choice of a booklet which gave more detail to the drawings and models. All the models were made by Moomin creator, Tove Jansson's partner, Tuulikki Pietilä and they were beautiful. There was even a gigantic model of the Moomin house and book covers from around the globe showing how many languages the stories had been translated into to. I managed to sneak a photo with a statue of Moomin which I was so happy about. The rest of the art in the gallery was pretty poor though. My sister and I both noted that our parents (both artists) would have hated it. We think we inherited our snobbery from them. The musuem shop was also quite disappointing but we went to a better Moomin place in Helsinki. 

After the museum, we thought we could just cut across the road to the sea view. We were wrong. After a long walk and crossing a motorway we encountered an closed amusement park. I was very tired at this point but my sister wanted to walk further. We walked round the 'The Navigator' type planetarium building and admired some more amazing views through the trees. We could have ventured further but unfortunately I got the time wrong and hurried us back to the city.

Back in Helsinki, my sister finally got to have a big main meal. It was an awesome place that was affordable and delicious, Cafe No.9. Afterwards we headed back to the flat to get ready for out night at Navy Jerry's. With music from the 50's and 60's and the bar covered in navel and nautical memorabilia, we had a great time. There was no menu so I asked the bartender for something with ginger beer and my sister wanted something pink and fluffy. The bartender delivered. But after 2 pricey cocktails and the bar getting very crowded we called it a night and caught the tram back. 

Sunday was said to be rain so we thought we'd just ride the trams around town. We got to have some delicious brunch and wander around the streets. I saw the Orion Cinema, but it was closed. We took shelter in a shopping center and found The Moomin Shop. It was one of the most spectacular sights. I was so happy to be there then wanted to bu everything. Even my sister got excited and bought some cute glasses. I picked up various bits and pieces and wishes I bought more.

Later than day we dashed to the a Helsinki art museum, HAM to be precise, after I I saw one poster for a Tove Jansson exhibition. It only had a few pieces of her work but I got to see the gigantic murals, a party scene and a pastoral scene. They were beautiful. I'm so glad I got to see them in person. All that art made us hungry so we went back to Cafe No.9 for more delicious food. 


Monday, seeing as everything was closed, we had breakfast at the cafe below our flat and then packed. We stopped off at the supermarket to pick up tea and sweets to bring back then packed up and said our farewells to Bear Park.

Overall the experience of Helsinki was great fun. I loved it but I don't feel the need to return. I'm so happy I got to see the Moomin exhibition and I got to see the city, but when I venture back to Scandinavia again, I will have to be quite wealthy.

Things We Learnt & Tips for a Helsinki trip, if you're thinking of going:

-Everyone speaks perfect English. We found out that most people in Finland can speak at least 4 languages. A friendly guy in a supermarket told us that he spoke Finnish, Swedish, English and German and that their cleaner spoke 6 languages.

-Everything is closed on Sundays and Mondays. If you are thinking of going, make of these days your leaving travel day.
-It's very expensive. The Finnish are heavily taxed on everything so prepare in advance what you want to spend your money on.
-Alcohol is a rare commodity. You can buy in bars, cafes and restaurants but you can't buy it in supermarkets after 9pm and you can't buy it all on Sundays. You can also only buy beer and cider in supermarkets. If you want wine or spirits you need to seek out special shops. Lots of Finnish go on a booze cruise to Estonia and pick up tons of drinks on the cheap and haul it back to Helsinki.
-Free is good. Lots of sight seeing can be done for free, just wondering around the streets admiring the amazing buildings and views is part of experiencing the city.

-Everything is closed on Sundays and Mondays. If you are thinking of going, make of these days your leaving travel day.

-Don't bother visiting the West Docks. We made this mistake, there is literally nothing to see, just a building site and gigantic ferries.
-Visit the Tourits office. Its a small thing but they have lots of maps you can pick up, plus its right by the harbour to go to the island with the sea fortress.
-Visit the islands. All you pay for is the ferry ticket and you can admire the amazing views (until it gets too cold of course) for free. 
-The Moomin shop is like dream. Its inside the massive shopping centre which is actually quite handy to wonder around in if its raining outside.
-Moominvalley re-opening. If, like me, you are a big Moomin fan, the Moomin exhibition is closing in Oct 2016 - May 2017 as a bigger and better one is opening up elsewhere. 
-Take a day trip outside the city. We went to Tampere but there are lots of places you could go for the day just to see a bit more of Finland.
-The Airport is confusing. When you're leaving, don't panic, just keep going through all the gates it tells you to, don't think you have no time and buy any old sandwich to eat on the plane as in the next section, there is always somewhere better or you have more choice.

This is indeed an epic post so hopefully you will be inspired to visit Helsinki.

Monday, 2 May 2016

April Watch List

The Good Dinosaur
I'll admit, I don't often cry at movies, I like to think I'm made of sterner stuff, but this made me tear up a few times. Young dinosaur Arlo is the smallest in his family of Apatosauruses, he is scared of everything. After a tragedy in the family Arlo becomes separated from his family and has to brave the journey home. He is accompanied by the reason for his current state, a ferral human boy he eventually calls Spot. Together they fight evil predators, befriend and asist a family of cowboy like T-Rexs and survive nature itself. It's beautifully animated, especially the landscapes. The idea that T-Rexs herd cattle and the Apatosauruses are corn farmers is quite clever. The bond between Arlo and Spot is the centre of the story. They share an actual journey as well as an emotional one. One particular scene is so sad but is subtly explained. I enjoyed the film but the story does feel like a mash up of other Disney and Pixar films put together and told with dinosaurs. The concept is good and as with all Pixar films of late, gets an emotional response. But I have a feeling this would have been lost on children. 3/5

Eye in the Sky
 With drone warfare being at the forefront of the news lately, this intense thriller/drama, really does hit the nail on the head. Taking place over one day, it follows, or rather sticks with several different groups of people all connected with making a terrible decision, is one life worth more than potentially saving many others? An amazing cast with technically only one location where the action was taking place, but never has a film with so many singular locations where characters do not move from a room has been so intense and ultimately tragic. After years of tracking and searching the British military, who are working with the USAF drone pilots and the Kenyan military as well as undercover agents, have found high ranking Al-Shabaab extremists. With the UK government watching, they all work together to at first capture then kill these extremists when the threat becomes bigger. I was on the edge of my seat for mots of this film and I think was brilliantly done and I was saddened by the outcome but it felt more realistic. 4/5

Captain America: Civil War
Let me start by saying, I loved the comic but with the way the films are going, the comic could never be made into a film, but what the Russo brothers have done is pretty spectacular. I rather regret not seeing it in IMAX like my friend suggested. For those who don't read the comics, fair enough, there a truck load of them to follow, but if you have the time I highly reccommend that you do read Civil War. Anyway, the story follows soon after the after effects of Ultron, where Stark feels responsible still. Cap and the gang continue to carry on the good fight tracking crazy terrorist Crossbones (although hes not named that). Wanda causes moe problems which gets Wakanda involved which means that Black Panther is on the scene too. Things take a bigger turn when the Winter Solider is blamed for more terrorist attacks. The Avengers become divided when Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross informs them that the UN wants them to sign an agreement to register and be at the beck and call of the government, of course this doesn't sit well with Cap and Tony signs. This divides the team. There is also a side story with Zemo, a wasted Daniel Bruhl in my opinion. He's a great actor, I just wish he had more to do. The real story is about the Avengers (minus Hulk and Thor) fight it all out resulting in an truely awesome but damaging fight scene and yes Spiderman makes an appearance, and its brilliant. Along with the blood and tears there is the dry wit too, thank gad. You need a bit of humour to go along with this revenge fest. An excellent segment in the next phase and I'm even more intrigued where this goes next. But I have no idea how Dr Strange will fit in all this. 4/5

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Fandom Fridays: Favourite Fandoms No Know One Knows

To be honest, I'm sure people have heard of them and may also like/love them too but I don't hear much about them. I wasn't aware of things like fandoms and ships and all that, I'm still gettng to know this side of bloggers who love this stuff, things that I like, so I'm hoping there are others out there who might agree with me about these shows. I think Haven, Pushing Daisies and at a push Ashes to Ashes are typical fandom type shows and the others I just really really love.

I felt like no one was watching this when it started in 2010. I loved how it was about a mysterious town where people had mysterious 'powers'. It was a police drama with a supernatrual side as well as having folklore twist. It was, what some would say, my jam. I loved the cast and I was rooting for Audrey and Nathan all the way. Sometimes shows aren't complete with a ship. I think the last season which was split into 2 parts could have easily been made into 1 and saved time. I still, to this day have not seen the last ever episode just because I'm scared of the end. I know people were surprised that the show got a second season but after that point it was winning. Five seasons, great show.

Ashes to Ashes
I actually turned my nose up at this not-your-typical police drama from the BBC. My friend said I was crazy to miss it so I caught up and loved it. In fact I was very much invested in the story about D.I Alex Drake who is shot in modern day and sent back in time to 1981. This was a follow up series to Life on Mars which was set in 70s. I loved the cast and who can resist the 80s. Keely Hawes is brilliant and her Alex Drake to Philip Glenister's Gene Hunt. Not only was there a case to solve in each episode, but there was an ongoing storyline which became more sinister as the series progressed. There was also the plot throughtout series 1 and 2 about how Alex could get home to her time then in series 3 how she could get back to the 80s to save her friends. As with most UK shows, they come to an end, even if there is room for more. Three series of great TV.

I have been very patient with watching this show, meaning that I hadn't been able to find the show online, I only saw trailers until season 1 was released on DVD. I binge watched this show, I couldn't help myself. I hadn't really saw anything like it even though it sounds run-of-the-mill. It's difficult to sum the show up in a few sentances but its about an ex-con who used to work for the mob who, upon release after 15 years in prison seeks out his love who has moved to Banshee under another name. But on the way a fight breaks out and innocent bystander is killed. He happened to be the town's new sheriff that no one has met yet so our ex-con (4 seasons in and we still don't know his real name) assumes the identity of the dead sheriff. Throw in some Amish, a disgruntled Indian tribe AND an ex-Amish crime-lord with a pet pyscho and you've got a damn fine show.

Pushing Daisies
I think I could be wrong about not many people knowling about Ned the pie maker who can bring the dead back to life, at a price. Lee Pace and Anna Friel lead the multi-coloured delicious world of Pushing Daisies. It has everything I could ever want, Lee Pace for starters, singing, lots of pies, amazing colours and oh the production design of everything is to die for but most importantly its a murder mystery show complete with a wonderfully sarcastic PI (Chi McBride) and every hopefully singing wonder waitress Olive (Kristin Chenoweth). Why oh why did this dream have to end after only two seasons?

Crimes of Passion/Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries 

This is a cheat double whammy of period drama murder mystery, one from Sweden, the other from Down Under aka Australia. Yes they make dramas too, not just export soap operas. Both TV series are based on a series of books, both with a female protagonist who solve crimes, one as a PI, the other who assists her Detective friend and husband.
Crimes of Passion, set in 50's Sweden, only had 6 feature length episodes (similar to a Miss Marple set up), but Puck, Eje and Christer were quite succesfull, especially over in the UK, but alas there doesn't seem to be any further episodes in motion. Those Swedes really do know how to make excellent murder mysteries though.
I was pleasantly surprised by Miss Fisher and co though. I watched the first two series after they kept popping up on Netflix when I had nothing else to watch. I find that when this happens I always end up addicted (American Horror Story, Fringe, Orphan Black, Tomorrow's Cantabile). Miss Fisher's wealthy heiress lands in 1920s Melbourne and quickly makes friends (and lovers) with everyone. She is the definition of fabulous. She has suffered in her youth, her younger sister being murdered and her father a terrible gambler, she worked through First World War in France and came out lucky and wealthy the other side. Her and Detective Jack Robinson are the perfect pair (the internet agrees). The show actually has a big following that I never knew about, so of course I embraced the fandom happily. There is talk of a movie to go with the 3 seasons so far.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Affairs

I'm guessing lots of bunny boiling to appear in the lists this week but I could be wrong. I actually haven't seen Fatal Attraction, somthing to add to next years Blind Spot list because I can wait that long to see it. Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks.

The Deep Blue Sea
As a new viewer to Terrence Davies films, I was in awe of how beautiful this incredidly depressing and practically poetically tragic this film was. I felt that it could have been a play as it mainly took place in the flat where the affair happens. Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston are brilliant but I find this film had to watch again. Hester, the younger wife of a High Court judge has a 'passionate' affair with former RAF pilot Freddie. She falls hopelessly in love with him but things don't always turn out the way you think.

American Beauty
I wondered why this film was such a big deal for ages as back in 1999 I wasn't old enough to see it. A few years later I borrowed the video from someone and later bought my own copy I was so impressed with it. A brilliant look at suburban families and the secrets they hide. I'm sure everyone remembers the rose petal scenes and the 'beautiful' plastic bag in the wind or the most tragic part of the whole film. At least I thought it was. Having to keep a secret like that or thinking you had and then the other person having to live with it and not say a word. That is painful. 

Broken Embraces
Ah Pedro Almodovar, what a brilliant guy. His films drip with melodramtic beauty, always in vibrant colours, its always perfect. Told in flashback by blind writer Harry who recount his love affair with aspiring actress and how they tried to escape her older controlling and wealthy husband. It wasn't as 'big' as his other films which is surprising as its just as brilliant but the focus isn't really on women, which is what Almodovar is known for.