‘Queen and Slim’ is the wake up call to racism we needed in film

Melina Matsoukas ‘Queen and Slim’ is a sensual, artistic masterpiece that demonstrates the harsh cause and effect of institutional racism in modern day America. It focuses on a male and female who meet in an isolated diner after agreeing to see each other on Tinder. It is revealed that the male, ‘Slim’ is a family man and has a strong faith in God and christianity. Whereas ‘Queen’ is a lawyer who lost her client to death row shortly before the meet up, and has no belief in religion or family. The two contrast each other, but when a police officer pulls a gun on Slim after a routine check up gone wrong, they begin to mirror each other as an extreme journey pulls them together for life.

The cinematography is breathtaking. Slow panned shots of beautiful locations that echo both the suffocated nature of discrimination, but also the carefree limits of freedom. The makeup, props and outfits are very aesthetically pleasing, and at times, it almost feels like a fantasy, like a dream the two are living whilst on the run from the law. What makes this film so poignant is that most of the cast are black and there’s few white actors. We really get a sense of fear from the communities that want to protect Queen and Slim, but also a harmonious, uplifting protection that comes from family and faith. It’s really refreshing to see a tale like this told in a Hollywood film, but in a way where they can mix the grittiness with artistry and creative expression.

‘Birds of Prey’ is the rebellion of the male gaze in Hollywood

The best thing about Suicide Squad was Harley Quinn. She already had her own audience, and the echoes of supply and demand being one of the most infamous comic book characters. But, her character was overshadowed in Suicide Squad by the comedic writing of the Joker, and the way they marketed her as a sex symbol and nothing more. Cathy Yan’s ‘Birds of Prey’ makes up for that, and gives us the story that female comic book fans deserve.

After an explosive break up with the Joker, Harley Quinn is out on her own. She has got her own little apartment, her own pet hyena and has cut her bangs- aside from the pet hyena part she’s totally relatable of any girl going through a life crisis and wanting to self sabotage using their hair as the bait. Her narration post break up rings true of chick flicks and Hollywood high school films, but for her, it works. We learn that she feels like nothing without the Joker because she’s been trained to feel like nothing without him- and how behind all of his ‘great ideas’ was her mind that she didn’t get credit for. The story is beginning to shape from a break up tale, to a woman irritated and frustrated by the patriarchy constantly shutting her down.

The way in which it’s narrated is very similar to Deadpool. The unreliable narrator style with added comedy and flair is what makes the story so compelling along with the little details that lets us into Harley Quinn’s ticking mind.

Image result for birds of prey film

But the main theme of this film is feminism and the issues women face on the daily. Detective Renee Montoya is a great character example- she’s been a detective for years and after solving the greatest crime break of her career, her male partner got promoted to captain, and she got stuck with another partner who constantly talks over her great ideas and ‘mansplains’ her constantly. Dinah Lance (or black canary as we know her) was taken off the streets by Roman Sionis so is owned by him to do his dirty work in exchange for emotional blackmail. The film is full of great, complex characters with flaws, situations and battles and they don’t come out heroes like in any other Hollywood film. We watch their struggles and watch how they solve them strategically.

Unlike Suicide Squad, this film is the absence of the male gaze. A rebellion against it, almost. There are no shots that are suggestive towards any of the female characters; the characters have been dressed for the story and not for the male audience and there’s no nudity. This film was crafted for female viewers, an audience that can understand the dimension of emotion and frustration the characters on screen are feeling. Small details like Harley Quinn recreating Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ with an almost identical outfit to the original but she’s wearing a pantsuit is incredible. Also, in one of the fight scene’s, Harley Quinn passes a hair band to Black Canary. It’s these realistic, feminine touches that make this film what it is.

SPOILER: There is a sexual assault scene during the film where Sionis commands a drinker in his club to stand on the table, while he commanded another man to rip her dress down to humiliate her. It was heart breaking to watch, because it was a sexual assault scene that was non violent and coercive, a battle females are constantly fighting for male’s to recognise. Instead of seeing this assault in the perspective of the predator or the victim, we see it through the eyes of an onlooking woman- the black canary- and how she gets upset watching it. This is something I haven’t seen in mainstream film, and it is echoing Cathy Yan’s mind as a director. The detail, the structure and effortless construction of this film proves Yan as the next female director to watch in Hollywood.

GTA 6 may be headed to the land of Vice

When the teaser for GTA 5 was released, gamers everywhere stopped breathing. It was the moment we had all been waiting for. Months of anticipation and appreciation for the gaming series came to a halt in that moment- so it can only be imagined how the fanbase will be when the teaser to GTA 6 is finally dropped.

It’s now been 7 years since we’ve seen any release from the series, and fans were beginning to get worried we wouldn’t see another game. In the past when games have been successful (and there’s no denying the success of GTA 5) there has always been a follow up release to build anticipation- such as Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories. And with GTA 4 having revisited Liberty City and GTA 5 in Los Santos, it only seems like common sense that we’re about to stumble across a remastered version of Vice City.

This thought was elevated during the superbowl a few days ago, with a fan posting this on Twitter:

The fonts and style used to advertise are exactly those that were used during the original Vice City game- a game that may have sparked controversy but was beloved by many. The font also used in the BBC trailer was the Vice City font- a clear nod to the game.

This letter was also leaked on Social Media, but at the moment it is unclear whether this is a genuine letter, or a fake mock up.

From a gamers perspective, a remastered Vice City would have so much potential. The sunny landscape, the tall buildings and blistering beach. Because the other games were set in the 80’s, it will be interesting to see how the style and aesthetic of the location will have changed, that’s if they choose for it to be set in modern times.

Other locations that could be potential are San Fierro and Las Venturas, although as they featured in San Andreas and that’s what GTA 5 was loosely based on, that is more unlikely.

It will be fascinating to see whether we see any kind of reveal in 2020, and if we do, what game Rockstar intend to bring us.

Netflix under attack from dedicated fans for cancelling Spinning Out after one season

Netflix has come under fire this week after the organisation made the decision to not renew Spinning Out for a second season. The show, which came out shortly after Christmas, focused on a competitive figure skater who wanted to return to the ice following a bad fall, after suffering with bipolar and PTSD.

Kaya Scodelario plays lead character Kat, and she worked closely with the charity ‘Mind’ in order to play her sensitively and spread awareness of mental health issues. Despite the show being niche, it collected quite the fan base and now, they are campaigning on Twitter to keep the show.

The consensus of the tweets show the anger at Netflix, claiming that the show wasn’t properly marketed compared to shows such as Riverdale, You and ‘The Witcher’, which was already renewed for a second season before the first was available to stream.

Netflix have yet to comment on any of these controversial accusations, but over thirty Change.org petitions have been set up in an attempt to save the show.

Will ‘The Witcher’ pave the way for more video game adaptations into TV?

Last month, ‘The Witcher’ took Netflix viewers by storm. All fans of the gaming series rejoiced as Henry Cavill transformed into Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter in a medieval fantasy setting. Despite already having an audience from the games, the series did really well and has attracted new audiences, which have then gone on to purchase the games. It’s a cross media cycle that has worked positively and even more so, as fans were worried it would not be successful because of game adaptations into films that have flopped. But with streaming services dominating the way in which we watch, obsess and binge, could this be a new era for gaming adaptations?

There are so many games which are dominated by their story. Their plot sticks out, and drives the player to continue completing the missions. One of the ones that sticks out for me is GTA San Andreas, the PS2 game which became one of the most successful of all time- the story was based on true events in time, such as the gang wars between the bloods and the crips; the 1990’s crack epidemic and the LAPD rampart scandal. It was this gritty yet gripping narrative that made the game so memorable, and granted it such good reviews.

At the Game Awards 2019, Disco Elysium bagged the award for best narrative, due to the detective themed role playing style that allowed the player to interact in the story. It shows us that game consumers are open to playing more games with story driven content, and with streaming services looking towards the game industry for inspiration, it will be interesting to see if we get anymore adaptations in the coming few years.

Jay Roach’s ‘Bombshell’ represents #metoo movement

When you think of ‘Fox News’, the typical context you may vision is one of Donald Trump, capitalist America and sensationalist media and this just so happens to be the political backdrop of Jay Roach’s new movie, ‘Bombshell’ which takes place during the 2016 presidential election and is based on true events.

The film which has been praised by critics and audiences, stars Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman as workers for Fox News. The first thing to note, is as these characters are introduced, each with their own story which interwines with each other, is that the makeup transformation is phenomenal. Kazu Hiro who is known for the makeup behind ‘The Darkest Hour’, gives each of these women a different identity and character that almost makes them unrecognizable. Theron is the one who appears most authentic; she plays powerhouse news anchor Megyn Kelly who the audience gathers is the favourite at Fox. With her piercing eyes, confident gaze and leading stride, it is clear that once again, Theron puts her whole being into her roles.

In order to play Megyn, Theron had to train with a specialist vocal coach and ended up losing her voice. But it’s worth it- she appears unphased, confident and strong all at once, even though her story tells us she is holding it all in. The sound from her anxious heartbeat echoes around the cinema, as she prepares to read the news after becoming it herself after upsetting Trump. It’s a strange moment as you watch- Megyn is a republican news anchor, voicing controversial opinions on air whilst going after Trump. You’re almost not sure whether you can support her as a protagonist, but she’s typical of republican middle class women in America who want to be recognized for their success and dedication, so you can understand the representation.

Kidman plays Gretchen, a news anchor who was demoted after standing up for herself. She kicks off the events of the film, and it’s through her lenses that we see Fox News CEO Roger Ailes as a nemesis- he insults and belittles her and she’s skeptical of what goes on around her as she sees various women go to his office. “You gotta give a little head to get ahead” she mocks him to her lawyers, ready to sue him for harassment in the hope other women will come forward. She’s nonchalant, but eyes darken as she gets more emotional. Kidman’s portrayal is both stunning and sad, she sacrificed all her potential and her career to free other women. Nevertheless, it’s her relationship with Megyn that strikes as interesting in the film. They have been pinned against each other by Ailes, as both of them were news anchors. Megyn was allowed to become the shining star, and Gretchen was put down and demoted. They don’t have a conversation until the middle of the film, but there are moments where they look upon each other, like they have something unspoken in common. It’s these moments that are powerful beyond belief, because nothing has to be insinuated, the audience just knows.

https://reelvisionary.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/bombshell.jpg?w=700Megyn, Gretchen and Kayla

Margot Robbie plays Kayla, who starts off by producing for Gretchen on her afternoon show. Wanting to become a news anchor herself, she visits Ailes in person, but becomes his latest victim. Young and naïve, we watch Kayla’s world fall apart in Ailes’ office. ‘Stand up and do a twirl’ he beckons at her, but tells her to keep raising her dress until it’s over her underwear. The camera’s close ups of her face as it happens are heartbreaking. Her composure is outstanding, but the emotions are clear. It’s in this moment, we realise Kayla is trapped. She tries to ask for support from a colleague, but the colleague declines saying ‘it’s better if you don’t involve me in this’ as if it’s common knowledge of what Ailes does. Like every #MeToo case though, everybody is suddenly silent when the harassment case goes public. The way in which Robbie plays Kayla, is demanding to be seen. Her naïve and submissive big smiles, that we can all empathise with when we all start new jobs, to her angry and clouded demeanor, not just about the situation, but about the world around her. We know that she chose Fox News because her family have always regarded it highly and they are very Christian and attend church often, so much so that Kayla has ‘church jeans’ so she can balance her coffee on her knee. It’s these details that show how broken Kayla’s faith is, she’s a little bird that wanted the world and now just wants to be set free.

Bombshell is being regarded as the first #MeToo film, and watching it almost feels historical. Although the director and writer are male, the way in which it has been written and put together is so empathetic to existing victims, the story and the cause, that there is no criticism on their behalf. Theron was also a producer for this film, and the Mise en scene is so fitting for the story.

From the clips of Roger Ailes shouting to the gallery to do more wide shots to ‘show more leg’, to the slim fitting tight dresses- we can see that this is a sexualized, high pressured environment that knocks down Women. We often hear Megyn saying ‘don’t call me a feminist’ like it’s a dirty, taboo word in the office- and the truth is, it probably was.

What is intelligently articulated in the film is it’s understanding of societal structures and media influence. We understand from the dialogue that the Murdoch’s (the family of media mogul Rupert Murdoch) work on the eighth floor, and although Roger is the CEO, Rupert makes the decisions and Roger leads the team on how to influence to make the decision happen. We see this with the film using archive footage and explaining how when Murdoch wants a president elected, the news team have to do everything in their power to make sure they are- it’s the news teams responsibility. When the news anchors speak up about this, for example with Megyn’s distaste towards trump, it’s treated like a betrayal, like a damaging execution of freedom of speech. It shows us how our media plays a game, builds us an image and creates our future.

Bombshell will pave the way for more films like this. It’s educational, it’s sociological and has Journalistic tendencies that are so compelling considering we all consume news. Those themes overlapped with a feminist #MeToo story that put us in the shoes of three different women is so powerful, heartbreaking and inspiring that I can’t imagine this film not stealing any awards in the awards season. It’s definitely one not to miss.

Is ‘Cats’ truly as terrible as the internet is making out to be?

Tom Hooper’s ‘Cats’ adaptation (based on the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber) has faced much criticism online. But the musical film, is scoring fairly average reviews from critics. We sent a reporter to see if the film is truly as bad as social media is making it out to be.

If an empty cinema is a message, this was a definitive bad omen. During the trailers, I thought back to the anticipation of this film and the star studded cast that marketed the next instalment in Hollywood’s trend of musical blockbusters. Since the success of ‘La La Land’ and ‘The Greatest Showman’ we have seen the market change towards a commodity for musical based films. So when I first saw the trailer for ‘Cats’ I expected it to become the next hit film, with no doubts in my mind whether it would be a success or not. But a few days since the premiere, and the critical reviews were flooding in with no mercy, leaving the film becoming nothing more than a meme. However, with such a celebrity cast and notorious soundtrack, I doubted it could be as bad as they claimed it was so I began my experience with an open mind.

Not even the decent cast members could save you from this film

THE CGI

The first thing to note, is during the first five minutes it became clear how awful the CGI was. Bodies blur whilst dancing, the scale of the setting is not to scale in comparison with how big cats are- in one scene that takes place under a kitchen table, you only see a tiny amount of table leg, depicting that the cats are somehow miniature. The setting isn’t very HD throughout, there is a very 2000’s film esque situation behind the main characters at all times, and it becomes distracting from the plot and soundtrack of the film- in fact, the CGI wasn’t ready for this film and I don’t think the audience was either.

THE SOUNDTRACK

Those musical buffs would have been studying the soundtrack more than anything else, so it’s a massive factor when considering the whole film. The soundtrack was one of the highest points for me, it was executed well, the songs were catchy and you cannot miss Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of ‘memory’- the iconic song from the musical. The downside, is the song Taylor Swift performs, where she has to do a British accent and she ends up sounding Australian- another distracting moment from the plot.

THE CAST

I think the cast was the main selling point, and with big names like Dame Judy Dench and Sir Ian McKellen, it was going to be interesting to see how it plays out. I will admit, that most of the cast were excellent. I was most shocked by Jason Derulo, having not seen him act in anything before he was great, and his British accent was fantastic also, even when singing. Idris Elba as Macavity was a welcome casting, and couldn’t have been any better. Dench and McKellen were exceptional as always, but the true stars were Jennifer Hudson and Francesca Hayward for me. Both of them were brilliant singers, dancers and actors, even with the dodgy CGI behind them they still stood out.

What annoyed me when watching the film, was how unnecessary some castings and quotes were. Rebel Wilson was meant to be a comedic role, but instead created a cringe factor that dampened the viewing. James Corden was near enough the same, although America adores him in anything so it’s clear why he was chosen. Taylor Swift should not have been in the film full stop, her accent was terrible and her character had no real value which made the audience look puzzled. What this film has in great characters, they also made up for in bad- which is probably why this film is only getting average reviews.

OUR PERSPECTIVE

All in all, it’s clear to see why this film has mixed and average reviews and also why musical fans were left disappointed. Much like an unfinished school project, it had plenty of potential but failed to reach those top barriers in order to get better reviews. It is disappointing though as it casts a shadow over the actors who really made the film. One thing is for sure though, I guarantee the DVD sales will soar due to those not wanting to spend money seeing it in the cinema.

‘Spinning Out’ sets the president for accurate mental health depiction in TV

New Netflix drama starring Kaya Scodelario and January Jones is being praised for it’s accurate depiction of mental health issues.

The show, which was released recently takes place in a town where many young people are trying to get to the olympics. Whether it’s for skiing, or Ice Skating, there is a competitive and high pressured nature that athletes face on a daily basis. Scodelario plays our protagonist, Katerina ‘Kat’ Baker, who is trying to make a comeback after having a dramatic fall during a competition that had severe consequences. Struggling with Bipolar disorder, like her Mother, Carol (played by January Jones) she is terrified of getting back on the ice and keeps popping her jumps. Finding a way to compete, she ends up pairing up with the arrogant and self indulged Justin who she tolerates; but soon they find a deeper understanding of each other, both on the ice and off the ice.

There are so many characters in this series that it almost comes across like a soap, but don’t be alarmed- as this is so well written that each character compliments the plot and it all ties together. Willow Shields (famous from the Hunger Games) plays Kat’s little sister, Serena, who struggles with both her mom and her sister having bipolar. Kat’s best friend, Marcus, becomes an essential character and love interest who the audience can’t help but route for. He has a storyline that revolves around race representation, another social issue that the writers have delivered really well- it’s not so in your face that it becomes a statement, but a subtle under tone that resolves the real life fears of having a different ethnicity in majority white towns.

British fans will recognise Scodelario from her brilliant depiction of mental health issues in the TV show ‘Skins’ where she played Effy Stonem, but she takes Kat’s disorder and makes it relatable and real- instead of a dramatic depiction we’re so used to seeing on TV.

During the ten episodes, we watch Kat grow and struggle, not only with ice skating, but with relationships, a part time job and family life. She is unpolished; a work in progress and due to her many injuries, we know how breakable she can be. But this is the beauty of the main character, and I think we need to see more characters like Kat on our screens. So often, we don’t see the main character making mistakes, testing the waters or being afraid. We don’t see vulnerability or resistance, we see a happy ending or a nemesis. Spinning Out is much more complex than most shows, but it’s all done subtly so we don’t miss a big moment, for it’s all little moments wrapped into one. The audience spins out with Kat, we are with her.

Mental Illness isn’t romanticised either, it’s treated with real consequences and awareness. So much so, Kaya Scodelario has praised charities on Twitter for helping her portray the role accurately.

Spinning Out is going to set the president for more shows with accurate mental health representation, and hopefully we’ll see a season 2 soon.

How Gervais became a taboo after the Golden Globes

Ricky Gervais opening monologue at the Golden Globes was driven with a heavy dose of shock factor, humour and unsolicited truth as he began the night in the most casual fashion. “You’ll be pleased to know, this is the last time I’ll be hosting these awards,” he began, before announcing to the whole award ceremony that he simply doesn’t care anymore. And this is the moment, where the traditional structure of a Hollywood awards ceremony is destroyed, because this is a moment where the superiority and pretence of celebrity and Hollywood as an institution, is categorically broken down throughout the night.

A moment which struck out like a knife, is his ode to Netflix. Now many know Gervais as a comedian, but just last year he had audiences sobbing and laughing at his Netflix show ‘Afterlife’ which he wrote, directed and starred in. So when he’s stood in front of memorable actors and actresses claiming that nobody goes to the cinema anymore, or cares about film because it’s all about Netflix, it hung in the air like a self depreciating joke. “You could binge watch the entire first season of Afterlife instead of watching this show” he flexes, whilst the camera cuts to celebrities in the audience either looking tipsy, or categorically perplexed. Now, while this may not have gone down well with the audience at the golden globes, it went down a storm with social media, especially young people on Twitter where they have branded Gervais a ‘modern day hero.’ However, many are expressing their anger towards his speeches on the night, using adjectives such as ‘arrogant’ and ‘chaotic’ to describe him.

The reception from the night was celebrated mostly for him mentioning Jeffrey Epstein and insinuating that most in the room were friends with him at some point- a breakthrough moment which had us pause for breath at home. And this was the only moment that wasn’t looked at negatively by those boycotting Gervais on Twitter.

The arrogant undertones and self promotion of his presenting style flowed through to the audience, who found the golden globes difficult to watch because of it. Claims that the ‘tradition of the night and rewards culture’ were destroyed because of his potent humour have been rife, and it’s looking like Gervais is skating on thin ice to becoming cancelled. Despite becoming somewhat of a taboo, he’s also being celebrated for his honesty’ and ‘cut throat’ approach to destroying the superficial nature of rewards systems. Whatever you may think of Gervais, it’s becoming clear that his speech had a love/hate approach but regardless, he’s become the biggest talking point of this decade so far.