‘Grease’ at 40: A first-time look at a pop culture classic

We all have our blind spots when it comes to cinema – and that’s a good thing. Being passionate about film is being open to discovery and constantly looking to fill in gaps in one’s knowledge. But when you get to a certain age and also happen to work in film journalism, not having seen certain pop culture touchstones starts to stick out. Until very recently, my biggest blind spot – at least in terms of a film it seemed everyone had seen at least once – was Grease.

And yet, through cultural osmosis, I’ve always felt like I have seen Grease. Not only did I know most of the songs, I knew most of the words to most of the songs. What I didn’t know was what a peculiar musical it is. Take the title track, for instance, which plays over the opening credits and is one of the few songs I hadn’t heard before. One of four original songs written for the film (this one by Barry Gibb), the disco number feels surprisingly at odds with the late-’50s/early ‘60s style of the rest of the soundtrack. It’s a catchy tune, but seems as though it’s been included merely to forge a connection between the film and star John Travolta’s earlier Bee Gees-scored hit, Saturday Night Fever. It’s a curious identity crisis moment, but then perhaps it’s appropriate given the narrative arcs of the film’s leading pair…

Full feature for Little White Lies

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Lost in Space (Stephen Hopkins, 1998)

In April 1998, Lost in Space was the movie to finally end Titanic’s 15-week-long hold on the first-place position at the US box office. 20 years on from its theatrical release, the most enduring cultural impact of this wannabe blockbuster take on the TV series is as a footnote in the story of another film. Is this lack of a substantial legacy fair? With a new Netflix series reviving the Lost in Space brand, does the 1998 version deserve a second look? Is it due a reappraisal and cult following?

In short: no…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Ghost Stories (Jeremy Dyson/Andy Nyman, 2017)

Horror anthologies are tricky beasts. For every terrifying tale in a trilogy of terror, there’s often a dud or two to spoil the cumulative experience. Less in the vein of V/H/S and more in the spirit(s) of Dead of Night, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories bucks the usual curse in maintaining solid scares throughout…

Full review for The Skinny

The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 Southern Gothic novel A Painted Devil was previously brought to the screen, under the title of The Beguiled, by director Don Siegel in 1971. An American Civil War-set tale of an injured union soldier taking refuge in a Virginian girls’ school, Siegel’s version was led by regular collaborator Clint Eastwood. For Sofia Coppola’s stab at the material, although Colin Farrell is top-billed as the stranger sowing seeds of mistrust, things are determinedly more female-focused…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Ruben Östlund on ‘The Square’, media & ‘The Emoji Movie’

“It feels great. I would love to have another one!” Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund is cheerfully telling The Skinny his answer to the one question he’s probably been asked by everyone about his award-winning new movie, The Square: how does it feel having a Palme d’Or?

“I’m super happy about their decision,” he continues, “because I think it’s highlighting a new kind of European cinema that I feel I’m connected to – Maren Ade with Toni Erdmann, Yorgos Lanthimos who made Dogtooth… I think there’s a certain kind of European movement now that is a very interesting cinema, but not being in this old way of looking at cinema as an art form: more conceptual, more raising questions about contemporary times, but doing it in an entertaining way. And I’m really happy that they highlighted it, that they gave us a prize, because I think I’m part of that movement…

Full interview for The Skinny

Brian Taylor on ‘Mom and Dad’, Nic Cage and ‘Crank 3’

“My relationship with my parents was great. I never felt like they wanted to kill me. They disguised that very well.”

Although the above may sound like we’re acting as a therapist to American filmmaker Brian Taylor, who’s speaking to us by phone from Los Angeles, the question of his relationship with his parents is a fitting one. It’s central to the premise of his new horror comedy Mom and Dad starring Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair, which is concerned with a mysterious mass hysteria that breaks out across the USA, causing parents to turn homicidal towards their children. Not all children, but specifically their own kids…

Full interview for The Skinny

Best from the West: new Scottish features at Glasgow Film Festival 2018

This year’s Glasgow Film Festival was hit by an unprecedented series of setbacks, largely thanks to the combined efforts of Storm Emma and the cold wave dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’. Across three days in its second week, dozens of screenings and events were cancelled due to snow-related safety risks, while much of the talent scheduled to appear, as well as attendees not staying in Glasgow, were unable to reach the city…

Full feature for Sight & Sound

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams