Introducing ‘Run’ star Marli Siu – Scotland’s brightest new acting talent

Among the creative industries, the coronavirus pandemic has had a particularly big impact on movies and theatre, with cinemas and stages closed – and filming halted mid-production. For Scottish rising star Marli Siu, whose big screen debut was in cult horror musical Anna and the Apocalypse, there’s been an effect on multiple music-heavy projects.

Firstly, her indie film Run opened in March during growing uncertainty, lasting just five days before lockdown scuppered attendance (it’s out on digital this week). Inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen and starring Game of Thrones’ Mark Stanley, the thrifty 76-minute drama follows an existentially frustrated father in the Scottish town of Fraserburgh, who swipes his son’s car for a late night drag race.

Later this year, Siu will also feature in Our Ladies, the long-awaited adaptation of Alan Warner’s beloved 1998 novel The Sopranos (no mafia connection), which had its planned multiplex release in April pushed back to September. The Derry Girls-ish film follows five riotous teenagers from the Highlands running wild in mid-’90s Edinburgh for an afternoon of debauchery. But before that, you’ll see her on the small screen in Prime Video’s new series Alex Rider, based on Anthony Horowitz’s bestselling spy novels and also starring national treasure Vicky McClure.

Basically, Marli’s got a lot going for her right now. So, we dropped her a line to find out why she’s suddenly such a big deal…

Full interview for NME

The story of Bong Joon-Ho’s forgotten masterpiece

The concept of time has changed entirely during the coronavirus pandemic, but yes, it really has been just three (3) months since Parasite’s game-changing haul at the Oscars. The South Korean film, directed by Bong Joon-Ho picked up four awards, including its historic win for Best Picture. It remains the only good thing to have happened in 2020.

But while Parasite’s Oscars breakthrough came as a welcome surprise, Bong’s back catalogue has long performed well with audiences in the US and the rest of the Western world; he’s been directing films for two decades. Two of his earlier Korean language films, monster movie The Host and thriller Mother, both did numbers commercially and racked up great reviews. He also directed and co-wrote two English language movies that saw him work alongside a number of major Western actors: the Netflix-backed pig-hippo caper Okja, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and Snowpiercer.

Snowpiercer a dystopian thriller, lavished with critical acclaim and bolstered by an all-star cast that includes Chris Evans, Parasite’s Song Kang Ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer. But the film was, at one point, destined to become a footnote in Bong’s back catalogue. Shortly after it wrapped filming, The Weinstein Company acquired the rights to distribute the film in a number of countries including North America and the UK, which is where the production’s troubles began…

Full feature for i-D

The Whistlers (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2019)

A slick country-hopping noir riff with bloody shootouts and occasionally lavish locations, The Whistlers would seem to be a rather surprising swerve into mainstream crowd-pleasing territory for writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu, one of the poster boys of the Romanian New Wave. But while some of his earlier features, such as 12:08 East of Bucharest and Police, Adjective, certainly fit the realist and/or minimalist mode of the types of Romanian films that have broken out internationally in the last decade-plus, the pattern of his career has been as eccentric as the onscreen tone and characters of his movies.

For one of the odder one-two filmmaking punches of recent memory, the movie he made directly before The Whistlers was Infinite Football, a documentary about a proposed reinvention of the rules of the beautiful game, which looks like it cost as much to make as one night’s rent at the motel in this film. Unlike Infinite Football’s civil servant, Porumboiu doesn’t seem to be looking to reinvent his chosen subject (noir) with The Whistlers, although it is still full of strangeness in line with his other works. For one thing, there’s its distinct hook for a crime movie, as hinted at in its title for English-speaking territories…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Romantic Comedy (Elizabeth Sankey, 2019)

Elizabeth Sankey is an English multi-hyphenate whose work encompasses music, writing and acting. She’s likely best known as one half of the indie pop duo Summer Camp, who’ve released several albums to date, one of which was the soundtrack to Charlie Shackleton’s essay documentary on teen films, Beyond Clueless. In the realm of critical commentary, she has written for The Guardian, NME, Vice and other publications on all kinds of pop culture, with many of her pieces concerning deconstructions of media from her formative years.

Her feature debut as a director, Romantic Comedy, is a melting pot of all these creative interests: an essay film heavy on autobiographical relationships to the art and texts being discussed, for which Sankey, through Summer Camp, also provides songs – although Jeremy Warmsley also contributes a score…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Corneliu Porumboiu talks ‘The Whistlers’

Following his breakthrough feature, 2006’s 12:08 East of Bucharest, Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu has become known for veering between similarly satirical comedies, meta-textual documentaries (The Second Game, Infinite Football) and ostensibly more traditional dramas (Police, Adjective). His most recent film, The Whistlers, which premiered in competition against Parasite at Cannes, is a departure from all of them.

With a touch of the Coen brothers in tone, The Whistlers is a comedic noir with a twist: it’s largely set around La Gomera, a Canary Island with an ancestral language, “El Silbo Gomero”, based around whistling. Cristi (Police, Adjective star Vlad Ivanov) is a cop who’s a whistle-blower for the mafia, under police surveillance himself in Romania thanks to his ties to a shady businessman. Tasked with helping to get that same mobster out of prison – and lead the way to a hidden €30m stash – Cristi ventures to La Gomera to learn the coded language, so as to secretly communicate across long distances and stifle police detection.

It’s certainly an interesting hook for a heist movie, and viewers acquainted with the Romanian New Wave can rest assured that, while certainly a more mainstream crowd pleaser, The Whistlers does not see Porumboiu drop his eccentric streak.

With the film now available on Curzon Home Cinema, alongside his previous feature Infinite Football, we speak to Porumboiu about more than if he knows how to whistle like Lauren Bacall…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

30 essential ‘Simpsons’ episodes to watch on Disney+

Thanks to Disney’s acquisition of the 20th Century Fox back catalogue, one of the big selling points of Disney+ is access to the entire library of The Simpsons. Well, almost. The Michael Jackson-featuring Season 3 opener, “Stark Raving Dad”, was pulled from circulation in 2019 – you can currently only get that episode legally on the existing DVD box set of that season.

Additionally, most of The Simpsons’ 30-plus seasons are currently presented on Disney+ in an incorrect, cropped aspect ratio, something that is reportedly going to be amended in the next few months. But any easy access to The Simpsons is good access, even if conventional wisdom is that only an increasingly small fraction of the output is worth accessing…

Full feature for VODzilla.co

Bloodshot (David S. F. Wilson, 2020)

A cinematic debut for one of the flagship characters of the hitherto unadapted Valiant Comics company, Bloodshot may feature actors popular from 2010s film and television, but its atmosphere is very much in line with the comic book movies around during Valiant’s 1990s heyday. Back when, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman films aside, the live-action comic book films making it to the screen tended to be centred around comparatively obscure characters such as The Mask and The Crow, with relatively little fidelity to their source material and, with the odd exception, journeymen filmmakers simply making the most of mid-range budgets.

Though heavier on CGI than even The Mask, thanks to its premise of a regenerating super-soldier (Vin Diesel) enhanced by advanced technology, Bloodshot’s vibe is definitely that of a mid-1990s B-blockbuster throwback, rather than the overcomplicated mythology of your modern Marvel and DC movies. In this case, that is not a compliment…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams