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

The Other Lamb (Malgorzata Szumowska, 2019)

It’s not always fair to review a film based on what it isn’t. But that inclination grows when the work itself teases a divergent narrative route of interest, only for the ultimate focus to send that plot thread away for a story altogether more conventional for the territory it explores. Such is the case with The Other Lamb, the English-language debut of Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska…

Full review for SciFiNow

Blow the Man Down (Bridget Savage Cole/Danielle Krudy, 2019)

Blow the Man Down opens with an attention-grabbing group rendition of the eponymous sea shanty, which originated in the 19th century, with alternate lyrics referencing the New England port town of the film’s setting. Thanks to a montage of misty skies, icy-looking water and squelchy sea creatures, as well as the region and shared taste for anachronistic music, viewers may initially be reminded of Robert Eggers’ recent The Lighthouse.

Instead, writer/director pair Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy present a multi-layered contemporary mystery that’s less stylistically outlandish than Eggers’ film, though certainly full of its own memorable idiosyncrasies. To name just one, those singing fishermen reappear as a Greek chorus of sorts, popping up throughout the film with a song and the odd fourth wall-breaking glance to camera…

Full review for Little White Lies

 

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (J.-P. Valkeapää, 2019)

Thrilling Finnish feature Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, from director J-P Valkeapää, is a drama about trauma and recovering from great loss, set in the world of BDSM. It also has plentiful body horror, deadpan dark humour and plotting beats reminiscent of a romantic comedy – think Sleepless in Seattle, except instead of a meet-cute atop the Empire State Building, Tom Hanks’ widower had just wanted someone to strangle him…

Full review for Little White Lies

GFF20 vs. COVID-19: four takeaways from Glasgow Film Festival 2020

This year’s Glasgow Film Festival constantly faced the prospect of major disruption amidst the global outbreak of COVID-19, as major overseas events, most notably SXSW, fell to advance cancellations while this year’s GFF was still taking place. The organisers managed to pull off a complete edition before the axe fell, with the Scottish government now scaling back public gatherings in the days since its closing night. The virus has now been assigned pandemic status, and even more spring festivals in the UK and globally have since indefinitely postponed before any government intervention, including TribecaBelfast and the now independent Glasgow Short Film Festival

Full feature for Sight & Sound

Five Bruce Springsteen songs and how they influenced my drag-racing drama ‘Run’

Following Shell (2012) and Iona (2015), Run sees writer-director Scott Graham return to exploring characters in another relatively isolated Scottish community, this time his own hometown of Fraserburgh, a fishing town in the country’s far northeast. “I’m never sure how people from my home town are going to feel about it,” Graham says. “I think they would be the first to recognise it’s not an easy place to live.”

Speaking to us at the Glasgow Film Festival, where Run had a Scottish premiere a few weeks before its UK-wide release, Graham mentions a few audience members had travelled down from Fraserburgh to see the film early: “They seemed to really like it. They were very complimentary to the cast on the work they’d done on the local dialect.”

A feature-length expansion of one of Graham’s earlier shorts, Run is rooted in both the specificities of its Scottish setting and certain anxieties informed by American culture. It explores the malaise of thirtysomething Finnie (Mark Stanley), who has an increasingly fraught relationship with his two sons and wife Katie (Amy Manson), who was his teenage sweetheart – the pair have tattoos quoting Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’…

Full interview for the BFI

Ten Movies From Glasgow Film Festival You’ll Want to Watch

The 16th Glasgow Film Festival wrapped up this past weekend, and going by the state of arts event cancellations and delays in the wake of the global pandemic of Covid-19 – from SXSW to Coachella – it might be the only big British film festival for a while. Rather than solely offering a sneak peek at hyped titles due in the coming few months (though there were still plenty of those), this year’s programme was heavy on intriguing oddities currently without UK distribution in the pipeline. But going by the general quality, they’re sure to pop up in cinemas or on streaming services by year’s end. In no particular order, here are ten titles from GFF 2020 worth catching when you can…

Full feature for AnOther

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams