Belle (2021)

Quick Synopsis: An adaptation of Beauty And The Beast, with VR, social media, and kayaks.

I love my local cinema, I really do, I encourage everybody to go see films at the cinema if they can. But they do sometimes annoy me. There have been multiple times where they’ve shown posters and trailers for films they then don’t screen: Popstar, The French Dispatch etc. So I suppose I should be glad that they at least showed this, once, at 7:45 on a weekday.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’m no longer annoyed by this, I’m f*cking pissed. This is astounding, and I hate that I left the cinema, text people how great it was, and yet they are unable to watch it like I did. This deserves to be watched. It’s probably the best film I’ve seen so far this year, not my favourite, but definitely the best. The emotion, the music, the story, the animation, it’s all so wonderful.

It is an adaptation of Beauty And The Beast, but a very loose one. It uses it as a foundation, but then takes it in a new direction. It’s like the original is a stick figure of a person, and this is a Picasso. You can see the similarities, but you wouldn’t recommend it to fans of the original.

You may be forgiven for thinking this goes a bit silly and light. That would be wrong, it goes dark. The revelation that the “beast” is a teenager who’s being beaten by his father, and the moments where he is hunched over and shaking are when he’s protecting his younger brother are heartbreaking. As are when the dad approaches the main character and attacks her in public.

The music is FANTASTIC too, wasn’t in English (obviously) but the melodies are terrific and haunting. There’s a weird ethereal beauty to it, like a fog made of reassurance and kind words. Definitely the best soundtrack of this year, not exactly the kind of songs you’ll listen to on their own individually, but definitely the kind where you’d sit down and listen to the whole soundtrack on your headphones.

The animation? It’s strange, some may hate it, some will love it. There are moments where it’s a bit “off”, but when you remember that those scenes are taking place in a virtual reality world it all makes sense that the buildings would have that weird feeling to them. There are moments where it feels like the backgrounds to some scenes are photos, and it’s certainly an acquired taste, but it’s one I like. The director, Mamuro Hosoda, also directed Wolf Children, and The Girl Who Lept Through Time, both of which have been highly recommended to me by multiple people.

So in summary, you have to see this. It could have been a cliche romance, instead, it’s a heartbreaking tale of online identity, systemic abuse, PTSD, art as therapy, plus it doesn’t end with a romance. There’s no “she loves him” ending, it has a “she loves herself” ending. Much more beautiful. I already know I’m going to buy it, I have to see it again. Have you ever been at a gig and there’s a moment where the singer stops singing, the band stops playing, and people stop cheering? In that moment where the only sound is thousands of people singing in unison? The mass emotion and passion seem to carry everybody today to a better place? Sure, life is shit, but at that moment, everybody belongs, everybody is as one, and it’s glorious. That’s what this film is like. Stunning, beautiful, and an experience you’ll carry with you.

The 5 Most Annoying Trends In Horror Movies

Last week I went to see the forgettable The Forest when it occurred to me, there’s been no genre with as high a disappointment ratio as horror. In the last two years (or since I started getting a cineworld card), I’ve only seen two very good horror films: The Babadook and It Follows. It’s probably the only genre with more films I’ve disliked (Annabelle, The Gallows, Unfriended) than liked. I’ve figured out that I dislike most of the films for the same reasons, so I looked at those reasons and list them here.

1. Native Americans/Japan

So what’s the cause for this demon that’s haunting everybody? Well, you just need to go for either Native-American or Japanese. The Japanese one is simply the fear of the unknown, but it’s not really unknown anymore. This isn’t the 70’s anymore, we’re aware of Japan etc and we’re no longer ignorant of their culture. So it’s weird that we do seem that a lot of modern horror films just go “because Japan has ghosts” as an acceptable answer. But that’s nowhere near as one that’s almost become cliche: Native Americans. This is a lot simpler, it’s to make do for the guilt of the genocide that took place hundreds of years ago, so we imply that they were a noble people with power beyond our grasp,bestowing upon them a knowledge and power that makes us feel okay with almost wiping them out. There’s not many modern American horror things in real life, there’s not many countrywide urban legends and rituals, so using Native Americans or the culture of the Japanese is just lazy shorthand.

2. Soundtracks.

Quick, what do the following have in common: The Exorcist, Halloween, Psycho? Well, they’re all horrors which have stood the test of time. But try to remember something about this films, odds are you just had the soundtrack to one of them in your head. Which makes me feel sad that this sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore, It Follows is the only horror with a really good original soundtrack I’ve seen in seemingly forever. Most films just go with filling their soundtrack with rock music so they can make more money from the soundtrack. The trouble with this is that familiarity makes you feel safe, so when you’re watching a film and you’re sitting there and you recognise the music then you automatically get taken out of the film, you’re no longer scared. It’s like my nan used to say: Its impossible to be scared whilst listening to Creed. The only exception is if the characters themselves are listening to music, then you’re allowed to have familiarity. But if you’re having a horror chase scene to a song by P.O.D, then I won’t be scared, I’ll be wondering why the hell you chose that song. Please note: I know that Tubular Bells is a Mike Oldfield song that does exist outside of The Exorcist, but there is a difference between the way that the film used that, and the way that modern films use music.

3. Lack Of Originality

Yes, I know there’s been a Point Break remake this year, and there will soon be a Ghostbusters one. But no film genre is as incestuous and mastubatory as horror. Look, I know why this happens. It can be hard to market horror, it can be difficult to make people feel scared in a 30 second advert. So it’s tempting to just do a familiar concept so that people think “oh, that’s another film about killer t-shirts strangling people, I love them!” and go to see it. Companies want to showcase the best moments in the trailers, this is why you get the best jokes from comedies in the trailer. But in horror that’s different, you can take the scariest scene from a film, but take it out of it’s context and it’s meaningless. The best adverts I’ve seen for horror over the last few years have been It Follows and The Gallows. Because they showed absolutely nothing. You left the trailer with more questions than when it started, you wanted to see it to find out what happened. In this sense, less is definitely more. Ok, The Gallows ended up being a dire pile of faecal matter, but the trailer was superb.

4. Final Jump Scare

I blame Paranormal Activity for this. That film (apparently) stayed relatively restrained throughout, but then ended with something jumping towards the camera, thereby making it a feature length version of one of those videos that asshole at work always shows you. The reasoning behind this was that it would mean the audience would leave the cinema still shaking, otherwise, you know, they might have forgotten it was a horror movie and think they just watched P.S I Love You (which is a film which inspires horror and despair, but for a different reason entirely). The trouble with these fourth wall breaking scares is they break the story. By this point the ghost or demon or cannibalistic giraffe has already been destroyed and everyone lives happily, but to then have the thing leap at the audience at the end just means the story isn’t over. And if there’s no sequel then the film is completely pointless as nothing changed, it’s just a story of a demon that kills then kills again. Now, this is different from a downer ending where you feel an unending sense of doom, as they’re usually set up well so you’re walking out scared of the world as opposed to just the tiny amount of fear that jump scares inspire.

Worst Offender: Unfriended

Not only was this pointless, but it ruined what would have been a fantastic ending that almost saved the film.

5. Jump Scares

If you’ve seen a horror film lately you know what this is, quiet quiet quiet, sudden loudness and something happens. This scares the audience. But it doesn’t, not really. It doesn’t fill you with terror and make you scared outside of the film. It won’t effect your life once you’ve left the cinema. Basically; they don’t last. You don’t walk around afterwards with that sense of genuine terror. Look, we get it, being genuinely scary is hard, but if you can’t do it, don’t bother attempting. I don’t want to be fine after your film, I want your film to fuck me up and leave me unable to sleep. And jump scares don’t do that. You can have a few of them, but they can’t be the entire modus operandi.

 

 

The Sad Case Of The 5th Wave

Confession time: I actually liked this film. Okay, the “romance” moments were really bad but the rest of the film was good. The destruction scenes were very well done and really showcased the horror that’s going on. There’s very little “implied” deaths here, they’re shown, and shown in detail. For example; during a scene where an earthquake induced tsunami where the wave washes through a building, rather than just show it from the outside, or show people getting knocked down, the wave actually knocks someone off a balcony and they land (painfully) on a rail below. The plot itself was really tight as well, it held together beautifully and I’m genuinely invested in the characters and want to see what happens next.

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Which makes it even sadder that it’s not doing well at the box office. It’s just about managed to claw back its budget in the US and considering it was only out in a lot of UK cinemas for a week it doesn’t look like it’s going to do too well here. So why is this? It’s got a semi-established name in Chloe Grace Moretz, Liev Schreiber is usually pretty solid, and you’d think people would be interested in what Maika Monroe does after It Follows.

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Turns out “look amazing”

I think the big problem is the marketing, in that there really wasn’t any. I haven’t seen any posters for it anywhere, nor any trailers, which considering how often I go to the cinema (thank you Cineworld card) isn’t a good sign. I’ve seen the trailers for Spotlight, Concussion and Dirty Grandpa so often that I can probably quote them word for word.

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although it can be hard for me to watch this trailer through the red haze of anger at how awful it looks

So how would I have marketed it? Well, I would have made sure trailers were actually shown at cinema for one thing, if it wasn’t for checking the listings at cineworld website I wouldn’t have had any idea this was even on. Also, I would have done a 5 part video game. I’m not talking an extremely complex XBone or PS4 game or something, just a simple online game made of 4 parts, all based on old video games. One could be like a space invaders clone, one could be one where you have to go around shutting off all the electricity towards the building. You stagger the releases and on the final one you reveal that you are actually aliens invading humanity and causing their doom.

I admit that’s not the most definite way, there’s no way it will guarantee success but at least you’ll be trying. Their entire marketing section on wikipedia is “An international trailer was released on Sony Pictures official youtube account on September 1, 2015”. I just went on the website and it’s pretty standard; cast and crew, videos, gallery etc. But there’s one section labelled “defining the waves”. I saw that and thought “ah, this could be good, maybe it provides a lot of background detail or is some kind of viral marketing campaign. Maybe I was wrong. Nope, it’s literally just a sentence describing each wave of attack. As I used to say whenever I was playing someone on Fifa and they messed up; Wasted opportunity there.

But yeah, if you get a chance, go and see this. It may not deserve you buying it, it may not deserve your adoration, but at the very least it deserves your attention.

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Also, go see Room, because it’s f*cking spectacular

That’s it for today, don’t forget to like, comment or subscribe (button available in the left menu). Enjoy