Monday, February 13, 2012

This Must Be Pop

This blog is no longer being updated, but if you're a fan of amazing pop music please visit my other site This Must Be Pop.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Trailer: The Ten

Adam Brody and Paul Rudd in one film? I'm there!

Sunday, September 09, 2007


  • The wonderful Swedish director Lukas Moodysson is currently hard at work on his first English-language film, Mammoth, and I was extremely excited to hear that it will star the beautiful and brilliant Gael Garcia Bernal! I could hardly dream up a better pairing so I'm bursting in anticipation to find out more and see the film when it's finished, although it sadly won't be out until 2009!
  • Now out in Europe is the new film directed by and starring the lovely Julie Delpy, best known for the ace films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. It's called 2 Days In Paris and is a bit more of a mainstream comedy of culture clashes, but it still looks good and it seems to be doing quite well as well, so perhaps it will help some more people discover her previous work.
  • One of my favourite books of all time is Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, and the TV series of it is considered a classic, so the new film version has a lot to live up to. I'm sure Emma Thompson will rise to the challenge as Lady Marchmain, but I'm less sure of Matthew Goode, who was quite wooden in Chasing Liberty and Imagine Me And You, as the lead character Charles Ryder.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Trailer: Broken English

This looks like a really nice film, but it's not helping with my extreme desire to meet a beautiful French boy to fall in love with. "I hope you find a penis!" made me LOL quite literally, but really there is no lovelier sound than a French man speaking English.

Trailer: Rocket Science

This looks good! A sweet American indie film about a geeky teenager who gets into the school debating team. Sounds a lot like Thumbsucker but I liked that film so I'm sure I'll like this one too.

Trailers: British Film Special

There are very few British films that I would count among my favourites, and I don't know if any of these will be joining them, but I do think they'll be worth seeing:


I've not read the book but I've heard great things about it and that this film is a good adaptation, although quite unsurprisingly the focus has been increased on Keira Knightley's character. I love James McAvoy but I hated Romola Garai in Daniel Deronda, so we'll have to see if she can win me over.

Hallam Foe

Now this actually looks like the kind of film I'd normally see - something like Art School Confidential or Thumbsucker, but it's British. I haven't seen Jamie Bell in anything since Billy Elliott, so it'll be interesting to see how he is as an adult actor.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Review: Empire Records

At this rate I'm going to run out of superlatives by the end of the week, because I've just discovered yet another favourite film. I can't believe this film has existed for the last 12 years and no-one thought to make me watch it, when it is so clearly one of the best films of the 90s. I'm not sure anything can oust Clueless as my fave 90s comedy, but it's definitely up with The Brady Bunch Movie.

I loved all of the characters in this film, especially Lucas, AJ, Eddie, Mark and Gina. Lucas was like Pacey from Dawson's Creek with a little of Seth Cohen's humour, so I wonder if either of those characters were inspired by him. AJ was adorably sweet and looked like Kavana did in the 90s, which is definitely a good look. Eddie and Mark reminded me extremely of some lovely friends of mine, and Eddie also made me want to watch White Oleander again because Patrick Fugit's character looks just like him. Gina is played by Renée Zellweger, and while I do like Renée as an adult actress, as a teenage character (although she was actually 26 in 1995) she was exceedingly ace.

Not very much happens in this film - in fact, it's all set within one day, but it's the strength of characters and humour which make it brilliant. Personally I prefer films like this, because although a fast-moving, exciting film can be thoroughly enjoyable, I find that a film with great characters and a general good vibe will stick with me and be fun to watch again and again. If a film is just about the plot's twists and turns, then once you've seen it once or twice it's too predictable and holds no interest. A film like this will never run out, and I am off to buy my copy right away. If you haven't seen it I suggest you do the same, or just search for it on YouTube because the whole movie is there!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Review: Paris, je t'aime

I have rarely been as excited about seeing a film as I was about this one, so it was a bit of a worry that I might be disappointed, but I'm very pleased to say with absolute certainty that there was not a thing disappointing about this brilliant film project. The idea is that a selection of the best film-makers in France and worldwide would make a short film each about Paris and love and the love of Paris. It is a treat for Francophiliacs and film buffs alike, as you can spot all the most wonderful Paris landmarks while keeping an eye out for your favourite film stars and directors.

Paris Je T'Aime is an independent/world cinema-lover's dream. For me almost every section held some excitement, whether it was an actor from or director of one of my favourite films. Just to explain how exciting this was, let me list all the actors and directors I jumped for joy at the appearance of, and the reasons why: Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), Gus Van Sant (Elephant), Gaspard Ulliel (A Very Long Engagement), Elias McConnell (Elephant), Steve Buscemi (Ghost World), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), Ludivine Sagnier (8 Femmes), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko), Elijah Wood (Everything Is Illuminated), Emily Mortimer (Bright Young Things), Rufus Sewell (A Knight's Tale), Alexander Payne (Election), Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Natalie Portman (Garden State). Most of those films are in my top picks of all time, so if you are still reading this, can I ask why? If you're not racing off to buy your cinema ticket or at least pre-order the DVD, this is really not the blog for you.

This film is really a summary of every reason that independent and world cinema is so many millions of times better than the commercial blockbusters. I can't see why anyone would rather watch the latter when actors, actresses and film-makers like these ones exist. The film is mostly in French, even some of the sections with non-French directors and actors, giving it a properly French feel as opposed to packaging Frenchness for an outside audience. France is probably my favourite country for films (think Science of Sleep, L'auberge Espagnol, Amelie etc.) but it's even better to have the special French touch mixed in with a variety of the most talented film-makers and actors in the whole world. It's like a pick and mix of film brilliance, and I couldn't have made it up better myself!

The unusual format of the film may prevent it from getting all the critical acclaim it deserves, but I hope everyone who even slightly enjoys foreign or independent films will see this, because it will open up a whole world of brilliant but often hidden talent that is so much more exciting than the endless series of remakes and sequels provided by the mainstream film outlets. As a taster, here are some of my favourite sections, which I have found on YouTube:

Faubourg Saint-Denis - beautiful and inspiring! Stars Natalie Portman, playing a similar character to Garden State.
Père-Lachaise - two lovely English actors show how British cinema could be just as great as French if we tried.
Tour Eiffel - I don't normally like mime but this is hilarious and wonderful.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bumper Film Review Post

I've seen quite a few films lately as it's the summer and I'm not exactly bursting with busy-ness, but the holidays also have a tendency to make me immensely lazy so I haven't gotten around to reviewing many of them. I will now rectify this by providing you with my thoughts 'in briefs' (and the films will indeed be marked out of briefs, because I couldn't resist that highlarious pun) on some of the things I've seen in the past few weeks...

(NOTE: More briefs are good, not bad in the sense of the film being pants!)

A Good Year
I must admit it was the trailer that made me watch this, because it has Alizée's gorgeous hit single Moi... Lolita as its soundtrack, and it also stars one of the loveliest actresses around, Marion Cotillard (Love Me If You Dare, Innocence etc.). A Good Year was not a terrible film but it was not a very exciting one either. It did improve towards the end but compared to actual French films (as opposed to this which is only set in France) it captured only the beauty of France and its people, not their spirit. And where was the hot young Frenchman that all French films absolutely have to have? Couldn't they bring in Romain Duris or Gaspard Ulliel for a cameo, even Guillaume Canet would do!

Being a big fan of modern musicals, as I mentioned in my last post, it was no surprise I loved this film. It was interesting to see it just after Dreamgirls as it's set at a similar time and covers some of the same issues (for example songs written by black artists being given to white ones) but from a different perspective, as the main characters are white. The music is great and the whole thing is very jolly in a High School Musical-ish way - if you enjoyed that you'll definitely like Hairspray. My sister thought it was "too weird", which we now know (since she disliked Dreamgirls) is a very positive sign!

Running With Scissors
I finally got to see the film version of the best book I've read this year, and luckily it didn't live up to my cautiously low expectations. I didn't expect it to be as good as the book but actually I think it captured Augusten's unique perspective pretty well and did the book justice as much as possible. I even found myself not really hating Rachel Evan Wood, which was quite a shock, as you'll agree if you read my review of Thirteen. I would definitely recommend this film, but I recommend the book even more.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Review: Dreamgirls

My expectations for this film weren't high as my sister had termed it "rubbish", but it turns out her taste is even worse than I feared, because this film is excellent! It's quite long, but needed to be if they were to include all the main songs from the original musical and still have a decent plot. Being a big fan of Motown music, I loved the songs and also enjoyed spotting all of the references to Motown stars such as Diana Ross and the Jackson 5. The characters and plot were good too, unlike many musicals where these aspects aren't important, and I can understand now why the musical did so well.

I hated Jennifer Hudson on American Idol, finding her truly unlikeable as a person, but she somehow makes a very engaging character of Effie White and her vocals certainly outshine Beyoncé, although that may just be because we're used to Beyoncé already - I've seen her sing live and you could not say her voice was anything but brilliant. The first half of the film is very much from Effie's perspective but Deena (Beyoncé's character) takes the lead both in the group and the film in the second half, which was the second act in the stage musical.

This has got me in the musical mood now and I'm off to add all the ones I haven't seen to my online rental list. Any recommendations would be great. There haven't been many musical films out in the 2000s that I haven't loved (The Phantom of the Opera is the only one I can think of that I saw and disliked), so I've compiled a top 10 of my favourites:
  1. Moulin Rouge
  2. High School Musical
  3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  4. Dreamgirls
  5. Get Over It
  6. Camp
  7. Happiness of the Katakuris
  8. Save The Last Dance
  9. Chicago
  10. Bride & Prejudice
Narrowly missing the list were Honey and 8 Femmes, among others. Tomorrow I'm off to see Hairspray so I look forward to seeing how it will rank.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Trailer: Evening

This film is written by the author of The Hours and A Home At The End Of The World, both brilliant books and films. This seems similar to The Hours and shares some of its stars, plus Hugh Dancy, although I'm not convinced by his American accent.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


  • I haven't read The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler but I might just see the film now I know that the main male star is lovely Will Young-alike Hugh Dancy! Also making an appearance is Kevin Zegers, who was great in Transamerica, and Emily Blunt, who I hated in My Summer of Love and The Devil Wears Prada, but perhaps she can change my mind... we'll see.
  • The Science of Sleep, one of my favourite films I've seen this year, finally came out on DVD this week. My imported copy has been promising to be despatched for weeks, so I think a trip to HMV is in order, and I strongly advise you do the same cos I can't see how anyone wouldn't love this adorable film!
  • I'm quite excited for a new film called The Go-Getter, which stars some of the acest young American talents of the moment, Jena Malone, Lou Taylor-Pucci (from Thumbsucker) and Zooey Deschanel. All I know is Lou plays the main character, going on a road trip of self-discovery after his mother's death. I guess we'll just have to keep an eye on the IMDB page.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Jessica Goes Mainstream: A Daring Experiment

I was in the need for new films to watch, so I hit alluc and skimmed the pages for something worth seeing. Where was the foreign film section? Or the independent releases? There was nothing of the sort, but desperate times call for depserate measures, so I decided to take a brave sojourn into a realm I, perhaps snobbishly, haven't frequented for many years now: films that actually played in the big cineplex in every local town, that got advertised on bus stops, that were reviewed in Heat magazine. I was going mainstream! And here are the results, with suitably unoriginal popcorns out of 5...

Stranger Than Fiction
This had the pull of lovely Brit Emma Thompson and quirky-mainstream Maggie Gyllenhaal, but the presence of Will Ferrell didn't put me at ease - Anchorman has to be one of the most over-rated cult hits, although it's not quite as horrendous as Napoleon Dynamite. I liked the tone of Stranger Than Fiction, and the idea of the plot was good, although they didn't even attempt to explain how Emma Thompson's character's character had come to life. We were meant to just accept that it had happened, as was she, clearly, as her disturbance about this event only seemed to last a few minutes of exclaiming "your nose! your jumper!" etc. There was also a bit of a leap of faith with the idea that Maggie's character would fall for Harold Crick. I did enjoy the film, though, and recommend it as long as you don't want to dissect it too deeply!

The other Gyllenhaal takes the lead role in this extremely lengthy crime drama, and it's probably his most mature role yet - I remember him as the cute teenager in The Day After Tomorrow, and here he is with children of his own. I can't say I've watched many crime films before, so I enjoyed this as a new experience, even if a friend had already told me the ending (and it is a true story so I guess quite a lot of viewers would know it already). There were a few disgusting moments, as the crime being investigated was a serial killer, but the plot remained interesting (complicated but still easy enough to understand) and only on a few occasions did I find myself drifting off.

Failure To Launch
I was intrigued by this because I've wanted to see the original French version for a while and haven't yet had chance, so I suppose this is second best. I was dubious at the beginning but I did get into it more as I went along. It's a very simple romantic comedy in a strange situation - think Along Came Polly, Two Weeks Notice, or most similar of all, How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days, which also starred Matthew McConaughey and a blonde lady trying to trick him and trying not to fall in love with him. I won't tell you whether Sarah Jessica Parker succeeds in either of those tasks, but you can probably guess most of the film without seeing it. Still, the predictability is quite comforting and while this film didn't make my brain whir even once, this was quite a good thing after a week of exams.

I have to say this 'going mainstream' has been quite enjoyable overall, although this may be because I skipped past so many films I couldn't even bear to attempt to watch before settling on these slightly more appealing options. It was fun, though, and I'll probably do it again some time soon.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Here, as promised, is the article I wrote for my university's magazine. It wasn't published, so now I have to hate the editor, even though he reads Popjustice and looks like Rufus Wainwright, damn him. It doesn't have a title, because said editor was not imaginative enough to think of one when I asked him to. A great journalist in the making, I am sure!

On questioning some of my fellow students on their opinions of European cinema, most responded with a tirade against the ancient French films they’d had to endure at school, or claimed they just weren’t patient or cultured enough to bother with subtitles. But perhaps they will change their minds when they hear of the hilariously bizarre storylines of Pedro Almodóvar or the stunning visuals of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. While the state of British cinema is practically an excuse to denounce my nationality, I have recently discovered that this is not the case throughout Europe – in fact our continental neighbours are currently creating some of the most enjoyable and innovative work of our time.

Browsing HMV’s DVD section on a dull half-term afternoon a couple of years ago, I wandered into the World Cinema section, and spotting the cool-looking cover of a cheap copy of Good Bye Lenin!, I took a chance of something new and within weeks I was hooked, allowing myself a once-weekly plunge into the lucky dip of half-price foreign movies. There were as many disasters (such as the impressively dull Double Life of Veronique and tediously trivial Summer Things) as triumphs, but I soon found myself an expert on all things European and spoilt for choice on holiday destinations. Should I visit Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, home of Good Bye Lenin!’s Kerner family, or relive Pot Luck in Barcelona?

Below are my four choices of directors whose work is not only excellent but easily accessible, whether you’re a world cinema addict like me or haven’t yet worked out where the subtitle button is on your remote control. Leave your preconceptions at the door and give these a chance – but beware, it might not be good for your bank balance!

Lukas Moodysson:
This Swedish poet turned writer/director had his breakthrough hit in 1998 with Fucking Amal (retitled Show Me Love in the UK), a sweet story of love between two teenage girls, which was bigger than Titanic in Sweden. He followed this with Together, a warm-hearted film set in a 1970s commune (soundtracked unsurprisingly by ABBA), and Lilya 4-ever, a bleak yet thought-provoking tale of an unfortunate Russian girl, which gained US critical success. In 2004, Moodysson, who is a strong socialist and feminist, released his most controversial creation yet - A Hole In My Heart, a subversive and disturbing commentary on the Swedish porn industry, of which he noted: "in a perfect world, this movie would not be made."

Pedro Almodóvar:
While he is the most successful Spanish filmmaker of his generation, Almodóvar's work is not mainstream or conventional. Unlike the fantasy and surrealism of Spanish-language classics such as Pan's Labyrinth or Un Chien Andalou, Almodóvar's films are set in domestic contemporary situations with a focus on human relationships. Volver, starring Penelope Cruz, was arguably the biggest non-English critical hit of 2006 and depicted the strength and resilience of three generations of women in a La Mancha family. Other successes have included Bad Education (about child sexual abuse) and All About My Mother, where characters include a pre-operative transsexual, a lesbian actress and a pregnant nun. It is hard to imagine such subjects being treated with as much grace and tolerance in a British or American movie.

Hans Weingartner & Wolfgang Becker:
These directors, Austrian and German respectively, are responsible for two of the biggest German-language hits of recent years, The Edukators (2004) and Good Bye Lenin! (2003). Both films star the promising young actor Daniel Brühl and share an accessible political angle. Good Bye Lenin! is an entertaining yet thought-provoking story of a boy whose socialist mother falls into a coma, during which time the Berlin Wall falls and German reunification takes place. Fearing the news could cause a heart attack, her son goes to great, and highly amusing, lengths to prevent her finding out. The Edukators also sets out with socialist motives (three young activists disturb wealthy locals by rearranging their possessions when they aren’t home) but when one of their break-ins goes wrong they meet a man who gave up activism to start a family and a business, and find that they can learn as much from him as he can from them. These films convey valuable political messages in a light-hearted way, but avoid over-simplifying or outright propaganda.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet:
Beginning his career with dark fantasy films Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, Jeunet went on to make what is surely the most popular foreign language film of recent years, Amélie. This idealised portrayal of Parisian life has done wonders for the city’s tourism and its quirkily beautiful star Audrey Tautou was the inspiration for many a chic new hair-do. Jeunet’s background in animation gives his films a uniquely dream-like appearance, not let down by the plot which is touching and humorous. He again worked with Tautou on his next film, an adaptation of the WW1-set novel, A Very Long Engagement, but Amélie’s success could not be matched. His next project is directing the film version of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, another tall order since the imaginative philosophical novel has a dedicated following of fans.

Trailer: Paris, Je T'aime

I can't wait to see this! Out 29th June in the UK.