Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Review | 10 Cloverfield Lane

   9 years ago, when Transformers was just hitting cinema screens, there was a mysterious trailer attached to it that got a LOT of attention. No credits, no information, just a flurry of images presented in found footage format with it culminating in the decapitation of Lady Liberty herself with one word: Cloverfield. Word spread, viral marketing peaked an almighty high and people got excited about the prospect of seeing this film. It worked as a fun, found-footage monster movie but in typical J.J Abrams style, left a lot open ended and raised a number of questions, to which many people expected a sequel. Flash forward to January 2016, and a trailer gets attached to yet another Michael Bay produced flick (coincidental?) with the banner 'Cloverfield' before revealing the full title of 10 Cloverfield Lane. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who lost my collective mind at the prospect of a sequel or some sort of tie-in (though Director Dan Trachtenberg and Abrams both stated the film is more of a 'spiritual successor), but more importantly, is it a decent enough film?

    I'll start off by saying that the film is DEFINITELY NOT a sequel. There's no mention of an attack on New York, a giant monster demolishing statues or little crab creatures sucking blood out of people. Instead, 10 Cloverfield Lane uses the Cloverfield brand to creature the same allure of mystery and intrigue, to use the same ideas thematically rather than churn out a sequel to an already existing idea. However, when the majority of the film is a tense, claustrophobic thriller/horror, the sci-fi aspect feels a little tacked on just to earn its title of a 'Cloverfield' film. It begins with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaving town after what one presumes to be a break up with her partner, wonderfully referencing the beginning of 'Pyscho' in a series of familiar shots, getting involved in a car accident and waking up chained to a bed in an underground bunker. Howard (John Goodman) tells her that there has been a chemical attack, leaving the air contaminated and the earth uninhabitable, and that he has rescued her so she can remain inside with Howard and fellow survivor Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). But Howard is hiding more than he lets on, and Michelle must ask herself, which is more terrifying? Inside or outside?


   Before I discuss the film's biggest twist in the final act, I'll talk about '10 Cloverfield Lane' as it should be: a terrific, suspenseful thriller and horror. First feature-length film Director Dan Trachtenberg nails the claustrophobic atmosphere within the bunker, narrowly manoeuvring between the three rooms as closely and intricately as the three characters, there are moments that are truly nail-biting and certainly got my heart rate beating. In true Hitchcock style, there's the rule of three, the close-ups, the long takes, the rapid cuts.  Trachtenberg has done his homework, and also relies heavily on the mystery and the unknown, which makes John Goodman's Howard truly terrifying. Is he telling the truth? Should we believe him? Brilliantly, Trachtenberg never breaks this illusion by telling us too much, everything is merely implied or heavily suggestful, he gives us the pieces but it is ultimately up to us to put the puzzle together, even if it is not a complete one. And this, dear readers, is what makes '10 Cloverfield Lane' so terrifying. It plays into our most primal fears about what we don't know, and if we don't know something, there is certainly no chance of avoiding it or overcoming it. This mystery is consistent all throughout the film and everything is executed brilliantly, cranking up the suspense at all times but often there is humour injected to balance things out. An example being a fantastic scene where the characters are playing 'Articulate', unbeknownst to Howard Michelle and Emmett have been making a gas mask and suit in secrecy, and Howard, begins his turn. He stares intently at both of them, growling "I see you always. I know what you're doing. I am always watching always. You can't hide from me", Michelle begins to panic and the camera leans in, capturing the panic in Michelle and Emmett and before Michelle crumbles, Emmett shouts "Santa Claus! You're Santa Claus" to which Howard composes himself, smiles and gives himself a point. A brilliant moment of sheer suspense and terror injected with a brief moment of comedy.

   As the performances go, considering it's only three actors (pretty much), John Goodman steals the show in a performance that I genuinely feel is Oscar-worthy. Howard is twisted, mentally unhinged yet so utterly intriguing, from random bursts of anger to more subtle moments of terror, he has so much to hide that you never really know his intentions but you fear what they may be so you never let yourself indulge in the idea, he shrouds himself in a darkness that warrants the tagline 'Monsters come in many forms'. Winstead shines as the leading lady, taking on a Sigourney-Weaver-in-Alien-mode role, using her quick thinking to get her out of certain situations and actually is smart to think of ideas to outwit her captor. No damsel in distress here! John Gallagher Jr. gains a few laughs in a dorky role that feels a little too padded as the comic relief but it was nice to see that mentality bounce off against the darkness of Howard and the panic of Michelle.

   I won't spoil the ending because the less you know the better, but it takes a twist into the sci-fi realm, evoking feelings of The Twilight Zone for one of a better example, that you don't see coming, but feels completely out of place with the rest of the film. Thematically and stylistically it felt unnecessary and just, strange. Like going from Hitchcock to Independence Day, it felt as if Abrams and the team at Bad Robot needed this ending to warrant the 'Cloverfield' name, when really, the film stood strong by itself, when it had a working title of The Cellar. It'll polarise audiences but personally, it wasn't for me. 

   Clever, masterfully executed and suspenseful in a way that would make Hitchcock proud, 10 Cloverfield Lane delivers as a stand alone film to its predecessor, though a disjointed third act weakens an otherwise solid picture. Nevertheless, my favourite film of 2016 so far!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Generation Youtube is CONCERNING.

Ah generation Youtube. I must say, it's admiring. Imagine it, waking up every day and making a few videos revolving around how many biscuits you can shove in your mouth at any one time, or talking about what you got from your shopping spree at Boots. Hunky dory right? We live in a time where this platform is MONUMENTAL and shows no signs of stopping at any point soon. The next generation of young teenagers and kids look up to people such as Alfie Deyes or Zoella, as inspiration. These are the Bowies, the Beatles, the Madonnas, heck, even the Spice Girls of the next generation. Last year, Deye's net worth was an astonishing £2.9 MILLION, whilst girlfriend Zoella makes a cool £50,000 a month. A MONTH. FOR TALKING ABOUT LIPSTICK.
     But I hear you ask, Kieran, nothing is wrong with these people! They are simply young entrepreneurs trying to make their way in the world. I agree whole heartedly, they are doing well to make a living for themselves, but what I don't agree with is the idea of them 'inspiring' their audience, or giving them genuine clean-cut advice they could do with getting. For example, Deyes runs his wildly successful Pointless blog, and has churned out three books in the process of cashing in on something that is, quite frankly, pointless. In his most recent, Deyes speaks of education and University, HURRAH. Finally something of worth being mentioned! Go and tell the children to work hard, have fun, but knuckle down to get your qualifications until you reach an age where you can form your own decisions. But no. Deyes flimsily waves his hand (I imagine) and shouts "I DIDN'T WORK HARD, I DIDN'T EVEN REVISE FOR MY EXAMS BUT I STILL GOT A PLACE AT UNI! SO GUYS DON'T REVISE AND YOU CAN BE LIKE ME!". Aside from eye-rolling excessively, I had genuine concerns. Kids will follow in this guy's footsteps, and look up to him, and therefore will probably think "balls to your education! Shall we race around on a bike blindfolded?". Deyes should know better. He has been given this platform in which he has the attention of a wide young audience, and he isn't using it effectively. If your child came home from school with declining grades would you not be wondering why? And if all they can say is "Oh that Alfie dude did it and look how he turned out!" hang your head in shame. Or write a letter/tweet/etc. But Deyes did get a 3rd at University, so this attitude of not working clearly carried over.

   Unfortunately, we all can't be like Deyes. He comes from a privileged background, he asked for Vespa scooter for his birthday for christ's sake,  a background of wealth and support which we all don't have. The working class family can barely put food on the table let alone sell a kidney in order to buy a scooter. This attitude of "I CAN MAKE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE" correlates to Deyes basically being lazy, but because he's on this privileged platform, kids assume that they can do it too. When the reality is, they need to be focusing on their education, when we are in desperate need of the next generation forming our future, and saving our country from further economic downfall. When I was growing up, I was consistently told that to achieve anything, I had to work hard. I was never expected to be handed something on a plate. I had to work hard, persist and sometimes cry out of sheer stress and eat a whole red velvet cake to cheer myself up afterwards. Hard work warrants rewards and warrants success. This is the kind of message Deyes should be enforcing. You have a platform of addressing vital issues to these kids, feminism, sexism, class, safe sex, racism, politics and so much more. Yet it all goes to waste.

   Deyes' girlfriend and popular Youtuber Zoella also falls into this bracket. Her first 'novel' Girl Online broke many records and sold an astonishing 79,000 copies in it's first week, with the sequel following in due course. However, it came to light that Zoella hadn't even wrote the book at all, it had been ghostwritten, meaning someone else had wrote it and it was published under Zoella's name. Sugg claims the idea was hers and she helped her 'friend' write it in the way she had envisioned, but I still firmly raise my eyebrows. Here we have a girl, who probably came from a normal, working class family, had a part time job, studied hard at University in order to make something of herself, only to have her creative talents snatched away and placed in the hands of someone else. This girl, who worked hard, has had everything backfire in her face. Rumours are also circulating about her blog also been ghostwritten too. Now, blogging isn't that hard, just ask your boyfriend Mr Deyes! So why is it that they are both extremely lazy?! Zoella, arguably, has a bigger following and a enormous young female following, and like Deyes before her, chooses not to discuss important issues that face young girls. Puberty, sexism, feminism, it all gets swept under the rug. Instead, why not watch Zoella show off her new lipstick? 

   I don't really know what I'm trying to say, maybe just can these Youtuber people stick up for us normal folk? Y'know, the people who have to work extremely hard in order to survive and make some sort of living. The people who study at school, go to University and struggle to find a decent Graduate job whilst worrying about crippling debt. This is REAL LIFE. Stuff that can't be masked in a funny internet video that'll get a couple of hits.And also maybe talk to the kids about stuff they should be learning about because they're not listening in school anymore? Mr Deyes and Miss Sugg are extremely lucky to have this platform to command the attention of the next generation, so please use it wisely. Rather than take another cinnamon challenge.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Danny Dyer doing Drag is more important than you think

Earlier today, Lucy Rose uploaded the music video for her newest single 'Nebraska' and already has received widespread acclaim thanks to the lead performance of Mr Danny Dyer in full drag, with unexpected emotive results. I had spoken to Lucy no more than five weeks ago about what she had planned for the video, in which she told me she couldn't talk about it but Danny Dyer's name had cropped up a few times in that conversation; needless to say I was surprised at seeing him but by the end of the video, I can only applaud both him and Lucy for making something so pure, so evocative and poignant, something that everyone can relate to.     The video follows Dyer's character, brooding and skulking around London before entering a night club. We then realise the club is home to many drag queens, many of whom take delights in performing on stage, and Dyer watches them, he narrows his eyes, looks uncomfortable, all the while Lucy's gentle voice sings I'm walking on thin ice, to find who I really am. Dyer withdraws from the club into a toilet, pushing himself to his limits, frustrated and and angry, before collecting himself and walking into another room, where he strips and begins applying make up, clutching a sparkling red sequin dress. Dyer, now in complete drag, begins his performance on stage, clutching the air around him as if it were fleeting. He becomes at peace with himself, accepts himself, Lucy singing of this acceptance, the path, it moves, it shouts, I'm alive. 

   By the end of the video, I found myself genuinely moved, but it got me thinking. Danny Dyer is easily the most 'alpha-male' person on TV at the moment, sharp cockney accent, always willing to get himself into a scrap, he seemed to me the pinnacle of what one would usually associate with 'typical' masculinity. Now, I'm aware this is a problematic statement as the term itself 'masculinity' cannot be pinned down, but it is based on a series of presumptions. You have to be tough, you have to be psychically strong, you are forbidden to show any emotion, you have to consistently prove yourself to a world that thinks it knows you. What Lucy and Mr Dyer have created in response to this, is a message of self-acceptance and hope, that these presumptions are laughable and mean nothing. Danny's character in the video clearly isn't comfortable in his own identity, as are most of us, and it's not an easy path to go on when it seems so narrow. When I made the decision to come out to my family, it was foreboding and endlessly felt like a suffocation. But I stuck to the path and I made it to the end. 

    When Danny performs on that stage and extends his arms to the sky, you can see the happiness and pride beaming, and he is speaking of behalf of so many that have had to endure the same journey. Regardless of the colour of your skin, or the sexual orientation you choose, your own identity is so precious and so important. Self-expression is the pinnacle of LIVING, of defining who you are as a person and who you want to be, and it shouldn't be repressed. Dyer's character can also be seen as a metaphor for Lucy herself, notably pointing out the still-existing sexism in the music industry, and how the industry have attempted to 'mould' her to fit their standards, because clearly, her talent alone isn't enough. Female singers are consistently asked to be more pretty, or to 'sex up' more often to shift records, actual talent seems to be the bottom priority. Likewise, if Dyer even sheds as much as one tear, it's regarded as inferior, or weak. In juxtaposition, the first few seconds of the video break this preconception as it's clear Dyer's character has been crying, struggling to accept himself for who he is. The moment Dyer finds himself, it's a beautiful moment. It's a moment of self-acceptance after a lifetime of repression that can speak to everyone. If you ever felt like you weren't good enough, or if you ever felt like you were a whisper in a world full of loud voices, or if you couldn't see a way out of the darkness, things do get better. Something both Dyer's character and Lucy have gone through, but now they feel alive. 

    So, through this video, both Lucy and Dyer reject whatever society has to say about them. Do what makes you happy, be yourself, don't let people force you into a box that you don't want to be in. Break those preconceptions, because you can shape yourself into whoever you want to be. And for that Miss Rose, and Mr Dyer, I thank you both for sharing this message.