Review: Sid & Nancy

Director: Alex Cox
Screenplay: Alex Cox, Abbe Wool
Starring: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman, Andrew Schofield
Country: UK
Running Time: 109 min
Year: 1986
BBFC Certificate: 18


I‘m not a huge punk fan. The original movement came and went a few years before I was born and later punk iterations never did much for me. However, The Clash’s London Calling album has long been one of my all time favourites and when I was a teenager I also got a lot of play out of my CD copy of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. It was and still is a powerful album, full of youthful exuberance and fiery anger at the damaged establishment, which spoke to me back when I was a youngster. I never really looked into the history of the band though. Although I’ve long been a music lover, I’ve rarely paid much interest in the private lives of the artists involved. I tend to let the lyrics and music do the talking and leave the rest a mystery. Some of the Sex Pistols’ history is unavoidable though and I was aware of their troubled and brief existence, even if I didn’t know all the details.

My love of the band’s sole studio album helped pique my interest in reviewing this 30th Anniversary re-release of Sid & Nancy then, along with an interest in its director, Alex Cox, who wrote and directed the rather excellent punk movie Repo Man. Sid & Nancy dramatises the relationship between the Sex Pistols’ bass player Sid Vicious (played by Gary Oldman) and sometime prostitute Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). The two met in early 1977 and quickly formed a very destructive relationship, based largely around heroin. Nancy was already a user before she met Sid and it’s reported (and suggested in the film) that she introduced him to the drug. The two grew heavily dependent on one another, as well as the drugs, and their lives inevitably both came to tragic ends. In October 1978, Nancy was found dead with a single stab wound to her abdomen in the bathroom of the infamous Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, with Sid laid in a drug induced stupor on the bed across the room. After being arrested for Nancy’s murder, Sid died of a heroin overdose a few months later. The film opens with the discovery of Nancy’s body by the police and flashes back to their first meeting to tell the story of their brief time together.

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Cinecast Episode 450 – My Hot Dogs Got Cold

Andrew and Kurt are Bourne again. And while both of them preferred the status quo (Bourne swam off into the moonlight, all was right with the amnesiac super-spy). It was 2007 when Matt Damon said he had no interest in coming back to do any more of these, but the power of Greengrass compels you! The power of Greengrass compels you!

So, here we are with the fifth film in the Bourne franchise, nearly a decade after Bourne popped up on the grid. Some of the principle cast returns, Greengrass is of course back with his shakiest of cams, and there is a whole slew of new and interesting actors added to the mix. Did the new film hit the mark or did it simply squander all the moolah and talent it had going for it? We discuss.

Then it is off to Montreal where Kurt gives the full recap all the films he caught and various sundry adventures he had during his ten-day gallop through the mega-sized genre fest. A small watch list includes Andrew finishing Netflix’ “Stranger Things” and Kurt revisiting the middle chapter of Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy. It is a monster-sized show, but one we think you will enjoy. Have at it!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Trailer: Blair Witch 2016

I really like indie director Adam Wingard, who gave us a nice mix of films in the past 10 years, Pop Skull, You’re Next and The Guest. But this all-fury-with-no-silence trailer for his entry in the now-official Blair Witch franchise makes it look like just another shitty Blumhouse picture. I hope, like the Ghostbusters comeback, the trailer is mis-representative of the tone of the film. Please, internet and horror community, get the #JumpScareWithCare hashtag going so that the message gets out that horror isn’t just about a quick edit and loud ringing noise. Sheesh.

Friday One Sheet(s): Jack Davis 1924 – 2016

Illustrator and cartoonist Jack Davis was probably most famous for Mad Magazine, but the man did a heck of a lot of movie posters, some of the great ones too! His signature was distorted images of full-length people in a crowd, and I really do love his one-sheet for the difficult to market The Long GoodBye. Who puts dialogue bubbles on a movie poster? Jack Did. He also illustrated posters for Spaghetti Westerns, star-studded comedy blockbusters, kids movies, musicals and the like, almost all of his work was for films with quirky (or farcical) comic inflection, and yes, that certainly includes Robert Altman’s revisionist noir starring Elliot Gould.

A big hat-tip to ImpAwards for bringing this to my attention. You can find more of Jack’s superlative work over at their site.

Trailer: The Great Wall

Zhang Yimou, China’s, subversive provocateur turned favourite son, brings his opulent colour-centric visual sensibility to the big old monster movie. This time with mist and fog and Matt Damon (and Willem DaFoe, absent for this trailer) along for the ride. I have kind of been missing this director since about the time he took a break from making movies to do the Opening Ceremony Spectacular for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Since that time, he has made movies both big (The Flowers of War), small (Coming Home) and downright baffling (A Girl, A Gun and A Noodle Shop). But he has always stayed kept full Chinese sensibility with whateverhe does, and re-writing the history of The Great Wall of China seems like something well suited for the man. The trailer is kind of weird and generic and a wee bit over-done with CGI. But hey, it is good to see the man is going for it. Gweilo or no.

Girls on Pop – Episode 7: SDCC Madness

Glorious

OMG. OMG. OMG.

It may have sprung on me out of no-where but there’s no question that when SDCC kicked off late last week, I heard it all the way up in Vancouver – as did everyone else connected to the internet all over the world. I mean, did Netflix steal opening day or what?

Oh yeah, then DC came along and obliterated it with a trailer for this little movie they have coming out next year. I think it’s called Wonder Woman???

This week Sarah (@iBrockely) and I (@themarina) dig into some of the offerings unveiled at SDCC; from new trailers for stuff we were already excited about to “big” announcements that rocked the convention and geekdom in general.

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After the Hype #150 – The Bourne Trilogy

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This week we’re joined by special guests Alex Marshall-Brown and Eric Stolze to talk THE BOURNE TRILOGY. Listen to us punch, kick, and jump our way through three action-packed films with roughly the same plot. Whatever you do, just don’t mention Blackbriar because…wait. What’s that black van doing across the way? Why are there government agents surrounding the OH GOD IT’S TOO LATE OH NOOOO!

ALEX MARSHALL-BROWN | QUENTIN TARANTINO’S SUICIDE SQUAD | ONLY A MOVIE | WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER
ERIC STOLZE | TWITTER | LATE PHASES: NIGHT OF THE LONE WOLF

 

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Fantasia 2016 Review: Realive

When screenwriters turn towards directing their own features, the case is often that they can make their talkiest screenplay into a film. This is not necessary a bad thing at all, especially considering the case of Mateo Gil’s new science fiction tale, Realive (aka Proyecto Lazaro). Here is a film which asks a lot of astute science fiction questions around death and resurrection as our twenty-first century medical science advances towards growing organs, rejuvenating the body with stem cells, and cryogenically preserving the dead or the dying in the hopes that they may be attended to in the future. The corporation at the heart of the film’s Lazarus Project has a witty tagline that demonstrates some of the nuanced qualities of the screenplay, “Immortality is only a question of time.”

You are probably familiar with Gil’s work if you have watched any of Alejandro Amenabar’s cerebral but scary films, from Tesis to Abres Los Ojos (remade with Tom Cruise as Vanilla Sky) to Oscar nominated The Sea Inside and the criminally underrated sword and sandals flick on mathematics and religion, Agora. Gil is to Amenabar as Alex Garland is to Danny Boyle. And the adroit, glossy and verbal Realive is certainly Gil’s Ex Machina.

Structured in three layers, the film examines the case of Marc Jarvis, the first man to have his body pulled out of Cryo and re-constructed to the point where he can be paraded out in front of investors to further justify private company funding for perhaps the immortality of the human race. Much of the film is set in 2086, and involves the medical processes, and complications, in rehabilitating Marc’s body while acclimatizing his mind to 70 years of progress. Marc’s nurse explains (and demonstrates) that attitudes on sex and relationships have significantly changed in the 7 decades he was absent, and the film teases us with demonstrations on the way the internet is now fully audio-visual, and offhand mentions that nobody gives a shit about pulling oil out of the ground for energy or raw materials. Oh, and t-shirts have no neck-bands on the anymore.

Because the film is as much about the humanity as it is about the science, a second, quite significant, layer of the films structure spends a fair amount of time with Marc in 2016. He deals with the fallout of being diagnosed with cancer in his mid thirties, and the tough decision with his fiancee, here, exceptionally played by Game of Thrones‘ red wedding bride, Oona Chaplin, to commit suicide to preserve his body in the best possible shape for the slim hope that the freezing process will work, and that the company will last long enough until such a time comes to resurrect and heal the disease. The emotional crux of the matter, handled with lots of time and energy in the film, are potentially months of lost last days in Marc’s voluntary and pre-mature death. Upon his awakening, there is the anxiety that everyone he has ever had any ties will may be gone. Marc makes jokes over wine to his friends when he announces the decision, “I’ll be sure to fuck all your grandkids!” But, the levity is a cover.

There are several strata of anxiety on display here, both big picture and on an individual level. Science of course, does not work perfectly, nor free of the unexpected, and being an early test subject, Marc suffers immensly in his new body. Fans of Showtime’s exceptional medical inquiry show, The Knick, or those who may remember a certain scene from Alien: Resurrection will have a field day with how Realive understands that science, in execution, is a messy process of trial and error and far more disappointment than elation. Success is just failing not as badly. There is a classical mix of hubris and fear that has driven scientific speculation in popular art for centuries. A more daring step by Gil however is to make Marc neither the hero type, nor one who necessarily rises to the occasion of his own trail. This puts him in line with the characters of Ridley Scott’s vastly misunderstood Prometheus, where the so-called heroes were kind of shallow fuck-ups, with little self awareness of their own limitations.

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Fantasia 2016 Review: Shelley

A classy, atmospheric take on the hysteria of new parenthood, Ali Abbasi’s Shelley wears its influences boldly on its sleeve (and right there in the title), only the Frankenstein’s monster here is a baby born by way of our modern medical miracles.

Louise and Kaspar are a thirty-something couple well along in their successful twenty-first century careers. They have chosen to live in the pleasant isolation of a picturesque lake (pregnant with islands) in the Danish countryside. Enabled by their wealth and privilege, they grow their own food and even forgo using electricity for the sake of simpler, slower living.

The only thing missing from their life is that they cannot biologically have children. When a young Romanian housekeeper, Elena, arrives on their dime and quickly bonds over wine and intimate conversation, Louise appeals to her to act as a surrogate mother. The delicacy of such an interaction is not lost here, and some of the films best work takes place in the psychological set-up between two very different women.

I have no doubts these kinds of proposals happen in real life and perhaps they go professionally and smoothly as they possibly can. When they happen in the movies, any astute viewer knows things will not go anywhere near according to plan. The offer to Elena is thus: instead of her working for them for two or three years in Denmark, they will give her enough money to afford to return to her own young son (and extended family) with enough money to buy an apartment in Romania and make a step up in her current family lifestyle. Elena would need to lend her womb for nine months or so to one of Louise’s frozen eggs thereby artificially inseminated by Kaspar’s seed, and carry a child to term for them.

The director establishes the misty lake countryside early in the picture (blessedly bringing back the slow zoom!) perhaps to evoke the insular isolation where Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley hung out for the summer in 1816 with Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and a few others whereby she conceived her iconic novel on the modern Prometheus. She effectively realizes Elena and Louise, the former, a practical minded but open girl and somewhat experienced mother who quietly scoffs at Louise’s license towards spiritual healers, crystals and other new-age paraphernalia.

Elena’s patience begins to be seriously tested as Louise starts to take over responsibility for her body as the baby grows. A glass of wine or snuck cigarette, a rash or even Elena’s weight sizzle with conflict, and the tension between whether or not to go to doctor is palpable. Who owns what in this transaction of bodies and life?

Louise’s perceived anxieties over new motherhood in someone else’s body starts to push the tone towards a favourite cross-cultural, upscale freak-out film of mine in recent times, Magic Magic. However, in a bid that fails to address so many consequences of this first and second act build, the writer-director seems to say, to hell with the consequences, I’m going to pack another film in the final act. Now I like that other film, in fact, I’d love to see another hour of that other film, but really, I question the motives and intent to not deal with what is so elegantly set up in the initial core thesis of the film.

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