Bill Murray in ‘On The Rocks’

The trailer popped up on my YouTube two days ago.

A Sofia Coppola film.

Bill Murray.

The same ‘Lost in Translation’ tempo and vibe.

I knew, without question, that this movie was exactly what I needed. I should tell you also, I saw ‘Lost in Translation’ five times in the cinema when it came out, and countless times since. It speaks to me in a way I can’t even explain.

So the fact that the band were back together and releasing a new flick was all I needed to propel me from a pandemic induced stupor, straight back into an inclosed room with a bunch of my favourite strangers.

Large coke.
Big screen.

I’d almost forgotten what this experience was like.

Then the movie started, and I felt at home.

But soon I was restless.

I like Rashida Jones (who doesn’t?), but Bill Murray took far too long to make an appearance.

When Bill Murray is on screen, you realise he’s at a level everyone else can only dream of.

Trying to put his magic into words is near impossible. As with ‘Lost in Translation’, here it feels like Murray just turned up unannounced and decided to be part of the story.

He bounces through the scenes as if nothing is at stake and he’s just there to chat and put a smile on your face.

It’s not until two thirds through that you realise his character is actually deep and complex. He hides this fact by the seemingly casual way he strolls through the movie.

How to tell you about this film without giving spoilers? All you need to know is Bill will make you laugh simply by sitting in a car.

Trust me.

There’s a shot of him sitting in his car outside Rashida Jones’s apartment and it’ll have you in near hysterics.

This isn’t a review; it’s just a reminder that sometimes an actor elevates the craft in a way that leaves us in awe.

The thing is, ‘Lost in Translation’ was a masterpiece, whereas this new flick is merely a trifle.

But it’s an amusing trifle, full of terrific ingredients.

There’s something about watching Murray as he ages which is poignant and moving. Every time I see him appear on screen I’m aware he’s a genius, and we won’t always have him around.

Often when we do see him, he’s not used in the best way.

That’s why I love that he worked with Sofia Coppola again, she gets him in a way few others do. This movie is an enchanting playground where Bill gets be subtly masterful.

And we don’t know how many more times we’ll get to see him do his thing in this way.

It’s not the best film ever.

Yet it’s Bill being Bill, and you have to go see it.

– Written by Daniel Johnson,

Black Lives Matter Cinema

In an effort to show solidarity with the current protests taking place across the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we thought that by highlighting some of the greatest work by black/poc filmmakers, readers can enjoy cinema from what may be a different culture to their own, whilst also becoming better educated on the oppression that constantly plagues these communities.

The films that we take a look at in this post will be particularly focused on social injustice within a racist system that discriminates against those of colour. We feel that especially at this time, using film as a means to overlook what white privilege often blinds us to is necessary, as it allows us to greater understand and help those in need.

  1. Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

In 1989, when Spike Lee wrote, directed and starred in this masterpiece, I imagine he hoped that looking back on this film when he was older, the violence and hate captured on-screen would seem dated. However, ‘Do the Right Thing,’ seems more modern than ever. With a climax that reads like a 2020 newspaper headline, the relationships between the police and the black community shown within the film reflects that of the current modern day riots taking place in America. Set over the course of the hottest day of the year, tensions rise along a street in Brooklyn as the various communities that live in the area interact with one another.

As well as being a testament to the institutionalised racism that seems to plague the American police force, Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’ works as a masterpiece entirely from a filmmaking aspect too, with interesting characters, beautiful cinematography and a great use of experimental elements to show the growing tensions as the day runs its course. The film paints a vivid image of 80’s urban life in America, with Public Enemy’s ‘Fear of a Black Planet,’ blasting from a boom box whilst kids worry about getting their Jordan’s dirty. It would almost work as a typical coming-of-age story if the consequences for expressing yourself didn’t land the kids in the hands of the police, who have a tendency for brutality.

2. Blindspotting (Carlos Lopez Estrada, 2018)

Following the day-to-day lives of childhood friends Collin (Daveed Diggs) and Miles (Rafael Casal) at a moving company in Oakland, there’s a tension to ‘Blindspotting’ rooted in the countdown towards the end of Collin’s probation. With the promise of a new life just days away, allowing freedom from a curfew, monitored housing and the inability to leave the area, Estrada creates a level of hopefulness that draws the viewer into the story, no matter their background. Over the course of the three days, the two friends find themselves entangled in social injustices that are all too familiar to people of colour.

Written by the two lead actors in an attempt to represent their home city in a more justified light, the film is brilliantly funny and works perfectly solely as a piece of entertainment, but the way the film also addresses social injustices is unparalleled. Diggs is known for his rapping ability, both from experimental hip-hop trio ‘Clipping,’ as well as his Grammy-winning performances in the stage show ‘Hamilton,’ and by bringing this talent to the screen, he utilises the medium to reinforce the emotions of his character as a reaction to the police brutality witnessed in the film’s opening act. Furthermore, the story does an excellent job of showing how a sequence of events can lead to situations that are misread by the police, and lead to the loss of innocent black lives. By highlighting these injustices, Estrada and the two writers make a point of drawing attention to the assumptious nature of the police in situations where a crime is supposedly being carried out, and shows the viewer how a narrative enforced by the media often has an entire other side to it.

3. Boyz n the Hood (John Singleton, 1991)

John Singleton’s 1991 exploration into the daily life of teenagers growing up in South Central LA focuses on the gang violence and drugs that have corrupted their neighbourhood.  Starring rising acting talents Ice Cube and Cuba Gooding Jr, this critique of an acceptance towards a hostile environment that’s so often found within these communities focuses mainly on the attitudes towards family that remain enduring no matter the situation. By highlighting these connections, Singleton creates an element of the story that can be related to by anyone, with parents worrying for their children in the same way that any mother or father would. What distinguishes this story from one that you or I may understand is the type of things that they’re fearful of. With drugs on every corner and gangs rampant throughout the neighbourhoods, a viewer could make assumptions about the type of relationships that are developed in such areas. However, love and family are shown to be enduring, and Singleton demonstrates that we are all alike in this way. ‘Boyz n the Hood,’ works as a great example towards overlooking a privilege that prevents us from seeing the situations that those around us may have grown up in.

4. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2017)

At the hands of perfectionist Barry Jenkins, ‘Beale Street’ takes the source novel by James Baldwin from 1974 and forms a beautiful depiction of love in the face of constant oppression as a result of the leading couple’s skin colour. Set against the backdrop of 1970’s New York, life-long friends ‘Tish’ and ‘Fonny’ fall in love but struggle to find a place to live due to the prejudice of landlords in the area. After eventually settling down in converted loft apartments owned by a romantic Jewish landlord, the couple attempt to move on with their lives. The film feels as if it could play out exclusively like a beautiful love story if it wasn’t constantly interrupted by the hate brought to the story by the police.

5. When They See Us (Ava DuVernay, 2019)

Although technically a miniseries, ‘When They See Us’ deserves its place on this list due to its unflinching dedication to its horrific root story. 1989, New York City, a white jogger takes her usual route through a local park when she is beaten and raped by an attacker she can’t identify due to amnesia suffered as a result of the incident. From there, the police investigate the story and come to the conclusion that a group of black kids ranging from ages 12 to 16 who had been hanging out in the park that evening are the culprits. Beaten by the police and held alone for extended periods of time, the children are forced into confessing to the crime, and as the story progresses we see the fallout of the life-changing event that occurred simply because of a prejudiced police force targeting children. ‘When They See Us’ is a truly important watch not only because of its dedication to the survivors of the story, but as well as working as a testament towards the lengths racists will go to in an attempt to oppress those who look different to themselves

Ultimately, by celebrating the work of black/poc filmmakers, their voices will grow stronger within the filmmaking industry, and therefore across the world, allowing everyone to benefit from stories that may have otherwise never been heard. By educating ourselves on the situations of others, the root of these societal injustices can be more widely tackled, and allow for an inclusive and equal future.

Justice for George Floyd.


Active Spectators isolation picks from Sky Movies and Amazon Prime!

As many of us find ourselves at home during these unusual times, it may well be that you find yourself with a bit more time to kill. We’ve pulled together a list of our top 5 films to watch from Sky Movies and Amazon Prime all off which are available to watch in the UK right now. First up are our top picks from Sky Movies

1) Christopher Robin, 2018
Rating: PG Length: 104mins

In this delightful family movie we find Christopher Robin, now a fully grown man and working in London, struggling with the pressures of adulthood. He encounters his childhood friend, Winnie the Pooh, who helps him rediscover his joy.

2) Jaws, 1975
Rating: PG Length: 124mins

In this 1975 classic we see the beaches of Amity Island stalked by a great white shark. As the shark starts to pick off it’s prey, Sheriff Brody fights to shut down the beaches and with the assistance of a marine biologist and a local fisherman sets about hunting the killer shark.

3) Mamma Mia: Here we go again, 2018
Rating: 12A Length: 114mins

The all singing, all dancing prequel/sequel to Mamma Mia (2008). The film flashes between the events 5 years after the original movie setting where Sophie is preparing to open the hotel that her mother dreamed of and the story, years before, of Donna falling in love with the island and meeting Sam, Harry and Bill.

4) Shooter, 2007
Rating: 15 Length: 124mins

One of the worlds greatest marksman, Bob Lee Swagger is living in exile until he is coaxed back into action after learning of a plot to kill the president. After being double crossed for the attempt and on the run, he sets out for the really killer and the truth.

5) Walk the line, 2005
Rating: 12A Length: 135mins

The chronicle of country music legend Johnny Cash. From his childhood, efforts to get noticed for his music right through to finding fame and all of the challenges that go along with it. We see various relationships, substance abuse and heartache, all events that fed into the music that still lives on today.

If you don’t have access to Sky Movies but do have Amazon Prime, why not check these 5 movies out:

1) Fantastic Mr Fox, 2010
Rating: PG Length: 87mins

In a time of quarantine why not bunker down with the charismatic animals born from the great mind of Roald Dahl? I’m sure many of you already know the story, but Wes Anderson’s take on the classic children’s novel follows the enigmatic Mr Fox as he attempts to daringly provide for his family, despite the oppression from the three rival farmers; Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Not only is this fairly short, family friendly and just a bit of fun, the film is Anderson doing what he does best, and draws you in to the world of these unusual characters.

2) The King of Comedy, 1982
Rating: PG Length: 108mins

With a story that follows aspiring comedian Rupert Pupkin (Robert de Niro) in his attempts to reach the spotlight, going as far as stalking a chat show host, many couldn’t help but draw parallels to ‘The King of Comedy’ when Todd Phillip’s ‘Joker’ came out last year. But in Scorsese’s brilliant film, there’s a lesser focus on the over-stylised elements, and a greater appreciation for the psychological sides between a desire for fame that floods through the film’s lead.

3) 8 1/2, 1963
Rating: NR Length: 138mins

For some, the world of foreign language cinema can be both intriguing and intimidating, with uncertainty on where to start, despite a wish to explore what the rest of the world has to offer. The recent success of films such as Parasite and Roma has shed a greater light on this side of cinema, and with a quarantine meaning that spending an evening on a film you’re uncertain about being less significant than usual, there’s no better time to delve into foreign films. With that in mind, Federico Fellini’s Italian film ‘8 ½’ is a great place to start. The film explores the life of a film director at the peak of his career, who suddenly realises that he is at a loss for ideas, and reflects back on his childhood and past relationships.

4) Inside Llewelyn Davis, 2013
Rating: 15 Length: 102mins

Perhaps best summarised as being quietly beautiful, the Coen Brother’s take on the developing New York folk scene of the 60’s is explored through the slightly arrogant and slightly pitiful lens of hopeful singer-songwriter Llewelyn Davis, who is played brilliantly by Oscar Isaac. As he tries to find any route into the industry, Davis’s relationships with those around him draws the viewer into the film and the overall aesthetic created by the Coen’s can’t help but hold your attention.

5) Hunt For the Wilderpeople, 2016
Rating: 12A Length: 97mins

Taika Waititi is undeniably one of the most popular contemporary working directors, with recent films including ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Jojo Rabbit.’ The laugh-out-loud style of charming humour found within those releases can be traced back to his earlier work in his native country of New Zealand, such as ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople.’ Filled with heartwarming moments and dialogue, this film follows the story of Rickie Baker, a defiant city kid who is orphaned and must become accustomed to life with his auntie and her husband in the wilds of New Zealand’s forest land. There’s a charm to this film that you just can’t help but fall in love with.

Bonus: If you really love ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople,’ then I can’t recommend enough Waititi’s earlier film ‘Boy,’ which falls into a similar vein as his 2016 release, but has perhaps even more charm and heart, as well as the same amount of hilarious comedy.

We’re so lucky to have access to so many great movies while cinemas are closed and we are required to stay inside. Stay tuned in the following days for our top picks from Netflix and of course, our weekly reviews published every Friday.

The Lighthouse – Commenting On

From acclaimed director of 2015’s, ‘The VVitch,’ Robert Eggers once again delivers a true haunting piece of art with his 2019 release, ‘The Lighthouse’. Shrouded in mysticism, the film recognises elements of traditional mythology, as well as forging a path ahead into a new interpretation of morality and connection. On an unknown island in an unspecified time period, two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) must maintain their place of inhabitance and ensure that the light keeps burning. Whilst Dafoe’s character resides on the island permanently, Pattinson has been employed for a four week period, but events quickly spiral out of control which may prevent him from leaving so easily.

From early in the narrative, Dafoe warns Pattinson of the danger that comes from harming a sea-bird, warning that “they hide the souls of lost sailors.” No matter what comes to fruition from such a warning, it seems clear that the writers – Eggers brothers Robert and Max – are making reference to the ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,’ a 19th century poem by acclaimed Romantic Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The stanzas warn of a sea captain who kills an albatross after it helps himself and his crew find safe passage away from an ice jam, resulting in an encounter with a personified idea of Death, which ultimately leads the loss of the entire crew – save for the captain. When first killed, the poet describes how it “’Twas right, said they, such birds to slay, That bring the fog and mist,” Within ‘The Lighthouse,’ the keepers also experience a change of wind after similar events, with Dafoe’s character exclaiming, “It’s the calm before the storm, Winslow. She were a gentle westerly wind you’re cursing.” The parallels between both narratives show signs of clear influence, but the Eggers brothers take on their own interpretation of how such events may play out when developing the narrative of ‘The Lighthouse.’

For stealing fire from the gods and providing it as a gift to humanity in Greek Mythology, Prometheus was sentenced to an eternity bound to a rock, as an eagle –the emblem of Zeus – plucked at his liver. Once again, the narrative of the ‘The Lighthouse,’ returns to ideas of traditional mythology and draws clear cinematic influence from such an idea of punishment, which are in some cases replicated by a shot-for-shot retelling of the myth. When usually incorporated into literary texts, such as Shelley’s “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus,” this Greek myth is closely associated with the idea of the hubris, where an individual works at a level which should only be achieved by the Gods. In Shelley’s novel, Dr Frankenstein never reaps the rewards of his hubristic achievements – and much the same could be said for the lighthouse keepers in Eggers film. As the fantastical blurs into the factual, and the intensity of the film begins to ramp up, the blocking, cinematography and lighting all begin to drift towards the insane, whilst the narrative remains contrastingly grounded in reality. Even in appearance, Dafoe can be seen as a reanimation of Zeus, whilst the younger and leaner Pattinson takes up the role of Prometheus. However, the story is not as clear-cut as that of the traditional myth, with the morality and intentions of the keepers corrupted by the drinking habits, relentless work and uncertainty on the length of time in which they have been on the island. As Dafoe sadistically mutters, “Help me to recollect.”

Once again considering the influence that Greek mythology has on Robert Egger’s directing and writing, we must concern ourselves with the ideas presented in Sisyphus’ story. A cruel Greek king, Sisyphus was damned to eternity pushing a boulder up a hill, only for it to fall back down whenever he neared the top. Throughout ‘The Lighthouse,’ there are very clear reflections on such an idea found within the cinematography and performance of the film, as the actions and moral choices of certain characters result in a punishment which reflects what the Greek king endured as a result of his punishment. Perhaps there is no simpler adaptation of this story than the light which transfixes Pattinsons character, which appears to be unreachable, as a result of either his own physical limitations, the presence of Dafoe and his locks and keys, or a mental barrier which once again strays into the territory of the mythical.

Though such analysis of film can at first appear as unnecessary or clutching at straws, I do believe that the way in which different pieces of media can influence one another is important to consider, especially when the original texts cross centuries and borders to become a part of something new. ‘The Lighthouse’ is a testament to the power of writers who appreciate what has come before, and seek to create something original.

Fred’s Top 5 Horror Films

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought that I’d take a look back on some of my favourite scary films. From the desolate arctic, to the abandoned streets of London, horror can be found everywhere, and within this list I’ve reflected back on what makes these films so thrilling.

5. 28 Days Later

First of all, it’s a Danny Boyle film, so what isn’t there to love? ’28 Days Later’ is arguably one of the greatest zombie films of all time, and with incredible performances from Cillian Murphy, Christopher Eccleston and Naomie Harris, to name a few, this story is perhaps the most thrilling descent into the apocalypse put to the big screen. The third act of this film is unbelievably intense, and only increased by the stylistic choice of pathetic fallacy, as the rain hammers down and the story begins to conclude. Personally, I love Boyle’s use of the soundtrack in this film, as songs such as Grandaddy’s ‘A.M 180’ accompanies the true ‘highs’ of the film, contrasted by an edited version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘East Hastings’ – one of the bleakest songs I know – embodying the hopelessness of our protagonists. ‘28 Days Later,’ is a contemporary classic of the horror genre, and is a must-see around Halloween time.

4. The Shining

I don’t think that any horror list would be complete without this film. Written by the twisted mind of Stephen King and put to screen by the complex imagination of Stanley Kubrick, ‘The Shining,’ is a true landmark in the horror genre. As with many of Kubrick’s works, fans have poured over the minute details of this film to read further into the story’s subtext, and from an allegory of the American Civil War to a modern twist on the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, there is so much conversation surrounding this film that any horror-buff, or film fan in general cannot miss it. Of course, Jack Nicholson receives his deserved praise for his performance in this film, but I think that perhaps the best acting comes from Shelley Duvall. Never have I seen terror portrayed in such a real and hysterical way as Duvall does in this film. Overall, there are so many elements of storytelling that come together brilliantly in ‘The Shining,’ that it should be seen not only by fans of the horror genre, but anyone at all interested in film.

3. The Thing (1982)

Honoured for his contributions to horror at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival, there’s a reason why John Carpenter is hailed as the ‘master of horror.’ Perhaps his most famous work, ‘The Thing’ features some of the most suspenseful scenes put to cinema. The story of a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of any creatures around it, we watch as a team of researchers in Antarctica are plagued by this being. What makes this film truly special (and terrifying) is the brilliant visual effects used, that still hold up to this day. The entirely isolated setting adds to the hopelessness of the film, and it is through this fear that the audience is able to experience the same terror that is felt by the stories protagonists, as they remain entirely clueless as to who – or what – the creature has embodied.

2. Climax

Perhaps the most human film on this list, Gasper Noe’s 2018 release tells the story of a group of dancers in an isolated hall in France, who drink from a punch that has been spiked with LSD. From there, it is the slow descent into madness over the course of the night which portrays such a real horror. Noe uses long, unbroken takes that float from one characters nightmare to the next, all whilst the lighting flares and the music blasts from the speakers. Known for his cruel violence, the director makes no exception for ‘Climax,’ and leaves the viewer feeling sickened by what they have seen, made worse only by the knowledge that the story is based on true events

1. Hereditary

There are so many elements of Ari Aster’s filmmaking style that I love, all of which are showcased brilliantly in his feature debut, ‘Hereditary.’ I believe that the best way to experience this film is to go in knowing as little as possible about the story, and so I will only provide the description from iMDB; ‘a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences.’

When looking into what makes this film special, I believe that Aster’s ability to draw out truly haunting performances from his cast is perhaps top of this list. Toni Collette gives an incredibly powerful performance, which can only really by appreciated by watching the film for yourself and becoming enthralled by her character. As well as this, the utilisation of cinematography for suspense and terror is another element that allows ‘Hereditary’ to sit at the top of this list. The art of framing and pacing in this film immerses the viewer brilliantly, whilst also highlighting the smaller, more minute details of the setting that ultimately accumulate into some of the most essential elements of the story. ‘Hereditary’ is not only my favourite horror film, but also the most terrifying that I have seen. It’s the first film that I would recommend to any fan of the genre, and the first that I would want to discuss with anyone who has a passion for horror.