Saturday, 29 November 2008

Books I like

I've done film and I've done music so now books. I love to read, I have a book on the go at all times. I have a long commute so I manage to get about an hours reading in everyday but if I think something really sad or emotional is going to happen then I can't read on the train, I like to take in as much of those moments as I can so I save them for home. I've read a lot of books but only a few I really love and if I do love a book I tend to read it more than once.....

1) The Vampire Lestat (and the Vampire Chronicles)
Vampires are a little passion of mine and the best vampires are the ones in Anne Rice's 'Vampire Chronicles'. Horror writing is sometimes looked down on as trashy, pulpy, shallow....but Anne Rice is an unbelievably good writer and her books cover themes like theology, sexuality, morality, mortality, the list goes on. She has a beautiful writing style and you find yourself falling in love with characters and getting extremely lost in their world.

The first book 'Interview With A Vampire' is narrated by vampire Louis, it is very dark, sombre and reflects the character well, however the majority of the chronicles are narrated by Lestat. 'The Vampire Lestat' is Lestat's story and it runs straight into 'Queen Of The Damned', the third book in the series. Lestat is one of my favourite fictional characters, I so wish he was real, his ego is immeasurable, his quest for knowledge leads him to into heaven and hell and he's not ashamed to tell the world what he is and what he does.

One of the reasons I like 'The Vampire Lestat' so much is that we've already met Lestat in 'Interview With A Vampire' but this story throws up contradictions. You learn a lot about a character by how they view events and Lestat definitely views things differently to Louis. It's an 'autobiography' that starts in the late 18th century and 'ends' in the 1980's, so there's a lot to pack in. I adore the character of Nicolas, Lestat's mortal lover and the first person he makes into a vampire. He is a pessimist and lives in a dark depression, when he becomes a vampire he turns slowly more insane and uncontrollable until he finally comes to a tragic end. Understanding Nicolas is important in understanding why Lestat finally makes Louis a vampire.

Most people know about Lestat from the film versions of Anne Rice's books. Tom Cruise was an amazing Lestat in 'Interview With A Vampire' but he was a tad too old for my liking and just not beautiful enough. Stuart Townsend really looked the part in 'Queen of the Damned', even though the film was pretty bad (good soundtrack though), but he was lacking Lestat's blond hair.

The chronicles are so vast and contain so much detail I can't possible talk about them in great detail here, much as I'd like to, and of course I don't want to give too much away just in case you decide to go out and read any of these books. If you like the 'Vampire Chronicles' you'll also enjoy Anne Rice's 'Lives of the Mayfair Witches' trilogy as there is a lot of character cross-over and they appear in later chronicles like 'Blackwood Farm' (another favourite) and 'Blood Canticle'.

If you're going to read these books you have to start from the beginning. They certainly get easier to read although 'Memnoch The Devil' is pretty heavy going and my least favourite of the chronicles.

2) The Picture Of Dorian Gray
For a book published in 1890 'The Picture Of Dorian Gray' feels very modern. In essence it's about a beautiful young man who leads a life full of sin and vice, he remains ageless and beautiful whilst his portrait grows more ugly, deformed and horrific with every debauched act he carries out. It says a lot about conscience and consequence.

I can't really say much more about it. I love it's cloaked references to homosexuality and Dorian's hedonism but I always find myself putting myself in his position and feeling so guilty, I don't think that even with a portrait like his I could ever be as debauched as him.....I guess that's part of the book's message though.

3) The Secret History
This is my favourite book, as soon as I've finished reading it I always want to start again. I first heard about it by chance, somebody had written to a film magazine asking when a film of it was going to be made, apparently it was stuck on the shelf at one of the major studios but had such a cult following interest in it was still high. I went out and bought it the next day and was addicted.

Although it's set in the 1980's the characters it follows seem to come from the 1920's and I'm always shocked when minor characters appear as they make it evident how different our anti-heroes really are. You find out on the first page that there has been a murder and that Richard, the narrator, and his group of friends are responsible. The rest of the book is taken up with exploring why the murder was 'necessary' and the aftermath of the event.

The friends themselves are classics students and since I studied GCSE and A-Level classics it appeals to me even more as it is essentially about fatal-flaws and fate itself. Another book 'Special Topics In Calamity Physics' reminds me a lot of 'The Secret History', well the first half of it does, but I've never found another book that captures me in quite the same way.

4) The Harry Potter Series
There's not much to say here, everybody knows about Harry Potter. The books get progressively darker and more adult as the series goes on. I've spoken to people that just think they're children's books but they really are so much more. The last book in particular has a lot of biblical themes and references and the characters deal with some very serious issues including death and self sacrifice.

Ron Weasley is my favourite character, he's funny and probably the most 'real'. I have a collection of Ron figures and toys at home. I swear I was born without a shame gene.

5) Valley Of The Dolls
This is a new addition to my favourites list. I only read it a few months back but I could not put it down. It was written in the 1960's but its views on celebrity and fame are possibly more relevant today than they were then.

The author, Jacqueline Susann, was a model and actress before she started writing and most of the characters and events are based on real people. Jennifer North, my favourite of the three characters the story revolves around, is very much like Marilyn Monroe and Neeley has echoes of Judy Garland and Francis Farmer.

The book follows three friends from their late teens into their adult lives as they slowly become more and more famous. The 'dolls' in the title are Seconals and other prescription drugs that become their only way of coping. It's not particularly well written but you get very attached to the characters and I truly wanted to know how everything would end. It's a real cult classic and an easy read so pick it up if you get a chance.

6) The Shadow Of The Wind
This is one of the most visual books I've ever read, once you've finished it you almost feel like you've been watching a film. It's about a boy who receives a book written by an unknown author, as he tries find out about the writer he uncovers a mystery that starts to mirror his own life.

This would make a great film, it would be epic. It's set in World War 2 Barcelona and there's an extremely gothic tone to this romance/thriller/murder mystery story. I don't want to say to much about it as it's very complex and I don't want to give anything away but do have a read, it's such a modern gothic fairytale.

I'm also a sucker for a Dan Brown book, 'Angels and Demons' is my favourite but I think that's because it's set in Rome (my favourite place on earth), I know he's a terrible writer but like the rest of the world I just can't put his books down. I'm reading the teenage vampire 'Twilight' series at the moment, again Stephanie Meyer is far from a good writer but I'm in love with Edward and can't wait for the new film to be released over here, I'll write about the film when I've seen it. 'Atonement' was a beautiful book, painful to read in places but I have to say I think the ending was done better in the film. I'd love to know what other books people would recommend now that they know what I like.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

I want one of these....and Gerard's going to be a Dad!

I don't want to have to wait until April 15th 2009 to get my hands on the new Umbrella Academy PVC set but I guess I'll have to. Even the packaging is cool.

Something even more exciting, and due about the same time, is that Gerard Way and his lovely wife Lyndsey Bellato are expecting their first baby. This will be the first MCR baby and I'm so happy.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Favourite Bands and Artists

I wrote about my favourite films last week so I'll carry on the theme and do favourite bands/artists this week. I will get to books eventually too. I don't think this will be as long as my last post you'll be pleased to hear, with the exception of maybe one or two. I find music really hard to talk about, I know nothing about it really. I play no instruments, although I do have grade 1 recorder, woo hoo! I have a really odd relationship with music because in some ways it affects me far more than film but I never have the time to listen to it much so I'm quite limited in what I listen too. I have an amazing friend who is trying his hardest to make me listen to stuff he thinks I'll like and I'm slowly working through it all....slowly, maybe if I update this list next year there'll be a few new entries.

So here we go, in no particular order BUT starting with my all time No.1!

1) My Chemical Romance
I can't seem to write a single post without mentioning this band but that's because, and I say this in all seriousness, they are my life. It's become an 'MCR' cliche to say 'they saved my life' and it's so melodramatic but they really got me through some awful times and I so wish they'd been around when I was a teenager.

I used to catch my boyfriend watching their videos from time to time, I'd seen the 'I'm Not Okay (I Promise)' video and I just didn't get it. I loved the song and thought I might like them but I assumed they were teenagers that had been overstyled by their record company and that just turned me off. Then I was driving home from work in Coventry one day in 2006, I lived there for a few years and had managed to lose any sense of who I was or wanted to be, Scott Mills had a new record of the week - 'Welcome To The Black Parade'. That was it, I was hooked. I went out and bought all of their albums and any magazines I could find with them in, I did it all wrong and listened to the albums from newest to oldest but by the time I'd finished my life was turned around. This was the band I'd waited for my whole life. Suddenly I didn't mind getting up in the morning, it was a excuse to find out more about them and listen to more songs. I realised that they really were their own band and were much older and smarter than I'd ever realised.

Within a week I had my first 'MCR' tattoo, it's just MCR written on my wrist. People think I'll regret it, trust me when I say I could never regret it. It's not just their music, it's them, it's what they say, what they stand for, how they treat their fans, it's an aesthetic, an attitude. Everything. They've changed my life and I want that documented on my body. I now also have a piece of
artwork form their 'I'm Not Okay (I Promise)' single on my arm and I'm planning many, many, more. Because of 'MCR' I've found my own sense of style again, I've found myself again.

People either love or hate 'MCR', there are few people that sit on the fence. I'm a true believer that you can't simply hate something because you think it's cool to hate something and also you should listen to as much as you can by a band before you make up your mind. People judge 'MCR' on two things. One, the fact their classed as emo. They are not emo! They're what the media classes as emo. Read your music history books and you'll soon see what emo is/was. Two, 'The Black Parade' album. Yes it was over the top, yes the singles appealed to the 'emo' *rolls eyes* crowd but that's not all the album was and that's certainly not what their other albums are like. So I'll give you a little overview of each of their albums so that you can understand this point a little better.

'I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love' - This album is pretty raw and their most 'punk' sounding, it's really uncommercial and was released under New Jersey label Eyeball Records. The band formed straight after September 11th and the song 'Skylines and Turnstiles' deals with this issue. The rest of the songs reference vampires and death quite heavily. The vampires often represent people who feed off of others for their own selfish gains and the death mentions often refer to bad relationships and breakups. It's a concept album and the story loosely centers on two lovers who find the world overrun with vampires and go on the run. There are also mentions of Gerard Way's (as well as other members of the band's) early drug and alcohol abuse.
My favourite songs are
'Our Lady Of Sorrows', 'Demolition Lovers', 'Early Sunsets Over Monroeville' and 'Headfirst For Halos'.

'Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge' - Certainly more commercial and released under Warner Reprise, this is where I'd say the majority of fans got on board but also where they lost some of their earlier, more underground fanbase. It's yet another concept album and takes off where the last one ended. The guy sells his soul to the devil, delivering the souls of 1000 evil men, in return for the soul of his damned lover who was bitten by vampires. It deals strongly with homosexuality, self esteem and most obviously loss. Gerard and Mikey's grandmother died as they were writing it and the whole album is dedicated to her.
My favourite songs are 'I'm Not Okay (I Promise)',
'Thank You For The Venom' and my all time favourite of theirs 'It's Not A Fashion Statement, It's A Fucking Deathwish'.

'The Black Parade' - This album was inspired by artists like Queen and David Bowie. It's a rock-opera and saw a real shift in sound and style. The concept is about a young man, 'The Patient' who's just died from cancer, and it's a look back at various episodes in his life. By this time Gerard was completely clean and sober and so there are references to his addictions and issues. Mikey, the bassist, went through a severe depression whilst recording and nearly left the band and this is spoken about on the record as well.
My favourite songs are 'Famous Last Words', 'Mama', 'Disenchanted', 'This Is How I Disappear' and 'The Sharpest Lives'. BUT listen to the bsides to all of the singles, they're amazing and
'Kill All Your Friends' is one of my favourite songs ever.

Wow I've written a lot here. Sorry. I've not written half of what I'd like to either! Just one last thing. 'MCR's' singer Gerard Way is my ultimate hero. He suffers from depression, has been a drug addict and alcoholic but he's cleaned himself up and never stopped caring about the fans or the music. He tells his fans to look after themselves, seek help if they have depression, are getting bullied or suffer from self harm and other issues, he also does a huge amount of work (along with the rest of the band) for the
'Make A Wish Foundation' and other charities. He turned a tragedy like September 11th into something positive for himself and the rest of the band. He's an amazing artist and comic book writer. I managed to meet him last year and he was a true gentleman. We also won some tickets to an exclusive fan only gig they played at KOKO, when they played 'Famous Last Words' Gerard came into the audience and held my hand as he sang. It was the best day of my life. Unlike other bands and singers, and despite what some people think, I honestly believe he's a decent person and he's changed my life.

2) One Night Only
This is the only other band I would queue for hours to see (and I do) and spend money on buying tickets and merch....and I know I shouldn't. They are my guilty pleasure. I know they're not the best band in the world and my friends rip it out of me for liking them but I can't help it, they're very different to anything I normally listen to and I don't really understand why I like them so much, I guess their music makes me happy, what can I say?!
ONO only have one album, 'Started A Fire', and they've not been around for very long. I started liking them in April this year and I've met them so many times they actually recognise me now. Most people I meet don't know them, they've only had one big hit 'Just For Tonight' but some of their new stuff is really good and fingers crossed they'll have another hit soon.

I know some of their lyrics are bad but I put that down to the fact their young and maybe trying too hard but their gigs are always really good fun, I've met some really great people and good friends over the past few months and you always see the same faces. The band always sign autographs and take photos with their fans which is really nice too.
My favourite songs are 'This Kingdom Perfect', 'Just For Tonight', 'Newby Road' and 'Time'.

3) The Killers
I remember driving in my car in Coventry (again) and hearing 'Mr. Brightside' and thinking it was great. I even ran into the flat and told my boyfriend I'd just heard he best song ever.

Everyone knows who they are so I won't go into loads of detail. I LOVE their first album 'Hot Fuss' it has an 80's feel and even the most upbeat songs can have a slightly darker edge. My dream in life is to learn to play the guitar and perform 'Glamorous Indie Rock And Roll', even though I can't sing, if anyone can make that happen then call me. I'm not so keen on 'Sam's Town' their second album, it has a bit of a 'Bruce Springsteen', all-American feel to it that doesn't overly appeal to me but there are still some amazing songs on there. 'Sawdust', their compilation of rarities and bsides, is ace. I didn't pay much attention to it at first but I'm listening to it more and more recently and really enjoying it. Their new album 'Day & Age' is out later this month and I think it's going to be more like 'Hot Fuss' if the singles are anything to go by so I'm excited.
My favourite songs are 'Glamorous Indie Rock And Roll', 'Andy, You're A Star, 'Everything Will Be Alright', 'Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine', 'Uncle Jonny', 'Mr. Brightside' and 'Change Your Mind'.

4) Gallows
'Gallows' are just too good. I love hardcore punk and they've really bought it back and managed to get the feel of a band like 'Black Flag' but with a completely new edge. They come from Watford and have a reputation for staying away from their fans. Now I normally think it's important to interact with your fans but 'Gallows' do this in a different way, they use their Myspace and official website to give exclusive tracks and gig tickets to fans.

I managed to see them at Astoria and it was crazy, as Frank jumped into the crowd he was pulled down and nearly strangled. He managed to get back on stage and could hardly talk but he gave a great speech about how as fans we should never put musicians on a pedestal, it's about the music and nothing else. I should listen to that advice far more often but I do find it hard not to get carried away, especially when some bands music can be so personal so it's hard to know where to draw a line. Frank is also a tattoo artist and I'd love to get inked by him. My boyfriend keeps seeing him walking around Soho and I want him to kidnap him so he can tattoo me.

I wish there were more bands like 'Gallows'. They only have one album out at the moment 'Orchestra Of Wolves' and I'm wearing it out waiting for their new stuff. Head over to their Myspace to get a free download of a new song 'Gold Dust'.
My favourite songs are 'Abandon Ship', 'Orchestra Of Wolves' and their covers of 'Nervous Breakdown' and 'Staring At The Rude Bois'.

5) Leathermouth
This is Frank Iero from 'MCR's' other band and it's really different. They're hardcore punk and Franks screams his way through every song. Hardcore is Franks passion and it's so great to hear him go back to the music that has influenced him the most.

They don't have an album out yet but they've just signed to Epitaph and are due to release their debut in January which I just know will be out of this world. I'm hoping and praying they'll play some UK dates soon but I also know tickets will be a nightmare to get hold of.
My favourite songs are 'Murder Was The Case That They Gave Me' and 'Bodysnatchers Forever'.

I also love Franks old band 'Pencey Prep', they split up before 'MCR' started but I love their music. Frank sounds really whiney when he sings but the actual songs are great.

6) Amy Winehouse
I can't lie, I haven't heard her first album, well I've heard one or two songs but that doesn't count. However 'Back To Black' is fantastic. I love the old school sound with the modern lyrics and you cannot deny her voice is out of this world.

I used to hate Amy Winehouse, I thought her look was terrible and she was trying too hard. Then she went all 1960's beehive and tattoos and she became a Queen to me! I know that has nothing to do with the music but she just pulled the sound and the look together and it worked for me, she became a complete package. I really hope she comes up with some new tracks soon, she's certainly got enough to write about.
My favourite songs are 'You Know I'm No Good', 'Tears Dry On Their Own' and 'Back To Black'.

7) Backstreet Boys
My real guilty pleasure! I saw their first ever gig in the UK when they supported 'PJ & Duncan' (I won't go there) and I've never missed a show since. I even dragged my boyfriend along to a show in Birmingham once. He was not happy, especially when AJ said, " And now we're going to slow it down a bit," Adam was like, "Noooooooo! It's slow already!" Poor thing.
I know they're cheesey and I know they're manufactured but they're so polished and so dedicated to getting it right. I went to see them in concert this year and really wasn't expecting to enjoy it because they'd been away for so long. I went on my own and had the BEST time! They put on such a great show and I felt like I was 14 again....god that was so long ago! I won't go on about them, you know who they are and what they do.
My favourite songs are 'Shape Of My Heart', 'Drowning' and 'Anywhere For You'

I like other people too but I'm struggling to think of any I really care about at the moment. I love 'The Smiths', 'Joy Division', 'Misfits', 'Black Flag', 'Johnny Cash', 'Buddy Holly'....but those guys are all legends and I really don't know enough about them to write about their music. I also like 'The Libertines', 'Rise Against', 'Taking Back Sunday', 'Rancid', 'Paramore', 'Madonna', 'Greenday', 'Billy Talent', 'Air Traffic'.....oh and I won't hear a word said against 'Geri Halliwell'! I swear she tries so hard bless her and she's wicked! Oh and check this out.

So that's it. Next week you can read another essay on the books I like. They're getting shorter at least.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

My Top 10 Films...well 10 and a half...Okay 11!

I thought that since I'll be writing a lot about film here I should make it clear what sort of thing I'm into. I studied film at uni but, trust me, I'm well aware that a good film and an enjoyable film aren't always the same thing. So here are my favourite films, ones that make me feel good when I watch them as opposed to give me a headache as I try to over analyse them, although some of these films are amazing and are really critically acclaimed.

In no particular order.

1) The Crow
This film was one of my first obsessions. I covered my walls in posters and photos from it and still have some really rare merchandise. I also have a tattoo of the crow from the film poster on my back and Brandon Lee's Chinese name on my wrist, so it really is very important to me. It was the first film that ever 'spoke' to me. I was around 14 when I first saw it and at the time felt like a complete outsider and freak. To find a film that was dark, not really mainstream and based on a
comic book that in itself was influenced by bands like Joy Division, felt like a huge wake up call, it was what I had been waiting my whole life for! I wouldn't feel like that again for another 10 years and I heard the music of My Chemical Romance.

Brandon Lee died making the movie and there's certainly an eerie feel to the whole film, it's about a guy who comes back from the dead to get revenge for the rape and murder of his fiancee and since Lee was due to get married a few weeks after he died it colours the way you watch the film.

I really recommend you see this film but first you should read the graphic novel. James O'Barr tells the most hearbreaking love story in those pages and gives you an education in music and poetry at the same time.

2) Sunset Boulevard

Made by Billy Wilder in 1950 this may be my all time number 1. It tells the story of Norma Desmond, a forgotten about silent movie star and her tragic relationship with a screenwriter. Hedda Hopper and Cecile B De.Mille play themselves, Erich Von Stroheim has a supporting role and Buster Keaton has a cameo. If more than one of these names mean nothing to you then this might not be your sort of film. They were key players in the Hollywood that I dream of, the glamorous, golden years that spanned from the 1920's to the 1950's, where scandals were hushed up but an everyday occurance for these wild, tragic beauties.

Gloria Swanson plays Norma. She's our deluded, unstable heroine and I'm sure the character was a little to close for comfort for one or two Hollywood has-beens and the industry as a whole, why else would Lois B. Mayer declare to Wilder, "You have disgraced the industry that made and fed you. You should be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood."

For anyone that loves the tragedy of Hollywood this film is a must see. It's a darkly beautiful American classic.

3) The Departed
The newest film on my list. What a cast, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg (in the role he was born to play), Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin (he is unbelievable in this film) and of course, the coolest man alive, Jack Nicholson. Even without this cast it would still have been amazing because it was directed by Martin Scorsese.

A remake of the Japanese film 'Infernal Affairs', which I'm ashamed to say I still haven't watched, The Departed tells the story of the police versus the mob and the two moles from each side that have to infiltrate the other. There are twists throughout and the ending is a real surprise and VERY un-Hollywood. I'll say no more though.

Winning Scorsese his long awaited and much deserved Oscar it's a gangster movie for today. I'm a gangster film freak, I adore 'Scarface', 'Goodfellas', of course 'The Godfather' and I even fell in love with 'Casino' (I want to be Ginger, what can I say?!) but this is something different, it's a new style gangster film that both people new to the genre and die-hard gangster fans can embrace.

4) LA Confidential
Another film about Hollywood scandal! Set in 1950's L.A the film was based on the James Ellroy book of the same name, part of his L.A Quartet that also includes 'The Black Dahlia'. Dealing with a corrupt police department, scandal magazines, racism, prostitution.....the list goes on, it shows Russell Crowe at his best, and one of my least favourite actresses, Kim Basinger, give an outstanding, Oscar winning, performance.

Make sure you read the book, and while you're there read the rest of the L.A. Quartet (especially 'The Black Dahlia'), there are quite a few changes so for once it doesn't really matter if you read it after you've seen the film.

5) Hostel/Dawn of The Dead
I'm torn! I've got an older brother (9 years older) so I was bought up on horror. We used to rent a video every Friday night in my house and I'd always get some U rated crap and he'd get the good stuff, the 18's. I'd sneak into his room after mine had finished and always catch the arse-end of his gore-packed film. I was never scared, I just loved it! He bought me a box set of 'Halloween' and 'Halloween 2' when I was about 8 for my birthday and there was no going back.

Now I'm normally one for Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, they're just classic horror icons and both the original 'Halloween' and 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' film are amazing horrors BUT the film student in me has reared her ugly head and to make matters worse she can't make up her mind!

'Hostel' was something new when it came out, yes there had been torture movies like this before but never on this scale, never in mainstream cinema. Everyone saw 'Hostel', it did so well it spawned a terrible sequel but also a whole new genre of film, Goreography or gore for gore's sake. With a cast of unknowns and a director with nothing but a passion for horror 'Hostel' became something special after post-modern horror films like 'Scream' took over the cinemas for far too long. Out with the all knowing winks and nods to horrors past and in with the blood and guts! There's nothing better.

On the other hand I love a zombie. Anyone that knows me will tell you I'm actually a vampire girl but vampires aren't scary, vampires are cool. Now a zombie is scary and the king of the zombie film is George A. Romero. With make-up from Tom Savini (he served in Vietnam and used what he saw over there as reference material) Romero's zombies look pretty damn sick. You can read into the film and see it as a social commentary, how society is so consumer driven (it's set in a shopping mall) that we're nothing but zombies to capitalism OR you can just sit back and enjoy the guts and brains. I do a bit of both I must admit.

So new or old? Torture or zombies? I really don't a push I think 'Dawn of The Dead', what do you think?

6) Cabaret

If you don't love Liza Minelli I can't be your friend, sorry but she's brilliant. Okay, so Judy Garland was better but the fact that she was once inside Judy Garland makes her uber-cool if nothing else does. When I heard her sing on the MCR song 'Mama' I nearly wet myself! It just so happens that Liza played Sally Bowles in one of the best musicals EVER, the only musical to feature Nazis, abortion, a bisexual millionaire and love, 'Cabaret'.

The fact that it was directed by Bob Fosse and stars Michael York and Joel Grey just adds to everything else it has going for it. Fantastic costumes, great dancing and witty songs sung with pure class. There's only one word to describe this film and it's a word I use far too much but here it is - Dark. I could also use a Sally Bowles word actually - Decadent. I'll call it darkly decadent I think.

*Sings* ' is a cabaret old chum, come to the cabaret...'!

7) Gattaca
I don't think I know anyone else that likes this film let alone loves it. It was received well by critics but never really took off with the general public. The film centers on the Ethan Hawke character of Vincent. In a time of genetic engineering, some time in the not to distant future, Vincent is an invalid who, with the help of Jude Law's valid Jerome, fakes his identity to become an astronaut.

There are two things I love about this film, the first is the production design. Although set in the future there is a classic retro (often 1950's sometimes 1920's) feel to the whole design. Sleek and clean but warm at the same time. I know nothing about design but I know what I like when I see it and this film just looks nice. I think it's the lighting but I probably need to watch it again to be sure.

The second thing I love is Jude Law....actually it's the character he plays, Jerome. I'm not going to give the plot away but the character of Jerome is so well written. He's flawed and troubled but essentially a good man. The last shot we see of this character is perfect and so moving.

8) Great Expectations
This is the second Ethan Hawke film on my list and I don't even like him that much to tell the truth, however this film is great, well I say great, I adore it, everybody else hates it and it received pretty rubbish reviews. Despite a really strong cast, a gorgeous Gwyneth Paltrow (I normally find her very plain), a brooding Ethan Hawke, a crazy Anne Bancroft and the always outstanding Robert De Niro, as well as one of my favourite directors, Alfonso Cuaron, at the helm it just didn't work for a lot of people.

You've probably noticed I like overly visual film, the script can be rubbish and the acting terrible but if it looks good I fall in love. Score is also so important to me. This film just appeals to all my senses, in a similar way to 'Gattaca' actually. Plus it's a love story and I'm a sucker for a love story. I'd really love to know what other people think of this film.

9) The Breakfast Club

I love the 80's. I love the fashion, the music and most of all the films. Nothing sums up 80's film like John Hughes and the brat-pack....well maybe high concept but no high concept film I know of had Molly Ringwald in it and she was Queen of the 80's!

I could have chosen 'Pretty in Pink' and I'm still tempted to change this but I won't and that's because although 'Pretty in Pink' has Andrew McCarthy and James Spader (even at about 6 or 7 when I first saw it I was in love) 'The Breakfast Club' has Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall and of course Molly Ringwald. That's nearly all of the brat-pack!

It's a great teen movie that knocks down the stereotype, or maybe it reinforces it, I've never quite decided but more importantly they all dance for no reason in the middle of it! Classic. It went on to influence films like 'The Faculty' and if you threw a modern soundtrack over it it would work just as well today as it did then. It also contains the worst make-over moment in movie history. Ally Sheedy should steer clear of Alice bands and eye-make-up remover at all costs.

10) Edward Scissorhands

I could never compile a list of favourite films with including a Tim Burton film. He's my favourite director and I was lucky enough to meet him and tell him he was my idol a few years back at the 'Planet of the Apes' premiere. I could have put 'Sleepy Hollow' in here, or even 'Sweeney Todd' or 'Beetlejuice' but no other Burton film makes me cry like 'Edward Scissorhands', no other Burton film has quite as much other Burton film has Vincent Price!

When I started at uni they asked us to write an essay on any film we wanted just to see how much we knew about film, I choose 'Edward Scissorhands' and I realized how much effort had gone into set and costume design, how colour is used so cleverly and how much of a fairy tale it really is.

To any teenager the character of Edward is appealling, the outsider who is thrust into the world and no matter how hard he tries just can't connect. Of course it's love that is all that matters in the end and I still sob at the end of the film everytime I see it. The soundtrack is so pretty and enchanting and trust me, one you've seen this film, you'll never look at snow the same way again.
So I've got this far and realized I've missed off a real favourite of mine so I've had to include a number 11! Sorry, I know this is the worlds longest blog entry but I just can't miss it off.

11) Marie Antoinette
This film was slated by the French and I think it was a real love or hate thing for most people. Personally I think it's a masterpiece. It doesn't show Marie Antoinette's death but that's not to say that you're not made very aware that her life is about to end near the end of the film. As the mob storm Versailles I actually had goosebumps and a lump in my throat.

The costumes and set pieces are breathe-taking (and Oscar winning in the case of the former). The sneaky shot of a Converse and of course the modern soundtrack just hightlight how Marie is really just like any teenager, it's just she's also a Queen. Sofia Coppola has a very cold feel to all of her films that I can't really put my finger on, it's very evident here but that's not to say that you can't emerce yourself in this world.

I really think in a few years this film will have a lot more fans. I also recommend you watch 'Lost in Translation' and 'The Virgin Suicides' they follow similar themes of isolation and coming of age that make them a perfect trilogy.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Umbrella Academy Optioned by Universal

So this is my first post! I wasn't sure what to focus on since I want to write about film, music and books here but then it came to me, I have the perfect item that combines all three elements, featuring a member of my favourite band (and my hero), his comic book and a future film.

The Umbrella Academy is a comic book written by Gerard Way, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, and illustrated by Gabriel Ba, of Casanova fame. It tells the story of a dysfunctional family of superheroes and how they're brought together after years apart to save the world. Way has always been in comic books, interning at DC before starting MCR in 2001, and The Umbrella Academy has been received extremely well by the often snobby comic community, winning a prestidious Eisner earlier this year.

Hollywood can't resist a comic book movie at the moment. We've seen The Hulk, Iron Man and Batman (or the Dark Knight) all make it to our screens over the past year and with Captain America, Thor and The Avengers coming soon a darkly humorous, award winning comic book, written by a man that has an inbuilt fanbase of thousands of die-hard followers must have seemed very appealling. So it didn't take long for the news to break that Universal Studios had optioned the material and Gerard Way was in serious talks with the Studio concerning possible directors, writers and costume designers.

For someone like me this is so exciting. Unless you've read Apocalypse Suite, the first series of The Umbrella Academy, it's hard to explain what an amazingly beautiful, dark, funny, visual film it could become. Best of all Alfonso Cuaron is a possible director, Diablo Cody's name has been mentioned as writer and Gerard is keen to bring Colleen Atwood on board for costume design. Alfonso Cuaron is one of my favourite directors, he's a real visionary and directed one of my favourite but often over looked films, the 1998 version of Great Expectations. Diablo Cody is the genius behind Juno, she writes wickedly cutting, quick dialogue with a dark edge that would work so well for this project, I would love to hear my favourite character, Rumor, speaking something she'd written. Colleen Atwood works a lot with Tim Burton and has a really gothic eye for design. She designed the costumes for MCR's 'Welcome To The Black Parade' video as well as their 'Black Parade' tour and understandably Way is keen to work with her again.

This is something I'm sure I'll be coming back to but in the meantime check out The Umbrella Academy - Apocalypse Suite NOW! Dallas, the second series, is released on 26th November. Here's a couple of images to wet your appetite.