Month: February 2020

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    Sign of the Times (Prince Cover) by Muse

    A sister killed her baby ’cause she couldn’t afford to feed it
    And yet we’re sending people to the moon
    In September, my cousin tried reefer for the very first time
    Now he’s doing horse, it’s June, unh

    Lyrics from Sign of the Times

    Possibly one of my favourite covers of any song I’ve heard. This is how covers should be done.

    I remember hearing this for the first time in my first web development job. I was working for a small local company, whose office was the upstairs level of a converted barn.

    Usually the radio — permanently fixed on Radio One — soon became tiresome for me as the same songs seemed to be played at the same time every damn day.

    But one magical day I happened to hear the Live Lounge wear I heard Matt Belamy’s signature guitar sound riffing to a tune I recognised but could not name.

    When I finally worked it out it hit me like a freight train.

    This song is fucking incredible.

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    So it turns out that The Last of Us Grounded mode is actually pretty tough. Loving it! It’s put the scares and danger back into a game I’ve gotten used to completing.

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    Thoughts on the film Joker

    –is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?

    Arthur Fleck speaking with his Social Worker

    Joker is a phenomenal film, released in 2019, that explores a possible origin story for Batman’s famous arch-nemesis.

    I can’t believe that I was sat right where I am now as I write this, considering not going to see Joker for my second time at the cinema. This film is absolutely stunning for so many reasons — some of wish I will try and put over to you here.

    Please note however, that this isn’t a typical “comic book film” — it’s so much more than that.

    I should also say that there are some spoilers ahead.

    A Stunning Performance

    Joaquin Phoenix is probably my favourite representative of the character of Joker that I’ve seen on screen. He isn’t playing a huge comic book, larger-than-life character. Instead he is playing a grounded human being, living in almost-poverty, dealing with a whole manner of uphill battles.

    At front and centre of his performance was the mental health issues that Arthur Fleck (later to become Joker) is dealing with throughout the film and his life. Joaquin’s portrayal of Fleck with these issues was incredible – I couldn’t help but imagine the amount of energy that this role must have taken day to day to get to what we see on screen. Nothing seems to be held back – even the look of his malnourished body from his weight loss for the role stands as a testament to his dedication here.

    What I found the most profound though, was the way that Joaquin managed to blend comedy and tragedy into the same performance, so naturally. I remember a key scene where his boss at the clown hire company calls him to see him, essentially blaming him for getting beat up by a gang of kids. Fleck forces himself to ‘put on a happy face’, which for a second is passable as such. But as the camera moves in closer, I could see and feel the anguish and anger building up in him. That one moment made him worthy of his 2020 oscar win for best actor, in my opinion.

    The Music is perfect

    I discovered a new instrument when hearing the soundtrack to Joker: the Halldorophone. The instrument is similar to a cello, I think. It is so haunting, so intense and so desolate-sounding, that it perfectly represented the mental isolation that Fleck experiences on the busy streets of Gotham City. The film’s composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir, has created a sound that managed to cut down to Fleck’s core and expose it to the audience.

    When I think about the score, I go straight to a bathroom scene where Fleck slow dances by himself having just killed the three suits on the subway. The way that the instrument filled the cinema as Fleck seemed to be slipping into something a lot more comfortable, mentally speaking, created a single moment in cinema that I will never forget.

    Arthur begins to fit into his emerging persona

    Along with Hildur Guðnadóttir’s incredible score, are the use of some classic songs at key moments in Fleck’s transformation. Frank Sinatra’s “That’s life” seemed to perfectly capture an acceptance that life can beat you down at times. But it’s done with it’s calm, almost relaxing, accompaniment that it fit so well into the Joker’s embracing and enjoyment of using his experiences to fuel what he is to become.

    I said, that’s life (that’s life), and as funny as it may seem
    Some people get their kicks
    Stompin’ on a dream
    But I don’t let it, let it get me down
    ‘Cause this fine old world it keeps spinnin’ around

    That’s Life – Frank Sinatra

    I loved the use of Rock ‘N’ Roll (Part 2) too. After living with Arthur and experiencing his hardships first hand up to this point, this song was almost like a release of some of the tension. In fact that seemed to be exactly what Arthur was experiencing too as he danced along to it down them well-trodden steps in one of the film’s most iconic scenes. But even from that up-beat foot-tapping song, Hildur’s excellent score blends back in and takes over to remind us that despite this ‘happy face’, at his core is still that desolate and broken man.

    An unlikely hero

    Joker is probably one of the most unlikely heroes of all of the villains I’ve come across in films. Up until now that is. But of course, that is completely dependant on your perspective. In all of the Batman films, Thomas Wayne was this beacon of hope for the city who, after his death, became a catalyst for his son Bruce to pursue his own destiny as the Batman. But when you come at the story from the side of the “villain” (quotes intended), it makes things not quite so black and white.

    Arthur Fleck comes from the impoverished side of gotham, where the people are pretty much forgotten about and frowned upon by the rich society. There is a moment when Thomas Wayne appears on television, to the excitement of Fleck’s mother, to be interviewed about the three killings on the subway.

    From what we saw on that train car, we know that those three men were complete scumbags – harassing an innocent woman and then beating on Arthur. Yes, Arthur’s reaction was extreme. But after a life of being beaten on by his peers and society around him, and with the only means of self-defence to hand, is it really that surprising that he reacted how he did?

    But then to have Thomas Wayne, the poster child for success and wealth in the city, give the following statement, it puts him in a completely opposing light to how I’d seen him previously: “And until that jealousy ends, those of us who’ve made a good life for ourselves will always look at those who haven’t as nothing but clowns.”.

    Arthur getting ready for the Murray Franklin show

    And until that jealousy ends, those of us who’ve made a good life for ourselves will always look at those who haven’t as nothing but clowns.

    Thomas Wayne, interviewed on TV

    I think it was inevitable that there was going to be some civil unrest on the city streets. But it just so happened that Arthur was at the right place at the right time to kick start the revolution and lead it into a new era for Gotham.

    Births and Deaths

    There was a moment at the end that caused my mouth to drop with excitement and awe. It was just at the height of all of the rioting, as Fleck (almost fully Joker) is being broken out of the police car following his television appearance. We see Thomas and Martha Wayne leaving the theatre with their son Bruce in tow. I thought – hang on, this seems familiar.

    As they run down a side alley to escape the escalating violence they are approached by one of the extreme protesters in a clown mask. This immediately sent me back to being about ten years old again seeing Tim Burton’s batman – “You ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight?”. The attacker in Joker didn’t say this, as it wasn’t the same character as in Batman (In Batman it is a criminal called Jack Napier who becomes the Joker). But it was no less powerful for me to see this scene play out at this film’s climax.

    But the most powerful moment for me was the awakening of Joker on the bonnet of the police car — after having been broken out, and the deaths of both of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Although the metaphor is pretty obvious I just wanted to note it down: It is the perfect representation of the births of both Joker and Batman happening at the same point in time.

    Joker is raised up and revered as the leader of a crusade for the beaten and down-trodden in society. At the same time the seeds of what Bruce is to become are planted at the very moment that his parents are taken away from him.

    In Conclusion

    I have only seen a couple of different versions of the Joker, from the New 52 DC comics to the classic Jack Nicholson perforce in Tim Burton’s Batman. And from Heath Ledger’s iconic performance back to Batman: The Animated Series. But I have to say that so far, I think that Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal has easily become my favourite — of the ones I’ve seen on screen, anyway.

    His version is so grounded in reality, so much so that this didn’t even feel like a typical ‘Comic Book Film’ for one second as I watched it. This is a psychological thriller through and through – and a damn excellent one too.

    Joker does have it’s funny moments, but they are sometimes hard to spot — depending on your sense of humour. But if you are inclined towards darker comedy, there are some pretty funny moments in here.

    Related Links

    Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s website.

    ‘Joker’ Originally Had A Very Different Bathroom Scene – from SlashFIlm

    Every Song On Joker’s Soundtrack. – from Screen Rant

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    Thoughts on Rosemary’s Baby

    What have you done to it?! What have you done to its eyes?!

    Rosemary Woodhouse

    A Horror Classic

    Rosemary’s Baby is one of those classic horror films that I have known about for years, yet never got round to watching it. But I decided it was time to sit down and finally watch it — and I was so glad I did.

    I can’t offer any in-depth analysis or deeply philosophical film essays on this, or any other films I watch to be honest. What I will do though, is give my thoughts and feelings about it.

    From it’s opening shot across Manhattan, this film felt very much like a Hitchcock film to me. Which was an instant hit for me. However, this isn’t a Hitchcock film – it was in fact made by Roman Polanski. In fact, it was the first film of Polanski’s that I have seen, that I remember.

    Overlooking the apartment building in the opening from Rosemary’s Baby — reminded me of shots from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

    Sustained terror and paranoia

    I absolutely loved the feeling of sustained terror throughout most of the piece. It has been referred to as a “horror film that contains no horror”, although I would argue that the scenes depicted in Rosemary’s “nightmare” on baby night got pretty bloody scary. The images in that nightmare brought up the thought of witches in my mind. And there’s something about witches in older cinema that just creeps me out — even the film version of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” still haunts me to this day.

    But for most of the film, the kind of horror that it uses is that of paranoia. The paranoia that builds up in Rosemary as the baby gets closer and closer to it’s due date, and the paranoia I felt towards the excellent cast that surround the actress playing Rosemary, Mia Farrow.

    Even in their very first scenes, I could tell that certain characters were dodgy. But I’m not sure whether that is because I am watching it 52 years after it’s release – with, no doubt, many known films I had seen having being inspired by it.

    Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer were great as Minnie and Roman Castevet. They have a certain friendliness and over-familiarity that I couldn’t help get the heeby jeebies from.

    A false sense of security

    Something else occurred to me whilst writing this post too. I don’t remember there being any dark, particularly scary moments, except for the nightmare I mentioned above. The film takes place mostly in the day time with well-lit rooms and colourful surroundings — I absolutely loved the colours and the choice of camera used here.

    The people that are around Rosemary seem to be always brightly coloured too. It’s almost like the film is trying to put you at ease with it’s colourful, welcoming surroundings whilst the possibility of a dark, sinister underbelly becomes more and more likely as it moves forwards.

    On looking back, it really did feel that the film was easing me into a false sense of security.

    Rosemary Woodhouse

    In Conclusion

    As so many people have said before me, this really is a horror classic. It stands the test of time for me as both a psychological horror and at times a dark comedy — especially with those scenes involving those over-familiar neighbours of theirs.

    I’d urge you, if you haven’t already, to give this film a watch. Don’t leave it as long as I have. It has scenes that I’m still thinking about now — days after I actually saw it. And I don’t doubt that I’ll be thinking about them again in the future.

    External Articles

    Kate Middleton Accidentally Wore a Dress from Rosemary’s Baby for Prince Louis’ Debut

    Is Mother! a Rosemary’s Baby Remake? Is This Poster a Red Herring? Why Do I Suddenly Care?

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    Mosquitoes (Uzumaki part 10)

    They needed raw blood for their babies!

    Kirie must survive a blood-soaked nightmare

    It is Summer time in Kurouzu-cho and Kirie Goshima is in hospital. She is still being treated for the wounds that she incurred when she and her brother escaped from the Black Lighthouse in the previous chapter. But what is not helping her heal, is the number of mosquitoes that have increased in numbers recently.

    In fact, during a quick walk around the outside of the hospital Kirie and her friend notice a huge, thick collection of mosquitoes all buzzing around in a tight circular motion. Her friend tells her about how this is called a “Mosquito Column”, and occurs when all of the males get together to try and attract a mate. But within seconds of them seeing the column, things go from curious to horrific very quickly.

    Kirie and her friend discover the body of a pregnant woman in the hospital grounds, with a face contorted into a look of pain and a body mutilated and full of holes. Soon after, more and more pregnant women get admitted to the hospital, as a result of mosquito swarm attacks. One of which is Kirie’s cousin Keiko.

    As the story moves forward, more strange and horrific things begin to occur within the walls of the hospital. But what will Kirie and her Keiko do when they find themselves at the centre of a hellish nightmare?

    Vampyric tendencies

    Vampires are a staple of horror and have been so for over a hundred years – arguably starting with the Bram Stoker novel Dracula. Many modern-day horror stories that tackle the idea of the vampire lean very heavily on the story of Dracula too. Especially with both his strengths and his weaknesses. But what I loved about Mosquitoes by Junji Ito, was how he has managed to create his own vampire-like story with absolutely no mention of vampires.

    The blood sucking women throughout the second half of the story are not controlled by some greater being that has sired them. Except, of course, if you consider the spiral at the centre of all things in Kurouzu-cho to be the controller. Instead, these women have simply taken on the attributes of the mosquitoes.

    And that is the stroke of genius that sits at the heart of this chapter: “What if people took on the same behaviours as mosquitoes?”. And in Junji Ito’s own unique way, he has explored that question with gusto. Here you have pregnant women drilling holes in people to drink their blood, in order to feed the unborn babies inside of them.

    The women are demonic looking

    Gripping and Horrific

    Mosquitoes packs so much into its thirty or so pages that I couldn’t help but feel wiped out by the end of it. This is possibly the most horrific night that Kirie has had so far in Uzumaki. Taking the deceptively simple premise of “what if people started becoming like mosquitoes” opened up a whole load of horror possibilities.

    As mentioned above, the similarities with vampires was a comparison that I couldn’t help but make. But so too there are similarities with zombie films. There is one panel in particular where Kirie steps out to investigate a strange noise that she hears in the corridors. That investigation takes her straight towards a group of demonic-looking women all after one thing — blood.

    Despite them being mindful of what they are doing and how they are doing it, the horde of evil ladies drew big parallels with scenes I’d seen from zombie films. Such as the group pursuing as one demonic pack; the people who come out to investigate and get caught and devoured. But perhaps my favourite part was when Kirie manages to escape the horde and lock herself back in her own room, only to be locked inside with something already lurking in there.

    In Conclusion

    Without a doubt, Mosquitoes is one of my top three favourite Uzumaki chapters. I’m not quite sure if it’s my absolute number one yet. But I think it’ll be a close one.

    What’s great too, is that this story works great as it’s own standalone tale, separate from the surrounding story of the spiral nightmare. Junji Ito’s genius is on full show here with his gruesome depictions of blood-thirsty women being like mosquitoes. But instead of them just being pests as their tiny counterparts tend to be, these women are wild-eyed, demonic animals. And they will kill on site anyone who crosses their path.

    Despite this being able to stand on it’s own story merits, it is actually followed on directly by the next chapter, “Umbilical Cord”. I can’t remember the story itself, having only just read the next chapter’s title. But seeing as it deals with the babies that came as a result of that evil night, it definitely feels like it will be just as crazier — perhaps more so.

    If you’re looking for a reason to start reading Uzumaki, or even just Junji Ito in general, please do give this one a read. You could even go to your local bookshop that has it in stock, and jump straight to page 299. I guarantee you will at least enjoy the experience. But you’ll more likely than not end up buying the collection then and there.

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    Finally got my site to use the roots wordpress structure. Composer dependency management and deployment with laravel forge. 🤓