Fraser McFadzean’s Alternative Movie Posters II

Fraser McFadzean -the Grosvenor Cinema’s very own poster boy- gives us a second installment of his second looks at movie paraphernalia for upcoming talkies which will be coming to the Grosvenor Cinema.

One of Scotland's cult classics. Having very rarely seen the sun, Scots tend to eulogize about seaside holidays without any reference to the fictional nature of Ferness.

One of Scotland’s cult classics. Having very rarely seen the sun, Scots tend to eulogize about seaside holidays without any reference to the fictional nature of Ferness

Anyone who has seen the awesome trailer of 'Man of Steel' will instantly recognize this minimalist take on the flight of  the Man of Steel. The steely blue, matte colours only add to it

Anyone who has seen the awesome trailer of ‘Man of Steel’ will instantly recognize this minimalist take on the flight of the Man of Steel. The steely blue, matte colours only add to it

The movie is about Alan, right? It's always been about Alan. And so Fraser has immortalized this fact with the bearded- wolf himself.

The movie is about Alan, right? It’s always been about Alan. And so Fraser has immortalized this fact with the bearded- wolf himself.

Tom Cruise oozes the Eighties: so does this neon-drenched poster for the Grosvenor Cinema's upcoming 'Cocktails and Dreams' night

Tom Cruise oozes the Eighties: so does this neon-drenched poster for the Grosvenor Cinema’s upcoming ‘Cocktails and Dreams’ night

 

All artwork courtesy of Fraser McFadzean

Review: I’m So Excited

I’m So Excited! is the story of passengers on flight 2459 to Mexico City dealing with the news of technical problems and an inevitable emergency landing. Everyone in economy is drugged leaving those in business class to panic before embracing personal breakthroughs and a lot of alcohol.

The film came from Amoldóvar’s imaginings of sexual escapades of stewards and pilots, and how ‘the fantasies of flight are sex and death.’ The constant movement and lack of concrete time in a plane are a place for creativity and letting go. ‘To be excited in Spanish means to be horny’ there is no question of a double meaning here.

 

It is a true return to colourful comedy and came by request of fans in Madrid. The parallels between the story and financial problems in Spain are clear. The plane circles while the passengers know the emergency landing is coming. On board though impending disaster is dealt with through talk, sex and drink, ‘I wanted to turn a catastrophe into a party’ says Amoldóvar. Although comedic, the desperation and resolve is sincere. The essence of human truth may not be revealed, but it is a lot of fun.

Bright colours and flipping fringes come straight from the 80’s, when Amoldóvar started making films and when life in Spain was good. A toast to the time is made with Valencian cocktails and mescaline.

Despite the dramatic sounding setting it is the fast movement and dialogue of the characters that push the pace of the film. Wanting to work with actors was the reason that Amoldóvar became a director. He acknowledges the crucial role of lighting, photography and sound in narration, but the story is told through the ‘bodies, hearts and guts’ of the actors. Every limb and organ is used here. Javier Cámara sweeps through as the loose lipped head steward balancing between personal hurt and showmanship. Also excellent is Lola Dueñas as Bruna the virginal psychic looking for some drug lords in Mexico who ‘sounded lovely on the phone’.

It’s filthy verging close to crude at times. The outrageously camp stewards perform a full-length choreographed dance routine (you can probably guess to which song), but when entering into an Amoldóvar film that’s sort of what you sign up for. Speedy backstories and solid comedic timing make for a grown-up but easy watch. In order to enjoy. Relax, just do it.

Naomi Walmsley

I’m So Excited will be showing in the Grosvenor Cinema from Friday 3 May. Click here for more information.

Iron Man 3 Raptor Review: Alan Kerr

Iron Man 3 touches down on the Grosvenor Cinema’s screens this week, and with it brings high expectations and the unenviable task of being the first Marvel movie to follow the spectacular Avengers, which came this time last year.

The third instalment in the Iron Man franchise is notable for several reasons. Firstly, it carries the responsibility of launching what has come to be known as “Phase 2” for the Marvel movie franchise, much like the first Iron Man movie did for Phase 1 back in 2008. It also marks the first Iron Man movie not to be directed by Marvel veteran Jon Favreau, his boots instead being filled by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). It also, as stated above, walks in the dauntingly large footsteps of the biggest superhero movie of all time, which introduced elements such as Gods, aliens and giant green rage monsters into Tony Stark’s hitherto tech-heavy universe. All of this could be cause for concern, and it makes it all the more impressive that Shane Black has managed to make one of the best stand alone Marvel movies yet (and definitely the funniest) that manages to raise the stakes to a personal level, and make us care about Tony Stark as the man behind the iron.

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Iron Man 3 takes place sometime after the battle of New York seen in The Avengers, and Tony carries the weight of those events heavy on his shoulders. He is having anxiety attacks and cannot sleep, working away on his suits while trying to come to terms with the world changing experiences he had after his brush with death. He is also worried about his relationship with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) having gained a new perspective on the important things in life after being warped through a worm hole to an alien dimension (that kind of thing tends to make someone sit back and reflect a little…). Meanwhile, Col. James “Rhody” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) has been rebranded from “War Machine” to “The Iron Patriot”, the red white and blue Iron Man soldier working personally for the U.S President. At the same time, a new threat to the United States has emerged in the form of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley); a terrorist very much in the vein of Osama Bin Laden, delivering taped messages of panic-mongering threats to the people of America. The Mandarin however is not the only threat as we are introduced to Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) a scientist scorned by Tony Stark years ago who has returned with dangerous new nano-bio-technology known as “Extremis”.

The way in which all these pieces come together is impressive, and the movie does a good job of keeping you guessing, while still giving you plenty to be excited and entertained by while you are watching it. The main draw of this movie, as with the first Iron Man movie, is Robert Downey Jr’s perfect portrayal of Tony Stark. We are used to Tony Stark by this point. We know what he is all about; he is cocky, egotistical, sarcastic, somewhat selfish, but altogether charming and likeable. This movie however delves deeper into Tony Stark than any of the others have done yet. It asks the question of who is Iron Man; and who is Tony Stark? Are they one in the same? Does the suit make the man, or does the man make the suit? This idea is explored throughout the film, and is exemplified visually in a number of wonderful scenes, the most striking of which can be seen in the trailer, where Tony is dragging the suit behind him through the cold snow. The advances Tony has made in his technology which give him the ability to control his suit, and even individual pieces, independently really allows for some great effects, and it also sure comes in handy when things get heavy. (N.B Pun intended, once you see the movie)The effect here is that you come away from this movie caring a lot more about Tony as a human being as opposed to a superhero, and with a greater understanding of who he is, and why he does what he does.

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The movie also does a terrific job of fitting itself into the greater Marvel cinematic universe, while still carving out its own identity as part of the Iron Man series, and as a standalone film in its own right. There are plenty of nice references to previous movies (mainly The Avengers) but these never feel out of place or like fan service. They aren’t so much winks and nods to the audience as they are just genuine moments that characters in this world would refer to. I can’t stress enough however how much of an improvement this movie is over Iron Man 2. The second instalment in the Iron Man franchise was underwhelming, but passable. It introduced some key elements with regards to S.H.I.E.L.D and Tony and Pepper’s relationship, but on the whole it felt sluggish and aimless, and just kind of fizzled out towards the end. This movie is the sequel that Iron Man deserves, and it seems that Shane Black has played a vital role in this. The movie has a real life to it, it feels alive and it knows where it is going. It mixes inspired and inventive action set pieces with genuine laugh out loud comedy, along with threat and dread mixed with real shock and excitement. The scene aboard Air Force one is a particular highlight, and it was great to see that these films can still make grin from ear to ear at just how cool the events on screen are.

It should be noted that one worry I had going into this movie was that if things were ever going to get really bad, and the threat was supposed to be Iron Man’s toughest yet, then why doesn’t he just call in his Avenger pals to help him out? I’m glad to say that this isn’t an issue with the movie. They have portrayed the threat as an impending one for the most part, with which Tony’s involvement is incidental and much more personal. The Avengers are a response team, Earth’s last resort kind of thing. For much of this movie, Tony is playing a covert spy, sneaking behind the scenes to try and avert a situation where we might need to call in his super friends, and it works superbly.

Every character in the movie is utilised to their full potential, and they all play their part terrifically. Downey Jr is of course bringing his A game, but even characters like Rhody and Pepper, along with new comers The Mandarin and Killian are integrated into the plot  perfectly, and while the direction some of the classic comic book characters takes may be a bit much for some ardent fans to swallow, it is a bold and inventive way of integrating some of the more far-fetched elements of the source material into the ‘reality’ that these films have established.

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I had a few minor reservations while watching the film, however most of the time I had come to terms with them by the time the scene was over because I was too busy laughing at something Tony had said, or my jaw was dropping at something incredible happening on screen, or just that the thing with which I had a problem had been re-contextualised within the movie and seemed to make sense. Without giving anything away, I was initially not on board with the direction the Mandarin takes about half way through the film, but the more I thought about it, it made sense to have this iconic character be portrayed in this way, and made him feel like a part of the modern world. My only complaint would be that I think Ben Kingsley maybe goes just a *wee* bit over the top at times, but it’s nothing I can’t live with. There is also a period where Tony just happens to stumble upon what looks like a homemade engineering laboratory run by a 12 year old boy, at which point I felt my eyes rolling just a little, but the interactions between Tony and the kid that follow go on to be some of the funniest and deeply revealing moments of the whole movie, so I was inclined to forgive it.

Overall, Iron Man 3 is everything it needed to be. It is of course not quite the spectacle that The Avengers was, but it stands head and shoulders above the previous Iron Man movie, and maybe even above the original. It is a bold take on the superhero movie, being that for so much of the movie we are watching Tony Stark without his Iron Man suit on, and explores the idea that Tony is a hero, with or without his gadgets, to great effect. Shane Black skilful direction has earned his keep among Marvel helmsmen, and has given the next Phase of movies yet another lofty peak to aspire to. My first thought upon leaving this movie was that I was immediately much more interested to see where Tony’s character was going to be taken with the next Avengers movie, and for a character who we have now seen starring in four films already, that is impressive.

Alan Kerr

You can book your tickets for Iron Man 3 at the Grosvenor Cinema here.

If you enjoyed this you can find Alan  talking about movies, weekly news and trailers in depth with a couple of film-loving friends on iTunes at Raptors in the Kitchen.

You can find us:

:On Twitter – @raptorspodcast

:Through Facebook – search ‘Raptors in the Kitchen’

:Over email – Raptorsinthekitchen@gmail.comptors In The Kitchen

5 REASONS YOU SHOULD SEE EVIL DEAD AT THE GROSVENOR

Remakes, specifically remakes of horror films, are nothing new to film goers. Since 2000 we have had remakes, reboots, translations and re-imaginings of (deep breath):

Fright Night, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Straw Dogs, The Thing, Let The Right One In, Prom Night, Black Christmas, The Ring, The Grudge, One Missed Call, The House on Sorority Row, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, Salem’s Lot, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TWICE), The Amityville Horror, Toolbox Murders, Dark Water, The Hitcher, The Omen, House of Wax, 2001 Maniacs, Carrie, Thi13en Ghosts, When A Strange Calls, Pulse, The Wicker Man, The Fog, War of the Worlds, I Spit on Your Grave, Mother’s Day, The Crazies, The Wolf Man, The Last House on the Left, My Bloody Valentine, The Uninvited, The Stepfather, Quarantine, The Eye, Day of the Dead, The Invasion, I Am Legend, Funny Games, When A Stranger Calls, Pulse, The Fog……………………

… The point is that there has been a lot of them. The list I just made isn’t exhaustive by any stretch and there is a long discussion to be had about why remakes take place, whether they’re justified and whether, at the end of the new product, they were worth it in the first place.  I don’t want to have that discussion just now, talking in broad strokes and generalisations, no, instead I want to focus on the most recent – and arguably most sacred – remake that was released this week into British cinemas.  The Evil Dead films found their way into the hearts of millions of British horror fans by being one of the first movies to be branded a video nasty.  It, in fact, was described by Mary Whitehouse – a leader in attempting to censor free speech in the British media and generally not a lovely woman – as the  “number one nasty”. It was the film that shot Sam Raimi – that guy who just directed the multi-million dollar budget Wizard of Oz prequel – into the spotlight and made Bruce Campbell a B-movie legend. The low budget, hands-on effects and pioneering camera work raises the 1982 classic way above many of it’s peers and keeps it relevant even today.

Now decisions have been made to do what many call the unthinkable and try to recapture the magic that a young Raimi put onto celluloid thirty-two years ago. I, unlike many people, am willing to listen to the justifications for remakes. I think, like song covers, different people can bring their own ideas and creative flare to something that already exists and I believe that advancements in technology can help realise ideas that were attempted before their time. Remakes in the horror genre are nearly as old as cinema itself. You only need to look towards the many, many, many versions of Dracula that have been published, allowing these characters to be updated, recreated and therefore exposed to new generations and fresh scares. With all of this in mind I hope to give five reasons to convince you why this new vision is something to be excited for, that you should want to see and that the Grosvenor is the perfect place for you to once again visit that dinky cabin in the woods.

Evil Dead Poster (2)

1 – THE DIRECTOR WAS HAND PICKED BY SAM RAIMI

Fede Alvarez, do you know the name? Unlike most of the horror films released in the past five years you will not see over the credits for Evil Dead anything linked to Sinister, Paranormal Activity, Insidious or any of the other close-knit gang of horror distributors. The reason is because this film is being produced by Renaissance Pictures – a company founded by Raimi, Campbell and original Evil Dead producer Rod Tapert. This is not some new bosses searching through the IPs that they own for a new cash cow to milk. It is the original creators investing in it both financially and creatively. A fourth Evil Dead film has been talked about for a long time but, in 2009, Bruce Campbell stated that it was going nowhere. For Raimi then to see this young director with enough potential to hand over his treasured series truly says something. Alvarez was signed up after one of his short films – Ataque de Pánico – became a Youtube hit.  This is Alvarez’s first feature length film and it feels like Raimi almost sees something of himself in the young Uruguayan. This decision is not one they’ve ran into. Army of Darkness was released in 1992 so if the original trio were simply wanting to make money from the franchise they could have easily brought in any director over the past twenty years. They did not do that and only passed the reigns when Raimi himself believed that the person to inherit Evil Dead was worthy of the responsibility that came with it.

Fede Alvaraz (2)

2 – PRIMARILY PRACTICAL EFFECTS

When Raimi made the original Evil Dead he was on a shoe-string budget without the comfort of CGI so advanced you can create whole worlds from your bedroom. He relied on imagination, camera tricks and a whole lot of Karo syrup and red food colouring. Many horror films have traded in the hands-on style older directors were forced to partake in, preferring to edit in blood sprays later on and perform all sorts of clever green screen tricks to make supernatural events occur. Evil Dead has not done that. Alvarez, in a number of interviews, has said that he feels like practical effects bring out a better performance in the actors. It puts them in the moment and allows them to properly react to what is going on round about them. Practical effects, in many cases, also age far better than CGI does. Carpenter’s The Thing still looks incredible and this looks like it’s going to have some brilliant moments to horrify the viewers. The fact that the director has gone down the more difficult route and against the grain of what most film makers are doing just now only reiterates that this film is being treated with care and respect.

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3 – THE 18 CERTIFICATE

Sam Raimi, when setting out to make the original Evil Dead, was advised that the secret to a successful horror film was to keep the blood running down the screen. He used a lot of gore in the original and I think one of the earliest signs with this remake that things were going to be special was the announcement it was aiming for an 18 rating. The rise of the 12A rating in Hollywood has led to many rightfully 15/18 films cut and edited until it is a shell of it’s former self in the name of bigger profits (never better seen than between the 18 rated Taken followed by the 12A Taken 2) so to see this film stand up in defiance and wear it’s (bleeding) heart on its sleeve is brilliant. A massive part of the marketing has relied on the gore-factor and we are practically guaranteed that the film is going to meet and exceed expectations. Will there be a shot, like in the original, when blood literally runs down the lens of the camera? It’s definitely an image to look out for.

Still not convinced? Seriously? Go look at that amazing tongue split again!

4 – NO ASH

Bruce Campbell made his name and secured his legacy with the original Evil Dead trilogy. He won the hearts of millions and created one of horrors most iconic heroes in the shape of Ashley “Ash” J. Williams. So why am I listing the lack of one of the key ingredients in the original success as a reason you should be excited to see this movie? The decision to distance themselves from Ash, and Campbell’s performance specifically, by having a female lead (Jane Levy playing Mia) shows an appreciation and respect for the original films that many remakes have ignored. There is no way to replicate the charisma that Bruce Campbell brought to the part and anybody who found themselves in the part of Ash would only be doing their best impression. Viewers would be watching and scrutinising and nobody, not the paying customers or the studio, want that to be the focus of the film. Instead there is a new lead character so there is no need to draw direct comparisons.

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5 – THIS ISN’T A REMAKE

 Evil Dead had it’s premier screening at the South by Southwest festival earlier this year and the next day Raimi and Alvarez announced that they had plans to fully canonise both this film and sequels still to come. They announced that an Evil Dead 2 is in the works and Raimi will be helming an Army of Darkness 2 before a seventh and final film which will bring the two universes together. This is an exciting prospect and shows that there is a plan behind this new release that goes further than just money. The team are working hard together to flesh out the world that so many film fans love dearly and none of them want to disappoint. Although there are similarities between the 2013 and 1981 version, Alvarez has hinted that there may be reasons for this beyond simple plagiarism which will hopefully be contextualised either through the new one or the sequels that follow.

I am excited for this new part in the Evil Dead franchise. I think it’s being made from the right place, by the right people and is being treated with care and respect from every angle. From the outside it seems perfect and hopefully the film can live up to the high expectations that comes with the title. Make sure to check it out at the Grosvenor cinema this week – especially because it was there that the original Evil Dead had it’s European premiere. The cinema is a big part of Evil Dead history so what better way to celebrate this new release than by visiting so you can in 31 years when it’s being remade again say that you were there.

No matter what the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis warns you against, you are going to want to keep going, keep watching, and keep scaring yourself. You tell yourself you’re not going to do it to yourself this time, you know better, and yet you just can’t resist.

To wind us up, I’m leaving you with a video made by local Glasgow artist and film buff Ashton Lamont; his own tribute to Raimi’s original. I hope you enjoy it before going out to watch the new film.

 

Paul Faulkner

Book your tickets for Evil Dead at the Grosvenor Cinema here.

If you enjoyed this you can find Paul talking about movies, weekly news and trailers in depth with a couple of film-loving friends on iTunes at Raptors in the Kitchen.

You can find us:

:On Twitter – @raptorspodcast

:Through Facebook – search ‘Raptors in the Kitchen’

:Over email – Raptorsinthekitchen@gmail.com

If you enjoyed Ash’s video you can find more of his work at:

areaoftheunwell.blogspot.co.uk – for more film related stuff

ashsarthole.blogspot.co.uk – for his art

A Thoroughly Sideways Cheese-Tasting with IJ Mellis

In Sideways Paul Giamatti plays Miles, a struggling author, juggling his job teaching English to high school kids and the emotional void left when the love of his life left him with a broken heart two years previous, does what we would all do in his situation: he turns to the bottle. But what could be construed as borderline alcoholism is in fact a thoroughly middle-class penchant for wine-tasting. As Miles takes his friend and failed actor, Jack (Paul Haden Church), on a wine tasting trip to San Ynez wine country in the week leading up to his marriage the pair share laughs, memories, some of their successes, all of their failures and of course a glass of pinot or two.

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The witty dialogue produced in the eponymous novel by Rex Pickett is thrown up onscreen producing a poignant and droll panorama on the lives of people wearied by life but who rejoice in it all the same. When it was released to widespread acclaim in 2004 it picked up 107 awards including the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. 10 years later and like a vintage red, it has aged very well.

Sideways at the Grosvenor Cinema will be accompanied by a wine and cheese tasting, along with mouth-watering canapés in the Grosvenor Café on Wednesday 24 April, which altogether comprise ‘A Thoroughly Sideways Evening’.

The cheese for the evening will be provided by IJ Mellis, Glasgow, the West End’s best artisan cheesemongers. In its twentieth year, Mellis have a rich history of specialising in the maturing, retailing & wholesaling of farmhouse cheeses from Britain & the Continent. With  five cheese shops and one wholesale department with maturing rooms, they offer a wonderful blend of the traditional and modern delivering an unrivalled cheese experience.

Their current manager, James Stuart arrived at Mellis, Glasgow via sojourns in Naples and Sicily. This sturdy, modest man does not claim to be an authority on cheese, nor does he carry the air of a superior when he discusses his products with you. He offered to taste with me a selection of cheeses in the run up to ‘A Thoroughly Sideways Evening’ so that I, at least, will have a better understanding of the true place of cheese in a cheese and wine evening. Given my experience in film, and with wine, I yearned for the rounded completion a crash-course in cheese would bring. And I fancied a few free samples.

As I thought about the cheese tasting I toyed with the question: just how important is the cheese portion (pardon the unintentionally delivered but intentionally retained pun) of a cheese and wine tasting evening is. From my own perspective I often find the cheese-tasting the most interesting part, because the sheer variety of cheese out there means that there are not just taste differences but aesthetic differences, differences in texture, and of course differences in smell, which gives cheese-tasting a highly varied quality which wine doesn’t obviously yield, even it cashes out into an equal- or indeed greater – pleasure principle for those tasting it. But I found myself convinced that while wine tasting spoke for itself, the pleasures of cheese-tasting required a strong voice. So, to James, I turned.

Before we began, James offered a few helpful insights into my conundrum.  ‘Having hosted a few cheese tastings myself in the past I can say that there isn’t as much baggage when it comes to cheese-tasting when compared to wine tasting which I think helps’, he said. ‘and this means people are willing to talk to each other rather than listen to me, and I don’t claim to be an authority on what they’re tasting’. He did however offer some inside tips for cheese-tasting, including crushing the cheese between your finger and thumb. Although it may appear strange there is certainly method in the madness. Crushing the cheese allows the taster to involve as many of the senses as possible and can help to release the aromas of the cheese, to heighten the smelling sensation so crucial to cheese tasting. ‘You can really involve as many of the senses as you like when tasting cheese’, he suggested, ‘although I haven’t quite worked out how to listen to the cheese myself’. He also recommended tasting at room temperature to release the aromas and flavours, provided that the room is not stuffy and sweaty with the heating on full blast. With that I felt thoroughly versed in the dark arts of cheese-tasting and was ready to begin.

So what cheeses should we expect at the Grosvenor’s ‘Thoroughly Sideways Evening’?

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James’s provisional cheese board – which in showing me he seemed hesitant to call it the finished article – was comprised of a heterogeneous bunch of cheeses from places as far away and as different in character as Cashel in Co. Tipperary, the Isle of Mull and Sussex.

James started off with a goat’s cheese from Golden Cross, a small operation specialising in goats’ and sheep’s cheeses based in Sussex. It is interesting that James chose to start with a goat’s cheese. Often used in starters, whipped or in tarts, with balsamic vinegar or with walnuts, goat’s cheese seemed like a poetic, even natural place to start the Grosvenor’s ‘Thoroughly Sideways Evening’.

The Golden Cross has several distinctive characteristics alongside its choice cheese companions. Like a cross –section of a cylinder the rounded goat’s cheese has a bloomy, white rind which contains a dark layer underneath, which, explains James, can give you clues into how the cheese is made. The dark layer is the remnants of ash, traditionally used to help the cheese age in a particular way, but it is also multifunctional, helping to develop a certain type of rind which helps draw out extra moisture to create a slightly drier centre, and lastly it acts as a pesticide.

The texture of the Golden Cross is firmer than more common varieties of goat’s cheese, with a mellow taste holding citrusy, even zesty notes. In the mouth the Golden Cross had a texture akin to praline which James summed up to a tee, describing it as the inside of a Fererro Rocher.

Moving on to the second of the five cheeses, James produced a segment of cheese he revealed was a ‘Berkswell’ from the Ram Hall Farm in the Midlands. James used this cheese as exemplar of modern cheese-making as a craft and, increasingly as a science. The Berskwell is an original cheese which draws upon a range of influences including Caerphilly cheeses and Italian and Spanish pecorino cheeses. A cheese of an orange, dusty hue which made it distinct from a cow’s milk cheese, this sheep’s milk cheese had a dry, grainy and weather-beaten look to it, protected from the elements by its own natural rind, which is scrubbed off when the cheese has matured.

The Berkswell is a real taste explosion, something altogether surprising given its outward appearance. ‘I chose this cheese – a part from it being a personal favourite of mine – because it goes well with a few different types of wine, particularly sweet wines’, revealed James, ‘it has the right amount of fruitiness and tanginess to retain its taste without overpowering the wine it is accompanying – so it will go well on the evening’. His words however came with a warning: do not eat the rind.

Cheese

The third cheese in James’ provisional selection was a French Camembert. A popular cheese with a white, bloomy mould Camembert has found great success in cheese-making, people can come to this cheese with a relative pedigree of knowledge and experience James’ sample was  pale, yellowish, and sporadically golden colour characteristic of cows’ milk with a dry, somewhat chalky centre. So what does the Camembert cheese taste and smell like? James suggested that it smelt of raw mushroom, with a sweet taste that develops with age. He did point out that often it could have hints of cabbage. Personally speaking the Camembert was delicate and delicious and worthy of its popularity.

Next up was an Isle of Mull cheddar. Distinct in character and manufacture than a West Country or a Somerset cheddar and hailing from Mull, this cheddar comes from cows who graze on the lush grass of the Scottish Island and draff, which is the left over grain after fermentation in the whisky making process. This unique grazing process is evident in the distinctive taste of the Mull cheddar. It is deliciously smoky, peaty and musky. But it is known to change in taste, texture and colour over the year. The sample James sampled with me was made from summer milk, giving it a brighter colour given a more savoury experience. For a variety of reasons including hailing from Scotland and its versatility, explained James, the Mull cheddar proves the most popular in I.J. Mellis’s Glasgow store and continues to give Scotland an excellent and worthy reputation among cheeses from the most prestigious cheese-making regions of Europe.

The last cheese was well worth the wait, and was expertly left to finish. Cashel Blue cheese from Co. Tipperary. Cashel looks soft, creamy but with a paste-like consistency peppered by blue specks with veins of blue running down its centre. To taste Cashel is creamy and salty, ans much milder than other blue cheeses that IJ Mellis stock. Its aroma is sweet, suggesting aniseed and cardomom.  This milder flavour gives it a delicacy which makes it the ideal accompaniment for wine, even whisky, because it doesn’t overpower the taster. But in finishing with the Cashel James was keen to stress that all things in the world of cheese are provisional and the line-up for tasting could change as he looked to find interesting and provocative combinations with the wines that will also be used.

My ‘partially Sideways’ experience left me eager and keen to experience James’ cheese being tasted by a wide variety of people, all explaining their own personal thoughts on the cheeses they were tasting. One thing that can be said to the credit of  cheese-tasting is that is an anarchic endeavour, set apart from wine-tasting by its lack of social baggage, by its multifarious nature and by broad range of flavours, smells and textures it can produce. It is an experience to be replicated and relived, with wine surely, but with friends: certainly.

Alan Mahon

IJ Mellis will be providing cheese–tasting at the Grosvenor Café as part of ‘A Thoroughly Sideways Evening’. To book your tickets for the event click here.

‘In the unexcpetional lies the extraordinary’: A Pedro Almodóvar Retrospective

Pedro Almodóvar: A visionary. One of the few Spanish-language filmmakers to have experienced such international acclaim and success, and quite rightly in my opinion. For a man with a wealth of successful film credits to his name, his own production company, and countless awards on his shelves (including an academy award) what is the next step? Having built his name on his distinctive style, inspired by melodrama, pop culture, strong colours and vibrant women, Almodóvar returns to his roots, as he brings us the quick witted, light hearted comedy I’m So Excited (Los Amantes Pasajeros). In the lead up to it’s UK release on May 3rd, we look back over Almodóvar‘s cinematic journey and discover what has made him such a prolific name in contemporary international cinema.

Right from the beginning, with his 1988 breakthrough feature length, Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al Borde deun Ataque de Nervios), it is clear that Almodóvar has a strong sense of style. The bold colours, sweeping camera movements, and sharp cuts, which have become such staples of his work, are all incorporated in abundance. Yet despite this strong identity of mise en scene, Almodóvar ensures that the themes of the film are accessible to everyone. Ok, so maybe the majority of us have not been a voice over artist who has fallen for a married man, whose wife has spent time in a mental institution, whilst our best friend has been held hostage by terrorists, but we can all relate to the general scenarios. A time when our love life is not going the way we thought. When a friend has been in need of help. Or when we simply have our priorities in the wrong place. Almodóvar’s creative choices, stylistically, and story wise, enable him to take such everyday scenarios and makes them incredible, therefore creating an audience for the unexceptional, wherein lies the extraordinary.

In creating such scenarios from the unremarkable, Almodóvar empowers his characters to be decisive, act upon their situations, and drive the story forward. This type of character is another of his signature characteristics. The strong, decisive, leading lady. It is evident, even from his early works, that the females are the focus, and driving force behind the narratives, such as Pepa from the afore mentioned Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Talk to Her’s Lydia.

It is 2006’s Volver, however, which truly exhibits this, as not only is the film led by the headstrong Raimunda, but she is surrounded by an almost entire cast of unfaltering women. Initially, Raimunda, played by Penelope Cruz, seems uncharacteristically subdued due to the wealth of strong females around her. However, upon the murder of her husband Paco, the only male to impact upon the story (even if he is nothing more than a narrative device), she takes decisive action to do something with her life, changing the course of not only her own life, but everyone’s around her. A sort of ripple effect if you will. Being the leading lady of her family, the absence of Raimunda’s leadership directly impacts the family unit, as her sister, daughter, and eventually mother are forced to take action in their own lives. Which brings us to the final staple of Almodóvar’s work. The importance of the family unit.

Most of Almodóvar’s works are centred around one family, with the storyline being directly affected by the state of that family. This is why we rarely see a complete family unit (or the nuclear family) within his works, as we would only have one simple narrative to follow, lacking in depth, intrigue and suspense. Almodóvar’s 2011 offering The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito) is anything but simple however.

Here, we uncharacteristically follow the story of the man of the family, Antonio Bandaras’ Robert, as he attempts to cope with the loss of his wife and daughter. With the family unit in desolation, the storyline becomes disjointed and non-linear, relying on multiple flashbacks in order divulge the full story. Not a typical narrative technique of Almodóvar, he adapts his stylistic choices in order to suit. The film is stripped of colour, reflecting the tone of the piece, and the usual quick fire dialogue is replaced with long, often uncomfortable silences in the absence of people to converse with. And of course the usual strong, empowered women are missing, causing the world of the man to collapse around him, resulting in his ultimate demise.

With The Skin I Live In taking such a different tact from Almodóvar’s previous works, it will be interesting to see what I’m So Excited will present us with. Whether Almodóvar continues to explore and pursue a new style, or return to ‘tradition’ and his much traversed stylistic identifiers , one thing can be said with prophetic confidence: we can expect a visual spectacle with laughs, some tears, and a great deal of entertainment.

Jenni Wright

I’M SO EXCITED! UK Gala Launch Screening followed by a Satellite Q&A with Pedro Almodóvar Live from Hackney Picturehouse will be hosted by the Grosvenor Cinema on Tuesday 23 April. Tickets for the evening can be purchased here.

almo

 

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

In twentieth-century literature, Roald Dahl is the most influential, exciting and beloved of children’s authors, whose back catalogue has enthralled generations of children and spawned a long selection of film adaptations – some certainly better than others. Our faces still stained with chocolate from the eggs we’ve indulged in, the best post-Easter solution for aching tummies is more sweetie goodness. With kids off school for a fortnight and parents looking for the perfect way to keep everybody happy, maybe the Grosvenor Cinema and Grosvenor Café have the solution with a delicious, special showing of the delightful 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on Friday 12th April.

The special screening at the Grosvenor Cinema is part of the ‘Grosvenor and the Chocolate Factory’. This spectacular way to round off the Grosvenor’s ‘Family Easter’ includes the Grosvenor Cinema’s screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory  before trekking up the soda-stream steps so that little kids and big ones too can enjoy  hand-crafted peanut butter fudge lollies, blueberry gobstoppers, real fizzy lifting juice, chocolate teacups and passion fruit tea all -not to mention the crowning glory: a 10-foot chocolate river complete with marshmallow boats! – all ingeniously prepared by the kitchen-boffins and chocolatiers of the Grosvenor Cafe.

Willy Wonka title

The film follows young, innocent, poor little Charlie Bucket, who lives with his mother and four bed-bound grandparents in an awful one-room home. Meanwhile, the world is coming together in excitement as the famous Wonka Chocolate Factory promises to open its doors for the first time in years to five lucky competition winners. Charlie’s family can only afford one chocolate bar a year, so he thinks he’s out of luck, but when he finds the final ticket he, along with four far nastier spoiled children, enter a wonderland and come face to face with the owner Willy Wonka himself. The film follows the five children in their adventure round the factory and the exciting inventions that await them.

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

Gene Wilder as the enigmatic Willy Wonka is the centre piece of the film. He doesn’t appear in person during the first half, but still maintains a presence through the awestruck stories of the townspeople, such as in the opening song, “The Candy Man”, in which Aubrey Woods‘ candy shop owner describes Wonka with powers to make dreams come true through his confectionary. When he finally does appear, about to begin the children’s tour of the factory, Wonka limps slowly forward towards the gate, leaning on a cane. The massive crowd outside who have been cheering all fall silent at the sight of the mystery. There are no fireworks, no musical cue, and not even eye contact, and the disappointment ripples through the onlookers right down to the audience in their seats. Then suddenly, with no wink or nod to warn us, Wonka starts to fall forward before effortlessly moving into a roll and landing straight back on his feet. With a smile to confirm the ruse, the crowd erupt into cheers and the viewer is left excited and unsure of what awaits them with this tricky tour guide. The execution of this moment makes the scene iconic and sets up the tour and character brilliantly.

Wonka’s dream-weaver image is shattered by Wilder’s portrayal of a sometimes apathetic, sometimes mischievous, often sarcastic businessman, who cares only for flamboyant stunts and his precious factory. He relishes in stirring disputes between the children and their parents and is disarmingly disrespectful to the adults on the tour. When the children decide to disobey, he doesn’t try and stop them sincerely, preferring to wait for their always-poetic punishments. There is an assuredness that things are going to sort themselves out, that he does not need to intervene, and that he holds no responsibility for the winner’s actions. He remains calm throughout the film and only raises his temper when his factory is negatively affected. It shows where his priorities lie and makes for a performance that only gets better with age as you re-watch and notice all his eye rolls, cane swinging and comebacks that will have gone over your head as a youngster.

Gene Wilder plays the part perfectly. He throws in tiny details throughout that keep your eyes on him which, given some of the sets, is an incredible feat. There aren’t many people who could be both a clearly flawed human yet someone you are drawn to and actually want to side with in anticipating what will happen to the next awful visitor.

OompaLoompa box

The songs throughout the film play second-fiddle to Willy Wonka but are by no means far behind. The film opens with “The Candy Man” which charms all listeners and stands incredibly well as a tune outside the context of the film. Wonka’s dreamlike “Pure Imagination” in the candy garden scene twinkles beautifully, especially in contrast to the anarchic, greedy behaviour of the children during it. The “(I’ve Got A) Golden Ticket” theme is as iconic a victory motif as any other tune. Finally, there are the hum-worthy, morale-teaching, dry-witted, brilliant, cheeky, badly choreographed Oompa Loompa songs, sung when the children leave the tour one-by-one in appropriately ironic ways.

Violet Beauregarde Blueberry

The dark side to the film keeps it completely in line with Dahl’s own style which was never patronising to children and often relished in pushing expectations. It is comparable to The Wizard of Oz in its child-friendly scares. The frenzy over finding tickets, when Charlie is crowded by greedy adults when he finds his ticket and when tickets are faked by grown men hints at the worrying grasp of consumerism in the real world. The factory itself is grey and rotting. The gates are locked and only the letters on the side of a smog tower suggests any life inside at all. It is unappealing and barely hints at the magical world that might lie inside, much like Wonka himself. The surprising and twisted endings that each of the ticket holders find themselves victim to are amazingly cruel for being a family film and are all dealt with an incredible amount of flippancy by Willy and the Oompa Loompas. The children, once they exit the film and their parents are escorted from the scene, are never seen again. When asked whether they are alright, Wonka refuses to give a definite answer and it is the ambiguity which is truly terrifying. The most explicitly scary scene in the entire movie is the boat-trip scene. Floating down a tunnel, the scene, which follows directly from the beautiful candy garden, is strange and mind-bending. It’s a claustrophobic scene, in which Wonka chants a sinister song through a poorly-lit tunnel with frightening images of bugs on the walls. The guests’ panic is palpable as the boat speeds up and Wonka, in a trance-like state does nothing to relax them. It’s simultaneously challenging to watch while being too fabulous to look away, but when the lights turn back on Wonka has switched his persona again and is back to being his jolly self.

Willy Wonka Tunnel Gif

The sets hold up remarkably well for being a forty year old film. The physical garden still looks absolutely wonderful, particularly the famously real chocolate river (which apparently spoiled quickly and had to all be thrown out). The design of the Oompa Loompas is flawless. Their matching appearance – green hair, orange faces and white dungarees – is a weird visual, as they are all played by different actors. Even the camera and perception tricks hold up well, such as when Mike Teevee shrinks in the Wonkavision room. The two striking colour palates of the interior of the factory and the world outside provide a contrast which emphasises the fantasy of Wonka’s world.

Whether this is your first time seeing the film, or you haven’t seen it in years, or if this is your chance to introduce a younger relative to one of the most remarkable children’s tales ever created, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Grosvenor is this spring’s Golden Ticket. Indulge in Gene Wilder’s incredible performance, celebrate as the spoilt brats receive their comeuppance, and bite your fingernails in excitement as the factory gates open for the lucky few. This one-off screening will also give you access to a post-film chocotastic collection of treats upstairs in The Grosvenor Cafe all provided by the local, wonderful, Chocolate Factory. If you thought your chocolate fill for the holiday was over with the end of your eggs, then think again.

 

Paul Faulkner

 

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