20 October 2011

'Ware Tomato Juice

An accident happened to my brother Jim
When somebody threw a tomato at him -
Tomatoes are juicy and don't hurt the skin,
But this one was specially packed in a tin.


30 August 2011

Lars von Trier's Melancholia (released 30 Sept)

Agent provocateur, enfant terrible, wind-up merchant…call him what you will, enigmatic auteur Lars von Trier is fond of the big statement. Thankfully, after his embarrassing - and firmly tongue in cheek – comments at Cannes earlier this year, all of his visionary zeal and intellectual bombast has gone on screen for this the follow-up to the controversial, contentious and largely misunderstood Antichrist.

It doesn’t get much bigger than the end of the world and Melancholia deals with this in a fantastically moving and powerful way. The apocalyptic tour de force features an impressive cast, with star turns from Charlotte Gainsbourg, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling and above all, Kirsten Dunst, who has never been better.

From the incendiary extended opening montage sequence Melancholia looks and feels like little else. From then on the film is clearly divided between the psyches of Dunst’s Justine and Gainsbourg’s Claire, with the first part recalling von Trier’s fellow Dane Thomas Vinterberg’s family tragedy Festen. The second part goes deeper into pseudo science-fiction territory. Von Trier’s strange and beautiful figures dance around a doomed planet asking questions and providing no easy answers. It is without doubt von Trier’s most honest work. It is also his best. It comes from and speaks to the soul.

Official Site

02 August 2011


I just posted a load of my artwork HERE

15 July 2011

Cell 211 - Out Now

Soaking in blood, sweat and everything else, this hard as a hammer Spanish prison drama is based around a wonderfully inventive concept – a guard trapped in a riot has to pretend to be a convict to avoid being killed. It’s a beautifully simple idea and one that keeps the audience on its toes throughout.

Eager to impress, Juan (Alberto Ammann) leaves his pregnant wife (Marta Etura) at home in order to go to work a day early. Unfortunately for him, all hell is just about to break loose. After an accident knocks him out, Juan wakes up in the cell of the title. He has to think fast. Or die.

Central to the disturbance is Malamadre – literally ‘bad mother’ in English - (Luis Tosar) whose trust Juan must win in order to survive. Their relationship becomes deep, full of complexities and contradictions – as well as more than a little homo-eroticism, particularly when Juan is forced to strip in a humiliating ‘welcome’ to the prison – and one that defines the film.

Cell 211 is an uncompromisingly grim experience and it presents a pretty bleak outlook for the Spanish prison system. However, the prisoners are never presented as anything less than human. There is also the fascinating realisation that without the bars, chains and locks, there is not that much that separates the guards from the prisoners.

30 May 2011

Angels of Evil - Out Now

Angels of Evil

Covering similar stylistic ground to 2008’s French crime biography Mesrine but lacking some of that movie’s emotional punch, this visually appealing but repetitive piece tells the true(ish) story of Milanese gang leader Renato Vallenzasca. The film follows the conventions of most mobster histories - and, it must be said, with no small amount of flair – as the rise and fall of yet another violent man is glamorously played out on screen.

The best aspects of the film come from the central performance of Kim Rossi Stuart as Vallenzasca, imbuing the character with charm and charisma as he goes from crime to prison to escape and then back again. The solid supporting cast - including Paz Vega and Moritz Belibtreau – strengthen the film’s overall quality but in truth there is little here that hasn’t been seen before. There is excitement, yes, and beautiful people and beautiful locations but what there is not is a sense of depth in the screenplay. As the production notes themselves attest “in this film you will not discover the truth about Vallenzasca’s case. Instead you will discover that there is more than one truth…” This ambiguity, shifting of morals and superficiality may have been Vallenzasca’s greatest strength but ultimately it is his – and the movie’s – greatest weakness too.

27 May 2011

Fact of the Day

Is full of People
Who will only talk to you
If you can further their career
Make them more popular
Or get them into parties

That's not a tribute to Alan Partridge by the way.

16 May 2011

Love Like Poison - Out Now

Newcomer Katel Quillevere’s directorial debut is a moving coming-of-age drama blending emotional depth with an intense naturalistic social realism. Unafraid to tackle big ideas, the script deals with sex and religion with admirable frankness and maturity. Doing all of this while retaining a sweetness and playful innocence is part of what makes this film such a memorable one.

The story centres on Anna (Clara Augarde), a young teenager filled with doubts about her faith and desires. Returning to her small Breton village from Catholic boarding school for the holidays she discovers that her father has left. Her shocked and depressed mother (Lio) seeks the company of the local priest (Stefano Cassetti), who is also a childhood friend. Meanwhile Anna quietly plays Connect 4 and listens to old records with her blasphemous, cantankerous grandfather Jean (Michel Galabru). Soon her attention is drawn towards local boy Pierre, an earthy and free-thinking youth who inspires many conflicting feelings within Anna.

Love Like Poison scores high points in many important areas. Visually it is stunning. Certain scenes seem to be drenched in bold, vibrant colours – Quilevere has said that the expressive use of colours by Dario Argento and Douglas Sirk helped guide the work –while others have a melancholic, shadowy feel. The landscape of Brittany is brought out all its wild, rugged glory and the village itself and its people have a timeless quality that could almost be from any decade in the last 30.
The film is also interesting in its use of music. The title is inspired by a Serge Gainsbourg song and the eclectic folk songs and choir music – including a choral version of Radiohead’s Creep – add a powerful dimension to the events on screen.

A rich vein of dry humour runs through the film; Catholic traditions are respected but there is a healthy amount of cynicism about the power of the church as well as the infamous guilt it all too often inspires. It is no coincidence that Anna’s crisis of faith comes just as she is preparing for her confirmation – there is little doubt that Quillevere’s primary interest is to raise doubts about the focus of religion in Catholic families.

The balance of darkness and humour is well portrayed in the character of Jean, a fun loving and independent man whose bawdiness and natural jocularity provide the film with its lightest moments. However his sickness of mind and body lead him into darker territory. In a way he represents the humanist model without God; in one scene he openly belittles and disrespects the priest but he is ill and shows signs of becoming amoral and ‘less human’ in his dementia.

Love Like Poison is a remarkable debut – there is a style and uniqueness about it which draws the audience in. There are so many ideas in the script and the acting and casting is uniformly excellent. Some of the pacing goes occasionally awry but on the whole this is a wonderfully affecting picture from a filmmaker worthy of attention.

This review also appears here

12 May 2011

Everywhere and Nowhere - Out Now

Kidulthood director Menhaj Huda’s sporadically eloquent film attempts - and mostly succeeds - to give a realistic account of the British-Asian growing up experience. Aspiring DJ Ash (James Floyd) experiences freedom in London’s club scene but feels trapped at home, under the stern gaze of his traditional father (Alyy Khan). While relatives and friends party, take drugs and get on with their lives, Ash’s music career takes off, partly encouraged by older DJ Ronnie (an unconvincing ex-Blue singer Simon Webbe).

Featuring an interesting cast (Saeed Jaffrey, Art Malik, Adam Deacon and The Inbetweeners’ James Buckley) and a stirringly authentic soundtrack from Shiva Soundsystem’s Nerm, Everywhere and Nowhere is on solid ground with the excellent club scenes but falters slightly towards the end of the family drama.

08 March 2011

Howl - James Franco IS Allen Ginsberg!

One for the ‘angel headed hipsters’, Howl is a flawed attempt at telling the story of one of modern poetry’s best loved and most parodied works. According to directors Jeffery Friedman & Rob Epstein, the film is ‘a poem-pic‘ and not a traditional biopic. In this goal they are at least partly successful.

Alllen Ginsberg’s Howl is, along with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and William Burrough’s The Naked Lunch, one of the cornerstones of the ‘beat generation’, that group of writers who in the 1950’s transformed the American (and later the world’s) literary landscape and eventually influenced and helped shape the counter culture - or as, Ginsberg puts it; “just a bunch of guys trying to get published”.

The movie progresses in three ways: a documentary interview with Franco’s Ginsberg, Franco’s reading of Howl over the effective and visually appealing animation work of Ginsberg collaborator Eric Drooker and the dramatised obscenity trial where the prosecution tried to prove that the work had no literary value. Of these, the reading over animations works the best. The other two segments call to mind Mark Twain’s quote about how explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog – you understand the frog better but it dies in the process. Here, for joke, read poem.

Despite a short running time and a sharp, fizzing performance from Franco – a novelist as well as an actor himself - Howl could prove to be something of a slog for non-Ginsberg converts. To them I would suggest; buy the book instead.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams - Herzog and Pre-History...in 3D! Released 25 March

A visually stunning and, at times, humbling experience, Herzog’s mesmerising 3D documentary presents the audience with a chance to examine the earliest prehistoric cave paintings currently known . Gaining unprecedented access, the crew crawled along narrow walkways throughout the cave to bring the 35,000 year old artworks to the screen. The contours of the cave come to life brilliantly and, staring at the animal figures and prints of early humans in the dark, one almost feels inside the cave – separated by thousands of years but somehow connected. A beautiful achievement, held together by Herzog’s wry narration and interviews with the often eccentric cast of scientists and archaeologists conducting work into exploring the cave, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a perspective changing film that is literally full of humanity.


Robert W Monk

Buried - Out on DVD now

Tapping a similarly bruised vein to Danny Boyle’s recent gripping yet flawed James Franco vehicle 127 Hours, Buried is an unforgiving claustrophobia-fest; an experience that at times feels like an assault and that if thought about too deeply is liable to cause king size panic attacks.

The entire film hangs on the enticing premise of one man buried 6 feet underground with only a lighter and a mobile phone with rapidly diminishing battery life for company. Ryan Reynolds is superb as the American contractor ambushed by suspected insurgents whilst working in Iraq.
In what is essentially a one man show, Reynolds’s performance as Paul Conroy makes the movie. The only interaction he has with the outside world comes via the mobile in calls to and from his captors, US authorities and his family back at home.

The tension is set to eleven from the very start; the Saul Bass style titles bringing to mind the glory days of suspense cinema and providing the right amount of melodrama and expectation for what is to come. Reynolds’s sufferings – grimly extracted from unrelenting close ups of his anguished face – seem all too real. It would be an unfeeling audience indeed that did not feel its heart rate accelerate during the taut 90 minutes of the running time.

Buried successfully conveys that most primeval of human fears – the fear of being buried alive. This is a fear that everybody can relate too – the fact that the film is anchored by a great performance, tight direction (from Spanish director Ricardo Cortes) and a script that keeps you guessing until the very end only strengthens the piece.

A real gem – Buried is a heartening example of an American thriller coming from slightly under the radar to do what old school thrillers used to do – to provoke, entertain and quicken the pulse.

Robert W Monk

07 February 2011

West is West released 25 Feb

The hugely popular comedy drama East is East did not seem like an obvious candidate for the sequel treatment. After all, it has been over a decade since audiences were first introduced to the Khan family and the film contained a satisfying ending that seemed to have concluded their story. However, West is West, set five years later, reunites most of the cast for what happily turns out to be a film just as warm, funny and thought provoking as its predecessor.

This look at Anglo-Pakistani relations – expertly written by Ayub Khan Din, as with the first film – concentrates on the stories of 13 year old Sajid (newcomer Aquib Khan, who bears a remarkable similarity to East is East’s original parka wearing Sajid) and his patriarchal father George (legendary Indian actor Om Puri).
After a bored, lonely and racially bullied Sajid begins truanting and shoplifting, George decides to try and instil some traditional values in him and takes him to Pakistan and the Punjab, to the family he abandoned for England 30 years before. Both Sajid and his father are forced to closely examine their lives and face some uncomfortable home truths.

West is West is a worthy sequel and in some ways shows a greater depth and sophistication than the earlier film. It is at least as funny – largely due to a great debut performance from the youngster Aquib Khan – and will delight and enthral audiences of all ages.

Robert W Monk
View Trailer
From Clash Magazine

24 January 2011

Biutiful - Released 28 Jan

I loved this film from Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Javier Bardem.
Read more on Biutiful AT DON'T PANIC

15 January 2011

2011 - OK

So now I have to look at you.
"My face is melting".

2011 - What a Shitter. Better than the last one. At least I'm not making jokes about Socialism. I got a job yesterday. Better than not having one I guess. Monetise. Monetise. Monetise. Monetise. Monetise. Monetise. Monetise. Animal EYES.