WIND RIVER | fivethreeninety

My initial thoughts on Wind River were “this is bloody brilliant”. And as time has gone on, my thoughts have gone to “that was really, really bloody brilliant”.

Wind River is the new film from writer/director Taylor Sheridan, whose previous work includes cinematic greats Sicario and Hell or High Water, both of which are parts of his ‘thematic American Frontier trilogy’, with Wind River being the final instalment. It’s story centres around the discovery of a dead woman’s body on a Native American reservation in Wyoming by a local animal hunter. Together he, the native Tribal Police Chief and a sole FBI agent called to assist investigate the suspected homicide in the Wind River Reservation.

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I love how simply complex these characters are. It may sound oxymoronic but these ease in which these characters are presented in totally none obvious ways should be enviable to all filmmakers. It’s an absolute triumph from Sheridan, (though it’s no different from his past films), and it’s also a triumph from the actors.

 

Jeremy Renner is in the lead as Cory, a local animal hunter with the Fish and Wildlife Service with family ties to the reservation. He has suffered loss and trauma in his life that he will likely never get answers to, but he gets on quietly and respectably hiding that never healing hurt underneath for the sake of his son really.

He has motivation behind him aiding in the investigation, but not in a foolish way at all. At the end of the day, Cory want’s justice to be served for all so that other’s don’t have to experience what he has.

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The FBI agent called to the scene is Jane Banner, a young yet un-naive woman who I think is majorly underestimated. She has a tremendous amount of life saving gut instinct and emotional intelligence, as well as massive commitment to solving her cases. Elizabeth Olsen is at her best here, brilliantly showcasing the different depths of this woman who quite frankly, I have a big crush on. She’s so cool, but in a really cute, natural way.

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The third musketeer working the case is Ben, the Tribal Police Chief for the reservation. He is a committed man who continues to strive for the best in his job with full knowledge that there are so many federal loopholes that make it almost impossible. He takes life as it is and Graham Greene plays that all so effortlessly. 

A minor, but fantastic character comes in the form of Martin, the father of the dead woman. This is the best that I have ever seen Gil Birmingham. He will tear you to pieces and build you right back up again in one scene; that’s how powerful this performance is. Honestly, the film is worth watching for his small parts alone, and it’s a few select moments that will stick out for me for a while.

 

Gil Birmingham and Jeremy Renner in Wind River (2017) CR

 

 

I also can’t not talk about Kelsey Asbille, who is the hidden gem in this film. Her character, Natalie, is basically the main character and the one the story centres around, yet she isn’t in it physically much at all. However small her role is, her two scenes have you totally captivated and unable to take your eyes off her. 

There’s a whole plethora of other characters surrounding these ones, all of which are brilliantly well-rounded to provide a surprising amount of depth to the film.

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The way this story is told is where it’s brilliance lies. It’s a cleverly woven thriller, that feeds you pieces without withholding information, letting the story unravel naturally as the film progresses. I can say with complete honesty that I could not guess what was going to happen next at any given point in the film. Every moment is fresh and un-obvious, making it a really exciting piece of cinema.

It doesn’t spell anything out for you, instead drops the puzzle pieces in strategic places so you can gather the story as you go.  It’s refreshing to be treated as an audience in this way; without assumption that you won’t get it.

There is one particular transition which I think is absolute genius, and is something I’m so mad I didn’t think of. The whole film I was waiting for a flashback, yet was unsure of how it would fit in with the way the story was being told. But it is pieced in so perfectly that I was close to air punching. It’s a cinematic move that makes you love films, and those are rare to come by these days.

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner star in Wind River

 

Now – that scene.

I’d been warned by others that it was in the film, and in total honesty it did nearly make me reconsider if I even wanted to see the film.

Often, rape is fetishised in film. It’s true, I’m saying it. It’s filmed in artsy ways and the perpetrator isn’t always depicted as a rapist scumbag afterwards, instead a ‘twisted soul’ or some bullshit. Think 2002’s Irréversible, or the ‘iconic’ Last Tango in Paris – the latter of which was actual, real sexual abuse by the way.

The way Wind River depicts it is not like those films. The actual act is over quickly, and it is portrayed completely in an evil light, as the most evil act. It is over quickly, and is horrible and vicious without being overbearable. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I felt like it was done honourably, as if it were a a testament to victims.

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On to a literally lighter subject, let’s talk about that cinematography. For a film shot mostly against the vast plain white backdrops of a snowy Wyoming, there is a beautiful amount of physical depth to the shots.

That paired with a gorgeous score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis makes this film living art.

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The chilling thing is, the film is based on actual events.

Whilst filming, Shoshone tribal leaders met with Taylor Sheridan and stunned him with the revelation that currently there were twelve unsolved murders of young women, on a reservation of about six thousand people.

The film does highlight the difficulty of getting anywhere with solving cases in Native American reservations. It’s true that, due to a 1978 landmark government ruling the Supreme Court stripped tribes of the right to arrest and prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes on Indian land.

It’s very confusing, but this ruling dictates that if neither victim nor perpetrator are Indian, a county or state officer must make the arrest. If the perpetrator is non-Indian and the victim an enrolled member, only a federally-certified agent has that right. If the opposite is true, a tribal officer can make the arrest, but the case must still go to federal court.

These specifications and loopholes mean that many criminals go unpunished for crimes as serious as murder, simply because the legal process is unobtainable. It’s because of this that so many victims are left without justice, and why it continues to be a mass problem these tribes can do nothing about.

So thank you to Wind River, for enlightening me about these issue in such a beautiful, brilliant way. You are a film I will not be forgetting for a long while.

Wind River is in cinemas now.

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2017 PRIMETIME EMMYS | fivethreeninety

Last night was the 69th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, celebrating an amazing year of television. I find that the Emmys always sneak up on me – they’re at a different time of year than film awards and jump out at me mid September. But it’s always such a wonderful surprise.

Before I get into all of the ceremony, I have to quickly delve into some of my favourite looks from the night because OH MY.


Sofia Vergera, Felicity Huffman and Thandie Newton all came dressed as chic Disney royalty.


Leslie Jones and Shaliene Woodley left me with my jaw on the ground. I mean seriously. How do they wear those looks so well?

And of course, the cast of Stranger Things did it like no other. Those boys know how to wear a suit, and they’re not even sixteen!

Okay, thank you for bearing with. Onto the ceremony:

This year’s host was Stephen Colbert and unsurprisingly, his opening monologue was great. My favourite line?

“Unlike the presidency, Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote.” 

Wow.

 

 

Onto the winners, of which there were many:
(italicised indicates winner)
Outstanding drama series

“Better Call Saul”

“The Crown”

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

“House of Cards”

“Stranger Things”

“This Is Us”

“Westworld”

I am so pleasantly surprised by this. If I were to choose, The Handmaid’s Tale would win every time, but it wasn’t sure if it would be what the Emmys chose against that tough competition. This show was more powerful than it ever could have been with it being shown in this current climate and it was everything. Powerful television.

Outstanding comedy series

“Atlanta”

“Black-ish”

“Master of None”

“Modern Family”

“Silicon Valley”

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

“Veep”

As it’s just been announced that Veep, after seven seasons, will be coming to an end next year, this award was more well timed than ever.

Outstanding lead actor in a drama series

Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

Anthony Hopkins, “Westworld”

Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”

Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”

Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us”

Though a historic win as the first black actor to win this award since 1998, Sterling K. Brown’s win made headlines this morning for a different reason as his speech was cut short – as in, music started to play him off well before he was finished, and well earlier than other winner’s received. Not to tarnish the win though – he was incredible.

Outstanding lead actress in a drama series


Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”

Claire Foy, “The Crown”

Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Keri Russell, “The Americans”

Evan Rachel Wood, “Westworld”

Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

After nine nominations, Moss deserves this win. She was AMAZING as Offred.


Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series

Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”

Ron Cephas Jonas, “This Is Us”

David Harbour, “Stranger Things”

Michael Kelly, “House of Cards”

John Lithgow , “The Crown”

Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland”

Jeffrey Wright , “Westworld”

I bloody LOVE John Lithgow. Is there anything he can’t do?


Outstanding supporting actress in a drama series

Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Samira Wiley, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is the New Black”

Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”

Chrissy Metz , “This Is Us”

Thandie Newton, “Westworld”
However brilliant Dowd was, I do think this should have gone to Samira Wiley. But still not massively disappointed in this win, which just goes to say how excellently well rounded this cast is.

Outstanding lead actor in a comedy series

Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”

Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”

Zach Galifianakis, “Baskets”

Donald Glover, “Atlanta”

William H. Macy, “Shameless”

Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

The honesty and passion Donald Glover puts into his performances, and all of his art in general, whatever the genre, is frankly deserving of every award under the sun.

Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series

Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”

Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”

Allison Janney, “Mom”

Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”

Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

This is a win that makes the history books. Not only does it put her at a tie for most Emmy awards won, but she’s now broken the record for most consecutive wins with six in a row.

Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series

Louie Anderson, “Baskets”

Alec Baldwin, “Saturday Night Live”

Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”

Tony Hale, “Veep”

Matt Walsh, “Veep”

Well deserved. In this mad world under this mad leadership, Alex Baldwin stepped up and showed us just how stupid it all is.
Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series

Vanessa Bayer, “Saturday Night Live”

Leslie Jones, “Saturday Night Live”

Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”

Kathryn Hahn, “Transparent”

Judith Light, “Transparent”

Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”

YES KATE! Her comedy is unlike any other’s – the level of precision she can get in portraying others is second to none. Her performance of Hillary Clinton (whom she thanked in her acceptance speech) in last year’s election run was absolutely brilliant.

Outstanding limited series

“Big Little Lies” 

“Fargo”

“Feud: Bette and Joan”

“The Night Of”

“Genius”

I’m currently reading the book so haven’t got onto the series yet, but if it’s anything like it’s source material, with that cast too – this award couldn’t have gone to any other series.

Outstanding lead actor in a limited series

Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of”

Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: The Lying Detective”

Robert De Niro, “The Wizard of Lies”

Ewan McGregor, “Fargo”

Geoffrey Rush, “Genius”

John Turturro, “The Night Of”

I LOVE YOU RIZ AHMED.

Outstanding lead actress in a limited series

Carrie Coon, “Fargo”

Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”

Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”

Jessica Lange, “Feud: Bette and Joan”

Susan Sarandon, “Feud: Bette and Joan”

Reese Witherspoon, “Big Little Lies”

As though winning an Emmy for an incredible performance wasn’t enough to prove how amazing Nicole is, she used her acceptance speech to speak out about domestic abuse and how vital it is that we recognise it. In awe of her.

Outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or movie



Judy Davis, “Feud: Bette and Joan

Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”

Jackie Hoffman ,”Feud: Bette and Joan”

Michelle Pfeiffer, “The Wizard of Lies”

Shailene Woodley, “Big Little Lies”

This is some tough competition, from costars too but Laura Dern beat them all out & I am thrilled about it.

Outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie

Bill Camp, “The Night Of”

Alfred Molina, “Feud: Bette and Joan”

Alexander Skarsgard, “Big Little Lies”

David Thewlis, “Fargo”

Stanley Tucci, “Feud: Bette and Joan”

Michael Kenneth Williams, “The Night Of”

What a great month for the Skarsgard brothers – It & now an Emmy win!
Outstanding variety talk series

“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”

“The Late Late Show With James Corden”

“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”

“Real Time With Bill Maher”

(Full disclosure, I haven’t seen enough of John Oliver for me to be happy or disappointed about this win)

Outstanding reality-competition program

“The Amazing Race”

“American Ninja Warrior”

“Project Runway”

“RuPaul’s Drag Race”

“Top Chef”

“The Voice”

Nah this should have gone to Ru. Only win I’m disappointed about.

Outstanding directing for a comedy series

Jamie Babbit, “Silicon Valley”

Donald Glover, “Atlanta”

Mike Judge, “Silicon Valley”

David Mandel, “Veep”

Morgan Sackett, “Veep”

Dale Stern, “Veep”

Donald Glover should honestly just take over the entire world with all of his art and we will all live in harmony holding hands and singing just like at the end of the The Grinch.

Outstanding writing for a drama series



The Duffer Brothers, “Stranger Things”

Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, “Westworld”

Peter Morgan, “The Crown”

Bruce Miller, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Gordon Smith, “Better Call Saul”

Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, “The Americans”

Again, not surprised. This show was incredible.

Outstanding writing for a comedy series

Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, “Master of None”

Alec Berg, “Silicon Valley”

Donald Glover, “Atlanta”

Stephen Glover, “Atlanta”

Billy Kimball, “Veep”

David Mandel, “Veep”

This SPEECH. In it, Lena thanked the world for “embracing a little indian boy from South Carolina and a queer black girl from the heart of Chicago,” adding that “The things that make us different, those are our superpowers.”. I thought I would be most excited about Aziz, but Lena Waithe is my new hero.

Outstanding directing for a drama series

Stephen Daldry, “The Crown”

Kate Dennis, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

The Duffer Brothers, “Stranger Things”

Vince Gilligan, “Better Call Saul”

Lesli Linka Glatter, “Homeland”

Reed Morano, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Jonathan Nolan, “Westworld”

Morano is the first woman to win this award in twenty two years. And it was BLOODY WELL DESERVED.

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There were also a lot of firsts with last night’s winners; Lena Waithe is the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing; and Donald Glover the first black man to win an Emmy for comedy directing. Riz Ahmed became the first male actor of Asian descent to win an Emmy for acting, and Hulu is now the first streaming site to win the Emmy for drama series, beating Netflix and Amazon to the punch.

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The bit I can’t not talk about any longer – Sean Spicer showed up? What? I understand that Melissa McCarthy’s performance was one of the best bit’s of last year’s television, but like Baldwin’s portrayal of Trump, it was a mick take of the person because of how terrible they are. In his role as the White House Press Secretary to Donald Trump, his job was to lie to the world, repeatedly and without apology. He aided an evil man who should not be in power and he shouldn’t have been invited to join in on the joke.
He has also said that Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons, and called the death camps “Holocaust centers”.
Anyway.
Another main highlight for me was the reuniting of the ladies from 9 to 5 (aka the best film that has ever been made ever). Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton took to the stage to present an award and was as glorious as it was impressive to see them looking as glamourous as they did back in the original 1980 film.

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The Emmy’s gave me a bit of hope last night. It made things seem like they were going in the right direction, which is rare these days with the people we have in power. It saw people of colour get credit for what they deserve, shows about important issues get recognition and a whole load of female love.

It was just nice to wake up to this news for once.

ABOUT JOSS WHEDON | fivethreeninety

At the end of last month, Joss Whedon’s ex wife, Kai Cole, published a letter calling her ex partner out on years of affairs, deceit and false feminist promises.

In her letter as a guest blogger for The Wrap she revealed the pair actually divorced five years ago, and that she finally felt free.
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The basis of the post was to expose, in an honest way, the hurt Cole had been put through from their relationship; but more importantly how that affected the world and his fanbase.


“He used his relationship with me as a shield … so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinize his writing as anything other than feminist,”



Up until that point, I’d been clutching onto my loyalty to a man I have adored literally almost all my life.

So much of my growing up was done alongside various Whedon shows & projects: I’ve seen so many throughout my short life that I can literally map out a timeline of how they shaped me, which I wrote about last June in honour of Joss’ birthday.

 

A common interest in Whedon’s shows is how I’ve made amazing friendships with classmates, colleagues, twitter followers & even my next door neighbours, with whom my family would meet up with weekly to watch a few episodes of Firefly or Dollhouse or the like.

I know more about Buffy the Vampire Slayer than I know about anything – I can tell you almost anything about those 144 episodes without hesitation but struggle to tell you basic facts about many things. Buffy is what has driven me to strive towards becoming an actor. Buffy raised me.

So how do you react when someone who has been your hero your whole life turns out to be trash?

It was surprisingly easier than I thought. His actions have been rocky over the last few years to the extent where I hadn’t realised I was already letting go of him, so this final blow felt like gently letting go of the final tie.
It doesn’t really tarnish my memories of watching these shows growing up. Rushing home from school with my sister & mum to squeeze in a couple of episodes at dinner was common; playing Buffy/Doctor Who crossover’s with my friends on the playground; throwing Buffy themed parties; desperately longing for red leather trousers so I could look like Buffy; cutting my hair short when Buffy cut hers though I really didn’t want to and cried for days – the list goes on.

But the most important reason is the feeling of wonder and strength it gave me. Buffy, and all these other shows made, and continue to make me feel like I can do anything.
In fact, loving his stuff for the reasons I do is kind of like a middle finger to his face. He made all these amazing women characters as a closested release of his fetish under the cloak of his ‘feminism’, but these characters grew beyond his reach.

Whedon once said:


“Art isn’t your pet – it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.”


And I don’t think he realised just how true that is in his case. These characters were imagined by him, but just like in life you can’t help who your parents are. It’s who shaped you along the way.

The characters we love from his shows were fleshed out not only by various other incredible writers like Jane Espenson, Douglas Petrie, Rebecca Sinclair, Marti Noxon, Drew Greenberg etc; but also by the actors who brought those characters to life. Who else could be Rupert Giles but Anthony Head, Kaylee Frye but Jewel Staite and Buffy Summers but Sarah Michelle Gellar? 

Buffy taught me to be strong, and never to let one thing define me.
Firefly taught me to be adventurous and welcoming.
Angel taught me to help the helpless.
Dollhouse taught me to fight for who I am. 
Fray taught me to be a badass game changer.
So it’s a goodbye to Joss Whedon from me. 
But it certainly isn’t a goodbye to all these shows, films and projects I know and love. Because Joss Whedon was only the spark for everything that came after.


Read Kai’s letter here.

Follow me on twitter: @madelexne

Subscribe to my YouTube.

THE GREATEST BOOK TO FILM ADAPTATIONS | fivethreeninety 

Hey! It’s International Literacy Day! Apparently!
I love books. As a child, a running joke in my family was that an atomic bomb could go off in the room & I wouldn’t even notice I was reading.
These days I often don’t find the time to read, which makes me quite sad actually. Any free time I get is spent writing or editing videos, & I use every possible bus journey to squeeze in a nap. Which is why I’m a big fan of film adaptations of books (though I would still ideally like to read the book first).
“The book is better” is a notorious phrase, but I do think there are some film adaptations exempt from this statement, whether the film turned out just as good or in rare cases, even better.

These are my favourite book to film adaptations.
The Martian

Book: 2011, By Andy Weir

Film: 2015, Dir. Ridley Scott

This remains the absolute truest book to film adaptation I have ever seen & read. The story, humour, characters & just overall essence of the book are spot on adapted onto the big screen, with only one notable scene emitted, & one added from the book to the film (each of which just make the film better). The character of Mark Watney is one of the greatest in modern literature in my opinion, with the wittiest & truest personality I’ve seen in recent years. 

Verdict
: equal to book

We Bought a Zoo

Book: 2008, By Benjamin Mee

Film: 2011, Dir. Cameron Crowe

I adore this film. It’s the most heartwarming story about a grieving family having a crazy adventure after buying a zoo, & I love it to bits. It’s based on a true story of a family in Britain who bought & reopened the Dartmoor Zoological Park back in 2008, & the book is written by the guy who did it, & Matt Damon’s character in the movie, Benjamin Mee. 
While the book is amazing, the film gives it so much heart. Mee was a journalist first, so while the story is inspiring it lacks the emotion to it, which the film made up for totally.  
(I promise not all the films on this list star Matt Damon)

Verdict
: better than book


Room

Book: 2010, By Emma Donoghue

Film: 2015, Dir. Lenny Abrahamson

Reading this book was life changing, I say fully meaning it. I’m pretty sure I read it in a day last year in advance of seeing the film, & was so utterly moved by it that it immediately made the top five of my all time favourite books. 
The film was equally as stunning. Though it differed from the book slightly, the screenplay was written by the author so the feeling was exactly the same. Brie Larson is nothing short of stunning as Ma, & Jacob Trembley is incredible as Jack. She absolutely deserved that Best Actress Academy Award, & Jacob should have been nominated for Best Actor regardless of his age. I cried a constant stream of tears throughout.

Verdict: equal to book
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

Book: 2008, By Stephanie Meyer

Film: 2012, Dir. Bill Condon

Hear me out on this one – of all the five Twilight Saga films adapted from the four books, BD pt.2 is the best. I think a lot of this has to do with having Condon as director, but also the risks taken on actually changing up the story a little bit. Where all the other films have no imagination when it comes from translating the story from page to screen, the last in the franchise actually takes a risk & throws a few surprises in there. It’s also genuinely the only actually interesting story of all the books, all these cool vampires with all these cool powers coming together is SO exciting to see on screen. A decent ending to the phenomenon.

Verdict: better than book


Gone Girl

Book: 2012, by Gillian Flynn

Film: 2014, Dir. David Fincher

Reading this book is the only time I have ever gasped or loud at at a story & have to close the book to take in what just happened. If you’ve read it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne is honestly like Christmas in a performance, & the rest of the cast are equally as brilliant. The whole congregation of actors feels magnetic in how it performs from the book, & it was an absolute joy to experience both book & film. 

Verdict: equal to book

The Time Traveler’s Wife

Book: 2003, by Audrey Niffenegger

Film: 2009, Dir. Robert Schwentke

I remember this being one of the first proper grown up books I ever read – I can’t have been more than nine or ten when my Mum let me borrow her copy. I remember absolutely loving it, being totally transfixed by the story & how complex yet beautiful it was. The film is utterly as heartbreaking, with Eric Banner in the lead & the completely brilliant Rachel McAdam’s as said time traveller’s wife. I have sobbed my heart out to this film many times & it’s one I will love for years to come.

Verdict: equal to book


Madeline

Books: 1939, by Ludwig Bemelmans

Film: 1998, Dir. Daisy von Scherler Mayer

Being a Madeleine myself, the Madeline books & surrounding merchandise filled my childhood as gifts from family & friends. The books tell so many stories of this little girl’s adventures, from falling into the Seine & being rescued by a dog; having her appendix taken out; befriending the Spanish Ambassador’s son & even being kidnapped by a travelling circus. 
So to fit all of these stories into one film & have it actually pulled off was like all my dreams coming to life. Hatty Jones is the perfect feisty little Madeline, & Frances McDormand as Miss Clavel is just wonderful. 

Verdict
: equal to book.

I contemplated writing about the worst book to film adaptations, but I don’t want to focus on negatives (of which there are many in this subject) ((cough cough The Girl on the Train cough cough)).

Falling in love with books & then seeing them brought to life on the big screen is a terrifying thing but when done right, can be absolutely breathtaking. 

What do you think are the best book to film adaptations? Tweet me or leave a comment & let me know!

INSPIRATION | fivethreeninety

Inspiration is one of the most incredible feelings I think a person can experience.

Inspiration gives you a purpose, a drive & a motivation all produced by absolute passion & I think that’s incredible. So when you don’t have any it’s a bit of a bummer.

That’s where I’ve been for the past few weeks. This time around, I tried not to let it get me down. I’ve been busy, working hard at my actual job & other things, as well as working on my physical & mental health. It’s been a little draining, so I allowed myself the blogging time off & agreed I would write again when I felt able to. Slowly but surely inspiration has been seeping back into my life, in the form of friends, family, films, art & exhibitions (of which I will be writing about soon).

So to reawaken fivethreeninety again, here’s a compilation of films that inspire me the most. They’re not the typical ‘inspiring films’ about people overcoming struggles or whatnot; these are the greats of the greats in filmmaking that to me, strike a feeling of possibility in me. They are films that connected with on such a level that they give me the sense of belonging in the crazy industry that produces them.

Interstellar
2014
Dir. Christopher Nolan

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I was a Nolan fan prior to this, but Interstellar blew my mind. It was an amazing, totally original story, with an amazing cast, effects, score & more. Every aspect of this film is flawless, unexpected & totally consuming. I think that’s what makes an inspiring film to me; something that totally transports you to another world, whether that involves literal other planets or not.

Arrival
2016
Dir. Denis Villeneuve

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Never in my life have I been affected by a film as greatly as I was by Arrival. If you’re a reader of this blog, a follower on twitter or anyone I have met in the last ten months you will know how completely this film enraptured me. I cried continuously for the last hour of the film because I was so unbelievably moved & inspired. The thing with this film is that the story is about aliens coming to Earth yes, but it’s about about human relationships.

Super 8
2011
Dir. J.J Abrams

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I have a love/ hate relationship with talented adolescents. It inspires me that these people are involved in such incredible projects at that stage in their life, but it also makes me insanely jealous that I’m older than them yet am the one buying the tickets to their film. But push the latter aside, & I think it’s really just seeing these young people being showcased instead of underestimated that makes me feel like it’s possible for everyone.

Cabin in the Woods
2012
Dir. Drew Goddard

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This would have been groundbreaking if people hadn’t slept on it so much. It’s totally original film – it was a horror, but also a comedy, a thriller etc etc – you know if you’ve seen it. It was out of the box, fresh & new & it was so so so exciting to see. It was a game changer for how you can bend the rules of genre in film, & watching it feels like an invitation to do the same.

La La Land
2016
Dir. Damien Chazelle

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I don’t know about you know, but La La Land gave me an extreme case of a melancholy kind of inspiration. Not only was the entire film itself inspiring, but the story hit home hard: it’s about having dreams & the highs & lows of the reality of setting out to achieve them.

Singin’ in the Rain
1952
Dir. Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

singing-in-the-rain

The plot of this film is literally about the beginning of a new era: the creation of talking motion pictures. It’s about the visions people have for themselves & their art, & working to change the world. That’s what I want to do. That’s what this film makes me feel like I can do. And you cannot deny that singing any of these songs will make you feel overjoyed & dancing home to a notepad & pen to write down your ideas.

The Martian
2015
Dir. Ridley Scott

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As well as being possibly the truest book to film adaptation I have ever seen in my life, the Martian brings me to tears each time from the sheer frank beauty of it. Matt Damon alone on a strange planet with the whole of planet earth routing for his safe return is the most beautiful thing, & it honestly feels like a moment in history despite us not even being close to actually visiting Mars yet. Another film that’s sci-fi based, but really about people.

Roman Holiday
1953
Dir. William Wyler

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The reason this film stands the test of time sixty plus years on is that it is still above all a relatable story. It’s about taking the time to adventure & be yourself, not allowing yourself to be trapped obligations or controlled by external factors. It is romantic, real & touching; & all in the most gorgeous black & white.

Whiplash
2014
Dir. Damien Chazelle

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This is how you make a film, full of meaning & passion & just absolute drive. Even if you ignore the whole film save for the last scene, you cannot not be on the edge of your seat, jaw dropped & filled with overwhelming inspiration. Damien Chazelle’s work bleeds passion

A Ghost Story
2017
Dir.

A-Ghost-Story.jpg

This film does feel a tad bit out of place on this list, but I couldn’t not include it. It was so surreally unlike anything I’ve ever seen, & though I’m not sure how much I enjoyed I can’t deny that it did inspire me far beyond expectation. I’ll be doing a full review soon for sure, but this film had such a distinct personality that it gave me that same feeling of passion & purpose that isn’t that common for a film to give me.

I am well aware that the majority of these films are the same few that I come back to in every single film list I post on this blog. But at the end of the day, the reason behind it all is how much they do inspire me.

What films inspire you? Leave a comment or tweet me – I love learning about what inspires other people.

I’m getting back to a good creative place, so this won’t be the last you hear from me in weeks… hopefully.

THE ACTORS BEHIND THE SOLDIERS: THE ROAD TO DUNKIRK | fivethreeninety 

If you’ve somehow missed it, tomorrow comes the long awaited war film, Dunkirk, from acclaimed film-maker Christopher Nolan.

 
Everyone is buzzing about it – which is why I couldn’t write this post alone. A big warm welcome to QuickFire Reviews, who’s joining me today to look over the cast of Dunkirk!

 
As with most films directed by Nolan, not only is the excitement and interest fever-pitch by film-fans everywhere, but an impressive cast has been assembled.
Though there’s an array of fresh talent, it wouldn’t quite be a Nolan film without some familiar faces. Nolan seems loyal to his actors as they seem loyal to him, with multiple actors returning to create a blend of a perfect cast.

 

Tom Hardy

FTN:

In his third collaboration with Nolan, Tom Hardy plays a pilot named Farrier. Hardy has really proved himself to be a unique talent in his acting style: always strong, always tough but always with a relatable aspect to him. Even as villain Bain in Dark Knight Rises (where he created a now infamous voice), there were moments in his character where an audience did sympathise with him.
My personal favourite performance of his has to be his Cbeebies Bedtime Story (only half joking). For me, he tops it in 2015’s Legend, where he portrays both of the legendary Kray twins. With Brian Hegeland’s direction, the subtleties Hardy manages to get across while playing these two obviously similar yet totally different brothers put him in another league of acting in my eyes, that’s almost incomparable.

 
QFR:

Hardy’s back, & this time playing a Royal Air Force pilot. The English actor has previously collaborated with the Nolan on the modern-classic blockbuster Inception and in the final chapter of the director’s lauded Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises. The latter of the two mentioned I view as my favourite of what I’ve seen from the actor, and his most memorable role. Boasting a menacing physique, and chilling line delivery, Hardy’s Bane in Rises, was an exceptional performance by any standard. Hardy’s other work include the fan-favourite Mad Max: Fury Road & The Revenant and will next be seen in Marvel & Sony’s Venom and even making a cameo in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Given the success Dunkirk is most likely to receive commercially and already critically, it seems unlikely this is the last time the star will pair with Nolan.

 

Cillian Murphy

FTN:
I feel I am always left in utter astonishment at Murphy’s performances, to the point where it’s hard for me to narrow it down to a favourite. He is exceptional at creating a multi faceted character that perfectly rounds out a group. He can be downright terrifying and also completely endearing, which makes him as an actor both obscenely inspirational & also one to be feared.

My recomendation for the greatest example of his skill has to be last year’s Anthropoid, a film experience like no other that you really have to see.

 

QFR:

Hardy isn’t the only regular to Nolan’s calibre of work. Cillian Murphy first appeared as the Scarecrow in Batman Begins and further made cameos in the sequels. Murphy also starred in Inception and in Dunkirk plays a soldier. As you may be able to tell, like any Nolan movie, a lot of the details are under-wraps until release.

Murphy has received praise for his performances in other features such as The Wind That Shakes the Barley and TV’s Peaky Blinders. One of my favourite actors and inspirations from having been a native from where I’m achieving incredible accolades and success, one of my favourite performances of his is in Anthropoid another war-film which recently dropped on Netflix UK. A tremendous watch.

Harry Styles

FTN
:

Now, we all know that this film isn’t all about Harry. But I have to say I am becoming increasingly excited to see it – obviously as this is his acting debut, I’m basing this solely off my knowledge of Style’s already incredible talent for music (I wouldn’t call myself a directioner by any means but yeah, the band’s music was enjoyable & yes, I did go on a silly girls night to see them on their last tour). But the strength from Harry’s back catalog without a doubt comes from his debut self titled solo album of this year.
I also wholeheartedly trust Christopher Nolan. His casting decisions have only ever worked massively in his favour, & reviews coming in all speak praise of Styles’ performance.

QFR:

A consistent point of conversation in the media is the involvement of singer Harry Styles, who recently released a rather fantastic album in my opinion. Marking his acting debut, Styles plays Alex. As great as the cream of the crop of acting talents featured in Nolan’s filmography are what is equally exciting is the bold, seemingly out-of-nowhere casting decisions in his movies.

Many were outraged at the decision to cast Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight yet, as most will agree, it turned out to be one of the greatest performances in cinematic. For that reason, one of the things that excites me the most is to see these young talents display their acting chops, in a fact-based tale surrounded by some of Hollywood’s finest.

Fresh blood on screen is often exciting and refreshing to watching. Fionn Whitehead, who more and more seems like the face of the picture is a relative newcomer, appearing only in small television roles prior to this $150million production.

And then of course, there’s the greats: Mark Rylance & Kenneth Branagh. I don’t need to spell out either’s talents – both are British greats with multiple Academy Award & BAFTA nominations & wins under their belts. As beloved as they are talented, there’s no doubt these performances will be added to their highlight reels immediately upon release.

Christopher Nolan seems incapable of making a less than-stellar technical movie and with the cast experienced and new assembled, this historical battle looks set to make for a thrilling experience on the big-screen.

 

I think the thing that feels most impressive about this cast is how collaborative it seems. Despite what the media is saying about Harry Styles, there doesn’t seem to be one big star in the lead: these acting greats are instead coming together to work on a film that really feels important.

I cannot wait to see this.

 

A note from QFR:

Big thanks to fivethreeninety for giving me the chance to collaborate on her blog. I’m QuickFire Reviews and I hope you enjoy Dunkirk when it releases tomorrow!

 

A note from me:

It’s been an absolute pleasure to collaborate with QuickFire Reviews today – you’re welcome anytime on fivethreeninety. Be sure to see his review of Dunkirk when it comes, & of course, mine will be here soon too.

 

Follow QuickFire Reviews on twitter here.

Dunkirk is in cinemas tomorrow.

JANE AUSTEN | fivethreeninety

Today is 200 years since Jane Austen died.
There have been over sixty film & television adaptations of Austen’s work, so today I’m going to talk to you about a few of them. Be warned – a LOT of these are Pride & Prejudice. It’s everyone’s favourite right?

Pride & Prejudice 

BBC

1995

Dir. Simon Langton




I know we all fantasise over Colin Firth with his soggy shirt but this entire series is perfect. Jennifer Ehle is still to date my favourite Elizabeth – she is perfect st being the serenely sassy & self opinionated Bennet sister

Pride & Prejudice

Focus Features

2005

Dir. Joe Wright




While there isn’t something that makes this as endearing or beloved as the BBC series, I do love this film (all except the crappy American ending). My favourite bit about this is Rosamund Pike as Jane – by the way can we discuss that Austen purposefully created this character that was described as flawless & beautiful & incomparable & named her after herself. Invented self love. 

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Miramax Films & Universal Pictures

2003

Dir. Sharon Maguire




Aside from the obvious connection in that the hero in Helen Fielding’s 1990 book is also named Mr Darcy, this adaptation is so creatively evolved it’s quite easy to miss this even being a full reference to the beloved classic Austen book. It’s Lizzie minus the sisters, stuck in a mix between a guy who appears to be perfect & a guy she at first can’t stand. Sure the original doesn’t even with Elizabeth nearly nude standing out in the snow but it’s the same feeling.

Clueless

Paramount Pictures

1995

Dir. Amy Heckerling

You really can’t escape this nineties classic, telling the story of rich high schooler Cher & her struggles in dating, popularity & friendships. We all love it – but did you know it’s loosely based on 1815’s Emma? The storyline & characters are pretty much the same: Cher is Emma, Tai is Harriet, Josh is Mr. Knightley, & most obviously Elton is Mr. Elton. As if!

The Lizzy Bennet Diaries

Pemberley Digital 

2012

Dir. Bernie Su




I can’t quite remember how I discovered the Lizzie Bennet diaries but I do know that my sister and I were obsessed with it for quite some time. It’s a YouTube blog series that has 100 episodes on the main channel and a whole variety of different side channels with extras the story – all telling a modern adaptation of pride and prejudice. There’s a few changes Lizzie only has two sisters; one older (Jane) & one younger (Lydia); Mr Bingley becomes Bing Lee etc etc. It’s perfect. It brings such life & simplicity to the story in a gripping way through five minute videos that you can’t. stop. watching. 

I love what Jane Austen created. Proper feminist icons way before society would properly recognise them. Even now, two centuries on, her stories remain loved because they are so relatable. Her stories were about real characters that had real feelings, thoughts & opinions. 
I love her for giving those to us.

THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR | fivethreeninety 

A whole six hours have passed since BBC revealed it’s new Doctor Who & I am just getting more & more excited.

The actor playing the thirteenth rendition of the world renowned character will be Jodie Whittaker.

That’s right – IT’S A WOMAN !! 2017 IS FOR WOMEN & I AM SO HERE FOR IT.

Jodie’s past work includes both Broadchurch & Black Mirror, both of which she was highly praised for, & also known for her role as Beverly the receptionist in the more recent St Trinian’s films (which I love). 

While this is HUGE, HUGE news & a massive step in progression that is making history, of course the conversation is fifty fifty. 
It’s a woman playing a role that’s previously only gone to a man, yes people are going to have to adjust a little but it’s not a big deal. She’ll be the same character, just slightly different. You know, like how every single Doctor before her has been…

“Not everyone critical of Jodie Whittaker being the Doctor is a misogynist” – she literally hasn’t done anything as the Doctor yet, so…. maybe you are. Have a little think.

And of course, there’s all the one’s saying that the BBC is only casting a woman as a political move. It’s not like they picked a random female & presented her with the role – Jodie has worked for this, & hard. 

This isn’t a gimmick – sadly it’s actually a huge risk. So the company WILL have taken the time to find someone who fits the role to a tee. Trust them on this – they’re the ones who literally run this show & know it back to front. 

I think what’s making most guys angry about it is that things aren’t being catered solely towards them anymore & they’re being bitter babies about it. Can’t they just think about what this means? 

Kids are seeing options presented to them in a way that will feel totally natural to them. And adults are seeing that people don’t care about you whiny baby problems.

This is a show where characters like these exist:

Why is it so hard to believe that one of their fellow aliens could be a female?

And I’m sorry – but if you can believe that John Barrowman can turn into a giant tentacled head in a box you can believe that the Doctor can have a vagina.

 
I am so excited. These are some things I want to see happen:
 ⁃ The Doctor running around space with her female companion having fun #girlsontour
 ⁃ The Doctor having to learn what experiencing sexism is like

Whenever this season starts, we all need to tune in, regardless of whether you’re a fan or not. Because you bet there will be a ton of people boycotting it out of pettiness – we need to make it the most successful it’s been in years.

Welcome to the role Jodie. I’m so excited to see what can happen with it.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING | fivethreeninety

I’m not usually a fan of a franchise that’s been rebooted heaps of times, but this feels different. This latest incarnation of the classic Spider-Man superhero has a completely different tone to any of the other Spidey films, and other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in the best possible way.

 

It’s written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, with Jon Watts as director. Starring Tom Holland in the lead role, and follows Peter in his first proper solo superhero mission in his first standalone film in the MCU. Spider-Man back at Marvel studios!

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a continuation of the new Peter Parker we were introduced to in last year’s Civil War. It’s the first standalone film with Tom Holland in the lead role, and introduces new characters the new story set up and more whilst also solidifying him as a superhero in the Marvel universe. This skips the origin story that we all have seen play out numerous times (Peter gets bit by a radioactive spider, discovers he has powers, Uncle Ben dies etcetera), & instead introduces him as a character who is finding his way in this new life.

 

Peter is the same as we’ve always known him since his first incarnation in 1962. But in homecoming he is given a bigger sense of realism, which makes him all the more relatable. While other Spider-Man stories have been focused solely on the superhero side his life, this film really shows the normal teenage kid aspect of it. It shows his friends, the girl has a crush on, him in gym class and detention and school trips. It shows him dreaming and waiting for his time to come, as well as everyone doubting him and failing to see his true potential. This is what the character is meant to be the underdog who defies all expectations – that’s what draws people to Spider-Man in the first place, they can see themselves in him.

 

Tom Holland is really incredible as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He’s got a perfect level of sass, self doubt, kindness & and will to do what’s right in both sides of the character and ties them together perfectly. He has excellent comedic timing and is also really good at really subtly playing on all the emotions of a 15-year-old boy, which coupled with the responsibility of being a superhero can be intense to say the least. He really is great and I can’t wait to see him as his involvement progresses in the MCU.

 


May is Peter’s Aunt, warm caring charming witty and beautiful, notoriously admired by everyone. I like this young rendition of her, played by Marisa Tomei. With Peter as an actual 15-year-old it makes sense that his aunt is only in her late 40s/ early 50s. Her character development isn’t given much time in this film, mostly because we don’t need her story being explained to us again: we know the tragedy she has experienced, and knowing that in the back of your mind while seeing her as this amazing woman who is funny, charismatic, desired by many but most importantly incredible at raising her nephew. It makes her amazingly inspirational. I love her and I’m so excited to see more of this fresh, lively Aunt May because I think she has so much potential.

 

Everyone knows who Iron Man is and his true identity, but in this film Tony Stark plays a very different role than we’re used to seeing in his standalone films as well as part of the Avengers. In this he is very much a strict mentor, someone Peter very much aspires to be like and very much respects, but that doesn’t mean he treats Peter in the way that he wants. On one hand Tony hand selected Peter and ask him personally to fight alongside him with the avengers, but then completely dropped him when he is no longer convenient to him.

One of the reasons why Tony Stark is such a likeable character in the MCU films is because you see so much of him you get all the depth to him. In this you only see that top layer, and if you didn’t know about those other layers from previous films then he will definitely come across as a bit of an arsehole. Saying that, in every scene Robert Downey Jr only complimented Tom Holland, never stole scenes – I think if he’d been any more supportive towards Peter, it would have made it all about Iron Man.

 

Happy Hogan returns as Tony Stark’s head honcho, who is assigned the mission of keeping tabs on Peter. He very much underestimates both Peter and Spider-Man, definitely sees the role is more about unwanted babysitting job. John Favreau is great, I can’t fault his supporting role in this.

One of the best bits of the film is Ned. He’s Peter’s best friend who accidentally discovers his hidden identity & understandably wants in. He is a nerd but that’s not the one thing that defines him. Yes, he builds Lego Star Wars sets & he can hack into any computer system, but he’s funny and even heroic at times. Jacob Batalon is really brilliant at playing this fan boy who is getting to live out his wildest dreams vicariously through his best friend. Having previously only acted in independent films, I am excited to see where Batalon’s career will go.

Michelle. Okay. Zendaya in this role has been the talk of the town since the acting announcement, & even more so now. She really is excellent as the sarcastic, borderline rude, hashtag woke young woman, but I wanted to see so much more of her! I do think that her role in this is to introduce her & then tease us with her – she’s going to be a big part in future movies. And I need those movies now.

The love interest is Liz: the cool, smart, involved, beautiful & popular girl at school. She is immensely clever both academically and emotionally, which is what makes her actually likeable. Laura Harrier nails being the love interest without being an object.

 

There’s also Tony Revolori as Flash, who is different than any other kind of flash we have seen in the past. He still the school bully who like to take it out on Peter, but in homecoming he’s reimagined is more of a wealthy smug little boy than the classic jock. It works: that old stereotype is outdated.

The big bad villain of the film is the comic book classic the Vulture, played brilliantly by Michael Keaton. The reason behind his evil is a little bit cheesy, and I think his character would definitely have appeared to be quite underdeveloped if it hadn’t been for Michael Keaton’s superb performance. He brings a excellent balance to the regular guy who’s been screwed over by the man, making him a believable villain as well as an understandable one.

 

He feels destined to play this role but then again that’s the same with every Michael Keaton performance.

 

The cast is rounded out by Donald Glover, Herman Woodbine, Hannibal Buress, Selenis Leyva, Angourie Rice, Martin Starr, Michael Chernus, Michael Mando & Jennifer Conelly as Karen the Suit Lady. Half of these are pre existing characters in the Spider-Man comics, and most of them villains: the Prowler, the Shocker, the Tinkerer and the Scorpion are all hinted at, and again I think this is Marvel teasing us for now and testing the waters for later films.


(Moment of praise for how diverse that cast is)

 

The story works really well. It’s simple and easy going – it feels like a classic teen coming-of-age story from the 80s. Everyone seems to be comparing it to a John Hughes film and it’s because it really is like one in the best possible way. It’s nice that marvel of taking this approach with it instead of going down it being a superhero action adventure like in other first standalone films for their characters. This way makes it feel fresh, makes the third reboot of the same character in the past fifteen years seem worthwhile.

It was difficult because it wasn’t the origin story we’re used to seeing. Peter’s already been bit, he’s already figured out his powers, he already goes out & tries To fight crime. He’s already assisted alongside the avengers at this point. The reason why it works is that it addresses that Peter is a ridiculously young superhero, and the story shows his doubters, and shows them proving them wrong. It isn’t an origin story in the terms of him being bit, but it is an origin story in there it’s him finding himself. Which sounds cliche but I love it.

 

That being said it does feel smaller. It doesn’t seem as big & risky, all mind blowing even. It’s wholly enjoyable but at times it feels like it’s just a bit nice? That does work in some elements to it, but there are some bits which are designed to give drama and because the film feels more intimate it doesn’t give that suspense. It’s a little bit of a slow build, but by the end I was committed.

The action sequences I think you’re definitely one part of what makes the film feel not as huge and impacting. In comparison to grand finale is from other recent Marvel films like Dr strange and civil war, there isn’t really anything that matches up – but then again I think that could just be down to the character. He’s a kid, he’s in high school; it’s not gonna be on the same level as the super heroes have been wearing a suit for a decade.

 

I will say that I did NOT see the big reveal coming. I’m not sure I feel “the big reveal” is the right way of wording it, I just mean the bit when the two sides of the story come together: the Peter Parker side and the Spider-Man side. I did not see that coming at all, and as soon as it happened I was ecstatic. It felt like the the full potential of the film that we been expecting started at that point and from then on it was flawless. I actually think the film may have been better if it got to that point sooner and spent less time faffing around with action sequences prior to the big reveal (I’m not sure if the ferry sequence, though visually cool, was necessary to the story except for Stark to get mad).

I am a big big fan of the new spider suit. It just looks so beautiful. I love the practicality of it as well I love that we see Peter putting on the suit and seeing how it functions as a real item of clothing. There is new additions that haven’t been seen in films before like web wings from the arms that allow him to glide when jumping which is actually really cool. Louise Frogley also rounds out all the other characters really nicely – it’s the first time we’re meeting them and she did a really good job of displaying their personalities visually (big fan of Aunt May’s high waisted trousers).

 

Keeping up with the 80s theme the soundtrack is full of classic songs. Again I think this is a little bit Marvell trying to keep the ball rolling after the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks, but it does really work well in Homecoming. This is accompanied with a score by Michael Giacchino that perfectly encapsulates the young superhero feel of the film, as proven by the brilliant titles of the tracks such as Stark Raving Mad and Pop Vulture. And hello, the original Spider-Man theme song is back – my Spidey senses were tingling.

 


All in all the more I think about it the more successful I think this film is. It is a completely original feel to the story which was massively important after all the other franchises; seamlessly introduces us to new characters and all characters reimagined; presents an exciting and adventure field story that doesn’t feel too life or death serious; and just has fun with it being back in the MCU.

 

It feels joyous – it feels like a homecoming.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming is in cinemas now.

CULTURE, FOOD & SIGHTSEEING IN THAILAND | fivethreeninety

When I post this, I’ll be back in the UK in my own bed. And if I’m not too exhausted still from the 42 hour journey across the world, I’ll definitely be crying about having to return to normal life.
Thailand had been such an incredible place to visit. It has such an incredibly rich culture, such welcoming & friendly people & amazing experiences that I hope I will never forget.

I’m going to share with you all my experiences, tips, todo’s & recommendations for a Thailand adventure.

 

Before I start on the individual places I visited, here are some general tips for Thailand that every visitor should know:

 

Health & Hygiene

⁃ Only drink bottled water. Thailand’s mains water supply isn’t safe to drink, but you can buy bottled water everywhere. Go for Mineré or Nestlé branded ones if possible – & avoid ice (restaurants won’t always use drinking water to make it).

⁃ Carry tissues with you at all times.

⁃ Carry either soap or hand sanitiser too.

⁃ Do not underestimate how much you will need of either of the above two.

⁃ Don’t flush toilet paper down the toilet! Thai sewage system can’t handle it & all you’ll do is block the toilet. Every toilet comes with a little spray hose to clean yourself up, & a bin to put tissue in.

⁃ Take diarrhoea/ sickness tablets with you. You will probably get food poisoning (I can’t stress enough how important it is that you don’t think you will be immune).

⁃ Don’t panic if you do get food poisoning. It’s very common, even amongst locals, so just take your time to wade it out, & visit your nearest pharmacy. They’ll know how to help.

⁃ You can try your best to avoid food poisoning by drinking bottled water, avoiding ice & eating food that’s made to order. Street food is really good & cheap, but is a little bit more likely to be harmful to you due to it being out in the open longer.

 

Clothes

⁃ Take floaty mid length sleeved shirts to wear in temples that will keep you cool as well as covered.

⁃ Wear shoes that you can slip on & off easily wherever you go.

⁃ You will choose practically over fashion. Accept that before you pack & you’ll save yourself a lot of room in your suitcase.

⁃ It will be hot. Dresses are nice but chafing is not – shorts will be your best friend.


Culture

⁃ Don’t ever be anything but respectful to the monarchy, especially now. Thailand is currently in a year of mourning after their beloved King passed away, & everywhere from shopping complexes to homes has huge tributes & shrines in his memory. This respect includes currency; Thai money is emblazoned with pictures of the King so it is an extreme offence to stand on money.

⁃ Thailand is not very accepting of PDA (public displays of affection). If you’re travelling there with a spouse or partner, it’s best not to be too touchy feely in public & avoid kissing. Hand holding is becoming more acceptable, but you’ll find it’s too hot to hold hands anyway & it’s a bit of a risky gamble.

⁃ Be polite. Politeness is a huge thing in Thai culture so remember your please’s & thank you’s & show your gratefulness openly. Be as kind as possible when turning services like taxis or tuktuks or suit fittings down. It helps to bow your head or put your hands together to say thank you too, & it’s good to do this whenever you leave an establishment.

 

Religion

⁃ Don’t buy likenesses of the Buddha as souvenirs. You’ll see this written on everything from billboards to umbrellas: the Buddha is to pay respect to, not to use as a decoration. A general rule of thumb is that if you don’t completely understand something, don’t buy a trinket of it.

⁃ Cover your shoulders, knees, midriff & chest when visiting temples. Avoid wearing “flashy” clothes.

⁃ Remove your shoes when going inside temples.

⁃ Never point your feet towards the Buddha.

⁃ Leave space for locals to pray.

⁃ Nod your head/ bow before exiting temples.
Those are the most important tips I can give you – a lot of it is common sense (just be a nice person & stay clean) but you should be mindful that you’re in a different culture at all times.

 

I also thought it might be helpful for me to share my experience of Thailand as the following:

A Vegetarian

It is so easy to eat out as a vegetarian. Almost every restaurant or food vendor I came across had a vegetarian option or had tofu handy to replace meat for you if need be. Buying food from shops was a little more difficult – I never found any pots of noodles from 711 that weren’t meat, or any toasties/ paninis etcetera. Eating out is your best bet, where you can specify no meat clearly. It would be doable to survive as a vegan too, though this would need a little more searching out specific restaurants & cafes. There are multiple options for Vegan places to eat out, you’d just need to travel to them.

A Woman

I was a little apprehensive about how this culture would act towards me as a woman but I had no need to worry – the entire two weeks I was there I was treated with nothing but kindness by practically everyone I met. The only things I did experience were things like a server at a bar assuming the beer I ordered was for my boyfriend, or men offering to carry my suitcase over my boyfriend’s. But that’s pretty much the same as back home. This is just from an outsider’s perspective bear in mind – I’m not an expert by any means on what being a woman living in Thailand is like.

A Couple

Though it’s true that Thailand isn’t very PDA-y, they are very accommodating & celebratory about couples. Numerous people we met even politely asked about our relationship & complimented us, but it is worth noting that Thailand as a country does not approve of same sex relationships & same sex marriage isn’t legalised as is with most of Asia.

A Tourist

The people of Thailand are famed for their hospitality & it’s true. All you have to do is ask & people will go above & beyond to help you find your way, somewhere to eat, sightseeing you should do.

 

Quick side note re. flights:



We flew with Ukraine International Airways & while it did the job, it wasn’t great. The in flight food wasn’t great, & a vegetarian option needs to be ordered online 36 hours before departure which I didn’t know about for the flight there, & missed the deadline for on the flight back. There’s not much leg room & no television screens for the passengers except a few small central ones from the ceiling where they show bad quality showings of recentish films.
Anything extra you want has to be bought with euros (which you most likely won’t have on you for a journey between the U.K. & Thailand) or card, which will come with extra charges. Basically, stock up on food in the airport lounge if you’re flying UIA.

On the opposite side of the scale is Thai Airways, who we flew with on our inland flights. The whole experience with this airline was perfect – comfortable seats, friendly service, television screens for every passenger & relaxing music playing throughout the flight. You even board to a nice little video telling you all the great things about the place you’re heading to. They provided complimentary in flight food even on a one hour trip, but I don’t know if they had vegetarian options as I didn’t eat (sorry).

Okay – let’s get into the specific places!!




Bangkok is almost an exact 50/50 split between modern/ western culture & a traditional Thai one. You will see a Starbucks right next to a wooden home on stilts above the water; religious shrines outside of a shopping mall; plastic chairs & tables set up in alleyways as makeshift restaurants next to the subway. Phone & electric cables & wires hang low & thick alongside trees & paving slabs can be crooked or wedged around tree roots. It’s a huge city with amazing things in it, but it is also pretty full of pollution & chaos.
Travel wise, it is so easy to get around. If you can’t walk there’s both an underground rail service & a sky train; boat services up & down the river & always a taxi or tuktuk willing to take you somewhere.


Recommendations:


  The Grand Palace

The Thailand Grand Palace is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. It really is grand, full of lavishly decorated buildings that are jaw dropping (really it’s unbelievable). It feels like an absolute culmination of all the love & pride the country has for its  Monarchy and religion, and you can feel how much of a special place it is to the Thai people when you’re there.

 

Chatuchak Weekend Market

We went on a whim to fill up an afternoon & were not expecting the sheer size of this market at all. It just goes on & on & on, hundreds of stalls selling everything from coconuts to Spongebob watches. I can’t even describe how do you do is you just need to experience  struggling to find your way back to where you started for 45 minutes.

 

Khaosan Road

This is backpacker central, & is basically a mini Camden. There’s hostels & hotels & restaurants, all at pretty dirt cheap prices, with travel shops & market stalls lining the road. There is every kind of souvenir you could want on this road, from little wooden elephants to designer knock offs.

 
Tourist Boat


This was such a good way to travel around. A day’s pass is 150 baht (which is under £3.50) & means you can hop on & off at any stop, all of which have beautiful sightseeing opportunities. Even if you’re not stopping you’ll see some beautiful sights on the sides of the river & the breeze is SO GOOD on the hot days of Bangkok.

 
I wouldn’t prioritise:

Dusit Zoo

It does have some cool animals there (hello hippos) but it doesn’t have that much space in the enclosures & though it teaches you more about animals than other zoos I’ve been too, it didn’t seem like it prioritised them animals as highly as it did the income it made from visitors.

 




The flight to Chiang Mai played us a little video which claimed that the city was a “once in a lifetime” trip, & while I hope that wasn’t my only time there, they were right. The experiences we had in Chiang Mai made memories I hope never to forget. From swimming in waterfalls to caring for native elephants, Chiang Mai feels like a really authentic Thailand that caters to tourists with what it naturally has to offer.

How to get there:

Flight from Bangkok. You can get return tickets for around £80, probably cheaper. The central city is only a ten minute drive from the airport.
Recommendations:
Wat Phra Sing

The actual temple at Wat Phra Sing is beautiful, but it’s their gardens that made it stand out for me. It’s so quiet & serene, just a really tranquil place full of people taking the time to be in a calm environment.
May Kaidee Vegetarian & Vegan Cooking Classes

I didn’t do this class but went on a mission there to get a booklet for it, after my cousin lost hers when she did the course a few months back. If I’d have had the time I definitely would have done a traditional Thai cooking class.
Hike

I really recommend you do this. Go to a local agency & ask them about walks in the mountains & they’ll be able to help you easy. The one we did was amazing; three waterfalls; a visit to the Naphamethanidom temple which is so high up on the mountains all the air is mist; a stop at the highest point in all of Thailand; visiting local rice farms & trying fresh coffee from a local grower. The day starts with a few stops along the way to the top, a paid for lunch & then a two hour walk down, all guided by amazing tour guides who know everything back to front. If you’re worried about the walk, don’t be – it’s all downhill & really isn’t that exhausting.

 
Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary

The best thing you can do in Chiang Mai is visit an elephant sanctuary. Do your research before you go though, make sure you aren’t going to one that uses chains, hooks or allows riding. However amazing it would be to ride an elephant, the process behind it is beyond cruel & you really can’t do it. I really can’t recommend the sanctuary we went to enough – the workers were so funny & happy & full of life & obviously really cared for the amazing creatures we were seeing. With them, you get the chance to feed the elephants, have a mud bath with them & swim in a river with them, before you go off to spend some time with just people at a waterfall. The elephants are rescued from labour work or circus’, & are just the most amazing animals now that they can just be elephants.

 

I wouldn’t prioritise:

 
Nightlife
I didn’t experience any in all honesty, but I think all the amazing things you can do in the day in Chiang Mai just wipe you out too much to be thinking about going out all night.

 

 

Koh Tao is famous for it’s diving & that’s how we know it – my boyfriend, Jamie lived here for three months last year when he was studying to become a certified Divemaster, so finally getting to see it myself was amazing. It’s incomparable to any place I’ve ever been before, & is the most relaxed & stress free environment I’ve ever been in. Nobody seems to have any worries, everyone is calm & welcoming & there is such rich diversity from people all over the world all gathered on this tiny island.

 

How to get there: 

⁃ Buy a joint ticket from Bangkok. This includes the coach journey to Chumphon & then the boat to the island. It’s a long journey but it’s worth it.

 

Recommendations:


Hire a Bike

The island is tiny, but hilly. Getting a bike means you’ll be able to see every bit of Koh Tao without having to trek through the sweltering heat. Go to Oli’s Motorbike Rentals in Mae Head – it’s worth it to go through them rather than just hire a bike off the side of a road.
Samosa Restaurant

It’s down the road opposite the Supermall by the Roctopus dive HQ. It doesn’t look like much but the people are wonderful & the food is amazing – every dish is cooked to order. Jamie went there all the time when he stayed last year, & when we went for the first time this trip it took the woman all of two seconds to remember him & his order. We went every day & by the end of the week she added us on her personal Facebook & posted a photo of us on the restaurant’s profile.
Nangyuan

Nangyuan is an even smaller island off Koh Tao. Take a taxi boat over there for the day & you can swim with fish, relax on the beach & trek up to the peak to see the island stretched out beneath you. If you take a towel, only use it to dry yourself off – don’t lie on it on the beach (the island loses a lot of sand this way). Also keep in mind that you can’t take plastic bottles onto the island with you – & all food & drink is a little more expensive here.
Freedom Beach

This was the most magical start to our stay in Koh Tao. This beach is tiny,  secluded & just so so peaceful. Laying there watching the sunset from a hammock  with the waves rolling in was one of those pinch me moments when my life didn’t seem real.

 
Sairee Beach

Sairee is the big famous beach on Koh Tao, but is still so serene. It’s never crowded, & in the day you can relax in the sun or under the palm trees, & at night relax at the front of beach bars watching fire shows.

 
Koh Tao Pub Crawl

The co-towel pub crawl is trashy as hell but its brilliant.  You pay 500 baht for entry to the pub crawl, which grants you a T-shirt, a free bucket, free shots and discounts at every bars you go to.  It’s the biggest pub crawl in Asia and one of the top five  pub crawls in the world,  and is best enjoyed as part of a big group. The best bit of the pub crawl though by far is…

 

Cabaret Show

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This was the best moment of my life. The show is free, but every entree must buy a drink once inside – ready in time for the show.  Full disclaimer, it is a shortened show than their actual evening one they do late every night but it is incredible. There’s group & solo performances set to Rihanna & Michael Buble that give you so much life – please just go. They’re so talented. I was ALIVE.

 

Bucket Bar

If drinking is on your todo list then head here. It’s just opposite Choppers, & is a smoothie & shake bar by day & a bucket bar by night. It’s the cheapest buckets of alcohol you’ll get on the island & they have logs of wood which is the basis of a brilliant drinking game.

 

I have fallen in love with this way of life. Of waking up to gorgeous heat & heading out barefaced & barefoot to venture out for the day.

 

Obviously videos from my trip will be coming to my YouTube channel as soon as possible, so go subscribe to see the things I experienced too beautiful to describe in words.

 

Thailand, I have loved you. Without sounding like a stereotypical traveller who has ‘found them self’, you have changed me for the better. These two weeks have felt like a lifetime in the best possible way & I hope I can return someday soon.