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The Fantastical Catharsis Of ‘A Monster Calls’

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‘Belief is half of all healing. Belief in the cure. Belief in the future that awaits.’

The power of cinema. Donnie Darko for its dazzling deconstruction and fusing of genres, possesses a narrative engulfed in loneliness and isolation. Through Logan Lerman’s Charlie, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is riddled with the anxieties and insecurities that plague many a fragile heart and mind. Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, where the immediacy and intimacy of its few days emboldened someone to lead the authentic lifestyle he so craved.

These are the works that have moulded me, establishing a love affair with an art form that i will never stop having sheer adoration for, enriching my life in ways i could only dream of as a teenager. As much as she complimented my obsession with film with our regular midweek trips to our local multiplexes, so often pleading with me to see every horror offering going, one person eclipsed in their remarkable influence. My mom Jane.

Funny. Fierce. Formidable. Consistently feeling quite low and insecure about how to apply myself socially and academically, she was always my tower of strength whilst being the solid foundation to gradually build me up to anything remotely worthwhile. Where many mocked the career path i chose and my introverted nature. Whilst she battled severe bouts of depression and anxiety of her own. We both found solace in cinema as well as each other, perhaps allowing the craftsmanship of those on-screen to truly articulate how we felt, without either of us wallowing in despair. But we were together. Unified in whatever obstacle either of us were facing.

Rewind to December 2016. A bitterly cold Monday evening. ODEON Screen Unseen. The overwhelming effect this particular film’s poignant trailer initially had with M83’s exquisite track ‘Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun’ anchoring proceedings, only to later discover Keane were to provide the soundtrack ‘Tear Up This Town’, a band myself and my Mom bonded over in my formative years. I distinctly remember showing her the music video on my phone weeks before, truly delighted at Tom Chaplin’s voice filling her ears once more, along with being spellbound by the affection that filled every frame.

Here i experienced Juan Antonio Bayona’s adaptation of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls for the first time. Never could i have envisaged its themes cutting so deeply months before. Nothing could have prepared me for how broken i felt throughout that screening, in the wake of being told the devastating news my mom was suffering with cervical cancer mere days before.

The love between this doting mother in Felicity Jones and young son in Lewis MacDougall is palpable. Yet it’s the potent parallel of them revelling in the fantastical as a form of catharsis in a desperate time, that spoke to me with such clarity.

The broad strokes of a pencil as MacDougall’s Conor is able to translate the horror and wonder of his dreams to the canvas, as the soothing sounds through his headphones help him navigate the darker recesses of his imagination. Transfixed by a classic monster movie in King Kong thanks to an old film projector, as Conor berates those attacking the beast on top of the Empire State Building. Only for Jones’ Lizzie to state ‘people don’t like what they don’t understand’, foreshadowing the difficulties faced in telling her son about her treatment, desperately trying to retain control of every decision to be made.

Sparing and protecting family of many dreaded details was something my mom did incredibly well. When she was slowly losing her hair. She implied that she always wanted her hair short anyway like P!nk, somewhat mirrored by Jones’ Tina Turner remark as she is greeted with wigs, brought by Sigourney Weaver’s grandmother in the film. Her ability to brighten a cloudy outlook and maintain a sense of normality in the midst of such growing uncertainty, filled me with immense pride.

In a desperate situation, you cling to every small positive you can. Any glimmer of hope you are given. To block out the alternative. For Conor, he invests in the mythical stories told by the imposing Monster voiced by Liam Neeson. Parsons and apothecaries. Kings and queens. All wrestling with their own morality, as they’re faced with tricky dilemmas.

Where Conor is fixated on the idea of this yew tree figure curing his ailing mom, the Monster is all too aware of why he has been summoned. To be a fantastical influence on Conor and aid him through this tough passage of his life, confronting this nightmare head on. In my own head space and in such circumstance, i didn’t want to be brave either. I almost wanted to create a distance away from those around me. I almost felt devoid of rationality in my way of thinking, taking various situations that pushed me to the edge to resharpen my perspective, in order to ultimately bring comfort to my darling Mom in her hours of need.

The precious ticking of a clock, savouring every minute you have. Buildings crumbling all around, almost like the ground beneath Conor is looking to swallow him up. You never want to let go of those you hold so dear in an embrace and whose hands you grip so tightly. The acceptance of the worst-case scenario is terrifying, but the suffering you’re consumed by inevitably pales in comparison. Prompting a reversal of roles. Being the tower of strength in the beautiful image you idolised for so many years.

It has been eight months since my mom was finally at peace. Her distinct laugh. Her wicked sense of humour. Her overprotective ways. And that’s just a few things i so dearly miss about her. Up until now, there was a real reluctance to revisit A Monster Calls for a second time. Reliving the film’s final moments epitomise why i believe it was the right call. A scrapbook of watercolour drawings. Like Conor, my tears may fall onto the pages. Yet the vivid colour and character of the memories shared will overpower, keeping her memory alive. In a fashion that served well. In sickness and in health.

The opening lyric of ‘Tear Up This Town’.

‘I wanna hand you my heart and let you carry the load’. 

Always Mom. Always.

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Venice, Cannes, London, Wherever: Film Festival Tips

A film festival veteran, Rehna Azim gives her tips on how to survive at film festivals wherever you are in the world.

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I suppose I can be called a film festival veteran now. I’ve covered enough of them over the best part of a decade to be able to pass some, hopefully, useful tips on to those who might find themselves at one of the many film festivals that seem to spring up every 15 minutes. There’s a festival for everyone and pretty much everything. A fan of Korean cinema? You’ll find a festival in London. Sci-fi freak? Horror fanboy/girl? Gay, lesbian? Woman over 40? Someone somewhere will be running a festival of films you’ll love. Even towns you weren’t sure had a cinema seem to have a festival going on.

The biggies in Europe of course are Cannes and Berlin with London coming up in recent years. San Sebastien is growing in stature and there’s Ghent, Locarno, Edinburgh and many more. Wherever it is and whatever crowd it’s for, festivals are big business and popular. So here’s how to make the most of them:

Make sure your stomach is full and your bladder empty. The bigger the festival, the longer the queues and the more uncomfortable you’ll feel as you line up with a cast of hundreds to watch the latest gem from that Bulgarian auteur you thought only you loved. A film festival will draw a cine literate crowd that will fight you to the death for the last seat in the house. (At Cannes earlier this year, journalists almost came to fisticuffs in the huge, sprawling line that waited to catch the pearls of wisdom that fell from Christopher Nolan’s lips). A couple of years ago there was an angry stamping of feet as La La Land was, inexplicably, put on a small screen that couldn’t possibly accommodate all those who wanted to see it. At Venice earlier this month the lines stretched out perilously close to the canals. So you see, if you’re serious about festivaling, like a Boy Scout, you always have to be prepared. You simply can’t take the chance of popping away for 10 minutes to grab a quick burger or spend a penny. Go before you come, as it were. Carry a snack with you in your bag (trust me, even that festering flapjack at the bottom will seem enticing when you’re starving during a 3 hour long Ingmaar Bergman retrospective. Keep a small bottle of water with you at all times, not least to avoid the headaches that dehydration can cause.

Sacrifice glamour for comfort. Unless you’re going to a red carpet premiere, wear sensible shoes you can run between venues in. Layer your clothing. It doesn’t matter which city or country you’re in, you will either be too hot or too cold in whatever you wear. Taking something off or putting it on will be the best way to deal with whatever weather comes your way. I speak as someone who has been caught in sudden, monsoon level thunderstorms in both Venice and Cannes on brilliantly hot days when I was swanning around in skimpy summer dresses.

Film Festival Movie Marker

Plan your festival days. Screening times often overlap or just outright clash. Check the programme in advance, decide what you absolutely must see and what is a ‘if I have the time’ choice. Once you’ve made your choices, schedule your days accordingly. Those covering the festival for media outlets have to factor in interviews, talks and red carpet coverage as well as time to do the write-ups. It may seem like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs (did anyone’s grandmother actually ever do that) but sometimes the simplest, most obvious tips are the most helpful. I’ve known the super organised to create elaborate flow charts for their daily schedule but a simple list in a notebook will suffice.

Always keep a note pad and camera with you. Whether both are on your latest model phone or you have the old fashioned type, you will need them. Film festivals are exciting. Celebrities are swanning around everywhere, funny, interesting, record-able things are happening all the time and you will invariably meet people you want to stay in touch with. Writing a number or email address on the back of a receipt may seem a good idea at the time but you’ll never copy it out ‘properly’ into an address book. Most likely you’ll throw the receipt away when you’re next cleaning out your bag then spend hours rummaging through it later looking for the number of that nice agent/producer/actor/attractive person you met over drinks and really want to meet again. Network, make contacts, make friends. Festivals are fun!

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New entertainment platform CHILI launches in the UK

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Are you scrolling through the TV guide, trying to decide what to watch on your first night in for weeks, only to change your mind for the fourth time? Sounds tragically familiar, which is why I am very pleased to announce that European entertainment company CHILI have big plans for film and TV fans in the UK.

CHILI is a subscription-free entertainment platform that has launched in the UK after it’s recent success in Italy, racking up 1.6 million registered users since launching in 2012. Backed by the studios we all know and love, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Viacom, Sony Pictures, and 20th Century Fox, the on-demand service offers an array of content available at the click of the button.

What makes this different from say, Netflix or Amazon? The website offers a huge range of films and TV shows, from foreign art house to big screen blockbusters – as well as being a one-stop show for cinema; there is a newshub to give you the low-down on all film and TV news, you can purchase physical movies, merchandise and tickets to the cinema all in one place. Founder and chief executive Giorgio Tacchia describes CHILI as an entertainment hub; with customers discovering a new movie or TV show that they love and then browsing the merchandise to see what’s in store. From Star Wars Lego sets to beautiful concept art books, there really is something for everyone.

The platform is also filled with new premieres, including Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty, Marvel Studios’ Avengers Infinity War and Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon. Customers can choose the quality they want their digital purchase, or choose to order a Blu-Ray or DVD instead.

My favourite section is the ‘highlights’ page which tailors content around your preferences and also offers flash sales and offers of the week. And with your first film on them? That’s an offer I can’t refuse.

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Our weekly updated UK streaming listings for September 2018

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Between the increasing number of streaming platforms in our lives, there’s far too much great entertainment being released day after day for any sane person to keep track of. 

There’s streaming giant Netflix, the curated offerings of MUBI, all the latest releases on NOW TV, and online video emporium Amazon Prime. There’s something for everyone, on demand, just waiting to be selected. What a time to be alive!

But that doesn’t help when you’re looking for something to wile away the evening with, so let us lighten the load and make your viewing choice that little bit easier with our weekly updated round-up of everything being added to your favourite platform.

Saturday, September 1st

  • After the Sunset
  • Appaloosa
  • Birth
  • Cellular
  • Final Destination 3
  • Harold & Kumar Escape
  • Highwaymen
  • The Last Mimzy
  • Lost in Translation
  • The Man
  • Mr. Woodstock
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Pride and Glory
  • Rendition
  • Semi-Pro
  • Shoot Em Up
  • Silk

Sunday, September 2nd

  • The Green Inferno
  • The Way Back

Monday, September 3rd

  • Molly’s Game
  • Mr. Mercedes: Season 2 (new episode)

Thursday, September 6th

  • Pistorius

Monday, September 10th

  • Mr. Mercedes: Season 2 (new episode)

Friday, September 14th

  • Forever: Season 1

Monday, September 17th

  • Mr. Mercedes: Season 2 (new episode)
  • The Post
  • Suicide Squad

Wednesday, September 19th

  • The Commuter

Saturday, September 22nd

  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Get Smart
  • The Lake House
  • Lolita
  • Mortal Kombat
  • North by Northwest
  • Payback
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Soylent Green
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • The Towering Inferno

Sunday, September 23rd

  • Early Man

 

Wednesday, September 5th

  • Boro in the Box

Thursday, September 6th

  • Living Still Life

Friday, September 7th

  • Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Saturday, September 8th

  • The Pleasure of Being Robbed

Sunday, September 9th

  • Tiny Furniture

Monday, September 10th

  • Went the Day Well?

Tuesday, September 11th

  • Champagne Charlie

Wednesday, September 12th

  • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

Thursday, September 13th

  • Disorder

Friday, September 14th

  • The Wild Boys

Tuesday, September 18th

  • Eros Plus Massacre

Wednesday, September 19th

  • Street Life

Thursday, September 20th

  • Tonsler Park

Sunday, September 23rd

  • The Things of Life

 

 

Saturday, September 1st

  • The Bletchley Circle: Season 1 
  • The Bletchley Circle: Season 2
  • Born to Be Blue
  • Gangs of New York
  • Gone
  • Killing Gunther
  • La Catedral del Mar
  • Legally Blondes
  • The Man Who Invented Christmas
  • Marvel’s Iron Man
  • Marvel’s Iron Man 2
  • Marvel’s Iron Man 3
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Monkey Twins
  • Moonstruck
  • The Mummy
  • The Mummy Returns
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  • The Purge: Election Year
  • RoboCop 2
  • Saw VI
  • Sisters

Sunday, September 2nd

  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)

Monday, September 3rd

  • The Debt Collector
  • Power: Season 5 (new episode)
  • A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities: Season 1 (new episode)

Tuesday, September 4th

  • Better Call Saul: Season 4 (new episode)

Wednesday, September 5th

  • The Hundred-Foot Journey

Thursday, September 6th

  • I Kill Giants
  • Inferno
  • Suits: Season 8 (new episode)

Tuesday, August 7th

  • Atypical: Season 2
  • Cable Girls: Season 3
  • City of Joy
  • Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2
  • The Most Assassinated Woman in the World
  • Next Gen
  • Shooter: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Sierra Burgess is a Loser
  • Stretch Armstrong & The Flex Fighters: Season 2

Saturday, September 8th

  • American Horror Story: Cult (new episode)

Sunday, September 9th

  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)
  • Wynonna Earp: Season 2

Monday, September 10th

  • Power: Season 5 (new episode)
  • A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities: Season 1 (new episode)

Tuesday, September 11th

  • Better Call Saul: Season 4 (new episode)
  • Daniel Sloss: Live Shows
  • Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  • The Resistance Banker
  • The Square

Wednesday, September 12th

  • Burn After Reading
  • Call the Midwife: Season 6
  • Jane
  • On My Skin
  • Rex

Thursday, September 13th

  • Life Happens
  • Nowhere Boys: Two Moons Rising
  • Suits: Season 8 (new episode)

Friday, September 14th

  • American Vandal: Season 2
  • The Angel
  • Bleach
  • Boca Juniors Confidential
  • BoJack Horseman: Season 5
  • Car Masters: Rust to Riches
  • The Dragon Prince
  • Ingobernable: Season 2
  • The Land of Steady Habits
  • Last Hope
  • Shooter: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Super Monsters Monster Party: Songs

Saturday, September 15th

  • American Horror Story: Cult (new episode)
  • Cabins in the Wild, with Dick Strawbridge: Season 1
  • The Hangover
  • How to Live Mortgage Free, with Sarah Beeny: Season 1
  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)
  • Queens vs. Kings: Season 1
  • Three Wives, One Husband: Season 1

Sunday, September 16th

  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)

Monday, September 17th

  • A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities: Season 1 (new episode)

Tuesday, September 18th

  • Better Call Saul: Season 4 (new episode)
  • D.L. Hughley: Contrarian

Wednesday, September 19th

  • Julieta

Thursday, September 20th

  • American Honey
  • Suits: Season 8 (new episode)

Friday, September 21st

  • Battlefish
  • Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan
  • The Good Cop: Season 1
  • Hilda
  • Maniac
  • Nappily Ever After
  • Norsemen: Season 2
  • Quincy
  • Rafinha Bastos: Ultimate

Saturday, September 22nd

  • American Horror Story: Cult (new episode)
  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)

Sunday, September 23rd

  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)

 

 

Saturday, September 1st

  • Braven

Sunday, September 2nd

  • The Little Hours

Monday, September 3rd

  • Guardians of the Tomb

Tuesday, September 4th

  • Chronically Metropolitan

Wednesday, September 5th

  • The Mimic

Thursday, September 6th

  • Singularity

Tuesday, August 7th

  • Final Score

Saturday, September 8th

  • The Disaster Artist

Sunday, September 9th

  • The Ballad of Lefty Brown

Monday, September 10th

  • Psych: The Movie

Tuesday, September 11th

  • Never Steady, Never Still

Wednesday, September 12th

  • Hatred

Thursday, September 13th

  • My Friend Dahmer

Friday, September 14th

  • Murder on the Orient Express

Saturday, September 15th

  • Oddsockeaters

Sunday, September 16th

  • The Forgiven

Monday, September 17th

  • Devil’s Gate

Tuesday, September 18th

  • Affairs of State

Wednesday, September 19th

  • Wings of Eagles

Friday, September 21st

  • All the Money in the World

That’s it for this week, but don’t forget to check back each week for a fresh round of new releases for the UK on streaming platforms Amazon Prime, MUBI, NOW TV, and Netflix.

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