The Mandalorian s1/2 [TV] [2019]

This is the way…


I’ve had this on my list to watch for years but unless you have Disney+ in the UK, you can’t watch it so as soon as my partner got a membership, this is the first thing we watched. And I gotta say it is the best TV show I have seen in a long time.

For those who have been sleeping under a rock – like I was until about 2-3 weeks ago – The Mandalorian follows the story of Mando, one of a collection of peoples in the Star Wars universe who wear Boba-Fett esque armour and live by strict codes to never show their faces lest they be banished from the Mando core. They’re essentially hired hands who, at the fall of the empire, struggle to survive through bounty hunting. At the offset, we see Mando on a quest to pick up some very lucrative job for an evil neo-Empire dude when he discovers that this quest is for a young Yoda-looking being with similar natural ability with the force as the Jedi Yoda we all know and love. Against all orders, and at great personal cost, Mando decides to protect the child and return it to those who can keep it safe.

Oh man, even as I type this I’m getting teary about how brave and handsome Mando is…

Along his journey, Mando makes many friends as he offers his skills in exchange for assistance, a ride, protection and so on and it’s like the epitomy of that saying ‘it takes a village’ because everyone works together to protect this kid and there is nothing more pure than that.

I absolutely loved this series. The strength and nuance of the characters blew me away. I think like others have said, fans of the Star Wars franchise might have gotten a little fatigued by so many different Star Wars things coming out in the last 5-10 years but this really felt like such a masterpiece and a real breath of fresh air to the Star Wars world.

The strength of that is totally down to the amount of love that has obviously been poured into this series. From the technological advances that the team behind the scenes were able to experiment with, showing game-like, seamless visual effects that are truly the cutting edge… to the weight of the directing on the backs of multiple talented and visionary directors… every episode was cinematic and each complimented each other and were unique to one another as well. And finally the music. Unbelievable. Who knew recorders could be so. sexy. Masterful is the only word. It has a real Dirty Dozen feel to it, really emphasising this sort of dusty existence that Mando leads on his quest, and its catchiness was deeply annoying to my partner. Which brought me a lot of joy, I have to say! Particularly as I sang it at the top of my lungs each and every episode, without fail.

It feels like it was perfectly closed off at the end of season 2 so that it could have ended there, but it looks like there will be a third season, and I have every confidence that the makers will bring us something spectacular since each season of Mando just got better and better.

In conclusion, amazing, epic, wonderful show. I didn’t think it was possible for me to fall more in love with Pedro Pascal as I had in GoT, but it turns out I absolutely could. Thank you Mando. I could gush about the show forever, but basically it’s a MUST WATCH. Check out the ‘Making Of’ as well on Disney+ because it it such a great watch, particularly Dave Filoni. He has such great energy and is a total dork and I wish we could be friends <3 Anyays, A++, would watch again.

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Fantastic Planet, aka La planète sauvage [1973]

What a shame we can’t play with her any more.


First off, let me tell you right now… This is not a film about a ‘Fantastic Planet’ as the name suggests. It’s actually a pretty terrible planet with terrible beings!

The story begins following a mother and her baby who are being tortured. The mother is from a species of humanoids/humans called Oms who are much smaller than the dominating species (Draags) on the planet they live on. The Draags have brought these Oms to their own planet where they are technologically more advanced. From the offset, we see the Draags treat Oms like their little playthings. In fact, we see the aforementioned mother brutally murdered but as the film is animated style, even though it’s tragic, there’s something quite unreal about it so as it doesn’t feel as brutal as it should be.

The baby is ‘saved’ by a young child Draag called Tiwa who wishes to keep it and a retractable collar is put on the baby so it cannot escape. We see the young Draag play with the baby as it grows and names it Terr. It seems like Tiwa genuinely loves Terr and she cradles Terr, as well as sharing her lessons with him through this telepathic headpiece device, even though it is forbidden by her parents. Eventually, Tiwa becomes careless with Terr as her ‘pet’ and Terr decides to run away (stealing the headset). He runs into more of his own species who help him remove the collar and eventually embrace him into their group. Many think that the education that Terr brings is dangerous, but it turns out to save many of the Oms people in the end. The group he joins is at war with another group of Oms. It seems like despite the fact they literally have bigger problems, they can’t help but fight among themselves!

With the knowledge the headset has given them, the Oms build rockets with the intention to leave the planet for the planet’s moon which they call the ‘Fantastic Planet’. However the Draag intend to eradicate them and start to gas the park they all live in fearing the seemingly rebellious act of Terr, concerned that others will follow suit and that the education they are now afforded will be dangerous. To retaliate, the Om destroy a bunch of statues which it turns out threatens the existence of the Draag. The Draag and the Om come to a peaceful resolution.

First off, the animation in this film was incredible. You don’t see films made like this any more, really. The surreal, vivid colours and imaginative creatures, plants, landscapes and soundscapes are so interesting to watch and hear and it’s no surprise that this film is so iconic. It really is quite a beautiful creation. The soundscape is undeniably 70s because there’s something quite funky about it.

The Draag, despite on the surface being more intelligent, are very savage to the Oms, just because they can. It’s completely normalised by the adult Draag that Oms can be treated poorly and there is this pervasive idea shared that Oms are savage and unintelligent like they deserve to be treated that way almost. It’s quite alarming and striking to watch, because it’s quite reminiscent of the way white colonialists used to talk about Black/Indigenous people, and it’s the way that a lot of racist white people talk to this day, with this air of superiority. Something that is touched on in many sci-fi books but also in a recent book we read in SOPHFIFEST THE READERS club, is how ‘dominating species’ tend to be super arrogant that their elite, superior intellect puts them on top and that any sub-dominant species or group not only do not have the smarts but wouldn’t dream of overthrowing them. The specific book I am thinking of is Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The word for world is forest’ where the human species feel like the indigenous peoples are savage and unintelligent and a peaceful species, that they would never ‘fight back’. We learn of course that their arrogance is unfounded and of course, the indigenous peoples certainly make the humans very foolish indeed! And the same is true for this story. The Draag televise these lengthy intellectual debates, regaling how superior they are. They don’t even see the attack on their existence coming. I really really like that they don’t, and it just shows that if you work together that you can do anything. Even overthrow a brutal alien species!

My only criticism would be that I didn’t believe the ending. If my peoples had been tortured our whole life, I would absolutely have destroyed all of those damn statues, but I appreciate that the intention is for a hopeful ending rather than one filled with carnage.

All in all, gorgeous film. Really well put together. Interesting story. It’s a must-watch!

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Behind her eyes [TV] [2021]

Everyone has secrets…


This show turned up on my Netflix account recently and not knowing anything about it, my partner and I thought we would give it a try. It seemed to really tick my partner’s box in terms of type of shows she tends to watch whereas for me, I prefer sci-fi (obvs) but we gave it a watch and the show was really surprising. There are big spoilers in this post so YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

The show started out with a sexy liaison between Louise and David who meet by chance in a bar when Louise’s friend stands her up. Their chemistry is palpable and they share – DUN DUN DUHHH – a kiss before David calls it off and leaves abruptly. The next day Louise goes into work and realises that David is – DUN DUN DUAHHHHHH – her new boss! And he’s – DUN DUN DAHHHHHHHHHHHH – married! They agree to move past it but obviously it keeps happening over and over again and turns into a full blown affair. Meanwhile, there’s a parallel story about David’s wife Adele which paints David in this controlling light. Adele has no control over her own life which David sees to, calling her multiple times a day to check in on her and prescribing her heavy medication. Adele intentionally runs into Louise and befriends her, thus beginning a very weird love triangle where both Adele and David are hiding the fact they are friends with or seeing Louise, and Louise is also omitting this to both. Adele appears to be both vulnerable and mentally unstable and it’s hard to know what’s really happening. I feel like the story tries to force to you to question morality because of all these different scenarios that present themselves paint the main characters in this polarised way, but all the characters in this show are so flawed. The ex boyf, the best friend, David, Adele, Louise. The only pure character is Louise’s son who was the most adorable little boy <3

As the story unfolds, you see more and more pieces in this puzzle. We learn that Adele was in a mental institution, that her parents died in mysterious circumstances leaving her a massive mansion and grounds, that David was suspected of having something to do with their murder as he rescues her from this fire that has killed them. And then there’s this character Rob who you’re really not sure how he fits into it. He meets Adele in the mental institution and talks of Adele being like his escapism so when she is released from the hospital and invites him to the mansion, he jumps at the chance.

And then stuff starts getting REALLY REALLY weird out of the blue. It turns out that Adele has this supernatural ability to leave her body and go on adventures. She confides this in Rob who she has been coaching all along. Similarly in present day timeline, she clandestinely teaches Louise how to do this and gradually Louise pieces together that Adele knows about her and David because she has been watching them this whole time using her weird powers and that she might be dangerous.

We find out that David helped Adele cover up the death of Rob which David eventually owns up to Louise and goes to the police. Then right at the end, Louise realises that Adele is trying to take her life. Louise uses the paranormal abilities to jump into Adele’s body hoping to save her only to discover it’s a trap and Adele is definitely not who we think she is.

I really thought this was just going to be another sexy show about two cheating adults who can’t get enough of each other and the more I watched, the more it unfurled into this fantastical, paranormal thriller. I thought it was a pretty inventive storyline with a nice twisty ending, but then I didn’t like how polar the story was trying to paint the actions of the characters. Additionally, I really didn’t like how much they used old tropes in TV and film, like the ‘crazy wife’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous secretary’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous POC’ in fact! Even the cold and abusive way that David was acting in this, the storyline turned it around as if he was only acting that way because he was scared, poor him. He was only controlling his wife and cheating on her and cutting her off from the outside world because he was scared, which I don’t really buy. There’s this one scene where he’s like ‘thank you, you saved me, I’m going to march right to the police’ and he just walks off into Kings Cross station through open barriers and I half expected him to just disappear and never return. TBH I felt like they let him off really too easily given that he covered up what turned out to be a murder. He would have been an accessory if this were real, but instead he and ‘Louise’ lived happily ever after………

That said, I did enjoy watching the show. It was pretty entertaining and such a messy drama with such broken characters. The relationship between David and Louise is so sexy that it’s easy to get drawn into. I think more could have been done to develop the main characters so that they could be more nuanced, more colourful but I liked the Stepford wife gone wrong vibe and the twist. Additionally both performance from Louise and Adele were stellar. The paranormal aspect felt a bit tacked on; it hid under a nightmare remedy guise and I wish more had been made of it to show the impact of it on David and Adele’s relationship. For instance, David talks late in the series about how Adele appears to ‘know things she shouldn’t’ but earlier on when Louise and David are cheating, he doesn’t seem to mind or worry about that which seems inconsistent. In any case, enjoyable and spooky series and like Sharronda from ‘Pay or Wait’ says, Louise should have minded her own BIZNEZ! I’m glad I watched it.

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Ch-Ch-CHANGES!

Hai, what’s new with you?! SOPHFIFEST.com has some new changes. Check them out 🙂


EVENTS

Events have moved from FACEBOOK.com and are now at MEETUP.com! Users can get easy notifications about upcoming events and join in on discussions there. I’ve re-jigged the website to streamline this change.

Check out the event pages here which will take you through to MEETUP.com

THE WATCHERS

THE READERS


SHOP

Like SOPHFIFEST’s logo? Like t-shirts, hats or hoodies? Want to support DIY movements?

SOPHFIFEST’s shop is coming in February in partnership with Printful.com. All profits made on orders will go straight back into running SOPHFIFEST.com events!

Countdown below!!! So excite!!!

2021-02-01T10:00:00

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SHOP OPENING!

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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension [1984]

“Sealed with a curse as sharp as a knife. Doomed is your soul and damned is your life.”


Thanks to Sam for hosting this watch party! This was on my watchlist and I was so happy to watch it with the gang, finally!

Buckaroo Banzai, directed by W.D. Richter, features a star studded cast of Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jonathan Banks and much, much more! The story follows Buckaroo Banzai, “an adventurer, brain surgeon, rock musician” and his band of merry men, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, as they dash to protect the planet from a bunch of evil aliens looking to take over the world!

Hmm what can I say about this film? Well… Dr Hikita and Buckaroo are trying to perfect a machine (called an oscillation overthruster) which will allow people to pass through solid matter. Buckaroo drives the machine in his car and ends up in the 8th dimension. He finds something under the car which seems to be an alien creature. Meanwhile, learning about their tech successes, Dr Lizardo (a scientist who had ALSO attempted to create the same machine, and was in an insane asylum) decided to break out. Apparently in creating the same machine he had found himself in the 8th dimension as well, was attacked by aliens, and his body was taken over by an evil alien. There’s a bit where a messenger called John with a Caribbean accent comes to Buckaroo and crew and lets them know that he is from one group of aliens called the Black Lectroids that has been at odds with another evil group of aliens called the Red Lectroids, and it seems like earth is about to get caught in the crossfire. Also a bit in there where Buckaroo gets electrified and can see the aliens in their true form, a bit where he finds a love interest in a bar, some slug torture, Banzai tries to kiss an unconscious woman and he gets immediately and painfully electric shocked (honestly served him right) and then at some point, the film finishes and the gang do a catwalk past a sign saying Buckaroo Banzai and it rolls to credits…

There’s a lot to unpack there, but mostly one big question… What the hell did I just watch? This film has a big cult following and is a lot of fun, but it’s a very silly film. There’s a lot going on, and also nothing going on. I believe one critic called it “unintelligible” which I would have to agree with, because it was pretty hard to follow. It seems like the writer(s) threw everything they had at this film and that Peter Weller and friends were just having a fun old time in front of a camera; meanwhile John Lithgow goes through a whole gambit of European accents, never really landing on the one he is attempting to nail (Italian).

Parts of the film gave off the same vibe I felt when I watched ‘American Astronaut’, which was this grease-monkeys feel. Though I thought that AA was excellent, whereas this film went on a weird journey that was all over the place.

Also, how can a film have that many stars and yet feel so low budget?! In one scene, the characters put ‘glasses’ which were clearly made of bubble wrap, supposedly to protect their eyes or help them see an alien. It’s unclear why. At one point all the scientists were wearing glasses to illustrate how smart they were, and then later abandoned that idea apparently. There was a moment at the end where – after the characters strutted past in slow-mo – the camera pans to the Buckaroo Banzai sign and I said “nothing says high budget film like gaffa”. You could clearly see a K on the brick wall, showing where the makers had attempted the sign prior lol. There was this level of pride they seemed to have in the film at that point, like they were collectively saying “nailed it” as they walked away. Did they nail it? Well that’s up for debate!

So all in all, great cast. Very fun, weird film. Probably the most diverse 80s film I’ve ever seen, including lots of ace Black and Asian peeps <3 though only one woman… who ended up only being the romantic element of the film. There was literally a scene where she is kissed by Buckaroo into consciousness, like some sort of sleeping beauty. It’s one of those films you need to watch with pals for maximum banter. I’m really glad I watched it with a group because it made it a lot of fun. Don’t watch it after taking drugs because you will trip out. You have been warned. I’m usually a big fan of weird, but even this was a bit too weird for me but maybe I need to watch it again. Jeff Goldblum in every scene was probably the highlight. Particularly dressed up as a cowboy in the end.

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Flatliners [2017]

“What happens to us after we die? The only way to find out is to see for ourselves.”


Thanks to all the WATCHERS who joined me for the January watch party of this little gem. We had such a lot of fun and banter-galore!

So this film is both a remake and sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and stars Elliot Page, Diego Luna (of Y tu mamá también) and some other peeps!

First things first. If you’re coming into watching this thinking ‘wow Elliot Page? It’ll be a gem’, I gotta pre-warn you that this is not gonna be one of those films… I’m not one to usually suggest people don’t watch films. I think you’re an adult and can make up your own mind, but this one was pretty basic.

Medical student, Courtney (Page), is looking to crack the code behind what happens to your mind when you die and decides to rope in a couple fellow students. Page is hooked up to a neuroimaging machine, tells the two colleagues to stop Page’s heart and then resuscitate in 60 seconds. They begrudgingly do so after Page explains a waiver has been prepared and that they need not worry about repercussions. Page’s pals do the deed and Page survives. Then #hardpartayyyyy. Thus starting a cycle of subsequent students in the friend group trying the same, tensions around will they/won’t they save them from dying in time and then the group go into party mode. There’s a plot in there where all of the students who tried the experiment end up seeing what appears to be malevolent ghost but they don’t really address this until pretty much the end of the film but don’t worry they all learn something in the end…

Sooooo…. This film wasn’t what I was expecting. I love Page and he normally has a good track record for starring in at the minimum ‘average’ and at best ‘excellent’ films… I was really hoping that this ‘remake’ would extrapolate from the original – an already average film… maybe make it even better? But from all accounts that’s not the case. The scriptwriting was weak. I mean, I had a lot of fun watching it with all the fun WATCHERS and I don’t regret watching it, but had I watched it alone I think I would have thought it was a waste of time!

Erm so pretty big spoilers ahead: I really hoped, like a lot of the WATCHERS, that more of the sciency bits would have been expanded on. It felt like they threw in some well-known parts of the brain and said they flared up on the monitor, but didn’t really expand on that in any way when there was certainly opportunity. The budget for the film showed that they had money for a great deal of technology, the visuals and the soundscape (more on that later) were decent. Where it fell short was the reductive script… It seemed like jump scares for the sake of jump scares tied together with a few scientific terms and everything else was a footnote or an afterthought.

The experiences the characters had after death were so inconsistent that it didn’t seem believable. Some became haunted by people who had died (one at fault, the other not), others by living people who were apparently still on their mind and the take away is YOU GOTTA FORGIVE DUDEEEEE JUST FORGIVEEEEEEE. None of them had any redeemable characteristics. They all seemed like thoroughly terrible people from start to end. The main and supporting characters seemed two dimensional. There were two Black women/POC/BIPOC in the film which I was excited about and the script seemed to focus on at least one of them a little (Sophia), showing her to have a little dimension as a studious and anxious person… And THEN, following from her out-of-body experience, they have her fuck the shit out of one of her co-characters. Who doesn’t like a sexy scene? However, the choice they made for the only POC/BIPOC character to play that role, and the focal, uncomfortable and aggressive way it is done further builds on this hypersexualised stereotype in film that comes up time and time again that Black women are somewhat sexually deviant. This is further contrasted when we see a second sexually romantic relationship between two white people in the film but their sexual endeavour is portrayed in a gentle way. It creates this idea that Sophia is animalistic, fetishising something that is actually healthy. And then there is her mother figure, the only other POC character in the film who is desexualised and to me came off a bit like a mammy stereotype. They’re too pretty pervasive stereotypes in film so…

The only saving grace of the film is that the soundscape composed by Nathan Barr is pretty stellar.

So in conclusion, great soundtrack, very little storyline and pretty poor characters though fairly acted well despite what they were given! Jump scares actually made me jump even though I knew they were coming. That said, it felt like the film did neither the horror, nor the science fiction that well so… I personally wouldn’t recommend watching this. If you’re gonna watch any Flatliner, make it the original but listen to the 2017 film soundtrack so you get the best of both worlds! Also I still love you Elliot Page.

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Store Announcement – Coming Feb 2021

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. MERCH!


The SOPHFIFEST shop will be unveiling beginning February 2021. It was planned to open earlier but COVID-19 has meant much of the UK is under heavy lockdown, so I thought it best to postpone.

We got t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, stickers and cups coming. All profits from orders will go back into SOPHFIFEST events such as subsidised writing workshops and a DIY film festival.

The legal bit: Fulfilment of orders will be handled by third party, Printful.com. All information provided will be handled in line with GDPR privacy laws and the specifics will be noted in SOPHFIFEST’s privacy notice.

Can’t wait to start seeing SOPHFIFEST popping up in the world!

2021-02-01T00:01:00

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SOPHFIFEST STORE OPENING

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