SETS: Glasgow film locations you might have missed

Photo by Gustavo Juliette on Pexels.com

Scotland has come a long way in the world of film. No longer do production companies use our country as a backdrop for films about drug addicts and our seemingly never-ending war with the English.

No, my friends – now they come to showcase our sweeping vistas and famously friendly culture (you may think that they come for our equally famous tax breaks, but this is a lie. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about production companies, it’s that money is not important to them…).

In any case, Scotland has played host to a range of Hollywood big hitters such as Avengers: Infinity War and Fast and Furious 9. And just to further prove to you that producers love our cheap little country, here’s a few films that have made their way to Glasgow; the home of Scotland’s largest nightclub and the UK’s lowest life expectancy.

1917 – Govan Graving Docks, Glasgow

Golden globe winner, 1917, made port at the Govan Graving Docks in Glasgow to shoot one of its intense battle scenes. The production came to Glasgow in Spring last year and built many structures including a collapsed bridge.

World War Z – George Square, Glasgow

Brad Pitt’s relatively successful World War Z sank its teeth into Glasgow back in 2011 when it filmed an apocalyptic zombie attack at George Square. The city of Glasgow was transformed into Philadelphia for the scene and changes were made to building exteriors, cars and even traffic lights.

Wild Rose – Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

Wild Rose sang and danced its way into Glasgow’s embracing arms when it shot its heartfelt finale in the city’s Old Fruitmarket. In the scene, lead actress, Jesse Buckley, performs to a crowd as her character finally finds happiness in herself and in her music.

For more info on Scotland’s revived relationship with film, check out this site.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-47497674

FILMMAKING: Living out my Harry Potter fantasies on Wild Rose

Photo credit: Neon

I’d love to be able to say that my first experience working on a feature film was all down to my own outstanding determination and skill, however it was – as is usually the case in these situations – a combination of pure luck and ‘being in’ with the right people.

A good friend of mine had passed on a message to one of his relatives that I had taken a keen interest in film and television. Now, under normal circumstances this would have been considered quite harmless – merely a friend taking an interest in another friend’s life. However, this particular relative was an employee of the BBC and a prominent costume supervisor on the prime-time show, Strictly Come Dancing. No small deal.

Fast forward a few weeks and before I know it, I’m sending emails to Faye Ward, the producer of Wild Rose and her production assistant. We’re arranging dates for when I can come and work on set – it just so happened that the production company were filming in Glasgow for a couple of days and so were happy for me to join the team.

Bizarrely, due to the nature of filmmaking, the first scene that I actually worked on was the film’s big finale. It took place in Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket and featured all the main stars, a lot of cameras and the largest amount of middle-aged men in cargo shorts I’d ever seen in my life. However, being a massive film nut, this discovery quickly subsided and I soon became mesmerised by the process and the professionalism of everyone involved.

Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket

I also had a chance to meet Harry Potter heavyweight, Julie Walters – who I’ll forever know as ‘Ron’s mum’ – after being asked to serve the actress her lunch. The meeting went as well as you’d expect; I was up for a full-on conversation about platform nine and three quarters and the poor woman just wanted to eat her Salmon.

FILM FOOD: Top cinema popcorn that you have to buy

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You’re at the cinema and mere moments away from handing your freshly bought ticket over to the attendant. Suddenly, you realise that something is very wrong: you have forgotten to buy popcorn from the ASDA across the street. You begin to panic; how are you going to survive for two hours without sustenance?

This horrific, first world problem can strike whenever you least expect it and so to help you out, I’ve made a guide detailing the best popcorn that money can buy from three major cinema chains. Hang in there soldier.

CINEWORLD: Regular Sweet and Salted, £4.95

Cineworld’s popcorn comes in a nice foldable bag, meaning that you can wrap up and take home any popcorn you don’t finish on the first go, however I don’t know why anyone would want to do this because the popcorn’s just not that great. Despite the salted popcorn having just the right amount of tanginess, the taste of the sweet stuff is very dull and uninteresting. Moreover, the texture of the popcorn is uncomfortably soft and chewy.

VUE: Regular Sweet and Salted, £5.80

If Cineworld has a problem with texture, then Vue’s popcorn almost certainly makes up for it with their firm and perfectly cooked pieces of film-food goodness.

And that’s about all the praise I can give Vue’s popcorn.

At £5.80 for a regular box, Vue is the most expensive out of the three cinema chains and the taste certainly doesn’t justify the price tag. The sweet popcorn tastes like Honey Monster Puff cereal, meaning it gets really sickly really fast and whilst the salted popcorn is good, there is a distinct, unpleasant aftertaste that lingers on the tongue.

ODEON: Regular Sweet and Salted, £5.35

The first thing that you’ll notice about Odeon’s popcorn is its striking golden-brown colour and sweet smell of heaven. Despite being a tad on the large side, the flavour of both the sweet and salted popcorn is perfectly balanced – the sweet in particular is a standout with some pieces of popcorn being completely coated in a shiny, sugary glaze. For overall price and taste, this is your winner.

MOVIE REVIEW: Sam Mendes proves that simplicity is key with 1917 war epic ★★★★

Photo credit: François Duhamel/Universal Pictures

Given that 1917 is currently a magnet for critical acclaim and big shiny film awards, it isn’t too much of a stretch to believe that the war epic is the decade’s answer to Saving Private Ryan; the 90’s hit that quickly became the godfather of the genre. Having been a huge fan of the Tom Hanks classic, I was eager to view Sam Mendes’ newly released magnum opus to see what all the fuss was about.

My conclusion?

1917 surpasses its predecessor in more ways than one.

The simplicity of the plot is 1917’s greatest strength; two British soldiers are tasked with travelling behind enemy lines to deliver a message that could potentially save the lives of over a thousand men. Not having to concern itself with convoluted side quests or unnecessary detail really streamlines the film and allows the script to focus on developing the relationship between the two main protagonists.

Also, bar the beginning of 1917 which moves like it’s got somewhere else to be, the film is well paced, sporting a perfect blend of action set pieces and moments of pure conversation.

Where 1917 starts to fall down however is in Sam Mendes’ artistic decision to shoot the film as if it were all one, unbroken shot. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of art house style filmmaking – for small art house films. I don’t necessarily believe it translates well onto a multi-million-pound war film made for a mass audience. Mendes is constantly at the mercy of his prized ‘one shot’ and can never pull away to a new scene for reprieve, even if at points, his film desperately needs it.

In the end, 1917 is a victory for clean scriptwriting and engaging action. More importantly however, it reinforces the key ingredient to making a compelling film – keep it simple.

To find out what inspired Sam Mendes to make 1917, click this link.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sam-mendes-interview-the-bond-director-on-his-grandads-stories-from-hell-and-how-they-inspired-1917-kmj7xgnjc

FILMMAKING: Directing and shooting my own short film – the sequel

CTRL ALT ESCAPE starring Rory Munro, Cailean Tait and Blair Munro

I already had one short film in the bag.

I already knew how stressful the process was and had learnt the hard way that meticulous planning was the key to success – this is especially true if you don’t actually employ anyone or have any budget to speak of.

However, despite the challenges faced the first time around, I decided to do it all again. And thankfully, this time proved to be just as insanely difficult as the last.

The first challenge was drafting up an idea for a story. I had long been fascinated by the notion that the monotony of everyday life was like a prison and if you wanted, you could just escape it all at the drop of a hat. This became the central idea of my film, CTRL ALT ESCAPE. The only problem was that the story required the use of multiple locations and not all of them would be easily accessible.

Close Up: Shooting Cailean during one of his scenes
Photo credit: Blair Munro

For instance, one scene involved the use of three houses in close enough proximity to one another that they would fit into the one shot. After a lot of time spent recceing – film speak for scouting places – I found what I was looking for. Now all that was left to do was convince the inhabitants of said houses to let me use them. For free.

Easy.

Improvising: Using an office trolley during a tracking shot
Photo credit: Blair Munro

Another problem arose when one of the guys I had asked to star in my blockbuster dropped out. Unlike most directors, I didn’t have a little black book filled with Hollywood stars that I could call upon, so I took it upon myself to visit a local drama club to find a suitable replacement. After some negotiations about salary, Cailean – my new stand in – settled on a Freddo and a percentage of the box office revenue.

To this day he’s still waiting for his cut.

For advice on making your own short film check out this link.

http://www.donalforeman.com/writing/freshadvice.html

MOVIE REVIEW: The Rise of Skywalker proves that Star Wars is creatively bankrupt ★★

Photo credit: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Disney Star Wars is creatively bankrupt. There, I said it.

The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were nothing more than rehashed ideas comprised of over-used plotlines and contrivances trying desperately to play on our nostalgia heart strings. And after viewing The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in Disney’s sequel trilogy, I can confirm that it too plays much of the same tune.

In the opening minutes, we are treated to the film’s big reveal; Emperor Palpatine is back. And not only is he back but he wants to enslave the galaxy with an army of planet killing war machines.

[sigh]

If this sounds like every other Star Wars plot you’ve ever heard, then you wouldn’t be wrong. After all, it is only the fourth time we’ve seen space Nazis use planet killing technology to try and rule the galaxy.

Another big issue with this film is its pacing. The first third flies by like a ship travelling through hyperspace. Main characters jump from one location to the next with little time spared for development or chemistry and the result is a film that’s got no emotional pull whatsoever. I felt nothing for Rey, Finn or Poe because the story was progressing so fast, I didn’t have enough time to get attached to them. This was a serious problem because when the stakes got high, I really couldn’t have cared less if our heroes met their demise at the bottom of a Sarlacc pit.

Disney Star Wars is a textbook example of how not to run a franchise. From insider leaks claiming that Disney had no concrete plan for their sequel trilogy to the company hiring and firing numerous directors attached to their projects, Disney’s strategy of playing it fast and loose with this once-beloved franchise has left loyal fans like me looking for something new. And that’s the biggest failure to take away from this uninspired train wreck of a trilogy.

Check out this link to learn about some of the behind the scenes issues Star Wars has faced since Disney took over.

https://screenrant.com/star-wars-disney-movies-went-wrong-bad-issues/

MOVIE REVIEW: Jumanji: The Next Level zaps us back into familiar territory ★★

Photo credit: Hiram Garcia/Sony

2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, short of the inauguration of Donald Trump, was the biggest surprise of the year. No one could have predicted that the 20-year-old classic starring the late Robin Williams would have the legs to come back never mind spawn a sequel. And what’s more, one that was actually entertaining.

With that in mind, I went into the franchise’s latest instalment, Jumanji: The Next Level, with high hopes.

Before being swiftly let back down again.

The experience I had with this film was akin to one of those times you’re forced to watch a young relative perform their comedy routine in the front living room; it’s completely predictable and it’s just not funny. The bulk of The Next Level’s ‘gags’ once again rely heavily on the ‘real-life characters adapting to their in-game avatars’ trope. This would have been fine had we not already seen this mechanic in the first film. Additionally, a lot of the same jokes are recycled from the first outing such as having the weight of Jack Black’s Professor Sheldon Oberon constantly played for laughs.

The story this time round is also painfully dull and spares little time on what should have been poignant character moments. I understand that the film is trying to mimic what it’s like to be in a videogame but the speed in which they drop the characters into their ‘adventure’ is jarring and is in no way suited to cinematic storytelling.

The one new thing the ironically titled Next Level has to offer is that, along with the usual suspects ranging from Dwayne Johnson to Madison Iseman, we have industry veterans Danny DeVito and Danny Glover along for the ride too. Their appearances are a breath of fresh air and whilst only brief, make you wish you were watching some Lethal Weapon/Sunny in Philadelphia mashup instead.

For more Jumanji news, check out this link to discover what scene had been in the works since the first movie.

https://www.cinemablend.com/news/2486788/the-major-jumanji-the-next-level-action-scene-they-tried-to-get-into-the-first-movie

MOVIE REVIEW: Shia LaBeouf confronts his past in Honey Boy ★★★★

Photo credit: Amazon Studios

The sins of the father shall fall upon the son.

This may be a raw home truth for Honey Boy’s writer and creator, Shia LaBeouf. The film is, after all, about the actor’s abusive relationship with his own father, who’s actions left Shia mentally scarred and on a well-documented path to self-destruction. The downwards spiral of his promising acting career followed by the deterioration of his personal life, resulted in LaBeouf being sentenced to court-imposed rehab back in 2017 and it was here, during his battle with childhood trauma, that LaBeouf began writing the screenplay for his own brilliantly raw and honest redemption arc.

Honey Boy jumps between LaBeouf’s time in rehab and his lucrative childhood career as an up and coming TV star. Instead of playing himself in the film, LaBeouf portrays James Lort, a fictional character inspired by his father. It’s a sort of cathartic experience for the actor as it allows him to embody and vent all the hatred he was once subjected to as a child. This approach results in one of LaBeouf’s best performances to date and is one well worthy of praise come awards season.

The other component of Honey Boy’s success comes in the form of A Quiet Place’s Noah Jupe. Jupe, who plays the fictionalised child version of LaBeouf, manages to beautifully balance his character’s ambition to succeed with a desire to constantly please his dad. The dynamic between both Jupe and LaBeouf’s characters is so complex and believable that, every so often, amidst all the late-night beatings and psychological torture, it’s possible to make out moments where the pair are in pure adoration of each other. When the credits role, you will be left wondering whether to condemn or absolve LaBeouf’s real-life dad and it is this dilemma that the film leaves firmly in your hands.

For more info, check out this Hollywood Reporter article on how Mel Gibson was originally tipped to play the role of Shia’s father.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/shia-labeouf-honey-boy-it-wasnt-a-dream-project-it-felt-like-survival-watch-1259581

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