Second Coming: An alternative Christmas film

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Every December we repeat fairly familiar patterns. Presents are wrapped, trees erected, cards and best wishes posted and, one of my favourite traditions, the circling/highlighting of must see shows and films in the Christmas Radio Times.

Christmas films have become part of the seasonal routine Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Elf & Home Alone have become part of the staple Christmas movie diet. Alternative options have also increased in their festive circulation, Die Hard, Gremlins, Rare Exports even Batman Returns. These alternative serving to satisfy those seeking more action, fantasy or even horror in amongst the family favourites.

However this year I want to suggest a possible alternative, something fresh to add to the established few.

Second Coming.

This small British film flew under the radar this year but really is worth seeking out. Screened at the Belfast Film Festival this year I missed out due to a scheduling clash but intrigued by the title I made sure that a copy was quickly purchased and I was not disappointed.

Directed by Debbie Tucker Green Second Coming tells the story of Jackie (Nadine Marshall) who discovers that she is pregnant. She knows it is not her husband’s (Idris Elba) as they have not slept together in months and she has not slept with anyone else. Therefore the question remains where has this pregnancy come from?

Playing with the notion of an immaculate conception in the London of 2015 raises so many questions. Could it really happen? Could your relationship survive the doubt and the questions that this news brings?  Could you survive the mental anguish that Jackie outs herself through?

The real treat is the ambiguity that Debbie Tucker Green applies. No clear answers are given and it is up to the audience to decide what has happened.

Second Coming is not a traditional Christmas film but it does have a little bit of Christmas within it.

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A Post for Back to the Future Day

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“Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.” – Doc Brown

So today’s the day. The day Doc and Marty land in 2015 and see the world we are all supposed to be living in. As we now know Power Laces never made it (sadly) and Jaws 19 never made it either (probable for the best) but fans today will gather today in cinemas worldwide to celebrate this date contained in what many consider a perfect trilogy.

Back to the Future is without doubt the film that I have from the age of 8/9 repeatedly watched. I love it to bits. If I hear the music I find the nearest chair and settle down for what is to me perfect cinematic comfort food. Back to the Future is in part responsible for my love of movie watching and I am unapologetic in my love for it even though I’m at an age where I should probably know better.

A great family film I’m on the cusp of introducing it to my kids and hoping that it sticks with them as a favourite too. Essentially its a story about family as Marty tries to help his family in the past, the future and (in his relationship with Doc Brown) his ‘family’ in the distant past too.

This is why I feel Back to the Future endures, possibly more so than any other film of that era.

What other film speaks to that motion of family today in 2015 more strongly that Back to the Future?

What other films deals so smartly with time travel (take note people responsible for Terminator Genisys)?

What other film so clearly affirms for us that the future lies ahead, unwritten with unlimited potential?

Tonight I’ll settle down in Belfast’s Grand Opera House and watch one of my favourites and feel the film’s warm embrace again. I hope wherever you are you do too.

Happy Back to the Future Day folks.

Review: Pan

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‘Every legend has a beginning’ claims the poster. However on leaving the screening of Pan I wondered if every legend requires telling.

Pan presents us with the origin story of the young Peter from his days in a London orphanage to being snatched away in what can only be described as a child trafficking scheme between a devious nun and space pirates.

Sadly for an origin tale there is so much that is inexplicable in the storyline. Peter’s mum catapulting over gates in a single bound as the film opens is an entertaining opening. However given that we then see her leave Peter on the orphanage steps we can only presume he has been up her coat the whole time. I know it’s fantasy and I know that fantasy requires the suspension of disbelief. This suspension of disbelief should though still require some rationale.

The most inexplicable moment occurs when Peter arrives in Neverland to be greeted by a pirate/orphan choir rendition of Nirvanas’ Nevermind. Out of nowhere and out of context left to be blindly accepted by a watching audience the song sadly sticks out like a sore thumb much like the distractingly bad 3D.

Hugh Jackman gives his best panto performance as Blackbeard chewing scenery so hard you can practically see the teeth marks on set. This combined with the incredibly annoying low-budget Harrison Ford as Indy performance of Garrett Hedlund as Hook. Every time he places his hand in water I prayed the CGI crocodile (so emphatically teased throughout) would do us all a favour and eat him whole.

Pan has already had its release stateside and has taken a fair kicking while (according to reports) flopping spectacularly.

I went in hopeful having heard some Hugh Jackman promotional interviews. I left finding it very hard to disagree with those reviewing across the Atlantic.

*Pan is released in UK cinemas on 16th October. Thanks to Moviehouse for screening access.

Review: Macbeth

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Michael Fassbender is always a draw to the cinema for me. He improves any film he is in by at least 25%. Macbeth was therefore already a must see for me. It is without any hesitation that I say it should be must see for everyone.

Macbeth, is (as we all remember from GCSE / O Level English Literature classes) a Thane of Scotland given a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

Fassbender dazzles in the lead role depicting the descent into paranoia and madness quite brilliantly. Marion Cotillard is equally compelling as Lady Macbeth although her role, vital in the text, is somewhat watered down. This does not seem to hold her back though as her intensity matches Fassbender’s brilliantly and they form a memorable on-screen partnership that will surely go on to set the standard for future productions.

As always with the works of Shakespeare I did spend the first period of the film getting my brain to adapt to the language but I was so engrossed in what I was seeing that my eyes rarely left the screen.

This is one of the most intense films of 2015. The cinematography that makes it impossible to look away from the screen. The opening battle sequence, for example, is something that will live long in the memory. The switch from full force to slow-motion is dazzling and shows not the intensity of battle but the vicious nature of war in a different time.

Also given the nature of my blog I loved watching Fassbender and Cotillard dip in and out of the light shining from the crosses etched into the side of the church in the film’s early sections. Their swaying back and forth from shadow to light as they wrestle with their consciences and debate their actions was for me a lovely touch.

It goes without saying that I recommend this film but to go one step further I body declare ‘All hail Macbeth!’

The Martian, Psalms and Wonder

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“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” – Psalm 8 v 3-4 NIV

Last Monday night I saw Ridley Scott’s The Martian and if I’m honest it has stayed with me all week.

I loved the film and reviewed it in my previous post. I’ve spent the week contemplating scenes and remembering jokes from it as well as the disco soundtrack.

On Sunday I went to church and the verses above were read and I remembered The Martian again.

Space is the unknown and there is something in all of us (whether you have a faith or not) that wants to know more. Why is everything so perfectly laid out? The large distances involved in travel, the emptiness and yet at the same time a place filled with stars, planets and moons. Can it be coincidence that we have been given life on a planet the perfect distance from the sun to allow air, water & oxygen to help us survive? It baffles me and simultaneously fills me with awe.

How quickly and how regularly we forget. I’m grateful that The Martian helped me remember.

The Psalmist helps us to feel this wonder too. Psalm 8 is written by someone pondering their place amidst the vastness of the universe and at the same time pondering the care and concern of the create who made them. Which leads me to Sunday.

What am I here for? What is my vocation? How do I live that out in the world and show my faith? How do I live life in all it’s fulness?

I’ve been blogging for a little while now but Sunday made me realise how much I want to pursue this. I find so many strands of faith in the films I watch and I want to share that to hopefully help those ‘stumblers’ like me who don’t have all the answers.

This is a passion and it’s time to move up a gear. Already this week I’ve pushed a couple of doors and pleased to say they have not slammed in my face. It’s exciting and its scary.

I’m ready for the next step wherever the journey goes with this.

I hope that many of you will come with me.

Steve Stockman’s blog from Sunday on vocation is here. I hope it inspires you as it has me.