MOSTLYFILM: The Mexican Scand-off

I gave you a wee heads-up at the beginning of the month, but this is where it all officially starts. To whit: the next batch of posts here will all be covering the Nordic Expedition undertaken by The Belated Birthday Girl and myself in June 2016. Over a packed fortnight, we covered five cities in three countries - Norway, Sweden, and Finland - as the nights got longer and longer with the approach of Midsummer. And it all climaxed with the slightly peculiar scenes you can see in the video over there. It will get explained eventually, promise.

But in the meantime, let's get the inevitable out of the way first. We've been in three separate countries, each with their own film industry: surely there must be some Monoglot Movie Club possibilities in there? Of course there are. So over on MostlyFilm you can now read The Mexican Scand-off, the 26th MMC piece, taking the films we saw in each country and ruthlessly pitting them against each other.

Meanwhile, in this Red Button Bonus Content piece... well, I can't give you any travel tips about the cities we visited, because that's basically what the next five posts are going to be about. So we'll keep it simple with a bit about the films themselves and the cinemas where we saw them.

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MOSTLYFILM: Local Films For Local People

"Venti chai tea latte for 'Spank', please"Yesterday, on MostlyFilm, they published the 25th edition of Monoglot Movie Club. It’s a one-trick pony that keeps on delivering no matter how many times I flog its fly-riddled corpse, and I’m proud to be associated with it despite the way the first half of this sentence reads.

Of those 25 posts, five of them have been inspired by trips to the United Arab Emirates: LOLs Of Arabia in 2012, The World, Under Construction in 2013, Holydays In The Sun in 2014, The Ministry Of Happiness earlier this year, and now the new one - Local Films For Local People. As you’ll see, this is different from the others: I’ve finally managed to watch a couple of UAE-made films this time, rather than the Egyptian, Indian and Lebanese imports I’ve had to make do with in the past.

Generally speaking, if you’re looking to watch films in the UAE, you’ll be doing it in a swanky multiplex hiding in the middle of an even swankier shopping mall. Whenever I’m in Dubai, there are three malls I tend to shuffle between, and in this Red Button Bonus Content piece I’m going to tell you all about them.

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MOSTLYFILM: Garbage Language For Garbage People

Unfortunately, I can't use the obvious caption for this photo, as it's the basis for the whole of paragraph 4.As much as I like to boast that my job takes me to all manner of exotic locations, most of the time it’s the same few exotic locations: frequently somewhere Scandinavian, with the occasional trip out to the Middle East. This is why all the Monoglot Movie Club pieces that aren’t conceived during a holiday tend to focus on those two parts of the world. (Although having said that… no, let's save that announcement for a month or two.)

Anyhoo: last month, I was in Copenhagen again. I was last there about a year ago, when I reviewed a couple of Danish movies for the good people at MostlyFilm. It's a similar deal for my 2016 trip, although this time around there are a couple of new things to report on. The films I saw on this particular visit are reviewed in a piece provocatively titled Garbage Language For Garbage People: the rest of the stuff I did that week is covered in the Red Button Bonus Content, directly underneath here.

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MOSTLYFILM: Grand Tours

The Olympic Stadium, from the top of the Olympic Tower. Apparently they do guided walks across the roof of that, but there weren't any available on the weekend we were there. Booo!It was Easter a few weeks ago, and as usual The Belated Birthday Girl and I went away for it. Actually, it was two holidays in one: four nights in Munich, followed by one of those epic train journeys we frequently do, followed by five nights in Rome. Quite a lot was achieved in those ten days, which is why you're going to be seeing four separate bits of writing related to the trip.

The first two are already out there, and have been published on MostlyFilm. The first one is called A Grand Tour, and describes the film studio tours at Bavaria Filmstadt in Munich and Cinecittà in Rome. The second piece is the inevitable Monoglot Movie Club feature that usually comes out of any foreign travel I do: entitled Another Grand Tour, it looks at the two darkish comedy films we watched while on holiday, one in each city.

This third piece – the one you’re reading now – is the backup material for those two MostlyFilm articles, to basically draw your attention to them. It’s also where I’ll be covering all the non-film aspects of the Munich half of our journey. Nothing about Rome here, though: that’ll be in a fourth separate article, coming soon. See if you can guess why it might be separate.

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MOSTLYFILM: The Ministry Of Happiness

A selection from the Emirates in-flight entertainment menu. GAME CHANGER.I was back in Dubai for work last month. Last time I was there was about a year ago, and that visit was a little unusual in terms of how I wrote about it on the web. Because you know how these things work by now: I go away to foreign parts, I watch a couple of unsubtitled movies in the local cinemas, and I write about them for MostlyFilm in a section we've chosen to call Monoglot Movie Club. Except that last time I went to Dubai, it didn't quite happen that way. I went to the pictures twice, but the films were so uninspiring that I didn't feel there was a full article in there. (I burned off the reviews in a Simian Substitute post instead.)

I was a bit worried that it would be a similar story this year, but happily, it wasn't. I saw three new films over there - two from Egypt, and one from Lebanon - and you can read all about them over at Europe's Best Website in a piece entitled The Ministry Of Happiness. Meanwhile, over here, the Bonus Red Button Content section for the article will consist of the usual mix of travel tips and video backup.

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MOSTLY FILM: A Gulf Of Misunderstanding

Just in case it’s not clear, this is an indoor shopping mall with clouds painted on the ceiling and a Venetian canal running through it. Got that? Good.It may feel like I churn out Monoglot Movie Clubs for Europe's Best Website all the time, but the last one was a few months ago - so far, it's the only visible result of that Italy trip that it's taking me forever to write up. (On its way, honestly.) In the time since Live At Pompeii was published, one of the films I reviewed has made it over to the UK in subtitled form: Nanni Moretti's Mia Madre has just opened in selected cinemas, or can be watched online if one of those cinemas isn't near you.

Since then, I've made a few work trips to relatively mundane places - apologies to the good people of Cardiff, but you're always going to come off worse in a comparison against Florence - and one less mundane place: Doha, in Qatar. The last time I was there was in 2010, in circumstances which made it virtually impossible to see any films, apart from the bargain basement fare on the Middle Eastern Men & Motors TV channel MBC Action. This visit, I made it out to the cinema twice, and wrote about it for Mostly Film in a piece that I've chosen to call A Gulf Of Misunderstanding.

What's changed in those five years? Quite a bit, actually, which is basically the subject of this Red Button Bonus Material.

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MOSTLY FILM: Live At Pompeii

To be honest, F Murray Abraham doesn't have a single line in this as good as "Chicken!" in Loaded Weapon 1Il gatto è fuori del sacchetto, I guess.

Last month, in the gap between this post and this one, The Belated Birthday Girl and I spent two weeks running around Italy. The holiday writeups always tend to suffer the worst delays on this site, so I can't make any firm promises about when you'll get to read about what we did there: hopefully, it should be soon.

But in the meantime, today you get a Mostly Film article that came out of the trip. The twentieth episode in my Monoglot Movie Club series, Live At Pompeii covers the two unsubtitled Italian films we watched over there: Mia Madre at the Cinema Odeon in Bologna, and Torno Indietro e Cambio Vita at the Cinema Modernissimo in Naples.

Notice I said unsubtitled there. We also watched a third film, The Mystery Of Dante, at the Odeon Firenze in what us monoglot types call Florence. It's an Italian film that's partly in English, and with English subtitles for the rest of it, so it couldn't really be covered in a Monoglot Movie Club piece. But I'm choosing to review it here as the Red Button Bonus Material for the original post. I have to. A film this bloody terrible deserves it.

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MOSTLY FILM: All In The Game {aka Rising Monkey 2014 part 3}

As discussed in the Mostly Film review, here's As The Gods Command: The Snow Level. (Nah, it's The BBG's photo of the train we took out of Naruko Onsen.)It seemed like a neat idea at the time. I had a holiday to write up - Christmas 2014 in Japan - which could be broken down into three distinct sections. Each of those sections could also double up as an entry in one of my regular ongoing series. So the opening Tokyo post was also a BrewDogging bar review, while the central Sendai/Naruko Onsen piece became another one of those Christmas Day In Foreign Parts articles.

And this final one, looking at Kyoto? Well, as The Belated Birthday Girl and I had caught a couple of Japanese films during the trip, this could be the backup material for when I wrote about them for Mostly Film as part of Monoglot Movie Club. This would be a brilliant structural conceit, if it wasn't for the delay of nearly four months between All In The Game appearing on Europe's Best Website, and my finally getting around to putting this article up here. But you get the idea. Let's ignore the fact that this piece will say absolutely nothing about the movies we saw in Japan (As The Gods Command at Ikebukuro Humax, and The Vancouver Asahi at Kyoto Movix), and just get on with it. You've waited long enough.

What's Japan like in the days leading up to New Year? 2014 was the year that we found out. The biggest surprise was just how much of an event New Year is there - possibly even more so than Christmas, which is generally treated as just another working day. Everything shifts into cut-down holiday mode, starting with the regular TV scheduling. When our breakfast-time fix of morning soap Massan suddenly vanished from its usual slot, it was our first major clue that week 52 in Japan doesn't play to the same rules as weeks 1-51. You may want to bear that in mind if you visit at this time of year.

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Simian Substitute Site For April 2015: Monkey Kingdom

Monkey KingdomMONTH END PROCESSING FOR MARCH 2015

Movies: At some point in the near future, Mostly Film will publish the 20th episode in my long-running series of massively uninformed foreign film reviews, Monoglot Movie Club. But it won't happen until I go somewhere foreign and watch some more films. I was in Dubai again a few weeks ago, but the two Egyptian movies I saw there weren't really interesting enough to warrant a piece on their own, much less a 20th anniversary one. So let's burn off those reviews here. Regatta, despite the title, has nothing to do with boats: it's the name of the leading character, dabbling in petty crime to help buy passports for his family, only for his whole world to collapse when a bit of carelessness on his part results in his mum being thrown in jail. It's one of those plots which would cease to exist if everyone just calmed down and talked to each other, but the holes are still plainly visible despite everything being performed at screaming pitch. It's not helped by some careless technical flubs - at one point Regatta hugs his mother, and the impact of him against her radio mike nearly blows out the cinema's subwoofer. Youm Maloush Lazma, meanwhile, is even more formulaic and even less subtle: it's a comedy set on the day of a wedding, where most of the farce derives from a jilted ex-girlfriend whose every appearance on screen is literally accompanied by the music from Psycho. The biggest surprise in this one is the way a subset of characters remove themselves from the main plot towards the end to go off and get stoned. It turns out that I do understand some Arabic after all, as long as it involves words like 'hashish'.

Music: There are several reasons to love The Unthanks for what they do, but here's one you don't hear very often - they're brilliant at choosing support acts for their live shows. We first caught them back in 2007, when The Belated Birthday Girl was even more impressed by Devon Sproule's opening set: and to this day, if we're honest about it, she still feels the same way. At a subsequent show, we were both rather taken with New York singer-songwriter Jaymay, although we haven't been keeping up with her post-Autumn Fallin' work as much as we should. Flash forward to the Unthanks' triumphant London show at the Roundhouse just a few weeks ago, and we were delighted to see the tradition being upheld when The Young'uns came on first, and immediately stormed into a perfect acapella cover of an eighties folk classic. With a smart mix of traditional tunes and sharply focussed original material, and some fun chat in between, they made for a rather terrific curtain raiser. Sure, half an hour later, the Unthanks themselves were performing the full-length version of Mount The Air WITH ADDED CLOG DANCING, and no support act could possibly compete with that: but The Young'uns had a bloody good go. Their new album, Another Man's Ground, is coming out on April 26th, and has already been pre-ordered by me, don't you worry.

Theatre: It's a sign of the times that if you go to the cinema now to see one of those broadcasts of a live performance, you'll have to sit through 20 minutes of trailers for future broadcasts of other live performances - they've become a surprisingly lucrative revenue stream for cinemas, attracting people who wouldn't normally go to the movies. Like, for example, the old biddies sat behind us at Maxine Peake's Hamlet last week, grumbling throughout the adverts about how loud they were. Hamlet's actually an odd example of the live broadcast phenomenon: filmed during one of the performances at Manchester's Royal Exchange back in Autumn 2014, it's taken six months to reach cinemas. During that time, you can tell that some care has been taken with the editing, with some jolting shifts in perspective added by a sparingly-used overhead camera: it's presented more as a film than as an attempt to recreate the live experience, with no audience applause at the end of each act. Peake is as extraordinary as they say, in another collaboration with director Sarah Frankcom after 2013's The Masque Of Anarchy: and without wishing to give too much away, that's a partnership we should be revisiting here later this year. But some of the other gender-flipping in the cast is equally impressive, with Gillian Bevan's Polonia a particular highlight. You may still be able to catch Hamlet at a cinema near you, if you're lucky: the same also applies to the stunning Mark Strong-led production of A View From The Bridge, which we were lucky enough to catch in the flesh last week.  (The BBFC is currently attaching a warning to Bridge that it contains 'one bloody scene', which is hysterical if you've seen this particular version.)

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MOSTLY FILM: The Copenhagen Interpretation

Here's Mads Mikkelsen, winner of the Best Actor award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, getting hit in the face with a dustbin.It's Monoglot Movie Club time again on Mostly Film. Yes, I know it's only been a month since the last one, but that was Christmas - this one covers February, when I spent a week in Denmark for work and saw a couple of pretty good films along the way. The resulting piece, The Copenhagen Interpretation, is mainly notable for the appalling gag involved in its lead image, which requires an understanding of both particle physics and American TV in order to fully appreciate it.

I haven't really got any travel tips for you this time round - like my previous Copenhagen visit, I stayed at the Cabinn Metro and saw the films at the Palads. So the Red Button Bonus Material for the piece will have to be a collection of trailers and other related video bits.

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