English freelance journalist Emily Reynolds was a teenager when she first developed bipolar disorder. It proved a hard diagnosis because it took around a decade of visits to health-care professionals and a cocktail of different medications in order to settle on the right ones. While on this journey, Reynolds researched and read the books that were available about mental illness, but she was unable to find one that resonated with her own unique condition. A Beginners Guide to Losing Your Mind is a result of Reynolds filling this gap.


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You’d be forgiven for thinking that Kurt Cobain’s life has already been looked at from every possible angle. The late, Nirvana frontman and icon has been the subject of at least two feature films (Last Days and Kurt & Courtney) not to mention countless biographies and magazine articles. But Brett Morgen’s Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is quite possibly the most thorough and definitive biography and documentary about the man and the legend.

For this film, Morgen was given unprecedented access to the Cobain archive including his prolific work in his journals plus artworks, tapes, photographs and home movies. The director was also given creative freedom from Cobain’s family (even though his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain serves as an executive producer here). Kurt Cobain was ultimately a complicated fellow and Montage of Heck attempts to show how complex and tortured this artist was by capturing his essence and devoting just as much time to his successes as his foibles.

The story is told virtually chronologically initially with Cobain’s parents, Don Cobain and Wendy O’Connor; his sister, Kim and his stepmother, Jenny Cobain. The former two were young when they had Kurt who at first was a happy and cherubic toddler who seemed so sweet, cute and innocent. Things changed when he grew up into a hyperactive child and his parents divorced. This meant he experienced lots of shame and embarrassment and was shuttled around from household to household and virtually rejected by his only family.

Morgan describes a lot of Cobain’s childhood and his teenage years through animations. Some of these are recreations of what it might have been like for Kurt while others see his own drawings brought to life. The title, Montage of Heck is taken from a mixtape that Kurt made in 1987 and this documentary is a sprawling, multimedia gem that sees Cobain’s words woven together with his art, writing, music and pictures as well as rare home movies and present day talking heads (but Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman, Dave Grohl is noticeably absent from these).

Other interviewees in this documentary include Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic; Cobain’s first girlfriend, Tracey Marander; and his wife and Hole frontwoman, Courtney Love. The latter is honest in her answers and candid as she reveals that Cobain aspired to earn a tonne of cash and spend his time doing drugs. Cobain’s deterioration into mental illness, addiction and troubles with the press are also chronicled here. This is particularly sad and will leave some viewers questioning what might have happened if he hadn’t committed suicide and got the help he needed. That said, the moments of him at home with Courtney and his daughter Frances are very tender and sweet indeed.

The special features on this DVD are a tad disappointing, especially when you consider how great the actual film is. A trailer is offered as well as extended interviews with Don Cobain and the director (the latter one was also played at the end of the film during its theatrical release). These extras don’t really do this creative and innovative feature justice, especially when you consider the truly inspired moments in this documentary (like the string and children’s choirs singing and transforming Nirvana songs).

Montage of Heck is a raw and intense film. It tries to get to the core of Cobain’s troubled, creative and dysfunctional existence and at times it does this too well, making you feel like you’ve intruded on a very private or intimate moment that wasn’t meant for your eyes. At the end of the day Cobain was a charismatic, smart and talented artist who was plagued by many different contradictions and demons. Montage of Heck is as much a celebration of the man as it is a heart-breaking look at his busy and complicated life.

Originally published on 15 June 2015 at the following website:

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Unfriended is a clever horror film. No, that’s not an oxymoron. It’s smart insofar as it toys with the genre’s format and it plays out in real-time on the main character’s desktop (mostly through Skype). And while this method could have alienated viewers, instead this film is great in its execution because it grabs people by the scruff of their necks and compels them to keep watching for all of its thrills and scary moments.

Blaire (a capable Shelley Hennig from Teen Wolf) is the tech-savvy owner of the computer. She’s one pretty and popular girl. We initially meet her flirting with her boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Storm) and telling him that they can lose their virginity together on prom night. They are eventually joined by a few other friends (Renee Olstead, Jacob Wysocki, Will Peltz and Courtney Halverson) – who all feel like actual high schoolers and not Hollywood versions – for the video chat.

But this evening isn’t an ordinary one, it’s the one year anniversary of the death of their schoolmate, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman). This girl was a victim of cyberbullying by the group. They had taken a humiliating video of her when she was drunk and posted it online. It went viral and Barns got trolled and ended up committing suicide.

On this particular occasion when Blaire’s group Skype together they have an unwelcome visitor, a user named Billie227 who is never shown but is presented as a vengeful Barns. This dark and mysterious supernatural force has the ability to overpower the group’s computers (windows can’t close, forms won’t submit, Spotify tracks of the force’s choosing are played and cannot be stopped or paused and anti-virus software doesn’t work). This all adds to the eerie tension overall, as secrets about the group are revealed, revenge is sort and people end up being murdered.

This film is very visceral and shocking. It pushes all of the right buttons (save for a few moments where the bleeps and blops become exasperating) and seeing snatches of horrible events only make them scarier. This doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have its limitations though. The busy backdrop and the actors have to work really hard to make an impact from their tiny boxes on screen and they are often shrouded in fuzz and distortion, which makes it feel real but doesn’t make for the easiest viewing.

Director, Levan Gabriadze and writer, Nelson Greaves have done a lot with a small budget. This teen slasher and horror flick is innovative and great, even if the characters themselves are rather undesirable. Even with some flaws, this film feels fresh and fearsome, which is more that can be said for other films that form part of this particular genre.


Originally published on 5 May 2015 at the following website:

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Death is often tragic. But it’s even sadder when a young person has died from their own hand. Korean film, Thread Of Lies (우아한 거짓말) deals with this taboo issue in a soft and tender way. It also slowly reveals the tragic set of circumstances surrounding the lead character’s passing and does so with a great sense of emotion and feeling.

The film is directed by Lee Han (Punch) and is based on a novel by Kim Ryeo-ryung called Elegant Lies. The story follows Hyeon-sook (Kim Hee-ae), a widowed mother of two teenage girls. As a single mum, she works at a supermarket and often struggles to make ends meet. But she does find comfort in her youngest daughter, 14-year old Cheon-ji (Kim Hyang-gi).

Cheon-ji is a bookish girl who is studious and rarely complains or asks for anything. She is the opposite to her cool and popular elder sister, Man-ji (Ko Ah-sung). On a seemingly normal school day, Cheon-ji commits suicide and doesn’t leave a note behind. This sends her mother and sister reeling into a tidal wave of emotions like grief and anger, as they question if they could have saved her by doing things differently like being nicer to her or paying her more attention.

The mother and daughter are soon forced to move to a rundown apartment where they meet Choo Sang-park (Yoo Ah-in) who knew Cheon-ji and she confided in him. He also doubles as the butt of a running joke about his long, rocker hair style. Man-ji, meanwhile, grapples with her loss by attempting to learn more about her younger sister.

Man-Ji discovers that the youngster was depressed. She was also bullied and manipulated by her only friend, a popular girl named Hwa-yeon (Kim Yoo-jung). In one heart-wrenching scene, Hwa-yeon deliberately contributes to Cheon-ji’s alienation from their schoolmates as the former invites the outcast to her birthday party, but makes her arrive late and then picks on her with the other girls via text message. The saving grace in this sad situation is that a series of notes from Cheon-ji are eventually found hidden in five different balls of wool (knitting had always been her favourite hobby).

Thread Of lies slowly reveals its story through a series of non-linear flashbacks and episodes. It remains impartial as it shows how a number of the characters were complicit in Cheon-ji’s death. It is subtle and a very realistic portrayal of high-school friendships and while tragic, it also resonates and is engaging. The performances from the strong, predominantly female cast are solid and low key as they add to the emotion, tension and mystery of this tale.

As the story unfolds, more and more layers are revealed like an onion to show a complex person who was depressed, troubled and treated cruelly. Ultimately, this is an excellent film that is beautifully shot. It’s also a detailed human drama that acts like a punch to the heart and will leave you sitting on the edge of your seats, wanting to know exactly what happened to Cheon-ji. In short, it’s magnificent.


Originally published on 22 August 2014 at the following websites:

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