Friday, 19 September 2008

Jeremy Irons

Happy Birthday to

Jeremy Irons

60 today

Jeremy is definitely a love him/hate him kinda guy with his stage background often creeping up on his theatrical performances making them seem over the top or even hammy. Looking forward to his turn as a orrupt rancher in Appaloosa mind.


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Trailers - Doubt

Here's another film that I'm looking forward to.

Whether or not this looks like a great production, it certainly looks like there's lots of acting going on.


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

2008. Dir: Mark Herman. Starring: Asa Butterfield, Jack Scanlon, David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga and Rupert Friend. ●●●●○

I saw The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas last night and before I go any further into the review I have to confess this was one of the most moving films I've ever seen about the Holocaust, and I cried at the crushing finale. I will say no more about the end so you can read on spoiler free, suffice to say not a single person in the theatre talked on the way out of the movie.

The film, like the John Boyne novel on which it is based, looks at a horrific piece of twentieth century history through the eyes of an eight year old boy. The camera follows our here Bruno (Butterfield) thoughout the film, tellingly the point of view only shifts to other characters when they are directly searching for him - like all 8 year olds he enjoys exploring.

It begins with Bruno and his family (Thewlis and Farmiga are his parents) moving from their Berlin home that they love to a smaller place in the country. Bruno is naturally distraught by leaving his friends, grandparents and the streets he enjoys playing with, and the prison like house he moves to does nothing to improve this attitude.

Early on Bruno spots a farm, where all the farmers wear striped pyjamas, and in the course of his exploring he meets a boy from the farm through the barbed wire fences that surround it. Being adults we are more fully aware that the farm is a concentration camp and the farmers are Jewish prisoners.

As Bruno's friendship with Shmuel (Scanlon) develops he begins to question what his father is doing there, and why the Jews have been imprisoned. Eventually their relationship reaches a tragic conclusion.

Both of the boys give fine performances, although the first time they net they did seem to be speaking lines rather than talking to each other - possible an issue with the script rather than the acting. Farmiga gives a superb performance as a doting wife and mother who slowly learns the truth about the prison camp and whose love for her husband is destroyed by his actions and his attitude to the party.

The rest of the cast come across as one-dimensional, although I expect that is a deliberate lift from the book, where their choices will be restricted by the way they interact with the children.

The design of the film does have it's issues - the concentration camp appears to have no guards or watchtowers on one side which seems utterly unrealistic. There are also times when James Horner's score seems to be forcing the action rather than reinforcing it.

Overall this is a superb film about the Holocaust from a child eye view and it would be a good way of introducing a younger audience to the basics about what happened.


Peter Falk

Happy Birthday to

Peter Falk

81 today

It's Happy Birthday for one of the most famous detectives of all time. So much so that if I ever kill someone and a tec asks me "one more thing", I'm just going to confess there and then.


Monday, 15 September 2008

What's Love Got to Do With It

1993. Dir: Brian Gibson. Starring: Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis, Terrence Riggins and Vanessa Bell Calloway. ●●●●○

As I mentioned in my last biopic review it is difficult to seperate our thoughts about an individual from the film about them. Admittedly this is slightly easier with Tina Turner, she's a fantastic performer but let's face it she isn't Gandhi. In What's Love got to Do With It there is a struggle to seperate the Tina of the music and the Tina of the best-selling autobiography on whcih the film is based.

After a brief intro where Tina is abandoned by her mother the film follows the rise and fall of the abusive relationship between Tina and Ike Turner, played by Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne respectively.

The film makes harrowing viewing. From early on the nature of Ike Turner is revealed in his cavalier attitude to his ex's attempted suicide and cheap wedding to Tina. This escalates into fist fights and one particulary tough to watch rape scene.

Both actors manage extremely well in these scenes, which must have been tough and harrowing to film.

I was especially impressed by Fishburne, whose explosive violence was often followed by moments of either immense alpha-male behaviour or pitiful whining. His cries, early in the film, that everyone leaves him are shockingly believeable both as a cry for help and as a hook to keep Tina locked into the cycle of abuse.

The camerawork and editing are professional but nothing to write home about, but the set direction and costumes are marvellous. We get a real sense of the times as they move from the 60's through to the late 70's.

Where the movie fails though it's the "westernisation" of the abusive couple. Tina is given no persoanlity flaws at all - a perfect angel throughout seemingly incapable of any unprovoked negative act other than pride in her voice. On the other hand Ike is always portrayed in a negative light, even the tough way he deals with his group (surely a necessity in show business) is only made light of. Most of the other characters are either tacitly complicit with Ike's behaviour, see Zelma Bullock, or seemingly ignorant to the situation like the rest of the band.

I don't want to sound like I'm defending Ike. He most certainly was a vicious bully. And there can never be an excuse for domestic abuse on this scale. But maybe if the screenplay went some way to recognise Ike's skills then it may have got that fifth star.


Tommy Lee Jones

Happy Birthday to

Tommy Lee Jones

62 today

Tommy Lee has recently hit the headlines for sueing the No Country For Old Men production company for $10m in unpaid backend deals. This seems like an awful lot of money which quite frankly I don't think he needs - but I suppose a deal is a deal we'll see how this plays in court (or at least how it settles out of court). His next film is In the Electric Mist with John Goodman and Peter Sarsgaard. The plot, which brigngs together ghostly soldiers, mobsters and Hollywood stars sounds suitably barmy so count me in.


Friday, 12 September 2008

Out this Week (12/09/08)

There are a lot of films out this week - but probably only couple that are worth seeing. I'm plumping for Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, but The Pineapple Express is also having great reviews so if I had time I'd go to that too.

Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The more I read about this the more I want to see it. The tale of a boy whose fmily move to Auschwitz and how he makes friends with one of the prisoners, one in striped pyjamas, is bound to be a tough if worthwhile watch.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●○○○○○

Eden Lake

A young couple in love go for a short break by Eden Lake, only to find it shorter than they plan due to some torture loving scallies. I'm not sure what the audience this horror playing on the fears of the Daily Mail reading public is aiming for but I'm sure a few people will go.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Jar City

Icelandic crime drama with fine reviews praising the sharp script. I jst can't stop laughing at the the actors names all ending with sson or dottir (I do know that's an Icelandic tradition - please no hate mail).

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○


Drama about the partition of India and Pakistan and of families split over the border. Looks like it would a good film to know when playing seven degrees of Kevin Bacon (Jimi Mistry, Irfan Khan, Neve Campbell and Thomas Kretschmann), doesn't look like a good film.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○

Pineapple Express

Possible the most well made stoner comedy of all time, with a big shoot outs, hilarious drug references and Rosie Perez as a corrupt cop. Sounds pretty impressive.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●○○○○○

Romance of Astrea and Celadon

Shepherds, nymphs, druids, jealous rivals, cross dressing and desire. All brought together by Eric Rohmer. What's not to love?

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Sydney White

A modern telling of Snow White, apparently. Featuring Amanda Byrnes, the funny one from Hairspray, and seven outcast students. That's about all I know. I won't be seeing it.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

The Women

This update of the classic bitchfest from 1939 was never going to be a tremendous success, especially when you've traded Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell for Meg Ryan, Annette Bening and Eva Mendes. You never know though, it might make Meg take another 3 year break from work in which case it's not all bad.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●○○○○○


Trailers - Changeling and Soloist

It's been an exciting 48 hours in the world of trailers with The Changeling

and the Soloist both appearing.

You can count me in for both of these true stories.

What do you think - if you had to choose which would it be?


Ian Holm

Happy Birthday to

Ian Holm

77 today

It's a good day for the ex hobbit - although frankly the idea that he'll make the prequel is absurd. Still I'm sure he's having a great day.


Thursday, 11 September 2008

Amy Madigan

Happy Birthday to

Amy Madigan

58 today

Amy's a bit of a chameleon. It's hard to imagine her frumpy aunt in Gone Baby Gone is played by the same person as Peggy Guggenheim in Pollock. Perhaps she hides too much because she's a terrific actress who really should get more work. Maybe being married to Ed Harris is enough.


Training Phase 2, Day 39

I did the same route as Tuesday, this time with shorts, to see whether that really makes a difference. It was faster, but oddly the distance according to the I-Pod was 400 m shorter.


Anyway 7.3 km in 42 minutes. Or 10.4kmph, 6.5 mph.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008


I don't know about you but I am exhausted. Over the last 30 days I have linked to a trailer a day. Some of those films will be great - others dreadful. But I'm looking forward to seeing each and every one of them when they come out at cinemas.

I've barely scratched the surface of the upcoming films that interest me. Over the next few months we'll be seeing terrorism, lost children, suicide, cannibalism and child abuse and there'll be trailers for each of these and more.

I'll only be putting up trailers now when they're new and exciting, but please use the labels check out some of the one's I've already posted and let me know if your as excited about these films as I am.



Amy Irving

Happy Birthday to

Amy Irving

55 today

Who can forget Amy screaming at the end of Carrie with Sissy Spacek's blood stained arms reaching for her. Nothing of note on the way. It's tough for women of a certain age.


Training Phase 2, Day 38

I'm a little confused. This morning I prepared and ran in much the same way as yesterday, however I managed to go quite a bit faster. I did start with a downhill bit, but even that shouldn't make this much of a difference. The only thing I can think of is that I was wearing shorts rather than sweat pants. Should that really make this much of a difference?

10.6 km in 1 hour 1 minutes. That's 6.5 mph.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Trailers - You and I

I sometimes bemoan the fact that few mainstream cinema films contain gay male characters, especially if you exclude films that solely concern the sexuality of the characters.

But at least gay men have no fear of there sexuality being used purely as exploitation. Enter the lesbians in You and I.



1982. Dir: Richard Attenborough. Starring: Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Giegud and Trevor Howard. ●●●●○

Gandhi was the first of my two biopics this weekend. By curious coincidence just this week Richard Attenborough has been admitting that he robbed ET for the 1982 Best picture Oscar. Whilst it's refreshing to hear this view from the victor it must be remembered that Gandhi is a superb picture, even if it was overpraised at the time.

The film is bookended by the assassination and funeral for Gandhi, so for those people watching the film with little knowledge of the Mahatma that sight of tens of thousands of extras lining the streets for the funeral gives some idea of the popularity of the man.

We then flashback to Gandhi in South Africa, a fresh faced Cambridge scholared lawyer seemingly seeing institutionalised racism for the first time in his life. Seemingly from this incident Gandhi launches a campign to bring equal rights to Indian migrants.

Then following sucesses in South Africa (and not without adversity) Gandhi returns to India where he gives moral authority and significant influence to the Congress Parties campaign for home rule. His policy of passive resistance (by not complying with unjust laws however by not resorting to violence) as well as his scholarly attitude makes him enemies with the authorities as well as within the Congress party itself.

It is clear that Attenborough has a profound respect for Gandhi. Every scene confirms the qualities the Mahatma had, his profound beliefs in equality, his humility and his unqenchable thrist for peace. The film comes across as a beautiful portrait of this great man.

We must seperate the film from the subject, though. I think we can all agree that the Mahatma changed the world and showed us a new, better way to struggle against oppression, what we cannot agree on is that this sort of hero worship makes good entertainment.

Ben Kingsley does a fine job of protraying Gandhi, but there is little conflict within the character - he has little to do other than become more and more saintly. Indeed it's only in the first third of the movie, in South Africa, that Ben's performance is worthwhile. As he progresses from a shy public speaker to a man capable of starting a revolution you can see changes in every scene.

Rohini Hattangadi gives a far more measured performance as Kasturba Gandhi, showing the pride, devotion and frustration that she feels for her husband.

Most of the rest of the cast simply drift in and out of the action with one note performances, including a veritable who's who of British talent, although Roshan Seth is superb as Nehru. The low point of this parade is Alyque Padamsee as Jinnah; I don't know whether to blame him of Attenborough but the founder of Pakistan comes across like a silent movie villain - stiff and unbending in both his manner and his dealing with other characters. I kept expecting him to twirl the corner of his moustache and let out a pantomime laugh.

The technical side of this production is faultless. There isn't a still in the 3 hour running time that is less than perfectly composed, thanks to wardrobe and et teams. The cinematography by Ronnie Taylor and Billy Williams is suitably epic in a manner that befits the subject.

Overall this is a brave attempt to portray one of the greatest men who ever lived, but it's obvious respect for it's subject neuters the final product.


Sylvia Miles

Happy Birthday to

Sylvia Miles

85 today

I do try to keep this site clean with no nudity and that sort of thing, but I couldn't resist today. I just love the fact that 2 time oscar nominee, 85 year old Sylvia Miles's photo on famousr is this. Incredible.


Training Phase 2, Day 37

I sometimes wonder why I bother - tried staying on the road today (mainly because it's so dark and rainy I'm afraid of slipping into the canal and drowning). Disasterous timing:

7.7 km in 49 minutes. Which is an appalling 9.5 kmph or 6 mph. If I go any slower I'll be going backwards.

Please encourage me to go faster in the comments.


Monday, 8 September 2008

Trailers - Tôkyô!

This could be another Paris, J'taime with 3 directors looking at how they are inspired by their favourite city. Or it could be something a lot weirder...


Random Film reviews

Over the weekend I sat down and watched a couple of movies randomly selected from the collection. The first one was due for last weekend but what with going to London and seeing Death Defying Acts I didn't get a chance to watch until this weekend.

I'm not going to spoil it by mentioning what they are (not until the first review pops up tomorrow) but what I'm going to do is give some brief thoughts on the genre that happens to connect these two randomly selected films. The much-maligned BIOPIC.

The biopic has been around as long as cinema, with many early features seeking inspiration from monarchs and world leaders. Although it wasn't long before those lofty targets were shifted to greats in their field including science (the 30's saw an enormous number of invention movies, giving rise to the old joke about Don Ameche inventing the telephone) and entertainment.

This led to the delightfully meta moment in Jolson Sings Again where Larry Parks, playing Al Jolson, meets Larry Parks, playing Larry Parks, to discuss making a biopic about Al Jolson.

The output of biopics has been steadily increasing since the 40's, with the subjects no longer confined to the great and good but are as likely to focus on serial killers, drug dealers and corporate whistle blowers. (And for each of these subjects there's an easily identifiable well made film to go with them.)

It's no surprise that biopics do reasonable box office - it's like receiving gossip over the fence on a gigantic scale. This may also explain why, in this age of celebrity culture, the subjects lifestyles are becoming more lurid and recent. In fact the subjects are often so well known the actors are merely impersonating the parts and not creating the role in a way you would with a character purely from the page. And critics and audiences are lapping this up.

It's been 10 years since none of the acting oscars have gone to a biopic (11 if you count Shakespeare in Love as having real people), and over the last 6 years five leading actresses and four lead actors have been impersonations. I'm not saying these these performances weren't good - in many cases they were deserving - but in just as many cases the mere fact of the closeness of the performance to how we remember the person was sufficient to get the awards.

I'm as culpable as the next man: W., The Argentine, Valkyrie are all on my radar. I hope though that I can see the performances for what they are and not as mere impersonations.


Sunday, 7 September 2008

Trailers - Killshot

Mickey Rourke is getting some great press for his performance in The Wrestler at Venice. Maybe it will be enough to encourage studio execs to release this thriller with Rourke as a mob killer.

Or maybe not.


Saturday, 6 September 2008

Trailers - Inju: The Beast in the Shadow

OK, so I'm scraping at the botom of the barrel now. None of the next 4 trailers I'm going to link to have much hope of getting a UK release, or even much of a chance of being any good.

Inju may be showing in Toronto right now, but after the critical drubbing it's received from Variety I doubt I'll ever see this trailer with subtitles.


Friday, 5 September 2008

Trailers - New York I love You

I love watching collection of shorts. There are times when I prefer short films with all the added constraints yet real opportunity to explore that you just don't have with features.

New York has slightly less stellar directorial group than Paris (swapping the Coen's, Alfonso Cuaron and Gus van Sant for Brett Ratner, Shekhar Kapur and Scarlett Johansson) however with a cast that includes James Caan, Julie Christie, Andy Garcia, Ethan Hawke, John Hurt, Cloris Leachman, Natalie Portman and Burt Young what's not to love.


Out this week (07/09/08)

As is usually the case we follow a poor week with a slightly better week for new releases. If I had to choose it would be Keira in a corset, anytime.

Bangkok Dangerous

Nicolas Cage is a good actor. I mean that - he probably makes it to my top 100 actors working today. What he isn't is a man with the ability to pick a good project. Hitman who falls in love with his hit. Dismal, dismal, dismal.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Disaster Movie

The title says it all. See this if you want to know how bad a film must be in order to get just one on the runs like gay exciteometer.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●○○○○○○○○○

The Duchess

Keira Knightley marries Ralph Fiennes, has an affair with Dominic Cooper, wears big wigs, starts a political party, gambles, has nothing in common with Princess Diana, etc. The costumes will be amazing - the history lesson less so.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●●○○○○


The critics are undecided about whether this is a return to form for Mr. Madonna, or merely a cheap facsimili of his better efforts. Either way his style, and a reasonably good looking cast make this one to watch.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●○○○○○


Thursday, 4 September 2008

Trailers - Milk

The latest trailer to come out (pun not completely intentional) is for Van Sant's Harvey Milk biopic. I first heard it was released during lunchtime in the office - I can use the internet but not stream files - so I was able to read comments by the editors and users of some websites that I respect and enjoy such as The Film Experience, Awards daily and In contention without being able to actually see the trailer until I came home.

The praise has been deafening - all over the blogosphere people are declaring love for this trailer, and advising Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn and Josh Brolin to prepare their Oscar acceptance speeches. I'm not so sure.

I know Milk has everything going for it: big name actors in tragic true story, critically beloved director with a mainstream film, Academy guilt over Brokeback Mountain/Crash. I will even admit my interest, which was already there, has increased a little. In that way the trailer must be working.

However there is little here to say it's going to win gongs later in the year, in fact much of the trailer seemed to be edited as much like a thriller as a biopic with the steadily quickening cuts and the muscial breaks hitting with the death threats. Maybe I'm wrong - feel free to berate me in the comments.


Coming Soon (maybe)

Rounding up those whispers of interesting films on their way.


The forthcoming remake of the "cursed" early eighties horror fave Poltergeist has found a director in Vadim Perelman. I'm not a fan of the original, in fact I've never watched it in full, but I am concerned with the choice of Vadim. It brings to mind the last time a serious director was called in to helm a horror retread: Dark Water anyone?

Broken Embraces

The fourth collaboration between Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz is coming along, with a distribution deal signed. Pedro's also let slip it's influences include Leave her to Heaven. Can't wait.

My Very Own Love Song

Forest Whitaker and Renee Zellweger have signed on for this tale of a wheelchair bound singer finding love. I hope they find love with each other.

I'm sorry I have no better pictures to represent love songs.


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Trailers - Miracle at St. Anna

Tomorrow marks the start of the Toronto Film Festival. One day I dream of going, but alas not this year.

I mentioned on my last Toronto post that the one film showing that seems to have any buzz for the Best Picture Oscar is Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna, so I felt it was worth holding onto the the trailer for it until today.


Eileen Brennan

Happy Birthday to

Eileen Brennan

76 today

Some pople remember you best as the vindictive Capt. Lewis in Private Benjamin, others as Zandra in Will and Grace. For me you will always be Mrs Peacock:

Well, someone's got to break the ice, and it might as well be me.


Training Phase 2, Day 31

Just a short run today, and a short comment.

8.2 km in 46 minutes. Which is 10.7 kmph or 6.7 mph.

I wonder where my mojo went - just 4 weeks ago I was a lot faster.


Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Trailers - Inkheart

Yeah, I know, it's a kids film. For kids.

But Andy Serkis looks like he's having a ball and not every film with Brendan Fraser can be bad.


Death Defying Acts

2007. Dir: Gilian Armstrong. Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Saoirse Ronan and Jack Bailey. ●●○○○

On Saturday I was down in London and finally got a chance to see Death Defying Acts. I'm not sure I should have bothered.

It's a fictionalised account of the circumstances around Harry Houdini's (Pearce) debunking of paranormal claims by challenging pshychics, including Zeta-Jones's Mary McGarvie, to communicate to his deceased mother and repeat her last words.

I'm not sure about the accuracy of the story. There are some elements which could be close to the truth; Houdini's obsessions with his mother and with death generally. Whereas others must be purely fanciful such as the obligatory romance between the two leads.

This mixing of fact and fiction is symptomatic of where the film fails. Armstrong couldn't seem to decide whether this was a bona fide biopic of Houdini or an expose of the lengths that fake mediums will go to, and ultimately the film manages to fall between the 2 stools.

If I were to choose which way I would have liked to have seen to film go I think I would have preferred a story about McGarvie and her daughter, played by the superb Saoirse Ronan. Their story arcs include the comedic preparation for their Music Hall show, their desperate search for clues to Mrs. Houdini's last words as a way out of poverty (although actually their home didn't appear to quite as poverty stricken as the script suggeted) and the hinted at possibility that Ronan did actually have a gift.

If we had dropped Houdini, and his mess of pyschological tics Pearce was overplaying, then perhaps we might have had a chance to delve further into the is she or isn't she able to tell the future question that was shoehorned in the films closing scenes.

The several dream sequences with floaty angels and acute camera angles were also needlessly distracting.

Perhaps with more focus on the interesting elements of the story and a greater attention to detail by the technical team would have made the 2 hours more enjoyable.


Salma Hayek

Happy Birthday to

Salma Hayek

42 today

Salma has a long way to go to receive redemption after her shocking performance at the 2007 academy award nominations announcement. Unfortunately her next film is Beverly HIlls Chihuahua so I guess she's not that worried about her image.


Training Phase 2, Day 30

Another Fartlek session this morning, 10 minutes slow 2 fast 3 slow times 6 then 10 minutes home.

I managed 8.8 km in 50 minutes which is 10.5 kmph or 6.5 mph. Nothing special but Lance Armstrong told me I beat my record for the mile so it's all good.


Monday, 1 September 2008

Trailers - 88 Minutes

I had a look at the upcoming film schedules today and there's a few pieces of good news in there. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is out in March, W. in November and Benjamin Button in January.

Surprisingly we're getting 88 Minutes in October. I thought this film came out last year, or at best died a death after it's critical drubbing in the states.

Here's the trailer though. Let me know what you think.