Saturday, 31 January 2009

Valkyrie



2008. Dir: Bryan Singer. Starring: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Carice van Houten. ●●●●○

If you are going to watch Valkyrie I implore you to leave all your baggage at the door. Whatever preconceived notions you may have about the film they will not help your enjoyment in any way. Whatever your thoughts about Mr. Cruise or Mr. Singer or any other people involved in the making of this film they are irrelevant.

Instead you should go into the cinema with a clear mind and a fair capacity to enjoy this "b"-movie thriller and you will enjoy yourselves.

That is is a "b"-movie is perhaps open to interpretation. It's cast list may include the most famous man on the planet and a classy set of british vets but ultimately the film is about the most famous failed assassination attempt in history.

We begin by meeting Colonel Claus von Stauffenburg (Cruise) in North Africa, his battalion being slowly beaten back by the advancing brits. Von Stauffenburg writes in his diary - a fascinating segue from written and spoken German to english - of his lack of faith in the Nazi party and his attempts to recruit other senior officers to help him let high command know the party must be stopped. It's a ridiculous scene, because only a fool would write what he was saying, but it helps to introduce his high moral standards before he's shot to pieces (losing an eye, a hand and 2 other fingers).



We then move to Germany where Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Branagh) is stowing a bomb on the Fuhrer's plane. This fails to go off and some of the conspirators, though not the ones whose faces we know, are summarily rounded up.

Amazingly Satuffenburg is recruited to the staff of General Friedrich Olbricht (Nighy) a key member of the plot, and a new plan is put together.

The rest of the film follows the design, preparation and implementation of the assassination attempt. It's a utterly simple plan - blow up Hitler and use the reserve army to take Berlin and thus control the Reich. Then use the momentum to put a moderate in power and ultimately end the war. The fact that we know the plot failed does little to reduce the tension built up during the film.

That tension is mainly created by the sparse and pointed script from Christopher MacQuarrie and Nathan Alexander, and also aided by an energetic score from John Ottman. Although there is a downside to this; the mood was built up and up throughout the film with never any sense of levity. I know it's a serious topic but every line seemed to be written, or at least performed, as if it were life or death. Thus making it impossible to really get to grips with these brave men.

Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise - but at least he's not doing a bad Tom Cruise impression (see Mission Impossible III). Perhaps he might have appeared to be a better actor if he didn't surround himself by masters. Bill Nighy as his cowardly co-conspirator and Tom Wilkinson as the oily Fromm, waiting to see how the coin will land before calling it, both turn in superb performances which if the film had had an effective campaign may have got some award traction going.

Stylistically the film was nothing special, other than a nice shot of a record, and perhaps this represent a bit of a step back for Singer. That's a shame as I like his sensibilities. His next film on imdb looks to be You want me to Kill him about 2 boys who strike up a friendship on the internet that leads to murderous results. This may be an interesting mix between Heavenly Creatures and Elephant, and it's certainly the sort of film I'd like to See Singer concentrate on.

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Film News (31/01/09)

A couple of new films greenlit, another finds a new financer and an exciting cast coming together, and this is only the news I've picked up on this week.

Chrionicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

So having been dumped unceremoniously by Disney it was thought that Dawn Treader, the 5th of C.S. Lewis' novels, 3rd film, might not happen. Until this week when Fox came up with a package to launch the venture. I realise the last couple have been pretty poor, and this one brings back the insufferable Ben Barnes as Caspian, but it's by far the best book and it all takes place on a boat so what's not to love.



Fully Automatic

Joel Silver is back back back. Just when you thought the buddy cop action thriller was dead Joeal has resurrected the Lethal Weapon series, only with a different name and new actors, and joins them up with a crack group of female vigilantes. Or some such nonsense. Imagine fast cars, witty dialogue and big explosions.

Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman's high successful fantasy novel, The Graveyard Book, will be brought to the screen by Neil Jordan. Surely it should be called the Graveyard Movie? It's all about a boy adopted by ghosts, and it's all being made in Blighty.

A Woman of No Importance

Amanda Seyfried, her of the funny eyes in Mamma Mia!, has joined the already announced Annette Bening and Sean Bean in Oscar Wilde's other classic. I'm not a big fan of Seyfried but at least it's a step closer to seeing Bening in this role.


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Jean Simmons


Happy birthday to

Jean Simmons

80 today.


Time can be very cruel to great acting talents like Jean Simmons. Unlike the bigger stars of the 50's, like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, Jean's no nonsense approach to hr performances and her less accentutated good looks mean she's been largely forgotten. However try to imagine anyone else giving Spartacus the love he needed to face the Romans and you'll realise how truly indespensible she is.

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Friday, 30 January 2009

Out this Week (30/01/09)


Well, the votes are tallied and yes indeed it's Revolutionary Road that I'm recommending this week. Not that there's much competition, unless you're into multiply Lena Headey's or lots of music.

The Broken

Lena Headey (Brothers Grimm, 300) sees herself drive past in London. Naturally she doesn't just put it down to her imagination or make an interesting cocktail anecdote about it, instead she follows herself and finds she's in a thriller!

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


JCVD

Jean-Claude Van Damme plays an alternative version of himself in this meta thriller where not only is he losing all the good roles but he's holed up in a bank robbery but expected to act like a hero. Apparently this wasn't actually out last week, after all.

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

Luck by Chance

I may just stop writing about Bollywood films as it's highly unlikely, even in a post-Slumdog world, that I'm actually going to rush out and see one. This has an actor moving to Mumbai to be a film star.

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

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Michael Sera (Juno) and Kat Dennings (The 40 Year Old Virgin) will both be enormous stars one day. Can someone give me a nudge when that happens.

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

Revolutionary Road

Kate and Leo's relationship literally implodes in this vivisection of a 50's marriage from Sam Mendes and the pen of Richard Yates. Doesn't get more exciting than this (although I won't be able to go as I'm short of funds right now).

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

Tokyo Sonata

Japanese film investigating the effects of losing your job in modern society and how it impacts one family. Not a pleasant watch, then.

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

Victory

A cricketing version of Goal! Really. With lots of famous cricketers appearing in cameos and no famous actors within site.

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

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Vanessa Redgrave


Happy Birthday to

Vanessa Redgrave

72 today


This Goddess of British cinema appears suddenly every couple of years and once again knocks the socks off the audience. She's currently rumoured to star in Ridley Scott's Nottigham, should the leaves ever be the right colour, I'm not sure who she'll be playing but it will certainly be an interesting portrayal.

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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Trailers - Revolutionary Road

Yes, everyone else has already seen this, and it's opens here in the UK tomorrow (still haven't decided but I expect it'll be tomorrow's top recommendation), but I've been a bit quiet on the posting front. Three birthdays in a row and nothinge else. I've got a Valkyrie review in progress, but I've been so hectic I've not had a chance to finish it. Probably over the weekend.

In the meantime I'm sure a nice bit of Kate and Leo will brighten up your day:

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Oprah Winfrey


Happy Birthday to

Oprah Winfrey

55 today


Talkshow host, sometime actress and argueably the most influential woman on the planet. Amazing, isn't it?

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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Alan Alda


Happy Birthday to

Alan Alda

73 today


It's hard to believe, but everyone's favourite M*A*S*H doctor is 73 today. Alan's next film is Nothing but the Truth about journalistic integrity and source anonymity. It was released in that States late last year, but failed to garner any Oscar traction. Let's hope we do get to see it here as Alan is always worths spending some time with.

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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

James Cromwell


Happy Birthday to

James Cromwell

69 today


James has recently made a nice career out of playing older statemen, be it George Bush Snr. or Prince Philip. Next on his agenda is Lyndon Johnson. Should it not work out with Obama I think Hollywood is hinting who should be next.

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Monday, 26 January 2009

Personal News (25/01/09)

Albeit 24 hours late - another night involving fizzy pop yesterday.

The Bus

Rehearsals are now underway for the English Language premier for Lukas Barfuss' The Bus (or the Makings of a Saint). The play will debut at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham on Saturday 14 March, and tickets can be bought here. This is certainly a play worth seeing; first produced in 2005, winning the Jury and audience prizes at the Moiheimer Theatertage, it looks at the issue of religion in the post atheistic society.

During rehearsals we have focused on our understanding of the characters and the journeys they make during the play. It's hard work, most of the characters hide behind a veil of lies and deceit disguising their true emotions except in periods of high stress or drunkeness. I'm looking forward to putting what we have discussed into practise.


Lifelong Yearning

Went through the second half last night, more cuts but not as many as in the first rehearsal. It's tough cutting bits, especially when the lines are as funny as they are in Lifelong Yearning, but it's important that the jokes seve the plot rather than the other way round. Rehearsals for Lifelong will probably be put on hold now until after Easter, to give us time to learn lines (not to mention the other projects many of us are working on).

Leadership & Culture

Auditioned (and got a part) for a corporate job on Thursday with Big Umbrella Media. It's a leadership video for an UK T&D firm and hopefully it will be the first in a series of films for them. Also Big Umbrella have done a number of high profile adverts so if they like me there's always the opportunity of more work from them. Woohoo.

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Sunday, 25 January 2009

Running

Went out for a proper run this morning. 10.2 km in 1 hour. Not as fast as I have run but it's hell of a distance.

I'll be sore later that's for sure. (And I doubt running is the best way to deal with a hang-over)

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Film News (24/01/09)

Techinically I'm past deadline this week so apologies for that, but it's not yet one hour into the 25th so I'm not very sorry. I'm also a little "tired and confused" so please forgive any atrocious spelling errors and the lack of pictures. Outside the Oscar nominations it's been a pretty slow week - casting, writers and rights only - no major projects falling away or just getting started.

The Ghost

The cast for Roman Polanski's adaptation of the Robert Harris novel is shaping up to be very interesting with Tom Wilkinson and Jim Belushi joining Pierce Brosnan, Ewan MacGregor and Olivia Williams. I've read the book and I really cannot guess who any of these people are playing, so that could make the film fun.


Ness

Apparently the rights for David Fincher's next film, about Al Capone catcher Elliott Ness's quest to capture the Torso killer, slipped through the fingers of Paramount this week. They are currently negotiating getting them back.

Preacher

John August (Big Fish, The Corpse Bride) has been brought in to draft a script for Preacher, based on the massively popular graphic novel about a preacher turned bounty hunter looking for God. Sounds like an interesting prospect.

Rango

Joining Johnny Depp in the Gore Verbinski directed animation will be Abigail Breslin. Really I should be in bed rather than writing this. Good night.

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Saturday, 24 January 2009

Ernest Borgnine


Happy Birthday to

Ernest Borgnine

92 today


The irrepressive Borgnine not only continues to work in his 90's but also continues to say just the wrong thing at the wrong time. His admission to visiting prostitutes when he was in the Navy recently may have shocked many, but I'd be shocked if he hadn't.

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Running

As promised I went out for another jog along the canal yesterday (it really was yesterday but I didn't have an opportunity to blog last night).

7.8km in 46 minutes, which means 10.3kmph. Ho hum.

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Friday, 23 January 2009

Out this Week (23/01/2009)



An embarrasment of riches this week with three films nominated for Academy Awards yesterday, and a Tom Cruise film. Not to mention the highly praised Van Damme film. All the nominated films tie with 8 points, but if I had to choose it would be Rachel Getting Married, as it comes highly recommended by people I actually trust out there.


Better Things

Things are tough for the kids growing up in Middle England. A sort of Kidulthood set in the country. My Dad lives in the Cotswolds, I'm not sure he's safe now.

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


Frost/Nixon

Intriguing chronicle of the infamous Richard Nixon interviews by David Frost in the late Seventies. Adapted from a play. Received a best picture nom.

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

JCVD

Jean-Claude Van Damme plays an alternative version of himself in this meta thriller where not only is he losing all the good roles but he's holed up in a bank robbery but expected to act like a hero.

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

Milk

Biopic of the first openly gay man elected to office in the U.S., although I for one have absolutely no idea what a "supervisor" is. One to see with a group of gay friends (I'm going tomorrow).

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

Raaz: The Mystery Continues

Bollywood mystery film. Deals with the evils within the human psyche by presenting age old myths in modern settings.

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

Rachel Getting Married

Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married, sister (Anne Hathaway) returns from rehab to spoil everything. Many home truths are said and skeletons slip out of the closets in this fine drama from Jonathon Demme.

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

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

The third installment in the "UNDERWORLD" trilogy is a prequel that traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. Does anyone need to see this?

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

Valkyrie

Tom Cruise wants to kill Hitler, with a school of British phesps backing him up. Expect thrills, spills and ACTING.

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

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Thursday, 22 January 2009

Oscar Nominations

I'm filing this under news, although it's been over 6 hours since the noms were announced. Apparently some people out there disagree with the choices, there's been some pretty hardline blogs about the place.



Of course AMPAS is a sham, anyway. The very idea that art can compared and ranked is farcical. Different people will always have different opinions, and just because the Oscars are voted by a large group of people doesn't mean their taste is better or broader it just means that the films they choose were more to their tastes than others. And the bigger the Group the stranger the choices might be - imagine a Best Picture line-up that included Hancock and the latest Indiana Jones - they're in the top 5 grossing films of 2008 so votes with their feet have given us these. I have never come to the end of a year and found myself agreeing with any one person about what qualifies as the best of cinema, and there is no reason to expect that a groupthink of 4000 industry insiders will agree with me.

What upsets me the most is not the anger thrown towards the Academy for failing to agree with the blogosphere by vitriol against the films that were nominated, as if it were somehow the fault of the individuals who made these films that others were excluded. It is therefor the opinion of runs_like_a_gay that we shoul celebrate the success of those nominated, not whinge about those that haven't. To the 160 people (give or take the producers of The Reader)who suddenly got automatic invites to the ceremony I salute you. (With apologies for the really crappy format - the idea's better than the execution, but if you double click you can read it properly)




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Piper Laurie


Happy Birthday to

Piper Laurie

77 today


Everyone's favourite mum needs to be wished Happy Birthday. Otherwise she'll pray with you.

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Running

Yes, it's a running post. Well I have to justify the name somehow.

5.4 km in 31 minutes. The best so far this year, but I know I can do better. Next run on Friday (promise).

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20 for 2009 - Shutter Island

Or, Now Marty's got an Oscar is he going to let rip or will this be his way of getting one for Leo?



How can I be so cynical. This is my number one choice for 2009. Against the anticipation for Shutter Island all other films look pasty and irrelevant.

There is little I can actually say to really defend why I'm interested in this film. The novel is hokey with the ending telegraphed so clearly my dogs guessed what was happening. It also doesn't have the depth of story that Scorcese is used to dealing with. But maybe that's why I'll be there. It's simplicity will mean that Martin will need to make a great film to get away with it.

Seriously if you need me to tell you why I'm excited then you probably never will be anticipating this one.

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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

COMPETITION - 20 for 2009

Before I announce my top pick to watch in 2009 (which will be in about 26 hours) I just want to remind you I have a box of chocolates for the first person to guess the number 1. I will even post it to you free of charge. To help, or maybe ust because I like writing long lists of stuff here is a countdown of the top 20 so far, and after the jump there may be some more clues.

20. The Lovely Bones Dir. Peter Jackson. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon.

19. Inglourious Basterds Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Starring Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger and Mélanie Laurent.

18. Biutiful Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu. Starring Javier Bardem, Rubén Ochandiano and Eduard Fernández.

17. The Tempest Dir. Julie Taymor. Starring Helen Mirren, Russell Brand and Djimon Hounsou.

16. Hachiko: A Dog's Story Dir. Lasse Hallström. Starring Richard Gere, Joan Allen and Jason Alexander.

15. Crossing Over Dir. Wayne Kramer. Starring Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd.

14. Where the Wild Things Are Dir. Spike Jonze. Starring Paul Dano, Catherine Keener and Forest Whitaker.

13. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Dir. Terry Gilliam. Starring Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer and Verne Troyer.

12. State of Play Dir. Kevin MacDonald. Starring Ben Affleck, Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams.

11. My Own Love Song Dir. Olivier Dahan. Starring Renée Zellweger, Forest Whitaker and Elias Koteas.

10. Love Ranch Dir. Taylor Hackford. Starring Helen Mirren, Joe Pesci and Sergio Peris-Mencheta.

9. Public Enemies Dir. Michael Mann. Starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Channing Tatum.

8. Nine Dir. Rob Marshall. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard and Penélope Cruz.

7. Whatever Works Dir. Woody Allen. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Larry David and Patricia Clarkson.

6. Brothers Dir. Jim Sheridan. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire.

5. Duplicity Dir. Tony Gilroy. Starring Julia Roberts, Clive Owen and Tom Wilkinson.

4. Angels & Demons Dir. Ron Howard. Starring Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer and Ewan McGregor.

3. The Soloist Dir. Joe Wright. Starring Robert Downey Jnr., Catherine Keener and Jamie Foxx.

2. Cheri Dir. Stephen Frears. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates and Rupert Friend.

1. To be announced.

To find out more about any of these titles, or why I've included it, please click on the 20 for 2009 label below and scroll down to the film you're interested in.

More clues to winning that chocolate after the jump.


10 films that just didn't make the top 20

Antichrist Dir. Lar von Trier. Starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbough.

Avatar Dir. James Cameron. Starring Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez.

Brooklyn's Finest Dir. Antoine Fuqua. Starring Don Cheadle, Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke.

A Christmas Carol Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman and Colin Firth.

Drag me to Hell Dir. Sam Raimi. Starring Alison Lohman, Justin Long and Lorna Raver.

The Informant Dir. Steven Soderbergh. Starring Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey and Scott Bakula.

Margaret Dir. Kenneth Lonergan. Starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo.

Ondine Dir. Neil Jordan. Starring Colin Farrell, Dervla Kirwan and Alicja Bachleda-Curus.

Taking Woodstock Dir. Ang Lee. Starring Demetri Martin, Liev Schreiber and Emile Hirsch.

The Vintner's Luck Dir. Niki Caro. Starring Vera Farmiga, Gaspard Ulliel and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

And finally 10 films that even though they're going straght top the top of the box office and everyone at boxofficemojo is going doolally over them I will not go*.

*unless the reviews turn out to be fantastic.

Friday the 13th Dir. Marcus Nispel. Starring Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker and Derek Mears.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Dir. David Yates. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.

New Moon Dir. Chris Weitz. Starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Ashley Greene.

Star Trek Dir. J. J. Abrams. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Eric Bana.

Terminator Salvation Dir. McG. Starring Christian Bale, Anton Yelchin and Sam Worthington.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Dir. Michael Bay. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel.

2012 Dir. Roland Emmerich. Starring Amanda Peet, John Cusack and Thandie Newton.

Up Dir. Pete Docter and Bob Peterson. Starring Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai and Christopher Plummer.

Watchmen Dir. Zack Snyder. Starring Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup and Jackie Earle Haley.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Dir. Gavin Hood. Starring Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds and Liev Schreiber.

What do you think. Go on, tell me if I'm a idiot in the comments. Or just say what's going to be No. 1 and win those chocs.

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Patricia Neal


Happy Birthday to

Patricia Neal

83 today


Patricia deserves a mention for two reasons. Not only is she a superb actress; winning an oscar for her performance in Hud as well as wowing broadway for the best part of 40 years. She is also a symbol of hope and victory for people who suffer from debilitating illnesses. Patricia had a major stroke in the mid 1960's and it seemed unlikely she would ever work again. Through hard work and dedication Patricia went on to receieve a second Academy Award nomination (for The Subject was Roses) and is still working today.

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Monday, 19 January 2009

Seven Pounds


2008. Dir: Gabriele Muccino. Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy and Barry Pepper. ●●●○○

Between Bad Boys 2 and Hancock Will Smith has opened 7 films with a total US gross of $1.27bn, an average of $182m. Seven Pounds will struggle to hit $75m, his lowest tally since 2001's Ali. This film does not deserve to be the film the ends Will's $100m run, although I can understand why it will be. It is a measured and sophisticated look at the nature of love and sacrifice, it touches on how you deal with guilt and the nature of goodness, it is at heart a very bleak story with a flwaed hero. It is a film which I am glad to recommend.

The film opens with Ben Thomas (Smith) waering a "cinnamon" short sleeve shirt making a 911 call and speaking directly to camera. I won't tell you the details of this call, for fear of spoiling the effect, but we then jump back a couple of months and show how Ben got to that situation. Ultimately Ben is suffering from guilt brought on from a car crash which killed 7 people, including his wife. Ben blames himself for the crash as he was checking a text message at the time - I'm not sure that explains why so many people died (none of them appear to be wearing seatbelts in the fuzzy flashbacks, although perhaps that's how I'd feel not how Ben feels).

In order to assuage the guilt Ben is dishing out random acts of kindness to strangers that he feels deserve a better or new life, or just to ensure they live. For instance he gives his house to a battered wife and one of his kidney's to an Ice hockey coach.



Most of the story revolves around him meeting Emily Posa (Dawson) via the medium of a tax audit, the beginnings of a romantic entanglement between the two of them and finally Ben offers the greatest gift he can for her.

Will Smith gives a thoroughly committed performance of a man ripped apart by what has happened to him and unable to share his deep inner thoughts. When his brother interrupts a romantic evening between Ben and Emily and Smith tells her he no longer wants to lie to her that line reading comes so naturally and fully we all want him to open up and tell all his dark secrets. Rosario Dawson is also superb, at one moment fragile and shrunken the next deeply territorial.

The rest of the parts are grossly underwritten. Woody Harrelson's blind pianist appears to be either sanctimonious or plain stupid. And Barry Pepper, an actor who always makes the periferies of the movies he's in shine, is criminally underused - shoved into a couple of scenes to say "I'm not sure" and cry. Joe Nunez, as the motel owner, provides some well earned comic asides without which the film would have been lesser.

Gabriele Muccino's direction seems more fluid than The Pursuit of Happyness, his english language debut (I really dislike that movie) but the decision to place the 911 call at the beginning of the movie, possibly to ratchet up some will he/won't he tension only succeeds in making the film a tragedy before you know it's end.

Philippe Le Sourd (A Good Year) does a great job as DP, letting you catch things in the corners of the screen which foretell where the film is going but without becoming ominous. Especially Ben's "pet", which was gorgeously lit at all times.

At this point I would consider giving the film a 4, only I didn't agree with the actions Ben took. Berate me in the comments for this if you like but I find the judging and testing to discover whether the other characters were good was distastefull, even if you will be donating your bone marrow. After all who are we to just whether others are good, or even if the people he killed in the car crash were good. Also the final gifts were done for the wrong reasons. You have to ask whether Ben's love for Emily was strong enough for him to save her or for him to stand by her, or was he merely distracted by her from completing the goals he had already set. And I'm not sure which route would have required more love.

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20 for 2009 - Cheri

I realise that you all ar completely au fait with any bits of information I add ino my blog, and that there probably isn't a single film in my top 20 for 2009 that you aren't already salivating over (to a greater or lesser extent). However imagine my annoyance when my number 2 choice was pre-annouced by the Berlinale 09 announcement last week.

I know that the festival wants to big up it's attendees in order to get some good advance publicity, and if the delectable Michelle Pfeiffer were coming to my festival then everyone would know, but in all fairness I think they should have timed their annoucement to coincide with mine.


Doesn't she look lovely?

Cheri is based on a classic French novel by Colette, first published in 1920. It tells the story of an aging courtesan (Pfeiffer) and the death of her love affair with the incredibly handsome younger man Colette (Rupert Friend). The novel itself is beautifully written, even in translation you can see the poetry dripping off the page. The story is slow but measured as you pass from the immense happiness Lea feels when with her lover to destruction of her self esteem towards the end.



Lea is a fantastic part for Michelle Pfeiffer and one which she will be able to work wonders with. It's an especially meaty part when you consider Michelle is more or less the right age for the character, a 49 year one sleeping with a man less than half her age.

Rupert Friend will have much less to do, as the book mainly has him looking gorgeous and cruelly teasing Lea with little room for character development. He can look gorgeous in his sleep though so I expect Rupert will rise to the occasion.

This project marks the first time that Pfeiffer has teamed up with director Stepehen Frears (The Queen, Mrs. Henderson Presents) and writer Christopher Hampton since 1988's Dangerous Liaisons, also based on a historical French novel. That previous film was a big success so we can hope that lighting will be striking twice here.

Alexandre Desplat is scoring and Consolata Boyle is designing the costumes. Both of whom were oscar nommed for their work on The Queen so expect some similar high standards here.

COMPETITON TIME

Cheri is number 2 of my top twenty films in 2009. I will annouce the top film on Wednesday but until then, for a chance to win a large box of chocolates, please guess my top choice... Some clues will appear tomorrow.

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Sunday, 18 January 2009

20 for 2009 - The Soloist


The Soloist is another film on this list which I freely admit I could be mistaken in. The delay in release was concerning, especially for a film that had already issued a trailer. Not to mention it was a somewhat pedstrian trailer.

I still want to see this film though. The true story is pure academy fodder: gifted musician goes a bit crazy and ends up homeless. Sounds like Shine to me. Only with a cello, like Hillary and Jackie. Pulls it back to play at prestigious venue at the end (um, Music of the Heart). OK I'm stretching but the true mental illness hook works every time.

I also happen to believe the talent involved are on a role. Joe Wright is following up the superb Atonement with his first "American" film and Robert Downey Jnr. will likely get an Academy Award nomination on Thursday for blacking up in a Ben Stiller movie. Catherine Keener is supporting and lets face it this is probably the role Jamie Foxx was born to play.



I am also sure I am not alone in wanting to see this. Six months ago this film was the epitome of Oscar buzz. People were convinced of potential Film, Actor and Supporting actor nominations. I can understand that buzz dying because of the delays but surely these people still want to see the film.

Am I right?

Besides I started to learn to play the cello once so now i'm a sucker for cello related movies and I don't get that many opportunties to feed my addiction.

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Personal News (18/01/2009)

Only one thing to report this week.

I went up to Stoke to complete ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) for Could be Brohters, a short film I shot back in early December. It was really hard going over the dialogue, making sure I was adding in the right pauses and emphasis that I had done on the original shoot, as well as getting into the scene. The film is set in a WW2 allied radio post, not far from the German line, and we shot it in near zero temperatures so trying to sound cold was quite tough.

The director, Peter Pallister was great though and allowed me to work at my own pace and helped me get the right intonation. He's an absolute whizz with a camera and believe me in a few years time Peter Pallister will be a name to remember.

He's entering the film onto HD fest and as soon as it's up there I'll be linking it for you.

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Saturday, 17 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Angels & Demons

I'm a fairly MOR film fan. I like films with medium sized budgets with actors and directors I respect. It is therefore rare that I get interested in blockbusters. In fact as I wind down this list of top 20 films I'm looking forward to in 2009 I will name drop a few I have no interest in at all. However Angels & Demons is one blockbuster I will wait in line for.

Tom Hanks is running this way (without the mullet from The Da Vinci Code).

When The Da Vinci Code was released it didn't really work at all. The pace was bogged down by unneccesary exposition, the plot was unbareably convoluted, Tom Hanks hair was a disaster. Nevertheless it grossed over $200m in the States, more than breaking even and greenlighting Dan Brown's prequel.

Hopefully Ron Howard and his team have recognised what was wrong with the original and crafted a more exciting thriller this time round. It is a much better novel which should make for a tighter screenplay - no red herrings in the cast and you won't need a degree in the beginnings of catholocism to understand all the references. It's still hokum mind - an anti-matter bomb hidden under the vatican by a millenia old sect determined to destroy the Church - but if the pacing is good we can all forget about the bad science and wonky history.

There's a lot more inside the Vatican scenes so I'm expecting some gloroius costumes from Daniel Orlandi who had surprisingly little to work with in Da Vinci. Also returning is Hans Zimmer whose compositions accompanying the previous film were probably the only well regarded part of it.



Alongside Tom is Ayelet Zurer (Munich, Adam Resurrected), Ewan MacGregor and Stellan Skarsgård as well as a number of other international stars.

Here's the teaser trailer, in case you haven't already stumbled across it.



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Film News (17/01/2009)

The news this week has been dominated by the awards season (Golden Globes and BAFTA nominees) and to a lesser extent by the Sundance film festival which opened on Thursday. I have opinions about film awards, but I will wait until the Oscar nominations this week before I make any rash statements. Sundance sounds exciting, and there are certainly a few films showing that I have an interst in, however I'll leave it to real journalists and critics who actually go there to inform us about the atmosphere and the quality of films being shown.

Here are this weeks other highlights.

Black Hole

And so the current financial crisis and mistrust of the banking system is beginning to filter into the multiplexes. Universal have picked up the rights to Michael Gilio's Black Hole script. Alas it isn't a remake of the classic 1979 Disney sci-fi, but a gentle tale about a retired rancher who loses his savings to a telephone scam somehow related to investment banking.



Black Mass: The True story of an unholy alliance between the FBI and the Irish mob.

Just 2 days ago I was talking about how much I'm looking forward to Jim Sheridan's next project Brothers, so now he's started work on the next item on his schedule: an adaptation of the true story of Whitey Bulger, notorious FBI informant as written by pulitzer prize winning journalists Dick Lehr and Geread O'Neill. Boston, where Whitey (right) built up his criminal empire, is fast becoming the crime capital du jour, what with The Departed and the Lehane adaptations being set there.

Mother Trucker

This prison escape drama has moved into a pre-production phase. Prison escape? How boring I hear you say? Only this involves a prisoner escaping in order to see his dying mother and then stealing an 18 wheel lorry to drive across the southern states. Still disinterested? I didn't think so.

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James Earl Jones


Happy Birthday to

James Earl Jones

78 today


An incredible character actor, James Earl Jones bridges the gap in African-American stars between Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington. Early in his career he took some edgy and controversial parts (see the Great White Hope) and contiually proved himself as an actor. He is now most remembered for the voice of Darth Vadar, and his destinctive vocals are regularly used to great effect in many films.

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Friday, 16 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Duplicity

It's difficult to say why I'm interested in Duplicity, the latest from Michael Clayton director Tony Gilroy. To begin with I enjoyed the return to 70s intrigue that Gilroy evoked in his 2007 Oscar nominated picture and I thought this tale of corporate skulduggery may be in a similar line.

He assembled a fine cast - Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, reuniting for the first time since Closer, as a pair of corporate spies and Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti as their respective bosses. He brought back most of his team from his previous film including James Newton Howard, Robert Elswitt, John Gilroy and Kevin Thompson.

I'm already interested so I sat and waited for more information to come along.




The information that came was the trailer.



Suddenly this stopped being a boardroom grudge match and became a light hearted rom com with all concerned seeming to have effortless fun. And the conversation between Julia and Clive almost riffs on the scene in Closer when they split up: "Admit it you don't trust me" indeed. Paul Gimatti particularly is having a ball in his limited trailer time.

The best bit is this is the first film from my top 20 I will see. It comes out in the UK on 20 March, just 9 weeks away. Cannot wait.

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Out this week (16/01/2009)



There are 10 films out this week, but there's no real competition to my recommendation of The Wrestler. I doubt it needs any introduction from me, containing as it does one of the most hyped performances of he last 5 years - the return of Mickey Rourke. If this doesn't appeal then you could try A Christmas Tale (highly regarded French film) or Will Smith saving lives in Seven Pounds.

Beverley Hills Chihuahua

Can you imagine the pitch meeting for this film. A talking pampered chihuahua needs to get back to LA from Mexico. And someone paid for it. Saying that it has made lots of cash so someone must like it.

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



Boogie

Romanian film about a man relaxing for one last weekend of drink, drugs and prostitutes before returning to his wife and son to be a devoted husband and father. Bleakish.

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

Chandni Chowk to China

The first Bollywood film to include kung fu moves, plot based on a simple case of mistaken identity. Can't find any reviews on the net so difficult to get excited.

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

A Christmas Tale

Arnaud Desplechin's dramedy about a family christmas stars Catherine Deneuve (still looking gorgeous even when ravaged by cancer) and Matthieu Amalric. Expect long hidden secrets to be unveiled and differing tones throughout the film.

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

Clubbed

Based on a true story about a factory worker who becomes a bouncer in a hard-as-nails rave scene and writes a book about his experiences. Filmed not far from where I live.

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

Hansel and Gretel

Korean take of classic Grimm fairytale. Ptobably doesn't end happily.

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

My Bloody Valentine - 3D

People who like to watch horror films where picks fly our of the screen at you will no doubt want to watch this horror with picks flying out of the screen.

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

Seven Pounds

Box office behemoth Will Smith rejoins Gabriele Muccino (Pursuit of Happyness) for tale of remdemption and loss. Pretty lukewarm reviews but it's Will Smith and I feel I ought to keep him as the worlds box office champ.

Watch the trailer:



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

Villu

A brutal Bollywood movie with Joeseph Vijay and Nayanthara about revenge and murder. The poster, which someone doesn't reflect this plot at all, can be found here. Nice shirt.

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

The Wrestler

Masterly directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei in career rejuvenating roles this is the sort of film that must be seen.

Watch the trailer:



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

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Thursday, 15 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Brothers

Back in 2004 Susanne Bier directed a romantic drama set against the backdrop of the conflict in Afganistan, Brødre. It did pretty well, winning audience awards at Sundance and Boston, and receieving high praise for the performances by the lead trio. In the US it went on to gross just under $400k. Not bad, but nothing special.

It was enough though for some unscrupulous Hollywood producer types to think, lets adapt the story to a US setting and remake the film with a young hot American cast and make loads of money. Why not, that's been done before? You see at this point I wouldn't be interested at all. The original was OK but I found the Danish homefront scenes painfully slow and the chemistry between the brothers a little forced.

Then I saw who was involved and my opinion changed.

As the bad boy brother we have Jake Gyllenhaal, and whilst the bad boy may be a stretch, the letting him fix my kitchen, my kids and then my hormonal urges wouldn't be an issue at all.

The army brother is Tobey Maguire. It's risky casting but the darker sides Maguire showed off in The Good German may be handy here. I don't want to give the plot away but the experiences his character copes with in Afghanistan and the PTSD he suffers on his return will be plenty of an acting challenge.


As Tobey's wife and Jake's sister-in-law is Natalie Protman. I rally miss the good Natalie performances, you know Leon, Closer and that one knockout scene in Cold Mountain, but over the last 5 years she's been happy to coast in unworthy productions and maybe this is a chance of a turnaround.

All three of these actors are capable of turning this into a fantastic film, but they will all need to be working at the top of their game for the story to suceed and to me that's part of the appeal.

The screenplay has been written by David Benioff (25th Hour, The Kite Runner) and Jim Sheridan is directing. As long as Jim avoids the sentimentality he allows to creep into his productions this could be in safe hands.

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Defiance


2008. Dir: Ed Zwick. Starring: Daniel Criag, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos and Allan Corduner. ●●○○○

Last week, when I reviewed Che:Part 1, I spoke of the difficulties that are faced when distinguishing the film from the subject in biopics. Che Guevera is a hero to so many people it is virtually impossible to seperate the myth from the man, so Soderbergh and Del Toro focused on the minutea that makes Che tick rather than the broader strokes. Defiance is also based on a true story, that of the Bielski brothers who led a community of Jewish refugees in the forests of Belarus, and like Soderbergh Ed Zwick focusses on the lifestyle and hardships endured by the partisans during that first winter and spring following their escape from the Nazi's.

Unlike Che Guevera the story of the Bielski's is virtually unknown. As Zwick himself has said: "You have these chapters of history that get lost. Sometimes that's down to political agendas or because mythologies are created. Ideas and events that are contradictory to those myths often disappear. That's what's happened here. The image of European Jews going passively to their deaths is inaccurate. We hope this film corrects that view, while also exploring the specifics of the Bielski story."

We know so little about the background to the Bielski brothers going into the movie that the differing ideologies and reactions of Tuvia (Craig) and Zus (Schreiber) seem arbitrary rather than the logical conclusions based on the character motivations. Why does Tuvia carry out and tolerate acts of barbarity and torture whilst condemning Zus' desire to fight guerilla style tactics against the Nazi occupiers? Why do the brothers react in such diverse ways when confronted with the news that their respectives wives have been murdered?



The greatest crime of all about this lack of depth to the characters means that we do not care why they are reacting in the way they do. Here is a incredible piece of 20th century history neutered by the flat characterisations of the two brothers. Only Jamie Bell, as the younger brother Asael, seems to be at all plausable; ably projecting his grief at the loss of his parents and his doubt over the right path to follow.

It is hard to know who's to blame for this. Craig's performance is all over the place (much like his on-off case of thyphoid) but you can see Schreiber trying hard. You could possibly blame the writing - was enough background present in Clayton Frohman's (Under Fire, The Delinquents) early drafts? By the way you read Frohman's prevous credits correctly.

Personally I'm laying the blame squarely at Zwick's door. As a co-writer and director he seems to just want to take a background story he feels ought to be told and then tack it to a formulaic plotline complete with a love affair for every brother and an obligatory fog battle scene (see also Glory and The Last Samurai). What he doesn't seem to be able to do is transfer his enthusiasm and interest to the screen.

Not that it's all bad. Allan Corduner and Mark Feuerstein make an excellent greek chorus, even if the ultimately fate of their stereotypially bickering intellegentsia is clear early on. Eduardo Serra has a fine eye for the natural seeming light in the coniferous forests, especially in the snow.

Extra kudos goes to Trefor Proud and the Make-up team. Not only do they make a realistic and beleievable job of the malnutrition and sickness pervading the camp but they all hit on the idea that Daniel Craig's eyes look even more sexy when he's covered in mud.


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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Whatever Works


For reasons I won't go into here (although I believe it's Karma related) I don't have time to write a long missive about Whatever Works.

Suffice to say whilst I'm not looking forward to it as much as I am to seeing Vicky Cristina Barcelona it's still Woody Allen, Larry David and Eva Rachl Wood in one little package.

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Faye Dunaway


Happy Birthday to

Faye Dunaway

68 today


30 years ago Faye was on of the hottest stars in Hollywood. Coming off a fanstastic streak of films starting with Bonnie and Clyde in 1967 and running through The Thomas Crown Affair, Chinatown, Network and then is all stopped after Mommie Dearest. It seems that Hollywood just can't accept one of their own could be like her portrayal of Joan Crawford and shunned Faye because of it.

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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Nine

Number 8 on my list is Nine. Obviously I could have planned this better.

Nine is a film based on a musical, based on Fellini's which is in part based on his own feelings of directors block. With me so far? You see, the film involves a director struggling to make his next film, struggling because his recent work has been critically hailed and he doesn't want to make a bomb, and struggling because of the state of the various relationships in his life. Including those with his wife, mistress, mother and muse.

Admittedly films about filmmaking and musicals can seem a little daunting at first but is a comic gem as well as being a deeply personal look at the effects of leading a creative life and of alienation in modern society; and the Broadway adaptation ran for 729 performances and won 5 Tony's back in 1982 including best musical and best original score for Maury Yeston. Overall then this pedigree appears to be pretty good.


In the middle of this picture are a number of women complicating the life of our director. Women, eh?



It doesn't stop there mind. This does indeed sound like an interesting enough prospect but then you add the cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Kate Hudson. That's a combined 17 Academy Award nominations betwen them (6 wins). It's hard to imagine any cast coming close to that sort of pedigree.

They've been brought together under the steady hand of Rob Marshall, who scored big with the academy with Chicago in 2002 but faltered with Memoirs of a Geisha 3 years later. I suspect this is a chance to go back and prove what he can do (Rob's a choreographer by trade).

I know I'll be at the front row when it opens.

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Monday, 12 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Public Enemies

Gangsters are intensely cinematic. Gangsters from the 30's more so than anyone else. Indeed Hollywood's relationship with the 30's gangster is a fascinating account of how tastes and values have changed over the years from Scarface to Some Like it Hot to The Untouchables. Public Enemies is therefore picking up that baton and running with it into the 21st century.

The film appears to be a depression era retelling of Michael Mann's previous hit Heat, in that it will show the point of view of both the FEDs, led by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) and the notorious, most wanted trio of John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum).

We know that Mann can deliver on the action front; watch any of his crime related output to see superb examples of gunfights. He is also able to bring out incredibly subversive performances from his actors - especially from those actors taking on the criminal roles.



Johnny Depp robs a bank; with a tommy gun - love it.


The depth of the quality cast is also interesting. The four actors already mentioned will be supported by Bill Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi, Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff.

The craft angle is also likely to be fantastic. Elliott Goldenthal (The Good Thief, Frida, Interview with a Vampire) is composing the score and is already being tipped as one of the top scores to look out for in 2009. Mann has called his regular DP (prior to going all hand held digital on us) Dante Spinotti (L.A. Confidential, The Insider) and Colleen Atwood is costuming (Chicago, Sweeney Todd).

Overall I can think of very few reasons why this film wouldn't be in 2009s must sees.

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Luise Rainer


Happy Birthday to

Luise Rainer

99 today


Luise is a perfect example of how success can ruin a career. Winner of back to back oscars in 1936/7 and known to be hard work in the studio Luise found herself sidelined and difficult to cast following her critical successes, retiring from cinema less than 10 years later. She's now one of the last stars to remember the 30s and at 99 we all wish her many happy returns.

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Sunday, 11 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Love Ranch

Number 10 on my top twenty is the third (and last) film featuring Helen Mirren, and it's certainly a doozy of a part for her.

Based on true events the film follows the life of Grace (Mirren) and Charlie Botempo (Joe Pesci) following the opening of the first legal brothel in Nevada. In fact not only will the film invove lots of sex (well duh, it's a brothel) but also loads of violence as Grace embarks on an affair with a boxer/business associate Armando Bruza (Sergio Peris-Mencheta). Naturally Pesci going shcizo at his wife's infedelity should be fun to watch.


This is Pesci looking classy in his costume.



The sex and the violence are one reason to watch this, as is the exciting thought of Mirren and Pesci squareing off against each other. It also marks the first time that Mirren has worked for husband Taylor Hackford. Always an interesting concept when a director shoots his wife. Over the last couple of years we've seen Aronofsky direct Rachel Weisz in The Fountain and Sam Mendes has recently put Kate Winslet through Revolutionary Road, it's certainly a great way to see how the director views their partner.

Hopefully we'll get some great music, either from the score of James Newton Howard or some classic brothel background muzak.

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Personal News (11/01/2009)

Not much of an update here. We have a final cast member for Lifelong Yearning. Next rehearsal will probably be in couple of weeks time.

I also have the rehearsal schedule for The Bus (by Lukas Barfus). Yes, in case you were wondering this is the UK premier of Barfus' award winning play.

I was also asked to audition for a short film about Wrestlers (as a manager). Unfortunately the ilming dates are a bit difficult for me to manage so I have had to decline that one but it sounds like a really exciting project, and timely too.

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Saturday, 10 January 2009

20 for 2009 My Own Love Song


There goes the street cred.

There was a time when everyone thought Renee Zellweger was a good actress. Terrefic in Jerry Maguire and Nurse Betty. Convincing as Miss Jones and scarily thin but by no means embarrassing in Chicago. Then came the frankly dreadful oscar winning performance, you know of what I speak, and since then Renee hasn't managed to pick up a decent part. Often even get worst in show kind of reviews.

I am convinced this is temporary and furthermore this project may just show her turning a corner. In My Own Love Song she plays a disabled singer (shades of Passion Fish) who travels to Memphis with her best friend Forest Whitaker. As they make their journey the bond between them strengthens as they support each opther through the past tragedies of their lives.


I could be wrong but in my mind Renee and Forest will realise they are in love with each other and want to spend the reat of their lives together, regardless of the prejudices each of them may individually or as a couple. Interracial relationship and the treatment of the disabled are still touchy subjects in Hollywood and maybe it will take an outsider like French director Oliver Dahan (La Vie en rose) to break the silence.

Alternatively if it's a comedy (with an extremely weird premise) Kristen Gore is co-scripting and if her experience on "Futurama" shines through I'm there.

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Film News (10/01/2009)


Tintin

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost will continue to be best buddies in films as they have signed on as Thompson and Thomson in Spielberg's long awaited Tintin adaptation. This is great news. I love the comeraderie the pair have brought together in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, should be a riot to watch them bumble around together.

By the way have a look here for a fascinating article in the Times this week arguing the 80 year old Tintin might just need a good man in order to settle down.



The Way Back

I'm a big fan of Peter Weir, director of Gallipoli and The Truman Show. So when I hear his next film, about a ragtag group of soldiers escaping from a Soviet gulag, has enticed the likes of Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Jim Sturgess then you just know it will entice me.

Juliet


Following a shark like feeding frenzy at last years Frankfurt book festival (honestly I don't just make this stuff up) the rights to Anne Fortier's yet to be published novel Juliet have been bought up with the plan to release the film in 2011. It's a multistranded novel, aren't they all?, flicking between a 21st century girl learning the truth about her heritage and Romeo and Juliet. Could make for fascinating stuff, or at least some desperate casting choices.

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20 for 2009 State of Play

Life got in the way on Thursday so I wasn't able to do a 20 for 2009 so I'll be popping 2 out today. State of Play this morning and another this evening. Indeed statistically I was likely to hit another Helen Mirren film and here we go.

Admittedly we only have supporting Helen in this one but that's better than no Helen at all.

State of Play is a big screen remake of an acclaimed BBC drama series, which tragically I missed, which follows an investigative reporter looking into the mysterious death of the girlfriend/aide of a former buddy who's now rising in the ranks of politics. The mast cast is filled out by Russell Crowe as the journalist and Ben Affleck as the congressman, although they were both called in to replace the rather more exciting duo of Brad Pitt and Ed Norton.

Here's the trailer:





OK, the trailer is slightly pedestrian, but I think this is just a bad cut. The pedigree is excellent. The script has been worked on by Tony Gilroy, of the Bourne trilogy, and Billy Ray who wrote and directed Shattered Glass.

Also the supporting cast is interesting. Joining Helen Mirren is Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis and Jeff Daniels.

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Friday, 9 January 2009

Out this week (09/01/2009)




Toughie this week as two films draw on 6 coloured blobs. If you're in a mood to watch Jews killing Nazis then Defiance may be the one for you this weekend. I'm drawn that way, but only because I've already seen the incredible Slumdog Millionaire. I doubt Defiance will better Slumdog so see that and weep like a baby at the end of the feel good film of the year.

Bride Wars

Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson slum it in this tosh about two best friends whose weddings clash. Or at least Anne is slumming for Kate this is bread and butter work now.

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



Defiance

Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell are brothers. Damn, that's good genes. (Although I'm not sure that's an appropriate response to a holocaust movie)

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

Hannah takes the Stairs

The film that encompasses all the ideas of mumblecore - digital filming, low budget, using your mates, improvised dialogue, poor sound quality, virtually no audience.

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

Role Models

Starring Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd as the last men in the world to be selected as McLovin's role models this is the comedy the guys will watch whilst the girls see Bride Wars and I see something else.

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

Sex Drive

Unless that is the guys gop to see this teen road movie with an internet romance at it's core. Better trailer than synopsis.

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

Slumdog Millionaire

Coming out of nowhere, or Toronto really, this gem of a movie from Danny Boyle is possibly going to take this years Best Picture Oscar. I saw it on Monday and it's flippin' fantastic.

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

Stuck

Did you wonder what happened to Mena Suvari? Well here she is finding that when you run someone over your fate is linked with theirs... Am I the only person not surprised by that?

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

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20 for 2009 The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

What do you do if mid way through production your lead actor dies prematurely?

Some people would close the production as a mark of respect, others would use a body double or CGI to finish the part, if your Terry Gilliam (no stranger to troubled shoots) you call in Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to play different versions of the same character in parrallel realities.

And he might just pull it off.



This is certainly an odd film to envision. The plot, pure Gilliam, involves immortal travelling entertainers, virginal beauties and the Devil himself.



I think it is safe to say that the only reason I want to see this film is to witness Heath Ledger's last performance. This truly great actor, whose passing just under a year ago was both shocking and saddening for all, has had a tremendous swansong in The Dark Knight. That enormous performance will likely win him a posthumus oscar next month. With The Imaginarium we will see another aspect of what cinema has lost.

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Imelda Staunton


Happy Birthday to

Imelda Staunton

53 today


A beautifully comic actress who stormed the awards circuit 3 years ago as the eponymous abortionist in Mike Leigh's Vera Drake. Look out for her in the forthcoming Taking Woodstock.

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Thursday, 8 January 2009

Ron Moody


Happy Birthday to

Ron Moody

85 today


Ron belongs to that generation of broadway stars who transferred their hit performance to the screen and then were forever associated with that role, in his case Fagin in Oliver! It's a good performance but don't you ever wonder how good an actor he could have been if he didn't have that partiocular millstone around his neck?

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Run Training Day 4

Hopelessly bad this morning. Should have stayed in bed - I'm sure I'd have gone faster if I did.

4.9 km in 31 minutes, or 9.6 kmph. A long long way to go.

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Wednesday, 7 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Where the Wild Things Are



After a couple of days of "oh, really" here's a film I'm sure every geek in the world is excited about. Where the Wild things are is based on Maurice Sendak's classic chrildrens novel about a the wild things sprouting from a boys imagination.

Quick confession: I've never actually read the book. I'm not too old for it to have been in bookshelves when I was a boy but maybe I'm just too British with my hungry caterpillar. Anyway I have certainly seen it around and I know many of my neices and nephews are fans.

Not that I might be taking them to this - the rumours of children bursting into tears during test screenings and 60mph winds closing filming - I'm certainly going to check it out.

I think the reason I'm so stoked about this one is the potential for darkness and subversion in what boils down to a children's fable. Let's face it the film unites the incendiary directorial talent of Spike Jonze, Dave Eggars (once described as Generation X's J.D. Salinger) co-scripting and Jonze's regular production designer K.K.Barrett.

For the sheer weidness of this combination it has to be seen.

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Nicolas Cage


Happy Birthday to

Nicolas Cage

45 today


I'm never too sure if I like Nic Cage as an actor; after all we know from Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation that he can act when he puts his mind to it, yet his output still slants towards garbage like Bangkok Dangerous. Couple of good ones coming mind, might even go and see him in The Riot.

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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Crossing Over


Delays in release dates are so tricky to figure out. For every Assasination of Jesse James you get a Southland Tales. So it is with some trepidation that Crossing Over makes it to number 15 on my films to look forward to in 2009.

Originally slated to come out last summer it shifted back to the Oscar season and then was moved all the way into August 2009. August also doesn't bode well - the late summer dumping ground is often devoid of trips to the cinema. Mind you Distribution is being handled by the Weinstein company so quite frankly anything goes.

There are some great actors involved with Crossing Over. Ray Liotta being sleazy, Jim Sturgess being cuckolded, Alice Braga being deported and Sean Penn cameoing. Although topping all of these is Harrison Ford.



Ford doesn't do nearly as many good films as his early career indicated. In the late seventies/early eighties he worked with Spielberg (famously), Peter Weir and Francis Ford Coppola. Over the last 10 years though he's been content to coast in mediocre thrillers and the fourth best Indiana Jones film. I can see Crossing Over as a real opportunity for him to remind all how good an actor he is.

Crossing Over is directed by Wayne Kramer. His biggest success was The Cooler back in 2003, although I'm also a big fan of Running Scared - an undercover cop in over his head flick that was both stylish and tense, and also made me relaise that Paul Walker isn't just a sexy coathanger.

The intercutting stories of Crossing Over may feel like a immigration based rehash of Traffic or Syriana, but it's actually based on Kramers own short film from 1999.

Enough of me though. Here's the trailer. What do you think?



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Run Training Day 2

I know the whole Marathon thing has been rather kicked to touch - what with not getting a place and whatnot - however I do wnat to return to the training. Jogging can't be bad for me anyway.

So today I nipped out for a quick 31 minutes over 5.2 km. Or 10.1 kmph.

I will carry on the training in earnest and hopefully by the end of the year I'll be able to manage 11 kmph over a much longer distance.

Here's to an optimistic future.

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Rinko Kikuchi


Happy Birthday to

Rinko Kikuchi

28 today


Rinko first burst onto our screens as death mute Cheiko in Babel, and immediately stole the film from Brad and Cate. She has plenty of intresting projects coming up, including the Japanese remake of Sideways, so I'm sure we'll be keeping an eye on her.

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Monday, 5 January 2009

20 for 2009 - Hachiko: A Dog's Story

I am a dog person.

No two ways about it. Love dogs, hate cats. And love films about dogs.

So when I hear there's a new film about a dog and his extraordinary bond with it's owner I'm there. Same as I will be for Marley and Me.

Bear with me though as Hachiko isn't your average doggie tale, it's based on a true and unforgettable story.


A Staue of the real Hachiko in Tokyo.


Hachiko was born in Japan in 1923 and was first brought to Tokyo in 1924. He and his owner were inseparable friends right from the start. Each day "Hachi" would accompany his owner, a professor at the Imperial University, to the train station when he left for work. Upon returning, the professor would find the dog patiently waiting, tail wagging. This happy routine continued until one fateful day in 1925, when the professor was taken ill on the job and unfortunately died before he could return home.

Despite the fact that Hachiko was less than two years old at the time, the bond between dog and owner was strong. Hachiko continued to wait each day at Shibuya station for a friend who was never coming back. At times, he wouldn't return home for days at a stretch.

The Akita became a familiar sight to commuters as he kept his vigil for over ten years. On March 8, 1935, Hachiko finally went to meet his master. He died on the very same spot he last saw his friend alive.

The film is being directed by Lasse Hallstrom, no stranger to the kind of four hanky epics like this and stars Joan Allen and Richard Gere. Whether this means Gere will be dead after the first half of the movie remains to be seen but I wouldn't be surprised. Either way I'm there.

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