Monday, 30 November 2009

Amy Ryan


Happy Birthday to

Amy Ryan

40 today


After years of playing major parts in Broadway and minor roles in films Amy was finally given some credit for her slutty mother in Gone, Baby Gone. Since then she's been cherry picking worthy projects - going for quality rather than big pay packets. I expect she'll be turning up in a lot more great releases in the future.

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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Diane Ladd


Happy Birthday to

Diane Ladd

77 today


I wasn't sure about celebrating Diane's birthday, until I came across this fantastic screen grab from Wild at Heart. Utterly barmy.

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Saturday, 28 November 2009

Ed Harris


Happy Birthday to

Ed Harris

59 today


Multi-hyphenate Harris adds a touch of gritty realism to all the projects he's involved with, thanks to his thorough and grounded performances. On his forthcoming slate of movies I'm most excited by his second collaboration with Peter Weir in The Way Back.

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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Tuesday Trailers - It's Complicated

I'm starting the January trailers early as, at time of writing (yeah I'm still on tour) there are already 5 films coming out in Januray that i want to see and I expect that number to go up. Meryl Streep in a romantic comedy is coming out first. It's an odd looking picture. Even the trailer makes it seem too long, however I'm sure Meryl's having a blast so I'm looking forward to enjoying myself with her.



It's Complicated opens on 08 January 2010.

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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Mariel Hemingway


Happy Birthday to

Mariel Hemingway

48 today


Mariel won the heart of Woody Allen and just about everyone in the audience in 1978's Manhattan, but has been pretty absent from cinema since then. Rumours of her involvement with the biopic of her grandfather go around from time to time - maybe it's due to actually happen now.

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Friday, 20 November 2009

Out this week (20/11/09)

Quite a tough choice this week with a few films looking reasonably interesting. There's only one film that's going to come close to the top of the charts but for me it's the Coen brothers that will get me into the cinema.



The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

French comedy that follows a family over 12 years revisiting them on five days that shape the history and relationships within the family unit. It's an interesting concept, but with no names I'm reticent about recommending it.

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


Glorious 39

Stephen Poliakoff has spent many years producing glossy British TV adaptations of little known historical events, and has met many great contacts. They all turn up here, but let's be honest this gothic melodrama set on the eve of the second World War is only interesting for it's cast list.

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

The Informant!

Steven Soderbergh's third release of 2009, with one more coming later in the year, is a satirical look at the whistleblowing career of Mark Whitaker, as played by a chubby Matt Damon. If I can make it to the cinema twice this week this will be seen.

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

Kurbaan

Bollywood thriller about a teacher who falls in love only to find her beau is not all he seems to be - and then is dragged into a spiral of danger and intrigue. Sounds like most teachers to me.

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

Machan

Umberto Pasolini is a fascintating film producer with The Full Monty and Palookaville in his back catalogue, however his latest project raelly tops the biscuit - based on the true story of the Sri Lankan Handball team which blagged a tour of Germay in spite of most of the team never having heard of handball, and then they disappeared...

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

Sea Wall

French guilt about the independence and subsequent war in Vietnam has been well served in cinema yet reappears in the simple parallels between a plantation owning mother dealing with her children's break for independence. Starring Isabelle Huppert and Gaspiel Ulliel.

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

A Serious Man

The Coen brothers have returned with wahta is being alternatively described as their most personal and most inaccessible film to date. Set in a Minnesotan Jewish community, following the titular family man seeking advice from the Rabbis a working knowledge of Yiddish seems to be a prerequisite.

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

Southern Softies

The second of a series of films by comic Graham Feellows as 'Jilted' John Shuttleworth, no, I can't remeber the first either. Described as hilarious by his own press release.

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

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

It's broken records for pre-release sales, it's got screaming teenage fans throughout the Western World, it's a thinly veiled propanganda piece about the abstinence movement as pushed by the Christian right. Hardly seems worth saying any more. Except there are many buff actors wandering around shirtless so let's watch it with as much irony as we can.

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

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Estelle Parsons


Happy Birthday to

Estelle Parsons

82 today


There was a point when the screechy Estelle was a force to be reckoned with. These days she's taking life easier, but still finding the time to help Al Pacino with his Salome documentary.

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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Jodie Foster


Happy Birthday to

Jodie Foster

47 today


I almost thought about holding off and not celebrating Jodie's birthday on the grounds she's probably a Lesbian but hasn't officially come out. Then again I love her too much. Bless you Jodie whichever side of the bed you lie.

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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Brenda Vaccaro


Happy Birthday to

Brenda Vaccaro

70 today


Am I the only person who thinks Brenda post coital (ish) scene in Midnight Cowboy was the highlight of the film? Feel free to make some comments of your own.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Tuesday Trailers - Avatar

Another major December release - one which we've been waiting for for at least 5 years - is James Cameron's latest non-documentary. No doubt you've seen all the hype. I never made it to "Avatar day" at the IMAX, but those who did have stated that the technology has blown them away, and that Cameron has re-invented cinema. Whether that's true remains to be seen. The bizarre thing is that this trailer isn't that great. Maybe the impact of the film can only be seen on 3D, and until then I just won't get it. What do you think?



Avatar is released on 18 December 2009.

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Monday, 16 November 2009

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

2009. Dir: Terry Gilliam. Starring: Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Andrew Garfield, Heath Ledger and friends. ●●●○○



If you were to brainstorm words associated with the back catalogue of Terry Gilliam then you would almost certainly perfectly describe his latest piece. Indeed The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a typical example of both the positive and negative aspects of the former Python's oeuvre.

Creative - Inside the titular doctor's travelling show, and it's portal to another dimension there is a unique and beautifully crafted world where anything that can be conceived is not just attainable but perfectly logical. Indeed the entire basis of the plot, where the souls of mankind are fought over by making people choose the end to their story whichever way they feel necessary.


Half baked Yes Terry has this fantastic concept, but he can't think of enough of a story to hang it on - or at lest make a decision to stick with a particular story - is it the wager with the devil we are concerned with, or Valentina's coming of age, or the origins of Heath Ledger's anmesiac stranger?

Cast Great actors Like the venerable Christopher Plummer in the lead, or taking risks withs model Lily Cole and gravelly voiced singer Tom Waits. Even to tragic loss of Heath Ledger, and the subsequently rewriting of the fantasy scenes to introduce multiple actors (Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) to play alternative Tony's seems utterly organic.

Forget to direct the actors unfortunatly there is little point in being creative in casting if you allow the stars to coast (yes Johnny I'm looking at you), give them nothing to do (Plummer's the lead role but so very one note) or allow free reign (I don't wish to speak ill of the dead but Heath is just plain bad in this). Andrew Garfield is a real find though.

Excellent production design as ever there are some memorable and disturbing images, especially from the dreamscapes and from the inside of the caravan. Anastasia Masaro has a lot to be proud of.

Allow the images to dictate the story dancing policemen in stocking a suspenders may work in a late 60's sketch show, but unless it's forwarding the plot it comes across as indulgent.

When we combine all these elements it's not hard to see how the entire film can be described as classic Gilliam. It's like painting with your neice - enjoyable and fun
whilst you're doing it, but ultimatley messy and forgettable.

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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sam Waterston


Happy Birthday to

Sam Waterston

69 today


Sam must be saying cheese in this snap. He's another actor who found his place on TV. I can only imagine it's a better experience than Le Divorce, anyway.

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Saturday, 14 November 2009

Film News (14/11/09)

When I last caught up with the news two weeks ago, I was utterly humbled by the sheer scale of the data available. In the end I had to make difficult decisons about what to run with - effectively excluding all casting news on the basis we already had the basics of the story. In a complete reversal over the last fortnight there have been just 3 stories that I have any interest in, and two of those are updates for previous headliners.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud



It's unbelievable that I'm leading with a remake of a seventies B-movie thriller, after all the original had little to commend it and generally this sort of project would gravtate to the dregs of the studio system. Only something about the concept is interesting enough to reunite David Fincher with his Seven writer, Andrew Kevin Walker, for a new adaptation of the Max Ehlrich novel. In the novel Proud is trying to prove not only that he is reincarnated but also to solve the mystery of who killed his previous form so that justice can be done.



Black Swan

The cast of Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming ballerina in peril movie has just begun to get really exciting. Joining the previously announced Natalie Portman will be Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder and the adorable Vincent Cassel. Now if that doesn't give you thre really good reasons to see the film then I don't know what you want.

The Descendents

I think it's safe to say I'm a big fan of George Clooney, his last 2 films have both reached the dizzy height of the Runs Like a Gay film of the week - no mean feat I can assure you. So when I hear he had been cast as the lead in Alexander Payne's next film about a soon to be widower tracking down his wife's lover as she lies in a come then I knew I'd be even more on board.

Here's a pic of gorgeous George to celebrate:



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Friday, 13 November 2009

Out this week (13/11/09)

Oh, the rigors of touring continue with virtually no respite or opportunity to use a computer - except for this evening (night before the 13th, where I shall have to do some catching up. I have amended last weeks scores for the now reviewed films but only in the comments - not that The Men who Stare at Goats remained the recommended film of the week. I did miss 3 (yes that's 3) releases from the sub-continent which I've included this week for the sake of completeness, but none of them are ticking my fancy. This weeks film to watch is a tough question to ask, many of the releases look like high quality product but it's Taking Woodstock by a minor acid trip.



Amelia

The Amelia Earhart story has fascinated filmmakers for over 70 years - the woman who broke conventions to become a pilot and achieve notoriety in her lifetime for a laissez faire attitude and then a tragic final chapter. This latest version has Oscar written all over it, even if it looks like it may have missed it's target.

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


Cold Souls

Existential and angsty - it's a comedy about taking your soul into storage if it's getting too much for you. Starring Paul Giamatti as Paul Giamatti and with a cracking supporting cast - could be brilliant.

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

Harry Brown

Would Get Carter by any other name still be as good? Michal Caine is about to find out in this OAP takes on hoodies vigilante picture. I suspect this movie is a damaging as last weeks 1 day, but as it has Sir Maurice in the lead we'll give it some slack.

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

Heer Ranjha

Oft told Indian legend about 2 lovers destined to meet each other and be together in this lifetime or the next. I know I should be positive as the story isn't even vaguely knocked off Hollywood, however there's so many films out this week and some must do badly on my scores...

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

Lala Pipo

Wacky Japanese comedy about the sex lives of a "lotta People" in Tokyo. Director Masayuki Miyano cleverly interweaves stories about the lost, desperate, horny and repressed - PR notes not my words. Reviews aren't damning.

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

The Magic Hour

It's clearly a key week for Jaapanese comedies with 2 being released. This second one is set in the seedy world of underground casinos and burlesque dancers, like an Oriental Bugsy Malone but with adults and no splurge guns.

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

Pyaar Impossible

Unofficially a Hindi remake of Notting Hill. It's like they actually don't want people to go and see it.

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

Taking Woodstock

Compared to some of the other films released this week Ang Lee's latest has not had terribly glowing reviews - in fact since it's Cannes debut earlier this year the movie has been regulary referred to as lightweight. Still it's a gay cominh out story agianst the backdrop of the biggest music festival of the flower power generation. I'm so very there.

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

Tulpan

Kazakh cinema has had to expand exponentially since 2005's Borat spoof, partly to disprove any notions that he was a real character. Fortunately there is an enormous amount of talent and quality product coming. This comedy about a potential bride groom with big ears won un certain regard at Cannes in 2008.

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

Tum Mile

It's another Bollywood film about star-crossed lovers. Naturally they haven't been together for 8 years then meet up unexpectedly during the Mumbai floods. Probably ends up well for them, if not so well for hordes of extras.

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

2012

Roland Emmerich is back again to destroy major tourist attractions and put lesser known character actors in extreme jeopardy. This time he's destroying all of civilisation, which seems like a pretty big deal.

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

The White Ribbon

Director Michael Haneke is a true auteur, one whose films have both a clearly identifiable style as well as a streak of extreme meanness. His latest has passionate support from the Palme D'Or as well as the German entry for this years foreign language Oscar race. The film concerns the seeds of fascism being sown as German slip inexorably towards the first Great war.

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

So last week I missed the release of

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani ●●●○○○○○○○, Harishchandra Chi Factory ●●●●○○○○○○ and Jail ●●●○○○○○○○.

I'm feeling kinda sorry for these releases because I missed them out last week, but also because they've actually been reviewed around the net and I'm liking what I read. They are, respectively, a romantic comedy, an account of the birth of the Indian film industry and realistic look at the justice system and the prisons.

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Soloist

2009. Dir: Joe Wright. Starring: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener, Tom Hollander and Lisa Gay Hamilton. ●●○○○



After a couple of false starts - one cancelled night out and a trip to see Dorian Gray - I managed to persuade the rest of the cast to see The Soloist. With the benefit of hindsight I wish I hadn't bothered. It's not that it's a bad film, not really really bad, indeed there is much to commend it. More than that it's deeply disappointing, the combination of talent should havr combined to a much greater whole than witnessed here.



The film charts the relationship between Steve Lopez - columnist for the L.A. Times - and Nathaniel Ayers former Julliard prodigy now homeless and, possibly, pyschizophrenic played by Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx respectively. In the main the film plays from Lopez's perspective as he builds the story from a chance encounter during lunch break and realises that the adoration he inspires in Ayers is a front for deeper personal and societal problems. It is Lopez's story in that he is the character we follow home to his raccoon infestation and failed marriage. Occasionally we get extended flashbacks to Ayer's youth or bizarre glimpses into his subconcious.

Strangely this concept felt like the best way of adapting this story - tellingly Lopez is a columnist not a journalist - he is his own story. This distances Foxx's character to such an extent that we feel short changed on his performance and when Wright looks at his mental processes creatively (such as an extended light display during a concert rehearsal) it seems like only half the story; like the creative team didn't have the courage to finish what they started.

This confused tone is symptomatic of the issues I had with this movie. Both Donwey Jr. and Foxx are clearly putting in terrific performances but their either too smug or held at arms length to such an extent that I felt nothing for them.

Technically the film was merely proficient, but I would like to commend Jacqueline Durrand's costuming (Atonement, Vera Drake), especially for Foxx's variety of idiosyncratic regalia which must have been both a nightmare to organise, as well as being a pleasureable challenge.

Ultimately less than the sum of it's parts my overall impression was that all concerned could and should do so much better.

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Anne Hathaway


Happy Birthday to

Anne Hathaway

27 today


Anne has a lot to prove in 2010. After her Oscar nod for Rachel Getting Married last year the next couple of films - the excreable Bride Wars, straight to video Passengers - were a major disappointment. Coming up are romantic ensemble piece Valentine's Day, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (pictured) and a second pairing with jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs. If she doesn't knock it out of the park in at least the thrid one I'll be transferring my affections elsewhere.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Leonardo DiCaprio


Happy Birthday to

Leonardo DiCaprio

35 today


As a man and as I actor Leo just keeps on getting better. In 2010 he has 2 films coming out which should both be massive box office releases. I'll be queueing up to see both Shutter Island and Inception.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tuesday Trailers - Where the Wild Things Are

When this trailer was first released earlier this year it had an enormous impact over the net. Frankly the chatter seemed disproportionate to the type of film it is - the buzz was more like a comic book release. To be fair it deserves it. The editing and choice of soundtrack is fantastic enough to really get you salivating about the movie. Just watch and enjoy.



Where the Wild Things Are is released on 11 December 2009.

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Sunday, 8 November 2009

Alfre Woodard


Happy Birthday to

Alfre Woodard

57 today


I'm beginning to look like more of a TV afficionado than a movie geek based on the birthdays I've been celebrating recently, but like Sally and Toni I fully expect Alfre to make a big screen comeback and amaze us all. And I son't mean Tyler Perry films, either.

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Friday, 6 November 2009

Out This Week (06/11/09)

So I'm writing this in advance, which means that, to a certain extent, I'm making up the scores for the excitometer. That is to say some (or a large measure) of excitement is based on the reviews coming out for a film. Not that I always expect to see reviews - it's extremely rare that a Bollywood film will be previewed in the main film press hence they mostly score poorly on the anticipation stakes - however when the biggest release has yet to be screened I usually wait. Saying that unless Zemeckis' latest received "masterpiece" commentary the film of the week will still be Men who stare at Goats.

Photos of goats if I get the opportunity...

Bright Star

Lauded Keats biopic from Jane Campion, director of The Piano and Portrait of a Lady. Trailer indicates the film is very pretty to look at and may contain scenes of excessive eye gazing. Is unlikely to introduce hordes of unititiated teenagers to the poets work.

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



A Christmas Carol

Provisionally coming in at 4 blobs of excitement I wouldn't be surprised if this motion capture film starring Jim Carrey moves up against the competition. Although quite why you'd want to motion capture the infamously rubber faced star is beyond me.

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

The Fourth Kind

Another provisional score - but one I don't expect to change when the reviews are available. Genre bias certainly, but lets face it a horror with Milla Jovovich can't be everyone's cup of tea.

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

Jennifer's Body

Or, What Diablo Cody did next. Maybe the horror conventions mixed with Cody's hipper than though writing might of worked if this film didn't focus on sexy starlets Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. Or maybe a film with vampy leads will always be doomed to failure.

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

Men who stare at Goats

Grant Heslov may have changed to tone of this true story about a psych ops CIA team, with mind bending skills such as staring goats to death and walking through walls, from astonished disbelief to wacky comedy but the trailer looks hilarious, and at least it will bring more people to this amazingly unreported element of the history of the US armed forces.

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

1 Day

This film has been virtually banned in Birmingham. Apparently the police and council have been trying to persuade local cinema managers to veto the film because of it's glorification of Brummie gang violence and it's crime does pay message. They should try to ban it because it's chock full of amateur performances and inexplicable r 'n' b musical interludes.

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

Paper Heart

Documentary from Charlyne Yi, which exlores the nature of love, as well as pushing boundaries in the documentary form. For instance the relationship between Yi and Michael Cera which forms the catalyst for the investigation appears to be purely for the cameras.

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

Welcome

Phillippe Loiret's refugee drama about a Kurdish boy from Iraq making his way across Europe only to find the British Channel too much of a hurdle. Should go down well with Daily Mail readers.

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

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Sally Field


Happy Birthday to

Sally Field

63 today


I like her, I really like her. Not sure what's next up, but lets hope Steven Spielberg gets his Lincoln film rolling as soon as possible so we can see Field back on the big screen as his supportive wife.

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Thursday, 5 November 2009

Sam Shepard


Happy Birthday to

Sam Shepard

66 today


Sam has never been very prolific, prefering to spend as much time writing as starring in major cinema releases, so when he does grace the screens he's usually worth watching. Next up is Brothers for Jim Sheridan, as Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal alcoholic father.

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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Tuesday Trailers - The Girlfriend Experience

One of the most unlikely films I want to catch this year is Steven Soderbergh's virtual fly on the wall piece about high class hookers with no discernible story and no titilation. Nevertheless Soderbergh's film has garnered fantastic reviews when it opened in the States earlier this year, and the prospect of seeing it with someone I f**k is just delicious.



The Girlfriend Experience opens on 04 December 2009.

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Sunday, 1 November 2009

Toni Collette


Happy Birthday to

Toni Collette

37 today


Toni's doing very well on TV right now, with United States of Tara as both a critical and commercial success. Maybe it's the only place she'll have the opportunity to really stretch her acting muscles, but I do miss her.

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