Thursday, 31 March 2011

Christopher Walken


Happy Birthday to

Christopher Walken

68 today


Quirky, unpredicatable and unique Walken is a tough performer to cast (even though he's proved his versatility on numerous occasions) maybe his legacy in modern cinema is too tied to a game of Russian Roulette. Lots of work on, but nothing that's screaming out to be watched.

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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Eagle

2011. Dir: Kevin MacDonald. Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong and Tahar Rahim. ●●○○○



As I begin to write this I'm listening to an interview with The Eagle director Kevin MacDonald on BBC Radio 4. He has talked about the themes of honour and fear of unknown cultures and consequent mistrust, he speaks about the necessary homoeroticism in Roman era film-making and the parallels between the Empire and modern geopolitical realities. All of which sounds fascinating however casting my mind back to the movie I saw just a few days ago I can't remember any of that which indicates how much I feel this production missed it's mark.



Channing Tatum (not bad - but I still believe his future is in comedy) is Marcus Aquila, the newly appointed Centurion of a Roman outpost in Briton, and the son of the commander Falvius Aquilla who twenty years earlier had disappeared with the Ninth Legion (as well as the titular golden eagle standard) in the wilds of Scotland embarassing the Emperor Hadrian and leading directly to the building of the wall in Northern Briton. After a brutal and heroic opening battle against a marauding druid Tatum is invalided out with honours and left in the care of his uncle Donald Sutherland where he saves the life of slave Esca (Jamie Bell). Before long the odd couple of Tatum and Bell are off on a quest to recapture the Eagle from the Seal People, partly led by Tahar Rahim as the Seal Prince.

Based on Rosemary Sutcliffe's 1954 childrens novel "The Eagle of the Ninth" (it's inexplicable lost part of it's title) you can see how the boy's own battle scenes - including a fantastic "Form a Testudo" moment - and the cross cultural friendship that develops between the leads would appeal to a 12 year old, unfortunatley that's not enough to fill an entire movie. The endless wandering through the wilds of Scotland (whilst forming a lovely visitors guide to the Highlands as filmed by Anthony Dod Mantle) seems to drag unnecessarily with the politics behind Tatum's decision to head north glossed over to make it almost like a dare.

Partly this is down to the inadequate performances from the leads. Tatum is cast well, looking like a fish out of water throughout the piece, but adds nothing to the character. Bell on the other hand is hopeless, from the moment the Eagle is first mentioned he maintains a stoically irritated expression which conveys no emotion or connection to his surroundings - when his loyalty is tested we don't doubt the sincerity of his early dedication to Tatum given he's barely registered any events since then.

The only quality performance is given by Tahar Rahim, speaking entirely in the geallic language made up for the British natives, showing a dignity and determination that seems to be missing in the central couple. Although given he's the de facto leader of the mythically gifted Seal People (who run faster than horses and give no quarter in battle) it's hard not to respect his presence.

The major issue though is the writing. Jeremy Brock's screenplay spends so much time talking about the prejudices of the characters and the difference between loyalty to a person against loyalty to an ideal that I became desensitised to those themes. Ultimately film is a visual medium and this movie seemed far too keen to tell us what it was about and not brave enough to show it. Even the casting parallels to the modern world (all the Romans are played by Americans, all the Briton's by Brits except for Rahim with French-Arabic ethnicity) aren't used to say anything within the movie.

Although the final insult was saved for the last scene, almost an epilogue, showing Tatum and Bell delivering the Eagle to the local Trivimulate. Cheesy and paving the way for a sequel it seemed tagged on and completely out of keeping with the tone and content of the previous two hours.

All in all this is probably worth catching if you are a pre-pubescent interested in the History of Rome, but not if you're looking for a film for grown-ups.

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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Thor

The last trailer I want to show this month brings us right into the blockbuster season for 2011. Oddly this doesn't look like a great season, I know I'm going to see fewer of the big hitters this year than in previous summers. And yet, in spite of the dodgy CGI in this trailer and my ignorance of the surce material, this is one that I do want to catch. Maybe it's because Black Swan got me completely hooked on love interest Natalie Portman - or maybe it's because Chris Hemsworth has fascinating pecs!



Thor is released on 29 April 2011.

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Monday, 28 March 2011

Running (27/03/11)

The good news is that although my distance has increased significantly this week the pace hasn't slowed as much as I might have feared so all the training must be doing some good.

5 runs
22.6 miles
3 hours 27 minutes

So that's an average speed of 6.57 mph

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Dianne Wiest


Happy Birthday to

Dianne Wiest

63 today


I had mixed feelings towards Dianne's performance in Rabbit Hole. Whilst I could appreciate the technical skill the character seemed to have wandered in from another movie, with little connection to Nicole Kidamn as her daughter. That said there are lots of opportunities for Ms Wiest to turn be back into a supporter - over the next couple of yeasr she'll appear in twitching comedy Big Year, shaggy dog-tale Darling Companion and family drama The Odd life of Timothy Green.

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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Shadows of a giant (Film News - 26/03/11)

Whatever you were doing this week, whatever our connection to the entertainment business it probably didn't take long to hear about the long-expected but nevertheless shocking news that Elizabeth Taylor passed away. Whilst she isn't the last remaining icon of her time (Lauren Bacall and Olivia de Havilland immediately spring to mind) it's fair to say Liz, her talent, her marriages and her penchant for jewellery shone brighter than most. She'll be terribly missed, so it's only appropriate that the story I'm leading with this week relates to her:

Cleopatra

Anjelina Jolie's attempts to take the role of Egypt's most famous queen look to be back on track with David Fincher becoming the next big name director attached to the project (remember James Cameron was listed at one point). It's a performance that will inevitable provide a centrepiece of Anjelina's career and will lead to comparisons with Liz Taylor and the 1963 extravaganza that may make or break her going forward. One hopes it won't sink anyone around the production - making desert Kingdoms has destroyed studios on a number of occasions.


The toughest act to follow.

Of course this latest rumour is dependent on what Fincher's decides his next project will be. He's already prepping 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and it's possible he'll want to follow up the forthcoming Steig Larsson adaptation The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with The Girl who Kicked it's Hornet's Nest it's literary sequel.

Read on for little known history, frightening sex and the return of Arnie? As well as the latest casting stories and this months round up of release schedule changes.



Hyde Park on Hudson

The King's Speech has opened the floodgates to early 20th Century British Royalty related movies with this chronicle of the first state visit to the United States and the complex marital stresses Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) was having at the time - including his affair with cousin Daisy. Doubtless this mix of scandal and crowns will bring in the crowd, but I expect Film4 (who are funding the picture) will be mightily disappointed if it doesn't pick up any gold baldies. Roger Michell is currently attached to direct, which probably means his potential involvement with George Orwell adaptation Burmese Days is no longer happening.

Nymphomaniac/Dirt in Bedsores

Lars von Trier likes to make jokes, you could say his entire film-making career has been one practical joke after another, so take this with a pinch of salt, but the Danish Director has revealed he's torn between those two titles (two separate projects) as his next movie but it's likely to be The Nymphomaniac, a tale of a woman's erotic awakening. Given that von Trier's previously stated he'd like to make a full-on pornographic movie expect it to be pretty difficult to watch and not one to take our mother to.

True Lies 2

Arnold Schwarzeneggar is clearly at a loss of what to do now he's an ex-Governator, so naturally the prospect of returning to cinema is appealing to the 63 year old Austrian Oak. Recently he's been tweeting about a potentially follow up to his 1994 spy romp and been gallivanting round Brazil with old chum James Cameron so it's perfectly logical for the Internet to connect the dots between these events and start salivating over the possibility of a renewed team-up between these cinematic titans. I doubt any of it's true, but it's nice to dream, isn't it?



Who wouldn't want to see these two reunited?

Casting News

There have been some unsurprising rumblings from casting directors over the last week with some high profile movies getting some fascinating additions. The Coen-penned Gambit has gained Alan Rickman and Tom Courtenay in major supporting roles which is definitely a bonus, whilst limousine based Cosmopolis has picked up Samantha Morton - I have no idea how the whole cast will fit in the one car. With the news that Jennifer Lawrence is playing the Hunger Games the race is on to replace her in The Savages: Olivia Wilde is the bookies favourite but we do now know that she'll be joining Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as the pot smoking leads and Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek as the cartel bosses out to kill them (probably because they're the only Latin American Actors famous enough to draw a not Latino crowd).

Release Dates

We have been overwhelmed with new and revised release dates this month, with a big surprise as well as a couple of the most anticipated movies of the year getting their dates.

The Messenger - Shockingly delayed release for Oscar nominated drama (from over a year ago) following Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson as members of the Casualty Notification Team. Prepare for bad news on 20 May 2011.

Win Win - High School Wrestling features in this low key drama that wowed at Sundance and followed with a solid limited US release, now competing against the above. Take down your opponent on 20 May 2011.

Princesse de Montpensier - French historic drama (you see, I am trying to see more foreign language movies) following an affair that split across religious boundaries in 16th Century France. Rip a bodice on 08 July 2011.

One Day - Moving into a mid-summer slot might seem like odd programming for this potential awards bait romance, but given the current lack of quality releases for the month this should give it room to shine. Fall for your best friend on 26 August 2011.

Warrior - Constantly moving - much like it's cage fighting central character - this Tom Hardy vehicle has shifted forward a bit this time, probably moving in for the killer shot. Get pummelled on 23 September 2011.

The Debt - There's more movement for the Mossad agents in this English language remake as Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson are still getting to grips with mistakes they made in the past. Catch former Nazis on 30 September 2011.

Big Year - OK, so advanced buzz about David Frankel bird spotting comedy may not be setting the world on fire but I'm still looking forward to seeing Steve Martin and Jack Black going head to head. Get the binoculars out on 11 November 2011.

Hugo Cabret - Slight shift for Martin Scorsese's first foray into both children's films and 3D filmmaking, and it's going to be fascinating to see the man behind Taxi Driver and Goodfellas handle both those challenges. Get friendly with an impoverished film director on 02 December 2011.

Machine Gun Preacher - Next years Oscar season is just around the corner - at least it's around the corner in terms of staking the January release dates such as this biker turned saviour to child soldiers biopic. Find God on 06 January 2012.

Prometheus - Finally next years summer schedule is also beginning to show some promise with Ridley Scott's return to the Alien franchise that made him staking out a prominent June release. Don't bother screaming, it won't be heard, on 01 June 2012.

It's not all good news on the release date front though. This last month Rob Reiner's coming of age drama Flipped slipped quietly out on DVD never to see the inside of UK cinemas. Not terribly surprising given it's mediocre US box office take of $1.7m - barely 12% of it's production budget.

Oh, and I'm ending with a quote that I loved this week:

"You can't cry on a diamond's shoulder, and diamonds won't keep you warm at night, but they're sure fun when the sun shines." Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

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Saturday, 26 March 2011

Trade descriptions act (Out this week - 25/03/11)

It's not really a week for going to the cinema. Ultimately there's little to entice anyone to the local multiplex, plus the weather taken a turn for Spring and there are Football, Cricket and Grand Prix on all weekend so I doubt attendance will be high. That said I'm already watched Channing Tatum in a thong and summer box office taster Limitless is my film of the week.



Limitless

Bradley Cooper (in a desperate attempt to prove himself as a leading man) takes a pill that utilises the 80% of his brain that he rarely uses. As a result he finds himself indebted to Robert De Niro. It's probably derivative, but it's getting positive reviews for this sort of thing and squeezed into the top of the US box office last week.

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



Country Strong

One of the major reasons why Gwynneth Paltrow now thinks she can have a music career is the positive reaction to this country singer redemption movie - apparently she's forgotten the critics just like this kind of movie but they don't buy records. By the way does anyone think she actually looks like an alcoholic in the trailer?

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

Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventure

Belgian animation with country specific voice work (here in the UK we get John Hurt and Gemma Arterton, in the US you get Melanie Griffiths) that shows the destruction of the natural world over 60 years through the eyes of a well-travelled turtle. Doesn't sound stretching but the animation looks fine.

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

Christian Brothers

First Bollywood movie in a few weeks, so it should get some punters in. It's a action comedy about a Christian patriarch who's sons are a continual disappointment.

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

The Eagle

Kevin MacDonald's adaptation of the Rosemary Sutcliffe swords and sandals novel makes it to the screens after a 8 month delay (partly due to Neil Marshall's similarly themed Centurion). Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell bond during a trip to Scotland.

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

Faster

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson clearly wants a bit of Fast and Furious action with a 70's vibe in this revenge thriller. Somehow he persuades Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Berenger along for the ride, but ultimately this will probably miss it's marks.

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

Rewind

Irish drama about a recovered addict who's past comes back to haunt her in horrific and violent ways. An interesting concept that looks like it panders to genre conventions in the end.

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

Toast

Coming of Age, and coming out, story starring Freddie Highmore as a teen growing up in 1960's West Midlands. Oddly this was a TV movie (shown over Christmas) that's now getting a cinematic release, probably because Helena Bonham Carter plays his brassy step mother.

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

Wake Wood

The latest horror movie from the revamped Hammer studios takes the winning formulas of The Wicker Man and Don't Look Now, mashes they're central plots and obviously comes up with something that fails to stand up to it's influences.

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

Redemption

Brutal Western influenced by Leone, Eastwood and "Deadwood" with plenty of violence but little moral code. Populated by unknown actors doing they're best to justify your ticket price.

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

And missed from last weeks rundown:

Between the Canals

Dublin set crime thriller that takes it's ideas from the East End gangster pics popularised by Guy Ritchie and transfers them to the banks of the Liffey (and other local waterways).

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

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Keira Knightley


Happy Birthday to

Keira Knightley

26 today


I don't really understand why so many people I come into contact with seem to dislike Keira with such a passion. They seem to hate her entire persona and back catalogue. Personally I'm a bit of a fan. She's suitably sassy in Pirates of the Caribbean, gorgeous in Atonement and you can't argue with the quality of the performance in Bend it like Beckham. Maybe she'll show a new side that'll win some support in A Dangerous Method.

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

2010. Dir: Woody Allen. Starring: Gemma Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin and Antonio Banderas. ●●○○○



There's a sense of trepidation that sinks in whenever Woody Allen releases another picture. Where will it fit in the canon? How many times will I laugh? Will I regret the ticket price? Will it be better or worse than his last picture (like a neverending higher or lower card game)? Well the answers for You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger are as follows: Pretty low. Very few. Yes. And this is both better and worse than Whatever Works - better because the characters and morality is nowhere near as repugnant and worse because there isn't the experimentation and concepts that drove his previous film.



The overstuffed plot follows couples Gemma Jones and Anthony Hopkins and their daughter Naomi Watts with Josh Brolin as their relationships breakdown and they find themselves back on the dating game with (respectively) Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Lucy Punch, Antonio Banderas and Freida Pinto. Each of these relationships seems to be doomed to failure for the exact reasons that they are brought together - a mix of ennui and foreshadowing covers the players clearly indicating their individual fates.

The performances range from the reasonably entertaining - Antonio Banderas gets away with a hesitant charm and a tendancy to prevaricate - to the downright offensive; Lucy Punch doing to English high-class hookers what Mira Sorvino did for her American contemporaries only making it sound like a Catherine Tate impersonator. With some of the others barely registering. Anthony Hopkins in particular needs to get a new phone to deliver his performances through.

Of course this smorgasboard of talent would be forgiven if the writing was clever or witty. Unfortunately there's little realism in the script - nearly everytime Naomi Watts as the patient Sally, trying to remain sane as everyone else falls apart, speaks I found myself screaming inside "But no-one talks like that". Recrimination led arguments come and go with no sense of tension around them, mildly offensive chat-up lines seem to have the female cast gazing tenderly into their male counterparts eyes.

The are whole sub-plots that appear and drift away with no real meaning or connection to the whole including Brolin's writing career, Pinto's engagement and the dead son of Hopkins and Jones which seems to exist only to make a cheap psychological connection to forward momentum of Hopkins. All this would be forgiveable if the central fortune telling storyline (featuring the delicious Pauline Collins hammily doling out phoney advice to the neurotic Gemma Jones) was given the necessary room to breathe and develop.

The design is fine, location shooting fine and the jazzy score fine - but nothing we haven't seen before from Allen and it's not a London that I recognise that's for sure.

I wouldn't bother with this one, if I were you, just cross your fingers that Woody will find form again with his next picture so I can ask those leading questions again.

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Catherine Keener


Happy Birthday to

Catherine Keener

52 today


There aren't many actresses who can make as much from as little as Catherine Keener. Take her performance in Where the Wild Things Are for instance, she's barely on screen yet you still get a fully rounded and believeable characterisation. Coming soon is Peace, Love and Misunderstanding which sees her as the uptight daughter of free-living Jane Fonda and - if it gets a release - the abandoned David O. Russell political satire Nailed.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Scream 4

There's almost certainly something wrong with me, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing Wes Craven's return to Woodsboro. Of course the sequel is completely unnecessary and probably won't work, but the mix of post-modernism and chucklesome violence impressed me as a kid so I'll definitely be back for more.



Scream 4 is released on 15 April 2011.

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Lena Olin


Happy Birthday to

Lena Olin

56 today


It was inevitable that the talented and intelligent daughter of Stig Olin (regular actor for Ingmar Bergman) would follow her father's footsteps, and she's certainly outshone all expectations with a healthy Hollywood career. Nothing coming up mind - maybe husband Lasse Hallstrom can squeeze her nto his upcoming Hypnotist?

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Monday, 21 March 2011

Running (20/03/11)

Big fall in the distance (deliberate), but I've very happy with my pace which is the highest it's been over the last 7 weeks. Hopefully next week as I start going further again that sort of speed can be maintained.

4 runs
15.5 miles
2 hours 22 minutes

So that's an average speed of 6.59 mph.

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Jaye Davidson


Happy Birthday to

Jaye Davidson

43 today


Regular leader in lists of where are they now figures, Jaye shot to fame as the cross dressing Dil in 1993's The Crying Game (tell me if you've heard this before) then went on to make $1m from Stargate before returning back to the fashion world from whence he came. Recently made a short film so maybe there's some unfinished business in film for him yet.

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Sunday, 20 March 2011

I doubt they mean you get to go back for more (Film News - 19/03/11)

I was worried about this week's news being even worse than last Sunday. As I dipped in and out of the web during the week there was absolutely nothing grabbing my attention - except maybe for the unfortunate departure of Darren Aronofsky from The Wolverine and that certainly won't be a major story (I try to keep it positive around here). However, when trawling the web yesterday I found some stories that had been given very little coverage during the week, and so we move on to:

Seconds of Happiness

Neil LaBute's collection of short stories within the theme of fleeting pleasures is making it to the big screen under the watchful gaze of Leaving Las Vegas director Mike Figgis. All set on a plane the film will highlight the differences between the sexes as they exploit each other's weaknesses. The cast list includes Kristen Scott Thomas, Matt Dillon, Christina Hendricks and Brendan Fraser.

There's potential for soap-like interconnectivity which will go down like Airport without the suitcase bomb, however I rather think that LaBute's biting satire and clever plotting will ensure the project doesn't fall into that trap. Plus Figgis seems like an interesting choice given his experimentation with the medium (like Timecode with it's split-screen single take action below) so maybe we could be onto something interesting.



Read on for naughty bits coming out the screen, exploitation and taking to the piste.



Me and You

You know the 3D circus hasn't hit it's peak yet when hitherto serious directors start announcing using stereoscope for more auteurish projects - see Baz Luhrmann and The Great Gatsby for proof - but this many jaws dropped when Bernardo (The Dreamers, Last Tango in Paris) Bertolucci announced his next movie will be the adaptation of Niccolo Ammaniti's Italian novel about adolescent love. Given his form with nudity I'm imagining this will be a really odd development for multiplexes.

Untitled Russ Meyer biopic

When producer/director Russ Meyer passed away in 2004 it was inevitable that his life story would eventually be made into a film in itself. Known as the Fellini of the sex-industry Meyer's work in soft-core porn and exploitation pics earned him a legion of fans thanks to best selling titles like Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (right) and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. At the moment this is just another movie on David O. Russell's list of potential projects, but you know when it gets made - whoever ends up in the directors chair - it's going to be wildly fun.

Woodchucks

I love it when an outcast returns to the fold, so it was great to hear that Tremors director Ron Underwood is making his first feature since the disastrous one-two combo of Pluto Nash and In the Mix ten years ago. The comedy focuses on a ski instructor getting his incompetent local ski team up to scratch to fight off corporate resort developers. Sounds like a cross between Dodge Ball and Mighty Ducks to me. Oddly Underwood has stated that, as a skier himself it's great to be involved in making a rare movie about the sport. Clearly he's not seen the adverts for Chalet Girl which opened in the UK this weekend.



A picture of a block skiing - because I needed to break up the post...

Casting News

A few good rumours this week with Jude Law and Aaron Johnson potentially attached to Joe Wright adaptation of Anna Karenina, Tommy Lee Jones mooted as a possible husband for Meryl Streep in Great Hope Springs (nice match) and the rather delicious prospect of Woody Allen cameoing in his next Italy set movie - although given my review of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, coming Wednesday, I may regret saying that.

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William Hurt


Happy Birthday to

William Hurt

61 today


In the early part of his career Hurt managed to tread that fine line between being a sex symbol and a feted character actor, and over the last 20 years he's been a regular scene stealing supporting actor. Nothing of note coming up right now though.

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Saturday, 19 March 2011

All this will be seen in the future (Out this week - 18/03/11)

I thought about backdating this post by a couple of years so it looks like I was reading the future - but that would be a silly thing to do as no-one would read it (even less than the normal count of people who read the release round-up). Some interesting looking projects out this week, with Richard Ayoade's debut probably picking up the highest praise, but it's Woody who gets my - doubtless unwarranted - support with film of the week going to You will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.



You will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Woody Allen returns to London for the fourth time with his latest relationship comedy, this time with a heavy dose of fortune telling providing the narrative force. He's persuaded high profile thesps like Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin to come along for the ride.

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



Lincoln Lawyer

Matthew McConaughey in non-romantic comedy shocker! He plays the titular attorney, conducting business out of the back of his car including defending the highly-dodgy looking playboy Ryan Phillippe. I'm guessing all is not as it seems. Marisa Tomei and William H. Macy pop up to provide sound advice.

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

Ballast

New Orleans based drama which follows the brother, wife and son of a suicide victim as they struggle to make sense of his actions and begin to piece their lives back together. Very highly praised on the festival circuit.

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

Route Irish

Ken Loach turns his critical eye towards the invasion of Iraq and the private security firms that appear to run unchecked amongst the criminal underworld of the Middle East. There are actual scenes of waterboarding in the film which the actor involved is suing for compensation right now.

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

Submarine

Richard Ayoade, Moss from the excellent "IT Crowd", makes his feature directorial debut with this Welsh coming of age story. Based on Joe Dunthorne's novel it focuses on the dilemmas faced by Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) and his precocious thoughts about starring in the movie of his life.

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

Chalet Girl

It's getting far better notice's than it's trailer seems to warrent, but this British class-bashing romantic comedy, set in the European ski slopes might be a good bet for those wanting to waste a couple of hours. Felicity Jones and Ed Westwick are the forgettable leading couple, Bill's Bailey and Nighy among the faces you'll recognise.

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

Cinar Agaci

The Turkish releases have been quiet lately (it always surprises me that the industry is so prolific over there) so it's good to see this familial drama, focusing on the relationship between a young boy, his single mother and his widowed grandmother getting a release.

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

Anuvahood

Uncertain of tone and audience this is a gritty spoof of life on the mean streets of London. Co-directed by and starring Adam Deacon, one of the cast in the far-superior Kidulthood, who frankly should know better.

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

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Glenn Close


Happy Birthday to

Glenn Close

64 today


Oscar nominated 5 times it's a terrible shame that Glenn has never had the opportunity to lift the golden statuette, altough maybe her cross-dressing turn in Albert Nobbs may change that later this year.

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Friday, 18 March 2011

Susan Tyrrell


Happy Birthday to

Susan Tyrrell

66 today


Tyrell's story is an extraordinary one of excess and tragedy, even by Hollywood standards. Having picked an Oscar nomination for Fat City in 1972 she went to wildly overact in an bizarre range of roles in sub-genre horror and with directors such as John Waters. Unfortunately Susan lost her legs as a result of a rare blood disorder in 2000 not that that has stopped her and her very unique talent.

Read More...

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Rango

2011. Dir: Gore Verbinski. Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant, Ned Beatty and Bill Nighy. ●●●●○



Chinatown, Pale Rider, Cat Ballou, Apocalypse Now, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Off the top of my head there are just a tiny number of the films that Rango either knocks off or pays homage to (depending on your point of view). I could probably go on to name at least five or six more. It's such a cine-literate film it's unbelieveable. That in itself would be a good enough reason to watch this animated movie. The good news is that as well as fusing all these elements it also happens to be laugh out loud funny, combining a touch of the surreal to the animated format. Just don't bother bringing the kids.



The film opens with Johnny Depp's unnamed Chameleon performing a virtual one-lizard show (his co-stars are plastic toys and dead bugs) of derring-do in his safe, comfortable glass cage. Not for long, as his owners lose him off the parcel shelf as they cross the Mojave desert. Pretty soon he's invented the persona of Rango and cleaning up the town of Dirt from it's least pleasant inabitants whilst falling for ranch owner Beans (Isla Fisher).

The comparisons to Chinatown are most striking. Once the story gets going the central mystery about water being dumped in the desert, as well as lines and even characters seem to be lifted directly from Roman Polanski's 1974 Noir masterpiece. With that in mind the identity of the bad guy comes as no surprise as it's the character most similar to Noah Cross - thanks to Ned Beatty for his delightful voice impersonation.

The action sequences are paced well both in terms of individually and where they fit in the film running. The initial crash sequence is slow enough to get a sense of what's happening, building tension, before it catches up into real time with a jolt and the central chase sequence involving a wagon, bats and The Ride of the Valkyries is both hilarious and edge of the seat stuff. Only the final showdown with Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) seems a slight let down - but then most Westerns disappoint with the fianl battle, even when they're basing the plan on Carry on Cowboy.

Slower moments are provided with the two dream sequences. The first goes in Dali surrealism territory, whilst the second has a mad Clint Eastwood (as voiced by Timothy Olyphant) cameo. There's also a scene by the fireside which speaks to the moral of the movie and is the closest we'll come to tears as audience members.

The design of the film is fantastic, from the always engaging characters (even the background figures are unique and funny and suitably disgusting) to the dryness of the vistas and at times star trails and mirages are so close to being real you doubt whether it's an animation at all. It was also a clever move to keep this in 2D. Any conversion of sterescope would have meant a serious reduction in the light somewhat destroying the illusion of desert heat.

The performances are all great, with Depp and Beatty in particular shining, from a cast outside of Depp who are not so famous it seems like stunt casting.

I would question though whether this is a film for kids at all. Some of the humour is either too bawdy - "Our Mother had an active social life" - or too over the heads of small children - prostate examinations? Most of it is also derived from the references which most kids won't understand. That's not to say they will be bored - there's ample belching and action to keep them entertained but be under no illusions this is a film for the parents even more than it is for their children that force them to go.

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Kate Nelligan


Happy Birthday to

Kate Nelligan

61 today


Curious supporting actress who's never managed to get a solid foothold into movies. Did you know she's nine years younger than Nick Nolte who played her son in The Prince of Tides?

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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Red Riding Hood

As we rumble on to April's releases we hit on a project that's an anomaly for my usual viewing habits. Not only because I'm clearly not part of the demographic the film is supposed to pull in (we're talking girls in the mid teens through to mid twentys) but also because this is directed by a woman - Twilight helmer Catherine Hardwicke. It's clear from my 20 for 2011 list that female directors rarely get a chance to shine for me (only Lone Sherfig's One Day made the cut) so I'm going to try to broaden my horizons and see what Hardwicke has to offer. That and this movie is the first in a tide of fairy tale based properties (Jack the Giant Killer, Hansel and Gretel) set to arrive over the coming years and I want to see what the mini-genre has to offer.



Red Riding Hood is released on 15 April 2011.

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Monday, 14 March 2011

Running (13/03/11)

I've gone further than in previous weeks, and whilst there has been a knock on effect on the overall speed it's not been as disasterous as you might have thought. Short week next week.

5 runs
23.5 miles
3 hours 47 minutes

So that's an average speed of 6.21 mph.

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Michael Caine


Happy Birthday to

Michael Caine

78 today


He's the son of a fish market porter and a charlady yet has steadily climbed the greasy pole to the top of British box office and has earned a knighthood for his trouble. Still as busy as ever it's his fifth collaboration with Christopher Nolan, and the third Batman film (Dark Knight Rises) which is most interesting me.

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Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Perils of Time Travel (Film News - 12/03/11)

It's been a very slow news week for film projects. So much so that I'm resorting to using the Tabloids as a source of information - although does that count if I don't believe the story? Hopefully next week will prove a little more exciting, otherwise I'm going to have to start making stuff up.

The Runner

Time travel is a silly thing to do, as we all know from watching the movies. Whatever your intention you always end up messing things up by kissing your mum, treading on butterflies or wearing a tea towel on your head. It's even more likely to go wrong if you've been sent by "the authorities" to prevent the oncoming apocalypse and end up falling for some girl you bump into. However Disney seem to think it won't go all Twelve Monkeys in the new multimedia platform franchise they've lined up from Dave Andron's pitch.

I'm not completely sure how they can spin quite a closed story into such a large tapestry, unless it's a fairly upbeat ending, or how they're pitching the tone (Andron has worked on "Knight Rider" and "Justified" so this could go any way), but the idea seems interesting it could be one to watch out for.



By the way this sculpture by Kostas Varotsos has nothing to do with the film, but it's also called The Runner and I liked the time travel feel to it so I'm sticking it in here with or without relevance.

Read on for C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser gate, a trip to Rome and some unsurprising casting news.



Blade Runner Prequel

Alcon Entertainment, the company behind Insomnia, 16 Blocks and The Blind Side (How's that for a night of counter-programming?) have bought the rights to all prequels and sequels of the classic mind-bending sci-fi actioner Blade Runner which pitted Harrison Ford against a cohort of replicants, of whom he may or may not have been a member. Featured some of Ridley Scott's most memorable work it's frankly a surprise the Hollywood vultures hadn't already jumped onto this particular rotting corpse. Whilst I have said repeatedly that I have no objection to the concept of remakes or sequels I do admit I'm slightly queasy about this possibility. One of the charms of the 1982 original is the unanswered questions that successive directors cuts have only left even muddier, all of which boil down to Is Deckard a replicant, and does he know?; any return to Philip K. Dick's world will only attempt to answer that, something which I doubt any of us really want.

Woody Allen's Rome picture

The Woody Allen grand tour continues. We've had Barcelona, this year we're going to Paris, and London's been done to death. Next stop Italy, just in time for the 150th Centenary of it's unification (see banner below). Not that it'll probably matter - location is so much background to Mr Allen - I suspect the real reason is down to generous tax credits or a sympathy for the beleaguered Silvio Berlesconi (after all they have some interests in common). Naturally we know nothing about the story or cast yet, but as soon as the details come in I'll be straight on it.



Casting News

Even the casting news this week was fairly uninspired. The only thing we learnt of note was Joe Wright is seriously considering Keira Knightley for the title role in Anna Kerenina. What the same Joe Wright who directed Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, both of whom starred Ms Knightley? Why yes, the very same. The Sun also proudly announced Anthony Hopkins will be joining Bond 23 as a villain, sounds possible but with that source I wouldn't hold my breath.

Charles Jarrott

We did learn of the passing of Charles Jarrott (83), the British film director behind the classic Tudor big screen adaptations Anne of a Thousand Days and Mary, Queen of Scots in 1969 and '71 respectively. Never more than a competent director - his projects before and after this mini-run were spectacularly bad - he nevertheless deserves all the praise he got for these delightful period romps. Here's a section of the former, with Richard Burton on fine form, for you to enjoy:


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Saturday, 12 March 2011

A song to remember (Out this week - 11/03/11)

I probably won't go to the cinema this weekend. It's a oddly downbeat selection, none of which are really drawing me in spite of the far reviews and interesting subject matter involved in some of them. Oddly the film with the best looking trailers has had the worst reviews so I won't be seeing that. Film of the week is Norwegian Wood.



Norwegian Wood

Period Japanese movie about a student (Kenichi Matsuyama) establishing his identity in a cold but rapidly changing culture whilst falling for the ex-girlfriend (Rinku Kikuchi) of his best friend who recentl commited suicide. Gorgeously filmed adaptation of Haruki Murakami's seminal novel.

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



Company Men

Ben Affleck (continuing to shakeup his filmstar persona) leads an all-star cast in this unemployment drama focusing on white collar workers with nowhere to go in the recent financial meltdown. Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper and Kevin Costner are all feeling the pinch.

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

Fair Game

The Valerie Plame story, as interpreted by Bourne director Doug Liman. Naomi Watts plays the CIA agent suddenly left out in the cold with Sean Penn as her noble husband standing by her in the wake of dodgy dossiers and the Iraq invasion.

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

Hall Pass

The Farrelly brothers used to be box office gold, their gross-out comedy of the Nineties was able to attract top performers as well as audiences. This latest, about two marrieds getting a week off, barely hit the box office champ against Gnomeo and Juliet's third week of release. Richard Jenkins has a small role, so there must be something worthwhile about it.

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

Heartbeats

Canadian sexual drama about two friends (one male, one female) falling for the same stranger, competing for his desire and the knock on effect on their friendship. Feted on the estival circuit for it's crisp design and urgency.

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

Life Goes On

British Hindi film about a widow coming to terms with losing the love of his life. Looks a bit cloying and over-emotional.

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

The Resident

The resurrected Hammer studios are going back to their roots with this horror with Christopher Lee in a supporting role. Hilary Swank rents a surprisingly cheap apartment only to find all is not right with her neighbours.

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

All American Orgy

The clue's in the title. Three couples go on a sex retreat to reinvigorate their relationships in the sub-American Pie farce.

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

Battle: Los Angeles

Disappointing reviews for ths Alien invasion pic have destroyed allthe good will the thumping trailershad built up. I hear it's like World of the Worlds meets Saving Private Ryan, only nowhere near as good as that sounds.

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

Legacy: Black Ops

I don't care if Idris Alba was brilliant in "The Wire" he's going to need to pick his game up if he wants to break into movies, and avoid this part-Nigerian-funded psychbabble about hallucinating soldiers.

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

Last week I actually missed five new releases, but given that four were limited release low-budget interchangable American horror movies I'm not going to give individual summaries of those. Suffice to say, having watched the trailers, that Prowl, Scream of the Banshee, Seconds Apart and The Task all deserve a Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○.

Lion of the Punjab

Faring slightly better, but only because I'm generous to non-English movies is this Bollywood enigma with plenty of action in the short trailer, but not much to indicate a plot.

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

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Liza Minnelli


Happy Birthday to

Liza Minnelli

65 today


Oh, Liza, what happened? Why don't we see you more? Are you still thinking about a filmed version of Sunset Boulevard (the Andrew Lloyd-Webber version)? Why are you wasting you're time with Sex and the City and The Muppets? So many questions. At least we have this delightful collction of Cabaret tracks, as performed in "Liza with a Z" to remind us of the good times.

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Thursday, 10 March 2011

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

2007. Dir: Cristian Mungiu. Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Vlad Ivanov, Laura Vasiliu, Alexandru Potocean and Ion Sapdaru. ●●●●○



In January Alex, of Alex in Movieland (if you're not a regular reader already check out both his blogs - his reviews are always a delight to read even if I don't always agree), won the 20 for 2011 competition and tasked me with reviewing the Palme D'Or winning Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. I was glad to be given such a serious task and it's one I hope I can rise to the challenge of.

Cristian Mungiu's film is a major landmark the resurgence of the Romanian film industry, when grouped with 2005's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Police, Adjective in 2009 as well as a number of less well-known but equally revered output we can see how Romania is leading the way in Eastern European cinema with this movement characterised within the scope of social realism.



Set during the last gasps of Communists dictatorships before the collapse of the iron curtain 4 Months nevertheless focuses on universal truths as relevant in 80's Bucharest as many areas of the globe today. Anywhere the state restricts personal freedoms or where girls must resort to backstreet abortionists to resolve their mistakes. The story revolves around student Otilia (superbly played by Anamaria Marinca) as she aids her friend and roommate Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) to arrange an illegal termination and to deal with the aftermath.

Throughout the process Otilia is hindered by Gabi's inability to admit to the size and scope of the issue, the petty bureaucracy of the times and the calm, menacing Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) who they've contracted for the job. At the same time her relationship with her middle class boyfriend Adi (Alexandru Potocean) is reaching a critical juncture complicated by her duty to aid her friend.

Marinca gives a shatteringly intense performance, believably pragmatic in the early scenes and understandably terse following Bebe's visit. Each look and gesture is nuanced and real, creating a living, breathing characterisation.

The supporting cast also do great jobs, but their impact is lesser due to the enormity of Marinca's performance. Ivanov is suitably sleazy (he is no Vera Drake) and whilst Vasiliu comes off as vacuous and demanding it's probably a conscious choice of the production.

Director Mungiu and cinematographer Oleg Mutu elect to use long static takes which emphasises the tension brought by the actors, even when they're hovering just off-screen with just a knee or a voice for the audience to pick up on. This also highlights the realism of the piece, as an audience member I felt I was just there with the actors. There is also no flinching from what is being done, the film would appear to have an open mind about the ethics of abortion however there are enough pro-life images (from Bebe's cruelty to the bloody foetus) to indicate a bias towards the pro-life camp.

Mungiu, who also wrote the script, manages to keep the audience guessing what's going on for the first third of the movie; it's a shame that the DVD sleeve gives the abortion centred plot away as I would have liked the opportunity to work that out. There's also clear indications of Otilia's place in society and probable future in the subtle writing however later in the movie the dinner table chatter of Adi's parents rather laboured the class differences and undone some of that good work.

It's not a perfect movie by any means, the measured pace sometimes flirts with boredom, and there are a few loose ends mainly prop related, but overall I would say whilst grim the movie is utterly involving and deserves a wider audience.

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Sharon Stone


Happy Birthday to

Sharon Stone

53 today


In a recent interview Shazza expressed regret and naivity at the furore surrounding her infamous scene in Basic Instinct. So I thought I'd remind everyone with a still from that movie. By the way if you want people to move on make another good movie.

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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Tempest

2010. Dir: Julie Taymor. Starring: Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Reeve Carney, Russell Brand and Djimon Hounsou. ●●●●○



Whilst some of William Shakespeare's plays are constantly in the backs of public consciousness (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet) others drift in and out of fashion; known more to aficionados and literature students than the average cinema goer. The Tempest definitely sits within the second set partly because Shakespeare's last play is problematic. Like A Midsummer Night's Dream it creates it's own logic; albeit significantly darker in it's intent influenced by the failing of Shakespeare's own literary skills and the King James's obsession with witchcraft. Perhaps the biggest issue, which resonates fully in a post-Iraq geopolitical world, is the ambivalent approach to imperialism and colonisation. Julie Taymor's production rather glosses over these issues, using the stunt casting of Helen Mirren in the traditional male lead of Propero (now called Prospera) as a tactic to confuse and mislead the audience's attention.



The titular storm occurs in the opening scenes of Act I, Prospera exercising her powers with the sprite Ariel (Ben Whishaw) under her control in order to wreck a passing vessel carrying the conspirators behind her exile and abandonment to the barren island where she resides. The rest of the story concerns three groups of the survivors as they respond to Prospera's machinations.

The first group contains her usurping brother Alonso (Chris Cooper) oily spreading discourse with Ferdinand (Alan Cumming) against the King of Naples (David Strathairn) with the loyal and verbose Gonzalez on hand (Tom Conti). Meanwhile Ferdinand (Reeve Carney), the heir to the throne of Naples, has been separated and introduced to Prospera's daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) in order to test his virtue as a potential suitor.

Finally Stephano and Trinculo, comic relief as a drunkard, wasteful, working class (played by Alfred Molina and Russell Brand respectively) form a bond with the island's sole native - and Propera's slave - Caliban (Djimon Hounsou). Together they plot to overthrow the matriarchal state in which Caliban is imprisoned.

The gender change at the centre is a curious one, it allows for a much closer relationship between Prospera and Miranda, one that gives an additional urgency to the protective instincts Prospera feels towards her daughter - from the alleged lustful desire of Caliban to the shield from her work. That said it weakens Miranda who seems both whiny at times, yet also the standing up against her parent is less risky.

Of course Mirren delivers in the central role, but this isn't just a Propera show as other adaptation's have indicated. Chris Cooper is suitably menacing, virtually licking his lips as he whispers conspiracies. Tom Conti also hits the mark as the aging windbag. Brand and Molina might not be doing anything we haven't seen before but it is what they do best - Brand in particular seems to have wandered in from his stand up show. I was especially taken by Ben Whishaw's performance, at once enamoured by Prospera as well as desperately seeking his freedom from her control.

Design wise there are few film-makes more distinctive that Taymor. Sandy Powell's costume design is fantastic, from the zip encrusted noblemen ware to the seemingly pieces together costuming of the island residents. Whishaw's costumes also shone - when he appears as a crow it's beautiful frightening and captivating.

Eliott Goldenthal's music, including incidental songs, is also wonderfully integrated into the action and is among his best scores. Taymor's direction is at it's usual high standard - although she's clearly more interested in spectacle than character. Weirdly at times the film seems rushed - Prospera's about face on her knowledge seems almost whimsical.

I would heartily recommend this version of the play, but would have preferred Taymor to really try to confront the message of the story. When I leave with sympathy for Ariel's imprisonment but no opinion on Caliban's mistreatment I know there's been a trick missed.

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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Tuesday Trailers - The Eagle

Based on the classic novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe (with a shortened title to prevent convusion with gold picures) Kavin MacDonald's State of Play comes to the UK a little battered and brusied by the underwhelming US reception. I think it will fare better on this side of the Atlantic, I'll see it at least.



The Eagle opens on 25 March 2011.

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Monday, 7 March 2011

Rachel Weisz


Happy Birthday to

Rachel Weisz

41 today


In spite of her Oscar win five years ago Rachel has yet to live up to the promises of her career post Constant Gardener, all that may be about to change with Terence Malick and David Hare collaborations in the pipeline. I'm looking forward to three of her upcoming projects in particular: adult haunted house fable Dream House, the expose on sex between classes 360 and she's the latest lady to be attached to the transgender drama The Danish Girl.

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Sunday, 6 March 2011

Running (06/03/11)

As promised the distance has been cut again his week, I aim to go further next week. Pace is good so hopefully I can maintain, or even improve, that as the distances increase. By the way I've now lost a stone in the last five weeks.

4 runs
15.1 miles
2 hours 24 minutes

So that's an average speed of 6.31 mph.

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Saturday, 5 March 2011

Future Oscar Bait (Film News - 05/03/11)

This week the film headlines have been dominated by the Oscars (congrats to everyone involved with The King's Speech - really must get round to watching it) and by Charlie Sheen's continuous breakdown however slinking underneath the headlines have been a number of projects discussed which may be worth keeping an eye on.

Boys in the Boat

The Weinstein Company is having a very good week - see my comments above - so obviously they're already on the way to planning for future Oscars. As it is with this historical movie set on the eve of the Second World War, focusing on the US Olympic crew who defied the will of Adolf Hitler and his aryan rowers (pictured passing the winning post below). Hoo-rah!



Bizarrely all Harvey has paid for is the rights to a book treatment that isn't even finished by David James Brown, so expect a very very long wait until this gets made.

At the moment Kenneth Branagh is linked to direct but luckily he has cancer-ridden drama Italian Shoes with Anthony Hopkins on his slate first.

Read on for returning boxers, drinking buddies, classic literature, a Job story, a project that worries me, flowers and Quentin Tarantino as well as all the latest production news fit to print.



Fighter 2

Whilst working the red carpet last Sunday Mark Wahlberg (left) made references to a potnetial sequel to the oscar winning boxing movie. Likely to focus on Mickey Ward's three bouts with Arturo Gatti. I really am amazingly uninterested in seeing this happen, but if it does they really need to think of a better way to film the boxing segments.

Honeymoon with Harry

The drama about an alcoholic groom who's fiancee dies so he goes on the honeymoon with his not quite father-in-law is back on track with Jenny Lumet giving the script a polish before passing it on to director Jonathon Demme. The pair have worked wonders with dramedy before in 2008's Rachel Getting Married.

Hunchback of Notre Dame

We haven't had a major live action version of Victor Hugo's classic monster romance for many years so it's no surprise to hear Josh Brolin is trying to get the talent together to make a new version. So far he has Sherlock Holmes 2 scriptwriters Michele and Kieran Mulroney and he's looking to entice Tim Burton to he directors chair. I am concerned about the potential tone of this adapatation given the diverse perspectives but it will be good to see Brolin swinging from the bells screaming for Esmerelda. That's Charles Laughton on our right taking the role in 1936 - don't expect Brolin to mess with the formula too much.

Joe

Apparantly The Coen Brother's A Single Man wasn't close enough to the Biblical Job for Will Smith so he's signed up to a modern retelling which starts with the premise that God and Satan are fighting over a man's soul. Smith will star as the titular put upon hero who will lose his wealth, health and family in what the writers (Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson of The Fighter) claim is a comedy.

O.K.C.

We're on dodgy territory here. Barry Levinson is set to make a low-budget film about Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh using a script by Clay World (who's brother was on McVeigh's defence team). This could be an interesting artsy look at why a seemingly well-adjusted adult commits such a horrific crime, or it could become a extraordinary attempt to belatedly clear McVeigh's name, or at least shift the blame onto extremists groups - a possibility that would be offensive to the families of those who were killed or injured as a result of his attack.

Tulip Fever

The temptation to put this long-gestating British movie at the top of todays headlines was high, but that would have made three weeks in a row leading with Tom Hooper rumours and I don't want to be seen as rubbing it in. Effectively trailed by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street 2 Deborah Moggach's novel is set against the trading on tulip bulbs in 17th century Holland - althugh it's essentially a love story between a penniless artists and a married woman. It has been close to being made a couple of times - in 2004 the cameras were set to roll when funding collapsed (somewhat aptly) - but given the currently financial mess we're in I doubt it could be more prescient.

Tulips in Amsterdam (see background windmill) pictured.

Untitled Quentin Tarantino Western

Quentin's seen how well True Grit has done commercially and seems t have decided the time is ripe for his spagetti western. I wasn't a fan of Inglorious Basterds but I think his excess and asthetic could work in a Wild West setting. Christoph Waltz and Franco Nero are among those already getting calls from the auteur.

Production News

Whilst trawling through IMDb this week there are a shocking number of projects that have kicked into gear over the last month, far more than you would expect to see in a single month. In fact just try to imagine 16 films you want to see all opening in one month - doesn't bare thinking about. So production has begun on gambling biopic Lay the Favourite, writer's block tale Third Act and Lasse Hallstrom kicked off on both Swedish crime thriller The Hypnotist and transgender drama The Danish Girl. Returning to forthcoming schedules (having disappeared for a short while) are Lee Daniels's civil rights movie Selma, Great Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and the Al Pacino version of King Lear. There's also tough family drama Back Roads, sci-fi tinged romance Adaline, literary adaptation The Great Gatsby (which I still don't understand why Baz Luhrmann wants to shoot in 3D), young adult adaptation The Graveyard Book and football drama Les Seigneurs. For action fans there's Headshot and Bourne Legacy and for music fans there's yet to be titled biopics about Mahalia Jackson and Tupac Shakur.

Whew! There are a couple more which turned up of which I had no previous idea they even existed. As follows:

El Chico Blanco

Drama about two friends who take different paths with one joining the police and the other choosing crime and eventually become mortal enemies. Oddly just writing that seems terribly passe, but I was strangely drawn when I heard it was written by Twilight actor Peter Facinelli.

Whole Lotta Sole

British comedy - steady - about a robbery in a Belfast fish market (hence the pun filled title) that goes horribly wrong. Brendan Fraser and Sophie Okonedo are set to be two of the hotchpotch selection of hostages. Possibly set in the market pictured below...


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Samantha Eggar


Happy Birthday to

Samantha Eggar

72 today


Best known for being "collected" by Terence Stamp in 1965 and terrorised by Oliver Reed in 1979, the Hampstead born actress has maintained a healthy and fulfilling acting career mainly on television.

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Friday, 4 March 2011

Plunged in the Foaming Brine (Out this week - 04/03/11)

With ten releases battling for our £10 this weekend it's inevitable there will be a couple that I'd actually like to see - as well as a few that are probably massive stinkers. I imagine the Johnny Depp lizard film ill own the box office, and I'd probably also be interested in seeing the New Zealand offering, however Shakespeare wins out over all of them. The film of the week is The Tempest.



The Tempest

Helen Mirren takes centre stage as Prospera, gender switched from the original telling, in Julie Taymor's latest re-telling of the Bard. If it's anything like Titus it will be a wonder to behold.

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



The Adjustment Bureau

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt may fall in love at first sight but that isn't what fate, in the form of a shadowy bureaucracy run by Terence Stamp and Anthony Mackie, has in store for them in this Philip K. Dick adaptation.

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

Insatiable Moon

Highly commended New Zealand movie about a Maori convinced he's the son of God who must woo the woman of his dreams and save his half-way house from being closed. A unique blend of social-realism and unlikely love story.

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

Rango

Comic animation in which Johnny Depp, as a holidaying chameleon, must face up to the cut-throats and rustlers threatening the town of Dirt. Expect plenty of Western tropes to get caught in the crossfire.

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

Ironclad

Brian Cox is the hell-raising noble who along with Knight Templar James Purefoy defies King John (Paul Giamatti in very odd casting) in this Manga Carta related siege movie partly based on a true story. Not that historical accuracy is that important when you have broadswords and trebuchets.

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

Patagonia

Part-travelogue, part-road movie this film divides into two halves about an Elderly Chilean Woman visiting Wales and a Welsh couple in the titular area of South America. Exploiting the unlikely shared heritage of the two regions (Welsh settlers really did travel to Patagonia to escape persecution in the 1840s).

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

Unknown

Liam Neeson wakes up from a car crash unable to remember much about his old life, save that he's a doctor and married to January Jones. Unfortunately she denies it in this twisty Euro-thriller also starring Frank Langella.

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

Archipelago

Joanna Hogg's follow-up to 2008's Unreleated is another dissection of upper middle class Brits on holiday slowly unravelling their insecurities and petty prejudices. Fascinating, but probably not worth a cinema ticket.

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

As if I'm not there

A harsh dose of cinematic realism about the Bosnian War of the 1990s. Juanita Wilson's drama is taken from true stories revealed during the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague.

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

Age of the Dragons

I get the feeling it's going to be a classic year for bad movies. This appalling looking dreck is a rehash of Melville's Moby Dick set in a world populated by dragons. Danny Glover and Vinnie Jones headline, which gives you an idea of the quality.

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

And, naturally, there's a Bollywood release from last week that I missed out on.

Tannu weds Mannu

The Clue's in the title of this release from the sub-continent. Newlyweds from an arranged marriage are completely unsuited for each other, so of coursethey'll be head over heels by the final curtain.

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

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Thursday, 3 March 2011

New York, I Love You

2009. Dir: Various. Starring: Natalie Portman, Ethan Hawke, Chris Cooper, Cloris Leachman and Julie Christie. ●●●○○



It's difficult to review a collection of shorts like New York, I Love You, do you review each of the shorts as individual pieces, or try to assess the whole collection as a single entity? Luckily we have a template as this is a follow up to the critically acclaimed 2006 film Paris, Je T'Aime which presented a number of Gallic themed romances. Unfortunately New York doesn't live up to the high standards of his European predecessor.



The premise is relatively simple, 10 renowned directors (including Mira Nair and Brett Ratner) take a geographical area of the Big Apple and portray a love affair which somehow encapsulates the feel and atmosphere of the region whilst being linked by a mysterious French girl filming segments of life with her video camera. One of the main issues of the project is that none of the films seems to be uniquely presenting a way of life in the city, they're all stories that could easily be transplanted to an alternative zip code.

Three of the shorts stood out of the pack as worth watching.

Mira Nair is an old hand at the short film format, having worked on 8 and the 9/11 memorial collection. Here the chaste romance between Hasidic bride to be Natalie Portman and Jain divorcee Irfan Khan as they barter over diamond prices, cleverly highlighting the differences and ties between them over their irreconcilable faiths is fascinating and beautifully played.

Ethan Hawke, Maggie Q, Chris Cooper and Robin Wright have two very different conversations about hooking up with strangers in the city, with pull the rug under our feet consequences (alas the first meeting was rather ruined in the trailer) which blindside the audience in a surprising yet shocking way, and both involve the female taking charge of the sexual nature of their conversations reversing the usual gender expectations. Yvan Attal takes a lo-fi hand held approach to the direction allowing the actors room to breathe. Hawke himself probably takes the performance crown for the piece for this section and for his delightfully funny miming in the linking segments.

The final section, and the only one with a real sense of place, is Joshua Marston's Coney Island set two hander with Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman alternatively hilariously bickering and touchingly quiet as they walk to the seafront. The dialogue between them clearly illustrates the nature of their relationship and the underlying love between them. It's one of the few scenes that offers contrast and a lightness of touch missing from most of the other films.

Other scenes, such as the ponderous Shekhar Kapur segment (wasting John Hurt and Julie Christie) and the overtricksy opener with Andy Garcia and Hayden Christiansen (directed by Jiang Wen), are best avoided but as with all collections there's an unfortunate inconsistency in quality which combined with the drabness of the collection makes this tough to recommend.

Hopefully by the time we get to Shanghai, I love you some of those issues will be resolved.

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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Animal Kingdom

2010. Dir: David Michod. Starring: James Frecheville, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver and Ben Mendelsohn. ●●●●○



From Peter Weir to Gillian Armstrong to Nicole Kidman to Heath Ledger there is a proud heritage of Australian talent making it big in America. If there's any justice in the world of the cast and crew, as well as the director, of Animal Kingdom are about to join that lofty list of ex-pats. It's a movie that acts as a calling card, as well as being a wonderful achievement in itself.



The plot contains all the ingredients required for a modern tragedy in it's very literal sense. The characters manouvre themselves as driven by their flaws, but their passivity or otherwise, into doomed yet predicatable avenues. Essentially the movie looks inside a Melbourne-based crime family, as viewed through the semi-innocent eyes of newcomer James Frecheville. As "J" he moves in with his grandmother "Smurf" Cody just as the armed robbery squad begin to tighten their grip on his wayward uncles.

I won't say any more about the plot, it contains enough twists and turns to keep you guessing which of the family memebers will make it to the end credits, and to doubt the motivations and loyalties of the majority of the players.

The cast do a wonderful job. Jacki Weaver, as the dominant matriarch, is an incredible presence, certainly deserving of her Oscar nomination. Like Richard III she can "smile, and murder whilst she smiles", showing the determined strength of a lioness favouring her cubs. James Frecheville makes a odd decision in the lead role, virtually disappearing into himself, underplaying every line and with barely a flicker of emotion on his face. It's brave but it works, as an audience surrogate he displays the awe and teenage emptyness that resonates in the role.

The brothers - Ben Mendlesohn's brooding, violent "pope", Sullivan Stapleton's drug addled Craig and Luke Ford's out-of-his-depth Darren - are all uniquely drawn with strong characterisations. As drama goes you understand the motivations and consistency of each of their journeys. Only Guy Pearce as the stoic and sermonising cop out to get them gives a throwaway performance.

Of course that's likely, this is a story about the changing dynamics of a family, admittedly one deeply involved in reckless criminal behaviour. The writing, also by director David Michod, superbly outlines the depths to which the characters are able to go and the principles they are prepared to betray.

Not that there aren't issues with the piece, the 80's synth score is often over-bearing and there's an unfortunately tendency to add slow-motion to underscore depth in the action, however these are certainly forgiveable flaws.

Michod is the real hero of the piece, and will certainly be picked up by Hollywood for bigger projects in the future. I just hope that he can retain the control over the content that has made his debut so electrifying. Unmissable entertainment.

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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Tuesday Trailers - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

I almost don't want to play this trailer. Not because it's bad, in fact as trailers go it has some nice moments which seem to indicate laughs can be had in Woody Allen's latest London set dramedy. Instead I'm reluctant as it only goes to reionforce the slightly masochistic relationship I've developed with Allen. No matter how much he disappoints me, how many Whatever Works he produces, I still keep going back for more.



You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is released on 18 March 2011.

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Javier Bardem


Happy Birthday to

Javier Bardem

42 today


Recently picking up his thrid Oscar nomination for Biutiful Javier is oneof the most successful European actors of all time, equally at home in edgy independent fare or the bigger blockbusters, as well as being extraordinarily and unconventionally handsome. In 2012 we'll be seeing him caught in an illgal card game in Andrew Dominik's Cogan's Trade and there may also be Bond villian duties.

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