Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Clint Eastwood


Happy Birthday to

Clint Eastwood

81 today


Is it OK to still label Clint predominantly as an actor? Surely by now his accomplishments as a director massively outweigh his on-screen work. Apparently not, earlier this year Clint was the embodiment of the Spirit of the West in Rango, albeit voiced by Timothy Olyphant. Next up for the octogenarian is the Leonardo DiCaprio starring biopic J. Edgar which has recently shifted on imdb to being a 2011 film, so I think Leo can probably start clearing his mantlepiece for the oscar now.

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Sunday, 29 May 2011

Running (29/05/11)

I'm really ramping up the training at present, just trying out much more brutal regimes before getting back into a more sedate pace ready for the Nottingham Marathon (yes, I've signed up for the third consecutive year) so next week will see a significant increase, even from this jump up. I expect the legs will be red raw but hopefully we'll get some nice results.

6 runs
34.9 miles
5 hours 02 minutes

So that's an average speed of 6.92 mph

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Annette Bening


Happy Birthday to

Annette Bening

53 today


I've just caught up with Annette's performance in The Kids are All Right for which she received her fourth Oscar nomination and, as usual, it's a doozy of a performance, utterly compelling even within such a highly polished cast. Next up - she doesn't do much - is the inspiration for Morgan Freeman's struggling writer in Third Act.

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Saturday, 28 May 2011

The roar of the Engine - (Film News - 28/05/11)

It's not a classic week for film news. So much so that I'm leading with a particular sports movie from a genre with a long history of failing it's subject that is one of many potential jobs for it's high profile director. Of course post-production news has been much more exciting with Terence Malick's Tree of Life triumphantly carrying off the Palme d'Or last Sunday, to the delight of many fans of serious arthouse fare. I am still wary about the movie, which by all accounts forgoes narrative for lyricism, however I have promised Tom at Reinvention that I'll give it a go when it comes out over here and I am certainly curious about it as a piece of art.

Go Like Hell

Next week we have the UK cinema release of Formula 1 documentary Senna, you probably watched the trailer a couple of weeks ago, but as anyone who is even remotely a fan of motor racing will know that Hollywood has always failed to capture the beauty and excitement of the sport. It's therefore a muted curiosity that greets this true-life Le Mans movie about the rise of Ford as a champion constructor beating Ferrari in 1966 and focused around the relationship between the owner, engineer and design visionaries Henry Ford II, Carroll Shelby and Lee Iacocca respectively.

Of course from that synopsis it seems the movie will be less interested in the race than the power struggles between the three men, however Michael Mann is potentially signing on to direct so there could well be some thumping sound design and carefully constructed visuals intercut with scenes of tinkering with spanners and fuel injection systems.



Steve McQueen starred in the most successful motor racing film to date (above) which also featured France's infamous 24 hour race.

Of course it's the Monaco Grand Prix tomorrow for anyone who really wants to see some real action, I know it's what I'll be doing tomorrow afternoon.

Read on for Euro money shots, wish-fulfilling collaborations, hairy superheroes and supermodel stares as well as the latest casting and release date news.



Le Capital

Standby for a satirical European take on the Financial crisis with firebrand political director Costa-Gavras with Vincent Cassel in the central role rushing between the major international financial centres and drowning himself in a hedonistic mix of sex, drugs and massive deals. And if that doesn't raise your pulse then your heart has probably stopped.


The Comedian

We can call this a serious long shot, however it's a curious set-up. The King of Comedy (left) producer Art Linson as put together another darkly comic script about the life and stand-up routines of an insult comedian (such as Don Rickles or Joan Rivers) which he's currently sending to Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese in a brave attempt to recruit them onto it. I would love to see the trio working together again, but frankly I think it's highly unlikely.

The Wolverine

Fox have a (long) short-list of potential directors for the Wolverine sequel now that Darren Aronofsky has left it in order to avoid going abroad. I'm not sure I like the principle of the studio releasing a list of names willy nilly - it's worse than the current vogue for talking about every stage of the casting process - and the range of candidates is extraordinary and all-encompassing. There are 8 names in contention, from the workmanlike (James Mangold, Antoine Fuqua and Gavin O'Connor) to the arthouse (Mark Romanek) to the mystery (commercial director Gary Shore). Doug Liman (Bourne Identity) looks to be the bookies favourite.

Zoolander 2

A lot has been made this week of an interview in Empire where Ben Stiller dished the dirt on a planned sequel to the 2001 cult comedy hit, including juicy titbits about the finished script and berating Paramount execs who have yet to greenlight the project. Frankly this is simply retreading stuff we've heard thousands of times, however if you reading this and following the link to imdb gets hits up and shows there's an interest in seeing it get made then I'm happy to write it up.


Ben Stiller - in full Blue Steel mode - as Derek Zoolander.

Casting News

It's not official, but we're short of casting news this week so I'm gonna mention that Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton are after Jeff Bridges for He Loves Me, their novelist version of "Pygmalian". Virginia Madsen may be replacing Annette Bening in Rob Reiner's take on writer's Block, The Third Act which might now be called Summer at Dog Dave's, but I'm mainly curious as to why.

Release Schedules

If you thought there was little going on on the news front just try finding anything interesting to say about UK release schedules. It's been four weeks since the last update and the only change is for a movie that should have come out but hadn't so all you lovely readers have already worked out that it's been delayed!

The Messenger - The Oscar nominated Iraq war drama has taken an unfeasibly long time (it'll be 581 days since it's limited US release) to make it to British cinemas. It's a shame as it's filled with powerful performances from a cast that includes Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton. Prepare for bad news on 17 June 2011.

I also noticed that Claude Lelouch's latest First World War romance Ces Amours La, or What War May Bring has gone straight to DVD here in the UK. That's not very surprising given the general audience antipathy towards the Great War but given the first I heard was finding it on the shelves of the local supermarket there was a little gasp of confusion.


The French poster of Ces Amours La clearly accentuates an iconic kiss central to the plot.

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Carey Mulligan


Happy Birthday to

Carey Mulligan

26 today


The elfin British star, who rose to prominence in 2009's An Education as the precocious Jenny, has had a hell of a couple of years working with Michael Mann, Jim Sheridan and Oliver Stone (among others). Coming next will be the iconic role of Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby.

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Friday, 27 May 2011

Getting the goat (Out this week - 27/05/11)

Another quiet week for cinematic releases. I'm not completely sure why the number of films has slowed during the summer, I suspect it's got something to do with major chains being unwilling to risk revenues by offering suitable counter programming. Anyway there's a Thai based sequel that will clear up at the box office, although frankly that looks the least inspiring of the releases. Film of the week, which is a close run thing this week, goes to
Quattro Volte.



Le Quattro Volte

I don't know how to explain this low key European feature about the idivisibility of animal, vegetable and mineral. Virtually dialogue free it's a sublime celebration of the circle of life in rural Calabria. With rampaging goats.

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



Heartbeats

Canadian love triangle from Xavier Dolan, also starring as one of two students fighting over a male stranger. The trailer is beautiful and artsy which should guarantee a decent art-house run for the bisexual drama.

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

Angels of Evil

With hand held true-life European gangsters being in vogue - see Mesrine and Carlos over the last year - it's hardly a surprise to see this French/Italian co-production trying to get in on the same act. Unfortunately Michele Placido's view of Vallenzasca appears to be more respectful of it's subject and less concerned with the socio-political context than it's closest relatives.

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

Diary of a Wimpey Kid: Rodrick Rules

Sequel to the surprise 2010 hit, which in itself amazingly managed to take the box office number one slot when it opened stateside, offers more of the same as the titular wimpy kid, based on Jeff Kinney's comic novels, must learn how to make life easier from his clued in older brother.

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

Hangover Part II

Totally unnecessary sequel to the bachelor party comedy that created careers for Zach Galifianikis and Bradley Cooper. Predictably they awake with no knowledge of the extraordinary bender from the night before with monkeys, tattoos and shaven heads all clues to what happened. Paul Giamatti is among the cameos this time around.

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

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Thursday, 26 May 2011

Helena Bonham Carter


Happy Birthday to

Helena Bonham Carter

45 today


HBC's career can be easily catalogued into boxes. There's the period films, which she cut her teeth on with Merchant Ivory and in which she's earned her two Oscar nods for (the most recent for The King's Speech, right) and there's the fantasy films, including Harry Potter and the upcoming Dark Shadows directed by her long-time partner Tim Burton.

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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

2011. Dir: Rob Marshall. Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Kevin McNally. ●●○○○



Since seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides last week the question I've been asked more than any other was "Is it better than the last one?". If there was every a bigger display of the public relations disaster that was At World's End it's hard to imagine. Right now the potential audience for the latest in the Pirates franchise are trying to decide if it's worth going to. The answer is that it is, for the first 30 minutes at least, a better film, however it is still a predictably bad film.



After a bit of Spanish business, introducing the search for the fountain of youth to those of us who didn't really pay attention during the last film, we are thrust into Hanoverian London, with the crowds of artistically dirty peasant baying for the blood of Pirates in the Old Bailey (maybe a better directorial/writing team might have made some parallels to the hysteria over Bin Laden, but perhaps this isn't the right vehicle for that), and pretty soon we're re-introduced to the star of the show Johnny Depp's Captain Jack and his most loyal sidekick Gibbs, played by the good value Kevin McNally. In my cinema the punters cheered with delight when Depp first appeared proving this is his vehicle and as long as he's willing to do this you know there'll be an audience.

We are quickly launched into a hilarious escape bid from the palace of King George (although it appears to have been filmed in Hampton Court which kind of messes up London's geography) and the clutches of his arch-frenemy Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) which works like a Looney Tunes cartoon full of unlikely ducks and dives, hankerchiefs and strawberries all perfectly placed to aid Sparrow's delightful progress before he is launched onto the streets and into the arms of Judi Dench's cameo - again more could have been made of this, even a hint of Edith Evans in manic Tom Jones would've made it perfect but I did chuckle at her line - until finally he ends up in the pub where Penelope Cruz, masquerading as Sparrow, is recruiting a shipful of pirates to aid her and her father Blackbeard (Ian McShane). The fight between Depp and Cruz is well choreographed and funny to watch, easily the equal of the Depp/Bloom confrontation in the first film.

And then the film shudders to a halt as the various characters make their way to sea.

Like the previous film we spend over two hours with allegiances being swapped and endless exposition of the fantastical plot elements. There's a love story between a Priest and a Mermaid that's insipid enough to wish Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom would come back, all the battles from here on seem perfunctory or confused and only a final act twist involving the Iberian troops offers anything close to a interesting moment. Given the film repeatedly talks about destiny and fortune telling there are few surprises in the final reel as each characters fate unfolds exactly as you would expect.

Depp and Rush appear to have watched the first Pirates movie and decided to do hammy impersonations of themselves rather than try for any characterisations, whilst the newbies do nothing to ingratiate themselves into the minds of the public. Ian McShane in particular does nothing memorable - there's nothing he does that comes to mind one week after having seen it.

Rob Marshall, the hack director taking the reins (known for his musicals Chicago and Nine), does some nice stuff in the London scenes but he doesn't have either Gore Verbinski's loopy vision or the ability to maintain tension in the second half. Although he's not helped by the flat script peppered with Carry On level double entendres ("I'm for the Missionaries position", "I'm still bent, devilishly so") that remind you this is an action comedy but not enough to persuade.

The highlight, as with all these films, is the music. Klaus Bedelt's main theme is still a corker that acts as a centrepiece for a score that works just as well (maybe better) without the rest of the movie.

Overall I wouldn't bother with this pointless retread, but when it hits TV in a couple of years time it'll be fine to watch the first quarter whilst waiting for something better to come on.

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Jacki Weaver


Happy Birthday to

Jacki Weaver

64 today


One of the most delightful surprises from this years Oscar nominations was the presence of this hard working Aussie character actress, nominated for her sterling supporting work in Animal Kingdom. Frankly she dominates the film, her "Smurf" Cody is mean and manipulative but just on the right side of believable. Her first post-nomination signings haven't been that interesting but I'm sure there's lots of great work to come from her in the future.

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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Kristin Scott Thomas


Happy Birthday to

Kristin Scott Thomas

51 today


Twenty years ago few people had heard of the Redruth resident with a byline in swapping between English and French language pictures. Then Four Weddings and The English Patient burst her into the limelight. These days she's among the most highly acclaimed bilingual actresses in the World, regularly giving knock-out performances on both sides of the Channel. Next up she'll be finding her inner Alistair Campbell in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

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Monday, 23 May 2011

Personal (23/05/11)

Just a quick note of catch up. I found out this week that I didn't get into either of the Drama Schools I applied for - which maybe explains why I've been a little pissy in the comments this weekend. It's a shame as I would've liked the opportunity to go back to learning mode - that said it opens up as many doors as it closes. I've been offered another month with Theatre& which I've accepted and I've applied for some fringe productions (the first audition is next weekend) but I need to think long and hard about how to move my career into a new phase - any advice would be greatly appreciated right now.

By the way I also now have an IMDB page of my very own. Why not take a look (not that there's anything interesting on it) here.

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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Running (22/05/11)

Back to a more serious regime this week, and it's been great, really enjoyable and challenging. Yesterday I joined with the Heaton Park Parkrun event which was a fun chance to race against other runners (all UK runners I can heartily recommend signing up with them - it's free and local), hopefully I'll be able to pick that up and do more runs with them in the future.

5 runs
26.4 miles
3 hours 45 minutes

So that's an average speed of 7.04 mph

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Saturday, 21 May 2011

Do the Can(nes)-Can('t) (Film News - 21/05/11)

Cannes continues, for everyone except Lars von Trier that is. And yes I'm going to briefly mention that elephant in the room before moving onto the real film news. Seriously what do the Cannes bigwigs think they're doing and what they're going to achieve. Lars von Trier has always been a joker, with every film he makes you know he's courting for controversy, desperate to chase the headlines from the festival. The critics seemed to like Melancholia and not find it headline grabbing other than it's quality so of course they had to bait him in the press conference and of course he positively glowed when he started on the Nazi comments, knowing the effect that would have. The Committee should have just told him off whilst ensuring they are aware it was poor taste humour not a real political diatribe. Why not watch it here and let me know what you think:



And now onto the real news...

Byzantium

Vampires remain inexplicably popular right now, largely due to the Twilight franchise, although that doesn't seem to explain why so many non-teenage projects are getting the green light and basically picking up middling box office receipts. Never mind because the latest project coming out of the blocks will a mother/daughter vampire tale starring Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton (they're both fine actresses and worth the ticket price but surely the age difference isn't enough, although the synopsis includes the suggestion they sometimes pretend to be sisters). The script, an original piece by Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre), has caught the attention of experience vampire filmmaker Neil Jordan (remember the faintly unsettling Interview with the Vampire) and producer Stephen Wooley. With that group of talent involved it's hard to resist even when the genre is so overdone.


Here is Kirsten Dunst in Neil Jordan's last foray into the world of Vampires, which is lovely as it links nicely to Lars above, and if Jordan can get performances as good as he gets from Kiki that Byzantium will definitely be one to watch.

Read on for Martial Arts competitions, fairy tale private eyes, evil step mothers, treks from Egypt, Court intrigues, Cold war meetings, school buses and Audrey Tatou as well as a minor casting story.



Bloodsport

Certainly the most bizarre story to come out of Hollywood this week is the proposed remake of the 1988 Jean-Claude van Damme martial arts vehicle (left). Essentially a disaster on release the win or death knockout adventure gained a whole new lease of life on DVD, emerging as a cult favourite for the van Damme nuts out there. It's hard to imagine this sort of bruiser hero taking the box office lead today either, even after The Expendables proved there's still a market for pumped up leads. That said I am fascinated by whoever will want this potential albatross around the neck of their career.

The Defective Detective

Can Terry Gilliam catch a break in the fickle world of film financing? With The Man who Killed Don Quixote spiralling once more into the history of abandoned projects there's been little news from the former Python. Never one to let it get him down Terry's hinted that he may return to a Richard LaGravenese script they worked on around The Fisher King and 12 Monkeys and which never gathered the necessary funding. The story is curiously close to the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus following a detective on the hunt for a missing girl in a fantasy world. If it has the same manic energy and resourceful plotting as those other films from that period then I will certainly be booking a ticket should it ever gets made!

Maleficent/Moses

This week saw the high profile departure of Tim Burton from Disney's live action origin story for Melficent, the evil step-mother from Sleeping Beauty (right), which is set to star Angelina Jolie. There doesn't seem to be a big fight with blame and recrimination about the tone or content or directorial vision just a run of the mill scheduling issue. It's partly a shame because I'd love to see Burton handling a villain front and centre, although maybe the studio would constrain him too much and keeping it firmly in the PG wheelhouse. So the potential replacements are being discussed on the net with David Yates (Harry Potter) currently the favourite, but Darren Aronofsky also being linked by Badass Digest - I suspect it's bunkum, if we consider Burton as being held back in his relationship with Disney then surely Aronofsky would be ever more so. They also say Warner Bros. are interested in recruiting him for the upcoming Exodus picture which might be more interesting form an audience point of view but isn't he more concerned with the earlier Biblical story, that of Noah and his Ark?

Music and Silence

Danish director Lone Scherfig will be returning to her roots with the latest literary adaptation she's taking on. Set in the 17th Century Danish court the story charts an illicit romance between two servants, one of whom works for the noble King Christian IV, the other for his philandering wife. The script is being written by Martin Sherman, based on Rose Tremain novel, with BBC films stumping up the cash.


Reykjavik

Every once in a while a high profile director known for big cast, big budget movies takes on an unlikely character pieces. Ron Howard did it a couple of years ago with the powerful Frost/Nixon and now, jumping a few Presidents into the future, Ridley Scott will be helming a reconstruction of the head to head between Reagan and Gorbachev that paved the way for the end of the cold war - that's them on the left but I'm not sure of the location. Ridley has already got a massively overcrowded slate but this could be a quickie to be filmed in between the more complex productions he's currently working on including the single film adaptation of the excellent Red Riding trilogy that he's been mentioned with again this week.

The We and The I/Untitled Michel Gondry/Audrey Tatou collaboration

Visionary director Michel Gondry is currently serving on the short film Jury in Cannes and has been chatting to the New York Times about all the projects hanging around on his plate. Next up is The We and the I which appears to to be inspired by his previous Be Kind Rewind and features a child only cast on a school bus, seems slight but it could be interesting. On the new film front he's been courting Audrey Tatou - for a French language picture - by making short films and animations or her. Obviously I'm holding back the vomit as I type, but at least the combo of Tatou and Gondry seems like it could be worth a look.

Casting News

I'm always fascinated when additional cast members, especially quite famous ones, appear in the press releases after the camera has started rolling - have there been drop outs, were their agents not ballsy enough to force a comment on their casting? - who knows. Anyway Stanley Tucci and Cloris Leachman have both been added to the cast of the Coen brothers scripted Gambit. Just when you thought Christopher Nolan's third Batman film The Dark Knight Rises couldn't possibly pick up more characters stand by for Matthew Modine, Tom Conti and Joey King joining in - so at least we now know Modine is still alive.

Obviously I couldn't mention The Dark Knight Rises without having the first publicity shot released, showing Tom Hardy in full Bane look. One picture down, 14 months to go:




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Friday, 20 May 2011

Jack's Back (Out this week - 20/05011)

I don't really want to do this. I want to be able to turn back, to pretend my life, or at least my movie tastes, were different. But I will inevitably return to this point, one of those horrendous occasions where a film I have hoped to see, one that I championed from it's early onset arrives with all the hallmarks of a dud. Should I attempt to rewrite history, pretend my initial reaction wasn't so positive? I cannot, I must remain honest, retain my integrity even at the expense of my dignity. The film of the week is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.



Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Arriving like a rotting fish carcass brought in on the late tide the latest in the pirate franchise that keep Johnny Depp's children fed is here. Rob Marshall has replaced Gore Verbinski but no-one's changed the format. Of course I was salivating for this movie, number 6 in my 20 for 2011, but now I suspect it will be the film of the week choice I truly regret come the end of the year.

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



Julia's Eyes

Spain is the new Japan insofar as horror movies go, as evidenced by this creepy picture where the heroine searches for her missing sister whilst her vision (literally and metaphorically) gets dimmer. Very good reviews, this is the film I probably should be choosing to represent the week.

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

Win Win

Tom McCarthy makes films about disengaged men finding meaning in their hitherto downbeat worldview, and in that respect the Paul Giamatti starrer looks no different from The Station Agent or The Visitor, not that it matters when he makes this sort of thing so well.

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

Blitz

The first of three low budget British films competing for the scraps at the box office this one stars Jason Statham and Paddy Considine as mismatched cops trying to takedown the mysterious and eponymous serial pig killer. Plenty of colourful vernacular is hinted at in the trailer but I expect the proper home for this is on DVD.

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

Bol

We're always so inundated with Bollywood movies it's easy to forget that neighbouring Pakistan has a thriving cinematic subculture, as evidenced by this internationally released dissection of the place of woman in modern Muslim culture and the responsibilities and challenges of parenthood.

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

Age of Heroes

Allegedly based on the true story behind Ian Flemming's World War II Commando unit and planned as the first in a new British spy trilogy. But I ignored all that once I found out it starred Sean Bean and RLAG fave Danny Dyer - he's no actor, but I get fantastically turned on by his diamond geezer persona and in time honoured fashion I've posted his pic (below) to celebrate one of his films being released.

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

Third Star

The final UK release stars TV's "Sherlock Holmes" (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a man dying from cancer before his time and taking a last holiday to the Welsh coast with his pals. It probably doesn't do much to get past that rather dreary and predictable synopsis.

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



Before I go I ought to mention a couple of movies I managed to miss from way back on 06 May 2011.

Life, Above All

Rare South African movie that confronts the issues of undiagnosed HIV infections and child prostitution in a nation that has historically brushed these embarrassing problems under the carpet. Heartfelt and powerful.

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


Zombie Diaries 2

Awfully familiar sounding tale of undead hordes overrunning the last vestiges of human civilisation. But really, what's the point?

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

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Cher


Happy Birthday to

Cher

65 today


Like many megastars Cher has managed to reinvent her persona many times over the past 50 years, from the delicate singer dueting with Sonny Bono to the powerful dramatic actress to the glossy songstress we probably all know and love. Here she is warbling her most prescient tune from last years Burlesque.

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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The King's Speech

2010. Dir: Tom Hooper. Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce and Timothy Spall. ●●●●○



January was, as it is every year, a very tough month. In all I made it to the cinema 10 times but there were three films I managed to miss that I really should have made the effort for, so over the next few months (during the dark dismal days that is summer programming) I will be revisiting the gaps. First up is Tom Hooper's royal family biopic The King's Speech, a delightful combination of period stylings, technical brilliance and a warming relationship between an odd couple which nevertheless fails to be more than the sum of it's parts.



On the off-chance that you've spent the last 12 months under a rock and let the Best Picture Oscar winner wash over you completely the film follows the Duke of York cum King George VI (Colin Firth) attempts to deal with his crippling stammer which the aid of hammy actor turned speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The ups and downs between these two wildly divergent characters, the former a buttoned up, quick tempered monarch in waiting and the later a smugly relaxed Aussie chancer, is set against the tumultuous historical background of the 1930's including the abdication of his brother Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) and the rise of Nazism, culminating in George's first wartime speech - hence the title.

That the film succeeds largely lies with it's two leads. Colin Firth gives an exemplary performance, completely inhabiting the role without over playing the disability. Geoffrey Rush is also superb, attacking the tough supportive role with gusto perfectly balancing the eccentricities with the genuine concern for his patient. The humorous exchanges in Logue's study reflecting the shifting acceptances of each others world and the battling egos both needing control of the sessions.

If this relationship hadn't worked as well then the entire film would've juddered to a halt, but thankfully Firth and Rush have created a fully realised on-screen male friendship dynamic that rivals Redford and Newman in The Sting.

Elsewhere in the cast Helena Bonham Carter and Jennifer Ehle give sterling support as the spouses of our bromantic leads, but beyond that most of the performances seemed out of place. Guy Pearce is one-note and awfully affected whilst Timothy Spall's Churchill seems more like a caricature than a impersonation.

Indeed the various historical events in the background often seem forced or glossed over. Old King dies, check, Brother abdicates, check, war is announced, check. All of these occasions drift by, glibly handled but largely irrelevant to the main storyline, that of a therapist helping a troubled man to find his voice. The irrelevance (along with the indeterminable montages during the titular speech) ultimately belittle the historical context, as if Hitler was purely defeated by George's resilience toward a microphone.

Technically the film is a marvel, so much so it's difficult to argue with any of the production team's stunning haul of five "technical" oscar nominations. Danny Cohen's cinematography in particular is worthy of high praise framing the characters in particular and plot-relevant ways throughout and placing the audience firmly within the world of the movie. Eve Stewart and Judy Farr also contribute greatly thanks to their gorgeous production and set design.

Tom Hooper's greatest achievement as a director is making us forget we're essentially watching two guys in a room together, ultimately this feels much more expansive in spite of majority of the film taking place in the gloom of pre-war interiors.

The King's Speech is a film that everyone can and should enjoy, featuring beautiful work both in front and behind the camera, I just wish it had a little more to say.

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Monday, 16 May 2011

Debra Winger


Happy Birthday to

Debra Winger

56 today


Please excuse Debra whilst she just adjusts her glasses. The three time Oscar nominee is known for her reluctance to take roles, however fans of "In Treatment" were privileged to watch her sessions with Gabriel Bryne last year. We're just getting it in the UK this year and I for one will be tuning in.

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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Running (15/05/11)

Much shorter distance this week, but it's good to see the average pace back up to where it should be. In fact I'm a whole 1 mile per hour quicker then last week on average which is great.

5 runs
18.8 miles
2 hours 41 minutes

So that's an average speed of 6.99 mph

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Saturday, 14 May 2011

Here Boy, fetch. (Film News - 14/05/11)

It's Cannes this week. Admittedly it's unlikely you've had missed it. An odd thing happens during the world's most prestigious film festival - Hollywood effectively shuts up. All news over these ten days must come through the Croisette. This means there's loads of talk but little actual stuff going on. Very few stories getting any traction. That said there are a couple here that may excite.

Human Nature

So Darren Aronofsky won't be directing The Wolverine, although with no movement on that for some time I'm beginning to wonder if the whole venture is looking like it's been given up on, but what will he turn to instead. This point last year he had half a dozen projects all in contention but it appears he's gone leftfield and chosen a 15 year old script that's been sitting in development hell for most of that time.

With George Clooney as a possible star Jeff Welch's spec focuses on a man cryogenically frozen who wakes to find that mankind is longer the dominant species and now exist as pets. This will no doubt raise some fascinating ethical points about the morality of owning animals and what it means to be a human as well as hopefully including some kick-ass action set pieces.

Of all of Aronofsky's options I will confess this one excites me the most. We all wanted him to try something bigger in scope after Black Swan and this a more mind bending sci-fi premise than anything else discussed. Plus I wouldn't mind having George Clooney as a pet!


I doubt if any scenes like this will make the final cut, but I am rather hoping they might...

Read on for thuggish criminals, cinematic experiments and the latest casting rumours from Cannes and elsewhere.



Borderline

My main question with this run of the mill looking thriller, from Justin Marks the writer of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, will be how the family taken by hostages where the FATHER WITH EVERYTHING ON THE LINE must confront the CRIMINAL WITH NOTHING TO LOSE somehow connects to the title. Will it start and end by a National border or will the soundtrack be filled with early Madonna tracks. Keep tuned to find out first.

Five Obstructions, take 2

Intriguing but highly unlikely as it is the rumour that Martin Scorsese and Lars von Trier will be working together on a new project is coming out of Cannes again. Apparently Marty will take a look back at his early works and remake a short five times using certain rules as stipulated by the mad Dane, similar to The Five Obstructions documentary in 2003. Frankly I still doubt it will happen however if it does the combination of a director as willing to experiment as much as Scorsese with the punishing von Trier at his back is irresistible.



A screencap from the 2003 documentary directed by Jørgen Leth, with advice from Lars von Trier.

Casting News

Standby for handbags at dawn over Rachel Weisz as she adds The Bourne Legacy and possibly the now confirmed Johnny Depp starring remake of The Thin Man to her potential slate of forthcoming movies, unfortunately it may clash with Oz, the Great and Powerful so someone's going to miss out. I still think Al Pacino has a couple of great performances in him (even though some others from his heyday are utterly spent) so it's good to see him sign up as an older Mob advisor in Barry Levinson's Gotti: Three Generations, oh I am aware that he may just coast on his form in the genre but I'm still hoping for something special. David O. Russell is convinced he wants to work with his muse Mark Wahlberg again, whatever the project ends up being as he's signed him onto the cast list of The Silver Lining's Playbook although whether that will actually be the next film he makes is still in the air.

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Cate Blanchett


Happy Birthday to

Cate Blanchett

42 today


Cate always brings an extra level of class to every film she's involved in, in fact on many occasions I can honestly say she was the only reason I've watched to the end. By the time this is posted I will have watched Hanna so will be able to comment on how she does in a "wicked step-mother" role; see right for her clinical look for the movie. Coming soon she's reprising her role as Galadriel in The Hobbit movies - I've no idea if she'll make an appearance in both - and there's a quickie made with Steven Soderbergh (The Last time I saw Michael Gregg) which I hope will get released at some point.

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Friday, 13 May 2011

I was once like you are Now (Out this week - 13/05/11)

Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what song the title is from and how it relates to two of this weeks films. It's a really odd week, sandwiched in the middle of the early onslaught of blockbusters there's very few bog explosions and superheroes to actually draw us into multiplexes this week. Even the highly acclaimed and eagerly awaited Attack the Block looks more like a niche product than a bona fide chart topper. Nevertheless there are some exciting prospects to be had out there, including film of week A Screaming Man.



A Screaming Man

Intense and satisfying Palme d'Or nominee from last years Cannes festival following the changing fortunes of a father and son who work on a hotel pool projected against the backdrop of the civil war in Chad. Youssouf Djaoro as the titular parent figure displays all the emotion internally in challenging and powerful performance.

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



Attack the Block

Exciting looking trailer for Joe Cornish's Aliens vs. Hoodies feature, produced by the team behind Shaun of the Dead - with an added Nick Frost cameo. It's had great notcies on the festival circuit, even taking into account the U.S. audience wanting subtitles, and no doubt it has a cult future ahead of it.

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

Love Like Poison

Beguiling debut feature from Katell Quillevere, taking it's original French title from a Serge Gainsbourgh song Un Poison Violent. The film focuses on 14 year-old Anna as she prepares for her confirmation into the Catholic church, deals with her parents separation and begins to experience sexual desire. Typical French movie, then.

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

Red Hill

Ozploitation that mixes the obvious ingredients of pshychotic outback communities, an Aboriginal with almost supernatural survival skills and a father-to-be fresh from "Home & Away". It won't win any awards but you know exactly what you're going to get.

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

The Way

Emilio Estevez directs his father Martin Sheen for the second time in this moving look at grief and how fathers relate to their sons, as Sheen sr takes a pilgramge along the Way of St. James following his wastrel sons demise in an attempt. For 2 hours and 8 minutes watch him walk, chat with stranger, and find a new appreciation of life.

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

Amreeka

The U.S. immigrant experience (for a middle class West Bank family in rural Illinois) gets dissected in this American/Canadian co-production, although it seems to avoid the biting satire and preaching liberalism you may expect from the premise.

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

Love U... Mr. Kalakaar

Hindi Movie with more than usually insipid plot description about a cartoonist who derives his inspiration from emotional responses to the sky, a spider's web or a scrap of paper and a female accountant. Not for the faint hearted.

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

Seniors

Our second Bollywood entry, this time in Malayamlan, concerns four 30 somethings who decide to return to university for a post-graduate Philosophy course, and for the opportunity to really turn their comfortable lives upside down.

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

Risen

Somewhat unnecessary boxing drama about 1968 World Feather weight champion Howard Winstone who took the title in spite of being really rather nice and having a unusual fighting style. Shane Ritchie and John Noble are the big names in the cast list which kind of tells you what you're up against in this lightweight Brit film.

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

Take Me Home Tonight

Totally unnecessary 80's throwback starring rolled-jacket-sleeved Topher Grace (32) as he gatecrashes to college parties in order to woo big haired Teresa Plamer (25). The on the nose soundtrack is probably the only plus.

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

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Samantha Morton


Happy Birthday to

Samantha Morton

34 today


The Nottingham born actress is famous for her low-key and immensely powerful performances in British and American movies, in low budget indies and massive block-busting spectacles. We'll finally get the opportunity to see her supporting turn in Oren Moverman's The Messenger later this month and beyond that I'm most looking forward to Cosmopolis.

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Thursday, 12 May 2011

Katherine Hepburn - Always a Lady

Last night I received an e-mail from Andrew over at Encore Entertainment (if you're not already a reader I highly recommend popping over and browsing through his excellent reviews and encyclopedic knowledge) reminding me that today would have been Katherine Hepburn's 104th birthday. As a tribute he has asked for fellow bloggers to just briefly mention our favourite Hepburn performance, a tribute to the first thing that comes to mind. I can honestly say that was tough - I love Hepburn's work, only a couple of days ago I was extolling her comic skills in The Philadelphia Story to a colleague and The Lion in Winter remains close to one of my favourite films of all time.

However what came to my head first was "They don't make actors like that anymore", and I guess that's as good an epithet as any.



Throughout her career (and even when out of the media spotlight) Katherine oozed class, proudly stood up for her gender and fought every step of the way to ensure her career went the right way. Blessed with a deeply sardonic voice and unique Bryn Mawr cadences (an attribute I can't remember her ever trying to hide) Hepburn was as much a star as the breathy European actresses like Garbo and Dietrich, clearly breaking the mode of the fluffy ingenue packaged by the studios that the American cinema goers were more used to.

Indeed she had to fight commercial and critical failure during the late thirties due to her unconventional style, but that resilience and fortitude we see so rarely today pushed her back to Broadway for "The Philadelphia Story", the success of which firmly sealed her in the public conscience.

The rest, as they say, is history. Unafraid to be herself Katherine racked up 12 Oscar nominations and an unparralleled 4 wins, her collaborations with Spencer Tracy (and their offscreen romance) are legendary, she has a body of work that shames most actresses of the time let alone stars of today.



And in this modern age of celebrity culture, of plastic interchangeable actresses and forgettable female roles I doubt we'll ever see her ilk again.

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Lindsay Crouse


Happy Birthday to

Lindsay Crouse

63 today


The former wife of David Mamet has a fine literary and theatrical history, with wide experience in film and TV. Oddly she was listed as one of the most promising young actors in John Willis' Screen World in both 1977 and 1984 (you'd think that they might have checked if someone had been mentioned already).

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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Hanna

2011. Dir: Joe Wright. Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander and Olivia Williams. ●●●●○



We have an interesting parallel for my review with Thor last weekend. Like the Marvel adaptation Hanna feels almost like two films tied together, the first a look at the almost superheroic powers of our heroine Saoirse Ronan, the other a gentle fish out of water comedy as Hanna mixes with "normal" people - a hippy family floating around Morocco. Where this movie outperforms the former is the general sense of menace, the stakes here are real, people - the innocent as well as the culpable - will get hurt just for interacting with the girl.



The story opens with Hanna living with her father, Eric Bana, in a woodcutters cottage close to the Arctic circle. He's educating her in every skill she'll need to know; a selection of languages, how to gut a caribou, the theory of music and how to break a man's neck. Understandable it's not a normal child-raising but then Hanna is not an ordinary child. Able to beat her father in combat you can see the strength and agility in every move she makes. We learn little about her at this point, but pay attention as every point that's made will be important later in the plot. From her words to the deer to the Grimm's fairy tales book she reads.

Indeed it's that link to Grimm that completely overwhelms the basic story. This is a modern fairy tale, one that takes our heroine from her humble beginnings through a journey of self-discovery where she must confront an evil step-mother (semi-renegade CIA agent Cate Blanchett) and face some cold truths about her own origins.

The closest to reality this film has is the foster like family, led by Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng as a bickering and fascinating couple taking their children across Morocco and Southern Europe and reacting to the introduction and consequences of meeting the precocious protagonist. In this middle section Hanna begins to emotionally connect to her new family, experiencing a sense of familial attachment for the first time. This family are built on love not on a desperate need to avenge history.

In the meantime Blanchett recruits her wolves. A peroxide wigged Tom Hollander camply preening around his sex shops and neo-nazi thugs oozing menace like a predator in tennis shorts.

All the performances work in context of the movie, the grounded work by Williams and Flemyng nicely counterpointing the overacting of Hollander and Blanchett who totally owns the role, completely unafraid of working the stereotypes. The revelatory performance though is from Saoirse Ronan, with her clear eyes and virtually translucent skin she perfectly portrays the innocence and tenacity of the character, facing the collapse of her world and fighting her way through to the other side. It's hard to imagine this is the same girl who deservedly earned her first oscar nomination as the meddlesome sister in Joe Wright's Atonement.

Wright has proved himself a versatile and superb director with a picture that would at first glance appear to be completely outside of his comfort zone. Capable of creating tension in quiet scenes and filming some of the most well choreographed action scenes I've seen for a while this makes the prospect of Wright moving back into costume dramas for Anna Karenina seem just a little disappointing.

The film isn't perfect, there are some odd inconsistencies in Hanna's understanding and reaction to technology (partly I expect as a plot cheat) and the Chemical Brothers soundtrack doesn't work all the way through (although kudos to the second film in a year to feature Greig's In the Hall of the Mountain King and in a way that feels more natural and plot-underlining than The Social Network 8 months ago).

This is the first must see I've seen from this years crop, highly recommended and if this doesn't make it to my top ten at the end of the year then I'll probably have to eat my hat.

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Monday, 9 May 2011

Running (08/05/11)

I'm very disappointted with my efforts this week - a major step back on th claim that I could run a marathon. In fact I did (not as a race just as me on my own) by I did it in an awfully slow time (some 20 minutes longer than my worst actual marathon) and had to walk a couple of miles. Must work out how to break that wall...

4 runs
33.5 miles
5 hours 36 minutes

So that's an average speed of 5.99 mph (the slowest I've been in 12 weeks.)

This also marks the end of a 14 week cycle, stand by for a couple of easier weeks before I start pushing myself again. Over those 14 weeks I've run:

64 runs
310.8 miles
2 Days 0 hours 50 minutes

So that's an average speed of 6.36 mph.

That's near enough the distance from my house to Bodmin in Cornwall. Much further and I'd have had to swim!

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Candice Bergen


Happy Birthday to

Candice Bergen

65 today


I really don't know why Candy is so famous. It's a mystery to me. I think it must be an American thing, after all a quick namecheck on "Will & Grace" got a laugh from the studio audience. Of course I've seen her oscar nominated role in Starting Over and a couple of other film performances but there's nothing in film that would put her so high in the public consciousness. Maybe it's her staunch feminism, maybe being the first woman to host "Saturday Night Live" or maybe the ten-year run of "Murphy Brown". I don't know. Anyone like to enlighten me.

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Public Enemy Number 1 (Film News - 07/05/11)

It's been a strange week. On the one hand the non film related news completely dominated everywhere you looked from the defeat of AV and the local election results in the UK - as interesting as they were it's not as big as a general election so I didn't get into it as much as last year, apart from the AV vote the most significant impact was the Scottish National Party taking a majority in Scotland so we may expect a Referendum for Scottish independence at some point in the next 5 years - to the fallout from Bin Ladens death. Oddly that brings me on to my first piece of film news:

Kill Bin Laden

It didn't take 24 hours following the "execution" of Osama Bin Laden (note we are still a long way from finding out the facts about that day, I suspect we never will, I hope every effort was made to capture Bin Laden alive and to bring him to trial and it is unfortunate that in the heat of the moment he was killed. Of course with the continued pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the Middle East I think we can say that Bin Laden largely failed in his efforts to create a third world war - democratic Islam will succeed) before Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon. To be fair Kathryn Bigelow and her Hurt Locker scribe Mark Boal had already put together the elements for this as a quickie to film whilst waiting for location work for Triple Frontier to be completed. Of course the end of the movie, which is set to star Joel Edgerton, may now have to be changed but I doubt there's going to be much revision.

I would question whether it's worth doing. Whilst Bin Laden (below) was alive a film about the Coalition obsession with a middle aged figurehead and their fruitless attempts to locate him might have been darkly satirical and politically on-the-nose. Now it feels like jingoism.



What do you think? Should we see a movie that depicts the chase? What will the world think of a film that seemingly approves of his demise? Feel free to comment.

Read on for a very bad day, high school shenanigans, crime bosses, , art heists, New York musicals as well as a whole load of castings and a look at what's started production.




Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

With a plot that sounds much like Virginia Woolfe's Mrs Dalloway - we follow a character throughout their day where nothing particularly extraordinary happens - Judith Viorst's 1972 children's book (left) about the eponymous Alexander and his endless trials and tribulations has a huge following in America (it's not one that's endured as a classic elsewhere) so it's no surprise to see it's eventual adaptation into a live action big screen adventure. I'm curious to see what they do with it - the stakes appear a little low for a movie - although we can hope a modern children's classic can be the result there really aren't enough of them these days.


Bitch Posse

Whilst on the subject of films that are clearly not being made with me in mind Martha O'Connor's coming of age drama (left) is set to take the leap to celluloid courtesy of Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke. I know what you're thinking - Ben you hated Red Riding Hood what makes you think she can direct a decent film? - well the thing is this reminds me a lot of the basic premise of her Thirteen which really captured the difficulties of passing through teenage years unscathed by peer pressure. Bitch Posse concerns a group of teens from broken homes who form a group to support each other, but it all becomes dark and obsessive before a terrible incident splits them apart for 20 years.

Gotti: 3 Generations

I've kind of been avoiding this bizarre combination of John Travolta (and family), Joe Pesci and Lindsay Lohan in the epic look at the New York Crime family over several (um, 3) generations partly because I erroneously thought it was a TV project. So several weeks into production, with the directorial chair being taken over by Barry Levinson who has form with true life gangsters (Bugsy, 1991), I've started to tune into it. As an audience we have a long-time love affair with the gangster so there's little doubt this will succeed, my only hope is that Levinson manages to rein in the excesses that both Travolta and Pesci are capable of.

How I Live Now

Kevin Macdonald, who's currently licking his wounds after the critical and commercial backlash from The Eagle is in desperate need for a hit. Odd then that he's going to young adult fiction for inspiration. Tony Grisoni and Jeremy Brock will be adapting Meg Rosoff's novel (left) about a 15 year old New Yorker visiting Britain, falling for her cousin and becoming separated from news of her family due to war (a fake war I feel the need to point out, although it would be something if the UK and USA were cut off during war, something not even the Nazi's could do). The project will be shopped at Cannes later this month. Look out for a frantic and vaguely familiar search for a leading actress towards the end of the year.

Trance

You might think Danny Boyle wouldn't have time to make a movie right now, what with the National Theatre production of Frankenstein doing so well under his direction and only just over a year before the London Olympic opening ceremony (I'm still waiting for the call to be a blue triangle), however he's going to squeeze in a quick picture in the interim. We know next to nothing about the project right now, other than it's about an art heist that goes wrong leading to dark unpredictable consequences for the protagonists, Michael Fassbender may star, and Christian Coulson will be producing for his third collaboration with Boyle in a row. Certainly one to keep an eye on, but don't expect to see the final picture until 2013 at the earliest. And Danny, I've got all the moves sorted, please call.

Untitled Baz Luhrmann Project

Although he's pretty much committed to The Great Gatsby adaptation - although maybe not with 3D - Baz has still been chatting to MTV as part of his 10 year Moulin Rouge celebrations during which he slipped some other details of his other competing project. Frankly not much detail though. Essentially all we know is it's based in New York in the 1970's and whilst not a musical will strongly use the music from the period to create ambience. So nothing really, but I thought you'd like to know. Personally I had images in my head of Odyssey so I'm going to share:



Casting News

There have been the usual rounds of casting calls for this week. Some like Nicole Kidman seriously considering Our Wild Life are very exciting, others like Roberto Benigni possibly taking a role in Woody Allen's Rome adventure The Wrong Picture (note the confirmed title) are fascinating but probably won't significantly affect my likelihood of watching the movie. We've also heard Laura Linney is set to join Hyde Park in Hudson as FDR's cousin, Rachel Weisz will be a wicked witch in Oz, the Great and Powerful and Quentin Tarantino is pushing for Will Smith in his forthcoming Western Django Unchained. Finally there has been a torrent of casting on Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, joining Daniel Day-Lewis as honest Abe and Sally Field as Mary Todd will be Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook and John Hawkes, meaning it's going to be one of the most exciting casts of next year - can't wait.

Production News

In my monthly ferret around imdb I found loads of films we've already mentioned here that are now showing up within the pre-production of development. The darkly comic duo of The Games they Play (set at a dinner party) and Bumped (in an airport) have returned to the database following an unexplained absence, as has Paul Thomas Anderson's religious drama The Master and the faux documentary about the Zombie Apocalypse World War Z. The Wrong Picture, Gotti: 3 Generations, Django Unchained (although oddly with a working title) and How I live Now have all merited mentions elsewhere in the news. Which leaves only Ben Affleck's CIA masquerading as movie makers picture Argo.

Chemins de l'Orgeuil

Oh and this little movie from A Man and a Woman director Claude Lelouch. Frankly it's been a while since one of his films made it across the channel but fingers crossed. Details are a bit sketchy right now. It's listed on imdb as an Adventure Comedy and the title translates to "Paths of Pride".

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Janet McTeer


Happy Birthday to

Janet McTeer

50 today


An award winning stage actress, who rarely gets the cinematic roles to show off her considerable talent, as witnessed with her surprise best Actress Academy Award nomination in 1999 (for Tumbleweeds). Next up is giving cross-dressing advice to Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs.

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Friday, 6 May 2011

Did she turn out as you hoped? (Out this week - 06/05/11)

After last weeks explosive start to the blockbuster season we're now taking a less studio-based version with art-house versions of action movies likely to dominate the box office, and some exciting animated and foreign language selections. It's a bit of an interesting time for Christopher Plummer fans too, but the film of the week is the thriller/fairy tale hybrid Hanna



Hanna

Joe Wright, director of high profile British costume dramas such as Atonement and Pride and Prejudice at first glance appears to be slumming it with this action thriller, however closer inspection reveals the style and substance he's brought to the film has made this project utterly unique.

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




My Dog Tulip

Low-key animation based on J.R. Ackerley's autobiography about his friendship with a German Shepherd. Christopher Plummer, in his first role this week, is the central lead. Sadly this also has Lynn Redgrave's final performance.

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


Outside the Law

Rachid Bouchareb's second movie looking at the relationship between France and Algeria, the countries of his birth and of his heritage, however unlike Days of Glory this painful reminder of the Algerian Independence movement, and the ultra thin line between freedom fighters and terrorism, has stirred up painful memories of the period.

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


Water for Elephants

The second real test for proving if Robert Pattison can pull in an audience outside the Twilight franchise, although it won't take much to surpass his Remember Me. Reese Witherspoon plays the girl he falls in love with, Christoph Waltz her husband and Hal Holbrook looks back as an older version of the worst circus tragedy of all time. Expect a two hanky movie.

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


13 Assassins

Takashi Miike, known for his more extreme revenge movies, takes a look at feudal Japan in this based on fact action adventure. The titular assassins volunteer together to defeat a sadistic lord in a virtual suicide mission (with over 30 minutes of continuous battle choreography in the final set piece).

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


Engeyum Kadhal

Surprisingly delayed Tamil movie (first released in October 2010), possibly because it portrays a love story where the woman is in control and chasing her loved one.

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

Forget me Not

British independent love story set over 24 hours in the beauty and excitement of London's capital, the trailer recalls the lyricism and aimlessness of Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise.

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


One Hundred Mornings

The most depressing plot synopsis this week comes from Ireland. Two couples hide in a isolated lakeside whilst society falls apart. The micro situation will undoubtedly reflect the micro.

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


Priest

Adapted from a graphic novel, from the same director-star collaborators Scott Charles Stewart and Paul Bettany, as last years apocalyptic Legion. Not expected to be any good. Brad Dourif and Christopher Plummer - yes this is the lesser of the options - take he money and run in supporting roles.

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


Something Borrowed

This looks so much like any other Kate Hudson rom-com that I honestly thought it had come out before. Ginnifer Goodwin is the ostensible lead, falling for her best friends (Hudson) fiance. Apparently not as bad as it might seem.

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

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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Thor

2011. Dir: Kenneth Branagh. Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston and Stellan Skarsgaard. ●●●●○



The dominance of Marvel comics over the summer schedules for 2011 has got off to a good start with the fun and gorgeously designed Thor. Hopefully for them they can keep the ball in the air with the rest of the slate which now has a lot to live up to.



The film opens with a piece of Lord of the Rings style backstory with Sir Anthony Hopkins booming out the relationship between the Norse mythology, our Godlike heroes of the film and the villainous Frost Giants. It's a tale of bloody combat with the Frost Giants virtually totally annihilated and Odin's (the king of the Gods and father to Thor) appetite for war spent. So far so medieval monarchy, you could transplant Odin for any European king in the dark ages, any anti-hero from Jacobean theatrical tradition and his motivations would be a perfect fit, suddenly the decision to hire Kenneth Branagh as director makes perfect sense.

Flash forward many centuries (the Gods appear to age slower than men, although this leaves a small plot hole where a very young Thor would not have made an impact enough to be written about by ancient Scandinavian cultures) where Thor, all smirking self-confidence and irritatingly impatient, is about to attend his coronation. A small team of Frost Giants break into the Asgardian vaults so Thor mounts a war party to seek revenge for this infringement. For this thoughtless lack of diplomacy Odin banishes his firstborn to Earth with his mighty hammer and the hope that he'll learn some humility and the concept of self-sacrifice.

The film then breaks into two parallel storylines. In one, a delightful New Mexico set comedy, Thor is getting to grips with life on Earth and falling for Astro-physicist Natalie Portman, whilst in the other Odin's other son, Loki, is plotting and schemeing his way onto the throne of Asgard.

Chris Hemsworth gives a solid central performance, cocky and unlikeable in the first act, he shows great comic timing in his interactions with the mortals and even when he's given awful dialogue (there are some strange phrases that seem neither Asgardian in tone or like someone trying to fit in) he commits so much it works. When he goes into a pet shop it's a great comic scene that sells the character and his relationship with the world around him. Plus he is extraordinarily cut. Portman doesn't have much to do, sure she comes across much better than most Marvel heroines, clearly able to hold her own intellectually with the rest of the characters and doesn't have a scene where she needs to be rescued, however she mainly spouts unlikely scientific statements and builds up a desire for Thor. The other earthbound cast are fine, Stellan Skarsgaard and Kat Dennings as Portman's colleagues are great value, with the former particularly struggling to keep a straight face.

There are so many characters in Asgard few of them get enough of an opportunity to build character, only Tom Hiddleston's Loki with his multiple Machiavellian schemes (it's truly difficult to keep track on what he's actually doing) displays any conflicting emotion and whilst he did the job well here I think there's more and better work coming from the young Brit. Idris Elba, as gatekeeper Heimdall, was wasted in a role that promised much but I suspect was left partly on the cutting room floor. On that note at 114 minutes, including a pointless post credits extra scene with Samuel L. Jackson; just pointing the way to The Avengers heavyhanded given the few chucklesome mentions of other characters which had slipped in the script ("Is that Stark technology?", "I have a colleague working on Gamma Radiation" etc.), the time flew by and I wouldn't be surprised if there's a significant number of deleted scenes once the DVD roles around.

Branagh shows a sure hand with the comic and Asgard formal scenes, clearly using all his experience from adapting Shakespeare, and he is surprisingly adept with the action set-pieces I found I knew exactly what was going on during them, however there is a slight issue with the character, if you know Thor cannot be killed as he is a God then the tension is drained. Only the final battle in Asgard surprised me in it's conclusion, and it's clearly open for a sequel I just hope that possibility isn't just dusted over in The Avengers.

My major complaint about Thor is the totally unnecessary 3D filming. Not only does very little happen that justifies the additional expense, but the murkiness of watching through glasses totally ruins the spectacular design of Asgard. I can honestly say that watching the trailer on my cheap laptop was a superior experience because of the bright and crisp colours that watching the print at the cinema. Alexandra Byrne's costumes and Bo Welch's production design deserve so much more than showing the film in 3D.

Overall I'd say Thor is well worth the trip to the cinema. Sure it's no X2 but it's a fun comic book adaptation with some fine performances that will keep you entertained throughout. That said do your best to watch in 2D.

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Richard Jenkins


Happy Birthday to

Richard Jenkins

64 today


He's been around for years, paying his dues in television, stage and screen (including a minor role in Hannah and her Sisters) but it took an ethereal but very human role of the deceased patriach in "Six Feet Under" for Jenkins to really be noticed by casting directors. Sinc then he's been a highlight in many movies, earning his first Oscar nomination for 2007's The Visitor. Coming soon are shaggy dog tale Darling Companion and, at the other end of the scale, card game con artists gangster movie Cogan's Trade.

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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Senna

Can you believe there isn't a single June release that interests me this year. Frankly it's going to be good to have a break from regular trips to the movies, unless something really surprising comes along. I was considering posting a trailer for one of the big hitters, maybe giving my prediction for which film will take the box office crown or win critical plaudits for the month. Will it be X-Men First Class, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Green Lantern, The Beaver or Bad Teacher all of which look like they could bring in solid business or inspire some positive write-ups. In the end though I'm going to show the trailer for a British documentary about a Brazilian that just may become one of the leading contenders for an Oscar nod at the end of the year. Plus I'm a bit of a petrolhead and clearly remember that fateful race in May 1994.



Senna is released on 03 June 2011.

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Monday, 2 May 2011

Theodore Bikel


Happy Birthday to

Theodore Bikel

87 today


Actor/musician Bikel is probably best remembered for his dogged but good natured sheriff chasing Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones, or as his virtual cameo in My Fair Lady as the one expert they really need to dupe. What you probably don't know is that he's a keen folk musician and recorded a number of folk albums over the years. Here he is just last year:

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