Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Skin I Live In

2011. Dir: Pedro Almodóvar. Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet, Marisa Paredes and Blanca Suárez. ●●●●○



What is horror? Random House Dictionary defines it as "an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear", and that rigid explanation helps to conjure up the typical horror film audience, spellbound, dumbstruck, petrified in their seats. Desperate to dry out and defend the lonely teenager however transfixed by the seductive power of the knife-wielding, supernatural maniac.

The rules of the genre, as typified in the self-parodying chatter of the Scream franchise, are deceptively simple; open to reinterpretation, sure, but constant in their structure. It's therefore surprising that more established auteurish directors don't dip their toes, turning to genre exercises to stretch their skills in the way that Pedro Almodóvar does with The Skin I Live In.

Perhaps it's just a snobbish contempt for the form, after all many low-budget indies use tired horror cliches and over-egged metaphors and any idiot with a jump-cut can effectively startle an audience. Personally I expect it's more complex, there's a fear of making horror endemic in cinematic circles, there's a sweat inducing terror because making an effective chiller is a Herculean task. In our post-Gorno world where every sick fantasy imaginable has been seen audiences seem to need something extra to bring them to the edges of their seat (of course in reality it's the slow creep of dread that's always worked best for scaring crowds and that has nothing to do with the buckets of blood). It's a shame as Pedro here proves there's plenty of life in horror yet.



It's true to say Almodóvar has created a horror movie, with snatches of obsession, guilt and Stockholm syndrome, as well as drawing on modern body horror and the Frankenstein legend, it's equally true the film doesn't overplay the graphic sexualisation of violence - that is not to say there is no blood just that it feels like a natural conclusion to the action not the point of it - and could therefore be watched by even the most squeamish of genre avoiders.

Explaining the plot is a tough nut to crack, you may have notice I've been putting it off, mainly because it's a dense tale full of the melodramatic familial connections and soap-style revelations that we've come to expect from Almodóvar. There are also twists upon twists and to say much will spoil the feelings you get from the movie as it washes over you (not that the twists are especially shocking, they even feel natural and obvious in the moment, but to let the cat out of the bag before will deny you the opportunity to find out the delicious truth at the right time). Suffice to say the movie opens in a large isolated Spanish mansion housing an obsessive skin doctor (Antonio Banderas), his over protective housekeeper (Marisa Paredes) and a mysterious catsuit-wearing patient, practising yoga in a locked room (Elena Anaya). You can see the Frankenstein connection already. Why is Banderas have an enormous TV screen in his bedroom just to watch Anaya sleep? Why does Anaya relate to the sculpture of Louise Bourgeois? Who is the tiger at the gate? Is Banderas more obsessed about his wife that cheated on him, his daughter who was raped or the connected suicides of them both?

Some, but not all, of these questions will be answered satisfactorily. Others will come and go, getting lost in the ridiculous lines "I have madness in my entrails" and lost subplots (the artificial skin Banderas has been perfecting for Anaya seems like just an excuse to let him interact with other scientists). That said both Banderas and Anaya do fantastic work, as does Jan Cornet in a minor role I won't spoil, there's a moment we laugh out loud at his predicament yet when a tear roles down his cheek the entire audience went silent.

Of course I found problems with this movie, Almodóvar can't help being himself. The frame is gorgeously vibrant and exciting, the action perfectly paced and gripping, but full of melodramatic meanderings that could have come from any number of his other pictures. Some of which aid the story, others have no business being there.

Overall I would highly recommend this picture to horror geeks and non-fans alike for the genre busting and interesting departures Almodóvar makes. But remember it is Almodóvar making those departures.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Footloose

Remakes are always a tricky proposition, for every potential new fan there are half a dozen purists, devoted to the original, anxiously looking for flaws in the latest version. So it's with an unusual courage that I freely admit to looking forward to the remake of this cult hit. I actually want to see whether Kenny Wormald can hold a candle to Kevin Bacon and whether we'll one day need a new seven degrees game.



Footloose is released on 14 October 2011.

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David Paymer


Happy Birthday to

David Paymer

57 today


The perfect example of a consummate character actor Paymer has starred in far more good films than you can probably remember, and I'm thinking mainly Quiz Show and The Hurricane, not Carpool and Bad Teacher. Next up is Francis Ford Coppola's experimental horror Twixt.

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Monday, 29 August 2011

Personal News (29/08/11)



Blowing Whistles is, at least for now, over. I'm still hoping and hopeful we may get another run at it later in the year. In the meantime we have had a couple of nice reviews including Whatsonstage (I'm described as exceptional and impressive) or remotegoat.

I also filmed a furniture commercial this week (I know, selling out already) and if that ever appears on the internet I link it for you. I have two shots at a very nice table, partly interacting to the voiceover, all in all about 5 seconds of screentime, which took over an hour to film.

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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Running (28/08/11)

I'm sorry about last weekend, I'm afraid what with the play and all I didn't get the opportunity to update my running posts. At least that's the official excuse. The reality is that I didn't do the long run last weekend and felt a little embarrassed. I'm still one run behind where I should be but it's only a short so all good. Only 2 weeks until the Nottingham Robin Hood Marathon...

(Over the last two weeks)

9 runs
68.3 miles
9 hours 07 minutes

So that's an average speed of 7.50 mph

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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Seeing the film news from Space (Film News - 27/08/11)

I'm feeling a little smug right now, mainly because of the first news story. I won't go into it just yet but it proves a theory I put forth several months ago and justifies some expenditure I have made over the last few weeks - in spite of the gentle ribbing I received from my friends. Away from that there have been some nice little stories hanging around under the headlines, and thriller fans will be keen on a couple of the upcoming films. Until then time to stay smug.

The Great Wall

Back in April I wrote about the growing movie market in China and how we should expect to see more collaborations between Hollywood and the Chinese film Industry. Indeed at the time the Yang Guifei movie was cited as a specific example.

Now we've moved and Ed Zwick who has local form with The Last Samurai and will now be heading to Northern China to document the history of the world's most famous piece of masonry.

The oldest sections of The Wall was originally built around the 5th Century BC although it's the Ming dynasty's work in the 14th century AD that is most recognizable. Like most walls it's purpose is mainly defensive, keeping the Monguls from conquering vast swathes of the Northern Provinces. The exact period the film will cover has yet to be decided but expect the Ming Dynasty when the majority of work was done to be the central topic.

The most interesting part of the story though is that this is the first film from Legendary East, the historic spin-off company from Legendary Films, spearheaded by Thomas Tull, that will produce and finance films made in China and Hong Kong with international investors. As I said before this year is marking a major change in the worldwide dominance of Hollywood, and it will take this sort of thinking to keep the studios on top.



If you've lived under a rock your entire life here's a picture of the Great Wall of China.

Read on for FBI love affairs, mysterious cargo, soul singers and a trip to Germany, as well as the latest in casting news and a rundown on the changes to UK release dates over the last month.



Above Suspicion

Our first thriller of the week is this appallingly titled project which sees an FBI agent falling for an informer and getting framed for a murder. Sounds awfully unoriginal but Philip Noyce (left) is potentially behind the camera for this one and with his form on other silly cop films like last years Salt and The Bone Collector it could still end up being a lot of fun.

Line of Sight

Perhaps boasting a more bizarre plot will make this second genre pic look more intriguing, however it's title is just as bland and uninteresting as the the above. Ben Affleck is considering this tale of "an elite commando squad transporting cargo whilst dealing with a global threat". Which has just enough undefined nouns to make the by-line meaningless. So it the cargo a nuclear bomb of a truck of stuffed toys, is the threat neo-fascist terrorists or childhood obesity rates. We'll just have to wait and see!

Untitled Aretha Franklin Biopic

Aretha Franklin (69, right) has been talking up the possibility of her biopic getting made (which frankly smacks of being a touch self-centred to me) including the suggestion that Halle Berry would be the best person to take the role. I'm not going to make disparaging personal comments (feel free to make them in the comments) but Franklin and Berry are hardly similar in body shape are they?

Untitled Woody Allen picture

We don't have much on Woody Allen's next European postcard, other than early indications are he's moving on to Munich for his next picture. Munich's most famous cultural event is of course Oktoberfest (the beer festival) which will hopefully get a cameo in Allen's film, although I suspect it will spend more time in the upper middle class pastimes of looking at the delightful neoclassical architecture.


The last time I can remember Oktoberfest in cinema!

Casting News

Two stories directly relating to cast lists this week, the easier one is the revelation that Chazz Palminteri has signed on to play Paul Castellano in Mafia family drama Gotti: In the Shadow of my Father, oddly though this isn't the first time he's played Castellano having taken the role in TNT's TV movie Boss of Bosses 10 years ago. Perhaps more exciting is Christian Bale's (looking thoughtful in the picture below) upcoming slate, this week it was revealed he has five wildly divergent projects vying for his signature after the next Batman movie. The options include Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace (Formerly Known as The Low Dweller), Gold, Noah, Oldboy and - most bizarrely - A Star is Born. Mind you when you look at this list there's still a trend of highly driven and obsessive characters which goes to prove even t this level there's type-casting.


Release Schedules

Machine Gun Preacher - The biker cum missionary biopic has shifted it's release date another couple of weeks, each time coming forward which obviously indicates the films at least ready and the producers want it to be seen early in the awards season, so I guess I'll have to do that. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition on 04 November 2011.

J. Edgar - Talking of biopics one of the most anticipated in that much maligned genre is Clint Eastwoods look at the infamous head of the FBI - with Dustin Lance Black scripting it's going to be fascinating how the film balances old and new Hollywood attitudes to Hoover's sexuality. Get obsessed with communists on 20 January 2012.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Hollywood still remains surprisingly coy about directly addressing 9/11, and the few that have looked at the aftermath have come across as maudlin, so maybe this Stephen Daldry directed drama from a child's eye perspective may buck the trend. Notice the event but struggle with it's meaning on 03 February 2012.

Odd Life of Timothy Green - Over the last month we've seen the trailer, poster and, at Disney's recent convention, and the buzz has been as strange as the concept with the family friendly fantasy being lambasted for it's weird vibe. Bury your wishes in the garden on 17 August 2012.

World War Z - The zombie apocalypse will be coming soon, by the end of next year we'll be recovering with Brad Pitt talking to the survivors finding out what really happened in those dark days. Begin the fight back against the shuffling hordes on 04 January 2013.

Bad news though for some other films I had high hopes for. Release dates for both The Dark Tower and The Lone Ranger has both come and gone, just another step for both of those projects on the road to complete abandonment. The football rom-com Playing the Field might be looking at a similar fate with it's March release being pulled, however at least the Gerard Butler vehicle has been made. That's something that Nikita Mikhalkov must be content with too with the knowledge his Burnt by The Sun 2 (sequel to the 1994 Oscar winner) has gone straight to DVD in the UK - perhaps avoiding the wrath of critics who've been queueing up to vent their vitriol.



In spite of how rubbish the films reception seems to have been there's no denying the retro look of this poster really works.

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Tuesday Weld


Happy Birthday to

Tuesday Weld

68 today


A rollercoaster career that almost disguises the tragedy of Tuesday's early life, the main breadwinner in the family from around 3 who sunk into drink and drug dependency in her teens, with a sparse but quality career that could have been so much more exciting if she'd taken all the roles originally offered to her including Lolita, Bonnie and Clyde, True Grit, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Rosemary's Baby.

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Friday, 26 August 2011

How deep is Beauty? (Out this week - 26/08/11)

How can one week look so interesting and yet so weak at the same time. On one end of the scale we have a couple of utter flops that are fighting for the teen audience, whilst at the other there's a (not totally successful) chick-lit adaptation and a Spanish melohorror which are both appealing to me. Of course it's Almodovar who wins out so the runs like a gay film of the week is The Skin I Live In.



The Skin I Live In

Marking their sixth collaboration together, and the first since 1990's Tie me Up, Tie me Down, we have Pedro Almodovar and Antonio Banderas genre-bending in this mad scientist picture. Reviews from Cannes and since have emphasised the high camp that harkens back to the Universal monster heyday.

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



One Day

It's disgustingly widely read, even I felt the need to turn the pages of David Nicholls' addictive novel, so was always going to face the wrath of the fans on it's release and early reviews have not been kind. That said I didn't like the book so I expect I will like the film!

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

Conan the Barbarian

From what I hear this muscle-bound remake really helps you to appreciate the simplicity and strong plotting of Arnie's original. Jason Momoa gets to wear very little as the titular hero, and amazingly they hired Morgan Freeman to narrate!

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

Kill the Irishman

Ultra limited release for this surprisingly starry biopic of longshoreman and gangster Danny Greene who wanted a cut of the Cleveland crime scene without paying respects to the Mafia. Look out for Vincent D'Onoforio, Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken in supporting roles.

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

R: Hit First, Hit Hardest

Danish prison drama that does what it says on the tin, expect brutal inmate on inmate violence and maybe some messing with the screws. By way of a twist the central story recounts the friendship between two inmates of radically different racial and religious upbringings.

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

As Blood Runs Deep

Another one of those heavy casts of good looking young Americans, a selection of wannabes and nearly were's whose career's hover a step above direct to video. There's been a murder in a close knit community and whilst they appear to be trying to work with the police I smell a conspiracy.

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

Final Destination 5

Yet another instalment for this utterly preposterous horror franchise with DEATH chasing at the heels of a horde of survivors from a special effects heavy bridge collapse. As ever the most fun will be trying to work out what everyday object holds the key to the characters demise.

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

Powder

Oddly this dark comedy about the British indie music scene, with all it's ups, downs and general depravity is an American film, which does make you wonder about the state of the British film industry - probably more than you worry about the music at least.

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


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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Sean Connery


Happy Birthday to

Sean Connery

81 today


The original - and still the best - James Bond is ageing gracefully in the Bahamas having officially retired from acting in 2003 - after the spectacular flop that was The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. You do actually hope that he does come back and do something interesting so the career doesn't end on such a sour note.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Marlee Matlin


Happy Birthday to

Marlee Matlin

46 today


The record breaking Oscar winner (youngest Best Actress, only profoundly death winner) who's as much a powerful advocate for equal rights as she is a fine actress. Actually one of the tragedies of her career is that she hasn't had as much opportunity to shine in roles that don't rely on her deafness.

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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Midnight in Paris

As September rolls in October (and believe me the next few months are so packed with great looking releases I'm having to start the trailers early) we get that rare thing - a Woody Allen picture opening in the UK the same year as it opens in the States. I consider that a good sign, backed up by it's superb box office performance and positive critical response which is lucky as his last couple of movies have been virtually unwatchable. I'm hoping this is the long awaited return to form we've been promised.



Midnight in Paris opens on 07 October 2011.

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Saturday, 20 August 2011

How far Would you go? (Film News - 20/08/11)

Welcome to this week's selection of news. I'm quite excited this week, not just because of the latest revenge drama that's been greenlit (I just love those tit for tat movies) but also because I'm experimenting with a new section of the movie news, a monthly gathering of all the stories that I missed but only caught up with late, usually because they weren't big enough to merit proper attention from the cinematic press. It's right at the end and I hope it will become as regular a feature as the release dates and production sections - assuming that I don't get fed up with the amount of work it involves that is...

The Revenant

Easily the most curious of the projects that caught my eye this week was this adaptation of Michael Punke's revenge western. It tells the story of an injured fur trapper, formerly rumoured to be played by Christian Bale, who is left for dead by two opportunistic colleagues. After his miraculous survival though he searches, travelling 3,000 miles across America, for the wrong-doers in a quest for revenge.

Now in spite of Westerns having an uneven time at the box office this seems to be a fairly easy one to put together which could keep the expenses down, and this will be an interesting addition to the theme of revenge movies currently in pre-production - see Creed of Violence and Django Unchained among others.


The book cover - as if you couldn't guess.


What makes it most exciting is the appointment of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu as the director of choice, famed for his international tales of extreme misery this will mark departure in style and substance (for this first time he'll be working for a studio) for the Mexican auteur. All this adds up to build a fascinating picture for a film I will be extremely excited to see.

Read on for TV outings, a director fixated with his past, a unsuspecting innocent on the run and a toss-up between a infamous trial and a hod of brickies. Plus we have some casting news and the maiden voyage of Missing Links.



Arrested Development

The TV to film adaptation is actually looking like it may happen with a meta plot synopsis drifting into the public domain earlier this week. Apparently Ron Howard (as himself) will be directing a movie based on the lives of the Bluth family, who fearing their reputation will be tarnished decide to make their own version. Sounds crazy but it may just work, and lets face it we all want to see more of Jason Bateman, Michael Cera et al.

Blade Runner Prequel

Ridley Scott obviously has the bug for returning to his previous projects, and with Prometheus having drifted completely from being a Alien prequel he's signed on to direct the Blade Runner prequel, as irrelvant as that may sound. Still looks like Harrison Ford is ruling himself out so it least it won't be providing a definitive answer to whether Deckard (left) is a replicant.

The Key Man

It's always nice to see original thriller topics, albeit derivative ones, Brian De Palma's next nod to Hicthcock will follow an everyman hero whose body "contains Government secrets" on the run from agents, and with the plot described as a throwback to 70's paranoia thrillers you know it's right up the street of Brian. Could be fascinating, could be horrendous.

Untitled Rosenberg Trial Picture/Christ in Concrete

John Sayles has been doing the publicity rounds for Amigo's US limited release, only 2 years since it's Toronto debut and I can only hope we get it over here at some point. As part of the conversation he's let it slip he's currently working on a film based on the famed Rosenberg spy trial in the 1950's, a trial which notably ended in the suburban couple getting executed for selling nuclear secrets to the Russians. Sounds like a fascinating topic that could really work with Sayles' ensemble aesthetic. He's also considering adapting Pietro Di Donato‘s most famous novel Christ in Concrete (below) about Italian immigrants working in the brick industry in 1920's New Jersey.



Casting News

What with her maternity leave and winning an Oscar Natalie Portman's been quite busy of late and has yet to sign on to any upcoming movies, until this week when she became the latest leading lady attached to Adaline the sophisticated sci-fi about a woman who stops ageing around the turn of the 20th century. Angela Lansbury is still on to play her daughter!

Missing Links

So what's Missing Links all about then? Well, it's about celebrating the continued rise of Justin Timberlake's acting career with the news he's signed on to action thriller Fully Automatic. Or how about learning How to Defeat Your Own Clone, the adaptation of the biotech revolution self help manual partly inspired by World War Z. There's the Christopher Nolan adaptation of Ruth Rendall's Keys to the Street which was released to fans via www.raindance.org - no news if there will ever be a film of it though. Talking of big screen adaptations we're still expectant about John Wyndham's Chocky, the seminal 1968 young adult novel about a boy with an imaginary friend, who also happens to be alien in control of half the boys mind!!! There's also plenty of independent films that get noticed through Missing Links, like the story behind Australia's unofficial national anthem Waltzing Matilda in Banjo and Matilda recently awarded funding by the Aussie film board. And finally the hit stage production of A Steady Rain which united Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig as Chicago cops trying to avoid the blame for a case of child abuse they failed to spot, let's hope it marks a return to form for the two of them.



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Joan Allen


Happy Birthday to

Joan Allen

55 today


Joan's attitude to acting is fascinating, she's regularly quoted as relishing the opportunity to cry, scream, laugh and even be lustful in a controlled environment ensuring she need not do it in real life. Next up is her third stab at CIA Deputy Director in The Bourne Legacy.

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Friday, 19 August 2011

Of the Peace of Ireland (Out this week - 19/08/11)

I have very little option this week with the film of the week, obviously I expect the underperforming US genre mash to take the box office top spot, although the two TV spin-offs hitting cinemas this weekend will want a slice of the action, however the most intriguing movie with several weeks of success in the Irish cinemas and therefore film of the week is The Guard.



The Guard

It's easy to be blasé about John Michael McDonagh's indie mismatched cop story, but it has all the hall-marks of a classic of the genre. With Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle perfectly matched to rub each other up the wrong way. The most interesting off screen connection to note is McDonagh's brother Martin directed In Bruges also starring Gleeson.

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



Cowboys & Aliens

Oh dear, the fallout from this expensive flop (apparently $200m was spent on the a movie that's only going to make $96m domestically) is quite broad ranging, from the closedown of The Lone Ranger to the panic over the box office draw of it's leading men Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. That's what happens when you use a randomly generated selection of buzzwords to create a film, I guess.

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

In a Better World

Susanne Bier's relationship drama may cover themes she's been to time and time again but who can dissect modern Danish families better, also this controversially won the Best Foreign Language film Oscar earlier this year. However in spite of all that pedigree the trailer looks a little overwrought.

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

The Inbetweeners Movie

Aimed squarely at the fans of the BBC2 comedy series, and using the classic characters go on holiday tactic of opening the action to a 90 minutes session, there's certainly a market for this not-quite-cool boys on holiday lark. Not sure it's me though.

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

Villain

Fascinating looking Japanese drama about guilt and redemption and the aftermath of a senseless, almost inadvertent murder, the two main suspects and what it means to love and sacrifice for someone. Could well be worth a second look.

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

Glee! Live in 3D!

I was in two minds about even including this concert documentary, after all it doesn't appear to conform to my rules for inclusion in the breakdown of releases (no docs, no live shows, no re-releases etc) however after bombing in the States where it didn't even make it to the top ten in it's week of release and with the actors (including Gwynneth Paltrow but not Jane Lynch or Matthew Morrison) appearing as the characters they play in the TV series I felt it wouldn't hurt. No-one's going to see it anyway.

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

Spy Kids: All the time in the World in 4D

I'm assuming the 4D element of this totally unnecessary kiddies sequel is time, in that it drags on and on and on. Plot appears to revolve around a magical sapphire that stops time and some drivel about step-mothers being spies. Charmless.

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

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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Robert Redford


Happy Birthday to

Robert Redford

75 today


Actor, director, independent film enthusiast and all round heartthrob Redford shadow looms large over recent Hollywood history. His last directorial outing The Conspirator was a bit of a misstep but I'm always hoping for something more from this unique talent. Next up will be The Company you Keep in which he will act and direct.

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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Sean Penn


Happy Birthday to

Sean Penn

51 today


Two time Oscar winner Penn is going through a rather odd patch in his career, firstly he wanted to take a couple of years out to be with the family, then he took the tiny supporting role in Terence Malick's Tree of Life and his other Cannes flick This must be the Place, oddly nothing's pricking my fancy.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Melancholia

There's nothing like a good dose of showmanship to sell a film, not that Lars von Trier seemed to need his usual controversy seeking methods to get the crowds enthused about this end of the world drama. Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg star as two sisters reacting in extremes ways to their impending doom, elegant and measured it received rave reviews in Cannes and won Kiki best actress. The trailer certainly gives the impression this is one to watch.



Melancholia is released on 30 September 2011.

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Ann Blyth


Happy Birthday to

Ann Blyth

83 today


I wonder what Ann thinks of the HBO "Mildred Pierce" remake and the performance of Evan Rachel Wood as Veda, the role Ann performed in the original 1946 film. Whatever she thinks she's not telling, at least not at the moment, hopefully she'll break her silence with a catty interview, truly in the spirit of Veda.

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Monday, 15 August 2011

Personal News (15/08/11)

Just one week to go now and rehearsals for Blowing Whistles are going really well, although I freely confess I am utterly exhausted most of the time. Especially if I've been going at it on the second half - essentially 40 pages of arguing with co-star Haydn Holden.

Tickets are selling fast however there are a few left (buy them here) so if you're interested in seeing this frenetic, funny and provocative play examining what it means to be gay in 2011.



I've also recently been cast in another fringe production, Celluloid by Lloyd Eyre-Morgan from Dream Avenue Productions, I urge you to join Dream Avenue on Facebook in order to keep up with events. We've had the first readthrough and it's a great script with a superb cast (most of whom make me feel very very old) and should certainly be worth catching later this year.

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Jennifer Lawrence


Happy Birthday to

Jennifer Lawrence

21 today


Bursting onto the scene at last years Sundance with her superb performance in Winter's Bone (right) later earning an Oscar nomination. She's doing well off it to, straight into a supporting X-Men role and next up the Hunger Games. Saying that I'm most looking forward to seeing her in David O. Russell's Silver linings Playbook.

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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Running (14/08/11)

I ran another half marathon distance today - same as last weekend - I was hoping to make it round just a little quicker than last week however in the end I was 0.08% slower (I know it's marginal but of course that matter when running long distances). That said over the week I had my fastest average yet, breaking my mile record during the park run event yesterday. Only 4 weeks until the Nottingham Robin Hood Marathon...

5 runs
36.3 miles
4 hours 45 minutes

So that's an average speed of 7.64 mph

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Halle Berry


Happy Birthday to

Halle Berry

45 today


Ever since her historic best actress Academy Award in 2001 Berry's name has become a byword for the Oscar curse, turning up in preposterous big budget flops and now desperately seeking baity roles (mulitple personality disorders, recovering drug addicts etc.) in order to bring herself back into critical acclaim. That said the role I'm most interested in seeing her in is New Year's Eve the (not-really-a) sequel to Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day and with that shot from the trailer it's looking awfully like a TV medical drama isn't it? Teehee.

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Saturday, 13 August 2011

It's not a Google function (Film News - 13/08/11)

As you have probably heard the real world has been a lot more fascinating than movie news here in the UK this week. Indeed at times it's felt like we were in the first reel of a post-apocalyptic tragedy with teenage looters conquering the streets of major cities, including the centre of Manchester where I'm based. Not that it was ever going to last - the rioting was opportunistic criminality with little social and economic reasons for the individual looters. This was not about the poor and dispossessed rising up against an authoritarian corrupt Government (although Prime Minister David Cameron's comments in the House may have convinced you otherwise) nor was there a sense this was about the shooting of Mark Duggan and racism in the Metropolitan police (although that may have been the initial spark by the time the rioting spread it became darker and more self-centred). If any proof were needed of this just remember the most effective weapon against the rioting was a light drizzle of rain on Wednesday night.

Moving back to the point the following stories, which all came out towards the end of the week, were the movie-world points to note.


Terrorist Search Engine

The title alone makes a very definite statement about thee content of this true life expose, although I'm nowhere close to working out why other than the potential internet connect that links Social Network actor Jesse Eisenberg and producer Scott Rudin with The Messenger writer/director Oren Moverman.

Based on a New York Magazine article on the controversial counter-terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann (left - I realise it's not a very flattering picture but the wunderkind does very little publicity), the FBI consultant who made a name for himself in his 20's as a professional witness often stirring up high passions in the courts, scaremongering and on occasions inciting miscarriages of justice. More info on Kohlmann can be found here. He certainly seems like a fascinating man but it's difficult to imagine the adaptation being cinematic with at present very little emotional or story arc to come out of the screen play.

The title, which is ripped from the article, refers to the extensive collection of jihadist materials found on the net. Although I suspect part of the reason for keeping it's internet themed moniker is to remind audiences of Eisenberg's most successful role and hopefully cash in on that kudos (a mild dose of cynicism never hurt anyone.

At the moment Moverman is only down to write this but he may be interested in taking the director's chair, but I for one hope he does so and makes this his next job after the Toronto bow of the much anticipated Rampart, and I'm sure he can wring all the necessary tension out of the story, however slight it appears on paper.

Read on for a date with history, competing cops and the latest casting rumours hitting the web.



11/22/63



Of course I realise that horror meastro Stephen King never really goes out of fashion but I'm sure we've all noticed a mini-resurgence in film studio interest regarding book to screen adaptations. First up was the Lindsay Lohan starring Carrie remake, then a Potter themed The Stand but the most intriguing so far is the news that Jonathan Demme is set to adapt and direct this sci-fi premise which hasn't even been published, see the book cover above. For anyone vaguely familiar with 20th century US history the date of the title was the day JFK was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, and the novel sees our everyman hero transported back to that date and naturally attempt to prevent that crime. Where the plot goes from there is still under wraps but with potential time travel paradoxes aplenty I'm very curious to read and see any movies based on this story. Especially given this looks to keep the horror element light, representing a new direction for the best selling author.


2 Guns

It's been hanging around for a while but I do hope some movement on the complex procedural thriller with a DEA agent and Naval intelligence officer investigating each other for being in bed with the mob whereas they're both trying to work undercover to infiltrate the Mafia. Or somesuch madness. Based on a comic book Universal are now calling it a studio priority, although whether that actually means anything remains to be seen. Look out for a twisty turny thriller coming your way soon.

Casting News

Curious rather than jaw dropping casting stories this week. Heading up the stories is the fantastic cast that have been signing on to Robert Redford's newspaper drama The Company you Keep - joining Shia Labeouf will be up and coming actress Brit Marling, as well as established stars Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon and Richard Jenkins. Meanwhile Mo'Nique has finally chosen her first post-Oscar movie since her superb performance in Precious, it's a bizarre choice with airport-set comedy Bumped which sees a group of strangers getting to know each other whilst waiting for the next flight out of LA - it's like we're seeing the Oscar curse in action.


Mo'Nique celebrates with her little trinket, before she realises the implications to her career.

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Quinn Cummings


Happy Birthday to

Quinn Cummings

44 today


The last time I mentioned Quinn Cummings a couple of years ago I was pointed by a reader to her excellent blog: The QC Report. I can highly recommend reading the account by this former child actress of her average surburban lifestyle, with a keen eye for absurdity in the mundane Quinn chronicles the experiences we all have in ways we wouldn't have considered. Her printed collection (Notes from the Underwire) is also necessary reading, get from Amazon here.

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Friday, 12 August 2011

Which side are you one? (Out this week - 12/08/12)

For the record I am unlikely to go to the cinema this weekend, busy busy busy with one thing and another and whilst there are three movies that look good enough to spend some dosh on it won't be me that does that. Hopefully my title links in some - admittedly loose - way to each of those releases. If I had to choose, and I suppose I should given the nature of this regular post, the film of the week would have to be Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within.



Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within

The clearest link goes to this pounding Brazilian police procedural which broke box office records in it's home country last year. Dealing with the battle against drugs in the favellas and corruption within the force even the trailer had my heart pumping.

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



Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I hope that British Wonderkid Rupert Wyatt, who's been handed the reins on this tentpole release on only his second movie, succeeds in winning the box office battle this week at least. James Franco and Freida Pinto are ostensibly the stars in this origin story but it's Andy Serkis - in full performance capture mode as Ceasar - who's taking the lion's share of the plaudits. John Lithgow also stars.

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

The Salt of Life

None more French comedy about a middle aged (married) man desperately trying to become a philanderer and finding out the hard way that dating is a young mans game.

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

Beautiful Lies

More French giggles - is it that time of year - with Audrey Tatou reminding us how lovely she is by accidently setting up the local hunk (who has a crush on her) with her lovesick mother.

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

The Devil's Double

Dominic Cooper - that nice one from Mamma Mia! - makes a bid to be considered a serious actor in this Iraqi Gangster movie playing both Uday (Son of Saddam) and his double Latif. Looks interesting enough, however seems to avoid the political and historic context in favour of making a good story.

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

Aarakshan

Bollywood drama with a really stirring Hindi trailer, which even though I didn't understand the words had a very clear plot regarding the political and cultural pressures on a large school.

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

Rowthiram

Less effective at marketing itself is this Tamil drama, which I can find no plot synopsis or trailer, but it appears to be a family affair with R.B. Choudary directing his son Jeeva in a major role.

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

The Smurfs

The iconic blue figures have done surprisingly well in box office performance over in the States, indeed it appears to be one of the most high profile successes this summer. I just hope it doesn't steal any audiences from the Apes movie.

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

The Taqwacores

American indie movie about the Islamic Punk scene, based on the memoirs of a convert, that unfortunately has seen poor reviews take the steam out of a fascinating topic. Maybe a documentary might have worked better.

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

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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Martha Hyer


Happy Birthday to

Martha Hyer

87 today


Former classmate of Charlton Heston and Patricia Neal at Northwestern University (what a group eh?) Martha was able to mix casual detachment with deep yearning, best exhibited in her Academy Award nominated role in Some Came Running holding her own against Frank Sinatra and Shirley Maclaine.

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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Tuesday Trailers - The Debt

Continuing with my quest to highlight trailers for movies no-one else really wants to see, it's John Madden Mossad remake with three agents trying to put right the mistakes they made on a mission 40 years previously with Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain playing the same person as the actions flips back and forth between the two time periods. OK so it looks like by the book thriller territory but admit it you're still a little curious...



The Debt is released on 30 September 2011.

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Melanie Griffith


Happy Birthday to

Melanie Griffith

54 today


Daughter of Hitchcock fave Tippi Hedron and married to Antonio Banderas since 1996 it's no surprise that Griffith is an actress - best remembered for big hair and throaty delivery in Working Girl. That said she hasn't appeared in anything remotely watchable since Woody Allen's Celebrity in 1998, such a shame.

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Sunday, 7 August 2011

Running (07/08/11)

No time to chat - just got from my half marathon training run (fairly good) and need to shower then rush out for rehearsal. Bought train ticket for Nottingham today as well - getting exciting and close with just five weeks to go.

5 runs
34.2 miles
4 hours 36 minutes

So that's an average speed of 7.43 mph

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Michael Shannon


Happy Birthday to

Michael Shannon

37 today


Michael is a stage trained actor who's transition to movies has been mainly due to two of three films that showcased his wide ranging abilities - just watch Bug where he reprises his stage performance to great effect. Coming up soon is an as yet unnamed role with Gerard Butler in Machine Gun Preacher, I guess we'll know more after Toronto.

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Saturday, 6 August 2011

Reading, Writing and Swapping Vegetables (Film News - 06/08/11)

The most bizarre thing about this weeks news is that most of the stories I'm going with I wasn't planning on using. Honestly I read several things on the net this week and thought well I'll use that if it's quiet, and it has been a little slow but we've obviously had worse weeks, however I'm sticking with all those optional stories, mainly because I can't really decide which ones to throw out. So please enjoy this slightly extended post and don't forget to scroll ahead for the monthly production updates.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

That fascinating title is enough to make me want to know more about Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer's bestselling novel based on the Channel Islands. Framed much like 84 Charing Cross Road the book is a series of letters between Juliet, a single 30-something author in post-war London and the extra-ordinary members of the titular club who write to her, recounting their experiences and personal struggles during the German occupation of the island.

It's a fascinating concept that will need an awful lot of work to make it visually interesting, although I expect once a flashback structure is created the letter writing element will be virtually lost, and charged with adapting the novel is Don Happy Endings Roos which certainly gives an idea of the ensemble style and nature of the piece.

The final piece in the jigsaw is director Kenneth Branagh who's currently shopping around for his next project now he's turned down Thor 2. More of a Peter's Friends than Henry V this does sound like it might be out of his comfort zone, but we were all surprised by what he brought to Thor so I have high hopes for how this literary package will turn out.



Shame the book cover (above) is so blatantly chick-lit I can't actually buy it and read it on the commute to work!

Read on for shark revenge fantasies, a candlestick in the library, money shots and boom boxes. As well as news from the Academy, some casting titbits and a run down of the latest stories featured here which might actually get made!



Bait

Bret Easton Ellis, of American Psycho fame, has been trying to get this odd revenge movie off the ground for some time, but with the news that Paul Schrader has signed on to direct we may see it sooner than we think. It's an ugly sounding piece, no surprise there, which concerns a waiter beaten by his rich spoilt clients who enacts his vengeance by forcing them to swim in shark infested waters. Sounds like a prototype Bond villain and I'm not completely sure plans like that would actually work but with Ellis' penchant for underlining the banality of evil this could become a cult hit.

Clue

It's hard to believe but the bubble may have burst on the game-to-movie adaptations after only the trailer for Battleship following the news this week that Universal have dropped plans to remake the classic murder mystery game. The good news is that Hasbro have rescued the Gore Verbinski helmed pic (possibly to be his next after The Lone Ranger next year) so it's still on the cards. This seems like a strange decision as it's probably the easiest and cheapest of the proposed mini-genre to make, even has the proven track record with the 80's comedy (which I love, btw). I can totally see Verbinski's best mate Johnny Depp in a Wadsworth type role too - played by Tim Curry in the original on the left.

Nymphomaniac

Lars von Trier is at it again, not content with the on-going Cannes related Melancholia controversy, and in a brave attempt to deflect from his connection to the Utoeya massacre, he's announced that two versions of his next film, a woman's sexual history told over a number of varied encounters, will have two versions. A soft and hard core version. Oh, Lars, if you just want to make porn, just go ahead and make porn. No need to dress it up as art.

Say Anything... 2

Now the headline that accompanied the story on Empireonline was "Cameron Crowe Talks Say Anything Sequel", which for the sake of Journalistic integrity is technically true, however when you look at it in context, it is certainly misleading. During a 45 minutes Television critics association interview about his Pearl Jam documentary Crowe was specifically asked, without provocation, if he had considered a sequel to his 1989 cult hit which led to the answer "Say Anything... is the only thing that I've written that I would consider doing that with. And I've thought about it from time to time, and talked about it with John Cusack once. This is the only story that I've thought there might be another chapter to that at some point." Which is like someone asking me if I'd like to play Iago at the RSC and then reporting that I'm considering playing Iago for the RSC. Nonsense!



Cusack really wants you to hear our song, in an image that everyone remembers.

Governor's Special Academy Awards


Congratulations to the latest recipients of the Academy Awards special awards, James Earl Jones, Dick Smith and (for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award) Oprah Winfrey. The quality work the three of them have done is undeniable. Earl Jones is probably best remembered for his voice work, including Darth Vadar (left) and Mustafa in The Lion King (which I will certainly be watching again to celebrate) but he's also an incredible stage actor - his triumph in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in London last year was legendary - and has been Oscar nominated for boxing drama The Great White Hope. Smith's make-up effects have been a staple for horror fans and Dramatic movies throughout the 70's and 80's, responsible for work as varied as The Exorcist, The Godfather, Amadeus and Death Becomes Her. Oprah may be the most famous woman on the planet and her not-inconsiderable charitable work has included setting up a girl's school in South Africa and giving $10m in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. All three thoroughly deserve this recognition from the Academy.

Casting News

Surprisingly little going on in casting rumours, Nick Nolte is set to join Jason Statham's latest punchfest Parker, further proof of his strange ability to mix junk with high-brow fare (see his recent link with Robert Redford). We've also heard that Leonardo DiCaprio has obviously been bitten by the Western Genre bug as he may be following up Tarantino's Django Unchained with Creed of Violence for Todd Field, based in 1910, from the Boston Teran novel it follows to unlikely partners trying to infiltrate a arms smuggling ring.

Production News

I've been peeking at IMDb again, and the latest collection of new films entering into the pre-production phase is a delightful mish mash of genres and styles. They include Russian period epic Anna Karenina, Mormom murder expose Under the Banner of Heaven, GP biopic Rush (can't wait for that one), Katherine Bigelow's currently untitled Bin Laden/Seal 6 picture, Comedy remake The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Spike Lee joint Red Hook Summer (already filming would you believe), biopic of Scandinavian boxer Bosse Hogberg with Noomi Rapace as the singer he falls for and curious sci-fi Under the Skin which I've just finished reading and it's going to be fascinating to see how Jonathan Glazer adapts it. And those are just the ones I've already mentioned on previous news blogs. The following two films also appeared with no forewarning:

Foolproof

It's been a long time since Uma Thurman starred in a bona fide hit so it comes as no surprise to see her sign on to this eighties throwback of a project. She'll play a defence lawyer who's lover (a DNA specialist who may have just discovered a cure for her daughter's genetic disease) is a chief suspect in a murder. If that doesn't sound like a twist on Jagged Edge than I don't know what does, should be fun though.

Truckers

In spite of selling over 65 million books it's surprising how few of Terry Prachett's novels have been adapted for the screen, sure there's been a steady selection of TV mini-series but nothing for the cinemas. Until 2013 when we will see an animated version of the first part of his Bromeliad trilogy, focusing on a tribe of Nomes (an extra-terrestrial tiny people living amongst humans, illustrated in the cover art below). It's not a Discworld novel which will at least make it more accessible to non Pranchett devotees but may limit the possibility of franchise material. Have to keep our eyes out for more news on this.




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Vera Farmiga


Happy Birthday to

Vera Farmiga

38 today


At one point Vera was a best-kept secret of Hollywood, flying under the radar she put in some stunning performances on the periphery of major cinematic success, all that should have changed with her superb performance in Jason Reitman's Up in The Air, however it's good to see that Vera has taken an assured post Oscar nomination career mixing interesting indie work with auteurish mainstream and finding time for her directorial debut (Higher Ground) as well as having a baby. I hope to see her again soon though.

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Friday, 5 August 2011

They Don't Make 'em like they Used to (Out this week - 05/08/11)

I equally could've have titled this post as "It's all so quiet" due to the amazing lack of films being released. With just five features, excluding docs, you would've though the choice of what to watch would be relatively easy, however low volumes also means the probability of a high scoring (on the runs like a gay excitometer) release is lower and this week we see three films battling for the top spot. In the end though it go to 80's throwback Super 8.




Super 8

J.J. Abrams channels his inner Spielberg with this paean to a bygone age of teens messing around with film equipment and bumping into monsters. US reviews and box office performance was solid rather than spectacular, however this should rekindle buried memories and provide a bit of harmless nostalgia as well as the obligatory summer action highs.

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



Sarah's Key

French hangwringing about collaboration with the Nazis is de rigeur these days with the second film to confront the deportation of Jews from Paris this year (after Round Up). Kristin Scott Thomas is the familiar face this time, and the plotting, which alternates between wartime and now seems unusual at least.

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

The Tree

More oscar bait weepiness with Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grieving widow, her daughter who's convinced her Father's soul is protecting her from within a nearby tree and the plummer that enters their life. Elegant but probably missable.

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

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Jim Carrey continues his long long walk to the loneliness of direct to DVD movies with this inoffensive but dull looking adaptation of the well known children's book. You wouldn't know it from the trailer but Angela Lansbury co-stars.

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

Do Aur Do Paanch

Bollywood action comedy about two rival kidnappers who select the same target and ends up spoiling both their plans. Oddly they choose to kidnap a young girl from school which does give this a fairly unpleasant whiff about it.

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

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Thursday, 4 August 2011

Billy Bob Thornton


Happy Birthday to

Billy Bob Thornton

56 today


Obtuse and erratic, Billy Bob may be one of the most unusual people in Hollywood, slipping randomly between different styles of projects he occasionally comes across something very enticing. Right now I'm most looking forward to his next directorial effort Jayne Mansfield's Car.

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Blue Valentine

2010. Dir: Derek Cianfrance. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, John Doman and Mike Vogel. ●●●●○



And so we come to my final catch up review from earlier in the year and I'm really struggling to define how I think about Derek Cianfrance's make-up/break-up drama Blue Valentine. On the one hand I was drawn in by it's insightful and real dissection of a relationship doomed to failure, but on the other hand I couldn't help thinking this was something I've seen before with a whole lot more zing in the past.



The film focusses on the beginning and ending of the central marriage between sensible student/gynaecological nurse Michelle Williams and romantic house mover/painter Ryan Gosling. Whilst the action flips between these two periods we see Gosling pursue the girl he spots across the hall, wooing here with ukulele ballads and nervous energy (note to Mike Mills - kooky can work when forming relationships in films as long as you balance that with the characterisation), then as the toils and strains of married life with a first grader have their effect we see the final death throes, the awful embarrassing attempts to go back to the past, to reignite the passion.

The difference between the stories is marked in a number of ways that really underline the effect of the intervening five years. Primarily we have physical differences, Ryan Gosling in particular shaves part of his hair line back, in the early scenes the camera is more fluid the dialogue more improvisational (the actors stumble over lines adding a sense of naturalism) whereas later everything seems fixed and rehearsed, as if the fights and snarky comments have been whispered at each other dozens of times.

Most importantly is the films depiction of sexual acts. In the beginnings of the relationship sex is caring, mutual and centred around Michelle's pleasure (the much discussed cunnilingus for instance) whereas later it becomes desperate, animalistic and focussed on getting Gosling off. We've seen this progression before (Cronenberg's History of Violence springs to mind) but never has the sex been the focal point of the relationship before.

In the tradition of Greek tragedy it's the inescapable personality flaws (and strengths) that lead to the character's downfalls. Williams' stoicism needs Gosling's lightheartedness in the face of a terrible choice when they first meet, Gosling provides a sense of duty that backfires into a permanent debt. They fall in love so fast and unremittingly that the fire will inevitable burn itself out.

However I still found the movie itself unremarkable. Aside from the performances and the ways of underlining the concept the film-making particulars seemed forgettable. No lines of dialogue have stuck in my head, no shots seemed perfectly formed, no music cue transcended the medium. I suspect that's deliberate, like the formation of memory in our own lives it dwindles from the moment it first happens into a string of phrases and glimpses of the past, but great cinema probably need that.

Of course I'd recommend the movie, I even liked it, but as much as I found it insightful it will dissipate and become forgotten, like the relationship the film presents, it's doomed to fall by the wayside.

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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Warrior

I honestly believe I may be the only person looking forward to this film. Even with just over a month to go before it slips into cinemas the internet buzz is surprisingly slight, and I've only seen one magazine article about it, but as I said way back when the idea of a mixed martial arts movie was first mooted by Gavin O'Connor this seems like an ideal opportunity to barely conceal inappropriate thoughts about some sexy guys. Now we know it's Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton I'm not sure how anyone can argue with that.



Warrior is released on 23 September 2011.

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Monday, 1 August 2011

Giancarlo Giannini


Happy birthday to

Giancarlo Giannini

69 today


I've just had a little episode preparing to celebrate Giancarlo's birthday when I nearly downloaded the picture from the last time we went there. Back to the reason we're here though... The Oscar nominated Italian has a fascinating back catalgue in many fields of film production, including as an actor, director and writer - he's also noted for his multi-lingual performances. Nothing coming up that's really jumping out at me though.

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