Friday, 30 September 2011

It ended when you said Goodbye (Out this week - 30/09/11)

It's the second week in a row with two films vying for my attention so much that I'll have to watch them both, although unlike last week there's a large gap between the first and second choice movie - one of which is earning "masterpiece" accolades from Europhile critics (sorry to the von Trier detracters but that's what I'm hearing). Indeed the top end releases have including some incredible pieces this month, and hopefully this sort of high quality will continue into October. Elsewhere fighting to capture the top of the box office charts from that Tinker film will be the usual ragtag of low grade horror and Twiglit escaping thrillers. Unsurprisingly film of the week is Melancholia.



Melancholia

If you would choose any auteur to film the end of the world you might just ask Danish trickster Lars von Trier, as famous for his twisted worldview and headline grabbing personality as his filmmaking, he is still capable of bravura directorial choices finding beauty in the most extreme subjects. Definitely one to watch.

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



The Debt

This remake of a critically and commercially successful Isreali film (Ha-Hov) has been delayed whilst the studio was sold under it, that said it's delicious cast, headed by Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain, certainly look like they're worth the wait.

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

Guilty of Romance

From Shion Sono, the director of 2008's Love Exposure comes another look at the searing passions and sensual depravity lurking under the veneer of Japanese society.

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

Red State

After an appalling run with the studio system it's good to see Kevin Smith return to his indie roots, even if his bizarre stunt at Sundance (read it here) was a case of biting off the hand that feeds it, with a a balanced indictment of fundamentalism on all sides of the religious debate and the seductiveness of false prophets. Melissa Leo and John Goodman are the names, Michael Parks is getting all the good ink.

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

Abduction

It's test time for wolf-pack alumni Taylor Lautner as he and his magnificent abs go up against a shadowy Government organisation which may have bred him as super-weapon. Like Hanna but without the style somehow Sigourney Weaver has been dragged into this mess.

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

Chargesheet

Silly looking Hindi crime drama with the murder of a Bollywood starlet pointing to several high profile suspects both within the industry and it's improbable mob connections.

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

Force

Part of the supposed new wave of Bollywood, combining traditional styles with explosive Americanized action we follow John Abraham as a cop only too willing to dish out his own form of front line justice.

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

Muran

It's a Tamil remake of Strangers on a Train, only they're in a car on the road to Chennai. And there will be more singing.

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

Red, White and Blue

American indie about confused patriotism, sexual powerplay and the wraught emotions in three seemingly disconnected Austinites. Sure to have your loyalties shifting through the running time.

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

Speedy Singhs

Canadian about an all Asian Ice Hockey team and the choices it's founder and star player must face up to regarding his religious beliefs and family loyalty. Vinay Virmani stars with Rob Lowe providing support.

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

The Woman

As far as I can gather from the plot synopsis this is Nell where Jodie Foster turns out to be a homicidal maniac intent on destroying Liam Neeson's suburban idyll. Probably unwatchable.

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

Broken Lines

Some films stay on the shelf for a reason, and so it might be for this British family drama about grief and the "struggle between betraying another or oneself". Tedious trailer.

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

Shark Night 3D

The usual bunch of vacuous sexy teens find the lake they're partying at isn't quite as placid and gentle as they'd hoped, especially given there's a murderous bunch of locals who've stuffed the waters with hungry fishes.

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

What's Your Number

The concept of this female centric rom-com should work, with the usually reliable Anna Faris going through her exes to find the one who was probably the real thing. Unfortunately a distinct lack of laughs in the trailer and the slight digs at feminism probably work against the pictures chances.

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

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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Warrior

2011. Dir: Gavin O'Connor. Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison and Frank Grillo. ●●●●○



Friday's double bill was unusual in the strengths of one film were the weaknesses of the other, so yesterday I reviewed a film that was perfectly made but soulless and today I have a film that is arguably a bit of a dog's dinner however is all heart. I've always admitted that my feelings guide me and much as my brain so I have to admit that Warrior is to me the superior movie. It's story is weak, riddled with cliches and the running time could stand to be cut significantly, but I cried a couple of times and cheered (internally) when appropriate so based against it's own aims the film is an astounding success.



Opening on a rundown church in a working class area of Pittsburgh we witness a shambolic old man walking from the basement to his car, doughy and creased it takes a few moments before we recognise him as Nick Nolte. He gets in his car and starts playing an audio cassette of Moby Dick, it's a crutch, a reaction that allows him to cope with life as a recovering alcoholic, but it's also a guide to where this tale is going. What is the great white whale of Nolte's story, is it a relationship with his sons, his alcoholism itself, or a desire to win at all costs.

On his return home we meet son number 1, Tommy (Tom Hardy), beefed up beyond any of his previous turns, appearing hunched under the weight of his trapezius muscles, and bitter at his old man, launching into verbal attacks at his failure as a father, loosely describing his addiction and the abusive affects. Hardy is a ex Marine and former wrestling champ, hiding from his past, angry at the world and looking for any excuse to vent his aggression.

Cut to son number 2, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), family man, physics teacher and all round nice guy, who can't afford his mortgage who - refusing to move back into an apartment (I really don't understand that motivation) - ready to return the ring, engaging in Mixed Martial Arts as a desperate move to bring some money into the house.

If you hadn't already guessed where the plot is going then you've probably never seen a sports movie or even watched the trailer, and I want spoil it here, but a major MMA tournament bursts into the frame and in unlikely and character-suited twists of fate both brothers are recruited into the 16 contenders.

The fights are expertly handled, gripping and pounding, even to a MMA novice like myself I was glued to the screen, twisting and contorting with the action. Each fight had it's own narrative, each round underlining the traits of our two brothers. Whether it's the knock-out rage of Tommy, or the slow steady technical bouts from Brendan, the former's a wildcard, the latter an underdog.

Is success at the tournament the White Whale? And if so who's whale is it? We're flipped between the ambitions and loyalties of these three men, united by family and mutual distrust. Each unable to let go of the past, each using their collected pain to dish out violence.

Of the men Edgerton has the least to work with, his character seems too bland to compete and the stakes don't appear high enough - just deal with a smaller house and stop wasting money on the latest "stuff". Hardy is superb, bristling with energy squinting past his lowered forehead, he has the dangerous impulses of a coiled snake, unafraid to show the darker sides of the character as well a touch of vulnerability in the climatic battle scene. The main praise has to go to Nolte though, here giving something close to career-best work, grizzled and repentent, training Hardy whist choking back the grief from his son's refusal to acknowledge their past we feel for his evident change of heart whilst being revolted by his history.

Masanobu Takayanagi is a cinematographer to watch out for, shooting mainly handheld and with a murky palette we become accustomed to the intimacy of the cage long before the fights start. Can't wait to see what he does with Liam Neeson starrer The Grey.

Gavin O'Conner proves again that he's a fine director of male centric dynasties, here building on his fine work on Miracle and Pride & Glory, but he needs to pass scripting duties over to others. We were constantly reminded of how shit the childhood of the brothers was in the clunkiest dialogue that with some fine tuning and a better understanding of what actually happened growing up and why Hardy is ready to move on might have improved the technical as well as the emotional aspects of the film.

I can recommend Warrior to all film fans, regardless of their thoughts and experiences of MMA, but strongly advise that you take a couple of tissues to help you through the end.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Drive

2011. Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks. ●●●○○



I saw two films this weekend, one after another, I struggled to choose which one to review first. Would it be the one that I was anticipating the most, the one with better reviews, the one I liked best or the one I was most disappointed by (try and guess what my score tomorrow will be) but in the end I went for Drive the film I saw first. Neatly packaged and uniquely stylish Nicolas Winding Refn's ode to the 80's action flicks of Michael Mann and Walter Hill is a tight surprising affair that fully justifies the Best Director prize at Cannes, but alas all the flashy work seems to obscure this picture has nothing to say.



At the heart of the story is a touching tentative romance between part-time stunt man, part-time getaway driver Ryan Gosling (an iconic man with no name) and his seemingly single mother neighbour Carey Mulligan. Their late night joy rides (yes that is his idea of a date) are interrupted by her jailed hubby (Oscar Isaac) getting released and doing one last job to pay off a mob debt. Naturally Gosling gets pulled in and it all spirals out of control.

There are some delightful scenes, whether it's Gosling and Mulligan's first kiss, romantic, artificial but softly lit, projected in slowmotion before the punctuation of extreme grotesque violence that is excessive but not gratuitous. There's a slow conversation between limping mechanic Bryan Cranston and his old friend criminal kingpin Albert Brooks (both of whom are at the top of their game) with weary Brooks nicely contrasting Cranston's forced chirpiness. The two car chases, the first which accentuates the professionalism and chess like prowess of Gosling in out foxing the police, whilst the second showcases pure speed when faced with a bulkier and more agressive persuer.

These scenes and more are prove Winding Refn is one of the more exciting action directors working today, each beat drags the story forward, each shot adds more to the character development.

Gosling probably gives the most persuasive performance, agonising over the line deliveries, icy cool behind the wheel but visually disturbed when making a phone call, he's a man who only feels real to himself when behind the wheel, shifting through the gears. Christina Hendricks also does fine in a minor role as a gangster's moll, fully realising the panic in the back seat during a car chase.

Each shot and edit is carefully selected to create and accentuate the mood, even the neon pink title cards evoke memories of rolled up jacket sleeves, and whilst the superficial allusions to Arthurian mythology and underlying artificiality and desire to be a film character are racked up there's nothing behind this facade. The scarcity of back story (and it's not just Gosling with gaps) and plot holes - there's a particular piece of information which a character clearly knows before he is told - indicate that Winding Refn is more focussed on the style than the substance.

I suppose the problem was I just didn't care about any of the characters, their futures seemed destined by the format, decisions appear unrelated to rational decision making. At the end I didn't want to know what happened in the next 20 minutes, always a barometer about whether the film works for me. I suppose I can grudgingly recommend the film, it's pretentious arsty aesthetic has been collecting a legion of fans, but don't expect to be engaged beyond the visually arresting moment.

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Mira Sorvino


Happy Birthday to

Mira Sorvino

44 today


It wasn't until watching Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger earlier this year that I realised that I really miss seeing Mira in movies. Lucy Punch was fine in a role that virtually carbon copied Mighty Aphrodite only with an Essex accent and nowhere near as endearing. Amazingly Mira does keep churning out movies, unfortunately none of them make it to British cinemas, and there's nothing on the horizon that looks like it will break out either.

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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Tuesday Trailers - The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

You'd be forgiven for assuming now that summer is over the blockbusters have been put on hold until next May, but there's still plenty of headliners set to come over the winter months. The first of these, and in many ways the most intriguing, it the Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson collaboration on Herge's bequiffed hero. It's bound to hit the top of the charts internationally but the two month delay before it's US cinematic bow does underline the studio's domestic worries.



The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn comes out on 28 October 2011.

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Gwyneth Paltrow


Happy Birthday to

Gwyneth Paltrow

39 today


If come out straight away as a Gwynnie fan I hope that doesn't irritate too many people. I feel she completely deserved her Oscar for Shakespeare in Love and as an actress she's shown a great level of diversity. Of course that said I can't imagine going to see a film purely because she's in it. I will be seeing Contagion, though even if it doesn't end terribly well for her character (it's not a spoiler if it's in the trailers).

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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Catherine Zeta-Jones


Happy Birthday to

Catherine Zeta-Jones

42 today


It's been a tough couple of years for the gorgeous Welsh star as both her and husband Michael Douglas have suffered from health problems, however the good news is Catherine's back with three big releases coming in 2012. Of those I'm very interested in seeing her cougar soccer mom in Playing the Field and a high-stakes gambler in Lay the Favourite.

Of course I couldn't let her birthday go by without just a little tango to celebrate:

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Saturday, 24 September 2011

Do what with the Police? (Film News - 24/09/11)

Last week I bemoanded the lack of film news, crying out for the studios to release something vaguely interesting. They haven't exactly listened. We've had a cornucopia of casting misssives but not much else, although the two biggest stories this week have certainly caught my interest. I've also have an update of UK release dates which spreads out until December 2013 (no prizes for guessing the film) so with no further ado lets get on with the headlines.

Straight Outta Compton

I am not a fan of the seminal Gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A, I confess to being much more middle of the road with my musical tastes, however it's hard to ignore the impact of the Californian group that brought us Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. Their highly rated debut album "Straight Outta Compton" (which will be used as the title for an upcoming biopic) went double platinum and is largely considered one of the influential and ground-breaking musical works of the 1980's, at least in part due to the success being in spite of widespread criticism of the violent lyrics and US radio stations ignoring the phenomena.


The 20th anniversary album cover.

N.W.A members were poets, crying out against police brutality and racial inequality in the crime ridden streets they grew up in, angry and filled with rhetoric it's hard to argue against the aural and political demands of their work. Although retrospect is a hard thing, over the years Gangsta rap has become distorted it's pleas for equality have been replaced by bling worship and violent misogyny. Indeed the recent London riots have, in part, been blamed on the culture of greed and entitlement that has been spawned by N.W.A's antecedents.

Surely then it's time to go back to the beginning, to look at their story in it's own historical context and to dissect what it meant for the group to come from Compton. Of course rumours of this particular biopic have been circulating for years but the intensity of the talk has increased recently with Boyz in the Hood and Abduction director John Singleton recently telling the press he was working with Ice Cube on a script, a comment that the rights-owning studio New Line were quick to scotch (at least with regards to Singleton's involvement). I do hope we see some movement on this soon though.

Read on for superhero stories, some casting breakdowns and the latest release date changes.



Thor 2

I'm facing a dilemma right now. I liked Thor, I enjoyed what Kenneth Branagh brought to the superhero story and was amazed by the films design elements. But I didn't suspect for a second that I would go and see the sequel, I'm not even interested in seeing The Avengers, a movie that seems - even more than most comic book franchises - designed purely to make money. Now though comes the revelation that Marvel are in talks with Monster director Patty Jenkins about taking the helm. Let's just consider this. Branagh may have been a brave choice but his experience with Shakespearean themes and dialogue and the epic canvas he brought to Frankenstein at least backed up the productions decision. Jenkins has none of this, since steering Charlize Theron to an oscar for her murderous prostitute she's been largely drawn to TV - frankly it's so bizarre I can only be excited about the possibilities. Especially as it will be one of the largest movies to ever be directed by a woman.

Now I just have to find out whether I will understand the next instalment of Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth intergalatical love story with tuning into The Avengers.

Casting News

Brad Pitt, who's getting some very nice notices for his subtle work in Moneyball continues to be added to interesting and varied upcoming projects, including the news this weeks that David O Russell is hoping to recruit him for The Mission, the film about a six year hunt for US hostages in Columbia - no news on whether Pitt will be a hostage or part of the seal team out to rescue them. Of course any DOR related news must be taken with a pinch of salt because he's juggling so many projects in the air you never know which one will end up being made. Following last weeks rather young list of potential actors for the Man from U.N.C.L.E there's been at least two more sets of possibilities leaked from memos across the production teams, each more unlikely than the last - I mean do DiCaprio, Bale or Crowe really need this job let alone Robert Pattinson!!! Jackie Earle Haley is the latest to join Spielberg's Lincoln as the pro-slavery Senator Alexander Stephens - notably Steven also confirmed the movie will just look at a short period of Lincoln's life, will not be politically motivated and will be a conventional biographical set-up. Finally some great news for Robert Zemeckis's Flight in which Denzel Washington with accidently save the lives of hundreds of people - Don Cheadle has joined the cast. The last time these two appeared together was 1995's Devil in a Blue Dress, the superb noir tinted drama that saw both of them at the top of their game - hopefully working together again they can recapture that magic.


Denzel and Don together, in one hell of a good movie.

Release Schedules

The floodgates have opened on 2013 with several big ticket releases confirming the UK dates this month. There's also a few guilty pleasure genre pieces and some Oscar contenders on their way too so sit back and relax at all these upcoming movies.

Dream House - Early buzz of Jim Sheridan's haunted house movie is not good, first there was the overeggy trailer and now it's not getting screened to critics in the States, can Daniel Craig's career recover from this and Cowboys? Remember your murdered family on 25 November 2011.

Trespass - And if the previous film seems like a turkey just imagine the whiff from this Joel Schumacher directed actioner which got utterly plastered at Toronto, looking like a low-rent Funny Games I won't be surprised if this date slips direct to DVD like Joel's last 2 movies. Get kidnapped in your own front room on 16 December 2012.

The Descendants - Following it's superb reception on the festival circuit - currently a bookies favourite to pick up a best film nomination if not the award - there's been a slight shift to a less busy week at the end of January. Reconnect with your kids on 27 January 2012.

Carnage - The cracking cast for Polanski's adaptation of Yasmina Reza's award winning short play make this one of the must sees of the season. Bitterly dissect your relationships on 03 February 2012.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - As I type this I've been listening to an interview with Tom Wilkinson where he talks briefly about this upcoming India-set retirement home dramedy, he's a very humble interviewee so he's not selling it but it does look fun. Celebrate the best and worst of Britons abroad on 09 March 2012.

Big Year - So the set up is strange - Owen Wilson, Steve Martin and Jack Black spend a year birdspotting - yet there's still something lovable about such a crazy premise about obsession, although this delay in the release does not look good. Get twitching on 23 March 2012.

Great Hope Springs - Coming in 10 months later is David Frankel's next directorial gig, this Meryl Streep/Tommy Lee Jones comedy about marriage counselling - look out for an unlikely Oscar campaign if The Iron Lady fails . Start talking about the niggles on 04 January 2013.

One Thousand A.E. - Let's face it M. Night Shyamalan's career couldn't possibly get any lower rated than at present, however Will Smith - who's got a brilliant track record - is starring and producing so there must be something about the script. Commemorate the end of Earth on 07 June 2013.

Robopocalypse - Spielberg's next but one movie has already got a release date both here and in the States, no cast, no script, just the demise of mankind at the hands of sential robots- it's not going to be a cheerful summer next year. Run from your toaster on 03 July 2013.

Thor 2 - Yeah, it doesn't have a director yet and the little we know about it involves the continuation of the central quartet of relationships, but Marvel do like to plan ahead. Maintain relationships on two planets on 26 July 2013.

The Hobbit: There and Back Again - The second of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings prequels is by far the most dangerous prospect, An Unexpected Journey will cover most of Toilkein's story and this will attempt to bridge the gap and complete the history of the ring, nevertheless it is incredibly anticipated so much so we have a release date 810 days in the future. Sit around with the precious on 13 December 2013.

All this talk of Thor's release date, and the director choice has reminded me of Chris Hemsworth wandering around with no shirt. Thanks Marvel.


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Friday, 23 September 2011

Looking for a real man (Out this week - 23/09/11)

There's a scent of sweat in the air this week, an odour of testosterone floating from the man-packed cinemas, and frankly if you're not into gorgeous guys flexing their muscles or parading naked in the locker room then there may not be a choice for you this week, with even the counter programming choices seeming to accentuate heroism and grit. It's a tough competition for top choice, with a very high average score on the exciteometer (best since February) but in the end I'm plumping for Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton rippling in film of the week Warrior.



Warrior

It's underperformed in the States, I expect partly because of the image of Mixed Martial arts and the marketing not really knowing where to go but everything I hear about Gavin O'Connor's sports movie sounds great and with it's two protagonists on the cusp of becoming major stars this is probably the most exciting opportunity to see them let loose.

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



Drive

Ryan Gosling movie number 1 - The art-house thriller. Directed by edgy wunderkind Nicolas Winding Refn this is both an archetype and deconstruction of the 80's action pic with Gosling as a nameless driver becoming the hero in his warped story. Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks and (oddly) West Side Story's Russ Tamblyn co-star.

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

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Ryan Gosling movie number 2 - The touching comedy. The best reviewed Steve Carell movie for years concerns parallels the marital crisis of it's lead with the equally complex love lives of his children. Carell and Gosling are joined by Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei and Emma Stone.

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

Mademoiselle Chambon

Gallic romance between the homeschool teacher and parent that springs out of a natural closeness and shared hopes for the child in the middle. Showing it's French side is the unshocking revelation that the father's still married. That kids gonna need serious therapy.

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

Tucker & Dale vs Evil

Hilarious looking Sundance break-out that subverts the murderous hillbilly and innocent students cliches by simply placing the Louisiana heroes close to unspeakably unlucky accidents, each one making them appear more culpable to the partying teens.

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

Killer Elite

It may have the killer cast of Robert De Niro and Clive Owen but that's not enough to make this confused Jason Statham vehicle look any more bearable. Especially given the critical mauling it received at Toronto.

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

Soul Surfer

I'm not sure whether there's a market for overtly Christian movies here in the UK, we cinema goers tend to be a secular bunch, but if there is one then this true life story of a teenage surfer (AnnaSophia Robb) who's won't let her arm being bitten off by a shark stop her from becoming a surfing champion, thanks to her family support and faith, deserves to make the grade. Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid co-star.

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

Yaara O Dildaara

Bollywood picture that will, according to it's ratehr grand tagline, reinstate your faith in true love. In Punjabi.

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

Mausam

Also looking to pull the same crowd is this Indian-British co-production that heavily features the Royal Air Force in it's publicity and romantic subplots, everyone loves a man in uniform.

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

Tapes

There always seems to be one homegrown horror that sneaks into British cinemas, and this week you have the opportunity to witness through found footage (yawn) a suspected swingers party turn out to be hiding a bunch of devil worshippers. Luckily this isn't showing in Manchester.

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

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Mickey Rooney


Happy Birthday to

Mickey Rooney

91 today


Mickey's career has to be one of the longest in cinematic history. It's been 84 years since his professional, short-film debut as Mickey McGuire and he's still performing in choice comedic roles - look out for him in the Muppets.

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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

2011. Dir: Tomas Alfredson. Starring: Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and John Hurt. ●●●●●



It's a rare thing for cinema to transport the audience into another time and place for the duration of an entire movie. Sure a costume, flick of cigarette or particular line reading has the power of evoking a period but for the feeling to last for two hours is a special achievement. It is immensely gratifying that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy completely immerses you in cold war paranoia of the early 70's, not just through garish wallpaper and and donkey jackets, but through structure and storytelling. Emulating the pacing of early Coppola or Friedkin this thrilling non-thriller may become one of the most essential additions to the spy genre.



"There is a mole, right at the top of the circus." So say bitter old-school Control (John Hurt - musky and paranoid) and brutish bag-man Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) his stoicism losing to a desperate bid to get out of the game, even officious civil servant Simon McBurney is beginning to believe it. So much so that 'retired' agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is called back to the circus - be prepared for a lexicon of MI6 shorthand - to uncover the mole, to hunt down the source of the rumours and, if necessary, identify and bring to account whichever of the most senior spooks has turned traitor. The prime suspects, who've been allocated codenames from the popular children's rhyme, are Tinker (Toby Jones), Tailer (Colin Firth), Soldier (Ciaran Hinds) and - missing a couple of possibilities - poor man (David Dencik) with Smiley himself as a unlikely fifth candidate.

To say anymore would spoil the tension bubbling through the actual plot, with bluff and double bluff Smiley uses a determined mixture of flat foot detection and psychoanalysing body language to fit together the conflicting evidence. Don't go in trying to figure out the culprit, the same subterfuge that obscures the truth from Smiley will stand in your way but instead concentrate of the subtleties of the filmmaking, of the minor gestures. It is in these undefinable moments, tactical conversations, moving folders in libraries, shared glances at parties, that the masterpiece shows itself.

Film fans used to the high-octane car chases and hand to hand combat of the Bond and Bourne spy franchises will be unused the to unflashy world of real espionage, a world that novelist John le Carre knows well from his own days in the service, but it's the down-at-heel workaday nature of the job that gets the blood pumping when necessary. Brief bursts of gory violence occur off-screen, petulance is the only cause to raise voices, the characters within pine for the glory days of the Second World War when the battle lines were clearer, cleaner, not hidden in murky shadows.

Oldman gives the performance of his lifetime, disappearing under thick rimmed specs and owlish complexion his tendency to steal the scenes is leashed as swoops on the outskirts of the screen, gently allowing the other actors show their worth, giving the characters the freedom to display their tells. The entire supporting cast is first rate too, with special mention going to Kathy Burke as former surveillance expert with a suspicious mind and Benedict Cumberbatch as Smiley assistant, spying on his own and underlying the themes of sacrifice and misplaced loyalty that seep through the production.

The design of the movie is grubby and drab, reflecting the austerity of the low-growth pre-EEC Britain and the inherent murkiness of the cold-war. Every surface is covered in a sheen of cigarette tar and once bright wallpaper and carpets look limp and ageing in the backgrounds of unkempt flats and liberal boarding houses.

In spite of this the movie belongs to director Tomas Alfredson, coming hot off childhood vampire fable Let the Right One In, he proves here his steady eye and tension building pacing are the real deal. He's gambled with a high-profile remake exploring themes the original wouldn't have dared to consider and taken this complex and dense plot yet made it so delicious to follow we accept and understand every facet of the story.

There is no question that I recommend this movie to any filmgoer. A superb piece of work that deserves your patronage.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tuesday Trailers - The Ides of March

The marketing for George Clooney's latest directorial effort has been fantastic, there's the tense and talky trailer, below, or the weirdly symmetrical posters. Unfortunately such a perfect campaign does have it's drawbacks, the film has to truly deliver to the promise. Early word from Venice indicates whilst a fine adaptation of Beau Willimon's "Farragut North" it doesn't hit all the notes, but with it's timely political parables it's bound to be worth catching up with.



The Ides of March is released on 28 October 2011.

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Sophia Loren


Happy Birthday to

Sophia Loren

77 today


How few actresses can actually be called legends? Let's be frank to reach that sort of level of fame the performer must transcend their roles and define a type. The Italian beauty (who owes it all to spaghetti) has such an infamous personality it's actually bigger than most of her roles. Shame because in between all the "being" La Loren there were a few superb performances.

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Monday, 19 September 2011

Rosemary Harris


Happy Birthday to

Rosemary Harris

84 today


It's great doing the birthdays as I find out all sorts of stuff I didn't know about the stars I feature. So today I've learnt that Rosemary's daughter is King's Speech actress Jennifer Ehle and they've played the same character at different stages of their life twice on screen.

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Saturday, 17 September 2011

What's the B****y point (Film News - 17/09/11)

I have to ask because I spend all week with my nose to the ground, digesting press releases and sorting through the flotsam and jetsam of film news coverage all to discover there's naff all going on.

Sure I could mention the fascinating but far too young list of actors being considered for Steven Soderbergh's Man from U.N.C.L.E remake (don't get me wrong, I like Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as much as anyone but they're no Robert Vaughn). Or how about the latest star character actors queuing up to join Robert Redford's The Company you Keep, and I'm not complaining about getting a chance to see Stanley Tucci and Chris Cooper strut their stuff in a parable about politics and journalism, it just shouldn't be the biggest story I have, should it?

Indeed the only titbit that even vaguely caught my eye was Gus van Sant saying at Toronto that's he's still trying to adapt Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid test for the big screen. This is the legendary drug-fuelled road trip Ken Kesey went on before writing One flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. That's great - and I do really want to see that at cinemas - but we've been talking about it since October 2008! Now I want more than talk.



Maybe I've just missed something. Maybe there's been loads of delightful news stories that have just passed me by. If you've read anything over the last 7 days that made you go "Hmmm.... That seems like a great idea for a movie." Please let me know in the comments. There must be something out there to raise some interest.

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Friday, 16 September 2011

Who's the Ringmaster (Out this week - 16/09/11)

It's crazy busy this week with twelve different releases heading to a screen near you, although to be fair many of those have very limited distribution strategies. Frankly most of them look quite weak too with really only 4-5 that even look vaguely watchable. On the other hand we've suddenly broken free from the grip of disappointing summer blockbusters and entered the first half of the pedigree movie season with the first movie to get 8 on the excitometer since March, film of the week Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.



Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The awards season kicks off smartly with this tense spy-catcher thriller adapted from the classic John Le Carre and directed by Let the Right One In helmer Tomas Alfredson who brings his murky palette and slow-burn tension. With an impeccable cast of Brit thesps including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt and Tom Hardy expect this to be the first big entry into the Oscar fray.

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



30 Minutes or Less

In no way related to the recent case of a law-abiding US citizen having a bomb strapped to them and forced to rob a bank, this is a film about a law-abiding US citizen having a bomb strapped to them and forced to rob a bank. I'm glad we cleared that up. Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari star as the hapless robbers.

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

I Don't Know How she Does it

I'm not really looking forward to this Sarah Jessica Parker star-vehicle concerning a modern woman balancing her family and business lives whilst proving she's able to have it all, but I am looking forward to reading the critical reaction to this sex-and-the-city-lite rubbish. Greg Kinnear takes the money and runs as SJP's supportive hubbie.

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

Tomboy

Description on the back of a fag packet, French teenage Boy's Don't Cry, although one hopes the finale for this 12 year old loner trying to fit in with a new crowd is far less tragic.

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

Atrocious

More found footage hokum with this Spanish/Mexican co-production reassembling the final days of Cristian Quintanilla and his siblings. Mercifully the film is only 77 minutes long, compared to the 37 hours of recorded footage referred to in the back story.

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

Change-up

Body-swap comedy which proves two things. Primarily that the sub-genre should just be abandoned and ignored for all eternity and secondarily that Ryan Reynolds, whilst cute, does not have the fanbase to open a movie. Jason Bateman is the other swapper and Alan Arkin provides a little support.

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

Turnout

Hoxton set crime pic with a young, impestuous couple finding themselves in murky water as they try to fund their ambitious holiday plans. Probably will find an audience, if only because it showcases the big screen debut of Ben Drew, aka Plan B.

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

Vanthaan Vendraan

Tamil action comedy, with a little romance thrown in for good measure. OK, I admit I know nothing about this pic, even having watched the trailer, although it was shot in some lovely locations.

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

Big Fat Gypsy Gangster

Seemingly titled purely to capture the growing trend to support the UK travelling community (Channel 4 and Big Brother have a lot to answer for) it's another by the books British gangster pic with "the most dangerous man in Britain" regaining his criminal empire after a spell inside.

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Episode 50

Making Atrocious (above) look like high-art is this American found footage horror about the final episode of a spook-debunked cable TV programme in which the hosts scepticism is put to the test and all their rationalist assumptions fall apart like badly plotted horror pics.

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

Thomas and Friends: Day of the Diesels

Very limited release for a pre-DVD showing of the latest variation on a theme by Rev W Awdry. Very little is known about the cast and crew of the project - at least not on IMDb - so I don't know if Ringo Starr is back voicing the titular blue steam engine.

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

You Instead

If you wanted to go to V festival but couldn't make it then this may be the picture for you this week with Luke Treadaway and Natalie Tena starring as feuding rock stars accidently handcuffed together at the music/mud event. If you were happy to stay at home then I expect you'll want to give this a miss too.

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

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Jennifer Tilly


Happy Birthday to

Jennifer Tilly

53 today


She must have one of the sexiest, huskiest voices in Hollywood as showcased in "Family Guy" and Monsters Inc, indeed she'll get another chance to play Celia Mae in the Monsters follow-up. She's also remarkably talented round the poker table, must be impossible to not resist her raises.

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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Melissa Leo


Happy Birthday to

Melissa Leo

51 today


It seems like only yesterday that Melissa dropped the F bomb on the Oscar podium, picking up her win for The Fighter. Now we're six months later and oddly she's still signing up for every movie offered to her as if she's still a jobbing actor. Not that any of the upcoming 7 pictures on her slate is jumping out at me.

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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Restless

Back to the controversial now with this weeks trailer. Gus van Sant's latest movie premièred at Cannes earlier this year where death obsessed Harry Hooper falls for a cancer ridden Mia Wasikowska whilst communicating with a Kamikaze ghost in this modern take on Love Story was generally considered a lesser one of his films. That said I will still be supporting the films of this uncompromising auteur.



Restless is released on 21 October 2011.

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Monday, 12 September 2011

Jennifer Hudson


Happy Birthday to

Jennifer Hudson

30 today


It's hard not to mention the "I" word (in conjuction with the "A" word) when discussing J. Hud's career. Since not winning a talent contest she's gone on to win awards and praise for her glittering, if limited career, although the next year will show how much versatility she has with the Winnie Mandela biopic and a Farelly brothers comedy.

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Sunday, 11 September 2011

Experian Robin Hood Festival of Running

And we're off:



The Experian Robin Hood Marathon in the gorgeous city of Nottingham has just started. Somewhere in the crowds I'm there ready to take on the 26 and a bit mile course, hoping this will be the year I finally break the four hour mark.

In the last week up to now I've been out for a few ultra short runs just to keep me going but without pushing me to the limit.

5 runs
17.7 miles
2 hours 17 minutes

So that's an average speed of 7.70 mph.

I've been on quite a journey this year, I've been training since February, losing over 3.5 stone and my weekly average pace has gone from less than 6 mph to over 7.5 mph. In all this time I've been out 155 times completing 879 miles. That's further than the distance from Land's end to John O'Groats, and roughly equates to the length of California from the Oregon to Mexican borders!

Anyway please wish me luck, or spend a couple of moments today thinking about the runners of Notts. Cheers Ben

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John Hawkes


Happy Birthday to

John Hawkes

52 today


Last year character actor Hawkes came out of nowhere with a devastating and brutal performance in Indie Winter's Bone earnign his first Oscar nomination - don't be surprised if he gets a second for religious cult drama Martha Marcy May Marlene - as well as turning up in higher profile pics Contagion and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. Which goes to show what a great performance can do to your career.

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Saturday, 10 September 2011

What about leap years? (Film News - 10/09/11)

My mind is not on the news today. I'm pretty much too nervous for tomorrows race to think straight. Looking at what I've written so far pretty much confirms that. Sentence structure is all over the place, I wander aimlessly through paragraphs and don't have anything insightful to say about any of these unusual upcoming projects (although some would say, quite rightly, that's typical of my news posts). I suppose it doesn't help that none of this weeks stories really inspire me, the project either sounds daft, or extremely vague or I've mentioned it before. Take a look at whats coming up and tell me whether you think the same.


364

Isn't everyone fed up of superheroes now? This summer proved that too many saturate the market with The Green Lantern in particular crashing and burning, and non-marquee superheroes or the stories of normal people who want amazing powers seems to fare even worse, just look at the box office figures for Scott Pilgrim or Kick Ass. Yet Hollywood still thinks there's cash in the old cow leading to Universal acquiring this dismal sounding action comedy spec from David Guggenheim.

The title refers to the majority of days in the year where our hero imagines, plans and contemplates the heroic deeds he will do on the one day of the year he has superpowers. Which to me sounds like it could be an awfully long boozy chat about what powers we'd choose to have - let's face it we've all been there proudly admitting invisibility would be cool even if it led to Hollow Man levels of perversity.



Plus I wonder what happens if your one day turns out to be a slow news day. You may want to stop a evil scientist from destroying New York or go beserk on an invading SWAT team, but aren't you more likely to be required to put out a chip pan fire or find a stolen car? Worthy no doubt but hardly worth having super powers for.

Guggenheim is currently riding high so it's no surprise to see all his ideas jumped on. Last year he quit as editor of US Weekly when his Safe House script was picked up (look out for Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds in that next year) and has just seen success with it's follow ups Santiago (sold to Fox) and Puzzle Palace (Summit Entertainment) so there must be something good about what he writes - or something immensely easy to sell.

Read on for twisted oaters, an intriguing clue, two strong female leads and the latest in casting titbits.



Untitled Gothic Western

I think John Carpenter must be a little confused. He seems to believe it's still the early 80's. At the Fright night festival 2011 he talked about the possibility of making a gothic Western, something he's currently working on. Admittedly in the clip online he does confess that making Westerns is tough at this time and commercially difficult to justify to the studios, however the ambition to make a genre straddling Western still seems a little brave. I also read in follow comments that he is hoping to get Amy Adams on board, which considering she's about to star in Man of Steel seems unlikely. Although it is reminiscent of casting Karen Allen in Starman only a couple of years after Raiders of the Lost Ark so he has form, but like I said before that was at his peak. Maybe he'll prove me wrong, only time will tell.

David Lynch

For far too long we appeared to have lost the surrealist master (right) to animated shorts, dance music and subversive clubs but after the five year feature hiatus since INLAND EMPIRE the man who puts Lynch in Lynchian could soon be back to cinemas near you. That's essentially a lot of preamble to nothing because all I have as a story is David saying in a recent interview with Rolling Stone " I’m working on another new film, but it’s not there yet." No details; no plot, title or cast, no real sign that's he's serious. But I really do hope he is. I need more backward speaking dwarfs in my cinemagoing experiences.

Juliet/The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

I've had the strangest feeling of deja vu this week (I knew you'd say that) as two projects we first reported on here years ago have resurfaced. First up it's the adaptation of Anne Fortier's 2010 novel which is sort of sequel to Shakespeare's doomed romance - a direct descendent of Juliet (um, how did that happen?) finds out that's Mercutio's "plague on both your houses" was a real and long-lasting curse - which we first heard about on 10 January 2009. Or going back even further to 28 July 2008 there's the young adult novel about Miss Doyle, the scion of British aristocracy, who finds herself a lone passenger on a trans-atlantic liner with a tale of intrigue to unfold. Back then Saoirse Ronan was attached as the title character but delays have meant she's too old and the task of casting has just begun. Oh, and if you don't believe me about the age of these stories, feel free to click on the labels below.

Casting News

We've heard the first couple of names bandied around with Lars von Trier explicit sex movie Nymphomaniac and frankly they couldn't be more disturbing. Among the sexual conquests of our heroine will be previous von Trier collaborators Stellan Skarsgaard and Willem Dafoe. Shouldn't he be concentrating on finding the girl before surrounding her by middle aged men? Les Miserables continues to build it's cast with the news that Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are circling thes role of greedy innkeeper Thenardier and his wife, erm Madame Thenardier, not much of a surprise given their previous in musicals (in Bran Nue Dae and Sweeney Todd respectively) and the recent work with director Tom Hooper on The King's Speech.

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Colin Firth


Happy Birthday to

Colin Firth

51 today


Coming off his spectacular, if a little late, Oscar win Firth is in a fascinating point at his career in that he can choose any project he likes, like the con caper remake Gambit, from which this picture is taken minus Cameron Diaz, or his suspect role in LeCarre adaptation Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Both of which look like their well worth catching.

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Friday, 9 September 2011

Autopsy of History (Out this week - 09/09/11)

Things are looking pretty grim in cinemas here in the UK, and I don't just mean the subject matter of the few films that come close to getting me into cinemas. I'm not sure why it is but the first couple of weeks of September have been pretty poor the last couple of years, I imagine that the end of the summer holidays (and here it really feels like summer has ended ended) means that the kids quadrant won't be watching new movies but it's too soon for the serious awards fare. Of course there's bonnets and brides which should get a few punters in but for me the film of the week is Post Mortem.




Post Mortem

Most South American film industries have a proud heritage of looking back at the darkest periods of their history so it's no surprise that Chile wants to address the 1973 Coup against Salvador Allende. Taking the unusual route of charting the furtive relationship between a shy morgue worker and a burlesque dancer who goes disappears in the aftermath, this film illustrates the parallels between assessing the bodies and the broken state.

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



Jane Eyre

If this latest adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic gothic novel breaks out then expect the arthouse cinemas to have the twinset and tweed crowds queuing round the block for that nice Judi Dench and a few period costumes. I probably sound cynical as news from the US is that Cary Fukunaga's film with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender is a superb retelling that could even reap some awards notice.

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

Troll Hunter

If you're getting fed up with found footage horror movies then stand by for a shot of adrenalin from this Scandinavian monster mash with a bunch of students coming across a troll hunt and getting up close and personal with the grotesque beasties.

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Friends with Benefits

You have to wonder if Mila Kunis talked to Natalie Portman during the making of Black Swan, or whether they took the professional rivalry to heart, whatever happened Kunis seems to have drawn the longer straw on the shagging mates stories, coupled with Justin Timberlake and supported by the extremely talented Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson. Some of the trailer looks quite funny too.

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Lonely Place to Die

There are two Brit thrillers out this week, of which this Scottish set kidnap drama looks slightly more efficient and terrifying with a quintet of mountaineers rescuing a trapped girl, but finding a whole lot of trouble from shady underworld types. Shame the trailer gives away each of the deaths.

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Mere Brother ki Dulham

It's a well worn story in this bright and fast moving Bollywood release with a downtrodden brother desperately trying to arrange a marriage for his superstar sibling. Naturally when he finally finds a suitable match they end up falling for each other. Utter hokum of course, but fun looking hokum at least, with a surprisingly feminist leading lady.

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

Teja Bhai and Family

Malayalam gangster comedy about a notorious con trying to go straight for love. The trailer looks as complex and incomprehensible as you can imagine.

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Colombiana

The first of the American big releases to get squashed by The Help's fantastic box office run shares a common heritage with many of Luc Besson's feminist heroes but it seems Zoe Saldana drug cartel orphan doesn't has the emotional heft of Leon or Nikita.

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

Holding

More homegrown violence set against the very best of Britain's National Parks with this "heart-pounding suspense thriller set on a farm in England's beautiful rugged Peak district". Not too far from where I live then.

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

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Topol


Happy Birthday to

Topol

76 today


What's surprisingly about Topol's resume is not that his star-making performance on stage and screen in Fiddler on the Roof dominates but that (in terms of films at least) he's done very little else. Sure there was an unsatisfactory Bond and Flash Gordon but there's been just 7 features since 1971 - he's hardly built a career around his Oscar nod. Mind you no-one can take the role of Tevye without being compared to him, so here's a bit of him in action:

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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

One Day

2011. Dir: Lone Scherfig. Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Rafe Spall and Ken Stott. ●●●○○



One Day is a beloved book. David Nicholl's 2009 romantic novel spent an age at the top of the best-selling lists, won the 2010 Galaxy book of the year and inspired dozens of books clubs to cluck over the changing fortunes of Em and Dex. I hated it, but it succeeds at what it tries to achieve.

The 2011 page to screen adaptation has crashed and burnt on the international box office, taking just $21m so far in global sales and failing to even achieve the number one spot in the UK. Fans of the novel have nitpicked over every details, loathing the cuts and despairing of Anne Hathaway's accent. I liked it, but it fails to hits it's goals.

I say all this to illustrate the massive gap between the written word and cinematic art, between our expectations of literature of film, between each patrons empathy and understanding of the characters and situations presented. Or one man's meat is another man's poison.



The central conceit of the novel is that it follows our soulmates over 20 anniversaries of their first meeting, catching up with their trials and tribulations by presenting their thoughts on each St. Swithin's Day between 1988 and 2008. In the novel there is political and cultural parallels to the death of yuppieism and disillusionment with New Labour which are jettisoned for the film and replaced with sly commentary on changing fashion and technological advances (curiously though Emma local swimming baths remain freakishly unchanged for the majority of the films running time, no neo-facist supergym identity or slide concessions there).

Although plenty of experience of romantic comedy staples will ensure all readers/viewers are keenly aware Em and Dex are meant to be together they both drift aimlessly away from each other for the majority of the novel, delving into increasingly unsuitable relationships and experiencing alternating highs and lows of personal and professional success. Only in the final reel when Dex has had fatherhood thrust upon him and Em finds hidden layers in confidence through her children's novels can either character grow up and admit to the mutual attraction and the necessary compromises and strains in any relationship. In the novel we get an insight into the motivations of the central couple, experience their inner monologues each year to feel their yearning, and yet oddly it's only in the film that I fully appreciated the relationship had to wait for 17 years before it had a ghost of a chance of succeeding, that until then it would have failed.

That success lies in the casting of the central couple. Anne Hathaway has form playing the intelligent girl refusing to trade on her looks (Devil Wears Prada, to some extent Love and Other Drugs), and indeed she doesn't disappoint, underplaying the caustic Em and allowing the vulnerability to shine through. (To address the elephant in the room the accent was fine, inconsistent but only in a "I have a regional accent that I'm ashamed of" way which worked in the context of a de-politicised movie but would not have been the accent of the Trotskyite anti-war demonstrator we have in the novel). Sturgess too is on top form, humanising the frankly ghastly Dexter, a character I despised in the novel, his haunting eyes remind us through the 'Largin' It' period of ultra-excess that underneath the coke-snorting swagger there's a little boy who's lost his ability to communicate with real people.

Rafe Spall is also deservedly picking up plaudits as Emma's long term boyfriend Ian, a failed stand-up with a manic desire to please and an instinctive shuffling presence. Although like in the novel there's little explanation to why the couple ended up settling for each other as both seem to be aware there's no future in the relationship. Ken Stott also does a fine job as Dex's father, stand-offish and decidedly British the one to one he has with Dex at the end is knowing and full of acceptance of their shared experiences.

Why then, if the performances are generally so good, does this film fail? It's purely because Nicholl's has adapted it from his highly acclaimed book. Being keenly aware of the fans delight in seeing their favourite scenes and hearing their favourite quotes he over-indulges their fantasies retaining the idealised language and packing in the most delicious incidents. And whilst pronouncements such as "If I could give you just one gift, do you know what it would be? Confidence. That or a scented candle." or "I love you, Dex, so much. I just don't like you anymore." are just as delightful on the screen as you would hope the average five and a bit minutes per year gets exhausting. By messing with the timelines and reducing the number of visits, as sacrilegious as that sounds, might has eased that tension. Really what was the point of playing "Where are you Moriaty?" without any understanding of the rules or context of the game, except to please the hardcore fans, and when a year is reduced to three strokes in the pool you have to wonder why it was worth even putting up the graphic.

Spoilers in the net paragraph - I couldn't think of another way of explaining my dislike of one one plot element.

I also have a big problem with the ending of the film, no not 2006 with it's crushing inevitability, but the storyline that links 05 to 06, given the lack of time spent on Em's maternal ambitions and the weight of the final conclusion it seems like a faked pass in very poor taste.

Spoilers over now.

Lone Scherfig directs with the same crisp detachment that she made An Education but without the purposeful plot of her previous films more was needed to keep the audience engaged.

Overall whilst One Day is nice enough and a passable way to spend a lazy afternoon it can only really be considered as a disappointment to the legion of book-lovers to whom this adaptation was squarely aimed.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Tuesday Trailers - Contagion

It's getting really close now. As we slip into September looking at October's trailers we're getting closer and closer to this, my most anticipated movie of 2011. And whilst I was worrying over the summer about whether it could live up to my expectation, the clever marketing and nifty trailer, which promises a grotesquely real take on a global pandemic, only confirm my initial excitement for Soderbergh's latest. Take a look and tell me what you think.



Contagion is released on 21 October 2011.

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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Running (04/09/11)

Right now I am in agony. I don't know what I've done but my left knee has really been giving me hell over th e last couple of days, so much sop that today I had to walk for a bit. What's really annoying is that this is coming with just a week before the Marathon so I'm going to have to make a decision about whether to continue with the race (after all I shouldn't run injured). Of course looking at the knee there's nothing wrong with it, no swelling, so it's possible its all psychosomatic. Anyone out there prepared to give me some advice?


5 runs
33.3 miles
4 hours 30 minutes

So that's an average speed of 7.42 mph

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Saturday, 3 September 2011

You've got to Know when to Hold 'em (Film News - 03/09/11)

It's not been much of a week for film news, even trawling through IMDb looking at new movies going into production hasn't done much to whet my appetite for upcoming cinematic events. Of course there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly it's the last week of the summer, ending with the US Labor Day weekend and what a perfect excuse to go away and relax for a bit. We've also seen the Venice and Telluride festivals kick off with Toronto coming on their heels next week, marking the final stage of 2011, the awards baity film releases. So with publicists and creatives mixing it with the Press at a variety of exotic locations, it looks like an inopportune moment to talk about what's going to happen in a couple of years time. Of the few stories I have spotted there has been a music related theme, even if utterly tenuous, so please enjoy the inserted youtube clips, and with the choices there should be something for everyone.

The Gambler

When I first heard that Martin Scorsese, William Monahan and Leonardo DiCaprio - the director, writer and star of 2006 Oscar winning The Departed - were getting back together to remake The Gambler I immediately felt my heart leap. At last legitimacy for Kenny Rogers' most famous ballad and unnecessary TV adaptation. Alas they were talking about a different better, the 1974 Karel Reisz drama which starred James Caan as a respectable middle class professor who is controlled by his addiction to gambling.

Like all good addiction movies it traces the compulsion from a harmless hobby to when it begins to cost Caan his family, home and even his professional integrity. Indeed the famous tagline, on the poster below, says it all.



The film is loosely based on a short story by Dostoyevsky and it's unclear right now how much Monahan will stick to the original film or return to the book for inspiration, or indeed when this will slot into the three hectic slates. One questions I really want to know though is why they didn't ask Tobey Maguire, Leo's poker buddy who's currently being sued for winning illegally gained funds - essentially money laundering even though he wasn't aware of it.

By the way if you wondering if they ever will remake Kenny's story, you'd better hope not as that Gambler should be left alone with his personal miseries. Let Kenny tell you all about it:



Read on for bountiful bouquets, rejected child actors and a belted dream as well as the latest list of films heading into production.



L'Ecume des Jours

It's a bit of a non-story but due to the scarcity of exciting stuff I'm running with it anyway. Do you remember several months ago we heard about a forthcoming collaboration between bonkers French director Michel Gondry and gamine Gallic Goddess Audrey Tatou? Well, it now has a title, which I would translate but I can't find a definition of Ecume anywhere. Anyone able to help? Anyway joining Tatou will be Romaine Duris (they have a long history of starring together) in the fantastical love story with philosophical subplots and beds of flowers (it's adapted from the 1947 novel by Boris Vian, so that hasn't come from nowhere). With those elements now known suddenly this seems like a perfect vehicle for all involved.

Cameron Crowe's Kids movie/My Name is Marvin

Crowe has scotched the rumours of a Say Anything sequel this week, although if you remember I had my personal doubts from the very beginning. So of course that's led to an avalanche of alternative theories of what he might he be working on next, in spite of the six year wait we've had for We Bought a Zoo. One popular thought is he will return to the Marvin Gaye biopic (My Name is Marvin) first planned several years ago, an artist to which he is still utterly in awe of (and who can blame his). Crowe's a former music journalist, which I guess everyone who's seen Almost Famous knows and this will be a fascinating bridge between his documentary work and narrative cinema.



The most recent alternative, which he's even admitted to writing, is a kids movie based on the child actors he didn't cast in We Bought a Zoo. Read about it in this excerpt from an IFC interview.

“This woman that I work with, Gail Levin, is a great casting director. She’s always finding new faces,” he said. “The kids she found for ‘We Bought a Zoo’ are so exciting. We met with all these actors, and they would leave the room and it was a situation where I would turn to Gail and say ‘They’re not right for this one, but I want to write something where we can work with that person.’ That was the genesis for writing a whole new script which I’ve been working on while we were doing ‘We Bought a Zoo’ and finishing this Pearl Jam movie.”

Which to me does not seem like a good enough excuse to make a movie, but maybe it will showcase great talent so I shouldn't be so sniffy.


Casting News

Only one casting bit that caught my eye this week but it's such a doozy I can't imagine that any film fans weren't on the cusp cheering the news that Anne Hathaway may be joining Tom Hooper's production of Les Miserables as Fantine. The phenomenally successful musical scored by Claude-Michel Schönberg has taken an painfully slow route to the screen, surprising given it's inbuilt audience, but with the casting of Hathaway alongside Hugh Jackman who last got together at the Oscars proving they both have the lungs to knock their respective roles out of the park. Fantine is a relatively short role in the story (no spoilers here though) but she does get the most famous song "I dreamed a dream", which no doubt all of you have heard a variety of takes on it, including this version from Glee.



Production News

Very few new films moving into pre-production this month, one can only assume that August with all the school holidays and festival planning it evokes has left Hollywood short on pencil pushers ticking boxes. That said the following productions all look worth seeing. There's Robert Redford's press ethics drama The Company you Keep, which will hopefully not be spoiled by Shia LaBeouf. Thematic sci-fi Adaline has come and gone before so it may just disappear again, naval adventure Here there be Dragons which almost certainly not be Robert Zemeckis' next film and the Bret Easton Ellis scripted Bait. Yet another film that casts sharks as the bad guys as a revenge seeking nerd feeds the yuppies to them.


Sharks just want top be loved, stop hating on them Hollywood.

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Eileen Brennan


Happy Birthday to

Eileen Brennan

79 today


Yay! It's a Clue related birthday. Not that I'm tempted to quote Mrs. Peacock at all, however it's great to celebrate the oscar nominated performers special day. Um... I don't really know what to say now... But if I wasn't trying to keep the conversation going, then we would just be sitting here in an embarrassed silence.

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Friday, 2 September 2011

Deep within the suburbs there are stirrings of life (Out this week - 02/09/11)

‘Eid Mubārak to all my readers celebrating the end of Ramadan. You can tell it's that time of year because some of the biggest movies out this week will be catering to their celebratory audience, indeed I suspect this weeks Pakistani release will be in the top half of the box office figures, maybe even taking the top spot against the lacklustre competition. It's a dreadful week frankly, with a massive 15 releases only getting an average of less than 3 on the excitometer. That said there is an interesting trio of top releases which may be worth looking into headed by Greek comedy Attenberg, our film of the week.



Attenberg

Curious looking dramedy about a bored young woman, repelled by the concept of sexual contact and obsessed with synth-pop band Suicide and the documentaries of David Attenborough (whose name inspires the title). It's already garnering a cult following for it's deadpan humour and playful set-pieces.

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



Fright Night

Campy horror remake with Anton Yelchin discovering his mysterious neighbour Colin Farrell is a blood-sucking, teenager-abducting vampire. The delightful supporting cast includes David Tennant, Toni Collette and Chris Sarandon.

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

Hedgehog

The title is curious enough to have me interested and the plot synopsis, about a determined and pessimistic pre-teen who's life is turned around by two bizarre characters in her apartment block, doesn't disappoint in this Franco-Italian offering.

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

Kill List

Extremely well reviewed British independent horror from Ben Wheatley, the director of Down Terrace, the plot starts as a hitman taking one last job and soon turns into something far most sinister. Expect uncompromising violence with tough to take atmosphere.

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

Anchor Baby

Depressing looking Canadian immigration drama with the pregnancy that forms the centre of the plot really anchoring the expectant mother Joyce to US soil in the pursuit of the American dream.

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

Art of Getting By

Is Freddie Highmore, the child star of Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory really an adult? He must be now he's falling for Emma Roberts and trying to find his own identity threw his painting in this graduation blues romance.

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

Bodyguard

Traditional Bollywood actioner with Salman Khan as the titular assistant, which the reviews indicate fluffs the ending.

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

Bol

This will be big. A family drama set in teeming Lahore with a home full of daughters (unusual for films from Pakistan) forging the lives they want regardless of their circumstances and tribulations.

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

Mankatha

And the trio is complete with this Tamil thriller about a gangland killer who might also be an undercover cop, with a trailer that promises the necessary quota of car chases and explosions.

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

Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy

It's broken records in Hong Kong, providing the 3D audiences the flying dagger and pert breasts the additional dimension has been calling out for. The trailer looks ghastly but I suspect it won't be the plot that draws the punters in.

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

Apollo 18

Found footage horror (yawn) explaining why we've never been back to the moon. It's out tomorrow and I've yet to see a single review which is probably a sign the distributers are horribly embarrassed about the quality of the picture.

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

The Dead

Enough of the low-budget zombies. It was fun to start with but I'm bored of it now, especially as each new Brit indie that focuses on the undead threat seems to have less and less originality.

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

Robotropolis

Looking like a cheap Terminator rip off, set inside a single factory where the robotic workforce unionise for better rights and begin to exterminate the support staff.

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

Self Made

Curious semi-documentary, with an interesting idea that the reviews indicate has been wasted, with a group of random Londoners attending a method acting course interlaced with the short films they then make utilising their new found skills and psychological insights.

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

Weekender

Last week we had Powder with it's po-faced look at indie miserablism, this week it's the turn of the Madchester rave scene with bezzie mates doing what it takes to keep one step ahead of the killjoy coppers and the shady drug dealers.

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

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