Martin

Dennis Skinner: nature of the beast // A portrait of one of the UK’s most respected (and feared) MPs

Poster Portrait_Dennis Skinner Nature of the BeastAt a time when trust in politicians, in pretty much all countries is eroding to the point it may never return in a meaningful sense, it is refreshing to say the least, to be made aware of how politicians can and still serve the public good. What a fascinating life Dennis Skinner has led. And we are shown this life, through library footage of and interviews with not just the man himself, but his younger brothers (there are 5 in total) and those who’ve had the chance to meet him as constituents.

Unashamedly socialist, the “Beast of Bolsover” was raised in a political household – politics morning, noon and night – and in a typically working class environ; outside toilet, no hot running water, barely two pennies to rub together. Such was the extent of the poverty when growing up, he knew by age 4 or 5 that Santa didn’t exist; and not because he was told, but because he knew there wasn’t any money to buy the presents for Father Christmas to deliver.

The first part of the film is pretty much run of the mill, but really hits its stride in the last hour, where we leave his childhood behind and get to learn about his rise through politics to being elected MP for Bolsover. A fierce reputation gained at local council level, Denis Skinner then made the inevitable move to Westminster, representing the Labour Party in the constituency of Bolsover, where’s he’s been incumbent since 1971. Notable in a long list of achievements, his defeat of a ruinous Housing Bill, using the parliamentary tricks of the trade and confounding those who sought to push the bill through.

However what I took most away from this was more his steadfast belief in the good that socialism can bring to a postmodern, post-industrial world and doggedly sticking to his guns. One look at either series of House of Cards tells us that one’s own ideals are easily and readily compromised in the political sphere – neatly summed-up with the word of “patronage”. Consequently, he never took a ministerial position in a Labour government, despite being offered, and preferred to serve his constituents.  As much as I love his refusal to back down and his frankly hilarious “trolling” of the Queen, it’s his pride in representing the working class that will remain with me most.

I think, in conclusion, that there are two ways we can appreciate such a man and such a documentary. We can despair at how someone’s motivations, persona and ideals in fact don’t earn them the higher profile roles and in fact, only serve to reduce their public profile, in the case of TV appearances. Or, we can admire someone’s stand and gumption, their fighting a cause they believe in and being incorruptible in this pursuit.

Nature of the Beast is released September 8th and the trailer is below – do check it out!

https://www.dennisskinnerfilm.co.uk

The Vault: a missing John Carpenter

14004_JACKPOT_QUAD_AW.inddWhat a great little (under 90 minutes) movie this is! Is it one of these movies that will herald the rebirth of the long lost & last seen in the 90s, genre movie? I’m not so sure, but it fits the category indeed.

The loose story is a bank job gone wrong, set against the backstory of another bank job, from the same bank, also gone-wrong 30 odd years prior. Support comes from James Branco and Clifton Collins Jr, with the main goings-on and tension between Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood. So, without spoilers, what can you expect? Plenty of tension, scares, chills down the spine and a more thoughtful approach to the genre. Things aren’t as simple as a simple horror-heist movie – there are mysterious goings-on and clues along the way, if you can spot them. In hindsight once the reveal has been played-out, I realised what I’d missed and I’d love to watch The Vault again knowing what I now know. I think I’d like it even more.

Things I really liked about this movie are numerous – from its run-time (listeners will be familiar with my rants against 2.5 hour “epics” from the likes of Marvel Studios) through to James Franco’s shy bank manager, keen to get the bank robbers into the basement where the safe containing the most money is and the really creepy ghost-like ghouls with bags over their faces. I also love the fact that despite the short run-time, the audience still gets a good ending, right to the very bitter end and that you’re not asked to be frightened with obvious jump-scares that in time, wear off. It’s a well thought-out and put together movie offering something a bit more thoughtful than a lot of the wider horror genre offers.

If I were being harsh I’d say they could have upped the gore a bit, but there’s enough to go round come the end of an hour and a half, that’s for sure. Will it please die-hard horror fans? Possibly not, but nor will it please out and out heist movie fans either. It is however a great mash of the two genres and pretty original in that regard. Perhaps more than anything, The Vault reminded me of a movie that John Carpenter didn’t make in his hey-day. Praise indeed and worth 4/5.

 

Bridge: review

The debut feature from Amit Ranjan Biswas, Bridge, draws together a lot of big questions, into a relatively small setting.

Bridge

In summary, a simple story; two strangers, both at the end of their tether, encounter each other on a bridge while attempting to commit suicide.  We have no idea why and this is slowly revealed as the film unfolds.  Little by little, like layers of an onion being peeled back, we understand more about the two main characters, played by Soumitra Chatterjee and Sandhya Mridul.  Bridge is a very still film, shot in a very patient and tranquil way, with a lovely eye to photography.  And this establishes the platform for things such as: love, loss, mental illness, and more importantly, hope, love, happiness.  Forgetting his own suicide attempt, Soumitra’s widower, prevents a young woman from taking her own life and, upon taking her home with him, discovers there is far more to her story than simply wanting to kill herself.  Clearly traumatised, to the point she cannot walk properly, communicate or even eat, Soumitra repots the incident at the bridge to authorities, who show a very establishment reaction – log the incident, take names, locations, add it to the catalogue they’re already investigating and then send the woman to a hostel.

The reality of mental illness is such that there is no procedure that will magically make the problem go away – and this is reflected in Soumitra’s character, who it transpires is battling his own demons and depression, following the death of his wife and the loss of his daughter.  As we discover more about both of the stories, it’s the little things that make the big impacts – be that the starting to eat again, going to have a shave and a haircut, or simply changing the clothes worn.  Whilst not at all a difficult or depressing film to watch, I did fear for Mridul’s character when the clumsy attempts by the authorities nearly send her back over the edge again, undoing all of the hard work and perseverance of Soumitra and his staff.  I am sure this is all too common in cases of mental illness but thankfully in his instance we see common sense, love and patience rule the day.  However at this point we finally understand the true horror of her past and it is quite sobering indeed.

A lovely sense of serenity came over me at the end of Bridge and it was not at all saccharine, fitting in perfectly with the tone the film had already established.  There are a few minor things i had an issue with – the story of his daughter I never quite understood, for example – but throughout there are lovely touches such as the flute player, or the shots of birds in the city.  I think a western production would have zeroed in one one or two of the biggest themes and tried to explain them somehow, with a conclusion of sorts, but this is the joy of watching foreign films and seeing a different take on a universal theme.  Quite possibly not the film you think it is or could be, I recommend this for anyone looking to Asian cinema and wanting something outside the traditional Bollywood offering.

In the heart of the sea: review

Coming to get you

Coming to get you

Revealing the true story and inspiration behind Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the new film from Ron Howard recounts the tale of the Essex, a whaling ship from New England. Based on a book by Nathaniel Philbrick, (in the heart of the sea: the tragedy of the whaleship Essex) the real-life maritime disaster is brought to life with a brilliant cast and a genuine attention to historical detail about life at sea on a whaler. I think it’s fair to say that there’s a cinematic elephant in the December room and that most other films will be in its shade. So what are you going to get from In The heart of the sea?

This is or ought to be, primarily about the dynamic between experienced first mate, Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) and the privileged but ingenue captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker). Not much time is devoted to this which is a shame, however the depiction of life and conditions on board ship and the action shots – as much as can be deceived that way – more than compensate for this.

Once the tragedy to come becomes apparent, our attention is shifted towards the horrors of being lost at sea and tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual stresses the remaining crew are subjected to. Linking the pieces at sea, are scenes between Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) and Tom Nickserson (Brendan Gleeson). This provides the link between the book Moby Dick and the actual gruesome events: Nickerson is 30 years older, having survived the ordeal at sea, but has become an alcoholic in his efforts to cope with the utter trauma he has been put through: recounting (reluctantly) the events to Melville, is a catharsis and long overdue.

Ultimately strongest when the camera captures the bursts of action and when close to the sea, In the heart of the sea provides a great antidote to the previously mentioned sci-fi elephant in the room and although not Ron Howard’s best movie, has more than enough to keep viewers’ interest and moves forward with sufficient pace that I was never bored.

The Overnight: review

MV5BMTQ0MjQ3MTY3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjg2MjQ5NTE@._V1_SX214_AL_This is the latest film by director Patrick Brice and executive produced by Jay and Mark Duplass and Adam Scott.  Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) have recently moved to LA with their son RJ.  Looking to make new friends, they bump into Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) at the local playground, who invites them over for dinner with his wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche).  The overnight of the film’s title is then what ensues.

There is a lot of comedy in this film!  Kicking-off with an early morning bedroom scene the laughs keep coming consistently, only slowing down near the middle when things get a bit more serious and dark for a short while.  The jokes and humour in The Overnight help join up some adult themes and in a good way.  Making light of marital crises that can befall couples and what they will do to try and find a way out, the L.A. / California lifestyle and Europeans with relaxed liberal values are all targets for fun among many others.

Aside from the out and out humour in the film, what else is there on offer?  Well, both male and female insecurities are addressed – boobs, penises, pride and envy – and this, after a bit of round the houses (almost literally) culminates in quite possibly one of the most awkward 4-somes / more-somes you’re likely to see.  It is always good to see Jason Schwartzman in anything and I think he steals the show here, in addition to Taylor Schilling who is perfect as the slightly reserved / prudish wife not knowing what to do when things get a bit steamy.

The Overnight is really lead by Kurt and Alex with both Emily and Charlotte as willing and unwilling accomplices.  Certainly the men’s problems are most prominent, although this is not to say that the women don’t make any contributions as they most certainly do, especially Charlotte and her boobs.  There were times during the film I thought it would fall into the obvious, but I’m happy to report my attempts to second-guess things failed.  It is also a very short film by contemporary norms, hitting a very trim 79 minutes, something I think really works to its advantage.  Given the story takes place over around 8 hours or so in real life, the story is moved along at a great pace and this keeps things tight.

Genuinely one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long long time, The Overnight is in cinemas this Friday, June 26th.   Check out the trailer below!

London Indian Film Festival (16 – 23 July 2015)

Rama (Suraj Sharma) & Lalu (Tony Revolori) UrmikaThe Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival kicks off with Sundance winner Umrika with hard-hitting cricket documentary Death of a Gentleman to close the festival.

Prashant Nair’s Umrika, winner of the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, starring Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) and Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel), will be the opening night gala of The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival (July 16-23). The festival is now in its 6th edition and firmly established as Europe’s largest showcase for South Asian cinema. Nair’s debut film Delhi in a Day was a great success at the festival’s 2012 edition. Prashant Nair, writer/director of Umrika, said:

“I’m so excited to hear that Umrika will open the London Indian Film Festival this year. We’ve heard such great things about the audiences at LIFF and can’t wait to share our film with them. We’re hoping the film’s nostalgic portrayal of 1980s India, its themes and the many cross-cultural references will resonate with LIFF’s audiences.”

The festival is pleased to announce that the Bagri Foundation, a charity whose aims include the advancement of literacy, education and the arts, with an emphasis on those of India, and the appreciation and understanding of Asian cultures, is on board as the Title Sponsor. Alka Bagri of the Bagri Foundation said:

“Cinema has a vital role to play in exploring lives, sharing emotions, investigating social issues, and expanding horizons. Given the explanatory power of this medium, we are absolutely delighted to be supporting the London Indian Film Festival as title sponsors. The Bagri Foundation is committed to promoting rich cultural endeavours, fostering dialogues and providing platforms for creativity to blossom. In line with this, the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival offers a fantastic opportunity for art lovers to embark on an exciting journey and to immerse themselves in South Asian culture.”

This year, the dynamic festival is also expanding to UK’s second largest city Birmingham with a selection of highlight screenings at Midlands Arts Centre and Cineworld Broad Street.

Sachin fans at Chennai 110320 Photo by Philip BrownThe festival will close with hard-hitting cricket documentary Death of a Gentleman, featuring Ravi Shastri, Kevin Pietersen, Lalit Modi, N Srinivasan and Giles Clarke. Director Sam Collins said:

“Death of a Gentleman has been four years in the making, and we are hugely excited to be chosen as the closing film at the 2015 LIFF. This is a very human story about passion, money and power, and we hope to make a persuasive case to cricket fans and non cricket fans alike that the greatest game in the world needs to change its ways.”

Other programme highlights include: a rare Screen Talk by one of India’s most acclaimed mainstream filmmakers Tamilian giant Mani Ratnam, Berlinale winner Dhanak, Venice winner Court, Toronto doc. Monsoon and also Bengali art-house hit Labour of Love. UK premieres continue with Slumdog-like The Crows Egg and 31st October starring Soha Ali Khan. Nepalese Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala attends to support a charity event for the Nepal Earthquake Appeal. Actress Konkona Sen Sharma will present her films Saari Raat and Gour Hari Dastaan: The Freedom File, with the latter’s director Ananth Mahadevan also in attendance.

The festival includes the coveted Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition & Award, supported by the Bagri Foundation.

Major Partner Sun Mark Ltd returns with its Pure Heaven brand. Other returning partners include Grange Hotels, British Film Institute, Asian Single Solution and Technicolor. Cinema venues include Cineworld Cinemas, BFI Southbank, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Picturehouse Central and Midlands Arts Centre.

The full programme will be announced 18th June.

LIFF’s Executive & Programming Director Cary Rajinder Sawhney said:

“It is wonderful that the festival is expanding so rapidly in stature and reach, proving there is an un-tapped market for Indian independent cinema with UK audiences.”

For more information on the festival please visit: www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk

Join us on social media: www.facebook.com/LondonIndianFilmFestival & www.twitter.com/LoveLIFF

 

UMRIKA | UK PREMIERE
Hindi with English subtitles | 98 min | India 2015 | Dir. Prashant Nair | with: Suraj Sharma, Tony Revolori, Adil Hussain, Smita Tambe, Prateik Babbar.
This year’s Sundance Audience Award winner is an uplifting, rights of passage tale about two brothers from a small village who have dreams of making it big in Umrika (America). Udai (Pratiek Babbar) is the eldest and adored by his hard-working mum. He leaves their hamlet on a bullock cart to pursue his dream after he says he has received an invitation to work in the US.

Torn between pride and grief his mum waves him off. Months go by but there is no word from Udai, family pride turns to concern. Younger son Rama (Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi), shares the family’s increasing grief and then suddenly letters start to arrive. His parents cheer up again as amazing pictures of the USA fill their lives. All seems well until Rama discovers that the kindly local postman has forged the letters. Rama runs away from home to discover his brother’s true fate.
Q&A with Dir. Prashant Nair and other special guests.
OPENING NIGHT | 16 JULY | 18:00 | CINEWORLD HAYMARKET

DEATH OF A GENTLEMAN | CLOSING NIGHT | LONDON PREMIERE
English | 90 min | Australia, UK | Dir. Sam Collins | with: Kevin Pietersen, Ravi Shastri, N. Srinivasan, Lalit Modi, Giles Clarke.

A hard-hitting documentary of interest to cricket and non-cricket fans alike. Cricketing journalists Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins set off on a journey to report on the current state of health of Test cricket and to investigate the impact of 20:20 cricket on the five-day game. They end up in something more sinister than they could ever have imagined. During their thrilling three-year journey they criss-cross the globe from London to Australia, from India to Dubai and back again, during which they meet players, the game’s administrators, fans and controversial cricket financiers, resulting in a film that is about much more than cricket. This is a film about passion, about money, about power and it’s a film about standing up for what you care about before it is too late.

Q&A with Dir. Sam Collins and other special guests.
The Bagri Foundation supports documentary films as a powerful medium to raise social awareness.
CLOSING NIGHT | 23 JULY | 18:00 | BFI SOUTHBANK

Survivor: The Watchmaker clip, sneak preview

Survivor Quad Final -4

We’re really up for the new film with Pierce Brosnan – Survivor – and this is a great preview clip showing why Pierce can still mix it with both good and bad characters.  And given there isn’t really a terrible movie with Milla Jovovich (OK, I’ll argue about The 5th Element with whomever wants to argue) in either, this really ought to be a winner!

“Survivor” is a thriller about a State Department employee newly posted to the American embassy in London, where she is charged with stopping terrorists from getting into the U.S. And that puts her in the line of fire: targeted for death, framed for crimes she didn’t commit, discredited and on the run. Now she must find a way to clear her name and stop a large-scale terrorist attack set for New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square. Pierce Brosnan stars as the Assassin hunting her down – The Watchmaker.

Starring Milla Jovovich (The Resident Evil franchise), Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Dylan McDermott (Olympus Has Fallen, Automata), Angela Bassett (Olympus has Fallen), James D’Arcy (Jupiter Ascending, Cloud Atlas), Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) and Frances De La Tour (The Harry Potter Franchise). Directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) and from the Producers of Olympus has Fallen

Survivor is out in UK cinemas today (Friday 5th June) Check out the preview clip here, with Pierce Brosnan playing a charming menace.

San Andreas: review

Don't worry, he's on his way

Don’t worry, he’s on his way

San Andreas is the new film starring Dwayne Johnson and imagines what would happen if the biggest earthquake ever recorded struck in California, devastating Los Angeles, before travelling along the San Andreas faultline to wreak destruction on San Francisco.  It is one of many disaster movies that we’ve all watched over the years, so it’s quite a crowded space that San Andreas is joining.  So how does this movie stack-up and what can you expect?  Playing Ray, a helicopter pilot and search and rescue worker, Dwayne Johnson has to make his way from LA to San Francisco with his estranged wife (played by Carla Gugino) in order to rescue their daughter Blake.

I’ll kick things off by saying how much I liked this movie!  With there being a lot of choice in the disaster-film niche, it’s important that there is something to grab the viewer and for it to become more than just two hours of CGI.  Personally, I need more than action set-pieces; I need to get behind the lead characters and for their story to be what keeps my interest.  Happily in San Andreas, this is delivered.  In fact the film almost operates three distinct stories: Paul Giamatti as the seismologist who discovers the true nature of the quakes, Blake and her own journey to find a safe place for Ray to save her and finally, her parents’ journey to find their daughter.  these are interwoven quite nicely indeed and in Dwayne Johnson, there is someone that we hang on to as the film progresses.  There is also an appearance by Iaon Gruffudd as the step-father to Blake, but as amusing as it is, we can count this role as that of the pantomime villain.

After the opening which I thought was a weak spot in the movie, things really get going with a scene at the Hoover dam – which doesn’t last long!  It is amazing to see the Hoover dam busting and breaking and this sets the scene for greater things to come.  As Los Angeles is levelled there are some genuinely tense moments with Ray rescuing Emma from the top of a collapsing building.  We then switch between Blake and Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) as the action slows down for a breather.  But this in no way slows the feel of movie which marches forward at a great pace, never letting the viewer get bored at all.  In particular and as much as I like Paul Giamatti in anything, it is good that his character is pretty much sidelined.  Not because he’s terrible but because his character isn’t meant to be the hero and possesses no qualifications to be the man who saves the day.  This is a frequent problem in movies of this kind – like asking a teacher to grab a gun, shoot some terrorists and rescue the hostages – and San Andreas is much the better for not doing this.

That is not to say there aren’t things I don’t like: some lines are clunky and some events are almost too crazy or not quite that believable.  I am also not sure what the point of a blink and you miss it cameo appearance from Kylie Minogue is, but hey-ho, always good to Charlene Ramsey from Neighbours in something other than a music video.  That said, if you place your faith in the story and characters, then you will be rewarded with a great movie.  It’s very easy to make these things over-long so a running time of 114 minutes feels like a breeze and adds to the pacy feel.  There are some jaw-dropping scenes of destruction and they’re all highly watchable with a tremendous perspective given to the viewer; nothing complicated and you can always understand what is happening and for why.  Sit back, eat the popcorn, guzzle the soda and enjoy a great movie which doesn’t seek to do anything other than entertain.  Highly watchable but on the proviso that you may not want to see another building collapse on-screen for quite a while!

San Andreas opens in cinemas today and you can get a taste of the awesome from the trailer below.

 

 

Far from the madding crowd

TEASER-1SHT_FFTMC_100723_fBased on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD is the story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors:  Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching wilfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor.  This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance.

Typical to Thomas Hardy, he’s created a female character with a dilemma – see Tess of the d’Urbervilles – only this time it is ever so slightly more complicated.  Ignoring the classic “love triangle” in Far from the Madding Crowd, we have effectively a “love square” with Bathsheba falling for no fewer than 3 men and getting herself in a right pickle.  Who will she choose and for why?  Whilst the constraints of the time – the etiquette, decorum & scandal if certain ways weren’t adhered to, this is in fact quite a modern tale for a story first written 200 odd years ago: how money can change everything and how peoples perception of others can change because of money and status.

Opening in the UK on May 1st, this is just about the only period / costume drama I’d actually like to see.  The beautiful trailer is below.  

Daredevil – suit close-ups

MARVEL'S DAREDEVILAs long as you’ve not been living under a rock recently, you’ll know Daredevil has started on Netflix. Or quite possibly you’ll know exactly that and also have watched all of the first series by now!

Whilst the show builds up a genuine pace and the body count rises inexorably, one thing we as viewers are deprived of, is a proper good look at the suit. But as we can see from these lovely close-ups, it’s quite a beauty.

 

This really is a gritty, grounded, authentic, suspenseful and edgy action drama featuring a great cast that includes:

  • Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock / Daredevil
  • Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk
  • Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple
  • Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page
  • Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson
Vondie Curtis Hall as Ben Ulrich
  • 
Scott Glenn as Stick
  • Ayelet Zurer as Vanessa Marianna
  • Bob Gunton and Leland Owlsey
  • Toby Leonard Moore as Wesley

MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL

For those needing bit of background, this is a great kick-off point:

Blinded as a young boy but imbued with extraordinary senses, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) fights against injustice by day as a lawyer, and by night as the Super Hero “Daredevil” in modern day Hell’s Kitchen, New York City.

Daredevil is one of the best known characters among the street level heroes and is in fact – fingers crossed we hit the same levels of production budget, script etc – the first of four epic live-action adventure series (A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, all leading up to the teaming of the main characters in Marvel’s The Defenders) that delves into the backstory of how Matt Murdock evolves into Daredevil.

Marvel’s first original series on Netflix has quite some serious pedigree behind the scenes: Executive Produced by series Showrunner Steven S. DeKnight (“Spartacus”, “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer“, “Angel” ) and Drew Goddard ( “Cabin in the Woods ,” “Lost,” “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, in addition to writing the first two episodes of Daredevil), along with Jeph Loeb ( “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Smallville,” “Heroes”), who also serves as Marvel’s Head of Television.

The longest ride, preview clip

The_Longest_Ride_posterComing to UK cinemas from 19th June, THE LONGEST RIDE centres on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected and life altering connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, THE LONGEST RIDE explores the challenges – and infinite rewards – of enduring love.

The film stars Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland) and Scott Eastwood (Fury) in the lead roles as Luke and Sophia. Robertson and Eastwood are joined by Jack Huston (American Hustle), Oona Chaplin (Game of Thrones, The Hour) and Alan Alda (The Aviator, M*A*S*H*). Directed by George Tillman Jr. (Men of Honour), produced by Marty Bowen (Fault in Our Stars), Wyck Godfrey (Twilight series), Theresa Park (Best of Me), Nicholas Sparks (Safe Haven). The screenplay is written by Craig Bolotin (Light It Up).

Hollywood Boulevard was closed off on Monday evening (April 6)  as real life bull riders entertained the fans, and the stars of The Longest Ride walked the red carpet at the world famous Chinese Theatre. In attendance from the film were Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Oona Chaplin, Lolita Davidovich, Melissa Benoist, director George Tillman Jr., author Nicholas Sparks and producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey.

Adapted from Nicholas Sparks’ (The Notebook) best selling novel, THE LONGEST RIDE is released this summer on Friday 19th June.

Take a peak at this clip below!

Broken Horses: review

MV5BMTEyODkzODExMzReQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDU0NjM2NzQx._V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_AL_In cinemas today, Broken Horses is Vinod Chopra‘s debut Hollywood feature and makes him the first Indian filmmaker to write, produce and direct a Hollywood film  Set in the shadows of the US-Mexico border gang wars, Broken Horses is an epic thriller about the bonds of brotherhood, the laws of loyalty, and the futility of violence.

Having left town as a child after the death of his father, young music prodigy, Jacob “Jakey” Heckum (Anton Yelchin), returns to his desolate hometown after years only to discover that Buddy (Chris Marquette), the child-like elder brother he left behind, now works for a notorious drug gang. The gang’s ruthless boss Julius Hench (Vincent D’Onofrio) has twisted Buddy’s simple mind and manipulated him into a killer…a surrogate son who blindly does as he is told.  Jacob is unable to convince Buddy to leave his new fraternity. Drowned in guilt for having abandoned him, Jacob realises the only way to save Buddy is from the inside out.

After a somewhat brutal opening that caught me by surprise, the movie quickly settles down into the present day and we see really how different the brothers lives have become.  With this established, the rest of Broken Horses is really about the local gangster and how, despite how he has manipulated Buddy, he is in fact scared of him, knowing he is weaker without him onside and that he cannot allow him to leave the gang.  The three main characters are really well played and it is always a pleasure to see Vincent D’Onofrio in anything.  It could have been very tempting and easy to get all of them chewing-up the scenery and bringing far too much to the film so I enjoyed the restraint.  The only thing I’d pick at here is using a Spanish actress (Maria Valverde, playing Jakey’s finance) with an obviously Spanish accent, to play an Italian.

Broken HorsesAs the story unfolds, we get to see some familiar Western tropes such as the matches, the desolate churches in the middle of the desert and some stunning vistas.  It really is a beautifully shot movie and looks and feels like a mix of the kind of emotional stories I’ve watched from Indian cinema and a modern-day Western.  Presciently, it also incorporates the unfortunate situation Mexico finds itself in at the moment regarding corruption, drug and gang violence.  At a modest 100 minutes, strangely for me, I felt I could have done with more movie.  Not that I was confused or couldn’t follow the plot, but a bit more about Julius Hench wouldn’t have gone amiss – elaborating on his fear of fire, his dead family and his relationship with a corrupt Mexican arms dealer all would have added to an already sterling film.

As someone who doesn’t know much at all about films coming out of India, I was so glad to see my first Vinod Chopra movie.  And it has made me really want to see his first and Oscar nominated film (made for $400 apparently) and of course his most recent blockbuster, PK.  Broken Horses is a beautiful film that is visually superb.  Equally, it will be something that boyfriend and girlfriend can enjoy together…it’s got some violence, but not blood-spatter and not with a huge body-count.  Definitely recommended and by the looks of things, better than anything else that’s showing my local cinema this weekend.

Enjoy the trailer below, or better still, don’t watch the trailer…I think it’s better seen without knowing the trailer…

 

 

Black Sea: review

blacksea

Black everything

Warning, review contains mild spoilers

Black Sea, is the latest from director Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland). It features Jude Law (Sleuth, Dom Hemmingway) as    submarine captain Robinson, on the hunt for a submarine, lost somewhere in the Black sea and rumoured to be laden with gold.  There is a wide cast and it also features Michael Smiley (Luther, A Field in England). Firstly, if it’s got Michael Smiley, I’m always  interested and secondly, if it’s got Jude Law, I’m sometimes interested. This film therefore has good odds on it being excellent, given the director’s previous films.

We see Robinson being made redundant by a marine salvage company whom he’ served loyally for years. With a meagre payout, we can see his guilt about not raising his son, who lives with his mum and a wealthy step-father. Presented with the chance to lift gold from a lost Nazi submarine, from a decidedly shady operation, the crew gets assembled: half British, half Russian.

Once the mission is underway, tension mounts very quickly and before long the Aussie (previously described as a liability) has gone rogue, killing a Russian. One by one, the crew is whittled down – murdered, or killed by the sheer danger of what they’re doing.

This is one helluva tense movie! Most other submarine-based films don’t come close to this. I’ll put this down to a story that doesn’t quite go the way the trailer might lead you to believe and perhaps more importantly, a genuinely realistic re-creation of a knackered, Soviet-era submarine, complete with rusty machinery and filthy living conditions.

As the lure of the gold gradually overtakes the minds of the crew onboard, human rationale disappears, along with a few bodies and inevitably the ability to actually sail the submarine. By the time we reach the end, Robinson reminded me very much of Harry Caul, in The Converation: forlorn and hoist by his own petard.

A super-tense thriller that doesn’t disappoint; if you like your films to be realistic, dirty and grimy then this is for you. I’m not sure the girlfriend would enjoy this one, so you have been warned 😉

 

The Class of ’92: extended collector’s edition – review

Teacher's pets

Teacher’s pets

As the resident Upodcasting sport fan and thankfully for this release, long time Manchester United fan it was an absolute pleasure to see this for review.

This is the story of how six 14 year-old working class boys (David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil and Gary Neville) came together to play for the same club, becoming the spine of the most lauded team in world football and who throughout their period of unparalleled success remained best mates. The film offers unprecedented access to all six players and includes numerous high profile interviewees including Sir Alex Ferguson, Zinedine Zidane, Tony Blair, Mani from the Stone Roses, Eric Cantona and Danny Boyle.

Man United fan or not, if you’re of a certain age you probably know all about the success of the Treble winning team from 1999 and the core of it being a group of players who came through the youth system at the same time. The great thing about this movie is the splicing of archive footage featuring the young players, but also the wider context given to the rise of the Manchester United team throughout the 1990s as Britain picked itself up out of the doldrums and began to feel like a happy place once more. In some ways it is also fortunate that Manchester has such a strong cultural identity of its own; giving rise to such bands as the Happy Monday, Smiths, Oasis, The Stone Roses and being a true centre for the birth of British dance music culture in the ’90s. It makes adding a superb soundtrack somewhat easier and if like me you’re in your mid-30s then you know all of the music. It would be so easy for me to get all misty eyed because this was my music and my team!

But the film comes into its own for not dwelling entirely on the stars of the side. Also featured are the lesser known lights – Ben Thornley – or those who went on to have great careers away from Manchester United such as Robbie Savage. There’s some great stuff involving them all having a kick-about…some players now more, ahem, portly than others. Ryan Giggs was still playing when this was made to put it in context!

As the story unfolds, you really do get to know more about what made the players tick, be so successful and what sets elite sportsmen apart from those who don’t quite make it. The power of your own mind, the will to succeed and make sacrifices, but also the personality of the manager – in this case Alex Ferguson – who was able to drive on his own teams to new heights. There are some wonderful comments from Eric Cantona who played with all of the class of ’92 and from Eric Harrison the youth team coach who brought all of the players through the set-up.

For any fan of Manchester United this is a great movie. It’s also the perfect gift for fathers’ day! The Class of ’92 is released this week.  Check out the trailer below:

After the night (Ate ver a luz): Review

After the Night (Ate ver a luz)

After the night is a portrayal of life in the slums of Lisbon.  Directed by Basil da Cunha we see life through the eyes of Sombra, who returns to his life as a drug dealer after coming out of jail.

His life is a hard one, juggling the money he has lent and can’t get back and the money he owes the local neighbourhood gang leader.  His only sources of comfort are an iguana – Dragon – a young girl called Clarinha and an old fashioned oil lamp.  As the days pass he starts to think he is better off back in jail or perhaps even dead.

The cast all look like they could have lived on the very streets being so realistically filmed, but the lead, Pedro Ferreira is the stand out, bringing a genuinely haunting an unnerving presence.  Sombra (a play on words, it is close to Portuguese for dark/shadow) spends his time living at night and sleeping in his tiny shack.  As he starts to run out of time to pay back his debts, Sombra’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as if he is having the very life sucked out of him.  A man who has given up.

I really loved the scenes with Sombra and Dragon; he seemed to be about as happy as he could be and also with Clarinha.  When he starts to let go of the things that mean so much to him I felt particularly sad, knowing that this signified his letting go of life.  After the Night is not a simple watch, but is rewarding.  It is filmed beautifully and like a documentary throughout – the darkly lit scenes with an orangey-gold light are almost halo-like and offer a glimmer of hope.   Some things aren’t quite conveyed as clearly as I would have liked but if you pay attention then you will see some lovely touches.

I have to say that I didn’t really enjoy the ending, but this is purely a personal matter and down to how good the lead is.  Throughout, I was reminded of La Haine (and also City of God to an extent) so it’s great to see a new film maker using such a realistic approach 20 years later.  Not one to take the kids to see, but I recommend you check this out.  After the Night is released April 25th in theatres and VOD.

 

The Machine: review

The Machine is a British indie sci-fi movie, first screened last year before its general release in 2014.  Set in the near future, the West is in the midst of a new cold war with China that has sent the world into economic depression.  Technology is leading the race for military innovation and advantage and this is the heart of the film.  Vincent (Toby Stephens) is a robotics scientist working for the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), striving to create the first self-aware robot, but not necessarily for military gain: he has a young daughter with a degenerative muscle disease meaning she will eventually die.  Whilst testing new programming, a new scientist Ava (Caity Lotz) proves to have a breakthrough and is offered the chance to work with Vincent.

The dark secrets inside the military base are revealed little by little as we see Vincent’s experiments (wounded / brain-dead soldiers from the conflict) having their “consciousness” examined.  Unable to show themselves as intelligent, they become confused and violent before being killed.  Leading the mission for the self-aware machine is Thomson (Denis Lawson), who shows little remorse or compassion for anything at all: soldiers who are missing in action and then experimented on are effectively “disappeared”, kept hidden from their own families.  Somewhat disturbingly, most of the soldiers at the base are themselves failed robotics experiments: intelligent enough to follow orders to the letter, but without the ability to communicate with their human masters.

As Ava starts work in the base and programming with her software begins, her curiosity grows and she sees the experiments for the cruel that they are.  After being spied on by Thomson, Ava is “killed” but brought back to life using her own programming.  Vincent, trying to cope with his daughter’s condition sees that she could hold the future, not just for advanced robots but as a way of preserving his daughter – in a pretty weird way.  But the movie really leaps forward on many levels from this point, with Thomson truly showing his colours:  weaponising Ava and controlling and manipulating her emotions for his and the military’s ultimately nefarious aims.  However Thomson, realising the danger that Ava poses, Vincent is asked to remove her conscious.  Tricking Thomson by removing an irrelevant piece of hardware, Vincent sets his course against the military and with the help of Ava and the other robots, escapes from the base to live with Ava and the new version of his daughter.

There is a lot going on in The Machine. All of the above takes place in 91 minutes and if not answered, seeks to question what humanity is, what it is for, what love is, what being human is and how we as the human race must face this inevitable future reality. There are shades of both Blade Runner and Metropolis – drawing on those films’ own questions about the human mind, controlling robots and where the dividing line between man and machine is drawn. How intelligent are we as a species and how easily is this replicated in robots?  This film takes Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics and elaborates on them, engaging its audience.

I thought this film was brilliant and for one that I believe to be shot on a small budget. It thoroughly deserves its place among the best of British sci-fi films. Scenes inside the base are perfectly dark and dreary and those in the outside world, lit far more positively. Toby Stevens plays the burdened, frustrated scientist with a weariness and exasperation I could really relate to. I think Caity Lotz does steal the show though. Convincing as a brainbox but even more so as a robot and bringing exactly the right level of humanity required, to the role. The film was apparently shot in Wales on a very low budget and whilst I wouldn’t say that this is obvious or noticeable, it does make sense when you see how sparse the sets are and how they’ve been used and filmed.  It quite rightly won the Raindance Festival Best UK film in 2013.

Unusually for me, I thought The Machine was too short – another 15 minutes or so would have, I felt, given more substance to the wider global context of the robotics arms race and revealed more about Denis Lawson’s character, Thomson. It could also have served to give us more about the relationship between Vincent and Ava. Not to detract from a really great film though. The Machine is well worth watching on the big screen while you can. And if you can’t catch it in cinemas, then definitely watch it in one go, without ads otherwise all the intrigue and ambiguity will be lost. As brightly lit as the final scene is, there is something deeply dark being shown here.  A coldly beautiful movie and incredibly thought provoking.

In cinemas right now – here’s the trailer to enjoy.

 

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Cuban Fury

The man on a salsa style mission

 If ever there was a perfect role for Nick Frost, then surely being Cuban Fury is it.

Beneath Bruce Garrett’s shabby, flabby exterior, beats the heart of once great Salsa king!  Only one woman can reignite his Latin fire. Spotlight hits, sweat drips, heels click – Nick Frost IS Cuban Fury!  From the team that brought you Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and Paul, Cuban Fury is the best comedy of the year. The film’s cast includes a briliant ensemble of great talent including Nick Frost, Chris O’Dowd, Rashida Jones, Olivia Colman, Ian McShane and Kayvan Novak.

In cinemas right now, don’t miss out!  Here’s a brilliant clip of Julia (Rashida Jones) running over Bruce.

 

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Dallas Buyers Club Review

His skinny ass gonna sell you the right drugs

First up, I’ll be candid and say that if you’re even vaguely curious to see this film, then I would urge to act on that impulse and watch it. The recounting of Ron Woodruff’s post-AIDS life is a remarkable one and well worth sitting down for.

Ron, played by Matthew McConaughey is an AIDS patient who, discovering that better (approved) medication cannot be prescribed due to FDA regulations, takes matters into his own hands. Importing drugs from Mexico and elsewhere, Ron is forced to accept that his friends disown him because he’s “queer and a faggot” and starts a business relationship (the buyers club in question) with Rayon, a transgender woman he befriends in hospital. Brilliantly played by Jared Leto it must be said.

That’s really the nuts and bolts of the plot without divulging too much. But director Jean Marc Vallee delivers so much more – what we’re given is the journey of a dead man walking. Told by doctors he has 30 days to live we see Ron immediately retreat to booze, cocaine and hookers – his staple diet up to this point. But it is increasingly obvious that he looks so utterly fucked whenever he isn’t either in hospital or not drinking or drug taking, that he looks so much better. One of the many great things about Ron’s journey is that he has no choice but to confront his life and what he wants from what remains. He is a man of the rodeo, the macho and certainly not the queer (references to Rock Hudson help date the film and reveal his and his friends’ attitudes).

The relationship that develops between Leto and McConaughey really is quite beautiful and there are little touches with Marc Bolan photos that are impeccable. More than that however is the way that we see Ron’s own attitudes change – be it to drugs, homosexuals…mankind. Someone who starts off as the alpha-male, self-centred and narrow minded becomes motivated, responsible and resilient in the face of adversity.  McConaughey is as brilliant as you’ve heard and this movie will most likely change your perception of him as an actor.

Sadly, for those who are old enough to remember the AIDS crisis, or if you’ve watched How to Survive a Plague, then you will know that the way in which AIDS patients were treated back then is accurately portrayed in the film.  Patients were so desperate they really did take their life into their own hands and start mixing approved and unapproved drugs.  There was simply no other choice.

Dallas Buyers Club isn’t quite as lighthearted as the trailer would lead to believe, but has some cracking lines; “DEA?  I’ll be DOA!” and some truly memorable scenes such as checking if a hot girl has AIDS as well so they can have unprotected sex.  Of course, there are characters Ron meets along the way (notably law enforcement) but we’re not told a huge amount about them.  Rayon’s drug addiction isn’t explained and the bond between Ron and Dr Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) is allowed to bubble away without developing into much.  It really doesn’t matter though.  Ultimately this is a character study of a man who refuses to give-up and simply wants to help others.  And brilliantly done it is too.

Dallas Buyers Club is in theaters now.

@martincawley

 

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – review

He can only dress in black, it matches his gun

Warning, contains plot spoilers.

A film right up my street to almost kick-off the year with.  An interesting one this as Chris Pine is now the 4th incarnation of the seemingly evergreen Tom Clancy character, having been played previously by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck.  Also starring Kevin Costner, Keira Knightly and Kenneth Branagh who directs.  I was interested to learn from my fellow co-host that Tom Clancy sold off the rights to his books and characters long ago and that Jack Ryan can now be portrayed more or less as the producers wish.  Thankfully the initial story is pretty darned faithful to Jack Ryan’s own backstory from the novels.  We see him studying in London, before joining the Marine Corp and injuring his back in a helicopter crash.  During his rehabilitation he meets his future wife Catherine, (Keira Knightley) and is drafted into the CIA by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner).

Fast forward 10 years and using his cover as compliance officer at a major international bank, Jack Ryan uncovers a plot to financially cripple the USA and under KC’s guidance must prevent total global meltdown whilst keeping girlfriend Catherine in the dark.  When the Russian Federation loses a key vote at the United Nations, Ryan notices that the markets do not respond in the expected way. He discovers that billions of dollars in Russian assets have been secreted away to a level where the United States economy may become dependent on this secret Russian investment -traced directly to Viktor Cheverin (Kenneth Branagh).

Travelling to Moscow, Ryan is tasked with auditing Viktor Cherevin’s secret accounts, but before he can do much more than check-in to the hotel he has to survive an attempted assassination and winds up killing his would be killer.  Next thing we know Catherine, concerned Jack is having an affair, travels to Moscow and finds a gun in Jack’s bedroom and the whole thing unravels.  Hatching a plan to gain access to Cheverin’s secret files.  Ryan and Catherine meet Viktor for dinner over the road from his office; during dinner Ryan “gets drunk” and insults Cathy.  Excusing himself, he gains access to Cheverin’s office where he downloads critical files. He discovers Cheverin has been secretly propping up the Chinese and Japanese economies for 20 years, and that the entire global economy is vulnerable. Cheverin, alerted to Ryan’s infiltration, abducts Cathy. Ryan rescues her and we then wrap-up the action in the US as the plot to unleash a bomb in new York’s financial district is foiled.  Meanwhile, Viktor has been killed by his co-conspirators in Russia, having failed.

On the face of it that’s pretty standard spy fare – and Shadow Recruit is pretty much that: standard spy fare.  Kenneth Branagh directs it well enough and it looks great, but I have a series of niggles that I just can’t overlook.  Firstly it’s a long standing issue with me that whenever a civilian gets involved (against both protocol and reality) it just lacks credibility.  Alas Keira Knightly takes on this role and aside from finding her intensely annoying (apparently I’m in the minority for cottoning on so late) here, my heart sank once I knew she’d be undercover and in the field.  It’s as much as we have an agent with a bad back, being thrust a gun and told to get on with it, let alone his wife.  And no, no-one can get a Russian visa and just arrive in Moscow as quickly as she did.  I think it’s telling that the best and most convincing scenes aren’t actually the action sequences – Branagh is great as Cherevin and comes out with some excellent one-liners, delivered in a menacing English-Russian accent.  But Jack Ryan is supposed to get by on his wits and his brain, not his ability to drown a fat African in the bath.  I really want to like this movie but the straightforwardness of most things just kills it for me.  There’s not enough tension building up through it and although it moves quickly enough it lacks the conviction to be different.

Plenty of positives come out of the movie though.  It’s great to see Kevin Costner, older and wiser and bringing a nice sense of weariness to his role.  And I did love Branagh – some moments of pure wicked malevolence:  the scene with the light bulb is a great one.  Chris Pine certainly can act and I think he’s actually perfect for the role of Jack Ryan.  Assuming the producers want to roll out Jack Ryan as a Bourne-type franchise they should stick with him, but give him a lot more to work with.  Do that and ditch Knightly for the wife’s role and we should have something really good on our hands.  It’s very difficult to break into the truly action mould these days with the Bourne, Bond, Mission Impossible & other Jason Statham-ish characters who bring physicality that Ryan can’t / shouldn’t.  The writers need to figure out how to use his brain in a demonstratively better way and not give us something quite so indecisive.  Please sir, can I have some more?

 

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Review: Anchorman 2 – does the legend continue?

The team re-assemble

Joy of joys in the season of goodwill, my co-host Asim was unable to attend our screening of Anchorman 2. One man’s pain is another man’s gain.  It is a hard life, but sometimes you just have to take one for the team. That enthusiasm aside, I approached this movie with more than a hefty dose of caution, even scepticism. My bar was set low. Perhaps to protect me if it was mediocre and possibly to preserve the legacy of the first one.

Sometimes, when you love something so much, you just want more of the same, more of the good stuff.  Like an addiction to Cherry Coke or fizzy cola bottles you can keep stuffing your face until there is no more left and you have to demand more from the makers. I guess this is what happened with Anchorman. Fans – myself included – really were fans and took it to their hearts with a warm embrace, reeling off quote after quip, revelling in people being killed with tridents and women being seduced by Sex Panther.  But it wasn’t enough – how could it be? Genuinely strong characters, played quite perfectly by the cast, combined with surreal humour, a love story that ends happily ever after and a brilliant script with more take-home than your local Chinese.  All of which sets up the sequel nicely, but to what end? After almost 10 years away, how good is it and should you spend your hard earned cash on going to the cinema to see it?

With the 70s behind him, San Diego’s top-rated newsman, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), returns to the news desk along with co-anchor and wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), man on the street Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd) and sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner).

So, after the hype, does the legend really continue?  Thankfully, at least for this lucky viewer, it does.  I can’t say how much I laughed, but I was literally lol-ing all movie which rarely happens in public.  As with the first one, there is an almost non-stop stream of gags and jokes throughout the whole film.  It’s almost unfair to talk about certain high points or low points without giving away some of the story, but suffice to say, if you liked the first one, you will not be disappointed!  I can also report that Kanye is only briefly appearing and is able to JUST ABOUT deliver his lines without spoiling the scene – worry ye not.

So, now that I’ve talked about one scene, I may as well keep going…my least favourite would have to be the dinner with Linda Jackson’s (Meagan Good)  family and not really because it’s unfunny, I just think it doesn’t add much and it also reminded me of shit Eddie Murphy movies that should forever remain purged from my brain.  I did find it hilarious when he moves in to a lighthouse though and you will also find proof that you shouldn’t ever travel with bowling balls and scorpions.  Much has been made of the large cast of stars and I can confirm there is indeed a long long list.  You’ll be ticking them off the list as you see them but there were so many at one point that I even missed Kirsten Dunst entirely.

Anchorman 2 also has the wit to have a pop at media ownership, the quality of broadcast news & what 24 hour news channels have done to change the ways we consume news.  Let me be clear: this is not biting satire and if like my mum, you “don’t do silly”, it’s not going to get you to enjoy it.  However, if you loved the first one, you do “do silly” (like me) & you love the gags coming thick and fast, both verbal and visual then Amnchorman 2 is in every way a winner and the legend does indeed continue.

Enjoy the trailer to whet your appetite – it’s not like you haven’t seen it already is it?

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Blue Jasmine review: Jasmine is truly Blue in Woody’s latest bid for another actress Oscar

Oh so blue

A Woody Allen movie, despite the annual appearance, is always an event.  Upod casts its eye over Blue Jasmine, his latest release.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is a former New York socialite, broke (although still travelling 1st Class), homeless and a widow. She’s also a mess of prescription drugs and booze in a bid to cope with the nervous breakdown she’s going through in the aftermath of her life shattering. Moving to San Franciso to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), this re-connects Jasmine (nee Jeanette) with her past and forces her to confront things she still doesn’t have the capacity to deal with. Her sense of denial is truly astonishing and it seems like she is incapable of moving on with her life. As the movie unfolds, we see through flashbacks exactly what happened to leave her in such a position.

Leaving university early as she was swept off her feet by financier Hal (very nicely played, Mr Alec Baldwin) she turns her back on friends and family, living high on the hog, all the while turning a blind eye to Hal’s incredibly dodgy business dealings and his pretty blatant affairs. Safely tucked-up in her world of Fendi bags and other pointless bagatelles, she also draws her sister’s husband into Hal’s murky financing, losing the family their $200 000 lottery winnings and causing the break-up between Ginger and Augie (Andrew Dice Clay).

As Jasmine’s present situation lurches through the various stages of better, worse, bad, good, rock bottom, positive, so we see more revealed about her past life. Whilst we know Hal is eventually arrested and sent to prison, we see their son walking out on his education (and his mum) in shame. He will not be able to stand the embarrassment of going back to Harvard and so leaves everything behind him. It is only later on that we see a woman truly scorned and after Hal confesses he’s in love with an au pair 20 years his junior, Jasmine calls in the Feds.

Ordinarily, that might not be considered a bad thing, but in this case our character cannot reconcile what she’s done with the consequences. We see her in an almost constant state of denial about everything she’s responsible for; brushing the means of her lifestyle under the carpet as we might if we bought a TV that “fell off the back of a lorry”. The reality she has constructed for herself is too painful to confront and so she clings to her past, blithely thinking all will get better. The superlative example of this being the diplomat she meets and wants to marry – it does not even cross her mind that her past cannot escape her.

Woody Allen has delivered us a fascinating look at the lives of others; in this case the filthy rich and socialites of Manhattan. In Jasmine we have one of the more selfish characters to grace a movie-screen, but we never sense it in a purely deliberate or hurtful way. Credit for this goes obviously to Cate Blanchett who, without wishing fall back on cliché, delivers a tour de force performance that will surely earn her the Best Actress gong next year. Blue Jasmine draws together themes such as sibling rivalry, keeping up with the joneses, family, snobbery, money & wealth, social mobility and finally and most simply of all, happiness. The ensemble cast is great and worth a mention absolutely, but such is the brilliance of the central performance they all but serve to further her role. The unpleasant truth for Jasmine and the matter she can’t get over is that she created her own mess – either through turning a blind eye or for reporting Hal to the authorities. She just can’t understand her son wanting nothing to do with her or that her sister can find happiness in a man who repairs cars for a living. There is plenty to take away and Blue Jasmine will get richer with repeat viewings. I already want to watch it again.

Blue Jasmine is released in cinemas across the UK today, Friday 27th September.  Enjoy the trailer below.

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Robocop: The New Trailer

Dead or alive, you're coming with me

The long-awaited (?) Robocop re-vamp has finally come to life with this trailer for the 2014 release of Paul Verhoeven‘s mid-80s sci-fi cult classic. 25 years or so really is a long time, so we can’t begrudge a re-make on these terms (unlike say, Spiderman). But the original, much like Total Recall, is held in such high regard that it does beg the question of whether audiences need the remake at all.

At first glance, this looks great – clearly so much more can be done with a budget these days – so there won’t be that old-fashioned feel to the movie. And secondly, the cast is of course impressive: Samuel L Jackson, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish and even Miguel Ferrer. I’d watch it just because of Michael Keaton – a criminally under-used actor.

But what of the rest of the take-home from this trailer? A couple of things stand out for me right away: the more prominent role of the family and that he seems to know he’s human rather than robot, the inverse of the original where he has to figure out he is in fact human. Quite how these will affect the story, we can only speculate. There is also scope for comment on the military-industrial complex using machines in place of men.  You only have to look at the recent wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan to know how real drones are and how much their use could increase in the future.  How much this theme will be addressed may well have changed since the director gave a very positive interview back at the end of 2011.  We can only hope he has retained a lot of control over his movie.  Perhaps these will give the film a new dimension and give us something the original didn’t. On a basic level, I have to say I’m disappointed with him being painted black and riding a motorbike.  But in the interests of a fair and balanced report, silver Robocop did end up looking pretty awful in some of the merch.

Streethawk IS Robocop?

Don't forget, original Robocop didn't get mangled by a chemical spill, unlike one of the bad guys

Oh and the retractable visor really ought to have been a no-no from the very start – what were they thinking?  Director Jose Padhila, has form in the police sphere, having given us the Elite Squad movies. Both address police corruption, incompetence and bureaucracy (not that Robocop didn’t), so the omens are good. Possibly lacking however, will be a social commentary. The charm of the first is that there is more to it than meets the eye, lending itself to repeat viewings and making it so enduring.

This ad for the 6000SUX still makes me laugh.

I think it’s important to ask what a remake really can bring to the table – regardless of what is being re-made. Possibly not a fair comparison, but I’ll point out that operas / stage plays are typically only ever “revived”, not entirely re-worked. Sure the setting may change (e.g. Coriolinus a few years ago) and new directors and producers will bring their own touch, highlighting say one characteristic over another, but if Mozart wrote the music it won’t be replaced with a new score and if Noel Coward wrote the play there won’t be new dialogue added. So perhaps there is something to be learned from this. And maybe, just maybe, with such a great movie as Robocop, we could have had a restored print and Blu-Ray release on its 25th anniversary, celebrated with a “revival” on screen and in cinemas nationwide. Now I’d buy that for a dollar!

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Rush: out this Friday

Rush: it's not the one about undercover Narcs

In cinemas this Friday is the new film from Ron Howard and normally, I’d not be arsed to be honest.  HOWEVER…Rush is a re-creation of the merciless 1970s rivalry between two Formula 1 drivers: James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  And having seen the trailer many times now, in the cinema I’m well and truly hooked.

The epic action-drama stars Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) as the charismatic Englishman James Hunt and Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds) as the disciplined Austrian perfectionist Niki Lauda, whose clashes on the Grand Prix racetrack epitomized the contrast between these two extraordinary characters, a distinction reflected in their private lives.  Co-starring Olivia Wilde (TRON: Legacy) and Alexandra Maria Lara (The Reader), Rush is also produced Eric Fellner who worked on the brilliant Senna so there is racing pedigree behind the scenes.

Set against the sexy and glamorous golden age of Formula 1 racing (the 1970s) , Rush portrays the exhilarating true story of two of the greatest rivals the world has ever witnessed—handsome English playboy Hunt and his methodical, brilliant opponent, Lauda. Taking us into their personal lives on and off the track, Rush follows the two drivers as they push themselves to the breaking point of physical and psychological endurance, where there is no shortcut to victory and no margin for error. If you make one mistake, you die.

Quite brilliantly, the two leads actually look like the characters they’re playing which will only add to the atmosphere I’m sure.  My only reservation is that the colours in the trailer seem to be off in some way, but hopefully this either won’t be the case for the full monty or it just won’t matter.  That’s my Friday evening sorted then.  Excellent trailer below.

 

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Dial M for Murder 3D – a review in 2 dimensions

 

The perfect murder?

Dial M for Murder 3D. During what has become my unofficial Hitchcockathon at the British Film Institute this month, I had the chance to watch a restored version of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950s classic in 3D. Possibly a surprise given my aversion to this technique/technology but with such a legendary film-making figure using it way back when, it proved too tempting to resist. Let’s start with the basics (spoiler alert) of plot: ex-tennis player Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) plots to have his adulterous wife, Margot Wendice (Grace Kelly) killed by blackmailing an old friend from university days, C.A. Swann (Anthony Dawson). The scheme is elaborate and has taken months of planning and preparation. Confident his wife will be killed and that “the perfect murder” will have been committed, Tony’s dastardly plan is foiled when Margot kills the intruder, setting off a chain of events that lead ultimately to his capture.

Hitch wasn’t a huge fan of this film, making it because he was under contract and because another project had fallen through. Whether this influenced his use of 3D or not, I can’t say, but it is used sparingly and sensibly. I was certainly more aware of a lower camera angle to take in things like tables and lamps in the foreground, with the actors further away. And of course there are memorable scenes such as that where Grace Kelly reaches behind her to grasp the scissors. But that aside, we’re not “treated” to particularly staged shots as such and the movie feels very natural. It could well be that in choosing to keep the action 95% in the apartment (it was an adaptation of English playwright Frederick Knott’s successful play) Hitchcock’s hand was forced in minimal use of 3D. From his interviews with Francois Truffaut, we know that he chose not to open-up the film with needless outside shots of people approaching the apartment, or being taken in a police car to the courtroom. In fact there isn’t even a court room for that particular sequence.

With news that ticket sales for 3D films have been declining – presumably in part due to less content – I wanted to re-examine the subject and Dial M was the perfect opportunity. So, where does this leave us with a new but old take on 3D? Well, when it’s used like this, I cannot complain. It is when things start to feel contrived that I have problems and the sense of gimmickry overrides the natural flow or appearance of the film. And post-conversion is of a course a no-no in my book, serving nobody’s best interest. So, what are the motivations for audiences in watching 3D movies and more importantly, what are the motivations for film-makers wanting to use 3D? I remain convinced that viewers do not necessarily expect 3D in all movies and moreover, that entire movies need not be shot this way. If it was good enough for Hitch to use it in only 1 film and even then in very few set-pieces, then I think that speaks volumes. What is also clear, is that sales of 3D televisions are relatively poor. Even those that have sold, have not all been bought purely with 3D in mind – the purchase cycle of simply buying a new and Smart TV will take some credit here. Perhaps consumers just aren’t ready to sit at home and wear glasses for occasions where they are habitually used to not doing so.

This leaves moviemakers and what they want to gain by using 3D. Quite clearly we have the ultimate exemplar in James Cameron’s Avatar and some stunning scenes in Ang Lee’s Oscar

I love you darling & would never have an affair with this chap behind me

winning Life of Pi. However I would argue that one is a good film and one isn’t. In the case of Avatar, we have a (perhaps justifiably) hyped Fern Gully where the effects come thick and fast, but tellingly, is not a good experience in 2D. With Life of Pi, we have a more measured use of the effect and a darned strong film that will still work in 2D due to its superior story. 3D alone will not a good movie make; there simply needs to be substance over style. If Christopher Nolan – who knows a thing or two about making good movies that also make a metric f*ck ton of money – won’t work in digital, let alone 3D, how far can we expect the landscape to change? Martin Scorsese has of course released Hugo and has repeatedly said he is interested in the medium, but appears to have gone no further with it. For a technology that has been around for decades, surely we would have seen literally thousands more features employing three dimensions? We haven’t and what we have had has been generated in fits and starts – a few years where 3D is employed more heavily and then fallow periods where it’s back to usual.

I’ll theorise that when studios have conducted market research over the years and have perhaps asked “what do you want to see more of in movies?” cinema-goers haven’t replied in their droves “oooh, definitely more movies in 3D please”. So why this push over the last few years? I’ll refer to a recent interview with James Cameron where he talked about making 3D movies where you don’t need to wear glasses (which would be a great start) but also in which he talked about his own company pushing that technology into theatres. I think this is perhaps the biggest clue of all: money and James Cameron’s belligerence in using technology from which he stands to make even more of it. There’s just no pleasing some people is there? Don’t forget that the third dimension costs more (of our!) money and is also no guarantee of a great film. I personally don’t want to ban movies in 3D, but at least give me the choice please. And whilst I won’t be betting against James Cameron, I’ll wager we have a good many years ahead of us before he gets his wish.

Getting back to the film that started this verbal meander, I’d like to recommend everyone to watch it – 3D or not. Grace Kelly is as beautiful as she ever was, the story is clever and Hitchcock gives us genuine will he-won’t he? moments, stringing the audience along right to the very end. Measured use of 3D adds a little bit of something to an already great film and if you’re in France, this will be the first time those old enough to watch the original get to see it as the director intended. For some reason, the French theatres at the time couldn’t be bothered to install the necessary equipment spend the necessary money. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that, from the nation that gave birth to cinema.

 

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About Time: Review

4 weddings in Notting Hill, actually

About Time is the latest film from British director Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings). A great cast of Brits, plus of course Rachel McAdams and Margot Robbie (Neighbours and the ill-fated/rubbish Pan-Am). With the exception of those Blackadder episodes and The Boat that Rocked, usually a “new Richard Curtis” breaks me out in a cold sweat, so, what lies in store?

At the age of 21, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers he can travel in time. After yet another crap New Year party (yep, I can relate to that), Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always been able to travel in time. Tim cannot change history, but he can change what happens and has happened to his own life—so he decides to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend (Mary, played by McAdams) Accidentally wiping out the timeline, he must try and win her back once again.

Not a bad set-up that, to start! But, if like me, you’re used to Curtis’ way of doing things, then I think you will tire. Tim already has a pretty sweet life by most people’s imagination (he’s studying for the bar…not the one that serves alcohol) and the locations also reflect this. Gorgeous place on the coast with the parents and a mighty impressive gaff (owned by playwright Tom Hollander) in London. I also could not get Groundhog Day out of my head, nor the Time Traveller’s Wife. So, we’ve got a typically well put together and lush looking movie that we’ve come to expect. I do think it’s easy to pick holes in time travel movies and I won’t dwell on that here – you will see the example I’m alluding to. Kudos for taking time travel out of the realm of science-fiction though; the intention is to be applauded.

Basically it’s Gleeson and McAdams who hold this movie together – great casting or just lucking out? I’m not sure, but they’re brilliant. I also really liked the soundtrack, so this combined with some of the funnies and high quality production mean that this is a decent, if not great date movie. I guess as a viewer, either you buy into the notion that Tim chasing Mary back through time…and again…and again, is really worth the message that his father delivers. That the gift of time travel is to make your life better…as good as it can be. I don’t quite buy into that and so we have an end product that’s a tad anodyne for my liking as you’ve probably guessed.

About Time opens in the UK on September 4th.

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Happy Birthday Alfred Hitchcock!

Hitch, in one of his lighter moods

In honour of what would have been Alfred Hitchcock‘s 114th birthday this August, Upodcasting is delighted to shed some light on the great man’s films, legacy and influences.  Kicking things of for us, is this wonderful introduction by Elizabeth Eckhart.  One or two more articles celebrating Hitch will appear in the coming days.

Few filmmakers have had the sort of enduring influence that Alfred Hitchcock has had. He was innovative, contemplative, and it’s clear that he understood that film was truly the synthesis of all artistic practices. He understood, with seemingly greater clarity than anyone who came before or after, how technical and narrative devices could operate in tandem with one another to heighten drama and make for a more engaging (and believable) cinematic experience for the viewer.

For instance, he demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of how camera effects could illustrate something about the perceptions or internal struggle of a character on-screen, such as the “zolly” or “reverse tracking shot” he pioneered for the film Vertigo (See here.) But beyond merely his technical achievements (and certainly, he made many of those) the things that make Hitchcock truly fascinating to modern students of cinema are his more abstract flourishes.

For example, Hitchcock films were often self-reflexive and toyed with notions of reality. He reinforced, perhaps more than any other filmmaker ever, what the term “diegesis” truly means when describing the various layers of artificial reality within the film world.

Diegesis relates to the narrative sphere within a literary or cinematic work. As a theatrical term, historically diegesis may be differentiated from mimesis in that diegesis deals with narrative details that are given to the audience orally (through narration itself), whereas with mimesis, pieces of the narrative are articulated through action or movement.

Within the context of film specifically, diegesis is commonly used to discuss a self-contained internal reality inhabited by the characters; it may encompass the narrative “space” and may include fragments of the narrative, but also histories and events that are never depicted on-screen – such as events and actions which preceded the action of the story, or characters who are discussed, and thought to inhabit the artificial reality within the film, but may never be shown.

When we talk about “diegetic sound” in film, we are talking about sounds which are being made “actually” within the sphere of action in the film. In other words, if a character sits down to play a piano, or you see and hear a choir singing, or if a character plays a record on a record player, the sound is diegetic. If the sound is being superimposed over the film, and a sound cannot be traced to a “real” source within the constructed “reality” of a film (i.e., music that is being played over credits at the beginning or end of a film) than the sound is either “non-diegetic” or “extra-diegetic.”

Consider Hitchcock’s film The Birds (1963) does not use any non-diegetic or extra diegetic music. Sure, he used analog synthesizers to create the screeching sounds of the birds, but those sounds are all attributed to “natural” occurrences within the narrative sphere of the film.

The film Rear Window, which is itself largely a commentary on media consumption and discusses film, TV and mass media as having inherently voyeuristic qualities, ironically features diegetic sound almost exclusively — all of the sounds and music the audience hears are attributed to some sort of “real” source within the narrative sphere of the music. This is interesting, as it presents diegetic sound mimicking the function of non-diegetic sound and music in film and television. James Stewart‘s character is spying on his neighbours, but look at how it plays out! Look at the highly stylised dramatic nature of the supposedly “real world” occurrence he is watching!

Hitchcock will be forever treasured by filmmakers, viewers, and scholars alike for his innumerable contributions to the world of cinema – which makes it all the more tragic that so many contemporary makers seem to fixate on the most titillating and intellectually pedestrian pieces of his body of work (namely, sex and murder). Let us hope that, in years to come, more filmmakers will produce works that reveal a more complete understanding and appreciation for the complexity of his craft — which would mean that they, essentially, have a better comprehension of what the medium has the potential to do.

Author Bio: Elizabeth is a film blogger for Direct-ticket.net where she writes about film, television, and sports. She is an avid film watcher, and among her favourite directors are Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, and Werner Herzog. Elizabeth lives at home with her tabby cat named Mochi.

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Pain and Gain review: Michael Bay’s best film?

Your pain, their gain, our laughs

A good title for this movie I have to say.  Adapted from a truly horrific real life story Michael Bay‘s newest on screen adventure is a crime-comedy starring Mark WahlbergDwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie. The film is based on a story published in a 1999 series of Miami New Times articles written by Pete Collins and compiled in his book Pain & Gain: This is a True Story, which details the kidnapping, extortion, torture, and murder of several victims by criminals that included a number of bodybuilders affiliated with the Sun Gym.

After being inspired by motivational speaker Johnny Wu (a hilarious Ken Jeong character) and his women, money, boats etc, Lugo persuades John Mese, the gym’s owner (Rob Corddry) to be part of his scheme, as a notary.  With the other beefcakes along for the ride, things start to get ugly.

Things I liked about P&G abound – there’s a lot to like.  Dwayne Johnson (Paul Doyle) is excellent and Marky Wahlberg  (Daniel Lugo) perfectly cast.  Ever wanted to see Dwayne Johnson as an evangelical Christian, recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict?  To be fair, that thought had probably never crossed your mind, but now’s your chance.  Anthony Mackie (playing Adrian Doorbal) who I’d not really seen in anything other than Hurt Locker is excellent as the even less bright 1 of the 3, playing the part of an impotent steroid-using body builder.

Ed Harris (Ed Du Bois III) has his moments and is as convincing as can be as the private detective who takes up the case after the local police dismiss the complaints of Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) as the ravings of a madman.  It is this that I found perhaps the most interesting.  Whilst he is utterly abused and tortured, there is very little sympathy for him.  Not in the sense that he deserves it perhaps, but that he is such an unpleasant man, that even his employees prefer Lugo as their boss. In turn, I ended up siding with the bad guys.

Quite clearly it pays to be inept at crime.  For a short while at least.

Also livening-up proceedings is Rebel Wilson (Robin).  This time she plays Doorbal’s love interest.  And when she is scorned, boy does she not hold anything back – her line in the court scene near the end is brilliant.

So, that’s what’s hot, but what’s not?  Not much to be fair.  I understand some of the criticism levelled at the movie has come from its light-hearted take on what is of course a terrible story.  However, whilst Pain and Gain takes the less horrendous aspects and presents them accordingly, it is by no means played exclusively for laughs. Michael Bay does still find time for some lovely shots of helicopters, which are frankly unnecessary and I think it’s quite natural that those more familiar with the true story will object to the portrayal of 3 hugely despicable human beings.

Other criticism has been that there is perhaps too much poetic licence…that for example we have a made-up character and a semi-made-up character in key roles.  To this, I say nonsense.  Using our podcast to come for example, about Empire State, this would have worked so much better if someone had tried to be inventive or creative with an existing story.  Just because something is true, doesn’t necessarily make it interesting straight out of the can.

In light of this and my blog’s title, it’s interesting to note that this only cost $26 million.  Partly because Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson are taking profit-share and of course partly because there are so few complicated action set-pieces, car chases, guns and special effects.  All credit to Michael Bay for directing this and for apparently loving the project from day one.  I am notoriously hard on “Michael-every shot’s a shot-Bay” but I genuinely believe this is his best film.  I do love The Rock  and Bad Boys, but they take themselves very…way too seriously.  Perhaps this is the dawn of a era for Bay.  Enough of the robots and the excessive CGI; get some budget, some great casting, a believable storyline & decent script and show us what you’ve got.  The camerawork has never been my contention in his films and Pain and Gain shows how effective he can be without all of the nonsense a $100m+ budget can bring.

Thanks Mike, for this one.

Pain and Gain previews this week and opens August 30th in UK cinemas.  Enjoy the trailer below

 

 

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Sky Share

Sky Social

Got Sky, love Facebook and want to keep your mates up to speed on the latest and greatest that you’re watching? Sky Share is probably the thing for you in that case.

Well, I say that, but you don’t need a subscription to get the Facebook App even. I guess you’d just be spying on your mates’ TV if you didn’t. Sky Share features shows from Sky Atlantic, Sky 1 and Sky Living and also offers a record function if you have Sky+, so if you forget to record something, before you leave the house, then you can just use this App.

Aside from sharing your own shows and seeing what your mates watch, you can also see what’s trending, the most recorded shows and the most shared.

For a demo, click here  or here for the App.

Martin

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The Evil Dead: coming to your home from August 12th

Think happy thoughts, happy thoughts.

Released this Monday, August 12th, the DVD and Blu-Ray of Evil Dead, one of my movies of the year so far.  A fitting remake for the 21st century, this has some things the original lacks: consistently good acting across all the cast, special effects and budget.  That’s not to slag the original which is an all time favourite of mine, but I do feel it was ripe for updating.  A little synopsis and the trailer are below so you know a bit about what’s coming if you haven’t seen either this or the first.  Happily I can also say that the sequel has been agreed, so there will be more gore to come!

Is it me, or is it raining blood?

A remote cabin in the woods (reminds you of another movie you may have seen last year?) becomes a blood-soaked chamber of horrors when a group of 20-something friends unwittingly awakens an ancient demon in Evil Dead, the brilliant reworking of Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult-hit horror film The Evil Dead. Starring Jane Levy (Suburgatory), Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood), Lou Taylor Pucci (Carriers), Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield) and Elizabeth Blackmore (Legend of the Seeker), Evil Dead is a bone-chilling film that combines all the raw excitement and gleeful gore of the acclaimed original with a series of shocking new twists.

For fans, there are some special releases:

·         A 2-disc collector’s edition available at Sainsbury’s on DVD and Blu-ray http://bit.ly/122Ofgo
·         The limited edition steel-book only available online at Zavvi http://bit.ly/17mya7z

The Heat

 

They're coming for you

The Heat is the latest movie from Paul Feig, director of the acclaimed and universally adored Bridesmaids. Starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy (also in Bridesmaids), The Heat is about an over-dedicated FBI agent teaming up with a no-nonsense local cop in order to take down the city’s biggest and nastiest drug dealer.

The movie is all about the relationship between the two leads. On the one hand, an uptight, pretty, slim, smartly dressed, ambitious and emotionally detached FBI agent (Sarah Ashburn) and the other a badly dressed, over-weight, insubordinate and slobbish police detective (Shannon Mullins). Both roles are perfectly cast and thankfully not too much of the Miss Congeniality from Sandra Bullock. There are some good support turns too, from Michael Rapaport, Tom Wilson and Marlon Wayans. I’m really not the biggest fan of Marlon Wayans’ contribution to movie history, but he’s used well here.

Things I loved about this move…well, you think it’ll go one way and then it doesn’t happen – particularly the tooling-up scene! This is important when we consider the genre and how often the buddy-buddy movie, with all its incarnations, has been done: Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, Midnight Run…the list is endless. Sandra Bullock. Yes, I do love her in this one and quite possibly I think I fancy her for the first time since the age of 15 (when you really don’t care too much who you fancy). There is less of the Congeniality thank God and just well-acted “straight man” style comedy. And of course Melissa Mcarthy is on top, top form. She has some absolutely cracking one-liners, whilst leaving the physical humour mainly to Sandra.

One thing that did strike me was the seemingly obvious resolution of Sandra Bullock’s problems (too uptight, follows the rules too strictly, no boyfriend etc) but not the same for Mcarthy. She is also overly dedicated, has alienated her family because of this and eats 2 week old sandwiches. But Sandra seems to have the moment of catharsis and the penny dropping and not Mcarthy. Other than that, I’m sure if you wanted, you could pick many holes in things – such and such would never happen, the FBI doesn’t work like that, blah blah. But then bridesmaids (I hope) don’t act like that in real life either.

So then, so far I make this the 2nd funniest film of the year/summer. No shame in being 2nd to the World’s End, none at all. I’ll have to wait and see what This is the End delivers of course, but doubt it will have the charms of The Heat. In some ways, this is almost the ideal date movie: plenty in it for both him and her, neither too girly (e.g. any comedy with la Anniston except Office Space) nor too boy-ish (e.g. any Bruce Willis film). Go to the cinema, get out of the heat and see The Heat. And do look out for the knife scene – truly excellent.

Enjoy this clip that mocks regional accents!

 

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Cuttooth by Cuttooth

Cuttooth LP

For those of you who’ve seen the video I posted on here last week – Without You by Lapalux – that may give a clue as to the music I like to listen to. Down-tempo, not with a 4:4 (or, even worse, 4 to the floor David Guetta style) beat and falling generally under the umbrella of “IDM” (intelligent dance music) / electronica is definitely my thing right now. Cue my delight at Cuttooth asking me to review his latest release on the 4LuxWhite label.

His style is centred around solid boom-bap drums and complex, cinematic tones overlaid with abstract lead lines and airy, layered vocals. Cuttooth also puts a lot of focus on how a sound feels and relates to the rest of the track spatially and harmonically, which gives a lot of depth and a sense of place.  It’s also pretty clear he’s a big fan of the lo-fi aesthetic (the original concept was that the record should sound like an old cassette tape), and loves to overdub his tracks with crackle, hiss, hum and other noises that most sound engineers spend their careers eradicating.

My personal favourites are the 2 tracks with Hitomi on vocals (Old Tape Machine and Illusion Symptom) and the tracks that come in over the 3 minute mark.  This is certainly a reflection of my recent listens – Mala, Gas Lamp Killer, Flying Lotus for example – and I think there’s plenty of scope to really open up for some longer tracks on future releases.  I really hate to pigeon-hole music and artists, but if pushed I’ll mash these together: trip-hop in a post dub-step time…without glitchiness.

Nick ‘Cuttooth’ Cooke himself is a producer from Newcastle Upon Tyne in north east England. Having started out producing for hip-hop groups and competing in scratch battles, Cuttooth moved into more instrumental, blunted beat territory a few years ago and released his first album, Elements on Psychonavigation in 2011. Originally conceived as an EP, this record evolved from some recording sessions with Bridie Jackson and Kiki Hitomi in early 2012 and grew into the LP that I’ve been listening to twice a day for the past week!

Cuttooth is currently working on an EP with the very talented Eliza Shaddad, which should be out sometime over the next few months and then a hip-hop instrumental EP coming out on Plynt, who are a Belgian imprint. There’s also a single with Juice Aleem to come so there’s plenty still in store for the rest of 2013.  Alas, Nick is firmly a producer and so we can’t get the chance to see him perform live.

When I spoke to Nick, he said he’s just starting to collate ideas for the next Cuttooth record, which may be an LP or even an EP.  The idea is to get some demos done for that by the Autumn and get it onto a label with a view to release next year. Given the impeccable choice of vocalists on the Cuttooth album, I’m sure he’s got a wishlist of artists for collaboration: “…the first thing I’m going to do is write the stuff for the singers (as that’s gonna be what really sells it to prospective labels), get those tracks down first and then work on the instrumental stuff towards the end of this year/start of 2014.” he said.  Next year is shaping up to be a busy one indeed.

You can find more of Cuttooth on Soundcloud here and here.  The Cuttooth LP is available for download on Friday 21st June from all of the usual suspects.

300: Rise of an empire

The rise of an empire

The stylistically-gory trailer for 300: Rise of an empire has just been released and Upod has also been given some cracking new posters for it.   Sequel to the hugely successful 300, these posters re-capture the original’s aesthetic and make me wish March 2014 was just around the corner.  One of very few trailers to genuinely make me want to see the movie, if you loved the first one, then check out the trailer below.  In fact even if you didn’t, you should have a look, it really has got me itching to see it already.

The Red Sea

Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh battlefield—on the sea—as Greek general Themistokles attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war. “300: Rise of an Empire” pits Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and Artemesia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

The film is directed by Noam Murro, from a screenplay by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel Xerxes, by Frank Miller.

 

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Highly odd but highly brilliant: Without You – Lapalux

You're not a freak

If in my last post I said that the video was way cool, then this video has to be way weird. It’s brilliant…but ever so weird. Directed by Nick Rutter and featuring Natalia Tena (better known for starring in Harry Potter and better known still for starring in Game of Thrones as wildling Osha) this is the official video for Lapalux‘s Without You (featuring Kerry Leatham on distorted vocals). I could go on and on for hours about the music but I find Lapalux incredibly difficult to describe (beyond the catch-all of IDM/head music) and I’d come across as an inarticulate, rambling fool. Instead, enjoy the story, the photography and the images. In equal measure there are some funny moments and some very touching moments – the video does inded fit the song. I’ll warn viewers of a sensitive disposition that there is a brief moment of nudity and an ever-present man (presumably) in a latex gimp suit.

 

 

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Way cool video: Is Tropical – The Greeks

But all kids are cute right?

Check out this video of  The Greeks by Brit band Is Tropical.  It’s ages old (2011), but worthy of a post I’d say.   In fact, the video is so bloody good I can’t tell you anything of any note about the song; I just get distracted by the images.  The clever thing about this is that as boys, we all know that this is what’s going through our minds when we play war games, cops n robbers etc.  Now we’ve had it translated onto video for us!  Excellent use of the kids in this one and some cool moves with the guns and cell animation.  Definitely look out for the drug deal gone bad – classic re-creation from so many movies and TV shows.  Why didn’t anyone think of doing this sooner?  A fantastic video, simple and effective as well as being relatively cheap I’d have thought.  Thanks to the creative genius that is Megaforce for this one.  Oh and the song isn’t bad at all – credit where credit’s due!

The East is coming

Someone's watching you

THE EAST starring Brit Marling (ANOTHER EARTH), Alexander Skarsgård (TRUE BLOOD), Ellen Page (JUNO) and Patricia Clarkson (STATION AGENT) will be released in cinemas across the UK & Ireland on June 28th 2013.

An official selection at this year’s Sundance and SXSW Film Festivals, THE EAST sees Director Zal Batmanglij collaborate once more with actress and co-writer Brit Marling following their critically acclaimed debut SOUND OF MY VOICE.

THE EAST, a suspenseful and provocative espionage thriller, stars Marling as former FBI agent Sarah Moss. Moss is starting a new career at Hiller Brood, an elite private intelligence firm that ruthlessly protects the interests of its A-list corporate clientele. Handpicked for a plum assignment by the company’s head honcho, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), Sarah goes deep undercover to infiltrate The East, an elusive anarchist collective seeking revenge against major corporations guilty of covering up criminal activity. Determined, highly-trained and resourceful, Sarah soon ingratiates herself with the group, overcoming their initial suspicions and joining them on their next action or “jam.” But living closely with the intensely committed members of The East, Sarah finds herself torn between her two worlds as she starts to connect with anarchist Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) and the rest of the collective, and awakens to the moral contradictions of her personal life.

 

Directed by Zal Batmanglij (SOUND OF MY VOICE), THE EAST is produced by Ridley Scott (PROMETHEUS, AMERICAN GANGSTER) Michael Costigan (PROMETHEUS, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN), Jocelyn Hayes-Simpson (LOLA VERSUS, I’M NOT THERE) and Brit Marling (ANOTHER EARTH)

Suddenly Last Summer BFI Review

An under the radar classic

Suddenly, last summer. But for me, more a case of: finally, this winter. Courtesy of the BFI Southbank and their screenings of Montgomery Clift movies I was able to catch this excellent movie. Also starring Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn, this 1960 film by Joseph Mankiewicz was the second highest grossing of that year (behind Psycho, and there’s no shame in that) and I can see why. In addition to the fine cast, this movie was produced by Sam Spiegel and the screenplay written by Gore Vidal.

Based on a Tenessee Williams play/book/novel Suddenly, last summer is the story of neuro surgeon Dr. John Cukrowicz (Clift), a wealthy patron Violet Venable (Hepburn) and her niece Catherine Holly (Taylor). Wanting to commit an emotionally disturbed Catherine for a lobotomy, Hepburn is trying to hide the events of the previous summer – when her son died – from possible public exposure and gossip. Woven into this are strands of professional medical ethics, homosexuality & pederasty, greed and motherly love bordering on obsession.

Williams himself a known homosexual, was not long out of therapy and battling his demons when he wrote the play and this is so clearly reflected in the screenplay. Further to this, the production suffered myriad problems: subject matter was of deep concern to the backers/studio/censors, Hepburn had to take second billing to Elizabeth Taylor for the first time since 1933, Clift was a law unto himself, the bottle & painkillers and upon completion, Hepburn actually spat in Mankiewicz’s face. Furthermore, Elizabeth Taylor was still mourning her fourth husband whilst married to her 5th. When filming for the most climactic scene finished, so emotionally drained was she, that she needed to be helped off the set by crew.

Plenty of off-screen matters to keep a viewer interested there and the outlines I’ve given don’t reveal too much. I really do rate this movie – a fantastic and gruesome story, Katie Hepburn playing someone as deranged as Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate and Elizabeth Taylor absolutely perfect as someone made to believe they’re insane enough to want to be lobotomised. Another great chance to watch some screen greats on fantastic form.

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21 and Over New Clip

More mischief than you can shake a stick at

Picture the scene; it’s Tuesday, in the UK. The weather is warming up nicely (it is where I live, so tough if it’s cold and wet where you are) and you’re wondering what you should have watched over the bank holiday weekend, instead of the obviously-it-will-disappoint Oblivion.

You could do a shit load worse than heading out to watch this coming of drinking age. 21 and Over stars Miles Teller (Project X), Justin Chon (The Twilight Saga), and Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect) and comes courtesy of the writers of The Hangover (Scott Moore and Jon Lucas). In cinemas UK wide right now.  Check out this clip for an idea of what lies in store.

 

 

Shaming…it’s happened to us all, erm, right?

 

 

21 and over – new preview clip

Shenanigans aplenty

Upod are pleased to make show you a new clip from 21 and Over, the upcoming comedy from the writers of The Hangover; Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Straight-A college student Jeff Chang has always done what’s expected of him. But when his two best friends Casey and Miller surprise him with a visit for his 21st birthday, he decides to do the unexpected for a change, even though his critical medical school interview is early the next morning. What was supposed to be one beer becomes one night of chaos, over indulgence and utter debauchery in this outrageous comedy.

21 and Over stars Miles Teller (Project X), Justin Chon (The Twilight Saga), and Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect), and is set for release in UK cinemas on May 3rd. This new clip sees Miller and Casey playing a traditional American party game called ‘Suck and Blow’. Enjoy 🙂

I’m so excited! Trailer & poster

Not for nervous flyers

…A NEW FILM BY PEDRO ALMODÓVAR, OPENING MAY 3RD IN THE UK

Usually I wouldn’t care too much for the darling of Spanish cinema, but on this occasion I’ll waive my usual cynicism.  I can only hope the melodrama isn’t as melo as it can be.  What an outstanding ensemble cast and if the plot matches my desire to see some kind of Airplane! re-make, Almodovar style, then even better!

A very mixed group of travellers are in a life-threatening situation on board a plane flying to Mexico City.

Their defencelessness in the face of danger provokes a general catharsis that ends up becoming the best way to escape from the idea of death. This catharsis, developed in the tone of a riotous, moral comedy, fills the time with unforeseeable confessions that help them forget the anguish of the moment and face the greatest of dangers; that which they each carry within themselves.

I’M SO EXCITED! re-unites Pedro Almodóvar with Cecilia Roth (All About My Mother), Lola Dueñas (Volver), Javier Cámara (Talk to Her) and Blanca Suárez (The Skin I Live In) and many of his frequent collaborators including editor José Salcedo, director of photography José Luis Alcaine and Alberto Iglesias who has composed the original score.

The cast also includes Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo, Hugo Silva, Antonio de la Torre, José María Yazpik, Guillermo Toledo, José Luis Torrijo, Miguel Ángel Silvestre and in cameo performances Paz Vega and in their first film together Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas.

You get involved via Facebook here 🙂

Check out the trailer below!

4th Rendez-vous with French cinema

Style & sophistication

Never let it be said Upod lacks flair, sophistication or an eye for the unusual. Starting today, April 4th, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema is back in London for its 4th edition, with fantastic films and a host of famous actors and directors descending on Curzon Soho and Ciné Lumière for four days packed with treats and discoveries.

From the eye-popping Populaire, a sparkling film with a vintage feel, to the quiet charm of the impeccably crafted Renoir, not to mention the warm and winning Cycling with Molière starring Fabrice Luchini and Lambert Wilson, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema will give you a panorama of the latest and hottest films from France.

Get ready to meet your favourite actors: French hearthrob Romain Duris for a Q&A after Populaire, and the intriguing and exquisite Oscar-nominee Kristin Scott Thomas during her exclusive on-stage interview.

This festival is also an ideal opportunity to get behind the scenes of the newest films, with directors Gilles Bourdos, Régis Roinsard, Philippe Le Guay coming in after the screenings of their respective films to answer all of your questions. You can also discover France’s rising stars, from the enchanting Déborah François who won the César award for Most Promising Actress to Christa Theret, who plays with a shining mix of fragility, melancholy and charisma.
The festival is fast approaching… don’t miss your Rendez-Vous with French Cinema!

 

Dragon (Wu Xia)

Science and nature

Coming out this Friday, a new (but 2 years old…) Donnie Yen movie: Dragon / Wu-Xia.  We love Donnie Yen at Upod so getting to see this was a treat.  Spoilers below; you have been warned 🙂

Liu Jin-xi (Yen) is a village craftsman whose quiet life is irrevocably shattered by the arrival of two notorious gangsters in the local general store. When Liu single-handedly saves the shopkeeper’s life, he comes under investigation by detective Xu Bai-jiu (Kaneshiro). Convinced that

Liu’s martial arts mastery belies a hidden history of training by one of the region’s vicious clans, Xu doggedly pursues the shy hero—and draws the attention of China’s criminal underworld in the process.

Originally released in 2011, I presume it was withheld from release whilst it was adapted and re-edited for Western audiences, but I don’t know this for a fact.

So, that’s the basics out of the way; now for my 2 cents.  I really liked this movie and I’m not at all a real fan of martial arts / Kung Fu / wires etc. It was great to see Donnie Yen in something outside of Ip Man and the somewhat, ahem, patchy Dragon-Tiger Gate.  To be fair, for such a big star, I really can’t say I’ve seen anything of Takeshi Kaneshiro (yeah I know, go see House of Flying Daggers etc), but I got shades of Johnny Depp‘s character in Sleepy Hollow. I also got a strong hint of the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies and any episode of CSI that you care to mention.  And these are both positive things imo.  Where Dragon is very strong is in its portrayal of Liu, affording plenty of backstory and development.  Conversely, I felt a lack of the same with Xu and this left me wanting more.  I just wasn’t quite convinced as to why he had to be so dogged in unmasking someone and ultimately setting off a deadly chain of events.  This is a small pick at what I think is a fab film – it’s snappy at under a hundred minutes, great action sequences and a very neat story of two quiet men with differing beliefs in the physical and metaphysical worlds.

Check out the trailer here or better still, get to a cinema and watch it on the big screen.

Dead man down

A dead man

DEAD MAN DOWN exploding into cinemas on May 3

When the body of a gang member is discovered in the freezer of crime boss Alphonse’s (Terrence Howard) mansion – a clear message has been sent… or has it?

As the gang reacts, members Darcy (Dominic Cooper) and Victor (Colin Farrell) take it upon themselves to dig further into who is after Alphonse. As a further complication to the gang, neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) discovers Victor has a dark secret and contracts him into a scheme to seek out her own vengeance. With the violence escalating Alphonse begins to suspect that revenge is closer than he thought.

DEAD MAN DOWN stars Colin Farrell (TOTAL RECALL, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS), Noomi Rapace (PROMETHEUS, SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS), Dominic Cooper (DEVIL’S DOUBLE) and Terrence Howard (IRON MAN) and marks the American theatrical debut of director Niels Arden Oplev (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO).

The cast and director should ensure this one is a cracker and from the looks of the trailer there’s plenty to get stuck into!

Check out the trailer here:

 

Hunger Games Catching Fire: new artwork and posters

 Upodcasting are pleased to present five stunning new character banners for the upcoming release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The posters feature Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and the symbol of revolution herself, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever.

 

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE is released in the UK on 22 November 2013 by Lionsgate.

The Hangover 3 Teaser Trailer

The beard versus the Chinaman

The latest instalment of booze-fulled mayhem and its after-effects is here!  Directed by Todd Phillips and starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong & John Goodman, The Hangover III is released May 24th.

This time, there’s no wedding and no bachelor party. What could go wrong, right? When the Wolfpack hits the road, all bets are off.

Check out the trailer below!

 

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Samsara / Baraka Blu Ray Review

We all stare in wonder

Celebrating its re-release today, Samsara and Baraka, two “movies” that will stun the viewer. As a fan of Koyaanisqatsi, the Godfrey Reggio release from 1983, getting to take a peak at the newly refurbed versions of Samsara and Baraka was a visual treat indeed.

Filmed over a four-year period in 25 countries and covering 5 continents, we are transported to the varied worlds of sacred grounds, industrial complexes, disaster zones and natural wonders. Dialogue-less and with no description, this is truly a movie that lets the viewer decide and subverts the notion of the traditional documentary. This encourages us to make our own mind up and soak up the stunning photography and images. Moreover, the distinct lack of language or words means that these films are truly international in scope.

Director-cinematographer Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson, both co-editors, used 70mm film-stock (as per Laurence of Arabia for example) to convey the story of man’s unique outpost in space.

A must see for anyone curious to watch something entirely different, that can leave you feeling bewildered, exhilarated and simply in awe. Release today, January 14th on DVD and even better Blu-ray.

Mel Gibson’s summer vacation with pizzas

It's all about the pizza, Mel

Lights, camera, action! Or in Upod’s case: pizza, ice cream, movie! The venue? Martin’s flat, London. The food? Domino’s meat-based pizzas and Ben and Jerry’s Vermonster and Cookie Dough ice cream. The occasion? A Upod get together and a chance to watch Mel Gibson‘s shot at redemption ‘How I spent my summer vacation’ (better known as Get The Gringo) using the new Domino’s Pizza Box Office service. So, a suitably quick pizza delivery achieved and on to the movie.

As new users of the streaming service, thankfully it streamed really well (just go to the site and enter the code you’re given upon payment) with no buffering at the beginning. We settled in for the evening and although it’s not Mel’s finest hour, it’s entertaining stuff nevertheless. And given the last movie I watched on the big screen was the somewhat notorious and nauseous Irreversible last week, then a little bit of Mel shooting things and going a bit nuts is just what the doctor ordered. On reflection maybe another choice would have been better and it’s not like there’s a limited choice either – Warrior, Hunger Games, 50/50, Cabin in the Woods were all there from latest releases. As for classics, there’s certainly Scream and ahem, Dirty Dancing.

That said, this is not without some hitches. The streaming space is now massively competitive, with two large players seemingly dominating and upstarts from telecoms providers and even supermarkets trying to win audiences. On the one hand, Pizza Box Office is subscription free and you don’t need to have paid TV to order movies on demand. But on the other hand, the service will only stream to a gadget, be it a laptop/desktop, tablet or phone, so you’ll need something like AirPlay to get it onto your box. Or presumably a Smart-TV, but the take-up of these devices is open to debate. I happen to have PS3, so I could have probably made the movie stream directly, but the UI is so risible when browsing the web that I wouldn’t even think of attempting.

Fresh movies to your doorstep

Domino’s have perhaps launched something really quite logical here – as pizza and a movie is such a common combo, then why not have them both delivered to you at once?  You’ll get latest films in line with the DVD release and ahead of other streaming services and no DVD to return to the shop to boot.  So, if you’re feeling peckish and want to tuck into movie at the same time, then this could be for you.  You can sign-up here.

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Låna pengar

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Psycho versus Psycho

Psycho to the power of erm, Psycho

…or Psycho x 5 as was last week’s reality, at the Leicester Square theatre; screened with www.cigaretteburnscinema.com.  Let me start with a brief description of the concept: 1 main screen showing Alfred Hitchcock’s original and 5 smaller screens showing the Gus Van Sant 1998 remake.  Of course, this only makes sense as the remake is so slavishly close to the 1960 version.  However, it did require months of work (editing) and given Psycho 1998 is ten minutes shorter, the occasional blank screen whilst the colour version “caught-up” with the black and white.  I’m not going to start talking about the many and various merits of Psycho – it’s been critiqued to death and there’s a good (probably) film with Anthony Hopkins in, about to be released that can give you a bunch of that knowledge.  What I will do is talk about some interesting scenes, reveal a lot of the plot and give some thoughts on the remake.  The last point is possibly unfair, given the sound was from the original, but it is what it is.

Firstly, I didn’t find it that hard to concentrate on both – I picked my secondary screen and stuck to it.  Usefully, I happened to see Psycho (1960) in the cinema a few weeks ago, so I could give more attention to the remake.  One of the consistent differences between the two is the shots that are mirrored; Perkins facing left, Vince Vaughan facing right for example.  Most notably of course, the remake is in colour.  I liked the quite vivid colouring and felt that it added a great sense of seediness and sleaziness to the whole thing, most notably the shots of the motel, with the neon.

More specifically, I managed to note a few key scenes had changed quite a lot.  Certainly the build-up to the shower scene is more graphic, with Norman Bates being seen to masturbate whilst he looks at Anne Heche‘s Marion Crane in the shower; something that is only alluded to in the Hitchcock.  Shortly thereafter, we all know what happens to the female lead, although with Gus Van Sant, we get to see the knife marks on Marion’s back and more noticeably, where Hitchcock slowly zooms out from Marion’s eye, in the remake the camera rotates around the eye, echoing the blood-stained water draining down the plug hole.

In the end, having watched the two of these movies side by side, I really loved it.  It does however beg the question of why movies could, should, would be remade and if so, what ought to be brought to them?  And in picking Psycho – such a revered movie – was it a wise choice given only minor tinkering and the slavish, almost fetishised replication?  Personally, I don’t mind that it’s been reworked or even the reworked version, but I do feel that setting it in perhaps the 70s or 80s would have been more effective.  Until someone else chooses another iconic movie and takes almost a frame by frame remake, this is going to stand alone: a one-off piece of controversy and for many, derision.

@martincawley

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LFF 2012 The Summit Review

In August 2008, 22 climbers from various international expeditions reached the High Camp of K2, the final pit-stop before the peak of the mountain, on an expedition renowned among adventurers as extremely dangerous to attempt – far worse than Everest, with a 1 in 4 chance of dying. Only 11 would make it down from there. The Summit is an attempt to understand what happened on a day that became known as the most tragic in modern mountaineering history. Through recreations, archive and home movie footage, and interviews with survivors and families of the people who died on the outing, Nick Ryan’s documentary presents a thorough, investigative and vivid version of events, showing the heartbreaking moral choices the climbers faced in attempting to survive.

As someone who has an interest in outdoor sports and various silly pursuits (nothing anywhere near as extreme as this) The Summit was something I wanted to catch.  Those who’ve watched and “enjoyed” Touching the Void will no doubt be aware of the unwritten code of the mountain (if someone falls or wanders off, then leave them) and this is brutally revealed in a brilliant documentary.  At the heart of the documentary, but not dominating the story, is an Irish climber, Ger McDonnell.  He was seemingly faced with a horrible choice when he discovered 3 battered, bruised, bloodied and dying climbers: follow the code or help them.  As The Summit unfolded, it was obvious I was in for an emotional 90 or so minutes and the archive footage, interviews and recreations are exceptionally well wielded.  Having a cousin who has climbed the highest peaks in Europe and South America and who has rescued fellow climbers certainly gave an added edge to this.

The main body of the documentary doesn’t necessarily seek out the truth (not that it tries to).  It simply builds a picture of the tragic events before presenting as much as real information as is known.  That Ger’s parents even needed to travel to Pakistan to try and understand what had happened to their son, is telling.  As we do get closer to the truth (as much as is possible) however, the horrors of those expeditions are shown and as hard as it to swallow, the reality is that a combination of factors got the better of most of the climbers: there is no one single cause.

I’m not always one for using recreations in documentaries – it can lead to things being a bit twee and childlike – but in this instance, I was stunned by how vivid and realistic they were, lending a genuinely convincing air to the film.  It was as if they had scaled K2 again with a film crew; truly remarkable.  This is a truly engaging documentary, whether you know a lot or little to nothing about mountaineering and if I’m honest, I’d have been crying if hadn’t watched this on a midweek morning with a roomful of journos; I was that affected.

No-one will ever really know exactly what happened in those few long days and no-one will ever really know what makes mankind want to push itself to such limits, where every second you spend in the death zone (8000m & higher) your body is dying.   The Summit at least shines a small light on human nature and the fragile relationship man has with the planet.

@martincawley

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LFF 2012: Midnight’s Children Review

 

The nose of destiny

Salman Rushdie‘s first film screenplay adapts his own Booker Prize-winning novel – an allegory that parallels the upheavals in one family’s history with the events that would shape a post-colonial India, from the British exit to the partitioning of Pakistan.

Born on the cusp of India’s independence from Britain and switched at birth by a maternity nurse in a secret act of protest, Saleem Sinai‘s fate is not only inextricably bound to the future of his country, but also to that of Shiva, the boy whose place of privilege he takes.

Following a traumatic incident, Saleem discovers he has special powers and is able to communicate with other children who share his special birthday. As the outside world become more chaotic, wielding his new-found magic becomes Saleem’s most powerful tactic for navigating the tumultuous course of history.

I’ll start by saying I haven’t read the book, so anything that follows is based solely on the film as I’ve seen it. I also cannot comment on how accurately the events are portrayed. Midnight’s Children was one the films at the London Film Festival that I really wanted to see and for a few reasons: it’s an Indian film that isn’t in a Bollywood style, based on a book by Salman Rushdie, whose other books I’ve enjoyed and that I was hoping it would serve as an elementary history lesson. And as someone who has benefited culturally, from Britain’s former empire in another part of Asia I did feel a personal draw to this movie.

Instinctively, the title of the movie is wrong, as Midnight’s Child would be more apt given the amount of the film given to Saleem’s journey, but this is a facile thing to say really. Of the important things that I felt fell short, the most significant would be my confusion / convenience of Saleem’s appearance (his nose) and the notion of switching a poor child for a rich child at birth. As we see at the beginning, “Saleem’s” grandfather has a gigantic nose and so when his own resembles this, no suspicion is aroused that he isn’t their biological son. It transpires that he is in fact the illegitimate son of an eccentric Brit (Charles Dance) and the young wife of a poor musician who plays the accordion and sings at his villa each day. Overlooking this however, I still can’t quite reconcile the switching of babies at birth as a justifiable action of Marxist revolution (let the rich be poor and the poor be rich) when the reality is that there are still the same number of rich/poor babies, who have no concept of what their life would have been anyway and who have been unnecessarily taken away from their own true parents. The futility of this gesture is played out with the stories of both Saleem and Shiva and in material terms you have to say that the rich-made-poor kid achieves a far higher station in life, although it’s not explained fully as to how.

At times I felt that perhaps there should have been more attention given to the other characters in the story – not so much for their sake, but so that there would be a better context to Saleem’s own life. That said, at two and a half hours, this is a lengthy film, so where this would come from isn’t clear. Thankfully, given the scale of the story (it starts in the early 20th century, ends in the 1970s), we have Salman Rushdie himself narrating and keeping the viewer in touch, should he/she have become a bit disconnected. Make no mistake though; this is a great film to watch and you will be able to follow it all the way through.

Deepa Mehta has created a film that looks and feels beautiful; it sent me back in time and place, easily evoking the emotions and tensions of the era and the beauty of this part of the world. Towards the end of the film when the dark times come and all of Midnight’s Children are imprisoned for insurrection, the sun simply fails to shine and it is black. Even this is poetically and subtly filmed and I think other directors would have made too much of this in a harsher and more obvious way.

There are many memorable moments, but seeing a young Saleem helping the generals plot the coup in Pakistan by moving the knives and forks and salt and pepper pots around the dinner table as tanks, soldiers and buildings around the battlefield was brilliant. There’s a positively black piece of humour when Saleem is knocked out by a silver spittoon, harking back to earlier scenes with his mother. And dancing to a Hindi version of Chubby Checker’s The Twist I loved and is as close to a Bollywood musical interlude as you’ll get. Satya Bhabha, playing Saleem, really is excellent and I felt very attached to his character and his journey. He has everything an affluent family can provide, loses it all, is beaten, humiliated, tortured, falls in love, is betrayed and still ends up happy with his lot in life. The story ends with the “circle” being completed as it were. Having invested nearly all my energy into Saleem, when the credits rolled I just breathed a big sigh of relief and was thankful for a wonderful movie.

I’ll end by giving a special mention to the musical score. Rarely, if ever have I heard such gorgeous music in a film and as sure as I am that Midnight’s Children will be nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, plus some of the technical ones, if Nitin Sawhney doesn’t win Best Music (original score) then any hint of respect I may have for the Oscars will cease to exist.

With Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Seema Biswas
Canada-UK 2012
148 mins

@martincawley

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LFF 2012: Dreams for sale / Yume Uru Futari

Their dreams are for sale

A young and in-love couple Kanya (Sadawo Abe) and Satoko (Takako Matsu) see their restaurant burn down in an accident and their savings are wiped out by a compensation claim. Not knowing where to turn or what to do. Kanya has a drunken one-night stand with a woman he meets on the subway, and emerges from it with a cash windfall. Once she’s able to forgive her husband, Satoko sees a solution: she pushes Kanya into feigning marriage proposals to a series of vulnerable women, fuelling them with hard-luck stories which persuade them to part with their savings…

First off, I really liked this film. Not having seen any of Miwa Nishikawa’s other 3 movies I can’t say where this one ranks, but it makes me want to watch them. Gentle accoustic guitar accompanies the opening shots, showing domestic bliss, boredom and banalities. This shot is echoed much later in the film once the whole episode has unfolded and played out. If like me you look at the scenario above and think “bloody hell, this cannot possibly work out well” then you’d be right. And you’d also be wrong.

Dreams for sale addresses themes of love, marriage, revenge, growing up, what it means to be in a relationship and how easy it is to be hurt by someone, especially when you love them – and with much skill. I will put this down to great performances from Sadawo Abe and Takaku Matsu, in conjunction with a great script. There are some seriously telling lines and scenes. Sadawo brings so much to Kanya’s character; moments of joy, comedy, terror, helplessness and slapstick (literally). And with Satako, Matsu shows us cunning, loyalty, despair, leadership and forgiveness. At the heart of the movie however is love between the couple and no matter what the hair-brained, ill-thought schemes, both Sato and Kanya are clearly in love with one another, despite a couple of wobbles along the way.

As the film draws to a close and the inevitable conclusion of their fraud is revealed, yet more sacrifice is required to save their relationship. I can’t really say much more than that without spoiling the thing – just trust me. With a running time of 137 minutes, this doesn’t technically qualify as a gem of a film and if I was being harsh I’d say a few minutes less would serve it well…but that is being picky. It’s set at pretty much a perfect pace and it suits the character of the film. Not one for switching-off to, but wonderful in any case, it left me feeling just a little bit heart broken.

Director-Screenwriter Miwa Nishikawa
Producer Kayo Yoshida, Matsuda Hiroko, Nishikawa Asako
With Sadawo Abe, Takako Matsu, Lena Tanaka
Japan 2012
137 mins

video platform

 

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Kamal Khan, in search of his queen of angels

Kamal Khan, Pariyon Ki Rani

British Asian actor, Kamal Khan, is preparing to take the music industry by storm with the release of his debut single and music video, Pariyon Ki Rani.

“Pariyon Ki Rani is a soulful hindi love ballad about meeting someone special and not knowing when you’ll see them again” is the way Kamal likes to describe it. Produced by UK’s music maestro, Sumeet Chopra who has worked with world famous Bollywood playback singers such as Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Mahalaxmi Iyer and Shankar Mahadevan to name a few.

His versatile voice allows Kamal to easily adapt to both Hindi and English music, appealing to multi-cultural audience.

Born and raised in the UK, Kamal’s passion for music took him to Hollywood to be close to the heart of the movie-making and performing arts industry. “Having performed extensively in the USA at festivals over the last few years, it was finally time to unleash something to the world”

You may recall Kamal Khan as the “South Asian Face” that appeared in Ford commercials which were played throughout the UK. Others recall the dashing Royal Navy officer that made appearances all over UK and European networks.  I suspect however that for British audiences he will be best remembered for his roles in The Bill (a long-running but now ended Police procedural soap-opera) and of course Eastenders (a long-running and still running soap opera set in London’s east end).

His biggest breakthrough came when Kamal flourished the stage in the West End Fringe, playing the lead of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. The UK Press praised his abilities to succeed as a South Asian actor in the Shakespearean world in articles entitled “Asian Actor Plays Lead Role in Shakespearian Play”.

For enquiries, please contact Sohail Anjum www.sohailanjum.com

@martincawley

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Usain Bolt: The Movie DVD Release

Yeah, he's that fast...again

“I told you all I was going to be No. 1 and I just did that”

We certainly can’t accuse the aptly named Jamaican sprinter of lacking confidence. And now that he’s defended successfully both of his Olympic golds in the 100m and 200m we can all pretty much agree that he is truly the “living legend” he proclaims himself to be.

In this extraordinary film, French producer and director Gael Leiblang paints us an intimate and boundless portrait of the life of athletic legend and cultural icon Usain Bolt.

Breaking BBC records (reaching 3 million viewers) when aired in mid July, the DVD features an extra 30 minutes of never before seen footage, delving deeper than ever fathomed into the rigorous training sessions and elusive private life of the long-legged Jamaican.

Granted exclusive and unprecedented access to the fastest man in the world, Leiblang explores Bolt’s childhood and chronicles him in a series of in-depth interviews, as he prepares to make history at this year’s Olympic games in London.

Filmed over a 12 month period, leading up to this year’s Games, Bolt is examined both at home with his family and friends and on the road competing across the world.

Static for once

This stunning documentary expertly exposes his boyish charm in his home environment, juxtaposed to his uncompromising focus and invincibility on the track, where he gallops past the other runners, like a God competing with mere mortals.

Usain Bolt sealed his position as the fastest man on earth and entered the history books when he successfully retained his 100m Olympic title. As over four billion peopled watched the 100m final at the London 2012 Olympic Games on the 5th Of August, the Jamaican sprinter took the gold medal convincingly.

From gruelling sessions on the practice track, to deejaying for fans in Italy and including his infamous false start at World Championships, this remarkable documentary takes us inside the life of the man who could become the greatest athlete the Olympics has ever seen.

USAIN BOLT: THE MOVIE, released by Revolver Entertainment is now out on DVD to buy and rent.

@martincawley

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Kuroneko

Black cats, unlucky for some

As July draws to a close, so does the small-scale marathon I’ve undertaken at the British Film Institute this month. I’ve already written about a classic Japanese horror, Onibaba but last week I had the fortune to watch Kuroneko, another Japanese film from the same genre.

Very much a companion piece to Onibaba, Kuroneko is also directed by Kaneto Shindo – shot 4 years later and with two of the actors (Kei Sato and Nobuko Otawa).

This brief synopsis shows the similarities of the 2 movies: a woman & daughter in-law live in a hut, on the edge of some woods and, as with Onibaba, we learn that the daughter’s husband is away fighting in the civil war. A group of soldiers appears, helping themselves to food and water before raping and killing the 2 women. We see a black cat licking at the two bodies and the hut is burned to the ground. Some time later, samurai start to die mysteriously.

And that, however, is where the similarities end.  I noted the almost claustrophobic feeling of Onibaba and Kuroneko spares us this.  It is a more open film, not with its head down in the reeds and rushes and is able to at least let us feel like we can breathe.  Whilst not particularly pleasant, one of the stand-out scenes for me is the opening sequence.  We see a group of soldiers emerge from the forest; the sound is silent & we can can hear only the wind in the trees.  Once the men reach the water, they bend down, like animals to a trough.  The sound is enhanced and there is no dialogue, just the noises of the slurping as their thirst is slaked.  Once the men enter the hut, there is also little if no conversation – merely grunting as the men help themselves to the women’s food, before the rape.  The scene ends as the soldiers retreat back to the forest – assimilated back from whence they came – and the hut is left to burn to the ground.

One of the clever tricks that Shindo plays is to tell us that the women have been taken over by the (vengeful) spirit of the demon as a black cat, without showing us fully.  We see glimpses of a long mane of hair, feline features from a distance or a hair covered arm, but never “cat women” as such.  Indeed, there is a scene near the end, that sent a full on chill right the way down my spine and is the culmination of all of these clever little shots.

I really enjoyed Kuroneko, possibly more so than Onibaba even.  It’s never going to rival anything from the modern horror catalogue – Saw, The Ring, Nightmare on Elm Street etc – in terms of blood and gore, but it has the feeling of being crafted, of being a film about human nature, myth and superstition.  It does of course have its moments of absolute terror (and humour) and so to have started my journey into Japanese horror movies with these two fine examples, makes me feel a tad lucky.  Next stop on the journey will have to be Kwaidan, Masaki Kobayashi‘s renowned shocker from 1964.

@martincawley

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Now is the time for Now TV

Another Upod exclusive?  That’s right folks – we really do suffer so you don’t have to.  Upod attended a little launch for Now TV yesterday evening, appropriately held in London’s Film Museum in Covent Garden.  We were treated to in-person demos of the new service in a re-created house, which was pretty cool.

Building on the increasing popularity of watching TV over the internet, NOW TV will offer access to Sky Movies – the UK’s most popular subscription movies service – in a new way. It is easy, flexible and great value – with no contract, set-up costs or installation fees.

The service is available to anyone in the UK with a broadband or 3G connection across a wide range of connected devices including PC, Mac and selected Android smartphones from launch; with iPhone, iPad, Xbox, Roku streaming players and Sony Playstation 3to follow. Each device has an optimised design to deliver quality streaming with buffering minimised by the use of adaptive bitrate technology.

Nice & uncluttered, unlike some others...

For total flexibility, NOW TV customers can ‘pay & play’ for instant access to an extensive range of over 1,000 movies through Sky Store including the very latest ‘now on DVD’ releases and much-loved classics.  From launch, ‘now on DVD’ titles will include recent releases such as We Bought a Zoo, The Woman in Black, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, This Means War and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. ‘Pay & play’ movies on NOW TV range from 99p for classic titles to £3.49 for the latest blockbusters.

For an all-you-can-watch experience, NOW TV also offers the monthly Sky Movies Pass with instant and unlimited access to the entire Sky Movies collection. At any time, customers with a Sky Movies Pass can choose from over 600 movies, including recent blockbusters and classics from major Hollywood studios such as Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros., and Universal.  Each Friday, there are up to five new and exclusive Sky Movies premieres, at least 12 months before they are available on other online subscription services. In fact, Sky Movies offers customers access to around three-quarters of the year’s top 100 UK box office movies.  At launch, the Sky Movies Pass comes with unlimited, instant access to titles such as X-Men: First Class, Bridesmaids, Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens and many more.

Now TV likes your Android very much

Available to anyone in the UK with an internet connection, NOW TV will launch tomorrow on PC, Mac and selected Android smartphones; on iPhone, iPad within the next month, on Xbox later this summer and YouView when it launches. NOW TV will continue to develop for other platforms and devices, including Sony Playstation 3 and Roku streaming player, with further announcements to follow.

So, if you’re like me and you don’t want to commit to a whole package and a year long buy-in, then this really could be for you.  The Sky TV content is a massive coup and being able to pick and choose your content is fantastic.  I also know from speaking with the guys, that they intend to to be very customer friendly, so no quibbles over refunds!

 

For more info, please visit www.nowtv.com and also on Twitter #nowtv @nowtv

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Brandon Generator: Part 4

A new breed of hero

The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator: episode 4 

As you will have already seen from a couple of blog previous posts, Brandon Generator is easily the best collaborative project that Microsoft have worked on to inspire people to learn more about the latest web technology and the web in general. Not only for creatives but also the wider web audience, IE9 is a fantastic showcase for all that is good about browsing and the web experience.

to re-cap: Edgar Wright (Spaced, Sean of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim…) and Tommy Lee Edwards (Marvel illustrator extraordinaire – Turf, Batman…) worked on The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator, a story about far too much coffee consumption, writers block and an escape into fantasy.

Feeding us the story is the narration of Julian Barratt (mighty boosh, Nathan Barley…) with the soundtrack provided by David Holmes (this film’s crap let’s lash the seats, Ocean’s 11 etc soundtracks). After the first episode “aired” online, parts 2 – 4 were to be crowd-sourced and co-created by members of the public. Edgar and Tommy would take submitted ideas – written, voicemails and drawings – pull out the best/funniest and work them into the story for the coming episode.

 

So, back to episode 4, the final installment. Upodcasting was kindly invited to a launch party for episode 4, at the suitably atmospheric Farmiloe Building in London’s Farringdon. Perfectly replicating Brandon’s apartment we were treated to a wonderful display of various storyboards and original artworks from the creative process; not to mention a vintage e-type Jaguar (that Brandon drives) and interactive displays about the making of and the episodes themselves.

The highlight of the evening though, was of course the screening of the final episode. Thankfully the organisers saw sense, read my mind and played all 4 back to back for the first time. Introducing the part film-short, part animation, part graphic novel, part… was Mark Kermode, well known hater of 3D and respected film critic from the BBC. I have to admit I was very excited to see all 4 in sequence and I have to take my hat off to all concerned – what a fabulous project to have been involved in.

Following the show, we were treated to a Q&A with all 4 of the creative forces, who despite having worked on Brandon Generator since the beginning of the year, had never been in the same room together until Wednesday evening. I’ll share 2 of my highlights from the session – when asked what browser they all used, only Edgar Wright had the sense to say IE9, but that he couldn’t comment on versions 1 to 8. The others all looked a bit sheepish at this point I have to say! And also, because I think the guy is a genius, David Holmes, when they were all asked what they ate when working / creating responded with “well I smoke a lot of weed…so whatever I can get my hands on”. An audience effectively wet itself.

So, what of Brandon himself? Does he get out of his scrape and who is the mysterious Victoria Mews? You’ll have to find out by going here and ideally use IE9 to get the best from the experience – it’s worth installing just for this, it really is. Talking to Gabby Hegarty the IE manager for the UK, it was clear that this was one work project that no-one had a problem getting motivated for; a perfect chance for everyone to flex their creative muscles. Let’s hope that IE9 can bring that spirit to the rest of the web.

You can find episode 4 here and of course all 4 parts will be released as a whole very soon.

@martincawley

 

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Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum)

Take it from him, I dare you

Tin Drum

AKA Martin’s continuing voyage into yet more “weird old movies”.  If you thought I might have struggled with Onibaba‘s oddities and very loose write-up then that was a cake walk by comparison to what follows.  At least there is nothing really to hold back from in terms of plot / story and spoilers with Tin Drum.  Die Blechtrommel as known in its native Germany is one of the most startling films I’ve ever seen (along with Old Boy and Last Year in Marienbad).
Based on the acclaimed novel by the same name, from Gunter Grass, Tin Drum recounts the life of Oskar, a young boy who, when he sees the adult world around him does not like it one bit.  Aged 3 he is given a tin drum by his mother, but in disgust at the thought of becoming an adult, throws himself down a staircase and stops growing thereafter.  Oskar’s life runs parallel to the rise of the Nazis in Germany and this is where the allegory at the core of the novel lies.
For someone so young Oskar shows a remarkable ability to manipulate those around him in order to maintain what is essentially his deception.  Constantly banging on his tin drum he is disruptive at the threat of it being taken away, screeching and screaming at such a pitch that he can shatter and etch glass at will.  This makes for memorable scenes, although I do confess to wanting to snatch the wretched thing away from him, smash it to pieces and send him to bed early.
The film is set in Danzig (modern day Gdansk), the so-called free city in Poland, between the world wars.  Reflecting the duality of this setting are Oskar’s 2 fathers; the biological father being a Pole and the familial being a German.  As Oskar grows – he remains in the child’s body – so we see the return to growth of the German economy and in turn Nazism.  Not even Oskar’s drumming can prevent the march of Hitler – despite his wreaking havoc at a local rally, by making the other musicians play out of time and switch from a military march to a Viennese waltz.  A standout scene in the movie, in part for its outright humour and obvious subversion of something we know to be malevolent.  He is of course, ultimately powerless to stop the events of Kristallnacht and the armed struggle at the Polish post-office in Danzig, unfolding: both depicted in Blechtrommel.
As Oskar grows (remaining in the same body) and develops the film shows us some potent sexual images that would have the MPAA foaming at the mouth.  And I use this expression deliberately.  For the squeamish there is also a scene involving a horses head and some eels: you have been warned.  Equally, it is fair to say that as much as Oskar develops emotionally, he remains stunted in many ways.  Indeed, we can attribute the death of at least 3 people directly to his refusal to countenance any kind of growing up and taking wider responsibility for his childish actions.
I won’t divulge the ending of the movie.  Not because it’s a spoiler, but because the film doesn’t span the whole life of Oskar, as per the book.  Indeed, I have omitted many memorable scenes, not least the opening sequence which is mirrored in the closing scene.  I hope that what I have tried to explain thus far is intriguing enough to put this movie on your watch list – it is genuine work of art that will sustain multiple viewings – and reading the book.  Dark, strange and unpleasant as it may be, we are all the better for this movie existing at all.  Quite who would have the gumption to produce this nowadays I don’t know.  Maybe it is a product of its time – certainly the 70s were an incredible period in cinema (German in particular) – and perhaps it’s a one-off.  The scope and ambition in transferring this from page to celluloid is to be admired and I look forward to someone having the same vision in our own times.  Volker Schlondorff was approached to direct based on his previous good form in adapting novels for the big screen, but when it comes to contemporary directors I have no suggestions whatsoever.
Mesmerising, gruesome, unpleasant, bewildering but richly rewarding and haunting, The Tin Drum is certainly one the finest pieces of cinema I’ve seen.
@martincawley
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Onibaba

Onibaba, Japanese for "strange movie"

Onibaba

On a strong recommendation from a friend, I signed-up to watch this 1964 black and white Japanese movie. I didn’t know the director, the actors or the plot so this was the movie equivalent of a blind tasting. It’s a simple tale, set in 14th century Japan and based on a Buddhist parable.  A mother (Nobuko Otowa) and daughter in law (Jitsuko Yoshimura), live a detached existence, killing marooned samurai on their way through a vast reed-bed, in order to make a living by selling their armour and weapons to a local usury. But, for all its simplicity, Kaneto Shindo gives us a fable-like story interweaving lust, jealousy, fear, social-exclusion and death.

Set almost solely in amongst the reeds, the film becomes oppressive very quickly; the camera is rarely above the height of the reeds and with the constant sound of the wind rushing through the leaves. A nagging and sighing rustle and harsh whisper from which we really only escape when we see the characters in their hut haunts us throughout. This oppression is in turn reflected in the heat that becomes unbearable at night, making even sleep a difficult task. The sounds of the reeds is sometimes broken with music, but this is not a release as such; a jarring, gutteral burst of drums and percussion and screeching woodwind.

There is seemingly no escape; we will forever be held captive, a prisoner to the surroundings and inhuman way of life.

When a neighbour (Kei Sato) returns from war, telling of how the husband (and son) has died, so begins the breakdown of the relationship between the two women. One lusts and is lusted after, but the elder’s advances are spurned and the seeds of a bitter jealousy are sewn. As the sexual and social tension rises so this film shows us more gruesome and grotesque sides to human nature.

To reveal more will spoil the movie entirely, for it is certainly best seen first of all, with only a slight clue as to story and conclusion. An unusual film and although not horrific in terms of outright images – blood, guts, gore etc – is unsettling and strange. One for the curious and horror genre fans amongst us and ultimately very satisfying. I will be watching another Shindo horror – Kuroneko – later this month and will also post my thoughts.

@martincawley

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The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator

A new breed of hero

The renowned illustrator for Marvel and Lucasfilm, Tommy Lee Edwards, has joined forces with Edgar Wright, – award-winning director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – to create a world first innovative animated story with Internet Explorer called Brandon Generator. The Mighty Boosh and Nathan Barley star Julian Barratt is narrating the story with music by David Holmes new project ‘Unloved’ (a collaboration between David Holmes, Keefus Green and Jade Vincent).

Each episode calls on fans to crowd source specific elements of the story, allowing you to help shape this interactive noir-inspired series. The story, has been developed exclusively in HTML5 to showcase the stunning visual experiences possible in modern web browsers and unique functionality of Internet Explorer; with Pinning used to provide access to exclusive extras and Jump Lists providing direct links to apps and crowd-sourcing options.

This is a fantastic concept; it has a brilliant visual style, excellently told stories and great music. Episode 2 already sees Brandon battle one of his own creations – a monster made entirely from Java coffee, our hero’s very own source of energy.

To watch and take part, click here  and find out how you can influence the unravelling world of our caffeine-fuelled anti-hero. To optimise your experience download IE9 (it still works via Chrome tbh). To find out more about the project follow Internet Explorer on Facebook.com/InternetExplorerUK and Twitter.com/IE_UK and Brandon Generator on Facebook.com/BrandonGenerator and Twitter.com/Brandon_gen.

You can even upload a photo of yourself to win the chance to be illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards and penned into later episodes!

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Nima Nourizadeh

Nima plans the next party

It’s been a long long time, although not in a galaxy far far away sadly. Returning to Upod with some content, I thought I’d kick-off with an intro to director Nima Nourizadeh. A London born British-Iranian, he is probably most commonly known for his debut movie feature, Project X, Nima has been directing ads and music vids since 2005, picking up numerous awards and much acclaim along the way. Rather than talk about Project X, I’ll be using Upod to showcase some of his outstanding music videos and ads in the coming weeks.

Of course the movie biz is no stranger to invaders from ad land crashing the industry (step forward Ridley Scott, Tarsem Singh and many others of course), but where the “older generation” have produced some notable ads, lack of opportunity (for obvious reasons) in the music video space has arguably denied us another form through which we can experience their vision.

Thankfully there is no shortage of material from Nima Nourizadeh and whilst I haven’t (yet) seen Project X, I have watched nearly all his commercial and music video work. Telling the story of an epic high school / college party, his first feature film showcases people having an awesome time and this is reflected brilliantly in his ads for Adidas, including “house party” below.

Starting all things music vid with his clip for Hot Chip‘s 2005 single, Over and Over, here we see the band having a great time, whilst the use of green screen technology and CGI is brilliantly subverted. This was the one that put Nima on the map back in 2005, enjoy! There will be more to follow in the coming weeks.

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HELP! Glee beats the Beatles!

Do they know that L with thumb & fore-finger means loser?

More disappointment this week for Beatles fans when it was revealed that one of the most enduring records in pop history was broken. Having held the top spot for a non-solo artist with the most records in the top 100 since 1964 (with 71) the juggernaut of a show that is Glee can now count on 75 singles having entered the American top 100.

The fab 4 show us how it's done but it doesn't mean Help! in semaphore 😉

What you may ask, does all of this mean? Well, if you’re a Beatles fan like I am, then on the surface it’s depressing. Surely the fab 4 were more musical, more talented and in hindsight, more loved than those 1 dimensional Disney-esque puppets the public can’t seem to get enough of? Well, apparently not; at least in terms of top 100 records anyway! However, start to scratch the surface and some of the Glee shine (could be a furniture polish with that name) starts to fade.

Not only do the Beatles win a top 10 head to head (34 v 1) but even this one from Glee was a cover version of a song people only like in an “aren’t the 80s cool”, ironic way, because ultimately Don’t Stop Believin’ is kinda crap. Jeez, the band was even called Journey FFS! Furthermore the Beatles didn’t release 5 singles a week and weren’t backed by multi-media marketing frenzy and more channels through which to buy music.

So bask in the artificial glory all you Glee lovers out there…the Beatles will take you on mano e mano when the back catalog is out for legal download and if anyone even knows what Glee was in 45 years time I’ll be mightily surprised.

I rest my case.

P.S. Kudos to Asim for creating the headline!
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RANT: Justin Bieber…

(Justin shows us what he thinks of us, with this upside down "fuck-off" hand gesture).

I was going to write a huge long rant about Justin Bieber…but having just given out about Lady Gaga, I’ve realised I just can’t go on…basically I don’t have a problem with Bieber (OK, certain things DO annoy me) but I’m just too old to be able to critically compare how great or not his music is to the music people from X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent release.  And tarring him with that brush is basically where I think his music deserves to be, so I can’t rant about that. 

What however does bug the fuck out of me is the fact he’s released an autobiography and this was what made me aware of  Justin and his weird sounding surname that sounds like beaver, hehe, snigger.  But seriously – he’s how old (in his teens yet?) and has an autobiography?! This is plainly wrong – what have we come to when a 16 year old has led such an interesting life he can write a book about it?  Oh no, it’s not about that is it?  It’s about Simon Cowell and the like exploiting young kids and their parents’ wallets.  So in fact, this rant is really about exploitative pop music for young kids who know no better.  That’s too big a topic for a rant, so I’ll bow out as gracefully as I can!

Or am I just scared by this kid?  Enjoy…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4v9tfSCaHg

Ranting time once again

Or could be subtitled, “one of the crappest cinemas in the UK”. My advice for anyone wanting to watch a film in the West End, is pretty much to visit any cinema you like (and preferably the Prince Charles, it’s great) apart from the CineWorld in the Trocadero, near Leicester Square.

Let me tell you for why. Firstly it’s in the Trocadero; so if you’re not teenaged or a tourist or into LaserQuest, or video arcade games or dodgy food (or a combination of any of those) then you’re not exactly onto a winner already. And of course you have to negotiate these to get to the cinema itself. Secondly, for a tenner you then get a hugely disorganised queuing system that no-one can understand and is also staffed by people who presumably don’t get paid enough to give a shit about communicating who should go where and at what times, for what films. If like us, you’re watching a sold-out advance screening of Scott Pilgrim, then this is mayhem and frustration.

Moving swiftly on to point three, the almost unbelievable cost of food is staggering. A medium “cinema-hotdog” (you know the kind of thing I mean) and drink (medium, NOT beer) comes to £6.75 or $11 in world money. A good job therefore that McDonald’s is 90 seconds away and offers (and I can’t believe I’m writing this) a far tastier and cheaper alternative.

Having been blown away by Scott Pilgrim – such a good film – the icing on the cake of nastiness that is CineWorld Trocadero, was the entirely odd and out of place wooden, mediaeval style frieze that you can see when you’re coming down the escalator. Not only out of place, but just kind of crap; much like the cinema in question.

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Frightfest 2010

For those unfamiliar souls, Frightfest is basically as it says on the tin – a festival of fright and now the leading horror and fantasy film festival in the UK if not Europe. The Film4 organised and sponsored Frightfest was again in effect from August 26th – 30th, running into its 11th year and providing a quality – horror-based -alternative to a lot of the other Bank holiday distractions on offer in London.

Not being a big fan of the horror genre, I accompanied May-Ling to a screening of The Clinic, a new Aussie film about babies being abducted whilst still in the womb. To be honest, this isn’t such a horrific film – nowhere near the experience of watching The Ring or Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (how green am I making myself sound here?). However, having seen the world premiere of The Orphanage at Frightfest a couple of years back I pretty much knew that it would be a good film and I’m sure May-Ling was gentle with her selection for me. Also consider the fact that over the past decade, nearly 85% of the screenings have been either World, European, or UK premieres. Quite some stat attack, that!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrjw5w9zUQQ

Having been staged initially at the Prince Charles cinema, then the Odeon in Leicester Square, the Frightfest moved to the Empire cinema in 2009. The organizers say that the 1300 seat cinema is the ideal venue and whilst I usually frequent less salubrious theatres away from the West End (or the brilliant NFTs 1,2 or 3 at the BFI Southbank) I was surprised to find myself in possibly one of the smallest screens…ever. 90 seats only; brilliant. I guess I’ll have to work out why it’s been voted in the top 10 cinemas in the world with some repeat visits, but they could do with not selling big bags of crisps for punters to munch on throughout suspenseful and hence predominantly quiet, films. OK, that’s the bitch over – see my new rant for how a cinema really shouldn’t behave.

On a note of controversy to end with, there was finally, no screening of “A Serbian Film” by Srđan Spasojević. Not that I would have attended myself; but despite the reported scenes of ‘newborn porn’ and a father raping his young son before penetrating another character’s eye socket, it was a shame the BBFC decided that almost 4 minutes of cuts were required before even then not guaranteeing a screening.

I’ll see you there next year!

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Gameswipe: Charlie Brooker’s done it again

Occasionally, channel surfing throws up something quite interesting. And not in the “oh I didn’t know fruit bats actually ate fruit” kind of way. This was certainly the case with Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe, re-screened by the Beeb last week and something I chanced uopn.

If you’re not familiar with Charlie Brooker, he usually fronts a show called Newswipe where he exposes the inner workings of news media, or Screenwipe where he exposes the inner workings and agenda of the television in general.

Gameswipe doesn’t quite follow in this trend, but his usual deadpan, sardonic and vaguely acerbic delivery remained. As someone who doesn’t play games, apart from Street Fighter and Angry Birds on the iPhone I loved the potted history of videogames and the demonstration of different videogames genres via a man in a black lycra suit (think Charlie from Sunny in Philadelphia playing Green Man, but in black and you get the picture).

Brooker also showed us how videogames have been presented in the media – mainly either in a patronising way or in shock at the fact you can beat someone senseless in the GTA series (for example and not exclusively) of games. What was enlightening however, was that Brooker, as a keen gamer and videogames journalist in a prior life, laid some of the blame for this perception at the failure of gamers in general to convey their hobby to a wider audience. To be fair, he did then talk about games such as Mad World on the Wii…

So, as far as “videogames” shows go and despite it being a one-off, Gameswipe is cracking good fun and as I saw, we have come a long way from Patrick Moore being Gamesmaster (and not really having a clue what he was doing – he’s an astronomer after all) and dishing out tips to spotty teenagers or Craig Charles hosting a show where yet more spotty teenagers battle each other on Street Fighter, on TV.

Check out a clip here or try BBC iPlayer!

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Soundtrack to our Lives: Moby / UNKLE – God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters

Once in a while something comes along that ticks a lot of boxes in one go and takes you by surprise.  Whilst trying to find an MP3 of Moby’s God moving over the face of the waters, (taken from the soundtrack of the cops n robbers classic Heat) I came accross this remix from UNKLE. I already have the soundtrack on CD so not even sure why I was searching for something I already own, but coincidence is a fine thing when you combine a few things that already hit the spot on their own; in my case UNKLE, Heat and the Moby track taken from the film.  

I was very curious to see what they’d done with Moby’s track, expecting a bunch of breaks and tweaks with some fucked-up samples thrown in for good measure.  How wrong I was!  UNKLE, James Lavelle’s brain child, are probably best known for the Rabbit in Your Headlights video – you know, the one with Thom Yorke‘s vocals and a banned (at the time) video in the UK, featuring a guy getting repeatedly run over by cars (also samples movie dialogue…this time Danny Aiello from Jacob’s Ladder). 

 (NOTE: flashing video…you may have a fit)

Coming in at a slightly epic 11 minutes the start differs little from the original except for a John Malkovich monologue taken from the film Alive  about the plane crash in the Andes where the survivors ate the dead passengers to stay alive themselves.  Slowly but surely though, the remix takes shape; the beat starts, snares start, more strings and thunderclap drums an ever increasing tempo until…stop!  Back to piano with just the vocal “my mind is in a state” with strings building and building.  Really this is a journey you’re taken on and whenever the track does break down, it lifts you right back up to where it left you. 

I first started listening to UNKLE in the mid 90s and I have to be honest this remix took me by surprise, but in a GOOOOOD way!  More house than breakbeats and scratches and more DJ Tiesto than DJ Shadow I can only imagine how well this would go down in a club at 4am and erm, possibly with the addition of some substance or other (or not) to help things along. 

The Malkovich dialogue can be seen here  and adds a philosophical touch that compliments the track well; especially when you throw in the fact that God Moving Over the Face of the Waters is a biblical quote from Genesis chapter 1 verse 2.

So, all in all a fantastic track and one that I’m glad that I stumbled upon – Moby, Heat, Malkovich, UNKLE are strange bedfellows but believe me this one works damn damn well.  That’s not a great conclusion, but I’ll just leave it with a reviewer from YouTube who simply says:

Nice one UNKLE, nice one Moby.

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Friday rant Virgin 1 & Navy Seals

Well well, what’s been getting my goat this week then? TV has been a consistent theme of mine since I started these weeklies and no changes to this week’s format I’m afraid. However, not merely content with picking on a TV show I am taking on a whole channel this time. Step forward and claim your prize Virgin 1.

Now, this isn’t a rant against Richard “Beardie” Branson and his beloved brand. I’ve flown on his airline, I’ve bought his records and I’ve even (briefly) taken out a pension. All of which are worthy causes (not sure about the Cola though…) but not enough to rescue the TV channel though.

My main criticism has to be endless repeats; of X-files and Sexcetera mainly. Strangely though, I am now convinced that Virgin 1 has screened Navy Seals (see trailer below) almost many times and that’s a bloody film frchissakes! Naturally I’ve now seen Navy Seals a couple of times in recent weeks and frankly, it’s a poor film. A peculiar relic of late 80’s cinema, there are numerous cliches – acting, plot (yes it does have one), dialogue and right down to some scenes even being cliche.

Notable however in hindsight not just because Charlie Sheen is sober and actually acting (see rant passim Two and a half men) but also because Dennis Haysbert is starring in what must be one of his earliest roles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-MlVm9FzM4

So, Virgin 1 + Navy Seals = not a good look. Please, please Virgin, if you’re going to repeat films endlessly, why not make it something decent? I suggest Wedlock starring Rutger Hauer, Mimi Rogers, and Asim’s favourite, Stephen Tobolowsky! Released only a year later and much more fun!!

Necklace with a difference

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cei0_t8eF_4

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Saturday rant – I’m Lost

Slightly tired and recovering after a “few” beers from last night I realise the Friday rant is overdue…So following from Asim’s blog about Lost; the show now gets my own treatment.

What started out in the first two seasons as something quite novel and intriguing rapidly went downhill pretty much as soon as (in the UK at at least) it started to be shown on Sky TV rather than Channel 4. This switch and my inability to keep following the show revealed to me that you know what…it ain’t actually that good. Certainly not good enough to get me to a) get a Sky subscription or b) even spend time downloading it or c) definitely not buying the DVDs.

The main reason I, ahem, lost patience was nothing to do with the polar bears, the hatch, the timer or even the existence of the others. These are all good things. It was knowing that after 2-3 seasons, it was never going to get better for the remaining 4 or so seasons. Not a snowball in hell’s chance of maintaining decent writing, plot, intrigue and or mystery.

And this is a common bug for me – why do execs believe shows can run and run (see Rant passim Two and half men)? The notion that you can spin out a show like Lost with engaging ideas for that long is just plain wrong and I knew this as soon as I heard it was 7 seasons: inevitably, the show would have to more crap as more episodes came out and the plot became thinner and thinner. Inexorably the plot turned slowly and surely into a sci-fi show, which given the promise shown early doors is frankly a cop out worthy of the Dallas writers getting away with Bobby Ewing walking out of the shower. It was all just a dream…yeah right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvinAPPfyAQ

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Friday rant (only just)

Well well, it’s been quite some week, batting illness and the effects of an insane partying weekend in Sweden. However, here I am for another little shout from my soapbox. And in some ways, last weekend shapes the nature of the blog / rant this week.

American TV (see Friday rants passim) is currently held to be in somewhat of a golden age and generally speaking I have to agree, despite my protestations to the contrary. There is in my mind no doubting the sheer quality of a number of shows, from The Sopranos to The Wire, from Scrubs to Six Feet Under. But rather than focus on shows that I find to be merely crap and then tell you all that American TV ain’t all that good, I thought I’d draw your attention to something Anglo-Swedish – just to show that Europe still has a trick or two up its sleeve.

You may or may not have heard of Wallander, a Swedish detective show featuring Kurt Wallander as the lead role. Now, if you haven’t seen this programme, I’ll be honest; it’s a little bleak and a little dark, but then reality is little bit bleak and a little bit dark, so we shouldn’t complain greatly. First shown on UK screens in 2009, it accompanied the BBC remake of the same show. Fair enough you might say: a good cop show deserves a mention. But what is more interesting is not that the source material is good, but that the BBC has remade it for Brits in quite an interesting way. Rather than simply transplanting the show lock, stock into England and rather predictably London; the production – starring Kenneth Brannagh as Wallander – leaves the show in Sweden, with a host of good quality, jobbing British actors and a smattering of Swedish acting talent too.

The joy of this comes not only from it seeming more like the original, but at the same time in doing so (leaving the show set in Sweden) lends a far greater sense of originality (somewhat oddly). The remake by the Beeb succeeds where, alas, other remakes (UK version of CSI anyone?) fail in that the photography and feel of the original are maintained and we are allowed to see the lead character in situation as intended. BBC 4, you have once again done us proud.

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Friday rant part three: Two and a half men

ANother Friday, another chance for American TV to get it in the neck from me…

This time and with due consideration that this is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel I have chosen two and a half men.

Tag line = Two adults. One kid. No grown-ups. Yeah, we’re rolling on the floor with laughter already. The description then goes on…

A hedonistic jingle writer‘s free-wheeling life comes to an abrupt halt when his brother and 10-year-old nephew move into his beach-front house.

…no. No it doesn’t. It’s always difficult to sustain a show based on a kids/adults relationship theme and this is why films like Home Alone or 3 men and a baby or Look Who’s Talking are short-lived successes, but ultimately fail to charm as time passes. In the end, we’re adults, not kids.

I know the whole “plot” doesn’t involve the adult / child interaction; but to return to my point above, there’s no real problem wth this type of thing, but why oh why does this show get 7+ seasons and pay its stars so much ($500k per episode)? Again, further proof that for every Scrubs, Dexter or 6 feet under; there is of course a TV exec willing to wantonly ignore the notion of good quality TV entertainment.

More in next week’s rant, where I may veer away from cursing US tv and start with other non-tv matters!

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Friday rant (pt 2…and on Monday) Reaper

Well, another week passes and another thing bugs me. And I do understand I’m a little slow here, but Goddamnit I was upset when I found out that Reaper was only deemed worthy of 2 seasons.

This from the country that gave us Friends for God only knows how many seasons too many! And however many versions of CSI..?

What’s not to like about a show where the lead has to capture souls for the devil after his parents sold their son’s soul to the Devil? Played brilliantly by Ray Wise; possibly better know for being Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks. Throw in some alcohol and drug references, demons, angels and other whackery and this is surely a winner worth more airtime.

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Filmblog: Casablanca

casablanca poster

This is my vague attempt to try and give thought on most of the films that I watch…sounds ambitious right? Well, I guess there are criteria (no musings on Universal Soldier to be found here)

There was quite a glut over the festive period so I’m playing catch-up here and, not lacking in ambition, have started with the classic of all classics…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJvlGh_FgcI

Typically, my reaction on seeing this for the first time, was: really? that’s it? To be fair, this is my first time but I didn’t find what’s possibly the key to the story, to be believable: the love between Bogard and Bergmand (Rick and Ilsa). So if this aspect failed, what remains?

Make no mistake, the film is still wonderful; if their romance didn’t convince, it is beautifully shot, and some great great scenes and dialogue (not including “play it again Sam”). The look and feel of the film is gorgeous and IS romantic.

Although Bogard is the lead, I preferred in fact Renault (Claude Rains) who in his role as local Police Captain, plays both sides against the other for his own gain. Finally walking off with Rick at the end of the film…

In a nutshell, a lovely film that will get better with more viewings and of course has aged as well as a 1946 Petrus.

I’ll be dropping in more thoughts soon!

Martin

First Friday Rant: Numb3rs

Numb3rs

We like to think we only get the good stuff, the cream of the crop of American TV, over here in the UK. Sadly for every season of Sopranos, 6 feet Under, The Wire etc, there will always be an exception proving the rule.

 

In this case, I reluctantly draw your attention to Numb3rs. That’s right: in case we can’t read, they have even inserted a 3 where the e would appear. How clever of the production team to do so.

This is comfortably one of THE worst shows ever to grace my flat screen. Not only does the title itself patronise the viewer, but the acting is passable at best, the scripts and story-lines are preposterous and the whole show has a crap look and feel to it – trying to copy num3rous other shows (you see what I did there..?)

All things considered, this show is best described as “derivative”, trying to ape CSI and the like, but without even the tongue in cheek humour of NCIS.

So, thanks Numb3rs: you have deservedly Christened my first Friday Rant! Have a great weekend one and all.

Episode 2 Horror- Black Sheep

Small ticket entertainment we may be, but you can’t accuse us of not trying to visit the corners of the world

 

India one week and New Zealand the next. That’s right folks for episode 2 we visit the land of Lord of the Rings and apparently some demented man-eating sheep – check out the trailer for Black Sheep below

 

But before the main event, we also have the underwhelming trinity!!!

Ahmed wants to go 3D TV

Martin shares a musical 3-some from his collection

And Asim shares some really good film scenes from some really bad films!

You can always e-mail us at feedback@upodcasting.com. Join us next week for an all new episode and an underwhelming experience!

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