Martin

The Mad professor

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.

 

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!

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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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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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)

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:

 

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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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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Lego The Movie

Don't leave us in pieces after the movie

Some interesting news greeted my inbox today and I’m not at all sure of where I stand on this one. In fact, even thinking of standing on Lego brings back painful childhood memories – especially when you step right on the corner of a little square block in bare feet.

So, back to the movie…the studio behind Lego The Movie* is Warner Bros. and a release date has been set for 2014. Notably, the movie is expected to be an animation / live action hybrid. Quite what this will really entail is anyone’s guess, but if anyone can show me a good and/or successful film in this format, since Who Framed Roger Rabbit? way back when, then I’d love to know.

Does this make me a sceptic? Yes, of course it does; but that’s only because I have the best of interests at heart. I loved and still love, Lego the toy and I think the Lego computer games are brilliant. I just want a decent movie out of this project; enough that I won’t feel like a total and utter victim for paying to see this when you can imagine the field day that marketing execs in both companies will have in the run up to the release. If Lego already make good toys (and computer games) associated with other movies – Star Wars, Batman, Hippy Puffer etc – then their own merch for their own film ought to be so good that a kid’s brain melts just by seeing the ads on TV.

With the apparent 3 year wait for a green light now over, casting for the human roles is expected to commence in January 2012. Aussie company Animal Logic (Happy Feet) has been lined-up to produce the effects and further details about the story and plot are expected to be released at some point next week. It is thought that production will also begin next week. If you’re not sure what Lego is (really, is there anyone?) then check out this clip…it’s also a really introduction to Eddie Izzard.

*As named by ME as no name announced just yet

 

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The Artist

Not coming to a UK screen soon

The Artist is the latest film from director Michel Hazanavicius.  Re-uniting Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo (also from Hazanavicius’ hilarious OSS117: Cairo, nest of spies) the Artist tells the story of the fall of a silent movie star, George Valentin (Dujardin) and the rise of Peppy Miller (Bejo) when the talkies were becoming the norm in Hollywood.  So, nothing special there; but where the movie will surprise is that it is both black and white and silent.  Very much a rarity in the age of Michael Bay & 3D, I for one cannot wait for the UK release.  And this I guess, is a teeny problem…slated for release in France on October 12th and in the US on November 23rd, the UK still has no date confirmed.  I am sure that this will change once the movie has its mainstream release in various other markets, so until then, we will have to content ourselves with the trailer.  You can enjoy Jean Dujardin’s Cannes Film Festival Best Actor winning performance, all too briefly, below.  Oh and Berenice Bejo looks as gorgeous as ever.

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Drive – quite possibly movie of the year

A star is born

Having heard a lot about The Pusher and having seen Bronson, I’m not sure why I was quite as surprised as I was by how damned fine the film is.  It’s a pretty easy plot – stunt driver in the movies has a sideline at night driving getaway cars, falls in love with his neighbour and pulls one last, ill-fated job – but this sets expectations so low against what is delivered – Nicolas Winding Refn has really delivered with this movie.  First off, it would be remiss to not talk about the violence and there are some supremely bloody scenes in the film; really quite explicit and graphic but not gratuitous.  This is balanced by a very tender relationship between Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan which is not expressed in the conventional manner: there is but one kiss that is shared throughout the film.  For more on Refn’s observations about love and violence, see the clip from BBC Breakfast…  

So, Drive is a truly original film; a tremendous re-imagining of the “man with no name” concept and not easy to pigeon-hole.  That we don’t know any back-story about “Driver” makes this all the more compelling.  For that I guess we have to read the James Sallis novel upon which the film is based. 

Everything else aside, what else makes this such a winner (literally as Refn won Best Director at Cannes earlier this year for Drive)?  Well for a start, LA at night is shot wonderfully (as it is during the day too).  There are some great performances from the whole ensemble cast; standout from Gosling and I thought notably from Bryan Cranston who, not having seen Breaking Bad, for me will forever be Hal, the father in Malcolm in the Middle.  What will stay with me most I think will be the soundtrack; almost an ever-present in the movie and the most perfect complement to the visuals and story.  I was reminded both of the Scarface and Heat soundtracks – a brilliant blend of electro-pop-synth and moody atmospherics, particularly in the opening sequence.  A modern day noir, Drive gets the Upod thumbs-up, so treat yourselves and check it out as soon as you can.  A clip is below just in case you need more encouragement.

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COW – Justice feat. Simian

Clip of the week, Moooooo!

 

So, another week, another clip.  This is a particularly fine example of  some excellently staged destruction, albeit in a quite arty way.  This clip by Justice featuring Simian is reminiscent of the aftermath of an outstanding party – bottles all around you, drooling on someone you’ve fallen asleep on – as the song progresses, the destruction draws ever nearer.  Unsurprisingly, it has a MTV warning at the start…do not try this at home.  the thing is, when I was younger I did try and do this kind of thing…sliding down stairs on matresses, diving out of bunk-beds and generally doing plenty of things that were hazardous to my very young health. 

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COW on a Friday – Wiley, Numbers in Action

Moooo, this COW is great

  This week’s cow comes from Wiley, a UK hip-hop artist.  In the running for Best Video at the 2011 MOBOs this is a really clever video, perfectly complementing the lyrics.  Whilst we can’t say it’s in the same league as Shad’s Rose Garden video (to be fair, not much else is), it’s really creative and uses plenty of camera tricks and edits to get bouncing balls in synch with the beats (and numerous other neat little things). If you like it, you can vote by going here.

The MOBOs have been around since 1996 and although the acronym is for Music Of Black Origin, the awards have grown in significance and stature; coming to represent urban music generally.  The awards have also been instrumental in helping launch the careers of such artists as Craig David, Ms Dynamite, Estelle, Kano and N-Dubz

 Wiley is signed to the excellent Ninja Tunes via their hip-hop sub-label Big Dada.  One of the true pioneers of UK hip-hop and grime, Wiley was part of the Roll Deep Crew that included such talent as Dizee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder.  He is affectionately known as the Godfather of Grime. 

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Clint (Harry) rocks it in our first ever COW

Moooo, this COW is great

Not much to say other than I think this is a fine way to get our COW (clip of the week) series up and running.

Remember kids, the next time you’re in a hostage situation, just keep pouring that sugar and someone will get the message.

 Dirty Harry in one of his many fine moments…go ahead, make my day

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In praise of Pulp

Most underrated Brit band of the '90s?

It’s been fully 33 years since the UK band Pulp formed and 33 years since I’ve been around.  A coincidence?  I think not.  Perhaps the most misunderstood of the successful Britpop bands in the ’90s, it’s not to say they weren’t popular…just that perhaps they didn’t quite fit the zeitgeist.  Whilst Blur and Oasis battled it out, Pulp were there of course, producing a string of hit singles and albums, just not capturing the record-buying public’s imagination in the same way.  Arguably Suede and oddly bands like Menswear (who? yes, them) found the sudden burst of fame more readily than Pulp, in spite of number 1 album chart entries and critical acclaim.  The 3 albums from their commercial high-point stand the test of time more than 15 years later: His n Hers, Different Class and the darker This is Hardcore.

So as Pulp near the end of their reunion tour this year, after numerous festival appearances and gigs, I will look back fondly on the band that dared to be different.  Not just for the wonderful music (truly, thanks for the memories guys) but also for subverting the annointed one at the Brit awards in 1996.  MJ in full jesus impersonation flow was obviously too much to resist for Jarvis Cocker, frontman of Pulp.  I’ll leave you with footage of the farce and hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  For the record, Jarvis was charged with some kind of assault against the jesus juice peddling prince of pop, only to have comedian (and as it happens, qualified lawyer) Bob Mortimer represent him and have all charges subsequently dropped.


Martin

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Edinburgh Fringe top 10 jokes 2011

 

Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Since its inception in 1947, as an alternative (on the fringe of) to the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe  has grown to such gargantuan proportions that it is reportedly the largest arts festival in the world.

No longer attracting just the alternative arts performers and the up and coming British comedic talent, the Fringe now attracts the cream of the worlds stand-up talent.  Each year the top 10 jokes and gags are published and, rather than just give you the list, we’ve also given linked to the websites for each of the performers so you can check out the ones you like the most.

 Sit back and enjoy these quality gags from the world’s finest comedians and comedy writers.

1. Nick Helm – “I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”  

2. Tim Vine – “Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels.”

3. Hannibal Buress – “People say ‘I’m taking it one day at a time.’ You know what? So is everybody. That’s how time works.”

4. Tim Key – “Drive Thru McDonalds was more expensive than I thought … once you’ve hired the car …” 

5. Matt Kirshen – “I was playing chess with my friend and he said, ‘Let’s make this interesting’. So we stopped playing chess.”

6. Sarah Millican – “My mother told me, you don’t have to put anything in your mouth you don’t want to. Then she made me eat broccoli, which felt like double standards.”

7. Alan Sharp – “I was in a band which we called The Prevention, because we hoped people would say we were better than The Cure.”

8. Mark Watson – “Someone asked me recently – what would I rather give up, food or sex. Neither! I’m not falling for that one again, wife.”

9. Andrew Lawrence – “I admire these phone hackers. I think they have a lot of patience. I can’t even be bothered to check my OWN voicemails.”

10. DeAnne Smith – “My friend died doing what he loved … Heroin.”

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Coming soon: The Hour, BBC2

 

BBC2's The Hour

New to the BBC this summer is a 6 part drama, The Hour, written by Abi Morgan. Set in 1956 on a British topical news programme (think Panorama in a prior incarnation perhaps) at the time of  the Suez crisis, The Hour, according to Ben Stephenson (Controller BBC Drama commissioning) aims “to [re-establish] BBC2’s reputation as the home of distinctive, intelligent and ambitious drama”. The BBC press release says that a competitive and sharp-witted love triangle (ouch, I don’t want to be in one of those) will be the lens through which viewers will see the defining events of the decade unfolding. The backdrop to this is a mysterious murder and a controversial and dangerous journalistic investigation.

 

With a suitably strong cast, including Dominic West, Ben Wishaw, Romola Garai and supported by Tim Pigott-Smith, Juliet Stevenson and Julian Rhind-Tutt among many others, the ingredients for a cracking 6-parter are firmly in place.

My only concern is that it will be unfairly labelled the BBC’s Madmen. Whilst I can understand the superficial comparison – set in the 1950s, looks and feels as authentic and stylish (from the trailer at least, see below) – I think this will prove to be unfair. Certainly Abi Morgan has only given viewers 6 episodes and of course the show will not span the decades and detail quite the social changes that take place over the course of Madmen. If anything, the trailer makes me think more of the opening credits to the outrageous cartoon Archer.

The Hour starts on July 19th at 9pm on BBC2.

 

 

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The Shadow Line: released on DVD

Thrilly chiller

With the current glut of American TV shows that continue to dominate the comedy / drama landscape, both in the US and here in the UK, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are high quality alternatives out there.  As Upodcasting has mentioned, nay fawned over, in the past, the possible highlight of this last year was the BBC re-working / re-boot of Sherlock Holmes, with Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. One of the few occasions when I genuinely decried the shorter TV seasons that we enjoy in the UK.  New to the BBC this spring, was The Shadow Line.  Not something that could ever spill over into multiple seasons like for example The Sopranos or as “light” as Sherlock Holmes, The Shadow Line is a self-contained one-off series, albeit with more than three episodes.

The Shadow Line written by Hugo Blick, tells the story of a murdered drug-lord investigated by from the side of the criminal underworld and the police.  The show caught my attention initially due to Christopher Ecclestone’s presence.  Here he plays Joseph Bede, a reluctant drug-lord-cum-straight businessman, forced into the drug dealing driving seat following the death of his previous “employer” Harvey Wratten.  With a lot of angst we see Bede plan his strategy of one big deal and then exit, in order to pay for the care for his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Second in the list of notable performances goes to Chiwetel Ejiofor, as DI Jonah Gabriel.  Rather than simply give the audience a cliched “copper with questionable morals” the writers create a character who is “copper with a bullet in his head and amnesia”.  I found this twist hugely interesting and gave a lot of freedom to question the character’s motivations and potentially his morals. 

The highlight in terms of charcaters for me however, is Gatehouse, peerlessly played by Stephen Rae.  I shan’t reveal too much about Gatehouse for fear of spoiling things, but there is more than sufficient menace and threat to sustain you over the 7 episodes.  Also watch out for a superb scene in the clock shop, where he and Glickman come face to face; top notch stuff from Rae and Anthony Sher

If you enjoy police dramas but want a break from the tried and tested proceedural formula, you can do far far worse than give this a look.  There is a high quality feel throughout, coming from the strong writing and acting.  I felt the atmosphere, created by washed-out colours and bleak, empty spaces (be they urban or otherwise) was very effective: although following a trend from the Swedish Wallander shows (both UK and Swedish versions) it complemented both the writing and storyline. 

The show seemed to divide both critics and viewers when broadcast.  The watching public started at 3m viewers becoming 2m after 1 episode and then to a hardcore of 1.3m thereafter.  And critically there seemed to be much division, derision and worship in equal measure.  Some hailing the fact the Beeb had wanted to show something as complex, stylish and occasionally baffling; and some who wanted to bash the script, the “extended metaphors” and the attempt to break from the usual in-house, comfy feel of BBC drama.  Frankly I’m pleased it was made and glad I loyally watched each episode, even if the ending pissed me off slightly.  That still doesn’t detract from seeing a fine performance from an ensemble cast and having to actually think about a plot for 7 weeks.  It may be that the British public have lost their taste for adventurous, thought provoking TV drama and perhaps I am in that 1.3 million minority; but I’m better off for being so and so should you be too.

Out this week via BBC/2entertain for £15 and I would personally give this 3 1/2 stars as opposed to the 3 stars that a freebie daily newspaper in London gave it.

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The Wire characters what happened next: Marlo Stanfield

Here at Upodcasting we more than loved The Wire. We adored The Wire…knelt down at its altar and prayed for more of the goodstuff. Not that we were alone in this of course. And now, as times have changed and we realise that maybe only Idris Elba will be a true star off the back of the show, we can have fun following the fellow performers as they go about the humdrum existence of a mere jobbing actor. It is to my great surprise however to see that Jamie Hector has decided to leave the acting fraternity and become a footballer…most likely for Manchester United, current England Premier League champions.

Ashley Young and Marlo Stanfield – never in the same room together. 

  

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Adverts that really p*ss me off; part 327

Although this has been running for a while and I thought nothing of it, something has changed recently to make me wholeheartedly despise the advert that I will outline below.

Maybe it’s the fact it’s been repeated a lot recently, but something nauseates when it comes to the Renault Megane adverts currently being screened in the UK. Seeking not to promote a car, but merely to make and reinforce pointless and spurious comparisons between a colder, less sunny town in the north of England and a supposedly happier town in the south of France, this advert is pure evil.

Firstly, let’s talk about the stereotypes. French men have to have 2 days worth of stubble (at least), must not be able to learn any proper English or master the wholly simple English accent. Furthermore, in order to look stylish, they must also wear a cravat. A cravat? No, not a cravat in the sense of “oh, that’s what the French call a tie”. No. Something that only quite old people (or eccentric) or both, wear. Think of David Niven and you’ll probably know what a cravat is.

I’ll not dwell on the English stereotypes, but a more contrived sample of people you could not even conjure up. Wonky teeth, over-weight, classical “Northern” i.e. Lancashire, accent and lacking the oh so sophisticated Gallic flair.

So, some people from Gisburn haven’t left England? I bet some people from fucking Menton haven’t left France either; backward looking, ignorant peasants. I’ll also bet however that everyone in Gisburn can rely on an indoor toilet.

So whilst I’ve dished out a few stereotypes of my own there (merely to make a point you understand), what really annoys me is that there can only be a couple of explanations for such an ad. Firstly, it’s serious in which case it wants to undo more than a century of entente cordiale; which would be bad. Or perhaps secondly, it is meant to be funny, a parody or ironic in some clumsy way. In which case it has failed.

And amongst all of this, there is not one thing I find funny.

Renault ought to be boycotted by any living Englishman AND Frenchman for such obvious cliches and hackneyed comparisons. Likewise the ad agency Publicis (another great Anglo-French coming together?) for having the barefaced cheek to produce such twaddle.

In any case, the newer Megane looks like a Ford Focus (a much better car) and the ad for its predecessor was far superior, due to it actually having a sense of humour and for it advertising quite an interesting looking car.

Oh well, c’est la vie…enjoy the far superior ad with much posterior

Rich Hall’s Dirty South, or, How Hollywood just doesn’t get the South

 

Repeated from July 2010, Rich Hall‘s The Dirty South, shows the comedian turning his attention to Hollywood‘s portrayal of the south.  And to be more accurate, how it has misunderstood, misrepresented and mis-sold the southern states.  Using interviews, archive footage and movie clips, Rich states a brilliant case that will make you think twice when you also fall back on generalisation and cliche when describing or poking fun at the south.

Aside from Hall’s general presentational style (best described as flat or deadpan and also ascerbic) which I enjoy, clips from Deliverance, In the Heat of the Night and To Kill a Mockingbird are brilliantly used to re-enforce his point.

Whilst the easy path to take is one that mocks the south and southerners, at least for those of us who’ve never been there, don’t live there…Rich Hall’s documentary shows us a friendly, vibrant and most definitely mis-understood south that we should not be quite so quick to parody and take the piss out of.  At the very least, the programme explains why we may have such simplistic views of this part of the US and his revelation about Burt Reyolds is absolutely outstanding.  Catch it on BBC iPlayer while you can.

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3D rant

For this, you DO need crappy glasses

No, you don’t need crappy plastic glasses to read this one. I was sat in the pub during the week, watching football in 3D and thinking to myself “this is quite shit”.  OK, shit may be a bit harsh, but it just didn’t do anything for me.  Maybe a little bit of extra depth, but the most notable thing was the Sky Sports logo coming out of the screen. So what’s all the fuss? I ask myself.  Firstly with football and perhaps sport in general, it isn’t filmed in such a way that the ball will come flying towards you as it screams into the goal, or that a tackle is shown heading right for you.  When watching sport, you need a complete picture and that means wider camera angles, further away from the action.  And of course this lessens the impact of 3D viewing.   I wouldn’t say that the experience is a total washout, but just nowhere near what is promised.

3D does have some advantages

However, this did all get me thinking about 3D in general – on TV, at the cinema – and where we’re going with it.  Already there are what I’ll refer to as divisions.  Firstly, we have films such as Avatar and JackAss 3D.  Filmed in 3D and deliberately so, so as to take advantage of the medium these look great and have been designed to maximise the viewing experience.  However, what we also have is films that are adapted 3D; such as Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland.  Whilst I don’t have a problem with this, it seems to me a bit of a cop out and it would also appear that studios and theatre owners have a battle on their hands.  Not that the battle is due to “real” 3d or otherwise, but could we be witnessing more of these conflicts as more and more releases contain 3D?  Quite posibly yes, is my theory.

But as the march towards total 3D continues apace, could there be an even bigger hurdle to overcome for total and utter 3 dimensional domination?  According to this report 12% of Britain is 3D blind, meaning that whatever 3D is dished-up, be it at home or on the big screen, a lot of people will genuinely not care  - far more than I don’t care because I see it as an unnecessary gimmick.  These people won’t be buying the TVs or the DVDs and they sure as hell won’t go to watch the films.  But then, is 3D really anything serious?  Is it the make or break between a good film and a bad film?  I think not.  Whilst Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time, it didn’t win a “proper” Oscar, it just looked great.  Nothing wrong with that of course, but this reviewer has had enough of what is essentially an old technology being stuffed down his throat in all 3 glorious dimensions.

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Upod gets serious: Metropolis, restored edition

As far as Upod is concerned, anything is game: who else would bring you reviews of Black Sheep, Let The Right One in, Lord of War and 500 days of summer?

I recently had the opportunity, courtesy of the British Film Institute (BFI) to watch the most up-to-date and restored version of Fritz Lang‘s masterpiece, Metropolis on the big screen.  So in a departure from the usual Upod frivolities I made my way to London’s Southbank and settled down to some serious cinema history.

There has been much written about this film over the years and to be honest there is very little that I can add to what already exists.  What I can however say is that I was simply stunned by a silent film that is 83 years old.

Produced when German cinema was at the height of its influence it is also the most expensive silent film ever made, costing around 5 million Reichsmark at the time.  Let us not forget however that this is essentially a sci-fi film and one with such vision and fine execution that modern audiences will have no problem marvelling at the special effects.  Whilst we are nearly all so accustomed to a faster pace of film (Anton Corbijn‘s The American being a notable exception in recent times) with quick cuts and sharp editing, it is testament to Fritz Lang’s skill as a film-maker that for 150 minutes I never felt bored or wanted to look at my watch.  Indeed, I was so taken by the story, acting, set designs and musical score that I could have happily sat there for another hour.

 As this version is the latest and greatest, restored from reels found in Argentina, I will conclude by wholeheartedly recommending this on Blu-Ray.  If you have had any doubts at all about tucking into black and white silent cinema, this really is a treat to behold and worth every penny and minute.

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More bad santa?

We move from Finland to the Netherlands for our next dose of anti-Santa.  Whilst your reviewer can’t claim to have seen either Rare Exports or Sint he does feel in the mood to publicise movies that don’t quite take the usual Christmas turn of events, Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life etc.

Added to this, I do like the country and the people of the Netherlands and as Upodcasting hasn’t yet reviewed a Dutch film I thought I could at least seasonally set the scene for Dutch review in 2010. 

In any case…any film that depicts St. Nicholas as a murderous bishop who kidnaps and murders children when there is a full moon can’t be that bad and deserves a mention.


Sint English subbed trailer
Uploaded by blankytwo. – Classic TV and last night’s shows, online.

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Star Wars: episode i…Pad

 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Adam Buxton was creating this amusing take on what Han, Luke, Chewie and the others would have made of the iPad

Kudos to Adam Buxton for this and note the Mac start-up sound at the beginning…

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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Rant is back!

After a lengthier than expected absence, the rants are now back.  I guess I’ve built up quite a stockpile of things to vent my spleen about in all this time!

I’d like to kick-off with something that we’ve all been afflicted by at some point in our lives…the badly dubbed advert.  I’ll move on to some examples further on, but I think what is the question here is just a big fat, WHY?  Surely if you, as a company can afford to advertise on TV, you have a decent bank balance and can afford an extra few grand to pay local actors and make your advert.  However crappy and cheap looking it may well be.

And just as surely, if you don’t want to pay out for local actors, then avoid having conversations in your ads.  Just avoid the issue and spare us all these awfully dubbed scenes of domestic bliss and harmony – even if in some cases they’re so horrifically awful they’re funny.  Don’t get me wrong…ads don’t all have to be amazing; I understand you don’t need a field of burning sugar cane to sell window cleaner.  But they should at least treat the audience and lest we forget, customers with a bit of respect and a modicum of sense.

It’s not that I’m even in the market for a lot of these products – I don’t like chocolate, don’t have grey hair that I want to cover-up, don’t like cold rice pudding served in a tiny plastic pot, don’t have spots, can wipe my own bottom without the help of a cartoon frog and don’t have a problem with bad smells in my home.  But what I am in the market for is an advertiser who perhaps has a vague cultural interest in the markets they’re advertising in; who can actually be arsed to pay a bit more to have a better end product than the competition.

Over the years there have been quite a few no doubt, but here’s my selection, past and present.  Please comment and add some more.  Plus a clip of a particularly bad example from the people at Glade and Mr Muscle.  Enjoy.

(You’ll notice there’s a common theme across the adverts / products – they are all what is known as FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) and are all made by huge corporations: Ferrero, P&G, SCJohnson etc.  Quite clearly they don’t give that much of a sh*t, despite the billions they make each year).

Ferrero Rocher (a classic in the 70s/80s and still a classic today), Lindt chocolate adverts.  Oust and Febreeze.  Muller Rice.  Just for Men.  Kinder Surprise.  Clearasil.  Kandoo kiddies bottom wipes.

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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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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.