Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Monday, 26 December 2011

Film Review of the Year 2011

The temptation to do a Top Ten of the year list is great, but it is easily outweighed by my certain knowledge that I am unable to draw up a satisfactory version: many of 2011’s best films have not yet received a release here, and I am still catching up on a couple. All that is left for me to do is list of some my best and worst moments in my cinematic year in 2011.

Friday, 23 December 2011

The First Hobbit Trailer has Arrived

A quick word on the long awaited trailer for next year’s first instalment of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Kevin Maher, writing on The Times’ Film Spy blog (£), described it “as the tiniest bit underwhelming”, before revealing that he (surprise, surprise) was not a Lord of the Rings fan. I can tell him, as a member of the generation that was blown away by the original trilogy, that he is flat out wrong. In the same way that some people should just change the channel when Jeremy Clarkson comes on, Mr Maher should avoid this film at all costs. He is just going to get upset.

For the rest of us, this was very exciting stuff indeed. Sure, there’s a large thrill out of simply seeing Middle Earth back on screen, but with that nostalgia come many fears as well. How can these films possibly live up to the originals? Will the magic have gone? Will it be Star Wars all over again?

Thursday, 22 December 2011

London's Critics go for a Drive

London Critics' Circle nominate American action thriller and Tinker Tailor for Best Film

Let joy be unconfined: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has secured some nominations! The London Critics' Circle, Britain’s second biggest film awards after the BAFTAs, has given the film six nominations, including Best Film, Best British Film and Best Actor for Gary Oldman, which is great news, though the lack of a nomination for director Tomas Alfredson is distressing.

However, it is also good to see that Tinker Tailor is tied on six nominations with Drive, the American action-thriller which, like the British espionage drama, has been shamefully overlooked so far this awards season. Despite having won the Best Director award at Cannes and receiving a warm critical reception, it has been another strange absentee from the lists of nominees which have been pouring out of the States.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Come back Woody! All is forgiven!

Hollywood is welcoming one of its favourite sons back into the fold

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is steadily picking up nominations in the awards season, including a Best Ensemble Cast SAG nomination, and four at the Golden Globes. In all honesty, the warmth of this reception is in part down to the fact that Hollywood has never fallen out of love with Woody. He remains one of America’s most enduringly popular directors, despite that fact that he often turns out disappointing films. His back catalogue has earned him a lot of leeway.

It is also down to the high enjoyment factor of Midnight in Paris. To those that have not seen it, I highly recommend it, but to read any more of this article may ruin it for, as there is a central conceit which has to be revealed in order to discuss it. I would suggest that the film is seen before this is read.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Whither Tinker Tailor?

This has to be one of the most open awards seasons in years. The morning of the Golden Globe nominations is upon us and there is no front runner. If only the Republican field for President was this strong.

However, amongst the numerous winners in the critics’ awards and nominees in the early guild awards, one film is strangely absent. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has just started a limited awards season release in the US, where it garnered the best per-theatre average of the weekend. Unfortunately, it was only on four screens. It has received reviews of a similar high standard as it did in the UK, but it has only picked up a handful of critics nods, and, yesterday, Gary Oldman was omitted (shamefully, I might add) from the Best Actor shortlist for the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards (SAGs).

Monday, 7 November 2011

Review: Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights reaches new lows

Director: Andrea Arnold
Screenwriter: Andrea Arnold, Olivia Hetreed, based on the novel by Emily Brontë
Cast: Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Shannon Beer, Solomon Glave and Oliver Milburn
New adaptation of Emily Brontë’s classic novel about frustrated love. When Heathcliffe (Solomon Glave/James Howson) is adopted by the Earnshaw family, he falls into a troubled romance between himself and his foster sister, Cathy (Kaya Scodelario/Shannon Beer).
Running Time: 128m 46s

One wonders whether great stories can be adapted too much; if there is a point where the tale is so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness that it simply cannot survive another retelling. On the other hand, perhaps a story can survive endless tellings and retellings, or that a mark of a truly great narrative is that it does so.

Whatever one’s thoughts on those questions, Andrea Arnold’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights is a clear attempt to inject new life into the classic Emily Brontë story. More overt racial tensions have been thrown into the storyline with a black Heathcliffe (though given recent events, it may have been more relevant to keep him as a gypsy), and there is a greater emphasis on violence and brutality to both humans and animals than in many other versions of this work. Unfortunately, none of this serves to make a compelling watch.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Review: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Spielberg rediscovers the secret of the great blockbuster

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenwriter: Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish
Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Daniel Craig
When youthful journalist and adventurer Tintin buys a model ship in a market square, he has no idea what he has gotten himself into. His flat is ransacked, he is kidnapped and he goes on an adventure to discover the mysterious secret of the Haddock’s and the villainous Red Rackham.
Running Time: 106m 47s

There has been something of a muted response to the Steven Spielberg-Peter Jackson’s first adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin. Many have found it to be unengaging and have said that the characters have not really been brought to life, amongst other criticisms.

Whilst some of these complaints are perfectly valid, most of them miss the point. This is a comic book brought to life on the screen, lovingly, effectively and thrillingly. It is not the greatest film that Spielberg has ever made, but it is him very much back on home territory, doing what he does best, and what he produces is a spectacular where what it lacks in real emotional heart is made up for in boys-own thrills.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Review: The Ides of March

Friends, Americans, Academy Voters: Lend George your Consideration

Director: George Clooney
Screenwriter: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, based on the play “Farragut North”, by Beau Willimon
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney and Paul Giamatti
Plot: The Democratic Presidential Primary race is finely poised. Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) holds a delicate lead over his opponent, but it is fragile. Working on his campaign is the young media mind, Stephen Meyers (Gosling), who is idealistic and believes in this candidate. However, he is the focal point for a series of events which will change the shape of the campaign and expose him to dirty tricks, all of which start when he is approached by opposing campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Giamatti), who suggests he changes sides.
Running Time: 100m 46s

One thing you can be sure about with George Clooney is that he is almost certainly going to turn out interesting work. Whatever project he’s connected with, whether as a live actor, writer-director or even just a voice actor, will be worth talking about. Even his last directorial effort, the American-Football-based screwball comedy Leatherheads, had a charm about it and a rich visual feel which was diverting, despite it being a total flop critically and commercially.

Here, he returns to the sort of terrain he was on with his best film, Good Night, and Good Luck. The setting of The Ides of March is political, the atmosphere is serious and the style leans toward the film noir. However, whereas Good Night was about issues as much as it was about character, the story here is one of loyalty and betrayal which just happens to have a political backdrop.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Film Review: Contagion

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases, and also make a very decent thriller

Director: Steven Soderburgh
Screenwriter: Scott Z. Burns
Cast: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle & Marion Cotillard
A virulent and highly deadly virus spreads across the globe after an initial breakout in South East Asia. As mortality rates rise and rise and chaos takes hold on the streets, the US Centre of Disease Control and the World Health Organisation struggle to find a cure.
Running Time: 106m 15s
Certificate: 12A - Contains moderate physical and psychological threat and brief medical gore

One of the messages of Contagion is that public hysteria is as dangerous as a vicious, international virus. Funny then that it’s being released in cold and flu season, as this quietly unnerving film will never let you look at coughs and sneezes in the same way ever again.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Review: Tyrannosaur

Considine's debut serves up a gruelling watch but a worthwhile one

Director & Screenwriter: Paddy Considine
Cast: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman & Eddie Marsan
A widower who is violent, unemployed and running out of money and a Christian woman who is suffering from terrible abuse from her husband form an unlikely friendship.
Running Time: 92m 21s
Certificate: 18 - Contains very strong language and a scene of sexual violence

Paddy Considine is one of those ever-reliable performers. With a wide array of parts in films ranging from the black revenge thriller, Dead Man’s Shoes, to the Hollywood blockbuster, The Bourne Ultimatum, to the Pegg and Frost police comedy, Hot Fuzz, Considine has turned his hand to every kind of role and has always had found success. Now, he has started to show us that he is equally unflappable as a director.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Human Centipede Banning Saga has been a Farce

Film takes 32 cuts to receive 18 certificate, and whips up its publicity in the process

There is something hugely appropriate that the premise of The Human Centipede involves people excreting and eating shit. I say this not as a criticism of the film as I have never stoked up the courage to watch the film. I say this as a comment on the ridiculous media posing which has accompanied the upcoming release of the second film, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence). The film’s makers have been churning out excrement, and now we’re being asked whether or not we’d like to eat it.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Review: Terra Nova

Time-travel, Dinosaurs and Stephen Lang: this Sci-Fi Dream Team Should be Great Fun

On first showing, Terra Nova is the Harlem Globetrotters of sci-fi. Take a dash of Blade Runner for starters followed by a smidgeon of Stargate and a whole load of Avatar (there’s even Stephen Lang), mixed with Jurassic Park plus a little bit of Lost, and you have Terra Nova.

The set-up is that by the 22nd Century, Earth has been utterly choked, but a rip in time has appeared providing a portal to a different time stream, 85 million years in the past. In short, mankind is going to the time of the dinosaurs to build a perfect new society, and we follow a family who are joining this brave new world.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Juror's Film Festival: 12 Angry Men (d. Sidney Lumet, 1957)

There was, of course, no more perfect ending to a fortnight of jury service than watching 12 Angry Men. It is very rightly held to be one of the greatest films ever made: a supreme example of subtle acting and direction working together to bring a tight and compelling script to the screen for an almost flawless 90 minutes.

It’s a celebration of the nature of the justice system in a modern democracy. The plot concerns a murder trial which seems open and shut, but one juror (Henry Fonda), isn’t sure that they can convict. He is facing an 11 to 1 majority, but he slowly decimates the certainty of the case and exposes reasonable doubt at every turn.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Juror's Film Festival: One of our Dinosaurs is Missing (d. Robert Stevenson, 1975)

Favourites really can be very odd. A favourite film can be forged by a moment in time as much as they can be by the greatness of the film. For instance, Sink the Bismarck will always hold a very special place in my heart because, as boys, my brother and I watched it endlessly, delighting in aspects of it which, now, we must admit are in fact a bit lacking.

So it was that I was encouraged to watch One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing with a friend who adored it. She had fallen in love with it as a child, and the film has a great pedigree. Directed by Robert Stevenson, the maker of such family favourites as Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Love Bug and the absolutely classic Mary Poppins, it has all of the feel of those classics: a great British cast (Peter Ustinov, Derek Nimmo and Helen Hayes are the leads), that peasouper London setting and a positively madcap plot.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Juror's Film Festival: Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)

One of the greatest science-fiction films ever made has been ruined by the mother of all spoilers. If you, by some frankly inexplicable stroke of good fortune, do not know the ending of the original Planet of the Apes, I implore you to go and watch it and stop reading this review forthwith. I envy those who have been able to watch this film unspoilt.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Is 3D dying or has it merely stumbled?

The future for 3D looks pretty bleak, but are things as bad as they seem?

Two weeks ago, I was able to ask Mark Kermode a question: how long do you think 3D has to last? “Less than 12 months”, he replied. I was staggered by his confidence. After all, there are two big films coming up this year which will make money in 3D, namely the Spielberg-Jackson production of Tintin and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Then, in 15 months’ time, we have The Hobbit in 3D. There seems to be plenty of opportunity for the medium to fire itself back to life.

Juror's Film Festival: Vera Drake (d. Mike Leigh, 2004)

Vera Drake is an absolute masterpiece. It may seem an unappealing prospect to many, but the rewards it gives its audience are immense. This is a drama which is affecting, superbly understated and perfectly delivered in every way.

Set in 1950, the film focuses on an absolutely lovely woman, the eponymous Vera Drake, who is a devoted wife and mother and is always looking out for people around the community. She also “helps young girls out” by performing backstreet abortions, unbeknownst to her family and friends. She believes that it is the right thing to do, but eventually the law catches up with her.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

David Croft, writer of Dad's Army, has died aged 89

David Croft, the creator and writer of many of the BBCs greatest sitcoms including Dad’s Army and Allo! Allo! has died at the age of 89. In a career which spanned five decades, Croft delivered many of the most amusing and brilliant British comedies of the last century.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Juror's Film Festival: Local Hero (d. Bill Forsyth, 1983)

It is a very simple plot. A multi-national oil company attempts to buy out a small seaside town in Scotland, but one resident cannot be bought. There is no great complexity here. Local Hero is uncomplicated, and yet it is a story which deals with so much: greed, redemption, love, loneliness, the idea of one person being able to change things far bigger than himself, and what the point of having a life might be anyway are all covered here in a sweet and funny tale.

Even though it does do all of those things, it should not be thought that the film is at all heavy-handed. It is quite the opposite. In fact, the cornerstone of the charm of this film is how relaxed and natural it feels. It is not a comedy which attempts to go for huge laughs but is very funny with subtle humour and wit permeating both Bill Forsyth’s script and his direction. Everything is handled with the lightest of touches, and as such the film is hugely watchable and entertaining and just seems to achieve greatness effortlessly.

Juror's Film Festival: Requiem for a Dream (d. Darren Aronofsky, 2000)

The last film I saw by Darren Aronofsky was the superb Black Swan, and when I came out of it I was exhilarated, terrified, thrown completely off kilter and just spewing adjectives left, right and centre. My reaction to Requiem for a Dream was very similar, so here goes with the descriptions which just fell out of my mouth.

This is brutal, unrelenting, depressing, crushing, painful, horrific, brilliantly made, quietly clever, devastating and, all in all, the most horrid film I’ve ever seen, but in the best possible way. The fact is that this is a masterful piece of filmmaking from a man who, at the time of its release, was only 31, and it is a thrilling example of visionary filmmaking that will grip you from the start, but it goes on to torture you and as things get worse and worse, and then catastrophically ghastly, you cannot tear yourself away from it and, I for one will admiringly refer to it a lot from this point forward, but I’m never watching it again because to do so would be frankly sadomasochistic.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Juror's Film Festival: Coraline (d. Henry Selick, 2009)

Henry Selick and Tim Burton must have been separated at birth. It is the only explanation for these two cinematic kindred spirits. The pair have (inevitably) worked together, and their styles are incredibly complementary to each other, but there is a crucial difference. Selick, far more than Burton, has the eye of a child. A twisted child at that, but a hugely imaginative one.

Juror's Film Festival: Four Lions (d. Chris Morris, 2010)

Four Lions is undoubtedly one of the most awkward films you’ll ever see. After all, it is a comedy about suicide bombers, made by Chris Morris, a man who has never shied away from the uncomfortable and whose humour is frank, brutal and close-to-the-bone.

It is also one of the most important British films made in the last ten years. It attempts to deal, through the most comedic and ridiculous ways, with perhaps the most troubling element of the war on terror: the humanity of terrorists and suicide-bombers.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Review: Warrior

A predictable plot given a shot in the arm by a superb cast

Director: Gavin O'Connor
Screenwriters: Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Dambakis & Cliff Dorfman
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo and Nick Nolte
Plot: The Conlon family has been torn apart by father Paddy’s alcoholism. Elder son Brendan has built a tentative life for himself and his young family, whilst younger son Tommy has just returned as a disturbed Iraq-war veteran. However, with Tommy facing a dead-end life, and Brendan facing huge financial problems, both chase a $5mn prize in a winner-takes-all mixed martial arts tournament and the family tensions come to the fore.
Running Time: 139m 43s

Given the basic plot of this film, I was surprised to see that it had been rated as a 12A (and a PG-13 in the States). How can one make a compelling film about cage-fighting which doesn’t go all out on making the violence convincing enough that you feel like the characters are in danger? The answer is that this is a film which isn’t really about the violence.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Juror's Film Festival: Blow-Up (Michaelangelo Antonioni, 1966)

Blow-up is clearly a very significant film. It is clearly a pretty superb film. It is also a rather tedious and often ridiculous film. It is the proof that a movie doesn’t have to be simply good or bad but can be an infuriating mixture of the two.

Review: SuperHeavy

Super-group. Mixed album.

It was perhaps inevitable that the overlapping styles and strikingly different artists involved in SuperHeavy’s eponymous album would produce a mixed bag, and that is what we get across the 12 tracks here.

Juror's Film Festival: Big Fish (Tim Burton, 2003)

Tim Burton often thrives on blurring the lines between fairy tale and reality, but whereas with Edward Scissorhands the fairy tale bursts into a world of Americana as an alien force, here the two sit side-by-side, almost undifferentiated.

The story is of Edward Bloom (Albert Finney/Ewan McGregor), a teller of tall tales who is coming to the end of his time. His son, however, has tired of the blatant exaggerations and falsehoods that his father still tells. Over the course of Edward’s last days, the story of his life is recounted, strange and fantastical in its nature, but as his son, Will (Billy Crudup), investigates his father’s life, he discovers that there may be more truth in his father’s stories than he suspected.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Juror's Film Festival

I have been summoned for Jury Service. Starting from tomorrow, I have (at least) two weeks of hanging around and a surprising amount of time-off to fill. So, I’ve decided to hold a personal film festival. For each of the ten working days that I’m on duty, there will be a film which I really should have seen but have not.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Review: Kill List

Brutal but baffling, this is a disappointing mixed bag

Director: Ben Wheatley
Screenwriters: Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump
Cast: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Michael Smiley and Emma Fryer
Plot: Jay and Gal are two hitmen who take on a job to kill three men. The list is bizarre, the people on it being apparently unlinked, nor appearing to have done anything wrong. However, as they begin their killings, they become aware that they are into something far bigger, twisted and dangerous than they could have suspected.
Running Time: 95m 26s

One of the most effectively marketed films of the year, Kill List seems to be most akin to Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes, a brutal and emotional revenge film, made on a shoestring but producing tremendous atmosphere.

Kill List is not a revenge film. In fact, it defies such definition, looking like a hitman film at first, but, even in the very early stages of the film, there are suggestions that this may not be what it seems. In the opening, unpleasant dinner party scene, there is a brief cutaway to show a guest carving an enigmatic symbol into the back of a mirror. Expect the unexpected – you’ll have no idea where this story is headed.

Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

An unexpected man is atop cinema's circus

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Screenwriters: Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan, based on the novel by John le Carré
Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds and David Dencik
Plot: A mission is botched in Hungary, and the ruling order of MI:6 is sent packing. However, when it emerges that there is a long-standing and high-ranking mole, one of the retired spies, George Smiley, is brought back to "the circus" to find the traitor.
Running Time: 127m 21s
Certificate: 15 - Contains strong language, sex, violence and bloody injury detail

Cinema has a new number one spy. Grey-haired, myopic and a cuckold, George Smiley is a million miles away from James Bond or Jason Bourne, and whereas they would thrill audiences with car chases and gunfights, Smiley exhilarates by interrogating an empty chair.

The fact is that comparisons between those franchises and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are flawed for so many reasons, but if this film is successful (and it has great potential to be so) it will be a great victory for the sort of intelligence which was merely glimpsed in Casino Royale and entirely absent from Quantum of Solace. With a potential trilogy in the offing, could it be that the multiplexes are about to adore a spy who is “small, podgy, and at best middle-aged”?

Read the rest on The Spectator Arts Blog

Thursday, 15 September 2011

John le Carré on Film: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

A look at the first le Carré film adaptation

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is released on Friday, and it is a magnificent film – atmospheric, thrilling and supremely well-acted, it is a piece of filmmaking precision based on a terrific story by John le Carré. I urge you to go and see it, but if you’re stuck at home, try and get a hold of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

Review: The Skin I Live In

In the hands of a madman...

Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Screenwriter: Pedro Almodóvar, based on the novel “Tarantula”, by Thierry Jonquet
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet, Marisa Paredes, Blanca Suarez & Roberto Alamo
Plot: Doctor Robert Ledgard is a successful plastic surgeon living in a secluded where he is keeping “a patient”, the beautiful Vera, in total isolation. The arrival of the maid’s criminal son arrives whilst Robert is away triggers a series of recollections about Robert’s tragic past, how Vera came to be there and what her surgery may have been for.
Running Time: 120m 19s

The issue of spoilers in reviews is a tricky one. You must give a small idea of what the plot is but shouldn’t give away too much. It’s the observer effect in film form – to talk to somebody about watching a film is to change their experience of watching it. In the case of Pedro Almodóvar’s new film, The Skin I Live In, it feels as though to say anything about the content of the film or even the films it is drawn from is to tamper with it.

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Opinionated but Brilliant Dr Kermode

Radio 5's controversial film critic is exemplary of all that a critic should be 

I am a Kermode fanatic. Some of you will not be. I think him to be witty, incisive and entertaining. Some of you will think him to be smug, opinionated and irritating. Both valid opinions, but, to quote the great man himself, the difference is that I am right and you are wrong.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Film Review: The Guard

The Gleeson Effect Strikes Again

Director and Screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong and Fionnula Flanagan
Plot: Sergeant Gerry Boyle is an unconventional police officer. Sweary, durg-abusing and hooker-using, he can build up quite a rap-sheet of his own, but he is also an honest cop in a quiet rural Irish setting. A murder is discovered just as a major FBI drug-smuggling investigation moves into the area, but in an area of bent coppers, Boyle is the only one who sets about investigating.
Rating: 15

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Monday, 22 August 2011

Notebook: By the graves of giants

This week, the OUDS/Thelma Holt Tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at The Actors’ Church in Covent Garden, and the names on the walls are more than a little intimidating

At first sight it looks lovely, and, indeed it is. St Paul’s, Covent Garden. Originally designed by Inigo Jones in the 1630s, this central London Church retains a great deal of charm, as well as an unoppressive sense of solemnity – enough to inspire reverence, but not so much as to require near silence.

The Hour Cometh to its End

It has been a soap-opera for the youthful literati, but I want a spin-off…

What at first glance looked like a stylish drama, turned out to be a well-shot frolic. Yes there was a smattering of gender politics and an interesting hum of history sounding dimly in the background, but sod them. Give me illicit affairs in beautiful country houses and absurd cold war spy plots.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Notebook: Dreamin' in the Rain

The triumph of  a garden play over the elements highlighted one of the great truths about theatre

Backstage just before a play begins would seem curious to the uninitiated. Strangely dressed and made-up people wander about muttering to themselves, putting forth only half of an out of context conversation.

For those of us in the OUDS/Thelma Holt production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, such things are just part of day-to-day life. Last night, however, was different.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Sex, the Pope & HBO

As The Borgias gets going, Reel 6 looks at the appeal of the Renaissance

It is no surprise that the age of syphilis was a bit of a romp. It is certainly proving very fertile ground for TV networks, as we start getting our teeth into The Borgias on Sky Atlantic. Over the past few years, many have enjoyed The Tudors, though I found that my interest level in that was directly proportional to my hormone level: the more balanced I became, the more and more I became aware of the fact that Jonathan Rhys-Meyers believes that the sum-total of acting is making your eyes bulge.

Why is it then that the Reformation era is so often a source for big blockbuster TV series? The answers are many and simple.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

New Spectator Arts Blog Post

I have a Spectator Arts Blog post up on the Edinburgh Fringe. Read it here.

Whatever happened to Jack Black?

The comic-actor's career promised much in 2005. How has it got to low level it's at today?

With apes ruling at the cinema at present, my mind turned to one of my favourite films of the last decade: the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. Now, many will say that it’s far too long, far too self-indulgent and far too sentimental. I will accept all bar the last of those, but it is an absolute blast, made with care and love, and delivering some really beautiful moments of cinema, as well as stunning visual effects.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Films on TV: Let the Right One In

I’ve just seen that Let the Right One In is on Film 4 tonight. The Swedish vampire film was hugely popular amongst dedicated fans upon its release and remains well thought of.

About as far from Twilight as you’d wish a vampire flick to be, the film focuses on a child who is bullied and pretty miserable who gets a new neighbour: a strange, pale girl who gives him new confidence. 

The Serkis Phenomenon

Andy Serkis performing as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The time has come to honour Andy Serkis
In a small room somewhere, about 12 years ago, an unknown British actor did something which changed cinema forever. He was auditioning to be the voice of a very big role - one of the most famous literary characters ever – but he didn’t just do the voice but gave an entire performance, changing himself physically and working through the scene as any actor playing a normal part would.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

He came. He saw. He made a damn fine blockbuster.

Director: Rupert Wyatt
Screenwriters: Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo & Andy Serkis
Plot: Will Rodman is a scientist who is seeking the cure for Alzheimer’s. After one of his experiments on apes goes wrong, he smuggles a baby ape out of the lab only to discover that it has been affected by the trial and is incredibly intelligent. He keeps it and calls it Caesar but, when Caesar grows up, a moment of anger brings him to an animal pound where exposure to other simians and mistreatment by his keepers bring about a change in Caesar that poses a great threat to the world outside.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Film Review: Super 8

Michael Bay take note: this is how to make a proper spectacular

Director & Screenwriter: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee and Ron Eldard
Plot: A bunch of kids in a small American town are making a zombie movie with a Super 8 camera. Whilst filming at a train station one night, a passing Air Force train crashes. As the army move in to clean up, a number of curious and increasingly terrifying events start to take place in the town.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Reel 6: Best of July

Picture of the month: Taken Mont d'Azur, Provence, 13th July. Click for full size
Here's a look back at this month's output and the very best of Reel 6 from July.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Have we hit the 3D tipping point?

The anti-3D lobby is growing very strong indeed, and there is a sense that the crucial moment has come. The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 3D has brought about something new: audiences have had a viewing experience where they have really liked the film but absolutely hated the 3D.

Hollywood D.C.

The U.S. Congress has turned its hand to making entertainment first and legislation second

I’m unaware of what the theatre situation is in Washington D.C., but, if there is one, the plays can’t be up to much, as the Congress seems to be determined to make its own entertainment.

Latterly, it was the Budget, saved at the last hour by another continuing resolution, which did what every Hollywood studio executive wants: it left room for a sequel. However, the good men and women of the 112th congress had another idea: a spin off.