Tuesday, 30 November 2010

LOVEFiLM? Watch Catfish!

Image: LoveFilm

Source: Digital Spy

For all you movie lovers, well, the ones who subscribe to LoveFilm, there will be the opportunity to get an exclusive look at the upcoming Facebook flick Catfish before anyone else, as LoveFilm has teamed up with Momentum Pictures to stream the feature online, 3 days before its general release.

On 14 December at 6.30pm members will be able to watch the acclaimed documentary either on LoveFilm's website, or in one of 40 cinemas across the UK.

Backed by the UK Film Council, the event will be followed by an interactive Q&A, giving the online audience a chance to quiz the filmmakers (Henry Joost, Nev Schulman and Ariel Schulman) about the film.

In a statement regarding the event, LoveFilm editor Helen Cowley said, "It is our most ambitious event yet. We are bringing a great new documentary directly to our members' front rooms," According to Cowley, the event is providing members with "an innovative new way to participate in our live interactive webchat and quizzing some of the film industry's hottest talent." Concluding, "This screening marks the expansion of our relationship with Momentum."

Momentum managing director Xavier Marchand added, "What better platform to launch a movie that unravels the dark mysteries of Facebook than a multi-tiered online and offline release - the biggest exclusive premiere we have entered into with LoveFilm. It gives us the opportunity to make our latest releases easily accessible to film lovers across the UK."

Catfish - released 17 December - tells the tale of a male photographer who builds a long-distance relationship with a girl on Facebook.


Monday, 29 November 2010

BFI To Take Over Film Council Role

Image: BFI

Known for its archive, theatres, festivals and education initiatives, the BFI is extending its function in the development of the arts to include funding.

From April 2011, the institute will also be responsible for distributing lottery money to filmmakers - a role previously carried out by the recently abolished Film Council.

In addition, the BFI will be in charge of audience development and public funding to support film across the UK.

Chairman of the BFI Greg Dyke said that the news was a "great vote of confidence for the BFI" and that it's a "bold move to create a single champion for film in the UK" adding, "What we will do now is make sure that our investment in film is properly targeted and transparent".

It was also announced that Film London will continue the Film Council's role of promoting the UK as a filmmaking destination.


Friday, 26 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

7th time is not quite the charm, but the 8th could be

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

As most men say when meeting Harry’s acquaintance, “By golly, it’s Harry Potter!” Yes folks, for the seventh time, it’s Harry Potter. The chosen one and his buddies are back for the penultimate instalment of trickery and hocus-pocus.

Picking up after Dumbledore has dropped off, Harry must race against time to destroy the remaining Horcruxes before Voldemort grasps all he needs to rule the world.

With anticipation for this movie as high as Simon Cowell’s trousers, the film doesn’t waste time establishing the tone of events and impending doom; Muggles are packing up and moving out, ghostly Death Eaters are skulking around in the night, Hermione’s in obliteration mode, and Harry is, well, Harry.

Primarily we’re usually privy to school holiday anecdotes, train rides to Hogwarts and an owl in a birdcage. The bird still gets a brief look in, but there’s no Hogwarts this time around. With a drop of magic potion, we’re straight into the “Who’s Harry?” game as he’s blasted to safety. The celebration, however, is short-lived as Harry, Ron and Hermione are forced to seek shelter elsewhere.

It’s here where the film begins to foil. As much as we credited the main protagonists way back when, when they first stepped into the wizard world, 10 years later the trio, sadly, aren’t charismatic, or able enough to carry a good two thirds of the movie unaccompanied. Furthermore, director David Yates opts to slow down the tempo during this period, seemingly to capture an arduous, thoughtful journey – they’re injured, they’re healed, they fight, they make up - but for all the tardiness, we’re not rewarded, as the search ultimately ends with few results.

Through it all, though, there are moments that shine brighter than the rest. In particular, a magnificent, magical animation, courtesy of Ben Hibon, which illustrates the tale of the three brothers and the deathly hallows. It’s a welcomed short married with live-action; however, the juxtaposition of the overall 18th century wizard environment and contemporary London is rather odd.

The presence of the gothic, death eating clan, including the consistently kooky Helena Bonham Carter, the versatile Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes, who plays bad better than good, is also a high point - although they are sorely missed and remain in the shadows for the most part, as their combined screen time extends to about fifteen minutes.

For all the ladies who love Harry, there are also a couple of almost “Equus” moments and a dollop of HP sauce thrown into the mix, as Yates aches to show us that Radcliffe is no longer a boy. The most memorable testament to this involves Harry and Hermione in a scene that'll make you say “Harry Potter and the Deathly, ooh, Allo!” There's also a sweet moment in the film when the duo take to the dance floor in their tent. They've come of age, and this poignant moment symbolizes that.

All in all, Yates hasn’t done a bad job in setting up the next film. The last quarter certainly packs more of a punch, but more of that punch - with the baddies we love to hate and the ensemble cast - would’ve been a real treat. But for what’s lacking in the plot is made up for with some beautifully dark imagery, and with the bird out, the train off the tracks, and the walls of Hogwarts down, the stage is definitely set for the big finale. So for the love of the g-man, bring it on!



Thursday, 25 November 2010

Santa 4 Sale

Images: Fohnjang Ghebdinga/Fohnhouse

For one day only, today, you can head down to Carnaby Street in London town and see a real Lapland Santa Claus.

Caged and guarded for your own safety, you'll be able to get a closer look at Santa before his general release on the 3rd of December.

It should be stated, though, that the following rules must be adhered to at all times, again, for your own safety:

No Cursing
No Drinking
No Loitering
No Frolicking
No Smoking
No Arguing
And no poking Santa!

Photography, however, is permitted. For more information visit: santa4sale.com


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

You will see a treasure!

Image: Toho

When I can’t sleep I will sometimes stick on My Neighbour Totoro, and it always helps to combat my insomnia. Now, this might make the film sound boring, as one might watch Ceefax to force oneself into sleep through a total lack of interest, but this is not at all the case. Rather, Totoro offers a world of innocence and purity which is so attractive and comfortable that it helps me to relax entirely.
The film, from Japanese animation god Hayao Miyazaki, sees two young girls and their father move to a house in the country. The girls’ mother is in hospital with some unnamed illness, and the father is often busy at work. From the first moments in the new house it is clear that there are supernatural elements at work, as we see dark little balls, described by the batty old lady next door as house spirits, leap for the shadows when doors are opened. Far from being frightened, the children relish the idea of living in a haunted house. When older sister Satsuki goes off to school the younger, Mei, explores the garden, and discovers even more interesting creatures, leading up to her meeting with the impossibly cute and cuddly wood spirit, Totoro.
The dialogue is minimal, as is the plot. As with many of the works from the Studio Ghibli stable, the animation is king. But what animation! The children’s faces are beautifully evocative, the landscapes gorgeously shaded and the magical creatures are all unbelievably delightful. Even the balls of soot creatures have a personality thanks to the clever sound work. Special mention has to be reserved for the Cat Bus. Exactly as it sounds, the Cat Bus is a big feline bus, complete with huge Cheshire Cat grin. Everything about him is cleverly designed, from his squashy, organic doors to his mouse headlights.
The entire film is suffused with a sense of wonderment, with magic to be found even in everyday things. Watching Mei’s exploration of the garden, the plants and trees seemingly gigantesque against her tiny frame, one cannot help but be captivated by the irrepressible joy of discovery which she experiences, even before she catches sight of any of the magical animals hopping around. The scenes of father and daughters cleaning their house or bathing together seem every bit as special as the scenes of the girls riding the Cat Bus or growing impossible trees with their new spirit friends. You could almost say that the domestic and exploratory scenes touch on magical realism, if the rest of the piece wasn’t so damn surreal.
If any criticism can be levelled against the film it would be that the plot is perhaps too slight. While the atmosphere goes a long way to glossing over this, there are moments where the film loses momentum entirely, and a last minute effort to create suspense is too little, too late. However, it may be that I am looking for too much from the film. Perhaps it is necessary to always remind myself that this is a children’s film, and that the flaws I perceive are those that only matter in an adult sphere. This would explain why Totoro is the perfect “getting to sleep” film: there are no dangers or threats or worries in the world of this film, and any darkness which encroaches on the lives of its characters is sure to be repelled by their inherent goodness. With a little help from their fluffy friends!
A final mention for the brilliant, catchy and cute music – like the film, the lyrics are simple and self-explanatory, but this does not reduce their power. It’s really difficult to stop yourself humming along to the theme tune!
A beautiful, uplifting experience, My Neighbour Totoro is a joyous gift for children and a refreshing recall of innocence lost for us big kids. A triumph of simplicity which shouldn’t be missed.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

We Are What We Are (2010)

Cannibal’s Hymn

Image: Artificial Eye
While We Are What We Are, or Somos lo que hay, may not have the cross-over appeal of other recent foreign language art-house horrors like Let the Right One In (don’t believe the poster, the two films have hardly anything in common), this Mexican entry into the sub-genre is an impressive piece of work.

When their father dies in the middle of a shopping centre, Alfredo, Julian, and Sabina must decide who is to become the leader of the family while attempting to mollify their bitter mother. As the oldest, Alfredo is the natural choice, but does he have the strength to go out and get what is required for the family ritual? Meanwhile, the coroner has made an interesting discovery in the father’s stomach contents...

This definitely will not appeal to everyone. It’s very slow in places, and often very gory. None of the characters are sympathetic. Each member of the family is a distinctive monster in their own right, on top of their shared commitment to the ritual. They are cowardly, violent, and cruel. So, no one character to really get behind here. Meanwhile the police are ineffectual, uncaring, and, as it turns out, as monstrous as the family. The rest of the world is portrayed as busy, uncaring, and dirty. When the father collapses at the start of the film, he is removed by two cleaners, while a third quickly mops up the puddle of blood. Within seconds, shoppers are walking over the same spot.

Writer/director Jorge Michel Grau aims for realism with handheld shots of a busy marketplace and packed trains, and a grim and grimy colour scheme. The constant ticking of clocks reminds us that there is precious little time left for the family to find a suitable candidate for their ritual. We’re never really told what happens if they don’t complete it in time, nor why they are cannibals in the first place. Grau has also not made a horror film in terms of shocks and scares. The sequences during which the family attempt to kidnap victims are long and drawn-out, and show the difficult logistics of the situation. It also veers close to dark comedy. Fans of The League of Gentlemen will feel right at home with the strange tone and monstrous characters, superbly brought to life by the excellent cast.

The film could have been paced a little better, as Grau moves determinedly at his own speed. It also might have benefited from a little more exposition, although the lack of an explanation is better than a poor one. But while it has its faults, We Are What We Are is a strong piece of work from a filmmaker with a vision, and it builds to an excellent crescendo.

A slow, bloody film that’s definitely not for everyone. But for viewers willing to give it a chance, it’s a late-night treat.



Saturday, 20 November 2010

Glee Goes Live In The UK

Image: Fox

Source: Newsbeat

Attention all gleeks! The hit American TV show will be making its way to a stage near you as the creators of the show have announced a UK tour commencing next summer.

With concerts all around the country, including two dates at London's O2 Arena and one at Manchester's MEN Arena, the tour will feature popular songs from the award-winning show, including the now synonymous anthem "Don't Stop Believin'", as well as performances from cast members such as Cory Monteith and Lea Michele a.k.a. Finn and Rachel.

The cast have already been on a successful tour in the States, and so it's no surprise that show creator Ryan Murphy wants to bring the party across the pond, stating, "People around the world want to see our cast live and in person, so this European tour is our way of thanking them for the unbelievable way they've embraced our little show."

Tickets go on sale Friday 26 November and will cost between £45 and £55. Not bad for a "little show".


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Karate Kid (2010)

All kung-fu and no karate in this fresh prince remake.
Image: Columbia Pictures
Jaden Smith, son of the infamous Fresh Prince, stars in this ‘80s remake of the same name; however, with the exception of the generic storyline, nothing in this revamp truly compares to the original – not even the matching title. Although, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Set in China, the plot sees 12-year-old Dre (Smith) relocate to Beijing with his mother (Henson), who has recently accepted a new job in the city. Being the new kid on the block, it’s not long before he’s set upon by a gang of local lads, who just so happen to be kung-fuin’ mad. Feeling defenceless, he seeks help from reclusive local caretaker Mr. Han (Chan), who, also, just so happens to know a bit of Kung-fu. What are the odds? Well, considering the film’s set in China, very high! With the help of the maintenance man, Dre must overcome his bullies, whilst trying to fit in to this new place called home.
Smith steps into his lead shoes with confidence. At times, however, it seems as though the mini-me is desperate to please not only his kung-fu master, and love interest, but audiences alike. Herein lies the main problem. In an attempt to prove he’s got the chops to be like his old man, audiences end up with ten extra side dishes when only a main meal of martial arts was ordered - N.B.: remember to ask for a doggy bag next time.
It’s evident within the first quarter of the film that Smith’s got charisma; and his natural ability confirms he has inherited some of Big Willie’s Style. But, your dad didn’t build his career in a day, Junior, so save something for later – and make no mistake folks, there will be a later, and an even later!
All in all, Smith gives a solid breakout performance. Henson, however, is redundant in her matriarchal role; choosing to portray the stereotypical black mother whilst also appearing, at times, to be his annoying sister. Chan, on the other hand, creates the balance that is needed, and is fitting as a burdened man trying to reconnect with the world around him.
With a duration just over the two hour mark, the film is far too long for you to sit comfortably in your chair throughout. But, in the end, it’s a surprisingly pleasant film. It’s not as cool as the original, but what do you expect from a movie aimed at 12-year-olds?
In spite of the film’s flaws, it’s a charming little picture that’s worth the trip to the cinema - if a couple of kids are hanging off your arm.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Due Date (2010)

Never accept a lift from a stranger

Image: Warner Bros.
Due Date seemed like a sure thing. Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis starring as the two leads in the new film from the director of The Hangover. The trailer was great and it looked like the filmmakers had struck gold.

Highly-strung father-to-be Peter Highman (Downey Jr.) is kicked off a plane and put on a no-fly-list, largely due to the actions of oddball aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis). Desperate to make it to the birth of his first child, Peter accepts Ethan’s offer to drive him across the country. Can they make it in time without killing each other?

So, is Due Date a success or a failure? Frankly, it’s somewhere in between. Downey Jr. and Galifianakis play wonderfully off each other; however, the script veers wildly from hilarious to dull. While the two actors are good enough to keep our interest during the lulls, even they can’t make us laugh if they’ve not been given funny things to do.

Downey Jr.’s character is often unlikeable, which may upset some audiences, but why hire someone who’s so good at playing an arrogant jerk if you’re just going to have him sigh and roll his eyes? Peter’s short temper repeatedly gets him into trouble and these are the film’s funniest scenes. They’re also the most likely to cause controversy, with Downey Jr. spitting on a dog, punching a child in the stomach, and getting his ass handed to him by a veteran (Danny McBride). It walks a fine line between offensive and hilarious but I found that they hit the mark. This is probably, as the director has pointed out, because the character is played by Robert Downey Jr.

Galifianakis certainly hasn’t strayed too far from his Hangover character. Ethan is a man-child who’s carrying around a small dog, a collection of headshots and his father’s ashes in a coffee can. He’s also infuriating, causing car crashes, asking incessant questions, and thwarting almost every attempt Peter makes at keeping to a schedule. But he’s also strangely touching. When Peter is too cruel to Ethan, he bursts into tears. It’s here that Due Date will split audiences again. You’ll either find their emotional turmoil touching, or maybe just interesting, or you won’t care at all. You might just hate them both.

In the grand tradition of road movies, Due Date is very patchy. Phillips feels the need for action sequences, but the bigger the escapade, the fewer the laughs. An escape from custody in Mexico is nowhere near as funny as the conversation at a petrol station that precedes it. Meanwhile the supporting cast is incidental. Jamie Foxx shows up briefly in an almost pointless scene, Juliette Lewis is moderately funny as a pot dealer mum, and Downey Jr.’s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang co-star Michelle Monaghan is completely wasted as Peter’s pregnant wife.

As I’ve said, Downey Jr. and Galifianakis pull the film along. A masturbating dog gag isn’t funny until you see the look on Peter’s face. Without its stars, it would have been a train wreck. With them, it’s an often disappointing but intermittently hilarious comedy.

If you like the two actors, check it out. Lower your expectations, though.



Friday, 12 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Premiere Pictures

The stars of the Harry Potter saga braved the cold last night to attend the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 in London's Leicester Square. Hundreds of fans camped outside for days to catch a glimpse of their favourite actors as they arrived on the red carpet, and their efforts were duly rewarded as the cast posed for photos and signed autographs.

The highly anticipated penultimate instalment hits our screens next Friday, with the grand finale arriving in cinemas July 15, 2011.

Emma Watson

J.K. Rowling

Ralph Fiennes

Daniel Radcliffe

Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe

James & Oliver Phelps

Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe

Helena Bonham Carter

Images: Warner Bros.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Tremors (1990)

Monster movie perfection

Image: Universal Studios
What is the greatest monster movie ever made? Let’s chuck out Jaws straight away – it isn’t so much a monster movie as a movie about terror. When we talk about monster movies we don’t mean intelligent, visceral examinations of things that can destroy us – we mean great, big, silly films where we see the monsters gambolling about in broad daylight, gleefully munching up extras. Where, then, to find the best? The 1950s, where fear of the Bomb gave us an entire generation of films in which radioactive beasties destroyed various cities? Perhaps the 1970s, where the success of Jaws led to a swathe of sharp-toothed imitators? No. While many of these films are genuine classics, the best example of a 'killer B' film is a low budget horror-comedy gem named Tremors, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Tremors takes all the best aspects of the best of the 50s films – likeable cast, superb monsters, lots of ammunition – and transposes them to a more modern setting, but one which crucially still echoes the period. While the fear of nuclear war between the USA and the Soviet Union fuelled the nightmares of directors from that epoch, in Tremors the Soviet Union still exists but the only person who fears it is a mad hillbilly weapons expert who is mocked for his over-preparedness. Obviously, when the monsters come, he is the one who they all run to for help.

It is difficult to isolate exactly why the film is so marvellous, but it is telling that it is nigh on impossible to find something wrong with it. The budget was a very modest 11 million dollars, which means that the effects work has a sense of DIY about it, but if anything this only makes the film better. The spirit that goes into animating the “graboids” – giant man-eating underground worms – is very much the same as that which saw greyhounds wrapped in shaggy coats to masquerade as The Killer Shrews! The sparse location, the tiny town of Perfection, Nevada, adds a chilling sense of isolation, with the underground menace rendering any conventional method of escape impossible. Scenes of characters trapped on rocks in the middle of the desert show an almost Hitchcockian ability from director Ron Underwood to make the most of a confined space. The writers, SS Wilson and Brent Maddock, were also responsible for Short Circuit, another subversively comic flick which has likewise stood the test of time rather better than some of its contemporaries.

The small cast is flawless, and so eclectic that the casting director deserves some sort of medal. Our leading men are Valentine McKee and Earl Bassett, beautifully played by Kevin Bacon (in possibly his finest role, aside from Murder in the First) and Fred Ward (never better), two small town handymen whose dreams of escape to the city are hampered by the graboids’ attack. Aforementioned well-armed hick Burt Gummer is played by Michael Gross, best known as the loveable patriarch in Family Ties, while is equally trigger-happy wife Heather is country and western singer and TV star Reba McEntire. Other familiar faces in the cast are Ariana Richards (three years before her role as Lex in Jurassic Park) and Big Trouble in Little China's Victor Wong.

Of course, no monster movie would be complete without scares, and Tremors has them in spades. While the tone never strays too far from comic, a couple of the scenes where Val and Earl discover what has become of some of their fellow residents still pack a jolt, and there is a great jump moment involving a generator.

Tremors’ success spawned a series of straight to video sequels and a television series, which unfortunately (but unavoidably) demonstrate the law of diminishing returns. However, the fact that the original is so perfect means that the second film is still very good indeed, showcasing some remarkably impressive early CGI work. Even later instalments in the series benefit from great performances (with Burt moving to the fore as the main character, always as antisocial and weapons-mad as ever) and biting humour. Tremors’ continuing legacy is a sign of just how brilliant the original film is, yet it remains shamefully unrecognised as a classic.

Still feeling as fresh today as it did when it was released twenty years ago, Tremors is one worm definitely worth turning for.



Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Let Me In (2010)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before...

Image: Icon Film Distribution

Prior to this film’s release, writer/director Matt Reeves was working hard to convince people of his good intentions. After all, the announcement that the much-loved Swedish horror Let the Right One In would be American-ized was greeted with the same reaction as if Reeves had announced he would be punching the original’s child actors in their faces for two hours. Slowly but surely, however, we were assured of his good intentions, and early reviews suggested that it was really rather good.

The story remains the same, but now set in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It’s 1983, and young Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is having a tough time. His parents are getting a divorce, leaving him with his alcoholic, barely-present mum. He’s relentlessly bullied at school. But then Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) moves in next door with her dad (Richard Jenkins). The two begin a tentative relationship, but when a series of grisly murders begin, Owen starts to realise Abby’s not like other girls.

When I saw Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In, I loved the faithfulness to John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, but I was also impressed by what had been excised. The author and the director collaborated to make a film that told the same story but was a distinctly separate entity. Reeves clearly decided that faithfulness was the best course to take, and while he avoids many of the usual pitfalls of remakes and has escaped the mauling I’m sure he was afraid of, Let Me In falls prey to redundancy.

There’s a lot here that deserves recognition. Reeves strives to establish a different place and mood to the original with several nice touches. Ronald Reagan’s speaking about evil, the TV’s asking if you know where your children are, and the police are scared to death of devil-worshipping cults. It also looks great, with the yellow lights of home sickly rather than comforting and red warning lights flashing in the darkness. The film is very well cast. Smit-McPhee (The Road) brings out the weird side of Owen nicely, but isn’t as likeably hapless as Kåre Hedebrant. Moretz (Kick-Ass) is excellent, but by making Abby slightly more childlike than Lina Leandersson she loses something of the ethereal quality. Jenkins (Six Feet Under, The Visitor) invests The Father with an impressive amount of heart and sensitivity while remaining appropriately horrifying, while Elias Koteas (Crash, Zodiac) is underused as the dogged detective.

There are two major obstacles to everyone’s good work. Firstly, Let the Right One In was released very recently. Even if it wasn’t as beloved as it is, everyone would still have a very clear idea of what the characters should look like and how the scenes should play out. Smit-McPhee and Moretz are excellent but they aren’t my Eli and Oscar, which meant I wasn’t as emotionally involved. Secondly, because Reeves insists on sticking so closely to the original, the majority of the scenes run the risk of direct comparison. The Father’s murders are different and among the film’s best sequences, and the cat-attack has thankfully disappeared, but otherwise it’s the same again. And when it’s stacked up against Let the Right One In, it fails. The swimming pool and “What happens if I don’t invite you in?” scenes are the most notably inferior.

Reeves’ film is desperate to be loved but there’s just not enough distance between the two films to justify its existence. The experience is somewhat similar to watching the film of Watchmen. It’s a faithful to the point of pointlessness, well-acted, well-shot, curio that’s worth a look if you’re interested, but otherwise; go back to the source material.

Does the job, and is the best we could have hoped for, but it’s ultimately pointless and a little hollow. If you haven’t seen the original you’ll enjoy it, but I’d strongly recommend you to watch Alfredson’s film first.



Monday, 8 November 2010

Warner Bros. To Set Up Permanent UK Base

Image: Warner Bros.

Hertfordshire is to get a Hollywood makeover in the coming months as Warner Bros. announced today that it had bought Leavesden Studios - the home of many movies, including the Harry potter films - and plans to redevelop it. The new complex will be the studio’s permanent UK base, and will cost £100m to build.

Warner Bros has stated that the old studio won’t be completely destroyed: the bigwigs across the pond plan to build the new base around the existing facilities, adding new features such as a visitor centre, which will host set tours.

Already boasting a workforce of 1,500 employees, Warner plans to create an additional 300 jobs on the lot, and turn the area into a creative hub for filmmaking in the UK.

The image above illustrates the scale of the studio’s plans, with Warner chief Barry Meyer stating that the acquisition "demonstrates our long-term commitment to, and confidence in, the skills and creativity of the UK film industry".

The Hollywood studio is expected to announce the closure of the deal on Wednesday, with a plan to open the new back-lot in 2012.


Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

But what about the grown-ups?

Image: Focus Features

The Kids Are All Right has been released on Halloween weekend in the UK, presumably to provide an alternative for non-horror fans. I’m not sure whether this will hurt or hinder its chances at the box office, but it’s a film that should have an impressively broad appeal.

One month before she leaves home to go to college, at the urging of her younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson), Joni (Mia Wasikowska) calls the man who donated sperm to her two mums, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore). The man turns out to be handsome laid-back restaurateur Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Paul gets more and more involved in their lives, as Nic and Jules’ relationship becomes increasingly strained.

Films with unconventional families often run the risk of overstating their difference to other run-of-the-mill comedy-dramas, culminating in a scene in which the characters remind themselves that they aren’t like other people and hey, that’s OK. So it’s a relief that writer/director Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) instead opts for a more relaxed, realistic approach. Jules and Nic’s family issues aren’t presented as more or less difficult because of their sexuality. They are just presented.

Cholodenko’s script is tender but often terrifically funny and genuine. Paul’s reaction to being informed his sperm went to two women is spot-on, telling Joni “I love lesbians” while grimacing at his own stupidity, while a scene in which Jules and Nic have to explain to their son why they have a gay male porn DVD is hilariously awkward. Bening and Moore make a very convincing married couple, obviously very much in love but starting to become irritated by each other’s flaws. Nic is career-oriented, more uptight, and is starting to drink a bit too much. Jules is laidback, about to start on her third career venture, and is more obviously affectionate. The two complement each other well, until the arrival of Paul prompts examination of their differences.

Ruffalo is on a roll at the moment with excellent turns in Shutter Island and The Brothers Bloom, and he’s perfectly cast as Paul, the kind of chilled-out 21st century hippie that chilled out 21st century hippies aspire to be. Paul may cause chaos and trouble but his good intentions make him impossible to dislike. He’s not looking to be a bother; he’s just trying to be a parent. The kids are great too. Wasikowska, stunning on HBO’s In Treatment, but probably better known for being Tim Burton’s Alice, is great as the sensitive Joni, while Hutcherson (Journey to the Center of the Earth) plays the quiet Laser with just the right combination of teenage indifference and desire for affection.

The Kids Are All Right subverts the expectations of those who would assume a film about same-sex parents would be consciously edgy or used as a political soap-box. It’s a tender, funny, and charming film that loves its characters. It’s a little too long, and it could have spent a little more time developing Nic, while Waskikoswa in particular is a bit hard done by in terms of screen-time, but this is definitely worth a watch.

A funny and moving comedy-drama with superb performances that deserves a big audience.



Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Burke & Hare (2010)

Image: Entertainment Film Distributors

John Landis made what is often considered to be the best horror comedy film in An American Werewolf in London. Simon Pegg co-wrote and starred in one of the best horror comedies in recent memory with Shaun of the Dead. So it’s a real disappointment that Burke and Hare, despite the best efforts of those involved, falls flat.

It’s Edinburgh in the 1820s and rival medical professors Monroe (Tim Curry) and Knox (Tom Wilkinson) are desperate for fresh cadavers for their demonstrations. Enter down-on-their-luck Irishmen Burke (Pegg) and Hare (Andy Serkis), who spot the demand and provide the bodies. They soon realise that it’s easier simply to kill than to dig up corpses, but how will Burke hide his profession from the lovely Ginny (Isla Fisher)?

Burke and Hare is John Landis first feature film since 1998. While his episodes of the TV series Masters of Horror were among the show’s best and showed that he still was still capable of producing gory and funny work, this film has a slapstick, Mel Brooks-esque sensibility that sits awkwardly with the corpses and murder. It’s also difficult to like the main characters, despite the casting of Pegg and Serkis. Burke does at least have some qualms about pushing men down flights of stairs, but Hare is quite happy to suffocate an old man.

This awkwardness of tone and the likeability of the leads wouldn’t matter so much if the script were funnier. It seems like everyone knew that it wasn’t up to much, and reacted accordingly. Landis filled the film with genre legends (Christopher Lee! Jenny Agutter! Ray Harryhausen!) and comedians (Reece Shearsmith! Stephen Merchant! Bill Bailey!) to keep the audience entertained, while the performances are all valiantly enthusiastic. Sadly, after a strong opening, Serkis gives into mugging while Pegg is saddled with the “sympathetic” role, and as such only really gets laughs early on. Fisher tries to make up for her Scottish accent with energy, which sadly doesn’t work, but there’s a nicely played rivalry between Wilkinson and Curry as the doctors. The real star is Pegg’s Spaced co-writer/co-star Jessica Hynes, who gives a hilarious performance as Hare’s drunk, amoral, lusty wife.

There are moments in which Burke and Hare works. The murders are nicely staged, with one in particular bringing happy memories of American Werewolf’s tube sequence, and when your cast is this strong they’re bound to wring a few laughs out of weak material. The cameos don’t really feel forced, instead they feel like a reward for sitting through the bits that don’t come together. For all its flaws, I didn’t hate Burke and Hare. It would have taken a lot for it to live up to my expectations. However, while it may work better in the comfort of your living room on DVD, this really was a missed opportunity.