Archive for the ‘Film and Cinema’ Category
On the back of my last article I was delighted to receive, out of the blue, two tickets to see the Kings Speech, courtesy of Showcase Cinemas and their delightful PR, Katie McDermott.
Showcase Coventry is a nicely appointed cinema on a retail and leisure park outside the city. We were issued with our tickets within a minute of our arrival and the staff were all very helpful.
The film opened with the King, then Duke of York, about to deliver a speech at the great exhibition of 1936. For him it was a trial. For his audience, awkward. I felt for the guy like no one else in the auditorium. My knuckles whitened, my jaw clenched, my guts twisted in sympathy. It really was that bad.
Colin Firth played the part well. Not just the stammer, but also the fear, the anxiety, the flashes of frustration and temper. The dialogue reflected our vocabulary and even our sense of humour. Stammerers don’t tell long jokes, we tell wise-cracks, one liners and quick come-backs.
The rest of the cast also performed extremely well. Helena Bonham-Carter was perfect as the endlessly patient and supportive Duchess of York (who my generation knew only as the Queen Mother). In parts you can see her heart virtually breaks for her husband who tries so hard against the odds. My own partner, Claire, often faces the same challenges she did. She shared the Duchess’s anger at the world’s treatment of him, and a special pride at his eventual achievements.
Timothy Spall took the role of Churchill with both hands, a part I sense he enjoyed immensely. Churchill also had a stammer in earlier life, and throughout the war years and beyond he and the king remained firm friends.
Guy Pierce continues to excel in new and diverse parts. He played the role of brother David (King Edward VIII and later the Duke of Windsor) with some zeal. It is fair to say that brother David does not come out of this episode looking particularly heroic. We see him bully his younger brother and mocking him childishly.
Childish mocking is something we grew used to, to an extent. We learn to swallow the anger, and smile. That cold feeling in the pit of your stomach will pass in a minute, just let it go. Or so I would tell myself.
But I think the star of the show was Geoffrey Rush, who plays the King’s unconventional Speech Therapist Lionel Logue. Many dismissed Logue as a quack, a crank, and a fake. He was nothing of the sort, of course, just unconventional. Logue is one of the many unsung heroes of the 1930s and 1940s and deserves a little recognition. He was an actor sometimes, and the forerunner of the modern voice coach. He threw away the rulebook and developed his own techniques in speech therapy, many of which are common practice today.
The story continues throughout Logue’s sometimes bizarre treatment of the Duke. They share an informal relationship that sometimes has flare-ups of anger and frustration. There were many scenes of outstanding humour and the comic timing of the pair is a joy to watch.
It climaxes in the Duke’s succession to the throne following the abdication crisis. The challenges his Majesty faces are many. He must now grasp the role of King for which he was never trained and feels ill-suited. Furthermore his country was about to plunge headlong into world war. The final scenes are the King’s rousing address to his nation, galvanizing them to fight, to risk and to endure. Fantastic stuff.
In all, a film I heartily recommend, as it blends drama and humour so effortlessly. The cast are magnificent and I am sure it will sweep the board come Oscar time.
For more information on Stammering please click this link www.stammering.org
There are many things that come naturally to me, for example mixing flavours and anticpating customer needs. Some things don’t, and sadly public speaking is one of them. So I would have to be a total lunatic to suggest that I speak live on radio about not being able to speak. But why?
Coming soon to a cinema near you, and an Oscar favourite to boot, is a film called the King’s Speech. Colin Firth portrays King George VI, a rather shy fellow who was suddenly pushed on to the throne after his brother abdicates. Traumatic enough in itself, his problems were compounded by the fact that he had a severe stammer. The film has proved a major talking point in the US, with debates online and on radio.
I knew instantly it should be worthy of some attention in dear old Blighty too so I fired off an e-mail to the main man at BBC Radio West Midlands. Adrian Goldberg is a fellow I had been in correspondence with for a while but never actually met. I wrote a few pieces for his website, the Stirrer, last year.
My day got off to an expensive start when I filled my tank with as much petrol as I could afford. To put it in perspective, if it were beer to drink, I would still be under the legal limit. My sat nav is never happier than when I take it to Birmingham. It suddenly turns into some kind of Sergeant Major. “Left, right, left, right, left… HALT!”
BBC West Midlands is a rather swanky place, part studio, part shop and part exhibition center, very people friendly. Except on New Years Day it was all shut except for the studio. Through a glass partition I could see the back of a man’s head as he spoke into the microphone. The studio PA came out to tell me that I had a few minutes yet so I waited.
Preparing for a radio speech took George IV hours, he went through breathing techniques, relaxation and allsorts. I had a can of red bull on my way in and hoped for the best. I took this opportunity, though, to pace up and down, breathing like a sex pest, trying desperately to get my heart rate down. But the more I tried, the more I felt a coranary coming on. I recited my quotes to a model Dalek, until I noticed people staring in the window at me. Carry on people, nothing to see here.
After a few minutes I was called in, during the commercials, and introduced to Adrian. He seemed, indeed is, a nice sort of fellow.
“Ah Nick, come in,” he said “We are very interested to hear about you and how you cured your stutter.”
Hang on.. cured?
“I haven’t, I still have it.” I replied, in perfectly clear speech. Which would confuse some people.
“Okay, no problem.” Adrian replied, the corner of his eye registering the smallest flicker of concern. He had never actually heard me speak before, so this was a bit of a gamble for him.
So off we went, Adrian led the conversation then gave me ample time to answer, he didn’t interrupt or try to finish my words off, which is the worst thing you can do to a stammerer. We discussed the film, which admittedly neither of us had seen yet. We discussed people’s attitudes to stammering, which are generally reasonable, and occasionally rather bad.
We got on to the various therapies available, the best available being the Maguire programme and the Starfish project. A short phone-in followed. A chap was on the line who coped admirably well with a stammer for years while holding down a stable job as a journalist. To me, this boded well for my future aspirations.
We discussed my treatment, which in truth amounted to very little. After years in and out of therapy I decided to just live with it. But, and this is paramount, I must learn not to fear it. The Maguire programme had a stage involving public speaking. However, without knowing it I had gone one better.
Way back in 1998 I went off along to Greece on a bit of a tour of self discovery. To find work I had made myself walk into every bar, club and restaurant in Malia and sell my abilities. It was hard, nerve-wracking, and, yes, often humiliating. But after dozens of no’s I finally found a little bar on the top of a hill, and the barman said ” Yeah, alright.” This piratical looking individual, Manos, became a long time friend of mine. I digress.
The whole interview took about ten or fifteen minutes and, I later learned, had a very positive response. It also got a plug or three for my blog, Birmingham Food and Drink. (Cheers for that, Adrian)
So I hope all of this helped my fellow stammerers. If any of you out there wish to contact me about the interview, my contact address is here.
In all, an unusually productive New Years morning.
To learn more about stammering and it’s affects, please check out:
The season of the witch is upon us at long last. The demons stalk the earth and the dead will arise in search of human prey.
Here to save us all is Ryli Morgan, a kick-ass chick from North Carolina. Along with her husband, Mark Baranowski she is one half of the power couple of Independent film.
How did you get into the horror business?
My husband, Mark Baranowski (www.createtolive.com) had wanted to try his hand at screenwriting, and I gave him the idea of putting together a short film. I thought perhaps someone would be more likely to watch 5 minutes of a film than to actually sit and read a script — we filmed DESPAIR in the space of a weekend, and the rest followed in the natural progression of film.
Were the 1950s the golden years for the underrated horror movie?
I definitely think the 1950′s were when we, as a society, were able to put onto film our thoughts and fears from the time. From the beginning of film, people have made scary flicks, but the 50′s allowed us to go a bit wilder.
From whom do you take your inspiration?
Brinke Stevens is a big inspiration. She is the perfect example of a Scream Queen with a brain and actual talent to back up the looks.
Does being a horror movie star have any perks or downsides?
Perks: getting to meet, sometimes even become friends with, the actors who you grew up watching, your favorite characters.
Downsides: to take part in some of the bigger projects, it means time away from family, and when you have a young child, like we do, it can be difficult to find the balance between family and film.
Halloween must be such fun in your house! Tell me what you get up to?
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday! I become a child again, and I really love any excuse to dress up as some horrid creature. We don’t decorate the house too much, honestly, but I usually find a party or costume contest to take part in.
How do you feel about the term Scream Queen?
Part of me loves it, and wants to at least come close to that status. The other part of me doesn’t like that term very much, because I know a few of these ladies and there is SO much more to them than their ability to jiggle in the right places and scream at the horrible monster that’s coming their way. I don’t want to say it’s demeaning, but it isn’t as all-encompassing a description as it should be, in order to properly describe these women.
Mark Baranowski’s new film, starring Ryli Morgan, Mr Dissolute, is out on DVD November 2009 at http://www.amazon.com
See more of Ryli at her very own website: http://www.thelifeofryli.com
Photos courtesy of http://www.rickdesign.com
Ladies and Gentlemen, the witching season is upon us again. The dead shall walk the earth and witches shall fly through the sky. And monkeys might fly out of my butt.
But don’t let reality interrupt a night of fun and frolics. There are lots of things you can do, go see a scary movie, take the kids trick or treating, or go to a fancy dress party with your work collegues.
Nah, just go see a scary movie.
In fact this year we have quite a batch for you to choose from. Circuses of freaks, zombies, sadistic killers and bermuda triangles to name but a few.
So let’s start with Cirque du Freak, the story of two young lads who go to a freak show that is new to town. The see lots of weird things, bearded ladies, tattooed men. They see this one man do tricks with a poisonous spider. After the show the man names one of the boys a deal, he will make him a vampire if he agrees to become his apprentice. What follows is the accomplishment of evil.
My favourite so far is Zombieland, set in the aftermath of a nationwide Zombie attack. Unlike other Zombie movies this one has a sense of humour. It also has all the rules of how to survive a Zombie attack in detail, demonstrated in graphic detail. How jolly useful. It stars Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray, so you know you are getting your money’s worth.
The third choice is a good old fashioned haunted house movie. Paranormal Activity is, theoretically, the new Blair Witch, handicam horror movie. Filmed on a shoestring budget and lots of bumpy photography, it is none the less supposed to be extremely scary. I guess you just have to go see it and judge it for yourself.
The Saw franchise seems to roll and roll. We are now on number six of the series, and it somehow manages to retain the ability to scare the hell out of us. What keeps the Saw series going is it’s imagination and intelligence that it channels into what it knows are our deepest fears. Jigsaw is long dead but he sowed the seeds of sadism and dark pleasure into the souls of those who survived him. Finally they are bearing their dark, nasty fruit.
Last but by no means least we have Triangle, a horror based on the mysteries of the Bermuda triangle. During a yachting race a crew are forced to abandon ship in heavy weather. A sinister cruise ship offers the only refuge, but on board all is not as it seems.
So enjoy your halloween, go to your nearest Vue and scare yourselves shitless!
I totally recommend, for your weekend viewing, the film District 9. Currently showing at a cinema near you, check out http://www.vue.com
It is the story of mankind’s clash with aliens in South Africa in the near future. After a race of aliens land they try to co-exist with mankind but the relationship soon deteriorates. Unusually for sci-fi, mankind mantains the upper hand and forces them into an aliens-only ghetto called district 9. Aliens are also subject to many degrading new rules. They are referred to as ‘prawns’ because of their resemblence.
In case you havn’t guessed, it is really about apartheid, and what it is like to be subject to those conditions. But that is just the back story. In the foreground we follow a supervisor of some kind of security service as he evicts aliens from district 9. Somehow he gets bitten by something and his body slowly starts to transmute into an alien form. He escapes from a laboratory and finds himself in an uneasy allience with the aliens.
Can he help them escape their predicament? Can he get his body to revert to human? Go find out.
There has been a lot of hype in tinseltown over the latest CGI laden epic from James Cameron. Avatar is released on 18th December and it looks set to clean up over Christmas. Like all Sci-fi the plot is pretty simple. In the future, Jake, a paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na’vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Those from Earth find themselves at odds with each other and the local culture.
Don’t got for the plot, just go for a film you will enjoy and re-live that first thrill you had when the Imperial Star Destroyer first chased Tantive IV across the Silver Screen.
Avatar stars Sam Worthington, who has made a career out of playing soldiers. He also stars in the up-and-coming 20,000 Leagues under the sea. Expect great things from this man.
Alongside him we have Sci-fi icon, Sigourney Weaver, still looking good at 60. Other cast members include professional hard-girl Michelle Rodriguez, the new Ohura, Zoe Saldana and Giovanni Ribisi. The last name was last seen brandishing a machine gun in Public Enemies.
So enjoy this film when it finally gets here. Life just gets better.
Well boys and girls I thought it was time to take a look at a few of the films that will be filling our multiplexes in 2010.
Lets start with January.
Daybreakers. What better way to start the year than with a good old vampire yarn? Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill filmed this one way back in 2007. The story goes: In 2019 the vampires rule the earth, but they are running short on humans to feed on. Two bloodsuckers have to work on a way to keep their human prey alive.
Then we have one for the kids.
Hoodwinked! 2 Hood v Evil. In this sequel we have Red Puckett in training for the sister Hoods. She must allay herself with the big bad wolf to investigate the disappearance of Hansel and Gretel.
Then the horror!
Piranha 3-D. Alexandre Aja directs this CGI fish fest of blood and nastiness. Plot? Oh yeah. The rather peckish fish are let loose in a popular tourist lake leading to lots of scenes of faces and flesh ripped off. Yummy.
Season of the Witch sees Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman team up to transport a child-witch to trial for allegedly spreading the plague known better as the black death.
Nightmare on Elm Street is set to return to our lives with a whole new reboot. Only this time without (gasp!) Robert Englund. His role is taken by Jackie Earle Hayley. Cue stripy sweater, hat and razor claw and lots of slashing about.
And then we lock and load for some good old fashioned action, Stallone style.
The Expendables is his first film since the ill-advised Rambo 4. Stallone wrote and produced this project himself, a first for him. Anyhow, the Expendables are Sly, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and a few other meatheads. They are hired to remove a Generalissimo of some obscure South American country, and they have to take on ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austen and Eric Roberts (remember him?)
The much awaited Iron Man 2 kicks in around May next year. The second instalment of the comic-book franchise is a lot darker than the first. It is more character driver, focussing on Tony Stark’s alcoholism as well as his battle against evil. At least this time he has help, in the form of the boys and girls of SHIELD, as he contends with Whiplash and Justin Hammer.
So as Bugs Bunny would say, that’s all folks, but there is more to come next month.
So it’s a Friday night and you haven’t got the motivation to go out. You are in the house, alone or with friends, and you have a big bag of weed or a few drops of acid. So you get kinda mellow and decide to stick on a movie or two.
But which ones are the best for watching in a mind-altered state? Well you stoner types, follow me.
1. Yellow Submarine. Lets start as we mean to go on with one of the all time greats. A psychedelic mind-fuck of the highest order, featuring a big blue villain with kaleidescope eyes and an army of meanies taking on the best band in the world in their only animated adventure. The song will have you singing along and before you know it you will be standing on your couch, dancing like Bez. It has a pretty sharp script full of wit and one-liners. Fact: The Beatles never wanted to do the film, but once they saw the finished article they agreed to do a live footage section at the end.
2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I don’t know who picked this but it struck me as an odd choice. Of course it is all blue screen animation with an aging Bob Hoskins trying to keep up. But the slapstick sequences must be amusing to somebody after their second spliff. And you are bound to have that unusual debate about whether it is right to fancy a cartoon woman. So, anyway, Roger Rabbit hires this detective to find out who set him up for murder in this little cross-over world of animation. Very soon you will be looking along the wall for the portal to take you to the cartoon world. Numb nuts, sit down and have a cookie.
3. Bakara. Now this is a weird film in any frame of mind. Just don’t watch it on LSD, the police will be talking you down from your coffee table. Firstly it has no plot, but boy, it won’t stop you trying to see one, and then explain it to your mates. It shows scenes of rainforests, nature, indigenous tribes of Indians and cuddly monkeys. Then it slowly adds scenes of deforestation, power stations, waste dumping, smoke, pollution… EEEEKKK!!! We’re all going to die, we have ruined the world!! Calm down, for Dicken’s sake, man. It’s only a movie… Only it isn’t, it is going on, and we can’t stop it. Cue two hours of sweaty paranoia and a long tearful conversation with a potted plant.
4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Now you are talking. A film about drugs, starring people on drugs, based on a book written by Hunter S Thompson, a man on lots of drugs. It cannot fail to hit the spot, right from the off it sets the tone: ‘We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like: “I feel a bit lightheaded. Maybe you should drive” Suddenly, there was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, and a voice was screaming:
“Holy Jesus. What are these goddamn animals?”
“ Did you say something?
Hm? Never mind. It’s your turn to drive. No point in mentioning these bats, I thought. Poor bastard will see them soon enough.
And one quote that is guaranteed to screw with your mind:
A drug person can learn to cope with things like seeing their dead grandmother crawling up their leg with a knife in her teeth. But no one should be asked to handle this trip.
And by the time you have sat through that lot you are readly for rehab,. Lad, you are starting to look like Pete Doherty. Did you leave me any cookies? Thought not.
Disclaimer: Nick Gilmartin does not approve of or promote recreational drug use in any way. I’m just saying it is a lifestyle choice.
The hot ticket for the autumn will be Megan Fox’s new comedy horror, Jennifer’s Body. This is Megan’s first lead role, brought forward to capitalize on her enormous popularity.
So, the plot: Jennifer (That’s Megan) is a hot yet mean cheerleader who comes to a grisly fate and is possessed by a demon who delights itself by feeding on mid-western farm boys. Her nemesis is former friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) who has to escape a correctional facility to destroy the demon. Then she goes after the Satan-loving rock band who caused this grisly transformation.
Jennifer’s Body is directed by Diablo Cody, who had a major success with teen pregnancy comedy Juno. Since Megan’s meteoric rise to fame her first leading role has been eagerly anticipated. It seems the world cannot get enough of the ravishing Miss Fox.
See the trailer here:
Megan Fox first came to our attention as an actress after a successful modelling career. Her early work involved small parts in Olson sisters movies, going straight to video. She took a small role in TV show Ocean Avenue and had a blink-and-miss-her spot in Bad Boys 2.
Supporting roles continued to trickle in: Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen starred Lindsay Lohan as the main high school villainess. Megan saw a disctict pattern forming, her roles always seemed to be mean, bitchy, or spoilt. Sometimes all three!
Finally a more consistant role came her way in Hope & Faith. She played Sydney Shanowski for 36 episodes before the series was cancelled. Things looked dicey for a while.
But her big breakthrough finally came when she took the part of Mikaela Baines in 2007′s Transformers Movie, alongside Shia LeBeouf and a hell of a lot of CGI Robots that used to litter my bedroom carpet. A role in 2008′s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People swiftly followed.
Suddenly she found herself in huge demand and a choice of roles. She took the zombie cheerleader because it appealed to her slightly warped sense of humour.
Also due for release is her less well known film, Whore, co-starring Rumar Willis (daughter of Bruce).
Well every now and again a website comes along and makes you think – damn why didn’t I think of that? http://www.movie-moron.com is that kind of website.
The brainchild of Sheridan Passell, the website has drawn together a wealth of understated tinsel town talent, all of whom are known just by their first names.
It has a refreshingly honest and forthright view of movies, with the 2AM reviewers giving their reviews in the foyer of the cinema or often in the street outside. At 2AM.
They bring together reviews, previews, a lot of fun stuff and a very lively forum. They must have spies in a lot of camps for the sheer amount of stuff they know. Furthermore they actively promote the movies they like, and are happy to recommend them.
And boy, do they like their lists. The top ten Star Wars quotes, cool facts about Gremlins, sweatiest film stars, to name but three. But they are well researched and knowledgeable.
So if you like movies and want the latest pictures, meet your new best friend.
With all the enthusiasm of an emaciated mouse I went straight to the big cheese, boss Sheridan Passell.
You seem to have assembled the ‘dream team’ of film buffs, how did you all get together?
We’ve been around for a couple of years and people have got in contact gradually over that time. We also put an ‘appeal’ video of sorts on YouTube and it got a good response.
Why are there so many remakes, reboots and sequels these days?
Well the fact is there are many more movies getting released these days than there ever used to be. It was once three or four a week, now it seems to be seven or eight. There are plenty of original films out there, but the fact is that audiences don’t go and see them. That applies to the big budget films too. Did you go and see Stealth or The Island in 2005? They were original studio pictures but they flopped. The Island really wasn’t too bad either, a damn site better than Bad Boys 2. Audiences get more of what they ask for. The other reason for remakes/reboots/sequels is that movies are an investment and anything you can do to reduce the risk on your investment, you’re going to do it, that means looking for a project with a built in audience, that’s what familiar titles have.
Who is 2009′s hot new director in your opinion?
I don’t see anyone outstanding right now. I suppose keep an eye on Duncan Jones, director of Moon, he could do great things.
Which film was your favourite as a kid? Would a remake ruin the memory?
I don’t go with the majority opinion that remakes are terrible things, I’m fine with them, the only thing that upsets me is when potential is wasted. I was excited to see how they would update John Carpenter’s The Fog, for example, but it turned out those involved weren’t competent enough to set up a lemonade stand. Again, with Halloween, I was really curious to see that remade, but the result was unbearable as a film, let alone a remake. Remakes don’t ruin the originals, they’re still there on the shelf just as they always were. …unless it’s the original Star Wars trilogy.
Can we look forward to a summer of fantastic movies?
Well we’re half way through and it’s slim pickings. Fantastic movies, we’ve had about 1 4/5. That’s ‘Up’, and most of ‘Star Trek’. ‘Bruno’ should be good value even though there’s absolutely nothing cinematic about it, ‘Potter’ should be pretty close to the previous chapter , ‘Inglourious Basterds’ will divide audiences and ‘GI Joe’ is ready to take up the role of summer abomination.
So go join their forum at:
http://www.redfenceproject.com (check this out too)