Saturday, 28 March 2009

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

I can't believe I watched this film for a second time. Yeah, it was a film about gay cowboys, the one and only message being that gay men fall in love, wow, if you didn't know that you must be a dumb American. That's obviously who the target audience was.
Anyway, there's my review. On a totally different note I just want to say that it turns out all my theatre ramblings yesterday were wrong, it has been announced today that The Smoking Diaries a new play based on late playwright Simon Gray's memoirs, currently to be seen only in Chichester (ie outside of London) will soon be moving to London for a West End run.
I remember now (it's nearly 2 am, forgive my addled brain) I wanted to test something. I wrote that I wouldn't be able to see said play yesterday as it's in the middle of nowhere- Chichester- but now I will be able to see it, and I am greatly happy- though also nauseous and struck by nosebleeds and palpitations (I calls it 'love'...). So just a test; I wish Orchard would contact me soon and give me a friggin' job!
Stay here, I'll check my emails...

God damn it!!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Brief Encounter (Touring, The Lowry)

Yes, I go to the theatre up North as well. While I am missing my favourites, Nicholas Le Prevost and Jonathan Pryce in their respective current plays down South, I am up here in the cold, enjoying touring companies at Manchester's Lowry and Royal Exchange, and The West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. I'll have you know that a lot of great plays are originated up here, the best musical I've ever seen was the WYP's Singing in the Rain nine years ago.
A couple of days ago the we were visited by angry art director Grant who was fuming that The National Theatre shouldn't be allowed to call itself so, how is it National if it's based in London? We, the taxpayers, pay for the shows that are put on there, and what percentage of plays then tour? Not many, some move from the National to other theatres in the West End, wow, that makes it more accessible to people in Durham. I'm not going to lie to you, I travel to see plays and I enjoy them wherever they are so long as they're good! It would be nice to see some more of the National's acclaimed plays tour, but there are good companies who do tour, the ETT (English Touring Theatre) and Peter Hall's Company (I believe it's called The Peter Hall Company) are excellent, but these great plays somehow don't make it to the West End! It's like there are these awful rules; you can tour but you can't be in London, so you can't be nominated for any awards. I just don't get it...
Brief Encounter is a Kneehigh Theatre production, responsible for bringing one of my favourite films A Matter of Life and Death- which coincidentally was at the National for a very short while- to the stage last year. The play is an adaptation of the 1946 film written by Noel Coward. I haven't seen the film, but why would I want to? I never saw Hitchcock's The 39 Steps but Alison assures me the West End play is scene for scene, though much much better. I saw a Coward play two years ago at the National, it was appallingly bad. Present Laughter, or as Anna rechristened it Absent Laughter (or as I rechristened it Laughter? Hello, laughter? Are you there?!) I am not a Coward fan, Round the Horne summed him up perfectly with their weekly piss-takes. So I was wary at the same time as trying to be open minded. If I'm honest I was hoping for another 39 Steps, but nothing will ever be that good. It was good though.
The show was brilliantly inventive and with a superbly talented cast of musical-actors, meaning not only could they sing and dance, they all played in the band too. If you're picky about projections in plays you obviously haven't seen it done right. The play is set in the 40s and yet it's completely natural to see a man or a woman walk through a projected screen and suddenly be in the projection in a pre-filmed bit of narrative. Style, that's all you need.
I was dreading Noel Coward musical numbers, Monty Python spring to anyone else's dirty little mind? But they were well used, none made me cringe, and going on a matinee made the experience (hundreds of little old ladies singing along) more surreal, it was like a time warp.
It was a fantastic play, but I imagine the film focuses on the lead characters (most films do), I far preferred the other two couples in the play, this is why I don't want to see the film, it was a great show with fab characters but the two leads were typically (in my non-expert eyes- all I have to go on it one play and a million Round the Horne sketches!) Coward lovers; weedy, wet fishes. Bleagh!

Oh, and by the way, this play is touring after coming from the West End.

The Public Enemy (1931)

Jean Harlow, sex-symbol. eh? Looked like a hideous troll-pig to me.
The Public Enemy was some sort of public service film to put people off becoming gangsters, getting mixed up in bootlegging and disappointing their Ma. It was terrifying! No exaggeration, I will have nightmares about that final scene!!
This was back in the day before censors, there's sex, violence, gore, all sorts of stuff! So the message was crime doesn't pay, they made that pretty damn clear!
James Cagney here in I think one of his first film roles, well, he was a sort of even-creepier Malcolm McDowell. I don't know how Jean Harlow makes it onto the poster she was in three scenes, what a sicht! The girl Cagney was seeing before her (the one whose face he shoves a grapefruit into- iconic/controversial scene) is very elegant and pretty, I suppose she would have been a drag though, too boring for a gangster. It must have been part of the message; if you turn to crime you will never be with beautiful women, only skanky trolls.
Anyway it put me right off crime, I did feel sorry for Ma and for the shell-shocked veteran brother (who seemed to smash all the furniture in the house), Tommy was a prick but that final scene was a bit much:
"Ma! Tommy's coming home from hospital!"
"Is he all right?"
"-he must be, or they wouldn't be bringing him home..."
A knock at the door, Mike opens it to Tommy's corpse, he is tied up in a body bag, showing is his dead blood-drenched face staring blankly, it keels over face first onto the floor with a sickening thud.
They all drank lemonade.... The End!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Admirable Crichton (1957)

First of all sorry there's no poster for this film, or video box or anything! We taped it off the tv a few weeks ago and got round to watching it today. We also finally watched Schindler's List today, I've decided to focus on this one because it's one I'd actually like to see again!
Yeah, Schindler was very good and all, and I've glad I've finally seen it, but which one of these films am I going to try and remember? Yes, The Admirable Crichton one of my dad's favourite films. Set in 1905 a wealthy Lord and his three daughters, along with two young suitors, a lady's maid and a butler are all shipwrecked on a desert island, it soon becomes clear that the only person able to take care of themselves- or indeed anyone else- is Cricthon, the butler. Two years pass and Crichton is governor of the island with the others working happily to keep them all going under his rule.
Written by J.M. Barrie of Peter Pan fame I thought the film (originally a play) was charming, amusing and clever -and not short of saucy fun. My dad said he liked it as a child because he always had a thing for shipwreck adventures. I've seen Swiss Family Robinson (1960) too many times as it was one of my mum's favourite childhood films, but it is boring and the family are awful! The family in Crichton were amusing caricatures and the supporting characters (the two witless suitors and the cock-er-ny maid Eliza) were hilarious too. All the best elements of Swiss Family Robinson are there; the impossible inventions and the magnificent huts made from island detritus are a million times better than in the Disney film. It made me want to be stuck on a desert island with Crichton! And obviously I, like the other four girls, would be completely in love with him, even if he is played by creepy little Kenneth Moore! He was great and I found the ending quite sad, a comment I suppose on the way it would have been back when Barrie wrote it in the early 1900s, but as a colour film made in 1957 I was sad that Crichton resigned to marry Tweeny and Lady Mary had to marry that cretin instead of her beloved butler. Sigh!
Really funny though- I say old chap! You just tied our boat to a turtle!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

War Horse (National Theatre- New London Theatre from 28th March)

I saw two plays at the National Theatre in the last 24 hours, the first was Burnt by the Sun starring Rory Kinnear- I have seen Rory's last four plays at the National, he is one of my favourite actors. He is so versatile and so talented, plus he has a face like the moon.
Burnt by the Sun has deserved 4 star reviews, it was a very very good play. Excellent set (a whole frickin' house!) and brilliant performances- especially Rory, who now seems to be some kind of talent hat-trick, since when could he tap dance!? or sing?! I knew he could play the piano- but not the trumpet too!! But this play was for Anna, my Russian-history-obsessed sister, War Horse was more obviously for Amy.
So what if I enjoy a simple story more than a complex one? I like to relax and enjoy the theatre sometimes, not have to pay attention to every little thing that's being said so I can soak in some of the art direction!! (this being said it seems it didn't cross Anna's mind that Rory might have been lying and setting Kotov up- there was never any evidence he was a spy!!- so that he could get his revenge... I do get all these things, I do think about it and it does get into my head, but I like to do theatre in variation; see a hard play, see an easy play, etc.)
War Horse is adapted from Michael Morpurgo's children's novel, so the story is simple, but touching. It's about the first world war- my favourite. And it's about a relationship. But unlike the plays Anna enjoys, usually tortured relationships that are doomed from the get-go, it's about a relationship everyone can understand and relate to, a boy's friendship with his horse.
The puppetry is amazing. You'll have probably heard, but I had no idea it would be that good. You instantly forget that it's not a real horse, it's that good. You need a simple story when something so complex and ingenious is on the stage for you to look at, you can stare at the puppets and not lose the plot, but because they are so real you find you don't stare at the horses any more than you stare at any of the other characters portrayed by actual actors. And what good actors they were too, the boy playing Albert was extremely good, Kit Harington's first job out of acting school, what a brilliant role to play.
Anna and I made the mistake of going to the Imperial War Museum this morning before the play, I think it made it even more real. There wasn't a dry eye in the theatre by the end, but I don't think anyone wanted to break down as much as we did- my throat has never hurt that much in my entire life, and I am a chronic tonsillitis sufferer. It is the perfect play, five stars.
And when we came out of the theatre Dakin of The History Boys- actor Dominic Cooper- was standing outside looking lost, he's taller than I thought he would be, much taller than Dave.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Jean de Florette (1986) & Manon des Sources (1986)

The first French film I ever saw at the cinema ten years ago was Manon des Sources, stupid really because it's a sequel, well, not even a sequel, it's part two of one story. Finally I've seen Jean de Florette (part one) and then two hours later rewatched Manon.
I remembered everything that happened in part two, I remembered every scene. This might not mean much to you but it proves to me that I must have thought, aged 13, that it was a good story and very beautifully shot, even if I had no idea what was happening and who the bossu was... I say it must mean something because a few nights ago I went out with my pal Lauren who remembered a film we saw four years ago starring Robert DeNiro which I have no recollection of at all- and this was when I was teetotal!- Lauren, Susie and I went to see a lot of rubbish films, I never realised that poor Lauren has the misfortune of a working brain and so she remembers all this crap, I have a brain like a sieve and don't remember any of the DeNiro film, only that Greg Kinnear was in it and I think he looked anxious at one point, also the poster was grey.
I remembered the big secret that is revealed to Yves Montand at the end of Manon, but I didn't remember that he didn't know it from the beginning, so a lot of the time I was thinking "Why's he being such a horrific bastard?!" instead of just; "Why's he being such a bastard?!" I cottoned on eventually that this memory of mine must be the twist! And said nothing to Anna.
Jean de Florette is a film about two men who want to grow carnations but need the land recently inherited by a city hunchback and his family because it is the only land around that has it's own private spring. Yes, the French can make a film with this story and make it a spellbinding classic. Manon des Sources is a film about the hunchback's beautiful daughter getting revenge on the carnation growers.
So why are the French so obsessed with hunchbacks? Anyone see Le Bossu(1997) starring Daniel Auteuil? Yes, the hunchback bits were funny and Auteuil was at his peak of sexiness, but that film is ALL WRONG! Oh my God. You thought The Importance of Being Earnest was wrong ("Hey, that means we're cousins! Thank god! Now we can get married!") Le Bossu ends with father and daughter making out in front of a huge crowd of people- and this is supposed to be a happy ending!!
Anna asked after we'd watched the films tonight "which did you prefer?" They are two chapters of the same story, and the first half of Manon was as good as all of Jean de Florette but the second half was a little slow and I got the feeling maybe Manon was as intelligent as Ugolin as all she did was stare blankly at her supposed beloved with her massive eyes. It was only the introduction of the teacher as Manon's boyf that I think slowed it down, nobody cares about Manon's future, we care about her past and the revenge she's laying out! (Also we care about her goats and that cute noise she makes to summon them.)
Jean de Florette was a wonderful story full of excellent characters, Auteiul as creepy Ugolin and his puppet master Papet played by Yves Montand were really horrible, I hated them, and Gerard Depardieu was absolutely wonderful as the optimistic, enthusiastic and trusting bossu, Jean, he suited that hunch. My mum said that she found him irritating in the end, God she is such a hypocrite!! Jean is a city man who inherits a farm and just wants to live the dream, grow his own food and live a simple country life, the villagers all hate him because he's from the city and none of them tell him in two years that there is a spring practically under his  nose, they watch him suffer and eventually die. My mother moved from London to Yorkshire 20 years ago and people still react strangely to her, country folk don't like townies (or is it that northerners don't like southerners?).
Anyway, I loved Depardieu, I thought he was wonderful and I felt so sorry for him, I, like Manon, wanted to kill those two bastards!! Ah, Emmanuel Beart, so beautiful, yet vacant and kind of creepy in the end... Auteuil, you were so gross in those films, I realise now my first impression of you was probably as an ugly, retarded, pervert, and now you're one of my top pinups. And yet I had a feeling that in real life, off the screen, Beart and Daniel Auteuil probably were romantically linked... HA! They were together for ten years and have a daughter! Sick!!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Watchmen (2009)

So I watched Jonathan Ross review Watchmen on saturday just to make sure I wouldn't be disappointed what with the hype and all, he said "I don't know if you have ever seen a movie and felt like it had been tailor-made for you..."
I saw it with my dad, whose comic collection I have been reading for the last 23 years, I hadn't read any reviews, and only seen the trailer once- before Christmas. Before we left for the cinema Anna flashed a Guardian page at us showing how it had been panned by all the papers, four out of ten all round, no more than a five anywhere. But I didn't worry that much, Jonathan Ross had enjoyed it, and he's a comic nerd so surely it couldn't be 4/10 bad, could it?
I re-read Watchmen in November after I heard they had made the film (at last), I first read it probably about seven years ago, my dad bought each issue as they came out in 1986, hmm...I wonder if I was eating my mashed 'nanas by his side while he read them. Anyway, the book is complex, in between each chapter, as it were, is a crucial piece of plot in the form of extracts from books, police files, newspapers etc. These bits I always found kind of a pain to read- not because I can't read without pictures! Just because it slowed it down a lot. (honest!)
After the opening fight resulting in The Comedian's death these (boring) bits of the comic are played out in an amazing title sequence with Bob Dylan crooning appropriately over them, the times they are a-changing. (I'll add now that the soundtrack was excellent) It was brilliant. I didn't want to blink! It was amazing! It was genius! It was perfect!
I did feel that this film was tailor-made for me. Does this make me a massive nerd? Yes. Do I care? Hell no! I just saw the most amazing film of my life! I'm insanely happy! I keep trying to think about this from an outsider's perspective (ie someone who has never read the book) but I don't want to! Because I know they'd hate it! It was unnecessarily violent- I don't mind thugs and bad guys getting bashed up, I don't mind super-heroes getting bashed up (they can take it) but I do mind kid's disembodied parts being chewed by dogs and innocent women's legs getting shot. Yeah, I don't care about heavies getting their arms sawn off (I closed my eyes) but I draw the line at women and children... People have heard of Superman, Batman and the X-men, they know what to expect from a "super-hero" film, that's why I think they will be disappointed.
What, the bad guy just gets away with it? The one guy who's fighting for justice gets blown up at the end? The lead is a wimpy nerd who can't get it up?! Wha-?! Yes. Deal with it. And He's not a bad guy! He's awesome!
Yes the cast. Wow, the cast! Perfect casting! Completely perfect casting! They were all people I'd never seen before (except sweet little Brooke Burgess from He Knew He Was Right playing Ozymadias, holy hell I can see why they picked him for the Brideshead remake he practically is Jeremy Irons! -oh, and Billy Crudup). This was good, if there had been anyone big in it I would have been like "ugh, he was so-and-so in that awful film about whatever!" And not once did I notice that Nite Owl was Raoul from Phantom of the Opera! The only thing I noticed about him was that he was HOT. Yes, all the men (sorry, not you Rorschach) were GORGEOUS. And all the women were GORGEOUS which was great because seriously, Dave Gibbons cannot draw women, they look like ugly men most of the time, so I was like "Wow, all the male characters are perfectly cast and the women are all being played by beautiful women!" They looked perfect, spot-on. And the film itself was spot-on, possibly the best and most faithful adaptation of anything- ever! Brideshead Revisited (1981) is almost word perfect, Watchmen is picture perfect.
I can see why they cut certain sub-plots, but who the hell cares?! As a fan of the graphic novel I was still touched to see the newspaper-stand guy hug the kid before they were blasted into smitherines, it was an excellent touch to keep little references even if whole parts of the novel were cut. But most of it wasn't cut! Most of it was there! All the bits I was waiting for were there! All the chapters with all the characters' backstories! Rossy said it was slow in parts, when? When was it slow?! I didn't notice! Wow! I am still excited about it and it's been two hours now since the credits went up.
I can't wait to see it again. I can't recommend it to anyone though. That's the problem... 
"Hey, this was the best film of my life, but you'd hate it."

Sunday, 8 March 2009

She's The Man (2006)

Twelfth Night is one of my favourite, if not my actual, definitive favourite, Shakespeare play. And Amanda Bynes- though I haven't seen much of her work (though, when I think about it I've seen at least five of her films, there can't be many more can there?!) is one of my favourite young Hollywood stars. And I'll tell you why I like Amanda Bynes; because she is in the tradition of screwball-romantic-comedy actresses that everyone loved in the 80s, it is my strong belief that Amanda has it in her to be the next Goldie Hawn. 
This is what we need folks! Who doesn't love Overboard or House-sitter?! So She's the Man wasn't great, but Amanda was!! She was brilliant, I can't believe I used to hate her face, now i love everything about it! She's so expressive and so good at being goofy. I think I realised how good she was when I saw her take a small supporting role in Hairspray, she didn't have many lines but she made that character so likeable and funny- is it just me who though so? Back to the film; rhe rest of the cast were awful- except the cliche gay friend (I think he was Horatio!) who didn't have enough screen time- the love interest was extremely wooden, there was no transformation there really, he didn't learn to talk to women he just settled for Amanda- which is great for her if a hot bod is enough and she can put up with nervous jittery conversation about different kinds of cheeses...
Anyway, it was all I expected it to be, it was a giggle. The most fun was probably trying to figure out who was supposed to be who, it is very loosely based on Twelfth Night, ie the names are the same in some cases and that's IT, but there were some surprises to see it did sort of stick to the plot and that the creep didn't end up getting with the bitch, they just both stayed humiliated. (I'm guessing Malvolio and maybe the Fool? Or was the Headmaster the Fool? I think he was. He was excellent.)

Friday, 6 March 2009

HR: A Roleplay (Friday Radio4)

So it's been three weeks since it began, two weeks since Peter and Sam accidentally killed their boss whilst drunk on a bonding trip, one week since Sam came out of the closet and now today Peter's wife has left him- not that he cares.
It is my belief (and deepest hope) that Peter is a chronic liar and has never had a wife- I hope he is also secretly gay. Next week's penultimate episode A Leaving Party is a bit of a clue to how this has to end I think. My boys have been horrifically incompetent, it's not going to end well for either of them, it's radio comedy so I don't think anyone's going to find out about the murder- one of the best bits about radio is that next week no one really cares that you killed your boss, I reckon this would be different if it was a television sitcom. Didn't Joanna and Alan end up walking naked into the sea in Green Wing after they killed a number of people? I hope Peter and Sam don't end up going the same way...
Anyway, I'm enjoying this series immensely, I mean, I know I mentioned before I'm the target audience, but some of my friends listen too, and they all love it without being weirdoes. It's so well written. Can you imagine how hard it is to write engaging and totally mad dialogues, six of them, it's hard. But these are good half hour shows, I'm also enjoying Andy Hamilton's Old Harry's Game on Radio 4 but after seven series we're beginning to hear the same jokes, and there are some bum-notes. HR is just what Radio 4 needs, new, inventive comedy. Role on series three of Fags, Mags and Bags! It is both amazing and great!
Listen again to episode four A Roleplay.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

If all you know about Sunset Boulevard is Hugh Jackman singing a very cool song then you are me two hours ago. The musical I'm not really interested in, Hugh singing the title song there is as close as I wanted to get, I'm not a Lloyd Webber fan, but of course I am a massive Billy Wilder fan and yes, I jumped at the chance to see the film -when tonight Anna said; "Do you want to watch Sunset Boulevard?"
It's an early Wilder, I think one of his first big ones, made in 1950 it's shot like a Hitchcock thriller and it's as creepy as any Rebecca! It's the story of a struggling scriptwriter who stumbles into the world of a former silent movie starlet, now fifty and 30 years since she last stood in front of a camera Norma Desmond is as nutty as a fruitcake. The boy, Joe played by William Holden is first assumed by the old coot to be an undertaker and he is shown the body of her dead chimp, presumably named Bubbles. Did Michael Jackson see this film and think 'Hey, there's the life for me!' because it certainly rings a lot of alarm bells... Anyway, as the song goes; She was sinking fast, I threw a rope, now I have suits and she has hope- it seemed an elegant solution. One day this must end, it isn't real, still I'll enjoy a hearty meal, before tomorrow's execution...
Yeah, that idiot gets sucked right in there, he moves in with the psycho as her live-in-chum/boyfriend/whatever-she-thinks-he-is! And as foretold in Hugh's song, it doesn't really end that well for old Joe... The final scene will haunt you, you will have nightmares (or maybe it's just me, because of my family, I have two aunts who I wouldn't put it past to glide down the stairs, Dracula-esq, crooning "...Mr De Mille, I'm ready for my close-up.")
Gloria Swanson is fantastically scary in the role of Norma, your flesh will crawl. I enjoyed cameos from silent film stars who had too become waxworks, "Buster Keaton"- I cry! The film is excellent, brilliant narration from our title character who speaks, as Anna remarked, exactly as the sort of writer he's supposed to be would over-write a low-budget film script.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Amy Reviews: Your terrible choices.

You all voted terribly terribly wrong! All of you! All of you including me! And I know I had to hover over your shoulders just to get you to vote (except the mystery voter who I suspect lives in Chicago and is called Paul) but you all voted wrong, wrong, WRONG! The only person who voted correctly is Laura, and now I will explain why.
In joint second with one late-vote we have James Wilby, who I believed would win. The only reason he has a vote is because when moving back home two days ago I asked my sister who she would vote for and she said "Wilby, obviously. Before he went red." Bloody obvious is it?! Well why did no one else vote for him?! To illustrate how cute he is (before he went red) here is a picture of him in my favourite gay Merchant Ivory film Maurice- he's the one lying on top of a youthful Hugh Grant.
In joint second we have Hornblower! Voted for by Susie- I suspect a pity vote.
In joint second we have Tim McInnerny, here portraying creep Captain Darling in 1989s Blackadder. As voted for by me, for sentimental reasons, if I had never seen any of them before and had to judge purely on a physical level I would have done as Laura (and all of you SHOULD HAVE) and voted for joint second:
Robert Bathurst. Yes, look at Rob. Just look at him for god sake. Even with the cropping out of other Cold Feet cast members such as vile Jimmy Nesbit, horrific Hermione Norris, disgusting John Thompson, ugly Helen Baxendale and that other girl... he lies there beautiful as The David. Imagine him next to such abominations, he is gorgeous. Laura is a wise woman.
But who did you all vote for? Who did you all love in 1995s Pride and Prejudice? In first place; creepy, weasely, curly, David-Tennant-esq, Mr Bingley: Crispin Bonham-Carter.

Just thank god none of you voted for effing Westlife is all I can say.