Sunday, 28 June 2009

Angels and Demons (2009)

Yeah the Da Vinci Code(2006) was shite, but so was the book!! We all read it! We all enjoyed it as we were reading but felt like we'd wasted a night at the end of it!
I read Angels and Demons three years ago while on holiday... in Rome. It was one of the books in the house. I enjoyed it! Yes, probably because I was in Rome and visiting all the sights of the horrific murders and that made it more exciting. But I don't know, I actually enjoyed it!
In the book really liked the Camerlengo, I thought he was great! I pictured a 36 year old Jonathan Pryce so I was really pleased with the idea of Ewan McGregor in the film, 'cause, you know, he's a good British actor (important).
He was both cute and sinister, really the cute and extremely heroic outweighed the sinister a bit too much for my liking (though I suppose it's not supposed to be obvious that he's the bad guy- even though you could tell in the book straight away- why else would I picture a sinister Mr Dark -esq Pryce?!) Yeah! I wanted him to be Pope too!! And I don't even care about religion! That guy just saved the Vatican!! Make him the new Pope!!!
I remembered it all very clearly from the book which I found odd because I don't remember all of the books I've read and I sort of figured Dan Brown as pulp fiction would be easily forgettable but I came out saying "So when were we going to find out that he was the Pope's son?" I have a feeling that it was probably shot but edited out of the bit where Tom Hanks finds the end-the-film-quickly-plot-device recording of Skarsgard arguing with Ewan, the way he shouted "Your Father!" sort of implied that in those diaries he'd read the truth. The truth that would have given McGregor motive for madness and sort of explain his behavior a bit... Ah well!
Anyway, even though it was still rubbish and Tom Hanks is still badly cast I liked it, but that's because I found the Camerlengo extremely endearing (to put it politely) both in the book and the film. More in the book though, you know, when he was Italian not Irish.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Robin Hood (BBC1) Series 3 Episode 13:Something Worth Fighting For pt2

Surely they can't commission another series. Surely.
So Allan died horrifically last week after no one believed in him- he managed to do an actual convincing bit of fighting beforehand though which prompted me to say "Ooh, when Robin leaves Allan should take over, at least he can fight!" Well, Allan died, the Sheriff killed him. Bastard!!! Allan was the best one!! Especially since Guy turned into a big sissy and essentially the comic relief ("Where do I sleep?" "Where's my horse gone?" etc.)
So this week my money was on Guy and Much for the chop- How the FUCK is Much still alive?!
Yeah, Guy died- undramatically, predictably saving Robin, with terribly dialogue and bad filming (hello, he's the best looking cast member, give him a good death scene, let's not be staring up his nose while he croaks.) Meanwhile; "I'm Isabella! I saw this in a play! Take that from a poisoned blade!!" Robin got cut a la Hamlet and died after first saving everyone and blowing up Nottingham CGI Castle along with The Sheriff, that hoarse black guy and Isabella, boo hoo.
In comes the ghost of Maid Marian and she and Robin dance off into the distance, ah, how sweet- they then pan back to Robin's body which twitches enough to scare the 8 year-old audience out of their wits. One or the other BBC!! Romanticized death, floating off rejoining loved ones, or agonizing twitching reality- Not both!!!
They could have done so much with it. I mean, every episode in all three series has been awful, so I suppose it's no surprise. But FIVE major characters died! And none of them died dramatically! Two got blown up, Guy was just forgotten about, Allan was at least given a funeral (though how the Outlaws had time for this I don't know, they were supposed to be under attack by a huge army) and yet again writers of a Robin Hood story missed the most famous part of his legend!!!
While dying Robin Hood took up his bow one last time and said to his merry men: "Wherever this arrow lands you must bury me..."
So they buried him on top of the wardrobe.

Die Welle (The Wave- 2008)

The German film, based on the 1981 American TV series, based on the American novel, based on an actual 1967 American school project/experiment. Probably much more terrifying set in a German classroom. Though I don't know... the whole idea is terrifyingly possible- well, it IS possible! It's based on a true story! I think if I'd seen an American film version I would have just dismissed it as "Dumb Americans, they would conform to the idea of fascism without questioning it!" (Ha! I'm such a racist!) So seeing German kids do it was more appalling not just because of history but because German ideals and English ideals seem similar to me, obviously there's a lot of shame involved in being German- I'm serious. But there's shame in being English too! That's why I'm so glad I have my Scottish heritage to fall back on! Whilst on a train last year with Norwegian, Irish and English pals Norway asked; "Aren't you proud of your country?" Ireland was thrilled with herself, fellow Englander and I exchanged glances and then tried to explain the shame in being English. We're warmongers. It must be great to be Irish and be so hard-done-by and wonderful to be innocent and Norwegian, but to be English and have all that history of blood... in Norway you can fly the flag, over here if you fly the flag it's a statement, you're probably a skinhead BNP member, I avoid the Union Jack like the fucking plague!!
Why was I talking about that? Oh yeah, there was a bit in the film where the very liberal girls talk about how awful it was during the world cup having all the German flags up, I just identified with this shame (though I have to say shamed though I feel to be English, I am certainly relieved I am not German!!). Anyway, I was horrified at the film because I did think that if that experiment had started at my school when I was fifteen or whatever, on the first day I probably would have gone along with it too. But Fuck! Already by Tuesday (The story took place day by day over one week) I would have gone home and asked my mum if I could go to a new school!!!
If you don't know about this film (The original 1967 project was called The Third Wave) it is very interesting but very very scary- a mindfuck I mean, there was no violence, just political-horror... As a weeklong project to educate a class of students on the subject of autocracy a teacher decides to stage a small dictatorship within the classroom. It starts off ok-ish, well, not pure Nazism, just more rules than the laid-back schoolroom had before, but as the days go by it very quickly becomes a fucking Neo-Nazi nightmare- the biggest fright being that out of fifty students only two notice that it shouldn't be like this!
The kids like the community, the direction, the pride of being a unit. I mean, I liked that we wore a uniform at my school but not (as the girls in the film sighed:) "because it's such a hassle choosing what to wear every morning," because I was a fat poor kid who only had one pair of trousers and like two tshirts!! And I certainly didn't like my uniform because it made me feel like I was in a strong group that would soon overthrow the rest of Germany! ARGH!
I kept thinking while watching it 'This is why people are in gangs.' Because the kids who got really into it were the kids who didn't have any friends or direction before The Wave and were then part of a bigger group, a community where everyone looked out for each other- but seriously, surely you'd realize 'hey this ain't so great!' when your fellow Wavers (whatever) started to censor anything bad written about them or started to kick the crap out of people who weren't wearing white shirts!! Man, it was one terrifying film, but really really good.
The question at the beginning of the project was "Could a dictatorship ever be established in Germany again?" the kids rolled their eyes, of course not, how ridiculous, we've learned. Yeah, well, in FIVE days you all went fucking nuts you fascists! How far would you as a fifteen year old stay in The Wave?
I'd be out by day two that's for friggin' sure. I look terrible in white.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Julius Caesar (RSC, The Courtyard, Stratford-upon-Avon)

Lucy Bailey has directed bloodbaths at the Globe before, I think if this production had been performed in the open air it would have been a lot better- obviously the actors would have to learn to shout for it to be outside, though really they should have learned this before they came a-mumbling onstage at The Courtyard.
Going down to Stratford for the night to see The RSC's production of Julius Caesar was luckily not the only thing on our agenda, so the fact that the play was not great did not ruin our road trip. We went to Warwick for ice cream and charity shops, then to Charlecote Park for a country house and deer-spotting, finally we got to our thirty quid travel lodge (tres cheap though almost deathly in the heat with windows that open an inch) out for a nice dinner and then to the theatre. The next day we went to Broadway and Chipping-Camden to see ye olde Cotswald villages and had the most fabulous lunch we'd had for years sitting in the sun outside Russell's and eating two courses for £12; minute steak and celariac with rocket and parmesan salad followed by treacle tart and ice cream- I could spend a whole flipping blog on how wonderful the lunch was and how nice the boys who worked there were, but I'm supposed to be reviewing a play. We also stopped at farm shops on the way home and listened to Just William -the previous day we'd prepared ourselves for Shakespeare with William and the Lost Tourist ("What's the Avon?") and William Takes the Stage ("The flesh and hairys...").
So I've raved on this blog before about how the Royal Shakespeare Company trains in a way that even if you don't know the play it is instantly accessible, it isn't a mish-mash of acting styles to confuse like American film-versions of Shakey, everyone acts the same way, to the same rhythm etc. Well, it seems the entire company of last summer's Hamlet, Love Labour's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream are filming David Tennant's Hamlet for BBC2 to be shown at Christmas so this summer's company are as my sister put it "the dregs of the RSC" (or as my dad put it: "Anyone want to be in a play?" "Aye, I'll dae it, sae lang as I can be back at the chip shop for my night shift"). I still want to believe that it was because I didn't know it that I didn't enjoy it.
I was willing to look past the horrible 3D crowd projections and the strange choice of 1960s-Afternoon-Play music that intruded on every scene, and I didn't mind that some of the costumes were crap (Dad wondered why they were all dressed like Abba) I was convinced that the RSC would be able to act it and that was all I was interested in, a good story.
But is it a good story? Did Shakespeare even write it we wondered? He always writes such good parts for women, Caesar's wife was played by Noma Dumezweni who had played Titania so well last year in Midsummer- I was relieved to see her and thought "ho ho, it will be good now she's in it..." She had about two lines and was never seen again! Same with Portia, I was suddenly interested, thought with her we'd see another side to Brutus, but she died off stage after one scene and was only seen again as a ghost!! Had all of Shakespeare's boy-actors grown up when he wrote this play!? Why were there no women in it!?
It was a really hot day, so this affected the audience, hayfever and fatigue- I wondered if it was just that we'd done so much in the sun that day that I was tired and that was why in the first half hour of the play I couldn't keep my eyes open- anyway, the audience seemed to wait for dramatic pauses to cough loudly over the next lines so I didn't know what the fuck was going on. Back to the company though; it didn't help that they all seemed to be from a school of mumbling whisperers. Were they tired from the heat? Or were they just shit?
I felt like a lot of the time they were forgetting their lines! There were too many "dramatic pauses." There were only a couple of people who could really project and convey the frigging meaning of their lines, it wasn't that I was tired, suddenly someone new is speaking and I'm listening- I'm not drifting off.
The bloke who played Mark Anthony managed to make the "Friends, Romans, Countrymen..." speech boring and utterly undramatic, he was creepy and slimy, is he supposed to be? There was no Fool! (another reason we're not sure Shakespeare wrote it) Though the actor playing Caesar cracked a few jokes he was mainly creepy and slimy- was he supposed to be?! I thought he was supposed to be charismatic and god-like!! Only Robin Hood's Sam Troughton playing the lead was any good, though really I thought Brutus was supposed to be complex, he seemed to be a total coward (so...Much but with more lines) and was good with the worried-face. I still had trouble hearing him though, was he adjusting how he spoke to soft spoken Cassius' level? Project!! Perhaps they thought Sam Troughton would carry their show, we got Doctor Who last year, why not get someone from Robin Hood this year? For a start, I really don't think Much is a big enough star to attract huge audiences and secondly everyone in Tennant's plays last year were equally as good as him, Julius Caesar is much more a company play, you need a good company.
This production got good reviews. And three stars from the Guardian which I thought was generous. The fighting scenes were good (obviously the director's forte) and Caesar's murder- the scenes where women were allowed to act were good too, but I found the actors playing Cassius and Mark Anthony just bla, and unfortunately they were two very important parts.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Another one of Dad's 1 quid rentals, and one I wasn't really keen on seeing, I think Richard Herring described it as a series of swears that he couldn't even watch in one sitting (I think it was three in all) so I wasn't really bothered, but as it is Father's Day we, the daughters, sat and watched it with Papa.
And it wasn't that bad, the special effects weren't total crap, they were ok, it was only really at the beginning for the baby and a split second towards the end; Brad's face all photoshopped to fuck.
It was a long film and every ten minutes or so we'd argue over how old everyone was supposed to be which was fun until Brad stayed forty for about ten years and Cate Blanchett seemed to be getting younger...
The best bits of the film on a visual level were of course when Brad looked young and fabulous à la Jimmy Dean on his bike, but story-wise we all agreed that when Jared Harris' character died it started to drag.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Valkyrie (2008)

I can't help thinking that all the respectable British actors involved in this film were sent the script and a long Cast List of all their respectable-British-actor-buddies and they signed up wondering just which bright-young Brit actor would star in the lead. Could it be Daniel Craig perhaps? Or a come-back from Joseph Fiennes, Paul Bettany or Johnny Lee Miller? (When are they coming back, btw?)
There was no bright-young respectable British actor to lead a great ensemble, but laughing stock of Hollywood has-been Scientology-weirdo Tom Cruise. WTF? I mean, it was good when he wasn't on screen! When he wasn't talking! Jeez!
Tom Cruise was good in the right setting! He was good as Lestat! Well, more fun that Brad anyway! Other than Interview with the Vampire(1994) and the two second cameo in Austin Powers 3 the only films of Tom's that I really enjoyed were all made in the 80s! And I've seen almost all of them! We all have!

SCRIPPS!!!!! My favourite History Boy took a bullet for Tom Cruise! Nooooooooooo!!!!!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Dean Spanley (2008)

My dad rents at least four films a day from the local library, we then have to watch whatever crap he has picked out at random, the last three films we watched were last year's A Bunch of Amateurs, The Assassination of Jesse James etc. and The Day the Earth Stood Still. All unbearable in their various ways, though at least the last half hour of Jesse James was interesting and the supporting cast in the Burt Reynolds flick were great.
Sometimes you see the poster for a film and you instantly hate it, instantly don't ever want to see it or even learn what the film is about- I'm sure there must be blogs dedicated to this sort of horror. Dean Spanley was one such film; five heavily airbrushed actors above an appalling piece of typography. I never got as far down as the picture of Peter O'Toole with a dog, all I remembered about the poster was the horrible on-the-cheap typeface and Peter O'Toole's scary eyes staring at me. So I had no idea what the film was about, none of us did, we watched it for a full half hour not knowing what the hell would happen.
When it did happen (the plot) it was a brilliant surprise.
The film is about an old man's dead dog who has been reincarnated as Sam Neil, he only remembers his past dog-life when he drinks a particular wine and when he drinks it he does not (as you might expect from and American film) turn into a dog and run riot, he simply recalls these doggy memories charmingly.
Another film with a repellant poster is Unconditional Love (2002) starring Kathy Bates and Rupert Everett. I saw this film when it was released (straight to dvd) simply for my love of Jonathan Pryce but I liked it so much that it became my secret shame- until I realised that everyone else I know who has seen it thought it was great too! Summary: A famous crooner is murdered, Chicagoan Kathy Bates the ultimate fangirl goes to Wales for his funeral only to discover that the dead Jonathan Pryce- Housewives' Choice -was gay and his lover Rupert Everett needs help solving his murder and learning to live again!!
Dean Spanley was a lovely heart-warming, touching, amusing, feel-good film about death.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

New Poll: Who is perfect?

Mr Thornton or Mr Darcy?

Darcy of course played by Colin Firth opposite Jennifer Ehle in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Thornton by Richard Armitage opposite Daniela Denby-Ashe in the BBC adaptation of Mrs Gaskell's North and South (2004).
Colin Firth's Darcy jumps in the lake and comes out wearing a wet shirt he then talks to Lizzie awkwardly. Richard Armitage's John Thornton is so in love with Miss Hale that he explodes with Northern rage when she rejects him then cries at home to his mummy.
Darcy is a toff with a lot of cash, a stupid friend and a simple sister. Thornton is a Mill owner who beats the crap out of people for looking at him funny, he also has a simple sister.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Nine (2009) Trailer- film won't appear until November

la la la laa, la la laaa la, la la la la la la la laaaaa!!!
Chicago is not one of my favourite musicals and the film isn't helped with the casting of Rene Zellwegger and Richard Gere, two actors I'm not fond of, but I think the film itself is an extremely good musical film. The director knows what he's doing, there are no bits where you think 'oh god, a song...' The songs all gel perfectly well into the story thanks to the stage set-up throughout. The same director, Rob Marshall, is doing Nine and I am so pleased!! Because Nine is a really good musical! Great story, characters and songs, but I think it- like all stage musicals- would have to be tackled carefully on film, I don't think I have to worry.
The casting looks fabulous; Daniel Day Lewis as Guido just better be able to sing (wonder why Antonio Banderas didn't get to recreate his stage version... Surely he can still pass for forty?) Marion Cotillard as the missus, Penelope Cruz as the mistress, Nicole Kidman as the actress, Kate Hudson as the American journalist, Sophia Loren as the mother, Black Eyed Peas singer as the prostitute (that's her singing over the trailer- bloody good!! A million miles better than the '93 London Cast Recording I have!!) and Judi Dench.
I don't know why I didn't know this was happening, films are always a surprise to me now, I stopped buying Empire three years ago after a five year loyalty to save money, no doubt that money now goes on something else and to top it off I'm ignorant of important film-news!! Anyway I cannot wait to see this film, it looks great fun. I especially look forward to Marion Cotillard (La Môme Piaf!) she's very lovely. I will update 25th November!!