Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Cold Souls (2009)

Dad just keeps bringing back winners!! Not like him at all!! I was expecting an afternoon of pointlessly bloody horror films but instead he brought back a poignant Robert Carlyle piece about mental illness which was really good in the first half hour- before you realised he was a nut... That was I Know You Know(2009) and the little boy was really good in it.
But wow, Cold Souls was really brill! Paul Giamatti plays himself having a nervous breakdown while playing Vanya on stage, he goes to a doctor, David Strathairn (who I now have a serious crush on, see photo) and has his soul surgically removed, he feels great for a while but to play Vanya properly he rents the soul of a Russian poet and is brilliant in the part. It all goes a bit tits up however when he goes to get his own soul back and it has been pinched by a Russian mobster and transplanted into his vacuous girlfriend with the purpose that she become a better actor (she thinks it's Al Pacino's soul and is horrified when Giamatti turns up wanting it back).
You know the whole plot now. I thought it was too good not to tell. Anyway, he's great in it as is the Russian actress playing the soul-mule but the real good stuff was the story itself. Being John Malkovich(1999) crossed with Brazil(1984) crossed with Uncle Vanya! Not really.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Glandular Fever roundup: Nowhere Boy, Avatar, Sunshine Cleaning, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

I have seen a bunch of films this week because I am ill. All films that I have wanted to see, some for a while, some that have just come out. I can't be doing with reviewing each separately so here is a roundup. The list: Sunshine Cleaning(2009), Nowhere Boy(2009), Avatar(2009), Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist(2008).
I'll say straight off that I enjoyed them all, except Avatar which was the biggest pile of crap I've ever seen and I knew that it would be (my dad made me watch it, it wasn't on my list). Yes the CGI is amazing and it looks beautiful and I'm sure on the big screen and in 3D it was an experience. But it is still a film about a self-righteous American who befriends the natives and leads them into a mindless war where even though they win they have millions more fatalities than the enemy. Self congratulatory American drivel.
Nowhere Boy was about John Lennon's teenage years and I was worried (as a Beatles expert) that I wouldn't like it, the casting or whatever. But no, I really did like it, and I felt very emotional watching it, especially that bit at the end where Paul and John have a punch at each other and then start crying because both of them have just lost their mums. Of course, that is what kept these two vastly different geniuses together all those years, but I never really thought about it, and it made me terribly sad! Maybe it was just the glandular fever! I thought the casting was great, though not keen on George- he was a much prettier boy than that- Paul as played by that ugly kid from Love Actually was actually quite a good choice and of course the boy playing Lennon was sometimes exactly like him and then sometimes stunningly gorgeous! As per usual with these British films, excellent ensemble, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff gave brilliant performances and David Morrissey in the background was good solid support.
Sunshine Cleaning I liked too, the two gals were good and Alan Arkin never disappoints, very real but with surprising moments of subtle hilarity considering the subject matter! Could have done without the weird Emily Blunt/Lesbian not-relationship though, I didn't think that added anything.
I watched Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist with my dad and we both liked it- and he is the kind of person who thinks American Pie is a good coming-of-age teen comedy! I thought it was very well written, I liked that it all took place over one night, that made it different from the other Indie teen movies out there- that probably also star Michael Cera. She was really lovely though and all I could think was she could do much better than him!

Me and Orson Welles (2009)

I saw the trailer for this film ages ago and thought it looked amazing- as in, the look of it, the costumes and the locations, all perfectly 1930s. And Zefron was there too and I was really keen to see him in a film where he wasn't all-singing all-dancing!
I finally saw it last night and there was a bit of his singing and dancing but I think that was important to the plot rather than it being written into everyone of his contracts!
You know it's a good film when you assume it's American but are wonderfully surprised to see that absolutely EVERYONE (except Zefron and Claire Danes) in it is British. That guy who makes a living playing Orson Welles on stage must be well chuffed that he has played him on screen, it was an amazing performance, the main reason to see the film definitely! And like I say the ensemble were excellent, Eddie Marsan, Ben Chaplin and Kelly Reilly all fabulous support. It's a film about the theatre and it was well done, I loved it.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

How Not To Grow Up by Richard Herring

My copy of Richard Herring's book arrived just in time, I have tonsillitis (yeah, it came back with a vengeance) so I spent all day in bed yesterday reading his memoir. I also spent the sickday before that listening to the Collings and Herrin Best of Earth, Wind and Fire* CD of podcasts, but that drove me a bit stir crazy...
His book was perfect for my sore throat, I smiled a lot but the strain of laughing out loud only hurt six or seven times, it was quite a gentle read and I was surprised at how I still found him a sensitive, romantic soul despite how much of the book is about his pursuit of a threesome (which sounded AWFUL by the way, Rich).
It is about a midlife crisis so of course not all of it was hilarious, and maybe in my bacteria induced melancholia I could have done with a less truthful book but I was uplifted at all the moments Richard was uplifted and Richard's despair didn't drag me down because I knew it would have a happy ending (both the book and the threesome).
Yes, a good read, much better than a tour diary, much better than an autobiography- though admittedly I really loved all the childhood stories and in my sickly state could have done with a big book of them to cheer me. I also liked the exchanges with Emma Kennedy- which might sound scripted to you but I'm guessing are word for word because it's exactly how my sister and I talk to each other.

*And Water

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The White Guard (by Mikhail Bulgakov, National Theatre)

I should be reviewing two plays today but I'm not because half way through The White Guard- which was one of the best plays I've seen for ages- I got an odd tickle in my throat that over night developed into tonsilitis and led to an exciting adventure of obtaining antibiotics through any means possible and unfortunately missing thursday night's performance of Women Beware Women.
We are fans of Russian plays, well, we are fans of the National Theatre's choice of Russian plays- seen a lot of Chekhov over the last few years at different theatres, I find it all horribly frustrating and sometimes I leave the theatre wanting to stab things. But at the National I have seen Philistines by Gorky and Burnt by the Sun by Nikitia Mikhalkov, granted both contained favourite Rory Kinnear but I've developed a taste for them now and The White Guard might have to be my favourite.
The play is about a family of Tsar loyalists (Tsarists?) in the middle of bloody civil war in the Ukraine. Yeah, they're all fucked.
The set design was astounding, Burnt by the Sun was a whole rotating house and beach, but this production made me wonder just how many miles deep the stage at the Lyttleton really is! A whole appartment with corridors leading to other rooms, a magnificent empty palace, a school gymnasium and a friggin' bombed out bunker! All these sets filled the whole stage! Where the hell did they come from!? It was seriously amazing!
Yeah, the design played a big part in making this play extremely good but the excellent ensemble probably could have carried it without bunkers, explosions and bombs dropping (nearly gave me a friggn' heart attack!), the actors were brilliant. I've seen Conleth Hill in plays before but suddenly as a charismatic love interest I was in agreement with Elena- completely in love with the big charming brute. And Paul Higgins doing his Jamie from in the Thick of It on stage but with so much warmth- just as much swearing but so likeable as a drunken captain. Justine Mitchell as Elena, the woman, such a hard part to play amongst all the men, she was wonderful, she stood out and was so real. Jeez, they were all so real and so was the friggin' war. But hell, it was still so funny! Poignant, laughably so.
I mean, those things have to go hand in hand don't they? If you are capable of understanding tragedy then you must understand comedy. Probably why those two genres are my favourites, and why I so enjoyed this play.