Thursday, October 30, 2008



THE END OF THE FESTIVAL SHOW
So there were two more films I saw as part of the LFF that I have yet to post reviews of. One, The Brothers Bloom, was disappointing but the other, Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, was great. The Brothers Bloom is the followup to Rian Johnson's Brick, a noirish teen drama from 2006 that I thought worked very well. This film deals with the brothers in the title, Bloom and Stephen played respectively by Adrien Brody and Mark Rufalo, who are a pair of con artists who spent their childhoods moved from pillar to post from one set of foster parents to another. As adults, they have garnered a reputation as the best in their field but Bloom (Brody) has had enough and wants to quit. So he leaves his brother, who tracks him down for one last job and the mark this time happens to be rich eccentric Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz). The problem is that Brody falls for her and she joins the brothers in their escapades, or does she? The Brothers Bloom is a film of two different tones: it starts life as a light heist movie, like a pastiche of a sixties movie and then moves into sub-Mamet territory and this is its biggest flaw. The two halves don't gel and the change of tone is very jarring. Brody and Rufalo are a good team and Weisz is kookily sexy but it doesn't hold together as a single film. It may be that difficult second movie syndrome and perhaps Johnson may get it more together for his next project…
Slumdog Millionaire
is Danny Boyle's latest film and after the disappointing sci-fi thriller Sunshine, Boyle has some ground to make up. Slumdog Millionaire is based on the novel Q&A and deals with protagonist Jamal, played by Skins' Dev Patel, who comes from the slums of Mumbai who happens to get onto India's version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. He scoops the top prize of 20 million rupees but is accused of cheating. So the film looks at his journey as a child in the slums of the city, his travails with his brother Salim and his unrequited love for gorgeous Latika, who falls in with gangsters towards the end of the story. Boyle kicks off with footage from the TV show and intersperses this with Jamal's brutal interrogation at the hands of the Mumbai police and his life story. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy is best known for writing The Full Monty but he displays a greater emotional range here while Boyle shows us a Mumbai of so many different colours and textures but never falls into the easy trap of sugar-coating any of the settings. Jamal and Salim have had a pretty horrendous life, losing ther mother in a raid by Hindus in the slum when they were very young and being forced to live at an oprhanage run by the villainous Maman. Patel and Mittal, who plays his doomed brother, are excellent as is Anil Kapoor, who is the host on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Prem. Slumdog Millionaire works because it gives us a snapshot of modern Mumbai and its recent past and takes an idea that seems simple but invests it with humour, pathos and depth. It was the closing gala film at the London Film Festival and I am very glad I went to see it…

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008











AN UNUSUAL PLACE FOR COMIC ART
Yesterday I went to the penultimate day of the original comic art exhibition at Harrods on Brompton Road in Southwest London. Lying In The Gutters columnist Rich Johnston had organised this small get-together as he was one of the people responsible for the exhibition. You may or may not be surprised to hear that, even though I've lived in London all my life, this was the first time I'd ever stepped foot in Harrods. I wandered through the Food Hall a little bit and it made me think that I should come back at some point to have a proper look. Monday was a pretty entertaining day all round: I went to see The Brothers Bloom, the new film from the director of Brick, Rian Johnson, which was disappointing but I had the whole afternoon to kill before I went to Harrods and bumped into Jill Thompson, who was in town for her signing at Gosh last Saturday. I had never really spoken to her before even though I was familiar with her work (Scary Godmother, Sandman) and, as I was at a loose end, I took her to Soho, Covent Garden and Chinatown, which was a lot of fun. She was very nice and I'm sure we'll be doing something on her work at some point. The exhibition contained a page of The Killing Joke by Brian Bolland, the first appearance of Judge Dredd by Carlos Ezquerra, Watchmen by Dave Gibbons and more. Frazer Irving, whose Judge Death was represented there, Chris Weston, who had a page of his Filth in the room too and a few other people came along like my friend David Baillie, Kieron (Phonogram) Gillen. Here are a few photos I took earlier in the afternoon around Trafalgar Square of the newly-cleaned St Martin-in-The-Fields and a few at the event…

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Sunday, October 26, 2008


FINDING SOLACE
WARNING: SPOILERS
I've been putting off posting my review of Quantum of Solace because it isn't out in the UK until this Friday and not in the States until November 14th. But I've noticed that there've been a few on the net already so I believe I'm alright. But if you don't want to know what happens and won't be seeing it for a little bit, please don't read this review…
Casino Royale back in 2006 made $167m in the US and it delivered what it promised: a Bond closer to Fleming's vision of the character. Quantum of Solace, directed by Monster's Ball and Kite Runner director Marc Forster, continues in the same vein as its predecessor except it is even darker and edited even more tautly than Casino Royale. Early criticism has accused QOS of being too action-packed, but surely that's the whole point of a Bond film? People don't wax lyrical about the beautiful Japanese settings in You Only Live Twice or the examination of Thai culture in The Man With The Golden Gun. QOS opens almost straight after Casino Royale with Bond betrayed by Vesper but fighting his deep urge to make things personal. Seeingly capturing Mr White in a white-knuckle car chase that kicks off proceedings, during interrogation he reveals the scope of the criminal organization that he works for. Bond is led to investigate ruthless businessman Dominic Greene (played by Munich's and The Diving Bell and The Butterfly's Mathieu Amalric) in Haiti. It seems that Greene, while posing as an eco-conscious force for business, is actually intent on controlling one of the world's main natural resources for his own ends (and it's not oil). Quantum of Solace takes the agent to Haiti, Bolivia and Austria and Forster controls the action very expertly, with special mention for the scene in the Austrian opera house where the fight runs in tandem with the opera. The scenes in Haiti are reminiscent of other Bond films and Amalric isn't as sinister as predecessor Le Chiffre in Casino Royale but in some ways, that makes his evil even more unsettling. Craig is superb here: he looks even more comfortable on screen than in his first outing and there is a little more chemistry and even some tension between him and Dench as his boss M. Bond Girl Camille (actress Olga Kurylenko) is as gorgeous as all the rest and looks good on screen. The editing and visual effects here are also worth mentioning with the kind of heart-stopping stunts that the Bond films used to be world-famous for making a comeback. The song by Alicia Keys and Jack White, Another Way To Die, is the weakest link here as it's aurally messy and out of place as a Bond song. The title sequence doesn't disappoint visually though. Forster has proven to be an intelligent choice as visually it's less lavish than Casino Royale and as such the pace is far more speedy. I don't know if it will top Casino Royale's worldwide box office but with this and its predecessor, James Bond is a franchise that deserves its place at the top table of blockbusters and Craig is a great Bond, almost up there with Connery. He has wiped the unpleasant taste of the last couple of Brosnan Bonds from our palettes and it will be genuinely interesting to see where they take the series next. Roll on, Bond 23…

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THE COLONEL WILL SEE YOU NOW
On Saturday, as a last-minute thing, I went to the London Expo, held at the Excel in Docklands. I went there because Michael Hogan aka Colonel Tighe from Battlestar Galactica and a few members of the cast of Heroes were there including Greg Grunberg, who plays Matt Parkman. I didn't get roundtable time but went to two press conferences with Hogan and with Grunberg. So here are a few photos I took of Hogan, who seemed like a very down-to-earth man, and very committed to his work. I met Edward Olmos at the same show back in May so I can tick two of the cast off my list. Baz came down from Manchester and we spent the whole day at the show and then went for an Indian in Drummond Street. It was good see Baz as ever…

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Friday, October 24, 2008


PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS
W. from Oliver Stone was the most recent film I caught at the London Film Festival. A biopic of President George W Bush played mostly for laughs, showcasing some of his early life juxtaposed with recent events, Josh Brolin (from The Coen Brothers' No Country For Old Men) is the eponymous W while Elizabeth Banks, a US TV staple actress, is his long-suffering wife Laura. It's a bit of a redundant film: Brolin tackles Bush's naivety and ignorance smartly but the film does come across as one of those TV movie biopics with a little more money thrown at it. The supporting cast (Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, Thandie Newton as Condi Rice) are adequate but they become nothing more than reductive caricature. It's a strange choice of topic and while the broad comedy makes it accessible to the general moviegoing public, it removes its satirical teeth. Stone is a director who hasn't made anything of note in over two decades now and W. will do nothing to change this. A curio of a movie but not one that will be remembered by posterity…

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Thursday, October 23, 2008



A FEW MORE FILMS…
Synedoche, New York is Charlie Kaufman's latest film and this time he's directed it himself. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a struggling playwright in the small town of the title whose wife Adele Lack played by Kaufman regular Catherine Keener paints miniature portraits. When his wife disappears to Berlin with their daughter and never comes back, this forces Cotard to reexamine his life and he decides to put on a play of his life. But since this is Charlie Kaufman, it's nowhere near as linear or as traditional as it sounds. Synedoche, New York is a truly bizarre film that tries to reflect the absurdity of celebrity (Cotard's wife becomes an art celebrity in Germany while his daughter effects a ridiculous German accent as does his wife's friend Maria, portrayed amusingly by Jennifer Jason Leigh and the playwright develops a strange and unexplained illness). The film did make me laugh a few times but I also felt that perhaps it was just to bizarre to elicit anything other than bemusement in the cinemagoer. It makes Eternal Sunshine and Being John Malkovich look like Tony Scott films by comparison. But it is worth watching if you have a couple of hours to kill and don't mind seeing something that is obtuse and ultimately a little unsatisfying…
Adoration is the latest film by Canadian director Atom Egoyan and the problem with it is that while it's well-acted and well-directed, it leaves the audience totally cold. After losing his parents in uncertain circumstances, Simon (Devon Bostick) is reluctantly being raised by his Uncle Tom (Scott Speedman). Simon's memories of his mother Rachel (Rachel Blanchard), an accomplished violinist, and father Sami (Noam Jenkins) are shrouded in mystery. Sabine, played by Arsinée Khanjian, is Simon's teacher and she attempts to unravel the secrets of the boy's life. It turns out that all of these characters are linked by something that's occurred in their collective pasts. But you can't sympathise with any of the characters and it all warrants a big shrug at the end. Go and see it if you like slightly arch, worthy Canadian films…

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


MORE CINEMATIC BEHAVIOUR
Also at the London Film Festival, I went to see Flame/ Citron (or Flammen/ Citronen) a brilliant Danish film set during the Second World War about two fighters against the Nazis during the occupation of Denmark. Director Ole Christian Madsen spins a compelling yarn about ginger-haired Flame and dark-haired Citron (it is never explained why his nickname is Citron) and their battles with the occupying forces. Double agent Ketty Selmer falls for Flame and complicates the situation. Thure Lindhardt, who plays Flame, is fantastic as is Mads Mikkelsen as Citron (you may recognise him as the villian Le Chiffre in Casino Royale) and Madsen shows a deft hand for intrigue here. I don't know how wide a release Flame/ Citron will get but if you're a fan of quality war films, then this has to be on your must-see list…
Next I'll put my Quantum of Solace review up…

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Sunday, October 19, 2008




















SEAT OF GOVERNMENT
I couldn't think of a pun for this one but here are some photos I took around Parliament Square and Victoria Embankment about three weeks ago. I really like the late Autumn light…

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Saturday, October 18, 2008



CINEMATIC BEHAVIOUR
The last couple of weeks, since I've had no subbing work, and I'm accredited for the London Film Festival, I decided to go to as many films that caught my interest showing there. I've started doing reviews of political films for a magazine I've done a little bit of subbing for, Total Politics, but I've tried to cast my net a little wider. Having said that, the first film I caught at the LFF press screenings the Friday before last was The Baader Meinhof Complex, an intelligent German film that attempts to get inside the heads of that infamous 1970s terrorist organization. Andreas Baader (played convincingly by Moritz Bleibtreu), Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) and Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek) are the three heads of this group, which starts life as a misguided attempt to check what they see as rampant American imperialism. The real problem here is that Baader Meinhof was a brutal and murderous group who were a bunch of naive German liberals who convinced themselves that what they were fighting for was justified. Having said that, the cast is excellent and director Uli Edel with writer/ producer Bernd Eichinger create a compelling snapshot of 1960s and 1970s Germany and the cast are superb…
Then last Wednesday I went to see Frost/ Nixon, Ron Howard's latest film based on the phenomenally successful stage play that looks at chat show host David Frost's attempts to interview disgraced US president Richard Nixon to push him to some kind of admission on air. The two leads are played by the same actors as on stage: Michael Sheen takes on David Frost while Frank Langella is Richard Nixon. Although visually neither actor resembles the men they portray, they both have distilled enough of their mannerisms and their characteristics to convince the audience. In fact, Frost/ Nixon is quite a heavyweight film considering that Howard's last film was The Da Vinci Code and he manages to make his case with style and pizazz. Sheen, who has also played Tony Blair in The Queen a couple of years ago, gives us a Frost who is nearly all surface and no substance, a playboy who picks up gorgeous women on airplanes and who is so keen to break America that he is prepared to bankroll the Nixon interview out of his own pockets. Langella has a melancholy that serves to humanize Nixon while still maintaining some of the menace of the former president. It is uncertain how much of this has been mythologized and altered for fictional purposes but it is an effective and thought-provoking film that looks at the fall from grace of one of America's most controversial political figures ever and shows the influence that Frost used to command, an influence and celebrity thanks to the Frost/ Nixon interviews. I admit that I never saw the play but the film doesn't suffer from seeming overly theatrical and that is testament to Howard and an excellent supporting cast that includes Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt as Frost's long-suffering researchers on the project and Kevin Bacon as Nixon's former chief of security. I would recommend Frost/ Nixon to people who love All The President's Men or Three Days of The Condor and is a worthy addition to the canon…

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Thursday, October 16, 2008











RUINED GLORY PART TWO
As promised, and in my quest to post a new entry every day until I run out of things to talk about, here are some more photos of Kenilworth Castle. I've been to see lots of films this week and last and I'm going to Quantum of Solace on Friday night, which I'm rather excited about but I probably won't post a review for a couple of weeks out of fairness (and probably because it'll be embargoed til then anyway:))…

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