Category Archives: Film

Attack of the Evil Muffins

And now for something completely different – evil muffins.

What happens if you use rotten eggs for baking? Find out in the short film by Hannah Charles below. Whoah, it’s a bit scary.

But first a couple of updates:

  1. Brain scientist Livia Blackburne , who prompted the whole Why Writers Shouldn’t Blog discussion has joined in the debate – sparking off still vigorous back and forth. The latest comments are here.
  2. People keep leaving funny stories about The Day I Met… in comments. There’s one about Keith Chegwin from Jake Kale and a funny one about the actress Rula Lenska by Charles Dickens London in the comments here. You can still enter – details here. The next winning entry will be published this Wednesday. It’s from Noble Cause Corruption – but listen up NCC – you won’t receive your glittering prize unless you email me your address. (I’ve a feeling the prize may not be quite enough to tempt him to blow his cover and breach his undercover cop anonymity. Come visit on Wednesday to find out – and to read his tense tale.)
  3. I found out this weekend that I will have another chance to confront my nemesis. Now just need to decide what to wear on my head.
  4. And after my own shameful behaviour was revealed, the burning question of what my Dad would do with the painty water after cleaning brushes and rollers is answered in the comments here.

And now – just when you thought it was safe to go back in the kitchen – The Attack of the Evil Muffins…

That was fun. Hannah Charles is Continue reading

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Starring Colin Firth as Hugh Grant…

Starring Colin Firth as Hugh Grant, and Mr Bean as...

How’s this for super quick reaction? Hackgate: The Movie.

It’s here. Well – the trailer is anyway. And what a star-studded cast. Colin Firth plays Hugh Grant. Hugh Grant plays… someone else. I forget. Watch the trailer to find out.

There’s an inspired (or too obvious?) casting for the role of Rebekah Brooks. But Ed Miliband and David Cameron – perfect casting choices. (No, I’m not telling you. Watch the Continue reading

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Movie star actually makes a difference. Shock.

What do they know about politics? Why don’t they just stay out of it and carry on looking beautiful or tortured or smug? Actors and politics, huh?

Especially movie actors. Team America: World Police satirised them as patsies for North Korea and aggressively naive and deluded- Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon and the other members of the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.).

By following the rules of the Film Actor’s Guild, the world can become a better place; that handles dangerous people with talk, and reasoning; that, is the fag way. One day you’ll all look at the world us actors created and say, “wow, good going, FAG. You really made the world a better place, didntcha, FAG?”

But it’s too easy to write them all off. And puncturing thespian  self-importance would work better without the lame homophobia.

There’s a guy just died who maybe did make a difference Continue reading

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Little bird on a wire

This is true high adrenalin film making – far from home, forests, rebels lurking, soldiers hunting them, language problems, poisonous snakes, poisonous bees, a shoestring budget and transport via a wire 1,000 feet up.

It’s a mate of mine, Jesse Quinones, and his brother Daniel – they’re Woolfcub Productions.

This intrepid pair are currently somewhere around Guayabetal, Colombia making their film The Cable. They can explain the plot:

The story? In a nutshell, it is about a farming community who live on this mountain, and their only means of transport is a cable, which connects their mountain to another. The cable is approximately 1000 feet high and 400 feet wide.

You can follow their progress as they shoot the film at their blog The Cable. Here’s a little taster of what they’re trying to convey:

The children arrived at around 9 with their father Ruben. The boy was five and the girl was 11. Both were confident and a little excited by our presence. We asked if they felt nervous before going on the cable. ‘No,’ the boy said. ‘It’s normal.’ Ruben clung himself to the cable and then put the boy into a sack. The boy sat their patiently like a pile of potatoes while Ruben latched himself to the girl.

Even though they regard this as normal, I notice that there is an air of anxiety and excitement every single time they embark on the cable. I started to feel very tense myself, especially at the sight of this little boy in there. He was peaking out bravely, telling us again how easy it was. The way the sack fastens to the metal bit is simply by poking a hole through it. So it is hardly secure, especially given that the person riding the cable travels in excess of 100 km per hour. It is a recipe for disaster.

I’m excited and anxious for Jesse and co as I read about their film making – never mind the poor souls who have to live in what sounds like a blighted valley. I hope they return safe. The film should be something to behold.

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It gets better

This is a happy film. Good message – It gets better. Good to know this when you’re young or alone.

It’s a different sort of approach from the itemisation of homophobic attacks – which I appreciate are far more common than one realises.

But sometimes it’s good to accentuate the positive.

Not much else to add, other than I thought I should share it with you.

If you want to sign up to It Gets Better on Facebook, it’s here.

(Thanks to Colt Monday for the tip.)

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The Truth About Pandas

Finally - the truth about pandas. All these years the Chinese have been fooling us. According to Fuxing Man they're really just dogs in disguise. Click on the pic for more.

Got a letter yesterday. Personal, important looking. But not a bill. Could it be… a book response? Too small to contain a returned manuscript. Good news? Bad news? Palpitations… Continue reading

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When have you last walked out of a film?

Ah Holy God. No! Please no!

When has a film been so tedious, so unimaginative, so stultifyingly boring that you decided life was too short to continue watching? I tend to want to finish what I start, not rely solely on first impressions and give things a chance to breathe and settle. I’m tolerant. But this week I encountered a film that was beyond even my broad Pale.

I’m not complaining. I’ve been lucky lately. I’ve seen Up In The Air this week (beautifully shot, very calming, George Clooney plays a corporate downsizer), Sherlock Holmes (a radical new approach to the franchise which works – full of action, humour, Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law), Astroboy (cartoon hero with machine guns in his butt – the 10-year-old boys I was with liked it) and Caramel (a Lebanese film by Nadine Labaki with no subtitles in English, but full of sympathetic characters and a good trick with a telephone conversation).

But my good run has just come to an end. Drowned in Holy Water. Continue reading

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Giant robots run rampage. Cool!

From Scott Teplin's Alphabet City

B is for Blackwatertown. I saw this at TSA (Tom Shea) Art & Music Blog. You can construct a home to match your initials.

Stupid flasher. I expected more from New Zealand.

Death of the Blog Post – or perhaps just how to make them more varied.

And this is great. The story of Panic Attack! (Ataque de Panico!) from YouTube to the big screen.This is how to get $30 million to make a film. Skip the BBC’s excerpt for the full version with giant robots trashing Montevideo. Who says nothing ever happens in Uruguay? Apparently it cost $300 to make. (Can that really be true?)

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It’s hard to know when to stop

An EducationIt’s hard to know when to stop. Take the film An Education. I loved it till the final 90 seconds. I watched it this week at the National Film and Television School with the writer Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay,  and producers Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey. And they admit that the ending was a problem for them.

But first things first. The film is excellent. I recommend you go see it – preferably with your godmother, if you have one, or your exciting aunt.

That’s because it’s set in the swinging London of 1961. Think Colin MacInnes’s Absolute Beginners. The hero is Jenny, convincingly played by Carey Mulligan. She’s a bright attractive 16-year-old, who’s bored with the dull routine of cello lessons, school, Latin homework and the prospect of a boring proper life to follow. The single possible glimmer of light is the possibility of getting in to Oxford to read English. But, as she puts it, this translates into, at best, working hard and being bored at school, then working hard at Oxford, then working hard and being bored as a teacher or civil servant.

Juliette Greco, pic from IonArts.blogspot.com

Juliette Greco, whom Jenny in An Education looks quite like, and wants to be.

Tucked away in her bedroom she reads Camus, listens to Juliette Greco and imagines running away to Paris to wear black, smoke, dance and never return.

Then one rainy day, Jenny and her cello are offered a lift at the bus stop by the attractive and sympathetic older man, David ( Peter Sarsgaard). He charms and amuses schoolgirl Jenny into his car and drives her home to her parents – the protective yet calculating and easily hoodwinked Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour.

From here on, Jenny is introduced to a glittering exciting world of art, sophistication and sharp practice. She sparkles at first, but then…

Well, that’s enough plot. The story is both moving and funny. Very funny.

As an aspiring writer, my favourite line is spoken by Jenny’s father. I can’t recall it verbatim, but it’s something along the lines of: “Knowing a famous writer is far better than being one. Knowing one shows that you’re connected.”

But there are so many good ones, especially from the lips of the glamorous but thick Helen, played by Rosamund Pike. (Ironically she really is an accomplished cellist and French speaker.)

Two main themes run through the film. Whether a traditional education (school, university) trumps the university of life. Or if either are appropriate. And whether or when you should tell the truth to friends, family or yourself – before someone gets hurt, or afterwards.

The real Jenny. Lynn Barber, author of An Education, at the time the film is set.

The film is based on an essay in Granta magazine written by the journalist Lynn Barber about her teenage years. If you’ve read the original piece, or the book, you’ll already know it’s a great story. But don’t presume you know how the film story goes – Jenny’s life does not exactly mirror Lynn’s.

According to the trio answering questions after the film showing – Nick Hornby, Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey – Lynn Barber was the ideal inspiration. Which means: She didn’t interfere. She read script drafts and only intervened to ensure the period details were accurate.

Lynn, having finally found a cigarette.

However, what I didn’t realise at the time, is that apparently there is something to which she objected. In her original essay, she called the older man who sweeps her up, Simon. In the film he’s called David. That’s the niggle. Her late husband was also called David. He was seriously ill and then died during the making of the film.  Lynn was not a 16-year-old schoolgirl at a bus stop when she first encountered the real David. They met later in her life. It’s understandable she’d prefer the rogue in the film to have some other name. I wonder why the film makers stuck with the name David.

But, getting back to my own quibble. In the final minute or so, the film switches to a voice over from Jenny to tie up the loose ends. What loose ends? I don’t like it. It falls flat. I found it neither uplifting nor thought-provoking nor even necessary.

It’s still an excellent film, but I was puzzled by the ending. (I’m being a little coy about the details because I don’t want to spoil things before you watch it yourself.) It turns out the film makers also wrestled with how to bring the tory to an end.

Nick Hornby

One alternative which was shown to a test audience, included a reunion/confrontation between Jenny and David. But the audience were not keen.  (Again, I don’t want to reveal why, exactly.) And the screenplay writer Nick Hornby feels that he never quite managed to nail that particular alternative ending to his own satisfaction either. He’s much happier with the voice over option.

He’s probably right. Having heard him describe the alternative, they’ve chosen the better option. The best option however would have been to cut the voice over completely. A shot of Jenny in her new environment, leading into the credits, would have been enough. We don’t need to be spoon fed.

You can see and judge for yourself. I love the film. Even the opening title sequence is clever. It’s just that, like many of us, the film makers found it hard to know when to stop.

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Knock knock. Who’s there? Doctor Parnassus…

What do you do when your leading man departs this earth part way through filming your movie? If it’s Gladiator, and Oliver Reed has sipped slipped away, you resort to some fancy digital effects. But then he wasn’t the lead.

Or – as Terry Gilliam has done with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – you recruit successors. So Heath Ledger morphs into Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. But thankfully it’s not at all like one of those cringeworthy American sundrenched soaps where a character returns after a long time away, being played by a different actor – and no-one bats an eyelid. On the contrary, the three substitutions work very cleverly with the plot, and probably enhance the whole viewing experience.

I’ve just been to the London premiere …. (Ooh get you! I know, I know.) So here is the instant review:

Never mind the imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, what about the imagination of Terry Gilliam. It’s rich and immense, and shows no sign of flagging. There’s great vivid imagery and a lot of style.

The story revolves round successive deals that Dr Parnassus makes with the devil, and attempts to wriggle out of paying the price. It’s also about making decisions, doing the right thing. The right thing is not always obvious, and a wrong choice leads to hell. Choose well though, and you and your imagination are freed, and you finally experience life in all its wonder. The route to self-discovery lies through a magic mirror into the psychedelic world of your imagination.

The most enduring and intimate relationship is between Dr Parnassus and the devil. Tom Waits is a great Mississippi beelzebub. And rather than wanting to grab as many souls as he can, or to win at all costs, it becomes apparent how much he values having a sparring partner. And how much the battle of wits staves off an eternity of boredom.

Lily Cole (yes, the tall red-headed model) pulls off acting Christopher Lee’s daughter. The woman I was with enjoyed the four incarnations of Heath Ledger. (I found myself wondering if Colin Farrell’s dodgy child-rescuing philanthropist was a sly dig at Bono or Bob Geldof. But that may just be because Colin Farrell is from Dublin too.)  I thought the set was just great – particularly the tall narrow horse-drawn ark in which the Imaginarium and cast travel.

But – for me – the film began to meander a bit too aimlessly in the parallel Salvador Dali-esque dream world. By the time Colin Farrell was being chased, I was wishing his comeuppance would hurry up and come. The suspense sagged. And then, the story having disappeared into an almost final dismal depressing wilderness, it suddenly finds its way out again to the real world, and a last minute happy ending. This lacked the chutzpah of the first two thirds of the film. It was as if Cinderella had settled down and married Buttons.

So should you go to the cinema to see it or hang on for the DVD rental?  Well… Best of all would be to see it projected onto the glass of a giant lava lamp, while under the  influence of whatever you fancy. Failing that, yes, go to the cinema. A big screen is the best place to appreciate the hugely imaginative dreamscapes. And Heath Ledger is most charming.

A note on the premiere experience: Downside – you have to wait for ages for the bally thing to begin. Upside – you’re rubbing shoulders with people off the tele, film stars and severely under-dressed young women. Oddside – seeing Andrew Garfield in the flesh only hours after having seen him in Lions for Lambs. He looks exactly the same. He also appears to be paying homage to Richard Bacon with his choice of jackets.

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