Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

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Avatar the Musical

January 20, 2010

Clapperboard I would like to create a musical version of James Cameron’s “Avatar”, maybe with some surprise special guests borrowed from Disney movies.

One of the characters would ask “Where do we find the Unobtanium?” in reponse to which Sebastian the crab would  break out into a rousing chorus of “Under the Tree”.

Under the tree, under the tree ...

What do you reckon?

Thought as much.

Hmmm.

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Jonathan Ross is back on TV. Am I bovvered?

January 22, 2009

Vista busy cursor

No.

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2008 and all that

January 1, 2009

Vista busy cursor On 28 December 2007 I published my “Eight for 2008” in response to another blogger’s challenge.  The idea of the aforementioned viral meme was “to list eight things you’d like to see happen in 2008”.

Now that 2008 is over, let’s look back and see how many of my eight came about:

1. A democratic Pakistan

Preferably combined with “Mr.” Pervez Musharraf getting his come-uppance as quickly as possible.

Things are not 100% hunky dory in Pakistan, but democracy has clearly returned and we no longer have Prez Pervez.  That’s 1 out of 1 so far.

2. Global financial meltdown is avoided

I confess to feeling decidedly nervous about how well world financial markets will handle the continuing reverberations sparked off by the sub-prime mortgage debacle in the US. A soft landing can only be achieved if the key institutions follow the right policies. If they get it wrong we could all be in for a very rough ride.

Groan ….   1 out of 2.

3. The Arab world takes a lead by recognising Israel unilaterally

Unlikely, I know, but such a bold move would lead to peace quickly because it would send Hamas and other hard-liners a signal that their campaign to remove Israel in toto no longer had widespread sympathy throughout the arab world. The game would be up for them and a settled peace would quickly follow, including the creation of a Palestinian state.

Well they should have listened to me.  We could well have done with Hamas getting the rug pulled from under them last year.  If that had happened we wouldn’t be seeing what’s happening  in Gaza right now.

It’s not too late, Arab states, disown those Hamas thugs now!  1 out of 3.

4. Either the Blu-ray or HD-DVD camp win the format war.

I don’t mind which, but a winner needs to emerge quickly lest it prove to be a pyrrhic victory and consumers will lose out too.

Blu-ray won, but proceeded to try to milk their hard won monopoly by keeping prices high so market penetration has been very weak.  I think it was a pyrrhic victory.  With increasing broadband speeds, users will be turning to Internet downloads for their HD content.  Still, it’s 2 out of 4.

5. Jesse James snoozie movie misses out at the Oscars

I’m referring to “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”. It’s hard enough to stay awake through the title, never mind the film.

And indeed after missing out at the Baftas and the Golden Globes, it failed to collect an Academy Award. 3 out of 5.

6. Lewis Hamilton is F1 World Champion 2008

A great guy as well as a great racer. The pressure got to him right at the death this year. But he’s still very young. He’ll toughen up.

Boy, did he leave it late! But heck, it was an exciting way to win and who said F1 was boring! 4 out of 6.

7. Jethro Tull revive “A Passion Play” and take it on tour

The world may just about be ready for it now.

Jethro who? Duh …    4 out of 7.

8. Sheffield Wednesday beat Preston on 1st Jan.

That would be a great start to 2008.

They did, although they made extremely heavy weather of it and the football was unspeakable.  Still, it’s 5 out of 8.  Not bad all told.

A bonus 9th might be Microsoft apologising to the entire world for Vista.

That was never going to happen, but I’d take a well-received Windows 7 in 2009 as a good way to make amends.  As I’ve recently observed, Vista these days works just fine and there are reasons to be optimistic that Windows 7 will be a hit.

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Movie Review: A Bunch of Amateurs

December 21, 2008

Clapperboard A Bunch of Amateurs is a comedy by Andy Cadiff, released in the UK on 19 December.  The leading character, Jefferson Steel (played by Burt Reynolds), is a once famous actor now well past his prime.  Right at the beginning of the movie, he is shown watching one of his old films in a small, almost empty cinema.  The irony is that in comparison with my real life surroundings the on-film movie audience looked like a crowd.  My son and I were quite literally the only two people watching ABoA, notwithstanding that it was a new release, on Screen 6 of Manchester’s modern AMC multiplex on a Saturday night.  Now I know there was the temptation of other releases such as Twilight, but for a film picked for the 2008 annual Royal Film Performance, and with a cast including Imelda Staunton, Samantha Bond and Derek Jacobi, it is hard to credit such an extreme lack of interest.

I did though rapidly come to the conclusion that my son and I were wrong, and everyone else was right.  ABoA was very weak and certainly failed the Kermode 5 laugh test.  I don’t think I got past a half-chuckle.

The film tries to capture the quaint uniquely British charm of films such as “A Private Function”, “Waking Ned”, “Brassed Off” or “The Full Monty” but all we get is the usual rag-tag of cheesy stereotypes.  There is supposed to be comedic value in the clash of lifestyles between Hollywood star Jefferson Steel and the quiet rurality of an archetypal farming village in Suffolk.  Plenty of scope for amusing misunderstandings given that Steel, desperate for work, believes his agent has landed him the part of King Lear at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, whereas he is actually responding to a plea from a cash-strapped amateur dramatic society in the village of Stratford St John, Suffolk.  It should have been possible to make this funny but it doesn’t come off.  The jokes are without exception corny and very, very obvious.  You can pretty much work out the next line in your head before it is spoken.

Imelda Staunton and Derek Jacobi were criminally wasted.  Directed to ham it up in the hope of extracting some laughs, but the results were just cringe-making, especially Staunton’s character’s puerile attempts to seduce Jefferson Steel.

As if the absence of new gags wasn’t bad enough, the film tries to impart some distinctly hackneyed life lessons, about father-daughter relationships. It does so by contriving to have the events in the film loosely follow the plot of King Lear, the play the amateur society is putting on.  So we get Staunton (who in the film plays Lear’s daughter Goneril in the amateur production) professing her love to Jefferson (Lear) only to betray him, just as Goneril does to Lear in Shakespeare’s play.  Jefferson falls out with his own daughter in the film (played by Camilla Arfwedson) even though she is the one who deep down truly does love him, referring to the relationship between Lear and daughter Cordelia.  And we get an absurdly contrived scene of madness on the heath when Jefferson walks out on the troupe of amateur actors in a tantrum, drives off into the rain and gets lost.

I can’t work out who this plot device is targeted at.  If you are sufficiently into your Shakespeare to appreciate it the chances are your tastes are too sophisticated for the clichéd jokes.

The only actor who comes out of this with any credit is Samantha Bond, in the role of the director of the amateur play.  She is the one character we really can warm to.

What else can I say in defence of ABoA? Well, I kept watching.  Even if I was unamused, unsurprised and failed to buy into the premise, at least my attention didn’t wander too much of the time.  Now I’m damning it with faint praise, but it’s more than can be said for some other critically acclaimed films.

My son yelled out his ironic thanks to the projectionist as we walked out, in the absence of anyone else in the auditorium.  I don’t know if there was anyone in the projection booth to hear him.

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Angels and Churches

June 18, 2008

Clapperboard The Diocese of Rome is being remarkably petty. Sadly, it is no great surprise.

They have refused permission for various churches in Rome to be used in the filming of Angels and Demons, based on the book of the same name by Dan Brown. Key action sequences in Brown’s bestseller were set in the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo and other prominent Rome churches, but will now have to be filmed somewhere else.

This ban is infantile and unbecoming on at least two counts.

Firstly, whereas the church may have a gripe with Brown it is over his most successful work, The Da Vinci Code, which has already been filmed, because its premise revolves around an unorthodox rendering of the life of Jesus. There is nothing in Angels and Demons that attacks the foundations of the Roman Catholic faith. Alright, a number of clerics meet untimely deaths in churchy surroundings but that is not the issue. The church don’t like Brown because he has made a lot of money out of “telling porkies about Jesus”, so they won’t let him come round to play any more.

But what I find the most petty is that this ban will not stop anyone, believer or otherwise, from seeing the film nor change what is portrayed in it. If Director Ron Howard can’t shoot in the Chigi Chapel then his scouts will find some other church somewhere to play stunt double and hardly anyone will know the difference or care. They won’t be able to use the original Bernini statue of Habbakuk and the Angel so they’ll make a passable facsimile out of papier mache. So it will waste the film studio’s time and money but otherwise achieve nothing. If that isn’t petty and childish then I don’t know what is.

I wonder if the film’s star Tom Hanks will reprise the eyebrow-raising hairstyle he sported in The Da Vinci Code? Now that’s a sound reason to ban him from a church, or anywhere else for that matter.

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Hypocrite Kermode not surprised by Baftas

January 17, 2008

Clapperboard The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (TAoJJbtCRF) fared no better at the Baftas than at the Golden Globes. Worse, in fact. No nominations at all.

Iconic BBC film critic Mark Kermode said there were “no real surprises” [in the Bafta nominations] except for a “slightly poor showing for Sweeney Todd”.

Mark Kermode Simon Mayo

Odd that he failed to express surprise at the complete absence of any showing for TAoJJbtCRF, which he had declared on the Simon Mayo radio show to be his film of the year, no less. He had gone on to say that all the people who had subsequently complained that the film was “boring” were “wrong”. Does that make BAFTA wrong too, or at least the individuals responsible for the nominations? Or might they have been secretly impressed by the film but thought better of nominating it given that it had bombed at the box office?

The good doctor did ruefully observe (in the recent Bafta bonus broadcast with Mayo) that TAoJJbtCRF had been glossed over despite his high regard for it, without further comment or explanation. If he is genuinely unsurprised about its absence from the Bafta nominations he should explain why such an august body might be expected to ignore such a praiseworthy film. And if he was surprised he should have come clean, or be prepared to face accusations of hypocrisy. Where are your convictions man?

My 5th thing of eight looks pretty safe now.

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There may be hope for 2008 after all

January 14, 2008

Clapperboard I started the year with scant hope that many or indeed any of my “Eight for 2008” would come to pass. Well, numbers 4 and 8 materialised in short order, and now my hopes for no. 5 have been kindled by the fact that “The Assassination of Jesse James by the blah blah blah” managed only one nomination at the Golden Globes (Casey Affleck for best Supporting Coward Actor) and didn’t win that.

golden globes

The Jesse James film did get me thinking about whether there might be a good example of a slower-paced film that did manage to hold the viewer’s attention. There must be many, but I came upon one shortly after New Year. Someone had recorded “Girl with a Pearl Earring“, the Scarlett Johansson film, on our Sky box, and I watched it with my wife. It has quite a lot in common with The Assassination of Jes… TAoJJbtCRF: great cinematography (in this case inspired by the works of Vermeer), little action, sparse dialogue. Focus on the visuals and on nuances of relationships, more hinted at than spoken. And yet, both my wife and I remained engaged with the film throughout, and very much enjoyed it.

The difference between GwaPE and TAoJJbtCRF is that the former has a clear narrative with sufficient momentum to sustain it. The story is always unfolding, in a rational and persistent way. There were a few moments when the pace sagged a little, maybe too many shots lingering a tad overlong on Johansson’s physiog, but these were the exception. I’m not suggesting that GwaPE is in all ways an exemplary film. I’m merely citing it as a counter-example to TAoJJbtCRF, as evidence that a Director can make a film which is primarily visual and short on action, but still regulate the pace to stop it flagging and tell a coherent story worthy of the filmgoer’s full attention.

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