Out Now – 29th July 2011

An all-American hero tries to topple the British boy wizard this week while Kevin James stars in another bad comedy and kids must choose between British live-action and Japanese animation.

Captain America: The First Avenger
The last of the Avengers prequels. See Chris Evans (not that one) go from weedy kid to one giant torso. From what the internet has told me it starts great but the final forty minutes is pretty weak. Luckily you can watch the final scene online and save yourself two hours.

Zoo animals decide to tell their keeper they can talk in order to help him find love. I wonder which is the sassy animal?

Horrid Henry: The Movie
With a cast of people famous within the UK gurning their way through the trailer this looks like a painful kid’s film. It co-stars Dick and Dom, need I say more?

Arrietty (limited release)
The Borrowers retold by Studio Ghibli with a British cast dubbed version. How can this be anything but charming?

Poetry (limited release)
A woman finds solace in poetry after witnessing a family crime. This is longer than Captain America and features 85% more poetry.

The Light Thief (limited release)
All about an electrician who “not only brings electric light (which is often out) to the lives of the inhabitants of this small city, but he also spreads the light of love, loyalty, life and mainly laughter.”

A Better Life (limited release)
A man tries to give his son a better life (it’s in the freaking title) by keeping him out of gangs and away from immigration officers.

Whisky Galore (limited release)
Another classic re-release in which “Scottish islanders try to plunder 50,000 cases of whisky from a stranded ship.”

Our Day Will Come (limited release)
Only at the ICA (oooh arty), this French film follows two men on a road trip to Ireland. Lots of social commentary along the way.

Bridesmaids – Review

As Bridesmaids has been in cinemas for over a month now enough has been said about whether it is a chick flick, a female Hangover or just obscene and offensive. Bridesmaids is no chick flick, is better than The Hangover and only has one scene which descends into toilet humour. Other than that it is an above average comedy with some real laughs, plenty of heart and a few scenes that could be easily lost. The film earns bonus points for having Jon Hamm in a comedic role.

While the romance between Kristen Wiig and the adorable Chris O’Dowd is awfully sweet, it is pretty inconsequential to the main plot. What really grounds the film is the natural and easy friendship portrayed by Wiig and Maya Rudolph. Nothing seems forced between them as their years together in Saturday Night Live have given them plenty of time to form a genuine bond, one Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway can only dream of. The idea of meeting your childhood playmate’s new friends, and the hatred and jealousy that follows, is all too familiar. A friend of yours is not necessarily a friend of mine.

If nothing else, Bridesmaids is a showcase for the comedy wonder that is Kristen Wiig. Here’s hoping she’s the next Tina Fey or Amy Poehler and not the next Ana Gasteyer, whoever that is.

Film 4 Summer Screen at Somerset House

Tonight marks the start of one of the biggest entries in the London-based-outdoor-cinema calendar as Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset house begins with the premiere of The Skin I Live In. You can read our review of the opening film here and I have no idea how well this disturbing piece of cinema will play to a large crowd on a summer’s evening. Maybe it’s less creepy when not watched in a basement screening room.

You can read the full line-up of films at the Summer Screen in our earlier post, but unfortunately it’s all sold out. Your only remaining chance is the enter the competition on Film4.com and try to win tickets to the triple bill of Troll Hunters, Tremors and Gremlins on 6th August. Competition closes tomorrow at 5pm so don’t hesitate.

Laughs in the Park 2011

On Sunday I ventured out of the safety of London to the wilderness of St Albans to attend the second annual Laughs in the Park. The event is touted as the Woodstock of comedy, and is headed in the right direction now that a second stage, BBC Comedy Presents, has been added to showcase new talent before the main show began. Sitting on the grass in the sun, sipping a cider and watching a range of comedic styles it was easy to imagine the event growing over the years, with stages dedicated to different comedy styles, maybe one with a dedicated open mic, and a huge camp site filled with comedy fans. With Izzard involved anything is possible.

Liam Williams
liam williamsWilliams was an odd choice to open up the BBC Comedy Presents Stage, with a deliberately awkward style that clashed with the vibrant atmosphere demanded by outdoor comedy. Everyone was a little too relaxed to get behind an equally relaxed performance. Not without his moments Williams may have been better received with a more thoroughly warmed up crowd.

Adam Riches
Easily the highlight of the smaller stage Riches bounded on with enough energy to engage the hot and apathetic crowd, without even making it on-stage for the majority of his act. Declaring himself to be Daniel Day-Lewis, Riches launched into a lesson on smacting (acting with a smoke machine) which left our little group in stitches. For once an act relying on audience participation didn’t ask anyone what their job was. If Adam Riches does a gig near me, I’m there.

Alex Horne
You may recognise him from We Need Answers on BBC Four… but probably not, it’s on BBC Four. Horne gave a deliberately lacklustre performance lacking more lustre than Williams. After the joy of Riches it was a little deflating, and as before comedy which might work in a club in the evening fell flat, out in the fields of St Albans. Nice to see a variety of comedy styles, though understandably there will be a few misses.

Kerry Godliman
Bringing a more upbeat and sunny vibe back to the stage Godliman was warmly received. Not necessarily ground-breaking in her comedy style but by this point we were grateful to have someone giving us actual jokes to laugh at. Her upbeat attitude and simple, funny style was perfect for a crowd lounging in the sun.

Angelos Epithemiou

Renton Skinner brings his character from Shooting Stars to the stage in a decidedly awkward routine. Most of the audience didn’t really know how to take his bumbling, possibly mentally challenged persona as he worked his way through a handful of jokes, a trick or two and showed us what was in his bag before stripping down to a lycra body suit. I’m a fan of his awkward comedy but it wasn’t hard to notice that not everyone stayed to see him through to the end.

Jarred Christmas
Holding the two hours on the BBC Comedy Presents Stage together was Christmas, a joyous Kiwi comedian with so much enthusiasm he could pick up the audience after the flattest of performances. I’ve only ever seen Christmas MC-ing event but would love to see him do a full set someday soon. I’ve never laughed so much at repeated references to brioche, perfect for a bunch of middle class people in a field drinking Pimms and cider.

Tommy Tiernan
A big name comic in his native Ireland, Tiernan is relatively unknown in England but that could be about to change. Tiernan was a revelation, a foul-mouthed, controversial and surprisingly energetic revelation. With graphic references to sex, Downs syndrome and religion Tiernan practically shouted his routine while pulling a bizarre array of shapes. Tiernan has the confidence of a seasoned performer but the unfamiliar edge of a new talent. He’s welcome back any time.

Eddie Izzard
Izzard was on top form performing a shortened version of his Stripped tour, the DVD of which I had mistakenly watched the night before. Having performed the same material at last years show it would have been nice to hear something new but with Izzard it doesn’t matter how often to hear his jokes they never fail to make my face ache from laughing too much. The sun having set and cold setting in, the crowd could not have been more delighted by Izzard’s set as we all laughed and cheered raucously, for the majority the familiarity of the material only helped the enjoyment though a few grumbles could be heard.

Ross Noble
MC-ing on the main stage it was a surprise that Noble didn’t get a full set of his own so thankfully he prolonged his interstitial sessions on-stage and a pre-show double act with Izzard was a personal highlight. Before seeing him live I was a Ross Noble sceptic but his energy and enthusiasm was irresistible. Hopefully if he returns in later years he’ll be allowed to perform a full set as Noble is a real talent.

Laughs in the Park 2011 was a great day out and I whole-heartedly recommend you all go next year. We got over 5 hours of comedy outdoors on a gorgeous day, all topped off with fireworks. Beautiful.

Footage from the weekend will be shown on the BBC at some point. How’s that for journalism?

Out Now – 25th July 2011

Today’s release isn’t really a regular release, more a series of special screenings across the UK, I’ll explain…

Henry IV Part 1
Across the UK, cinemas are holding special screenings of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 recorded at the Globe. I can’t vouch for this particular play but I can vouch for The Globe being one of the best places to see Shakespeare. The main downside is the fact that you have to stand up outside for hours, but this is all solved with a cinema screening. Some cinemas are showing the play this evening and others on Saturday 6th August, check the website for dates at a cinema near you.

The Harry Potter Retrospective – One Boy’s Journey

The last of our ultimate Harry Potter Retrospectives is the personal story of my own journey with the franchise, starting in July 1998 at the age of 10 and ending in July 2011 at the age of 23. Hopefully this will put the rest of the retrospective in context and show that I wasn’t always so quick to gush about the films.

I first heard about Harry Potter in my penultimate year in Primary School (Elementary School for any Americans). I can distinctly remember someone trying to explain the plot to me, including a detailed description of something called Quidditch. It was incredibly rare for a book to be the talk of the playground, so at the school’s next annual Book Fayre I picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone along with Michael Morpurgo’s War of Jenkins’ Ear. I was in love, I can’t remember enjoying any book so much up to that point. Harry Potter was just a year older than me and so I could really relate. The fear of Secondary School was looming and the idea of a place filled with magic and adventure was exciting. Besides, Harry Potter contained none of the references to “heavy petting” which made Adrian Mole so confusing.

Continue reading

Out Now – 22nd July 2011

A Pixar film comes out today!!!! It’s the worst reviewed Pixar film ever!!!!

Cars 2
It’s not just that this is the worst reviewed Pixar film ever, it is getting a huge amount of negative reviews, 64% to be precise. Admittedly I didn’t enjoy the original Cars, but it makes no sense to follow a film about learning to take it slow with a film about spying. For shame, Pixar. For shame.

What looks like a touching film about a man connecting with his father as he deals with coming out as a gay man late on in life, and with the fact that he has terminal cancer. Expect to laugh, cry and then call your dad.

The Big Picture
As per usual in France a man kills his wife’s lover and then assumes his identity and flees the country. Expect a flurry of sex and violence followed by an hour of scenery and quiet contemplation.

Horrible Bosses
A mediocre film made good by an impressive cast. Fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will be excited to see Charlie Day, everyone else will be confused by his presence.

Gilda (limited release)
The classic Rita Hayworth film returns to the silver screen. It won’t be in 3D so why bother.

The Violent Kind (limited release)
A biker gang are the victims in this horror after one of their women becomes possessed and hillbillies come for her. I want to see it just to make sense of the synopsis.

Break My Fall (limited release)
The synopsis on this film’s website is long and confusing, I bring you a short excerpt; “In the three days leading up to Liza’s 25th birthday things finally come to a head between Liza and Sally. After a failed birthday dinner the four friends are plunged into emotional meltdown at an illegal rave and by the end of the night there’s no going back to how things were.” Sounds tiresome.

The Lavender Hill Mob (limited release)
Another classic re-released, this title starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway as an unlikely pair of smugglers.

One Life (limited release)
A family orientated nature documentary with a terrible level of info online. Narrated by James Bond.

The Harry Potter Retrospective – The Adults

While the younger cast of the Harry Potter series may well have been works in progress, the adult roles were filled with pretty much every working actor in Britain with a familiar face. It was these actors who initially kept us coming back for more, without whom we may never have learnt to love the boy wizard and his chums. Below we run through our top fifteen of the adult performances across the eight films in alphabetical order. We tried to whittle it down with no success.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Alan Rickman as Severus SnapeWe start with an actor whose performance has ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, and often in the same film. As Harry’s most consistent antagonist Snape offered up an ambiguous character, often seeming to be more evil that he was. What makes Rickman’s performance legendary are his epic pauses and dangerously slow delivery, as if trying to get as much screen time as his brief dialogue will allow. In the final film Rickman delivers both his slowest speech and his most moving performance. There are few better in this list.

David Bradley as Argus Filch
David Bradley as Argus FilchIt’s hard to believe that in the earlier films the major danger was being caught out of bed by Filch, a far cry from the fantastical battles the franchise concludes with. While often a menace to our heroes, Filch was ultimately a fun character bringing two of the biggest laughs in the finale and a warm nostalgic feeling with them.
Continue reading

The Harry Potter Retrospective – The Kids (Charts Ahoy!)

Over the course of the eight Harry Potter films a group of young actors went from amateurs to movie stars, but are they any good? We’ve updated our charts to give you our opinion on who was the best actor and who should give up now.

After each of the eight films we scored Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Tom Felton out of ten for their acting ability, the results can be seen below.

As you can see film seven was the moment when each of the main three had equal acting skills, but from there they each went in a different direction in the final film.

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter

Daniel Radcliffe certainly looks like the perfect Harry Potter, it’s just a shame that when the films started he was the worst actor of a weak bunch. As with the rest of the kids Radcliffe learnt on the job and gradually got better up until the fourth film where he was required to lose control of his emotions. Anger and sadness at the death of a friend and the rise of an enemy were not within Radcliffe’s range and he dropped back down. From then he slowly recovered while gaining comedy chops in Half Blood Prince and then proper dramatic muscle in Deathly Hallows Part 1.

After the impressive display in Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Part 2 was a step in the wrong direction as his performance became patchy again. When required to be sincere or earnest Radcliffe falls short, and a final showdown against evil is not a relaxed occasion. Regardless, Daniel Radcliffe has come a long way since 2001 and it will be interesting to see him play a different character. We’ll be watching him closely with Excel at the ready.
Continue reading

The Harry Potter Retrospective – The Films

You may remember that last month we spent two nights at the BFI IMAX watching all seven Harry Potter films over the course of two nights. (Thanks BFI IMAX!) We finished our journey through the franchise on Monday night as we watched and scored Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. What follows is a run down of all eight films, written using the increasingly brief and incoherent notes we made at the time. Spoilers lie ahead.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
philosophers stone

In which Harry Potter learns he is a wizard, goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and defeats a teacher harbouring the evil wizard Voldemort at the back of his head.

We start the franchise with an over-long film with terrible acting, odd prosthetics and scenes bordering on pantomime. From the initial scenes with the Dursleys playing out as a knockabout comedy to the final showdown in which a man completely disintegrates, Christopher Columbus produced a completely uneven film which relies mostly on reaction shots for laughs. Horrible acting from the kids is made up for by sheer cuteness and ultimately the film is a bit better than you remember. 6/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
chamber of secrets

The series continues with Harry hearing voices and writing in a diary which writes back. Turns out that pesky diary was Voldemort again.

As the kids seem to have experienced a growth spurt since the previous film they are less cute and their acting has improved slightly to compensate. Early scenes at the Burrows with the Weasley parents are great but even Julie Walters can’t make exposition work properly. Jason Isaacs and Kenneth Branagh are pretty awesome but Christopher Columbus again fails to make anything remarkable happen. With students being attacked (but surviving) the series begins its journey into becoming “dark”. 6.5/10
Continue reading