Out Now – 31st August 2012

The Possession
In the scariest episode of Car Booty yet a young girl buys a haunted box and her estranged parents reunite to life the curse on their daughter. If you don’t know Car Booty, then you haven’t been unemployed and enjoyed the daytime delights of BBC2.

Berberian Sound Studio (limited release)
I’m intrigued by this one. Toby Jones stars as a sound engineer forced to watch a horrific horror film as he produces the special effects and ends up in a horror film of his own. Expect a lot of vegetables to be brutally murdered in the name of sound design.

Samsara (limited release)
Samsara is a documentary which has been filmed over the course of 5 years in 25 different countries. Sounds like this documentary is about… everything. How very Tree of Life.

The Myth of the American Sleepover (limited release)
“Four young people navigate the suburban wonderland of metro-Detroit looking for love and adventure on the last weekend of summer.” Part of me feels as though I have seen this film a few times; a film with an ensemble cast set over a short space of time as they amble about having emotions and the like.

Cockneys vs Zombies (limited release)
London has a case of the zombies and so a group of bank robbers are forced to fight their way out of the city in this comedy horror that in no way is setting itself up to be unfavourably compared with Shaun of the Dead.

[REC]³ Génesis (limited release)
[REC] remains the scariest film I have ever seen (possibly… I think) and this time the zombie outbreak (which it technically is… I think) ruins a couple’s wedding day. Think of an immaculate white dress covered in the blood of zombie relatives. It’s Spanish so must be good.

Yuma (limited release)
Action drama about a young Polish man who “unwillingly” becomes a gangster. Story of my life only with less blogging and more “chaos and moral anarchy”. To be fair though moral anarchy sounds absolutely knackering.

A Few Best Men (limited release)
Another British wedding comedy, this time set in Australia. Expect things to go awry and hilarity to ensue as it always seems to want to do.

One Might Call Marnie a Sex Mystery…

During all the Hitchcock fuss we’ve been having lately I stumbled across a real gem that had me giggling at my desk. Below is the trailer for Hitchcock’s 1964 film Marnie. The film may be a romantic thriller but Hitchcock has somehow managed to put together a trailer that is nothing short of hilarious. Allow yourself a few minutes distraction and let Alfred Hitchcock introduce you to Marnie in his own unique style:

I can’t decide what my favourite moment is; Hitchcock seeming slightly disapproving of the characters or him claiming to not understand what is happening in his own film.

Excuse me while I watch it one more time…

Out Now – 29th August 2012

The Watch
Let’s pretend this didn’t come out on Monday without me noticing. In The Watch, the varied comedy talents of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade make up a neighbourhood watch group who uncover plans for an alien invasion. It seems like an American comedy version of Attack the Block which is… interesting. Ayoade, why are you wasting time on this and not bringing us a follow-up to Submarine already?

Total Recall
Total Recall may well be a nineties sci-fi action classic but let’s face it; if you look at it really hard, and consider the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is only a convincing actor when asked to play an emotionally void robot, it is not a good film. An enjoyable film, yes, but not a good film. So maybe a slick remake starring Colin Farrell is a good thing. He at least has the acting range to play a man who discovers his whole life is a lie while still pulling off the action sequences. Besides, I hear the three-breasted alien is back in the remake and we all know three breasts are incredibly sexy and not at all weird.

Top Dogs (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Puns)

I’ve always had a thing for the underdog, so much so that I used to wish I was one. From the age of four when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would reply: ‘a dog,’ before crawling off, barking. I wore through every pair of trousers I had at the knees.

It was a crushing disappointment, aged roughly six, when I realised it wouldn’t in fact be possible, and to regroup I immersed myself in the world of canine cinema.

I thought choosing my top ten dog films of all-time would be easy, but the more I watched, the more I realised it’s actually a difficult genre to define. We all know that the delightful Jack Russell Uggie stole the show during The Artist, but does that make it a ‘dog film’, or is the title reserved for kiddy cartoons starring our four-legged friends? Then there’s how you define a good work in a genre that covers children’s animations, life action and even dog films with no dogs in them?

To settle it I divided them into cat(sorry)agories:

Kids’ films
I’ve always been fond of 101 Dalmatians, but if it came down to one top dog, I would have to say Lady and The Tramp. This was my first ever VHS (presented to me after I’d fallen into a patch of nettles) and it obviously sparked not only my love of dog themed cinema, but my feminist leanings, as I always wanted to be the Tramp. He seemed to have much more fun sleeping in a railway station and eating spaghetti than Her at Home.

Best scene-stealers
Jack Russells seem built for this category, and while Uggie is the obvious contender, I have a soft spot for wire-haired Arthur from Beginners, who really made the film stick in the mind long after watching. I particularly enjoyed watching Ewan McGregor giving him a guided tour of his apartment, both of them doleful-eyed and loveable, and – fact fans – so strong was their bond that Ewan immediately went and got his own four-legged companion after filming.

Best non-dog dog films
Not a pooch in sight in Reservoir Dogs, Slumdog Millionaire, Dogma, Dog Day Afternoon or Dogtooth. Shame.

The charming, if more than a tad bleak, Swedish film My Life As a Dog has mere glimpses of the main character’s dog, as well as mournful references to Laika, the first dog in space. It’s a brilliant work about a grim childhood, only lightened by boxing and boxers (well, a terrier actually, but that doesn’t sound as good.)

Also, weirdly, Must Love Dogs is surprisingly dog-light…I think they just liked the title. The central characters meet at a dog park, with borrowed pets (including one called Mother Theresa) who are quickly relegated to bit parts. Big mistake in my view, as MT was much more cute and cuddly than John Cusack.

Best in show
A good canine film ought to be funny, endearing and full of character, and Argentine film Bombon El Perro is hard to beat. I’d never heard of an Argentine Dogo before, but if they’re all like Bombon – sign me up! Enormous, slathery-chopped and strikingly white, he’s just what down-on-his-luck former garage worker Coco needs, when he’s given the pedigree specimen. Cue a fantastic shot of the two of them driving through the stunningly barren landscape, en route to various dog shows. It’s charming to see the renewal of Coco’s life, as well as exploring the many sides of dog behaviour – from blind aggression to obedience, all in the most expressive of canine faces.

Red Dog, the little Aussie hit that made it big is well worth a watch too. Following another little known breed – the gorgeous, auburn Kelpie – it’s the story of how one stray dog brought together a mining community. It’s more ‘blockbuster’ than the wonderfully understated Bombon, but if you’re looking for a more mainstream affair you can’t go wrong with Red. Based on a true story, it’s moving, silly and one of very few films with a ginger hero.

I also love adult animation My Dog Tulip, a whimsical reflection on the life of a dog owner. Based on a book of the same name written in 1956 by JR Ackerley about rescuing Tulip, a German Shepard, from an abusive home, this film can’t fail to make you smile and well up in equal measures. Beautifully narrated by Christopher Plummer, you really should see it now.

So, in summary, whether you’re an underdog, top dog, or just dog tired, there’s a canine film to suit every mood. Now in order to be fair I’m going to go and watch cat films for a while.

Four Stories Short Film Competition

We have yet another competition to bring to the attention of budding screenwriters. Roman Coppola (brother of Sofia, son of Francis Ford, cousin of Jason Schwartzman and Nicolas Cage, and writer/director in his own right) is teaming up with W Hotels and Intel to produce a series of four short films.

One of the four short films will be written by Roman Coppola and one of the remaining three could be written by you, this will require some effort of your part though. All you need to do is write a ten minute short film set in a W Hotel and featuring an Intel Ultrabook as a key character. If this feels too much like selling out to you then sorry, welcome to Hollywood. Judges include indie superstars Chloe Sevigny and Michael Pitt so write as if writing to impress that achingly cool girl/guy you fancy.

Scripts must be submitted online by 30th August (that’s this Thursday so get writing) and more information can be found by clicking here or watching the video below:

For anyone needing more inspiration below I have embedded Hotel Chevalier. It’s a short film set in a hotel which accompanied the Roman Coppola co-written The Darjeeling Limited. Just imagine Jason Schwartzman having angry sex with Natalie Portman over Skype rather than face-to-face and you’ve got your script written.

Out Now – 24th August 2012

Keith Lemon: The Film
It’s hard to describe Keith Lemon. He is a character created by Leigh Francis of Avid Merrion and Bo’ Selecta! fame who is brash, sexist, and makes me laugh more than he should. Essentially Keith Lemon is the personification of ITV2 which makes this film ITV2: The Film. What a horrible thought.

Shadow Dancer (limited release)
The completely wonderful but frequently appearing in awful films Andrea Riseborough takes the lead as an IRA member turned informer in this period thriller opposite Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson. Meaty stuff.

The Imposter (limited release)
Superb documentary about a Frenchman who impersonated a missing Texan teen. It will grip and bewilder you. Entertaining but never exploitative. I absolutely loved it.

F for Fake (limited release)
Orson Welles’ final film gets a cinematic re-release. Ostensibly a documentary about fraud the film itself may well be one big ruse. Go and have a gander and then read the internet’s theories.

Circumstance (limited release)
Iranian drama about two teenage girls and their growing sexual rebellion. Can their love survive their Circumstance? Will sexy-Iranian-films become the new sexy-French-films? Do subtitles automatically make a sexy film that bit classier? Is it a little reductive to call any film featuring any form of sexuality a “sexy film”?*

Tim And Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (Prince Charles Cinema only)
If you are like me and unfamiliar with the work of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim then the trailer for Tim And Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie will fill you with fear and confusion. If you are like me and find Jeff Goldblum an instant draw then you will be moderately intrigued to hear he is in this film playing “Chef Goldblum”. If you are like me and called Tim then you will simply be amused to see your name on a film poster. You simpleton.

*Maybe. Probably not. Clearly. Sorry, yes.

Rev. Shaw Moore Investigates Dance Films; an Enterprise Fraught with Genuine Peril, Easy Sexuality, and Relaxed Morality

Following the success of their first All Night Movie Marathon Pyjama Party The Prince Charles Cinema in London hosted a second pyjama-based event a few weekends ago with an overnight screening of six back to back dance film classics.

Joining us for round two of sleep deprivation via cinema was the Reverend Shaw Moore, a fictional character from the film Footloose as played by John Lithgow (you’re going to have to commit to this delusion I’m afraid). Moore has some pretty strict ideas about music and dancing, above you can see him looking on in horror at some girl on girl dance action in Dirty Dancing.

Always willing to give an opinionated individual a platform to express their opinions I am leaving the film run-down to Moore as he tests his theory that dancing is an enterprise which is fraught with genuine peril. Over to you Reverend.
Continue reading

The 39 Steps and The Lodger – Hitchcock at the BFI

In case you’ve somehow failed to notice the BFI is currently running The Genius of Hitchcock season at its home on the Southbank. Every single Hitchcock film is being shown on the big screen over the next few months. The BFI were kind enough to invite us down to watch Hitchcock’s early silent film The Lodger, newly restored by the BFI, and I even paid (a whopping £5 on a Tuesday) to watch a previously unseen by me classic The 39 Steps. Now read on for a little gushing and a few attempts at sounding intelligent.

The 39 Steps
Having only ever seen the comedy stage play before (a fantastic show in its own right) I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to appreciate the film properly and take it as seriously as I might had I not seen it as a farce first. I have to confess that as the film began I was giggling at some scenes that may have been intended to be serious as my mind flickered back to their theatrical comedy counterparts but as the film rolled on I realised that it was OK, Hitchcock had intended the film to be funny.

When you are watching two people on the run from the police struggling to make it over a fence hampered by the fact that they are handcuffed together there is nothing to do but laugh. Hitchcock is a man with a sense of humour and any reverence for his body of work shouldn’t get in the way of that.

The 39 Steps is Hitchcock through and through. A man find himself on the run for a crime he doesn’t commit. There are train rides and sexual tension alongside what turned out to be moments of genuine comedy. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, all the better on the big screen, and only fell asleep briefly.

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
One of the joys of The Genius of Hitchcock is seeing some of his earliest silent films restored and with a newly written score. The Lodger is Hitchcock’s third finished film, made way back in 1926, and is the story of a young man suspected of being The Avenger a Jack the Ripper style serial killer.

What is remarkable is how happy Hitchcock is to turn the serial killer into a MacGuffin. Rather than this being a story about the killings themselves it is about suspicion, persecution, and a woman choosing between the man her parents want her to be with and the new man in her life with whom she shares a genuine connection.

The film was a delight. Hitchcock was surprisingly playful in his direction experimenting with editing, camera angles and title cards. So often when I think of early cinema I expect it to be an unsophisticated mess, forgetting that these were the films that discovered the techniques defining cinema to this day.

The film is rightly said to set up many of Hitchcock’s themes and styles. Again we have a man accused of a crime and forced to prove his innocence whilst falling in love, we have Hitchcock’s first on-screen cameo, and there is the subtle frisson of sexuality Hitchcock is such a fan of. Hitchcock him self called The Lodger the first real Hitchcock film.

The original score is for the most part perfect. It fits the tone and era of the film, managing to switch between sinister and playful several times within a single scene. There are only two weak points when the scores segues into slightly folksy modern ballads. The sudden presence of contemporary music was completely jarring and really took me out of the film. Other than these two flaws the film has been expertly restored and I didn’t fall asleep once.

The 39 Steps runs at the BFI until 25th August, The Lodger until 23rd August, and The Genius of Hitchcock continues at the BFI until October.

Out Now – 22nd August 2012

The Three Stooges
The Three Stooges were a slapstick comedy trio very much of their time. Trying to recreate the magic of an arguably outdated form of comedy (though The Fairy proved otherwise) in a modern setting with a film featuring cameos from The Jersey Shore just seems like a bad idea. It’s like trying to reboot The Pink Panther with Steve Martin instead of Peter Sellers.