Out Now – Boxing Day 2012

Back to the Doctor Terminator Not Guaranteed

Jack Reacher
Tom Cruise plays Tom Cruise as a pint-sized version of lots of people’s favourite literary detective famous for being tall and not at all like Tom Cruise. The plot involves a trained military sniper who presumably will fail to shoot Jack Reacher on account of expecting him to be a foot or two taller.

Parental Guidance
Hideous looking family comedy about two grandparents (Billy Crystal and Bette Midler slumming it) struggling to babysit their grandchildren. That really is the entire plot. If this were based on my childhood it would be me and my sister sitting watching Grease/Sound of Music/Seven Brides for Seven Brothers/The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone while my Grandma cooks us some bacon.

Safety Not Guaranteed (limited release)
Indie comedy about a potentially crazy man who thinks he can time travel and the journalists who investigate his story. Kat found the film funny and touching but ultimately called it “indie comedy drama by-the-numbers“. Just to be sure I wandered along to a press screening and I agree with Kat. Good old Kat.

Grabbers (limited release)
What appears to be a comedy film set in Ireland in which aliens/monsters invade and the locals head to their local. With the invaders allergic to alcohol the only way to survive is to get drunk.

Midnight’s Children (limited release)
Salman Rushdie gets his first film adaptation (we all remember our first don’t we?) and even gives narrating a crack with this story of two children born as India gains independence and growing up in a country different from the one their parents remember. The children are born at midnight rather than the children of someone called Midnight (I just gave it a Google, you’re very welcome).

Zaytoun (limited release)
“Beirut, 1982: a young Palestinian refugee and an Israeli fighter pilot form a tentative bond in their attempt to make their way across war-torn Lebanon back to their home.” Ladies and gentlemen, we have a film featuring an unlikely friendship! That make 256 this year.

Out Now – 21st December 2012

Life of Pii

Life of Pi
Glorious demonstration of visual storytelling and using 3D properly from Ang Lee as a boy finds himself stranded at see with four zoo animals including a Bengal Tiger. I bloody loved it.

Pitch Perfect
A mixture of Glee and Bridesmaids makes for a comedy about singing that is apparently quite good. Something about mash-ups… Singing… The tagline is “Get Pitch Slapped”… As I say this is apparently quite good, not sure I trust them though.

Boxing Day (limited release)
Six films are release on Boxing day this year, Boxing Day is not one of them. “Based on Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy, Boxing Day follows Ivans XTC and The Kreutzer Sonata as the third film in a loose trilogy of modern day interpretations of Tolstoy stories.” Eh?

West of Memphis (limited release)
Almost Hobbit-length documentary covering every inch of the case against the West Memphis Three who were convicted of killing young boys on little to no solid evidence. According to me: “Whatever you know already about the case West of Memphis is a gripping documentary about justice that makes the most of its two and a half hour running time and was equally uplifting, frustrating, and fascinating.”

Dabangg 2 (limited release)
A Bollywood film with a plot too confusing for me to battle through my cold to reinterpret for you. Sort yourself out.

Let’s Plan A Robbery (limited release)
According to Google translate: “In the film, played by Hakan Y?lmaz Honor, one day at the end of the trip is to deliver a box of safety. Leyla Onur boyfriend who cheated the same day the entrust all your stuff in the box, and poured petrol burns. But honor, he will learn a lot of pain what is in the box. Honors, including friends later in the vortex o ‘entrusted’ to robbery to pay back even think.”

She & Him: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

She & Him - Baby, It's Cold Outside

The weather is horrible and everyone’s sinuses are filled will all matter of gooey unpleasantries. Conditions such as these make intelligent blogging trickier than ever. While I struggle to fight away what could be described as a minor cold major case of man flu I bring you the aural delights of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward aka She & Him. This week they have released a music video for their fun cover of Baby, It’s Cold Outside from their Christmas album A Very She & Him Christmas.

The cartoon video is short and sweet and is embedded below:

For what it’s worth I much prefer Zooey Deschanel singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside with Leon Redbone on the soundtrack for Elf, everyone’s favourite contemporary Christmas film.

Baby, it’s Cold Outside – Leon Redbone & Zooey Deschanel

Life of Pi – Film Review

Life of Pi

In this adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 novel a young boy called Pi (short for Piscine) is struggling with his spirituality. At the same time his father is struggling to keep the family zoo afloat after getting into a land dispute with the Indian government. His father decides to sell the Zoo’s animals in America and transplant his family to Canada. Pi soon finds himself aboard a freight ship with a surly crew, numerous animals, and a brewing storm. As that brewing storm breaks the ship sinks and Pi is left on a life boat with an orangutan, hyena, zebra, and Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. From here Pi must learn to coexist with his new cohorts and try to sail his way back to dry land.

For a two-hour film mostly set on a life boat with one speaking character Life of Pi is a consistently engaging film that never bores and strays close to pretension without ever falling in. Despite the narration this is a film told through images not through words and what gorgeous images they are. My eyes have never been treated to such exquisite visual excitement before. Whether the sea is raging in a storm, still and reflecting a sunset, or glowing with bioluminescence at night it is a glorious canvas on which the film is told. With Pi’s cohorts being wild beasts there is extensive use of CGI to flesh out the cast but the animals are without exception photo-realistic and wholly believable. So much care has been taken with the visuals this film makes Avatar look like a rough sketch in comparison.

Life of Pi 2

With such a heavy reliance on imagery the choice to use 3D was a risky one. So often 3D is used in a distracting or unnecessary way and while Life of Pi does not have the smooth 3D of The Hobbit director Ang Lee has used the extra dimension to greater effect. My major problem with films using 3D is that they don’t seem to shoot the film with the medium in mind. Shots are too short, the camera is all over the place, and objects are rarely completely in frame or coming out of the screen. So often with 3D the fear of being seen as tacky overrides the desire to utilise effects that can be achieved. Lee does not make this mistake; even as the freight ship is sinking he manages to keep control of the camera and uses bold sweeps rather that shaky edits.

In numerous scenes Lee keeps all the objects, be it a person swimming underwater or a boat sitting on a calm sea, fully inside the frame. This allows the eye to see them as fully 3D objects without various bits being cut off at the edge of the screen. Lee is also bold enough to have animals occasionally peer out of the screen. The last time I saw this was as a child at Disneyworld in Florida. This was a time when 3D was a spectacle – something to take notice of amd an effect worth having as an integral part of the film rather than just as an aside. The reason horror films are normally the place I allow for 3D is because they aren’t afraid to seem gimmicky and it is refreshing to see a similar approach in an Oscar-worthy film. There’s a lot to learn about how to shoot for 3D here.

Life of Pi 3

This is a beautiful film with a big emotional journey at its heart. All the visuals would be for nothing without the amazingly strong performance at its core by Suraj Sharma as Pi. We see Pi at various ages but it is Sharma’s portrayal as a young boy all at sea with a small zoo that holds the film together and is the one vital component. Sharma has no other roles to his name making this possibly the best debut I have ever seen. And he’s five years younger than me. The bastard.

Where the film could do with losing some excess baggage is with adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) and his conversation with an American writer (Rafe Spall). While it is their conversation that forms the film’s narration when the film cuts from the endless aching beauty of the sea adventure back to their conversation in suburbia I found myself painfully pulled out of a cinematic trance and my disbelief struggled to remain suspended. Spall’s character also acts a little too heavy handedly as the voice of the audience when he spells out the film’s message in its closing scene. We got the point without being shown it directly.

Your eyes won’t get a better treat in the cinema for a good long while and 3D have never been used better.

Life of Pi is on general release in the UK from 20th December 2012. Go see it.

Out Now – 14th December 2012

The Hobbit and the Secret of the Wings

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
More of the same from Middle Earth as a collection of battle scene are linked by long conversations and some walking. Now available in 3D and 48 frames per second – for better or worse. I saw it and was almost positive.

TinkerBell and the Secret of the Wings
In a week where most films are sheltering from The Hobbit‘s might a straight to DVD Disney animation has tripped and fallen into cinemas. “Tinker Bell meets Periwinkle and ventures into the winter woods with her and Tinker Bell’s other friends to find the secret of fairy wings.”

Code Name: Geronimo (London release)
Bin Laden vs. Navy Seals.

Baraka (limited re-release)
“A collection of expertly photographed scenes of human life and religion.” Shrug.

Smashed (limited release)
A couple (the wonderful Aaron Paul and Mary “Ramona Flowers” Winstead”) have their boozy relationship put to the test when the wife decides to give up drinking. My wife would never ruin things by going sober. My wife is red wine. I love her so.

False Trail (limited release)
I’m at a bit of a loss with this Swedish film starring Rolf Lassgård as Erik Bäckström in a sequel to Jägarna. IMDb plot keywords include: Moose | Hunter | Beer | Suicide | Weapon

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (limited re-release)
Classic film about a former child star gone mouldy. My main experience of this film ha been through French and Saunders.

Chasing Ice (limited release)
“Follow National Geographic photographer James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.” I sense this film has a message and that this message is not to do with the correct deployment of time-lapse cameras.

Babette’s Feast (limited re-release)
Erm… erm… have a look for yourself.

Neil Young Journeys (limited release)
“Neil Young returns to his birth Canadian province of Ontario to revisit his old haunts and to perform in Toronto’s vintage Massey Hall.” Fingers crossed it features a climactic final battle in the Chaos Theatre as he fights for Ramona’s love.

Dead Europe (limited release)
An Australian travels to Greece to scatter his Father’s ashes and uncovers some terrible things in his family’s past. All synopses and reviews make sideways references to sex so expect some of that too.

Love Crime (limited release)
Kristin Scott Thomas continues to busy herself in French cinema, this time as an executive who exploits and then competes with her assistant. Not quite sure where a love crime enters the mix.

UFO (limited release)
All I am getting from IMDb is that this is a British film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Pierce Brosnan’s son with the tagline “Try to remain calm”. No thanks.

Spamalot – Theatre Review


I don’t really like Monty Python. Back at school I was forced to listen to one particular group of friends endlessly quote the films before I had seen a single frame. By the time I got round to seeing the films, as shown to me by a girlfriend I didn’t particularly like (I was fifteen, I now only date people I like), I knew all the jokes off by heart and my adolescent self found the whole thing completely silly and not at all funny. We broke up soon after and, apart from October’s visit to watch A Liar’s Autobiography, have never returned to give Monty Python a second chance. Last week with free tickets being offered I had no choice but to swallow my pride, grab my nearest bearded friend, and skip down to The Playhouse theatre and watch Spamalot. The things I do for the love of blog.

As the show opened with a musical number about Finland, the actors had misheard the narrator (!), all my prejudices came rushing to the surface. This was set to be two hours of silly nonsense and I was almost certain I wouldn’t enjoy myself. Spamalot had quite the hill to climb. Slowly but surely I was won over. The bizarre retelling of the story of King Arthur “lovingly ripped off from” Monty Python and the Holy Grail slowly worked its charms on me until I was laughing along with all the die-hard Python fans in the audience. What finally got me was the Lady of the Lake singing The Song That Goes Like This; an over the top parody of Andrew Lloyd Webber style love songs. In fact it was the Lady of the Lake, as played by Anna-Jane Casey, that consistently made the show for me. Her songs, including Diva’s Lament – Whatever Happened to My Part?, were mostly meta-songs referencing the fact that they were in a stage musical. Elements like this really tickled my funny bone and justified performing a film on stage.

Stephen Tompkinson - SpamalotIn the past Tim Curry has received rave reviews from theatre critics in the role of King Arthur while Alan Dale has received weak reviews from my friends (who as Alan Dale fans are to be believed). The latest star to take the role is Stephen Tompkinson who spent the late nineties breaking all our hearts as he tragically romanced Assumpta in Ballykissangel. While Tompkinson’s voice may not be as powerful as his more experienced co-stars he really throws himself into his performance and genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself – something that is a benefit in such a broad comedy and something I hear Mr. Dale was sorely lacking.

Spamalot forced me to enjoy myself despite my best efforts and has made good progress in removing those demons from my teen years that I am apparently still battling. At this rate I’ll be able to watch Monty Python’s Life of Brian without having flashbacks to boring lunchtimes and evenings spent at the local vicarage (long story). The only downside to the show was one member of the audience, sat directly behind us, who seemed to have paid a lot of money only to say some of the lines moments before the actors onstage were able to. Monty Python are OK by me now, the fans still aren’t.

Spamalot is currently running at the Playhouse theatre in London and tickets can be bought online here ranging from £15 to £75.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Film Review

The Hobbit

As Frodo and Bilbo Baggins prepare for a party Bilbo reminisces about an adventure from his past. Sixty years previously Bilbo was reluctantly recruited by the wizard Gandalf to join a troupe of dwarves on a journey to reclaim their kingdom from the fearsome dragon Smaug. The hobbit and dwarves set off for their destination after some partying (and two songs), encounter trolls, orcs, elves, and goblins along the way and after 169 minutes have yet to even arrive.

That’s right. In a film adaptation of a book subtitled There and Back Again this first film of three compiling to make The Hobbit doesn’t manage to complete the “There” let alone the “and Back Again“. It’s a debate I continue to have with myself as to whether films in a trilogy should be able to stand on their own as three single films rather than having to coexist to remain coherent. An Unexpected Journey is very much a set-up followed by some set pieces rather than a film in its own right. As the credits rolled on what had been an enjoyable film (more of that shortly) I couldn’t help but feel slightly cheated that I would have to wait another 12 months before I got to even see them arrive at their destination.

All that aside An Unexpected Journey is an enjoyable film. It looks gorgeous and is filled with plenty of laughs, epic landscapes, and more fights than you can shake an oversized wizard’s staff at. What An Unexpected Journey is not is in any way unexpected. There are no surprises. The whole event felt incredibly familiar as it maintained the style and tone of The Lord of the Rings. Watching a hobbit set off on an epic quest surrounded by a gang of strangers who do a lot of walking occasionally interrupted by fights along the way and flashbacks to large battles starts to feel like deja vu on an unprecedented scale. An Unexpected Journey is more Delia Smith than Heston Blumenthal; you get what you expect and enjoy it but at no point is your breath taken away.

The cast are all perfectly functional and highly recognisable. Anyone who has sufficient years of UK TV watching behind them will spend the 2.82 hours trying to place the familiar faces behind dwarf prosthetics. Ian McKellen remains fantastic as Gandalf and Martin Freeman reprises his reluctant traveller persona from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Luckily Freeman perfectly fits the character of Bilbo so there was no need for him to get wildly experimental and I couldn’t imagine a more hobbity performance.

Now how about the 3D and the 48 frames per second I hear you nerds ask? As a bit of a 3D-phobic let it be taken as a huge compliment when I describe the 3D as unobtrusive. It added little to the action sequences and at times made any background CGI a little flat but it didn’t make any images double up or blur. In static shots where my eyes had a chance to absorb all the dimensions/frames/pixels/whatever the image was so perfectly realised that it looked genuinely real. A shot of Bilbo sitting at his desk writing was so well captured that I felt I could have walked up and knocked over his ink well. Whether you want such realism in a fantasy film is another debate – one I will slyly run away from at this point. The film looked great and my only complaint would be that wearing glasses over my glasses can get tiresome as a film enters its third hour.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is going to be a real thrill for any fan of Lord of the Rings simply because it so closely resembles its predecessors. On the same note however anyone who would rather never set foot in Middle Earth again is not going to find themselves changing their mind with this outing of more of the same. An Unexpected Journey is a lot of fun and stands out as a rare fantasy epic in a year where superheroes trying to stick to gritty realism have dominated. I look forward to the next two sequels both because I liked this outing but also because it didn’t contain enough of a story to suffice.

P.S. Gollum has never looked better.

Out Now – 7th December 2012

Seven Psychopaths
Meta-comedy about a man writing a film about psychopaths of a surprisingly indeterminate number. As my friend Jon said, “It’s a dumb glossy action film with one-dimensional characters that ultimately lacks any heart or soul.”

The Man with the Iron Fists
“On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers.” Respect to any film with a crazy synopsis like this which uses the Oxford comma.

The Oranges
Gentle comedy about a man (Hugh Laurie) who starts to date his friend’s daughter (Leighton Meester). With the rest of the cast filled out by Catherine Keener, Adam Brody, Oliver Platt, Alia Shawkat, and Allison Janney there isn’t a dud in the box.

So Undercover
Miley Cyrus is a private eye hired by the FBI to pose as a college student. Imagine Veronica Mars but without anything good in it. Imagine Miley Cyrus trying to act. Imagine a “steet-smart” girl forced to join a sorority. Imagine hitting your face against a wall until you are no longer able to remember that this film exists. There, that’s better.

Celeste & Jesse Forever
Disarmingly charming non-romantic comedy about trying to stays friends with your ex and all the pain and struggles that can bring. Three Mild Concern writers accidentally saw this film at the same screening and we all loved it. So there.

I, Anna (limited release)
“A noir thriller told from the point of view of a femme fatale, who falls for the detective in charge of a murder case.” I quite liked it.

Confession of a Child of the Century (limited release)
Pete Doherty (oh yes, him) stars as Octave in 1830s Paris – a man who is betrayed by his mistress and falls in love with an elder widow (Charlotte Gainsbourg).Pete Doherty acting? Bloody hell.

When Santa Fell to Earth (limited release)
German children’s film in which Santa falls to Earth. Presumably. The full synopsis looks ridiculously complicated, is five paragraphs long, and contains phrases like “Goblynch also wants to force Santa Niklas Goodfellow, the last real Santa, to work for his commercialized Christmas company and forces him to do hard labour in the ordering department of the Christmas Palace.”

You Will Be My Son (limited release)
“An Oedipal tale set in a world of oenophiles.” I take my hat off to you anonymous Independent film critic.

Gremlins (limited release)
One of the best Christmas films ever ever ever is back in some cinemas. Go see it. NOW!

Life Just Is (limited release)
“Pete, Tom, Claire and Jay are university graduates having trouble making the move into adult life. Beneath the hanging out and the daily routines simmers Pete’s desire to find a spiritual answer to life’s meaning, Jay’s desperate need not to get hurt again, and Tom and Claire’s ever increasing mutual attraction.” It’s about me! I am a graduate struggling to make the move into adult life. I seek the meaning of life. I don’t want to get hurt. I have an increasing mutual attraction with myself.

Celeste & Jesse Forever – LFF Review

Celeste and Jesse Forever

I have long been both impressed and more than a bit suspicious of people who manage to stay friends with their exes. In my experience, many try and few succeed – and the two necessary ingredients to be one of the few is time and distance. Not that Celeste (Rashida Jones, who was also co-writer) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) were paying any attention to my sage advice when they decided to get divorced. Not least because they are fictional.

Celeste and Jesse’s relationship is established in the montage over the opening credits and they’ve broken up long before the first line of dialogue. They’re just not acting like it. Even if high-flying “trendspotter” Celeste had grown tired of artist Jesse’s apparent lack of motivation, they’re still best friends and happiest in each other’s company. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t conducive to moving on.

The breath of fresh air that blows through this rom-com (or should that be post-rom-com?) is that it does away with one of the big failings of the genre: the will they, won’t they? question, almost always answered with yes, of course they will, is neatly sidestepped. Here, Celeste and Jesse already have. The question that will keep you guessing right to the end, is will they again? And more importantly, should they? While I really wanted good things to happen to both Celeste and Jesse, I couldn’t decide whether a reconciliation was the good thing I wanted.

The film would have fallen flat without the brilliant chemistry that Jones and Samberg have onscreen but they have you rooting for them from scene one. They’re funny and charming, with dialogue that’s always pitch perfect and both are skilled physical comedians. While the supporting cast are all likeable, the central pair are definitely the stars, not even upstaged by Elijah Wood as Celeste’s business partner, who’s trying and failing to be her sassy gay friend. This should be a relief to Rashida Jones who was so fed up with always playing the best friend in films that she decided to write herself a lead role.

There are some flaws – the sideplot featuring Riley Banks, Celeste’s teen pop star client, is resolved in a bit too neat a fashion and their lifestyles are oh so glamorous all the time – but C+JF is both funny and romantic, which is what you want out of a romantic comedy and yet so rarely get.

Mild Concern vs BFI London Film Festival