Out Now – 31st May 2013


The Big Wedding
A slightly bizarre group of American actors gather for our pleasure to present us with a wedding comedy. The (other) critics have universally panned it so I wouldn’t bother if I were you. I got my fill of Robin Williams as a comedy vicar in License to Wed.

The Purge
In the future Americans are allowed twelve hours every year to do whatever they want as emergency services shut down and all laws are abandoned. A wealthy family is terrorised in their own home after allowing in the target of a masked gang. People in masks tend me make me crap myself so this may well be good fun.

The Comedian (limited release)
This inward looking character drama is not for everyone but it was for me. That makes me better than you right? (I only say this so that if you don’t like it you can’t come complaining to me)

Byzantium (limited release)
Some say this is a feminist vampire film. Some say this is a sexy vampire film. I say a prostitute killing men and drinking their blood as she fight the patriarchy sounds like the perfect blend of the two. Though obviously I will be watching and admiring Gemma Arterton as a strong independent woman and not because she’s running around in a corset. Honest.

Man to Man (ICA only)
Tilda Swinton stars as a German woman posing as a man in what seems to be an episode of a TV series from 20 years ago that is now screening at London’s most pretentious/awesome cinema. Buy your tickets here.

Populaire (limited release)
Every time I see the poster for this French comedy I think it stars Matt Bomer who co-stars in my Magic Mike gif. Turns out it’s actually a Frenchie called Romain Duris.

Everybody Has a Plan (limited release)
Viggo Mortensen stars as a man who impersonates his own cousin in Argentina. Turns out Viggo speaks Spanish having lived in Argentina for ten years of his childhood. Who knew!? I wonder who plans his twin…

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (limited release)
Bollywood film in which a man and woman love each other very much and sing about it. Probably.

Blood (limited release)
“Thriller charting the moral collapse of a police family.” Yes! Finally a thriller not afraid to use charts to tell the story. I reckon it looks similar to the below:


The Comedian – Film Review

The Comedian

Ed (Edward Hogg) is a stand-up comedian living in London, struggling to take his day job seriously, and struggling even harder to get audiences to take his comedy seriously. Ed lives with the beautiful Elisa (Elisa Lasowski) with whom he shares a platonic love and is starting to date fellow comic Nathan (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). Ed finds himself struggling to keep either of his two jobs or relationships afloat as he treads water in the nation’s capital. Shot in an improvised fashion by director Tom Shkolnik The Comedian is not driven by plot but by its characters and is all the better for it.

Considering this is a debut film for Shkolnik The Comedian is a remarkable statement and admirable achievement. Shot with an ethos resembling the Dogme 95 Manifesto The Comedian had no script but instead relied on its cast and crew to improvise dialogue and story as the film was shot only in real locations surrounded by real Londoners and the actors all playing versions of themselves with just one take to get each scene right. The result is a film without any discernible structure which somehow manages to show a side to life at the beginnings of adulthood that is rarely captured on camera.

The Comedian 1

Everything about The Comedian felt painfully real and relatable. This is not a story about boy meets girl or boy meets boy but a story about a man lost in the big city trying to figure out if he is happy with his life or not. You do not have to be a struggling gay comedian to see a lot of yourself in Ed, indeed I am not and I did. Anyone who has ever travelled on a night bus and not had the quiet journey they had hoped for, found themselves on a random London street in the early hours of the morning arguing with someone they love, or simply felt incredibly lonely in a large city will find this film authentic.

Shot in a spontaneous fashion The Comedian has every excuse not to look any good but somehow eschews the low-fi aesthetic of many low budget films and comes out looking fantastic. This is particularly impressive considering the amount of night-time shooting with natural light which looks deep and textured rather than the all too familiar grainy and under-lit. Compare this with my recent Beat Girl trauma and the contrast is remarkable. When you don’t have a huge budget it is all the more important to focus on producing amazing images and sound as the merest whiff of amateur film-making can pull the audience out of a film and into the neighbouring screen to watch Iron Man 3 instead.

The Comedian 2

This plot-less style of film is not for everyone and I did find the ending’s lack of finality a little frustrating but overall The Comedian really spoke to me. The visuals are dark and enveloping and the acting is so natural as to be unnoticeable allowing the film to completely pull me in for its short running time. For those who cannot relate The Comedian may come across as dull navel-gazing but for me I was gazing at my own navel and found it to be beautifully messy.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky Hayao Miyazaki Retrospective #1

Laputa Castle in the Sky

Studio Ghibli has managed to carve a solid niche within a certain demographic of the young UK film audience. The films are clearly aimed at children and young teenagers but due to the beautiful animation, the surreal storylines and the general Japanese Orientalism, the films also have a huge following with half-baked uni students and baby boomer hippies.

Castle in the Sky, the first feature film from the company, has aged remarkably well considering it was released in 1986. The story begins with a mysterious girl named Sheeta being transported on a blimp by an unknown military group. The blimp is attacked by pirates so she jumps to earth and is caught by Pazu, a young boy in a mining town. It turns out that everyone is after her for her mysterious necklace, which legend has it leads the way to an enigmatic castle in the sky called Laputa.

The narrative contains elements and themes that foreshadow later films, such as the steam punk pirates (Howl’s Moving Castle) and the mysterious girl who needs saving by a local boy (Ponyo). The other important message of the film is the battle between nature and technology – this continues throughout the work of Miyazaki, and is evident in the fight between the great gardens of Laputa and the crystal technology used by the bad guy Muska.


Japanimation has always confused me in a way as the drawings of people always look so western – they are always six-foot tall and blonde, yet produced and consumed in a country with a shorter population with dark hair. It is the surreal and inhuman characters that are the most memorable in Ghibli films. In Castle in the Sky it is the anthropomorphic robots that inhabit Laputa that are the most beautiful characters – I have to admit that I was really rooting for the mute, gigantic robots…

The final thing to say about the respect held for Ghibli films is the desperation by Hollywood stars to voice the US/UK dub versions. Laputa features Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Mark Hamill and Andy Dick – a ramshackle cast if ever there was one…

Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House 2013

Film 4 Summer Screen

It’s that time of year again when the sun starts shining and it becomes safe to watch films outdoors. If you are slightly perplexed by the idea of watching films outdoors then let me hold you for a second and tell you that you are missing out. Provided you have the appropriate venue, weather, film, and company then watching a film outside can be a delight.

One of London’s best venues to indulge in cinema al fresco is Somerset House where Film4 hold their summer screen. The line-up has recently been announced so why not peruse the list below, read our survival guide, and then book your ticket online. The double bill of Badlands and Raising Arizona looks particularly tempting.

About Time
Thursday 8th August

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Friday 9th August

Mean Girls & Carrie & The Loved Ones
Saturday 10th August

The Untouchables
Sunday 11th August

Guys and Dolls
Monday 12th August

The Way Way Back
Tuesday 13th August

Wednesday 14th August

Throne of Blood
Thursday 15th August

Predator & Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Friday 16th August

Badlands / Raising Arizona
Saturday 17th August

Crazy Stupid Love
Sunday 18th August

The Red Shoes
Monday 19th August

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Monday 20th August

Prince Avalanche
Monday 21st August

Once – Theatre Review


Based on the beautiful, uplifting, heartbreaking, hearwarming indie film Once comes the ever so slightly less beautiful, uplifting, heartbreaking, heartwarming but nevertheless great (although not very indie anymore) West End production Once. Both tell the simple story of Guy, an Irish hoover repairman and musician, meets Girl, a Czech mother and musician, leading to Guy and Girl making beautiful music together.

Whereas the film is entirely based around the two main characters, the play includes a slightly larger cast who serve to both take the crucial role in performing the soundtrack to the story and to add some slightly overstated comic relief. I can understand the desire to lighten the mood in a tale that tugs at the heartstrings so but I feel some of it doesn’t quite fit with the tone of the central romantic story. The film of Once is such a small intimate piece the broader comedic moments can come across as slightly jarring.

Once - Guy and Girl

My only other criticism is that the ‘manic’ in the ‘manic pixie dream Girl’ role (Zrinka Cvitešic) is initially slightly overplayed and the coldness of the lead Guy (Declan Bennett) is perhaps a little too cold but they certainly settle down and become a lot more believable throughout the performance.

Other than these niggles the show was wonderful and maintained more intimacy than is usually possible within a West End musical. As with the film the music and songs are the real star, really emphasising the emotions of the characters. They are performed brilliantly as you can see from our Once videos. Flora Spencer-Longhurst particularly impressed (Tim) on violin.

So overall pretty excellent really. I forgot about my day-to-day worries, cried a lot, still feel slightly dazed and emotionally tired, and am looking forward to taking a small (healthy?) amount of time out wallowing over my love lost before putting on my special suit and throwing myself headlong into life.

Once is on at the Phoenix Theatre and tickets can be bought online. Go and have a laugh and a good cry.

The Hangover Part III – Film Review

The Hangover Part III

Like Einstein, Copernicus and Marie Curie before me; I decided to conduct an experiment. Is it possible to enjoy The Hangover Part III without having seen the first two? Is the rich interplay and nuance between the characters and the intricate nature of the plot possible to understand without detailed study of the original two parts of the franchise – or can you drink a couple of ciders and just go with it?

For those that need to be told, the story picks up a couple of years after the Thailand trip and Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are staging an intervention for Alan (Zach Galifianakis) who has ditched his meds and is acting crazy. As they transport him to a clinic they are forced off of the road by mobsters and forced to find some gold stolen by the flamboyant gangster Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong). They then go on a wacky adventure that takes them back to Vegas (with the terrible line: “One way or another… it all ends here”) as they have to break in multiple places and try to find/follow Chow.

The Hangover Part III - Ken Jeong

All plot aside, and much to my expectation, it was entirely possible to enjoy the film having not bothered with the first two. I’m sure that lots of people will have different views of the film being part of a franchise, but as an objective outsider there was much to love in Part III.

The streets of Leicester Square were lined with curious passers-by and desperate twitterati who were trying to get pictures taken with Heather Graham and Bradley Cooper as well as signing something for eBay. Heather Graham has about 3 minutes of screen time and is only in the film as a token female speaking role – or maybe she was in the film simply to give the red carpet some much-needed glitz…

Obviously, most people who watch this film come primarily for Galifianakis and Jeong. All of the other characters are basically filler until these two get back on the screen. All of the biggest laughs during the screening were from the delivery of lines that would definitely fail from other characters. And of course, there is plenty of slapstick that translates well to foreign audiences. (A particularly funny misjudged leap got the biggest reaction in the cinema…)

The Hangover Part III - Zach Galifianakis

Watching as a Brit it is interesting to note that the successes of these films reflect America’s continuing comfort with discussing drugs. There are so many jokes in here about pills, cocaine, ‘roofies’ and bath salts that there is no denying that we are living through progressive times. On that note, it was amusing to note that none of the audience got the ‘bath salts’ reference, it was lost in translation I guess; so if you want to prepare yourself for that line then familiarize yourself with the Miami zombie story (beware – it’s grizzly).

On the way into the cinema the PR team were handing out hundreds and hundreds of bottles of Budweiser to reaffirm the films status as drinking-game/social event. It occurred to me afterwards that this plan seemed to backfire as everyone around me drank about 6-7 beers and loved every joke in the first half hour, only to slumber into a beer bubble for the rest of the film and not really engage with all of the big laughs. The one exception was the woman who sat next to me, who for some reason had brought her mum with her (who had also not seen the first films). They were laughing at Every. Single. Line. The elderly mum particularly enjoyed the cocaine references for some reason…

The reality is that this film will be huge and will be quoted for a few months, and then slowly discover its places in the lexicon of aging frat-boy comedies having not really offered anything drastically new. But who cares, the film had a shallow purpose and it served it well.

Out Now – 24th May 2013

My Neighbour The Hangover

It’s half term and the only other film on wide release contains strong language, sex and drug references, and brief nudity so you’re lucky that this is actually a fun watch that you can enjoy as well as your tiny person(s).

The Hangover Part III
Speaking of strong language, sex and drug references, and brief nudity… It says a lot about this franchise that I still can’t figure out if I’ve seen Part II or not. Something about a monkey?

Something in the Air (limited release)
French film set in the late 60s about young Europeans wanting to continue a revolution. Not the French revolution mind, you want Les Misérables for that.

The King of Marvin Gardens (limited re-release)
Jack Nicholson stars in a story of two brothers and a misjudged get-rich-quick scheme. First released in 1972.

Benjamin Britten: Peace and Conflict (limited release)
Docudrama about the schooling of English composer Benjamin Britten. Narrated by John Hurt who you last saw blowing your mind in a children’s Sci-Fi show.

The Moth Diaries (limited release)
Lily Cole stars in this British horror set in a girl’s boarding school. Girls can be horrible to each other at the best of times without a supernatural element messing with things.

Grave of the Fireflies (limited re-release)
It has been 25 years since the original release of Grave of the Fireflies, on the same day as My Neighbour Totoro, making both films the same age as me. “A tragic film covering a young boy and his little sister’s struggle to survive in Japan during World War II.”

My Neighbour Totoro (limited re-release)
It has been 25 years since the original release of My Neighbour Totoro, on the same day as Grave of the Fireflies, making both films the same age as me. “When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wonderous forest spirits who live nearby.”

Mark Kermode’s Birthday Concert


The UK’s most trusted film critic Mark Kermode is turning 50 and wants to celebrate with you. Anyone who listens to Kermode’s Film Review show on BBC Radio 5 Live knows that he is passionate about all aspects of cinema, all aspects barring 3D that is. It is this passion which makes his reviews unique and his opinion one you can rely on whether you agree with it or not; only when a critic openly holds Mary Poppins and The Exorcist in equally high regard can you truly trust what they have to say. What Kermode particularly has a passion for is film scores and music. As such, to mark his 50th Birthday Mark Kermode is hosting a series of cinematic concerts across the country.

Kermode will be joined by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at four venues to perform music from the films he loves most. Any fan of Wittertainment will not be surprised that music from Twin Peaks, Mary Poppins, Silent Running, North By Northwest, and of course The Exorcist will be performed amongst others. During the show Mark will talk about his career and be joined by a surprise guest. I am waiting by the phone/email/Twitter. I’m sure he’ll be in touch any day now…

A few years ago we were invited to attend a recording of the 5 Live radio show during which the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra would be performing live movie scores. Sadly we had to miss the event and have regretted it ever since. This time around I will not be passing up an opportunity to hear classic film music performed live and see one of cinema’s biggest fans share his love/hate for my favourite medium.

The concerts will be performed in July at the Cheltenham Festival with Jim Broadbent, Barbican in London with Jason Isaacs, The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester with David Arnold and Paddy Considine, and Symphony Hall in Birmingham with Jeremy Irons. For further information go to www.Kermodefilmmusic.co.uk

Epic – Film Review


Amanda Seyfried stars as M.K.; a young girl who has recently lost her mother (in typical children’s film style) and is forced to live with her wacky dad in the countryside. Her dad, played by Jason Sudeikis, believes that a civilisation of tiny people live in the forest by their house and spends his days searching for them. M.K. is naturally sceptical of her dad’s theory but when she chases her dog into the woods and ends up shrunk down and involved in an epic (THAT’S THE NAME OF THE MOVIE!!!) battle to claim power over the forest as she helps the Leafmen fight the rot-spreading Boggans as well as trying to return home and to her normal size.

Phew. Plot synopsised!

Epic 1

We were pleasantly surprised by Epic; it was a sweet and funny tale that didn’t overstay its welcome. The story was simple and didn’t stray too far from the classic animated film formula but was enjoyable nonetheless. The jokes were genuinely funny and stemmed from character rather than pop culture references (hello Shrek!) so the film has lasting appeal; the jokes will still be funny long after Britney Spears* is a distant memory. As we left my co-writer Kat said “that could have been a Pixar” which is high praise indeed, though perhaps not totally accurate. Certainly better than Cars* though…

Where Epic falls down is in its villains. Christoph Waltz lent his sinister tone to the leader of the Boggans and they were threatening enough but I wasn’t completely clear on why they wanted the whole forest to turn to rot. Sure they were evil, but why? Maybe they just got tired of Al Gore* harping on about the environment and decided to kill all the trees so he had nothing left to save.

Epic 2

Epic‘s strengths lie with the good guys. M.K. is a feisty female lead that may even pass the Bechdel test if talking to a queen played by Beyoncé Knowles about a genderless flower pod counts. She has a lighthearted romance with Leafman Nod, as played by Josh Hutcherson, and any time the film threatens to get too serious or more scary than its U certificate allows Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd are on hand as a pair of amusing gastropods. Colin Farrell is also present as an older Leafman but he is taking the backseat in this film and does more disapproving than anything else.

Overall the film is a lot of fun and had us both chuckling away throughout. With half-term holidays coming up next week Epic could serve as a perfect distraction for any tiny people in your life. We would advise people to see it in 2D though, headaches and double vision are abound and the 3D adds to little more than your ticket price.

*Examples of out-dated pop culture references

Once the Musical – Exclusive Video


I was very excited to be invited to a social media call for the new West End musical Once on Monday. I am all to familiar with over-zealous ushers who will scold you the moment you so much as look at your camera when inside a theatre’s hallowed walls so it was a bizarre experience to be invited to the Phoenix Theatre to film and photograph the cast of Once perform three songs from the show.

Based on the hugely popular independent, and Best-Original-Song-Oscar-winning, film Once from 2007 the musical is more an intimate play with some songs than a high-kicking jazz-hand-waving musical. The show stars Zrinka Cvitešic and Declan Bennett as Girl and Guy respectively and you can watch the pair performing When Your Mind’s Made Up and Falling Slowly below. There is also a clip of the cast performing an instrumental number The North Strand which was filmed before I managed to sort the focus on my camera out. How embarrassing:

I am seeing the full show tonight so a review is on its way. Once is on at the Phoenix Theatre and tickets can be bought online.