Out Now – 28th February 2014


The Book Thief
The story of a young foster girl in WW2 Germany who collects books while the Nazis are burning them. I can heartily recommend the novel; disappointingly, the critics don’t seem to be able to say the same about this film adaptation.

Liam Neeson does the action thing again. This time he’s an Air Marshal in a thriller that sounds a bit like Speed. Except instead of on a bus, the action’s on an aeroplane. Upping the stakes in hijack films is one of the less frequently discussed consequences of 9/11.

Ride Along
In order to marry Ice Cube’s sister apparently you must “ride along” with him on a police patrol to prove your manliness and then get into lethal/comedic hijinks. Maybe your sister doesn’t need her brother’s permission to get married? Ever consider that, Ice Cube?

We Are What We Are
Exclusive from the Mild Concern Drafts folder: Tim has a review for this brewing. In further groundbreaking news, he informs me that it’s “a surprisingly good horror”. He’ll expand on this opinion with more words once he has an internet connection again. Maybe you should go watch it first then see if you agree with him.

Shaadi Ke Side Effects / The Side Effects of Marriage
A Bollywood film “about a young couple who experience many comic events after their marriage” – I assume after the husband has successfully survived the comic events on his ride along with Ice Cube.

Yurusarezaru mono / Unforgiven
Ken Watanabe stars in this Japanese remake of the Clint Eastwood classic, which people are describing in such glowing terms as “not as redundant as it sounds“.

A Tamil film about two cinema-loving friends when long after their lives diverge, the less successful one searches out the more successful one for a favour. This is likely to be me and Tim in 20 years time – but who’ll be the one with all the success? (Tim, obviously.)

Om Shanti Oshana
According to the Wikipedia page, this is a romantic comedy that follows Pooja, “a naughty school girl who loves trends”, whose best friends are “Neethu, a flirt and Dona, a junk foodie.” I like how every character’s personality is conveniently summarised in one descriptive term. Other featured characters are “Rachel Aunty, a wine maker” and “Dr Prasad Varkey, her young and enthusiastic teacher”.

Funny Face
Re-release of the Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn musical, which I dimly remember as being pretty but ludicrous. Back in 1957, The Times reviewed it as “…a displeasing piece of work, pseudo-sophisticated, expensive and brash in approach, vulgar in taste and insensitive in outlook. This, in fact, is the American “musical” at its worst.”

Why I am, to my surprise, enjoying The Voice

The Voice series 3

‘Nice’ is an underrated quality in a TV talent show but it might be a good reason to watch The Voice.

I’m not much of a fan of reality television. I have dabbled in Britain’s Got Talent, because you sometimes see something genuinely original, and have consistently kept up with Strictly Come Dancing, because it’s pretty dancing, glamourous outfits and fundamentally meaningless fluff. But I don’t touch anything in the Big Brother / I’m a Celebrity vein and hate, hate, hate The X Factor. So it’s caught me by surprise to discover that I’m enjoying series 3 of The Voice.

When it first came to our shores, my reaction was total indifference. Another singing talent show? Yawn. Having the judges pick their teams based only on what the contestants’ voices sound like, without being influenced by appearance put a slightly interesting twist on the format, but that point of difference disappears after the blind auditions. I had no idea who one of the judges, Danny O’Donoghue, was (nor heard of his band, The Script), and didn’t really see what level of expertise he and Jessie J, who had released one album by this point, could bring to the show. So, the entire of series 1 passed me by.

I caught a very tiny bit of series 2 because of a minor personal connection to Leah McFall, the eventual runner-up, but I saw none of the early audition rounds. However, a few weeks ago, while waiting for dinner to cook, I got sucked into an episode of the current series, and have been watching it since. This is why:

You do not have to witness anyone be humiliated.
I know that some people watch reality TV auditions purely for the people whose self-belief does not match their talent. I am not one of those watchers. I desperately will everyone to be good, to perform well and when it turns out they really can’t sing/dance/make people laugh, I cringe as I share their embarrassment and disappointment. Everyone who makes it to the television stage on The Voice has already auditioned in front of the producers and so you are guaranteed that they meet a decent standard of vocal ability. This takes a lot of nervous tension out of my evening.

Jamie Lovatt - The Voice

The coaches have credibility…
Jessie J and Danny O’Donoghue did not return for series 3. They were replaced by Ricky Wilson, who has made as many albums with the Kaiser Chiefs as both Jessie and Danny put together, and Kylie Minogue, who, well, is Kylie. Alongside (Sir) Tom Jones and Will.I.Am, long-time artist and producer in his own right (Black Eyed Peas notwithstanding), this set of judges carry more industry weight that the previous line-up conveyed.

…and they actually seem to like each other
I don’t know what the chemistry between the coaches was like before and these four could all just be really good at pretending to get on, but I enjoy the interplay between the professionals. Maybe it’s because Kylie is so adorable. Maybe it’s Ricky’s charming everyman. Maybe it’s Will’s left-field wackiness. Whatever it is, they bounce off each other entertainingly (while Tom looks on, bemused) and their chatter doesn’t make me cringe. I don’t see any of the weary cattiness that I associate with these judging panels.

The Voice - Kylie and Tom

It’s only positive
The combination of the above reasons means that the whole experience feels like it can only be positive. Because all the contestants can actually sing, the judges never have to be harsh with anyone. The people they don’t pick, even though they haven’t got what they wanted, are encouraged to keep going and given constructive advice for improvement. They get a lot of personal interaction (and a whole lot of hugs) from the coaches – who do seem more like mentors than judges. There isn’t a Simon Cowell panto villain anywhere.

The blind auditions are now over, and with it the show’s selling point, so maybe the following episodes with their confusing ‘battle’ structure will lose me and perhaps the competition between the mentors will escalate and detract from the camaraderie I like so much. Even so, I’m looking forward to finding out and a few months ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be saying that. Sometimes, it’s nice to be surprised.

AIDs Activist Documentaries on DVD

Doc DVDs

Consider this a quick public service announcement to gently point out to you all that two fantastic documentaries from last year focussing on AIDs activists are released on DVD next month.

Fire In The Blood focuses on the ongoing scandal by which governments block access to affordable AIDs medication by ruthlessly protecting the patents of large pharmaceutical manufacturers. I called the film “engrossing and important” and said that it “needs to be seen by as many people as possible”. We all know what a good judge I am. Fire In The Blood is released on DVD on 24th March and can be pre-ordered now.

How to Survive a Plague tells a more specific and personal tale by looking at the New York AIDs epidemic from the 1980s to present day using mostly archive footage and few talking heads. I described the film as “an intimate and personal documentary about a global tragedy that will give you hope in the strength of the combined human spirit just as much as it crushes your belief in humanity.” Of the two films this is the one that brought out the tears. How to Survive a Plague is out on DVD on 31st March and is also available to pre-order.

Each film approaches the subject in a different way but both tell an important story about the AIDs crisis and the way in which we as a species will chase profits at the expense of other people’s lives.

Harold Ramis 1944 – 2014

Harold Ramis

21st November July 1944 – 24th February 2014

“Well, for me, it’s the relationship between comedy and life – that’s the edge I live on, and maybe it’s my protection against looking at the tragedy of it all. It’s seeing life in balance. Comedy and tragedy co-exist. You can’t have one without the other. I’m of the school that anything can be funny, if seen from a comedic point of view.”

Veronica Mars – UK Trailer

Veronica Mars

Finally! We have been sent the UK trailer for the Veronica Mars movie which gets a limited UK cinema release on 14th March 2014 and will be available for digital download on the same day.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Veronica Mars universe please read my previous ramblings, and that time I got statistical. For the die-hard fans I give you the trailer, enjoy:

Excuse me while I get inappropriately excited.

Short Term 12 Blu-Ray Competition

Short Term 12

Lost in all the hullabaloo of the London Film Festival you might have missed my gushing review for Short Term 12. For some reason I gave the film only four stars which in hindsight was a little too reserved of me.

Set in an American foster home Short Term 12 looks at the lives of the children seeking shelter there and the equally complicated lives of the staff, in particular the strong and slightly broken Grace as played by Brie Larson. Larson has a lot of supporting roles in comedy films under her belt but her performance here is nothing short of a revelation. She truly is a remarkable actress and I wish Short Term 12 had been seen by a few more eyeballs when it went on limited release in the UK.

With the DVD and Blu-ray release coming up on 10th March I’m going to have a little push to get you to see this film and I am helped by the fact that I have three copies of the Blu-Ray to give away!

To be in with a chance of winning one of the Short Term 12 Blu-rays simply enter your details below:

This competition has now closed

Entrants must be at least 18 years of age and be a UK resident. The competition closes on 10th March 2014 at 5pm. Three winners will be selected at random from the entries submitted and prizes will be sent to the addresses given in the entry.

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Out Now – 21st February 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive
The fantastic pairing of Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton is incredibly tempting, particularly when vampiric antics are thrown into the mix. Reviews are strong but I imagine this will fare better at the art house cinemas rather than the multiplex. One I missed at the London Film Festival last year.

A New York Winter’s Tale
“A burglar falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.” I have my doubts about how their romance will play out in the long run; relationships with the dead are very different to those with the living.

A Russian War movie in which Germany are the bad guys owing to the film being set back when Germany actually were the bad guys. Sadly I don’t think this film will distract too much from all the nonsense going on in Sochi.

Stranger by the Lake
Two men fall in love and indulge in some unsimulated sex by the lake. One is a dangerous man! The film describes itself as “an erotic mix of the comic and the tragic” which means it has something for everyone. And by something I mean a lot of naked men.

A World Not Ours
“An intimate, and often humorous, portrait of three generations of exile in the refugee camp of Ein el-Helweh, in southern Lebanon.”

Not to be outdone by the unsimulated sex in Stranger by the Lake Lars von Trier’s new sex-epic two-parter enters UK cinemas on Saturday for back to back screenings. I’m not sure if it will be back later in the year but if you want to see Shia LaBeouf pretending to have sex while his genital region is digitally replaced with that of an adult performer then Saturday is your best bet.

Jobs – Film Review


Before I watched Jobs the extent of my Steve Jobs knowledge was that he was The Apple Guy who helped Pixar become Pixar. When I worked as a bookseller at Waterstone’s my knowledge grew to, “yes, he died of pancreatic cancer, very sad. I do recommend the Walter Isaacson biography though, as it is the authorized version and is also in the three for two offer.”

For a long time, following his death, the Steve Jobs biodrama rumours, developments and production updates were everywhere – and then they were not.

Whilst holidaying in Iceland last December I nipped into a convenience store by my hotel and saw Ashton Kutcher’s ‘Steve Jobs’ face looking at me from a DVD bin. At first, what with that Technicolor artwork, I thought I was looking at some Nordic pirated version of a film that was never released. A bit of data roaming on my trusty Android quickly told me the DVD was legit and so I took it to the counter with a pair of sheep wool gloves and a bottle of Appelsin, surprised and happy that I could finally watch The Steve Jobs Movie.

Unfortunately, Jobs (because they must have realized that their original jOBS looked silly) is really quite dull. Let’s not for a moment think that The Social Network owns the corporate biodrama but iPhones and Facebook are related just enough for 21st century idiots to see one and expect the other.

The Social Network had the upper hand in that the worst thing it had going for it was that it was a movie about Facebook whereas Jobs suffered multiple disadvantages such as that it came second, it was made by nobodies, it stars Ashton Kutcher and it could not possibly match the quality of the film that audiences would inevitably compare it to.

To be fair, Kutcher does pretty well with what he is given and helping slightly is the fact that his physical resemblance to Steve Jobs really is quite uncanny. It feels irresponsible though considering the hype and story that it is based on that neither the film’s director nor producers could see that things were not going at all as well as they should have been with production.

Jobs isn’t bad, it’s just no better than a 90s television movie. Too kitsch in style and too rushed in narrative the movie attempts to focus on every bit of Jobs’ personality and career in its 2 hour runtime. The film clearly has ambition but its swarm of hurried plot and character developments makes for a biographical drama that is just too contextually vague and washed out.

The stars manage to carry the film with their myriad of underdog puppy eyes, arguments about Star Wars and frenemy bickering but much of that goes to waste because we are too distracted by the bad production values on offer with ridiculous camera zooms, weird beards and overly eccentric musical compositions being repeat offenders.

It simply seems like such a waste. There is three decades of rich drama to draw on (hey, I’m read up now) and the best the production crew could do was get actors who looked remarkably like those people the characters are based on to stand around whilst they filmed and edited the movie in the most weird and theatrical way they could think of.

If Jobs ever comes onto LoveFilm or Netflix sure, give it a watch, but don’t spend the Icelandic equivalent of £16 on it any time soon.

Oscar Predictions Update – The BAFTA Effect

The Oscars 2014 Data

Last month I introduced to you my amazing new statistical approach for predicting the Oscar winners. Amazing, new, and stolen from Nate Silver. With the BAFTAs having been announced we now have much more fleshed out statistics and the predictions are becoming ever more clear. Sadly my 100% foolproof prediction technique seems to be agreeing with the bookmakers’ picks so any attempt for me to get rich is not going to happen.

Below are my updated charts (oooh charts!) which look at each category in turn, just select the category you want to look at from the drop down menu (oooh drop down menu!). If you want to read about the methodology have a look at the previous post.


Mild Concern Oscar Predictions 2014

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave

Already the frontrunner last month 12 Years a Slave now holds the BAFTA in this most important category and so looks unbeatable at the Oscar ceremony. Start practising your speech Steve McQueen.


Another predicted winner that was set for Oscar success without the need for BAFTA support. Now with the golden mask secured Gravity is statistically unbeatable… let’s just hope the voters realise my integrity is at stake.

Actor in a Leading Role
Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

Every nominee apart from Christian Bale has won at least one precursor award for this category but, regardless of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s win last night, Matthew McConaughey has won more of the most accurate award predictors. With its British skew BAFTA only predicts this category 54% of the time.

Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett has continued to gather awards for her role in Blue Jasmine and this success is giving her the most striking statistic of all with an 80% chance of winning the Oscar. Poor Judi Dench might as well stay at home.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club

While the BAFTA went to the deserving newcomer Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips it’s not enough to take on Jared Leto’s near clean sweep for Dallas Buyers Club which leaves him more likely to win than not.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle

For now at least. The BAFTA win for Lawrence, with its 77% accuracy rating, has pushed her ahead of former frontrunner Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave. The stats are close though and if Nyong’o can win the Independent Spirit award the day before the Oscars (an award Lawrence is not nominated for) she will JUST gain the lead. Far too close to call this one.

Original Screenplay
Spike Jonze for Her

Forget the BAFTAs for a minute as the WGA awards have also taken place recently and they are key predictor when it comes to the writing category, most likely as the two voting panels will have a large overlap. As such the WGA win for Her has let it increase its lead slightly, though with a probability of victory as low as 36% American Hustle could steal the show.

Adapted Screenplay
Billy Ray for Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips winning the WGA award and Philomena the BAFTA has given this already contentious category a little shake-up. The front-runner now is Captain Phillips with a slightly above average chance of victory at 25%.

20 Feet from Stardom / The Act of Killing

The most awarded film in this category, Stories We Tell, isn’t nominated for the Oscar so from a data point of view we’re fighting for table scraps. Currently 20 Feet from Stardom and The Act of Killing are level pegging but that isn’t saying much. A win at the Spirit Awards for either film would be a real boon for both them and my statistics.

Animated Film

Last time we checked Frozen had a healthy lead over the competition and since then has won the 100% accurate BAFTA award and the category specific Annie Award leaving it with a 74% chance of success. This isn’t quite as safe as Cate Blanchett but I would be amazed if any other animation got the Oscar.

Foreign Film
The Great Beauty

Blue is the Warmest Colour was ruining this category by winning all the awards but not having an Oscar nomination. Thankfully The Great Beauty has added a BAFTA to its Golden Globe and is looking like a much healthier contender for the all important golden statue.

We’ll have one final look at how things stand after the Independent Spirit Awards on 1st March and then on the 2nd my results will truly be put to the test.

Out Now – Valentine’s Day 2014

Her Lego Movie

Cuban Fury
Nick Frost has nuzzled his way into our hearts through his work with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright and so we really do hope that his first lead role serves him well. However… this British dancing comedy looks like it might, just possibly, not be very good. We wait with baited breath to see how it has turned out.

The Monuments Men
George Clooney writes, directs, and stars in a WWII remake of Ocean’s Eleven. Clooney has proven that he can direct in the past but sadly this film is getting universally terrible reviews. The trailer shows a harmless war caper but the reviews scream two star stinker.

The Lego Movie
In stark contrast reviews for The Lego Movie are all embarrassingly glowing. It is hard to say why the film is such good fun but Stephen has had a good go at it. All I know is that at a point halfway through the film I broke down into a giggling fit that I never really recovered from.

I simply cannot contain my high expectations from this latest instalment in the Heavy Knitwear Science Fiction canon. The visionary Spike Jonze brings us the story of a man who falls in love with his operating system. This had better be the best film in the world ever or I am going to need some cake to cheer me up.

Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy
If for some reason you can’t decide whether this animated adventure is for you then let it be known that Tom Hiddleston (your next Benedict Cumberbatch) voices Captain Hook.

8 Minutes Idle
Caught up in a feud between his dysfunctional parents Dan is forced to sleep in the call centre where he works. In a surprisingly good dark comedy Dan struggles with life, love, and a ginger cat. My interview with novelist and screenwriter Matt Thorne can be found right over here.

Endless Love
Tame remake of a 1980s romantic drama. Where RoboCop lost the violence this loses the sex.

Love Is in the Air
“Antoine is a lawyer living in New York. On his way back to France for the final round of a job interview, Antoine finds himself sitting right next to his ex-girlfriend Julie. With a seven-hour flight ahead of them, they are going to have to speak to each other.”

“Marco returns to Paris after his brother-in-law’s suicide, where he targets the man his sister believes caused the tragedy – though he is ill-prepared for her secrets as they quickly muddy the waters.”

Bette Bourne: It Goes with the Shoes
“The story of gay rights icon, Bette Bourne and a group of friends, performers & activists who took on the establishment with high heels and lipstick, playing a vital role in cracking open of society in the 70’s & 80’s.”