(Random Musings is an idea totally stolen from, erm, I mean inspired by Kim Newman's excellent website where he publishes his raw film notes before later shaping them into a review. I'm going to do something similar where, after just seeing a film, I am going to write down initial thoughts, ideas and make no pretence at coherence. So no change there then. Expect SPOILERS and my opinion to possibly change when the film has had more time to rattle around my tiny mind.)
Men In Black III - Random Musings
*The Skyfall trailer is at the beginning and it is looking mighty fine
* The 3D does nothing at all. You can get by happily without the need for the stupid glasses
*Jermaine Clement is brilliant at chewing the scenery as main villain Boris The Animal. Affer some vaguely comedic villain antics in the first two MIB films, the film does a good job at establishing the villain as very scary and evil.
*Some of the violence at the start is pretty hardcore for such a supposed family friendly film. The little ones will probably blub a bit. In fact, the whole of the first fifteen minutes is all pretty dark (at least by the standards of the genre.
*Smith and Jones seem to have slipped back into their characters like a pair of comfy old shoes.
*3D + Jones' craggy face = WHOA!
*Emma Thomson - in basically an extended cameo - gets a nice gag about speaking Venusian
*Another nice gag in which a little kid mistakes Smith for Obama
*The time travel ideas don't hold to much scrutiny but thankfully the film avoids the boring cliche of a character having to spend half the film trying to convince people he really is from the future.
*Whilst the handling is featherweight, the film does address the fact that a black man in 1969 will have a slightly harder time than in the modern era
*Brolin as younger Jones is uncanny. It's scary how much he gets his mannerisms but still makes the performance his own.
*There's some nice gags at the expense of Andy Warhol but the film just about avoids 'ooooh, let's have endless 60s references'
*The very end was actually a surprise to me. Whether I am just being completely dumb or for once a Hollywood movie managed to introduce plot points without having to sledgehammer people over the head
*It certainly moves along at a cracking pace
*It's not going to shake the movie world, but it's a solid blockbuster that has no pretensions and just gets on with it.
Whilst everyone else tries to get into films at the annual orgy... I mean Film Festival that is Cannes, I have been at home enjoying being able to watch films without queueing up forever and drinking tea without having to apply a second mortgage to be able to afford it.
To be honest, I sort of miss Cannes as there seem to be some good films there this year (the new Haneke, Reygadas and many others all have has some positive reviews) and - more importantly - some close friends who would be good to catch up with. But I am sure that the festival has managed to struggle on without me like the plucky old thing that it is.
Even though I wasn't there, I did some stuff for the Screen International Cannes Dailies and Cannes Market News. You can read about the Estonian Film Industry HERE and HERE whilst I take a look at the Latvian film industry HERE
And who need Cannes when you have Krakow and 2Annas. I am going to be heading to the Krakow Film Festival - for the 9th or 10th time now - to do a panel called GET WITH THE PROGRAMME in which me and a load of other festival programmers talk about what we do. So, you know, come along. No heckling though. Read about the rest of the fest HERE. I am then heading to Riga where I will be on the jury of the Riga International Film Festival 2Annas which is also ace. So, if you're there, come and say hello and bring bribes! (Notice: This is a joke and I am completely unbribable. Damn me and my ethics).
On writing news, I have written a big piece for The Avengers (which I enjoyed immensley) over at Eesti Ekspress. It's in Estonian and currently behind their paywall but try it HERE - I will post the English translation at some time in the future.
I also reviewed two films I loved as they came out on DVD, namely HAYWIRE and TUESDAY, AFTER CHRISTMAS.
And I also reviewed a book about the GARBAGE PAIL KIDS - as you do
So, see you in Poland and Latvia. Or somewhere else.
I have been away for a while doing important things like sitting around and finishing Batman: Arkham Asylum (I have actually been working, but let's not spoil the facade eh?)
Actually there is lots more to tell but, until they are confirm I am going to have to keep things under wraps for the moment until things are more concrete.
In the meantime I can say that HAYWIRE - which I finally saw - is ace, WRATH OF THE TITANS is a triumph if machine over man and I am still waiting for Eesti Post to deliver me a bunch of reviews copies.
Speaking of Estonia, I also did a piece about the wonderful Kino Sõprus over at The Guardian.
All at the Sõprus are ace - and have even let me introduce a film or two in my time. So read it and then - if you haven't been - go to the Sõprus. And if you have been, then you can go again can't you?
Look out for more scintillating info about future projects soon*
*Warning: info may not actually be scintillating.
A bit of catch up and - for anyone remotely interested - you can read my reviews of WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN that I did for The Culture Vulture and SHAME that I did for The Baltic Times. It's also transpired that a piece I did about TV show COME FLY WITH ME appeared in this week's Eesti Ekspress. It was originally written a few months back when the show was meant to premiere of ETV (the Estonian version of the BBC for all you non-Estonians out there) but the show was postponed and - thus - so was my article. I quietly forgot about it until now
David Walliams and Matt Lucas have always been a slight source of conflict with me. They were brilliant and inventive in the 90s with their shows but when they became global megastars they seemed to coast along with tired catchphrases and increasingly boring shock tactics. And it doidn't help that Walliams had a period of being on every TV show ever. but Come Fly With Me had some genuinely interesting moments and wwas something of a return to form. Anyhoo, given that it was published in Estonian those who want to read my original English version can do so below. Bear in mind it's written to appeal to thos who have no idea who Lucas and Walliams are...
Come Fly With Me
At first glance Come Fly With Me, the latest BBC comedy series to make its way to ETV, is a gentle spoof of reality TV shows. Yet those who have a love of British comedy know that it’s the latest work from two comedians who have proven to be the dominant force in UK comedy for the past decade with all the hallmarks of classic English comedy: namely sharp wit, moments of the surreal and men dressing up as women.
David Walliams and Matt Lucas began their careers plying their trade on the UK comedy circuit (which basically means performing in the top room of a bar to three comedy fans and one drunk who’s looking for the toilet) and were soon noticed by the Paramount Comedy Channel, a digital TV channel with a small but loyal following. During the late 1990s they provided sketches in between the programmes – including some uncannily accurate parodies of American and US sitcoms – Walliams and Lucas began to develop a small cult following (another alumni of the Paramount Comedy Channel was Sacha Baron-Cohen who would become the bane of Kazakhstan in his role as Borat).
Over the next few years they would gain more prominence by playing bit roles in various UK sitcoms, especially Lucas who gained a level of stardom by playing George Dawes in comedy quiz show Shooting Stars (he played an adult baby who dressed in a romper suit and played drums whilst keeping score – yes, there are no limits to what us British people find funny). Rock Profiles – broadcast on another UK digital channel with a small audience – also garnered a cult following as Lucas and Walliams played various rock stars in spoof interviews (highlights including Walliams playing The Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb as if he were the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz and Lucas deciding to interpret Prince as a Scottish tramp – I did tell you that there are no limits to what us British people find funny).
However, as with the majority of comedians and comedy shows in the UK, it was BBC Radio 4 that gave Lucas and Walliams the opportunity to move to the next level. Sketch show Little Britain was first broadcast in 2001 and gave the duo free reign to create such characters as Emily Howard (a transvestite whose only failure is that she’s terrible at pretending to be a woman) and Daffyd Thomas, the self-proclaimed ‘only gay in the village’ who seems slightly perturbed when other gay people arrive. But it was the move to TV that transformed them into superstars. After a slow start, the show captured the imagination of the British public. The catchphrases were everywhere, Walliams and Lucas became fixtures in the tabloid press and Little Britain was a bona fide phenomenon garnering massive viewing figures on the BBC.
Little Britain’s popularity was due to the fact that it channelled the surreality (and love of cross dressing, with Lucas and Walliams making much use of prosthetics and make-up) from Monty Python, the sharp writing of such shows as Blackadder and the scatological mixture of rude words and fart jokes beloved of five-year-olds everywhere. But it not only harked back to UK comedies of old: it poked fun at the stereotypes of British society. And if there’s anything that us British people like, it’s making fun of ourselves. Characters such as Vicky Pollard were every cliché of an underage drinking and foulmouthed teenager writ-large and – despite the fact they were grotesques – became strangely beloved.
But the popularity of the show began to be its undoing as it soon folded under the weight of its successes. Lucas and Walliams started to rely on their catchphrases and increasingly lazy ideas, with accusations of racism (with characters such as Ting-Tong, a mail order Thai bride) being levelled at the pair. A live tour did exceedingly well as did Little Britain USA but the pair seemed to be running out of ideas.
They soon started to work on their own projects with Walliams fronting quiz shows and having his private life splashed across the UK papers whilst Lucas would have bit parts in such films as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and recent US hit Bridesmaids whilst also dealing with a controversial love life.
With the pair re-united for Come Fly With Me, there seems to be a renewed vigour to their work. A mockumentary about the day to day workings of an English airport there are plenty of elements that one would recognise from Little Britain – the fact that the duo play almost all the characters in a variety of wigs and clever make up and the glorious exposure of British stereotypes. But the restrictions of the show’s format has forced them to concentrate more on character than catchphrases and it makes for a more mature experience than Little Britain. From the girls who work the Check-In desk of ‘Fly-Lo’ (an accurate parody of almost any low cost airline you would care to name) to the immigration officer who hates all foreigners, there’s a sense of a storyline at work that gives greater depth to proceedings. Of course, there are still plenty of individually funny moments and one-off characters but its sense of cohesiveness makes Come Fly With Me a bold step for the pair and for UK comedy.
Walliams and Lucas have sometimes been a polarising force in UK comedy thanks to their overwhelming popularity. But even those who remain unconvinced by their work, which manages to be both populist and literate at the same time, cannot deny their impact on British comedy.
Just reviewed CONTAGION Blu-ray over at The Culture Vulture: http://theculturevulture.co.uk/blog/reviews/dvd-blu-ray-review-contagion/
It's a cracking little film but not as good as SCHIZOPOLIS which for me remains not only Soderbergh's best but one of my favourite films ever. I really, really want a re-release of it on DVD (as mine got lost in the post during a move).
Speaking of both Soderbergh and Schizopolis, one of my favourite film books of all time happens to be Getting Away With It: Or - Further Adventures of the Luckiest Bastard You Ever Saw, Soderdergh's brilliant diary written at the time of the release of Schizopolis and interview with Richard Lester. A great insight into the creative process, a fine filmic history and bloody funny as well.
It's been a mad old few days (and to be honest a mad old month) thanks to broken computers and general other stuff. But with a shiny new computer (which, you know, actually works) it means I can catch up on work. Or play Arkham Asylum.
Anyhoo, the main gist of this post is to reflect on seeing SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS the other night at Kino Sõprus the other night. For this of you uninitiated with this gem of American Cult / Underground Cinema, it's the story of a future Earth that has been devastated by a nuclear war. The remaining inhabitants of the Earth live to indulge their sensory pleasures whilst being attended to by Fleshapoids, human shaped robots. But the Fleshapoids have developed human feelings and the decadent humans soon face the fruits of their own debauchery.
Directed by Mike Kuchar, this 60s quickie (it's 43 mins) is fondly remembered for numerous reasons. It's campy, stupid and overwrought but there's an inventiveness and general love for the medium of film. And *****SPOILERS AHOY**** any film that ends with a woman (sorry, I mean Fleshapoid) giving birth to a toy robot has to be great.
Made on a shoestring budget, the film was a cult hit in the 60s - enough so that Kuchar was able to quit his day job to work on movies. Alongside his brother George (who makes a striking appearance in the film), Kuchar influenced a generation of filmmakers including John Waters and countless others. If you've never seen it, it's a lovely example of American Indie Cinema and I prefer it's post-apocalyptic outlook over everything done by Michael Bay. We sadly lost George Kuchar last year, but it's good to know the films he made and appeared in are still appreciated by (sometimes slightly drunk) audiences.
The film was the opening of the FREEDOM FRIES series of American Cult Films screening at Kino Sõprus over the next week. Other highlights include THE EVIL DEAD, George Kuchar's ASCENSION and the less well known SKINNED DEEP. There are some real gems in there and if you get five minutes - and happen to be in Tallinn - then get yourself along. More info HERE
Right, back to being Batman. Erm, I mean work....
Oh, yeah and thanks to all the Sõprus crew for their usual brilliant job. And some lovely free pizza after.
(Warning: contains personal reminsiences that maybe of interest to only about 5 people....)
I found out a little while ago that The Leeds Guide went into administration a few days ago. I started out my glittering career in journalism at the magazine many years ago and have many fond memories (and a couple that are not so fond, but such is the nature of these things).
As the Film Editor I was a quasi-employee on the mag and had tremendous fun across the way. I won the Regional Film Writer of the Year in 2002 for work I did for them (a Monsters, Inc and Thunderpants review I seem to remember) and - alongside tonnes of reviews - can count George Clooney, Bruce Campbell, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Willem Dafoe, Sam Raimi and James Cameron amongst my interviews. I also did a lot of stuff outside of film including interviewing Eddie Izzard, Jackie Mason, Rich Hall, Neil Gaiman and Ray Harryhausen whilst writing about comedy, music, news and anything else that they let me loose on . All these were great opportunities provided for me by the mag and I had a whale of a time.
One memory that sticks out is one of my first interviews. Pete Postlethwaite was a brilliant interview and thoroughly nice man (he was doing the one man show Scaramouche Jones at the West Yorkshire Playhouse). I duly returned and wrote it up, and it was looking good. Just one thing. We needed a title for the interview and for the front cover of the mag. Alongside Dan, Dom, Digger, Abi and pretty much the rest of the office we mused. We thought. We agonised. We thought about purchasing a rhyming dictionary. And nothing. Not one thing. We proceeded to think even more. Inspiration - divine of otherwise - did not strike. Finally we made a bold decision. We'd put a galvanising and exciting title for the interview on the cover and the interview. It read:
Genius eh? So away went the mag to print and it returned.
Only then did we discover we had mispelled 'Postlethwaite'. D'OH! (If you want to read it, I did a re-jigged version of it HERE after Pete Postlethwaite sadly passed away)
May I point out that later on I remember similar agonising about the title of an article on a war photographer. The ultimate result was the frankly genius 'Prints and the Revolution' and those who thought of it earned their year's pay and bonuses on that moment alone.
Other things I always remember were the day me and Dom had to go round various bars and restaurants sampling cocktails and food for a Christmas Cocktail article. Let me reiterate - we had visit bars, drink and eat AS WORK! The various parties and events including Leeds Festival, various birthdays, bar/event openings in which much drink was imbibed and things discussed. The Sex Sells issue which was hilarious to put together: including seeing two members of staff pose for a photo to accompany an article about dogging and - when the mag came back from the printers - some people
were adamant that there was a problem as there was a crease in the cover (those who remember will know what a terrible and rude jokes that was). The soundtracks of Scott Walker and Jacques Brel that often played in the office. And lots, lots, more
Of course the best thing was the people I worked with. Dan Jeffrey was the boss man and a great one at that. Same goes for Dom Dwight and Abi Bliss who were always fun to work with. Lenka, Digger, Laura and Rom in the design office. All my colleagues like Amy, Kim, Rich, Elizabeth, Paul, Hazel, Ian (W and M) and so many others who I am proud to call friends to this day.
Of course, writing this makes me feel very old school. I never even made it out of Aire Street Workshops, never making it to the new offices when they moved. I am sure that there are a lot of good people who have lost their jobs in sad circumstances and all I can say is that TLG will hopefully stand in you good stead for the future. Good luck with it all, be proud of the work you did there and - most importantly - the writing you produced. I know I am.
Thanks again to everyone and goodbye to The Leeds Guide.
It was most definitely a blast.
...EVER! (or not)
But Eesti Ekspress has published it's Top Ten Film of 2011 online HERE. I contributed to the list by sending some of my choices, which for those of you who are interested were:
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
But in compiling them I remembered how hard it is to do things like this. Just because I loved TTSS and Melancholia, does that mean they're better than A Seperation? Could I fit in The Adventures of Tintin which I also thought was great. It's never an objective case of one being better than the other. At least not for me.
And, let's face it: there's also an element of not wanting to make yourself look bad. It's like the people who go on Desert Island Discs (not Britishy type people check it HERE) and choose an 18th Century Madrigal and piece by and avant-garde composer when they really want to choose Aqua's Barbie Girl. They don't want to appear like a philistine by picking something they would actually like.I remember putting together my list for the ONE LINE FILM REVIEW 50 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME. I agonised whether I should put The Goonies in the list, as people would think I was taking the piss. Then I realised I didn't care. I genuinely like the film so it went in. The trouble is that these lists is that my taste, like anyone elses, fluctuate with time and experience. I appreciate a film because of it's technical and emotional brilliance. I also like a film because it reminds me a time and place in my life. It does not necessarily make them mutually exclusive.Certainly, I always gets asked "What is your favourite film of all time?" and I always say I can never give an answer* There's too many films that are good for many different reasons.
For completists, here's also my list for BEYOND THE CANON and the CINEUROPA BEST FILMS OF 2011 (on which, like a complete an utter tool, I forgot about Tyrannosaur....)
*However, if you really, really want me to say then I suppose it would by NORTH BY NORTHWEST.
No, I am not declaring war on the genius designer. Partly because I have no reason to. Partly because he's been dead for several years which, let's face it, would be rather unfair.
Instead I am pointing out that I have done a review of the elegant coffee table book SAUL BASS: A LIFE IN FILM AND DESIGN over at The Sabotage Times HERE. It really is a glorious book and well worth the £50 or so that it costs.
As for THIS MEANS WAR, I review it HERE for The Baltic Times. Surprise fact: the film is shite with a side-order of right-wing propaganda. Ok. Maybe that's not such a surprise.
The latest issue of EESTI EKSPRESS has a small boxout by me about the strength of feeling directed towards to Mrs Thatcher in the UK. it compliments coverage given to THE IRON LADY released in Estonia this week. I will publish the English original over the next few weeks.