It doesn’t exactly crowd-surf on a wave of good-will, but the latest jukebox musical Rock of Ages at least remains a watchable oddity. This $70 million adaptation of the 1980s-themed stage musical has an advantage over its predecessor Mamma Mia, in that the cast do make a passable effort to sing, namely ace-in-the-hole Tom Cruise. Compare that to the sight of Pierce Brosnan butchering Abba’s hit SOS, a scene which seemed to extend a subliminal challenge to the audience: how far would you go to accept an actor who can’t carry a tune?
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There’s a casting call for a short film called The Projectionist, which is being made with an Exeter Phoenix Digital Short Film Commission.
The only thing bigger than the box office for James Cameron’s Titanic, is the director’s ego -that and the bloated snooze fest which was Avatar. Honestly, the man needs a decent editor, because none of his films have any right to last longer than two hours. But enough about the undersea-adventurer, this weekend I watched the lovingly restored classic A Night to Remember, which was directed by Roy Ward Baker, in 1958, at Pinewood Studios.
Baker’s film -like the book it’s based upon -charts the ultimately doomed, maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. The film’s sophisticated narrative and plot were woven from actual testimonies from Titanic survivors, including the Titanic’s fourth officer, Joseph Boxhall, who was hired as a technical advisor. The director also secured access to the ship’s original blue-prints, which ensured the film’s grandly designed sets were as accurate as possible.
While the craftsmanship of the film’s sets is still evident, some of the SFXs have dated. If one was inclined, it would be easy to criticise these SFXs, which are reliant upon miniatures. But it’s important to remember that Baker had none of the technical wizardry which Cameron had at his disposable in 1997. However, on the whole, the SFXs hold up rather magnificently, the scenes on the lifeboats which depict the Titanic sinking are particularly iconic and act as a testament to the British film industry during the late 1950s.
Fortunately, Baker’s film isn’t reliant upon tawdry dialogue or risible performances from Kate Winslet or Leonardo DiCaprio. In fact, A Night to Remember understands that its real star is the ship and its mythos itself, and therefore Baker weaves a narrative based upon facts, with multiple characters and strands. Baker does so with relative ease, not once is the narrative muddled or confused. The film’s most natural protagonist is Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, played by Kenneth More, but fortunately he never has to suffer the indignity of a corny, romantic plot device.
The 1958 film looks beautiful being projected and it’s far better to see this on the big screen, rather than re-watching it on DVD or on TV, on a wet bank holiday Monday. It is a film which demonstrates the once majestic British film industry. A Night to Remember might not be the technical marvel that Cameron’s Titanic is, but Roy Ward Baker’s film far surpasses Cameron’s in almost every other way. And let’s not forget, neither does it feature the undead warblings from the Canadian banshee, Celine Dion. Now, surely that alone secures its status as the definitive Titanic film.
Deliver Us From Evil (Axiom Films) is directed by Ole Bornedal, the Danish filmmaker best known for writing and directing Nattevagten (Nightwatch,) the 1994 thriller about a law student who works in a morgue as a night-watchman, only to become implicated in a series of prostitute murders, as well as the 1997 English language remake, which starred Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte and Patricia Arquette. His latest movie sees him return to his homeland with a twisted thriller that examines the dangerous implications of small town xenophobia.
Way back in 1996, Titanic was shaping up to be a folly of the first order. James Cameron’s epic depiction of one of the 20th century’s most notorious disasters was reputedly mired in a chaotic, out of control shoot and the budget eventually escalated to an estimated $200 million. It was, in short, shaping up to be another Heaven’s Gate and the Hollywood press was in a frenzy.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a thoroughly charming and delightfully British effort, will no doubt become a stalwart of the Christmas and Boxing day rituals of years to come. It emanates goodwill out of every pore, with its delightful story of people at retirement age taking a trip to India to see the eponymous hotel in India, and finding it to be falling apart at the seams, as its manager, Sonny (Dev Patel), tries to make ends meet.
French action/adventure yarn Special Forces (StudioCanal) tells the story of war correspondent Elsa Casanova (Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds, Unknown), who is taken hostage by Taliban warlord Ahmed Zaef (Raz Degan, Alexander) and threatened with execution.
Adapted from the autobiography of notorious gangland boss Hiroito Joanides de Moroaes, Boca (Universal) recounts the tumultuous life story of one of Brazil’s most dangerous criminals. At the age of 21 Hiroito was accused of the brutal killing of his father -who was razor-ripped 40 times in a murderous frenzy -but the police never got the charges to stick. After shrugging off the attentions of the cops Hiroito promptly bought two guns and moved to Boca do Lixo -a seedy downtown Sao Paulo neighbourhood known for its nightclubs, whorehouses, strip joints and drug dealers -and forged a reputation as one of the area’s most profitable pimps and pushers.
Spanish director Daniel Monzon failed to make much of an impact with his previous movie -quirky straight-to-DVD thriller The Kovak Box -but his latest movie Cell 211 (StudioCanal) sees him return to Spanish language material, with incendiary results.
The Well-Digger’s Daughter marks the directorial debut of one of France’s best actors, Daniel Auteuil.
Auteuil’s first feature as a director is a remake of a 1940s film (of the same name). The film is set in rural France prior to WWII. Pascal (Auteuil) is a deeply honourable man, who’s torn between his honour and his love for his daughter, when she becomes embroiled in a ‘drama’ with the wealthy son of a shop keeper. This will most likely be of interest (I suspect), to fans of French cinema or those with a fondness for Auteuil. However, don’t go expecting anything like his body of work as an actor. If you do, I fear you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Another Earth is the second feature film, from director Mike Cahill, his previous being the 2004 documentary, Boxers and Ballerinas.
I’m optimistic about this science-fiction film and if it’s half as good as indie sci-fi hit, Primer, it will be a rare treat. The film is about a tragic accident involving an ambitious student, a composer and his family. And these unfortunate events all take place on the eve of ‘another earth’ being discovered.
This leads Rhoda (the student) to wonder, whether on this other earth, her other self, has made the same terrible mistake. Cahill’s newest film certainly has promise, but contemporary science-fiction films are rarity and the good ones are even rarer, but which will this be, good or bad?
If you manage to catch either of these films, do let us know what you thought.
The online performance make-shift is being screened during the Two Short Nights films festival at the Exeter Phoenix.
Witnessed through the inquisitive eyes of Pietari, a young Finnish boy with an over-active imagination, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Icon) explores a sinister side of Santa Claus that is rarely glimpsed in popular culture.
Excitement is a difficult thing to pin down. It is gained through a multitude of varied pursuits: skydiving, fast cars, the discovery of a hidden box of teabags at the back of the cupboard which mean you don’t have to venture to the shops (a personal favourite). It can be quashed and converted into disappointment equally easily; parachute failure tends to do it, as does a cold walk to the shops for teabags.
As we get stuck into the second half of the year, there will inevitably be a host of film trailers that emerge that look like contenders for awards. Traditionally, it’s when the summer blockbuster season comes to an end that we start to see these movies creep out -and 2011 looks to be no exception.
Recent years have seen divisive Danish director Lars Von Trier gouge into a new vein of controversy -firstly with his existential horror flick Anti-Christ (which disturbed viewers with its now-notorious genital mutilation scenes) -and more recently with ill-advised comments about Hitler, which saw him banned from the Cannes film festival.
Directed by the notoriously temperamental David O Russell (Three Kings, Spanking The Monkey) The Fighter (Momentum) is a biographical boxing drama that focuses on the life and times of struggling professional boxer ‘Irish’ Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a disgraced former prize-fighter, now mired in crack addiction.
Based on the 1972 Charles Bronson movie of the same name, The Mechanic (Momentum) is a welcome opportunity to see unreconstructed British action hero Jason Statham strut his stuff, away from the swollen ensemble cast of The Expendables.
There are many ways these days to re-ignite a once thrilling franchise after the spark goes out. The ill-received yet financially successful third instalment doesn’t have to spell the end for a well-loved comic book hero, television legend or theme park inspired character.
If Hollywood is a train that runs on money then the rails it runs on have got to be made of some hype strengthened compound. If we don’t know about or aren’t excited by the prospect of films soon to be released then we’re less likely to go and see them.
Kinder Kino is a new cinema experience aimed at little (and big) film fans.
A revolution is taking place. Like all successful cultural overhauls it is hidden in plain sight, right under your nose; although there is a window where all is revealed. The above picture has already given away what I’m talking about (a big thank you to Peter Stephens for his superb image). Take a good look; it won’t look like this for much longer.
The original Ip Man was one of my favourite martial arts movies of recent years, so it came as little surprise to see that Ip Man 2 (Cine Asia) was being labelled ‘the most anticipated martial arts movie of the year’. But does it live up to the hype?
I’m exhausted. Dragging a soap box all the way up the moral high ground is tiring work, but as I’m here now I’m going to jolly well stand on it.
Trigger-happy Paignton film critic Tom Leins takes aim at the latest DVD releases.
Billed as a Blaxploitation revivalist movie, French action flick Black (Anchor Bay) follows the fortunes of Black, a petty criminal with an enviable knack for keeping one step ahead of the authorities.
There’s plenty of reasons for Devon and Cornwall’s despondent directors to feel cheerful as more and more studios are hiring first-time helmers, says The Hollywood Reporter.