Thursday, 25 February 2010

Through The Grater This Week

No Through the Grater this week as I'm busy in the theatre daaaahling. But I can't leave you with nothing can I?

She's brilliant. Out April 19th.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

FILM REVIEW: Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief

...or the one where Steve Coogan plays Hades. IS THIS COOL? COOL IS IT?

I was in two minds about whether to go and see this because the list of films I want to see at the moment is just horrendous (but stay tuned for my thoughts on A Single Man, The Last Station, The Wolfman, Micmacs, Shutter Island and The Lovely Bones... eventually. God this is like waiting for an article on the top ten fairytales Disney needs to make into a film isn't it?). So in a way, Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief was just lucky - it happened to be on at the most appropriate time on the day when I could actually go to the cinema! Unfortunately I had completely overlooked that it was Half Term week - eeeek! - but in actuality it wasn't all that bad, and they behaved better than the tedious girl gangs I had to bear company with for He's Just Not That Into You. Annoying single women! But I digress...

So onto the film. Well, the first half was pretty rubbish, but I think that's just my adult (technically anyway) eyes looking at what is essentially a perfect 12 year old's movie, with not a lot of explanation or reflection just GIANT MINATOURS (and while we're at it it's My-na-tor but Min-a-tor. You should know better Mr Bond!). So the story of a teenager attending a specialised school for his ADHD and dyslexia finding out he is actually a demigod when one of his substitute teachers bursts into a Fury (incidentally a totally wrong choice of 'monster', a harpy would have been more suited) and yells at him for stealing Zeus's lightning bolt - which of course he hasn't got the foggiest about - is done in about seven minutes. Things quickly progress as he finds out people in his life have known about his little quirk all along and hush him off to a training camp hidden in the woods for all the other freaks like him. He discovers his absent parent is Poseidon, one of the most powerful Gods in existence (ahem), and therefore he is bestowed with lots of watery powers. So that's why he can sit underwater for seven minutes straight without needing to breathe!

At the camp he meets his protector (former hobbly best friend now lustful Satyr), his teacher (Pierce Brosnan as a not quite believing this Centaur) and the token hottie (sword swinging daughter of Athena). It's here he is accosted by Hades in his God form who demands to have the lightning bolt and reveals he'll swap it for his mother whom he's kidnapped and is holding hostage in the Underworld. Cue epic quest to find the Underworld and to rescue her - even though he doesn't even have the zappy thingymajiggy!

This is where things really start to pick up, and I found myself suspending my disbelief (not that the Greek Gods aren't real anyway...) and enjoying myself. The source material the film used from the book was excellent in giving classic myths a modern twist. I was particularly inspired by the story of the lotus flowers being given the Las Vegas hedonistic treatment. But the scene that was the most fun was Uma Thurman as Medusa, turning all the visitors at a small nature attraction into stone statues. And being in heels, leather and sunglasses manages to make Medusa even fiercer than she was before. There was lots of clever use of modern technology in travelling about the country and dispatching of these monsters as well, and I think the mix of old and new fused nicely to create an entertaining fireball of a film.

And so to the God of the Underworld himself - I actually thought Steve Coogan was really good even though he's only on screen for about ten minutes. He managed to play it both straight and classic Coogan - a tyrannical Saxondale if you will! I did keep expecting him to bark "AHAAA!" at them every so often though. The rest of the Gods were pretty rubbish suffice to say, and very underused. There was one particularly hilarious moment at the end during one of their councils where Athena utters the line: "war is not the answer!" - er, you're the Goddess of War, love. Hop to it. (disgusting absence of Artemis as well, absolutely disgraceful.)

The film was mainly dominated by the young cast, who did a decent enough job although the humour was largely dealt to us by the Satyr, and it was very hit and miss (although obviously hilarious to kids). The continued use of the Medusa's head was amusing, granted. Annabeth was competent as the feisty love interest (thankfully there was no cheesy snog at the end), and Percy was charming and likeable as the teenage hero even though I spent half the film working out who he looks like (a perfect cross between Matt Lanter, Ian Somerhalder and Chase Crawford).

It's boisterous and inventive, and Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief feels like one of those films that wants to be a franchise but is so worried it won't pull it off it crams everything into the first film to make up for any future losses. It does feel very bloated, but as a concept it has a rich layer of mythology to draw on for future adventures (book two sees them going to get the Golden Fleece! hee! It's like Jason never existed!) and a sequel is already in the works. It's a great way to spend a couple of hours if bored, and will be hugely welcomed by fans of Harry Potter and the Narnia series.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Culturemouse Baftas 2010

Tonight it's the Baftas. Actors must bloody love this event, as it's the one chance where those credible and actually deserving of an award sometimes win something. It's very rare you get a genuine surprise at the Oscars - mainly because this and the Golden Globes before it have already paved the way for winners and losers - but I enjoy watching our British ceremony because of these little triumphs. It's hard to predict when they're going to give out awards to the frontrunners and when they're going to cheekily laud the homegrown talent - probably because they're not going to get the recognition they deserve next month. That's not to say the Baftas are bias - they're just more open-minded, and I think, more accommodating to the smaller artier audiences. Which is of course another reason why they should be celebrated!

So before the tears and pretty dresses tonight, I thought I'd do my own little wish list of whom I think should take away the plaudits. This is probably going to be all askew to the real thing, but I like to hope that maybe I'll get a few little smiles tonight and see some genuinely shocked faces going up to collect their trophies - a real honest "I didn't think I'd win so I haven't prepared a speech..." moment.

An Education
The Hurt Locker
Up In The Air

- Apart from The Hurt Locker I've seen them all, and Up In The Air is the best hands down. The others have their merits (she says, grimacing at Avatar's presence), but they bear no comparison to the funny, silky, clever film by Jason Reitman. So it should win. If The Hurt Locker gets it I will have no tantrum because of my ignorance and I have heard that it's good, powerful stuff. But if it's what I think it's going to be.... ugh.

An Education
Fish Tank
In The Loop
Nowhere Boy

- One of the best films of 2009 - not just British films, but of all. Certainly the funniest thing I have seen in the cinema for a very long time. It won't win but I desperately want it to. Nowhere Boy hasn't a chance, it's just filler. It will probably be An Education (espesh if it doesn't win Best Film and it definitely won't win both), but it would be nice if there was an upset with one of the other films. Even Moon, which I thought was a load of balls.

James Cameron for Avatar
Neill Blomkamp for District 9
Lone Scherfig for An Education
Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds

- This is a tricky one. It shouldn't be Cameron or Scherfig, but I haven't seen the other three films. Tarantino might nick it, but then again Inglourious Basterds isn't one of his best. No, I think perhaps Bigelow should win this, or even give it to newbie Blomkamp. I don't have any strong feelings either way JUST NOT CAMERON.

Jon Lucas, Scott Moore for The Hangover
Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen for A Serious Man
Bob Peterson, Pete Docter for Up

- This is a really interesting category because apart from The Hurt Locker the other contenders are all relatively under represented. So this is a real chance for another name to shine, and I would love that to be Up. If it can't win Best Film, then it should be recognised for something other than best cartoon, or whatever. But who can underestimate the Coens? A Serious Man is their best for ages (even though I loved No Country For Old Men), so I certainly wouldn't begrudge them the honour either.

Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell for District 9
Nick Hornby for An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche for In The Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious
Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner for Up In The Air

- What's the point in wishing for a better outcome to this one? Nick Hornby's a shoo-in. RAGH. But if a miracle were to fall on London tonight, please, please give it to Jason Reitman. If he's not included in Best Director (a shocker), then at least give him credit for his excellent and bittersweet script. Or if you want to keep it in the family I'm sure Armando and co wouldn't mind some recognition either...


Broken Embraces
Coco Before Chanel
Let The Right One In
A Prophet
The White Ribbon

- Now looking at the shortlist for this award I'd say it's pretty open. They're either by a prestigious director or they've had critical acclaim that now just needs to the cherry on top statuette. Problem is the two I have seen - Let The Right One In and A Prophet - I found underwhelming and I don't understand the hype they've kicked up, especially with the former. But I feel it's between those two plus Haneke's The White Ribbon that enjoyed success at Cannes. That may be in fact its downfall - I think on-trend vampires will suck this one up unfortunately. 

Fantastic Mr Fox

- I loved them all, but Up will win it and rightly. Next.

Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
George Clooney for Up in the Air
Colin Firth for A Single Man
Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker
Andy Serkis for Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll 

- This is a dead cert for Colin Firth, and because the Oscar next month isn't a certainty, this should provide some welcome appreciation for the best performance of his career. It will be a popular win too. I just can't see any of the others getting it.

Carey Mulligan for An Education
Saoirse Ronan for The Lovely Bones
Gabourey Sidibe for Precious
Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia
Audrey Tautou for Coco Before Chanel 

- Again, no surprise who's going to win here, but I would love it if it were Meryl Streep for her warm and affecting performance as Julia Child. She's just darling in Julie and Julia, and the tiny part where it's revealed she can't have children is heartbreaking. Please give her the award!

Alec Baldwin for It’s Complicated
Christian McKay for Me and Orson Welles
Alfred Molina for An Education
Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds 

- A tough category for me to judge as I've only seen An Education, and I didn't think Alfred Molina was that great. I'll just say who will win - Christopher Waltz - and move on. It's not a very strong line up this one, and Peter Capaldi is rudely absent.

Anne-Marie Duff for Nowhere Boy
Vera Farmiga for Up in the Air
Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air
Mo'Nique for Precious
Kristin Scott-Thomas for Nowhere Boy 

- Now here's an award I feel strongly about! Back before the awards season began Up In The Air was the film that everyone was pushing to the front, saying it was the one to beat in almost all categories. But since the ceremonies started happening, it's actually been overlooked in favour of others. And it probably will be tonight, but other than wanting some love for writer and director Jason Reitman, I really really want some love for little starlet Anna Kendrick. She is adorable in this film, absolutely the best thing about it and I really hope she wins tonight. *begs to the awards gods* It's a shoot out between her and Mo'Nique, and she's the underdog. But we all know how much the Brits love their underdogs....

Jesse Eisenberg
Nicholas Hoult
Carey Mulligan
Tahar Rahim
Kristen Stewart

- Carey Mulligan has this one in the bag, and I think that's appropriate. She is remarkably good for her young age and as the winner of this award goes on to bigger and better things she already has a clear headstart.

I think I'm going to be pretty disappointed tonight, but we shall see! The Baftas are on BBC 1 tonight at 9pm.Wear your best.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Through The Grater This Week

On the highway of news this week the lorry jackknifed and spilled its Supernatural barrel all over the road.

So the big news is that the CW have renewed it for Season Six, but if that wasn't unsettling enough, THIS HAS HAPPENED.

Now don't get me wrong - I love Supernatural and have since the beginning when Dean and Sam were just chubba chubba yes you're cute yes you are chubba chubba *pinches cheeks* but there comes a time when a show that has grown in such maturity, stature and depth has to go out on a high, or risk losing everything it's worked for. No one remembers the shows that pass their peak as fondly as the shows everybody believes should have had another series. And five seasons is plenty good, thank you. There are very, very few shows who continue going from strength to strength at Season Six: I enjoyed Buffy The Vampire Slayer then but I know plenty of people who didn't, Charmed became a mess after Season Four, and then there's One Tree Hill and Nip/Tuck...

Eric Kripke has stated that his five year plan for the show will end after the five seasons, meaning this Season Six will bring a brand new story. A brand new story without Kripke. It makes my (demon) blood run cold. They could take this show anywhere, literally anywhere. I don't see the point in taking it back to its roots because the climax of this season - the flamin' apocalypse - will make that utterly redundant. It would be like a cat going back to cat nip after spending years chasing mice in the wild. No, wherever they take it will have to up this current angels/demons storyline, make things more intense and dramatic, and that's where things can become incredulous and harebrained. Plus with a new person heading the production (even though Sera Gamble has worked on the show since the start) there are risks of continuity errors, of personality anomalies amongst the characters, of situations arising that just wouldn't sit right with the loyal fanbase. Obviously I don't know exactly what's going to happen at the end of this season, and the course Season Six takes will depend heavily on that. Eric Kripke isn't vanishing completely - he'll be overseeing things from a less primary viewpoint, so I like to think if things are seriously going awry then he'll step in to rectify the mess. I love Supernatural and I don't want to see it go as I'll miss it, but I'd rather have the luxury of re-watching classic old episodes again than sitting uneasily through new stuff that has lost the magic.

Oh, and there's this rumour as well, but I don't think we need to worry about that now. Cass is a huge asset to the show and widely popular, so it's not a definite at all.

In other tidbits: Amongst all of that you may have noticed Gossip Girl, 90210 and ANTM have all been renewed for next season which is excellent news for moi. Slightly surprised about GG - they really must be riding on the show's reputation and guilty pleasure worth because Season Three has been shocking thus far. A very big silence coming from the Melrose Place camp though...

Disney are fools and have changed the title Rapunzel to 'Tangled' so they can appeal to the young boy demographic. Who are they trying to kid? It's a girl, locked in a tower in the middle of the woods, with freakish hair extensions. It's BLOODY RAPUNZEL! Fools.

Little bit of fashion news - Miss Selfridge, one of my fave shops, is to create a Gossip Girl clothes line for the Spring to emulate some of the gorgeous bags and dresses from the show, and so everybody out there gets the chance at being Blair Waldorf for the day...le sigh. Should be good, and I'll definitely be getting my token piece from the collection :-)

And one of my favourite TV programmes has just started this very evening on BBC 1 - and it's a bit of an odd addition to culturemouse. MASTERCHEF! That's right - the one where the two blokes shout at each other even though they're a foot apart and there's total silence around them. I love my food, and this is one of my favourite telly indulgences where I can watch people being creative in the kitchen. And I get to porn over all the delicious puddings! Emily from 2008 was my ultimate fave (sometimes I daydream about adding her on Facebook), and I generally always find someone early on in the series who I really follow, and they usually end up becoming a finalist as well so I'm intrigued to see who I'll be fawning over in a few weeks time! Until then expect random outbursts on here about celeriac, coulee and pea foam.

More from the highway next week. What do you mean where's that fairytale piece?! It's coming, it's coming...



How much is a Ponyo and where can I get one?! I thought this was an adorable film - one of Miyazaki's more younger orientated features (along with the likes of My Friend Totoro) but it still absolutely delightful in its imagery, plot and characters.

I really liked the opening to the film, which starts immediately with Ponyo - as a goldfish - going to the surface of the ocean transfixed by the thought of becoming a human. It's very simple, and there is no long preamble as in associated tale The Little Mermaid. Miyazaki is very clever at being able to convey thought and action through pictures and movement, so not a lot of dialogue and story is needed when your eyes are dancing about taking in the wonderous detail of every sea creature and facial expression. Ponyo's relationship - first as a fish and then as a human - with local boy Sosuke is unbearably cute as the two young and lonely souls form a friendship. The best part of the film for me is when Ponyo becomes a little girl, and her induction into the house in which Sosuke and his mother lives. Her insatiable taste for "HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!" is a big highlight, as is her response to a question asked about her father: "He HATES humans, and he keeps me in a bubble" (hilarious!) She is certainly one of the cutest and most lovable creations ever drawn for the screen.

There are also some other surprisingly tender moments, such as Sosuke's absent father who is constantly at sea, and the fiery but comical clashes he has with Sosuke's mother. And the presence of the nursing home within the story also features heavily in the film: Miyazaki choosing to make real characters out of the sweet but crabby residents.

This isn't actually the film I was expecting it to be. From the trailers it seemed as if Ponyo has a duty or destiny to save the tumultuous oceans from destroying the planet, yet even though her actions are tied in with the wild weather the climax seems to come from an intervention from Ponyo's mother and father who make Sosuke promise that he love Ponyo for who she truly is if she is to remain a human. It's not quite as dramatic or powerful as it could have been, especially bearing in mind we get to know little about Ponyo's parents and there isn't the emotional garvity here as say, when Ariel says goodbye to her father in the Disney interpretation. The handling of this goodbye is much more compromised, with Ponyo being allowed to flit between both human and sea world as she pleases, and never having to fully leave anyone. It's much lighter, and probably better suited to a young audience.

Of course there were some real oddities - Sosuke's mother for instance who is really not the best role model for other mums out there! Her decision making and her driving alone made her one of the most reckless parents I have ever seen! She was great though - really feisty yet gentle, and tolerant of her son's attachment to a goldfish. And how a five year old boy can know so much about ancient fish and propane gas canisters is beyond me, Miyazaki....

Still, if ever a film made to twinkle the eyes with delight it's this one. Ponyo a lovely, easy way to get into the world of Hayao Miyazaki and once there you'll be spurred on to enjoy the marvels of his other astounding and richly dense back catalogue such as Princess Mononoke and the Oscar winning Spirited Away. The only sad thing is having to wait several more years before we get the next dazzling adventure...sob sob.

- It can only be rated in HAAAAAM!!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

FILM REVIEW: The Princess and the Frog

I must say it's so good to have Disney back again! Proper, good Disney - not any of this Brother Bear rubbish. Disney going back to the roots of what it's supposed to be - gorgeously drawn fairytales, with warm and funny characters, showstopping tunes and sprinkles of magic woven into every frame. That is pure Disney. And even though they've had to bring in one of the big chiefs from Pixar to get their mojo back again, it's all been worth it on the basis of The Princess and the Frog.

John Lasseter has done a very good thing in re-hiring John Musker and Ray Clements - The Little Mermaid and Aladdin may be a good ten, twelve years ago now but they still know how to write a classic story. The Frog Prince isn't one of my favourite fairytales, but then this film is really only just based on the fairytale, with the creators coming up with a cheeky twist to add more oomph to the story, and then throwing in themes of black magic and voodoo, the power of money, the classic "what you want isn't really what you need" sentiment that Disney loves, and also the very unusual and modern setting of 1920's New Orleans where the influence and might of jazz music is big, big news.

We have our first black 'princess' in Tiana, who is a working class girl with non-magical business dreams, she works two jobs and doesn't think ever about love - only in making her father proud (perhaps closest to Belle from Beauty and the Beast then). The prince - Naveen - for once is a bit of jackass, leeching money off his King and Queen parents and partying solid until they kick him out of the palace and tell him to go get married. Certainly not your average Prince Charming or 'diamond in the rough' - yet, in all honesty, he was my favourite character out of the lot of them! I found him so funny ("that's below the frog belt!") and his reckless and cocky behaviour made him eminently likeable. Of course he had absolutely no concept of responsibility, but Tiana has, and this was a nice role reversal of lovers for once - with Tiana having to learn to kick back a little and have some fun, and Naveen needing to realise that he needs to slow down and become a little more mature.

Whilst Tiana is busy working away saving up for her dream restaurant, Prince Naveen comes into town looking for a good time. Unfortunately his momentum is stopped when he comes into contact with the Shadowman/Dr Facilier, who turns him into a frog, and his counsel into him. This was the only major gripe I had with the film - it's not really made clear why the Shadowman does this. He doesn't seem to have any real motive or anything to gain from making the switch - he doesn't harbour any long-standing hatred towards Prince Naveen and his family, he doesn't want to be a Prince himself, he doesn't want Tiana - it's a bit muddled really, and it makes his character less defined. Sure he's as creepy as Disney can make him (probably a bit too much for the very young), but he seems detatched from the action, and he's not complex enough to be a truly malicious villain. He's probably closest to Ursula from The Little Mermaid, but at least she had more charisma and presence. The Prince's counsel Lawrence is a bit rubbish as well!

The twist that is incorporated by the film's makers is that instead of the Frog Prince being kissed and becoming human again to marry his princess, he mistakes Tiana's ball gown for royalty and once she kisses him she is reduced to a slimy (ahem, mucus-y) small green thing as well. The two of them have to set off into the swamplands to try and find the kinder equivalent to the Shadowman, Mama Odie, who can make them human again...cue animal friends time! Louis the trumpet playing alligator brought a few laughs (typically the large character is also the most cowardly), but it was Ray, the wise old besotted firefly that really stands out. His love for Evangeline - the evening star he mistakes as a shy firefly - is beautiful, and the other characters don't have the heart to tell him the truth. When he dies later on - trodden on by the Shadowman -  and his friends cry their goodbyes, they look into the sky at Evangeline and there next to her, forms another star - their points touching as if they are holding hands. Obviously at this point I was an absolute state, because it is so unlikely Disney to have a good character die and then actually stay dead, but then just like Disney to go and do something sentimental and as gushy as make him into a star. The little girl in front of me in the cinema found the whole experience traumatic though, and started bawling and crying out that she wanted to go home! Her parents tried to show her that he was now a star and finally with Evangeline and everything was alright, but she clearly didn't understand - as far as she was concerned Ray was squashed to pieces and was never coming back. Poor love! Hopefully she'll re-watch this again in about ten years time and realise the beauty of it.

A special mention of Tiana's best friend Charlotte, who was a wonderful character! So gurgly and excitable, she's chatter chatter chatter and I thought she was just terrific, very funny and overly dramatic in her desperation to become a princess. The ending where she dances with Prince Naveen's seven year old brother is also very cute!

I liked that this was a different style of Disney. It's very evident that there's been a gap between this one and the last good film they produced (IMO Pocahontas), because it does feel different to any other Disney film that's been made. The jazzy soundtrack was a lot of fun, but there wasn't really one big sing-along-song that stood out to make the film soar - no Colours of the Wind, or a Whole New World to enchant. And there was a more down to earth feel about it as well - Tiana and Naveen don't get married and go off to live in a big castle - she opens her restaurant, and he gets to dance and make music in the house band. It was good different!

I'm never going to get too old for Disney, and I think it's lovely that a whole generation of young people who never got to experience the likes of Aladdin on the big screen will finally get to see a piece of film like this. The Princess and the Frog is just the beginning, with Rapunzel, The Snow Queen and King of the Elves all being announced, the 2D Disney comeback is well and truly here - AND I LOVE IT!

Friday, 12 February 2010



People are already calling A Prophet the film of the year, and it's only January (well, it was when I watched this, heh). I have to agree that it's a quality made film with an intricate plot, clever ethereal touches and tough yet brittle characters. The French do do their thrillers well, that has to be said. And now they've come up trumps with a sophisticated and slick prison drama too. Oh, and that razor scene...

I really enjoyed the first hour where we see young Arab Malik imprisoned for an unsaid crime, how he reacts to prison life, and then how he is targeted by the gang of Corsicans who want him to kill in a man in exchange for his protection. This is one of those films with a superbly crafted double layer - where what is happening on the screen means another thing in a character's mind which the viewer has either been privy to, or must work out simultaneously with the protagonist. For instance, Malik randomly joins in a fight in the textiles room with no explained motive, but as you begin to wonder why, you realise he is doing it to try and get put in 'The Hole' - an isolation area where he couldn't possibly take part in the Corsican's planned murder. Seconds later this is explained on screen, but now we are already inside Malik's mind, and begin to start plotting with him as he tries to hold his own. I thought that was brilliant, especially enhanced with the excellent turn by Tahar Rahim as Malik, who does impressively well in his first big feature film and will undoubtedly go onto big things (he has already been nominated for the Orange Rising Star award at the Baftas).

So, this was definitely a film where you had to keep focused to keep up with all the double crossings and switches of allegiance. Unfortunately for me, hard concentration wasn't enough to keep me in tune of events, which I seemed to lose hold of around the second time Mailk is granted leave. It was a little hard to keep up with who was who and when people were going against orders and working for themselves. That's no fault of the film, just me and my blockheadedness! I must confess this isn't normally the type of film I seek out and spend my weekends watching, so I'm not always on the ball with complex trickeries. 

One of my favourite bits of the film was the dream sequences and the hauntings by the man he kills. I thought they were very subtly done - hinting that Malik might be going slightly mad but never directly addressing it (The Boys are Back could learn a thing or two here about conversing with dead people!). The deer dream was arresting as it was so random and removed from what else was going on in the film, you wonder why it's there and what its purpose is. And then of course 20 minutes later, it all makes sense as a nasty road accident and a very acrobatic flailing deer saves Malik from having his brains blown out (leading to the line, "are you a prophet?").

At two and a half hours it is rather long and I think you need to be a real lover of these types of film to really appreciate A Prophet. It's worth catching though, at least to say you've seen the Best Foreign Film announced at the Oscars in 2010.


Thursday, 11 February 2010

Through The Grater This Week


Just a few items this week which is good because I only remembered it was Thursday a few hours ago! I've been so busy this week, culturemouse has taken a back seat I'm afraid! Hopefully should get on top of things uber soon. Until then to pass the time as you nibble some Cathedral City...

I wasn't going to post this pretty dull piece of casting news as I've never heard of the fella let alone recognise him, but something about it did catch my eye - HE'S PLAYING A NORSE GOD?! This is very odd for Supernatural! I can only assume it's a MWOT thing, and not anything recurring. Still will be interesting though as they've never treaded into this territory before. I guess they could tie it in with the heaven, hell, demons, angels apocalypse story. Shall have to wait and see! No confirmation from the CW on that whispered sixth season, btw.

I was wondering when America's Next Top Model is coming back, and it's finally been announced - March 10. Seems like that's when all the normal CW shows are returning! Of course ANTM is nowhere near as good as the Down Under versions, but could that all be about to change with the hiring of this new judge? Hmmm... got a strange taste in my mouth... think it's the words "ANTM" and "Vogue" going together.... *SPIT* Seriously, does this mean they'll actually start taking the model search seriously now after 13 cycles? The winner last season was brilliant and clearly the best model of the bunch - so maybe this is a new trend?! Scary. Sad that Miss J gets demoted though - even though he/she was useless he/she was still the best useless one on there. And occasionally had something lucid to say. 

Anyhow pics of the finalists on Cycle 14 have just been released - I'll put up my thoughts in a separate post later this week (seriously, I WILL. That fairytale feature is in the works too, I promise!)

In other NTM news, BNTM has a new host in Elle Macpherson - not sure whether this is good news or bad really. She definitely brings a better class to the show replacing Lisa Snowden, but on her guest appearances in other NTWs she has come across as a bit wooden and lacking in substance. She's all hair. I really liked Lisa as well, even though she could only offer a limited insight she was always really warm with the girls and likeable as a host. I'll reserve judgement on this one (no idea when the next Cycle starts). 
AusNTM has just started auditions for the new Cycle, WAHEY. But no news on my favourite NZNTM yet which is very sad. I rrrreeeeeally hope there is going to be a Cycle 2 and that Cycle 1 wasn't just a throw in the fire. I bloody loved it. Christobelle is one of my many lovers, tee hee.

Anyway I'll finish on a high note - OFFICIAL TOY STORY 3 TRAILER! Yes I may have mentioned from previous teasers I was a bit underwhelmed by what was coming out from the Pixar people, but this has restored my faith in the playful creations. I just love the Ken and Barbie meeting in this! Oh, oh, and after a few watches the voice of the green female rhinoceros was really getting on my nerves because I knew that voice... and it's Kristen Schaal!! Hurray! This is going to be excellent.

That's a wrap for this week! Keep checking back for actual updates coming soon to a small screen in front of you...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

FILM REVIEW: Precious: Based on the book 'Push' by Sapphire


I feel a bit bad about this film because I wasn't moved in the way I thought I was going to be. In fact coming into this film, I was secretly terrified that I wouldn't be able to cope with the story's events and it would mess me up for several weeks. I certainly don't think you can sit in the cinema and be excited about seeing Precious. However I found the film strangely flat, and don't concur with the message "it will stay with you for days after."

I think the main problem isn't with the film itself, it's with the way society is today and how we en general mass have become so desensitised to everything. In my own case I work with the news every single day and I hear in detail about the most horrible stories that I ordinarily wouldn't have come across, not to mention the ongoing sadness that seems to come out of Afghanistan day after day after day. Your mind just becomes numb with information, with horror, with violence. It can still shock and upset you, but soon you've forgotten about it again and have sunk back into your cushy, protected life. I don't think it's our fault, it's just the way things have progressed. Look at all those awful magazines you get on the shelves these days bearing exclusive real life stories of bodies being chopped up into several pieces, of partners being secret rapists and murderers, of domestic abuse getting out of control. Look at The Jeremy Kyle Show. Look at the popularity of 'misery memoirs'. People lap up these sensationalist revelations because they want to feel good about their own normal, happy lives. This is the way of the world today.

So unfortunately Precious doesn't pack that dehabilitating punch. The events are horrible, and you feel incredible sympathy and desperation for Precious to fight through the pain of what she is going through and not succumb to the path that has been carved out for her by her abusive parents. At the same time though it is impossible to identify with her character because of the extremes of her situation, so there is always a distance there that cannot be accessed. As an outsider looking in you come to relate more to the characters in the film who are doing the same thing, such as Miss Rain and the social worker. It was the scenes where these characters met with Precious that carried the most emotional impact, and made me upset (Miss Rain telling Precious that people do love her, and the confrontation scene between Precious, her mother and the social worker at the welfare). 

The acting is impeccable. Gabourey Sidibe pulls out a strong and heartfelt performance as Precious, and in her interviews she always comes across so eloquent and astute. She really got this part, and becomes it. Mo'nique has made herself into a thoroughly despicable but at the same time irreparably damaged character as her mother, whose final scene in particular is agonising to witness as she tells Precious her version of events. Paula Patton is great as the redeeming teacher, and Mariah Carey's performance is full of nuance: she is actually very good in this role, and in no way a distraction in the film.

I enjoyed the scenes in the classroom the most, and the happiness and feeling of hope Precious gets from being around her new friends (Joanna in particular is a riot!). Also really liked Lennie Kravitz as the male nurse who has a lot of time for Precious - I didn't realise it was him until several days after, even though I recognised the face. Wasn't massively into the dream sequences that the film dissolved into occasionally - the transition was very good at apt times of the story, but they disrupted the tone.

Go and see Precious, as it's a powerful story of fighting adversity and finding love and hope in a harrowing world and it deserves an audience. It will make you cry a lot, but also will leave you feeling upbeat with some strong central performances. But I must quietly admit it wasn't as powerful as I'd gone in expecting. 

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Through the Grater This Week

Quiet week this week. Almost no TV news to report. This piqued my interest - I don't have access to Syfy and there's no way of telling how good they'll be, but I like the idea. I'm all for fairytale revivals and reinterpretations. In fact I'll be writing a piece about fairytales in the very near future tying in with the release of The Princess and the Frog so keep checking back!

This isn't new news but I only found about it in the last week, so I think that qualifies! A couple of years ago I was introduced to the utter brilliance and hilarity of Summer Heights High, a kind of mockumentary comedic sitcom based in an Australian comprehensive school and focusing on three main characters all played by the comedian Chris Lilley. I gobbled down all the episodes within a week, and then needing yet more found and devoured We Can Be Heroes too (not as good as SHH but still some classic scenes and the rolling lady's story is SO! SAD!). Since then it's been a bit quiet on the Chris Lilley front, but after being reminded me of Mr G and his sheer awfulness this week, I had a look to see what he's been up to. And it's productive news! He's currently developing a new series with ABC Australia, HBO and the BBC called Angry Boys, and it will focus on being a male in the 21st century over 12 episodes. No word of when it will be out yet, but I suspect some time this year. VERY exciting, as I think Chris Lilley is a major talent and shows off such a wicked sense of humour. He also creates wonderfully abhorrent characters, and even though he's promising some new ones here I hope we get to see some past ones, too! Will keep you posted on this.

Onto the movie world, and Sundance has wrapped up for another year. Boooo. But also YAY because now it means we'll actually get to see some of the films as they get picked up and distributed around the world.  Good news for Natalie as Hesher was picked up fairly quickly, and has had largely positive reviews as well. Should be an interesting watch, that one. However, things haven't got better for my top pick The Romantics which has been labelled average, melodramatic, predictable, and should 'switch well to cable'. Ouch. I bought the book by the way - picked it up last weekend from Waterstones and shall start reading it soon. I'm still not giving up on this film, I think it sounds wonderful. The word 'angst' has been bandied about in a few reviews as well, and what can go wrong with perpetual angst?!

As for the winners you can view them all here. Good to see one of my shout outs Winter's Bone win the Grand Jury Prize - it's impressed a lot of people, and I'm looking forward to seeing it when it comes over here. FYI recent winners have included Precious, Frozen River, Primer and American Splendor. Of note, happythankyoumoreplease and Obselidia also picked up awards. Huzzah! No love for The Killer Inside Me, though. HMMMMMMM.

Big news of the week though was the 2010 Oscar nominations. A couple of surprises, but generally what was expected. Lots of love for Avatar, The Hurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds, but good showings from some other solid films as well. Up In The Air gets a fair representation which I am obviously very pleased about. Also really great news for Colin Firth getting the Best Actor nomination (he has a chance), and Meryl Streep for Julie and Julia which I absolutely adored and was one of my favourite films of 2009 - nice to see it getting some recognition from the Oscar dudes. Most lovely surprise has to be for In The Loop though, which bagged a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. I wasn't sure the Americans would even 'get' that film! Brilliant to see, and I had a little cheer when it was announced. It's a tough category though, and more than likely it won't win. But still - it gets to preface everything with 'Oscar nominated' which is cool. No love for Peter Capaldi here though - bah!
You can see the full list of nominations including all those boring ones no one actually cares about here, and the ceremony itself takes place on March 7. Predictions and endorsements to come. (And I must just say the continued use of the phrase 'Oscar noms' keeps causing me many a chuckle...)

That's all for this week. NOW GO AWAY.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

FILM REVIEW: The Boys Are Back


Thoroughly enjoyed this - a lot more than I was expecting to, actually. From the premise it seems like such an emotional heavyweight of a film yet all the reviews have said it veers on the saccharine, schmaltzy side in tone. I was prepared for glaring sentimentality, and that's what I got - but so engrossed in the dynamics of this dislocated family and warmed by the charm of The Boys Are Back I found myself waving away these raps and wanting the loveliness to go on.

I must admit I couldn't fully tune into the events of the film, mainly because if I did I wouldn't have been able to watch it because it's just too traumatic, especially how Katy's death is dealt with at the beginning. I found myself mentally keeping at arm's length because I didn't want to engage those thoughts. Being based upon a memoir, I found the little boy's reaction to his mother's death honest and devoid of any plot contrivance - Nicholas McAnulty who plays Artie is such a brilliant little find and barely appears to be acting at all. He was just so adorable, and I really cherished the scenes between him and his brother Harry later on in the film.

I think one of the reasons why this didn't descend into mush for me was the presence of Clive Owen. This is a very different part for him to play, and his gruffness (I still get a little unnerved during his shouty moments in Closer!) makes his character stronger and more admirable rather than cutesy and wet like perhaps a Jude Law or a Hugh Grant may have made it. I really like him here: he manages to portray a man walking the tightrope of single parenting blindfolded with his arms outstretched in a very becoming and true-hearted way.

There were things the film could have done without - the ghost scenes for one didn't work that well and weren't really very ethereal either! It would have worked better if there had been no interaction between Katy and Joe, and maybe he just catches glimpses of her occasionally (which did happen in one scene) before she's gone again. It would have made each sighting more poignant instead of just being, well... annoying.

Though the film did flirt with a few predictabilities (pretty single mother who Joe meets in a quirky way at Artie's school), the main focus remained consistently on the family, and the shifts in responsibility following Katy's death. While the film could have focused on grief and loneliness, instead it devotes a lot of time to boyish humour and behaviour, and dive bombing into motel baths and riding free form on top of a car's bonnet. It was a lot of fun, and it's very refreshing to see a film that exposes a social situation which doesn't get a lot of attention, and one that is ever changing because of equality rights and modern society. It's one of the reasons I wanted to see this film, just because it presents something so different to the cinema audience, and if nothing else it is original because of that.

The cinematography was stunning - actually I've been meaning to look up where they were living in Australia because they did seem to be a good way away from Melbourne and Sydney *goes off to have a look*... ahhh just outside of Adelaide in Southern Australia. Very beautiful, I must visit. Hee! The golden sunsets just made it look like a paradise, and imagine waking up every morning to kangaroos in your back yard!

The Boys are Back gets a glowing recommendation from me - if ever a film promoted 'warm and uplifting' then this is it. It's very watchable, and leaves you with all kinds of questions about what the boys are doing now, and how this affected them in the long run. In fact I may just go look up those answers now...