Thursday, 25 March 2010

Through the Grater This Week

Hey up y'all, it's time for another scour of the electronic rags.

TV news continues to be quiet, so onto the cin-eh-me-ahs. First of all we have an update on the Natalie news I mentioned last week - Best Buds is going ahead, and even more joyous - Ashton Kutcher is going to play the love interest! Hurrah! That's so amazing, they're like the perfect combo. CAN YOU HEAR THE SARCASM YET? On the positive side (yes there's a small one) Ashton Kutcher's in one of my favourite films The Butterfly Effect and he's not too bad in that; he's capable in the role he plays. But in everything else - just gah. And I somehow don't think the stoner comedy genre is going to improve matters [/snob]. Sigh. I just keep reminding myself that she's doing Black Swan... by the way, New York I Love You has been goggled by my good self and I shall be putting my thoughts up here very soon!

Also going back to some other news I mentioned earlier in the year - Tim Burton was thinking of doing a twist on the Sleeping Beauty tale by directing a movie from the POV of Maleficent - my all-time favourite Disney villain. And it looks like that plan is coming into fruition! This is great news - even after all the moaning I did after Alice in Wonderland Burton can still produce the goods, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with for her castle, her minions and her dark kingdom. Eeeeek exciting! You don't get enough foreboding castles in film!

Just like every other billion person on the planet I loved Juno when it came out and didn't give a toss when Jennifer's Body did. Thankfully it looks like Diablo Cody is going back to the genre she coolly reinvented with news of a new film in the works. I'm glad they mention the Sweet Valley High remake/big screen adaptation in that article too because I'm really looking forward to that! ...ahem.

This is an interesting story, and something I'd heard rumours of at the time of its release. Now enough time has passed for the idea to develop: Green Day are turning American Idiot into a film. The original idea to make the album into a musical - somewhere between a happy clappy Broadway showpiece and a rousing dramatic opera - still seems to be going ahead, so the script must be strong enough for producers to think it could be made into a full blown movie. I have very fond memories of this album: it reminds me of my first year at Uni and going to see them perform at the MEN Arena. I nearly got sucked into the mosh pit during "St Jimmy"! I read a fan's interpretation of the songs and how each one relates to the next part of the story and so on - I was only young back then and my greatest musical influence had been a boyband: I thought Green Day were genius! Really looking forward to this; there's some epic tracks on there. Shall keep an eye out for the Broadway reviews next month.

It's funny how being on t'inters can become a mouse clicking visual version of Six Degrees of Separation - especially on Wikipedia, where you intend to look up one thing and then an hour later you've read through eight different relating articles. I was looking up Jeunet on IMDB to check a film, and saw someone had posed the question on his forum board: "what if he directed a live Thundercats movie?" Obviously the idea is ludicrous ("Sacre Bleu! Ho!") but it did get me thinking again about the idea. I have long wondered why no one has done a Thundercats film - I bet you anything there have been scripts bandied about Hollywood over the past ten or so years and they just haven't been good enough or the interest hasn't been there. Look at He-Man! But I did a bit of digging around and I found this article which is dated only a month ago that sounds a bit promising - maybe something is in the works? Hollywood is very much on the superhero wave at the moment, but Thundercats isn't so far removed from all of that cape flouncing about. Do it, I say! Make it terrible but at least do it!

Something a little bit different now - some book news! Yes, I do read!

The long list for the Orange Fiction Prize came out last week and I'm so happy to see a book on there that I have been championing for months (if not to anyone else but myself). It's The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton and I'm still desperate to read it. It's out in paperback now, so I'll definitely be getting myself a copy, and I hope she does well because no author I like ever gets any recognition from the bigwigs! You can see the full list for the Prize here, and the shortlist is announced on April 20.

I was going to finish by putting up the truly shocking video Diana Vickers has made to accompany the lovely 'Once'. But I won't, it's just too hideous.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

FILM REVIEW: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

For all the franchises and trilogies out there in the world, here is one I am happy to jump the bandwagon - and I urge you to, too.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo first came to my attention last November when it screened at the Leeds International Film Festival. At the time of its showing it was one of the highest rated films of the event, beaten only by Oscar winner Departures and then on the last day when Ponyo jumped them all. It had sold out very quickly and I wondered where all the interest was coming from. Only later I discovered it was a big screen adaptation of the first in a best selling series of books by late Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson (although at that point fans were eagerly awaiting the publication of the final novel). It didn't grab me straight away - crime writing isn't really my thing - but it was the trailer that really sold it to me. I do like a good straightforward murder mystery, as long as it doesn't get too bogged down in police corruption (this is where I struggled with the Red Riding trilogy). Thankfully there are no police in this story.

Convicted journalist Mikael Blomkvist is asked by elderly businessman Henrik Vanger to look into the unsolved case regarding his missing niece Harriet. Her disappearance from the family home 30 years ago remains a mystery although she is believed to have been murdered. The old man, who has been unable to let her go, has been receiving framed flowers every year for his birthday mimicking a pattern of Harriet's when she was alive. He believes he is being taunted by her murderer, and he asks Blomkvist to take one last look at the case which police have long since abandoned to try and get answers to the questions that anchor him. Simultaneously, hacker Lisbeth Salander has got herself involved in Blomkvist's activities after secretly investigating him for the libel court case. She becomes drawn into the missing person case when she hacks into his computer and finds a document containing a number puzzle he is trying to work out. Using her code cracking skills she emails him the answer to the puzzle, and in doing so brings him to her, and the two of them dig deeper into the case uncovering a misogynist serial killer and a family rotten with Nazism and abuse.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's original Swedish title is "Man Som Hatar Kvinnor" - "Men Who Hate Women". This is not an easy film to watch, something I hadn't really prepared myself for when going to see it. There are a lot of uncomfortable brutally violent and sexual scenes involving the women and girls in the film, not only surrounding the murder case but also around lead character Lisbeth, who herself has a dark history built around abuse. The scenes with her guardian are particularly harrowing to watch, the subsequent justice not being of any ease. This film does not shy away from the graphic scenes depicted in Larsson's novel, and if you can stomach it then it's an extraordinarily powerful story to watch, one I am looking forward to getting to grips with in the following two instalments due out later this year.

The story had me engrossed from start to finish - the puzzle unfolding bit by bit interspersed with moments of suspense and high drama. It reminded me a lot of Zodiac but because this wasn't a police investigation it had that underground, adventure element to it as well, especially in the part where Blomkvist breaks into the house of one of the Vanger family. Of course there were a few fantastical moments that only ever happen in fiction (the clues literally do fall into place!), but that is offset by the cracking pace of the film, the brilliant acting, and the morose and bleak choreography of a hushed and sinister Swedish landscape.

The American re-make will not be far behind, so please, PLEASE go and treat yourself to a couple of hours of sublime filmmaking from Sweden, with accomplished performances, a satisfying and exciting story and characters you want to invest in. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is not something to be missed, and it's only a pity the late author can't see how much of a sensation his creation has become.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Through The Grater This Week


....sorry for my absence guys. I do have three whole trailers for you to watch this week though. Giggady!

One little bit of TV news this week (it's been pretty quiet on the TV front for a while now - I guess everything has been renewed, and all the news is now happening on the screen). This has me very worried because I think we're about to see the end of Bobby :-( Who else could it possibly be? I'll be really upset if they lose Jim Beaver, and it'll make the proposed Season Six even more rubbish. PAH.

 And now a slew of film news because that as always keeps a-comin'. Did I say trailer?

I love this trailer purely because Claire (yes, she's Claire) has her puddings first. Why didn't I think you could seriously do that in restaurants? "Waiter to start I'll have the banoffee pie!"

Bit of casting news - Rose McGowan has been cast in the new Conan film. I've loved Rose ever since she was on Charmed and she doesn't do many films so it's nice to see her picking up some stuff on the back of Planet Terror (I still need to catch up with the final season of Nip/Tuck!). Plus RON PERLMAN is playing Conan's dad, so this is going to be beefy trashalicious.

Seems Greek Gods are very much in at the moment what with Percy Jackson and Clash of the Titans and I'm definitely not complaining (as long as they make an Aeneid film soon. Whaddya mean that's Roman?! Tsch!). Just found out about this upcoming project called War of The Gods. Casting is underway at the moment and while the plot sounds a little tired there's some interesting characters there - Theseus and Phaedra! Wow. Pre falling in love with your son days, but hey I'll take it (I think I'd have a fit if they made a Hippolytus film).

The next news isn't so encouraging. I went to see the excellent Swedish thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo earlier this week (review on its way). Obviously they were going to make an English version of it for the people who can't read, and casting rumours have already started surfacing. I'm fine with the director choice, but Carey Mulligan as Lisbeth? Carey Mulligan is a good little actress, but there's no way she can convey the tortured complexity of the feisty female hacker so impressively brought to the big screen by Noomi Rapace. Absolutely no way.

What's that? You want some sexy lowl action? Then why didn't you say!

The next amazing project I'm looking forward to - like actually might go to one of those one minute past midnight screenings looking forward to - is The Hobbit. I like that they're taking their time with it, but at the same time I wish they'd hurry up and cast some people! Perhaps we're not so far away now after hearing this.

Natalie's schedule just keeps on bulging. Now she's working on a film called Best Buds which I want to like the sound of, but 'stoner comedy'? URGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Maybe I just need to see Your Highness first to be reassured, but until then I'm scuffing my shoes against a wall.

Last year I saw a film at the Leeds International Film Festival that's been doing very well down under called Samson & Delilah. I liked it though it had its faults, but now you can judge for yourself as Empire a sneaky clip of the Aborigine love story online. Fight your way to see it in cinemas from April 2. Or don't, it's not that special...

And I'll leave you with the most exciting video to emerge this week - the trailer for Chris Morris' eagerly anticipated Four Lions. Very disappointed I didn't realise it was playing at the Bradford Film Festival earlier as I could be seeing it this weekend. Oh well, at least I got New York I Love You sorted out - huzzah! So here's a comedy crow being blown up for all your enjoyment. No really - poor crow!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

FILM REVIEW: Alice in Wonderland

Once upon a time Tim Burton was one of the most exciting and visionary directors in the world. He was the master of the gothic fairytale, bringing us cult masterpieces such as Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. He was also responsible for the phenomena that is Mr Johnny Depp. Together their collaborations of dark beauty and black humour could be relied upon every time to produce both awe and big takings at the Box Office. Arguably Alice in Wonderland was the most anticipated film of 2010: the material lends perfectly to Burton's love of the twisted and curious, and the opportunity to create a world of unhinged characters, unearthly landscapes and magical prevalence. The ingredients were right, and they were stirred by the right man. But something went awry in the oven...

I was looking forward to this for a long time, then became flooded by a sense of sameness. This was Tim Burton doing what he does best, but it was also Tim Burton doing what he always does. I briefly became excited again after seeing the trailer in 3D and thought perhaps that would enrich the standard Burton experience, but I should know better than to place such weight onto the impact of 3D (more on that later). But the final thing was a big disappointment. The story fails by succumbing to a battle plot more reminiscent of Narnia than of Wonderland. Burton gives Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter a needlessly puffed up role just for the sake of it, and many of the supporting characters are aloof and confused - I know this is how they're supposed to be, but in this production it hindered the flow of things massively. There were big stretches where I wasn't following the interchanges and character dynamics at all. I appreciate this was Tim Burton giving us his own take on the classic tale, but it didn't work. It may have been different for the story, but in terms of modern cinema it wasn't anything particularly memorable or original.

That's not to say there weren't some good merits - the best performances came from the two queens, with Helena Bonham Carter terrifically juvenile as the Red Queen blessed with some of the best lines, and Anne Hathaway a quietly disturbing and unbalanced White Queen channelling Nigella Lawson with real relish. Mia Wasikowska was a perfectly fine Alice if a bit bland. Johnny Depp would have stood out more if he had appeared for less time and with more fanfare. Instead he drags on and becomes - clumsily - Alice's 'faun' (what was with the odd dance at the end?! What a load of futterwack!)

It was very pretty to look at, I'll give that to 3D - the colourful swollen mushrooms to the castles rising up out of tangled forest and wasteland. But apart from that the 3D added very little, and if you haven't already seen this and want to I would say don't bother forking out the extra four or five pounds. If anyone could have sold the 3D concept it's Tim Burton, and he hasn't done anything extraordinary here. I won't be bothering with the glasses again.

As for Alice in Wonderland, it's entertaining but that's about all. Burton & Depp certainly haven't lost their sparkle: Sweeney Todd was fresh for them and it worked; this is just the same stuff we've seen churned out time and time before.Great for new audiences, but for the tried and tested majority we want the next level please.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Culturemouse Oscars 2010


Up for Best Actress In A Supporting Role we have:
Mo'Nique for Precious
Vera Farmiga for Up in the Air
Penelope Cruz forNine
Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal for Crazy Heart 

And the winner is....
 ..... Miss Anna Kendrick!

Next up it's Best Actor In A Supporting Role. The nominees are...
Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds
Christopher Plummer for The Last Station
Matt Damon for Invictus
Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones
Woody Harrelson for The Messenger  

And the winner is....
..... Mr Stanley Tucci!

Well things are going well. Let's see if we can continue in such form with the award for Best Animated Film. Those vying for the honours are...
The Princess and the Frog
Fantastic Mr Fox
The Secret of Kells

And the winner is.... 
.... Up!

But of course. Now who will win Best Foreign Language Film? Will it be...
A Prophet
The Secret of Her Eyes
The White Ribbon
The Milk of Sorrow

And the winner is....
.... The White Ribbon!

And now the first of the biggies - Best Actress. Fighting for the tiara are...
Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia
Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side
Helen Mirren for The Last Station
Gabourey Sidibe for Precious
Carey Mulligan for An Education

And the winner is....
.... Meryl Streep!

And to take the Best Actor crown we have...
Morgan Freeman in Invictus
Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
George Clooney in Up in the Air
Colin Firth in A Single Man
Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker 

And the winner is....
.... Colin Firth!

Always an important award to have in one's home. Who will win Best Director?
James Cameron for Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
Jason Reitman for Up In The Air
Lee Daniels for Precious

And the winner is....
.... Jason Reitman!

And finally, what has been the Best Picture of the last 12 months? Is it...
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
The Blind Side

And the winner is....

..... Up In The Air!

Thank you for joining us here at culturemouse. We look forward to seeing you next year when we shall once again come together to share our hopes and dreams and wish for an awards ceremony as perfect and as impossible as this. Byee!

FILM REVIEW: The Lovely Bones


Ohhh, The Lovely Bones. Popularist tripe if ever there was. I habitually loathe books that people read because everyone else is reading them (Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Twilight) and this was a true case in point. But when I heard the film adaptation was being steered by Peter Jackson, I caved a little. Let's see what all the fuss is about, etc. I do try to read the book before the film comes out if I am meaning to see it. So I read it, and whaddayaknow? IT'S DULL. The concept is fairly good, but it doesn't go anywhere and doesn't mean anything. It's not a satisfying read, plus there's a possession scene at the end that just made me want to throw the book across the room and rock on the floor crying. Anyways, the ordeal had to be gone through as prep for the film version, which is fronted by a starry cast and boasts awe inspiring CGI from Jackson & co.

I had high hopes Jackson could do a good job with this as I have loved every film of his I have seen, and also by a comment he made where he stated this would be his own interpretation of the book. Hurrah - make it more interesting. But I feel the acclaimed director may have produced his first dud.

It was flawed in so many ways. I hated the snow globe scene at the very beginning - not a good start to proceedings. The timeline in which it was told for one seemed clumsy, beginning with a sketching over of Susie's childhood (the dreaded "so many years later" device) including snipped narrative of random events such as when she saved her brother's life, and then plunging into the revelation that she is murdered aged 14 by her neighbour Mr Harvey. The film only really gets going from this moment on, when we are in the present and the story is allowed to flow. 

I was hugely disappointed by the In-Between scenes. I can't work out if this is because I had watched the trailer so many times and read a lot of articles on the film beforehand. Either way they failed to deliver a gasp of breath, and overall seemed a little cheesy for want of a better word. Some bits I liked (Susie's connection to the human world being through a Summer House), but was it just there for CGI sake? I thought the tone and music of the film was misjudged as well. I wanted to shake the characters sometimes - they seemed so blase about things, particularly the grandmother. The scene where she arrives to head up the house and help with the housework is all kinds of horrible. The music is so jaunty - SUSIE IS DEAD FOR CHRISSAKE! SHOW ME GRIEF! At times the event was portrayed in such a light-hearted and nonchalent way it wrecked the weight of the story. 

There were some bits I liked: my favourite two scenes both involving Stanley Tucci who was marvellous as the repressed psycho, Mr Harvey (pity it is felt needed to kill him off horribly at the end). Peter Jackson is certainly good at building up suspense - loved the scene where Lindsey breaks into Mr Harvey's house, and when he lures Susie into the hatch. It's a mixture of "ARGH DON'T DO IT!/NO ONE IS THAT STUPID!/THIS IS TOO UNCOMFORTABLE TO WATCH!" One thing I am greatly surprised about though is the lack of violence. In the book it is implicitly stated (and written) that Susie is raped and murdered. Yet in the film, Jackson shies away from this - her murder shown through blood and dirt splattered in the bathroom and lingering shots of the knife. Why I find it odd is that Peter Jackson in Heavenly Creatures is responsible for the most - in my opinion - disturbing and brutal murder scene of all time. Plus he has a background in horror movies. I struggle with why he wants to make The Lovely Bones so PG friendly. 

Saoirse Ronan was luminous. She's such a beautiful little actress, even though she forces it a bit too much at times. I thought she epitomised a 1970s suburban teen with such deftness (her accent skills are remarkable) and she managed to carry such emotion in a role that will no question elevate her career. In contrast Susie's parents Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz are horribly, horribly miscast. They don't bring any authenticity at all, their acting so bad it generated an ill placed giggle at times. The rest of the cast are spread so thinly that it is hard to feel anything towards them and truly buy into the grief (if any!) they are feeling over Susie's death. And the possession scene was in there too! NOOOOOO!

Certainly not as bad as some reviews have suggested, but don't rush out to see The Lovely Bones. I thought Peter Jackson could salvage this drab material but he hasn't.


I AM SO SORRY. I've been too busy to update culturemouse lately. Don't blame me, blame the employers who won't hire me...

Anyways, I absolutely PROMISE that in the coming weeks there will be lots of features coming up (just because they're not appearing on here doesn't mean they are not generating in my head!) on all kinds of topics. I am not abandoning you! In fact things should return to working order later on tonight, so keep a lookie out.

Sorry again. In the meantime, check out the listings for the Bradford Film Festival which starts on March 18. The amazing Dogtooth is showing, as is New York I Love You, which I think given the circumstances - i.e. waiting two years for this moment - I am allowed a SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Unfortunately Four Lions has already sold out. Boo.

Oh, and the excellent Stardust is on Channel 4 tonight at 8pm. If you haven't seen it, I bloody urge you to. It's one of my all time favourites. "Freak!"