Monday, 26 April 2010

Is this the end of the Melrose Place reboot?




The Season One finale of Melrose Place aired last week, after only 18 episodes. Whilst that's still a lot, by US standards it's actually short, with the average being 22 episodes for a full series on the main networks. And it's actually bad news - because it means the CW decided not to pick up a full run for the show, and it's still not been renewed for next year, a comfort already being enjoyed by the likes of Gossip Girl, 90210 and The Vampire Diaries. And the reason? Very bad ratings - the show averaging around 1.3m viewers an episode (compared to 90210 which airs before it in the US and gets around 1.8-2m viewers). And the reason for those bad ratings? Unlikeable characters, boring, soapy, ridiculous storylines and no catch, no drama. Just, erm, stolen paintings.

The season falls roughly into two parts: the murder mystery (episodes 1-12) and the fun and sexy revamp (episodes 13-18). The mystery surrounding who killed Sydney Andrews (again) was less enticing that an episode of Midsummer Murders. They made a mistake in bringing back Laura Leighton and then killing off her character in the pilot (then showing her only in flashbacks and as a ghost) because Sydney was one of the best characters in the original with some of the most demented storylines. They should have reverted to the old magic and have her come back alive having inconceivably faked her own stabbing in some bizarre and unrealistic twist just to make the old faithful sigh with happiness that Melrose Place has gone crazy-amazing again. But they didn't, and they shot themselves in the foot. They did to their credit solve the mystery in the most ludicrous of fashions, but it was the wrong focus for a remake of the original show.  At least the producers noticed this wasn't pulling in the viewers so they wrapped it up quickly, axed two of the new cast, and instead concentrated on the relationships between the characters and giving Heather Locklear's Amanda a more prominent role.

They made a mistake in axing Violet. She was creepy, clearly off her rocker and capable of going to the extremes - a perfect Melrose Place inhabitant. What they should have done was re-cast her. Ashlee Simpson was useless in the role and her acting skills painfully bereft, but that shouldn't have meant the end to her character. US stars are re-cast all the time ("the part of so and so will now be played by..."), and on a show like MP they could have dreamt up any number of ways as to why she is now a completely different person - just think about Kimberley! Violet should have gone into her bathroom, ripped off her wig, peeled off her face and then we could have carried on like nothing had happened. Another shot in the foot from the producers.
Auggie on the other hand was the angry boring alcoholic and his departure was no loss to the show. His replacement Drew however - beamed down from the planet annoying - is horrendous. They should have just kept the conveyor belt running. His 'cliffhanger' in the finale of the season - "I have the dodgy Mancini valve implant and I DON'T KNOW HOW LONG I'VE GOT TO LIVE!!!!!!!!" - made my face dive into a pillow. Hopefully if this show is given the kiss of life NOT VERY is the answer, and we have yet another person move into the block. Oooh, it could become the ill-fated, doom stricken flat, etc, etc.

The 'stable' group of the new cast have been up and down, with the girls definitely holding court over the boys. JonAH is infuriating - as much as Billy was infuriating on the original. He has no spine, no edge, no attractive bones. I hope there's a horrible stunt accident on the set of his movie and he dies horribly. David, who sadly gets all the yawnorific plots involving jewellery, is actually the best out of the male bunch and his relationship with Lauren the most authentic (cough) on the show. His cliffhanger - being blackmailed by the man he stole from - is again dull, but there is potential there for some double twists and turns as long as the characters are allowed to think for themselves and not succumb to cliché. The reveal about him being the real father of Noah was hilarious, because not only did it suddenly appear then it drastically disappeared, leaving you wondering whether it happened at all! It's as if the scriptwriters put it in as an idea for a story, disbanded it, but then forgot to edit it out of the concerning episode. OOOPS.
Riley is only relevant because Jessica Lucas is so beautiful and radiant. The writing of her character has been incredibly inconsistent and full of holes (a two second affair with Amanda's boyfriend, being sacked from her teaching job yet still managing to afford her flat and go shopping) and she doesn't seem to fit comfortably with any of the love interests she's been given. Other than her stupid schools programme she's trying to get off the ground, her purpose on the show has been linked with one of the men, meaning she is fairly oblivious otherwise. She desperately needs something to do, or to have a dark side or a vice.
Lauren has been very strong this season - she's only just shy of being my favourite character. Her pretty woman storyline has been the most engrossing of the season, and I was surprised and delighted by her confession when it came - I thought it was going to drag for ages, especially with Dr Mancini beginning to blackmail her. Actually I wouldn't have minded that carrying on for a few episodes because it would have led to a great showdown between Michael and David when it all came out. I love Lauren and David together, I think it's very genuine and they're one of those 'couples to root for' - a bit like Liomi in 90210. If we don't get a Season Two then I'm glad we got to see them reunited in the last eppy.

But Ella Simms is by far the most appealing part of the new Melrose Place. As I said in a previous post, I love Katie Cassidy - when all the Supernatural fan girls were shooting her death looks every time she stepped on the screen as demon Ruby in Season 3 I thought she was terrific, and getting a major role on a CW show was just what she deserved. Unfortunately the show she's got lumbered with has been less than matching of her star quality, and I am sure if MP does get renewed for a second go then Katie Cassidy will have more than helped that come about. She just 'gets' her character so much more than the rest of them, and manages to pull off the ruthless bitchy Amanda Woodward 2.0 role with such charm and glamour, that it's impossible to hate her. I was *so* pleased in the finale when she gave wet Jonah the what-for (although I know a lot of Ella supporters wanted her to shut down his film as well!) and walked away. Ella is far too good for anybody on the show - she should stick to scheming and dismissing everyone she meets with her classy put-downs.
And her wardrobe was just flat out amazing. All of the girls were beautifully dressed (I did fall in love with Riley's coat during her school fundraiser), but Ella pulled off the more daring, adventurous outfits with such a teasing elegance, such as the backless knee high boots she wore earlier on in the season - they were fabulous! She is fabulous. In fact if they don't renew MP, someone please GOD give Ella her own show! Let her take the money she gleaned from Amanda, set up her own PR agency and let's follow the fortunes of that and dump the rest of 'em. I would definitely watch! They could keep the Amanda rivalry going as well, because Katie and Heather Locklear did work well together in their episodes. The painting storyline was dull, dull, DULL! but their bitchy interactions, false niceties and full thronged back stabbing was just what MP should be all about. So Amanda can stay too (although she's just been arrested for a hit and run in real life...!)

As for the returning cast (the ones they didn't kill off) Dr Michael Mancini has had the biggest role to play, featuring in several episodes. It's good he gets to interact with Lauren and Drew at the hospital and also be linked to David as his estranged father - and although I've never been a fan of the character, the fact that he is an unlikeable 'sleaze ball' as they say over the pond probably works as you've got to have villains on this show. Jane - who looks the most stunning by far out of the older generation - has had very little to do, and should be included more. I can give or take Jo as she has always been boring and whiney. There was a little part of me which got very giddy when they had a brief reunion on the balcony though, as I'm sure it did for a lot of long standing fans. I wonder if their time has gone though - bringing back the original stars in the new 90210 was nice'n'all, but the show has been much more successful and interesting in its second season breaking free from the old ties and just going its own way. Perhaps that needs to happen for the new MP, too.

Sadly things don't look very promising. One of the show's founding producers, Darren Swimmer, posted this on his Twitter feed recently: "Melrose Place: Thnx for the love, fans. Honestly, a season 2 looks like it ain't gonna happen. All signs say no, but no official word yet." And of all the shows that are desperately trying to get a renewal for September 2010, Melrose Place is pretty far down the list of wants, although there are some fans campaigning out there for its survival. It's not unusual for a show to be renewed so late on in the season, but I would say the CW are checking out all the other options first - looking at shows like Life Unexpected that are currently airing and assessing the strength of their pilot programmes. So the fate of MP could actually rest in the hands of the Gods - it's played its final card, now all it can do is wait upon Ms Ostroff's final decision. 

And do I want to see it back? I don't think it's engrossed me enough. I get enough guilty pleasure out of Gossip Girl and 90210 so another show of similar tone and genre vying for my attention needs to pull out all the stops, and I'm afraid I've seen all the stops time and time before. There are characters I enjoy, but I'm not going to pull a hissy fit if they're taken off my screen for good. And Katie Cassidy will only receive good publicity from this 'mess' and she'll hit back with an even stronger role when her agent starts getting bombarded with calls. And if I want a slice of crazy action in LA's most hip and happening complex, then I have the original boxsets to go back to. Perhaps that's where the likely disappointed few should head for, too.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Through The Grater This Week



In case you're wondering why this is a day late, I wrote the entry yesterday and then lost it all. I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS. Anyway, lesson learnt on using the work computers, back to blogging at home...

And don't I just love it when new promo lands on my metaphorical desk?

Yes, the build up to Pretty Little Liars continues (June 8! Get it in your diaries!) with this little piece over at E!. And the biggest WOOP to come out of that is - HOLLY MARIE COMBS IS GOING TO BE IN THE SHOW! A-mayzing! I did not know this! This is great news at culturemouse. I did some digging around (well, more like scrambling around with my little hands in my case) and found this article to say she joined the show on April 10 (hmph, some bad reporting from me there), and she will be playing the role of Aria's mother, one of the 'pretty little liars' from the show's title. I would say that's an integral key role and we're going to see lots of her about *big grin*. It's so wonderful to have HMC back on our TV screens! Whilst she wasn't my favourite Charmed sister, she was definitely the best actress and she had by far the coolest power. And all this news means Pretty Little Liars is now going to be unmissable TV for me this Summer. Bring it on!

In other TV news (as that's where we're starting this week) there's more love to try to save Damages from the axe. Todd Kessler has come out this week to say he wants another series and that Sony will do everything it can to try and make that happen. And the first of the cast has come out in support of a Season Four too. It can't be long before we hear the thoughts of Glenn Close and the lovely Rose Byrne (who I'm glad to see has been getting a lot more plaudits for her performances lately). On a personal note, I watched the Season Three finale earlier this week and they have tied up all the loose ends (albeit in some cases rather hurriedly) and it's been left in such a way that would feel like a satisfactory conclusion to the show - no cliffhangers or outstanding questions. But there is still potential, and Damages is always going to inspire the best writing and starry cameos and characters. I just don't want the plug pulled as I'm still enjoying the bath!

Sera Gamble has been speaking for the first time this week about Season Six of Supernatural - yes, that extra spawned season we're not sure about. I draw comforts from some of the things that she's said about wanting to bring the show back to its origins and concentrate more on the Winchester family - thank God she's not trying to up the apocalypse and push the limits of extremity further. And there's no danger of the show slipping back to Season One quality either as the characters have progressed so much since then and the dynamics between the central few are so well versed now that any story would possess real depth, humour and pathos, just because we know them so well. But I'm not sure how much there is left to explore between Sam and Dean. They've been through the wringer these past five seasons and I'm not sure how much more underlying angst and end of episode heart to hearts by the Impala I can take! It would be nice perhaps to concentrate on the boys' futures and how that might divide them- be a nice way to finish of the show as well. But they need to keep Cas and Bobby, that's a definite. And bring back Daddy Winchester! I really don't want another off-camera contracts issue affecting the show just like Shannen Doherty could never return on Charmed.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I gave up on Glee. The UK squealing and fawning has likened it to a bad smell I don't want to go anywhere near. And I've given up caring anyway.

Few filmy post-its:
- This has pleased me very much indeed. Robert Downey Jnr, Oz... can you get a better pairing than that?! It just sounds right. I really hope this happens. Sam Mendes too! Hee! Imagine Oz being turned into a claustrophobic eccentric suburbia. I'm there! (Oh, and they can make the rest of those Oz films while they're at it. You can never have enough of such a wonderful fantasy place.)
- One of Natalie's future projects (for the girl has many) has taken a leap forward by getting a director attatched - a director I'm not particularly enthused by either, if you go by his back catalogue. Natalie will be pleased though - she bloody loved Superbad. Quietly looking forward to this one because it sounds like a straight rom-com that Natalie hasn't really indulged in yet - and she's playing opposite Brad Pitt too. Could be mega if the director has an on-day.

Also, Cannes revealed its 2010 line up this week (well, a week ago now!) and I'll be posting my thoughts a little later before the event kicks off next month. And also as a quick mention, the line up has also been announced for the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. In my eyes it's yet another boring ensemble, but there may be someone of interest to you, so if you want to have a nosy and book tickets you can do so here.

I'm going to end on some more Pretty Little Liars promo - because I just can't wait! And it's the voice of The Movies too...



Sunday, 18 April 2010

FILM REVIEW: Whip It


Ellen Page is only 23. Only just 23 in fact. I say this because she looked incredibly young in this film, and for all her wisecrackin' in Juno and torturing a paedophile in Hard Candy for some reason I thought she was in her mid to late 20s, and Drew Barrymore had done a mighty fine job taking the years off her in this role. But no, she is actually that young. So that makes her even more impressive as an actress, and she is adorable in sporty chick flick-slash-coming of age dramedy Whip It.

Yes this film is an amalgamation of things, which means it has mass appeal for almost anybody and it's thoroughly entertaining to boot. I applaud Drew Barrymore for choosing to do something different for her first stint behind the camera, because even though this has flashes of the conventional there are also a few quirks and surprises in there too, not to mention the bumping and grinding round the roller derby track.

Bliss (Page) has grown up under her mother's guiding wing going from beauty contest to beauty contest in a small town in Texas. But she's not a typical beauty queen, and her growing boredom with the charade leads her to episodes of dying her hair blue and buying shoes from a headshop. Then a roller derby poster catches her eye, and she sneaks out with best friend and rebellious side kick Pash (Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat) into a whole new world of broken noses, slamming into barriers and people called Jabba the Slut. Instantly she's hooked and has found a new calling in life - one she has to undertake covertly so her family won't find out.

There's so much to like about this film, and that's mainly down to the stellar cast who are all brilliantly likeable (save for maybe the token love interest who's a bit of a grungey bore. But at least he's not a typically clean cut jock). The skaters have been cast really well, with Kristen Wiig as the maternal one, director Drew playing a kooky loon and Juliette Lewis as arch enemy Iron Maiden. They contrast well to young Page who goes from awkward nerd who wears custom made dresses to super hot young whippet roller derby poster girl (Ellen Page is beautiful in this. I may have to stalk her). This transformation is of course totally unrealistic, although the film does put in a good show of Bliss obsessively training around her small town at night on her pre school Barbie skates. But this isn't supposed to be completely realistic, and while her rise to stardom may be a beautiful dream the accompanying homelife drama sours it nicely.

Here we get a big shout out to Marcia Gay Harden who is terrific as Bliss' controlling but well-meaning mum. The mother-daughter relationship is one of the big emotional pulls of the film and it's realised beautifully here when Bliss' secret is found out and the subsequent fallout leads to heated arguments and emotional tear-filled reconciliations and heart-to-hearts. Even the overly sentimental part at the end when her mother finds her beauty pageant speech dedicated to her is well balanced. There are also some tough moments to bear, such as Pash's arrest and Bliss leaving home and having to communicate using a payphone. It's all very believable and helps to ground the story so you really come to care about the characters and their lives.

The action bits of the film were a bit sparse, although they did well to introduce a newly emerging sport to a wider audience. I didn't have a clue what roller derbies were about, so it was nice to be put into Bliss' shoes when we get the rules explained to us, and then later we watch as different strategies and formations are played out by the coach. There's also a lot of mischievous fun and banter, especially around Drew's Smashley Simpson persona and it's obvious everyone had an absolute ball making the film. There's some great girly moments too such as the food fight in the diner where the acting on screen spills over into real life enjoyment.

Whip It is a definite feel good film, and a great way to bond with friends or to perk yourself up. And even though it's not truly memorable (it was slightly foreshadowed by Remember Me which I had gone to see just before) it's one of those above par films that you'll find yourself watching again and being flooded with happy memories of actually how good it is, or sitting down to watch just a bit of it on the TV and then settling down until the end credits.



Thursday, 15 April 2010

Through The Grater This Week


Back to normal news this week - throw that twinkie away!

Got a lot to get through, so let's hop to it.

I'm becoming increasingly excited about the new Christopher Nolan Project Inception. Nolan of course was responsible for reigniting the Batman franchise and oversaw the massively successful viral campaign for The Dark Knight. But this one is even more cryptic. The teaser trailer's been out for a while now, but still the whole thing has been very vague and hush hush, so unless you're a huge fan of Nolan there wasn't anything there to get excited about. Until now! Yes the director has finally divulged some of the secret details surrounding the film's plot and they sound mighty juicy - thank you to Empire and Digital Spy. Although the heist line doesn't grab me, 'dream and memory' does (Tennessee Williams!) and so does lucid dreaming. I've always been interested in consciousness outside of the unconsciousness - it was the subject of my dissertation (OOBEs) and I've read tons about dreaming, different types of sleep, and how the brain works when the body hibernates. It's such a fascinating and surprising subject, so I just hope we get to see it inventively and powerfully used here. It also reminds me a little bit of Scarlett Thomas' book The End of Mr Y, with the mention of a contraption being used on people to steal their dreams and ideas. It's so promising I could burst - AND it's got Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard in it! Only three months to go, I'm now officially on the wagon and I'm wrestling for the reins!

More gossip and rumour on the US remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - apparently Carey Mulligan is still in the running (stop now love) but there's also new mentions of Kirsten Stewart playing Lisbeth. I've never been an admirer, but looking at her now with her sour puss expressions, if she cut all her hair off she would actually be a pretty good fit. She would need to act her socks off though, to properly convince. This news does come from The Sun I might add...

Some casting news that has caught my eye this week: Scarlett Johansson is doing the 'lost' Stanley Kubrick film! Yay! I didn't even know there was a lost Kubrick film, haha, so that's a very exciting tie-in with one of my favourite actresses. And whilst we're on the subject: I've said it once, and I'll say it again - Eyes Wide Shut is a great film. And Blake Lively has a new film in production too called 'Cover Girl'. Blake's been doing quite a bit of work since making an impact with Gossip Girl and it got me wondering what the lovely Leighton Meester has been up to outside the scandalous world of Manhattan's elite. And quite a bit so imdb tells me! Future projects include The Oranges - a family drama which looks like it involves a relationship with Mr House Hugh Laurie (!); Monte Carlo - a girly film with the gorgeous Katie Cassidy; The Uncatchable Cowgirls of Nottingham, Texas - which sounds amazing on the title alone, and then finally The Roommate, which having now discovered I am all kinds of giddy about. BECAUSE.MATT.LANTER.IS.IN.IT! I love Matt Lanter! And I also love Leighton Meester. And this sounds like a Point Horror novel. I want, I want, I want! But it's not even out in America until next February - gahhhh. However, there is this. Which doesn't help the wanting.

Linking nicely into TV news and Gossip Girl, there's news that Little J - for some unknown important reason - will be missing from several episodes next season. It's not a huge loss - the Jenny/Nate/Serena storyline at present is a huge bore, and it's a shame because Jenny can be quite interesting when the focus is on her fashion designing. I can think of a good few other characters they could drop down a black hole, though. Like Lily and Rufus. 

And now onto something that is deeply depressing and very frustrating - the possible demise of Damages. There's quite a bit of movement with this story, so get comfortable. First off - the first season a couple of years back was an incredible success. The pilot was the most watched programme on cable TV in history, and it went on to win three Emmys and a Golden Globe. It was worthy of it, too - Season One of Damages is one of the most perfect boxes of television you will ever, ever come across. Whilst Season Two was all kinds of mess, the current Season Three has been riveting so far and the finale next week can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned. But it could also be the last ever episode of the show.

It's one of those shows that does better on DVD than on actual television, and so part of the reason it's under threat is because the viewing ratings are so poor. And it's a classy, stylish programme as well with brilliant writers that obviously means it costs a lot of money to make. And FX don't like to be 'wasting money' that way. The owners of the programme, Sony, were said to be in talks with Direct TV to keep Damages on FX for a fourth season, but now this chance looks like it's had cold water poured all over it. I can understand in these 'economic times' why FX are forcing this situation, but at the same time I'm furious about it because Damages is one of the most exciting, unpredictable and challenging programmes on TV anywhere at the moment, and has offered up some fantastic iconic characters such as Patty Hewes and Arthur Frobisher. How can shows like this be dumped and rubbish like Smallville go on for ten seasons? If FX isn't the place for Damages then any number of stations should be jumping up and down waving their arms to nab it. This is an astonishingly good show, and there are so many more twisty turn-y stories to tell, so much more of the Patty-Ellen story arc to explore. PLEASE SOMEONE SAVE THIS SHOW! 

Show your support here. We know it's pointless, but hey, once it changed the Christmas No.1.

If you've been looking at my Twitter feed lately (self reference, ahem) you'll have seen my delight over Dhruv winning Masterchef last week. He won over my stomach ever since he made jenga chips a couple of weeks ago! I was so pleased for him because not only did he make the yummiest looking Indian food, he also went to the best overseas restaurant 'De Librije' whose food I was in awe of (and if you look at the menu on their website under the vegetarian menu they have a dish called 'Trick with an egg'!), he FED THE DUCKS, and he was just generally lovely and humble, so YAY for Dhruv! I was looking forward to visiting his emerging restaurant, but now it looks as though Gordon Ramsey has snapped him up. Ah well, I could always go and request Dhruv cooks all my food or I'll tip the table over. I may get the chance to see him anyway if the finalists' idea of a pop up restaurant takes off. Tbh, I just like the phrase 'pop up restaurant'. I'd go to one of those no matter who was cooking at it!

In other Masterchef morsels, if you were a fan of Alex (enemy! enemy!) and his goat's cheese ice cream, then you can follow his future adventures on his blog. And if Stacey Beehive was more to your taste, she's set up her own online bakery where you can order a range of puddings and cakes, including brilliantly enough, Kate Cupcakes. BIG FLAVAS!

And now a little music to finish - the new single from the band I'm obsessed with at the moment. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

FILM REVIEW: Remember Me



Remember Me - the film that will now be forever synonymous with the WTF?!! ending. I'm not spoiling you by saying there is a big twist at the end of this film - or a big event any such - because you will never in a billion years be able to guess it. It's not the same problem we had with Shutter Island where you spend the entire film trying to work out what it might be only to be disappointed that it's the most obvious. This you will never see coming. I literally opened my mouth in awe and uttered: "you've gotta be kidding." Believe me, you will not be forgetting this film in a hurry!

Which is perhaps its saviour, because up until that point Remember Me is pretty nondescript. It's one of those indie romances/angsty dramas that I generally love (and did remind me of favourites The Butterfly Effect and Garden State at times), but it was all over the place. This was mainly down to the acting and presence of Robert Pattinson who was a shambles. Literally at times it was like he had his own personal volume and reaction control that spasmed from low to erratic. There were times when he mumbled and muttered his thoughts and other times when he looked like his face was going to explode. It was irritating and distracting. I think I'd rather have Ashton Kutcher play the guy (ahem).

Tyler (Pattinson) is not coping well after the suicide of his older brother Michael years before. He has a strained relationship with his divorced parents, particularly his lawyer father (Pierce Brosnan) and has no clear idea of what he wants to do in life, save quote philosophers and write in his diary. A night out with his best friend ends in violence when he gets into an altercation with a police chief, and is subsequently arrested. Wanting to get his own back on the officer, he is persuaded by his best friend to ask the chief's daughter Ally (Emilie de Ravin/Claire from Lost) out as a dare, and then thoroughly mess her around.

Yes, I don't really get why either. There doesn't seem to be a strong case for vengeance (he provoked the police chief), and the revenge plan is flawed, offering a pretty weak attempt at starting up the relationship between Ally and Tyler. The 'dare' doesn't play a major role, nor is it mentioned once the two start properly dating - thus when she inevitably 'finds out' later, her flaring up and storming out seems overly melodramatic. Ravin and Pattinson have a believable chemistry and connection as two troubled souls who are dealing with unshakeable grief (Ally carries the image of her mother being murdered before her eyes when she was younger - a scene which for no justifiable reason begins the film). Claire from Lost is very cute and I'm thrilled she's continued to do indie flicks (she was in 2006's Brick). And her character in this is amazing for her quirk of having her puddings first in restaurants! She is my new hero! Except she drops this trait fairly soon due to Tyler's 'influence'. Bah. Stick to your buns guns, woman! But the deep angst and unresolved parental issues means there's a lot of heavy brooding, stomping about and yelling, and not a lot of joy generated from their relationship or much to feel positive about. As well as dour it also comes across rather dull: the monotony of their internal dramas and spats makes you yearn for a bit of light relief.

Unfortunately, there is very little cheer in the subplots either, with frankly quite an uncomfortable storyline involving Tyler's younger sister Caroline, who as an art prodigy is singled out by the other girls in her class as a 'freak' and culminates in a horrible scene later in the film when she is invited to a classmate's birthday sleepover. Tyler plays the protective guardian older brother, and their scenes together are sweet but not altogether convincing. In fact, trying to guess The Big Twist, I thought for sure something was going to happen to the little girl because I had found her presence in the film superfluous and thought there must be a reason why she has been included so much. Obviously I was wrong - and to be honest it's best not to think too much about poor Caroline, who could probably go on to star in Remember Me 2 for all the trauma she has to go through before she's even stepped through the doors of Junior High.

So onto The Big Twist. I do want to talk about it, so if you don't want to know it stop reading now!

**spoiler alert**

There was a point towards the end where things were slowly beginning to tie together when I started to think the twist is coming. And knowing that something was coming, but not being sure what, ramped up the suspense. All kinds of things had been going through my head: something was going to happen which would link the deaths of Tyler's brother with the murder of Ally's mother/they would somehow turn out to be related/something's going to happen with the little girl... and then at the very end when he's in his dad's office and he's playing around at his computer I thought, 'that's it! He's going to find some incriminating evidence on his dad's computer - just when his dad was becoming 'nice' as well - that's going to throw their lives into disarray. Maybe he was involved in the woman's murder! Maybe he's hiding something about his son's suicide!'

Whether the director put this in as a deliberate decoy I don't know, but if he did it was pretty clever, heh. Certainly had me fooled when the camera pans out and DER-DER-DERRRRRR - his dad's office is in one of the Twin Towers. And then simultaneously in another scene Caroline's teacher writes the date on the blackboard: September 11th 2001.


.....GOTCHA!

It really was an inspired ending. Not necessarily good or well crafted, but certainly arresting. It makes a morose film even more depressing (like I said, don't think about poor Caroline) but it also seemed fitting that one of them die. A happy and carefree relationship just doesn't belong in Remember Me. On a side note: what I found first appalling but then very interesting was how after the film had finished, I went to the loo and all the R-Patz Twiliteenies - whatever they're called - upset at the death of their beloved hunk had to have the ending explained to them by more 'educated' members of their group. I thought to myself how can you not know about 9/11?! But then - these girls are probably about 14/15 years old and were only about six years old when it happened. That seems crazy to me, and makes you realise how much time has passed since it happened - nearly ten years. I thought it was done as tastefully as it could have been - no shot of a plane, anyway. Its inclusion is still very left field, but it cannot fail to leave an impact.

If you know the shock ending, then there's not much going for Remember Me. The main characters are a glum bunch, and their ordeals have been explored and tested in more engaging and lighter films. Whilst this isn't exactly heavy going or painfully dull, it falls somewhere between the two, making it just a passable couple of hours. But if you don't know the ending, it's worth a watch just for that jaw dropping moment.





Monday, 12 April 2010

FILM REVIEW: Clash of the Titans



Ugh, the Summer blockbluster season is upon us - it seems to get here earlier and earlier every year, latching onto the Easter holidays and then dragging on and on for months. I hate this time of year because superheroes, car chases and robots do not appeal to me in the slightest and I can go for weeks on end without even thinking about the cinema. Which is very sad being a film buff! But occasionally things will pique my interest and drag me into the fray - Thor next year for example, because Natalie's going to be in it. And the new Pirates of the Caribbean if it's good. And later this year, Toy Story 3. But I'm a sucker for Greek Mythology romps - I even enjoyed Troy more than I should have done a few years ago when it came out (although that was probably down to the fact that lovely Rose Byrne was in it - ogle). So I dutifully trotted along to the Clash of the Titans remake, the fact the leads were being played by two of my most hated actors blinded by my love of Gods and Monsters. Ho ho - and blinded I was.

I don't think I've ever seen a modern film that looked so 80s! For some reason the CGI just looked incredibly dated, as did the costumes and make up for practically every cast member. I don't believe that it's impossible to make Ancient Greece, Mount Olympus and the array of heroic characters look fresh and up to date, yet Hollywood struggles with this every time. It just comes across as laughable, and it's incredibly frustrating when such great stories and epic adventures are being embarrassed in this way.

I knew we were in trouble within the first few moments when events became episodic and dialogue became queasily portentous. Why can't we have character development? Why can't we have big events creep up on us rather than bash, bash, bash? Characters are central to everything, no matter how big and ferocious you make the Kraken look. Without the characters then we don't give a toss what happens - smash Argos up, then! See if we care! The main character's devoid of any personality anyway!

Ughhhhhhhhhhhh - Sam Worthington. Never have I been so bewildered by an actor's sudden sprint up the A List ladder as bloody Sam Worthington. Pack his bags and send him on an intensive week course in charisma somebody pleeeeeease, because this bloke is getting away with murder. Lead role after lead role and for what? He doesn't progress or impress, he just delivers the same bland wretched performance each time and he needs to leave our screens ASAP. And hot on his heels can be Gemma Arterton, who I've disliked ever since I thought I'd learn about Tess of the D'urbervilles. I find her infuriatingly annoying, and her holier than thou presence in this film just made me want to push her over a cliff. The scene at the end where the two lovers are reunited did absolutely nothing for me at all. Except make me wish Pegasus would trample all over them.

So we have to look to the supporting cast for any semblance of form, but there is very little to be found. Perseus' buddies are all as forgettable and samey as the next, save an hilarious Nicholas Hoult with a tan and ponytail. Liam Neeson inspired giggles within five seconds on screen as Zeus, and while Ralph Fiennes was slightly less cheesy as Hades, he still looked as though he had just stumbled out of his dress up box. Alexa Davalos was lovely as Andromeda though...oooh he should have picked her over annoying Io. But the best support came in the form of the CGI monster creations - particularly the giant scorpions and Medusa. They were the most entertaining scenes to watch from an otherwise brain wandering film. The Kraken - built up as the amazing climax - came as more of a damp squib.

One day, someone with the right vision will come along and turn a Greek myth into a LOTR style epic in weight and splendour, but until then we get messes like Clash of the Titans being churned out of the barrel. You're best of sticking to the books. Or try and 1980's original - I hear it possesses a touch of charm.



Thursday, 8 April 2010

Through The Grater: US TV Pilots 2010 Special

 Ahh, Spring. The time of year when US television shows empty out all their pockets and show us their best cards to create tantalising cliffhangers designed to keep us chomping at the bit all Summer. There were some goodies last season: Annie’s hit and run on 90210* (which caused many a re-watch and pause and squints: “is that Ethan or a deer?!”), Lucifer’s release on Supernatural, and of course, FADE TO WHITE on Lost. So I’m excited to see what tricks they have in store for us this year, and in the case of the latter, what send-off they’re going to leave us with. Because yes, the end of Lost is rapidly approaching (and I need to catch up! ahem) and as with the end of all shows, especially long running ones, they need replacing and they need replacing successfully. So Spring is not just a time for parting ways, it’s also a time for writers and producers to step up from their chairs, flick open a new page on the easel, and show us what they’re going to dazzle us with next. Yes, it’s PILOT SEASON!

It’s a ruthless period. You get one chance to impress the station, and if you’re not their cup of cawfee then you’re out. Of course there are still some terrible shows that get commissioned for a full series anyway based on a horrible genre that it’s all the rage at the moment, but I’m going to overlook all the reality interference and the formulaic unfunny comedies that get picked up every season as fodder and concentrate on drama instead, because that’s what US TV does best. So channel by channel, here are my thoughts on what we can look forward to in 2010/11 – and I’m particularly excited this year because one of the shows that’s been picked up is something I’ve had my eye on for some time…


ABC Family
… so let’s start with that now! I seem to have a habit of discovering some of my favourite books by reading reviews of them in magazines I have picked up to read while my hair dyes in a hairdressers. I have an old edition of Marie Clare to thank for introducing me to Emily Maguire, and an issue of Glamour sparking my attention for The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse. And at the beginning of last year another now forgotten magazine (let’s just call it Elle) pushed Pretty Little Liars my way. Pretty Little Liars is an odd book, because what looks on the surface like teen literature actually gets a place in the general fiction shelves of Waterstones. The plot is a heady mix of early Gossip Girl and The Virgin Suicides, centring on a group of teenage best friends who start receiving messages from an unknown named ‘A’ threatening to expose all their dark secrets, which suspiciously coincides with the disappearance of the leader of their clique, Ali. Now, just like with Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal, I haven’t actually read Pretty Little Liars. It’s been on my ‘to buy’ list for quite some time, and part of the reason being because it’s had such huge success in America (along with the likes of The Luxe by Anna Godbersen which I have actually turned the pages of), and has gone on to spawn a long series of books. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So I was waiting for a quiet time in my life to order the first few of them and then settle down for a good long bookworm sesh. Sadly this hasn’t happened yet, and the books now keep piling up. Now getting onto the TV part of it – late last year ABC Family signed on to produce a pilot episode of the series which sent me into all kinds of frenzy and gave me a massive kick up the backside to get on with reading it! And as cruel luck would have it when I went into Waterstones to order it in January (hello lovely gift card), the printing of the first book has stopped, and they’ve run out of copies. Obviously they’re planning to re-launch the whole series when the TV show goes live in September, but THAT DOES NOT HELP ME NOW! Gah. But the book is still available on the internet route, so that’s where I’m headed next. But I am extremely excited about this project, as I think it could be really engrossing pure guilt television if it’s done in a sassy and stylish way. ABC Family run very similar programming to the CW (culturemouse’s favourite addictive channel) with current shows such as Greek, The Secret Life of an American Teenager and Kyle XY. Haven’t actually dipped into the station as yet myself but I will be there on June 8 when Pretty Little Liars premieres its ten episode run! A sneaky promo has been released – I just hope it’s not going to be too geared towards the teeny boppers or too schmaltzy. IT’S ON THE FICTION SHELF IN WATERSTONES, I TELL YOU! Here’s the trailer below so I can mebes entice you in:




ABC
Generally a load of boring legal/crime/medical tripe, but this looks interesting: Generation Y is:

“a documentary-style drama that watches a group of people both in the present and 10 years ago. The show watches the individuals as they attend senior year of high school and then flashes forward to show where they are today”.

Kinda reminds me of a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time by David Nicholls called One Day and the Sundance film I’m really excited about The Romantics. Doesn’t specify whether the group are separated in the present or still hang out with each other, but I’m a huuuuge fan of angsty friend reunion dramas (see also ‘The House at Midnight’ which I mentioned earlier). This could be brilliant, especially if it gets the mixture of humour and melodrama just right.


CBS
Ugh, hate CBS. Next!

CW
Nothing really stands out. Betwixt has potential: “changelings who are responsible for saving humans from evil” but it depends on the angle. And Hellcats - "ensemble show set in the world of competitive college cheerleading; Election meets Bring It On' – sounds horrific apart from the reference to Election, which is a brilliant film. If it’s quirky and has a sly, dark humour to it ala Ryan Murphy (pre Glee) then it could be interesting, but if it’s generic pompom bashing ala Bring It On, then I’m out.

FOX
Rubbish this year.

NBC
Another horrible channel.


Cable channels of note:


FX
Nothing interesting in development

HBO
Ditto.

Showtime
A programme of real interest called Syns. It sounds exactly like Dollhouse – “formerly known as Dolls' Hospital (!), it is set in a world where the Syns, human-like synthetic beings much like the replicants in Blade Runner, are used for various purposes” – and also Supernatural Season Six spawner Sera Gamble is producing it. The last update for this was December 2008, after Dollhouse was aired, so whether it’s still going ahead or not I have no idea. There are no details on imdb. Very curious.


So there we have it! Pretty Little Liars is actually on a Summer run as opposed to 'Fall' but it still counts as a new show. And I'll be eagerly awaiting promo for Generation Y to see what tone they're going for with that one. It's only two out of scores of new shows, but at least I'm not going to be overwhelmed come September. And I still have all the regulars to maintain!


*hitting and running to Band of Horses no less!

Monday, 5 April 2010

FILM REVIEW: Shutter Island


Or "Shitter Island!" as it's so lovingly been labelled by many a friend. Yes, probably one of the downfalls of Shutter Island is that it comes hand in hand with a "big twist at the end", so by the time you've nestled into your cinema seat you've already concocted any number of possible rug pulls for the film to throw at you. And sadly in this case the most obvious one turns out to be the humdinger. So that was a bit of a let down, as was the subsequent incogitable explanation. But it's not all bad in Scorsese's attempt at a Hithcockian suspense drama.

The story as we know it is expertly crafted, with new Scorsese muse Leonardo Di Caprio steering us through the madness. He plays US Marshal Edward 'Teddy' Daniels who along with new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to the isolated asylum on the island to investigate the disappearance of one of the inmates. Almost immediately we realise that Teddy is not stable leading official he is presented as: he's blighted by sea sickness and headaches on the boat trip over, experiences death camp flashbacks almost ordinarily and is at times overcome by spasms of uncontrollable anger which he is at a loss to explain. It soon unravels that his life up until this investigation has been traumatic, punctuated by his time as a young US soldier in Nazi Germany and the death of his beloved wife (Michelle Williams) in an arson attack. And his apparent assignment to the missing inmate case has not been a random event: for the man who caused the fatal arson attack - Andrew Laeddis - was sent to Shutter Island after he was convicted, and has not been heard of since.

The build up to this mini revelation and Teddy's true reasons for coming to the island unfold nicely, as the set up on Shutter Island is presented to us by Scorsese in a truly chilling way. There's the foreboding and menacing 'Ward C' where the most dangerous patients are kept; the prickly team of doctors headed by Ben Kingsley who seem to know more than they're willing to share; the impossible mystery surrounding the disappearance of Rachel Solano, who vanished from a padlocked cell without any shoes; the mysterious lighthouse, and the impending ferocious storm that's about to render the marshals extended visitors to the island. But the biggest contributor to the suspense - and the most effective - is Scorsese's use of music. It's used in such a drumming and over amplified way that it reminded me of Kubrick's The Shining more than a few times. And going back to that Hitchcock inspired style, there were moments when an event collided with a crescendo of music to heighten the dramatic nature of the scene - such as the doors being blown open to the mausoleum by thunder and lightening as Teddy reveals to Chuck that Laeddis is somewhere on the island. Fabulous use of pathetic fallacy, and an astounding score.

And it's at this moment that the film begins to change, and protagonist Teddy begins to come apart. His belief that arsonist Laeddis is on the island is put into his head by his dead wife, who haunts his dreams and then his waking hallucinations, too. He becomes convinced the asylum is conducting terrible mental experiments on the inmates in the lighthouse, and when Rachel Solano is found safe and well, Teddy's paranoia begins to consume him. The scene where he breaks into Ward C and meets re-institutionalised informant George Noyce (an excellent Jackie Earle Haley) and then finds the 'real' Rachel Solano in a cliff top cave who tells him his paranoia is justified is when we start to realise as the viewer that he's (going) insane. Then comes the oft-posed question: is he crazy or is he right? The answer is at first obvious and the lame 'twist' aforementioned, but as we get the real backstory of Teddy Daniels things start to become much more tragic, and we begin to understand the reasons for his insanity, and in turn the reasons for what we have just watched.

*spoiler alert*

Finding out that he is Laeddis, but that his wife didn't die in a fire but was clinically depressed and drowned their three children before being shot by him is shocking to take in, and is intensified by the immensely powerful and horrible scene which recounts it. The events are so traumatic that he has created an alternate reality and persona that he lives in day to day, where he is a US marshal investigating a missing person case on the island and not, as is the twist, a patient in the asylum. It's such a shame the explanation of it all is so ham-fisted: the doctor explaining that the whole string of events leading up to his realisation was the asylum team playing along with a 'roleplay' so that he can act of his delusion and be cured of it and the anagram system he uses to come up with all the fake names in his alternate world: Teddy Daniels = Andrew Laeddis. What seems clever comes across as rather silly and cockeyed.

But what saves it from M Night Shamahamahamalan ridiculousness is the assured directing of the film, the stylish depiction of events in a thoroughly committed way. The ending as well is a surprise: the deception this time on the characters and us the viewers being the ones let in on what's really happening - Laeddis faking a relapse so he doesn't have to 'be cured': "Which would be worse, to live as a monster, or die as a good man?”

But putting aside that dangling question for the moment, the one I'm tickled by is when did Leonardo Di Caprio become Jack Nicholson?! Perhaps it was just the role, but he looked eerily like a younger version of the renowned veteran actor here. And the way his career is going, maybe that's an accurate comparison to make.

It's not a classic, but Shutter Island is a worthy change of style for Scorsese and it is enjoyable to watch such accomplished filmmaking come together. It's just a shame the twist was so heavily publicised as it distracts from what is a rich and compelling yarn.



Thursday, 1 April 2010

Through The Grater This Week


This week culturemouse did a very foolish brave thing and joined Twitter. I'm pretty busy at the moment, and almost certainly chose the wrong time to start up a blog about all my favourite cultural loves, but I am determined to keep it going no matter how sporadically I update! So Twitter for all its evils (I think I just avoid it because it would show up just what a true web addict I am) is a really useful tool to keep you up to date with things I am doing on a day to day basis - and for you to see just how long it takes me from watching a film to actually posting the review up here on the blog....

Anyways, just keep an eye on the ticker to your right! If I haven't updated for a few days you can hunt me down there.

Onto the nooooooos.

Confirmation that David Fincher is going to direct the US remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Says he's looking for an unknown to play Lisbeth too, quashing those Carey Mulligan rumours. I hope this happens - it should be about the character when watching the film, not you thinking: "that's so-so playing the character."

Just when things were getting going with The Hobbit there's been yet another set-back. Gaaaaaah! I really, really don't want this to become one of those films that gets plagued and plagued with problems, given numerous release dates and then sheepishly comes out one March. This is Del Toro doing Tolkien with Jackson - it should be pushed to the front of the queue with people bending over backwards to get whatever it needs to start tranforming into a masterpiece! Now it looks as though we won't get any casting news for a few more months (sigh).

I'm a bit annoyed because I was getting really into the idea of the Burton Maleficent flick, but this casting rumour has stopped me dead in my tracks. Please not Angelina. She is one of the few actresses I make a pointed note to avoid (Cameron Diaz being t'other) because she drums up some heinous monster within me which wants to shriek cacophonously like a banshee and rip people's eyes out. Yes, it's fair to say I don't like the woman. But surely people are associating her with this project because she has the vampy streak about her? She's not the only woman in Hollywood with long billowing black hair you know! Anyway, shouldn't Helena Bonham Carter be doing this?

Now. Check to see if anyone is looking as I'm going to get absolutely mauled over the next piece. But - I must confess - The Iron Man 2 trailer looks frikkin' awesome. Right, ahem, moving on.... 
No but really, I haven't seen the original even though everyone and their robotic arm went on about how good it was, but I must say watching this in the trailers section at the cinema it's bloody impressive. I might even go seek out the damn thing now as I think I want to go and watch the sequel! Mickey Rourke looks incredibly scary. Judge for yourselves below (but as I said it is much more of a spectacle on the big screen):



I think I better end it there so I can vamouse (ho ho) and hide my shame - but actually that's all the news this week anyways. America are going through their pilot TV stage at the moment - or at least entering into the long drawn out affair of picking out the best sweets from the pick'n'mix bag - so a TV news special is imminent (July then?).

Happy Easter folks! And remember the true message: it's not all about chocolate eggs you know. Real eggs have feelings too.

BRADFORD FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW SPECIAL: New York I Love You



I went back on my Facebook the other day to check when I first got word of New York I Love You and ensuing excitement began - it was January 17 2008! Over two years ago! Yes this is how long I've been waiting for this film. Having a starry cast doesn't automatically mean a huge launch (unlike the recently dire Valentine's Day) - it has an unconventional style and did a circuit around the festivals before getting a limited release in the US. Only now it's beginning to get some festival screen time in the UK (Glasgow and now Bradford), so it's a tricky little bugger to get hold of! Not unlike its predecessor actually, where I had to hop on an even longer train to Sheffield to find it. This film is a response (sequel, follow on, re-interpretation, call it what you will) to that film - Paris Je T'aime; an anthology of love stories set in and around Paris. This one follows the same format but with the focus on New York City, and by its best intentions falls short of the former (which I regard as untouchable anyway).

In a slightly different review I'm going to post my thoughts on each segment. NY is slightly different to Paris as there are less stories, they are longer, and characters often return or intertwine with characters from other shorts, usually in a transitional phase. I liked this - it gave the feeling of New York being smaller than it really is, and the moments were very natural as well, with repeated interactions involving jumping in the same yellow cab or asking someone for a cigarette light. They didn't always work, but you can't argue with the classy execution. So onto the stories (I've given each one my own personal basic name to make it easier):

Thief
Dir Jiang Wen (In The Heat Of The Sun, Devils on the Doorstep)
Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia, Rachel Bilson
This was a bit of an odd one to begin with - whilst I'm sure it was aiming for the comic touch with two men covertly thieving from one another and both being attracted to the same girl, it felt a bit surreal and detached from reality. I don't really mind this - if we're comparing it to Paris that certainly had its fair share of oddities! - but this one felt very artificial - it almost had a noir feel to it, the way the characters slipped around one another, speaking in duplicitous tongues and Rachel Bilson and her numerous personas. Not sure what it was trying to say about New York!

Jeweller
Dir Mira Nair (Vanity Fair, Amelia)
Natalie Portman, Irrfan Khan
I really liked Natalie in this, even though the story was probably one of the weakest of the lot. It was really nice to see her tapping into her Jewish roots and speaking Yiddish! I also loved that her character was made to shave her head! - ha, I bet she put her foot down and said "I'm not doing that for real again!" But the story itself was unmemorable - the idea to portray a Hasidic Jew in New York City was interesting, but wasn't explored in a satisfying way. 

Composer
Dir Shunji Iwai (Love Letter, Swallowtail)
Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci
A new director discovery! I loved this one, even though it's Orlando Bloom and he tends to drag things down. But he wasn't too bad here, and the reveal with Christina Ricci (because it's not obvious on the phone who Camille is) was great: her face slowly appearing behind the book was so cute! I thought the relationship between the two was presented in a really engaging way, which is hard for a short, and you're kept interested and charmed all the way through. I'm definitely going to be looking up Iwai's back catalogue - because if the rest of his work is in a similar vein it's right up my street!

Hooker
Dir Yvan Attal (My Wife is an Actress, Happily Ever After)
Ethan Hawke, Maggie Q
I love myself a bit of Ethan Hawke and I thought he was brilliant here. His attempts at smooth talking a woman using literary cliches in such a crass way was both hilarious and likeable, and - again - I loved the reveal at the end and the look on his face! He pops up a couple of times in the film (as does Maggie G) and he's fun yet heavy on the pathetic at the same time. Good short.

Prom Date
Dir Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 1,2,3; X-Men: The Last Stand)
Olivia Thirlby, James Caan, Anton Yelchin, Blake Lively
My favourite one! Just found the whole short very cheeky, very fun, and kitsch. In fact I wasn't sure I liked the kitsch too much to begin with, as the voiceover really pulls you out from the flow of the film and rams home the fact this is directed and envisioned by 11 different people. I think a lot of people expected this short to be the one with all the action and perhaps some blown up cars, but it was very different for Ratner. What turns out to be a little awkward, a little black comedy (the dancing scene!) then becomes something very different altogether! Anton Yelchin did distract me a lot as I kept trying to think what else I'd seen him in and then realised he just looks a lot like Jamie Bell. Didn't distract me as much as Olivia Thirlby though, who is just lovvvvvely. Oh and nice to see Blake Lively as well, even though it's no more than a cameo appearance.

One Night Stand
Dir Allen Hughes (From Hell, The Book of Eli as part of the Hughes Brothers)
Bradley Cooper, Drea de Matteo
The sexy segment! This was a nice little short which was played out using the character's anxious inner monologues going over whether they should meet up with their one night stand or not amid flashbacks of their night together. There was a lovely ANGSTY moment where the man goes to leave in a cab, stops, tries again, hesitates, and then the girl appears behind him expelling his fears she isn't going to show up (see picture). I do love my angst!

Violets
Dir Shekhar Kapur (Masoom, Elizabeth & Elizabeth: The Golden Age)
Shia Le Beouf, Julie Christie, John Hurt
The WTF one! Compared to the feel of the rest of the film, this one was top heavy art house and made absolutely no sense at all. It was written by Anthony Minghella so - sadly - difficult to get a true interpretation, but it is beautifully shot by Kapur and strangely evocative in its mystery. It's a case of working out what is real, what is memory, and what is fantasy. It does break up the flow of the film a little bit - think Elijah Wood and the Vampires in Paris - but the performances are strong and it needs a couple of viewings to get an understanding.

Little Girl
Dir Natalie Portman (er, SHE'S NATALIE!)
Jacinda Barrett, Carlos Acosta, Taylor Geare
I enjoyed this a lot more than her acting segment. There were some really cute moments (such as when the little girl lost her bracelet in the fountain) and a few playful touches over whether the man is her dad or her 'manny'. It was a pleasant enough story and gives Natalie a chance to exercise her skills before she takes on a bigger production but it lacks a bit of punch. Apparently her other short "Eve" (Olivia Thirlby!) is brilliant, and I really hope we get to see that one day.

Painter
Dir Fatih Akin (The Edge of Heaven, Head-On)
Ugur Yucel, Shu Qi, Burt Young
This was one of my favourite segments too - there was something quite beautiful about a lonely and suppressed Chinese girl finding joy through an old painter who does recognise her beauty and wants to draw her. It's not made clear, but I perceived that he was in love with her as well, and to be thought of in that way and to realise she had an impact on someone else really brings her to life. Even after his death he has set her free. (the nail bit was horrid though!)

Roleplay
Dir Yvan Attal (My Wife is an Actress, Happily Ever After)
Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn
This was another clever little tale. In fact quite a lot of the stories were reliant to a key reveal towards the end - I guess it's just the dynamic of the short film. I thought the actors were terrific here - thoroughly convincing for the most part as two strangers flirting with one another, and I thought the reveal at the end was going to be one of the other characters we had met in a previous short, so it was very clever when it turned out they were married. And their personalities completely changed then to a loved up couple who had just enjoyed interacting in a special, intimate way. Attal is also the only director to get two shorts in NY, and based on the quality of both you can't argue.

Elderly Couple
Dir Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace, various shorts and TV)
Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachman
A nice sentimental story to finish on which is very reminiscent of the final film from Paris about the tourist. It's impossible not to adore the couple as they bicker and totter about the city to get to their 'special spot' for their anniversary. Yes I was in tears when they held hands! Nice bit of humour with the skateboards, too. Lovely way to finish.

Transition
Dir Randy Balsmeyer
Justin Bartha, Eva Amurri, Emilie Ohana
I liked the scenes with Ohana as the video artist who pops up during various shorts and captures moments from the characters lives on her camcorder - the most memorable one being when she gets up to go to the toilet in the cafe, and as Ethan Hawke gets up to go he writes "goodbye" in his notebook, puts it up in front of the camera, and then leaves. The other tiny scene involving Bartha and Amurri wasn't hugely necessary, and I'm not completely sure why it was included. It wasted about a minute. Bartha appears in another short at the beginning, and it would have been nice if the two of them had popped up occasionally elsewhere as a neighbour or a friend of another character, just to establish them in our minds so we can care more when he whisks her off to Rome.

This film didn't have the starry quality of directors as Paris did, but it's nice that other lesser well known talents got a chance to show their worth. Disappointed Scarlett Johansson had her effort cut from the film as I was really looking forward to seeing it. Apparently it will appear in the DVD bonus features, but it got such scathing comments from critics! From what I can gather it was just Kevin Bacon taking a stroll through the city reacting to events around him. Doesn't sound particularly thrilling, but if that's the part of New York she wanted to convey then what's wrong with that? In fact the naturalistic approach may have worked. What I found dissatisfying about New York I Love You was the surprising lack of New York culture. A lot of the stories could have anywhere at any time among any people and it didn't feel as authentic as Paris Je T'aime which had stories set in landmark areas such as Pere Lachaise and the Eifel Tower. Here, there didn't seem to be anything to distinguish a story set in Brooklyn or Queens or Manhattan; nothing about the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty; no stories set in Central Park, or at Grand Central Station, or Times Square. Nothing even referencing 9/11 which I was very surprised about. Perhaps it would have made it all too gauche, but in the vein of Paris and the actual film title - loving your city - the whole collation seemed rather remote.

Still, New York I Love You isn't a bad film and is certainly a lot better than I had been expecting. It's enjoyable to watch, and as with all anthology films, if you don't like a segment then you just wait for it to finish and start afresh with the next one. It can't match the success of Paris Je T'aime however and if you haven't seen it already you absolutely must go and buy it right away. You won't regret it! Shanghai I Love You is next in the pipeline - let's see where the vision goes next!