Monday, 30 August 2010

Venice Film Festival 2010

Blimey I'm a bit lax with this one - I thought it didn't start until next week but Black Swan opens the festival on Wednesday! Eeek-a-mouse! Better hurry up and showcase my picks, although having had a quick browse through the line up yesterday there doesn't seem to be an awful lot catching my eye. Apart from the obvious...

**Opening Film**
Black Swan
Dir: Darren Aronofsky
Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey
I am soooo excited to see the first reviews of this film! People absolutely adored The Wrestler but The Fountain was heavily booed when it opened in 2006. But that's what I want - an extreme reaction. Obviously I want the roofs to shatter from the ceilings when the credits roll, but I'd rather people absolutely hated it than shrugged their shoulders and went, "meh."  The other way you can look at it is if it can win the prestigious Golden Lion award (for the best film screened at the festival) then I think things are looking very positive for awards season in America at the beginning of next year. And it's about time Natalie stopped floating under the radar and was propelled back into the big league of nominations and success again. I'm going to have my fingers crossed solidly for the next two days! Although the opening film hasn't won the big prize for quite a while...

Dir: Sofia Coppola
Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Benicio Del Toro, Michelle Monaghan
Another film which I'm really looking forward to that get its premiere at Venice. I remember when Stephen Dorff used to be a pin up boy from the 1990s - he ain't done a lot since (or ever), but this could certainly kick start his career again. Her last film, Marie Antoinette wasn't received so well, but in general Sofia Coppola is a darling for film festivals. And I think her latest offering takes her back to her best: an alienated lonely figure who is awakened by another individual. And there's a hotel in it, too.

Happy Few
Dir: Antony Cordier
Marina Fois, Elodie Bouchez, Roschdy Zem, Nicolas Duvauchelle
"Two couples meet and fall madly in love - they try to move forward together." --> from this brief synopsis I read it as two couples who swap and change partners and try to make it work, rather than four people who become two couples who try and make it work side by side - that wouldn't make any sense, would it? It would be too normal a story, and I don't think that's what this is implying. Now I'm all for my complicated love shapes and rampant jealousy and angst, and it's always more vociferous in French. Stellar!

Norwegian Wood
Dir: Anh Hung Tran
Rinko Kikuchi, Ken'ichi Matsuyama, Kiko Mizuhara
Well here's a very, very pleasant surprise! I think it deserves a 'squee' actually - SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I DID NOT KNOW THIS WAS PREMIERING AT VENICE! I'd forgotten all about it in all honesty - I remember rushing to look it up when I finished reading the book (last year? The year before?) and getting all excited about it - especially for the fact it's all Japanese and they haven't made the cast American. Has the remake been ordered yet? Lolz. But it's an absolutely beautiful, beautiful book - the kind of book that keeps you hooked on every page when very little is actually happening with the characters. By the looks of the stills and the teaser trailer (below - God I feel so behind with this! I've just seen it's showing at Toronto as well!) it's been lushly shot and put together as well. WOW, HOW EXCITING! It's out in Japan in December, and better hurry up coming over here!

Dir: Tom Tykwer
Devid Striesow, Sophie Rois, Sebastian Schipper
Now, the premise of this actually doesn't entice me very much - happy couple in their 40s meet a new man and unbeknown to the other, BOTH fall in love with him. Hmm, bit silly. BUT - and the only reason why it's included here - it's the new film from Tom Tykwer, who has made some excellent films. I forget what an impressive repertoire he has - Run Lola Run, The Princess and the Warrior, Natalie's segment in Paris Je T'aime: he very rarely makes a bad film (Perfume, cough). So even though this sounds ludicrous, it'll probably be an emotional and utterly convincing drama. And it's his first German film for ten years.

The Town
Dir: Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Chris Cooper, Blake Lively
Another film I'm very keen to see, and that will be in cinemas next month in fact (see Filmdar for what else is making September shine). This isn't in the running for the Golden Lion prize, but it's still undoubtedly going to make an impression when it screens during the festival, and I can't see it getting bad reviews, myself. I think Ben Affleck has a real talent behind the camera, although whether he strikes gold when he's in the film as well has yet to be seen...

And that's about all that's interesting me in Venice. A few others of note:  I'm Still Here - the Joaquin Phoenix documentary about his venture into rapping (directed by Casey Affleck no less! I did not know that), Robert Rodriguez's Machete which I don't give two hoots about; two shocking (but in a way hilarious) looking horror movies from Hong Kong and Japan: The Child's Eye and The Shock Labyrinth: Extreme (which I actually beg you to go and watch the trailer for) both of which have "3D" worryingly tacked on the end like a bad degree course. And something called Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City. YES.

The 67th Venice Film Festival runs from September 1-11. The verdict on Black Swan to come... God, I wish I was there.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

FILM REVIEW: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

I haven't had as much fun in the cinema for ages seeing Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. More than a comedy it was just pure entertainment - from zippy dialogue, to action sequences turned on their head. Where else are you going to see a fight scene that ends with the Vegan Police jumping out of a hole in a building hi-fiving themselves? Or with just the damn VEGAN POLICE? Trust me, this is unlike any other film you've seen before.

I don't think I need to explain the plot as there's been enough trailers around to make it fairly obvious. But I found that before the 'defeating the 7 evil exs' arc got going I was enjoying the film for what it was - Scott Pilgrim being a nerdy loser, dating a high school girl, having to sleep in a bed with his gay housemate, spending all of his time rehearsing with his band project Sex Bob-Omb (there's never any mention of a job) before having a dream about a rollerskating girl with pink hair who then turns up in reality and changes everything. I was enjoying of all of that and not a punch had been thrown. I'll go ahead right now and say I loved Knives - I thought she was amazing, and was on her side throughout most of the film. I wanted her to end up with Scott at the end, but I guess that was never going to happen. At least they cushioned the blow slightly by having her end up being 'too cool' for him anyway. Go Knives! The bit where "you hit the highlights out of her hair!" was a highlight indeed! The only likable thing about Ramona Flowers was her hair (best in blue). She was a pretty rubbish trophy to be won.

The thing I embraced most about the League of Evil Exs and the subsequent showdowns was that it gave a manageability to the film - you kept count of what stage the film what at by what ex he was fighting, and that way it didn't seem to drag. Even after the big finale with Jason Schwartzman's Gideon (not his best performance, personally) the added extra bit of MEGA SCOTT didn't hold the film back because it was ingenious - even more so by having the two get on so well they were arranging to do brunch. Again, going back to the sheer unrelenting fun nature of the film, I thought it was paced brilliantly. From the speedy neon highs of KAPOW and THWUCK battles, the slower, angsty scenes were done with a cool, original vibe as well meaning the whole thing didn't become too cute and schmaltzy when Knives gets dumped, or when Scott gets dumped later on.

Of the evil exs Chris Evans and Brandon Routh were the stand outs - the latter for the amazing Vegan Police routine, and defeat by cow milk, and then Chris Evans for his general badass awesomeness as a Steven Seagal of the fictional world. If you didn't manage to catch the posters to some of Lucas Lee's finest cinematic moments, then look here. "YOU JUST DON'T EXIST" is my favourite! It was nice touch to see George Michael Vs Ann as well - I wanted Jason Bateman to appear in the bar where Scott and Roxy fight just to pipe up with, "Ann? Really?" Hee.

Some things felt slightly overdone - the on-screen graphics for one, which would have been better represented if they had become embedded in the film, not just popping up once for a quick giggle. Some were excellent though, like the spinning arrows ("I have to go pee on her!"). The mirroring a computer game graphics/plot was also brilliantly conceived, although I better steer my credit to the graphic novels for that and not Mr Edgar Wright. Where the hell was Simon Pegg anyway? He must have been lurking in the background somewhere...

Michael Cera was tuned up to the max in his usual pathetic-awkward role - it's hard to imagine anyone else playing it really (OK, maybe Jesse Eisenberg). Kieran Culkin was the perfect sidekick as Scott's best gayfriend, delivering his lines always with a wry tilt. He's definitely the breadwinner of the Culkins. I thought Anna Kendrick was severely under-used though - but that's probably just because I love Anna Kendrick. Sigh.

I'm knocking half a cheese off because even though it's reached cult status already, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is a bit too cool for its own good, and will have throngs and throngs of people leaving cinema screens declaring it as their new favourite film ever, so it doesn't really need me doing the same. But it's still one of the most fantastic and funny films I've seen all year, and despite the backlash it's been getting in some circles, whatever you do go and see it. But not on an Orange Wednesday as chances are you won't end up sitting with who you came with!

Friday, 27 August 2010

On The Fringe

It's that time of year again - I can never quite believe how quickly the Edinburgh Fringe comes around every Summer! It seems only a short while ago we were in that little apartment on Rose Street watching Marcus Brigstocke at the Assembly and The Doubtful Guest at the Traverse. But brand new year, brand new people to see: this year's Edinburgh Fringe has been our busiest yet. So busy in fact that I ended up taking no photos and we even missed a show as we got there too late! That's the first time we've ever done that before - I think we get too eager sometimes to see everything, and think to ourselves "yeah I can get to New Town from Southside in 10 minutes!" when it's clearly a 20 minute walk. And then the show before it overruns by 10 minutes. Gosh darn it! Anyway, running about like a loon and glaring at people is all part and parcel of the Fringe - this was my 4th year up there and every year it delights and stuns me just how busy everything is - the people, the street theatre, the bloody flyers in yer face. On a weekend it takes a good 10 to 15 minutes to walk the Royal Mile which is just ridiculous! Lotsa fun if you've got the time to stroll, but if you're late to a show (you shouldn't have booked anyway because there was no way time would just expand) - then it's ridiculous...

We arrived very early on the Friday morning after getting the 6am train up to Edinburgh Waverley. We spent a bit of time faffing around trying to find somewhere that did a vegetarian breakfast (that's with a veggie sausage people, not just egg on toast!) but had no luck so ducked into the nearest cafe we could find, which funnily enough did do us a veggie sausage on request - but served it all with chips. Yes chips at 9 in the morning. Welcome to Scotland!

We then made the arduous trip that has to be done at least once every year - try as you might to only make it the once - queuing up at the Fringe box office to collect tickets and to book all the remaining shows. This takes chuffing ages. And not only do you have to stand about in an alleyway for an hour while the queue stutters forward, you're bombarded with actors and performers pitching at you and thrusting flyers in your face, responding to flat questions such as "you look like you enjoy comedy! Who are your favourite stand ups?" with awkward mumbles wishing they'd move off and gleefully harass someone else who makes the fatal mistake of eye contact. It's amazing how quickly you go from kindly taking a flyer from someone to just yelling NO! One of our friends referred to a phrase I'd never heard of before that was quite fitting - "the Edinburgh Fingers" - getting paper and card cuts all over your hands as every time you delve into your pockets or purse the edge of a flyer gives you a little swipe.

TOP FRINGE TIP #1: Try to be super organised before you go and book all your days up - leave a few gaps of course for 'in the spotlight' shows, but make sure these are at the smaller venues where you can just turn up on the door to get your ticket.

We then dumped all of our stuff at our apartment - this time on West Bow, just around the corner from Cowgate. It was truly gorgeous, and astonishing - we didn't expect to be greeted by a long corridor when we opened the front door! Beautiful wooden floors and furniture, a luxurious comfy bed, and wait for it - a colour changing kettle! Why have I only just bought a new kettle?! I want that one! The Breville Spectra - check it out! Oooo preeeetttttty. I could have watched it all day. But I couldn't do that silly, I had shows to see! So let's get to it. We're reviewing in haggis today. Mmmm, vegetarian haggis with clapshot...(we'll come on to that)


The Dumb Waiter @ C Soco
There were two versions of this playing and not a hair's breadth splitting them apart - in the end we just plumped for one, as we both wanted to see the adaptation of the Harold Pinter play. This was a good introduction to the Fringe - it was short, it was engrossing, and even though I don't have a clue what happened at the end (that's reminded me to look it up) a very satisfying piece of theatre - with only two actors in a tiny little room. 

Stewart Lee @ The Stand Comedy Club
We were supposed to go and see Stewart Lee last year but got complacent and expected to swan up to the door and just get in. This time I made sure I booked it within the first week of the Fringe Book coming out. And so glad we did - an excellent show, mainly filled with crisps, his Japanese hating grandad, a hilarious fictional anecdote about David Cameron and berating us for being a slow and dim-witted audience ("I wouldn't carry on with this bit, but because it's you, I'M GOING TO ANYWAY!") A wonderful dry, weighted delivery that had us in fits of laughter. If you get the chance to see 'Vegetable Stew' on tour, do so.

Dealer's Choice @ The Zoo
At my very first Fringe in 2007 I went to see a performance of 'Closer', one of my favourite films of all time. Sadly Natalie wasn't in it - boooo - but it was really worth seeing the stage version of it, as of course, the film had been born from the play. This year we went to see another of Patrick Marber's best - Dealer's Choice, which centres around a poker game in a shabby London 'restaurant' and muses on chance, luck and addicted personalities. This was actually my favourite play we went to see - not just because they transform the words you've read so blandly on a page ("and who did invent the wheel?" "I don't know - Mr Fucking Wheel!") but because the scene changes were a work of bloody genius. Again, it was a small cast moving around a small space - so instead of going off 'stage' to resume, they darkened the room, blasted some Jurassic 5 from the speakers and robotically danced in theme with poker game movements into their next positions. Fabulous! And the guy who played Mugsy was a real talent.

Andrew O'Neill @ The Tron
A regular at the Fringe now - going to see Andy's latest show (I can call him Andy. He cooked pasta in our house at 2am the other week). There was more new material than I'd been expecting which was a bonus, and was still hilarious despite not quite matching the utter brilliance of last year's show. "Anti-cat" and "I'm not being racist, but is this the train to Reading?" still crop up in our vocab daily! This is someone who won't charge you £17 to have a laugh, so please, if he's ever in a town near you, GO AND SEE HIM. Tour dates here.

TOP FRINGE TIP #2: Go and bloody see Andrew O'Neill!


Free Stand Up @ The Sin Club and Lounge
Usually when we want to see some free/pocketful of coins comedy at the Fringe we seek out Robin Ince, but unfortunately this year he's already done his dates and had left (not to worry as he's clearly stalking us anyway: at End of the Road, Cheltenham AND Ilkley in the coming months!). So we took a chance on this one - it had been given four stars in Three Weeks (one of the Fringe review papers) and been called "the best free stand up at the festival". So we trundled along. And laughed a little bit. The guest act - Joe Bor - was on balance the better of the two, but still lacked hugely in the quality of comedy you come to expect from other shows, and of course television. Danny Ward, the main act, had a good hook in revealing ridiculous objects he'd acquired over the years (such as a screwdriver with a light on the end) but his delivery was stilted and he sometimes ventured on when he should have realised it wasn't working and stop. But you have to give these things a go - one times out of ten you get a lovely discovery. This wasn't one of those times.

Aleister Crowley: A Passion For Evil @ C Central
Yup, this definitely was the hubby's choice. As a one man show it was credible - I'm in awe of anyone who can remember what is effectively a 45 minute monologue - but when I start noticing how itchy my head is and start shuffling about on my chair then I know my interest has long since vanished. Plus as a relative noob to Crowley, this show didn't really help to shed light on his life, or what he did with it. More than anything he struck me as grossly unremarkable.

Alex Horne @ The Pleasance Courtyard
After a couple of sub-standard shows, it was a relief to finally hit the winning mark again. And barring my illegal boyfriend (still to come), Alex Horne's Odds was my favourite thing at this year's Fringe. He was just LOVELY. The kind of comedian you want to run up and huggle within the first two minutes. His show was so engaging as well - involving the audience from the very beginning by handing out raffle tickets and then whittling us all down by way of bonkers challenges, such as betting on raindrops falling down on a window on the projector screen ("don't worry, it's not random!"). The show mainly focused on the bet he had put on at William Hill on his 30th birthday that he would get a hole in one at golf before he turned 32, and this led to some great videos including him teeing off into an unsuspecting pigeon, who later recovered just fine. A lovable warm comedian who is genuinely funny most of the time just being himself - another person to seek out if you can, or go check out We Need Answers immediately. Oh look - here's a clip now!

Alex Horne: "who needs a baby monitor for crying out loud?"

Richard Herring @ Assembly George Street
Ahh, our casualty. Alex Horne overran by 10 minutes, and Alex Horne isn't the kind of show you want to leave early - it's just too good. So we gritted our teeth and just hoped we'd fly across Edinburgh in time to get to Mr Richard Herring. But unfortunately you can't do a 20 minute walk in 4 minutes, so we turned up very late and weren't allowed in. It was pretty demoralizing, and we were very sweaty from running. Huuuu. £12.50 we'll never see again.
No haggis :-(

TOP FRINGE TIP #3: Unless venues are literally next door to each other, always leave 30 minutes between shows for travelling time. Of course this will all be redundant next year when they finally get the trams. Huzzah!

David Leddy's Sub Rosa @ Hill Street Theatre
Not an actual theatre, and not a straightforward play. A group of us were met by a guide outside the New Theatre on George Street at 12.20am and led by torch to a masonic lodge a few streets down - it had been specially opened for the Fringe. After a brief setting of the scene, we were led inside and room to room, where a character from the play would be waiting for us to deliver the next part of the story. As we climbed higher up the stairs, the climax to the doomed tale of a chorus girl in a corrupt, abusive music hall loomed in. It was very unnerving, and at times bordering on horrific - imagine sitting deadly still and quiet in a tiny room listening to a woman describe a painful miscarriage in full, gory, human detail with fellow 'audience' members just as ruffled as you are. Certainly not an experience I'll forget in a hurry - although I did expect to see the trunk with the dead bodies of our hero and heroine dangling above our heads in the final room. Now that would have made us run all the way back to our apartment at 2 in the morning!


Uber Hate Gang @ Underbelly's Big Belly
This is an example of an 'in the spotlight' play - i.e. it gets a good review in Three Weeks, Broadway Baby or Fest and suddenly gets a surge in ticket sales. Because it was on at a handy time - midday - we had a free spot to go and see it. What started as rather talky and not a lot of conviction, slowly unravels into a force majeure of a performance from an excellent cast and a well written - if a little melodramatic at the end - script. Compelling to watch, although no real threat is substantiated by the mention of a bomb in the theatre, the later scenes of violence and a rape which felt forced upon us (jeez, we'd had a really lovely past 12 hours!) were powerful punches. Despite the good reviews, still feels like an overlooked corker.

Call of Cthulhu @ Hill Street Theatre
Another one of the man's choices - I think I enjoyed this even less than Alesiter Crowley. It wasn't a linear play as I was expecting - another one man show that plays on atmosphere and emotion rather than storytelling. So not knowing the story I couldn't really follow it, and again my mind wandered. But the hubby, being a Lovecraft stalwart, had a blast.

Keepers @ The Pleasance Courtyard
Every year we always have a friend (or more!) who's doing a show at the festival - this year it was fellow Brettoner Fionn who we saw a couple of years back in Lost In The Wind. The show, Keepers, is based on a true account of two lighthouse keepers based off the coast of Wales at The Smalls Lighthouse. The shifts are agonisingly long, and the two of them bicker frequently - and when one of them dies in an accident, the other's grief, displaced guilt, and isolation tips him into delusion. This was a beautifully sad story, performed with eloquence and humour by the two leads. You could tell the whole audience were enchanted by them, and rightly so. If we only saw one piece of physical theatre this Fringe we were glad it was this one.

Arj Barker @ The Assembly George Street
Or Dave from Flight of the Conchords as most people know him. I didn't realise the connection until I read a review and decided we must go. FOTC has always been impressive for its array of brilliant, kooky bit characters, many themselves stand up comedians (Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal - who we saw here last year) so it's a good a bet as any show to see. Arj Barker was probably the weakest of the paid comedians we saw - it was very up and down, and he seemed to mix up his delivery/punch lines quite often and then 'gahh!" to us about it. When he was funny he was very, very funny - and I promise I'm not writing that in Sarcastica. We had to leave a couple of minutes early because there was no way I was going to risk being late and not getting into...

Mark Watson @ Assembly The Mount
MY ILLEGAL BOYFRIEND! I ENVY HIS WIFE! *ahem* I am grossly in lurves with Mark Watson. It's quite obscene really, and yes, highly illegal. But he's just so lovely! He started his show already on stage, typing up observations onto a projected screen above our heads as we filtered through into our seats. Already we were on his side and would have laughed at anything. His latecomers joke - "then I say: it turns out she didn't even have a kangaroo!, and you all BWAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA like it's the funniest thing you've ever heard when they come and sit down" was winningly playful. I'm not sure how much of his actual act he got through as he kept digressing off topic to talk about outlandish laughs, guessing where foreign people in the audience had come from, ranting about Magners Pear Cider (in a boyish grumble) and his fanboy love of Derren Brown ("I have an email from D.Brown in my inbox! But should I play hard to get now? - delete, block sender?"). I could honestly have sat and listened to him ramble all night, he was just amazing. My only qualm was that I wish I had taken my camera along with me that night as he was signing books in the courtyard afterwards and I could have had my photo taken with him! Boooo. Yes, BOOOOOO - he believes there should be more booing of people in real life. BOOOOO! Oh, and chasing. Randomly chasing people in the street. "raaaahhhh, I'm a monster, rahhhhhh!" Sigh. I envy his child, too.
Let's have a big picture to remind ourselves of how BRILLIANT MARK WATSON IS.



We started the day by trekking up to the Royal Botanical Gardens to see a rather underwhelming mushroom exhibition (rock and roll!). But that was okay because we got to have lunch at Henderson's on the way back and discovered the delicious joys of vegetarian haggis. NOMINGTONS! You can learn how to make it here - we certainly will be!

TOP FRINGE TIP #4: Make sure you try the vegetarian haggis whilst you're there - preferably with clapshot (turnip mash)
We had some lovely meals out over the festival - a trip to Bo's on the Friday night enlightened us to how a baked banana filled with dark chocolate and a chickpea and chili souffle can work as a main course, and at The Outsider (my favourite Edinburgh restaurant) we were introduced to pink peppercorn sauce. Slurp, slurp. Bit disappointed by the puddings that were offered before me this time around - it says a lot when the best thing was a scrumptious pink doughnut from, er, Tesco's. But perhaps I'm becoming way too fussy over my puddings. Naughty, naughty. Onto the last show of the festival - sobs.

Sticks, Stones and Broken Bones @ Underbelly's Belly Button
We ended on a really lovely note - seeing a Canadian puppeteer turn bits of old junk and tat into mesmerising and charming shadow creations. He was instantly adorable, and treated the audience - mainly full of adults - like kids, sidestepping the little ones on the front row to pull up grown men instead to take part in his mini performances and stories. His sheer delight was infectious, and his message at the end - "there is always time for play" rang big chords with me.

And then it was time to go home! (awwwwwwwww /chorus of readers) A very successful Fringe I felt - the busiest we've ever done I believe with 14 shows! Can't wait to do it all again in 2011. If you love comedy, or theatre, dance, art, music, magic, puppets, stand up, sketch shows, literature, physical performance, mime, circuses, burlesque, street theatre, exhibitions, workshops, underground tours, overground tours, eclectic shops, brilliant people, endless cafes, the all-encompassing buzz of being in a very special bubble that no one apart from the people who are there can understand...come to the Edinburgh Fringe. It's like climbing the net bridge in the playground: when you've done it the once you'll want to do it over again, and again, and again.

TOP FRINGE TIP #5: YOU MISSED OUT, IS WHAT! Put it in your diaries for next year :-)

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Through The Grater This Week

Let's, as ever, start with a trailer. This is just the kind of film I wouldn't touch with a barge pole, except for it has the lovely Reese Witherspoon in it, who always seems to get the romcom just right - slightly quirky interesting scripts and always a warm engaging chemistry with her hater/lover. I don't think I've ever seen a Reese Witherspoon film I've disliked. This one's for How Do You Know.

To put a persistent rumour to bed - Natalie won't be playing Lisbeth in the US remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - and neither will Carey Mulligan, Kirsten Stewart or Ellen Page! It will be complete nobody (but soon to be superstar) Rooney Mara. I haven't seen her in anything but I must admit looking at her photos I can't place her against Noomi Rapace. She's going to have to undergo a major transformation. But I also think it's great Fincher has stuck to his guns and picked a newcomer - she's set up for life now. Welcome to the big time, luv!

Something which caught my attention this week and partially excited me - Rose Byrne signing up for the new X-Men film. I can imagine her in a cool and dynamic role like this - having her hair dyed blue or purple, harnessing her super powers... but no. She's playing a scientist instead. It's kind of like Natalie's boring character in Thor - what really is the point?

I'd completely disowned this trailer when it came out, but have since found out it's directed by Ryan Murphy! He may have gone up the shitter recently with Glee, but once upon a time he made great oddball films like Running With Scissors. This looks as cheesy as hell (find yourself overseas, anyone?) but if it's really Ryan Murphy then he'll mix it up a bit and play the non-safe card.

This story makes me think I've missed a trick - so is Jason Reitman definitely doing Diablo Cody's new film, then? Has this been finalised, or is Empire being a bit naughty in getting me hepped up? A film on a par with Juno would be fantastic, though. Hope it happens. And a completely new role for Josh Brolin as well - no guns in sight! (I'm assuming) Oh, and don't look at IMDB - it's confusing as hell. Apparently Cody is writing and directing, and Jason Reitman is part of the cast...!

One of Natalie's upcoming films is Your Highness - check out Nataliedar for all the latest updates on her films including the brand new Black Swan trailer - eeeeeeee! But one of Natalie's co-stars for YH James Franco has had some good news - his new film 127 Hours - directed by Danny Boyle - is closing the London Film Festival this year. Along with Never Let Me Go opening the show, that's two of the most prominent British films on the horizon at the moment, and a really strong start for the festival which announces its full listings on September 8. Still not sold on two hours of a man cutting his arm off, though!

I'm not really one for gritty, crime filled, corrupted police force dramas, but for some reason I'll make an exception for Ben Affleck. Not Ben Affleck the actor (oh no), but as a director he's got some real talent - I loved Gone Baby Gone (no! not just because his brother Casey was in it - tsch..) and the trailer for his new film The Town also looks genuinely good. Plus it has Blake Lively and Rebecca Hall. Take a hit and duck below:

On the subject of Miss Blake Lively, she's been all over the news lately for will she-won't she quit Gossip Girl stories. Word was she was hassling the producers to get Serena killed off (an idea I'm non to opposed to - you know how I fantasise about them all dying horribly) the show, so she could go and pursue her fledgling movie career with turns in The Town and The Green Hornet. Plus she hates everyone on the set, blah, blah, blah. But that rumour was quickly snuffed out by GG's creator Josh Schwartz the day after, so it looks as though she's here to stay. Tbh, I'm finding myself going off Blake Lively. I'm not sure she's as good an actress as I thought she was - the way she hangs her mouth slightly open and tips her head to the side with that narked look of hers is slowly poisoning my brain.

Some gay news to end on. Yes, totally gay! 90210's closet dweller has been revealed - and no-one's surprised. Let alone me who called it weeks ago! If you don't wanna know, then steer that clicky mouse (not me) away for this here linky. Also, here's a sneaky pic of his BOYFRIEND in the upcoming season as well - talk about putting all your plots in one beach basket.

I'm off to the Egginaburger Fringe now to see lots of lovely people including Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, a Patrick Marber play, Sub Rosa, Dave from Flight of the Conchords, Mark Watson (my illegal boyfriend) and many more! So I will return next week with noooooooooos of that.

Oh, and on a separate non-plussed, just occurred to me thought to end on....I'm meeting Guillermo Del Toro in October. As you do.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Sunday, 8 August 2010


I thought it was time I started talking about books a bit more - I love them as much as I do TV and film, and I read an awful lot too, so it's time to introduce them into culturemouse. I thought I'd start by telling you a little about my favourite books and authors.

THIS is my favourite book of all time - And I Don't Want To Live This Life by Deborah Spungen. It's written by the mother of Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious's girlfriend and possible murder victim. I can't remember how and why I suddenly became obsessed with the story of Sid and Nancy - I must have heard his name somewhere and looked him up on the Internet and then gone on from there. For some reason their story touched me more than usual, and I decided I needed to read up on them and fill my brain with as much knowledge and detail about their short lives. I went on Amazon and bought a book about Sid, and then wanted a book about Nancy as well - and what better than to buy one written by her own mother? I was 18 when I first read this, and up until that point countless films and TV programmes had made me cry, but never a book. This book made me cry loads. In fact it still does every time I read it - once I was reading it and crying about it on a bus back to my student halls! It's one of those extremely emotional stories because of the frustration, the helplessness and worst of all the reality - all of these horrible things actually happened to a real life girl. A lot of people see Nancy Spungen as the glamorous, fishnet wearing drug taking girlfriend of a Sex Pistol - and so did I until I read this book and realised how deeply, deeply troubled she was from birth. Later when I was reading We Need To Talk About Kevin, a lot of his behaviour took me back to Nancy - only Kevin is a fictional character and Nancy actually did these uncontrollable frightening things, such as run after her babysitter with a pair of scissors when just nine years old. There's that morbid curiosity as you read it, but then as her mother goes onto describe how useless and incompetent the doctors are in helping her or even trying to understand her, the good spells Nancy has leaves you desperately hoping that she stays this way, that she gets better, and then she relapses even worse than before. It's not a particularly well written book, but it doesn't have to be to capture the unremitting love and sadness Deborah has for her lost daughter. I urge you to read it - you don't have to know or care anything about Sid Vicious or the Sex Pistols - just start reading and you'll be in.

Other favourite books of mine which have a special meaning...

Footloose by Kate Cann made me want to write; Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld is word perfect and fic/boarding school heaven; Wasted by Marya Hornbacher completely changed the way I think about food, and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger made me cry at a bus stop and made me appreciate and value love, so it stays with me for that.

Emily Maguire is my favourite author. She has written three books - the first being one of my all time greats.

This was odd - I read a review of Taming The Beast in Elle Magazine whilst I was having my haircut in my second year at Uni, and as soon as my last split end was chopped off I went off to Waterstone's to buy it. Then I went on holiday to Dublin, so I read it on the journey there (hence why it always reminds me of Dublin. Coincidentally, A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby always reminds me of Spain, Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho always reminds me of Slovenia, and Bear V Shark by Chris Bachelder always reminds me of Doncaster Airport and our flight to Prague being delayed for six hours). I was in awe of this book. The way the story was crafted about such a taboo subject, and dared to go to places no one else did. The writing was so raw and brutal; she didn't care about making her characters morally right, or pretty, or decent, or even likable - this was about the grit and pain and depravity of the situation: a teenage girl having an affair with one of her teachers. It blew me away, and immediately I wanted to read everything else she had ever written. Unfortunately that was her debut novel, and she's pretty slow at churning them out - one every two or three years! Her follow up, The Gospel According to Luke wasn't as good, but I'm really looking forward to her new one Smoke in the Room which looks like it's one of those 'characters get together and philosophise about love, happiness and life' novels which if cleverly written is wonderfully engrossing. But I don't know when it's coming out over here yet! Sadface.

For other books I'm really looking forward to, check out what's on my Bookdar page at the top of this blog.

The last book I read was this:

You may remember I posted the trailer of the film version a month or so ago, and vowed to get the book and read it before it came to cinemas. Well I went to my local Oxfam Books certain they would have it - and they did - then my hubby to be nicked it (which he ALWAYS does!) so I had to wait until he had finished before I could get my paws on it! And I was so disappointed. I loved The Remains of the Day purely because of the Britishness of it, the restraint, the way the narrator bottles every single emotion and wears that brave face unceasingly. It was so different to anything I had read before, and so heartbreaking because of that stoicism. But this was such a drag. Every dramatic moment, every secret unravelled was built up to a crescendo, and then the reveal showed a crushing melodrama. I didn't like any of the characters and I couldn't care less what happened to them, or who didn't/couldn't end up with who. The big 'twist' at the end was so subtly and yawningly done, I was aghast at how much praise had been heaped upon this novel. Page tarrying, if a book ever so deserved that phrase. I'm sure the film will be solid enough, but I somehow think others will be disappointed with it, too.

I love shopping in Waterstone's for new books. It's one of my favourite past times - the pleasure of having all the time in the world, and no worrying about money, just the freedom to browse, explore and discover new treats. And challenge yourself in the 3for2 section! Anyway, one of my worst habits is buying new books when I have plenty at home that are already on my 'to read' pile. I don't read fast enough to keep up with my squee factor over a new release - if I don't act there and then the feeling subsides and it just becomes another book. So this is me justifying myself. (also I have a thing about hardbacks - I refuse to buy them. I'm not spending an extra 7 or 8 quid on the same story just because it won't fray! pft)
Here is my 'to read' pile at the moment - it's actually pretty manageable:

I'm trying to be good, although I did splurge out the other day. I only went in for the new Books Quarterly...

Top of the pile is The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton which I'm reading at the moment. Took a while to get into because of the way it's written - detached, written in the present tense with a dual narrative. Hard! But she has a great turn of phrase, and it's slowly sucking me in. This has been on my to read list for a while now, so it's a relief to finally be turning the pages. Not sure what I'll pick next - I'll see what mood I'm in.

To end, here's the long list for the Man Booker Prize 2010:

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America
Emma Donoghue Room
Helen Dunmore The Betrayal
Damon Galgut In a Strange Room
Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question
Andrea Levy The Long Song
Tom McCarthy C
David Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Lisa Moore February
Paul Murray Skippy Dies
Rose Tremain Trespass
Christos Tsiolkas The Slap
Alan Warner The Stars in the Bright Sky

The ones in bold are the ones I'm interested in reading - but only when the 'to read' pile has decreased in size, ho ho! The shortlist is announced next month.

Wow, a whole post about books! Here's to more of this literature malarkey - especially with festival season approaching :-)

Friday, 6 August 2010

Friday Fright

3 spooky new trailers to give you a restless night... which one am I looking forward to the most?

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

FILM REVIEW: Toy Story 3

There's a moment during the original Toy Story which makes me wring my hands and twist my arms because I can't control the flood of emotion that overwhelms me when a) Buzz sits in the van and puts his seat-belt on (the 'awwwwww' factor is through the roof) and b) when Buzz realises he can't fly. It's this moment that I look back on and realise how unstoppably penetrating Pixar are in reducing you to pieces by a single look, or event - they've done it since with Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, Up - and they've done it again with Toy Story 3. There's something about neglecting a friend, the nostalgia surrounding a toy, the sentimentality attached to years of memories that runs so deep you're not only crying for the characters on the screen but for your own puny self as well. Ohhhh the bawling. But we'll talk about that achingly beautiful end scene later. Let's get onto the rest of the offering.

Ken was by far the best thing about this film. Spanish Buzz was also a treat - as was the back story of Chuckles the Clown - but it was Ken who stole the show as the shallow, spangly-wearing villain of the Dreamhouse. He was relentlessly hilarious in his movements, motivations and his relationship with Barbie - it was a great inclusion from Pixar who seem to have gone through all the classic toys in the series of films. Michael Keaton is brilliant putting the voice to him as well.

The story itself was cleverly put together - I love how they obviously spend a great deal of time imagining the key moments of a toy's life, just as you would identify the defining moments of a teenager. The evil toys, even though they were selfish and unkind, had a heart to them as well because of their back story of being abandoned and then replaced. I did like how they attempted to redeem Lotso, but then revealed that he hadn't changed at all and gave him a deserved ending. Pixar don't just play by the storybook rules and that's why adults and kids alike adore all their films. (for the record, I loved Big Baby! I thought he was misunderstood and needed loving...not scary at all!)

The ending was so lovely it was unbearable! Not only was lil Bonnie the cutest thing, but seeing a 17 year old lad sit down and play with her hit every soft spot in my body, and I blubbed. A LOT. Damn Pixar for knowing all our weaknesses! But even before that, when the toys are about to fall into the furnace and they all stare at each other and without speaking clasp hands - that got me going even then!

It was great to have the gang back, and none of it felt tired, or recycled, or unnecessary. It's just as good as the previous two, and a great way to finally end things with Andy going off to college and the toys finding a new home with Bonnie. I did however have times of feeling I was getting a bit old for this - especially the chase scenes, and some of the more predictable twists. But it still made me laugh and cry in equal measure, and that's more than most other live action films can achieve.

Lots of fun and a credible treequel, Toy Story 3 is everything you would expect - plus Ken and his snazzy shirts and sunglasses. Campaign for Ken to get his own TV spin-off begins here!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Through The Grater: Catch Up

See that's the problem with disappearing for weeks on end - having weeks on end of news to sift through. Jeez. Thank God I love this nattering stuff. And that bullet points exist.

  • Damages has been saved! Hurrah!...I think. Seasons 4 and 5 will be shown by DirecTV in 2011 and 2012 and have 10 episodes each. Whilst this is great news in some respects (why should a quality show like Damages be axed after three seasons and Smallville still be running after ten blah blah blah), I do find the set up to be limited on this programme, and the success of it entirely dependent on the main legal case Patty is fighting. 10 episodes is a good solid number though - I think I can stick with it for that.
  • There's been a bit of a plot explosion over on 90210. Whilst seemingly having their plates full with Naomi's rape, Annie's murder confession, the school possibly on fire, and Silver and Teddy existing, we also have an earthquake, a court case, an older guy romance and a gay outage ala Gossip Girl to look forward to. It's got to be Teddy, hasn't it? He's called Teddy for christsake.
  • Speaking of GG, the cast have been busy filming the first few episodes of Season 4 in Paris. Plenty of pics have come out to majorly hint at upcoming storylines this season, but I have been much more interested in what Blair has been wearing.

Look how god damn pretty she is! I WANT THAT WHOLE OUTFIT NOW!
  • And some good news for moi and the redundant Katie Cassidy - she's just signed onto Gossip Girl to play a new love interest for Nate. YAY! Hopefully she can bring some charisma and sparkle to the screen when the two of them are together.
  • And then onto Supernatural, which has been getting a lot of coverage of late thanks to the Comic Con panel last weekend - you can get a full lowdown of events here. It's about as much as I expected really - not a lot to be positive about. The buzzwords seem to be "reinvention" and "a return to Season One" - I don't want a return to Season 1! Season 1 was awful! Why do you want to cart us back there, Sera Gamble? Pffffft. Oh, and have I mentioned there's a fairy episode yet?  But still, there are a few things to look forward to - Jensen Ackles directing for one. I thought something like this might happen - it feels like they've wrapped the overarching storyline up and now they've been given free reins with this 'extra' season to pretty much do what the hell (lolz) they want. It could end up being a load of pointless nonsense that doesn't mean anything. But there again I've been thinking - would we really want the last EVER closing shot of Supernatural to be Dean settling down with stupid Lisa and her stupid kid? Maybe this Season 6 malarkey ain't such a dumb idea...


  • A while ago and on a completely different blog that I think no longer exists, I wrote a piece on how excited I was about ABC possibly turning Fables into a TV series. That sadly never came to anything, but it looks as though a screen adaptation of the graphic novels hasn't completely died - now there's new talk about a film. I don't mind what format it comes out on really, as long as something's made. Can't really say anything for David Yates as I'm not a Harry Potter fan, but he's British and well respected so at least he wouldn't balls it up ala a McG or Michael Bay.
  • And on the subject of twisted fairy tales, this story was so similar I thought they actually meant Fables! But curiously this is about a different graphic novel altogether - Legends. It's a kind of Kick Ass development where the film rights have already been secured before the publication itself is released (although it has been released now...d'oh!). It's a big coup, too - Ron Howard's production company snapping it up. It's still in the early stages, but with an intriguing storyline (who killed Pinocchio?) and a dark fantasy, magical setting this could be an even tougher interpretation than Fables, and it would be great it they both make it to the big screen so we can enjoy pitting them against one another.
  • Another bit of news which looks very exciting is word that Disney is prepping a new film about scary stone gargoyles. No, not shiny happy cartoon Disney - the arm of the studio that is responsible for Pirates of the Caribbean. So don't expect it to be *too* scary - but it should be a lot of fun, as long as they don't sentimentalise it too much and throw annoying kids in there. Googling this film made me come across this too - a 1990s cartoon by Disney also called Gargoyles but that has no relation whatsoever to the big screen version in the works. How have I never heard of this programme?! Around that time I was really into my cartoons - Thundercats, Turtles, Zelda, X-Men. I would have loved this! But my digging shows it was never broadcast over here - more's the shame because I would have leapt on it. And another thought as my brain wanders - when are they going to make a film of Andrew Davidson's amazing first novel? I remember looking for a film as soon as I'd finished reading it a couple of years ago, certain there would be something as it was just so epic and cinematic to read. But there was nothing. And there still is nothing.
  • Trailer time! Woody Allen's new one (I know, it is hard to keep up... this is the one with Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin in) - You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.

Blimey it looks awful! But it has had good reviews, so...

  • Onto The Hobbit where it's generally been assumed that Peter Jackson will be directing. I'm more disappointed about this than I thought I would be. Peter Jackson's ace, he was responsible for the trilogy being made in the first place, but I think it's his last couple of misfires, especially The Lovely Bones which has made me go right off him. Plus I really wanted to see a fresh take on Middle Earth and I fear this will just end up being an extension of Jackson's world. Still no word on a cast either - this could end up being one of those badly hindered films that never recovers. But let's hope not.
  • An update on some Jason Reitman projects that have been announced (just because the man can do no wrong at the moment, I can't miss a single film) - Elliot Allagash is the new one he'll be producing if not directing. Amazon compares the book - which isn't out here in the UK until next week - to Heathers, Election and Napoleon Dynamite - all treasured films within my DVD collection. Sigh, if only he was doing Prep...
  •  And now let's link up several of the stories I've just mentioned with an update on Guillermo Del Toro, who's had his reins cut now he's left The Hobbit. He has a bundle of projects up his sleeve so the only question is what to tackle first? Well at Comic Con he broke rank again and added a new one to his ever growing list - an updated version of The Haunted Mansion, which will be a Disney made film based on the brand's signature theme park, but will be "scary". So maybe scarier than the Eddie Murphy version but not The Orphanage scary. But he made it clear he would be solely producing this film, and his next directing feature would be a horror. But he didn't mention what it would be - Frankenstein perhaps? His dark, apparently Nick Cave inspired, take on Pinocchio? Jekyll and Hyde? Could be any of those - but definitely not At The Mountains of Madness as he recently admitted it will never happen due to Hollywood dislike of an unconventional plot and a less than settled ending.  BUT OH WAIT NOW HE'S NOW GOING TO DO IT. Yup, out of absolutely nowhere, Del Toro has now not only cemented the Lovecraft film will be made, but it will also be his next offering. Talk about veiled words! The only downer? The inclusion of James bloody Cameron as producer. Just don't let him near the script and it'll be fine!
  • Now for a better trailer - eagerly awaited Sucker Punch. Just don't try to understand it.


  • I'll finish with what Natalie's been up to. The big news is that Black Swan has been named as the opening film of this year's Venice Film Festival, which is hardly surprising but still fantastic to have it confirmed. The festival which starts next month is bound to lead to the trailer release as well which I can't wait for. This is officially the most exciting film Natalie has done in yonks and yonks and yonks, and I have really high hopes of it doing well in awards season. Very little is still known about the plot, but some pics have been leaking. Get a load of supernatural Natalie!

Freaky deaky eyes! Black Swan opens in the USA on December 1 so we should get it soon after.

  • The other biggie is Thor which was one of the main highlights and draws to this year's Comic Con. Natalie was there along with the rest of the cast to do a panel, interviews and present footage and a sort of trailer for the 3D action adventure set partly on earth and partly in Asgard. The trailer has found its way online, and into my laptop, but unfortunately - and I feel I have to whisper here - it's awful. Truly awful. Not only does it look incredibly ill-conceived and dull, it looks like it has bloody Transformers in it. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Oh Natalie maybe this was all a terrible, terrible mistake... I think Marvel are very touchy about it because the trailer's now been pulled from every site that was hosting it, so I'm unable to post it here (not a real shame). Hopefully all this negative reaction will make them sit up and realise they have a lot of work to do in that editing suite. A LOT of work to do.

 News of Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, The Man Booker Prize and Pretty Little Liars to come shortly, but that's the round up of everything interesting that's been happening in the world lately. I can go have a Crabbie's now - phew.